Britain

The unions are part of the attack on workers’ pensions

After the trade union marches and strikes against the Coalition’s pension cuts the unions went straight back into the serious business of working with government officials in order to implement the latest austerity measures. So individually, behind the scenes, relying on their usual tactics of division and secret talks, the unions are again working with the government against the interests of the working class.

The beginning of struggle or just another token gesture?

Unions predict that maybe two or three million workers will be on strike on 30 November, from education, health, local government, the civil service, and more. The main issue of the strike – the future of public sector pensions – is a very real one because we are all being asked to work longer and pay more for less to retire on.

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Electricians: solidarity across industries is key

There is no doubting the level of the attack on electricians’ jobs, pay and conditions involved in ending the Joint Industry Board agreement, which will lead to cuts of up to 35% and many jobs reclassified as semi-skilled or unskilled. Go to any of their weekly protests outside various construction sites, or read their discussion forums, and you’ll hear just how disastrous it would be for workers already doing long hours of overtime in order to be able to afford house, car and necessities.

Government and unions aim to smother the workers’ response

Despite the government claiming that it had made major concessions on pensions, aimed at averting the ‘irresponsible’ public sector strike on 30 November, the day of action will go ahead and around three million workers from education, the health service, local government and elsewhere will be on strike that day.

The struggle against capitalism is a struggle between classes

Resistance against the present social order is spreading, from the huge social revolts in Tunisia and Egypt to the movement of the ‘indignant’ in Spain, to the general strikes and street assemblies in Greece, the demonstrations around housing and poverty in Israel, and the ‘Occupy’ movements across the USA, now echoed on a smaller scale in the UK. Awareness that this is a global movement is becoming sharper and more widespread.

Electricians’ actions hold the promise of class unity

The world economic crisis has hit the construction industry very hard. The Office of National Statistics Bulletin for the 2nd quarter 2011 says that the total volume of new orders for building contracts is at their lowest level since 1980. Faced with this slow-down, one of the major UK Construction companies, Balfour Beatty Engineering, issued 90 day notices of termination to some 890 employees on the 14th September. 7 other major electrical contractors also announced their intention to withdraw from the national industry agreement, proposing to split electricians from one grade – where they’re paid £16.25 per hour – into 3 grades ranging from £10.50 to £14 per hour. For those downgraded to £10.50 this will amount to a 35% pay cut. There was an immediate reaction from the workforce, with co-ordinated unofficial action taking place at several major construction sites across the UK.

'Social democracy' is still anti-working class

The operation that Ed Miliband had to tackle a deviated septum in his nose has not altered the nasal quality of his speech. The content of his speeches has not changed much either since he was elected Labour leader last year. Then we said (WR 338) that his lack of political baggage allowed him to “be all things to all people, and gives him a great deal of room for manoeuvre if the political and economic situation gets more difficult.

Union preparations and the need for a workers' response

The trade unions and the Left are preparing to make the 30 November strike over pensions something big. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said that it would be “the biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation” as more than a dozen major unions prepared to ballot their members. Workers are angry and the unions are doing something. The trouble is the effect of the unions’ actions is to divide workers and undermine their attempts to fight.

Gaddafi’s links with British state

In The Independent of 3/9/11 there appeared an article based on secret files that the paper had unearthed. We are reprinting here substantial extracts from that article. The Independent says that they “reveal the astonishingly close links that existed between British and American governments and Muammar Gaddafi.”

NHS reform: Government 'U-turn' continues same cost cutting

The government has made a ‘U-turn’, as the media calls it, on reform of the NHS. For Socialist Worker (18.6.11) changes proposed to the NHS are a “retreat”, a “humiliating climbdown” for a government intent on privatising. For the Guardian (14.6.11) it is “a compromise that might just heal the coalition”. But in all the words written about the changes the government has accepted from the Future Forum and the so-called ‘listening exercise’ there is often no mention of the driving force behind the reform – the £20bn efficiency savings demanded of the NHS.

J30 Assemblies: How does the working class need to struggle?

In preparation for the recent public sector strikes three ‘Generalise the strike assemblies’were held in London. They weren’t the only assemblies held throughout the UK at the time; similar events were held in Birmingham, Leeds, Norwich, Bristol and Sheffield. The ICC were only able to attend the second two in London. And what interesting experiences they were.

Faced with the global economic crisis, struggling behind the unions leads to defeat

In a few days at the end of June a range of High Street names showed what effect the continuing crisis is having. Thorntons is closing 120 and maybe up to 180 shops. Carpetright is closing 94 stores. Jane Norman is shutting 33 shops. TJHughes is looking at going into administration. Habitat is going into administration and closing most of its shops. Clinton Cards is to be restructured. Lloyds TSB is cutting another 15,000 jobs, making more than 40,000 since 2009. Inflation is running at 4.5% (5.2% on the higher RPI measure), there’s a public sector pay freeze, the state pension age is rising. Council workers in Southampton, Shropshire and Neath Port Talbot have faced the ‘choice’ of pay cuts or job losses.

Explosion at Chevron refinery

On the evening of 2 June there was an explosion at the Chevron refinery in Pembrokeshire in which 4 workers were killed and one seriously injured. Sky News quoted an unnamed person as saying that this was a "tragic industrial accident". It went on to say that the blast was not "thought to pose any ongoing threat" (from contaminants). They have apparently been safely blown away.

Western intervention in Libya: a new militaristic hell

Since March 19th, there has been no let- up in the military intervention in Libya under the dual banner of the UN and NATO. But we needn’t worry: the last G8 summit has reaffirmed that the members of the coalition, putting their differences to one side, are 'determined to finish the job', having called on the Libyan leader to relinquish power because he has 'lost all legitimacy'.

Leftists offer recipe for defeat

Whichever way you look at 26 March, it was dominated by the unions and their supporters, in the banners, in the speeches, in the way that so much anger and frustration was transformed into a passive stroll. The SWP think it's possible to “Kick out Cameron’s crumbling coalition” (14/5/11) but 30 June is still dominated by unions and, as things stand, based on the proposals of Left and unions, will have no more effect that 26 March.

June 30th: it’s time to take control of our own struggles!

Why are nearly a million workers – from education, the civil service, local councils – preparing to go on strike on June 30th? They are more and more fed up with the never-ending attacks on their living standards being organised by the government, whether in the form of cuts in healthcare, rising tuition fees, growing unemployment, wage freezes or – a major issue in the June 30 strike – an assault on pensions, so that teachers for example will pay more towards their pension, retire later, and get a smaller pension at the end of it.

Class struggle and its obstacles

World Revolution held its 19th Congress in November 2010. One of the responsibilities of any territorial section of the ICC is to discuss the national situation. It has to analyse the economic crisis, the class struggle, and role played by British imperialism on the world stage. The following article is part of the Resolution on the British Situation adopted by the congress, specifically the section concerning the life of the bourgeoisie and the class struggle.

Revolutionaries and the mass strikes, 1910-1914: the strengths and limits of syndicalism

 

In WR 341 we described the wave of struggles popularly known as ‘The Great Labour Unrest’ that hit Britain and Ireland 100 years ago. We showed that these struggles – which at their high points reached near-insurrectionary levels – were in fact a spectacular expression of the mass strike analysed so clearly by Rosa Luxemburg, and formed an integral part of an international wave of class struggle that culminated in the 1917 Russian revolution. In this article we look at the impact of the mass strikes on the British and Irish working class, and the attempts of militant workers and revolutionaries to draw the lessons of these historic struggles.

Mass strikes in Britain: the ‘Great Labour Unrest’, 1910-1914

100 years ago this August the British ruling class was forced to dispatch troops and warships to Liverpool to crush a near-insurrectionary general strike. The Lord Mayor of the city warned the government that “a revolution was in progress.These extraordinary events were one of the high points of a whole series of struggles in Britain and Ireland before the First World War popularly known as ‘the Great Labour Unrest’.

Methods of infiltration by the democratic state

The revelations in The Guardian during January that exposed four undercover agents of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), and the outraged response to them from the ‘democratic’ media and politicians, are nevertheless worthy of attention. Concerns about the first agent – PC Mark Stone (aka Mark Kennedy) – were first made public in October 2010 on Indymedia, but it was the collapse of the trial in early January of 6 activists accused of conspiring to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station that grabbed the headlines. Apparently Stone, wracked with remorse, had threatened to ‘go native’ and give evidence for the defence.

Reflections on the recent student struggles in Britain

In November and December 2010 protests against aspects of cuts in education showed that the imposition of austerity measures is meeting resistance in Britain. What we are publishing here are extracts from a longer internal report for the rest of the ICC, adapted for our public press. It is a contribution to the wide-ranging discussion that recent events have provoked. We intend to publish a separate text on the ICC's intervention in the movement in the near future.

Leftist networks help unions regain control

As any reader of the Daily Mail will know there was “at least one” member of the ICC in at least one meeting of the Education Activist Network in London. But contrary to hysterical media articles, the present student movement against cuts and increased fees is not the creation of either the ICC or the EAN. Nor even of the EAN’s rival National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. On the contrary, among the most positive signs of militancy has been the ability of the movement to escape the control of the NUS or any other organisation set up in advance to drive in a particular direction

 

Britain: economic crisis and imperialist dead-ends

We are publishing here the first part of the resolution on the British situation adopted at the recent Congress of the ICC’s section in the UK. The second part, which looks at the political life of the bourgeoisie and the class struggle, will be published in a future issue, along with a summary of the main debates at the Congress.

Revolt in universities, colleges, schools: A beacon for the whole working class

A whole series of demonstrations up and down the country, strikes by university, Further Education, sixth form and secondary school students, occupations in a long list of universities, numerous meetings to discuss the way forward... the student and pupil revolt against the rise in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA payments is still on the march. Students and those supporting them have come to the demonstrations in high spirits, making their own banners and their own slogans, some of them joining protests for the first time, many of them finding new ways of organising the protests.

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