Britain

The worsening of the crisis means more unemployment and poverty

Since the spring, the world economy has been the victim of a series of financial tremors: whole states, and some of the developed world's biggest companies, have gone bankrupt, the stock exchanges have rarely been so unstable and fragile. The bourgeoisie's clever economists have trotted out a whole list of explanations for this avalanche of problems: they have 'denounced' the disastrous policies of the IMF, pouring oil on the fire as it came to the 'rescue' of countries in difficulty, the scandal of stock-options encouraging stock market fiddling on a grand scale, the headlong flight into financial speculation and debt by companies, etc.

The discontent is real, and so are the union obstacles

In Argentina in the first five months of 2002 there have been more than 11,000 demonstrations as well as various others forms of mobilisation - rallies, hunger strikes, the blocking of main roads and workers’ strikes. In a very mixed social movement the working class has found it very difficult to defend its particular class interests, to struggle as an independent class when so many other social strata are acting in response to the austerity imposed by the economic crisis hitting the country.

Zimbabwe and the myth of democratic change

The recent election in Zimbabwe was, according to a Guardian editorial (14/3/2) a "crime against the people". The election was "thoroughly fixed, fiddled, manipulated, and comprehensively stolen". Surveying the scene the editorial-writer found that "The evidence of massive fraud, rooted in intimidation and skulduggery of every kind, was to be found in every province, every township and every polling station. In short, the whole thing stinks."

Bush, Blair, Bin Laden - they are all terrorist gangsters

The ruthless slaughter of thousands of civilians in New York and Washington, the majority of them workers, in the very heart of the USA, of capitalism's number one economic and military machine, was not only an abominable war crime. It also marks a giant step in the decomposition of the existing social order.

Britain defends its own imperialist interests

The American bourgeoisie has exploited the catastrophe of 11 September to try and reassert its imperialist power on an unprecedented scale. The British bourgeoisie has also not missed the opportunity to play its own imperialist game, to advance its own military, diplomatic and political position on the world arena at the expense of its rivals, cynically exploiting sympathy for its ‘own’ victims in the terrorist attacks.

Middle East: Spiral of nationalist hatred

At the time of writing, the latest atrocity in Israel/Palestine is the suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco, which left at least 17 young people dead and scores more injured. By the time this paper comes back from the printer, it is more than likely that the Israeli state will have exacted its revenge � perhaps another air raid on a refugee camp charged with harbouring the terrorists of Islamic Jihad who have claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing. Sharon will pretend that this is an attack on a military target, but as ever it will be defenceless civilians who will die or see their homes reduced to rubble. This in turn will provoke new acts of revenge by the Islamic groups or even by hapless, despairing individuals, like the Palestinian bus driver who drove his bus into a line of Israeli passengers.

Foreign policy in the election: All parties are militarist

In their election manifestos all the political parties made grand statements about Britain’s role in the world. Labour set out its “ten-year vision for British foreign policy”; the Tories talked of Britain being “one of the world’s most respected democracies, one of its most influential leaders” while the Liberal Democrats called for an “internationalist approach”. As ever, the reality behind such words is a brutal defence of national interests.

A new government to further reduce workers’ living standards

Once the dry ice of the election spectacle has cleared, the new government can get on with its job: defending capitalism at the expense of the working class.

After every election it’s the same, regardless of which party gets in. The indications are that, this time round, the ruling class prefers Labour to provide the best team for looking after its interests.

Foot and mouth: A crisis spread by capitalism

The foot and mouth crisis in Britain, which is now spreading to the rest of Europe, is having a devastating economic impact. Nearly half a million animals have already been slaughtered, and the epidemic is still not yet under control. British food exports have been banned, while the closing of the countryside is losing the tourist industry a £100 million a week. The cost of the crisis is already estimated at 1.1% of GDP.

13th Congress of World Revolution

The economic crisis

1. From the Far East to the heartlands of capitalism the brutal contradictions of the global crisis of overproduction have unfolded as the world economy has sunk into open recession since the summer of 1997. "The full extent of the financial crisis which began over a year ago in South-East Asia is beginning to emerge. It took a new plunge during the summer with the collapse of the Russian economy, and the unprecedented convulsione unprecedented convulsions of the 'emerging countries' of Latin America. But today, it is the developed countries of Europe and North America that are in the firing line, with the continual slide on their stock exchanges and the constant downward adjustments of their forecast growth. We have come a long way from the bourgeoisie's euphoria of a few months back expressed in the dizzy rise in western markets during the first half of 1998. Today, the same 'specialists' who had congratulated themselves on the 'good health' of the Anglo-Saxon countries, and who forecast a recovery for all the European countries, are the first to talk of recession, or even 'depression'. And they are right to be pessimistic. The clouds gathering over the most powerful economies are pregnant, not with some passing squall, but with a veritable tempest, an expression of the dead-end into which the capitalist economy has plunged" (IR 95, 'Economic disaster reaches capitalism's heart')

Zimbabwe: Government and opposition are both against the working class

The EU observer mission sent to watch the election in Zimbabwe were not happy about the "climate of fear" and that the "Zanu-PF leaders seemed to sanction the use of violence and intimidation". However, as the Movement for Democratic Change, lead by Morgan Tsvangirai, won 57 seats, despite being only able to safely campaign in 25 of the 120 at stake, political parties in Europe declared their satisfaction. In Britain, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat all appreciated the work of Tsvangirai, a leading trade unionist often called a ‘British puppet’ by Zanu-PF. Such accusations are based on the reality that he was in constant contact with the British government throughout the campaign, and all British coverage of the Zimbabwe election campaign was devoted to the denunciation of violence and the demonisation of Mugabe.

Behind the 'recovery' of the economy: The hidden crisis and attacks on the working class

But when the Chancellor presented his November pre-Budget report it was against the backdrop of some apparently impressive economic indicators. Unemployment was at a 20 year low of 4.2%; the public spending budget showed a surplus of £9.5bn. The OECD produced a glowing report on the health of the British economy, holding out the prospect of higher economic growth of 2.7% coupled with lower unemployment and inflation despite strong increases in household wealth and pay. Indeed, "The forecasts paint a golden scenario for the Labour government moving towards the next election" (Financial Times, 17/11/99).

Rover/Ford: When workers are under attack, class struggle is our only defence

The threatened massive redundancies at Rover would destroy up to 50,000 jobs in the West Midlands. The threat to cut car assembly at Dagenham (or even close it altogether) would cause similar devastation, on a smaller scale, in East London and Essex. Tens of thousands of workers face the misery of unemployment and poverty.

Labour hypocrisy over refugee deaths

The 58 young Chinese found dead in the back of a lorry at Dover are among 300 illegal immigrants found dead in similar circumstances world wide in the last two years. Fourteen others are known, by the forged documents they carried, to have been heading for Britain. These horrific deaths have stimulated politicians to decry the evil gangs who traffic in human beings, with scant regard for human life. What hypocrisy! For most of this year, both Labour government and Tory opposition, particularly Jack Straw, William Hague and Ann Widdecombe, have been competing to be toughest on ‘bogus asylum seekers’. So virulent has this campaign been that Nick Griffin of the openly racist British National Party, noted "government ministers play the race card in far cruder terms than we would ever use".

Tony Cliff: defender of state capitalism

The death in April of Tony Cliff, leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party, and, before that, the International Socialists (1962-76) and the Socialist Review Group (1950-62), was greeted with expressions of solidarity and criticism from his fellow Trotskyists. For the SWP it was an opportunity to declare that "his unique intellectual contribution was to describe, in the late 1940s, the Soviet Union as state capitalist, and therefore imperialist" (Paul Foot in the Guardian 11/4/00). In his autobiography Cliff says that he thought about the question for two months and then "One early morning I jumped out of bed" and told his wife "‘Russia is not a workers’ state but state capitalist’".

Rover workers 'stabbed in the back' by bosses, unions and the state

BMW’s decision to break up the Rover Group is a massive blow to the working class, with some 9,000 job losses expected at the Longbridge plant and up to 50,000 jobs to be lost throughout the region. Since BMW bought Rover in 1994 it has pumped in £3bn into the group, but the losses have only mounted, totalling £647m in 1998. In response the bosses announced more investment, measures to improve productivity and 2,500 redundancies. BMW also managed to squeeze a £1.5m pledge of support from the government, while the unions bent over backwards to successfully push through the deal. Sir Ken Jackson, of the AEEU, said at the time, "This excellent result puts Rover on course for success and the workforce on course for stability" and Roger Lyons, of the MSF, said "This is a vote of confidence in the future of the car industry and shows that partnership is now the central focus of British industrial relations." (BBC Online, 11/12/98). Far from defending the interests of the workers, the unions again revealed their real role as the servants of the bosses and the interests of capitalism.

The revival of class struggle and the dangers of radical unionism

We are seeing the return of the wildcat strike, with unofficial walkouts in the post and the civil service, by fire-fighters and by BA workers at Heathrow. In the context of the developments in the struggle of the working class internationally this year, and particularly the large strikes and demonstrations against the attacks on pensions in France and Austria (see WR 266 and IR 114), this is a small sign of increasing militancy.

Hutton report sharpens divisions within the ruling class

Tony Blair and his political allies hoped that the Hutton report would 'draw a line' under all the arguments over the war on Iraq. This did not happen. Critics of Blair's policy of more sustained and closer relations with the US were angered by Hutton's 'whitewash'. Positions are now more strongly polarised and contested. More questions are being asked. More new material is being produced. The Butler inquiry into intelligence matters will provide another arena for opponents of the government's line to continue their combat. There was the well publicised collapse of the court case over the revelation by a secret service employee that the US had asked for British help in spying on certain delegations at the UN prior to the war. Clare Short then detonated her 'bombshell' that Britain eavesdropped on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. By the time you read this there will almost certainly have been further stages in this conflict within the ruling class, flak from Blair's critics, counter-attacks from the government and its friends.

The British state organises terrorism in Ireland

After investigating four controversial killings in Northern Ireland, retired Canadian judge Peter Cory concluded that agents of the security forces were allowed to set up murders, which the army (especially its Force Research Unit), MI5 and special branch were aware of, encouraged and assisted with. As he made his recommendations for full public inquiries there were press reports that the Ministry of Defence was concerned that "further light would be shed on the undercover operations of the FRU after embarrassing disclosures by an ex-soldier under the pseudonym Martin Ingram" (Guardian, 2/4/04).

After 20 years: Lessons of the miners' strike are still relevant

There have been a number of TV programmes and newspaper articles over the last month commemorating the British miners' strike of 1984/85 that began precisely 20 years ago in March. They all, either directly or indirectly, pay lip-service to the great courage and endurance of the miners in their battle to defend their jobs and living standards. Nonetheless, they in effect write the strike off as politically na�ve faced with a ruthless right wing government, economically pointless once the coal industry had been exposed to the laws of the capitalist market, and undemocratic, insofar as it is perceived to have rejected the ballot box and resorted to physical violence in trying to stop the movements of coal. The logical conclusion they draw from this is that the defeat of the miners' strike effectively signalled the death knell for the class struggle in Britain and by implication, beyond Britain too. 'Anti-globalisation' guru George Monbiot made this explicit recently in one of his big Guardian articles, saying that the last 20 years have seen the "collapse of the proletariat as a political force". The historical context

Contradictions pile up for British imperialism

At the end of April Tony Blair was looking very haggard. It had been a difficult political month with the generalisation of armed conflict in Iraq, his pained support for Bush's backing of Sharon's plans in Palestine, the letter by 52 former diplomats criticising his support for Bush's policy towards Sharon and his lessening influence on the US; and all of this topped off with his U-turn on the referendum over the European Constitution. No matter where he turns Blair appears to be confronted with serious political problems. But while it may be Blair who is most publicly suffering under the weight of the problems, his political torment is that of the whole British ruling class, faced as it is with an increasingly contradictory world situation that is making it more and more difficult to defend the imperialist interests of British capital.

Uncomfortable choices for the British ruling class

When Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, visited Sudan to make humanitarian speeches this was not met with universal acclaim. "After two and a half years of rule by Mr Straw and his allies, Iraq and Afghanistan were declared the two most lawless places on earth by a risk-assessment company. And Mr Straw lectures Khartoum on keeping order in Darfur!" commented Simon Jenkins (The Times 25.8.04), illustrating the irritation felt by the British ruling class at both the paucity of the benefits it has gained from its 'special relationship' with the US and the performance of its government.

Obesity, a disease of poverty

When a Parliamentary select committee and the tabloid press joined forces to condemn childhood obesity, using the example of a 3 year old who 'choked on her own fat', they did not care one jot for either the truth that she was suffering from a genetic condition, nor for the feelings of her parents. When other journalists scooped the fact that the campaign had been whipped up using the case of a victim of genetic disease and not bad parenting, this only served to keep the issue in the public eye for longer, and with it the condemnation of poor families.

Labour Party unity in defence of ruling class interests

The Labour Party conference was a demonstration of the unity of the party and its determination to win a third term rather than of its divisions over Iraq and the feud between Blair and Brown. The intervention of the unions to squash the debate on Iraq, the back-peddling of many 'anti-war' activists and the result of the Hartlepool bye-election strongly suggest that Labour is still backed by the British ruling class as the best party to defend its interests. At the same time, the real tensions between Blair and Brown, which don't seem to be based on any significant political differences, give an insight into life within the ruling class today.

16th Congress of WR: British imperialism between a rock and a hard place

The ICC's section in Britain recently held its 16th Congress. One of the responsibilities of any territorial section is to discuss the national situation. It has to look at the economic crisis, the struggle between the classes, and the national capital in the framework of inter-imperialist antagonisms. The following article is based on part of a report presented to the Congress and concerns the current position of British imperialism. As a marxist analysis it looks at the situation with a historical perspective rather than taking a quick snapshot of the latest events. We will publish further material from the Congress in future issues.

The evolution of the British situation since World War 2 (part two)

The
Labor Party: Government Team and Loyal Opposition

9.
The party of the bourgeoisie which corresponds most closely to the
overall needs of British national capital -- not just in the current
conjunctural crisis but in the whole epoch of decadence -- is the
Labor Party. Its specific structure and orientation are best suited
to deal with the requirements of British capital, particularly since
World War II, in relation to the needs for:

--
the statification of the economy

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Britain