Britain

Image: Flickr, War on Want

Since the beginning of the crisis of 2008, anti-immigrant parties and movements have made headway in Europe and the United States. They have even managed to win over certain layers of the working class to their programme. This has led a section of the labour movement to adapt itself to these ideas, calling for stricter border controls, justifying its position with quotations from Marx. Such short-sighted policies have nothing to do with Marx or the traditions of the First, Second or Third International, as we shall demonstrate.

Theresa May has survived to live another day after coming through a vote of no confidence amongst her party’s MPs with a 200-to-117 majority. But whilst the Tory leader may have won this battle, she has most certainly lost the war.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the historic political crisis taking place in Britain, as the Tory Prime Minister's fate hangs in the balance. As Alan notes, the UK was once considered one of the most stable countries in the world. But now it is a source of enormous instability for world capitalism. And the crisis is not confined to Britain. May, Macron, and Merkel are all facing huge difficulties at home, as the broken status quo collapses around them. Only the call for a socialist Europe can offer a way forward.

Karl Marx once remarked to Friedrich Engels, his lifelong friend and collaborator, that there were sometimes uneventful decades in which years passed as though they were just days. But, he added, “these may be again succeeded by days into which years are compressed”. The current period in Britain is like the latter. Events are moving at a blistering pace.

The strategists of British capitalism are getting jittery. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, is worried. Capitalism is having a bad time of it. Conservatives, he said, should continue to make the case for the market economy — a model which had evolved “down the ages”. “This mission is urgent,” he stated recently. But why the urgency?

Just over 25 years after its foundation, the European Union looks like it could be falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions. Everywhere you look, the major parties are coming under increased pressure due to the heightening of the class struggle as a result of 10 years of crisis. This has meant that, in one country after another, the ruling class can no longer rule in the old way.

If asked 'what is the least proletarian profession?', many might place ‘video game designer’ pretty close to the top. Until quite recently, that opinion might well have been shared by a majority of game designers themselves. But now this is changing rapidly. A snowballing of awareness is taking place about the extreme exploitation that the video games industry is based upon.

It’s been a turbulent time for the aviation industry recently. And now another airline looks unlikely to weather the storm. Flybe is up for sale, with the regional air carrier calling in accountants from KPMG in an attempt to save itself from collapse. Half-year profits have plunged and the company’s auditor, PwC, warned of “significant doubt” over its future. KPMG's involvement should have instantly set alarm bells ringing, as they were also the administrator of Monarch Airlines last year.

Finally, after months of fraught negotiations, the UK-EU negotiators have come up with a proposed deal. Written on the side, however, are instructions: light the blue touchpaper and stand well clear. All hell is about to break loose. From the point of view of big business, the draft deal is not too bad, tying the British economy to Europe. But for Tory Brexiteers, in particular, the deal is toxic.

11 November this year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. This is known as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Sunday, in which Britain officially commemorates the service of British military personnel in the two world wars and all subsequent ones. The British establishment are going into overdrive to whip up a mood of 'patriotism'.

The headline announcement from the latest UK budget was that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. This assurance, coming from a Conservative chancellor, is an indication of just how far the mood in society has shifted. After eight years of cuts borne by the working class, the vulnerable, and the poor, it is clear that ordinary people are no longer willing to tolerate any more hollow rhetoric that “we’re all in this together”.

The chaotic Brexit negotiations appear more and more like a pantomime farce, complete with constant shouting from the sidelines. But there is more at stake than just seasonal slapstick. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is in the midst of a political storm that threatens the very survival of the government. Amid cries of “appeaser” and “traitor”, she promises to make “the right choices, not the easy one”.

This week has seen thousands of women council workers taking strike action in Glasgow in an ongoing dispute over pay equality. The dispute dates back to equal pay claims from 2006, when Glasgow City Council introduced a Workforce Pay and Benefits Review System, which aimed to tackle the gender pay gap. However, under the scheme, low-paid jobs tending to be occupied by women – such as cleaning, catering and care – are being paid significantly less than jobs such as refuse collection, which are male dominated.

On 19-21 October, around 300 Marxists from Britain, Europe and beyond gathered in London for the annual Revolution Festival. This year’s festival commemorated the inspiring events of 1968, half a century on. The weekend provided an inspirational experience for all comrades present, with the political level of contributions throughout the discussions being higher than ever before.

Whilst her dancing skills have been found somewhat lacking in recent months, Theresa May has become an expert at one thing: kicking the can down the road. Of course, she has been aided in this by the real masters of this practice: the European leaders, who have turned the making of political fudge into a fine art over the last decade. But no matter how much May and her negotiating partners attempt to duck and dive, they cannot dodge the final bullet. One way or another, Britain and the rest of Europe are heading for an explosion. The only question is when.

Britain’s ultra rich are already moving their money offshore, in anticipation of a Corbyn-led Labour government. They are anxious that some of their enormous wealth will be called upon to help fund the NHS, provide free education, and build council houses. Hence many are paying vast sums to accountants to help them find better uses for their money, such as hiding it in secret offshore accounts.

Once again, this autumn, Marxist students have been hitting campuses up and down Britain, signing up eager students to university Marxist societies. This year has been the most successful yet for the Marxist Student Federation (British youth organisation of the IMT), with thousands signing up to join societies across 33 campuses, and hundreds attending meetings all over the country.

As British Prime Minister, Theresa May, lurched out onto the stage at her Tory Party conference this year, swaying robotically to the sound of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, she will have been under no illusions as to the real state of the party she was about to address.