Britain

A conference is taking place in London this Saturday to discuss the crisis of working class representation. It will not take any decisions, but some of those taking part clearly have the perspective that a break with the Labour Party is necessary. What is the answer to the present Blairite domination of the Labour Party?

The recent Turner report on pensions in Britain came up with the same proposal we have seen everywhere else in the world, raise the age of retirement! Is it really true that we can't afford to pay pensions? Productivity of labour is going up all the time; so fewer workers should be able to keep more pensioners. That would be the case if it weren't for the profit motive that drives capitalism.

Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy in Britain, 69.3 years compared to Kensington and Chelsea whose resolute residents can expect a longevity of more than 85 years. This is the difference between the poorest and wealthiest parts of Britain.

Twenty-five years ago today John Lennon was killed in New York. There was a mass outpouring of grief all over the world. This was because he symbolised something different from the mainstream music industry. He gave expression in the words of some of his songs the genuine feeling of disgust of many workers and youth at what capitalist society stands for.

Tony Blair suffered his first ever defeat in parliament yesterday when 49 Labour MPs voted against the introduction of new repressive ‘anti-terror’ legislation. The defence of civil liberties, consistently under attack from the Blair government, is a vitally important question in its own right. However, as Phil Mitchinson explains, Blair’s parliamentary defeat has far wider implications for the future of the British labour movement.

Saturday’s Marxist.com day school proved to be very successful, with many new faces turning up, especially youth. This success bodes well for the future of our work in Britain. Here we provide a brief outline of the proceedings.

The right to demonstrate, to strike, to trial by jury in Britain are all elementary civil liberties, yet most of them have already been whittled away. Now the so-called “war on terror” is being used to destroy what little is left. This assault on our democratic rights is not a secondary matter. The democracy afforded us by capitalism is restricted, but we can no more ignore the attacks launched on our political rights than we can attacks on our jobs, wages and conditions.

The idea that Brown has been secretly opposed to privatisation, to the war in Iraq, to the Labour government’s assault on civil liberties ‑ but keeping quiet through ‘loyalty’ (to his career that is, not to the Labour Party or working class Labour voters) ‑ is patently absurd. Both should go.

“I was a member of the British Labour party for some years and seeing that old man being manhandled the way he was out of the Labour conference made my blood boil and almost brought me to tears.”

The 2005 Labour Party Conference marks a significant shift in the situation in Britain. It deserves careful study by Marxists and by every trade union and Labour activist. It was chiefly marked by a sharp conflict between the Party leadership and the trade unions

Anyone who doubted the wider implication for civil liberties of Blair’s ‘anti-terror’ legislation need look no further than the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang, who fled Nazi Germany in 1937, was roughly manhandled out of the hall by a pair of heavies

Three Amicus members of staff have been suspended from their jobs in the union. All three are leading members of the broad left that was instrumental in defeating the right wing and getting Derek Simpson elected as General Secretary. No reason has been given for their suspension. It is obviously a politically motivated attack. Please take part in the campaign to get the three reinstated.

No one union alone can successfully fight the present anti-union laws. But imagine if the TUC were to lead a major protest against the laws in every workplace and organised on behalf of 7 million union members a direct challenge to those laws - that would have more effect than any number of seminars and workshops and would put unions in a stronger position to win.

A leading member of Venezuela's largest union, the National Workers Union, UNT, will be present at the TUC, having been invited by the National Union of Journalists and by Hands Off Venezuela. NATFHE will move a resolution in support of Venezuela and the progressive policies of the government of president Hugo Chávez, committing the TUC to work with solidarity campaigns and to build links with Venezuelan trade unionists.

The British government and the Metropolitan Police are now trying to sweep under the carpet the brutal execution of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22. We must not allow this to happen. This young, innocent, Brazilian man - an electrician by trade, just 27 years of age - is the latest victim of the so-called “war on terror”, but also of the undermining of civil liberties and the strengthening of the powers of the capitalist state.

The dispute that erupted at the Gate Gourmet company in August is symptomatic of what is really happening in the British labour movement. The strike of the Gate Gourmet workers received strong support from the workers at British Airways who paralysed Heathrow Airport and inflicted heavy losses on the company. The class solidarity expressed in this dispute is an indication of what is to come throughout the whole of the British labour movement.

Several months ago there was a report in some British papers of an unusual speech by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. The speech gives a glimpse of a discussion that must have recently taken place amongst the British capitalists, and which the Gate Gourmet dispute is a direct consequence of. It is about the use of cheap immigrant labour to drive down wages and worsen working conditions.

The Houses of Parliament cleaners made history by staging their first walk-out on the morning of 20th July. At 10 am the strikers assembled outside St. Stephens’ entrance together with some MPs, parliamentary staff and the media to publicise their demands. The strikers were chanting slogans like “Low Pay, No Way” while some of them were brandishing placards and mops.

Despite clashing with both the RISE festival and the traditional Tollpuddle Rally, the main hall at the TUC’s Congress House was largely full for this year’s AGM and rally of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the main new umbrella grouping for Left activists inside the Labour Party. Amongst others, a number of the platform speakers from the trade union movement, including Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Paul Mackney (NATFHE) took time to outline the ongoing process of attacks against the public sector being carried out by the government.

Our readers will recall that The Economist called on its readers to vote Marx off the top of the list of the most revered philosophers. We appealed to our readers to vote for Marx and keep him at the top. In spite of The Economist’s best attempts Marx won! This comes as no surprise to us. We await The Economist's explanation with interest.