Britain

The dramatic resignation of Robin Cook, until yesterday the Leader of the House of Commons was a devastating blow to Blair and represents another nail in the coffin of Blairism. The prospect of war has shaken British politics to its foundations. There is no going back for Blair now. Sooner or later his days as Labour leader are numbered.

Tony Blair’s drive towards war with Iraq is producing convulsions throughout the Labour movement. With the threatened resignation or sacking, which ever comes first, of Cabinet Minister Clare Short, after her attack on Blair’s policy on Iraq as “reckless”, the whole edifice of New Labour is threatening to come crashing down.

Students in Britain demonstrated against the war on March 5, as part of the international day of action called by the NYSPC (National Youth and Student Peace Coalition). The demo in Britain was on a much smaller scale than student demos in most other countries, but showed a change in the mood among the active layers of school and university students.

Labour Councils are being forced to choose between cuts in services or increases in the Council Tax. But the resources are there. Proof of that is the huge amount that has been set aside for the war against Iraq. In Southampton we have the courageous stand of Labour Councillor Perry McMillan who has refused to vote the increase in the Council Tax. Steve Jones explains what has been happening.

Despite all their lofty promises about the priority of "education, education, education", and their pledge that there would be no top up fees, Blair and co intend to pass the bill for higher education once again onto students and their parents, making it yet more difficult for students from poorer backgrounds to get to university.

In January Roy Jenkins, a Liberal Democrat Lord passed away. In the 1960s and 1970s he was right at the top of the British Labour Party. After his recent death the bourgeois press were full of praise for his achievements, the reason being that as of 1979 he had worked strenuously to destroy the Labour Party! No longer able to control the ranks, who were moving radically to the left, especially after the defeat in the 1979 elections, he attempted together with others to build the Social Democratic Party.

As we put this article online, the Blair government has launched a new offensive against the firefighters. Deputy Prime Minister Prescott has announced his intention to change the law to take direct control of the fire service and impose a settlement on the firefighters. This would mean the imposition of the Bain proposals, the derisory pay offer of 4% and thousands of job cuts, resulting in the closure of fire stations and the undermining of the fire service. Such measures are a threat to the entire labour movement, and must be answered by the movement as a whole.

Two Motherwell (Scotland) train drivers refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition believed to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf. This militant and courageous stand was reminiscent of the actions against General Pinochet back in the 1970s and the Jolly George incident in 1920. Railway managers cancelled the Ministry of Defence (MoD) service after the crewmen, described as "conscientious objectors" by a supporter, said they opposed Tony Blair's threat to attack Iraq.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party with a look at the experience of the first two Labour governments. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 49 March 1997.

Barbara Humphries continues her series on the history of the Labour Party. 1945 marked a watershed for Labour and for British society. The Labour Party won an historic victory, with a 146-seat majority over all other parties. It was won on the most radical election manifesto, before or since. This article was originally published in Socialist Appeal, issue 50 April 1997.

In this last article in her series on the History of the Labour Party, Barbara Humphries looks at how the turn to the left in the 1970s was cut across and how the present Blairite clique came to dominate the party, and draws the lessons for today's activists. The present turn to the right is nothing new in the party's history. As in the past it will be followed by a turn to the left.

This is the first of a series of articles on the history of the British Labour Party. These articles will help workers and youth to get a greater understanding of what the Labour Party is and what the attitude of Marxists to it should be. In this article we look at how the Party emerged from the struggles of the working class towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.

On November 17 we published an article on the crisis in the British Conservative Party, Tories in Crisis - The Plots Thicken. The purpose of the article was to show how the Tories' crisis, and especially the crisis of their leadership, is an expression of the crisis of the capitalist system, which affects all classes in society. We explained how the 'Old Guard' of the Tories would prefer the leader of the party to be elected by the MPs and not the rank and file, because the present rank and file are so right wing and out of touch with the real needs of the ruling class. The latest statements of some of the old guard Tory leaders now confirm our analysis.

Report on last Saturday's (December 7, 2002) TUC demonstration in London in support of the firefighters, where 20,000 trade unionists turned up. ACAS negotiations are not going to give firefighters what they want. These are mere delaying tactics. The FBU must step up the struggle.

Issue No 3 of the Socialist Appeal ‘Firefighters’ Bulletin’ was produced for the demonstration on Saturday, December 7, with the following articles:
Firefighters must win!
The firefighters cannot be left to fight alone, the whole trade union movement must be rallied behind them, to provide money and support.
"After New Labour"
At the Manchester conference of the Left of the Labour Party, Andy Gilchrist, leader of the FBU, recognised that the fight to replace the Blairite clique who had hi-jacked the party must start now.
Open letter to the firefighters
A letter to the firefighters from Steve Brown (Pegswood Labour Party, and secretary Wansbeck and Castle Morpeth TUC) giving full support to their struggle and inviting them to take their struggle into the Labour Party.
Fire stations for sale?
A comment on a proposal that appeared in the Financial Times to sell off...

On the one hand, Blair prepares to send troops into Iraq behind the coattails of the Americans to overthrow Saddam. On the other hand, he and 'two Jags' Prescott prepare to send in troops to break the picket lines of the firefighters. If you adopt the policies of capitalism abroad, inevitably you will adopt them in domestic policy.

In a matter of days the entire political landscape of Britain has been transformed by the magnificent struggle of the firefighters. The entire labour movement must now rally to the side of the firefighters. Go to the picket lines! Move resolutions and take up collections! The fight must be taken into the Labour Party as well. The Labour leaders want a fight with the unions. The unions must give them a fight inside the Party too.

As the Fire Brigades Union in Britain goes out on strike for the second time, we are publishing the second Firefighters' Bulletin distributed by the Socialist Appeal throughout the fire stations up and down the country. The struggle of the firefighters in Britain is becoming a major industrial battle with the Labour government commited to smash the union. We support the struggle of the firefighters for fair pay.