Protest in central London against cuts to welfare, 2012
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 9 February meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Another illustration of the role played by Labour councillors in implementing so-called ‘ConDem’ cuts – actually capitalist cuts – is the behaviour of the local Labour group in Harlow.
Harlow Trades Council has long supported the work of Harlow Welfare Rights and Advice in its efforts to serve the often hard-pressed local community. Recognising the clear need for the services provided by HWRA, Labour’s General Committee supported its retention before Christmas. What’s more, when the continued existence of the body was challenged on some dubious legal technicality the GC voted for a mediated solution that would not deprive the people of Harlow of this service.
Yet at 7.30pm on 28 January, Labour-run Harlow council abruptly changed the HWRA locks, banning staff from entry and at a stroke bringing its vital work in the local community to a halt.
Whilst this act of vandalism was initiated by a civil servant (the council’s chief executive Malcolm Morley), one very disgruntled Labour councillor noted that “It is clear from my discussion with members of Labour’s cabinet that the leader and a majority of the cabinet are in agreement with the officers. Most notable for their full and active support of Malcolm Morley are leader Mark Wilkinson and cabinet member Tony Durcan.”
The yawning gap between Labour’s words and its deeds prompted the councillor to reflect: “I am very disappointed that councillors don’t have much of a say in running the council. The reason I became a councillor is to help people in Harlow, but so far I have not seen any changes apart from what the government want us to implement.”
The secretary of Harlow Trades Council, David Forman, has drawn some interesting conclusions from this experience, noting that “Labour councillors hide behind the law like a matador hides behind his red cloak, which merely conceals the tools of destruction.
“A failure to understand the class-based nature of the state, with the law and judiciary being key weapons in the armoury of the ruling class, leads those on the right and centre ground to see the state as neutral and benign.
“A deliberate rewriting of history … allows the labour movement to be lulled into thinking fine oratory and legal manoeuvres by the middle classes produces reforms. In reality, it is a series of struggles on the industrial front by a militant working class that leads to changes on the political front.
“All this obfuscation is designed to disarm the working class and make them dependent on their so-called ‘betters’, thus allowing Labour and reformist union leaders to spout the worn-out phrase: ‘There is no alternative’.”
It is indeed social democracy (including its ‘left’ face) that blunts the edge of class struggle and conceals from workers the only real alternative: socialism.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 12 January meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Riots in Tottenham by Surian Soosay
The announcement of an across-the-board 1 percent cap on benefit rises is the latest salvo in a capitalist offensive against the working class.
By pretending to champion the ‘workers against the shirkers’ (ie, the employed versus the jobless), the government hopes to divide and undermine the working class. Labour’s feeble response, pointing out that the benefit cut will hit low-pay working households dependent on tax credits too, merely ropes off another section of the working class (‘strivers’, a 21st-century version of the ‘deserving poor’), further reinforcing the debilitating notion that some capitalist cuts are ‘fairer’ than others.
Meanwhile, the salami slicer grinds on relentlessly in every borough, regardless of which party is turning the handle.
Birmingham city council intends to cut £600m from the £1.2bn budgets under its control. More than a thousand council workers have already been made redundant, with another 1,000 to follow this year, and council leaders predict that by 2017, 7,000 jobs will have gone.
The leader of the Labour group on the council refused demands that the council should defy central government and pass a ‘deficit budget’, instead announcing “the end of local government as we know it”, entailing some services being completely wound up and others pared to the bone – eg, fortnightly or monthly rubbish collections.
In their account of this meeting, Birmingham Against Cuts reported that “One young person from Handsworth who was there with the Save Birmingham Youth Service campaign talked passionately about how his youth worker had helped him, and without the youth service (which faces further cuts this year) he would probably be following a life of crime. He said he could see another riot and asked ‘Do you really think you can handle what will happen if you cut youth services?’”
Or, as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, puts it in a wider context: “If the economic pressure on people goes on, yes it will have a social impact on people. And if young people especially don’t see any future, any options, you might be confronted also with unrest – like in 2011 – and there is no reason that this unrest will not repeat itself one day.” Daccord went on to draw a parallel with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Even if the council in Birmingham relents over youth service funding under this kind of pressure, this will only mean £1m being taken out of another budget, raising the economic and social pressure somewhere else. Something has to give.
See also: ‘Who stole our future?‘
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
With more and deeper cuts every day chipping away at things to which everyone had long become accustomed (a fire engine turning up in reasonable time when you dial 999, a proper investigation when someone loses a finger in an industrial accident, an affordable train ticket even), people quite reasonably look to the unions to do their traditional job of standing up for the rights of ordinary workers.
Yet with unions less interested in organising strike funds than they are in donating to the Labour party, we can expect little more from the TUC than the odd day’s protest march.
The efforts of union militants in the NSSN and elsewhere to kick-start the do-nothing TUC into leading a coordinated strike campaign against the imposition of austerity in Britain continue to run into the same brick wall at congress after congress.
Each year one or other resolution in favour of this, suitably militant in presentation but hedged about with enough caveats to reassure the labour aristocracy, is passed unanimously and then left to gather dust on the shelf, with at best another chance to let off steam at another ‘day of action’.
This year proved no exception, with what the NSSN describe as a ‘bold resolution’ from the prison warders proposing “a coalition of resistance taking coordinated action where possible [!] with far-reaching campaigns including the consideration [!!] and practicalities [!!!] of a general strike”.
But the harsh truth is that, until the social-democratic politics of the union movement are taken on and faced down, the TUC will continue its history of treachery to the working class – a history unbroken since 1926.
Trying to cheer ourselves up by telling ourselves that “The passing of this motion is a great step forward in the battle that has been waged to push the leaders of the TUC towards mobilising the weight of the trade-union movement against the government’s cuts agenda” merely reinforces the reformist notion that piling more pressure on the labour aristocracy will eventually oblige them to lead the fight against capitalism, disarming workers ideologically.
And in the end, the key question is not whether the TUC refuses to call a general strike or calls one in order to betray it. The key question is rather: what is meant by ‘A future that works’?
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the economic and financial crisis gripping the world is a classic crisis of overproduction of the kind that Marxism demonstrates is bound to affect the capitalist world periodically because of the contradiction inherent in capitalism between private ownership of the means of production, on the one hand, and the social nature of production on the other. The private owners of the means of production (ie, ‘capital’) deploy them only for the purpose of accumulating private wealth, while the social producers – the working class – are squeezed as much as possible in order to maximise the capitalists’ profits.
However, congress further recognises that, since it is overwhelmingly the working-class masses who constitute, either directly, or indirectly through government purchases on their behalf of services such as health care and education, the market for the products of the capitalist economy, their squeezed powers of consumption cannot keep pace with the permanent need of capital to expand its production (the unquenchable thirst for expansion being forced on capitalists by the phenomenon of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which the capitalists strive to neutralise by expansion). Hence the recurring crises of “overproduction”.
Congress affirms that it is not that more is being produced than people need – it is that more is being produced than people can afford to buy. The least competitive capitalists are wiped out, along with all their workers, who are thrown out of employment by the thousand, and then cause a general lowering of wages because there is an oversupply of workers in relation to the supply of jobs available. This in turn undermines the general market for the products of capitalism still further, and so on in a vicious downward spiral.
This congress notes that crises of overproduction appear as financial crises because the bankruptcies caused by producers being unable to sell their commodities in the quantities they had been banking on leaves these producers unable to pay their debts – most businesses being dependent on bank loans in normal times to ensure that their businesses run smoothly. To avert the economic chaos that would arise from bank failure, national governments step in to save their banks by pumping huge sums of taxpayer money into them. This, however, means that governments are forced to borrow more, pay more interest and, generally, pay increased rates of interest too as they become more of a credit risk.
Congress further notes that these huge borrowing costs have to be paid by taxpayers, which puts still more pressure on their purchasing power – aggravating the crisis rather than curing it. Therefore, in order to reduce borrowing costs, governments reduce their spending – ie, they introduce ‘austerity’ – with thousands of government employees being added as a result to the mounting numbers of unemployed, and a further twist being added to the downward spiral of the crisis. Precisely because it is no solution, even the Financial Times condemns austerity as counterproductive, leading to reduced GDP and therefore to a reduced income with which to pay all the problematic debts.
This congress recognises that the crisis of capitalism will within capitalism be resolved – and then only temporarily – when enough capital (machinery, unsaleable goods etc) has been destroyed to ensure that there is room for whatever is left to expand as it needs to. Since capitalism evolved into imperialism, which has divided the whole world into spheres of influence under the control of one or other imperialist power, economic crises have driven the various imperialist powers to world war (ie, the first and second world wars) as each of them sought to resolve its crisis at the expense of the others. These wars take place over and above the incessant wars conducted in every corner of the earth by the various imperialist powers, either directly or through local proxies, to maintain oppressed nations in subjection to the imperialist diktat.
This congress therefore affirms that the recurring crises of capitalism and its ever more destructive, inhuman and brutal wars, demonstrate that this last exploitative economic system has now by far outlived its usefulness and urgently needs to be discarded. The ruling bourgeoisies who benefit from this moribund system, and who fight tooth and nail to preserve it, stopping not even at world war, must be overthrown and the proletariat must establish socialism in order to put itself in a position to implement real solutions to the economic problems of the world.
This congress resolves that the party shall continue to do its best to spread an understanding of these economic facts throughout the working-class movement in order to help dispel the illusions in the viability of the capitalist system that have been engendered by social democracy.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress reaffirms the party’s commitment to a comprehensive and easily accessible health service available to all and free at the point of access.
Congress notes that our National Health Service (NHS) did not suddenly spring out of nowhere in 1948. It was given to us as part of a welfare bribe to keep the British people away from the path of revolution and was itself modelled on the Soviet system that workers all over the world were admiring and asking why they had no access to such a health service.
Congress further notes that since the collapse of the Soviet Union successive British governments have felt confident enough to tear great chunks from the NHS to cut costs or to allow private companies to exploit health provision to the detriment of working-class patients.
Congress notes that the representatives of the bourgeoisie who take it in turns to form the British government – Labour, Tory and LibDems – not only lead the attacks on the NHS, but also make sure that it is their representatives who are leading the ‘opposition’ to such attacks. In this way, they are able to head off the various anti-privatisation campaigns into regionalist blind alleys where people from one region try to save their services at the expense of people from another region.
This congress believes that such representatives of the class that is attacking our health service will fight tooth and nail against any national coordination to oppose cuts and will always argue for campaigns to stay strictly within the confines of the capitalist/parliamentary system. Gentle protests, petitions and Early Day Motions in the ‘House’ are the blunt and useless ‘weapons’ they champion – along with accepting the ‘democratic’ outcome when these ‘weapons’ fail.
This congress therefore resolves to fight to defend the NHS by pointing out that the entire NHS needs support and to oppose the pitting of one hospital or service against another.
Congress further resolves to expose the representatives of the ruling class who seek to mislead all those who are sincerely campaigning to defend the NHS, as well as to appeal to both health workers and health service users not to let themselves be divided.
Congress resolves that, while engaging in the campaign to defend the NHS, we will also take every opportunity to demonstrate to workers that, ultimately, if they wish to defend and improve the NHS in a real way, they must work for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist Britain.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress notes the continued attempts to privatise the education system by both the Labour and ConDem governments.
Congress further notes that, with the so-called ‘austerity’ measures, education is facing its biggest cuts since the 1950s.
Congress believes that the proliferation of academies, which are replacing LEA-funded schools and which have brought private finance into the running of schools, are the precursor to full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with the increase in religious, private and grammar schools, they are paving the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.
Congress notes that, in the area of further education, government cuts are set to remove the funding for adult education (those over 24) from September 2013, which will result in anyone wanting to pursue level 3 qualifications having to pay fees. This can only push more working-class people out of the education system at a younger age and lower stage.
Congress further notes that, in higher education, the continued increase in tuition fees, and now the introduction of ‘top-up fees’, has made the cost of university education a luxury rather than a right, with many of those who do make it to university facing debts of well over £30,000 when they leave.
This congress therefore asserts that, while private finance is being brought into schools to siphon profit out of the education system, the cost of actually providing that education is being gradually shifted onto those being educated, making it harder and harder for working-class people to remain in education. This is backed up by the fact that the number of young people in education is already rapidly falling, with 15 percent of 16-24-year olds not in education, employment or training nationally. In some areas, this figure now reaches as high as 25 percent.
Congress recognises that, under capitalism, the education system is not geared to developing the capabilities of all who live within our society. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, the ruling class’s ability to provide the sop of free education to the working class in Britain is diminishing, leaving behind a third-rate education system aimed only to fit us for wage slavery or the scrap heap of unemployment.
This congress recognises that only socialism will bring free universal education for all, where the needs of the whole of society are the priority. However, in the struggle towards the overthrow of capitalism, we recognise the need for raising the consciousness of those facing the onslaught of capitalism and for engaging with these struggles.
This congress therefore resolves to support campaigns against the cuts and privatisation of our education system and to demand:
- Free universal education for all.
- The abolition of all private schools; academies; grammar schools and religious schools.
- The cancellation of all PFI contracts and a return to public funding.
- A ban on all armed force and police propaganda and recruitment on education premises.
- The scrapping of ALL tuition fees, including ‘top-up’ fees, further education fees and any other disguised version of fees for education such as the proposed ‘graduate tax’.
This congress also resolves to:
- Actively spread awareness of the educational attainment of socialist countries such as Cuba, the DPRK, and the Soviet Union before its collapse, since they provide vivid and inspiring examples of what is possible when questions of maintaining minority rule or providing capitalism profit are removed from the education equation.
- Bring all possible influence to bear on the National Union of Students to step up its campaign against ALL fees, as well as to break its link with the imperialist Labour party, in order that it might actually become a real fighting force for students in Britain.