UNITED KINGDOM: AGAINST THE CUTS, AGAINST THE WAR – SAME STRUGGLE – Faced with the dramatic fall in the standard of living, the anger of the general public continues to fuel strikes and mobilisations.

In the local elections in May, this anger manifested itself in the 73% abstentions and the almost complete elimination of the Tory candidates. In Northern Ireland, the local elections on May 20 gave Sinn Fein the most seats.

Popular and trade unions’ demonstrations are multiplying against the steady loss of most basic democratic rights. The new Minimum Service Bill will force the unions to instruct striking members to return to work, in opposition to their own strike, in certain conditions, ostensibly to provide ‘a minimum service’. This law adds to the anger. It brings home the reality that the right to fight for a dignified life is becoming inaccessible.

Where workers can speak up, they denounce the employers and the ministers whose policy is to cut public expenditure, as well as the workers’ wages and the working conditions. The capitalists have no solution to inflation other than to lower the level of consumption. The workers denounce this attack on their lives, while the government can still “find” billions for the arms trade and the war industry, through profiteering and cuts in the social budgets.

The strikes demand that priority be given to human life, to human development, to the protection of the natural world and the planet. This cannot happen because priority is given to growing military budgets and war preparations. Social progress therefore, even the most basic, now requires opposition to the war measures of the country; opposition to the deployment of atomic weapons in England for instance; opposition to turning the country into a nuclear target of war, and with the population paying for it!

Loss of strength and of control drives capitalism to war

Prime Minister (unelected) Rishi Sunak is a former hedge fund manager mentioned in the Sunday Times Rich List for his personal wealth. His complete dedication to NATO’s wars and the US’ world domination, is only matched by his ardent wish to help Zelensky defeat Russia.

The Sunak government supports the ultra-rightist and Nazifying policies that accompany NATO’s eastward expansion. His government represents the interests of the small layer of global financial oligarchs with one of their most notorious centers in the City of London. Recent experience shows that the more these people impose their views and policies, the more entrenched the strikes become against them.

On the Ukrainian question, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is surprised by the support Russia is gathering in the world, instead of being isolated at all. That is why, at the G7, Sunak urged his capitalist allies to “seize the moment” to ensure that Russia is defeated. To this, he added that not only does China pose the greatest challenge to global security and prosperity [that of capitalism], but China has also “the means and the intention to reshape the world order”.

In an attempt to keep a grip on the “world order”, the US, the UK and their allies cling feverishly to their remaining means of domination. Their means are financial via the rules of the dollar, the debt, the freezing of the assets of sanctioned countries. Their means are military of course, above all. They deploy their fleets of SSN and SSBN nuclear-bomber submarines, and their arsenals of nuclear bombs controlled by the USA, already in place in at least 5 European countries. Politically, the US, UK, NATO and their allies have created international forums like the G7 – from which they ejected Russia in 2014 – where they reckon themselves powerful enough to urge the capitalist world to “seize” the moment to ensure that Russia is defeated.

Aware of their continual loss of authority in the world and in their respective countries above all, the United States, NATO, the United Kingdom and their allies fall back on their military capacity. If they are arming Ukraine ‘to the teeth’, it is not to support Ukraine. It is, as they say, “to ensure the defeat of Russia”. So the US is now agreeing to let Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Portugal send F16s to Ukraine. How long before Zelenski demands F35s?

Capitalism’s war against the British people is failing

Since the recent collapse of 5 banks in the United States, several British banks had to be bailed out by the Central Bank of England. Official statistics show that UK economic growth has been close to zero for the past 2 years. People are witnessing the senseless ostentation and odious privileges of the heads of big business as well as of the royal family. People find that however much they work all day, and every day, the state still finds itself incapable of caring for the public assets, the public services and the life conditions of those working in them.

The impoverishment of everyone in the country and growing destitution, are a real war that the capitalists are waging against the population. In their attempt at impoverishing and subjugating key sections of the working class, they hope to keep their rotten system of exploitation, inequality and war alive a little longer. Successive British governments have all blamed Russia for causing the enormous rise in inflation that plagues Europe and the UK. But the press itself occasionally admits that it is the Western sanctions on Russia that have done this.

The capitalist war against Russia ends up being the war against the peoples. It is remarkable that the British people – let alone the strikers – are in no way blaming Russia for soaring prices, as Sunak would like them to do. Far from this, people protest the priorities of the government. They blame the government for the £4 billion worth of armaments recently promised to Ukraine. The workers’ strikes are not against Russia, but against the capitalist rulers and their governments.

After visiting the nurses’ pickets, the head of the RCN Pat Cullen retreated from the 5% deal she had recently accepted from the employers – quite a blow when she had previously defended the 19%. At the RCN conference, she recognised she had been wrong. She admitted with admiration that “the nurses have the energy and determination to continue their strike over the coming months”. This change is not uncommon at the moment. It occurs among teachers, railway workers, train drivers, the public service union (PCS) who are still all in struggle.

Without arriving at the point of a general strike, the current strikes have provoked great changes in the union leaderships. Some union leaders take the side of the working class, like Pat Cullen. Others who had been less determined now join the fight and improve the Union. In the localities, many of those who resisted strike action have been removed and replaced. This is very hard to do in the absence of strikes. It explains how the long-lasting strikes have not fizzled out.

Alarmed by the tenacity of the working class, the bourgeois class accelerates the passage of laws to cripple the right to strike and the right to demonstrate. But the Corbyn phenomenon has left its mark. It showed that British workers can form a left Labour political leadership very quickly, based on a program of opposition to capitalism that no one will ever be able to ‘kick’ out of the Labour Party. British workers are influenced by the changes taking place in international relations, like the reincorporation of Syria into the Arab League. The working class feels that a decisive change in the world is bringing about the rapprochement between Russia and China, and the leaning of the latter towards the oppressed. This is how Russia and China find themselves in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in the BRICS and even in the G20.

The anti-Russia campaign

In Britain, the Ukrainian flag flies above the seat of government in Whitehall as well as in countless town halls across the country. This flag hammers home the official version and the Single Thought of the British Capitalist Party vis-à-vis Russia. Zelenski met the pope. Zelenski wanted to preside over the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool. Zelenski at Sunak’s country retreat with a warm embrace. Zelenski and his speech to the Arab League, repeated every few minutes on TV, in all his ignorance and malevolence. The same goes for his speech at the G7 where he compared Bakhmut to Hiroshima, thereby unwittingly admitting defeat at Bakhmut.

Zelensky will attend the G20 in September. But there, he will find Russia and China, and the Indian host not sold to his ideas. The British government’s anti-Russia campaign is vitriolic, and unfortunately the same is true of the Labour Party which has banned the use of the word “NATO” in its rare political debates.

The fear and hatred of the British bourgeoisie for Russia have deep historical roots, revived in their time by Churchill’s proposal – which the United States rejected – to continue the Second World War in 1945 against the Red Army. The Labour Party also protects capitalism, having never sought more than to humanise it. The result is the Labour Party collaborating obsequiously in the most nazifying British imperialist campaigns, like the demonisation of the Russian intervention in Ukraine and the Zelenski worship . The absence of a national Labour daily broadsheet leaves the working class with few means to analyse these questions.

To force the Labour members to glorify Zelenski and shame Russia, the Starmer’s leadership uses the same cowardly and underhand methods as when it expelled the roughly 250,000 pro-Corbyn Labour members. But would Labour continue to trouble with this sort of thing, if there were no more opponents of the Single Capitalist Thought to be feared in the ranks? It should be noted that many ordinary trade union and labour organisations still support the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other anti-war organisations which call for the disarmament not only of Russia, but also of NATO, of the United Kingdom – and even the dissolution of NATO.

Repression does not induce people to give up

The new ‘anti-strike’ laws require Trade Unions to limit their strikes in order to guarantee a certain levels of service when deemed “in the public interest”. The law removes the immunity from prosecution that used to shield strikers from employers’ retaliation at the end of strikes. Unions can now be sued, or fined up to £20,000 (per case) for breach of the Minimum Service rules. The unions are not intimidated however. They will fight this like everything else.

The superstitious and feudal exceptionalism of the monarchy reinforces the glorification and sanctification of bourgeois social relations. The latter are based on colonial arrogance, segregation, prejudice, privilege and social inequality. On the occasion of the coronation of Charles III on May 6, the public appearance of the group “Republic” gave a measure of the new possibilities to challenge the old order. The group’s placards that declared “Not my King” are still making headlines on social media. The head of Republic and 51 of its followers – who had been arrested ‘to avoid noise and disturbance’ – were quickly released; presumably to end the grand burlesque in the social medias that found wild entertainment in the absurd situation .

Shortly after the coronation, critical articles appeared in the international press of some Commonwealth countries. Jamaica’s Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs announced that she wanted a Republic in her country, and that she was in favor of calling a referendum. Barbados had declared itself a republic in 2021, and now Belize, Antigua and Barbuda want to follow suit. Representatives from Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas and Canada released a joint letter that they sent to the new king. There, they demanded “the restoration of the collective rights of the indigenous peoples” and “their right to recover from all the centuries of colonisation and slavery”. The letter also called for a formal apology and “a restorative justice process to begin.” Australian Senator Lidia Thorpe denounced “British colonization, genocide, the theft of land, the denigration of our culture”. She told the King that he must “apologize to First Nations and Indigenous peoples”. The king replied that he would enquire ..

The strong sense of oppression that animates people has no constitutional means of expression. This is how direct actions are increasing, particularly by young people. With their actions, people demand that the money spent on the military be used to reorganise the country instead, to meet the social needs, protect human life, the natural world, the climate, the planet. The CND demonstration in Lakenheath on 20 May drew support from Extinction Rebellion, the Peoples Assembly and even the Young Communist League (YCL). Conscious proletarian leadership to transform society is lacking, but the understanding grows that the capitalist regime resorts to war to preserve itself, its own system of plunder, appropriation, exploitation and violence without which it would have to stop accumulating capital – hence stop existing.

Reorient the budget from defence to the public services

The expenses that NATO and British capitalism incur by arming Ukraine ‘to the teeth’ against Russia are paid for by the taxpayer whose contributions go to the military and not to the hospitals. And as if this weren’t enough, the British people are charged again through their purchases, due to high inflation largely caused by Western sanctions on Russia. The war against Russia is a war of capitalism against the UK population therefore, and in the whole of Europe.

Some Labour pacifist comrades propose the disarmament of all the parties intervening in Ukraine. But the recent decision to supply the F16s to Ukraine sends Zelenski further up the war path. The rapid and unbridled rearmament of German and Japanese imperialisms suggests that strong forces have a keen interest in the escalation of this conflict, whose epicentre is well beyond Ukraine. The AUKUS global alliance aims at China for example, and not just at Ukraine.

World capitalism is turning Zelensky into its war ambassador all over the world. Behind deafening anti-Russian propaganda in the UK, the government is silently pressing its war on the people, dismantling of the health service even at the cost of thousands of deaths*.

Expelled Labour comrades talk of building a new mass party. But a mass party does not get invented. In Britain, the mass Labour Party came out of the unique role that the trade unions played when they first appeared massively in this first and mighty capitalist country. As a result, the Unions were never strong for joining a political current or another. Any alternative to Labour will find itself in competition with the members of that Party – members who it is much more opportune to want to support than to supplant.

In the Labour and trade union base, there are conditions to create currents ready to link the fight against the destruction of the public services with the fight against the war of capitalism. In them, it is worth taking up some of the slogans proposed by the Young Communist League: “Immediate withdrawal from NATO and imperialist alliances. Withdrawal of all US and NATO bases from the UK. Unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United Kingdom. Withdrawal from British bases overseas and repatriation of all military personnel. A foreign policy based on peace, cooperation and international development. And the reorientation of the defense budget towards public services”.

Concrete organisational forms are needed to uphold this program. The conditions exist to transform the strike committees into permanent anti-war committees. The variety of organizations which joined the CND in Lakenheath shows that it is possible, and urgent, to create fronts of solidarity between the people fighting against absurd poverty and repression on the one hand, and the fight against war on the other hand. The Posadists Today invite discussion of these ideas.

Posadists Today, 24.5.2023


Three Notes:

. There are 42 countries in the Commonwealth, with Australia, South Africa, Canada, Cyprus, Mozambique, Singapore, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, among others.

. The Young Communist League (YCL) participated with red flags in the CND demonstration at the British base of Lakenheath (Suffolk). This base is at the exclusive disposal of the American army and therefore of NATO. At this location, underground silos are being refurbished to receive (again) the atomic bomb, the B61-12 this time. The United Kingdom will therefore be the sixth country in Europe to store this bomb.

. The five other European countries that stockpile the atomic bomb – in defiance of the NPT treaty they all signed in 1968, USA included – are : Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

* A Freedom of Information Request allowed to calculate that 23,000 people died in hospitals in 2022, an increase of more than 20% on 2021, and almost 40% on 2020. www.theguardian.com/society/2023/may/19/more-than-23000-people-died-in-ae-in-england-last-year-labour-estimates


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