First Posted: May 30, 2009 on http://democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/britain-2009-by-wprm-britain.html
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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We are currently going through an important period in the history of class struggle in Britain. The past seven years have been marked by a rapid politicisation of the working class and the masses, and a huge loss of credibility of the ruling class. The objective situation is increasingly compelling the masses to seek a way out of the gradually more unstable living conditions and the resumption of the struggle in the North of Ireland. The economic crisis is deepening and getting more out of control, forcing the imperialist state to transfer the crisis to the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while tightening the living conditions for the working class and resorting to more suppressive measures in this country.
Today, in many sections of the mass movements, especially among the advanced, there is a strong desire to find correct answers for many fundamental questions that class struggle has brought to the fore. For example, why have some sections of the anti-globalisation and anti-war movements not developed into a revolutionary movement? Why could such a massive anti-war movement not stop the ruling class attacking and occupying Iraq? Why has a movement against the war on Afghanistan not developed? Why has the just struggle in the North of Ireland for independence against the British state, with the so-called peace process been disregarded? Why has the intensification of suppression of the people, particularly the Moslem and Black youth, been overlooked?
Why have the just struggles for independence in Palestine, Kurdistan, Baluchistan and Kashmir, the Tamils in Sri Lanka and in other oppressed nations, as well as the just struggle of millions of political prisoners for freedom and tens of millions of Indian and Chinese peasants against their forcible displacement, been largely ignored? Why have many revolutionary and progressive organisations and individuals do not deeply grappled with many important political, economic, cultural and social problems facing all of us? Why are radical forces dominated by pragmatism and spontaneity? And, why are we unable to carry out a comprehensive scientific analysis of the society and find proper answers for many key questions it poses?
In the 1970s there were nearly two million workers involved only in the coal industry, and industrial workers constituted an important part of the work force in this country. Also, the working class movement, especially, the trade union movement, despite its reformist leadership, was a considerable force. However, since then, a massive shift has taken place in the society. The coal industry has disappeared, and many industries have largely closed down or been transferred to China, India and other countries. The trade union movement has lost its former strength.
During the last thirty years, except manufacturing military hardware, the whole manufacturing industry has largely been reduced, and the service industry has become the dominant section of the work force. Before the current economic crisis, privatisation had become the principal aspect of running the economy, promoting consumerism, fetishism and individualism. Monopoly capitalism ruling Britain, has created such a consumer credit system that the level of mass consumer debt has become unsustainable, and according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, debt crisis will continue well into 2030s.
The composition of the working class has also considerably changed. Today, a large number of the lowest strata of the working class are immigrants. In addition to exploitation, these workers are continuously subjected to racism in their workplaces and deliberately segregated, preventing their integration with the society. The population of illegal immigrant workers is estimated at nearly one million. These workers are deprived of basic human and legal rights and many live in wretched conditions. They are however, an essential part of the monopoly capitalist economy producing super-profits for the housing, food and many service industries.
Since 1979, the Conservative and Labour governments have pursued privatisation of the housing sector. Before the emergence of the economic crisis in 2008, this policy led to a substantial reduction in the supply of social housing. A huge privately owned renting sector was created, and a large number of unemployed and low income workers, who were deprived of the possibility of a council house, were placed in accommodation provided by the Housing Association, or faced high rents for poor quality accommodation in privately owned houses. However, the middle and upper strata of the middle class, and especially the rich have continuously amassed more houses.
In fact, the monopoly capitalist system has never been able to meet the working class need for housing. There were an estimated 870,000 empty homes and empty commercial properties to create 420,000 new homes, while the speculation hugely increased the value of houses to unaffordable levels. Deregulation of the provision of mortgages pushed a large number of working class families into a downward spiral of debt. Overproduction, rampant speculation, raging rise in house prices and inability to payback the mortgages, as well as huge investments in construction projects, especially those linked with the US investments, led to the housing crisis in Britain.
Privatisation has also created a two-tier system in education and health, where the rich, as well as the upper and the middle strata of the middle class are provided with exceptional services. However, despite an enormous budget allocated for health, the lower strata of the middle class, and especially, the working class, suffer from improper medical care, because of Hospital Trusts and other profit driven services. Millions of working class pensioners, who have contributed to the society during the most of their lives, suffer most, and simply because they cannot afford to heat their homes, thousands die every winter.
In the education system the situation is even worse. Illiteracy and innumeracy have become important issues for the working class children and their parents. Universities have become huge businesses to keep hundreds of thousands of working class youth busy with many useless courses, striving to get many worthless certificates. Moreover, students get entangled in a vicious accumulation of debt, which must be paid back over many years of their adult lives. In general, during the last thirty years, all major ruling class parties in Britain have contributed to the extensive privatisation and diminishing of the welfare system.
Hand in hand with these strategic policies, the monopoly capitalist state in this country has encouraged the alcohol, drug, gambling and sex industries to grow enormously, targeting in particular working class youth and women. The perpetual availability of cheap alcohol, the legalisation of some harmful drugs and a confusing classification of all drugs, as well as the extensive promotion of sex are policies which have all been pursued by different governments. The government’s deliberate policies are not only to make enormous profit for the capitalists, but to keep the young generation down and under control. Today, alcohol and drug use among the youth, and teenage pregnancy rates in Britain are the highest in Europe.
The dominant culture in Britain is an ideological reflection of the politics and economy of the monopoly capitalist system, and in general is the synthesis of the material and spiritual values of the imperialist system, in this country. The politics and economy of the ruling imperialist class shapes the culture of this country, the culture of an oppressor nation. Also this culture strengthens the politics and the economy of this imperialist system.
During the last three decades, the entertainment industry has also become fully commercialised and grown very rapidly. In the music and film industries and the media, the light entertainment has become the dominant aspect, which is extremely decadent in human values and principles. The monopolisation of these huge sectors and their integration with the highly promoted gambling, drug and sex industries, as well as the full commercialisation of sports has resulted in a predominantly corrupt social environment as well as an uncontrollable social disintegration.
Getting rich quickly, soft porn and violence are the most important common factors among all these sectors, affecting the working class and demeaning women in particular. In fact, the moribund finance capital dominating the economy has not only facilitated the collapse of the manufacturing and the mining industries, but by continuous promotion of the abovementioned sectors, it has created an increasingly parasitic society in Britain.
It is true that the working class and the masses in this country also benefit from plundering wealth of the so-called third world countries, and consequently, their living standard is generally much higher than billions of workers and peasants in those countries. But, this living standard has become increasingly more dependent on the circulation of the moribund finance capital, which itself has major inherent contradictions, irresolvable within the framework of the capitalist system, and prone to crisis. Today, the condition of the working class in Britain is becoming increasingly more unstable and moving on a downward spiral path.
Today, we, political activists in Britain, are suffering from many serious shortcomings. For example, a lack of comprehensive knowledge about the objective situation, disunity and also separation from the masses. It is important to realise that ignoring the objective and the subjective situations, and the particularities of this country, have dominated all our practical work. Moreover, this situation has continued for a long time without developing any coherent theoretical conception of the condition of the working class.
Our literary productions and alienated activities are both the proof of our present situation. No one who has direct knowledge of the state of affairs of our political activities has any doubt that there is a severe lack of general understanding about the workings of this society. We need to accept the fact that we have confusion in analysing the objective situation and anarchy in everything else. But the will to change is becoming stronger, and through a well thought and planned process, we could change ourselves and others, join forces and overcome these fundamental problems.
It is true that the most important task for the political activists in this country is to take the steps necessary towards building a genuine unity. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the existing level of our political consciousness has resulted in our disunity as well as separation from the working class and the masses. And without synthesising our old way of thinking and rupturing from it, we will be yet again compelled to work in isolation. Therefore, we need to go through a process of unity-struggle-transformation.
We have to accept the fact, that despite correct intentions and continuous practical activities, our general understanding of the society has not developed enough. We have not been able to properly recognise the major political, economical, cultural, social and other problems of the working class, and at each stage, identify the principal one. Our political activities have not been able to develop an adequate level of a scientific understanding of the objective conditions of the working class. And consequently, in general, we have been incapable of working out correct tactics and applying those to particular situations, winning other forces and people over to our side.
It is true that there has been a relative stagnation of development of revolutionary movements in the world, during the last thirty three years. It is also true that imperialists and reactionaries have been united in attacking mass movements and radical political activities from without, as well as diverting them from within, wherever they could. Their weapon of mass deception, overall, has certainly affected the working class and the masses in this country. But they have not been able to win the masses over to their side, and the anti-G20 demonstrations and the growing environmental movement are but two of many examples. Indeed, the main problem is lack of a powerful alternative.
Today, US imperialism is the principal adversary of the peoples of the world, and British imperialism has aligned itself with it. There are revolutionary movements in Nepal, India, Philippines, Turkey and elsewhere. There are national resistance movements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, North of Ireland, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, and the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, etc. There are acute contradictions between the oppressed nations of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Zimbabwe and imperialism, principally the US, and there are mass movements against globalisation, reactionary wars, destruction of the environment and the global economic crisis.
Because of all these, and the intensifications of the major contradictions in the world, millions of people, including people in this country are increasingly realising that the monopoly capitalist system is moribund, and consequently are looking for real solutions to their numerous unresolved problems. The growing favourable conditions are providing a good opportunity for us to identify our mistakes, and help each other to overcome our political problems, while building a network, to develop a correct general understanding about this society, the way it operates, and how to change it. For this process, we need open mindedness, patience, perseverance and revolutionary optimism.
We need to pay attention to the fact that mass movements in Britain have been dominated by pragmatism and spontaneity. During the last three decades, we have not been able to learn deeply from the valuable experiences of revolutionary movements in Nepal and India, and national resistance movements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the North of Ireland etc., as well as numerous mass movements in Britain and elsewhere, to develop an independent political line based on the objective situation in this country. Overall, we have not been able to draw a clear political line, which should be fundamentally different from the line of upper classes. Our consciousness is principally overwhelmed by pragmatism and spontaneity, and that is why, we tail the upper classes, the masses and events.
However, instead of calling for the development of an independent political thought, while calling upon other revolutionary intellectuals, the advanced workers and masses to join us to go forward and develop a scientific understanding of this society. Also, along with studying the particularities of this country, while expanding our political activities among broader sections of the masses, by continuing our work separately, we insist on calling for a retreat to our old method of thinking, dominated by pragmatism and spontaneity. As all of us have experienced, making a mistake is inevitable, but repeating a serious mistake is a recipe for disaster.
An independent political thought, regarding the class struggle in Britain, cannot be developed by people who are still overwhelmed by pragmatism and spontaneity. Working among the people with this line, does not help the peoples struggle to advance, and therefore degrades our activities. Also, a revolutionary politics in this country has been unable to advance and develop, and at present is extremely weak. Moreover, vicious prolonged attacks by the imperialist ruling class and its think tanks, most certainly have made it weaker. In this situation, half-baked ideas and methods, and not thought through plans are bound to fail and lead to further weakening of our efforts.
Regarding the quality and quantity, the revolutionary movement in this country is indeed in its infancy. In order to facilitate its growth and becoming mature, it needs to rupture from the old ideas and methods, which have kept it in its infancy and behind. Ignoring the fact that pragmatism and spontaneity have not allowed the revolutionary movement to advance and develop, is not helpful at all. We need to struggle against the ideas and methods that retard the revolutionary movements growth by subservience to pragmatism and spontaneity.
We need to insist on forming an increasingly organised unity, to win people over collectively to develop our independent political line. It is not realistic and helpful to pretend that our disunity is not based on lack of a comprehensive and coherent understanding of the society. There are politics and politics. Bowing to pragmatism and spontaneity, due to embryonic politics, is also politics. While recognising our political struggles and their achievements, we, collectively, need to identify our shortcomings to work out an independent political line corresponding to the objective and subjective conditions in Britain, as well as the objective situation in the world.
There are many important questions facing all of us: have we been able to analyse the society and identify the principal contradiction in this country? Have any of us been able to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the objective conditions of the working class in Britain? Has anyone seen any coherent scientific class analysis of the numerous working class and mass movements, including the resistance movement in the North of Ireland? Despite many good attempts, has any one seen any comprehensive analysis of the underlying processes creating the existing economic crisis in Britain? We can continue asking many more of these important questions, but regrettably the answer to all of them would be: no.
In fact, this fundamental problem is not limited to Britain, it is global. For a long period, revolutionaries have neither been able to develop any influential revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries, nor have they been able to lead a successful revolution and seize power in any country, despite continuous struggles of the masses, many favourable conditions and also valuable experiences of revolutions in the 20th century. This means that today, all revolutionaries around the world are suffering from the poverty of theory.
The stagnation of revolutionary movements in the vast majority of different countries requires analysis of the objective and subjective conditions in each country. With the exception of advances of revolutionary movements in Nepal and India, revolutionary practices have repeatedly missed their acclaimed targets. The existing revolutionary organisations have not developed quantitatively as well as qualitatively, and the new ones have not been developed. In addition to many other factors, this stagnation indicates that, revolutionary practice overall, has not been principally guided by a correct theory.
Both, revolutionary practice and theory have not adequately advanced to lead the masses rise in revolution, despite a favourable objective situation and many opportunities. Indeed, there is a dialectical relationship between practice and theory; practice-theory-practice. Synthesis of practice develops to theory, then practice in turn is guided by theory, and most importantly, theory is grasped and developed through practice. Then, what is the main reason for the general stagnation of revolution in the world, including Britain?
One answer to this question would be that lessons of other revolutions have not been correctly understood and applied to develop revolutionary movements in the objective conditions of different countries. The essence of revolutionary thought; the objective analysis of the objective conditions in each country has been largely ignored. Furthermore, the existing revolutionary practices and their overall failures have not been synthesised.
But the answer could be that we know enough and we should only apply our knowledge to the society. Well, haven’t we had this general body of theory and practice during the last thirty three years? The answer is yes. Then, why have we failed in this country? The answer is certainly not lack of practice, because none of us has been passive, and we have continuously put into practice whatever we understood from the revolutionary theory. So, what is new in continuing as before? Because, having a few more people, without synthesising our failure, does not spontaneously change the quality, or the outcome of our political activities. And, it seems that there is nothing fundamentally new to continue in our separate ways. Then, why should we follow a method, which has already and repeatedly failed?
Establishing a revolutionary movement is a fundamental contradiction and a strategic task. It introduces a new quality into the society and elevates the class struggle to a qualitatively higher level. The process of establishing a revolutionary movement includes many sub-stages. Each sub-stage requires correctly recognising the most important questions and identifying the principal one. Then, we need to concentrate on solving the principal contradiction to move forward to the next tactical level.
Solution of the principal contradiction of the final sub-stage will also solve the fundamental contradiction of creating a young revolutionary movement, ready to become mature through many processes of the class struggle in this society. And only at that stage, a necessary level of knowledge, manpower, commitment and unity to develop a powerful revolutionary movement will be accomplished.
On the basis of the initial and general analysis of our objective and subjective situation presented in here, we propose to form a unity. The unity could assist the existing groups and individuals to participate in regular meetings and discuss the most important political issues of the working class and the masses in this country to identify the principal one. Also, we need to facilitate participation of other revolutionary groups and individuals in our meetings. We need to create a revolutionary and democratic environment, within which, all groups and individuals are able to freely express their views and carry out their revolutionary activities independently to flourish creativity. We also need to coordinate our political activities, to influence the class struggle in Britain and support struggles elsewhere. These would develop something new and what the people need.