Thursday, 3 January 2013

Are workers apathetic? Reasons to struggle

I hear a lot of comment on the left not all of it positive. Some I won’t mention who have quite a negative outlook and think we’re all doomed and there is nothing we can do to fight back. Yes it is deeply frustrating we haven’t had more strikes, demonstrations and our election results as anti cuts candidates haven’t been fantastic but does this mean workers are apathetic and will no longer struggle? No I don’t think so. As Karl Marx described many years ago class struggle is as natural to capitalist society as the air we breathe. Indeed class war and class struggle pre dates capitalism believe it or not there was a class society under feudalism but we find class still a difficult idea to get our head round it seems. The ex social democratic parties like the Labour party run a mile when the term class is mentioned they’d rather talk of a mythical group like the “squeezed middle” whoever they are. But as Marxists we are as confident as ever that workers will struggle and struggle they will have to to defend their living standards, jobs and services. They will have no option. Even if the mass strikes have been few and far between they have still been ground shaking when they have occurred in Britain. It’s quite true the British Labour movement are the slowest to act but when they do act the world stands up and watches. One of the oldest working class’s in the world Britain does have a militant history and a history of revolutions people who say oh Greece, they know how to strike and strike they do with magnificent numbers totalling over 18 general strikes in the past few years with many 48 hours. The difference being the Greek labour movement leaders use these more to let off steam than really struggle to win victories. So I do think we in Britain can protest, demonstrate and strike we are not unique workers across the world have the same issues facing them from the UK to America to Europe today austerity is the common enemy and something we can all unite against. The coming year, like 2012, will be one of intense struggles by the working class in Britain, Europe and the world. Five years into the most devastating capitalist economic crisis since the 1930s, the ruling classes continue to unload the burden for this onto the shoulders of the working class. Because of inadequate and faulty leadership, working-class people have paid a terrible price: in mass unemployment numbering 18.5 million in the European Union, a slashing in living standards and the appearance of poverty that the present generation have up to now only been able to read about in books like George Orwell’s ’The Road to Wigan Pier’. ’Civilised’ Britain now experiences some of the conditions once confined to the neo-colonial world with the appearance of food banks, where middle-class people who have fallen on ’hard times’ rub shoulders with the destitute in the lengthening queues for the bare essentials of food. Today, the economic and political fate of each country in Europe is linked together as never before. Intensified globalization ensures that not just Europe, but the world is now bound together with iron hoops. If Greece was forced out of the euro, it could trigger a spiral of decline which would intensify the already catastrophic crisis and drag the whole of Europe into an economic abyss. If Spain, Portugal and Italy were to follow, it has now been estimated that the cost of the default by 2020 would be the equivalent of 180% of eurozone annual gross domestic product (€17 trillion!). Britain is not far behind; it is presently Greece in slow motion! Yet the collapse of the euro could speed up the process enormously. Hence the nervousness of Cameron about the fate of the euro, despite the fact that Britain is not a member of the eurozone. There is not an atom of pessimism in this. We socialists and Marxists are very confident in the ability of working-class people - especially when they have a farsighted leadership and a fighting mass party behind them - to not only resist the capitalist offensive but to provide an alternative to outworn and failing capitalism, in the form of a democratic socialist planned economy. Proof of their combativity is to be seen in the titanic general strikes, one of the highest forms of struggle of the working class, in Greece, Portugal, Spain, India, Romania and other countries of Eastern Europe. And here in Britain we saw the huge October demonstration of 150,000 marching in opposition to the austerity coalition Con-Dem government and with the major trade union leaders calling for a 24-hour general strike. Yet austerity - planned poverty - will not only be continued but worsened, with 80% of the planned cuts of the government yet to be implemented. There is therefore every likelihood - with the required militant leadership - that 2013 will see a heightened movement of the working class in Britain. This, of course, partly depends on the national leadership of the trade unions giving the necessary lead in preparing for one-day general strike action. But if they don’t act then a movement from below can develop, as in South Africa with the marvellous movement of the miners who came out on strike in opposition not just to the bosses but their own union leaders. New Labour local authority leaders in the North of England have warned that "civil unrest" could take place if the government continues to force through their cuts agenda. These council leaders and others could avoid this if they refused to act as agents of the coalition by not carrying through cuts and instead lead a mass movement of opposition which could defeat the government on this issue and undoubtedly prepare its downfall. With thanks and extracts to the CWI and socialist party general secretary comrade Peter Taaffe from

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