Red Attack Issue No. 5
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
No. 5 July 1918 Free or Donation
150 YEARS OF THE TUC, 150 YEARS OF PROPPING UP CAPITALISM!
A richly symbolic image of dishevelled TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady (£152,000 annual salary) posing in front of the rotting remains of the West Pier in Brighton
This year is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the British Trade Unions Congress. The TUC has gone to much fanfare publicising the anniversary. The trade unions affiliated to the TUC are today in serious difficulty. They have half the membership they had in 1980 and the lowest number of working days lost to strike action since records began. If we look at the social composition of the TUC and its politics from its inception and today it is not difficult to understand why.
REPRESENTATION OF SKILLED WORKERS
The TUC was established by Trade Unions representing skilled workers. The semi-skilled and unskilled workers were not unionised and a similar situation exists today The skilled unions looked on the unskilled with contempt and offered no leadership to them. In the nineteenth century the skilled workers, organised as they were around their respective trades and skills, developed a narrow craft mentality similar to the guild societies of medieval time. This necessarily meant the exclusion of unskilled workers and competition with other skilled workers for jobs and wage increases.
From the beginning the most trade union leaders wanted to fight for higher wages for the skilled workers and not the unskilled. The means by which they could achieve this was not to challenge the existence of capitalist exploitation but to support the development and expansion of British capitalism and hence its imperialist adventures and oppression of other nations. The demands for higher wages and better conditions were made with the agreement of the ruling class to help rationalise production and exploitation through the application of mechanisation.
In comparison the small industrial working class in oppressed India in the late nineteenth century refused to to exchange better pay for speed ups and the working of multiple machines in garment production. British imperialism held India in underdevelopment and allowed industry based in Britain to receive all advantages and market dominance in the world. In contrast the skilled workers in Britain were be rewarded with higher wages and legalised trade unions as a reward for their support. Meanwhile the unskilled workers suffered from dangerous working conditions, poor wages and a mechanised division of labour turning them literally into cogs in a machine.
SUPPORT FOR IMPERIALIST WAR
This was the economic and social basis of the TUC. Their ultimate display of loyalty to British imperialism was to support the imperialist First World War and encourage millions of workers to be sent to their deaths on the battlefields. The TUC supremacy did not go unchallenged, however, and from the 1880s unskilled workers began to organised and fight militantly for better pay and conditions. In the First World War many revolutionary socialists opposed the war and the traitor Labour leaders of the working class.
The twentieth century saw the growing power of the trade unions, both skilled and unskilled, with the unskilled unions eventually joining the TUC. The high point of class struggle after the Second World War saw the TUC leaders virtually incorporated into British governments participating in policy making and helping to increase the productivity of its members and thus increase their exploitation. Since the nineteen eighties the working class has suffered further serious defeats, attacks by the British state on its organising and capacity to legally strike. Throughout all this the TUC leaders did nothing effective to try and prevent these attacks on the ability of the working class to organise. The TUC, always upholding the law of the land, the law of capitalism!
MONOPOLISATION OF UNIONS
In recent decades the big unions have merged and monopolised even more organised workers, further incapacitating them in the face of the onslaught of the British ruling class. The TUC represents ‘yellow’ unions and they can no longer even defend basic pay demands. They in reality implement government pay restraint which in the NHS has become a pay decrease.
The current General Secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady admitted in a TV interview that the most skilled workers with the best pay and conditions and the professional class are those who are the vast majority of union members today. The unskilled and worst paid workers with the worst conditions again find themselves outside the TUC unions and given their record of betrayal it is no surprise. It is no surprise therefore that we are again witnessing the emergence of new independent unions particularly among cleaners and workers including many migrant workers in the ‘gig’ economy. Unions such as the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union have taken action against various companies and each time they have won victory for the wage increases and improved terms of their members. This is the way forward!
PUTTING POLITICS IN COMMAND
The old unions of the TUC can no longer even defend their members and yet the left tails these unions who prop up British capitalism. Communists should not be outside the unions because it is where workers are organised and we can bring political discussion and debate to them. But union activity and organising should not become the main work of communists. Most workers are not organised in unions and this has always been so. Unions are a defensive tool of the working class but they cannot overthrow capitalism. This requires the revolutionary party which gives prominence to politics. Most leftist groups build their entire political work around gaining positions of prominence in union structures, thinking they can make a union more militant or revolutionary; or call for demands that cannot be met due to a low level of union membership engagement. They attempt to jump ahead of the class and tail the class traitors. The struggles of the new unions will help to build confidence for the new layers of unskilled workers. This provides a good opportunity to introduce revolutionary politics to such workers engaged in militant struggles.
Demonstrating cleaning workers from the Independent Workers of Great Britain, one of the new grassroots unions emerging as a result of the uselessness of most of the old unions.
WHAT IS IT?
“Imperialism” is a term avoided in the mainstream media. Not may people in Britain really know what the term means. This is hardly surprising because it is a very nasty thing that people associated with it want to avoid mentioning.
Imperialism is when the ruling classes in some countries dominate and exploit peoples in other countries.
The major imperialist country at present is the United States of America. American-owned transnational corporations (TNCs), are the latest phase of the development of monopoly capitalism. They employ low-paid workers in developing countries, e.g. China, to make goods cheaply which are then sold at affordable prices in more developed countries, e.g. Britain. In this way the TNCs can make very high profits. Apple and Amazon are prominent examples of firms engaged in this type of economic exploitation.
Also the natural resources of less developed countries are ravaged by TNCs. An example is Vedanta, based in London, engaged in mineral mining operations in India for copper, zinc, aluminium, etc. This is resulting in much devastation of the environment, pollution and the driving out of local people from their homelands. The profits from these rapacious activities are mostly received by the owners of such companies who are usually based in the developed, imperialist countries. In addition to the USA, other major imperialist countries include Britain, France, Germany and Japan. All of these imperialist countries control international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) which decide upon rules which keep the poorer countries at an economic disadvantage.
POLITICAL AND MILITARY DOMINATION
Imperialist economic exploitation is supported by political and military back-up, e.g. NATO. America and its allies have put much effort in recent decades in controlling countries in the Middle East. Military force has been used to intervene in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria resulting in death and destruction on a mass scale. The imperialist powers seek to uphold and install regimes compliant with the interests of TNCs, e.g. Saudi Arabia, Egypt. Militarily, the USA is massively powerful with a chain of military bases spread around the world.
British soldier harassing Iraqi people
The culture of the Western imperialist countries, especially America, is exported to oppressed countries, particularly by means of the mass media. This is an important way in which the people of the oppressed countries are told that their cultures are inferior and thus they should emulate the way of life in the imperialist countries. This cultural assault is deeply resented. It often leads to the reassertion of local, traditional culture such as Islam which sometimes takes highly aggressive, reactionary forms, e.g. ISIS.
Firms in some of the countries dominated by the older established imperial powers have themselves started to display expansionary tendencies, e.g. Brazil, India and South Africa which together with China and Russia are referred to as the BRICS countries. For example, the Brazilian companies Odebrecht (construction) and Vale (coal mining) have massive operations in Angola and Mozambique which greatly exploit the workers of those countries. At the same time foreign enterprises have large interests within Brazil. Imperialism is complex. A country’s workers can be subject to predatory exploitation by firms from other countries while members of its own capitalist class are engaged in similar activities abroad e.g. India. It is interesting to note that mining company Vedanta based in London is owned by Indian billionaire Agar Adinwal.
CHINA AND RUSSIA
These were once countries undergoing socialist transition but have long since reverted to forms of capitalism which inevitably, sooner or later, determines that they will become imperialist. China’s imperialist expansion is very considerable, especially in Africa where it has widespread mining operations, e.g. in Zimbabwe. Territorially it is expanding in the South China Sea region while developing advanced weapons systems to match and exceed those of the USA. China is a new, rising imperialist power set on challenging the world dominance of US imperialism.
Russia is economically weaker than China but also has expansionist ambitions. Most recently, through militarily saving the Assad regime in Syria it has turned that county into a puppet state of Russia. It has been granted exclusive exploration and extraction rights over Syria’s oil and gas resources. Also the Putin regime wants to incorporate the former Soviet Asian republics, e.g. Kazakstan, into the Russian Federation.
THE CONTRADICTIONS OF IMPERIALISM
Modern imperialism, which is the outcome and an essential feature of capitalism right from its origins, does not stand still but is continually developing and changing, e.g. the growing power of IT companies such as Microsoft. An important point to grasp is that in whatever countries rival capitalist classes are based, and wherever the workers and peasants they exploit live, the latter have a common material interest in uniting to oppose their capitalist imperialist exploiters. For example British clothes manufacturers such as Next outsource much of their production to sweatshops in Bangladesh. Next also has garments produced in sweatshops in Britain where, although the workers are better paid than those in Bangladesh, many of them are migrants from the latter country and are at the bottom of the wages hierarchy in Britain.
As V.I.Lenin pointed out over one hundred years ago, conflict among rival imperialist countries inevitably leads to major war – that is, unless prevented by popular revolution. We are now in a period when new rising imperialist powers, especially China, are challenging the old declining imperialists, particularly America, for world dominance. This is a time of great danger for the people of the world. But also it is a time of great opportunity for the working masses, provided we get organised and take on our imperialist enemies
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, UNITE AND DEFEAT THE IMPERIALIST AGGRESSORS AND ALL THEIR LACKEYS!
We’ve had quite a few elections in recent years – general elections in 2015 and 2017, the EU Referendum in 2016 plus the usual local elections. And now some people want a rerun of the Referendum. Massive efforts were made to try to persuade us to vote, especially through the media, but has it done us any good? Have the MPs in Parliament actually done anything worthwhile for the people they are supposed to be representing?
In a period of stagnating or falling real earnings, rising food prices, growing housing shortages, decaying health and care services, the answer must be a resounding NO! The truth is that the real task of the politicians of all the main political parties – Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem, etc – is to serve the interests of the capitalist ruling class, the tiny minority of people in Britain who own and control most of the economy. Back in 2008 the insatiable greed of some members of this class, the finance capitalists, brought about a major financial crisis which threatened to bring about the collapse of the whole capitalist system. The then Labour Government rushed into the breach by raising massive loans to bail out the beleaguered bankers. Ever since then we have suffered from austerity measures so that British governments can use the taxes we pay to repay to some bankers the loans they took out to save other bankers.
The media tell us that because we elect the politicians we live under “democracy”. The literal meaning of this word is rule by the people. But the system we have is one where the politicians rule on behalf of and for the benefit of the rich. It is a fake democracy and more and more people, especially young ones, are becoming questioning and cynical about the present political system. In so far as people see through and reject our fake democracy this is good but only if we can also see a way ahead whereby together we can really take control of our lives and build a better type of society which serves the real needs of us all – socialism.
There is also a danger lurking in people’s disaffection with the present fake democratic system. Various right wing elements are also hostile to it but do not see the solution as the construction of socialist democracy. Rather they favour an authoritarian, dictatorial regime where a small group of self-appointed leaders tell the rest of us what to do. What organisations such as the British National Party and the English Defence League are aiming for is fascist dictatorship. This would, as past experience in other countries has shown, serve the interests of the minority capitalist class and not the great mass of people. It would also bring about the vicious, racist persecution of ethnic minorities.
REFORM OR REVOLUTION?
Some people hope that the election of a Labour government will bring about a reversal of the present austerity regime under which we suffer but this is unlikely. Past experience shows that progressive moves by Labour administrations are blocked and thwarted by the ruling class and their functionaries. The financial interests in the City of London make moves such as weakening the pound, senior civil servants obstruct legislative changes, the courts pass unhelpful judgements and the armed forces commanders refuse to do anything which might hurt capitalist interests. We’ve seen it all before.
We have to face up to the fact that the only practical way forward is a revolutionary one. We have to prepare for the day when we have no choice between abject surrender to the ruling class and their politicians or rising in revolt against them. Preparations for such an insurrection need to begin now. And that means you getting involved in the revolutionary struggle. Contact Revolutionary Praxis now.
DON’T VOTE, FIGHT BACK!
|Bourgeois democracy, which is invaluable for educating the proletariat and training it for struggle, is always narrow, hypocritical, spurious and false; it always remains democracy for the rich and a swindle for the poor. V.I. Lenin|
CARE CUTS KILL!
Real spending on adult social care has been falling since 2010 when austerity cuts began. At the same time the numbers of old people needing support at home or in residential care have been rising. Researchers at several universities have found that in the period 2010 to 2017 nearly 120,000 people died sooner than might be expected if the trends established before 2010 had continued.
WHAT IS THE REASON?
The most likely explanation for this fall in how long people live is the decline in spending on adult social care. This means that fewer nurses and carers per person in need are available. Thus the quantity and quality of care each old person receives is less than before. The researchers estimate than unless standards of care improve then over 150,000 premature deaths will occur between 2015 and 2020.
WHO IS TO BLAME?
- First and foremost are the politicians in the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition Government of 2010-15 and the subsequent Tory governments. They have made massive cuts in real spending per head on health and social care. The result has been falling standards of care.
- Local councils controlled by all the main parties—Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat. They have failed to effectively stand up to the massive reductions in funds for social care from Central Government. These councillors have voted to reduce the services they provide.
- The administrators in the health and care services who have willingly and often enthusiastically cut back on care services. “Managers” who unquestioningly obey instructions to run down our health and care services are just as responsible as those who issue the orders.
The truth is that these politicians and administrators are, through the policies they devise and apply, directly responsible for tens of thousands of people having premature deaths. Also these older people are suffering unnecessarily as a result of receiving inferior care.
At present many privately-owned providers of care homes and home care services are shutting down because the fees they are paid by local councils do not cover their running costs.
The Government which can find plenty of our money to spend on futile, murderous wars in the Middle East and new nuclear missiles and submarines claims it can’t find enough to maintain our health and welfare. This must change!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Seize upon every available opportunity to confront, challenge and harass the politicians and managers:
Go to council meetings, public consultations and any other suitable occasions to tell these people in no uncertain terms that we have had enough of their attacks on our health and welfare. On the internet you can find out the times and places of such events.
We must publicly expose and oppose the self-seeking politicians and managers and put the wind up them!
FROM FRENCH MAOISTS: MAY EVENTS IN FRANCE 1968
The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 uprisings that shook the world. These uprisings echoed the greatest revolutionary experience to date: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which started in the People’s Republic of China in 1966.
French workers and students united in struggle
In the French state this event influenced the proletarian movement in general, with strikes of more than ten million workers, and the Maoist movement in particular, with the emergence of organizations based on Mao Tse-tung Thought. It is our duty as Maoists to draw conclusions from the proletarian practice of 1968 in order to build the communist movement in the French State today.
Bourgeois propaganda, wishing to stifle at all costs the cry “It is right to rebel! ” focuses today on secondary themes such as spontaneity or sexual liberation. It shows only student rebellions and wishes to give a petit bourgeois character to 68. We want to draw a dividing line with this trend. We insist on 68 as a protracted, proletarian and internationalist process.
68 in the French state is not “May 68”, it is May-June 68, because it was in June that the most determined clashes took place against the overseers of the proletariat and the lackeys of the trade union leaders who had signed accords with the reactionary government. It was in June that the working class suffered its martyrs.
68 was also the embryo of proletarian power in the form of striking committees, especially in the west of France, which began to manage daily life and to give guidance to the people.
68 was a proletarian revolt, as evidenced by the use of the tactics of the general strike and factory occupation. This revolt went beyond t revisionist and opportunist aims and it was the working class itself that rose up against the betrayal of the Grenelle Agreements.
Finally, 68 was not an exception or a unique moment only within the French state. In China of course, but also in the revolutionary struggles in India, the Philippines, the United States, Mexico, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Revisionist Eastern Bloc, in the resolute struggle in Vietnam, in Japan, Turkey, the Spanish state, Scandinavia, all the anti-imperialist and revolutionary battles were loud and clear.
Long live the proletarian uprisings of 68! Long live proletarian internationalism! Long live our guide to action, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
French workers and students united in struggle