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(en) invite for prol.double.dip on struggles and crisis in the UK

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 4 Oct 2003 16:12:47 +0200 (CEST)

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From: Ziggy <ladystardust-A-gmx.co.uk>
house price bubble burst or worst double dip? awkward populism or return of the wildcat?
…we would like to know and therefore invite you to discuss with us about
‘Capitalist Crisis and Class Struggle in the UK today’. We can start the
discussion via mail, aiming to prepare a weekend-meeting in February/March next year…
We are a small, more or less informal, circle of friends & comrades in
London, who came together in the prelude to the Iraq war, discussing the
meaning of this war in terms of capitalist crisis and the possible impact
of the anti-war movement. We got excited about the fire fighters strike and
the school kids protests and wrote a couple of leaflets and posters. We
emphasised the necessity of self-organised struggles against daily
exploitation and the boredom of education, as the best threat against their
regime of crisis and war.

The post-war period left us confused, wanting to neither get lost in
abstract discussions nor reduce our activities to isolated actions, like
for example Mayday demos.

It was the strike movement against the pension reform in France and the
short wildcat strike at Heathrow Airport which raised some general questions:
· How do we see current situation in the UK? How deep is their
crisis, including: the recession in the industrial sector, the house-price
bubble, the state and private debts and how does it effect the struggles
and the impact they have?

· What do we actually know about the discussions and activities
within the recent strikes? We can’t rely on union propaganda or SWP
reports, which are opposed to the potential self-organisation of struggles.
How can we find out more and support the ‘antagonistic tendencies’?

The Project

We want to start searching for some answers to these questions. And we also
want to break out of our political and regional isolation, and make this a
common project with other people or groups who are interested. So we are
planning a ‘national’ discussion meeting about capitalist crisis and class
struggle for March. Before this we want to start a discussion which will be
the preparation for this meeting. An exchange of material and ideas, which
you are welcome to join.

So far we have only got a rough structure of this project. We first want to
get a broad picture about the overall situation. We thought of four main

1) The Broad Picture: Research on the Expressions of Crisis

a) The Expressions of Crisis

We can see that the industrial sector is in deep shit, the foreign direct
investments halved last year. More than 130,000 jobs got ‘lost’ this
year. Profitability is at a record low.
The main pillars of the English economy are London’s position as a
financial centre and private consumption. Both of these pillars are more
than shaky: the pension funds are empty, the share and house prices
shrinking and private consumption is increasingly based on growing private
debts. More and more people (especially in London) are finding themselves
unable to support themselves on one ‘normal’ job. Pensions who faithfully
paid into a fund their whole lives are left with nothing. The question
will be if we will see a slow upturn or an actual crash…

b) The Public Sector as a Crisis Instrument

The changes within the public sector are one of the main crisis measures of
the Labour Government: it works as a deficit spending job machine, about
2/3 of all new work places are
created in the public sector, but we haven’t got a clue what kind of jobs.
At the same time other parts are privatised, mainly the ‘combatative’ ones,
like transport or health service, or low paid ones like cleaning and
catering. What about the lefty assumption that the bosses automatically
have won once their workers are ‘privatised’? One question will be if the
unions and political parties will keep the struggles within the public
sector (“Against Privatisation”, “For Better Public Service”, “Defence of
the Welfare State”) or if the struggles will overcome these ‘formal’
barriers. We could focus on the changes within the education and health sector…

c) The Labour Market and the Circulation of the Work Force

The State tries using different measures to mobilise and control the
workforce: new migration laws, stricter orders for the unemployed. The
government recently tried to justify the introduction of ID cards as a step
in “fighting illegal employment”. This “illegal employment” is an important
part of the economy: ‘illegal’ immigrants not only work in seedy kitchens,
but also in the heart of the clean ‘New Economy’, e.g. at Amazon, the
internet book monger. We would like to get a picture of this movement of
the exploited: the ‘internal’ migration from the north to the south, the
migration in general, the job-hopping between unemployment, part-time jobs,
cash in hand jobs, full-time and free lance work. What do these
different experiences mean for any ‘subversive’ movement?

d) The Struggles and their Mediation

We have to summarise and analyse the strikes and other class struggles of
the last year, a year which seemed to have put an end to the long silence
and decreasing numbers of strikes. The crisis gives new importance to even
isolated conflicts, for example the fire fighters strike. Capital and State
can less and less settle conflicts by ‘financial concessions’ and the
unions are not used to this. This leads to the populism of the ‘awkward
squad’ and open collaboration like the cancellation of the fire fighters
strikes during the war and the wildcat strike of the Heathrow airport
workers or the renouncement of teachers boycotts concerning severe testing
of students and crowded class rooms.

And now?

In the coming weeks we want to start answering some of these questions and
get some facts and statistics together to build up a bit of a picture. We
would like to write a few sides of our ideas on these questions and begin
to discuss with people from other areas of Britain. London is in many ways

However, we don’t see the crisis as an ‘economic’ problem and we don’t aim
to understand the situation by evaluating statistics. We want to use this
picture of 'objective expressions’ of crisis in order to have a background
and clearer view. We then would have to find out how the crisis expresses
itself in different situations and how the exploited relate to it.

2) The Reaction to Crisis: Interviews

The second part of the project would be to interview people who work in
different areas or are in other ways subjected to the capitalist regime.
How does a cleaner at the airport perceive the crisis, how about a worker
in the financial district? What kind of conflicts appear, how are
they solved or not? We thought about the following sectors, but the numbers
of interviews depend on our contacts, time and energy.

* Education
* Hospitals
* Postal Office
* Public Transport
* Financial District
* Airports
* ‘Unemployment’ and ‘Precarious Work’

Given the specific economic and political situation in London, it would be
interesting to compare the situation with the one in towns up north. In the
near future we will discuss
a questionnaire with general and specific questions. These interviews
should not end up in a ‘survey’ but be an extension of the political

3) The Practical Consequences

The main aim is to be able to contribute ideas and information to future
struggles, such as reports about the situation in other countries, sectors
and companies and an assessment of the social context of the conflict. For
example during the Heathrow strike it would have been great if we had
managed to distribute more information about strikes at Greek or Swedish
airports or to if we had known more about the situation at the other London
Airports. We could have helped to dismantle the official propaganda (“SARS,
the oil mafia, the terrorism force us to sack you”) and the union strategy.
In the last weeks we saw some interesting disputes in the UK (wildcats at
of contractors at Tynside Shipyard and Texaco Rafinery, unofficial strike
action of Oxford post workers, occupation of Appledore Shipyard in Devon,
…), but we actually don’t know much about them…

The discussed material and interviews could also be condensed in a report
for further international circulation. Especially during the discussion
about the strike movement in France we discovered how little we knew about
the comparison of the situation here and there.

For all this we would need a network of comrades here in the UK and in
other countries. This network is not a problem of formally ‘getting
organised’, but a question of common political debate and practice. The
discussion about ‘crisis and class struggle’ and a meeting early next year
could be one step ahead. If you are interested to take part or if you want
to send us some relevant material, just write an e-mail to:


Let’s get started…
Some friends in London

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