Editorial: RMT action changes the debate

“An ounce of action” by the working class, Karl Marx’s great collaborator Friedrich Engels is reputed to have said, “is worth a ton of theory” in developing awareness on a mass, societal scale.

And so it has proved again with the RMT rail worker strikes at the end of June, following on the biggest trade union-led demonstration in a decade on June 18, which have touched the consciousness of millions of people in Britain and internationally too.

The propaganda offensive against the RMT has also in its own way helped to showcase the power of the working class once it is prepared and organised to fight.

BBC presenters from the UK’s very own ‘state-affiliated media’ sometimes tried a line – even as they broadcasted from a deserted station concourse – that the strikes were not as impactful “as expected” (by who? compared to what?), while real-time retail data had high street footfall across Britain down 8.5% in a week and 27% in central London.

But the general routine across the capitalist press and TV, with different degrees of subtlety, was to denigrate the union for ‘holding the public to ransom’, selfishly making demands that would ‘cripple the economy’, and even accusations of being ‘Putin’s friend’.

The capitalist establishment has been sorely rattled by the biggest strikes organised by the RMT since its formation in 1990.

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Resetting the council cuts battleground

The cost of living crisis hitting workers is also having its impact on the finances of local councils – which are responsible for over a fifth of all spending on vital public services.

Rising prices have increased the fuel costs of refuse trucks, care workers’ cars, and school transport services, while soaring energy costs have hit budgets for schools, children’s centres, care homes, swimming pools, libraries and street lighting.

Council budgets were agreed in January, based on the government’s autumn 2021 spending review settlement which factored in inflation of about 3%.

But six months later the consumer prices index is rising by 9.1% and a new council funding ‘scissors’ looms, with projected spending for the 2022-23 financial year no longer balancing with income.

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Roe lost but the struggle goes on

The US Supreme Court has overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling which recognised a constitutional right to abortion. This represents the biggest attack on women’s rights in the US for the last 50 years and has been met with protests by tens of thousands across the country. CHRISTINE THOMAS writes.

The US Supreme Court has overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling which recognised a constitutional right to abortion. Decisions will now be left to individual states, at least 13 of which already have ‘trigger laws’ in place ready to ban abortion. Abortion could become illegal in practice in more than half of US states – affecting as many as 36 million women, according to Planned Parenthood. And it will be working-class and ethnic minority women, who do not have the resources to travel hundreds of miles to states where an abortion is still possible, who will suffer the most. The overwhelming majority of those seeking abortion will be women, although of course other groups will be affected by attacks on abortion and reproductive rights more generally. As one spokesperson for the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute explained: “The typical abortion patient is in her 20s, doesn’t have a lot of money, and has one or more children”. Sixty-one percent of abortions are carried out on minority women.

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American showdown

HANNAH SELL reviews one of the numerous recent books looking at the events in Washington DC on 6 January 2021 and their aftermath, examining the crisis in both the Republican and Democrat parties and the prospects for huge movements shaking the US.

This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future

By Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns

Published in the US by Simon & Schuster, 2022

This Will Not Pass, a new book by two New York Times journalists, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, was published prior to the start of the current House Committee hearings into the events of 6 January 2021. It covers much of the same ground, although its revelations about the storming of the Capitol are tame compared to some of the evidence given to the hearings. Moreover, despite the promising title, it is light on conclusions about how the ‘battle for America’s future’ will develop, not least because it barely references the experiences of working-class Americans, their organisations, and how the working class is developing its consciousness on what needs to be done to find an answer to the American crisis.

Nonetheless Martin and Burns do describe well events in Washington DC on January 6, including Trump whipping up the crowd, declaring “we will never give up, we will never concede”; while his sidekicks like Alabama congressman Mo Brooks told the crowd to start “taking down names and kicking ass” and Rudy Guiliani called for “trial by combat” over the election results. Meanwhile inside the Congress buildings politicians were hiding under desks and writing last messages to their families. It depicts “Republican president candidate Mitt Romney being seconds away from ‘colliding with a throng of insurrectionists’ that had breached the Senate, and him raging about ‘what this says to country and the world’ and ‘the only time this ever happened before was in the civil war’.”

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Six decades since Algeria’s war of independence

July 5 is the sixtieth anniversary of Algeria’s Independence Day in 1962 which marked the end of the eight-year war of independence. CLARE DOYLE looks back at a seminal struggle in the post-1945 movement against colonialism.

“The Algerian war, 1954 to 1962, was a savage colonial war, killing an estimated million Muslim Algerians and expelling the same number of European settlers from their homes. It was to cause the fall of six French prime ministers and the collapse of the Fourth Republic; it came close to bringing down de Gaulle and – twice – to plunging Metropolitan France into the chaos of civil war”. This description is carried on the back cover of an authoritative book by historian Alistair Horne, called A Savage War of Peace, published in 1977.

The Algerian war of independence lasted twice as long as the first world war and its victory marked the end of 130 years of brutal French colonial rule. But even today, six decades on, Algerians both in their ‘homeland’ and in metropolitan France, face an uphill struggle for democratic as well as economic justice.

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The Marxist view of history

Continuing Socialism Today’s Introduction to Marxism series, NAOMI BYRON looks at the Marxist view of history, the theory of historical materialism.

Capitalism, the system we live under today, is unequal and undemocratic. It is a class society, based on the exploitation of the working class by a ruling class – the capitalists, a small minority of the population who own and control the main industries and financial institutions.

In the capitalist education system we are led to believe that class society has always existed, that class exploitation is natural and unavoidable, and that capitalism is the best way of organising society. We are also told that history is made by famous individuals and that working-class people have no power to change the system of society.

The theory of ‘historical materialism’, developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, provides a framework for socialists to analyse human society and the laws of its development. It explains that class societies have not always existed; that in fact the earliest human societies were classless societies based on cooperation and consensus, without systematic exploitation or oppression.

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