why capitalism cannot be reformed

7 06 2013

By John Keeley

There are many people who regard themselves as left-wing who do not want to get rid of capitalism. Not only Ed Miliband & the Green Party in Brighton, but also some who consider themselves to the left of Labour in the new Left Unity grouping. They believe capitalism can be made more equal through government action & that the post-war period demonstrates this. In my opinion, they fail to appreciate the material conditions.

Ed Miliband

The post-war prosperity & the increasingly equality, exemplified in more equal access to health care & education, was possible due to a genuinely high rate of profit consequent upon the huge capital devaluation of the depression of the 1930’s, the capital destruction of WWII & huge increases in productivity thanks to the application of oil & gas. Unfortunately, to really grasp this point requires an understanding of how capitalism works & why it is prone to crisis. This isn’t an easy subject, but it’s worth the effort.

Read the rest of this entry »





owen jones : rebuilding hope?

2 04 2013

Barry Biddulph reflects on  two  recent speeches by Owen Jones.

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Speaking at the Firebox Cafe ( March 7th)  Owen Jones started on a positive note: ‘It was the kind of place you could plan a revolution’. Then Owen quickly adopted a pessimistic tone. As usual his focus or fetish was on the defeats of the Thatcher years. He presented the bald facts of defeat. The miners were defeated, then everyone said: if they can be defeated no one can win.  His family was typical, experiencing decades of defeat going back to the General Strike. They were fed up. Yet despite this, he was prepared to give the Labour Party and trade union left yet another go.

The Great Miners Strike, in 1984, was one of the longest, and most determined, trade union struggles in British history. It left a fighting tradition. History could have taken another course; it was a close run thing. In July 1984, there was nearly a national dock strike to coincide with the miners strike, which could have prevented coal imports, as well as opening up another front against Thatcher. There was also the pit managers union dispute in October 1984. The presence of their members was a legal requirement for a pit to open, but the union leaders sold out for a toothless review of the closure programme. The effective solidarity action of rank and file power and railway workers to handle and remove the coal, could have been decisive if generalised, but it was undermined by trade union officialdom.

Read the rest of this entry »





social democracy: bristol reading group 25th july

12 07 2010

The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th July at 6pm in The Factory, Cave Street off Portland Square, Saint Pauls, Bristol. (Note the change of venue).


The session will discuss the role and demise of social democracy, the accommodation of the labour movement with capitalism and the future prospects of this truce.

Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Read the rest of this entry »





what use an abbott in a ‘broad church’?

11 06 2010

As Diane Abbott wins sufficient nominations to stand for Labour Party leader, Taimour Lay looks at her and her party’s credentials.

What use is a ”broad church” when the pews are empty, the foundations are subsiding and the high priests at altar turn their backs on any shout of dissent? The Labour leadership election, far from being ”saved” by the  inclusion of Diane Abbott, has merely continued to go to form – token ‘left’ candidate takes on four former cabinet ministers of varying degrees of conservatism, ”enlivens” the hustings with some maverick, contrarian and media-populist rhetoric before the vote concludes with a Miliband, Balls or Burnham promising to lead Labour back to ”electability”.

Abbott’s candidacy is theatre designed by the New Labour establishment to present a democratic, inclusive party. For misguided Bennites, it’s also part of their message: come home to Labour, disillusioned socialists, in opposition we will rebuild and steer the party left. Read the rest of this entry »





the left and new labour in opposition

9 06 2010

by Dave Spencer

After a recent “public consultation” meeting of our local NHS I was approached by an old right-wing Labour councillor.  “Have you considered re-joining the Labour Party?” he asked. “We need people like you to re-build the Party, get us back to our roots.”  He went on about the ‘good old days’ – the 1980s – when we had “great discussions” and we could get 150 delegates to a District Labour Party meeting.  Now they cannot get a quorum for meetings and the new members are just careerists.

I was a bit taken aback.  I didn’t like to remind him that I had been expelled along with 125 others in 1992 for objecting to the rigging of ballots for the shortlist for MP, or that I and others had been told on a number of occasions that we had no chance of promotion or another job working for Coventry City Council if we continued as left activists.  I remember seeing good comrades turn round and leave a meeting when they saw Bob Ainsworth (later Labour MP for Coventry North East and Minister for War) sitting in the corner with his tape recorder and note pad ready to get evidence – for what purpose one can only imagine.  That is how it works in the Labour Party – threats or bribery to gain power or keep power. I remember one leading councillor telling me that everyone has their price and that I was pitching mine too high. He said, “It’s amazing what you can get people to vote for if you just offer them a couple of tickets to the Queen’s garden party!” Read the rest of this entry »





no surprises as rat boards sinking ship

19 03 2010

by Chris Ford

There is a long history of British trade union leaders becoming Members of Parliament. This has often represented the next step by individuals whose primary concern is the advancement of a cause very dear to their hearts – their own self-interest.

In some cases however there are those who have genuinely sought to take the workers’ struggle in the industrial front into the political arena: individuals with principle who have sought to maintain a loyalty and commitment to the labour movement, such as John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. The coming general election should see a new recruit from union ranks – Jack Dromey, the Deputy General Secretary of UNITE. Read the rest of this entry »





michael mackintosh foot, 1913-2010: the case for…

4 03 2010

by Sharon Borthwick

“So lets put a stop to defeatism, and put a stop too to all those sermons about Victorian values. The Labour Movement – the Labour Party and the Trade Unions acting together, came into being, as one of our poets, Idris Davies, said, to end ‘the long Victorian night.’ It was a fight to introduce civilised standards into the world of ruthless, devil-take-the-hindmost individualism.”

So went a part of Michael Foot’s 1983 Labour manifesto, the so called, “longest suicide note in history” (Gerald Kaufman). And with Michael Foot’s death yesterday, dies too the idea of socialism brought about via parliamentary means. The current ‘Labour’ government would hardly even dream of using terms such as a Labour Movement and are only seen to attack the Trade Unions, ever favouring the concerns of big business; New Labour is just that – New Business. Read the rest of this entry »





Thou shalt vote Labour : an eleventh commandment?

8 02 2010

As many on the far left plan to call for a Labour vote in the general election, Barry Biddulph looks at the historic roots of this slogan and the dogmas on which it is based.

An eleventh commandment for many on the left is to vote for New Labour as a lesser evil without illusions. But why?  Read the rest of this entry »





time to vote labour?

19 01 2010

a letter to The Commune by Bill Butlin

The impending public expenditure cuts look like being a key issue for trade unionists at the next general election.  The Labour Party and the Tories both maintain that cuts are unavoidable and that no alternative exists to their implementation.

In an interview with Andrew Marr at the beginning of January the Tory leader was gung ho on this issue. He maintained that the cuts identified as necessary by New Labour were not stringent enough. Clearly any pretence by Cameron that he represents the acceptable One Nation face of the Conservative Party, and one that has left Thatcherism behind, is challenged by this professed policy objective. An objective that will not only see public expenditure cuts but further privatisations and a parallel attack on public sector trade unionism. Read the rest of this entry »





capitalism, labourism and the ‘trade union party’

17 12 2009

Chris Ford introduces a 1974 piece by Tony Lane

The question of the trade unions and their relationship to working class political organisation has been an ongoing debate in the labour movement for many many years; it has become especially prominent in the last decade.  In 1974 Tony Lane wrote the thought provoking book The Union Makes Us Strong: The British Working Class and the Politics of Trade Unionism. By considering the history of the labour movement Lane looked at the political consciousness of the rank and file, and the ways in which union leaders at all levels tend to become isolated from the worker on the shop floor. In particular he explodes the cherished myth that the failure of socialism can be laid at the doors of a succession of leaders who have ‘betrayed’ the movement.

He argues that trade unionism did not develop a ‘class consciousness’ in the full and proper sense of the term, which could grasp the total reality of capitalism. He considered the Labour Party as the parliamentary expression of the unions’ way of looking at the world as doomed from the start and concluded that the power to force much needed social change must be spearheaded by a new socialist party. Lane raised interesting questions for today in terms of the difference between a Labour Party mark II or an actual new workers’ party which would be something very different. Read the rest of this entry »





the underlying character and future of labourism

8 12 2009

by David Bailey, University of Birmingham

As we enter the beginning of what looks like it will be a long general election campaign the various elements of Britain’s political elite are lining up to convince the various sections of the electorate that it wishes to speak to, that they, really, are the best choice. Read the rest of this entry »





theses on the 2010 general election and its aftermath – for discussion

1 12 2009

Dave Spencer sets out some points for discussion at our December 12th aggregate meeting. In the spirit of openness we want to publish as much material from our internal debates as possible.

1. No matter who wins the 2010 General Election, the working class will be under attack to pay for the economic crisis. There will be more unemployment and more cuts in public services – possibly on an unprecedented scale since World War 2.

2. Over 12 years of New Labour government, “the Left” and the Trade Unions have failed to organise an effective working class opposition. This has to be a failure of historic proportions and needs some analysing. Read the rest of this entry »





the future of the labour party and workers’ representation

1 12 2009

Andrew Fisher from the Labour Representation Committee spoke at our 23rd November forum on ‘Where is the Labour Party going?’

Labour Governments do not have a good record at dealing with economic crises: in 1931, 1979 and now they have decided that it is the working class that should pay for the crisis. The electoral result in 1931 and in 1979 was to put Labour out of power for a generation.

Looked at from an historical perspective, Labour will lose the next election – it has every time it has behaved like this in an economic crisis. Even in 1931 however, Labour’s share of the vote – though reduced to just 46 MPs – did not fall below 30%. Read the rest of this entry »





videos of the commune’s forum ‘where is the labour party going?’

30 11 2009

On 23rd November The Commune staged a public meeting in London on the social role, degeneration and future of the Labour Party. The discussion ranged from the nature of parties managing the capitalist state to the limitations of the ‘new trade union party’ objective of many left groups.

David Bailey from the University of Birmingham, Andrew Fisher from the LRC and The Commune’s Chris Ford led off the discussion, and videos of the event are gradually being uploaded, starting with David’s talk – view them on this site, or see more content at our YouTube page. Read the rest of this entry »








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