Issue section: 

Political fight - Reading Capital - Equality

Let's have a political fight for jobs

Last month's lead feature was a good recap and analysis of the industrial struggle in Britain in the midst of the deepest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s (Feature, Socialist Review, April 2010). However, further discussion and debate is required in order to deepen that analysis and guide our practice and intervention in the inevitable struggles to come.

The article correctly argues: "Successful struggle is tremendously boosted by...a political approach." One example given is the Network Rail workers' dispute (scuppered in court). These workers have, it is argued, "done best when they talk about the threats to safety as well as the number of jobs that are going".

No doubt safety is a huge, political issue. But let's be clear that what we are facing is firstly an attack on jobs, not an attack on safety. So safety is not the key political issue - jobs are! This is important because, for example, on London Underground the unions are talking of the safety impact of job losses - currently 800 - and little of a fight to defend jobs. Indeed, the delay in setting dates for a ballot (a dispute has already been declared by both RMT and TSSA) on the tube means the fight against job losses has already been massively weakened.

As with the fight against the Public-Private Partnership (PPP), the unions never took up the political fight against privatisation. Instead, they fought the safety impact of the PPP and lost. Likewise, the political fight against job losses - that is, our class being made to pay for the economic crisis - is being placed secondary to the impact of the loss of jobs on the general safety of the railways.

Safety is a huge, political, issue and needs not only to be highlighted but defended. But to place it as a primary factor only stands the political struggle on its head - we need to stand it on its feet.

RMT activist on London Underground

Capital is not a difficult book

Few sessions of the Capital Reading Group at King's College pass without reference to David Harvey's online lectures. Harvey has been key to fostering the resurgent interest in Marx's work among young radicalised intellectuals who are searching for the tools with which to understand capitalism and explain the economic crisis. According to Google, the lectures have been viewed more than 700,000 times in 187 countries over the past year and a half.

Our experience at King's bears out the point made to us last autumn by the late Chris Harman, when he gave us a fantastically clear introduction to the first chapter of the book. He told us, "Capital is not a difficult book." It is however a work of vast scope, attempting to scientifically analyse the living contradictions that motivate the capitalist system. This is one of the reasons why reading groups are such a brilliant way of exploring and debating the ideas in Capital.

We therefore welcome Harvey's new book, A Companion to Marx's Capital (Books, Socialist Review, April 2010), as a useful guide to those embarking on this rocky road. We encourage everyone to start reading Capital, not simply to understand the world but to change it.

Rob Jackson
King's College London Reading Capital Society

Watch footage of David Harvey at King's College in April on the SWP website. Chris Harman's talk and previous sessions of the reading group are available on the King's College London Reading Capital Society website.

Unity for equality

While reading the interview with Sheila Rowbotham (Interview, Socialist Review, April 2010) I was struck by the similarities in the women's struggles of 100 years ago and today. Rowbotham describes how women attempted to fight oppression that resulted from working and motherhood.

A century on, the majority of unpaid care of the elderly, disabled and children falls to women, affecting their "career chances", income and health. Women can lose anything between £20,000 and £300,000 through taking maternity leave in a working life and earn approximately 85 percent of the salaries paid to men.

Rowbotham describes emerging debates surrounding sexuality. Today, we're bombarded with images of female sexuality. Sexual freedoms, fought so hard for by women's liberation movements, have been repackaged and sold back to us. This is not because capitalism is friendly towards women. It is because it is friendly towards profit.

Rowbotham is a refreshing challenge to the dominant post-feminist ideology that tells us that women are liberated. Ruling class women have perhaps 85 percent equality. For working class women the reality is far grimmer, involving a double burden of wage and domestic labour and sexual stereotypes. The interests of working class women are homogenous with working class men, not Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman. Men and women must stand united, demand change and challenge this oppression.

Toni May