Working class struggle

Jamaica’s labour rebellion

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Anger at low wages, unemployment and colonial racism provoked a series of strikes across the British Caribbean 80 years ago. Christian Høgsbjerg describes the events which solidified the working class.

Amid the great depression of the 1930s the British Empire was rocked by a series of mass strikes and anti-colonial revolts across the Caribbean colonies. These events were central in the making of the Caribbean working class and reached their climax in Jamaica from late April to June 1938.

The rich will be poor and the poor will be rich

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The Pentrich Rising in June 1817 emerged from the economic crisis and political repression following the Napoleonic Wars. James Dean recounts the story of this early example of a workers’ insurrection.

This year marks the anniversary of more than one milestone in the revolutionary tradition. Two hundred years ago this month workers from the vicinity of Pentrich, Derbyshire, set out for Nottingham in a bid to overthrow the government.

Workers were denied the vote and the political system was corrupt. The Prince Regent’s treatment of his wife and lavish lifestyle had rendered the monarchy unpopular. Moreover, radicals had been inspired by the writings of Thomas Paine and William Cobbett, as well as the American and French revolutions.

The balance of class forces after the Brexit vote

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The world changed a little after Britain voted to leave the EU. Socialist Review spoke to Charlie Kimber, editor of Socialist Worker, about the new challenges revolutionaries face in the current period.

In the run up to the EU referendum in June we argued that a leave vote would create a crisis for our ruling class, particularly for the Tory party; that it would be a crisis for the EU project itself; and that therefore a Leave vote could provide an opportunity for our side to strengthen the fight against austerity. How much do you think we’ve seen those predictions borne out?

Working class gets an injection

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The junior doctors' strikes raise questions about how socialists should define the working class.

Back in 1986, or thereabouts, I wrote to Margaret Thatcher to ask her to draw around her foot. My primary school teacher, whose motivations I can only speculate about, had asked us to contact someone famous and obtain the said outline. Being literal-minded, I decided that there was no one more famous in Britain than the prime minister.

Thatcher did not reply, setting me on a path towards revolutionary socialism. I cannot have helped my case by including a short passage celebrating the teachers’ strike that had recently shut down my school.

Confidence in the balance

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Workers face a massive challenge in taking on the Tories' anti-trade union bill. Julie Sherry draws the lessons from the steady trickle of victorious localised disputes.

The passing of the Tory Trade Union Bill — a fundamental assault on our right to strike — at its third reading in parliament on 10 November acted to focus the mind on the scale of the challenges ahead. The task of defending our unions and mobilising workers to fight the austerity onslaught just got more urgent.

Them and us in history

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Today when the working class is under sustained attack from the Tories, John Newsinger's new book on the class war in Britain is timely. Here he picks out the lessons from the explosive year of 1911.

The year 1911 is one of the most important in British history. It is not remembered as such because there were no royal babies, no great military conquests or massacres, no notable parliamentary occasions.

Instead it is important because the mass action of hundreds of thousands of British working class men and women shifted the balance of class forces in their own favour.

Living standards were falling, work was intensifying and management tyranny was becoming increasingly oppressive. A fightback was inevitable.

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