Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 August 2013

What we think

A tale of two Britains

A tale of two Britains - A government of the rich imposing austerity on the poor. 20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson

A tale of two Britains - A government of the rich imposing austerity on the poor. 20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

For a tiny few at the top Britain is really booming. When the Sunday Times first published its Rich List in 1989, the combined wealth of Britain's 200 richest people was 38 billion (80 billion today). By 2013 it had increased to 318.2 billion.

For the rest of us life in Britain is very different. Real wages have fallen further than almost any other country in Europe - at least 6% since 2010. Only the devastated economies of Greece and Portugal, alongside the Netherlands, have suffered a greater fall.

But this only tells part of the story. Unemployment and underemployment have left millions unable to earn enough to make ends meet. 1.45 million people work part-time but want a full-time job. Many work just a few hours a week. In addition there are a million on zero-hour contracts who do not know - from one week to the next - how many hours work they will get.

As Larry Elliott pointed out in the Guardian (4 August), 'this is a new incarnation of "the reserve army of labour" described by Marx 150 years ago'. Just as Marx described, the bosses are attempting to increase their profits by driving down the share taken by the working class. The threat of unemployment, and the desperation of the unemployed and underemployed, is used to frighten workers into putting up with low pay, little or no employment rights, and insecure jobs.

Larry Elliott correctly says that: "These were the sorts of labour market practices that gave rise to trade unions in the first place. Back then they had a name: exploitation." The name remains the same today. The general trade unions in Britain were forged at the end of the 19th century when - in mighty struggles - the predominantly young unskilled working class on the docks, in the gasworks and match factories, got organised and fought back.

Unity is strength

The ground is being prepared for a similar uprising today: it is urgently needed. Retail workers, caterers and cleaners will be central in the coming struggles, alongside traditionally organised industries.

The millions of workers that took part in the nineteenth century strikes - called 'new unionism' - understood that unity is strength. Bosses know that, as long as the working class remains divided, they can get away with intensifying exploitation.

In one of countless examples, Labour's Chris Bryant has highlighted how Tesco moved one of its giant distribution centres in Essex and told existing staff they could only work at the new centre if they accepted a pay cut. Under pressure from Tesco Bryant seems to have retreated from this claim; but even the local Tory MP confirmed that Tesco workers at the centre faced a 'choice' between redundancy and a pay cut of up to 10,000 a year. Bryant has pointed out that some of the staff in the new distribution centre are from Eastern Europe; brought over by Tesco.

This is a deliberate strategy by Tesco - which made over 3.5 billion in profits last year - to drive down wages via 'divide and rule'- throwing existing workers on the scrapheap because they won't accept massive pay cuts.

This is a global phenomenon: big business are maximising their profits by driving down wages. Production is moved to countries with cheaper labour or workers are moved in the hope they will accept lower pay and conditions than the existing workforce. This is the 'race to the bottom' which can only be bad for the working class worldwide.

As long as we have capitalism, driven only by the need to maximise profits, the bosses will use every means possible to increase exploitation. The solution is a democratic socialist society, where the major companies are brought into democratic public ownership in order to plan the economy for the benefit of society as a whole.

But Bryant's Labour which, in power, kept all the Tory anti-trade union laws, says not a word on the need for a fighting trade union movement to defend workers' rights. Labour's position differs little from that of 19th century Liberals who spoke platitudes about 'exploitation' while in reality backing big business. That is why a new mass party of the working class is needed.

A clear warning

Meanwhile workers can still fight back against exploitation under capitalism. There is an urgent need for the trade union movement in Britain, and indeed worldwide, to organise a huge campaign in defence of pay and conditions.

In 2009 workers at Lindsey oil refinery successfully stopped the bosses from using workers from Italy to undercut their pay and conditions, by winning the rate for the job for all workers, British and Italian.

The trade unions nationally need to urgently launch a serious campaign of action to demand a living wage and secure contract for every worker, whether they are young or old, black or white, or originate from Eastern Europe or Essex. This would sound a clear warning to the government and big business, that workers in Britain are no longer prepared to accept being trampled into the dirt.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 August 2013:

Socialist Party campaigns

Zero tolerance for zero-hours!

End zero-hour contracts now!

Socialist Party editorial

A tale of two Britains

Socialist Party news and analysis

Beware a recovery!

Met finally apologise for G20 death

London Olympics legacy - one year on

Football and big business: time to reclaim the game

Socialist Party subs appeal

Them & Us

Socialist Party events

Come to the Socialist Party Summer Camp

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Hunt attacks NHS staff and patients

Save Our Hospital!

Protest at the Tory Conference in Manchester

International socialist news and analysis

Tunisia: Mobilise to bring down the government

South Africa: Limpopo WASP launch

Seattle: Socialist challenge to corporate Democrats

Socialist Party workplace news

Defend the Four: Tribunal compensation award to Unison activists

Postal workers ballot for action

On your bike, Serco

Swansea council pay attacks angers workers

Anti-Bedroom Tax

Winning a reprieve from the bedroom tax

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Building TUSC in Caerphilly

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Reflections and sycophancy: Kinnock versus the socialist Liverpool council

The Mill: A change from the usual TV

Successes, failures and stalemates: A week in the life of a trade union rep


Home   |   The Socialist 14 August 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleTamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting

triangleTory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated

triangleThem & Us

triangleRetail sector crunch: nationalise to save jobs

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts


triangleLocal government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangleDemonstrations by uni students and staff greet Bath vice-chancellor resignation

triangleArriva bus strikers stand firm

trianglePCS Left Unity celebrates 40th anniversary at annual conference


triangleThe Socialist's 2017 quiz

triangleTotnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangleLabour 'purge' furore really just democracy


triangleTesco's 10% pay increase accompanied by cuts and job losses

triangleUsdaw ADM 2017: Left challenge needed to end assault on retail jobs and conditions

Working class:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

Big business:

triangleTories torn - bin them now

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Two in five 'right to buy' homes now for let



Save our NHS



Labour 'purge' furore really just democracy



Brexit deal no solution to Tory rifts


Them & Us

Them & Us



Uni market 'failure', two-year degrees - end cuts, scrap fees!



Retail sector crunch: nationalise to save jobs



Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded



Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme



Branson sues NHS: kick out the profiteers



Royal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system



RBS to sack 1,000: nationalise the banks



Rough sleeping crisis: make homes, not arrests



End Tory war on poor



Nationalise rail now

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Dec Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

More ...

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice