BREXIT CHAOS: No end in sight

100,000s march against Brexit in London, 20 October 2018

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 267 December 2018/January 2019

After months of negotiations, with further concessions having to be made by the British government, Prime Minister Theresa May was able, finally, to announce on 14 November 2018 that all aspects of the withdrawal (transitional) deal – including settling accounts, citizenship, and the Irish border – had now been finalised and agreed at negotiator level. This agreement is essential if the UK is to retain the benefits of the single market and customs union for a further 21 months after leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. The transitional period itself, however, depends on the withdrawal deal being agreed and ratified by both the UK and EU parliaments. The negotiators have also agreed on the outline of a political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Budget 2018: No end to austerity

Anti-austerity protest

On 3 October, Prime Minister Theresa May made a series of promises in her speech to the Conservative Party conference. These included £20bn of additional funding for the NHS, and an end to austerity. Designed as a unifying message for the hopelessly fractured Conservative Party, these pledges had to be met by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond alongside existing commitments that included eliminating the Budget deficit by the middle of the 2020s. Saddled by the lack of any certainty about the state of the British economy following Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Hammond presented a different message. In his, much weaker, wording austerity is ‘coming to an end.’ In reality, three quarters of the benefit cuts planned since the 2015 General Election are still to come. Austerity is not ‘over’, and nor is it ‘coming to an end.’ Séamus Padraic reports.


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BREXIT: Theresa May humiliated at Salzburg summit

Protestors against Brexit at the Tory conference in Birmingham 2018

The outlook for the Conservative Party looks increasingly bleak. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers agreement,1 foisted on her divided Cabinet at a meeting on 6 July 2018, was not well received by the EU’s Brexit negotiators, or by significant sections of her feuding party. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the demands contained in the agreement were not a firm basis for negotiations with Brussels and fell foul of the EU’s red lines and founding principles. Boris Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Secretary shortly after the agreement was announced, crassly derided May’s Brexit strategy as ‘wrapping a suicide vest around the British constitution’. The arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the 60-strong European Research Group MPs, said it was ‘absolute rubbish’ and we ‘should chuck it and have a Canada-style free trade agreement’. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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The ‘inequality question’ has no solution under capitalism

A man begging in Manchester

Since the 1970s, inequality has grown to such obscene proportions, both domestically and globally, that some historians are comparing modern society with medieval feudalism and ancient slave-owning economies to try and understand what might happen next.1 The vast majority of people have taken only a small part of income growth for several decades; they look on with growing and justified resentment as an elite minority accumulates spectacular wealth while their own wages stagnate, decade on decade, and the public services they depend on for daily life are neglected, dismantled and privatised. Some sections of the capitalist class are clearly becoming uneasy as the growing rift between rich and poor could soon threaten economic and political stability. Economists, business leaders and policy thinktanks attempt to solve the ‘inequality question’ with a variety of proposals, ranging from well-meaning philanthropy to a global wealth tax. But they are bringing knives to a gunfight. The historians are right – inequality will be levelled by disaster or by revolution. Will Harney reports.


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Brexit: Tory infighting shatters government illusions

David Davis, Boris Johnson, Theresa May

It has been clear that every move by the Tory government on Brexit is designed to contain the splits in the Tory Party, hold together a deeply divided cabinet, and maintain a working majority in Parliament through a deal with the reactionary, pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The government is having to do this while, at the same time, gradually moving away from a ‘hard’ Brexit deal that would seriously damage the British economy, dominated as it is by financial services and the global activities of the City of London. That is why Prime Minister Theresa May’s major speeches on Brexit, since the Conservative annual conference in October 2016, have necessarily moved from a ‘hard’ to a ‘softer’ Brexit standpoint. The latter is, at present, embodied in the so-called Chequers agreement made at the special cabinet meeting of 6 July 2018. The inevitable limitations of this process have been dramatically exposed with the resignation of two leading Brexiters from the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, shortly after the Chequers agreement was announced. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Brexit: The end game approaches as imperialist rivalries intensify

As Britain’s withdrawal from the EU draws closer, the most difficult decision involves avoiding a ‘hard border’ between the Irish Republic and the north of Ireland

It is possible to forget that behind the chaos, backstabbing and rifts in the Tory party over Brexit exists the very real question of the future course of British imperialism. The parasitic character of British capitalism leaves it increasingly incapable of withstanding the economic and political challenge of US or European imperialism as an independent global imperialist power. In this context the Brexit conflict is essentially a dispute between sections of the ruling class over two necessarily, totally reactionary outcomes for British capitalism – staying as part of a European imperialist bloc or leaving and becoming an offshore centre for usury capital under the umbrella of US imperialism.1 The recent decision of US President Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and impose further sanctions on Iran and any countries and companies trading with Iran has dramatically highlighted the serious consequences for British imperialism from the eventual outcome of the Brexit conflict. David Yaffe reports.


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The decline of British industry

Fight racism! Fight Imperialism! 112 – April/May 1993

industry decline
Longbridge MG Rover plant, 1979

In 1992 output of all production industries – including manufacture, energy and water – fell for the third year running, the first time this has happened since the early 1930s. As if some belated dawn of recognition had struck the government’s brain, John Major declared that ‘... services aren’t enough because services in a recession are the first thing you cut, so we need the manufacturing base both as import substitution and as part of the continuing export drive’. TREVOR RAYNE examines the decline of British manufacture.


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Spring Statement: austerity continues unopposed

Philip Hammond claimed Britain was approaching ‘a turning point’ in his Spring Statement on 13 March. He fooled nobody. The Tory Chancellor said that the burden of public debt is forecast to start falling next year, allowing for the ‘easing of austerity’ not now but after his Autumn Statement. The reality is that the biggest annual benefits cut for six years is about to come into effect, hitting 11 million families, and three-quarters of the benefits cuts introduced since 2015 have yet to take effect. Far from the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ Hammond forsees, the worst is yet to come. Brian Henry reports.


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Brexit: hard facts deflate Tory illusions

Prime Minister Theresa May’s hubris at every stage of Brexit negotiations has been progressively deflated. Britain has been forced to give way on each significant, contested point.1 The Brexit transitional deal agreed on 19 March 2018 between Michel Barnier, European Union (EU) chief negotiator, and David Davis, UK Brexit Secretary, is no exception. Britain has provisionally secured a Brexit transition lasting until 31 December 2020 by offering concessions on UK sovereignty in order to avoid a cliff-edge exit from the EU at the end of March 2019. This allows businesses and citizens a further 21 months to prepare for Brexit-related changes. Markets welcomed the news, with the pound climbing above $1.40 against the dollar, reaching its highest level for three weeks. More concessions will be necessary in a third phase of negotiations during which Ireland, governance issues and future trade relations will be further discussed in parallel. David Yaffe reports.


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Britain’s decaying capitalism on display in half-empty high streets

 derelict high streets

For the second time in five years, ‘retail tsar’ Bill Grimsey is leading a ‘troubleshooting task force’ that aims to revive Britain’s half-empty high streets. It comes after two of Britain’s best-known retailers, Toys R Us and electronics specialist Maplin, collapsed into administration on the same day in February, putting 5,500 jobs at risk. Fashion retailer New Look then said up to 60 stores would close, putting almost 1,000 jobs at risk, and Conviviality, the company behind the off-licence chains Bargain Booze and Wine Rack, announced it would be appointing in administrators, threatening 2,600 jobs. Elsewhere, restaurant chains including Jamie Oliver, Prezzo and Byron have all announced closures amid a severe downturn in trading. In the first half of 2017, 14 shops closed every day. Britain’s semi-derelict town centres perfectly illustrate a decaying capitalism that needs to be put out of its misery. Brian Henry reports.

State of the nation of shopkeepers

See one town centre in Britain and you have seen them all. The same big name chains dominate: the same restaurants, the same bars, the same cinemas, the same music and fashion shops, all gleaming and soulless. Even knock-offs and tat have been monopolised by Sports Direct and Poundland. Variety and character be damned. This is the dreary monoculture of 21st century consumerism, the manifestation of the demands of capital accumulation. And yet, in the sixth richest country in the world, each of these mini corporate meccas is punctuated and surrounded by shuttered and abandoned shops and stores, skeletons scattered among their living conquerors. It’s a turf war, and the gang with the bigger muscle always wins.


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Councils in crisis

In October 2017 The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy warned that many local authorities were running down their reserves to ‘plug gaps in day-to-day spending’ and would soon find themselves in ‘significant financial distress’. On 2 February this year, Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council issued a section 114 notice – the first of its kind in 20 years. This means it has banned new expenditure on services except those that protect vulnerable people and will not be able to produce a balanced budget by the end of the year, as required by law. An inspector’s report concluded that the county council should be scrapped and replaced with two new unitary councils.

The CIPFA said more local authorities were likely to follow suit because of the severe central government cuts handed down since 2010. Grant funding from government will end by 2020, meaning councils will be expected to rely on council tax and business rates for most of their revenue. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that even if council tax revenues increased by 4.5% a year, adult social care spending is likely to amount to half of all revenue from local taxes by 2035. Most councils are raising council tax by 4-6% including a 2-3% precept for Adult Social Care. If councils meet their social care costs through local tax revenues ‘the amount left over for other services – including children’s services, housing, economic development, bin collection – would fall in real terms by 0.3% a year, on average’, the IFS warned.

The Labour Party could have stood up for the working class by refusing to implement the cuts ordered by central government. Instead it has stood with the ruling class. In September 2016 the party introduced a rule which meant disciplinary action could be taken against Labour councillors who opposed or abstained on legal – ie pro-cuts – budgets. Labour claims that the Tories are solely responsible for the crisis engulfing council budgets but in reality it has been wholly complicit.

FRFI correspondents from around the country have sent in reports detailing the state of the public finances in their areas. We demand that councils set budgets that meet the needs of the people.


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Brexit chaos and Tory rifts as the City prepares

Philip Hammond accused of hindering Brexit

The Tory party is hopelessly divided. Prime Minister Theresa May is on the back foot, seriously at a disadvantage, often outmanoeuvred in her negotiations over Britain’s future relations with the European Union (EU). The meaning of Brexit is constantly in flux. The dominant sections of the ruling class, corporate business and the City of London, horrified at the damage an abrupt ‘cliff edge’ exit will do to the British economy, have started to up their game. A ‘no deal’ Brexit is no longer on the agenda. Brexit negotiations have, so far, seen Britain forced to give way on each meaningful, contested point. David Yaffe reports.

The exit agreement

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had insisted that sufficient progress had to be made with the exit agreement – settling accounts, citizens’ rights, and the Irish border – before discussion on the future relationship between UK and the EU, particularly that on the terms of trade, could begin.1 At the end of November 2017, Britain submitted to the principal demand of the exit agreement, by stating that it would fully honour its financial commitments on leaving the EU. The net figure likely to be paid was thought to be in the region of between €40bn and €45bn.


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Carillion: What is hidden in the ruins

Carillion blacklisted 800 of its unionised employees for calling them out on poor health and safety condition 3

When Carillion went into liquidation on 15 January 2018 it was the biggest collapse in the history of the British construction industry and one of the largest bankruptcies in recent British corporate history. Carillion’s demise is not an aberration of capitalism: rather it expresses exactly what capitalism has become in Britain: corrupt and parasitic, incapable of providing decent public services. From plundering our taxes to enrich its executives and shareholders, to the teams of accountants paid millions for cooking the books and the swarm of hedge funds gambling on its failure, Carillion represents British capitalism today. This system must be got rid of. Trevor Rayne reports.

Carillion described itself as ‘one of the UK’s leading integrated support services companies, with a substantial portfolio of Public Private Partnership projects, extensive construction capabilities and a sector-leading ability to deliver sustainable solutions’ (Annual Report 2016). It was Britain’s second largest construction company, after Balfour Beatty. However, 90% of Carillion’s work was outsourced to sub-contractors; there are 30,000 of them. It held some 450 contracts with the government, worth 38% of its income in 2016. It was one of eight building firms forced to admit to running a blacklist of 800 trade unionists who had complained about health and safety conditions.


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Taking Britain Backwards - Autumn Budget 2017

Philip Hammond
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond attempted to shrug off the huge divisions in the Tory Party by cracking a few jokes as he delivered his second Budget since becoming Chancellor, but the biggest joke was the portrayal of himself as a great moderniser putting Britain ‘at the forefront’ of the world’s imminent ‘technological revolution’. He said the Conservatives would ‘run towards change’ and make Britain ‘fit for the future’. The grim reality is markedly different. Barnaby Philips reports.

  • The Resolution Foundation said that wages would not return to 2008 levels until 2025, meaning two lost decades of wage growth for workers, the longest fall in living standards since records began in the 1950s.
  • The state sector continues to be stripped to levels not seen since the 1930s under the plans of the previous Chancellor, George Osborne.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced its biggest downgrade for economic growth since it was set up in 2010. Growth in 2017 was reduced from 2% to 1.5% and growth through to 2021 was knocked down by between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points; it will only creep back up to 1.6% in 2022. Even these figures are optimistic as they ignore the uncertainty of Brexit and the increasing probability of recession – Britain has suffered one in every decade since the 1970s.
  • GDP per person will be 3.5% smaller in 2021 than forecast in March 2016. The loss of growth will mean the economy is £65bn smaller in 2021 than previously thought.

Despite seven years of austerity that was supposed to eliminate the budget deficit, originally by 2015, the Tories have been forced yet again to increase borrowing. The OBR rejects Hammond’s assertion that the hole in the public finances will be gone by 2025, saying it would remain until at least 2031. The Institute for Fiscal Studies added that national debt – currently standing at £1.94 trillion, with an annual servicing cost of £48bn – may not return to pre-crisis levels until the 2060s.


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Brexit: Ruling class divisions entrenched as negotiations begin

The split in the Conservative Party which brought about the EU referendum has become an open wound since Brexit negotiations began in June. The ‘hard’ Brexiters in control of the government are not prepared to entertain talk of a transitional period after the March 2019 deadline that would push back the end of free movement and withdrawal from the Customs Union and Single Market. They harbour fantasies of an independent British imperialism that is simply no longer possible. Barnaby Philips reports.

The Brexit debacle is a manifestation of the deepening capitalist crisis and intensifying inter-imperialist rivalries. British imperialism’s relative decline1 forced its ruling class to make a decision it did not wish to make: become a junior partner of US imperialism or forge an imperialist bloc with Europe. With the US facing its own acute crisis under the presidency of Donald Trump, it is easy to see why much of the ruling class is determined to secure a ‘soft’ Brexit that would retain access to the Single Market and the Customs Union.


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Spring Budget - Dismal prospects for an unequal, divided Britain

spring budget

The change of Chancellor and the decision to leave the European Union (EU) did not alter the timeworn formula underpinning the Budget speech. As usual there is little correlation between the exaggerated claims for the state of the British economy and the stark, grim reality of millions more working class people driven into low-paid jobs, confronting failing public services and increasing poverty. David Yaffe reports.

On 8 March, in his first Budget speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke of a British economy that ‘has continued to confound the commentators with robust growth’; which ‘delivers further investment in our public services’; ‘extends opportunity to all our young people’; has ‘a labour market delivering record employment’, and ‘a public sector deficit down by over two-thirds’ as it ‘continues the task of getting Britain back to living within its means’. It is an economy, he said, that provides ‘a strong and stable platform’ for Britain’s negotiations to exit the EU while ‘building the foundations of a stronger, fairer, more global Britain’.1 The reality is markedly different.


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In-work poverty in Britain hits record high

Durham teaching assistants

In imperialist Britain, the sixth richest country in the world, the number of people afflicted by in-work poverty has hit a record high. One in every eight workers, 12%, lives in poverty, exposing as lies six years of cynical pledges from the Conservative Party to ‘restore the link between hard work and reward’. The government’s real agenda has been to divide and rule by attempting to drive a wedge between ‘strivers’ and ‘scroungers’. But as an annual state of the nation report conclusively shows, for the poorest sections of the working class in Britain, the working and the unemployed are equally tormented by the rule of capital. Barnaby Philips reports.

Published on 7 December 2016, the Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2016 report,* written by the New Policy Institute on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, revealed that the number of working people living in poverty in 2015 increased to 7.4 million, up from 6.3 million in 2010. This represents a record high of 55% of the overall 13.5 million of the population living below the official poverty line. The vast majority – four-fifths – of the adults in working households are employed, some 3.8 million workers. The remaining fifth predominantly look after children.


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The gig economy: new name for old exploitation

Deliveroo drivers strike

The increasing casualisation of employment, along with new online platforms for marketing labour and goods, have generated new terms which are celebrated, debated and decried by politicians, commentators and journalists. Central among these is the ‘gig economy’ – where self-employed workers are paid mainly by individual jobs or ‘gigs’ performed, with jobs often communicated through a smartphone app or website. Despite the supposed empowerment at the heart of this model, exploitative big businesses – such as delivery company Deliveroo and taxi firm Uber – have become emblematic of the gig economy. Workers usually have few employment rights, but resistance has begun, with Deliveroo drivers organised in the International Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union demanding union recognition, and a recent employment tribunal ruling on 28 October that Uber cannot categorise its drivers as self-employed, and must pay them the national minimum wage. The gig economy is a vague concept which links loosely into wider casualisation – notably the rising use of zero hours and temporary contracts in fields such as care work, retail, catering and, increasingly, higher education. Luke Meehan looks at what the gig economy means for capitalists, workers, and resistance.


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Brexit: weak British economy faces further ruin

brexit economy

British and European imperialism are in turmoil over Brexit and its impact on the ever-deepening worldwide crisis of capitalism. The economic costs of Britain leaving the EU will be high for both parties. For Britain, they could be disastrous. In his Autumn Statement on 23 November the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, revealed that the black hole in the public finances requires an additional £122bn of borrowing by the end of 2020/21 – up from the £66bn forecast in July 2016 and even higher than the £100bn he was expected to announce. Despite almost a decade of savage austerity, the £10bn budget surplus promised by Hammond’s disgraced predecessor George Osborne is a distant fantasy. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) put £59bn of the extra borrowing down to the referendum result and now expects even slower economic growth, weaker investment, falling tax revenues and rising living costs. Amid much uncertainty the outlook will almost doubtlessly worsen again after Britain officially leaves the EU. Barnaby Philips reports.


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G4S: prisons, housing, employment


From its discreet, tightly guarded HQ on the fifth floor of a building in Victoria Street central London, and its Security Services offices in Crawley (near Gatwick), G4S direct its global operations. Operations involve protecting the wealth of corporations, powerful individuals, and governments. It protects government institutions and facilities, and provides back-office police support, fast-response squads, alarm systems and surveillance, security software integration, airport security screening, immigration services, and transportation and imprisonment of detainees. Profits derive from taking custody of the most marginalised, most vulnerable, and the most alienated globally, and from maximising the exploitation of staff: that means skimping on training, paying the bare minimum wages, zero hours contracts, clamping down on unions, recruiting on the cheap, and constantly stretching employees to their limits in high-pressure workplaces. The result is a reliance on brutality in an atmosphere of casual racism.

In 2011, the government were embarrassed enough to promise to end detention of asylum seekers’ children. At the time of writing, children continue to be detained at Cedars immigration detention centre in Crawley under the control of G4S, or ‘pre-departure accommodation centre’, as they would have us call it, but they are due to move detainees to another facility. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, stated ‘there is no hiding the fact that this is still a family detention unit’. Heaven Crawley, professor of international migration, wrote ‘it is important to call a spade a spade. To repackage detention as “pre-departure accommodation” is disingenuous. Families with children will be taken to the facility against their will’.


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G4S: corruption and institutional racism

The Robocop movie franchise is set in a dystopia where a megacorporation (OCP or Omnicorp) forces through the privatisation of virtually every aspect of government. We have another case of life imitating art: G4S.

G4S seem to be repeatedly in the press for one debacle after another. In 2011 keys capable of opening every door at Birmingham Prison were lost. In the US, G4S guards allowed an 82-year-old nun and two accomplices to break into a nuclear weapons facility (ground zero for the Manhattan Project and the sole facility in the USA for storing enriched uranium) and wander around for two hours daubing walls with slogans and blood. Numerous other incidents include two G4S armoured vehicles hijacked on an inside job in Kenya; an ex-guard robbing cash machines with codes he learned at the company; and a member of a five-man armoured-car crew shooting the other four and making off with the cash in Canada.


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Mike Ashley and Sir Philip Green: capitalism’s ideal villains

Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley was branded ‘the unacceptable face of modern capitalism’ by The Guardian in an editorial on 7 June, the day after he smirked his way through a parliamentary ‘grilling’ that exposed the appalling treatment of his staff at Sports Direct. Such a verdict begs the question: what is capitalism’s acceptable face? Perhaps it’s British mining companies which ‘employ’ seven-year-olds for $1 a day in the Democratic Republic of Congo or the sweatshops in South Asia fuelling British capitalism’s sustainability, to name but two examples. Sir Philip Green, chairman of the Arcadia Group of retail stores, has also recently faced the theatre of humiliation – if nothing more – of parliamentary scrutiny. He took millions of pounds in dividends out of BHS - then owned by Arcadia - before it went bust, dumping 11,000 people into unemployment. But these two grinning creeps merely serve as capitalism’s ideal villains – greedy and selfish ‘bad eggs’, aberrations put down to individual immorality, as opposed to all the ‘good’ capitalists who play by the 'rules', letting the universally exploitative and parasitic system itself off the hook.


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Tata struggles to sell British steel industry amid profitability crisis

Tata Steel

Britain’s ever-dwindling manufacturing industry faces another crisis after Tata Steel announced it is seeking a buyer for its loss-making British division, including its flagship Port Talbot plant in South Wales. Around 40,000 steel making and supply chain jobs are at risk, with the future of the Indian conglomerate’s operations in Rotherham, Corby and Shotton also threatened with liquidation.

Finding a buyer has been as difficult as expected. Haemorrhaging a reported £1m a day, Britain’s biggest steel business is such an unattractive prospect that most major investment banks – which would usually salivate over the fees from a deal of such prominence and complexity – are not even interested in advising potential buyers.(1) While China’s prolific steel industry dominates the global market with cheap produce, high labour and energy costs, the need to import raw materials, and low demand have combined to doom the British division of Tata, which has also ruled out handing over a dowry payment to any buyer.

The Conservative government initially dismissed the idea of having the steel industry nationalised while a buyer is found. Under pressure from Labour and accusations that it simply does not care about workers threatened with unemployment, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has since claimed that the government is prepared to ‘co-invest’ with a buyer on commercial terms, a part-nationalisation of 25 per cent.


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BHS workers fleeced by parasitic owners

Sir Phillip Green BHS

Almost a quarter of BHS staff could lose their jobs despite five bidders expressing interest in the high street department store chain since it went into administration in April. After initial fears that BHS would fold at the cost of all 11,000 jobs, interested suitors have come forward with plans to buy the bulk of the company. However, because they are too unprofitable to be saved, about 40 of BHS’s 164 shops have been condemned by administrators to a ‘red list’.(1)

The collapse of the 88-year-old retail chain is mired in the ‘legal corruption’ of its parasitic owners.The family of billionaire Tory donor, Sir Phillip Green and his Arcadia Group, bought BHS in 2000 for £200m and took £423m in dividends from the company in the next four years. Profits started to contract thereafter and it has recorded losses since 2009.(2) Green – the notorious tax dodger once appointed by David Cameron as the government’s ‘efficiency tsar’ – appears to have bled the company dry and starved it of investment. Regardless, talk of how to revive the British high street fails to account for capitalism’s aggressive tendency towards monopolisation, as evidenced once again by the rise of the likes of Amazon and eBay.


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Budget 2016 - Bullish Chancellor blown off course

There is usually little connection between Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s exaggerated claims for his management of the British economy and the stark, grim reality. His eighth Budget was no exception. He started by telling us that the economy was set to grow faster than any other major advanced economy in the world; was delivering the highest employment in our history; and the public sector deficit was down by two thirds, falling each year, and on course for a surplus. The British economy, he asserted, is stronger and growing because the government confronted our country’s problems, didn’t seek short-term fixes and pursued a long-term economic plan. As he delivered his Budget speech on 16 March these claims began to unravel – the flaws were evident even before he finished talking. David Yaffe reports.


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British economy: a weak link in the imperialist chain

International economic crises are a recurring feature of the capitalist system. Over the last 35 years FRFI has reported on the Latin American debt crises of the 1980s, the Mexican debt crisis and IMF bailout of 1984/85, the global stock market crash of 1987, the Japanese stock market crash and recession of the 1990s, the 1997 Asian crisis, the 1998 Russian debt default and the Brazilian bail out, the 2001 Argentinian debt default, and the stock market crash (dot com collapse) of 2001/02. Finally we are still in the throes of the ‘great recession’ precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008/09, and which, after seven years, is said to be entering its third phase of turmoil, that of the crisis in the ‘emerging market’ economies.1 David Yaffe writes.

Britain faced stagflation in the mid-1970s, a recession in the early 1980s, with three million unemployed and the loss of 25% of manufacturing industry, and a recession and housing bust in the early 1990s. The 2007-08 financial crisis led to Britain’s sharpest economic downturn and the slowest recovery on record.


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British ruling class: the perpetuation of privilege

British ruling class: the perpetuation of privilege

A report issued by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in August caused ripples by confirming that Britain continues to be run by a privileged few, the majority of whom attended private schools, went to the same elite universities and control every aspect of the country’s political, economic and cultural life. It debunked completely the capitalist lie, peddled by all the main political parties, of ‘social mobility’ – that anyone can make it if they try. The post-war boom, which briefly allowed the myth of a meritocracy to flourish, is long over, and the entrenched self-interest of a privileged minority is once again laid bare.


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Crime in the city

Demonstration outside serial offender Barclays Bank AGM

Research published in July 2014 by the London School of Economics shows that from the financial crisis in 2008 to the end of 2013 the top ten western banks had paid £100bn in fines for money laundering, rate-rigging, sanctions-busting, mis-selling mortgages, bonds and insurance and assorted other scams. By the end of 2014 it is reckoned the figure will reach £200bn. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chief executive warned that more fines were in the pipeline for a financial sector with its capacity to ‘constantly surprise with bad conduct’. It is as if a contagion of crime had broken out in the citadels of finance. However, as the Financial Times notes, ‘barely a ful of bankers have been hauled away in handcuffs’. They are too big to fail and too big to jail.


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British Economy - On the path to a new crisis

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

Activists campaign against evictions by Lambeth council

The British economy finally appears to have recovered from its steepest slump for 80 years. GDP is estimated to have passed its pre-recession peak of 2008 in the second quarter of 2014. Although it has lagged well behind the US, Canada, Germany and France in the speed of its recovery, the British economy is now growing at the fastest rate of the G7 major capitalist countries, and has employment levels at record highs. Yet all is not as it seems. Having undergone the slowest British recovery from recession on record despite extremely expansionary monetary policies, the economy is unbalanced, heavily indebted and experiencing very weak productivity growth. A growing low-paid, insecure workforce has become a key feature of the British economy. David Yaffe reports.


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Rich list - 1,000 parasites rule

On 18 May, the Sunday Times published its annual fawning tribute to the extraordinary wealth of the richest members of the ruling class. The Sunday Times Rich List 2014 tells us that ‘the rich have never been richer’ and that to join the ranks of the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain requires a fortune of £85m, and £190m to join the richest 500, more than double the £80m it required ten years ago. Other figures show:


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The human cost of sales outsourcing: an eyewitness account

Sales outsourcing has become an economic staple of large multinational companies, ensuring cheap labour and trampling on employment laws, workers’ rights and welfare. Outsourcing passes accoun­ta­bility away from the original company, as contracts are passed down chains of outsourcers, with every link taking a slice, till just the crumbs are left for the call centre worker at the bottom of the food chain, mired in insecurity, poverty and debt.


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