Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives 2008

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How consciousness will develop in Britain

Crucial for us are the effects that these economic developments will have on the consciousness of the working class.

In Britain, for most workers, although price increases have led to a certain belt-tightening, economic crisis is still in the main a storm cloud looming overhead, a future worry rather than a reality.

Nonetheless, everyone knows the storm clouds are on the horizon and this is already leading to a layer of the most conscious young people and workers drawing general conclusions about the inability of capitalism to meet humanity's needs.

This has been shown by the response the London party had to its public meeting entitled 'Crash' and others that have been held around the country.

However, amongst broader sections of society this is not yet the case. This will change on the basis of their experience. Young people, half a million of whom are already unemployed, will undoubtedly be hit disproportionately hard.

More likely to be employed in insecure jobs, they are more likely to be thrown on the scrapheap of unemployment.

More likely not to have an established 'credit record' or, if they have been to university to have already accumulated mountainous debts, they are far more likely to be refused credit by the post-credit crunch banks.

Whereas those a few years older may have managed to grab hold of the bottom rung of the property ladder because they were able to take out what can only be described as sub-prime mortgages (and could now be facing losing their homes) the younger generation will often not be able to get a mortgage at all.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many young people are currently more blasť than the population as a whole about the coming recession or slowdown.

This is inevitable as they have only experienced economic growth throughout their conscious lives. However, it also means that when the effects of economic crisis do reach them their reaction will be all the greater.

The possibility of explosive struggles of young workers will be posed. Given the lack of trade union experience or consciousness amongst the majority of young people, they will not automatically move through the traditional trade union structures, particularly in the first instance.

Completely unofficial wildcat walkouts and occupations could be posed in the future. In general, despite the current lack of confidence of the working-class to struggle when they are not given a lead, the potential for action on the issue of pay in both the public and private sectors is inherent in the situation.

We could see similar developments to recent events in Belgium, where a mini-strike wave has taken place as workers demand pay increases to counter the effects of increased food and fuel prices.

It would only take one or two groups of workers winning concessions on the question of pay to spark a more generalised struggle.

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