LENIN, in his work ‘Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, wrote about one of the most important connections between the imperialist drive for colonies to super-exploit millions of colonial slaves and the class struggle in the UK.
He quotes the leading imperialist Cecil Rhodes. ‘And Cecil Rhodes, we are informed by his intimate friend, the journalist Stead, expressed his imperialist views to him in 1895 in the following terms: “I was in the East End of London (a working-class quarter) yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for “bread! bread!” and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism….
‘ “My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists”.’
The opposite is also the case. That is, the loss of imperialist possessions, particularly in India and Africa, and the revolutionary liberation of millions of colonial slaves means there are no ‘excess profits’ with which to buy off sections of UK workers, and a civil war in the UK becomes unavoidable.
This is the situation that is rapidly developing today in the UK. The British ruling class is weak and divided, it has lost all of its imperialist posessions and the incalcuable wealth that went with them. It is now being driven out of the EU by the mass movement of workers, as expressed in the 2016 referendum result, and has no alternative except to try to impose a slave labour state on the working class, while seeking to smash its great gains, such as the NHS and the remnants of the benefit system, that are all seen as ‘drains on profits’.
The British working class, and sections of the middle class, are now being pauperised at an extremely rapid and shocking rate, greatly sharpening the class struggle in a most revolutionary direction. The UK ruling class is now seeking to drive the UK working class back to where it came from – the slums of East London, the Gorbals, Tyneside, Liverpool and Manchester.
The great cities are now becoming centres of sedition as millions of families react to becoming indebted and the number of zero hour non-union super-exploited workers grows, and the trade unions are forced into mass actions – as they are over the NHS and in great cities like Birmingham over rubbish collections.
New figures from the Money Advice Service show that the inner-city areas are being pauperised.
In Newham, in the east end of London, and Sandwell in the West Midlands, at least 22% of residents have problem debts. In Manchester more than 90,000 adults are struggling with repayments.
The total number of people in such difficulties has risen by about 100,000 in the past six months to 8.3 million, according to the Money Advice Service. The areas where more than 20% have problem debt are Newham, East London: 22.7%, Tower Hamlets, East London: 22.7%, Sandwell, West Midlands: 22.1%, Nottingham: 21.9%, Barking and Dagenham, East London: 21.8%, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales: 21.6%, Hull: 21.5%, Manchester: 21.5%, Leicester: 21%, Hackney: 20.9%.
The slashing of living standards makes it impossible for workers to pay their debts and is sharpening the class struggle. A National Housing Federation report highlights how money spent on Housing Benefit rose from £16.6bn in the mid-1990s to £25.1bn in 2015-16, and is going straight into the pockets of the landlords.
People are now sleeping in the streets and millions are unable to pay their debts, while the landlords pocket billions. Since 2011, no government money has been made available to build homes in England for low paid people to rent. The letter that 14 trade unions representing over a million NHS workers wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer demanding a 3.9% wage rise plus £800 is just the start.
Millions of workers are being forced to take action. Now is the time to build up the revolutionary party, the WRP, to lead the British socialist revolution for which Lenin laid the theoretical and practical basis.