World in View: After Brexit come strikes

January 22, 2023

From the January-February 2023 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

Great Britain is in a cost of living crisis. Newspapers are publishing “Heat or Eat Diaries.” “We live on cereal and soup, I ration washing my hair—what else can I give up to survive?” says one entry. “I never thought I’d be grateful for my auto-immune illness. But a doctor’s letter means at least my heating can’t be cut off,” notes another. Besides these individual struggles, collective actions—strikes—are breaking out throughout the country


Participants in a huge anti-Brexit March of over a million people in London on March 23, 2019, demanding a second chance to vote on leaving the European Union. Photo: astonishme.

Public service workers in a host of different occupations are striking or planning to. Facing double-digit inflation and continuing deterioration of the National Health Service (NHS), some 100,000 nurses carried out a one-day strike.

Railway workers halted the majority of train services. Postal workers struck. Baggage handlers, bus drivers, road crew and energy-company workers are among others engaging in strike actions. The reaction of the Conservative Party Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was typical: promising to introduce anti-strike legislation in Parliament.

The crisis in England—the first practitioner of industrial capitalism—is beyond the immediacy of high inflation and looming recession, as important as they are. Brexit—the British exit from the European Union engineered under false pretext by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cohorts—has certainly been an important catalyst for Britain’s dire economic situation.

Conservatives’ determination to cripple the NHS is part and parcel of a neoliberal classist mentality. At the same time, British Labour, since the days of Tony Blair, has barely been even social democratic in its outlook and policies.

Hopefully the labor militancy now taking place can show a way forward.

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