“There is a lot of competition for jobs between workers who are Romanian, Polish, or Lithuanian,” said Pocios, who came to the U.K. as a boy with his Lithuanian parents.
Kennedy, Communist League members and Mary Martin, SWP candidate for governor of Washington state, were knocking on doors in Dagenham, a working-class suburb here, Sept. 11. Meeting workers on their doorsteps and discussing a road forward from attacks by the bosses was a central part of Kennedy’s eight-day tour in the United Kingdom.
“The bosses increase competition between workers on the job as they press down on wages and conditions,” Kennedy replied. “It’s happening around the world.
“The Socialist Workers Party calls for the unions to lead a fight for a massive public works program to put millions to work. We say all workers should be organized in unions, regardless of their birthplace. The competition for jobs won’t end until the dog-eat-dog capitalist system is replaced,” she said. “But a growing fight for jobs waged by native and immigrant workers alike can build solidarity and class consciousness, helping us prepare to fight to take political power for ourselves.”
Pocios told Kennedy and Martin that he is classified as self-employed, even though he works for a company. The huge growth of so-called “self-employment” in the U.K., along with a big rise in temporary agency workers, is another way the propertied rulers intensify exploitation. According to government figures, there are 4.6 million “self-employed” workers in the U.K., about 15 percent of the workforce, up by more than 780,000 since 2008.
The median wage for those designated self-employed is a little over half of what other workers get. Millions more are employed through temp agencies, of whom over 800,000 are on “zero hours contracts” — with no guaranteed level of work hours or income.
“We’re finding that workers in the U.S. and the U.K. face similar grinding assaults on our wages, working conditions and social rights,” Kennedy said.
Pocios was one of 15 workers in the London area who bought copies of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes during Kennedy and Martin’s tour.
“It doesn’t please me,” Eve, a cleaner in Harlow, a small town north of here, told Kennedy, describing her concerns about her son’s “education” in secondary school. “It’s a way of conditioning him to become a perfect wage slave.”
The government recently announced its latest proposed education reforms — to bring back selective grammar schools for “academic high achievers.” In a victory for the working class, such schools were largely replaced in the state education system in the 1960s and ’70s.
“Education reform under capitalism is always a fraud,” said Kennedy. “Education is class divided under capitalism. Special schools prepare carefully selected ‘brights’ to track them on the road to the meritocracy and service to the ruling class. For the rest of us, it’s to learn us how to follow the rules and get a job. It’s preparation for a life of obedient labor.
“Our class learns the most from our experiences in social struggles, in union battles and on the streets,” she said. “Only a socialist revolution will overturn this system and provide the opportunity for real lifelong learning, as we work together to build a world built on human needs, not private profit.”
Richard Peploe, a retired bus driver in Harlow, said he had long supported the Labour Party.
“I was a strong trade unionist all my life,” he said, “but Labour is not labour today. Corbyn is a capitalist politician — perhaps with a streak of honesty, unlike the others who are a bunch of crooks.”
Explaining he voted for the U.K. Independence Party in the last two elections, and for the U.K. to leave the so-called European Union, Peploe said, “I know it’s not going to make much difference. The attacks on all working people are going to mount.”
Peploe picked up a subscription to the Militant and said he was pleased to learn of the Militant’s coverage of the Angola Three, Black Panther frame-up victims held for decades in Louisiana’s Angola prison. He told Kennedy he had corresponded with and visited Lane Nelson, who spent two and a half years on death row in Angola prison and edited The Angolite, the prison paper, before he was released in 2011.
“It was my first time. Every door, you want to see who will answer, what kind of person,” he said. “I like your goals, to bring workers and farmers and regular people to power. I hope it can happen everywhere in the world. I like that you invite everybody to join.”
Over the three days, Hart and supporters of the Communist League campaigned with the Pathfinder book Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism and the Militant in five different working-class neighborhoods around Calgary.
“What kind of democracy is there going to be if Trump wins?” asked Rishi Nagar, the host of a popular Punjabi-language radio program on 106.7 Red FM, when he interviewed Hart.
“The same democracy that exists now, the same if Clinton wins,” Hart replied. “The democracy of the dictatorship of capital, where workers can vote for one of the capitalist parties, but both represent the rulers. Workers, who produce all the wealth, have no say over how it’s used because the boss class holds state power.
“The elections don’t change anything. Every social measure that benefits the working class was won by workers ourselves through labor and social struggles — from the American Revolution against British colonialism to the Civil War that ended slavery, to the strikes and organizing drives that built the labor movement during the 1930s depression, to the mass Black-led movement of the 1950s and ’60s that overturned Jim Crow segregation. The same is true in Canada.”
“What is going on in Syria? What is the U.S. doing supporting Turkey against the Kurds?” Mustafa Alhasan, a Kurdish worker, asked Hart at a citywide meeting organized by the Communist League.
“The Socialist Workers Party supports the Kurds’ fight for national rights in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran,” Hart said. “Washington uses its effective fighting capacity for its own ends, but is no friend of the Kurds. President Obama and Vice President Biden both cheered the Turkish-organized military intervention into Syria and joined in demanding the Kurds pull out of areas they have won control over.
“There is no revolutionary working-class leadership in the Middle East,” he said. “The void is filled by the brutal, anti-working-class Islamic State. There, as elsewhere, a revolutionary workers movement needs to be built.”
“In building a movement, how can we overturn the dictatorship of capital?” asked Tanya Johnston, who supports Native Americans in North Dakota protesting the construction of a pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
“The SWP stands in solidarity with the Native people at Standing Rock,” Hart said. “Our candidate for Senate in Minnesota has joined the protests there and I’m going in October. For over 150 years, Native Americans have been forced onto reservations under oppressive conditions.
“Now, when the ruling rich seek to run a pipeline over land they hold sacred, threatening their water supply, the Sioux are standing up in dignity to demand their sovereign rights,” Hart said. “And their fight has attracted thousands more Native people and others from all across North America.
“In the course of labor and social battles to come, we will transform ourselves, conquering the political program and self-worth needed to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist exploiters and establish our own workers and farmers government.”
Katy LeRougetel contributed to this article.