Battle of Ideas

Provos, Protestants, and working-class politics

Provos, Protestants, and working-class politics: an imaginary dialogue (1986, plus a 2007 introduction); the debate in Socialist Organiser, 1983

Provos, Protestants, and working-class politics: an imaginary dialogue, by Sean Matgamna. (1986 text plus a 2007 introduction: download pdf).

The 1983 debate in Socialist Organiser, plus 1986 introduction and background briefing pages: download pdf.

Read the dialogue online:

Introduction (2007)

Session one: The issues stated

Session two: a foothold for imperialism?

Publications: 

Around the world: 

Why The Workers Party says USA is Imperialist in World War 2 (1942)*

Author: 

Stanley Plastrik (aka Sherman Stanley, Henry Judd)
Why did the Trotskyists define "the war against Hitler" as an Imperialist war?

The first anniversary of Pearl Harbor draws near and we are about to be showered with a deluge of propaganda reminding us of the treacherous attack made upon the Hawaiian naval base and the fact that an unwilling American government was, as a result, forced into the World War. This is a good time to discuss a term very often used in Labor Action; the term IMPERIALISM. Often we are asked by new readers of our paper, “You keep saying that this is an imperialist war; that every country (including America) is in it for imperialist purposes. Just what do you mean by that, EXACTLY?”
 

"They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor"

Author: 

Jane Wilde
A poem by Jane Wilde, the mother of Oscar Wilde, on the Irish Famine in the mid-19th Century --- and about the famines and plaques that needlessly slaughter the poor and vulnerable in our own world.

[Note: Between 1845 and 1848 a million people in Ireland died of starvation when the potato crop was repeatedly destroyed by blight and cholera came in the wake of starvation. A million more fled for their lives to England, Scotland and America. Vast quantities of grain and meat were exported during these years. Jane Wilde's poem, "The Famine Year", speaks in the angry, bitter, despairing voice of the Irish victims long ago.

Who Was Rosa Luxemburg?

Author: 

Rosie Woods

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Poland in 1871, the fifth child born into a Jewish family. The family settled in Warsaw where the young Rosa attended school. Luxemburg was politically active by the age of 15, one of her first acts being to help organise a strike.

This early political activity began a schooling in covert socialist activity, as the strike was savagely repressed and four of its leaders shot and killed. Luxemburg along with other Polish socialists met and organised in secret, firstly in the Proletariat Party and later the Polish Socialist Party.

Rosa Luxemburg remains one of the key political figures in socialist history for many reasons. She was an independent critical thinker, a committed Marxist and an unshakeable revolutionary committed to working-class democracy and socialism.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

The Felons of Our Land

Author: 

Arthur Forrester
One of the best of the old Irish revolutionary songs

Fill up once more, we`ll drink a toast to comrades far away,
No nation on earth can boast of braver hearts than they,
And though they sleep in dungeons deep, or flee outlawed and banned
We love them yet, we can`t forget, the Felons of our Land.

In boyhood`s bloom and manhoods pride fordoomed by alien laws,
Some on the scaffold proudly died, for holy Ireland`s cause,
And brothers say, shall we, today, unmoved like cowards stand,
While traitors shame and foes defame, the Felons of our Land.

Dora B Montefiore: a half-forgotten socialist feminist

Author: 

Sean Matgamna
The story of a pioneer socialist feminist, Dora B. Montefiore

In its early phase, her life-story was a bit like a Barbara Cartland-style romance. In the late 1870s, the conventional young Englishwoman, Dorothy Fuller, bred in a Victorian manor house in Surrey and educated there by governesses and private tutors, goes out to Australia to visit relations and there meets and falls in love with a fine, rich, young Australian, George Barrow Montefiore. After a short trip home, she goes back to Australia to stay.

James Connolly

[A text of the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, 1947]

On Easter Monday 1916, some hundreds of republicans and socialists rose in arms in Dublin to overthrow the centuries-old British rule in Ireland. Among their leaders was James Connolly, who for most of the years since 1896 had been the leading writer and agitator for socialism in Ireland and amongst the Irish in America [1903 -1910].

A 1947 article on James Connolly in Workers' Republic, the journal of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Irish Section of the Fourth International, reproduced in Labor Action (paper of the US Trotskyist group led by Max Shachtman, Hal Draper, and others).

Marxist Theory and History: 

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China versus Hong Kong unions

Author: 

Andrew Casey

Anonymous emails have been sent to Hong Kong media alleging that the only independent union movement in China — the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions — is in the pay of the United States.

The South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Standard have reported that they received emails with attachments showing that the HKCTU had received US$ 2 million from the AFL-CIO , USA national union centre’s key aid agency the Solidarity Center.

HKCTU backs movement for universal suffrage; Chinese media claim union group is in pay of US.

Around the world: 

Trade Unions: 

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They are only Africans

Author: 

Dr Paul Vallely

They are only Africans. They may be dying from Ebola in record numbers, but who really cares? Such are the politics of plague. Ebola, is just another of the apocalyptic four horsemen which for ever stalk that far-away continent of which we know little and care less.

Of course, no one says as much in such bald terms, not even in the farage of plain-speaking that characterises the demagogic rhetoric of our times. But it is hard to escape the sense that such is the reality of our political priorities.

They are only Africans. They may be dying from Ebola in record numbers, but who really cares? Such are the politics of plague.

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Around the world: 

Yes does not mean left

Author: 

Dale Street

Colin Foster is right to argue that the labour movement and working class will be weakened and divided by a mindset which identifies “yes” (to Scottish independence) with “left”, and “no” to independence with “right”. (Solidarity, 339).

The problem is that that mindset is now hardwired into the pro-independence left.

In Scotland, the pro-independence left wants to make the working class footsoldiers for the Poujadist nationalism of the SNP.

Around the world: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Tackling rugby club sexism

Author: 

Beth Redmond

The men’s rugby club at the London School of Economics has been disbanded, after circulating a sexist, classist and homophobic leaflet at this year’s freshers fair.

The text of the leaflet mocks students at “poly” universities, describes women as “mingers” and “trollops” and says that the club will not tolerate “outright homosexual debauchery”. But this is not the first time the team has ran into trouble with the students’ union over offensive behaviour.

The men’s rugby club at the London School of Economics has been disbanded, after circulating a sexist, classist and homophobic leaflet at this year’s freshers fair.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Trade Unions: 

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The next wave of climate debate

Author: 

Paul Vernadsky

Another climate moment is upon us and Naomi Klein appears to have captured the zeitgeist again with her new book.

Klein participated in the recent New York climate demonstration, which drew over 300,000 people, alongside over two thousand solidarity events in 162 countries. She spoke to 2,000 people in London recently and her book has been sympathetically reviewed by the bourgeois press.

A review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate by Naomi Klein.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

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Big politics, real lives

Author: 

Ed Mustill

It’s tempting to think of the The Village as the BBC’s anti-Downton. Set during roughly in the same time period as everyone’s favourite High Tory soap opera, the two shows were bound to draw comparisons, but they are totally different beasts.

While Downton Abbey approaches the class system of early 20th century England with a sort of Things-Were-Better-Then gentility, at times The Village has been so bleak that it has drawn inevitable criticism for being a cover for lefty, kitchen-sink agitprop.

A review of The Village, the BBC series now available as a DVD box set.

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

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'Labour'

While the ages changed and sped
I was tolling for my bread.
Underneath my sturdy blows
Forests fell and cities rose.
And the hard reluctant soil
Blossomed richly from my toil.

A poem published in Young Spartakus, the youth paper of the US Trotskyists, in 1932.

Culture and Reviews: 

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The Collapse of the Socialist International in the First World War

Author: 

Max Shachtman

“To forget is counter-revolutionary.”*

“If our resolution does not foresee any specific method of action for the vast diversity of eventualities,” said Jean Jaurès in urging the adoption of the famous anti-war resolution of the Second International at its special conference in Basel on November 24, 1912, “neither does it exclude any. It serves notice upon the governments, and it draws their attention clearly to the fact that [by war] they would easily create a revolutionary situation, yes, the most revolutionary situation imaginable.”

A hundred years ago, in August 1914, World War I triggered a collapse of the Socialist International into national fragments. Max Shachtman reviewed the experience on the twentieth anniversary.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Around the world: 

Why we should oppose British exit from the EU

“...The slogan of the United States of Europe will in all cases retain a colossal meaning as the political formula of the struggle of the European proletariat for power. In this program is expressed the fact that the national state has outlived itself — as a framework for the development of the productive forces, as a basis for the class struggle, and thereby also as a state form of proletarian dictatorship.”

An abridged version of a document to be discussed at the AWL’s annual conference on 25-26 October.

Around the world: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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The art of growing up

Author: 

Beth Redmond

Boyhood is an intimate depiction of a young boy, Mason, growing up between the ages of 6 and 18, in a fatherless family struggling for money. His mother (Patricia Arquette), over the span of the film, has to juggle single-parenthood, studying for a masters and coping with a string of drunken, violent husbands.

Before I went to see the film I asked someone for a briefing and was told that “nothing really happens”, “it’s too long” and “they should have made it about the sister”. But that briefing is wrong on all counts.

A review of the film Boyhood.

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Culture and Reviews: 

The cutting edge of gentrification

Author: 

Kate Harris

Recently I went to see Rift theatre’s production of Macbeth, which is held in Balfron Tower, Poplar. There was some interesting theatre and good performances. But the real star of the show was the building it was held in.

In reviews and reports of the show, Balfron Tower is described as “abandoned”, “decaying” and a “monument to idealism”. None of these are accurate. It’s a well-designed, structurally sound block of ex-council housing with amazing views across London. People should and could be living there.

Play performed in Poplar's Balfron Tower raised issues unintended by the production

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Culture and Reviews: 

FireChat: yet another spurious techno-panacea

Author: 

Eric Lee

Hardly a day doesn’t go by when we don’t hear about some new “revolutionary” technology that is going to make the world a more open, transparent, and better place.

There have been a few high profile ones in recent days, including the new social network Ello, which is being pushed as the “anti-Facebook” (it’s nothing of the sort). Ello claimed that 30,000 people per hour have been trying to sign up to be users of the beta version of its software.

Hardly a day doesn’t go by when we don’t hear about some new “revolutionary” technology that is going to make the world a more open, transparent, and better place.

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Around the world: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

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