Battle of Ideas

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.

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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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The Famine Year

Author: 

Jane Wilde
A poem by 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 speaks in the angry, bitter, despairing voice of the Irish victims long ago. She speaks also in the voice of the millions of vulnerable poor people in our own world who are allowed frequently and needlessly to die of starvation and plagues.]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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Save the People's History Museum

Author: 

Mark Catterall

When I was a young boy, my grandfather told me a story of a bus depot, a mass picket line, and a scab bus being turned on its side by an angry crowd. Later I realised he was telling me about his highlight of the 1926 General Strike.

The Manchester People’s History Museum is one of the few institutions in Britain dedicated to telling the history of ordinary people’s lives and struggles.

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Talking, explaining, and telling the truth

Author: 

Mick O’Sullivan

I knew Tom Cashman as a friend and comrade from the early 70s.

Tom was someone who had a hinterland; his interests spanned good whiskey, particle physics, a love of Sean O’Casey’s plays, modernist architecture, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of schisms in the Catholic Church, which quite frankly bemused me. Tom was a very rounded person and a very humorous one.

Remembering Tom Cashman, a socialist trade unionist and long-time associate of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty who died in August.

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Why a democratic federal republic?

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Matt Cooper (Solidarity 338) objects to our calls for a democratic federal republic and a constituent assembly on three grounds:

One, that to call for a constituent assembly is “abstract propaganda”, or would “give those views that dominate current political debate... political form”.

Two, that a federal system is impossible “where one unit (England) is far bigger than all the others put together”.

Three, that devolution (the status quo? or Cameron’s increased devolution?) is the “good approximate answer”.

If one unit is much bigger than the others in a federal state, the decisions of the federal authority will be heavily influenced by that unit. That may be difficult. But between England and Scotland, long closely integrated, it could be workable.

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Scotland: time to move on

Author: 

Colin Foster

After the 18 September referendum in Scotland, the battles against low pay, inequality, and cuts remain to be fought there, pretty much the same as in England.

The issue of NHS cuts in Scotland was raised as a scare just before the referendum, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies (conservative, but with no special axe to grind over Scottish separation) found that spending on the NHS in Scotland would fall by 1% in real terms, between 2009-10 and 2015-16, and rise by about 4% in real terms in England.

A mindset which identifies Yes to Scottish separation with “left”, and No with “right”, will divide and cripple the labour movement and the working class.

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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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AWL: what we are, what we do and why we do it

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

Over a period of two centuries and more, humankind has made tremendous strides in developing its power to control nature and, in terms of medicine and surgery in all their aspects, over itself. But we have proved as yet unable to break through into the higher stage of civilisation whose objective preconditions have long existed - the stage characterised by rational, human control over our society, and over nature, by a harmonious relationship with the eco-system on which everything depends.

We are still at the mercy of irrational social and political forces, even while our power to tame the irrational forces of nature, at whose mercy humankind has been throughout its existence, reaches an amazing and still increasing capacity.

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Marxism and Ireland

Author: 

Sean matgamna
Marxism and Ireland

Revolutionary Marxism is a way of looking at the world, analysing it and changing it. It embodies certain key basic ideas (the ultimate priority of the mode of production in shaping society, including its ideas; the class struggle; the centrality of the working class in modern history). Marxism deals with an ever-changing reality. There is no rest, no finality. Reality moves, permutes, is transformed. The best texts of Marxism "age" and become progressively divorced from the evolved reality whose ancestor, so to speak, they captured.

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