Battle of Ideas

Albert Einstein: Why I Am a Socialist (1949)

Author: 

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein explains what is wrong with capitalism and why socialism is a burning necessity for humankind.

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Capitalism vs human life

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Capitalism has created life-enhancing possibilities. It has even realised some of them. My older daughter has epilepsy. In pre-capitalist times, if she’d had medication at all, it would have had no, or harmful, effects, and the seizures would probably have become more severe until they disabled and killed her. Today, she has been able to end the seizures with just a few pills, without side-effects.

Capitalism is creating grand possibilities, but simultaneously stifling, blighting, and threatening human life.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Around the world: 

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This book is really about now

Author: 

Ed Strauss
The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism is not just a scholarly work about distant, long-ago arguments — it traces the development of patterns of thought and behaviour that shape how our movement thinks and works today.

Ed Strauss reviews The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism

The book is an amazing textbook. As a young student in the 1950s, I was reading some of the documents which are in the collection, I was coming in at the tail-end of some of these debates; but we had nothing like this.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Bernie Sanders and fighting austerity in the US

Author: 

Barry Finger

A discussion piece on the campaign by Bernie Sanders, to get the Democratic Party nomination for President. Sanders calls himself a social-democrat and supports reforms on a range of issues including the introduction of universal health care. Barry Finger is a member of the editorial board of US socialist journal New Politics.

Will the Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination help strengthen working-class campaigns?

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Around the world: 

Arthur Miller (1915–2005).

Author: 

Pat Yarker

Fifteen years ago I went to see a production of Arthur Miller’s “The Price” at the Young Vic Theatre in London, where David Thacker was directing a number of Miller’s plays. At a time when Miller seemed to have been sidelined in his own country, his importance as a playwright of international standing was re-asserted on the English stage.

The work of the great leftist playwright

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Culture and Reviews: 

William Morris: Ecology and the shift to socialism

Author: 

Paul Hampton

The sixth part of a series by Paul Hampton

Sometime in 1882, William Morris decided he was no longer a radical and began to associate himself explicitly with socialism. He stated in How I Became A Socialist (16 June 1894) that by the summer of 1882 he was ready “to join any body who distinctly called themselves Socialists.” (Edward Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, 1976)

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Marxist Theory and History: 

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Comments on the US Civil War

Author: 

Mark Osborn

Consider this sentence from an advert for a recent AWL public meeting on Sacha Ismail’s pamphlet, Workers Against Slavery: “When the war began, both sides, North and South, said they would preserve slavery. What changed? One thing was mass action by the slaves themselves, forcing their way into the conflict and helping to transform it into a battle against slavery.”

The self-activity of the slaves, the role of black troops and British workers’ opposition to the American Civil War.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Around the world: 

How Labour councils can beat the Tories' cuts

Author: 

Sacha Ismail

What are you advocating?

Firstly, that Labour councils and the Labour Party more generally campaign explicitly and actively for the restoration of the funding which local authorities have lost since 2010 and are going to lose in the years ahead. At the moment, the demand is not even being made.

The more our movement discusses its strategy and tactics in taking on the Tories, the stronger it will be. We can debate this while we fight to elect the largest possible number of Labour councillors across the country.

Issues and Campaigns: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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The Heretics

Author: 

Ralph Chaplin
This poem by Ralph Chaplin appeared in the US magazine Labor Defender in 1926.

They say we are revolters—that we
stirred
The workers of all nations to rebel—
And that we would not compromise
with Hell,
But damned it with our every deed and
word.
They feared us as we faced them unde-
terred,
And gave us each a coffin of a cell
In this steel cave where living corpses
dwell—
Hate-throttled here that we might not
be heard.
We are those fools too stubborn-willed
to bend
Our neck to Wrong and parley and dis-
cuss.
Today we face the awful test of fire—

The world economy since 2008

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Since the immediate recovery from the great 2008-9 economic crisis, world economic growth has been slow and troubled. Major areas have slipped back into recession. Now a “third leg” of the crisis, or even a new crash, are possibilities for 2016. Martin Thomas surveys the path, the causes and the sequels of the crisis.

Since the immediate recovery from the great 2008-9 economic crisis, world economic growth has been slow and troubled. Major areas have slipped back into recession. Now a “third leg” of the crisis, or even a new crash, are possibilities for 2016.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Is the Alliance for Workers' Liberty "Shachtmanite"?

Author: 

Sean Matgamna
Yes and no, says Sean Matgamna in this article

Sean Matgamna starts a series on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and lies about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, AWL.

AWL is “Shachtmanite”

Yes and no. AWL started as a “Cannonite” organisation, that is, an organisation with politics in the broad spectrum of the post-Trotsky “orthodox” Trotskyists, the opposites to the “Shachtmanite”, “heterodox” strand of Trotskyism after 1940. Specifically AWL identified with the Cannonites in the 1953 split in the Fourth International between “Pabloites” and Cannonites.

I am the People, the Mob

Author: 

CARL SANDBURG.
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and clothes.

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.

Do you know that all the great work of the world is
done through me?

I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
world's food and clothes.

I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napole-
ons come from me and the Lincolns, They die.
And I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for
much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I
forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.

Ellen Meiskins Wood (1942-2016): a Marxist who put class centre

Author: 

Andrew Coates

Ellen Meiksins Wood, who has died aged 73, was a noted intellectual figure on the international left who influenced several generations of thinkers and activists.

Born in New York as Ellen Meiksins one year after her parents, Latvian Jews active in the Bund, arrived as political refugees, Wood studied in California before establishing herself as an academic in Canada, based at York University in Toronto.

Her writings were thought-provoking and luminous.

Ellen Meiksins Wood, who has died aged 73, influenced several generations of left academics and activists. She was a Marxist who combined creative and original thinking with a powerful defence of the centrality of class and class struggle to socialist politics.

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Culture and Reviews: 

The critique of capitalism: the writings of Ellen Meiksins Wood in review

Author: 

Janet Burstall and Tony Brown

The lesson that we may be obliged to draw from our current economic and political condition is that a humane, ‘social’, truly democratic and equitable capitalism is more unrealistically utopian than socialism” concludes Ellen Wood in Democracy against capitalism (p. 293).

And if capitalism cannot be reformed to achieve this kind of society, then we need a critique of capitalism, which, Wood begins her book by explaining, is the principal project of Marxism.

Survey article by Janet Burstall and Tony Brown on Ellen Wood's writings of the 1980s and 90s.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Notes on Ellen Meiksins Wood's "Democracy Against Capitalism"

Some notes on Ellen Meiksins Wood, 'Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism' (1995)
By Clive Bradley


The work of Ellen Meiksins Wood (EMW from now on) has come up several times in these debates. As one of the most trenchant Marxist critics of 'post-modernism' and all its associated nonsense, she is an important thinker, and all her work I've read is readable and stimulating. I don't propose here to review much of it - I have neither the time nor the ability to cover it all, for one thing because it would require expert historical knowledge I make no pretence to having. (Consequently I won't be saying too much about her thesis regarding the bourgeois democratic revolution in Britain). Instead, I intend to focus on one of her most important books, 'Democracy Against Capitalism'.(Cambridge 1995). I'll try to summarise the argument, suggest some problematic areas, and conclude with some comments about how her argument relates (or doesn't) to the debate we've been having about the 'federal republic'.

A review of Ellen Meiksin's Wood's 1995 book Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Going out of fashion? Review of "The Retreat from Class"

A review of The Retreat From Class: A New 'True Socialism' by Ellen Meiksins Wood.

"No-one can seriously maintain that any other social movement has ever challenged the power of capital as has the working class... And for all its limitations and institutional conservatism, the labour movement has more consistently than any other social collectivity stood on the side of the various causes which the left regards as valuable and progressive".

A review of The Retreat From Class: A New 'True Socialism' by Ellen Meiksins Wood.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

The problem with Bernie Sanders

Author: 

Eric Lee

The Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is probably the most exciting development in US politics since the 1930s.  And it's not a coincidence that both the resurgent left of that decade and the Sanders phenomenon have followed the spectacular economic crashes of 1929 and 2008.
 

Sanders campaign for the presidential nomination is an inspiration. But it needs a strategy for building a left political organisation.

Publications: 

Around the world: 

Bourgeois Pride.

Author: 

John Keats

In every age the left, before it can do anything else, has to debunk the pretensions of those who hold the social and political power. This is especially true when the ruling class is prosperous, triumphant and confident. The British capitalist class was very confident indeed in the first decades of the 19th century, when Britain was becoming the “workshop of the world”, was mistress of the Seas, and had recently conquered the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. It's bourgeoisie was puffed up with pride.

John Keats pours scorn on the pretensions and pride of a bourgeoisie which lives by mean and inhuman exploitation.

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Culture and Reviews: 

The shape of the coming crisis

Author: 

Michel Husson

While the Eurozone is embarking on a very moderate period of recovery, alarmist predictions are multiplying about the overall trajectory of the world economy: “Chinese growth slows, world economy suffers”, was, for example, a headline in Le Monde of 20 October 2015. “On the economic front, there is also reason to be concerned” says Christine Lagarde [1], and Jacques Attali [2] announces that “the world is approaching a great economic catastrophe”.

The “great recession” has opened a period of “chaotic regulation” at the global level. A new crisis seems today to be more or less inevitable.

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The Big Why Of Capitalism

Author: 

HENRY GEORGE WEISS
The Big "Why"? of capitalist society

A man can eat no more than his stomach will hold.
Nor wear at any time more than his flesh will stand.
Also It It impossible for him to ride in two automobiles at once.
Or to sleep In more than one bed. In one room, in one house,
Or to be In two places at the same time.

Yet big, fat men corner a million meals.
Possess unto themselves a dozen autos,
A dozen suits,
A dozen homes,
With dozens of rooms,
And dozens of beds.

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