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Britain: New party Left Unity is on the move

The Left Unity conference backed the health policy commission’s “10 point plan to re-instate, protect, and improve the [National Health Service] NHS”.

By Tom Walker

April 2, 2014 -- Left Unity -- Left Unity’s national conference on Saturday, March 29, saw delegates come together in Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry to make decisions about the policy of this new party.

The party’s founding conference in November set Left Unity’s broad direction as a new party of the left and set up its constitution. This conference looked in more detail at policy areas including economics, health, housing and anti-racism, based on months of work put in by those who volunteered for the party’s policy commissions as well as many submissions from branches. (You can see the motions booklet here.)

Scotland: Tariq Ali on independence

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On March 14, 2014, renowned Marxist author Tariq Ali presented, as part of Edinburgh University Sociology Department's Independence Lectures series, "Dismantling the British State: Strategy, Tactics and Ideology". It was held in association with Pluto Press and Wordpower Books.

Britain: People's Assembly conference a step forward in anti-austerity struggle

By Dave Kellaway

March 17, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Bob Crow’s family sent a message of solidarity to the People’s Assembly conference on March 15. They recognised that he was fully supportive of this movement. A truly nationwide movement if you listened to the accents and checked the delegate lists of those attending yesterday. A broad movement with over a dozen major unions affiliated. A movement that is not a top-down coalition, as some of its ultraleft critics have suggested, but one that is embedded in over 80 local groups. More than 660 people registered and there were around 500 in attendance. As someone remarked to me, you could tell it was a broad mobilisation because you did not recognise many people.

The Emmanuel Centre with its biblical exhortations beautifully marked out on the walls was full with activists actually fighting for some of those good intentions in a 21st century where hundreds of thousands have to go to food banks each week.

An Irish republican perspective on Tony Benn

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in conversation with Tony Benn.

Introductory comment by Stuart Munckton

March 17, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following article provides an Irish republican perspective on Tony Benn. In some ways Ireland is a great prism through which to view Benn, his contradictions and his political development and radicalisation.

I read a book recently featuring essays by a range of British left and labour movement on Ireland and its struggle for self-determination that came out in 1985 -- the height of the troubles.

Benn's essay was fascinating because he was a cabinet minister when the then-Labour government sent in British troops to occupy Ireland's north. Benn, at the time, did not oppose it and said he knew very little of the situation. He said no one in the Labour government actually knew the first thing about Ireland and just did what they were told. He said he tried to get a debate started about it at one point, but was shot down.

Tony Benn (1925-2014): A great communicator of the socialist cause

By Phil Hearse

March 15, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- It is a bitter irony that Tony Benn has died in the very same week as Bob Crow, two giants of the labour movement who will be cruelly missed.

Numerous instant obituaries and comments have concentrated on Benn’s determination, his speaking and writing talents, his humour and his personal kindness. Of course. But in celebrating his life the important thing for the left, especially the younger generation, is to make an assessment of Benn and Bennism as a political phenomenon, why it constituted such a threat to the existing powers that be (including in the trade unions and Labour Party) and why such an array of forces gathered together to attempt to put an end to it.

Britain: Bob Crow's death 'a huge blow to militant class-struggle unionism'

By Liam Mac Uaid

March 11, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance -- We are deeply shocked at the news that Bob Crow has died suddenly early this morning of a heart attack at the age of 52.

We send our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to his family and friends and to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and its members. His death is a huge blow to the RMT and to the wider trade union movement and to the cause of militant class-struggle trade unionism. During his 12 years as general secretary, the RMT has grown in both size and stature. He has been prepared to support strike action to defend the wages jobs and conditions of his members, and has done so very successfully.

As a result of this he has been vilified by the employers, government ministers and the likes of London mayor Boris Johnson, but has enjoyed strong support among the rank and file of the union. To say that he will be sorely missed is a gross understatement.

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Exclusive excerpts from Ernest Tate's 'Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s'

March 5, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Resistance Books (Britain) has kindly given permission for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to publish excerpts from long-time Canadian revolutionary socialist Ernie Tate's just-published two-volume memoirs, Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s. Links readers are urged to order a copy; to do so email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

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Preface by Phil Hearse

It’s a great pleasure to write the preface for Volume II of Ernie Tate’s memoirs of the 1950s and ’60s. I first met Ernie and his partner Jess MacKenzie in 1967, when I was part of a small group of young socialists from the London Borough of Ealing recruited to the International Marxist Group (IMG). So it’s the British part of the story that I know well.

Scotland: 'The English left need to shut up and listen' on independence

Click HERE for more on Scotland and independence.

By Pam Currie

February 20, 2014 -- Morning Star -- Is Scotland, as is often claimed, really more progressive than the rest of Britain? This is an argument traditionally dismissed by the left: the working class of Glasgow have more in common with the working class of Birmingham and Liverpool than they do with the opulent suburbs of their own city, or the tiny aristocratic elite who still own the vast bulk of Scotland's land mass.

This is true -- but it ignores several important arguments, and trotted out by the London-based left it can seem as out of touch and dismissive as Westminster's politicians.

Let's take the seemingly unstoppable rise of the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), for a start.

There's a real prospect that the right-wing party will significantly increase its representation in the European elections later this year, and with the Liberal Democrats' vote both north and south of the border in freefall it's conceivable even that they could be coalition partners in Westminster after 2015.

Exclusive excerpt from John Tully's 'Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that ... Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement'

February 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following is an excerpt from John Tully's new book, Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that Shook London and Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement, published by Monthly Review Press. It is posted with the kind permission of Monthly Review Press. Readers of Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen below.

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“This is a revolt against oppression: a protest against the brute force which keeps a huge population down in the depths of the most dire degradation, for the benefit of a knot of profit-hunters … this is a strike of the poor against the rich.”—William Morris, 1889

Britain: Creation of new ex-SWP group welcomed

[For more on the crisis in the SWP, click HERE. For more on the Left Unity project, click HERE.]

By the Socialist Resistance executive committee

January 17, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance -- Socialist Resistance welcomes the news that the comrades who left the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in December as a consequence of the ongoing crisis over the abuse of women in that organisation have launched Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st century group (RS21). We recognise that they have done this in order to continue the struggle for revolutionary politics and we look forward to establishing both practical and political collaboration with them.

We welcome the openness of the statement they have posted on their website and the basic principles around which it is framed.

It is never a time for celebration when an important organisation of the revolutionary left goes into crisis and decline because, ultimately, the whole movement suffers. The question it poses, however, is how to build something new and better out of this experience and how to move on in a positive direction.

Britain: After the SWP -- a moment for revolutionary ambition

Former members of the SWP are discussing what's next?

January 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Britain's Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has been in crisis for over a year after the central committee's handling of a rape allegation against one of the party's leaders sparked a huge opposition. Now the last of this opposition, those who chose to stay and take the fight to a second annual conference in December 2013, have resigned as a bloc and are discussing what to do next.

Below, Tom Walker, part of an earlier wave of resignations, lays out a way forward based on what he's learned since leaving the SWP. It first appeared on the web site of the International Socialist Network and has been submitted to Links by the author.

For more on the left unity process in Britain, click HERE.

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By Tom Walker

Britain: Looking back in anger -- the miners’ strike 30 years on

January 5, 2014 -- Anticapitalist Initiative -- With new papers released by the National Archives about the British miners’ strike the Anticapitalist Initiative’s Chris Strafford caught up with Harry Paterson, author of the upcoming book Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 years on, to discuss what we have learnt.

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Chris Strafford: With the release of documents from the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office from 1984 detailing discussions and actions of the Thatcher government in the 1984-85 miners’ strike we have got some insight into how the attack on the miners was carried out. What were your initial thoughts once you had finished reading the documents?

Britain: Successful conference forms Left Unity party; Richard Seymour reports

Around 400 members attended the founding conference of Left Unity.

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal will carry more reports of the founding conference of Left Unity.]

By Liam Mac Uaid

December 1, 2013 -- Socialist Resistance --  The first indication that Left Unity is different from most other left-wing organisations came very early in its November 30 founding conference. Ken Loach, the person who is seen as having given the inspiration for the launch of the new party, proposed that we shouldn’t take a decision on which of the political platforms to endorse. Ken lost the vote and conference moved on to next business. There was no dramatic tension, no sense of impending crisis. It would have been hard to imagine a similar scene at a Respect conference. It was a very promising omen.

Scottish socialists debate trade union links with the Labour Party

November 22, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialst Renewal -- The Scottish Left Review (issue 79) published this roundtable of the relationship of the trade unions and the British Labour Party.

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Gregor Gall reviews Len McCluskey’s Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture and concludes that the Unite leader is perhaps too generous in identifying signs of real change in the Labour Party leader Ed Milliband’s Labour Party.

At the second annual Reid Foundation lecture, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the largest union in Britain, Unite, proclaimed that at the September 2013 British Labour Party conference Ed Miliband had delivered the most radical party conference speech for 30 years. The reason for this, McCluskey argued, was that Miliband had broken with neoliberal dogma of "New" Labour.

'Left reformism' and socialist strategy

Syriza supporters march. "Left reformists"?

By Ed Rooksby

October 7, 2013 -- International Socialism -- There has been a significant revival of interest among the radical left in “big picture” questions of socialist strategy that, as Mark L. Thomas has pointed out, represents a return to “important debates of the left largely absent over the last three decades”.1

It is not difficult to identify the major factors driving this. Several years of deep capitalist crisis together with the almost total capitulation of social-democratic parties across Europe to the austerity agenda have opened up a clear space to the left of these organisations—a development that has reinvigorated the radical left, but which has also forced it to confront fundamental questions of strategic orientation.

South Africa: 'Beacon of hope' still flickers faintly

By Terry Bell

October 25, 2013 -- Terry Bell Writes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- “South Africa has rather fallen off the radar”, the BBC journalist noted. This was similar to comments voiced by former anti-apartheid activists and by several one-time strugglista exiles, mainly in London, who never returned home to settle. Because, in the mainstream media of Europe, there is little mention of South Africa; and, after six weeks abroad, it was for me a useful reminder of how minor is our role in global political and economic affairs.

And the moral high ground bequeathed to the country and its post-apartheid government by the global struggle against apartheid has also all but evaporated, depositing a residue of concern and disillusionment among many of those who once saw South Africa as a global beacon of hope. “What on Earth is happening there?” was a common, and concerned query, expressed by those who seek out what news they can of the country.

Britain: Mike Marqusee on Left Unity -- 'A party to dream of'

Mike Marqusee.

For more on the left unity process in Britain, click HERE. For more by Mike Marqusee, click HERE.

By Mike Marqusee

September 27, 2013 -- Red Pepper, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- I’m one of the thousands who signed up to the Left Unity appeal issued by Ken Loach in March to discuss the formation of a new party of the left. I did so because I believe the continued absence of an effective left alternative to the Labour Party hampers our resistance to austerity, racism, war and environmental degradation.

Left Unity has no shortage of doubters. There are many who reject electoral politics altogether and others who remain committed to working in the Labour Party. And not a few who simply doubt the left’s capacity to measure up to the challenge.

Britain: Left Unity discusses what politics for a new left party?

By Felicity Dowling

August 11, 2013 -- Left Unity -- We face the probability of a terrible decline in the social wealth of the working people in the UK, a critical change in the life experience of working-class people. Hunger, want and fear are coming back to this and other countries. Thousands have signed petitions supporting the call for a new political formation under the banner of Left Unity. On November 30, hundreds of founding members of this new party will inaugurate it, determine our political direction, our priorities and the nature of the organisation itself.

Three different political platforms have been published in the run-up to this founding conference of Left Unity to try to put forward the best way for us to move forward. A platform is a set of ideas that a group wants to put forward to be considered at the founding conference. Political discussion helps us all understand the tasks facing Left Unity, and the range of political opinion within the organisation. Solidarity and inclusiveness will help us all make the most of these discussions. Each member has a right to comment and any group of ten can produce an alternative platform.
What are the differences between the platforms? This post will, I hope, lay the positions of the three platforms side by side so that people can compare them directly.

How should socialists organise? Paul Le Blanc, Gilbert Achcar discuss Leninism, left unity, revolutionary parties

July 31, 2013 -- SwpTvUK -- The following panel discussion -- involving Paul Le Blanc, a speaker from the SWP and Gilbert Achcar -- took place at Marxism 2013, organised by the British Socialist Workers Party. Questions addressed included Lenism today, "left reformism", the left unity process underway in Britain today and the crisis in the SWP. It is followed by a vigorous discussion from the floor.

For more by Paul Le Blanc click HERE. For Le Blanc's thoughts on Marxism 2013, click HERE. For more on the left unity process in Britain, click HERE. For more on Leninism, click HERE. For more on the crisis in the UK SWP, click HERE.

Des secteurs révolutionnaires à Londres – « Marxism 2013 » et son contexte

[English at http://links.org.au/node/3451.]

Militant trotskyste aux Etats-Unis, historien marxiste renommé, l’auteur avait été invité à intervenir dans le cadre du cycle de conférences publiques, intitulé Marxism, que le SWP de Grande-Bretagne organise chaque année au début de l’été. C’est de cet événement et des échanges qu’il a eus à cette occasion, dans le contexte particulier de la crise que ce parti traverse en 2013, que Paul Le Blanc rend compte ici.

Comme il le rappelle dans son texte, l’auteur est désormais membre de l’ISO (International Socialist Organization, la principale formation de la gauche révolutionnaire aux Etats-Unis, exclue en 2001 de l’IST, le courant international du SWP britannique), alors qu’il provient et continue de se réclamer d’une tradition politique différente, celle de la section états-unienne de la IV° Internationale (l’ancien et défunt SWP de James P. Cannon et Joseph Hansen – à ne pas confondre avec son homonyme insulaire). -- Jean-Philippe Divès

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