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Britain: New opportunities for left realignment

By Alan Thornett, Socialist Resistance

May 4, 2013 -- International Viewpoint -- The impact of austerity has thrown politics in Britain into turmoil. Both parties of the ruling coalition government -- the Conservative Party (Tories) and the Liberal Democrats -- lost heavily in municipal elections in England last week to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – a right-wing, populist, anti-immigration party that is pulling all the main parties to the right. Labour’s performance was better but poor, since its answer to austerity is its own brand of austerity and it has pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment.

The left was nowhere in the election – there was nothing to rally the left in the way UKIP rallied the right – which raised again the desperate need for a broad party of the left that can start to do what Syriza has done in Greece: provide a clear anti-austerity platform to which the working class can relate.

Britain: The 1970s and the movement for workers’ control

[Click for more discussion of workers' control, cooperatives and "green jobs".]

By Andrew Coates

Trade unions have historically bargained for better terms for the sale of labour power; they have not been able to challenge the existence of the labour market itself. Today, however, the relation between "political" and "economic" struggle have changed.” -- Perry Anderson. "The Limits and Possibilities", in The Incompatibles: Trade Union Militancy and the Consensus,1967.

Britain's days of hope -- Ken Loach's 'The Spirit of ’45' reviewed

Ken Loach discusses The Spirit of '45.

Left-wing film director Ken Loach is at the centre of a movement for a new left party in Britain that is committed to defending and extending the welfare state and uncompromisingly fighting austerity. More than 8000 people have signed his appeal for such a party. A vital component of this campaign has been the success of his new documentary, The Spirit of '45.

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April 2013 -- Red Pepper -- Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45 is not just an exercise in nostalgia but a compelling intervention into the politics of the present, writes Alex Nunns.

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Britain responded to crippling debts and chronic daily hardship with a decisive move to the left: nationalising industry, building council houses and creating brand new public services from scratch.

Socialist Resistance (Britain): 'Build a broad left party, fight for Marxist unity'

April 21, 2013 -- Socialist Resistance -- Phil Hearse made this submission to the April 2013 Socialist Resistance conference. The position it sets out was accepted by the organisation. A number of videos can be found here, including greetings from the Anti-Capitalist Initiative (ACI), Green Left, the International Socialist Network (ISN) and Left Unity.

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Comrades, we face major opportunities in the next period to help work towards a new broad left party and a refounded Marxist regroupment in this country. The left – and its far-left component in particular – is undergoing a profound shake up, the precise contours of which none of us can yet see. The left that comes out of the next two years in England and Wales will look very different to the way its looks now. Our task is to grab that opportunity with both hands.

Richard Seymour: Margaret Thatcher, an obituary from below

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For more on Thatcherism, click HERE. For more by Richard Seymour,click HERE.

By Richard Seymour

April 11, 2013 -- Jacobin, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Richard Seymour's permission -- Thatcher’s great achievements were also what made her so vile. Her many talents were harnessed to bigoted, class-supremacist ends.

Obituaries are typically concerned with the accomplishments and worthwhile qualities of the deceased. Thatcher’s achievements are undeniable. She was a “Modern Prince” of the Right, intervening at a moment of crisis and great danger for the Conservative Party, taking control of the elements in flux and recomposing them. She utterly transformed the state, party politics, and the economy, institutionalising a form of neoliberal statecraft that is almost unassailable from within.

(Updated April 14) Thatcher and Thatcherism: Don’t let them re-write history!

By Dave Kellaway

April 9, 2013 -- Socialist Resistance -- If we need yet another argument about why we must put our political energies into building a fighting alternative to [the Labour Party] then compare and contrast these statements on the death of Margaret Thatcher:

Ed Miliband MP, Labour leader of the opposition, said:

I send my deep condolences to Lady Thatcher’s family, in particular Mark and Carol Thatcher. She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain’s first woman prime minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.

The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.

Tariq Ali: 'Thatcherism continues'; Gerry Adams: `Thatcher did great hurt'

For more on Thatcher and Thatcherism, click HERE.

April 9, 2013 -- SinnFein.ie -- Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commenting on the death today of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said:

Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister.

Working-class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.

Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge.

Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations, including the targeting of solicitors like Pat Finucane, alongside more open military operations and refused to recognise the rights of citizens to vote for parties of their choice.

Death of a ruling class warrior: Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

By Tom Mills

April 8, 2013 -- New Left Project -- Thatcher is dead. But for years she was a shadow of her former self. After her fall from power in 1990 she slowly faded away from public life and when she did wander back onto the public stage the contrast between her frailty and the formidable figure of collective memory made these occasional spectacles almost surreal.

Richard Seymour: The British left badly 'needs to change course'

The following are excerpts from a much longer article, "The actuality of a successful capitalist offensive", that appeared on Richard Seymour's website, Lenin's Tomb. Seymour is a leading member of the new IS Network, which is one of a number of developments on the British left that may encourage progress towards a regroupment of the left. The full article is available HERE.

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By Richard Seymour

Britain: Encouraging left regroupment/left unity initiatives

Ken Loach has called for a new left party in Britain.

March 25, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In the recent period a number of left unity/left regroupment initiatives have been launched on Britain's far left. They include the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, Left Unity and radical film director Ken Loach's call for a new left party in Britain.

Another important development has been the formation of the International Socialist Network out the hundreds of revolutionary socialists who have resigned from the Socialist Workers Party during its recent crisis.

And in June 2013 a People's Assembly Against Austerity organised by the Coalition of Resistance is to be held, already having gathered the support of more than 1600 activists from all sections of the left.

Below are a number articles from the British left that introduce and survey some of these developments.

Britain: Mark Steel on the crisis in the SWP -- 'Oh Good Lord what have they gone and done NOW?'

By Mark Steel

March 13, 2013 -- Mark Steel's Blog -- It shouldn’t matter. It really shouldn’t matter, should it, what goes on in the Socialist Workers Party. Their membership is roughly the average home gate at Mansfield Town. By the time I left them, in 2007, the most common comment I heard about them was, "Oh. Are they still going?" the way you might refer to Bernard Cribbins.

But somehow they’ve got themselves in such a mess that thousands of people have been gripped by it, as if it’s a real life Trotskyite soap opera, with onlookers settling before the internet with a tub of ice cream for the latest episode and gasping, “Oh my God they’ve called the faction leader a disgraceful liberal moralist, I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.”

Britain: Is the left coming together or falling apart?

By Socialist Resistance (Britain)

January 29, 2013 -- This is the editorial from the latest issue of the British socialist newspaper Socialist Resistance -- Recent events on the [British] left give the impression that it is falling apart. Last summer, following George Galloway’s outrageous comments on rape, Respect suffered the resignation of Kate Hudson, Andrew Burgin, Salma Yaqoob and others. Now, the Socialist Workers Party is tearing itself apart after its leadership tried to protect one of its own from allegations of rape in order to “defend the party”.

Ska: the pulse that doesn't die; Reggae: evolution of a rebel music

Foundation Ska
The Skatalites
Heartbeat/Rounder through Festival

Review by Norm Dixon

March 25, 1998 -- Green Left Weekly -- Viewers of late night music television will have noticed a revival of the unmistakable "ba-ba-ba" ska pulse in some of the clips emanating from the US. Punk/thrash bands like Rancid and No Doubt, as well as longer established new-wave ska outfits like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Toasters, are leading what is dubbed the "ska-core" or "third wave ska" movement.

This revival is simply the latest example of how western pop music repeatedly rejuvenates itself (via often circuitous and complex paths) from the music of the African diaspora.

Ska appeared in Jamaica around the time of independence in 1962. It reflected the pride and assertiveness of the Jamaican people as they threw off the shackles of formal British rule. Ska was Jamaica's first indigenous popular music, and its influence has spread far and wide.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Jamaican musicians made their living playing in "society bands" — big bands which played very restrained swing music for the colonial upper crust and their local imitators in swank hotels and nightclubs. Poor Jamaicans, in the countryside and the ghettos, played and listened to traditional, African-derived mento music.

Britain: Reflections on the crisis in the Socialist Workers Party

"As an important part of the English-speaking left, the SWP over the years has influenced many individuals and groups. Without correction, the actions by the current leadership, along with the errors regarding women’s oppression and left organising, risk damaging the project of building a new left for the 21st century." 

[For more on the British SWP, click HERE. For more on revolutionary organisation, click HERE.]

By Paul Kellogg

January 13, 2013 – PolEcon.net, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with author's permission

Forgotten legacies of Bolshevism on revolutionary organisation

"Iskra. It is often argued that the early period of the organisation of Iskra resembled the small, highly homogenous and monolithic cadre grouping that today is promoted as the sine qua non of revolutionary organisation, but if one looks at the original concept of the Iskra editorial board, we can see it promoted debate among a plurality of tendencies."

[Click HERE for more discussion on revolutionary organisation.]

Britain: ‘To fight austerity we need a united left’ -- Anticapitalist Initiative

By Simon Hardy, Anticapitalist Initiative (Britain)

October 9, 2012 –  Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeera website. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left -- can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

Scotland: Why socialists support independence

Scottish Socialist Party spokersperson Colin Fox addresses the Edinburgh rally for independence, September 22, 2012.

By Colin Fox

September 20, 2012 -- Colin Fox's blog -- Tommy Docherty, the legendary wit and manager of Manchester United, once quipped after his team had suffered a humiliating defeat, "We lost 4-0 and frankly we were lucky to get the nil." The Tories [Conservative Party] in Scotland know just how he felt, for they are so hated that out of 56 MPs they have just one, and they were lucky to get that!

And yet, as incredible as it may seem, their coalition partners [in the British government] are despised even more. The Liberal Democrats now have no constituency members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) in mainland Scotland and were "mauled" in last year’s local elections for "joining" the hated Tories at Westminster.

Venezuela's election: Participatory, passionate democracy vs. Western democratic decline; Eyewitness reports

October 3, 2012 -- Green Left TV -- Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) "brigadista" Ryan Mallett-Outrim reports on a Chavista rally which the brigade members attended in Maracay, Aragua, on October 3, just four days before the 2012 Venezuelan presidential election. The Australian solidarity activists were warmly welcomed in the massive crowd. For more eyewitness reports, photos and videos from the AVSN brigade visit the AVSN Facebook page and the AVSN website.

Click HERE for more coverage and analysis of the Venezuelan revolutionary process. 

By Ewan Robertson, Venezuela

September 28, 2012 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- I’ve witnessed the self-assured superiority of Paris, the imperial arrogance of Washington, the capitalist decadence of New York’s Manhattan, parliamentary elections in Germany and my fair share of elections in Britain. In none of them have I encountered a democratic political culture as profound as Venezuela’s.

La campaña contra Wikileaks debilita las campañas contra violaciones

[In English at http://links.org.au/node/3000.]

Por Ash Pemberton, traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

29-08-2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- La odisea personal del jefe de WikiLeaks Julian Assange se ha utilizado para eclipsar el innovador periodismo de WikiLeaks que sacó a la luz los secretos de gobiernos y corporaciones de todo el mundo.

Unos cables diplomáticos australianos obtenidos por el Sydney Morning Herald en diciembre revelaron: “WikiLeaks es objetivo de una investigación criminal ‘sin precedentes’ por parte del gobierno de EE.UU.” A pesar de esto, el gobierno australiano sigue argumentando públicamente que no tiene conocimiento de una campaña estadounidense contra Assange –editor y fundador del sitio– e incluso argumentó que era muy improbable.

No es sorprendente que el mayor incriminado por las publicaciones de WikiLeaks –el gobierno de EE.UU.– se proponga estatuir un ejemplo con los involucrados. Uno de los miles de correos electrónicos hackeados de la firma de espionaje privada Stratfor publicados por WikiLeaks en febrero dice que EE.UU. tiene una acusación en firme contra Assange.

Richard Seymour: The problem of left unity

By Richard Seymour

August 28, 2012 -- Lenin's Tomb, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Richard Seymour's permission -- Dan Hind, enlivened by the Hellenic tumult, calls for a Coalition of the Radical Left in Britain. I love it. Of course I do. But isn’t it, to any rational observer, a perfectly silly idea?

Anyone who has spent much time listening to the British radical left these days would no more expect them to coalesce than they would expect grace, humility and talent from Gary Barlow. The latest rumble has been over Julian Assange, Wikileaks, US imperialism and the rape allegations, which has produced more mutual distrust and resentment on the left than I have seen for at least weeks. The disagreement seems to be between those who think the rape accusations against Assange have been politicised in order to facilitate his forward extradition to the US, and those who think Assange’s supporters have greatly exaggerated this risk in order to justify his refusal to go and face these allegations in Sweden.

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