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Britain

Ireland: The 1916 Easter Rising -- striking a blow against an insane system

The Dubliners' version of "The Foggy Dew" (featuring photos from the Easter Rising).

By Stuart Munckton

April 2, 2010 -- The Future on Fire -- Easter is here again -- the anniversay of the Irish rebellion against British rule in Easter 1916. Over Easter week, Irish rebels took control of key parts of Dublin and declared a republic. It took seven days for the British to put the rising down.

"The Foggy Dew", a much-covered Irish folk song about the uprising, details what happened and gives an indication of the issues surrounding it. There are two key lines that reveal something often sidelined about the rising. The first is: "'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky/Than at Suvla or Sud-el-Bar."

The second is: "'Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go/that small nations might be free/but their lonely graves are by Sulva's waves/or the shore of the Great North Sea."

Organised women are key to strike success: Learning from the 1985 British miners’ strike

The British coalminers’ strike of 1984-5, which ended 25 years ago on March 3, was a turning point in British politics. In this article, Terry Conway discusses the impact of Women Against Pit Closures and its legacy.

* * *

March 3, 2010 -- Socialist Resistance -- Since her election as prime minister in 1979, Margaret Thatcher had wasted little time in attacking working people in every way she could. The massive program of coal pit closures was critical for her government.

The strike was to be “the” central issue of British politics. The stakes were understood by the majority of members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), who saw that what was at stake was the loss of the thousands upon thousands of jobs and the devastation of entire communities in the many areas where the coal pit was the centre of local life.

Mauritian socialists' open letter to Greenpeace -- `Don't help cover up colonialism's crimes on Diego Garcia'

Diego Garcia from a satellite. The US base in visible in the top left of the atoll. Photo from NASA.

By Ram Seegobin, Lalit de Klas

February 8, 2010

Dear leaders of Greenpeace [UK],

We understand that your organisation has taken a position in favour of the British government’s outrageous plan to create a “marine park” on territory which is not its own, thus tricking ill-informed people into supporting the British state on rather vague grounds of “the environment”, while they are in fact banishing the people who lived there and flaunting the Charter of the United Nations.

Britain: Building left unity out of the wreckage

Anti-war protesters in London, 2003.

The Socialist Resistance national committee adopted this document, by Liam Mac Uaid, on January 9, 2010, to outline its balance sheet of the last decade’s attempts at the resolving the crisis of working-class representation in Britain.

* * *

January 9, 2010 -- Socialist Resistance -- The workers’ movement in Britain has faced a crisis of working-class representation since the rise of New Labour in the mid-1990s and it has been becoming more acute ever since. This backdrop put left unity at the centre of the political agenda. The rise of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Socialist Alliance (SA) were the first organisational expressions of this necessary process. A critical look at the last decade is essential if we are not to make the same mistakes – those who do not learn from history are pretty likely to make the same ones all over again.

Britain: `Morning Star' celebrates 80th year of publication

By Mick Hall

January 6, 2010 -- Organized Rage -- Despite all its shortcomings and some might say murky history, the Morning Star is about to celebrate its 80th year of publication. Which in today's economic climate would be an achievement for any newspaper, but this is especially so for a radical left of centre daily and must surely be something to celebrate.

That  survived the collapse of one of its main benefactors the Soviet Union was a major feat in itself and has had unforeseen, yet beneficial consequences. Having had the dead weight of Stalinism lifted from its editorial policy has proved liberating for the paper; and during the recent period it has moved beyond being a mouthpiece for what had become a form of sclerotic international communism, with football results thrown in, and is gradually becoming the voice the UK left has so desperately needed.

50,000 protesters in London demand a real deal at Copenhagen

Text and photos by Lauren Carroll Harris, London

December 5, 2009 -- As one homemade banner said, "The tides are rising, so are we". London's streets were awash with a sea of blue as more than 50 000 people joined together, filling the city with noise and colour and encircling parliament to demand immediate government action on global warming ahead of the COP15 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, which began on December 7.

The ``Wave'' was called to urge a deal at Copenhagen which cuts carbon emissions while allowing Third World countries to continue to develop with the aid of the First World. A diversity of protesters -- young, old, families, students, cycling blocks, community contingents and drumming circles -- urged the British government to quit coal, act fair and fast, and protect the poorest in its response to the biggest single threat to the planet and its people.

Britain: One million climate jobs now!

By the Public and Commercial Services Union (Britain)

November 15, 2009 -- Earlier this year, Britain's Campaign against Climate Change (CaCC) trade union group set up a commission to produce a detailed plan for a million ``climate'' jobs.

The commission includes academics and environmental groups as well as several unions including the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

In November 2009 the CaCC trade union group published a pamphlet, One million climate jobs NOW!, which sets out how this can be achieved. The pamphlet is the first stage in a national campaign to get the government to employ a million unemployed workers to save the climate. It contains the arguments workers need for building the campaign.

You can download the pamphlet here: One million climate jobs PDF or read on screen below.

 

Four goals for a new left party

By Duncan Chapel

November 14, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- The people on this platform share a lot of ideas.

  • We want a working-class party to the left of the Labour Party, with a socialist program that confronts the dual crises of the ecology and the economy, which the ruling class is struggling to contain
  • We want a party in which anti-capitalists are hegemonic, but not monolithic. We have to be open to everyone who’s for the class struggle, not just those with Marxist ideas
  • We want a party of struggle, based on the ground, that’s developing a movement of resistance as well as an electoral campaign.

That’s a lot of agreement. It’s meaningful. It’s new. We like it.

But what’s the next step? Where do we go from here? And in particular, some of us are in different places -- so that means different routes to the same destination. Socialist Resistance has four ideas we want to share with you about our idea of the route to a new party.

1. We need a party based on the struggle, not just a party for the election

In this crisis, the capitalists are starting a new offensive against social and democratic rights to increase the exploitation of labour and protect profits. Western governments are making working people pay for the crisis: “just as before, or almost and perhaps worse”.

Britain: The Lucas Aerospace workers' plan -- A real Green New Deal

By Hilary Wainwright and Andy Bowman

October 9, 2009 -- Red Pepper -- Thirty-five years ago, workers at the Lucas Aerospace company formulated an ``alternative corporate plan'' to convert military production to socially useful and environmentally desirable purposes. We consider what lessons it holds for the greening of the world economy today

There are moments when a radical idea quickly goes mainstream. A cause for optimism but also caution; an opportunity for a practical challenge. The ``Green New Deal'’, a proposal for a green way out of recession, is such an idea (see interview with Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Red Pepper, June/July 2009). It has now been adopted in some form, in theory if not in corresponding action, by governments across the world.

In Britain, the workers’ occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight – supported by green, trade union and socialist campaigners across the country – has provided a practical challenge to the government. The Vestas workers’ argument, committed as ministers say they are to green investment, is that here is an exemplary case: so intervene and save green jobs, creating a base and a beacon for further action in the same direction.

Britain: Landmark demonstration against the war in Afghanistan

Tariq Ali addresses the October 24 protest in London. More videos of the speeches below.

By Robin Beste

October 25, 2009 -- Stop the War Coalition UK -- Stop the War's demonstration on October 24 brought the centre of London to a standstill. It was a landmark demonstration, led by Lance Corporal Joe Glenton -- the first serving soldier in the British army to join an anti-war march.

Science and empire in the Pacific

Mai (aka Omai), the first Pacific Islander to visit Europe, with Joseph Banks in 1774. Painting by William Parry.

By Barry Healy

More than 240 years ago, on April 13, 1769, the peace of Tahiti was interrupted by the visit of Captain James Cook, supposedly observing the transit of Venus across the Sun, but really following secret orders to investigate the Pacific Ocean and its islands for the benefit of British colonialism.

Mainstream Australian history raises James Cook to a pinnacle because he established a white, British dominion on the Australian continent. However, at the time his fame was eclipsed because on board his ship was gentleman scientist Joseph Banks with a posse of staff.

Banks’ star outshone Cook’s because his work acquired the botanical treasures of Oceania for the British Empire, paving the way for Britain to dominate vital areas of science for its own benefit.

The Levellers and the 1640s English Revolution

The Putney debates. Graphic by Clare Melinsky, Rampart Lions Press.

By Graham Milner

In 1649, 360 years ago this year, an experiment in communal land holding and cultivation began on St. George's Hill in Surrey, England, as the principles of a communist society were put into practice by the Diggers -- followers of Gerrard Winstanley, a visionary and writer of radical political tracts. This experiment marked an important phase in the development of socialist tendencies in the struggle to defeat the Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. This essay attempts to analyse the dynamics of the revolutionary struggle in England during the 1640s civil war and its aftermath. It concentrates on the emergence and development of left-wing tendencies in the revolutionary movement, and attempts to provide an explanation for the defeat of the aspirations of those tendencies.

Positive developments in the European left

By Ian Angus

October 7, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- LeftViews recently published an article by Alex Callinicos, a central leader of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), on the state of the left in Europe. While conceding that there have been some gains, overall the picture he painted was dire.

Callinicos is an insightful writer on leftwing politics in Europe, and much of his analysis rings true. I’m certainly not going to try to offer a different analysis from my vantage point well west of the Atlantic [in Canada].

But by itself, his article might leave Socialist Voice readers with a picture of unrelieved gloom, when in fact there are some bright spots of note. In Germany and Portugal, leftwing parties made modest but important gains in last month’s elections, while in France and England we’re seeing constructive steps towards greater unity on the left.

Germany

London climate justice conference: A model of ecosocialist collaboration

By Ian Angus

September 17, 2009 -- Climate and Capitalism -- On September 12, about 100 people attended “Climate and Capitalism”, a one-day conference in London, England, organised by Green Left and Socialist Resistance.

I was invited to participate as editor of the Climate and Capitalism website, and as editor of The Global Fight for Climate Justice, published this summer by Resistance Books (Britain). (The meeting was in part a launch event for the book.) I spoke at the opening plenary [see Ian Angus' presentation below] and in a workshop on the global South.

Britain’s conquest of Quebec: 250 years later, a continuing debate on how the French colonisers became colonised

By Richard Fidler

September 13, 2009 -- Life on the Left -- Colonisation. Conquest. Words that even today evoke widely varying historical memories.

Just last year Quebec City staged an elaborate round of events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding as the colonial capital of New France. No expense was spared as federal and provincial governments alike poured money into the city’s coffers. Capping the ceremonies were massively attended concerts by Québécoise singer Céline Dion and former Beatle Paul McCartney — apparently deemed emblematic descendants of the French and British “founding peoples” of present-day Canada. It seemed to be one great love-in of all those involved.

(Lost in all the self-congratulatory rhetoric, of course, was any recognition that the city’s site had in fact been occupied by its Indigenous inhabitants for many centuries prior to the arrival of the Europeans.)

Lucas Aerospace -- When workers said `no' to military production, `yes' to green jobs

Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

By Rob Marsden

August 22, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- Today, the twin drivers of economic recession and the possibility of catastrophic climate change are beginning to push working people towards action. A series of small-scale but high-profile occupations of threatened factories, not just at Vestas wind turbine plant but also at Visteon car plant, where 600 workers took on the might of Ford and won a greatly enhanced redundancy package, show what is possible. In the 1970s workers at Britain's Lucas Aerospace went even further. We look back at the lessons of Lucas Aerospace.

It is clear that if we are to avert catastrophic climate change by moving rapidly to a low-carbon economy, certain industries will have to be wound down or drastically scaled back, for example, the power generation, aviation and car industries. However, rather than this leading to a net loss of jobs, efforts must be put into creating new green jobs or ``converting'' old jobs.

The 1819 `Peterloo' massacre: class struggle in the Industrial Revolution

By Graham Milner

August 16, 2009 -- The Industrial Revolution began in England, and the emergence of the industrial working class brought to the fore a new social and political force in world history. The bloody events of 190 years ago, on August 16, 1819, when a mass workers' protest in Manchester demanding political reform and labour rights was broken up by the army, with considerable loss of life, stand out as a stark warning to socialist activists everywhere that the ruling classes will react with violence and terror when their power and privileges are challenged.

On August 16, 1819, mounted regular troops and yeomanry of the British army, acting on the instructions of government officials, attacked without warning a mass meeting of more 100,000 people drawn from the industrial centres of Lancashire in the north-west of England. The meeting, held on St. Peter's Field in the centre of Manchester, the major industrial city of Lancashire, had been organised as part of a national campaign to win a radical reform of the British parliament and to redress the economic grievances of working people. More than 400 men, women and children were killed or seriously injured as a result of this ``action''.

Britain: Vestas workers end occupation, but `the campaign is anything but over'

Mike Bradley was one of the original workers who occupied the offices of Vestas. He gave an impassioned speech at the August 8 rally in Newport, Isle of Wight, where he reminded supporters that the struggle for Vestas to be nationalised can still be won. Video from Ventnor Blog.

[For more background information, go to http://links.org.au/node/1168 and http://links.org.au/node/1175.]

(Updated Aug. 6) Vestas workers: `Fight for green jobs not over ... Change should be made for the people, not for money'

[For more background information, go to http://links.org.au/node/1168 and http://links.org.au/node/1175.]

Ventnor Blog -- August 5, 6pm, 2009 -- With Mike Godley having left yesterday, we spoke to Mark, one of the six who are still inside at the Vestas sit-in. We discussed how they had to reorganise themselves now four people have left.

He said that that morale was still good and how they’ll “still be fighting Vestas”. Mark explained that “It was strange to have that many people leaving at once.”

It’s unclear if Vestas have applied for bailiff papers to have them removed from the building. Vestas have issued a statement that they are very patient and that they can wait. Mark said, “They did ask us yesterday that if we wanted to leave the door open they would come in and get us. We replied ‘No’.”

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