Battle of Ideas

Three decades of Socialist Worker on antisemitism

When Sunderland Polytechnic Students Union (SPSU) banned a campus Jewish Society in 1985, Socialist Worker (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party) rallied to its defence.

The SPSU was “quite clearly not racist. … One thing is clear – they are not racists, unlike the Zionists who oppose them.” (SW/928)

Socialist Worker conceded in passing that “it can be argued whether the SPSU was tactically wise to ban the Zionists.” But the ban itself was not criticised. In fact, the paper uncritically quoted the SPSU Treasurer’s rationale for the ban:

The story of the Polish workers

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Solidarność (Solidarity), the Polish independent trade union, at what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. Solidarność both emerged from and provided the organisational infrastructure for the mass strikes of August 1980.

This intense period of struggle thrust strike leaders like Lech Wałęsa and Anna Walentynowicz into the international limelight. With the signing of the Gdańsk Agreement on 31 August 1980, Solidarność became the first independent union to be recognised by a Warsaw Pact country.

Revolutionary organising in the German army in World War II

War-torn France 1943, occupied by the German army and administered by the Vichy regime: the tide had begun to turn against the Nazis, but they still ruled most of Europe.

The extermination of Jewish people proceeded relentlessly. Within France, the resistance was dominated by Gaullists and the Communist Party (PCF). Both expressed virulent nationalism, summed up by the slogan: “à chacun son boche” (let everyone kill a Hun).

The tragedy of Arthur Scargill

Arthur Scargill emerged from semi-retirement from politics to speak at a meeting of the Communist Party of Britain’s wretched little pro-Brexit front organisation Leave Fight Transform (LeFT) in Brighton on 11 September, alongside Eddie Dempsey (the man who said Tommy Robinson supporters were right to hate the “liberal left”) and other assorted xenophobes, nationalists and social conservatives.

According to the Morning Star Scargill said that “every single MP who wants us to go back into Europe should be opposed.” That would be the majority of Labour MPs, then, Arthur?

Populism: a dead end for the left

In recent decades, there has been much discussion of “populism” as newly significant form of political movement. Some on the left even say we should embrace it.

Admittedly, there are major conceptual difficulties when discussing “populism”. Even if we limit ourselves to examples on the ostensible left, movements labelled “populist” can be so different in their substantive politics and theoretical groundings that they conflict directly.

Can Sanders win?

According to most polls, Americans have had enough of Donald Trump. A majority wants him impeached. And most voters say they will vote against Trump in November 2020.

Despite those polls, many are terrified that Trump might somehow win re-election. For them, the candidate who deserves our support is the one most likely to beat him. Little else matters.

Rosa Luxemburg on 1905

“The extent to which the party rises to the occasion [of a revolutionary upsurge] — that depends in the greatest degree on how widely [the Marxists have] known how to make their influence felt among the masses in the pre-revolutionary period...”

It depends on “the extent to which [they were] already successful in putting together a solid central core of politically well-trained worker activists with clear goals, how large the sum of all their political and organisational work has been”.

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