Battle of Ideas

Robert Fine's "Cosmopolitanism"

The sociologist Robert Fine, who was a long-time sympathiser and sometime activist with Workers’ Liberty, passed away on 9 June 2018 at the age of 72.

As our series of book reviews to commemorate his life illustrates, Fine dedicated his scholarship to many far-reaching topics in social and political theory. These topics include the rule of law, the anti-apartheid movement and independent trade unions in South Africa, racism and antisemitism, and the political thought of GWF Hegel, Karl Marx, and Hannah Arendt.

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:

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.

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