Left groups and people

The enemy is capital, not London

The Northern Independence Party, now promoting a candidate in the 6 May Hartlepool by-election, looks to me like all the worst traits in Corbynism solidified into a bad joke. It even has a whippet in its party logo. There is no real call for “Northern Independence”, but there is an increasing rise, at least where I live in Yorkshire, of regional identity and calls for Yorkshire “home rule”. You see way more Yorkshire flags than you used to. Yorkshire Day has become an actual thing observed by councils and companies rather then a joke involving Yorkshire puddings. Much of this cultural...

Stan Newens, 1930-2021

Former Labour MP and MEP Stan Newens died on 2 March, at the age of 91. Newens got a jaundiced obituary in the Guardian, warmer ones elsewhere, and a tribute from Jeremy Corbyn which airbrushed out Newens' revolutionary Marxist activity in his 20s. In old age Newens wrote an autobiography, which I have not read, but is reviewed here by Ian Birchall. In February 1995 Newens gave an account, in Workers' Liberty magazine, vol.1 no.18, of his earlier political days and what he then made of them, which we republish below. Below that are recollections by me from when we worked with him, including my...

The US left and Trump: replying to debate

Thomas Carolan did make a British analogy for what socialists can do now in the USA in relation to the Democrats. But it was not with the Labour Party! It was with the Liberal Party in the late 19th century.

US politics and Trump: a discussion document

Part of an ongoing debate: see here for all the contributions Developments in US politics over the past year have been the subject to lengthy debate in the labour movement, within the AWL and in our paper Solidarity. Those discussions have been useful and should continue. Our AGM should make an initial assessment and draw some political conclusions. Trump Donald Trump was the most right-wing, authoritarian, nationalist, president in recent US history, as well as a racist, sexist, transphobic narcissist. For workers of the world, and in particular for black, brown, and immigrant working-class...

What we owe to Ernie Tate

Ernie Tate, who died from cancer on 5 February at the age of 86, was once well-known among revolutionary socialists across the world as the central figure of “the Tate affair”. Born and raised in Northern Ireland, he was an active Trotskyist from his early 20s, in Canada. He moved to London in 1965-9, and that was where the “Tate affair” happened, in 1966. Back in Canada, he quit the organised Trotskyist movement about 1980, but remained active on the broader left until his last years. I last met him in 2015, at a conference at the University of East Anglia. An obituary by John Riddell gives...

Mick Brooks and expropriating the banks

Longstanding socialist and Labour Party activist Mick Brooks (1948-2021), who died in January as a result of complications from Covid-19, was co-author with Michael Roberts of the Fire Brigades Union’s 2013 pamphlet on public ownership of the banks and high finance, It's time to take over the banks. (The two also ran regular Karl Marx walking tours in London.) In the face of multiple convulsive social crises, the demand for public and democratic control of finance is more relevant and urgent than ever. Mick continued to vocally and actively make the case for it. For those who did not know him...

USA: building the movement

There is a division in the US left between doubling down on an electoral orientation, essentially to the Democrats, and those who want to focus on the harder but more fruitful task of building up the grassroots labour movement. We’re in a better position than under Obama. At that time the entirety of the unions and the entirety of the NGO-type “left” put complete faith in Obama to bring about “change”. We’ve progressed to some extent in that there’s now a much more significant layer of people who want to exert pressure for left-wing demands. Nonetheless the bulk of the unions and the NGO world...

Democracy for right-wing dissidents

Cuban artists protest at the Ministry of Culture in Havana, November 2020 Distracted by the USA’s Capitol’s storming, readers may have overlooked another, more serious “attempted coup”. “[T]he US establishment is attempting to carry out a ‘soft coup’ in Cuba”, say some — and the San Isidro Movement (MSI) artists’ collective is to the fore. The rapper whose arrest sparked the movement videoed a police officer serving him summons while “swearing at the officer and declaring in English ‘Trump 2020, Trump is my President!’ He was subsequently arrested and on 12 November was sentenced to eight...

Today farce, tomorrow tragedy?

This [6 January] was a “coup” as social media spectacle. In their pseudo-Viking gear and Confederate patches, the far-right rebels were a distinctly unappealing lot. And their rebellion utterly lacked a coherent plan beyond smashed windows and selfies. Rather than a coup, it was a pathetic right-wing putsch attempt and was put down remarkably swiftly. It was given the green-light by Trump and his inner circle. But it was overwhelmingly condemned by the spokespeople of the capitalist class: the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, the CEOs of most major corporations...

Leo Panitch, 1945-2020

Leo Panitch, an assiduous and important Marxist writer on political economy and an active socialist, died on 19 December 2020, from Covid-19 contracted after being admitted to hospital with cancer. His biggest book, The Making of Global Capitalism, written with Sam Gindin, is essential reading, and summarised a vigorous programme of research into post-1945 capitalism. I first met Leo Panitch, I think, at an "International Marx Congress" at Nanterre University, near Paris, in 2004. He was off-hand, and I guessed he had the typical attitude of a famous university professor (at York University...

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