A new humanist politics?

Published on: Wed, 05/06/2019 - 11:02

Matt Kinsella

Paul Mason’s latest book, Clear Bright Future, is written as a defence of humanism and human-centred politics, against the resurgent threat of the far-right, from Trump to Bolsonaro, Le Pen to Salvini. The title is a reference to Leon Trotsky’s testament. Mason entreats us to fight “all evil, oppression, and violence”, and shares Trotsky’s optimism for the future.

Mason draws a convincing link from the financial crash in 2007-08 to Trump’s election. Mason emphasises how the monopolisation of information (think Google and Facebook) has led to systems outside our control, for example, of online

Reading or stagnating?

Published on: Wed, 01/05/2019 - 11:52

Daisy Thomas

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis

When I was a young child, I learned an appreciation for the written word through both of my parents reading aloud to me and through listening to audiobooks on long car trips.

Somewhere during the dreaded forced reading during my secondary and tertiary schooling, I lost my fascination with reading. Then, over time, with that lack, I noticed other things were lacking.

There are so many reasons to read: to inform, to amuse, to connect, to understand, to critique, and so on. Reading is a fantastic way to

Dangerous nonsense: Bower on Corbyn

Published on: Tue, 09/04/2019 - 18:48

Dale Street

Every Labour canvasser will have come across him (and, invariably, it is a he).

Leering out of his doorway he delivers a deranged tirade about how the country is going to the dogs. Communist-run trade unions. Moscow gold. Economy wrecked by strikes. Scroungers living off the dole. Better off than him, an honest hardworking man.

Of course, not a racist. But too many immigrants. Especially Muslims. Bogus asylum-seekers. Should stay in France. Got a council house instead of his daughter. Live off the state. He’s accused of racism for telling the truth. In his own country!

And, in the more up

Boycott the Guardian?

Published on: Wed, 31/10/2018 - 09:18

Journalist Matt Kennard is one of the figures calling for a boycott of the Guardian. He spoke to Martin Thomas from Solidarity.

K: It’s not really a formal campaign, but it was ignited on social media by left activists, journalists, and commentators who support the Corbyn project.

Obviously you expect outlets like the Telegraph and the Sun to be on the other side. But in fact the Guardian has morphed into the biggest and most consistent critic of Corbyn, and under an editor, Kath Viner, who was voted in as the left candidate. It’s a nominally left-wing paper which is trying to destroy the

Ten times the price, but…

Published on: Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:58

Martin Thomas

The history of the old Labour left weekly Tribune was not a glorious one. In its early years, which were also the time of the Moscow Trials, it supported Stalin’s regime in the USSR uncritically.

Between 1947 and 1950 it was firmly on the side of the USA and NATO in the Cold War.

From the mid-1980s, under Nigel Williamson and then Phil Kelly as editors, its politics dissolved into soft-leftist alignment with Labour’s establishment, and its last 30 years were a slow but dismal slide into extinction.

But in its best years, with Michael Foot in the 1950s, and to some degree even in its not-so

The Morning Star and tackling transphobia

Published on: Fri, 06/07/2018 - 09:42

Ira Berkovic

In the justified storm of criticism following the Morning Star’s publication of an anti-trans open letter, a number of critical open letters have been circulated in response. 

One is headed Morning Star readers against transphobia”. It is good that this letter has criticised the Morning Star’s consistent record of giving houseroom to transphobia. It makes those points well. But it couches its criticisms in lavish praise of the paper. Its signatories say they “wholeheartedly support and champion the Morning Star”, and that it “makes a vital contribution to the British labour movement”.


The People of the Book

Published on: Wed, 14/02/2018 - 12:04

Martin Thomas

Books have been a great factor in human culture. The Qur’an says: “Do not argue with the People of the Book except only by the best manner, except the unjust among them. Tell them, ‘We believe in what is revealed to us and to you. Our Lord and your Lord is one. We have submitted ourselves to His will’.”

By “People of the Book” it meant principally Jews and Christians. These book-based religions were an intellectual innovation. The book-basis gave Christianity and Islam an expansive power and a cultural breadth that earlier religions had not had. Through books, at least for a minority,

The newspapers’ film

Published on: Wed, 31/01/2018 - 13:16

Simon Nelson

Simon Nelson reviews The Post, in cinemas now

Steven Spielberg’s film was designed to win Oscars. With big name actors, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, this could have been an exciting story about press freedom and government cover-ups, and a positive message of the good side winning against the bad and dishonest.

It is the story of the 1971 Pentagon Papers. Utterly shocking when first the New York Times, then the Washington Post and others papers published them, they documented the US policy in Vietnam since the Second World War. How US’s secretive interventions had backed up the vicious Diem

Books that can win

Published on: Wed, 31/01/2018 - 11:47

Colin Foster

The author Alan Sillitoe described how, as a national serviceman aged 19 in 1955, he was got to read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by an eager colleague saying: “This is the book which won the 1945 election for Labour”.

The Tories, in 1945, tried to counter by mass-distributing a book of their own, Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.

The political shift of 1945 was shaped by books, and conversations around books, not by tweets or memes. If we want a similar big shift today, we need similarly heavy ammunition.

Over the last two and a half years, allowing for

A decline of reading

Published on: Tue, 30/01/2018 - 11:51

Martin Thomas

Between 2000 and 2009, on average across OECD countries the percentage of children who reported reading for enjoyment daily dropped by five percentage points.

Reading drops to its lowest point in the 16-24 age group, and recovers a bit at later ages. Other surveys have found similar results. And Britain is among the worst-hit, possibly because of the wider use of smartphones in this country.

Infographic: Which countries read the most? | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

Social historians have long stressed how the start of silent, individual reading was pivotal in developing "intellectual rigour, introspection, criticism of the

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