Solidarity 609, 13 October 2021

Haitian revolution vs British empire

The French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution, and the basis of bourgeois wealth was the slave trade and slave plantations in the colonies. Though the bourgeoisie traded in other things than slaves, upon the success or failure of the traffic everything else depended. Therefore when the bourgeoisie proclaimed the Rights of Man in general, with necessary reservations, one of these was that these rights should not extend to the French colonies. There was the abolitionist society to which Brissot, Robespierre, Mirabeau, Lafayette, Condorcet, and many such famous men belonged even before 1789...

Britain's Caribbean troops

The West Indian Soldier exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea tells (part of) the story of Caribbean soldiers and the British Empire. It tries to stress the positive aspects of soldiers’ relationship to the army, but reveals how they faced racist attitudes and treatment from higher-ups. During the First World War Caribbean troops were sent to fight the Ottomans in Egypt, as the British government did not want them fighting white people. Until 1807 the government was reluctant to even concede that enslaved men recruited into the army were automatically freed. The most interesting...

Trade union struggle and political struggle - an interview with John McDonnell

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and former Shadow Chancellor, spoke to Sacha Ismail. After Labour Party conference, what do you think will happen with Starmer’s leadership? Do you think he’ll be around for a long time? It’s impossible to tell at the moment. At the conference he used the traditional Blairite, Mandelson playbook. Attack your own party to demonstrate you’re a strong leader; do a big personal speech to try to demonstrate you’re a normal human being; make banal statements instead of policy commitments. It didn’t work: the bounce in the polls didn’t happen. The...

Do not "defend David Miller"

Alex Callinicos’s defence in Socialist Worker of David Miller, the academic recently sacked from his job at the University of Bristol, poses the matter as one of “academic freedom”, in which not only academic freedom, but Miller himself, must be “defended”. Callinicos is right that there are questions of academic freedom involved. There have long been demands that Miller should be sacked for his views on Israel and Zionism — and, from some, that he should be sacked for his views on Syria, as he is a prominent apologist for Assad regime and has promoted denialist conspiracy theories about that...

Sam Farber, the Third Camp and Cuba

Samuel Farber has played an irreplaceable role in the third-camp Marxist tradition for more than six decades. Kent Worcester has conducted a fascinating interview with Farber about his political and intellectual history, now published in Left History journal (24, 1, Spring/Summer 2021). Farber’s outstanding contribution has been his Marxist analysis of Cuban society, articulated in four books and countless articles. A simple rule should apply on the left: no socialist of any stripe should speak publicly about Cuba unless they have read Farber. Cuban Stalinism Farber’s book Cuba Since the...

Women's Fightback: Anti-vaxxers harm pregnant people

One in six critically ill Covid-19 patients in England are unvaccinated pregnant women, NHS England has announced. Of the 118 Covid-19 patients in England who received extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) between July and September, 20 of them were pregnant. ECMO is usually given to critically ill people who have not responded to going on a ventilator. Of the 20 pregnant women who received ECMO, just one had been vaccinated — though she had only received one dose. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has been advising that pregnant people should be offered Covid-19...

Issues behind CWU conference

The option presented by the Executive to the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) Special Virtual Conference on 7-9 November, to maintain the union’s affiliation to the Labour Party, is right. But the detail it contains, a focus on lobbying and supporting the Labour metro mayors, makes no sense. Dave Ward, the CWU general secretary, has moved on a little, but essentially this is a reprise from when Dave Ward pushed disaffiliation to gain profile against Billy Hayes, whom he defeated for general secretary in 2015. He did that to appear more left-wing, though in fact Hayes, for all his flaws, was...

More legal agonies for Labour

Further legal agonies in the Labour Party. Labour HQ is reported by Labour List and the Guardian to be about to name five ex-staff (Seumas Milne and others) as the leakers in April 2020 of the 850-page aborted-draft EHRC submission. Labour List says that the five, represented by the celebrated high-price defamation law firm Carter-Ruck, may then sue the Labour Party for the naming. Previously, Emilie Oldknow and other former Labour staffers (of another stripe) who are already suing the party over the leaked document have demanded the names. Labour HQ has refused to give what it says would be...

Croydon goes for mayor-power

In a referendum on 7 October, residents in Croydon voted overwhelmingly to follow Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Watford and replace the “leader in cabinet” model of local government with a directly elected mayor, to be elected in 2022. The referendum was put after spending and housing scandals, created by years of Conservative local government cuts, engulfed the council. Democ (the campaign for a democratically elected mayor of Croydon) presented a petition of 20,000 signatures to the council leader calling for the system to be changed. Though the referendum was initially supported by both Labour...

Support Facebook cleaners, 15 October

Workers cleaning Facebook’s London offices are protesting outside them weekly about the sacking of their union rep and workloads which are making them unwell. The next protest is 4pm on Friday 15 October at the Facebook office at 10 Brock St, NW1 3FG. The workers’ union CAIWU (Cleaning and Allied Independent Workers’ Union) will be balloting for strikes on issues including the sacking of Guillermo Camacho. They are also calling for Facebook to terminate their contract with Churchill Cleaning and bring them in-house. Cleaners and facilities workers have won or are pushing for insourcing at a...

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