Solidarity 176, 24 June 2010

The origin of the Plebs League part 1: taking the university to the workers?

In October 1908 students and former students at Ruskin College in Oxford founded the League of the “Plebs”. From 26 March to 6 April 1909 they took strike action in the college. Part 2The Plebs League eventually became a national movement, providing what was called independent working-class education (IWCE). Later it was called the National Council of Labour Colleges. Through this movement, which was still functioning in 1964, tens of thousands of working-class people both taught and learnt. The basic aim behind IWCE was that the working class should produce its own thinkers and organisers...

Thirty five years after America's war

America’s war in Vietnam, and the international movements that sprung up in opposition to it, are central events in the history of 20th century radical politics. The events of that conflict continue to cast a long shadow over the contemporary left’s understanding of imperialist war. Looking back over a distance of 35 years, Vietnam still has a huge amount to teach us in terms of the nature of capitalist imperialism, the nature of Stalinism, and what kind of anti-war politics and movement socialists should aspire to fight for and build. Background Vietnam’s history is inextricably bound up with...

The wrong kind of feminism

I’m surprised to see “Pregnancy is not an illness!” (Solidarity 3-175) in a rational newspaper like Solidarity. We should question medical opinion, Solidarity 3/177 Pregnancy is not an illness!, Solidarity 3/175Surely the author realises hospital obstetrics is geared up for worst case scenarios and the intervention that flows from that? All hospitals feel alienating to patients, as every device there is almost completely foreign and they have no control over when they eat, sleep or see their relatives. But if the author had ever seen a delivery go wrong and how quickly it goes downhill and how...

Debating the crisis and socialist answers

Vasilis Grollios reports on the Toronto conference of the academic journal Historical Materialism, held on 13-16 May. Some of the most well known socialist researchers participated in this conference, just like the other conferences the journal organises in New York and in London. Here are the lectures that aroused my interest most. In his welcome speech, the organiser of the conference, Toronto-based Professor of Political Economy David MacNally, stressed some of the main ideas he analyses in his new book: Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance. According to him...

Engineered identities

“It hurts to be misrepresented, but there is no representation without misrepresentation… Bangladeshi Britons would be better off not reading — or, when it comes out, seeing the film of — Brick Lane.” Germaine Greer, ‘Reality Bites’, the Guardian, 24 July 2006 The furore that accompanied plans to film Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane in the eponymous east London neighborhood were just the latest in a long-running series of incidents that have come to signify — if not define — the deterioration of the left, its understanding of race and identity. Hanif Kureishi’s 1985 screenplay My Beautiful...

The crisis and the lies they tell

The Tories don’t just intend to hammer workers and the poor with cuts — they want to make us believe in their austerity programme as well. The Tories and the Tory press have been relentlessly “on message” since the election, pumping out pro-cuts, class-war propaganda. Let’s take a look at some choice bits of doublethink from the Liberal-Tory press: 1. As he announced the budget in the Commons on Tuesday, to boos from Labour MPs, George Osborne screeched above the racket, “The years of debt and overspending have made this unavoidable”. But the responsibility for the recession and the deficit...

French cuts will hit women workers hardest

The first part of the austerity measures that the French government plans to introduce will be a major attack on pension rights for both public and private sector workers. French unions have called for strikes and demonstrations on Thursday 24 June. Olivier Delbeke from Le Militant spoke to Solidarity about the issues. There are two ages that are important when understanding the pension reform. Firstly — you currently have a right to retirement at 60. But if you retire between 60 and 65 and you haven't paid enough contributions into your pension, you have to pay a charge until the age of 65...

Government deports children

In a double blow for some of Britain’s most vulnerable, it’s been revealed that almost two thousand Afghan immigrants, including 150 unaccompanied children and adolescents, face unwarranted deportation in the coming year. Meanwhile the government is standing aside while the Refugee and Migrant Justice legal charity is set to close this month due to cuts and unsustainable methods of funding. Plans circulating about the £4 million “reintegration centre” to be set up in Kabul, Afghanistan, by the UK Border Agency have shed light on the government’s criminal plans to send 12 boys aged under 18...

Anti-fascism in East London: under whose banner?

Several weeks ago, the English Defence League announced they were organising a protest against an Islamist conference in the Troxy conference centre in Limehouse, East London, which was backed by the Islamic Forum of Euope (IFE) and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). Predictably for this sort of religious fundamentalist event, the speakers at the conference included all sorts of reactionary bigots. The Tower Hamlets council, led by Helal Abbas, pressured the Troxy to cancel the conference. When the Troxy did indeed pull the booking, the EDL claimed this as a victory and...

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