Solidarity 454, 15 November 2017

Capitalists demand planning

Published on: Thu, 16/11/2017 - 10:33


As well as from the left, demanding freedom of movement and social levelling-up, the Tory government is also under pressure from big business over Brexit. Few bosses have come out for stopping Brexit. The big majority, though, are demanding a definite timetable and a long transition period during which Britain sticks to EU rules. Their reasons are interesting in relation to long-running arguments between socialists and advocates of capitalism over economic planning.

Socialists want democratic economic planning. Pro-capitalists say that the only realistic way to run a complex economy is by

After South Africa, our turn: scrap student fees!

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 12:59

Chris Reynolds

After Germany in 2014, South Africa looks like becoming the next country to scrap university tuition fees. And more and more people are determined to add England and Wales to the list.

In a video released to support a student demonstration in London for free education on 15 November, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said: “Everybody should have access to high quality from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety. No one should be shut out. That’s why I support the demonstration for free education organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts [NCAFC].

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 12:44

Gemma Short and Peggy Carter

Members of train drivers’ union Aslef working for GTR Southern voted to accept the deal recommended by their leadership to settle their long-running dispute over Driver Only Operation.

The headline pay increase looks impressive at first — 28.5% over five years, with a minimum of a 2.5% increase (or more if RPI is higher than 2.5%) in the last year of the deal, bringing the basic pay to a big-sounding £63k. However, even working on a very conservative assumption that the union secures RPI-level increases over that period, and that RPI runs at an average of 3%, the element of the deal that

How “slow burn” worked for the CWU

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 12:32

Gregor Gall

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) in the Royal Mail ballot has set the gold standard for all other major unions in the UK. It was the first nationwide strike ballot since the Trade Union Act 2016, which came fully into force in March 2017, and dictates that lawful strike action now requires a 50% turnout to vote.

CWU gained a 89% vote to go ahead on a 74% turnout. The CWU began the mobilisation to gain a strike mandate well over six months ago. It put together a “Four Pillars of Security” campaign, calling for: decent pensions; a shorter working week; extended legal protections, and a

Poet poisoned by Pinochet

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 12:20

John Cunningham

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have been murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship. Recent autopsies suggest that the death of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1973 was possibly caused by poisoning. This should surprise no one even moderately acquainted with the dictatorship of General Pinochet.

Neruda, arguably South America’s greatest poet and a staunch champion of the oppressed, was admitted to hospital at the time of Pinochet’s military coup which overthrew the left social-democratic government of Salvador Allende elected in 1971. Twelve days later Neruda died of a heart attack – at least

Free speech on campus, and argue the issues!

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 12:17

Reuben Mathews

This article appears as an opinion piece in Solidarity 454

When we “no platform” and un-invite radical feminists from our universities — in the guise of safer spaces — who are we protecting, and who are we serving?

The more time and energy we spend attacking these women, the less we spend fighting the Tories and the straight identified men currently posing a life-threatening threat to trans people on these campuses. We should be focussing our energy on the material conditions and accompanying attitudes that pose a threat to the lives of trans people, and on convincing other people to

Glory o, glory o, to the bold Bolsheviks

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 11:22

Sean Matgamna

The Russian Revolution has had all sorts of things grafted onto the image it projects to us. But what was it in reality?

In the revolution, the workers and the farmers — and the soldiers who were mainly peasants — revolted against the ruling classes and the war. This was a tremendously democratic movement. It was a movement that created soviets, that is workers’ councils. No powerful state made the revolution. It was the people, the workers, the red guards in St Petersburg and Moscow, the factory militias. What they thought they were doing was liberating themselves from all future class rule.

Catalonia: rights and unity

Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 11:00

Editorial from Solidarity 454

On Saturday 11 November, 750,000 people (on the city police’s count) demonstrated in Barcelona to demand the release of Catalan government ministers and pro-independence association activists jailed by the Madrid regime to await trial on charges such as sedition. A general strike called by a pro-independence union confederation, Intersindical-CSC, under the slogan “Defend Our Rights”, on Wednesday 8 November, also had impact.

The reports suggest it was more through demonstrators blocking railway lines and roads than the major concentrations of workers deciding to


Published on: Wed, 15/11/2017 - 10:41

Paul Vernadsky in his review of my book, The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution 1918-21 (Solidarity 453), is right to highlight the importance of this period for today. And he comes to the heart of our disagreement at the very end of his essay when he refers to the idea that “an impoverished, backward society cannot skip historical stages”. He calls this “Menshevik dogma”. No, Paul, that’s not “Menshevik dogma”. That’s Marxism.

But leaving aside whether that’s more Martov or Marx, that phrase has proven to be absolutely true. The last century showed us many examples of attempts by

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