Emile Zola, Socialism and Anti-Semitism

Published on: Wed, 03/09/2014 - 14:08

Émile Zola was one of the foremost novelists of late 19th century France. He was also sympathetic to socialism and a hero in the “Dreyfus Affair” of the 1890s. This interview with him by Max Beer appeared in the Social Democrat (magazine of the Social Democratic Federation, then the main Marxist group in Britain) of October 1902. Beer was the British correspondent of the German socialist paper Vorwärts and author of a History of British Socialism. Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde, referred to by Zola, led two factions in the French socialist movement; the “Guesdists”, though generally more

Turning the world inside out!

Published on: Wed, 14/05/2014 - 13:33

The disaster in Rana Plaza on 24 April 2013, where at least 1,138 Bangladeshi garment workers died, has spurred more people to fight for better conditions for the world’s 75 million garment workers.

On the one-year anniversary, fashion industry figures organised the first annual and international “Fashion Revolution Day” (FRD). UK events included a debate in the House of Lords; “fash mob” in Carnaby Street by London College of Fashion students; and Twitter Q&A with experts, including the IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary talking about a new trade union organising drive in Bangladesh:

End sweatshops! Support Bangladeshi workers!

Published on: Wed, 12/02/2014 - 11:06

When Rana Plaza, a multistorey building housing garment factories, collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in April 2013 the focus of the world media was on the conditions of Bangladeshi workers.

It seemed that a turning point might be reached in their fight for rights. But a new investigation by ITV journalists, featuring the campaigning NGO Labour Behind the Label, has shown that little has changed for the better.

In this programme two young women workers wearing hidden cameras went to work in two fairly typical garment factories, making clothes for Western companies. The women filmed

Chinese migrants die in Italian factory

Published on: Wed, 11/12/2013 - 11:44

“The old dies and the new cannot manage to see day. In the interim a large diversity of  morbid symptoms surges forth” (Antonio Gramsci)

The latest data on the state of Italy’s economy puts it in second place behind Greece for the level of absolute and relative poverty, with half of its population on €1,000 a month or less and nearly 45% of young people without work.

The victory this weekend of the Blairite mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, in the election for leader of the centre-left Democratic Party only added salt to the wounds. Renzi is a vile opportunist and enthusiastic cheerleader for

Bangladeshi wage increase

Published on: Tue, 19/11/2013 - 17:57

Bangladeshi workers have won a 77% increase in the minimum wage which will rise to 5,300 takas (£43) per month.

The increase comes after months of struggle following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April, in which over 1,000 workers were killed. A 10-day wave of protests from 21 September saw tens of thousands of workers mobilise, demanding an even higher increase (8,114 takas, a 170% increase). Protests were continuing as recently as Thursday 14 November. Many protests had been met with police repression, including the use of tear-gas.

The Bangladeshi minimum wage is one of the lowest in

What's wrong with Len McCluskey's “opportunities”

Published on: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 14:37

In mid-July Labour Party leader Ed Miliband proposed various ‘reforms’ to Labour Party structures and procedures. Central to these was the proposal that unions affiliated to the Labour Party switch from ‘opt-out’ to ‘opt-in’.

At present, a member of a trade union who does not ‘opt out’ of paying the political levy is automatically included as a levy-payer. If that union is affiliated to the Labour Party, anyone who does not ‘opt out’ counts automatically as an affiliated Labour Party member.

Under Miliband’s proposals, only union members who indicate that they wish to ‘opt in’ would be counted

Bangladesh: learning the right lessons

Published on: Wed, 29/05/2013 - 11:47

This article appeared in Our Times, a Canadian trade union magazine. Click here for the original article.

The deaths of more than 1,000 workers in the Rana Plaza building collapse in April provoked a flurry of activity among campaigning organizations around the world. In particular, the online campaigners - groups like Avaaz, Change.org, and the relatively new SumOfUs.org - rushed to get out campaigns in response. These were all roughly along the same lines: we Western consumers must pressure the companies that make our clothing to behave better in the future.

This is all very well meaning,

Bangladesh unrest grows as death toll rises

Published on: Wed, 08/05/2013 - 18:16

The death toll from the Rana Plaza factory collapse has now passed 700. It is one of the worst industrial disasters in recent history, and the worst ever in Bangladesh.

A government building inspector has confirmed that the building, which housed five factories, was built with inadequate, weak materials that could not withstand vibrations caused by electricity generators on the top floor. The building’s architect has said it was intended to house residential or light commercial properties rather than heavy industry.

Primark, one of the western suppliers which sourced textiles from the factory,

Dhaka factory tragedy: capitalism is guilty

Published on: Wed, 01/05/2013 - 08:44

On the afternoon of 24 April, Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housing textile factories in Savar, a suburb of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, collapsed. When rescuers gave up searching for survivors on 29 April, the official death toll was 380.

Local police ordered an evacuation of the building on Tuesday 23 April after workers reported cracks in the building’s structure. The factory owners ignored these concerns and forced more than 2,000 workers to remain in the building. Workers reported the use of intimidation tactics, including threats of docking pay, to silence those who spoke out.

Call centre exploits prison labour for £3 a day

Published on: Wed, 22/08/2012 - 14:00

Becoming Green, a company which markets environmentally-sustainable energy to homeowners, has been exposed using prison labour on slave wages in its Cardiff call centre.

Almost 20% of the call centre’s staff in July and August were inmates from Prescoed prison in Monmouthshire, around 21 miles away from the centre. The prison workers were paid just £3 per day for their work.

Becoming Green had been employing the prisoners for 40-day periods, but as there is no centralised regulation on how long external employers can employ prison labour on “training contracts”, Becoming Green could keep

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