July’s EU coronavirus rescue deal was hailed as a qualitative step
forward for European integration but, argues HANNAH SELL, has not overcome the
fundamental contradictions of the bosses’ club – which the workers’ movement
must respond to with socialist internationalism.
For a large part of the previous decade the European Union (EU) has
teetered on the edge of disaster. Globally the last world economic crisis that
began in 2007-2008 led to the authority of capitalist elites being severely
undermined. For the EU, and particularly the Eurozone, it was an existential
weaker economies of the Eurozone, Greece but also Portugal, Spain and Cyprus, were
facing bankruptcy, unable to service government debt. The institutions of the
EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – ‘the troika’ – demanded vicious
anti-working class austerity as a precondition for those countries receiving
so-called ‘bailouts’. This was against the background of an already calamitous
fall in living standards. As general strikes swept the continent – with upwards
of 30 in Greece alone – and the Greek anti-austerity party Syriza was
victorious in the 2015 general election, the existence of the Eurozone hung by
a thread. Thanks to the capitulation of the Syriza government to the demands of
the troika, however, the Eurozone survived at the expense of the living standards
publishers Pluto Press have released a new book looking back at the defeat of
Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax. Unfortunately it fails in presenting the real historic
significance of the anti-poll tax movement – led by Militant, the Socialist
Party’s predecessor organisation. CLIVE HEEMSKERK writes.
Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay: The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax
By Simon Hannah
Published by Pluto Press, 2020, £16-99
battle against the poll tax in the late 1980s and early 1990s is one of the
greatest episodes of working class struggle. Mass non-payment of the tax, with
around a third of the entire adult population facing some form of legal action against
them over a four year period, laid the basis for an organised movement to make it
unenforceable. With Tory party splits also developing over the European Union, Margaret
Thatcher, the international standard-bearer of brutal neo-liberal capitalism, re-elected
with a 102-seat majority in June 1987, was forced to resign 41 months later in
November 1990. The anti-poll tax resistance was, as Simon Hannah says in the
preface to his new book, “the last mass movement in Britain [to date!] that
helped bring down a Tory prime minister”.
Across Europe the past year has seen a
mini Green surge. In Austria, Ireland, Germany, France and elsewhere they have
jumped up in support, joining coalitions with pro-capitalist establishment
parties in many cases, either at a regional or national level. This
follows the explosion of protests across the globe in
recent years, sparked by anger at the destruction of the environment and
calling for system change. Could Green parties – whose defining feature is
environmentalism – provide an alternative that is capable of living up to the
desires of those wanting real change?
In June the Green Party in Ireland entered government with Fianna Fáil (FF) and Fine Gael (FG), the two traditional parties of the
capitalist class. The Greens increased their vote in both the 2019 council elections
and the general election in February, quadrupling their members of parliament
from three to 12.
Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance & British Dissent
By Priyamvada Gopal
Published by Verso, 2020 (pbk), £14-99
Reviewed by Brent Kennedy
The main points of Priyamvada Gopal’s book are that the colonial
peoples repeatedly revolted against their exploitation and were themselves the
agents of their own liberation; that they received solidarity from various
quarters in Britain; and both learnt from it. It’s an answer to right wing
academics like Niall Ferguson who repeat the old excuses for the British empire:
that it was benevolent, civilising and prepared ‘backward peoples’ for the gift
of independence when they were deemed ready for it.
Stolen: How to save the world from financialisation
By Grace Blakeley
Published by Repeater Books, 2019, £10-99
Reviewed by Paul Kershaw
For a long time it has been easier to imagine the end of the world
than the end of capitalism, according to Grace Blakely’s best seller. But, as
she shows, capitalism has not always existed and “the technological, economic,
and political preconditions for the establishment of socialist societies exist
today in ways that they never have in history”.
current period is marked by huge capitalist monopolies, often several times the
size of nation states, that organise themselves based on top down planning.
Technological development means that unparalleled data is now produced about
needs and production to inform planning. Currently this is used by a tiny elite
for profit but why not plan production for people with democratic control?
Malcolm X famously said, ‘you can’t have capitalism without
racism’. Assessing the new upsurge in the #Black Lives Matter movement, HANNAH
SELL argues that fighting racism does mean a fight to replace capitalism with a
new society, socialism.
The brutal police murder of George Floyd has ignited a massive #Black
Lives Matter movement, first in the US and now globally. This is not the first
global wave of demonstrations in recent years – #BLM first spread worldwide in
2014, as did the women’s marches after Trump’s election. We have also seen a
huge global wave of protests on climate change.
current movement, however, has important characteristics that mark it out as
being on a different level than what came before. It has a broader reach. The
Washington Post, for example, reports that there have been far more
demonstrations in the US than the previously unprecedented 650 women’s marches
that took place in 2016. In addition to the big cities, protests have taken
place in even the smallest towns, including in places in the south with recent
histories of white supremacist activity.
The following article
was first published in 1994 in the August-September edition, No.58, of Militant
International Review, the predecessor magazine of Socialism Today. The author
was ANDREA ENISUOH, who in 1989 had become the first black woman elected to the
National Union of Students national executive committee – as a proud Militant
supporter. Andrea sadly died in February this year, at the far too early age of
The early 1990s have
seen the issue of race and nationality to the fore in both political and social
life. The last few years have been marked by the growth of racism, the
re-emergence of fascist parties on a Europe-wide scale, and the development of
Equally significant, however, has been the development
of a fightback against racism and fascism. Many young people in particular,
repulsed by increasing racial attacks and murders, are joining the anti-fascist
Yet while the far-right have provided some focus for
anti-racist activity they remain a small factor in the development of racism in
society. The racist sentiments that the fascists and far-right have been able
to play on have to varying extents already existed in many white communities.
Far more than any of their more overtly anti-working class policies it is
racist rhetoric that has provided them with a platform. While not being the
direct cause of racism in society they have used the growth of racism to their
TONY SAUNOIS, secretary of the Committee for a Workers’ International
(CWI), argues that the covid pandemic has inaugurated a new historical period
of capitalist crises and class struggle.
The words of WB Yeats in his poem Easter1916 sum up the current world
situation: “All is changed, changed utterly”. Fundamental changes are taking
place in the world economy, geo-political relations, and in the colossal polarisation
between the classes on a global scale, opening up a new era.
All of the trends we see developing today were
present prior to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. However, they have been
razor-sharpened and accelerated at lightning speed. All of the consequences of
the dramatic upheavals taking place are not yet fully clear. However, it is
certain that capitalism will not be able to go back to the pre-corona situation,
much less the situation which existed before the financial crisis of 2007-08.
DOYLE reviews a comprehensive account of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and
argues that the project is another form of imperialist expansionism.
Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order
By Bruno Maçães
Published by C Hurst & Co, 2020 (pbk), £11-99
“China’s Belt and Road strategy is
acknowledged to be the most important geopolitical initiative of the age”,
write the publishers of this fascinating book by Bruno Maçães. “It symbolises a
new phase in China’s ambitions as a superpower: to remake the world economy and
crown Beijing as the new centre of capitalism and globalisation”.
In page after page of detail, the
author leaves the reader in no doubt that China is in effect attempting to
carry out a massive and meticulously calculated, high-speed, planned form of
imperialist expansion that indeed rivals the growth of US, European and
Japanese imperialisms over past centuries.
The covid crisis has once again revealed the incapacity of
capitalism to meet society’s needs. The former assistant general secretary of
the PCS civil servants’ union, CHRIS BAUGH, who during his term of office held
responsibility for developing the union’s policies for combating climate change,
draws some lessons for the climate struggle.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold at a point in human history when
we face the existential threat of climate change. The scientific evidence
available tells us we are in a race against time in limiting the impact and without
decisive action this could have incalculable consequences for human life on the
shutdown of production in all the major economies due to the coronavirus pandemic
has led to an estimated 20 percent reduction in global greenhouse emissions. As
the lockdown is ended, however, it is expected that greenhouse emissions will
return to their previous dangerous levels, showing that simply reducing
production is not a solution. This article argues the potential for developing alternative
socially useful forms of production. To avert climactic disaster, this will
need to form part of a political struggle for system change based on socialist planning
using the latest smart technology with new and democratic forms of workers’ and
community control and self-management.