Will Covid break the EU?

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 crisis.

The 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 of millions.

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In defence of our great anti-poll tax victory

Radical 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

The 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”.

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Global Warning: A Green new dawn?

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.  

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Liberation struggles and workers’ internationalism

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.

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Dispossessing the thieving class

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”.

The 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?

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A new movement for system change

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.

The 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.

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The origins of racism

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 49.

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 nationalist wars.

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 movement.

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 advantage.

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A new era has begun

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.

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China’s global ambition

CLARE 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.

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Global Warning: Covid lessons for the climate crisis

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 planet.

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.

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