A new era begins

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has been swept into power – by 20.1% of the electorate, the lowest share for any incoming government since the first ever election fought under universal (male) suffrage in 1918. In the main, not even the 9.7 million who went out and voted Labour did so for positive reasons. A YouGov poll asked Labour voters what their primary motivation was. By far the largest group, 48% of the total, did so to ‘get rid of the Tories’. By contrast only 5% said that they did so because they agreed with Labour’s policies.

This is in stark contrast to the 2017 general election, when – with Jeremy Corbyn as leader – Labour’s anti-austerity manifesto was the central reason for the surge in Labour’s vote to 12.88 million. This was 3.5 million more than the previous election in 2015, the biggest increase in a single election since 1945. Even in 2019, now falsely written into history as ‘the worst election result since 1935’, Corbyn won 10.27 million votes, half a million more than Starmer achieved from an electorate that has grown by over a million since 2019.

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Capitalist interests trump pandemic planning

Despite two years of negotiations, nine rounds of talks, extended deadlines, last-minute pleas and much hand-wringing the World Health Assembly failed to agree a new pandemic treaty on 27 May. It was meant to ensure the world was better prepared for future pandemics than it had been for Covid-19.

After 700 million confirmed cases, seven million deaths worldwide and unknown numbers still suffering Long Covid, better preparation is desperately needed.

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The truth about Biden’s climate policies

The US Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in 2022, was billed as a qualitative step towards a green transition. The reality, as HANNAH SELL explains, has been completely different.

This year is the thirtieth birthday of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is also the year China opened a WTO case against the US, on the grounds that the ‘green manufacturing’ subsidies of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) break global trade rules. No-one expects the case to be resolved, not least because for the last five years the US has obstructed any new appointments to the WTO judges panel, effectively blocking the body’s ability to settle disputes.

The increasingly moribund WTO is just one symptom of the end of the era of ‘globalisation’ and the increasing trend for the US – still the strongest power on the planet but in relative decline – to move from its ‘free trade’ mantra to putting up barriers in order to defend its position against its rivals, above all China. This is the primary purpose of the IRA.

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Europe: Right-wing populism and polarisation

Following the elections to the European parliament in June, Sascha Staničić, national spokesperson from Socialist Organisation Solidarity (Sol – CWI in Germany), analyses the development of right-wing populism in Europe.

The phenomenon of right-wing populism is not new in most countries, but there is much to suggest that it has reached a new level. Not only because in opinion polls and elections the share of votes of right-wing populist parties has grown significantly, but also because they have got hold of, in one form or another, the levers of government at regional or even national level in more countries. On 16 September 2023, the British financial magazine, The Economist, published an article entitled The Hard Right Is Getting Closer To Power All Over Europe.

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Popular Frontism in France

The New Popular Front (NPF) received the most seats in the recent parliamentary elections in France, 182 out of the 577 total in the National Assembly. Standing on a programme of reducing the pension age to 60 – reversing President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘reform’; freezing the price of energy and basic necessities; ending austerity; increasing the minimum wage; indexing wages to inflation; reforming Macron’s immigration law, and ending the genocide in Gaza, it beat Macron’s bloc, Ensemble (with 163 seats), and pushed Marine Le Pen’s right-populist Rassemblement National (RN) and her allies into third place (143 seats).

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Portugal 1974: A missed opportunity

The Carnation Revolution: The day Portugal’s dictatorship fell

By Alex Fernandes

Published by Oneworld Publications, 2024, £22

Reviewed by Kevin Parslow

1974 was a year of great upheavals worldwide. A miners’ strike led to the ousting of a hated Tory government in Britain; the Greek colonels’ junta was overthrown after a disastrous military excursion in Cyprus; President Richard Nixon had to leave office in disgrace, implicated in the Watergate cover-up. But none of these had greater opportunities for the working class to take power than the Portuguese revolution of that year, which continued into 1975. Sadly, this chance was missed.

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The election and the fight for workers’ political representation

Short of a Lazarus-style miracle Tory resurrection the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will be installed in Downing Street on July 5, ushering in a turbulent new period in Britain.

Amidst the driving rain and whirr of overhead TV helicopters accompanying prime minister Rishi Sunak’s hapless live general election announcement speech, the strains of the 1997 ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ New Labour anthem could be heard, broadcast by nearby protesters. A Tory wipeout of similar proportions is entirely possible this time too. But any hopes that a Starmer-led government can replicate the relative stability of the first Tony Blair administration will not be fulfilled. “They may ring their bells now”, said the first de facto prime minister of Britain, Sir Robert Walpole – although the prevailing sentiment today is more one of disillusionment with all ‘politicians’ – but “before long they will be wringing their hands”.

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Fighting racism in Britain today

The forms may have changed but racism is still deeply embedded in Britain’s capitalist society. Which is why, argues ISAI MARIJELA, the call for system change – socialism – is central to the struggle against it.

Racism remains a part of everyday life for Britain’s Black and Asian people. Shocking figures and statistics reveal the conditions facing people of colour. They are more likely to be in insecure jobs, live in the worst housing and health situations, and suffer disproportionately as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. They are two and a half times more likely to be in poverty than white people.

On top of that, they also face racial discrimination at the hands of the police and other capitalist institutions. The latest government figures on police stop and search show that, in the year to March 2022, there were 27.2 stop and searches carried out for every 1,000 black people, compared with 5.6 for every 1,000 white people.

Report after report reveals the unjust and unequal treatment of Black and Asian workers in workplaces. A 2020 Trades Union Congress report, Dying on the Job, painted a shocking picture of how Black and Asian workers were treated while working through the pandemic.

Fighting racism is an immediate issue that must be addressed in Britain, and a serious discussion and debate needs to take place on what tactics, approach and programme are required to smash it.

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‘Desanitising’ Martin Luther King

HUGO PIERRE reviews a recent book that looks at both the life and the political struggles of US civil rights activist and anti-racist campaigner Martin Luther King.

King: The Life of Martin Luther King

By Jonathan Eig

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2023, £25

Martin Luther King the pacifist, the compromiser and reformist, the acceptable face of the civil rights struggle versus Malcolm X, the revolutionary, the uncompromising face of the struggle for Black liberation – or this is how it has been portrayed. A section of the US establishment effectively ‘cannonised’ King to prevent a new generation of Black youth from discovering the mass militant methods of struggle he supported and unleashed from the mid-1950s until after his death.

King became fully immersed in these methods which brought him both an audience and in bitter conflict with the highest levels of the US state. Jonathan Eig’s biography aims to reconnect King with the militant insurrectionary movement King took part in and led at various points, the vicious attempts of the state to repress him and the movement, and explores the ideology that inspired his tactics.

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Racism, identity and class

Are the struggles against racism in Britain and the USA different? What is the relationship between race, class and national identity? APRIL ASHLEY, a female Black members’ representative on the national executive council of public sector union Unison, reviews in a personal capacity a recent book that raises these issues.

This Is Not America – Why Black Lives in Britain Matter

By Tomiwa Owolade

Published by Atlantic Books, 2023, £9.49

Following the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement after the racist murder of George Floyd in 2020, this book by Tomiwa Owolade, a Nigerian-born British writer, is an easy and interesting read, discussing the different experience of racism in America and Britain

Owolade argues that although all Black people suffer from racism there is a difference being Black American and Black British because of the differences in history and culture. And although, ostensibly, a simple argument, Owolade sets out to explore exactly what this means.

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