Editorial: How could Corbyn deliver?

“The only certain outcome of the general election”, argued the Socialism Today editorial published two weeks before the last contest (issue No.209, June 2017), “is that none of the contradictions besetting the political and social relations that sustain British capitalism” would be any nearer to resolution at the end of it.

“The crisis of capitalist political representation signalled by continuing Tory divisions”, we wrote then, “the uncertainties surrounding the Brexit negotiations; the battle around a new Scottish independence referendum… almost all the conceivable electoral scenarios will bring them into sharper relief”.

Two-and-a-half years later the underlying contradictions have only intensified and the political consequences are, if anything, even more unpredictable.

But, while there are a range of possible outcomes from the 12 December election, the most immediately important for the workers’ movement is the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, with either a Labour parliamentary majority or in another ‘hung parliament’, and the consequent question: how could a prime minister Corbyn deliver the reforms he has promised the working class?

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How radical are the Greens really?

The Green Party often present themselves as a radical alternative to the capitalist establishment parties. However, their actions repeatedly undermine that image. In this general election they have reached an agreement with the decidedly pro-establishment Liberal Democrats in order to promote remaining in the establishment’s EU club. This follows a record of voting for austerity measures when the party has held positions in local government.

Climate protests, including the worldwide youth strikes, have seen environmental issues rise rapidly in public consciousness. A YouGov poll earlier this year showed more than a quarter of people in Britain now consider the environment to be among the top three issues facing the country. This rises to 45% among 18-24 year olds.

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Chile general strike rocks Piñera regime

Three million workers, youth and students, took to the streets throughout Chile on 12 November, in yet another mass protest and strike, sparked initially by a price hike in metro fares in the capital, Santiago, in October.

After nearly one month of protests and brutal state repression, this magnificent movement has refused to accept concession after concession by the regime of President Sebastián Piñera. Prior to the strike, Piñera undertook yet another u-turn and announced that the constitution would be revised and submitted to a referendum.

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Global Warning: Still time to stop catastrophic climate change

A widely-reviewed recent book by David Wallace-Wells presents a grim picture of the future consequences of continuing global warming. But the real story of the future, argues JUDY BEISHON, is that socialist change can stop catastrophic climate change.

The Uninhabitable Earth – A story of the future

By David Wallace-Wells

Published by Penguin Random House, 2019, £9-99

David Wallace-Wells isn’t an environmentalist or scientist, but a New-York based journalist who has drawn from hundreds of sources to warn about the future impact of global warming on human lives. He made his book grim reading, opening with: “It is worse, much worse, than you think”. From there the message gets worse still, until about two-thirds of the way through he comments: “If you have made it this far you are a brave reader”.

Chapter after chapter hammers home the estimated environmental effects of each half point rise in planet temperature. The extent of heatwaves, floods, storms, deaths and migration. Already the planet has warmed by about 1.1 degrees celsius above the pre-industrial level and the effects so far are summarised, including that since 1980 there has been a 50-fold increase in dangerous heatwaves and a quadrupling of flooding. A study last year revealed that the melt rate of the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled in just a decade, indicating an increased pace of sea level rise.

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Automated for the people?

A recent book by left-wing author Aaron Bastani is the latest to proclaim that new technology has the power to transform society, offering up fixes for global warming, poverty and much more. But how could such a change take place when the world economic and political system is in the hands of a rich, capitalist elite? HANNAH SELL writes.

Fully Automated Luxury Communism: a manifesto

By Aaron Bastani

Published by Verso, 2019, £16.99

Aaron Bastani is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter and one of the central figures in Novara Media, the left-wing social media platform. Fully Automated Luxury Communism outlines his vision for the future. Its publication is a symptom of the growing interest in socialist ideas. Unlike many anti-capitalist books it does not focus on the misery capitalism offers today but on the potential for new technology to lay the basis for a new society “as distinct from our own as that of the twentieth century to feudalism, or urban civilisation from the life of the hunter gatherer”.

Bastani lists the seemingly insurmountable problems of this society – including climate change and mass underemployment – and points to technological solutions. In a world where we are constantly told we have no choice but to accept the status quo his confidence in the possibility of change is refreshing.

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A world in turmoil

A meeting of European sections and supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International held in early November, which also included visitors from the USA and Nigeria, agreed a statement on the current world situation, an abridged version of which is printed below.  The full statement is available on the CWI website at https://www.socialistworld.net

The world situation is marked by explosive social upheavals and turmoil. The eruption of revolutionary and semi-revolutionary movements by the masses, especially the working class and youth, in Ecuador, Chile, Haiti, Catalonia, Hong Kong, and extremely significantly, Egypt, Iraq and the Lebanon, have features of the revolutions which swept Europe in 1848 and also some features of the stormy upheavals in 1917-18. These events have come hot on the heels of the renewed revolutionary upsurges which have previously shaken Algeria and Sudan.

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Visionary art in another time of turmoil

William Blake

Tate Britain, to 2 February 2020, £18

Reviewed by Manny Thain

Dramatic, moody and otherworldly. Just a few words to describe the work of William Blake, the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Britain. It is chronological, tracing Blake’s footsteps from his birth in 1757 to his death in 1827. Those were decades of revolution, war, disaster and plague, while the forces of the industrial revolution were being unleashed in capitalist Britain. It was a time of colossal change and upheaval.

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Reclaiming Robert Burns

The legacy of the romantic poet Robert Burns has been contested since his death in 1796. BRENT KENNEDY explains why the socialist movement has the greatest claim to celebrate him.

On Burns Night, January 25, we will celebrate the life of a man who opposed bigotry, racism and slavery, a revolutionary democrat, a republican opponent of the Hannoverian monarchy, a patriot to the common people, and an internationalist who supported the American and French revolutions against British imperialism. This, when an utterly corrupt parliament of rotten boroughs elected only by the richest two per cent of the population used oppression to prevent democracy, with Burke, the father of the Tory party, calling the people the “swinish multitude”.

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