Editorial: New twists but a Starmer government still likely

Britain is in a pre-general election period, with the likely prospect of a Keir Starmer-led government coming to power within the next twelve months, if not earlier – the first Labour government since the ‘New Labour’ administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from 1997 to 2010.

However, even those whose memories go back to the 1974-79 Labour government cannot rely on past experience as preparation for what is coming. A hundred years after the very first Labour government, victorious at the election held in December 1923, a Starmer-led government could be the one that presides over a collapse in the party’s support similar to that suffered by the social democratic PASOK party in Greece or the Parti Socialiste in France. Both were comparable parties to Labour and were electorally annihilated as they implemented vicious austerity in government after the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Potentially, therefore, the Tory party’s ongoing implosion could be put in the shade by the crises Labour will confront in office. A Starmer-led government will face huge economic and social upheavals, be rocked by mass struggles, and doing so with a shallow social base. This poses the question of what forces will step into the vacuum created by the further fracturing of the established parties in the next period, and whether the working class, as an organised force, can play the central role.

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Resisting an infection pandemic

Minor infections often turned lethal until the mid-twentieth century. Now this threat could return, as micro-organisms become more resistant to antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasites and other antimicrobial compounds.

“All of modern medicine is upheld by our ability to control infectious disease”, says Jonathan Stokes, a scientist at McMaster University in Canada. “If we can’t control infection, we can’t administer chemotherapy, do invasive surgery, and preterm birth becomes really, really challenging and risky”.

One-and-a-quarter million people worldwide died with antimicrobial-resistant infection in 2019 – more than from malaria or HIV. A 2016 World Bank review predicted this could rise to ten million by 2050 – about the number now dying each year from cancer. It’s now predicted the number of deaths could be double that. There are already signs the malaria parasite across Africa is developing resistance to the standard treatment.

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Global warning: Capitalist green transition’s critical contradiction

As environmental catastrophe looms large, emphasised by rising temperatures and the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events such as the forest fires and floods that have struck the world over in 2023, the scramble to achieve net zero is intensifying. With growing emphasis on renewable energy and the need to roll out vital infrastructure that will pave the way for a green transition, a global scramble for Rare Earth Elements (REE) and other materials critical for such ventures is well underway. Yet, as efforts to increase exploration, extraction, production and refinement of critical minerals are beginning to ramp up, so too is the competition between rival capitalist forces to corner market share.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that wind and solar energy could account for around 70% of power generation by 2050, up from 9% in 2020, although this is assuming that the global goal of carbon neutrality is met by 2050. Regardless, the IEA reports on a rocketing demand for what it deems ‘green metals’ such as cobalt, copper and nickel, which could see an almost seven-fold increase in production by 2030. Furthermore, the IEA predicts that clean energy manufacturers would need a 40-fold increase in lithium, 25 times more graphite and about 20 times more nickel and cobalt by 2040 than in 2020.

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Introducing Marxism: Understanding Israel-Palestine

Launching the second of our Introduction to Marxism series, JUDY BEISHON traces the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the current brutal war on Gaza.

The world’s imperialist powers have always intervened in the Middle East for their own political, strategic and economic interests. On the one hand dishing out investment, aid, trade deals and promises of protection, and on the other hand threats, sanctions and military force, they have extracted what they can for themselves, to the detriment of the region’s peoples, including national rights.

The Israel-Arab conflict arose out of imperialist interference following the first world war. In the century since, it has seen 13 wars and much other bloodshed in between.

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Reprint on the 1973 Arab-Israeli war

Fifty years after the Arab-Israeli war fought from 6 to 25 October 1973 – also known as the Yom Kippur war as it began with a surprise attack against Israel on the Jewish holy day – Socialism Today is reprinting an article first published in November 1973. Written by PETER TAAFFE for an internal bulletin of Militant, the predecessor of the Socialist Party, it takes up the arguments on the Israel-Palestine conflict of various groups on the left at that time.
Yom Kippur was an important moment in world perspectives, triggering an oil embargo against the Western powers and the subsequent recession ending the long economic boom that followed world war two, an unrepeatable ‘golden era’ for capitalism.
In the 1973 conflict Israel suffered its greatest number of casualties since the war that accompanied the formation of the state in 1948. That the October 7 attack this year saw its greatest losses since 1973 only emphases the significance of today’s events – and, with the slaughter in Gaza, confirms again that capitalism can provide no way out of the horrific cycle of endless bloodshed in the Middle East.
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Building a workers’ political voice: Lessons from the early Labour Party

CHRISTINE THOMAS outlines how, despite their entrenched conservatism and pro-capitalist outlook, the trade union leaders were pushed by events at the end of the 19th century into taking steps towards the building of an independent political voice for the working-class.

In 1899, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) approved a resolution on political representation moved by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS). This instructed the TUC’s Parliamentary Committee “to invite the co-operation of all co-operative, socialistic, trade union and other working-class organisations… in convening a special Congress of representatives… to devise ways and means for securing an increased number of Labour members in the next parliament”. The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) was established the following year, eventually leading to the formation of the Labour Party in 1906.

While recognising its political limitations, in particular a reformist leadership that had not ideologically broken from the capitalist Liberal Party, Vladimir Lenin nonetheless welcomed the creation of this “parliamentary representative of the trade unions”, “the first step on the part of the really proletarian organisations of England [sic] towards a class-conscious policy and towards a Socialist Labour Party” (International Socialist Bureau, 1908). When, in 1920, small groups of revolutionaries united to form a Communist Party (CP) in Britain, Lenin urged the infant party to affiliate to the much larger Labour Party, with its mass trade union base, on the condition that it could maintain its own independent political identity and activity, as Labour Party rules at that time allowed. Unfortunately, still conditioned by the sectarian history of some of its constituent groups, the CP worded its request for affiliation in such a way that the Labour Party leadership could reject it without provoking significant opposition from the rank and file who were striving for workers’ unity.

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Invaluable record of socialist struggle

A Revolutionary’s Memoir: From Socialist Fight to Militant and the Socialist Party

By Keith Dickinson

Published by Mentmore Press, 2023, £13.99

This book of Keith’s – his ‘memoirs’ – is the result not just of painstaking work in assembling the material, but of decades of dogged and patient dedication to the vital task of developing the forces of a revolutionary party in Liverpool, London and beyond.

He traces the origins of his militancy from his working-class origins in Merseyside in some quite fascinating detail, and the development of British Trotskyism, especially as he knew it in the second half of the last century.

Keith’s own experiences of important strikes – of apprentices, print workers and others – will act as an eye-opener for members of the newer generation. He gives detailed accounts of various meetings – Liverpool’s Labour Party and Trades Council, London’s Young Socialists or incongruous gatherings of British Trotskyists.

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