Building on Rochdale

“Beyond alarming” is how Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak declared George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election, at a specially convened press conference on the steps of Downing Street. Labour leader Keir Starmer appeared equally alarmed as he apologised for having to withdraw support for the Labour candidate in the by-election, giving Galloway an easier path to victory.

Clearly, George Galloway and the Workers’ Party’s campaign in Rochdale succeeded in shaking the establishment. Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems were only able to muster a combined 26.7% of the vote. The by-election was a graphic illustration of bone-deep disillusionment with all the mainstream pro-capitalist parties. Galloway was victorious with almost 40% of the vote, and the second place candidate, with 21%, was an independent campaigning to reopen maternity and A&E services in the town.

Read more

Unite and the anti-war movement

Representatives attending the March Unite national executive council, the first quarterly meeting of the union’s governing body of 2024, were met with a small number of trade unionists, mainly from Unite, protesting at the union’s alleged lack of action against the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. The executive had before it three motions, including a critical one from the London and Eastern Regional Committee, which is under the leadership of the United Left (LU), an organised group within the union.

The United Left was set up after Unite was formed and played an important role in the election of Len McCluskey as general secretary in the first leadership election of the newly merged union in 2010. At that stage, the Socialist Party was part of the UL. However, after Len’s retirement and in the wake of the defeat of Corbynism within the structures of the Labour Party, the UL has developed into a conservative wing of Unite and opposes the industrially militant ‘transformation’ agenda of Len’s successor as general secretary, Sharon Graham.

Read more

Militant Mick: Drawing up a balance sheet

The RMT transport workers’ union general secretary Mick Lynch has been a central figure as the working class has re-established its central position in society over the past twenty months or so in the most extensive strike movement for over 30 years. Midlands supporters of The Red Line, the bulletin of Socialist Party members in the RMT, examine a new biography of Mick and assess his role.

Mick Lynch – The Making of a Working-Class Hero

By Gregor Gall

Published by Manchester University Press, 2024, £20

Mick Lynch – The Making of a Working-Class Hero is a new biography of the general secretary of our union by the left academic Gregor Gall. Bob Crow – Socialist, Leader, Fighter, published in 2017, was Gall’s previous venture into analysing the RMT. Superficially the two general secretaries are of a type. Both Londoners from working-class backgrounds. Both seen as among the most combative union leaders of their generations. However, this second volume, published a decade after Bob’s untimely death, elaborates some of the important differences between them.

Read more

Galloway’s credo

George Galloway’s spectacular victory in Rochdale has sparked discussion about what role he could potentially play in the building of a new mass party that can provide a political alternative to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. In a contribution to that debate we reprint a review by JIM HORTON of Galloway’s 2004 book, I’m Not the Only One, first published in Socialism Today No.86, September 2004, which asks, what does George Galloway stand for?

I’m Not the Only One

By George Galloway

Published by Allen Lane, 2004, £10

George Galloway’s book presents a seething indictment of the war and continuing occupation of Iraq, and he is scathing towards all those New Labour MPs who sheepishly voted for the conflict. But his criticisms are not restricted to Iraq. He rightly condemns New Labour’s attacks on trade unionists, especially the despicable assault on the firefighters, and the government’s policies on pensions, tuition fees and the privatisation of public services. He scorns New Labour’s big business links and the cultural politics of spin, and mocks Tony Blair’s prostration at the feet of George W Bush.

Read more

Defeating imperialist intervention

A Nasty Little War: The West’s Fight to Reverse the Russian Revolution

By Anna Reid

Published by John Murray Press, 2023, £19-95

Reviewed by Oscar Parry

Anna Reid’s history of the ‘intervention’ in Russia after the 1917 revolution, when 180,000 troops from imperialist powers were sent to support the counter-revolutionary ‘White’ armies, is meticulously researched but politically bereft. Reid fails to link the crushing defeat of the capitalist armies in the ensuing civil war with the popularity of the October revolution amongst the working class and peasantry – both in Russia and abroad. She attempts to portray the Bolsheviks as authoritarian and violent throughout the book, but undermines her own arguments with her descriptions of the brutal massacres initiated by the White forces.

Read more

Miners’ strike: The power of photography

Martin Parr Foundation exhibition: One Year! Photographs from the miners’ strike 1984-85

Featuring works by: John Harris, Chris Killip, Jenny Matthews, Brenda Prince, Neville Payne, Howard Sooley, John Sturrock, Roger Tiley, Philip Winnard and Imogen Young

Reviewed by Roger Thomas

For the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike, the Martin Parr foundation in Bristol,
has hosted an exhibition that looks at the pivotal role photography played in the year-long dispute.

The exhibition looks at the images created and how they were used and disseminated through the visual media of the time. While one side sought to use these images to highlight the chaos on picket lines and to heighten the image of an enemy within, those in support of the strike attempted to undermine this picture, highlighting instead the violence of the state on picket lines, the economic hardship endured, and especially the solidarity and collective strength of a working-class community under siege.

Read more