The legacy of Britain’s Far Left


The recent book, Against the Grain, the British far left from 1956”, edited by Evan Smith and Mathew Worley covers the period up until the modern day, but starting from the year when British political life was shaped by both the crisis of British imperial confidence in Suez, and the contemporaneous impact of the invasion of Hungary by the USSR and its allies, and the dramatic denunciation of Stalin by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956.

The reason that the year 1956 was so dramatic in Britain is that the UK’s social, economic and political life was shaped by the context of the still considerable but declining legacy of colonialism and imperialism, and by the external challenge of socialist countries, and the internal challenge by their advocates within the British labour movement.

Britain has a distinct culture in its labour movement, founded on trade unionism and the political envelope of labourism. It is worth exploring this context: as the ideological and social parameters of trade unionism are delimited by seeking to represent the sectional interests of working people (or in some cases the professional salariat) within capitalism. It therefore seeks to improve the lot of the working classes, but not overthrow the profit system, or the institution of wage labour. The political expression of trade unionism has therefore been hostile to the greed, privilege and corruption of individual capitalists, and indeed sometimes hostile to the capitalist class collectively, but has not been systematically opposed to the capitalist system, notwithstanding the rule book commitments of some older unions. Click to continue reading

Emily Thornberry is not the enemy of the working class, the Sun newspaper and everything it represents is

Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper is to working people what Dr Harold Shipman is to medicine. Yet from the transparent and naked opportunism of this downmarket, criminally compromised tabloid in seeking to exploit the furore over Labour’s Emily Thornberry, you would think it’s the in-house newspaper of the British trade union movement rather than a champion of Thatcherism and a committed enemy of anything resembling the interests of working people.

Emily Tornberry’s only crime is that she identified the collapse of working class identity and culture in Britain into a Thatcherite caricature – a process involving its confusion with jingoism and white van man individualism. And before being accused of snobbery or of being another out of touch liberal commentator, I grew up on a housing estate in Thatcher’s Britain and left school at 15 with zero qualifications. I then graduated from a dead end job in a factory to working as a bouncer in bars and clubs at the age of 17, and in my time have driven a white van too. In other words I’ve got the T-shirt when it comes to the archetypal uneducated white working class male projecting an over-masculine persona to compensate for the crisis of identity that has beset this particular demographic over the past three decades and more.
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Miliband pledges to close Swedish Derogation

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I was delighted to see the commitment from Ed Miliband that the next Labour government willtackle the unscrupulous activities of some recruitment agencies. There is a legitimate role for agencies providing temporary workers, to fill gaps where an employer genuinely has fluctuating work volumes, or where there are temporary tasks to be done.

But all too often employment agencies are used to seek to push down wages, and to use legal trickery to make it harder for workers to assert their workplace rights, whether it is the right to be treated with dignity by supervisors, or the right to a safe and healthy working environment.

I am old fashioned enough to value the relationship where most workers are employed by the company who name is over the door;and where employers feel a social responsibility to recruit from the area where that company is located. Click to continue reading

Viva la solidaridad! Venezuela & the new Latin America stand in solidarity with Gaza

By Matt Willgress and Paul Dobson

In contrast with western complicity with Israel’s attack on Gaza over the summer and ongoing attacks and land grabs since, Venezuela and its allies in Latin America are offering concrete help to Palestine, says Matthew Willgress of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, with additional reporting from Paul Dobson in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Government sent a third consignment of humanitarian aid to the embattled people of Palestine this month. In return, they greeted 119 young Palestinians who are going to be trained to be doctors at the Latin American Medical School in Caracas, demonstrating that genuine solidarity does not consist of excellent speeches, heartwarming discourses, nor best intentions, but rather has concrete actions and deeds at its centre.

“If the 21st Century saw a fighting and brave country, it is that which belongs to the people of Palestine” stated Minister for University Education, Science and Technology, Manuel Fernandez at the sendoff of the aid.

“[Hugo] Chavez brought the love of Palestine to Venezuela and left this legacy with .. Nicolas Maduro” commented the Palestinian Ambassador in Caracas, Linda Sobeh Ali.
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M&S, more Marley & Scrooge than #magicandsparkle

slough-demo-011416334343803424340The way M&S is acting the letters M&S could stands for Marley and Scrooge over the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period says GMB

GMB members, employed by Tempay Ltd at a Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon, protested outside M&S’s store in High Street Slough on Tuesday 18th November over being required to work six days every week until January with only one day off in a 14 day period.

More than 150 formal grievances have been submitted to Tempay Ltd about the Christmas work rotas, from among their 500 staff on the site.

The Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon is run by Wincanton. However most of the staff are employed by an employment agency, 24.7 Recruitment. They are then formally employed through a further company, called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through Wincanton.
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Band Aid is offensive

Bob GeldofBack in 1984 a group of rich pop stars gathered together to ‘save Africa’ in response to famine in Ethiopia. The result was Band Aid. Thirty years on and another group of rich pop stars has come together to ‘save Africa’ in response to Ebola.

Tarzan of the Apes is a fictional character who first appeared in a 1912 book of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At the time the popular view of Africa and Africans in the West was of a primitive, backward, and retrograde culture and people who needed to be ‘saved’ by the white man and white civilization.

It was the very mindset responsible for the continent’s colonisation, which over a period of 400 years devastated its people and plundered its natural resources, leaving deep economic, social, and historical scars that have yet to heal. While Africa no longer suffers the colonisation that it did when Tarzan first appeared in popular culture, it continues to suffer from the colonial mindset and from a global economic system that has ensured its continued under development up to the present day.

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Beyond the froth

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football picks out the best of the autumn sports books

I’m sorry but you won’t find here the just-in-time-for-Christmas sports autobiography blockbusters. With just enough manufactured controversy to ensure blanket coverage when they are launched. Even a skim read will reveal that, on the contrary, they tell the reader very little they didn’t either know or suspect already.

Instead I would recommend a weighty volume of this sort. A Companion to Sport edited by David Andrews and Ben Carrington. The range of coverage from Monty Panesar to football’s 2010 World Cup is matched by the variety of insights, sport as a contested space being the overarching theme. As an academic book scandalously expensive, but any well-stocked library should have a copy.

Played in London

As a writer Rob Steen straddles that frustrating divide between the academic and the journalistic. His new book Floodlights and Touchlines reveals the richness of writing this mix can sometimes produce. A living history of the relationship between the spectator and his, or increasingly as Rob chronicles, her sport. This is social history of the very highest standard. Simon Inglis is rightly renowned for his writing on the cultural significance of stadia and other sporting buildings. Simon’s Played in Britain project has helped transform our understanding of what these structures mean to their localities, and his latest account of this relationship, Played in London not only continues the richness of Simon’s explanation but is unarguably his finest book in this extraordinary Played in… series yet.

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A vote for Jim Murphy in the Scottish Labour leadership election is a vote for a Tory government in 2015

Jim MurphyWhen it comes to the three candidates fighting it out for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party – Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack, and Neil Findlay – if the Tories in Scotland and the SNP could cast a vote between November 17, when the ballot commences, and Dec 13, when the new leader is announced, you can be sure it would be for Jim Murphy. Why? Because with Murphy as leader the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster in 2015 increases to the point of being almost guaranteed, and likewise the continued dominance of the SNP in Scotland, bringing with it renewed danger of the break-up of the United Kingdom.

This is the reason it is no exaggeration to state that the upcoming election of the next leader of Scottish Labour is the most important internal election in the party’s history, not only in Scotland but UK-wide. For on the result hinges not just the future of Scottish Labour but also the outcome of the 2015 general election and, even more importantly, the very future of the United Kingdom.
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