Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Statesman Oct 9th

The New Statesman cover deals with drugs: 'How the war on heroin is fuelling terror'. Misha Glenny makes a welcome return with analysis of the vicious circle facing Britain's in its part of the occupation of Afghanistan. The war is being fought on the cheap, Taliban and various criminal syndicates ares doing well out of an expanded heroin business (and most heroin in Britian comes from Afghanistan). The British have done little about the massive expansion of heroin production and can do little. The whole NATO operation is on the verge of collapse. Glenny also includes Colombia with a story of special forces being ambushed by regular troops in Cali at the bidding of drugslords. FARC does well from taxing the cocaleros, but the rightwing paramiliarities also.

Inside, Martin Bright diagnoses the Tories: 'Cuddly but not convincing'. The grotesque stereotypes are still there, but marginalised in favour of clearly far more attractive younger and ethnically diverse types. 'Watchnig the Tory party reaching out to the tired, poor, huddled masses of Britain is a surreal experience.' Bright argues that this discovery (rediscovery) of social justice and civil liberties isn't a sideshow, but it is a bolt-on, designed to reassure us that they aren't as brutal as we thought. But the Tories are starting to discover worries about being outflanked by Labour and being seen as (dread word) 'soft'. Bright sees a Labour strategy with Blair and Reid attacking them from the right, Brown flushing them out as 'old-style Thatcherites red in tooth and claw'. In rsponse the Tories will maintain a steady as she goes approach, maintaining silence on immigration, because they are already ahead on that issue. No need to go no about tax cuts, cos people already know. We'll see, but I've already seen a suggestion that one of the first things PM Brown would do is make tax cuts and how would the Tories react then? Bright's final conclusion: they're not attractive enough.

Meanwhile Liam Halligan points out that the US stock market is defying gravity, with levels back to the dotcom boom of 2000, despite all the evidence of ghastliness in the 'real economy'. Advice: stay away from US stocks, stay away from the dollar.

There's also a memoir of Suez by Anthony Howard.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Socialist Worker Oct 7th

Socialist Worker has a good agitational cover: 'Revealed - The Price of Replacing Trident. £76 BILLION. The real cost of Brown's new nukes'. And poses what could be done with that money. A moment of praise for getting the vital Brown connection in, it's getting ready for the future. And I'm pretty sure that I saw a rolled-up copy of this paper in one of the photos of the protest against Jack Straw and his views on talking to women wearing the veil in Blackburn, which the R4 news yesterday said had been organised by Respect and attracted 70 people. There's a web-only story about Jack Straw, calling for his resignation here.

On the theme of Respect, with Alan Thornett's revelations of how small the membership of Respect is now (just over 2100) in my mind, there's a nice little emphasis on Respect activities. There's a story about victories in Tower Hamlets against housing privatisations, showing connections between these campaigns and Respect. There's also a p14 column about Student Respect successes.

Other stories of interest include Charlie Kimber in the centre-pages writing about being 'Inside the Labour Bubble' at the Conference. Not that interesting, except for the emphasis on the way that arguments in and around the Labour Party are creating opportunities for an alternative to Labour, in particular that there Respect 'has a serious chance to grow' (but has he seen the membership statistics?) and comrade Kimber finishes with:
"The 50,000 who demonstrated outside the Labour conference before it began, and those who have taken part in similar mobilisations must discuss how to shape a political force outside Labour."
I love that must. Yes we must, but how? Never mind the expected exaggeration.

There's also a piece by 3 members of Sinistra Critica current in Rifondazione Comunista. They talk about a crisis in the Italian far-left and especially in the anti-war movement. After 3 million on the streets in February 2003 the protest was down to a 1000 demanding the withdrawal of Italian troops, provided by tiny unrepresentative groups in Rome (but the fall in Britain from 2 million to 35,000 should be recalled) and boycotted by trade unionists and RC. Tavola della Pace organised to support Italian participation in the UN force sent to Lebanon in August. There seems to be an argument in the antiwar movement, centred on a leftwing activist priest Alex Zanotelli and perhaps a regroupment to come; but the crisis also affects RC after it entrered the government and Fausto Bertinotti became leader of the lower house. RC is towing the government line. SC has organised internal opposition, but its leadership have drawn back from creating a crisis for the government over Italian troops in Afghanistan. The direction of this article is that a split with RC will be inevitaable; 'If not now, when'. Hmm, I wonder how far this view extends beyond supporters of the IST in RC.

There's a good history of Robin Hood by Judy Cox (drawing on her excellent pamphlet) emphasising the class revolt and subversive aspect of the story, but sadly missing out on the 1950s British TV version, famously a vehicle for exiles from American TV McCarthyism.

On the backpage SW records the 6.5m vote for Heloisa Helena in Brazil. Sean Purdy has criticisms of the P-Sol campaign, its moralism and emphasis on Heloisa's personal qualities. He finishes with the need for honest and democratic discussion of the campaign and 'democratic structures'. Hmm, wonder where else that could be applied!
(Oct 13th: additionally I've just seen theYouTube footage of Alan Thornett speaking as the fraternal international representative of Socialist Resistance at the SSP conference refering with much applause to this article and the SWP drawing lesson about charismatic leaders and whether this came from expeience north or south of the border. Ho ho. see

And finally, there's a letter from East London accusing Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas of saying British workers are being undercut by migrant workers, a dangerous game that can only benefit the BNP. Hmm.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Weekly Worker 642 Sept 28th 2006

This Weekly Worker breaks usual practice and has a cover devoted to something other than the far left: Tony Blair, 'Nine years of Blair'. This leads us to a centre-spread by Mike McNair devoted to a leftie booklet on 100 Years of Labour by LLB people Graham Bash and Andrew Fisher. McNair gives a good account of the booklet focussing on their debts to the Anderson-Nairn theory and an underestimation of the role of the 'old' CPGB as a precursor to stating the Weekly Worker line on uniting Marxists into a common party.

Elsewhere, Peter Manson reports on the Sept 23rd anti-war demo in Manchester. In contrast to the STWC/SWP count of 50-60,000 (but with a thing about participating at some point in the day), Manson says that from where he stood it took the demo 50 minutes to pass him and it wasn't going at 1,000 people a minute. Instead he plumps for a BBC estimate of 'up to 20,000'. I'm sticking to my 35,000. Manson does take issue with the STWC taking credit for Blair's premature departure (not as premature as promised!), while accepting that the (wider) 'movement' is responsible for forcing Blair to go and that STW has played a major part in maintaining anti-Blair sentiment. But his deeper criticisms are those of the CPGB line, that STW has been a political failure, emphasising broadness rather than political clarity. I'm not convinced, CPGB just providing a recipe for a much smaller and much more abstract movement. However the call for 'a realsitic assessment of the antiwar movement's strengths and weaknesses' is always welcome. I thought that the anti-war march was a political failure, which always poses the question, what next. Manson does also give an account of a bit of heckling by someone from the Worker-Communist Party of Iran. Nothing about the Sunday conference.

Graham Bash himself says 'Build support for McDonnell', which starts with John McDonnell making the speech of his life at the LRC fringe meeeting. McDonnell has to get the support of 44 MPs, but that formal campaign hasn't started. In the meantime he's running a grassroots campaign. Long way to go.

Chris Knight on 'The science of Marxism' is typically over-blown, but usefully poses a critique by Karl Wittfogel from 1953, which it seems cited partiinost from Lenin to Stalin to justify 'bending' science, falsifying data, to render it suitable for political use, but acquits Marx himself of this distortion. Knight's conclusion: a scientific revolution is validated in theory before passing the final test of practice. But there's another episode to come.

Ted North on Communist students : 'A good beginning' (for such a tiny group of people).

Simon Wells (nice young man expelled with little finesse or politics from the SWP as amply documented in Weekly Worker) on the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth, ends up a contrast between the (generally) unsatisfactory SWP approach and the need for a CP. Bless.