Solidarity 255, 5 September 2012

Why socialists do what we do

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:03

What are we for? For what overall defining purpose do revolutionary socialist organisations labour to raise funds, recruit members, publish and sell literature, organise meetings, and so on?

The Australian socialist group Socialist Alternative tried to answer these questions directly in an article in its July 2012 issue, "The case for a revolutionary socialist party", by Diane Fieldes.

The effort deserves close attention. Socialist Alternative is now probably the strongest revolutionary socialist group in Australia; it used to be much smaller than the ISO (now Solidarity) or the Democratic

Italian miners' occupation forces concessions

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:29

On 26 August, at the end of their shift, 120 Sardinian miners, furnishing themselves with 350 kg of explosives, barricaded themselves 400 metres underground in one of the shafts of the CarboSulcis mine near the little centre of Nuraxi Figus on the Italian island.

They did so in protest and defiance at the refusal by Italy’s Minister of Development to permit the miners’ proposals for an alternative environmentally “clean” plant even to get on the agenda after a European ruling that production at the highly-polluting mine must cease.

The mine has been producing heavily-contaminating sulphur

Andy Burnham = Lansley-lite?

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:23

Labour’s front-bench health spokesperson, Andy Burnham made a pledge at the TUC rally in March this year that if he is health secretary when Labour are next in power he will repeal the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act, which became law in March 2012 and vastly increases privatisation and marketisation of the Health Service.

But the pledge is full of loopholes.

Most of the current cuts in the NHS were planned by Andy Burnham while he was Health Secretary. Burnham started off as Shadow Health Secretary by criticising Tory health minister Andrew Lansley for planning to increase health spending!

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:17

Workers at Sheffield’s five household recycling centres have recommenced industrial action after deeming management’s latest offer unacceptable.

The action, which aims to reverse cuts to the services’ budget and opening hours (leading to working hour and therefore pay cuts for workers), began earlier this year. 28 days of strikes by GMB members forced Sheffield Council and Veolia/SOVA (the private contractors which operate the centre) into negotiations over the cuts.

Affected staff at the sites have found themselves economically devastated by reductions in hours; since many of them are barely

Remploy workers launch week-long strike

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:09

Following a 100% vote in favour of strike action, pickets were out in force at the Remploy factory in Springburn (Glasgow) on Monday 3 September, the first day of a week-long strike. Remploy workers in Chesterfield were also out on strike.

Phil Brannan, who works in the Springburn factory and is GMB Remploy Shop Stewards Convenor (Scotland), explained the background to the strike to Solidarity:

“The strike in Springburn will be for four days because we work a four-day, 35-hour week here. But in Chesterfield they work a night shift as well, so the strike there will be for five days.

“The only

Edith Lanchester: A socialist pioneer against patriarchy

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:07

Edith Lanchester (1871-1966) was a British socialist and feminist.

She was born to a prosperous architect and grew up in Battersea, south London; she became a prominent activist in the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF).

By her mid-20s she was a schoolteacher, then worked as a secretary to Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx and a prominent activist in her own right.

In 1895 Lanchester caused a storm when she announced that, in protest against Britain's patriarchal marriage laws, she was going to cohabit with her lover, an Irish factory worker, James Sullivan. Her socialist feminist

Soweto Blues

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 12:00

Miriam Makeba's song Soweto Blues, written by her ex-husband Hugh Masekela, is a lament for the victims of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa.

On 16 June, police fired on demonstrations led by high-school students protesting the ban on non-Afrikaans languages. Over 200 protestors were killed and many more were injured. The song's use of the language of black South Africans is itself an act of defiance.

More than thirty years since the massacre at Soweto, the post-Apartheid South African state was complicit in another massacre, as platinum miners striking for decent pay and conditions

Labour: restore the NHS!

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:24

The NHS Liaison Network, which advocates for and seeks to organise coordination between all pro-NHS campaigns, has organised a lobby of the Labour Party conference on Sunday 30 September — from 2.30pm at Peter Street, Manchester.

The protest is supported by, among others, Unite Northwest Region, Keep Our NHS Public London and the Labour Representation Committee.

It will demand that Labour commit to restoring the Health Service as a public service. It is necessary because all we have from the Labour leaders at present is a promise to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (accompanied by

Too British? Too Russian? Too German?

Published on: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:20

At Ideas for Freedom 2012, Paul Hampton from Workers’ Liberty gave an instructive talk on the question “Is Marxism Eurocentric?”

The debate called to mind a controversy which raged in this country in the 1920s following the publication of Trotsky’s Whither England? in 1925. A slew of critics, ranging from the Independent Labour Party’s H N Brailsford to the philosopher Bertrand Russell, upbraided Trotsky for his alleged lack of knowledge and understanding of British conditions. Some went further, arguing that the theory and practice of Bolshevism was merely an untenable generalisation from

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