Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vote Yes - Make Britain History



Ruling classes rarely like mass popular participation in any kind of political activity - it smells too much of real, direct democracy for them.  So news that 97% have registered to vote in the Scottish referendum is terrifying the British ruling class, raising as it does the all too real spectre of a 'Yes' vote for independence that not once of them had conceived as being possible just a month or so ago.  Now in desperation, David Cameron is urging ordinary people in England and Wales to engage with this political process and 'love bomb' Scots through social media etc to try and persuade them to do what he and his fellow politicians from the 'Better Together' campaign could not do - and vote to 'stay together', and so while I have not said anything really about Scottish independence to date I thought as a blogger I should now also say something about this question.   So this is for my thousands of Scottish readers, who have doubtless been patiently waiting and wondering to see what my thoughts on this question were before they arrived at their final position...

For Marxists, the question of Scottish independence is not an issue of principle (that needs to be raised at all times and in all places) but rather a tactical question - but in the current period and climate the case for agitating for a Yes Vote seems to be a no-brainer for any anti-imperialist, let alone a Marxist.  One only needs to see the unholy alliance of forces opposed to the break up of the British state - from the rulers of the American and Chinese empires, to champions of British imperialism old and new, to see why the majority of revolutionary socialists in Scotland have thrown themselves into the 'Yes' campaign, and they have played a small but significant role in making the rallying cry 'Another Scotland is Possible' one which has tapped into working class communities and ethnic minorities.  Just watching one of Tommy Sheridan's speeches for independence on You Tube - speeches which have attracted audiences of hundreds of people - gives a sense of the mood of hope and optimism in radical politics being fired up by the referendum.  What has been propelling the mass movement and campaign for Yes has been these aspirations of dreams long deferred among millions.

The chance to deliver a body blow to British imperial power by the closing of the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane is in itself reason enough to vote Yes - but a Yes vote would also throw Cameron's Tories into chaos and further infighting and have many other repercussions and reverberations that are impossible to predict as yet.  Though in itself, a Yes vote for Scottish independence cannot be the end of the story, given Alex Salmond and the SNP's cosy relationship with Scottish big business, NATO and the British Crown, such a vote on 18 September would enable the Left in Scotland to begin to make the kind of demands - such as nationalisation of banks and energy companies - that would make the idealism of 'Another Scotland is Possible' into reality - and find a mass popular audience for such a radical vision for the first time in decades.  This would give hope to trade unionists and socialists in England and Wales in the wider fight against austerity and the likes of Tories and UKIP.   So my 'love-bomb' to Scottish readers of Histomat goes something like this:  Yes to Independence, No to Nationalism - Fight for Socialism!

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The passion of Ed Miliband

SPEECH: Ed Miliband yesterday told an audience in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire that a Labour government was coming. Picture: Getty

Ed Miliband rarely shows any passion about anything - so to see him revealing his passionate desire to preserve the unity of the British imperialist state while giving a speech in Scotland warning against independence - came as a bit of a shock to the system.  It is a damning indictment of Miliband that he refuses to show 0.0001 percent of the same passion when it comes to supporting striking Care UK workers in his own constituency of Doncaster, which he refuses to do despite the fact these workers are victims of NHS privatisation, which Miliband is supposed to be passionately against...  perhaps the reason he shows such newly discovered passion about the Scottish referendum is because his own job as Labour leader will be threatened if Scottish people vote Yes?

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

John Newsinger on Owen Jones


Guardian columnist Owen Jones was recently described by comedian Russell Brand as 'Our generation's Orwell' in an endorsement for Jones's new bestselling book The Establishment. It is therefore perhaps only fitting that John Newsinger, author of Orwell's Politics and a general authority on Orwell was asked to review Jones's book in the latest Socialist Review. The review itself is well worth reading and a good analysis of Jones's politics - check it out here. My personal wish with respect for Owen Jones is for him to at some point explain to the rest of us exactly how he sees the transition to socialism coming about through Ed Miliband's Labour Party, given its history as - in the words of Ed's dad Ralph - being at best 'a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted' and Ralph Miliband's argument that 'the belief in the effective transformation of the Labour Party into an instrument of socialist policies is the most crippling of all illusions to which socialists in Britain have been prone' ...

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stand Up to UKIP's racist populism

After Tory MP Douglas Carswell defects to UKIP, the need for a mass anti-racist Stand Up to UKIP campaign could not be greater: 

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) made a  breakthrough in the European Parliamentary Elections in May 2014. It came first in the election, polling 28 percent of the vote. UKIP  are not the only right wing, racist, populist party to make gains in the European elections. Across Europe we have seen a rise of these type of parties and further gains for the fascists such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France.

The economic crisis, a rise in racism and Islamophobia, and the failure of mainstream parties to relate to ordinary voters has allowed the growth of the right. We will end up in a dangerous situation if mainstream parties do not challenge UKIP’s racism and scapegoating of immigrants but get pulled behind them.
UKIP is neither anti-establishment or of the people. Alongside its racism towards immigrants and its blatant homophobia are a raft of policies the benefit those in power. UKIP is funded by millionaires and has backed calls for even more cuts than the Tories are putting through, for tax cuts for the super-rich, and for full privatisation of the NHS.

UKIP likes to say it is the “people’s army” in opposition to the political elite in the mainstream parties. But it is a racist party that blames migrant workers for the problems in society it is acting as a shield for the bankers who are really responsible for the economic crisis.

Don’t be fooled by Farage’s racist populism, demonstrate outside UKIP’s policy conference.
Assemble: 12pm, Saturday 27 September 
Sir Nigel Gresley Square, Doncaster, Yorkshire.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Anti-racism is not to blame in Rotherham

The real factors behind the sex abuse scandal

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hands Up! Don't Shoot! Justice for Michael Brown!

No more racist police killings!
Assemble: 5:30pm, Wednesday 27 August.
US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ

Called by: Stand Up to Racism.
Supported by: Unite Against Fascism, Love Music Hate Racism, Stand Up to UKIP, United Friends and Family Campaign, Justice Campaigns, Marcia Rigg, 

On Saturday 9 August, unarmed, black teenager, Michael Brown<á> was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
People in the United States and around the world have rightly been outraged. Brown’s murder is the latest in a long line of killings by US police of black men. Five have been murdered in the past month alone. Protestors have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri every night since the incident demanding justice for Michael and an end to police killings. The Police response to the demonstrations has harked back to the days prior to the Civil Rights Movement. They have used tear gas, dogs, automatic weapons and armoured cars on demonstrators. Michael’s murder highlights the deeply racist nature of US society today, however, deaths in police custody are not limited to America. As we have seen in the cases of Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture, Sean Rigg, and Christopher Alder to name but a few.

Show solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, and the Ferguson demonstrators.
Join the demonstration outside the US Embassy in London to demand an end to racist, police killings.
Assemble: 5:30pm, Wednesday 27 August. US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ

Also: Join us at Notting Hill Carnival to raise the issue of racist police killings! 11am - 2pm, Monday 25 August, Westbourne Park tube station (look for our Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! signs)

#JusticeforMikeBrown #Ferguson #DontShootLDN

www.standuptoracism.org.uk  @AntiRacismDay tel: 0208 9717 426

Judith Orr reports for Socialist Worker at Michael Brown's funeral 

Ferguson Movement website

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Marxism and Trade Union Struggle


Marxism and Trade Union Struggle: The General Strike of 1926 (1986)by Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein is now online...

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

British solidarity with Palestinians

Gaza demonstration
150,000 rally for Gaza in London on 9 August 

London sees its biggest ever demonstration in support of Palestinians - on solidarity in Egypt, see also this piece 'The road to Jerusalem goes through the Arab capitals - and it's a two-way street' by Hossam El-Hamalawy in Cairo.  Even today in Leeds, amidst torrential weather conditions, despite the fact that the planned demonstration had been postponed to next week, I was able to take this picture of a few brave souls who had turned up anyway to say 'Free Palestine!' 

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Frank Rosengarten



I was very sorry to learn of the passing of Frank Rosengarten, a respected American scholar of Antonio Gramsci and C.L.R. James (he once wrote a great article exploring the similarities and differences between the two of them) , who I only had the good fortune to meet with twice.  I remember best my first meeting with him back in 2009 at a conference in Canada, and this was in the aftermath of my recently publishing a rather critical review of his latest book.  I was therefore in a bit of trepidation about us meeting, as why would a highly respected professor even want to meet a lowly PhD student who had just critiqued a book he had spent years researching and writing?  Yet after meeting and discussing my review of his book over a coffee, I was struck by his lack of rancour with me, which might well have been justified, and his complete lack of any arrogance or egotism whatsoever (sadly something sometimes in short supply among academic Marxists) and we were able to have a very fraternal and friendly discussion, even if the different Marxist political traditions we came from meant there was never exactly going to be any complete meeting of minds.  As others who knew him better have all attested, there was just something very warm and gentlemanly about him, and my sincere condolences to his family, friends, comrades.

Edited to add:  Details of Frank Rosengarten's memoir, Through Partisan Eyes: My Friendships, Literary Education, and Political Encounters in Italy (1956-2013). With Sidelights on My Experiences in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union:

Frank Rosengarten’s Through Partisan Eyes is a remarkably powerful antidote to the pervasive view of Italy as a museum. His memoir brings poignantly into relief a vibrant scene of intellectuals (in the capacious definition of the term that encompasses scholars, artists, and many others who help shape a society’s self-representation and its broader world view) grappling with urgent social and political issues of national and international import. From as far back as his graduate student years at Columbia University, through the decades he spent as a university professor, to his current activities as a remarkably productive independent scholar, Rosengarten’s thinking, research, and writing have always been ineluctably intertwined with a deep concern for social justice and what in today’s parlance one would term the plight of the subalterns. He has never adopted the stance of the scholar gazing at his/her object of study with aesthetic detachment or moral indifference — nor has he ever tried to. It is, precisely and paradoxically, because he views and engages the world around him “through partisan eyes” that Rosengarten’s recollections of and reflections on his life, career, friendships and encounters differ refreshingly and, often, strikingly from what one normally expects to find and frequently encounters in memoirs of scholars and academics. Whereas most Americans are drawn to Italy as a museum of past glories and masterpieces, for Rosengarten, the museum, the archive, the literary canon stimulate meditations on the living material situations and conditions of people hankering for social justice and equity.
Joseph A. Buttigieg, University of Notre Dame

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