A new movement for system change

Malcolm X famously said, ‘you can’t have capitalism without racism’. Assessing the new upsurge in the #Black Lives Matter movement, HANNAH SELL argues that fighting racism does mean a fight to replace capitalism with a new society, socialism.

The brutal police murder of George Floyd has ignited a massive #Black Lives Matter movement, first in the US and now globally. This is not the first global wave of demonstrations in recent years – #BLM first spread worldwide in 2014, as did the women’s marches after Trump’s election. We have also seen a huge global wave of protests on climate change.

The current movement, however, has important characteristics that mark it out as being on a different level than what came before. It has a broader reach. The Washington Post, for example, reports that there have been far more demonstrations in the US than the previously unprecedented 650 women’s marches that took place in 2016. In addition to the big cities, protests have taken place in even the smallest towns, including in places in the south with recent histories of white supremacist activity.

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The origins of racism

The following article was first published in 1994 in the August-September edition, No.58, of Militant International Review, the predecessor magazine of Socialism Today. The author was ANDREA ENISUOH, who in 1989 had become the first black woman elected to the National Union of Students national executive committee – as a proud Militant supporter. Andrea sadly died in February this year, at the far too early age of 49.

The early 1990s have seen the issue of race and nationality to the fore in both political and social life. The last few years have been marked by the growth of racism, the re-emergence of fascist parties on a Europe-wide scale, and the development of nationalist wars.

Equally significant, however, has been the development of a fightback against racism and fascism. Many young people in particular, repulsed by increasing racial attacks and murders, are joining the anti-fascist movement.

Yet while the far-right have provided some focus for anti-racist activity they remain a small factor in the development of racism in society. The racist sentiments that the fascists and far-right have been able to play on have to varying extents already existed in many white communities. Far more than any of their more overtly anti-working class policies it is racist rhetoric that has provided them with a platform. While not being the direct cause of racism in society they have used the growth of racism to their advantage.

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A new era has begun

TONY SAUNOIS, secretary of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), argues that the covid pandemic has inaugurated a new historical period of capitalist crises and class struggle.

The words of WB Yeats in his poem Easter1916 sum up the current world situation: “All is changed, changed utterly”. Fundamental changes are taking place in the world economy, geo-political relations, and in the colossal polarisation between the classes on a global scale, opening up a new era.

All of the trends we see developing today were present prior to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. However, they have been razor-sharpened and accelerated at lightning speed. All of the consequences of the dramatic upheavals taking place are not yet fully clear. However, it is certain that capitalism will not be able to go back to the pre-corona situation, much less the situation which existed before the financial crisis of 2007-08.

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China’s global ambition

CLARE DOYLE reviews a comprehensive account of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and argues that the project is another form of imperialist expansionism.

Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order

By Bruno Maçães

Published by C Hurst & Co, 2020 (pbk), £11-99

“China’s Belt and Road strategy is acknowledged to be the most important geopolitical initiative of the age”, write the publishers of this fascinating book by Bruno Maçães. “It symbolises a new phase in China’s ambitions as a superpower: to remake the world economy and crown Beijing as the new centre of capitalism and globalisation”.

In page after page of detail, the author leaves the reader in no doubt that China is in effect attempting to carry out a massive and meticulously calculated, high-speed, planned form of imperialist expansion that indeed rivals the growth of US, European and Japanese imperialisms over past centuries.

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Global Warning: Covid lessons for the climate crisis

The covid crisis has once again revealed the incapacity of capitalism to meet society’s needs. The former assistant general secretary of the PCS civil servants’ union, CHRIS BAUGH, who during his term of office held responsibility for developing the union’s policies for combating climate change, draws some lessons for the climate struggle.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold at a point in human history when we face the existential threat of climate change. The scientific evidence available tells us we are in a race against time in limiting the impact and without decisive action this could have incalculable consequences for human life on the planet.

The shutdown of production in all the major economies due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to an estimated 20 percent reduction in global greenhouse emissions. As the lockdown is ended, however, it is expected that greenhouse emissions will return to their previous dangerous levels, showing that simply reducing production is not a solution. This article argues the potential for developing alternative socially useful forms of production. To avert climactic disaster, this will need to form part of a political struggle for system change based on socialist planning using the latest smart technology with new and democratic forms of workers’ and community control and self-management.

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The rotten reality of US capitalism

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America

By Chris Arnade

Published by Sentinel, 2019, £25

Reviewed by Peter Taaffe

This book is a stunning achievement by US photojournalist Chris Arnade. It was written and published in advance of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent magnificent movement ignited by the racist brutality of the US police. However, to a great extent this book anticipated the devastating fallout from Covid-19, particularly in the US, because of the rotting of US capitalism which it records in detail.

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Lessons from the Corbyn experience

HANNAH SELL introduces this special edition of Socialism Today, which draws together a selection of articles from 2015 on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party leadership and the lessons from it for the ongoing struggle to achieve mass, working class socialist political representation.

The lives of billions around the globe have been turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis with, for many, no prospect of a return to how it was before. The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have enormously exacerbated and deepened the economic crisis that was already on the horizon. Working class people face a new era of mass unemployment, pay cuts and attacks on working conditions as capitalism enters its steepest slowdown since the 1930s.

In an immediate response to this prospect trade union membership has soared in Britain, as many workers look to collective organisation as a means to defend their interests. There has not as yet, however, been any equivalent turn to a collective political alternative. The Labour Party has not seen any noticeable surge of new members. On the contrary, a significant layer have torn up their party cards, angry at the triumph of the preferred candidate of the capitalist class, Keir Starmer, in the 2020 contest to replace Corbyn. Clearly Labour under Starmer is not seen as a potential bulwark against the coming storms. Nor is there any other party in the running to play that role on a mass scale. Does this leave workers fatally unprepared for what lies ahead?

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The Corbyn insurgency

The 2015 Labour Party leadership election ballot ran from August 14 to September 10, with the result declared at a special conference on September 12. The following article is the editorial carried in the September 2015 edition of Socialism Today, issue No.191.

This edition of Socialism Today goes to press three weeks before the result of the Labour Party leadership election is announced. But whatever the outcome of the contest, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has already transformed the political situation in Britain. Public ownership, a free education system, trade union rights, councils resisting the cuts and not implementing them, all are once again up for discussion. And although explicit references to it have been muted in the campaign, even the S-word itself – socialism – is now back in ‘mainstream’ political debate.

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The Get Corbyn plot and how to combat it

Immediately after Jeremy Corbyn’s victory the right began to organise to unseat him. In an article first published in Socialism Today No.193, November 2015, CLIVE HEEMSKERK argued that the likelihood the coming struggle could pose the need for a new party would have to be discussed.

Inherent in a revolution is the prospect of counter-revolution developing in its aftermath, as the forces of the old order test out the possibilities of regaining power. And the blow at the capitalist establishment that was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership insurgency is no different. A systematic campaign is under way to restore what can be salvaged of the status quo ante by the pro-capitalist forces – ‘establishment Labour’ – which still dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), council Labour Groups, and the Labour Party officialdom, both nationally and, in most cases, locally too.

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No retreat on resisting council cuts!

In late December 2015 Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell issued a circular letter to council Labour groups. In an article first published in The Socialist, issue No.883, 6 January 2016, CLIVE HEEMSKERK warned against any hint of colluding in new rounds of cuts to local council services and jobs.

A week before Christmas, on the last day of parliamentary business in 2015, the Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced the 2016-17 local finance settlement, listing the exact amount of national funding each council will receive for the next financial year. This filled out the details, at least for the coming year, of George Osborne’s plan revealed in the November comprehensive spending review for a further four years of draconian austerity for local public services.

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