Alan Gibson

Fortunes from the Triangular Trade

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Among the events Karl Marx identified as signalling the “rosey dawn of the era of capitalist production” was “the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins.” From the day John Hawkins sailed in October 1562 from Sierra Leone with some 400 procured slaves bound for Hispaniola, British traders made huge fortunes from such hunting.
Even greater profits were to be made from the Triangular Trade that developed between the west coast of Africa, the Caribbean and major British ports.

The Lost Decade, 2000-2010, and What Lies Ahead for Britain

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Welcome to Polly Toynbee’s unremittingly grey Britain. Of course, there are very many elements of truth to the picture she and her co-author David Walker paint in this book about a decade of Tory rule, all of which will be familiar to readers of this magazine.

This is a compendium of reminders of just how much the Tories have lied, attacked the most vulnerable, overseen a huge rise in homelessness, poverty, inequality and rotten, badly paid jobs, used racism to divide and so on.

The failures of the war on drugs

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Jim Barlow’s article “Tackling drug dependency” (January SR) revealed how damaging the government’s War on Drugs is. Its refusal to countenance the Scottish government’s proposal for safe places for those dependent on drugs to inject and dispose of needles will condemn more and more of the most vulnerable to dreadful ill health and early death.

Insurgent Empire

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This book is a very important contribution to the history of anti-imperialism and racism in the UK. Priyamvada Gopal first tells the stories of several white colonialists who, as a result of the brutality of imperial rule that they witnessed, became convinced that it should be either radically reformed or ended.

The letters and the reports they either sent or brought back to Britain circulated among a growing number of anti-imperialists to become an important current that subsequently formed the basis of anti-imperialist campaigns up to the present day.

Election briefing: Freedom of movement

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The terrible deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants last month once again brought to the fore just how murderous are the government’s anti-migrant policies. They are policies that have seen scores of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani and others having endure untold miseries — sometimes ending in severe injury and even death — in their attempts to reach this country, as witnessed in the dreadful scenes around Calais and northern France and, indeed, across the continent.

Irish nurses picket for pay

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Around 35,000 Irish health workers walked out of and picketed hospitals and clinics across the republic at the end of last month over pay and conditions.

Nurses and midwives are demanding a 12 percent increase in pay and improved conditions in a programme of action set to last two weeks.

In response, the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has claimed spending on Brexit preparations prevents him from ceding to their demands.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says its members are working longer hours and receiving less pay than than they were in 2008.

Yellow Vests up the stakes

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A general strike of French trade unionists alongside further Yellow Vest protests at the beginning of February was set to up the pressure on president Emmanuel Macron to stop expenditure cuts, privatisation and a tax system weighted against the poor.

The continuing movement is also demanding significant wage increases and the right to protest without the fear of police violence; a factor that has seen, since the movement began last November, the police badly injure more than 2,000 protesters.

Labour should take a lead against Tories

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A general election now is the best response to the Tories’ crisis, so it’s unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn and his close allies did not clearly make that call as soon as Theresa May delivered the draft treaty.

They are entangled in a row with Labour Party right wingers and many of the country’s major trade union leaders about the EU, and the call for a “people’s vote”.

However, John McDonnell did go on to call for a general election, and socialists must get behind that call and campaign to oust the Tories.

Tories can’t square the circle of Brexit

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The front cover of September’s Socialist Review asked, “Are the Tories heading for the rocks?” This month came the answer: a resounding yes.

While Theresa May seems to have seen off the initial rebellion against her draft withdrawal treaty from the EU, the Tories’ decades-long row over Britain’s membership of the EU could blow up at any time over the next few weeks, toppling May and crippling the government.

Nae Pasaran!

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This is an inspiring documentary about one of the high points of Scottish trade unionism. It follows four former Rolls Royce engineers who, in 1974, some six months after Pinochet’s bloody coup against the Allende government in Chile, led a campaign to “black” — stop all maintenance work — on the engines of Hawker Hunter jets flown by the Chilean air force.

Four engines ended up in crates at the back of Rolls Royce’s plant in East Kilbride for four years before they mysteriously disappeared.

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