Chris Harman

Socialists in dispute

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Divisions within the left, such as that which has occurred in Respect, always have their basis in political disagreements. Socialists must always fight for their principles to take the movement forward.

Few things are so distressing for the socialist left as the bitter internal disputes marked by personal diatribes. Such disputes are not unique to the left. Witness the interminable rows within the Tory party, or the decade long feud within New Labour between bomber Tony Blair and bomber Gordon Brown. But the socialist left is based on principles very different from today's mainstream parties, and people expect better from it.

Rate of profit warning

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No one can predict whether the recent financial crises will develop into a proper recession.

Some have hailed China's economic expansion and the development of computer technology as potential saviours of the world economy - Karl Marx would have disagreed.

The mainstream economic commentators have all been revising their calculations since the monetary crisis caused by lending to "subprime mortgages" broke in August. Alan Greenspan of the US Federal Reserve Bank thinks the odds on a recession next year have risen to about 50-50, and the International Monetary Fund seems to at least half agree.

Artificial "human nature"

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We are encouraged to believe that capitalism is the natural and only way for people to live. But, unexpectedly, for all their faults, glimpses of other cultures in TV programmes like Tribe can show that there are alternative, more equitable ways of running society.

One thing on television irritates me nearly as much as Big Brother. It is those programmes in which someone goes to different parts of the world supposedly to throw light on some historical or political question by acting in a silly or joking way.

I watched an episode of the BBC series Tribe only because I could not face the rubbish on two dozen other channels. It was built on the "silly man" formula, with its presenter, Bruce Parry, putting on an inane grin as he dropped in for a couple of weeks on the people who live on the South Pacific island of Anuta.

The not so "weightless world"

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As many look to radical alternatives to the barbaric system of capital, the ideas of philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek have struck a chord. But beneath the surface of his post-Marxist arguments, do his ideas have the potential to change the world?

The Marxism 2007 festival held in London this summer showed that a new layer of activists are eager to debate ideas of how to change the world. Many are drawn to the ideas of people such as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who spoke at the festival.

Žižek is an entertaining speaker, using his personal idiosyncrasies to sometimes hilarious effect as he rejoices in provocations directed against mainstream liberal ideology.

The financial panic that never was

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As we go to press the financial panic that made the headlines across the world in August seems to have subsided.

The message now from many of those who panicked is that nothing was or is amiss. After all, they say, the panic was only in the financial sector, not "the real economy". But it was not so simple.

Building solidarity with Palestine

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Supporters of Israel want to undermine union support for the Palestinians. The left must be clear about imperialism's role in the region, and about how to maximise solidarity, writes Chris Harman.

A big debate has broken out after the annual congress of the lecturers' UCU union voted to hold discussions in branches around the country on how best to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. This has come just as the plight of the Palestinians has gone from bad to worse, with civil war between the elected Hamas administration which controls the Gaza Strip and the Fatah regime based in the West Bank.

Climate change and class conflict

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Global warming threatens all humanity, but fighting it requires more than individual action, reliance on government or dropping other concerns. Chris Harman explains.

In the past two years the question of climate change has moved from the margins of mainstream political debate to the centre. Hardly a week goes by without some international meeting discussing it. Politicians and corporations of all hues now declare their commitment to do something; even George Bush admits that there is a problem.

Sarkozy - Capital's Latest Helper

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The three main contenders for France's presidency last month were in agreement over one thing - the need for economic reform and increased accommodation for market forces.

But why are Europe's capitalists so desperate to embrace Nicolas Sarkozy's new vision of France?

The French presidential elections last month tell us something important about the condition of capitalism today. Virtually all mainstream commentators and politicians lined up to insist that France has to suffer a dose of "reform" - "neoliberal" measures such as increased working hours, cutbacks in social provision, "market testing" of jobs, privatisation and the slashing of employment rights.

Blair facts and Brown noses

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"The longest period of uninterrupted growth in the industrial history of our country." So claimed Gordon Brown in his budget speech. This supposedly miraculous economic record is one thing on which the Blairite and Brownite factions of New Labour agree. Except it simply is not true.

There was a far longer period of uninterrupted growth, lasting 25 years, from 1948 to 1973. It was also at a faster rate than we have known under New Labour. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain reported that "from 1949 to 1973, the UK economy grew at an average rate of 3.0 percent per annum." Growth has only been at an average of 2.3 percent since 2000, according to National Institute Economic Review (NIER) figures.

What Lies Behind the Health Service 'Reforms'

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There is enormous opposition to New Labour's "reforms" of the health service. But there is not usually the same level of understanding of what lies behind them.

That is why conservative politicians can sometimes take the lead in local campaigns.

Health provision is important for the mass of people as an essential precondition for enjoying life. But capitalism looks at it in a very different way.

Capitalist ruling classes can only prosper by exploiting people's capacity to work - what Marx called "labour power". That capacity is damaged by illness, accidents and malnutrition. So bosses have to worry about keeping a fit and able body of workers - again, in Marx's terms, "reproducing labour power".

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