Dave Crouch

Flat Earth News

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Nick Davies, Chatto and Windus, £17.99

In the Dark Ages lepers were forced to ring a bell and shout "Unclean, unclean!" while both peasant and lord shunned an illness they didn't understand and couldn't cure.

Many on the left today take a similar line on the mainstream media. At the Heathrow camp for climate action last summer journalists had to carry a flag to identify themselves. For the editors of Media Lens, a website that harries the media from the left, media workers are "cogs in the machine of industrial killing".

Chechnya

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Tony Wood, Verso, £12.99

A small country is repeatedly invaded by a mighty nuclear power. It takes up arms against the invaders, framing its struggle in terms of Islam. The mighty power brands the resistance as terrorists while using massacres and atrocities to subdue them.

Is this Iraq? Afghanistan? No, it is Chechnya, the tiny Caucasus nation occupied by Russia.

The principled anti-imperialist position on this war ought to be a no-brainer. Yet still it divides the Western left.

Immigration: Do Immigrants Lower Wages?

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Increasingly both politicians and the media argue that immigrant workers lower wages. Dave Crouch explains how Marx's writing can help to see through these claims.

There is a common sense we all grow up with about how the economy is supposed to work. In theory, the deal between capital and labour is simple. Capitalists say to the workers, "You help us increase profits and we will reward you with higher wages. That way everyone wins."

The reality, however, is almost exactly the opposite. Across the industrialised world companies are enjoying an era of extraordinarily high profit growth. But, except for those at the very top of the income scale, pay rises are barely keeping up with inflation.

Left History: Rising from the East

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Dave Crouch looks at the role of the Communist Party in organising Jewish workers in London's East End from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Respect's electoral success in east London and Birmingham is not the first time the left has reached out to an oppressed minority in political turmoil. Phil Piratin's famous victory in 1945 to become Communist Party MP for the Mile End constituency took place in an area where Jewish immigrants made up between 40 and 50 percent of the population.

Net Activism

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I thought Liv Lewitschnik's review of Guardians of Power was too positive (SR, February).

MediaLens does do some valuable work exposing lies and disinformation, and forcing journalists to answer for their sins. But for MediaLens struggle seems to stop at sending e-mails.

Authors Cromwell and Edwards also slip into blaming all media workers for media bias. There is no mention of the trade unions in the book and the unions' role in fighting the corporate media from the inside.

Profiting from Poverty

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The strongest arguments for socialism are the simplest ones.

Capitalism can develop technology capable of putting human beings into orbit and getting them home again (just), but its best brains cannot work out how to meet the basic needs of people facing starvation in Niger and Malawi.

According to the logic of capitalism, it makes sense to spend over £6 billion a year on space exploration, but it really makes no sense at all to save lives in Africa.

Russia: Pensions Anger Marks Political Shift

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Mass protests by pensioners in Russia have forced major concessions from the Putin government.

From 1 January some 34 million pensioners and disabled people were stripped of state benefits such as free or subsidised transport and healthcare. Their benefits were replaced by a meagre cash sum with which they are now supposed to pay for services. Thousands of pensioners demonstrated in towns and cities the length and breadth of Russia, in places blocking traffic and taking on riot police. There were numerous fights between passengers and bus or tram conductors after pensioners were told to pay fares.

Dynamic Kiev

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Chris Harman's article on Ukraine's 'orange revolution' ('Neither Washington nor Moscow', December SR) rightly focused on the obnoxiousness of Viktor Yushchenko and his millionaire cronies. But I think there is more to be said about the movement itself.

First, there were plenty of workers on the protests. Oil workers, builders, teachers, civil servants, foresters, cleaners and engineers all took part.

Second, criticisms of Yushchenko weren't far below the surface. One student told a newspaper, 'If Yushchenko doesn't do what he has promised, people have now understood that we can and must fight the government and defend our rights.'

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