Ian Taylor

October 1917

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Books marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution are not in short supply. But this is among the few to praise the revolution rather than seek to bury it.

American Marxist Paul Le Blanc provides an introduction to the collection of articles with an overview of eyewitness accounts and interpretations by historians with varying degrees of sympathy, mostly none.

Black Ops Advertising

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The internet is “nothing more than a purveyor of sales messages”, says Mara Einstein. “Your phone is an advertising medium” and social media “less about community than commerce”, and she is right.

Little wonder that Facebook’s former head of data, Jeff Hammerbacher, complained, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

Postcapitalism

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It is not often a TV news reporter writes a book espousing Marxist economics, explaining the labour theory of value and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and suggesting the transition from feudalism to capitalism points the way to the end of capitalism. So there is good reason to look kindly on Postcapitalism.

But author Paul Mason does not foresee a socialist transformation of society. This is the first of many problems with a book that is in some ways fine but in others exasperating.

Private Island

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A £50 billion high-speed rail line built and run by private firms and the sale of — extension of “Right to Buy” to — 1.3 million social housing properties are key parts of the new Tory programme.

Barely anyone in parliament batted an eyelid when the plans were laid out at the end of May. The wholesale intrusion of profiteering into public service has long since engulfed Labour even when the leadership is up for grabs.

Resisting the outsourcing giants

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Has the outsourcing of groups of workers limited their ability to fight back? Ian Taylor looks at recent strikes that challenge this claim, while Kevin Devine looks at the growth of outsourcing.

Outsourcing need not end workers' power to resist their employer. Strikes by three groups in the last three months - cleaners at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, ancillary workers at Ealing Hospital, London, and Care UK workers in Doncaster - make that clear.

Cleaners at SOAS won improved holidays, sick pay and pensions after taking on multinational ISS, one of the world's biggest employers.

The group of mainly migrant workers struck for three days in March after a long campaign for parity with in-house workers.

The politics of Tony Benn

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Ian Taylor looks at the life and politics of one of the most important and iconic figures of the post-war Labour left

It is difficult to imagine the British labour movement without Tony Benn. All on the left will miss him and the simple arguments he put for socialism. The man once demonised by the press as "the most dangerous in Britain" was declared a "national treasure" at the end. But the abiding animosity towards him shone through some obituaries.

Miliband's balancing act: Labour and the unions

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Following a row about Unite's role in the selection of Labour parliamentary candidates, Ed Miliband announced a special conference to re-examine Labour's relationship with the unions. Ian Taylor looks at the tensions between Labour and the unions but also the forces that push them together.

A Labour party special conference in March will review how unions fund the party and, by extension, the link between the two. At least, that is what Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged last July to the delight of New Labour acolytes and Blairite former ministers.

Miliband announced the review in the wake of allegations of malpractice by members of Unite in the selection of a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk. It was a decision Miliband appeared to be bounced into at the time. But there seemed little ambiguity when the Labour leader declared himself "incredibly angry".

Hillsborough: truth, now justice

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Seldom does the struggle for justice intrude on, let alone dominate, media sports coverage, but the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel did.

The facts can be briefly stated: 96 Liverpool fans died, crushed behind steel fences at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium. Many died from asphyxia where they stood. The list of victims reads like a war memorial with 37 teenagers, 60 under 25.

Most football grounds then had high fences barring pitch access and more fences cordoning off terrace enclosures. Hillsborough was a regular venue for semi-finals and a regular scene of potential disaster. A crush in 1981 left 38 injured. There was serious overcrowding in 1987 and a crush again in 1988.

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