John Newsinger

The Norman joke

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The death of billionaire landowner and Duke of Westminster George Grosvenor was announced on 10 August. John Newsinger reminds us where the wealth of such parasites came from in the first place.

The sad death of George Cavendish Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, has left the nation – or at least Prince Charles – distraught.

He leaves an estimated fortune of £9.35 billion (a billion down since Brexit) upon which the family is expected to pay absolutely minimal death duties. One could almost say that the British tax system seems to have been designed around the principle of rich toffs like Grosvenor having to pay as little as possible whether alive or dead.

The Racket

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“A class war is being fought and the poor are losing.” Any book that acknowledges this harsh reality is worth a look.

The author, a former Financial Times journalist, goes on to write about how the “countervailing powers, such as strong organised labor groups, that previously had some check on business power have been eroded and fractured” and how today big business can, “like never before, write laws, weaken and destroy labor rights and the environment and control the media”. “The Racket”, as he calls it, is, at least for the moment, calling the shots.

Left leaders before Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn is not the first leader of the Labour Party to have supported strikes and opposed war. Keir Hardie, who had himself been victimised for trade union activity, had a record of supporting workers in struggle and condemning government repression. In 1911 Hardie had written a devastating indictment of the Liberal government’s repression in Wales, Killing No Murder, condemning the shooting dead of two workers by troops.

Cameron's Saudi friends

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Why do British governments grovel to the Saudi royal family? Is it because of our “shared values”, as the New Labour minister Kim Howells famously put it, or is it because they stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain and the United States in the Great War on Terror as various senior Tories continually insist?

Obviously neither of these claims is true. The real reason is shown quite dramatically by British arms sales to the Saudis. Over a three-month period towards the end of last year British arms sales grew from £9 million to more than £1 billion.

Be fair to Greens' Caroline Lucas

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Just one point with regard to Shaun Doherty’s excellent article, “On Corbyn’s Side for the Wider Left” in last month’s SR. His criticism of Green MP Caroline Lucas was unfair.

On 7 January she was one of the speakers at a very successful Stop the War meeting attended by getting on for 200 people in Brighton. She made absolutely clear not only her opposition to the bombing of Syria but also her regret at the way her resignation as a patron of national Stop the War had been used as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

War Against the People

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An Israeli security company, International Security and Defence Systems (ISDS) — with the very active support of the Israeli government — was brought in to advise the Brazilian government on security measures during the 2014 World Cup and this year’s Olympic Games.

On its advice, in 2010 a large contract was awarded to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for drones, electric fences, ground radar, sensors and satellite technology.

The rehabilitation of Rupert M

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Rupert Murdoch has emerged virtually unscathed from the phone hacking scandal, which some naive optimists hoped might actually bring his empire down. This much has been clear for some time, but it was made public on 21 December when David Cameron, George Osborne and half of the rest of the cabinet attended a Christmas drinks party at Murdoch’s London flat. The Conservative government was collectively acknowledging Murdoch’s rehabilitation.

Southern Insurgency

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Many years ago there were those on the left who argued that the working class in the US, Japan and Europe had to be written off politically and that the agency of revolutionary change was now the peasantry in what was then called the Third World.

These people invariably also wrote off the working class in the Third World as a labour aristocracy. Most but not all of the adherents to this position were Maoists of some kind.

With this book we can see that this species of left politics has mutated. The working class in the US, Japan and Europe is still written off.

The privatisation of military power

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Over the past 15 years a creeping process of outsourcing has been taking place inside the military. John Newsinger argues that the use of mercenaries and contractors undermines democracy.

The Iraq war will be seen as a turning point in the history of warfare. Not because of the illegality of the invasion or the unprecedented incompetence of the occupation, important though these were, but because it was the first modern public-private war.

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