John Newsinger

Speaking for Myself

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Cherie Blair, Little, Brown, £18.99

The relentless harrying of Neil Kinnock by the Murdoch press at the time of the 1992 general election outraged Labour Party people, among them Cherie Blair. This was when the Sun proudly boasted that its continual ridicule and abuse of the Labour leader had won the election for the Tories. Indeed, Cherie's anger was such that the Murdoch papers were banned from the Blair household.

The uprising of the 30,000

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Migrant workers have historically found it difficult to organise and fight. John Newsinger writes of a furious strike over conditions in New York, 1909, waged by newly organised migrant women garment workers who fought bitterly to the brink of victory, despite hired thugs and conservative union leaders

The Local 25 branch of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) had some 2,000 members working in the shirtwaist trade in 1909. They were mainly young Jewish women, immigrants from Tsarist Russia. On the evening of 22 November the branch organised a mass rally at New York's Cooper Union hall. The turnout took the organisers completely by surprise. Thousands came, both union members and non-members, and overspill meetings had to be arranged hastily in another half a dozen halls.

Class war at Christmas

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A Woody Guthrie song commemorates the heroic attempts by Michigan copper miners to achieve union recognition in 1913. The bosses resorted to any murderous means they could and in one incident 62 children were crushed to death. John Newsinger looks at how class war was waged in the US.

Take a trip with me in 1913
To Calumet, Michigan in the copper country
I'll take you to a place called the Italian Hall
And the miners are having their big Christmas ball

Woody Guthrie, The 1913 Massacre

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

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At a time when Gordon Brown is cynically taking up the cause of Darfur in a vain attempt to find some moral high ground for New Labour to occupy, it is worth remembering the British Empire's record in the same region.

According to Piers Brendon in his new history of the empire, "British punitive expeditions in the Sudan were even more brutal than those in Kenya, at times amounting almost to genocide. Certainly, as one district officer acknowledged, they produced a crop of 'regular Congo atrocities'."

A great British tradition

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Government spin on the role of British forces around the world portrays them as gallant beret-wearing chaps just trying to help. Writer and anti-war activist John Newsinger recalls the events of the Great Indian Rebellion 150 years ago this month, which show how far this is from the truth

The British Empire has always responded to any resistance to its rule with ferocious repression. In 1857 the Great Indian Rebellion posed a massive challenge to the British Empire. It was suppressed with unprecedented brutality. The British adopted a policy of "no prisoners", a policy which was enforced by means of massacre and mass executions. One officer, Thomas Lowe, later remembered how on one occasion his unit had taken 76 prisoners (they were just too tired to carry on killing and needed a rest, he recalled).

The Road to the Rising

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Review of 'Radical Politics in Modern Ireland', David Lynch, Irish Academic Press £30

James Connolly is best remembered for his leading role in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and his subsequent execution, strapped to a chair, by a British firing squad. He had, however, considerable experience of the socialist and trade union movements in Britain, the US and Ireland going back to the previous century. David Lynch's fine book is a detailed study of the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP) between 1896 and 1904, which occupied a crucial phase of Connolly's early career.

Drawing Inspiration from History

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Review of 'The Struggle for Dignity', editors John Mcllroy, Alan Campbell and Keith Gildart, University of Wales Press £45

The General Strike of May 1926 occupies a central place in the history of the 20th century labour movement. The rallying of trade unionists throughout the country to the cause of the miners is rightly celebrated as a demonstration of the potential strength of the working class. The fact that support for the strike was growing day by day makes the TUC leadership's sell-out all the more shameful. Their surrender not only left the miners isolated, but also left thousands of their own members victimised by employers, who could hardly believe their luck.


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