Martin Smith

Economic crisis and job losses: who's to blame?

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Nationalism is always a dead end for the working class movement, argues Martin Smith, after the wildcat strikes that demanded "British jobs for British workers"

Two things became abundantly clear when standing on the picket line outside the Lindsey oil refinery in Immingham. It was the second day of the wildcat strike and for the first time since the economic crisis started there was a whiff of the class struggle we have witnessed across the Channel in Europe.

The Specials - so much, so young

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In 1981 Britain was in a state of crisis: 2.5 million people were unemployed and Margaret Thatcher's government was deeply unpopular.

In April of that year the police introduced a stop and search policy in Brixton, named Operation Swamp. In just six days 943 people - most of them black - were stopped and searched by plainclothes officers. This led to the Brixton riot - an uprising against racist brutality and poverty.

On 10 July the country just exploded with wave after wave of rioting. In the midst of the turmoil The Specials released "Ghost Town". It hit number one. Can any other record claim to have captured the spirit of its age so acutely?

Forward Groove

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Chris Searle, Northway Publications, £14.99

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to interview Rashid Ali, the legendary drummer and one time collaborator with John Coltrane.

He told me, "They were trying times in the 1960s. We had the civil rights thing going on; we had King; we had the Panthers. There was so much diversity happening. People were screaming for their rights and wanting to be equal, be free. Naturally our music reflected that whole period."

Class, food and poverty

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You won't be surprised to know that I don't have much in common with Jamie Oliver.

He, after all, is an internationally renowned chef, while my cooking skills are so bad that on occasions I have been known to burn water. He has a media fortune estimated to be worth a cool £25 million, while according to the latest correspondence from my bank I am part of its toxic debt.

All art for the masses

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I'm in trouble with some readers of this magazine. It all stems from my column about dance in the last issue. Several people have objected to me writing about dance and "bourgeois" institutions like Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House.

In this month's letters page one reader complains that this is "art for rich people and says absolutely nothing about the world I live in".

This is not a new debate. The argument surrounding so-called "high culture" and "popular culture" has raged for decades. The Proletkult movement that arose after the 1917 Russian Revolution proclaimed, "In the name of our future we are burning Raphael, destroying the museums and trampling on the flowers of art."

Shaolins and tap dancing

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Artistic collaborations promise so much, but so often fail.

Who could forget filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's teaming up with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in the turkey Eyes Wide Shut? Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder singing "Ebony and Ivory" also springs to mind.

Sutra is a different kind of collaboration altogether. It brings together Buddhist warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple in China, British sculptor Anthony Gormley, Moroccan/Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Polish composer Szymon Brzóska.

New challenges for anti-fascism

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Along with every great success come new challenges. That will be the case for Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR).

By any measure, the 2008 LMHR carnival was a great success. It celebrated London's multicultural spirit. Around 100,000 mainly young people soaked up its political message of opposing racism and the Nazi BNP. And that message got out far and wide.

Don Letts' documentary on the carnival was shown on Channel 4. Every major newspaper and magazine gave it glowing reviews, except for the New Statesman. Its journalist, Daniel Trilling, argued that the festival was too corporate.

Scenes of real America

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In their quest to see some of the best views of San Francisco, tourists dive into the lift that takes them to the top of the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and rush past a foyer full of beautiful murals and a wooden panelled door enclosed by frescos: Ray Boynton's Animal Force and Machine Force. It's a real shame, because behind the door lies a series of murals that line the concrete stairwell to the top.

They were financed by the Public Works of Art Project. This artistic project was set up in the 1930s Depression era. Part of US president Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal programme, the project was one of many that gave work to unemployed artists.

Challenging the whitewash: ruling class stereotypes of workers

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The recent BBC White Season painted a bleak picture of the white working class in Britain today as bigoted and broken. Martin Smith argues that these stereotypes are encouraged by politicians and the media to divide us and are far from the experiences of working people's real lives.

The white working class is an embittered minority: racist, bigoted, broken and fragmented. That was the view of several programmes in the recent BBC television series The White Season. The problem, according to the programme makers, is that the white working class has lost its identity due to the impact of de-industrialisation and immigration. Richard Klein, the commissioning editor of the White Season, went further, saying "I feel that the white working class has been ignored by the political classes because they feel the pressure of political correctness."

Terence Blanchard - full interview

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Terence Blanchard's latest album, A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), is about the abandonment of the people of New Orleans by the Bush administration. Here the composer, saxophonist and film-score writer speaks to Martin Smith about his new music, the US government and working with Spike Lee.

What made you record the album?

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