Sabby Sagall

Laughing with Tony Hancock

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This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of 1968, that iconic year of struggle continues to provide inspiration in the fight for justice and equality. But there was also a sad anniversary: 2018 marked 50 years since the suicide of Tony Hancock, one of Britain’s best loved comedians, aged just 44.

At the height of his popularity 15 million people tuned into the radio programme, Hancock’s Half Hour, broadcast from 1954 to 1961, which doubled up as a television show from 1956.

The left case for remain

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Ian Taylor in September’s SR and Shaun Doherty in the October issue remind us that Brexit has unleashed a major crisis for the British ruling class and the Tories, caused by the anti-establishment vote to leave the EU.

But it has also created a major problem for the left and the forces of European anti-racism.

The EU is an unelected bureaucracy largely committed to neoliberal policies such as privatisation. In 2015 it hammered Greece with the imposition of austerity. It colluded with European governments that allowed hundreds of migrants to drown in the Mediterranean.

Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution

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During the latter part of the 19th century and first years of the 20th, the European country which witnessed the most severe antisemitism was not Germany but the Russian Empire. The Tsarist state police would regularly organise pogroms during which drunken Black Hundreds or Cossacks would attack Jewish villages, murdering Jews and destroying their property.

Music and the Russian Revolution

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The social and political turmoil surrounding the First World War and the wave of revolutions across Europe produced some of the most radical modernist music. Sabby Sagall outlines key figures in the movement and looks at debates among revolutionaries about "working class culture".

The carnage and brutality of the First World War had punctured the balloon of late 19th century optimism and established that the industrial and scientific progress of capitalism had not led to a world based on justice and reason but to unimaginable horror. Industrial cities had produced unprecedented wealth but also poverty and alienation hitherto unknown.

Once more on Zionism and antisemitism (1)

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The heart of John Rose’s argument (“Antisemitism and anti-Zionism today”, January SR) seems to me to be twofold: firstly, his emphasis on the need for dialogue between Israeli Jews and Palestinians as a precondition for resolution of the conflict. But secondly, it also raises the issue of the nature of Jewish cultural identity in a post-Zionist state of Palestine.

Alan Simpson (1929-2017)

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Alan Simpson (left) with co-writer Ray Galton (right) and Tony Hancock (centre)

Alan Simpson, who has died aged 87, was half of one of the most talented and socially-perceptive comedy-writing partnerships of post-war Britain. He and Ray Galton created two of Britain’s best-loved comedy series, Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

Alan Simpson was born in Brixton to a working class family, the son of a window-cleaner. He attended Mitcham grammar school but left early to work as a shipping clerk.

Livingstone & anti-Semitism

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Following on from my article on anti-Semitism in September’s SR, a few words on Ken Livingstone. The Independent of 6 September quotes him as saying, “It’s now four months since I’ve been suspended and I’m still waiting for the committee to sit down and decide whether what I said was true or not, and I think…the reason they keep putting me off is because I’ve got so much evidence that what I was saying is true.”

Labour, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

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Over the summer human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti reported on her investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Sabby Sagall looks at her findings, and at the continuing problem of conflating opposition to the crimes of the state of Israel with anti-Jewish racism.

Last April a row engulfed Ken Livingstone, former Labour mayor of London, and Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, following remarks they made about Israel and Zionism. They were suspended from the Labour Party, with Naz Shah having the parliamentary whip withdrawn. Shah has been reinstated, and though Livingstone has demanded that he too be reinstated, a decision has yet to be made by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee.

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