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What Lies Behind the Health Service 'Reforms'

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There is enormous opposition to New Labour's "reforms" of the health service. But there is not usually the same level of understanding of what lies behind them.

That is why conservative politicians can sometimes take the lead in local campaigns.

Health provision is important for the mass of people as an essential precondition for enjoying life. But capitalism looks at it in a very different way.

Capitalist ruling classes can only prosper by exploiting people's capacity to work - what Marx called "labour power". That capacity is damaged by illness, accidents and malnutrition. So bosses have to worry about keeping a fit and able body of workers - again, in Marx's terms, "reproducing labour power".

The Struggle for Intergalactic Socialism

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The desire to meet "higher lifeforms" is just another expression of enthusiasm for socialism from above - way above.

The space race is back, and Britain is ready to take its rightful place among the stars. Half a century after the government cancelled "Blue Streak", its ludicrously named rocket programme, the British National Space Centre - like NASA with more tea and less money - has announced a series of workshops to re-examine the possibility of putting a Briton in Outer Space. Science minister Malcolm Wicks has described space missions as "the great adventure of the millennium".

Identikit Hot

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How the media uses technology to create unrealistic images of women


"Our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure, passion isn't the point... Hotness has become our cultural currency, and a lot of people spend a lot of time and a lot of regular, green currency trying to acquire it. Hotness is not the same thing as beauty... Hot can mean popular. Hot can mean talked about. But when it pertains to women, hot means two things in particular: fuckable and saleable."

A Day to Remember

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The scale and methods of the Nazi genocide of Jewish people make it a politically unique event that deserves a special day of memorial.

My favourite book of the last year was Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. The two sections in the book were originally planned as the first of six interconnected stories based around the fall of France in 1940 during the Second World War and its consequences.

Nemirovsky never finished them - a French Jew, she was arrested, deported and died in Auschwitz. The books were only recently discovered and published to great and justified critical acclaim.

Torture Couture

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Post-9/11, there's a trend towards combining torture and pornography.



The blurry, pixelated images of a dead Saddam Hussein on the covers of our newspapers were just the latest evidence of the way the "war on terror" has helped produce and normalise a voyeuristic image culture of death and torture. It is an "aesthetics of terrorism" that has drawn on the darker corners of violence and pornography in US culture, and helped, in turn, to bring those formerly fringe values into the mainstream.

Why Opposing Imperialism Means Supporting Resistance

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Sometimes there are strange coincidences in history. One occurred last month. George Bush made an official visit to Vietnam just as leading figures in his own Republican Party were saying that the Iraq war had indeed turned into the new Vietnam. The US was in danger of a repeat of the ignominious defeat it suffered 31 years ago, and had to find a way of getting out of the morass.

In both cases US imperialism overstretched itself, stirred massive opposition both in the occupied country and throughout the world, and faced the prospect of defeat as a hammer blow to its capacity to get its way globally.

Minding their Language

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The attack on "political correctness" likes to masquerade as a defence of free speech. In reality it is an attempt to maintain elite privileges.

A few months ago I took part in a Question Time debate organised by the BBC at a school in Beckton, east London. That this school was in the top ten of a contest organised by the BBC was itself a remarkable achievement, since it was the only state school in the ten. Beckton is a poor area, whose population has benefited little from the regeneration of the Docklands area, and which stands to benefit little from the nearby Olympics.

Celebrating the Everyday as Radical Rap Goes Global

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When politicians want to confirm how magnificently out of touch they are with the real world, they'll make a comment about current music, probably hip-hop.

Some have complained that rappers are to blame for making teenagers violent, although surely if violence could be caused by music about violence, Tchaikovsky must have caused mayhem with his 1812 Overture. Nineteenth century Europe must have been awash with drive-by cannonings, and soldiers snarling "Prussian mothafuckah".

Even worse are those who try to embrace hip-hop, such as David Cameron, who you expect soon will tell us: "My shadow cabinet crew is well sick and ready to mash up Labour. You get me?"

Recipes for Disaster

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To blame unhealthy children on women is ignoring what the market has done to childcare and people‘s lives in the last two decades.

Talk about not having it all. Women are expected to work longer, but then get the blame when anything goes wrong with their kids.

According to the Economist, "The increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India."

Blaming the Victims

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What does a politician do when a war they started goes badly wrong? Pick a fight with those who have opposed it, of course.

George Bush tells us he's disappointed with progress in Iraq. How does he think the rest of us feel? The occupiers have now admitted they cannot control Baghdad or Basra. No wonder generals, former warmongers and even the politicians are now discussing withdrawal from Iraq. This is about much more than the US midterm elections, where Bush looks like he'll get a pasting. It is about a complete failure of strategy in the region, and the sudden realisation that things can only get worse.

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