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What do socialists say about free speech?

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What Socialists say about free expression

The question is not an abstract one—the question comes to the fore in debates about anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and the Labour Party, about “no platforming” on university campuses, and about trans rights. A one-size-fits-all answer has to be avoided—concrete circumstances demand concrete answers.

That is because the right to free speech is more complicated than might appear at first sight. For one thing, despite it supposedly being a universal right, the only people who can really exercise it are those who wield power —particularly, the media moguls.

Lenin’s revolutionary ideas are more vital than ever

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As we celebrate 150 years since the birth of the Russian revolutionary leader, Socialist Review outlines his core beliefs, and defends his legacy from the liberal critics and the right wing.

It is still usual in certain circles to treat Lenin as the father of Stalinism. This is as true of the libertarian left as of the liberal right. Yet those who met Lenin in the early years of revolutionary Russia paint a completely different picture of the Bolshevik leader.

One of them was them was the French syndicalist Alfred Rosmer. Contact with Lenin and Lenin’s ideas converted him to Bolshevik ideas, which he adhered to for the rest of his life, although he denounced Stalinism from 1924 onwards and came to believe that Russia was state capitalist.

Everything will change

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Socialist Review spoke to Giovanna Moretti, a Sicilian doctor, who has been living amid the coronavirus in Italy for a month.

Socialist Review: Tell us about this tragedy that has been shaking Italy for more than a month.

Giovanna Moretti: The time of the interview, there are about 35,000 positive people mainly in Northern Italy in Lombardy and the city of Bergamo is paying the highest price. But the virus has now spread to Liguria and Emilia Romagna.

In Bergamo, the most affected province in Italy, the coffins are transported by military trucks. It is heartbreaking. Patients die alone. Sometimes after a video call to family members.

Covid-19 is decimating poor, elderly and vulnerable

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Malnutrition and poor health combined with the toxic impact of welfare cuts, run down health services and years of austerity has left many people at the mercy of pandemics.

The struggle between an abstracted version of nature and science is not what determines the health of global populations and it never has been. The nature we have is the one which has developed in its relationship with global capitalism. The threats nature now poses result from the multi-faceted failure of that relationship —the metabolic rift—which the current pandemic illustrates by its global attack on our health.

Miss World 1970: Our aim was to stop the spectacle

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New film Misbehaviour, out this month, dramatises the protest at Miss World 1970. Jo Robinson, a participant, tells what happened on the night.

‘The lightning rod was that we all went to the first ever Women’s Liberation Conference in Oxford [in February 1970]. It was amazing. Sheila Rowbotham spoke, men ran a crèche. There were over 500 women – we couldn’t all fit in.
It was exciting because people were speaking about what it was like being a woman and the inequalities that we were feeling in life in general.

The looming tragedy of extinction

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Global capitalism is not only creating climate change but bringing about the extinction of millions of animal and plant species. Sarah Ensor explains the crisis, and what we can do to stop it.

In less than 80 years global capitalism has created a biodiversity crisis on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. One million of the estimated eight million animal and plant species on Earth are currently at risk of extinction. If the causes of this catastrophe aren’t challenged, many will die out without ever being identified, named, understood or appreciated for their vital role in our ecosystems.

Iraq's climate crisis: war, water and resistance

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The ‘land of the two rivers’ renowned for its fertile valleys and agriculture is turning into a vast wasteland. Richard Donnelly explains how the US occupation and neoliberalism has drained the country of life.

Iraq is thirsty. A water crisis is gripping the country. One-in-five of its 38 million people do not have access to clean water, and its historically fruitful farming lands are increasingly scorched and sterile.

What makes a disease go viral?

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Lee Humber finds the true origins of the Coronavirus epidemic in the innards of the food industry.

Viral epidemics are not uncommon. This year’s flu season is shaping up to be the worst in years, according to the US Centre for Disease Control. In the US alone there have been 19 million illnesses, 180,000 hospitalisations and 10,000 deaths.

More than 200 people in the UK had died from the 2018-19 winter strain of flu virus by February 2019, and there were more than 2,000 critical cases despite the relatively small numbers of people contracting it — meaning the virus had become more virulent. People who had been previously fit and well became critically ill.

Putting the struggle back into International Women's Day

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Our celebration of women’s struggles begins by revealing the contrast between how capitalism has sought to commodify the event, and its origins in the fight against oppression. We then hear from activists around the world about their priorities in the fight for equality, respect and liberation. Interviews compiled by Jan Nielsen.

International Women’s Day has come a long way. It began as a militant, socialist protest against the inequality and exploitation endured by working-class women. It won the support of tens of thousands of working-class men and women, who marched and went on strike for the right to vote and equal pay. Today, it still has a radical edge in some parts of the world, but too often those radical origins are almost buried underneath a tide of tokenism and commodification.

Nineteen Eighty-Four and all that

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Seventy years after his death, George Orwell has been canonised by the literary establishment as a liberal critic of totalitarianism. John Newsinger argues that his life and his work show him to be a harsh a critic of capitalism, and a staunch supporter of the struggles of the “common people”.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published in 1949 when its author was already seriously ill. He was to die, aged only 46, in January 1950. One consequence of his early death was that his book was successfully hijacked by the right, both in Britain and the United States. It was turned into an ideological weapon in the Cold War, used to defend the interests of British and American imperialism and to undermine the left throughout the world. It is today once again a bestseller, speaking to a new audience in a very different world.

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