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"Consider us as having died today or tomorrow"

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The Battle of the Somme started on 1 July 1916 and dragged on until the following November. Steve Guy describes the rigid class divisions between officers and rank and file soldiers and the snobbery of generals such as Haig, that became major features behind the subsequent slaughter.

In the years prior to what became known as the Great War, most of the nations that were to become embroiled in the conflict had standing armies numbering hundreds of thousands. The empires of Austro-Hungary and Tsarist Russia, Germany and France all used conscription — enforced recruitment — in varying degrees, to maintain their numbers.

Can robots usher in a socialist utopia or only a capitalist dystopia?

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Robots and artificial intelligence should improve and ease our working lives, but they always seem to mean job losses and deskilling instead. The age of artificial intelligence is often proclaimed, but is it really just around the corner?

Are robots and artificial intelligence (AI) set to take over the world of work and thus the economy in the next generation? And what does this mean for jobs and living standards for people? Will it mean socialist utopia in our time (the end of human toil and a superabundant harmonious society) or capitalist dystopia (more intense crises and class conflict)?

Education goes to market

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The Tories' White Paper on higher education will enable companies to profit from education

The Higher Education and Research Bill and its accompanying White Paper, working its way through parliament now, represents an attempt to turn the English Higher Education sector into a full blown neoliberal market on the US model.

For-profit private providers will be able to quickly and easily set up as universities, recruit unlimited numbers of students and claim £9,000 per student in tuition fees. Regulation will be ripped up and simplified in the interests of these corporations and at the expense of students, staff and academic freedom.

Politically black is back

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Debates about identity, racism and “blackness” have re-emerged in the student movement this year.

The summer conference of the Black Students’ Campaign, a liberation campaign within the National Union of Students (NUS), was framed by explosive debates about identity, racism and how we organise. These debates drew on the discussions happening in wider society, from the question of who can be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, to how we can stop the Tories’ Islamophobic Prevent agenda.

Telling political stories

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In 1977 Jatinder Verma got together with some like-minded friends in south London and founded Tara Arts — the first British Asian theatre company. It was a political act, fuelled by resistance against racism, and it catalysed an Asian theatre movement in this country, with many of Tara’s early associates going on to found their own companies. This movement linked up with other radical theatre makers, including those coming out of the struggle of African-Caribbean youth, such as the Black Theatre Co-operative, which also emerged in the late 1970s. Four decades later Tara Arts is still going strong, with Jatinder Verma at its helm. Continuing Socialist Review’s series on political theatre, Hassan Mahamdallie talked to the company’s founder about the political roots of Tara Arts, what it was trying to achieve and its continued relevance today.

Act 1: Arrival

People power in Stormont

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People Before Profit won two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections last month, with Eamonn McCann winning a seat in Derry and Gerry Carroll topping the poll in West Belfast. How big an impact will two revolutionary socialists in the Assembly have, asks Colm Bryce.

The election of Gerry Carroll and Eamonn McCann from the radical left People Before Profit Alliance to the Stormont Assembly on 5 May has shaken the political establishment in Northern Ireland.

The use and abuse of the Arab Revolt

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In June 1916 thousands of Arabs rose up against the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled over the region for four centuries. They fought with the backing of the British and French governments, not realising they were being used as a weapon in the First World War, writes Simon Guy.

On 5 June 1916 the ruler of Mecca, Sharif Husayn, called for an Arab uprising against Ottoman rule. The goal, agreed with the British High Commissioner in Egypt, was to unite the Arab people, establish and then rule an independent Arab kingdom, ending 400 years of Ottoman domination of the Arab world. Britain promised funds, guns and grain in return for helping to defeat the Ottomans as part of the First World War.

Casual assault on higher education

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The creeping marketisation of higher education has had major implications for staff contracts. Xanthe Rose explains the extent of casualised work in the sector.

In April the UCU lecturers’ union published a report revealing that higher education institutions are using casualised contracts to a shocking degree. The union estimates that 54 percent of all academic staff and 49 percent of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts. That includes staff on hourly-paid, zero-hours and fixed-term contracts, as well as agency workers.

Damaging times ahead for the Tories

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The Tories' weakness over Europe is our side's potential strength, writes Sally Campbell

David Cameron “won’t last 30 seconds if he loses the referendum”, said Ken Clarke, one of the few sitting Tories who was in parliament for the last referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU’s forerunner in 1975. And whichever way the vote goes, he continued, the Tory party will struggle to unite afterwards.

Casual assault on higher education workers

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SOAS fractionals campaign

The creeping marketisation of higher education has had major implications for staff contracts. Xanthe Rose explains the extent of casualised work in the sector.

In April the UCU published a report revealing that higher education institutions are using casualised contracts to a shocking degree. The union estimates that 54 percent of all academic staff and 49 percent of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts. That includes staff on hourly-paid, zero-hours and fixed-term contracts, as well as agency workers.

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