Feature

The Clash of Civilisations

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John Rees remembers Joe Strummer of The Clash.

The Clash arrived on the battlefield of the mid-1970s in the nick of time. Unemployment was climbing, real wages were falling for the first time in postwar British history, Labour was imposing welfare cuts and the Nazis were on the rise.

In rock music, as it was then called, the radical charge of the 1960s had been dissipated. 'Progressive rock' was overblown, made dull by its concept album, rock opera pretensions.

Political Fund: Value for Money?

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New Labour's attacks on trade unionists has provided an important argument about political affiliation.

There will be an intense debate this year in almost every union conference about the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. No one should underestimate the seismic shift that has been going on for the last couple of years and which has quickened massively even in the last few weeks.

Italy: We are All Subversives

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Berlusconi's right wing government is cracking down on protesters, but opposition is growing.

Twenty activists from the Italian anti-capitalist movement were arrested by masked police in the early hours of Friday 15 November, while another 22 were notified that they were under investigation. Some of the accusations are laughable, like throwing vegetables at policemen and going to a demonstration 'armed with a pumpkin', but they are also facing very serious and very political charges, such as 'subversion against state authority'. This is a fascist law dating back to 1930, and carries a minimum sentence of five years.

On the Eagle's Wing

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The British ruling class is hitched to the US war machine--a sign of Britain's long-term decline.

Coming on the heels of Kosovo and Afghanistan, the war with Iraq, if it takes place, will be the third Anglo-American military adventure that Tony Blair has backed since his election in 1997. The 'Daily Mirror''s headlines denouncing 'poodle' Blair have captured the extent of popular revulsion at Blair's enthusiasm for US warmongering. Yet Blair's actions are far from a novelty for a British prime minister. What is striking about foreign policy under Blair is not the break with the past but its fundamental continuity with the whole postwar period.

Oil: The New Scramble for Africa

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The US is eyeing up Africa's oil.

In the middle of last month a group of oil executives, US government officials and African politicians met in Houston, Texas, to organise a new carve-up of Africa's resources. The background is a scramble for oil that is reshaping western policy towards West Africa. It could also lay the basis for civil wars, tension between the US and European powers and future military intervention.

Weapons of Deception

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Top of the league for weapons of mass destruction is the US, and the biggest danger in the Middle East is Israel.

A history exam paper might contain the following question: which Middle East country expelled the majority of the original inhabitants, has attacked neighbouring states three times in the last 50 years, accumulated a considerable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and flouted countless UN resolutions? If you put Iraq the answer would be wrong. The right answer would be Israel.

European Social Forum: A New World for Women

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Like war and the rebuilding of the European left, the question of the role of women in the fight for a different world ran through the European Social Forum. At least half the delegates were women, mainly younger women.

At the first of the massive conferences on the war a majority of the speakers were women. The impact of war on women and their role in the anti-war movement were addressed by several speakers. Lindsey German's support for young Muslim women in the anti-war movement wearing headscarves as a symbol of resistance drew huge applause.

European Social Forum: A Forum for the Future

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The hugely successful Florence European Social Forum showed a new face of politics in Europe.

An elderly man spent his days at the European Social Forum in Florence with his multicoloured umbrella open above his head. It wasn't raining; for most of the time it was bright and cold. But his umbrella carried a message: 'Grazie ai ragazzi' (thanks to the kids). His point, I think, was not so much to celebrate this multilingual, multiethnic gathering. Rather he was acknowledging that this was a gathering of a new kind, with a new vision.

Firefighters - Time to take sides

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The firefighters' strike has put class struggle back on the agenda.

Tony Blair's watchword for industrial relations has always been 'partnership'--problems between bosses and workers can be resolved without reference to strikes or other forms of industrial dispute. But there's nothing like a strike to show the true attitudes of those who preach industrial peace. Partnership works as long as the employers and their allies in the media, the government and among the rich and powerful get their way.

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