Letters

On Socialism and Journalism

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As co-editor of the rank and file paper for firefighters, Red Watch - and, indeed, a member of the Labour Party - I can assure Martin Wicks that our publication is not an SWP front (Letters, July/August SR).

Red Watch was created by firefighters from stations in central London, who were campaigning for exemption from the congestion charge. With the birth of the national pay campaign, the paper took on a different dimension and is now a respected journal, read by FBU members nationwide.

It has a democratically elected editorial board - only one of whom is an SWP member (shock, horror!) - and has carried articles representing many different strands of opinion on the left (one, dare I say, arguing for retention of the link with Labour).

On Socialism and Journalism

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I read John Newsinger's review of the recent biographies of Orwell (July/August SR) with a smile, as it seemed to bear out my contention that 'Orwell' is primarily used today as a political weapon to bash opponents rather than as the basis for a discussion of socialism.

While the claim that I have launched 'the traditional Stalinist attack on Orwell, but with the Stalinism left out' will amuse colleagues and family who weren't aware of my sympathies for the long-lost Soviet Union, it does little for debate.

On Socialism and Journalism

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It was extremely satisfying to see the coverage of the George Orwell centenary (July/August SR).

Those of us who go back a few years will remember condemnation of the writer by Stalinists and right wingers alike, but it was the IS tradition that re-evaluated the man and his work. I was fortunate to see the 1954 BBC production of 1984 recently, with Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. It may have been murky, black and white with Crossroads-type rickety sets and cartoon graphics, but it was gripping and chilling. It is a high point of British television which deserves to be repeated.

Getting the Balance Right

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The article about how prospective trade union leaders need to distance themselves from New Labour was informative, although not altogether surprising in today's political climate (The Walrus, June SR).

Yet it would be wrong for readers to get the impression that this might be a fleeting aberration within trade unionism, allowing the cosy relationship with Labour to return. As someone who has been directly involved in trade union education for many years, I can testify that there is a sea change of attitudes going on.

Getting the Balance Right

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Martin Smith ('Proud to be awkward', June SR) says that 'rebuilding grassroots networks' is the key to revitalising the unions.

But what sort of networks are these and what is their strategy in the unions? Martin is basically waxing lyrical about the 'rank and file' groups that the SWP has launched in the Post Office, the rail industry and the FBU. To talk about these (Post Worker, Across the Tracks and Red Watch) as 'rank and file organisations' is disingenuous. These are SWP organisations.

A Lesson from Up North

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In response to Jim Wolfreys' article (June SR) there was one area where the BNP expected to make 'multiple gains' in this year's local elections and that was Sunderland.

It stood in all 25 of the seats that were up for election. One tenth of all its candidates were in this one town.

It's easy to see why the city was a target for the Nazis. Since the closure of the mines and the shipyards, there have been few new full-time jobs. Meanwhile, Labour has been in power for decades, without ever delivering the changes that local people want.

The Domino Effect

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Graeme Kemp and Alan Woodward (letters, May SR) rightly want a society in which workers' councils represent the workers, not act as transmission belts for a party dictatorship.

They correctly point out that under Stalinism there were no genuine soviets, no workers' democracy. But in fighting against Stalinism, in Hungary in 1956 and Poland in 1980-81, workers built mass democratic organisations that made a start at mobilising the creative energies of all the poor and oppressed, who for the first time began to imagine a new society, that only they should and could build.

Not a Force for Good

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I fear for the sanity of Joseph Choonara when he sees 'sheer beauty' in an 'extremely violent film' like Matrix Reloaded (June SR).

Such dumbing-down of aesthetic sensibility is a triumph for the corporate sledgehammer that has so bedazzled him.

For all the technical, genre-bending promise of The Matrix, Reloaded marks a regression, especially in its production design.

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