Opinion

Alfred Mendes: Hope amid the horror of 1917

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Despite its title, the new award-winning epic film 1917 directed by Sam Mendes is a war film about the Western front rather than the Russian Revolution. But the life of Mendes’s socialist grandfather, Alfred Mendes (1897-1991), whose war stories inspired the film, reveals something of the influence of the Russian Revolution on colonial subjects of the British Empire.

Alfred Mendes was born into a Portuguese creole merchant family in colonial Trinidad and was educated at elite local schools and then from 1912 in England, at Hitchin Grammar School in Hertfordshire.

After the First World War broke out in 1914, Mendes was called home to Trinidad by his father, but out of “insatiable curiosity” rather than patriotism, in 1915 he decided to join the Merchants’ Contingents of Trinidad, a scheme financed by colonial merchants and designed for young men of the upper middle classes to join English regiments.

Off the shelf: The Closing Circle

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Readers recommend an old or forgotten text that is worth revisiting. This month Martin Empson highlights an early work of radical ecology.

Barry Commoner’s 1971 book The Closing Circle is a nearly forgotten classic of radical ecology. Reading it nearly 50 years later the starkness of its warning about the coming ecological disaster is remarkable.

A tribute to Nita Sanghera

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The untimely death of Nita Sanghera is a shock to us all. The UCU and the labour and trade union movement as a whole has been robbed of one of its most courageous fighters for justice, writes Sean Vernell.

Nita fizzed with energy and passion. Her sartorial elegance and smile matched her warm and outgoing personality. She filled a room with her presence and inspired all those around her. She was proud to have been elected as UCU’s first black woman president and even more so because she stood as a candidate from the Further Education (FE) sector.

Angela Davis: An icon and an inspiration

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In the final column on the life, politics and activism of Angela Davis, we look at her contributions to theory and practice.

Angela Davis is still active to this day, and her politics continue to be shaped by having once been a member of the Communist Party. Being a revolutionary socialist and a member of an organisation enabled Davis to recognise and analyse racism beyond her own experience. The party had been key in developing her understanding of the role of oppression within capitalism, placing it within the context of class and capitalism.

Trump's deal is a disaster for Palestinians

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With much fanfare and mutual backslapping, Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu launched the US government’s “peace plan” at a glitzy press conference on 28 January. In addition to the world’s media, three Gulf states sent their ambassadors: the UAE, Bahrain and Oman (although the Omani ambassador confided to the Times of Israel that he didn’t even know what was in the document).

SNP taps anger in Scotland

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The general election looked very different north of the border. Bob Fotheringham outlines the dynamics of independence, the disappointment in Scottish Labour and the anti-Tory feeling that shaped the result.

Politically, the difference between England and Scotland could not be starker.

The Tories won 47 percent of the popular vote in England. In Scotland the SNP won 45 percent with Labour at 19 percent and the Tories on 25 percent. How can the difference be accounted for?

Tackling drug dependency

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Dundee is the drug deaths capital of Europe. Jim Barlow assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the recent Dundee Drugs Commission report, which suggests a number of approaches to a complex issue.

The Dundee Drugs Commission report published last autumn signified a major break with the policies around drug dependency pursued by successive UK governments ever since US president Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in the US in 1971.

It followed increasing concern about the issue in Scotland in general and Dundee in particular. In 2018 some 1,187 people died in Scotland from drug causes, with 53 of them recorded in Dundee. That’s one family a week in Dundee losing a family member to drug-induced death.

Battles ahead in Spanish state

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Catalan independence colours the results of the fourth general election in the Spanish state since 2015, as the far right party VOX makes major gains and the left loses support. Héctor Puente Sierra explains.

The Spanish general election on 10 November saw the possibility of a left wing coalition government but also the horrifying growth of the far-right party VOX to become the third force in parliament.

This is the fourth general election since December 2015, underpinning four years of political turmoil and instability.

Spain has been a stark example of the social polarisation and erosion of the neoliberal centre that followed the 2008 economic crisis, with the Labour-type PSOE and conservative PP becoming shadows of their former selves.

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