Opinion

Sojourner Truth & Elisabeth Dmitrieff - Rebellious Daughters #1

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We begin a monthly celebration of some of the most dynamic, fighting women from history.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was born a slave in New York and named Isabella Baumfree. She was bought and sold four times and subjected to harsh physical labour and violent punishments. In her teens, she was united with another slave with whom she had five children.

Between 1826-27 Truth ran away with her infant Sophia to a nearby abolitionist family. The family bought her freedom for $20 and helped Truth successfully sue for the return of her five-year-old-son Peter, who was illegally sold into slavery in Alabama. She was the first black woman to sue a white man.

Afghanistan the hidden defeat

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US imperialism has suffered a massive historic defeat with the planned withdrawal of troops. This is being presented as some sort of success. The hard truth is very different.

The most powerful country in the world has failed to defeat the Taliban after years of bloody warfare. Not only is this America’s longest war, but taking into account inflation, it is the third most expensive war in US history.

A conservative estimate is that the war has cost well over $900 billion and other estimates double that figure. And there is the toll of 2,300 US dead and over 20,000 wounded.

Coronavirus and capitalist crisis

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Pandemic is triggering what may be the deepest economic crisis of our lifetimes.

As its most essential level, capitalism, as Marx pointed out, is based on a circuit. Capitalists use their capital to assemble raw materials, machinery and labour-power in workplaces, and through exploiting labour-power, generate goods and services.

They sell these goods and services to other capitalists or to workers, hopefully for a profit, expanding their capital. Then they buy more raw materials and machinery, and hire more labour-power, to begin the process anew.

If at any point, and for whatever reason, this circuit breaks down, a crisis will erupt.

A year for resistance

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Sexual violence always been used by state forces to intimidate and humiliate those fighting back, but the international women’s movement is fighting back strongly.

In a world in which far right authoritarian governments are on the rise from Brazil to India, the use of violence in general and sexual violence in particular are weapons of choice. It is not surprising that this was a central focus of many of the International Women’s day protests which took place this year across the global south from Chile to Pakistan.

Off the Shelf: The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World

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Readers recommend an old or forgotten text that is worth revisiting. This month Phil Webster praises a hefty work of Marxist history.

It is almost 40 years since this excellent piece of Marxist history was first published. It is a wonderful example of how the Marxist method can be applied to a detailed study of a period of history: in this case ancient Greece and Rome.

In the first half of the book, Ste Croix explains the class structure in the ancient world of Greece and Rome, showing that class is the key concept for understanding it (and the medieval world), as well as modern capitalism.

Support your local Trans Pride

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Trans Pride Liverpool 2019

Trans Pride marches have grown as a response to the commercialisation of Pride and the marginalisation of trans people. Kelly Stubbs argues that every socialist and trade unionist should back the marches.

The current leadership contest within the Labour Party has recently been focused on issues of how to relate to the transgender community.

The sharp end of this has been centred on the way that a minority of those who see themselves as on the left oppose transgender rights, by falsely counterposing trans rights to cis-women’s rights.

This is a false opposition and the candidates who are arguing for support of all women’s rights — both trans and cis, must have our support.

Dispensable human rights

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The British government’s treatment of Shamima Begum will not only scare every black and Asian citizen, but will also fail to deal with the root causes of young people’s political disaffection, writes Ndella Paye.

Shamima Begum is a 20-year-old British woman with parents of Bangladeshi heritage. She left London in 2015 at the age of 15 with two friends to join the Islamic State in Syria.

Once there, she married a man and had three children who died from malnutrition and disease. Her last son died of pneumonia just a few days after his birth in March 2019 in a Syrian refugee camp.

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.

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