Opinion

Solidarity forever part 9: War and repression

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Part nine of our history of the Wobblies recounts how the First World War changed the terrain — and not for the better.

By 1914 there was a growing acknowledgement within the IWW that despite the huge part it had played in the class struggle, the union had not succeeded in becoming a mass revolutionary force. It had failed to sweep aside the conservative American Federation of Labour (AFL) and lead the American working class to socialism.

A most remarkable gathering

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Workers in Britain, sick of war and inspired by the Russian Revolution, met in their thousands in June 1917 at the Leeds Convention to debate how to bring the lessons here, writes author Christian Høgsbjerg.

The Russian Revolution of February 1917 inspired many workers internationally, including in Britain. As Aneurin Bevan, then a young miner, once eloquently recalled:

“I remember so well what happened when the Russian Revolution occurred. I remember the miners, when they heard that the Tsarist tyranny had been overthrown, rushing to meet each other in the streets with tears streaming down their cheeks, shaking hands and saying: ‘At last it has happened’.”

The rich will be poor and the poor will be rich

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The Pentrich Rising in June 1817 emerged from the economic crisis and political repression following the Napoleonic Wars. James Dean recounts the story of this early example of a workers’ insurrection.

This year marks the anniversary of more than one milestone in the revolutionary tradition. Two hundred years ago this month workers from the vicinity of Pentrich, Derbyshire, set out for Nottingham in a bid to overthrow the government.

Workers were denied the vote and the political system was corrupt. The Prince Regent’s treatment of his wife and lavish lifestyle had rendered the monarchy unpopular. Moreover, radicals had been inspired by the writings of Thomas Paine and William Cobbett, as well as the American and French revolutions.

Shadeism and the politics of skin tone

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Western societies’ beauty standards are underlain with a racism that has its roots in slavery and colonialism

Shadeism, also known as colourism, is the discrimination against an individual based not just on their perceived “race” but on their darker skin tone. Although two people may both be black, one may suffer further discrimination than the other due to being darker in skin tone, which has led to a sub-categorisation of black people as “light-skinned” or “dark-skinned”.

Time to hold the main parties to account

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In the wake of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, the Scottish National Party swept all before it. At the 2015 UK general election it won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, taking half the popular vote.

The 2016 Scottish election confirmed the SNP’s dominant position, winning 47 percent of the vote and giving it just short of an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

What if Corbyn won?

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As soon as Corbyn’s manifesto was leaked, the election campaign began to take a turn. Corbyn’s supporters began to feel more confident; people who hadn’t been sure made up their minds to vote for him. Taxing the rich, abolishing tuition fees and putting an end to privatisation all proved very popular and contributed to a serious shift in the polls before campaigning was suspended after the Manchester bombing.

IWW: songs the struggle taught us

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Part eight of our history of the Wobblies celebrates the great contribution of radical songwriter Joe Hill.

Song played a vital part in the struggles and campaigns of the IWW. On the picket line, at meetings, during the free speech campaigns, around campfires and in prison cells, the Wobblies sang their defiance.

In 1908 James Wilson reported from Spokane that the local Wobblies had been livening up their agitational meetings with “a few songs by some of the fellow workers”. He went on, “It is really surprising how soon a crowd will form in the street to hear a song in the interest of the working class.”

Why you should read Lessons of October by Leon Trotsky

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Leon Trotsky was determined to learn the lessons of the Russian Revolution

Trotsky wrote Lessons of October in 1923, a time when the victory of the 1917 Russian Revolution had begun to feel distant; the revolutionary tide across Europe, crucially in Germany, had begun to fade; and in Russia, although most forms of soviet and party democracy remained, the bureaucracy headed by Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin was the dominant power.

Historical blindness hurts

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Three recent arguments over cultural representations of anti-racist struggle expose a willingness to distort or ignore real historical events in order to fit with current ideas, writes Ken Olende.

The Metropolitan Police brutally attack a peaceful anti-racist demonstration in a key early scene from the new TV drama Guerrilla. It is 1971 and the police violence recalls two real incidents — the demonstration against police harassment that led to the arrest of the Mangrove Nine, and the later death of anti-racist activist Blair Peach.

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