Opinion

A complex mess of wars without end

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Donald Trump’s “America First” is fanning trade wars across the Atlantic and Pacific, a confrontation with China over North Korea, and hot wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The complex conflicts pitting global and regional powers against each other mark a military fault line that has terrifying consequences.

‘Smash the National Front!’

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This month marks 40 years since anti-fascists took on the Nazi National Front in multicultural north London. Simon Hester recalls the events running up to the day that became known as the Battle of Wood Green.

On 23 April 1977, St George’s Day, roughly 1,000 supporters of the National Front marched in multicultural Wood Green, north London. Over 2,000 anti-Nazi activists confronted them, in what became known as the Battle of Wood Green.

Gustav Metzger, 1926 to 2017

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The artist, refugee, political activist and influential creator of “auto-destructive” art, Gustav Metzger, died last month. Noel Halifax recalls his radical contribution to the culture of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

Art and artists come in and out of fashion, as does their influence and people’s interpretation of it. In recent years Gustav Metzger, who died in March, has been out of fashion. His heyday was the 1960s and 70s when he was central to the shape and direction of the British art world and ironically created one of the foundations on which the current bloated art scene is based. Ironically, because he was politically opposed to the current art world, hated the art market and all that it stands for.

IWW: A tale of two cities

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Part seven of our series on the IWW looks at a victorious strike in Lawrence in 1912 and a defeat in Paterson a year later.

The two most famous strikes led by the Industrial Workers of the World were those in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, and in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1913. The first of these battles opened the way for IWW organising in the East while the second seemed to close that door.

The IWW has stood with the Negro'

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In part six of our series on the Wobblies, John Newsinger tells how, at a time when lynchings were common, the IWW fought for unity between black and white workers.

One of the great weaknesses of the US labour movement was the way that many white workers fell for the race card and played into the hands of their employers, both North and South.

The concern of many white workers was to keep black workers off the job rather than to build a united movement to fight the bosses and their political representatives.

They stood by while black workers were oppressed, denied the vote, discriminated against and brutalised on a daily basis. The public torture and lynching of black men and women was almost an everyday affair.

Will Brexit lead to Scottish independence?

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The issue of a second Independence referendum is once again coming to prominence in Scotland.

The UK Tory government’s decision to pursue a “hard Brexit”, remove the UK from the European Single Market and end the free movement of labour puts it strongly in the opposite camp to the Scottish government, which favours both.

Hanging is none too good for them'

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Part five of our series looks at the free speech campaigns the Wobblies waged in their efforts to organise agency workers.

The Industrial Workers of the World set about organising migratory workers across the west of the US. In this effort they encountered fierce resistance.

The corrupt and exploitative role played by employment agencies was a particular focus. The Wobblies would have found the role of employment agencies and the working conditions at the likes of Sports Direct in Britain today very familiar.

Every obstacle was put in the way of their campaigns. Street meetings were banned, speakers were arrested and the distribution of literature prevented.

Brexit wounds

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The prime minister’s commitment to both nationalism and neoliberalism is the worst of both worlds.

Theresa May has delivered her long-awaited speech on her Brexit strategy — knowledge of which was hitherto limited to the handwritten note spotted on the pad of a hapless Tory aide: “Have cake and eat it.”

May is pushing for a “hard Brexit”. Britain will leave the single market and the customs union governing trade between EU states. Instead she envisages a deal covering specific areas of the economy allowing “frictionless” tariff-free trade with the EU.

Mental health rhetoric is a distraction

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Mental health was the focus of Theresa May’s first major speech on health, given in January. She was strong on rhetoric, expressing her drive to tackle the “burning injustice” of inadequate mental health treatment, while dismissing the call for extra funding.

At best the limited measures announced will do no more than sticking a plaster over a gaping wound. At worst they serve to distract from a far more fundamental and serious government policy approach to mental health, which is moving towards the ending of out of work benefits.

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