Opinion

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.

A justice system that works for all?

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David Lammy MP has been a powerful advocate for justice following the Grenfell Tower fire, calling for corporate manslaughter charges to be brought, and he has spoken out regularly against racism. Last month his review of how black people are treated in the criminal justice system grabbed headlines for highlighting discrimination, but does it go far enough? Claire Dissington assesses his proposals.

As someone who works in the criminal justice system, I was excited to see the publication of David Lammy’s report into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals within it. It rightly grabbed headlines last month for highlighting the hugely disproportionate number of ethnic minority people in prison.

Henry Ford's dirty history

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Donald Trump’s reluctance to denounce neo-Nazis marching on the streets of the US has shocked many people. But there is a long history of US businessmen flirting with fascism, writes John Newsinger.

Donald Trump is by no means the first US businessman to flirt with the far-right and even fascism. In the 1920s and 1930s many American businessmen looked to fascism as a way to protect their interests.

One particular individual stands out though — Henry Ford. Ford is still celebrated as one of the greatest US businessmen, as someone who transformed modern capitalism.

What is less often acknowledged is that he was also a vicious antisemite. Indeed, far from Ford being influenced by the Nazis, it was very much the other way round.

An important distinction

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Marx discussed the concepts of productive and unproductive labour in Capital and it has been a source of debate ever since.

There was an interesting letter in last month’s Socialist Review from Ken Muller. In it he questioned the approach taken by my recent book, A Reader’s Guide to Marx’s Capital, to the concept of “productive labour”.

Ken’s argument is that my definition of productive labour — actually Marx’s definition — as labour hired by capital which produces surplus value (the source of profit) is too narrow.

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.

Stormont Assembly faces new elections

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The Assembly election in Northern Ireland on 2 March will take place in the context of the rage over the energy scandal that provoked it and the divisions it has exposed.

There is a lot of anger around the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. The scheme was designed by Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), as a way of handing money to large companies. For every pound the companies spent on renewable energy they gained £1.60 back.

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