Opinion

Autonomism for the People?

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The demands of the movement require organisation.

'We need new ways of thinking and new ways of organising. We have to break with old ideological formulae of the old left.' You hear such talk repeatedly in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements today. And for many people it represents a welcome attempt to break from the jaded parliamentarianism of New Labour and the manipulative methods of the Stalinism that collapsed in 1989.

Blood, Sweat and Peers

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Can Howard be a man of the centre? Pat Stack doubts it.

How cruelly ironic that within days of Michael Howard's elevation (if that can possibly be the correct term) to leader of the Conservative Party the story should emerge of Joseph Scholes, a 16 year old boy who hanged himself last March at an institution for juvenile offenders.

Joseph's crime was to steal a mobile phone. He had offended before, but this was not the key thing to know about him. Far more important and relevant was that he was a sexually abused and deeply disturbed youngster who had a history of self harm.

The Language of Resistance

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The vocabulary of anti-capitalism is more than a passing fad.

There is a new language developing in the streets that our growing movement passes through. At the European Social Forum demonstration in Paris, there was a man distributing leaflets recommending Esperanto. The Esperantists are at most demonstrations - as they have always been since their great idea was first mooted by a Pole called Zamenhof in 1887. Their theory was that humanity was divided by language, and that a common tongue - coined out of all the other languages - would create understanding and unity.

Talk isn't Cheap

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The recent decision by MSN, the huge Microsoft-owned internet provider, to stop access to its online chat rooms, made front page news across the globe.

When the internet first started to grow into more mainstream usage, one of the biggest attractions was the ability to talk with people all over the world. This quickly became one of the widest used facilities on the web. Many companies like MSN or Yahoo! offered the chance for users to communicate about any issue under the sun with thousands of others.

More recently, the cheap availability of webcams allowed chat to become more than simple text - now you could see and hear the person you talked with.

Faith of their Fathers

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Attempts to 'reclaim' Labour have always disappointed.

I wrote an article for Socialist Review shortly after the Labour election victory six years ago warning people how bad a Labour government could be. I did so because there were very large numbers of people on the left 'whose only experience has been of the 18 years of Tory government' and who felt that 'this is fantastic, things must get better, things must improve'.

Living to Tell the Tale

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Márquez's magical world offers hope for the real one.

Gabriel García Márquez's memoirs, or at the least the first volume of them, will be published in early November. It's a strange piece of autobiography, because Márquez has already become a kind of legend. His status as a writer must be unique - he has become almost indistinguishable from the world he has created and the people in it. The Gabriel he writes about, and the Colombia in which he grows up, both seem very familiar and very immediate.

American Beauty

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There's more to the US than Bush and McCarthy.

When I first became a socialist one thing that I never signed up to was knee-jerk anti-Americanism. There was a lot of it around on the left. There were all those who had a love affair with the USSR. For them everything Russian (from show trials to forced collectivisation) was good and everything American (from Hollywood movies to rock and roll) was bad.

I never bought into this. The glories of Stalinism simply passed me by - I could not equate socialism with this stifling, oppressive, undemocratic and rigid world behind the Iron Curtain.

Awkward Moment

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The defeat of Mick Rix has important lessons - but not those the Blairites would have us believe.

The unexpected departure of Mick Rix as leader of the train drivers' union, Aslef, is a bit of a one-off in that it goes against the broad trend which still dominates in union elections. A week before the upset in Aslef, left candidates virtually swept the board in votes on the PCS civil service union national executive. And not long after, a leading Blairite and member of Labour's national executive, John Keggie, was ousted as deputy general secretary of the Royal Mail section of the CWU.

Reformism without Reforms

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What happens when social democracy fails to deliver concessions?

There is strange idea going round much of the far left internationally. It is that because capitalism can no longer afford reforms that improve the life of the mass of people, reformism as a powerful ideology within the workers' movement is dead. From this it is said to follow that the old argument over reform or revolution is no longer relevant.

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