In perspective column

The economy's empty smile

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October's market jitters show how confidence in the recovery can flip into panic. But what underlies the turmoil?

Appropriate mood music for London’s stock exchange last month, according to the Financial Times’s James Mackintosh, might have been Anthrax’s “I’m Alive”. For those readers unfamiliar with thrash metal, the relevant lyrics are: “An empty smile / And you’re hypnotised / Selling lies, my enterprise / The sheep just get in line / Capitulate so easily / The power of fear.”

Turmoil inside the police

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The police are facing a major crisis, caught between endless revelations about cover-ups and injustice, as well as government cuts. Matt Foot looks at the turmoil in a once monolithic arm of the state.

No one could have predicted that an altercation between a police officer and a cabinet member wheeling his bike out of Downing Street would cement the biggest crisis in the police since 1919.
Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell was disgraced and consigned to the back benches until the police version of events imploded.

The diplomatic protection unit police officer, Keith Wallis, wrote to his MP confirming he witnessed the event from Whitehall. There was a slight problem with his account however — CCTV footage showed he wasn’t there at all.

Revolutionary defeatism

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As the First World War broke out Lenin called for socialists to oppose their own governments. How his analysis of the war and his defeat slogan were eventually proved to be correct.

In August 1914 Lenin argued that the First World War was an inter-imperialist conflict and the key task for Russian socialists was to continue the struggle against the Tsar — who in his view was “one hundred times” worse than Germany’s Kaiser.

Lenin’s proposition was that, “From the viewpoint of the working class and all the Russian people the ‘lesser evil’ would be the defeat of the Tsarist monarchy and its army.”

The growth of outsourcing

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The effective privatisation of public sector jobs can be resisted by shop floor militancy.

Like many of the aspects of contemporary capitalism that we have come to hate, the vogue for outsourcing in Britain first gained ground under the Thatcher government.

In 1988, after privatising British Gas and British Telecom, the Tories passed a law subjecting local authority services to "compulsory competitive tendering" or CCT.

Since then the jargon has changed - the current buzzword is "procurement" - but this type of business activity has mushroomed, spawning companies such as Capita and providing markets for existing firms such as Serco.

Re-forging the disability movement

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The fightback against austerity is reshaping the disability movement in Britain.

Last month's Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) national conference was a chance to agree targets and strategies for campaigning over the next year, reflecting on wins such as the victory over Atos, and taking stock of the battles ahead as cuts bite deeper and conditions worsen. It was also a space to debate and shape the continuing development of the disabled people's rights movement which has dramatically grown, re-energised and progressed politically since the emergence of DPAC in 2010.

Bad science, worse politics

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The new policy briefing on children's education by Michael Gove's top advisor is a justification for inequality

A leaked policy document from Michael Gove's top adviser, Dominic Cummings, shows the vision underpinning educational policy in England. The claim that intelligence is mainly inherited attracted most attention, and is used to justify closing hundreds of Sure Start children's centres for the most disadvantaged.

According to Cummings, these parents are poor because they are stupid, and pass on stupidity genes to their children, so it is futile to provide nurseries.

Landgrabbers

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In 2011 the charity Oxfam estimated that in the previous decade around 227 million hectares of land had been bought up in large scale "land grabs". This was mostly for the imposition of industrial agriculture.

In the process people are thrown off their land, local markets are broken up and ecologies are destroyed.

In recent years there has been growing awareness that land grabbing is taking place in the Global South. In particular, Africa and South America have been targeted by large multinationals and certain states.

But a new report published in April this year shows that very similar processes are taking place in Europe as business is gaining control of enormous parts of the continent, and land ownership is becoming concentrated in a smaller and smaller number of hands.

Ghosts of the past return

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Homophobia is back on the political agenda of the right across Europe, writes Colin Wilson. But there is also potential for resistance if LGBT people unite with anti-cuts groups and trade unionists.

The right-wing homophobes have come out of the closet. Most Tory MPs voted against same-sex marriage. Ukip -currently at double figures in the polls - opposes gay marriage, and local Ukip members have put out leaflets claiming that children "have the right to a father and a mother." The Tories have failed to revive the economy, and with no end to cuts and falling pay in sight. In this context the right are desperate for scapegoats - attacking benefit claimants, immigrants, Muslims and now LGBT people.

A note on factions

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Alex Callinicos ("Is Leninism finished?" SR, February 2013) claims that during the recent internal debate in the SWP some comrades were "arguing for...a different model involving a much looser and weaker leadership, internal debate that continually reopens decisions already made, and permanent factions (currently factions are only allowed in the discussion period leading up to the annual party conference)."

Now I can speak only for myself here; maybe some comrades did wish this, though I don't recall such a demand being made in any document of the opposition faction.

Can we beat the bedroom tax?

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In 1990 when Thatcher brought in the "Community Charge" we were told it was only "fair" that the "duke and his gardener pay the same". The Community Charge was a flat rate council tax imposed on every individual in Britain, regardless of income.

We called it the "poll tax". Millions did not pay. Local anti poll tax groups were organised everywhere, forming the national anti Poll Tax Federation, and after two years of struggle, with organised mass non-payment, protests outside the courts, and a demonstration that led to rioting in central London, the poll tax was beaten.

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