In perspective column

Subterranean solidarity

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The entrapment and eventual release of 33 Chilean miners provoked a media frenzy. But beneath the self-serving sympathy of Chile's politicians lies the real story of solidarity.

"Renewing the wooden piles increased the cost of the mineral, so they were allowed to fall into disrepair. The result was that [they] were continually having to carry out an injured man or sometimes a miner killed when the roof collapsed in the deadly corridor. But the company always persuaded the men to return for a few cents more..." - Baldomero Lillo, El chiflon del diablo.

Lillo wrote his stories of the Chilean mines at the beginning of the 20th century. How little conditions have changed in the first decade of the 21st.

Merkel's machinations

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"There's a danger of having any government of any composition led by a party which doesn't have a proper mandate across the country try to push through really difficult decisions. I think a lot of people will react badly to that."

So said Nick Clegg on Sky News, back in April 2010, as he warned people of the consequences of not voting Lib Dem.

He also argued that there was "a really serious risk" of rioting in the streets should the Tories "slash and burn public services with a thin mandate".

At last - Nick Clegg keeps a pre-election pledge.


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There is an alternative

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With massive cuts looming debates are beginning about the best way to respond. Should Labour councils refuse to implement Tory cuts?

A debate is opening up about how best to respond to the attacks on the welfare state. I was invited to speak at an anti-cuts meeting in Lambeth recently and a lively argument broke out between members of the Labour Party which took me back to the 1980s - what should a Labour council do when faced with budget cuts?

Threads of resistance

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Low-paid workers in the Global South are often dismissed as powerless. But Bangladeshi garment workers are leading a fightback.

Smoke is rising from the highways that run to and from the export-processing zones that surround the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Thousands of the most downtrodden workers in the world are involved in a pitched battle with sweatshop owners and the government that stands behind them.

Cracks and crisis in the Eurozone

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The leaders of eurozone countries are desperate to avert a full blown currency crisis, but they are divided by conflicting interests and fearful of workers fighting back.

"It was a stand-up argument. He was shouting and bawling," said one Brussels official. "It was Sarkozy on steroids," said a European diplomat. The European ruling class were in disarray as another, potentially even more damaging, episode of the world crisis unfolded in the eurozone.

First aid, then poverty

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Aid organisations pose as the noble saviours of the needy. In fact they often reinforce and deepen exploitation

Bob Geldof was recently invited to Australia to talk about world poverty. His fee was £100,000 - and of course he flew first class. It was one small chapter in the story of an industry whose gross earnings put it fifth behind the world's largest economies - the aid industry.

The issue has dramatically entered the news again, with the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and the continuing drama of Darfur. It confronts you every day as the charming young "chuggers", with their umbrellas and yellow jackets, deliver their charity scripts with a smile.

Migrants and the economic crisis

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In the face of the economic crisis, many politicians are blaming migrant workers. But what is the truth behind the racist rhetoric, asks Jane Hardy.

The recession has had devastating consequences for migrant workers. During the boom thousands of workers fuelled the surge of construction in Dubai and Moscow. They provided cheap labour and did the worst jobs in Britain and Ireland - which before the recession were deemed the big "success stories" of European capitalism. Migrant workers are concentrated in sectors that have experienced the largest contractions in output, such as construction, export-oriented industries and the so-called hospitality sector.

State capitalism - the theory that fuels the practice

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With the fall of the Berlin Wall, many on the left concluded that socialism had failed. Others of us saw these countries as state capitalist and an integral part of the world system. This theory has renewed relevance today

When I joined the Socialist Review Group, the precursor of the Socialist Workers Party, back in 1961, our opponents on the left called us the "state caps" - short for "state capitalists". This was not because we were in favour of state capitalism (although rumour had it that one of our members had joined for that reason). It was because we rejected the notion that the USSR, China and the Eastern European states were in some way socialist or workers' states.

Economic growth - the meaning of numbers

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Economic "reforms" for increased growth are often justified by the ruling class as being good for everyone. But what is the truth behind the statistics?

Adair Turner, head of the Financial Services Authority, hit the headlines when he called for control on financial transactions through a tax. Not so widely noticed was his comment that much of what finance does is "socially useless".

Solidarity and encouragement

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There can be no guarantee as to which forces will win out in Tehran. But those on the left who were hostile to the huge protests are in danger of lining up with those who want to crush the movement.

Scepticism is necessary every time the media extol what they claim to be democratic movements against unpleasant regimes. The cheerleaders for the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine have a nerve talking about democracy.

It is hardly surprising then that much of the left in Latin America and the Middle East was hostile to the huge demonstrations in Tehran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. The Iranian government has, after all, outraged the US with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, its hostility to Israel and its friendly relations with Hugo Chavez.

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