Class

Limits of Intersectionality

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A whole series of new and renewed groups, protests and movements have appeared in response to the "new sexism" - personified by raunch culture popular on campus - that are increasingly defining themselves as feminist. Some of those involved with these movements are drawn to the ideas of "intersectionality", which attempt to explain how race, gender and class oppressions "intersect" and influence each other.

Engels revisited

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There has been a recent resurgence in writers about women's oppression looking to Marx and Engels for answers, with some arguing he crudely emphasised class at the expense of oppression. Here, Sally Campbell looks at the claims of those writers and defends Engels from the critics

There is a common assertion that Marxism as a set of ideas does not or cannot account for oppression. Some argue, for example, that Marxism is a form of economic determinism that reduces all the complexity of human interaction down to production; because we see workers' revolution as the solution, we see all other struggles - against racism or gender oppression - as subordinate to the struggle in the workplace.

This comes from the right - they want to attack revolutionary ideas, full stop.

Growing up in Goveland: how politicians are wrecking schools

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The leaking of Michael Gove's plans to return to O-levels in place of GCSEs reignited a row about "falling standards" in British schools. Here Terry Wrigley argues it is not enough for the left to simply dismiss such claims - instead we must argue that the root of the problem lies in the marketisation of education

Right wing politicians like nothing better than a good disaster. Disasters give them an excuse to intervene and make matters worse. If there wasn't a financial crisis, Cameron's gang would have to invent one. Now education secretary Michael Gove is using supposed "falling standards" to destroy comprehensive education and condemn most working class pupils to a second rate education. By abolishing GCSEs and restoring the old "O-level", he is trying to return to the days when only a minority of 16 year olds took a school-leaving exam.

A region transformed

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The Arab Spring has been marked by a series of momentous events that herald the beginning of an era of revolutionary change. The uprisings have transformed in weeks and months a region mired in decades of political stagnation. The revolutions contain the possibility of growing over to an even more radical social change. To understand this potential we have to examine the deep social changes that have transformed the Arab world, but this requires breaking with many of the ideas that have dominated our understanding of the region.

For many people the Arab revolutions are simply a "correction" in the struggle against imperialism. The overthrow of Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ali Saleh of Yemen have struck deep blows to imperialism. The uprising in Bahrain, which pits a disenfranchised population against a US and Saudi client regime, is seen in the same light.

Marxism and oppression

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Marxists are sometimes accussed of being dismissive of oppression, preferring to emphasise the importance of class. Sara Bennett explains why socialists argue for working class unity as the best way to combat, and ultimately abolish, all forms of oppression

Forty five years ago being gay in Britain was a criminal offence. Today there is a good chance we could see gay marriage legalised by the government before the end of its term in office. This is just one example of many huge strides forward we have achieved in the fight against oppression, whether of LGBT people, women, black people or other oppressed groups.

Is the American working class different?

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In this article from 1986, Duncan Hallas takes up the argument that the American working class has been historically immune to socialist ideas.

One of the most important developments over the last year has been the revival of radical movements in the US. The uprising in Wisconsin, the Occupy movement, the Oakland shutdown and now the protests over the killing of Trayvon Martin (see Jonathan Neale in this issue of Socialist Review) all point to a new mood. American workers have long presented an enigma for socialists.
Why has the most powerful working class in the world never been able to create even a mass Labour-type party (the Democratic Party has always been a purely capitalist party).

Hallas explains how the conditions of American capitalism initially acted to prevent the emergence of stable working class organisation and to limit the influence of socialist ideas, but argues this no longer applies.

The central question in discussing the American working class is why there is not, and has not been, a political labour movement of any significance in the United States. This is in spite of the fact that the US is today the major capitalist power in the world and has been, since the turn of the century, one of the two or three major capitalist powers.

There are a number of explanations put forward. The first set of arguments are what you might call the "sociological" arguments. They can all be found in letters which Engels wrote to various people in America in the 1880s.

Putting Socialism back on the agenda

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Estelle Cooch and Jack Farmer spoke to Owen Jones, a left wing member of the Labour Party and author of Chavs, about New Labour, capitalism and the demonisation of the working class

What was it that first motivated you to write Chavs?

Above all it was to put class on the agenda. I wanted to challenge this idea that we're all middle class now and that all that remains of the working class is a feckless rump. The point is that if you don't have class, then you don't have class politics and if you don't have class politics, then you don't have a left.

The gathering storm

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The depth of the devastation of ordinary American lives means that the divisions between workers and protesters that existed in the 1960s have collapsed, writes Megan Trudell

It could be argued that it's been a long time coming. For 30 years, US capitalism's answer to falling rates of profitability has been to restructure - cutting manufacturing jobs, relocating operations from former industrial heartlands to the much more weakly unionised South and West, intensifying work processes, deregulating industry, privatising services and extending working hours while chipping away at wages and holiday and sickness benefits.

Why workers can change the world

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Karl Marx's claim that the working class has the power to change the world is perhaps his most important contribution to socialist theory. Before Marx workers were viewed at best as victims of the system or more typically as a rabble whose existence threatened civilisation. Marx challenged these assumptions, arguing that workers' collective struggles for freedom pointed towards a potential socialist alternative to capitalism.

This vision is widely disparaged today. However, criticisms of Marx often miss their target. This is particularly true of those who reject his model of class from "common sense" or sociological perspectives which tend to equate class with social stratification - the various ways of differentiating people along lines of income, status, occupation or patterns of consumption. What, it is asked, do university-educated teachers, factory workers or low-paid shop workers have in common?

The geography of poverty

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The recent riots and looting have provoked a fresh wave of demonisation of so-called "feral" young people in Britain's cities. Carl Lee and Danny Dorling examine the reality of life in a society which surrounds those in poverty with commodities they can never afford to own

On 4 March 1941 the London Times reported on an "epidemic" of looting in the aftermath of bombing raids over the city. In that same year 4,584 looting cases were processed by London courts alone.

Seventy years later, following the riots in England this August, the calls to mend what David Cameron has termed our "broken society" - usually couched in terms of better parenting and more discipline in schools - have a hollow ring when held up against the historical record.

Why not Sheffield?

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