Joseph Choonara

May is heading for maximum pain

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The Tory party's pronouncements on refugees and "hard Brexit" fuel racism, but the political picture is more complex than a simple rightward shift.

Is Britain lurching to the right in the wake of the referendum vote? That was the impression given by the Conservative Party conference. Not only did Theresa May embrace a “hard Brexit”, designed to restrict migration, but Home Secretary Amber Rudd proposed forcing companies to reveal how many foreign workers they employ — before being made to backtrack.

The gig economy and collective action

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The supposedly endless rise of precarity is not as straightforward as it seems.

Growing use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) and the “gig economy”, in which people scrape together a living from fragments of work without being formally employed, are, we are often told, leading us on an endless march towards precarity and undermining workers’ capacity to fight.

But right now things look rather different. In April this year, following protests organised by Fast Food Rights and the Bfawu union, McDonald’s offered all its employees the option of moving off ZHCs.

After the leave vote: we can beat back racism and austerity

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The British state, its ruling class, its economy and its political system have all been thrown into chaos by the vote to leave the EU.

Some 52 percent opted for exit, on a turnout of 72 percent, higher than any general election since 1992. They did so in the face of opposition from three quarters of MPs, the leadership of all three of the biggest parliamentary parties — the Conservatives, Labour and the Scottish National Party — the overwhelming bulk of British industry and almost every major capitalist institution, from the Bank of England to the International Monetary Fund.

Down with miserablism

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Both sides in the official EU referendum debate were excelling themselves in their hideousness as Socialist Review went to press.

In late May, Vote Leave launched a racist poster with the headline “Turkey (population 76 million) is Joining the EU” and a picture of a British passport. The Stay campaign hit back with another dodgy dossier from the UK Treasury predicting a year-long recession if we leave — this from the geniuses who forecast 2.5 to 3 percent growth in the recession year of 2008.

Pushing the limits of Corbynomics

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The more radical elements of Corbyn and McDonnell's economic policies can challenge the logic of capitalism

The ire on the right and the applause on the left provoked by “Corbynomics” demonstrate that you can move a long way to the left by standing still. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have long opposed the pro-market consensus among successive governments since Jim Callaghan adopted monetarism in the late 1970s. Compared with that consensus, their ideas are both radical and welcome.

Tories cook up a crisis

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The EU referendum is deepening the cracks in the Tory Party. Joseph Choonara looks at how the refugee question and EU austerity are converging into a crisis for our ruling class.

As the campaign over Britain’s EU referendum, set for 23 June, gets under way, the arguments by those advocating a “remain” position are rapidly coming unstuck. There are three arguments often encountered on the left: that the EU secures free movement, that the EU protects workers and that an exit would lead to British politics shifting rightwards. All three are based on an unwarranted pessimism.

The dynamics of the world economy

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The weakness of the global economic recovery vindicates Marxists' analysis of the 2008 crisis.

It is sometimes hard to remember a time when the world economy was not meandering through a funk of stagnation or teetering on the cusp of some new disaster. Six years ago I wrote a piece for this magazine entitled “The Crisis: Over or Just Beginning?” Fortunately I erred on the side of “just beginning”, describing the much-hyped recovery with three words: weak, fragile and uncertain.

Working class gets an injection

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The junior doctors' strikes raise questions about how socialists should define the working class.

Back in 1986, or thereabouts, I wrote to Margaret Thatcher to ask her to draw around her foot. My primary school teacher, whose motivations I can only speculate about, had asked us to contact someone famous and obtain the said outline. Being literal-minded, I decided that there was no one more famous in Britain than the prime minister.

Thatcher did not reply, setting me on a path towards revolutionary socialism. I cannot have helped my case by including a short passage celebrating the teachers’ strike that had recently shut down my school.

Defy noxious Tories' divide and rule

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The government is trying to drive a wedge between hard anti-racists and the wider layer who have supported refugees

The tail end of 2015 brought chilling news for Muslims and for anti-racists. In France the far-right Front National took a quarter of the vote in the first round of regional elections. Its campaign was steeped in Islamophobia in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, had been on trial just two months earlier for comparing Muslims praying in the streets with the Nazi occupation of France. In the US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump made the extraordinary demand that all Muslims be barred from entering the country.

Little joy in being your own boss

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A rise in the numbers of self-employed people in Britain raises interesting questions for Marxists about the changing nature of the working class.

Self-employment in Britain is at its highest level in four decades, comprising one in six people in the workforce. About half of the employment expansion since the recession can be explained by its growth.

Has there been an explosion of entrepreneurialism, perhaps made up of the kind of hi-tech start-ups that cluster around “silicon roundabout” in east London? Or are people simply being pushed into more precarious forms of work by employers keen to reduce tax bills, and avoid offering sick pay and other benefits?


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