Columnists

Bet your Bottom Dollar

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Bush's faces more problems in his second term than many realise, argues Chris Harman.

The re-election of George Bush at the end of last year has left many people, particularly on the US left, shellshocked. As they see it, an administration dominated by the neocons and bolstered up by the votes of the religious right can now get away with anything it wants for the next four years.

This ignores three things. First, the intractability of the position US imperialism faces in Iraq. It is bogged down in a ground war it did not expect and does not have sufficient troops easily to deal with, and which is paralysing its capacity to act elsewhere.

Here Comes the Fear

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Please don't panic, but we're in the middle of an emergency.

Actually, we may be (to paraphrase Winston Churchill) at the beginning of the end of an emergency; or more likely the end of the beginning. The point is we don't know - because the state of emergency declared by the British government more than three years ago is indefinite and ongoing.

A Novel Solution

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The burgeoning world of ebooks

'Socialism', we're told, 'will never work. Everyone's too greedy to work together for the common good.' It's a common argument and we've probably all had it thrown at us numerous times. So it's pleasing that there are a good number of examples of people working collectively to help disprove it.

Aside from the examples of solidarity and struggle that we would all answer this argument with, there are also examples of collective work on the internet that show people doing huge amounts of work for no personal gain, purely in the interests of other internet users.

Happy Birthday Big Bill

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Mike Davis commemorates the centenary of a high point in American socialist history.

A hundred years ago the Industrial Workers of the World was formed and US bosses trembled.

Brand Hall, Chicago, 27 June 1905. Big Bill Haywood pounded his gavel and brought the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to order: 'This is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism.'

From Common Sense to Good Sense

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What is the role of complex ideas in the day to day struggle? Chris Harman, editor of International Socialism, explains.

'Practice without theory is blind, theory without practice is sterile.' What is the relevance of this old adage today? That is something I have had to think about since I switched jobs five months ago. After working on our popular weekly paper, Socialist Worker, for 30 of the last 34 years, I took over the editorship of International Socialism, our 'quarterly journal of socialist theory'.

The Drag Factor

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'We accept an interest in people's health as a basic responsibility, paramount to every other consideration in our business.' Who might have made such an altruistic statement of intent? A health food store? A bicycle company? Well, no. This was the Tobacco Industry Research Committee.

To be fair to them, that was 50 years ago. Since then the devastating health effects of smoking have become ever more apparent. According to The Tobacco Atlas by Judith Mackay and Michael Eriksen, cigarettes kill half of all lifetime users. So there are half a billion people alive today who will eventually be killed by tobacco.

Scrutinising Democracy

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US election shenanigans can't hide from the internet.

Months before the US presidential race started, the internet was a hive of activity and discussion about it. Indeed, the election was always going to be one where electronic media played a huge role. Back in January this year Democratic contender Howard Dean was described by the Guardian as the 'web's candidate for president'.

Losing West Virginia

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Is it time (to paraphrase Brecht) to elect a new American people?

American liberals usually profess great enthusiasm for the common people. But sentimental populism took a hard blow on 2 November. The people, by a slim but decisive majority, elected fear, deception and greed to four more years in the White House. Indeed, with the exception of the Democratic redoubt on the Great Lakes, continental America, from Idaho to Alabama, has become a one-party nation under god. Not even Bruce Springsteen and 48 Nobel laureates could ultimately swing Ohio to John Kerry.

Blue Velvet

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The post-Soviet world is still waiting for the promised freedom and democracy.

Fifteen years ago, East and West Germans proved the pessimists wrong. With a mixture of joy and relief, they pulled down the Berlin Wall, and with it the edifice of the Soviet empire. Stalinist tyranny, which had seemed so immovable, disintegrated. It was the most rapid transformation of Europe since the First World War.

You Don't Say

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How the FBI have tried to gag Indymedia.

On 7 October, a major attack on free speech took place. It was barely noticed by the mainstream media and almost totally ignored by all but a handful of politicians and activists.

Responding to an FBI federal order, Rackspace, a US company with offices in London, handed over the computer equipment responsible for running and hosting some of the websites that belong to the Indymedia network.

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