Archive for the ‘Origins/preconditions of capitalism’ Category

On July 5, we ran an article on an important strike by banana workers on the island of Guadeloupe, one of France’s colonial possessions in the Caribbean Sea.  We can now report the banana workers have won!  Below is an article from the French revolutionary weekly Lutte Ouvriere (July 7) reporting on their victory.

After 42 days on strike, the banana workers of Guadeloupe have made the bosses give in. Wednesday, June 28, they agreed to pay the workers what they owed them for holiday pay, overtime, and other things.

The strike committee already made sure that a calculation was made for each worker for what was owed for the last three years. For some, this came to a few thousand euros. The bosses also agreed to pay for the days of strike and they made a first payment of 700 euros to the workers on Monday, July 3.

They also agreed on some first steps to improve the terrible (more…)

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The following article was translated by the US-based Spark group from a leaflet put out by Combat Ouvrier, a revolutionary workers group  active on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique which are still run by France.  The conditions of these workers are a reminder of the impact of imperialism and the division of the world between imperialist countries like New Zealand and the super-exploited masses of the Third World, like the Caribbean banana workers.

The Reasons for their Anger

The banana workers have been on strike in more than 17 plantations around the districts of Capesterre-Belle-Eau and Saint Claude on Guadeloupe. The strike began on May 18. A mobilization this big hasn’t been seen in more than 30 years. The victory of the strike at the plantation “Bois Debout” inspired the workers on the other plantations to strike as well. The workers at this plantation won between (more…)

Regina Elsea and her fiance

by The Spark

Regina Elsea was killed last year when the robot she was trying to repair suddenly moved and crushed her. She was working for Ajin USA, a car parts company, earning $8.50 an hour.

Chambers County, where the company was located, offered tax breaks and other financial aid to companies to locate there. Encouraged by such free taxpayer-backed money, car companies, with their high-tech robots and technologies, started to move to the region. People were hired, but most of the wages remained very low. In addition, much of the work was supplied through staffing agencies and was temporary.

Elsea was not an Ajin employee. She was employed through a (more…)

images-2by Sarah Black

Art critic, novelist, writer and academic John Berger died last week, aged 90. Amid the media accolades, Suzanne Moore writes an opinion piece for The Guardian entitled ‘I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope’. Though the headline is provocative, Moore’s piece does remember the man as kind, interested and warm.

Berger originally trained as a painter at the Chelsea School of Art, but stopped painting in the late 40s, as the post-war images-1nuclear threat seemed to him to render his work trivial. Instead he threw his energies into writing. He managed to enrage the art and media establishment by his pro-Soviet stance, as well as his criticism of big figures in the art world, such as Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso (whose work he felt further mystified art). Berger wrote extensively throughout his career – not just criticism, but fiction and other non-fiction works. In 1972 he won the Man Booker prize for his novel, G. His 1975 book, The seventh man, focuses on the plight of the urban poor.

Berger’s warmth comes across in his most well-known work,Ways of seeing. Unlike contemporary programmes of the time, this 1972 BBC four-part series of films-turned-essays was not presented by a stuffy old man in an art gallery with a suit and a pipe. Filmed in an electronics workshop, Berger, sporting an Aztec-patterned shirt, talks to the viewers at home in a laid-back, conversational manner – the aesthetics of the production have a dynamism that transcends the very 1970s look. Berger places advertising images next to still lifes and soft porn beside nudes, in order to make the viewer interrogate the image, the artist and the subject. His aim was to demystify western European painting from its holy status (where criticism’s purpose was to help us pray) and instead find a different way of (more…)

pb57793-300x459Our latest meeting took place at the weekend and we were privileged to be joined by John Smith, author of Imperialism in the 21st Century, one of the three books we’re studying.  We were also joined by his associate Andy Higginbottom.

John gave a presentation on several key themes of the book, which led into a discussion on the size, scale and weight of the working class in the Third World compared to the First World, where this leaves the working class (and the anti-capitalist left) in the First World, the issue of monopoly and how it does or does not relate to imperialist super-profits and much more.

Indeed, the meeting went on over several hours.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will get John’s introduction to the study meeting up on Redline, along with some articles that summarise the chapters of his book.

Our next meeting will be taking place in late November.

james-connolly-starry-ploughA wonderful extract from the great Irish marxist, mass workers’ leader and insurrectionary James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916:

“. . . This will be the rule of the people at last realised. But, says Father Kane, at last showing the cloven foot, ‘the will of the people would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders’. Spoken like a good Tory and staunch friend of despotism!

“What is the political and social record of the mob in history as against the record of the other classes? There was a time, stretching for more than a thousand years, when the mob was without power or influence, when the entire power of the governments of the world was concentrated in the hands of the kings, the nobles and the hierarchy. That was the blackest period in human history. It was the period during which human life was not regarded as being of as much value as the lives of (more…)

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Foxconn’s largest factory is in China and employs several hundred thousand workers (estimates range from 230,000 to 450,000 in this one factory); the western left needs to understand that the centre of gravity of the global working class has moved

by Susil Gupta

Every week over 100,000 people join the ranks of the proletariat.

When Engels wrote The Condition of the English Working Class in 1844, Manchester had a total population of 177,760, or 300,000 if you count all the surrounding borough and towns.  The first figure is estimated on the basis of the 1801 (90,000) and 1861 (338,900) census.

In 1861, the 4 largest English towns had populations of:

London – 2,804,000
Liverpool – 443,900
Manchester – 338,900
Birmingham – 296,000

Today there are:

500 metropolitan areas globally with a population of one million people or more.

Mainland China has (more…)