Archive for the ‘Origins/preconditions of capitalism’ Category

Among other activities, the revolutionary working class organisation Lutte Ouvriere produces weekly bulletins in hundreds of workplaces across the country.  Tne bulletins relate to specific experiences and issues faced by the workers in these workplaces, but also contain an editorial on big political questions, national or international issues.  The editorial in the November 27 edition of these bulletins was on France and Africa.

Last week, during his visit to Africa, French President Macron cynically declared that France no longer had a specific “African policy”.

The truth is that, since 2014, thousands of French soldiers have been deployed in Mali where, under the pretext of combating terrorism, they wage a war which regularly kills civilians. The French army is present on a permanent basis in many African countries, including Burkina Faso where Macron made his declaration. France has always intervened in the country, supporting the authors of military coups and dictators aspiring to obediently defend the interests of French imperialists.

Macron also declared that he belonged to a generation who considers that “the crimes of European colonization are undeniable and are part of our history”. Macron is indeed too young to have known first-hand the “colonial times”. But he belongs to the long list of political leaders who helped the French bourgeoisie get rich thanks to its colonial empire.

Africa’s dire poverty and the miserable conditions of most Africans are neither natural nor inevitable. They are due to the century-old plundering of Africa by colonial powers, with France playing a leading role in the continent’s colonization.

Many French bourgeois families built their fortune on (more…)

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At Redline, we’d tend to see China very much as capitalist.  But we are also keen on discussion, comradely debate and serious examination of political issues.  It’s in that spirit that we are running the article below.

by Michael Roberts

Xi Jinping has been consecrated as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after a new body of political thought carrying his name was added to the Communist party’s constitution.  The symbolic move came on the final day of a week-long political summit in Beijing – the 19th party congress – at which Xi has pledged to lead the world’s second largest economy into a “new era” of international power and influence.

At a closing ceremony in the Mao-era Great Hall of the People it was announced that Xi’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era had been written into the party charter. “The congress unanimously agrees that Xi Jinping Thought … shall constitute [one of] the guides to action of the party in the party constitution,” a party resolution stated.

At the same time, the new Politburo standing committee of seven was announced.  These supreme leaders are all over 62 and so will not be eligible to become party secretary in five years.  That almost certainly means that Xi will have an unprecedented (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

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…)

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…)