Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Capitalism Survives: Historical Materialism Conference 2014 in London

Conference Poster
How Capitalism Survives - Eleventh Annual Historical Materialism London Conference - 6-9 November 2014 - Vernon Square, Central London provisional programme available and registration open.

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In Our Time - The Haitian Revolution

Discussion of the Haitian Revolution on BBC Radio 4

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Copycat Crime - A UKIP Calypso response by Alexander D Great

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Friday, October 17, 2014

International Socialism # 144 out now

Cover of issue 144

The latest issue of International Socialism journal, a quarterly journal of Marxist theory, is out now - highlights include critical discussions of Lahs Lih's work on Lenin, Lise Vogel's work on women's liberation, Vivek Chibber's work on the Subaltern Studies school, plus articles on Scotland, South Africa, Ukraine, imperialism and global warming.  There is also an online only article on 'The birth of a new generation under tear gas: the umbrella movement in Hong Kong' by Vincent Sung, which is most timely and brings out the tensions and how that movement is at something of a crossroads.  To subscribe to the ISJ, see here.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Book: Deciphering Capital

Book Launch and Discussion
Deciphering Capital: Marx’s Capital and its Destiny
By Alex Callinicos
Discussants: Christopher Arthur and Michael Roberts
Chair: Gilbert Achcar 

Monday, 10 November 2014, 7pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) at SOAS

Alex Callinicos’s new book deals extensively with the question of Marx’s method and its relationship to Hegel’s Science of Logic. It emphasizes Marx’s understanding of capital as a set of relations constituted by two separations – that of workers from the means of production, giving rise to the exploitation of wage labour, and that between capitals, from which arises their competitive struggle. This understanding also informs the book’s presentation of Marx’s multi-dimensional conception of crises. Marx strove to make Capital a study of capitalism as a global system, and not merely a portrait of the mid-Victorian British economy: the cycle of financial bubble and panic that he investigated has come in the neoliberal era to regulate the world economy, with the devastating effects witnessed in the 2007-8 crash.

Alex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at King’s College London and editor of International Socialism. His recent books include Imperialism and Global Political Economy, Bonfire of Illusions, and most recently Deciphering Capital (Bookmarks, 2014)*.

Christopher Arthur taught philosophy at the University of Sussex. His books include Dialectics of Labour and Marx’s Capital and the New Dialectic.

 Michael Roberts is a Marxist economist who blogs at: http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

 * £14.99 - £10 special offer for book launch

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March against Tory Austerity this Saturday

Support the strikes over pay this week in the NHS and Civil Service and join the National TUC demonstration against Tory Austerity and low pay this Saturday 18 October in London and Glasgow - show that there is a different Britain to that represented by the narrow and backward looking racist populism of UKIP - one about the values of solidarity, trade unionism, workers' unity, social justice, people not profit, welcoming migrant workers and defending the NHS - a politics of hope over the politics of despair #18Oct

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Marxism in Scotland

After the Referendum - which way forward for the Left?
Saturday 11 October - Glasgow

On the 18th September, 1.6 million people (45% of voters) in Scotland voted yes to independence. It was a truly historic referendum result with 97% of eligable voters registered and an 85% turnout, breaking all existing voting records in British history.

Although the referendum result narrowly rejected independence by 55 percent to 45 percent. Scottish voters gave the British ruling class the fright of its life—and politics in Scotland will never be the same again.

The genie is out of the bottle! There is a new movement that has emerged from the independence campaign. A movement with a positive vision for the future and the ideas, the creativity and the potential to transform Scotland.

Last year over 250 socialists, campaigners and activists attended Marxism in Scotland.

This year's event takes place just 3 weeks after the independence referendum result and one week before the major anti-austerity demonstrations in both Glasgow and London.

Come along and be part of a fantastic day for sharing experiences, political discussions, debates, strategy and tactics with local, national and international speakers on how we can take the struggle for a better world forward.

Speaking at Marxism in Scotland...

Kevin McKenna, Observer Scottish columnist

Bob Thomson, former Scottish Labour Party Chairman and leading supporter of Labour for Independence

Cheryl Gedling PCS Union NEC member, President Scottish Government Group (personal capacity)

Professor Greg Philo, research director of Glasgow University Media Unit. Co-author of Bad News from Israel (2004), More Bad News from Israel (2011) and Bad News For Refugees, written with Emma Briant and Pauline Donald

Amal Azzudin, community worker and one of the Glasgow Girls whose struggle against the deportations of asylum seekers from Glasgow has since been turned into a play and television drama/documentary.

Ian Hodson, president, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union)

Alex Callincos, author of Imperialism and the World Economy

Weyman Bennet, Unite against Fascism National Joint Secretary, recently returned from Ferguson, Missouri

Keir McKecknie. author of top selling 'Independence Yes, Nationalism No' pamphlet

Full programme coming soon with speaker details of the opening rally, the closing plenary and workshops on...

How can Palestine be Free?
Understanding Imperialism Today - Iraq, Syria and Ukraine
The Struggle for Womens Liberation
Fighting Racism and Fascism Today
The Assault on Welfare
Fighting Austerity in the Workplace.

Registration: 10 - 11am
Tickets: £5 waged, £3 unwaged (£10 solidarity price).

There is a free creche for Marxism in Scotland. Please private message or email swpscotland@gmail.com before 2pm Friday 10th to book places.

Book online: https://www.swp.org.uk/event/marxism-scotland (at bottom of page)

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Alex Callinicos on the multiple crises of imperialism

If the United States remains the command centre of global capitalism, a multiplicity of crises has been flashing up on its screens in the past few months. Let’s consider them in ascending order of importance from the perspective of US decision makers. First, there was Israel’s latest war on Gaza—not a crisis for Washington, more the kind of violent outburst through which a kind of equilibrium is re-established, but for growing numbers of people around the world an outrage and a crime. Secondly, there was the war—now halted by an uneasy ceasefire—between the pro-Western government in Kiev and Russian-backed forces in south eastern Ukraine. Thirdly, there is the US bombing campaign to halt the advance of the jihadi group that calls itself the Islamic State, but which we will continue to call ISIS, in Iraq and Syria. And, finally—not yet a crisis, but potentially the most serious conflict—there’s the increasingly intense interstate competition in East Asia in response to China’s growing power...
For revolutionaries, opposing Obama’s bombing campaign—and whatever other military actions follow—should be straightforward. (We should also, of course, oppose NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.) But this opposition needs to be informed by an understanding that the latest US intervention in the Middle East takes place against the background of a renewal of inter-imperialist rivalries on a scale not seen since the end of the Cold War. Anti-imperialism during that era required, not simply opposing our “own” imperialism, but also refusing to prettify the actions of its rival and acknowledging that it too operates according to an imperialist logic. The same stance is required today, with the complication that today we are seeing multi-polar interstate competition. This is clearest in East Asia. On a global scale, the US remains the only world power, but it faces serious regional challenges from Russia and China, and within the Western bloc Germany and Japan are newly assertive.
Grasping this complexity is not an academic exercise. If we assign a “progressive” role to America’s rivals, we lose hold of the thread of class struggle. The main antagonism in the world becomes that between states rather than classes. But, beyond their real conflicts of interest, all the leading capitalist states are united by their common dependence on the exploitation of wage labour. As Lenin and Luxemburg understood so well in 1914, the critique of the imperialist system is an essential political tool in uniting workers against capital.

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New Book: Bread, Freedom, Social Justice

Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: Workers and the Egyptian Revolution
By Anne Alexander and Mostafa Bassiouny
Published on 9 October by Zed books.

Accounts of the Arab Spring often focus on the role of youth coalitions, the use of social media, and the tactics of the Tahrir Square occupation. This authoritative and original book argues that collective action by organised workers played a fundamental role in the Egyptian revolution, which erupted after years of strikes and social protests. 
Drawing on the authors' decade-long experience of reporting on and researching the Egyptian labour movement, the book provides the first in-depth account of the emergence of independent trade unions and workers' militancy during Mubarak's last years in power, and and their destabilising impact on the post-revolutionary regimes.

Table of Contents

Introduction: From the Republic of Tahrir to the Republic of Fear? Theorising revolution and counter-revolution in Egypt 2011-2014
1.From Nasserism to Neoliberalism: a new amalgam of state and private capital
2.The changing structure of the Egyptian working class in the neoliberal era
3.Strikes, protests and the development of a revolutionary crisis
4. Organisation in the workplace before the revolution: the Nasserist model in crisis
5. From strike committee to independent union
6.The revolution’s social soul: workers and the January Revolution
7. Workers’ organisations since the revolution
8.The crisis of representation: workers and elections
9. Tathir: the struggle to cleanse the state
Conclusion: Beyond ‘the Republic of Dreams’: revolutionary organisation, democracy and the question of the state

Book Launch: 28 October @ Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, WC1HOXG
With Gilbert Achcar, Alain Gresh, Mostafa Bassiouny and Anne Alexander

There will be a collection held at this book launch for Bassem Chit, the Lebanese revolutionary socialist who tragically passed away a few days ago.  This is from one of Chit's last articles, How did the sectarian nightmare come true in Iraq and Syria?, discussing the likely consequences of Obama and Cameron's new war:

The US is on the defensive and trying to protect its own interests in Iraq. An intervention will inflame the situation and prolong the conflict.  The Islamic State exists because of a lack of revolutionary politics. A movement from below which fends off the regime and fills the vacuum the Islamic State is currently filling could win people away from it. You can point to Isis as being part of the counter-revolutionary forces which criminalise revolution. The line of struggle against both the regime and against these reactionaries becomes clearer. But when imperialists intervene it gives structures like Isis more favourable conditions.It galvanises regional rivalries which allows the further spreading of factional conflicts. This fragments the masses and besieges the working class in a war-driven economy. And it limits the possibility of building political movements and mass mobilisations which offer the only real alternative against these sectarian forces.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why we need a socialist alternative to Labour

On 28 September 1864, 150 years ago, a mass meeting was held in St Martin’s Hall in central London to launch a new organisation, the “International Working Men’s Association” (IWMA) - the First International. In the IWMA's Inaugural Address, written by Karl Marx, the group stressed the importance of workers challenging the “criminal designs” of their own capitalist class, their “playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people’s blood and treasure”.

 Sadly the IWMA fell apart in the 1870s, but the Socialist (Second) International which was formed in 1889 to replace it on paper at least continued something of this honourable anti-imperialist tradition. For example, in 1906 the Labour Party in Britain, an affiliate of the Second International in 1906 declared it was against 'wars fought to make the rich richer,' while 'underfed schoolchildren are still neglected'. Tragically, the Second International famously failed the test of the First World War, as the majority of its affiliate organisations voted to support this bloody inter-imperialist conflict. The leaders of the organisations which make up what is still nominally called the Socialist International - which include the Labour Party in Britain - have not learnt anything from its past mistakes with respect to history, at least not if the Iraq wars past and present are anything to go by. In 2003, a majority of Labour MPs voted to support Bush and Blair's criminal and disastrous Iraq War - with only 139 voted against. In 2006, only 12 Labour MPs voted for an inquiry into the Iraq War. Now with Cameron's current Iraq War, only 23 Labour MPs voted against - and the vast majority of Labour MPs who forgot the lessons of past imperialist interventions from 1914 onwards and voted for war are below:

 The Labour MPs who voted in favour were: Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East & Saddleworth), Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East), Douglas Alexander (Paisley & Renfrewshire South), Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Dave Anderson (Blaydon), Mr Jon Ashworth (Leicester South), Ian Austin (Dudley North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West), Willie Bain (Glasgow North East), Ed Balls (Morley & Outwood), Gordon Banks (Ochil & Perthshire South), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Hugh Bayley (York Central), Dame Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Clive Betts (Sheffield South East), Roberta Blackman-Woods (Durham, City of), Hazel Blears (Salford & Eccles), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central), David Blunkett (Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough), Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West), Lyn Brown (West Ham), Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East), Russell Brown (Dumfries & Galloway), Karen Buck (Westminster North), Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield), Andy Burnham (Leigh), Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Sarah Champion (Rotherham), Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Jon Cruddas (Dagenham & Rainham), John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead), Alex Cunningham (Stockton North), Jim Cunningham (Coventry South), Tony Cunningham (Workington), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Alistair Darling (Edinburgh South West), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Geraint Davies (Swansea West), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), John Denham (Southampton Itchen), Frank Dobson (Holborn & St Pancras), Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline & Fife West), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Gemma Doyle (Dunbartonshire West), Jack Dromey (Birmingham Erdington), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Clive Efford (Eltham), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central), Natascha Engel (Derbyshire North East), Bill Esterson (Sefton Central), Chris Evans (Islwyn), Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield), Hywel Francis (Aberavon), Mike Gapes (Ilford South), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Pat Glass (Durham North West), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland), Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen & Hamilton West), Kate Green (Stretford & Urmston), Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South), Nia Griffith (Llanelli), Andrew Gwynne (Denton & Reddish), Peter Hain (Neath), Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Tom Harris (Glasgow South), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), John Healey (Wentworth & Dearne), Mark Hendrick (Preston), David Heyes (Ashton Under Lyne), Meg Hillier (Hackney South & Shoreditch), Julie Hilling (Bolton West), Margaret Hodge (Barking), Sharon Hodgson (Washington & Sunderland West), Jim Hood (Lanark & Hamilton East), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore), Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Kilburn), Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Major Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Dame Tessa Jowell (Dulwich & West Norwood), Mike Kane (Wythenshawe & Sale East), Elizabeth Kendall (Leicester West), Sadiq Khan (Tooting), David Lammy (Tottenham), Christopher Leslie (Nottingham East), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Ivan Lewis (Bury South), Andy Love (Edmonton), Ian Lucas (Wrexham), Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak), Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Jim McGovern (Dundee West), Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North), Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr), Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood), Seema Malhotra (Feltham & Heston), John Mann (Bassetlaw), Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South), Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton), Alan Meale (Mansfield), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), Ed Miliband (Doncaster North), Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port & Neston), Madeleine Moon (Bridgend), Jessica Morden (Newport East), Meg Munn (Sheffield Heeley), Jim Murphy (Renfrewshire East), Paul Murphy (Torfaen), Lisa Nandy (Wigan), Pamela Nash (Airdrie & Shotts), Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central), Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock), Albert Owen (Ynys Mon), Toby Perkins (Chesterfield), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Stephen Pound (Ealing North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Nick Raynsford (Greenwich & Woolwich), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Steve Reed (Croydon North), Rachel Reeves (Leeds West), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge & Hyde), John Robertson (Glasgow North West), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes), Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd), Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central), Andy Sawford (Corby), Alison Seabeck (Plymouth Moor View), Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall), Jim Sheridan (Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Gavin Shuker (Luton South), Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent), Owen Smith (Pontypridd), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South), Mark Tami (Alyn & Deeside), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury), Stephen Timms (East Ham), Jon Trickett (Hemsworth), Karl Turner (Hull East), Derek Twigg (Halton), Stephen Twigg (Liverpool West Derby), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Valerie Vaz (Walsall South), Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North), Dave Watts (St Helens North), Alan Whitehead (Southampton Test), Chris Williamson (Derby North), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield), Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central), John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness), Shaun Woodward (St Helens South & Whiston), David Wright (Telford) and Iain Wright (Hartlepool).

 These pro-war Labour MPs have let down themselves and their voters very badly indeed - sanctioning a return of Western imperialism to the scene of its greatest crime in recent memory - and all of them deserve to face a left wing challenge to them in the general election. All socialists in Britain should surely now work together - whether in TUSC, Left Unity, Respect or whatever - to unite and rally around credible candidates in each area who can stand against as many of these people and raise the banner of 'Welfare not Warfare - Stop the Cuts - Stop the Bombing of Iraq'. Organising to stop the war in Iraq and organising for an anti-war left wing challenge in the 2015 general election is the best tribute we can pay to those pioneers - including Karl Marx himself - who formed the First International 150 years ago - and restore some honour to the words 'socialist internationalism'.

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1,000 Stand Up to UKIP in Doncaster

One bit of good news on an otherwise quite depressing weekend - the importance of building anti-racist organisations like Stand Up to UKIP cannot be overstated as the UKIP bandwagon continues to roll on, taking the rest of mainstream official politics in Britain even further to the right...

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Greatest Movie Never Made?

Though it was sadly not mentioned in a recent book, The fifty greatest movies you will never see, one film project that has a very good claim to be included in that category was the planned project to make a film about the Haitian Revolution starring Paul Robeson by the great Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein during the interwar period (another would be Eisenstein's plans to make a film of Marx's Capital).  The latest issue of History Workshop Journal has an interesting article entitled Sergei Eisenstein and the Haitian Revolution about this thwarted project, which might be of interest to readers of Histomat...

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National Stop the War Demonstration on 4 October

From the Stop the War Coalition:

Stop the bombing of Iraq - don't attack Syria
National demonstration, Saturday 4 October

Assemble 1pm, 
Temple Place, 
London WC2R 3BD

Parliament has voted for the third Iraq War. The last two have brought almost unimaginable suffering to the people of Iraq and have helped to create the current chaos, driving the country to the brink of break up.

They claim this is a humanitarian operation to defeat Isis. In fact Isis is backed by various middle east powers and a new aerial bombardment will not defeat it. It will however kill innocents, further fragment the country and inflame violence. 

The record of the west's wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya show that as well as creating misery and mayhem, western military interventions make the world a more volatile, dangerous place.  

Cameron's new war has built-in mission creep. Discussions are already underway for Britain to join the bombing of Syria, and there are growing calls for boots on the ground.

The Stop the War Coalition is asking every one of its supporters to throw themselves in to the campaign against the insanity of another war on Iraq. Spread the word everywhere about next Saturday's demonstration.

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