Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

'Thatcher's dead, long live the miners'

 Photo: Yes.
A brief speech from former miner Dave Douglass at the 3,000 strong anti-Thatcher rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday is well worth listening to - while for more anti-Thatcher stuff, see some of the letters here - including this great comment - 'Seen the site for Maggie’s grave? It’s OK, but I reckon the dance floor is a bit small...'   Anyway, time to 'party like its 1990' I feel...

Edited to add: Thatcher: A Nation Mourns

Edited to also add: The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

International Socialism # 138 out now

Cover of issue 138
 The full contents are well worth a browse and are available here, but highlights at first glance include Sheila McGregor on 'Marxism and women's oppression today', which includes a defence of Engels's writings on this issue, and a series of essays on the state of the class struggles in Europe, including pieces by Catarina Príncipe on Portugal and Thanasis Kampagianni on Greece.  There are also a host of other pieces, including a discussion between Henry Bernstein and Joseph Choonara about agriculture, class and capitalism, and a kind of debate between Ian Birchall and John Rose about Lenin, Paul Levi and revolutionary strategy and tactics.  There is also a review of Donny Gluckstein's A People's History of the Second World War, a work which has already stirred up considerable debate online elsewhere.

Edited to add: The ISJ during the 1980s carried a number of interesting pieces on Thatcher - for example,  Sue Clegg on 'Thatcher and the Welfare State', while for discussions of 'Thatcherism', see Alex Callinicos.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

John Pilger on wealth redistribution in Britain under Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher’s government was defined by overseeing the greatest ever transfer of wealth from the bottom of society to the top. In the name of little people, she handed billions to the richest in tax cuts and de-regulation, a theft from which Britain has never recovered ... Between 1979 and 1992-3, the poorest tenth of the British population experienced a fall in their real income of 18 percent after housing costs, compared to an unprecedented rise of 61 percent for the top tenth.  According to Economic Trends, the post-war improvement of life for the poorest 'has been put into reverse [since 1979].  Income has not trickled down, but filtered up from the poorer sections of society to the richer ones'.  Put another way, since the year Margaret Thatcher came to power, more than £63 billion has been transferred, in subsidies, from the poor to the rich...
From here and Pilger's classic work, Hidden Agendas, pp 105-6. 


Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - Class Warrior


[Rejoice! Rejoice! By way of marking the news of Thatcher's passing in a slightly more political manner, I have decided to re-post extracts from a short piece by Paul Foot from Socialist Worker in 1985 entitled 'Margaret Thatcher: Class Warrior'....and then go and celebrate...]

Thatcher-worship, which goes on all the time in a continuous Mass in T, will rise to a crescendo in the next few weeks ... Grateful and sycophantic press barons will be eager to impress on their readers that Mrs Thatcher is a wonder woman, her political intelligence and grasp far greater than anything else seen in Britain (or any other country) in the postwar period. Above all, she will be heralded for her convictions and her passions, which, it will be argued, contrast magnificently with the dull pragmatism of her two predecessors, Heath and Macmillan...

Mrs Thatcher's real skill comes from her deep sensitivity to the ebbs and flows in the fortunes of her class. She is a class general, who knows no sentiment in the struggle.

The old aristocratic leaders of the Tory Party believed they were superior to the lower orders chiefly through divine intervention or God's will. They were therefore inclined to dilute their class passions with occasional bouts of compassion, doubt or hesitation.

Margaret Thatcher and her arrivistes, people whose parents had to hang on by their fingertips to stay in the ruling class at all, believe that they are superior because they are superior. There is, therefore, in their class war strategy not a hint of doubt or guilt. They have a better sense of the state of the battle, and a stronger will to win it.

Unlike Macmillan, Thatcher was deeply suspicious of the Keynesian economics and full employment of the postwar years. She sensed that although these things could not be reversed at the height of the boom, they were fundamentally corrosive of her class. Long before most Tory leaders she sensed an ebb in that confidence, and she seized the time.

She knew that mass unemployment breeds despair in workers, and that that despair would breed its own confidence among her people. She knew that trade union leaders were only powerful as long as they were allowed to seem so. She sensed the union leaders' special weakness, their suspension between the two classes, and their unwillingness to side with either. She reckoned that if the union leaders were expelled from the corridors of power, they would be reduced to pleading to be allowed in again.

Mrs Thatcher is not an intellectual giant, nor has she risen to such heights through her beauty or her oratorical skills. She is a new-fashioned two-nation Tory who understands the simple truth, which evades far too many of us: that class confidence comes out of class strength, and that her class can win only if the other class loses.

Edited to add:
Alex Callinicos: A brutal ruling-class warrior is dead
John Molyneux: The Meaning of Margaret Thatcher
Tom Mills for New Left Project

Edited to also add:
 SWP Public Meeting in central London on the evening of Thatcher's funeral:
Wednesday 17 April, 7pm, Upper Hall, University of London Union (ULU), Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
Also: Get your special edition celebratory T-shirt from  Philosophy Football - delivery in time for the funeral if you order quickly!


Friday, April 05, 2013

Paul Le Blanc to speak at Marxism 2013


Paul Le Blanc, author of many fine works on Marxist theory including Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience (which I find most useful for the perennial debates between Marxists and anarchists) and activist in the American International Socialist Organisation (ISO) will be coming over to London to speak on “Leninism in the 21st Century” at this years Marxism festival from 11-15 July, which is great news.  Other speakers confirmed so far include the Egyptian revolutionary socialist Gigi Ibrahim, Louise Raw, author of Striking a Light, which tells the story of the 1,400 women and girls at matchmaker Bryant & May, whose militant strike 125 years ago helped inspire a new wave of union action in Britain, while Mike Wayne will be speaking on “Why you should read Das Kapital” the subject of his recent book.  As someone who feels a little guilty for calling themselves a Marxist without having yet subjected the full three volumes of Capital to serious study yet, this is one meeting I should probably go to... 

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ricky Tomlinson on the Tories' lies about welfare

Let's call this government's welfare policy what it is – wrong, nasty and dishonest.

Excellent piece by Ricky Tomlinson - perhaps the closest person we have in the UK to a possible Beppe Grillo type figure - about the millionaire Tories and their brutal class war on the very poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

Edited to add: The Benefit Justice Campaign Blog

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Selma James on Beyond a Boundary at 50

CLR James's Beyond a Boundary - declared by John Arlott 'the finest book written about the game of cricket', marks its fiftieth anniversary this year - there is a conference in Glasgow in May for those interested.  CLR James used to report cricket for the Glasgow Herald and the Manchester Guardian during the 1930s - and so it is fitting that the Guardian should publish a tremendous piece by CLR's wife Selma James recalling the circumstances in which James wrote his classic work (which I once discussed briefly on my blog in the past here amidst the victorious movements of national liberation in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Edited to add: See this piece by Mike Marqusee

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