This quarter’s selection

Issue: 162

The latest issue of Irish Marxist Review (number 23) carries an important article by the editor, John Molyneux, called “The Future of Marxism”. John affirms that Marxism definitely has a future, but identifies three areas where fresh and creative thinking is especially needed—the changing nature of the proletariat, the working class and struggles against oppression and climate change. John’s discussion of the second set of issues is particularly interesting. He argues that “while what is often called ‘identity politics’ is rising, it is by no means necessarily counterposed to class politics, and separatism, in the sense in which it was prevalent in the late 1960s and 1970s, is hardly in evidence.” There is plenty of food for thought here.

The London Review of Books of 7 February carried a mammoth article on Brazil by Perry Anderson that in many ways complements the interview with Valério Arcary in our last issue. Anderson, who has known Brazil since the early 1960s, explores the labyrinths of Brazilian politics and society with great skill. Like Arcary, he sees the overturning of the Workers’ Party (PT) as driven by a revolt of the middle class. “Big business, the working class and the poor had all benefited from PT rule. Professionals, middle management, service personnel and small employers had not.”

Anderson also anatomises Jair Bolsonaro’s rise: it’s fascinating to discover, for example, that his Congressional constituency in Rio includes “the Vila Militar, an area in the west of the city built for soldiers and their families containing the largest concentration of troops in Latin America”. Under Bolsonaro’s presidency Anderson expects a sharp neoliberal turn. Perhaps because the outlook is so grim he is rather indulgent to the PT: “For a dozen years, Brazil was the only major country in the world to defy the epoch, to refuse the deepening of the neoliberal regime of capital and relax some of its rigours in favour of the least well-off.” For a contrasting view, see Andy Brown’s article elewhere in this issue.

Also in the LRB (7 March) is the write-up of an interesting lecture by historian Christopher Clark on the 1848 revolutions, which he calls unique in European history in that revolt broke out across the entire continent over a short space of time. The effects of the upheavals were also felt as far as the Caribbean, the Cape and Australia. Clark shows how the movement was divided between liberals and radicals; demands for political freedoms such as freedom of the press contrasted with calls for a more fundamental challenge to the system itself: “What was the point of a newspaper if you were too hungry to read it?” as the radicals asked.

Clark describes how: “Liberal leaders feared they might be unable to control the social energies released by the revolution… Urban middle class residents winced when uncouth figures poured in through the city gates, now abandoned by their military guards. They feared for their property, and sometimes for their lives”. He suggests that fear of a working class uprising ultimately paralysed the revolutions, allowing counter-revolutionaries to play different sections of the movement off against one another. But although 1848 might have ended with a triumph of the political centre-ground, Clark sees the opposite happening in the 21st century as the centre has weakened and we see polarisation to the left and right.

Writing in Middle East Solidarity magazine (issue 10), Irang Bak provides a useful analysis of the uprising in Sudan against Omar El Bashir, demonstrating how money from the EU aimed at stopping refugees has ended up in the hands of the security forces used by the regime against protestors. The magazine also includes voices of women activists who have played a prominent role in the uprising. As Sara Abdelgalil of the Sudan Doctors’ Union puts it: “This is not just protests over bread and fuel, it is a revolution… Women and girls are at the frontline”. Plus, Miriam Scharf interviews Nur Masalha, whose book Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History is reviewed in this issue of International Socialism.

In the latest issue of Race and Class (April-June 2019) Jasbinder S Nijjar recalls the events of 23 April 1979 when teacher and Socialist Workers Party member Blair Peach was beaten to death by police during a protest against the fascist National Front. Nijjar situates the police riot in Southall in a long history of colonialist and racist violence, encompassing the 1919 massacre in Amritsar, the murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar in 1976 and the Windrush scandal today. But he also shows how Southall was home to anti-racist struggle, with Asian and African-Caribbean people uniting in adopting a politically black identity based on common experience.

This issue also includes articles on unconscious bias, the UK’s hostile environment, representations of race in media coverage of Venezuela and “digital colonialism”—where digital technologies as well as the vast amounts of data collected about internet users are dominated and controlled by US corporations.