The Dublin lock-out was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers, lasting for seven months from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914. The dispute began when employers locked their workers out, in a bid to destroy workers’ unions, hiring ‘blackleg’ workers from Britain to replace them. The urban working class were seen to pose a threat to the Irish Parliamentary Party; their living and working conditions were catalysts for growing concerns about social justice that threatened to upset the Redmondites. The vanquishing of working class jobs and unions was indicative of the Irish Parliamentary Party’s ‘obscurantist’ politics that Connolly derides.
In this extract from The Politics of James Connolly, Kieran Allen shows how the isolation of workers during the Dublin lock-out – ‘workers’ also including the Catholic Irish intelligentsia, whose employment prospects were narrowed by Protestant ascendancy, a derivative of the IPP’s collusion with the imperialist British government — demonstrates how class and religion were interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage in twentieth-century Ireland. Moreover, Allen emphasises how these intersections informed Connolly’s intellectual marrying of socialism with Ireland’s dominant national and religious traditions.
‘In Belfast, workers were divided on sectarian lines but, on occasion, would unite to mount a vigorous class war. In 1907, Jim Larkin made his first appearance in Ireland during a massive dock strike and, for a brief period, Devlin’s AOH and the Orange Order lost control. But it was in Dublin that the struggles of the working class caused the greatest danger to the Irish Parliamentary Party. Although a relative social peace had descended on the countryside, the stunted nature of Irish capitalism created great pools of poverty in the capital. Arnold Wright, although hostile to the workers’ movement, had to admit that ‘the degradation of human kind is carried to a point of abjectness beyond that reached in any city of the Western world, save perhaps Naples.’ The huge numbers of unemployed and casual workers made any sort of conventional trade unionism impossible and only the most militant form of class struggle and revolutionary socialism stood any chance of making an impact. Larkinism provided this potent mix and from 1908 until 1913, there were a series of battles that put the Dublin employers on the defensive. Larkin’s paper, the Irish Worker, which had a circulation of 20,000 a week, repeatedly condemned the Home Rule party for not being concerned with the material welfare of Irish workers because the party voted against extending social legislation to Ireland.
In this essay, Bill Mullen, author of the forthcoming W.E.B. DuBois biography Revolutionary Across the Colour Line, considers the historical precedence set by DuBois’ thought. This survey of DuBois’ radicalism (evidenced in his advocating of the redistribution of public wealth, his alignment with Pan Africanism and solidarity with working class movements worldwide) allows us to contextualise the political motivations of the Black Lives coalition network, following the recent publication of their agenda.
Just weeks ago the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. released its political platform. The six-part document called for a wide range of reforms of American capitalism: a universal health care system; a constitutional right to free higher education; cuts in military expenditures and re-investment in local infrastructures; a progressive restructuring of tax codes to ‘ensure and radical and equitable redistribution of wealth;’ a guarantee of the right of workers to organise. The document also called for the demilitarisation of U.S. police, an end to capital punishment, and the end of surveillance of Black communities by law enforcement.1
The Movement for Black Lives platform is a document the late W.E.B. Du Bois would have would have proudly endorsed. Indeed, in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Du Bois published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper The Atlanta Creed, a bullet point program for Black equality and liberation. The ‘Creed’ called for ‘Business for Public Welfare, and not for Private Profit;’ ‘No monopoly of land, materials, or machines in private hands;’ ‘Political power not for jobs but for public recognition of the Negro’s right to share equally and proportionally in all public expenditures; for protecting all labour in wage and work; and for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor through taxation and nationalisation.’ Most boldly, Du Bois called for Socialism: ‘We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, state ownership and control of the means of production, and equality of income; we believe that the ultimate power in the state should rest in the hands of those who work, and that the state should be ruled by them.’2
Open any British newspaper, from the Guardian to the Mail, and be confronted with anti-Corbyn smears. Attacks that have included criticism of poor local election results, weak media management or “woeful” Prime Minister’s Questions performances are now fixated on linking Corbyn with a supposedly ‘endemic’ anti-semitism in Labour’s rank and file.
In this article, David Rosenberg, author of Rebel Footprints, highlights the hypocrisy of the media’s anti-Corbyn bias.
‘Those of us who have welcomed and enthusiastically supported the reincarnation of the Labour Party as an unashamedly socialist, anti-austerity party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, knew that the right wing of the Labour Party would stop at nothing to smear and undermine this leadership. The most distasteful smears have tried to link Corbyn and his supporters with antisemites and antisemitism.
Big hitters in the Jewish community – the President of the Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, the Community Security Trust, and a self-styled body called Campaign Against Antisemitism – threw some of these smears themselves, or provided an echo chamber for them. They present themselves as leaders of that community, without ever asking ordinary Jewish people like myself or my Jewish acquaintances, who have never elected or appointed them. Their interventions were lapped up not just by the right wing press, but also by the liberal press who knew better. Jonathan Freedland, who combines his role at the Guardian with writing several pieces for the Jewish Chronicle, has played a particularly insidious role in the anti-Corbyn crusade.
Luke Sinwell went to a small mining town in Marikana to understand the massacre of thirty-four black mineworkers who were gunned down by police on 16 August 2012, nearly twenty years into the post-apartheid South African period. He observed the sociological dynamics of the massacre from the perspective of the mineworkers and developed relationships with the heroic figures who led the longest strike in South African mining history, and thereby changed the course of the country’s politics. Today, for the four year commemoration of the massacre, he reflects on what it was like doing ethnography during this tumultuous period and what makes his new book The Spirit of Marikana so unique.
‘I first went to the Rustenburg platinum belt, and more specifically Marikana, on 18 August 2012 –
two days following the massacre. The mineworkers were still on strike. They had decided to continue the strike so that their colleagues would not have died in vain. Before leaving, I recall being asked whether it was wise to go to Marikana in the midst of the ongoing violence. I responded that it was my right to go, and that if the workers told me to leave, I would do so. If the police forced me to exit the area where I was stationed to do research, then I would comply. As it turned out, the police never did, neither did the workers (though there were certain instances whereby we were clearly not welcome). Over time, I built strong relationships with key leaders who remained committed and even ready to die for the economic freedom and dignity of mineworkers. This is indeed the most significant quality of my research, and these relationships lie at the heart of the book The Spirit of Marikana.
In this essay, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, author of the recently published End of Jewish Modernity and prolific historian of the twentieth-century, Enzo Traverso examines the parallels between two strains of modern xenophobia: anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Looking at politics, the media and cultural output, Traverso reveals significant similarities between today’s Islamophobia and the older anti-Semitism.
‘A new wave of Islamophobia is spreading in the West. If elected President, Donald Trump has vowed to expel all Muslims from the United States and across the European Union, conservative currents claim laws against Islam. Islam is perceived as a barbarism and a threat to Western, “Jewish-Christian” civilization, a tendency gaining strength in France following a succession of terrorist attacks In this culture of extreme xenophobia and prejudice, the notion that Muslim citizens be compelled to wear a yellow star and crescent on their clothes, like Jews during the Second World War, no longer seems beyond the realms of possibility. Continue reading
To coincide with the publication of two new Pluto titles The Spirit of Marikana and Naija Marxisms we have compiled a list of books that explore Left Wing Movements across the African continent; chronicling the diverse labour movements, social thoughts and political economies of Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zanzibar.
The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe Mbatha
On the 16th August 2012 on a platinum mine in Marikana, the South African Police Service opened fire on thirty-four protesting black mine workers. This would come to be known as the Marikana massacre; one of the most lethal uses of force by South African security services since the apartheid era.
Through oral testimonies and exhaustive fieldwork, Sinwell and Mbatha create a gripping account of the incidents that followed. What began as a simple dispute over pay became an emblem of working class resistance in South Africa. The Spirit of Marikana is a testament to the mine workers’ heroic resistance against the cronyism of mine bosses, the government authorities and the crooked union establishment. Continue reading
Adam Mayer’s Naija Marxisms: Revolutionary Thought in Nigeria, has just been published. In this article, republished from ROAPE, he discusses the importance of recognising and engaging with the rich history of Marxist scholars in Nigeria.
‘As I write this entry, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) just backtracked on a planned general strike against the removal of the fuel subsidy. For readers from Northern national economies, the importance of the fuel subsidy – which allowed for consumer fuel prices to be kept at around N100 [$0.50] – N50 [$0.25] less than the market rate – perhaps seems an unusual reason to call for a general strike in the first place. Nonetheless, if carried through with, this would have been the third such general strike (after 2003 and 2012) that centred on the removal of this vital government subsidy – with a long list of minor strikes before, after and in between. What is crucial is the fact that the national minimum wage is around $90/month, and 70% of people are not in formal employment and thus not eligible even for that sum. Primary school teachers – in formal employment – or wheelbarrow men and market women – not in formal employment – all need to commute to their workplaces – and their commute is never covered by an employer. Thus the removal of the fuel subsidy will increase an average worker’s cost of living by around 25-30% with no real compensation beyond promises — a major drawback! Factional struggles nipped this nationwide strike in the bud – nonetheless the NLC is very far from a spent force.
The NLC’s labour organizers draw on a rich and multifaceted tradition when they call for strikes. Neoliberal charlatans, media pundits and government officials may tell the Nigerian lorry driver, and the unemployed women and men in his compound that the removal of the fuel subsidy will allow for a reallocation of “precious government resources to worthy causes” such as schools, hospitals, nurseries and water towers, it is improbable that they would buy into this hegemonic babble. President Buhari, a man famous for his personal disdain for embezzlement, is at the same time also the man left in charge of a neo-colonial political economy. His credentials in fighting Maitatsine – as Mohammed Marwa was known, Marwa was a radical Islamic preacher, who attracted considerable support in the 1970s – as military head of government in the early 1980s, or Boko Haram as president since 2015 do not make him a progressive. Muhammadu Buhai was elected in 2015, promising to fight endemic corruption and the advances of Boko Haram.