In the 1840s famine struck Britain's colony in Ireland. The British government enforced the export of food from Ireland. One and a half million people died from starvation, and a million and a half emigrated.
ONE OF the proudest moments of my life was compering the 200,000-strong Anti Nazi League carnival in south London in 1994. It was the perfect combination of politics and music. And, oh boy, did we need it!
THE WORLD will be a safer place," foreign secretary Jack Straw told parliament two days before the war on Iraq. "Iraq", Tony Blair said in the same debate, "will be the test of whether we take the threat of terrorism seriously." A year later at least 15,000 Iraqis have lost their lives in this "test", each one dying as horribly as the 200 people blown to pieces in Madrid last week.
"THIS IS not the time for politics. We must show our unity against the terrorists, regardless of class or party." So proclaimed all the mainstream politicians in Spain and Britain after last week's bombings. But the governments supporting last year's war did not lose one minute in trying to squeeze the political advantage for themselves.
At the heart of capitalism is an ongoing class struggle between capital and labour. That is the ABC of Marxism. But the alphabet has more than three letters. Class domination in capitalism is interwoven with many other sorts of human oppression. These provide a basis for divisions among the exploited. Disadvantaged groups have been held down on the grounds of being "different", and they in turn have fought back.
When European politicians led a demonstration through the streets of Madrid last week in the wake of the train bombings, there was one familiar face missing. Surely Tony Blair would not miss the opportunity to rub shoulders with other political leaders and to adopt his "people's princess" face of pouting lip and moist eyes?
BLAIR HAS effectively abandoned his attempt to say international law supported the invasion of Iraq. Speaking to a hand-picked business audience last week, he said "it may be that under international law" the US and Britain are not authorised to topple regimes they don't like.
Socialism depends on workers overcoming the divisions within their own ranks. The most virulent of these divisions is racism, in all its forms. The racism of Hitler and the Nazis produced the organised mass murder of millions of Jews and Gypsies in the 1940s. What is racism?
LOSE WEIGHT. Eat a McDonald's. That was the amazing sales pitch the junk food giant tried to pull off last week. Even it has noticed that there is widespread concern about people's health as obesity becomes an increasing problem. So McDonald's announced they would cut back on their "supersize" products to appear as promoters of healthy eating. Call me cynical, but I have little trust in a company that puts tap water, available for free, in a bottle and sells it for 95p. Obesity is a serious issue, and can lead to damaging health problems.
'THE ENEMY within." That chilling phrase sums up how top establishment figures see people who dare to reveal the truth about the war. They dragged GCHQ worker Katharine Gun through the courts for 12 months to terrify others out of speaking out. The government was forced to drop the case against her only because it would have had to reveal the legal basis for attacking Iraq in court.
NORMALLY THE centre-left monthly magazine Prospect is as good a cure for insomnia as I know. Relentlessly middle-brow and mid-Atlantic, its contributors agonise over how to maintain the global domination of market capitalism and of the United States without being excessively cruel to the poor or suppressing too many civil liberties.
I ONCE thought the late, great Marvin Gaye was white! The reason was simple: I was eight years old and the guy pictured on the front of my compilation album gazing up at a white woman on a swing was a blue-eyed, blond-haired John F Kennedy look-alike.
RALPH NADER's decision to run as an independent candidate in the US election is causing consternation to many opponents of George Bush. Surely, they say, the most important thing is to get Bush out.
Colin Barker continues his series on the 'Where We Stand' Socialist Workers Party statement of principles printed each week in Socialist Worker
OF ALL the excuses I could have come up with for buying the new lads' mags Zoo Weekly and Nuts, "They're not for me, they're for a review in Socialist Worker..." probably wasn't the most believable one to give to my newsagent. They are clearly both products of the same PR focus group-the two magazines look identical. The front cover layout is the same on each, both featuring brash red on black title next to a semi-naked woman, and is punctuated with the shared promise of stories about footballers, footballers' wives and, bizarrely, amputees.
BLAIR WANTS to draw a line under the war and move on. He wants us to forget about the 10,000 civilians who have died in Iraq since the war began. He wants us to forget that, far from bringing democracy to the country, the US plans to impose a government on Iraq.
AS THE shadows gather around Tony Blair, the sun seems to be shining on chancellor Gordon Brown. The government announced last week that the number of people seeking work fell in January to 1.46 million, 4.9 percent of those of working age.
Divisions weaken the working class
IN CASE you missed the advertisement and would like to apply for the job, the BBC is looking for a new chairman. He or she will work a four-day week and the salary is around £80,000 a year- nice work if you can get it.
THE QUICKSANDS of Morecambe Bay became a grave for 19 Chinese workers last week. Their job was to pick cockles for low wages, working all hours in dangerous conditions, with no rights. Some of the last tabloid articles they would have seen were about how people from abroad "are heading to Britain to leech on us" and branded them all "benefit tourists".