Harold Macmillan, the Tory prime minister of the late 1950s and early 1960s, put me off Anthony Trollope. He said that reading the Victorian novelist was his favourite pastime, and that was enough to create a reading block.
The war against Afghanistan has been going badly for the US and its allies. Every day last week brought news of another setback for Bush and Blair. Tony Blair's tour of the Middle East to shore up support for the "coalition against terrorism" was a complete fiasco.
Gordon Brown's speech to the Confederation of British Industry last Sunday attracted media attention because it hinted that Brown was more hostile to Britain joining the euro than Tony Blair. This latest move in a tediously long-running saga that obsesses the chattering classes diverted attention from a much more interesting question-what happened to "no more boom and bust"?
"It was necessary to destroy the town in order to save it." They were the words of an American major in 1968 after the US military demolished the town of Dentre in South Vietnam. The same crazy logic that was used to defend the Vietnam War is being used again today.
Support for Bush and Blair's war against Afghanistan is ebbing fast. Tony Blair tried to claim that the bombing was "moral" in his speech to the Welsh assembly on Tuesday. But what is moral about slaughtering hundreds of people through aerial bombardment?
A virtual who's who of the music industry took to the stage last week at Madison Square Gardens and other venues across New York. They came together to raise money for the victims of the 11 September tragedy. This was no moving tribute. It was a carnival of reaction.
"CAPITALISM AH no we fren" says the Jamaican reggae dub poet Mutabaruka, echoing the rebellious spirit of our times. Mutabaruka's words are caught on an acclaimed new film documentary that takes as its subject a part of the world-the Caribbean-that should be one of the richest. Instead the Caribbean is becoming ever poorer, due to crippling debts imposed by the IMF and World Bank.
US AND British forces had bombed Afghanistan for a week and a half as Socialist Worker went to press. Their "war on terrorism" means killing innocent Afghans in revenge for the attacks on the World Trade Centre-attacks which didn't involve a single Afghan. Yet, despite the carnage Bush and Blair are raining down on Afghanistan, the US and Britain are worried the war is not going their way.
IF YOU were a president trying to run a war, what would most scare you? Because Afghanistan is desperately poor, let's leave aside here the possibility that your enemy has bigger weapons than you. Mind you, some of the briefings and reports would have us believe that £1 billion jets flying at supersonic speed over Kabul are facing terrible risks. Apart from a pilot choking on his chewing gum, it's difficult to see any danger awaiting the US air force.
PAUL ROBESON was without doubt one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th century. A black American born at the beginning of the last century, Robeson was an uncompromising fighter against war and oppression. His death in 1976 went virtually unnoticed. But over the past few years new generations of activists have been inspired by his life.
IMPERIALIST WARS like the one that has just been launched against Afghanistan always put the left to the test. It's always possible to find some excuse for supporting imperialist rulers.
DELEGATES TO the Labour Party conference on Tuesday gave Tony Blair a standing ovation. He is going to use this as an excuse to wage war on Afghanistan. But Blair only got such support because people believed, wrongly, that he is a restraining influence on George W Bush and the US military.
IT IS too early to tell how much really has changed as a result of the atrocities of 11 September. One thing is clear, however. Defenders of the status quo are going to use the "war on terrorism" in order to justify all sorts of measures that they want to achieve anyway.
WHEN I was a child you could order a magic Cornish charm from the Captain Marvel magazine. It promised that if you held onto it and said something would happen often enough then it would happen.
IT'S AMAZING that Francis Fukuyama still dares to show his face in public. Far from experiencing the end of history after the fall of Stalinism, we are now confronted with the third major imperialist war since 1989. There are major similarities between each of these conflicts, but also significant differences.
FROM THE channel that brought us the sensationalist fly on the wall documentaries Jamaican ER and Lagos Airport we now have How Racist is Britain? The four-part series has been screened in the run-up to Black History Month in October.
"SINCE I was 12 all I have known is fighting and more fighting. So once again innocent people will be killed and nobody will care about it."
Faiz, a 33 year old market trader in Kabul, Afghanistan
THE MORE the initial shock caused by the attacks on New York and Washington wears off, the more cracks appear in the international coalition that George Bush's administration is trying to construct.
DIDN'T YOU feel sorry for Stella Rimington, that selfless public servant, who has been ostracised by the British establishment for telling us about her struggle to preserve freedom and democracy against the forces of darkness? The Guardian last week tried to hook us on its serialisation of Rimington's MI5 memoirs of how she "tracked, trailed, bugged and burgled some of the most ruthless spies, drug-runners, subversives and terrorists of her generation". Rimington was the first woman to head MI5 and the first security service chief to be named in public.
THE SPEECHES by union leaders at and around the TUC this week were among the angriest and most confrontational ever under a Labour government. It was not an industrial issue like wages or a single piece of legislation like a proposed anti-union law which was in the spotlight. It was the whole relationship between trade unions and New Labour.