MARTIN AMIS'S book Koba the Dread has caused a storm of comment. Its subject is Stalin, socialism and the possibility of social change. He argues that the reality of Stalin's crimes has been largely ignored, especially by the left.
THE MURDER of an Iranian refugee in Sunderland two weeks ago has shocked many local people. Peiman Bahmani was stabbed in the street he lived in at 3.40pm. He died later in hospital. A man has been charged with murder and racially aggravated assault. The tragedy shows what happens when the Nazis gain a foothold in an area by whipping up racism, and provide a false focus for ordinary people's frustration and discontent.
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The biggest anti-racist event in the north of England for two decades struck a major blow against the Nazi British National Party at the weekend. Some 30,000 people joined the day-long Anti Nazi League "Love Music-Hate Racism" carnival in Manchester on Sunday.
TONY BLAIR claimed to be leading the world on tackling poverty and environmental destruction at the Earth Summit this week. The truth is that the summit's outcome represents no progress at all. On key areas it will guarantee things get worse, not better. That is why 25,000 protesters, mainly the poor of South Africa, defied the police and government and staged an angry march on the summit last Saturday (see report below).
AN IMPORTANT new study has blown a hole through the central ideas behind New Labour's welfare "reform". The study is called Poverty and the Welfare State: Dispelling the Myths by social policy expert Paul Spicker. It is published by the "think-tank" Catalyst, whose members include Labour's former deputy leader Roy Hattersley.
PAUL FOOT, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the mayor of Hackney in east London, is frightening New Labour. The Independent newspaper reported last week, "Such was Millbank's consternation at the prospect of Paul Foot standing for election in east London that it turned to Mo Mowlam to become the Labour candidate. "But the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland had little hesitation in declining."
NO ONE can forget the horror of the news pictures as the hijacked planes hit the twin towers a year ago, and the awful consequences for those trapped inside. But George Bush and the US government, backed enthusiastically by Tony Blair, cynically used that tragedy to unleash even greater horror. US president Bush claimed he would "rally the world against international terrorism".
MANY PEOPLE are deeply hostile to mainstream political parties, and rightly so. They are utterly fed up with political leaders who lie and spin, who ignore their views and shamelessly promote the interests of big business. Others are suspicious of all political organisations. They fear that parties will seek to impose their own agenda on any campaign and use it for their own ends.
"DEMOCRACIES, RATHER than dictatorships, are taking the lead in curbing civil liberties." That is the conclusion of a human rights report recently published by Amnesty International. It highlights the US and Britain's attacks on civil rights in the wake of 11 September.
THERE IS another 11 September, but there will be few tributes in the media to its victims. As the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman says: "11 September has been a date of mourning, for me and millions of others, ever since that day in 1973 when Chile lost its democracy in a military coup, that day when death irrevocably entered our lives and changed us forever." On that day the Chilean military, led by General Pinochet, overthrew the elected president, Salvador Allende.
GEORGE BUSH'S drive for war has opened up bitter rows in the US establishment - even among those who share his long term objectives. But in a speech this week aimed at those with misgivings, US vice-president Dick Cheney said the danger of "inaction" is greater than the risks of war.
OVER 2,000 firefighters and their supporters converged on Belfast from around Northern Ireland and Britain as the firefighters' campaign for decent pay hotted up last weekend. This latest Fire Brigades Union (FBU) demonstration had the same confident and vibrant spirit shown on previous demonstrations on the streets of London, Glasgow and other cities.
THE MEDIA has begun to talk about strikes again for the first time in almost a decade. This is because pressure is growing among groups of workers for action over pay, privatisation and other issues.
ANOTHER SUMMIT, and more claims from government leaders that they want to tackle world poverty and global warming. But as the delegates meet in the South African city of Johannesburg, they are likely to entrench the same forces and policies responsible for the crisis. Almost three billion people, half the world's population, live on less than two US dollars a day.
SOME AT the heart of global capitalism recognise that their system threatens disaster. A World Bank report last week warned that if things continue as now the world will be "confronted by dysfunctional cities, dwindling water supplies, more inequality and conflict".
"UP THE workers!" That was the headline in the Daily Mirror last week. The paper was reporting on a new Mori poll which found that 68 percent of the population agreed with the statement, "I'm working class and proud of it." That is up from 52 percent of people who agreed with that statement three years ago, and from 51 percent in 1994.
"Show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker"
DAVID BLUNKETT, the home secretary, lied through his teeth to get a refugee family deported at top speed from Britain. That scandal was revealed last week in a Home Office letter about the Ahmadi family, who fled from Afghanistan to Britain last year. The letter was a key piece of evidence used in a court hearing on Tuesday of last week.
HUNDREDS OF health workers packed into a social club in the East End of Glasgow last Friday evening. The celebration had been organised to mark a stunning victory. Over 300 health workers at the city's Glasgow Royal Infirmary took on the multinational firm Sodexho, which runs support services at the hospital, and won.