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Hegel and Marx

1st October 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: October 1998

The philosophical works of Hegel were central to the development of Marx’s thought. A consideration of this philosophical background illuminates why Marx was concerned with some particular problems and why Hegel had such an influence on his thought.

The immediate political background to the development of Hegel’s thought was the French revolution – the founding work of Hegel’s philosophy, the Phenomenology of Mind, was written in Jena, site of the battle between Napoleon and the feudal German monarchies. This context led Hegel to be particularly concerned with the question of change!

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Eastern and Western Europe today

1st May 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1989

Europe is today undergoing its greatest changes since World War II. This is obvious in Eastern Europe which has seen the greatest political shifts since 1945. In Western Europe structural shifts on a less dramatic scale, but still the greatest since World War II, have marked the two last decades. How are these developments linked, and what are their driving forces?

The first issue to be clarified in examining European trends, and the development of European politics, is the relation between the uniqueness of each state and the overall situation. There are no two countries in Europe in which the organisation of capital, the structure of the state, or the relations in the labour movement are duplicated or in which political tactics can be the same. Nevertheless this does not prevent there being a clear general European development. If we are to understand the individual process in each country in Europe we must first examine the international reality in which it develops. The aim of this article is to consider these broad trends of European development in their full scope. Within that framework the specific situation in each country can then be situated.

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Behind the world financial crisis

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February/March 1998

The financial crises which began in east Asia and Japan in the latter half of 1997 hit what had been the most dynamic part of the world economy – cross-Pacific trade overtook trans-Atlantic trade a decade ago. Together with the gyrations they produced on world financial markets, these events showed that the world capitalist economy is nowhere near the new ‘golden age’ of prolonged economic growth predicted by some bourgeois economists in the United States. On the contrary, the chain of economic events which started in October 1997, with the greatest stock market crash since 1929, is continuing to work its way through the international capitalist economy. The crash of 1987 was followed by the 1990 collapse of the Japanese stock market, the crash of world bond markets in 1994, the Mexican crash in the same year, prolonged stagnation in the early 1990s in Japan and most of the European Union and, now, the crises of the Asian ‘tigers’, recession in Japan and consequent turbulence on world stock markets, with severe knock-on effects in Latin America, eastern Europe and Russia.

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Fixing up the world – GATT and the World Trade Organisation

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

By Alan Freeman

Think of the world economy, and two household words come to mind: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the two supranational bodies created by the Bretton Woods Treaty of 1947 when the allied powers constructed the post-war economic world order. It is less well-known that these two have been joined by another. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formed in 1994 as a result of the 1986 ‘Uruguay Round’ of negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has emerged as the third pillar of the post-war economic order. Although generally presented as a simple continuation of GATT, it has in fact inaugurated a fundamental change in the organisation of world trade.

The GATT has been transformed from an ineffectual chamber of commerce into a powerful device for restructuring the world market in the commercial and financial interests of the leading powers, the core requirement being to maintain the supremacy of the US economy in the face of the largest trade deficit in world history.

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PR heralds purge of MPs and end of selection rights

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

Indications that proportional representation and centralised ranking of candidates for the European Parliament elections are going to be used to purge Euro-MPs and abolish the right of party members to choose candidates give a flavour of what is posed by the Electoral Reform Commission’s remit to look at the introduction of PR for Westminster.

Labour has acknowledged that under PR it anticipates losing up to 30 of its 62 MEPs. In London, for example, where Labour currently has nine seats, it is braced to lose up to six. In Scotland, with currently six Labour-held seats, the party could lose three MEPs.

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Battle joined over Labour’s future

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

The first nine months of the Labour government have confirmed that Tony Blair is not simply ‘another’ right wing Labour leader. Blair’s project is to dismantle the Labour Party as a party based on the unions, to destroy the elements of democracy which exist within the party and to transform the British political party system, through electoral reform, to make possible a long-term governmental alliance with the Liberal Democrats and, if possible, the Heseltine-Clarke wing of the Tory Party. The obstacle to this project is the Labour left – linked to the growing opposition to Blair’s attacks on the welfare state in the labour movement.

Blair and Mandelson believe, like those who walked out of Labour to form the SDP in 1981, that the risk of political radicalisation by the trade unions linking up with the left in the constituencies and parliament, makes the traditional mechanisms for right wing control of the Labour Party unsafe. But, unlike the SDP, Blair is using the central apparatus of the party and of government, to try to break up the Labour Party’s structures from within.