Issue 232 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published July/August 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review

REVIEWS

BOOKS

The time of his life

Redemption Song
Mike Marqusee
Verso £17

Redemption Song

'We forward in this generation
Triumphantly
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had
Redemption songs
Redemption songs.'
The title and lyrics of Bob Marley's most personal and contemplative song would appear to be a strange way to open and frame a biography of Muhammad Ali, the charismatic and flamboyant record breaking world heavyweight boxing champion. However, Mike Marqusee's book does more than simply chart the life of a sporting icon. Rather, Ali is the central character in an analysis of what Marqusee calls 'the spirit of the 1960s'.
The 1960s represent a decade of radicalism, a period when millions of people took to the streets, campaigned and sought to change the world. It is in this sense that the author views it as a time of 'emancipation' from the 'mental slavery' that had stifled political protest and agitation in the post Second World War period. This new generation was not always conscious of its goals. The struggles of the 1960s often lacked specific or explicitly political aims. They were frequently confused and contradictory, but the general impetus was positive and progressive--they helped bring the US to its knees in Vietnam and also paved the way for real, if limited, reforms.
Marqusee illustrates this spirit through a series of sketches of some of the key events and characters that gave voice to those struggles. Muhammad Ali is more than just a bit part actor in this drama. His story begins, however, not in the 1960s, but in the summer of 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was here that Ali, now physically debilitated by Parkinson's disease, was granted the 'honour' of lighting the torch that opened and burned for the duration of the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee also took this opportunity to present Ali with a replacement for the Olympic gold medal that he had won at the 1960 Games.
This moment was presented to the world as a tremendous act of reconciliation in two respects. Not only was it a personal gesture to Ali, it was also a political triumph for America. Here, in the very heartland of the civil rights movement, the US was supposedly demonstrating to a global audience just how far it had progressed since the days of those struggles.
However, Ali had not simply 'lost' his medal. He deliberately cast it into the river in a fit of rage at the racism of American society. Moreover, after turning professional, he refused to bow down to the demands of the business syndicate that sponsored his early career. Most spectacularly, after winning the world heavyweight championship, the most prized possession in boxing, he announced his membership of the black separatist Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Again, this was a conscious act, shaped by his bitter anger at the brutal oppression and inequality in America.
Ali was not always an outspoken critic of the American system. Marqusee clearly adores his subject, but he does not seek to paint him as perfect and is not afraid to draw attention to Ali's flaws and weaknesses. For example, Ali seriously considered fighting in South Africa at a time when there was a sporting boycott because of apartheid. He often treated women with breathtaking insensitivity. He accepted an invitation to visit the Republican President Gerald Ford in the White House and, most calamitously, he allowed himself to be used to front an ill fated diplomatic delegation to Africa.
At the same time, Ali was not the arrogant and gullible fool manipulated by political and racial extremists that his critics would have us believe. Rather, he remains a thoughtful, passionate and intelligent man, and one committed to the struggle for racial equality.
A true sign of Ali's courageous heroism was his refusal to fight in Vietnam, a point that Marqusee rightly dwells upon. Ali opposed his induction as early as 1964. Ultimately because of this Ali, an athlete in his prime, was stripped of his world title, stripped of his licence to fight and denied his principal means of income for three and a half years.
The recent film When We Were Kings brought Ali to a whole new generation that never saw him during his boxing career. It was this extraordinary fight with George Foreman in Zaire, the notorious 'Rumble in the Jungle', which Marqusee regards as Ali's own 'redemption song', a triumph achieved against the odds and in the midst of Africa. The author does not, however, excuse the hypocrisy of the fight's promoters, Don King and President Mobutu of Zaire.
Ali's career finally ended in ignominious defeat at the hands of Larry Holmes, his former sparring partner, in 1981. There were already clear signs before the fight that the great champion was punch drunk. The onset and acceleration of Parkinson's disease represents the most chilling warning to anyone who watches or participates in boxing.
Mike Marqusee has written a splendid book. He reclaims the legend of Muhammad Ali from corporate America and places the man back where he belongs.
Brian Richardson


Who calls the shots?

The Armour-Plated Ostrich
Tim Webb
Comerford and Miller £9.99

The Armour-Plated Ostrich

It would have come as no surprise to Socialist Review readers to hear various members of the ruling class and its representatives rallying around Jonathan Aitken. They realised that the Aitken case threatened to expose the dirty dealing, corruption, hypocrisy and enormous waste of money that is the arms industry.
Aitken was caught out doing what is in fact normal practice for those involved in the arms industry--slurping from the pig trough. After Aitken failed in his libel case against the Guardian newspaper, the former defence procurement minister got a fixed term contract as an 'adviser' with GEC-Marconi to promote its sales in the Middle East.
Aitken had taken advantage of the 'revolving door'--the practise of moving from one side of the arms industry (including government and the civil service) to the other and, quite often, back again. As Tim Webb points out in this new book, the term is a misnomer because a door suggests a barrier when in reality none exists.
This book is full of information like this. Tim Webb is a former senior official of the MSF union, the main union inside the defence industry, and as a result he has acquired a unique knowledge and experience of the industry through both negotiations and working breakfasts with representatives of the arms companies and other insiders.
This short book rattles along with countless examples of scandal, ineptitude and 'cock ups', all born of the supreme arrogance and belief of untouchability from all those involved in the trade. It revisits all the scandals that characterised the Tory years--for example arms to Iraq, the supergun and Westland--and reminds us of the roles played by the likes of Alan Clarke, Michael Heseltine, William Waldegrave and Nicholas Lyell.
It also traces the Labour Party's record, from secretly developing nuclear weapons after the Second World War to today's Blair government completely accepting the demands of the arms industry.
The main purpose of this book, however, is to argue that the colossal amount of money that has been poured into the arms industry has severely damaged the British economy by starving manufacturing of resources. Webb argues that all defence spending is derived from an unreal assessment of Britain's position in the world.
The amount of money spent on arms is truly staggering. Webb begins with a statistical note in which he refers to 'an understandable tendency for the average reader's eyes to glaze over when scanning the millions and billions'. The overall estimated cost of the UK Eurofighter is over £16 billion--each plane costing £60 million. This compares with the estimated cost to build a district hospital at £90 million (one and a half Eurofighters), and to build and equip a school for 1,000 children at £9 million. Some £22 billion a year is spent on 'defence', and this comes from the taxpayer.
Webb argues that this kind of spending is no longer appropriate with the end of the Cold War. He also argues that vested interests have prolonged arms sales and manufacturing at the old level. New Labour has now missed an opportunity with the Strategic Defence Review which could have 'led to a genuine change of policy that would have set Britain in a European context and away from its mixture of faded world power ambitions and deference to the United States.'
Webb sees defence expenditure and planning as essential--he does not see it as an unwelcome logical conclusion of the drive to competition under capitalism. However, he has provided those of us who want to see the end of capitalism with a wealth of information to help us in that struggle, and therefore it is a very welcome book.
Martin Chapman


The poor and their enemies

The Far Left in the English Revolution 1640-1660
Brian Manning
Bookmarks £7.95

The Far Left in the English Revolution 1640-1660

From the time of the English Revolution to today it has been common practice to divide society in the 17th century into three groups--the rich, 'the middling sort' and the poor. When it comes to assessing the causes, course and effect of the civil war the rich have been dealt with at great length. The 'middling sort' have also been the focus of some attention, although not nearly enough given their crucial social role in the decisive events of the 1640s. But the poor--that disparate group, by far the majority of the population, from whose ranks were to come the working class of the following centuries--have been largely ignored. As Manning puts it, 'It is the purpose of this book to focus on the poor, particularly the wage workers.'
Anyone who has read anything by Manning will know of the author's meticulous attention to detail and dedication to in depth and wide ranging research. This latest offering is no different, and we are treated to a vivid picture of the lives of the working and unemployed poor which gives the lie to generations of historians who have ignored this section of society due to a claimed lack of source material and historical record. Manning finds material aplenty, tucked away in the vast outpouring of radical pamphlets and literature which characterised the period and, the place you will always find evidence of the poor in whatever historical era, in the records of the petty assizes and courts. Tyranipocrit was one such radical pamphlet, printed in Rotterdam in 1649, out of reach of the military dictatorship then ruling England. The realisation that the enemy wasn't just the king, courtiers and bishops but the ruling class and its institutions like parliament, the law courts and local government was a key moment for the revolution's Leveller led left. As one of their number said, 'Your oppressions and divisions came by those that you have chosen to ease you... Have you not chosen oppressors to redeem you from oppression?'
Manning weaves together religion, class cleavage and tension, equality, redistribution of wealth and much more into a cutting analysis from the perspective of the developing working class. The book is also a magnificent survey of how socialists over the decades have tried to explain and categorise the successes and failures of the English Revolution and, in some cases at least, have tried to apply the lessons learnt to the process of revolution in general. So the book is set in the context of what Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky said about the revolution. We learn what Gramsci and Lukàcs have to say, and what Geoffrey de St Croix and others including Max Weber and Karl Kautsky added. The whole comes together as a history book consciously designed to deepen our understanding of the revolutionary process in general.
Lee Humber


Scourge of New Labour

Cruel Britannia
Nick Cohen
Verso £16

Cruel Britannia

Nick Cohen's journalism has consistently, at least until the war in Balkans, been a joy to read as he reveals the reality of New labour which lies behind the spin. The fact that he did, at least initially, appear to have swallowed Blair and Clinton's claim that the war was about saving refugees from ethnic cleansing will have disappointed many loyal readers. However, like many others, Cohen now doesn't seem to have a good word to say about the war. So hopefully his skills as a writer will continue to be used to expose hypocrisy, greed and backsliding in the government.
Cohen has described himself as a 'schmuck' who believed all the promises that Labour was going to right the wrongs of 18 years of Tory rule. This, he claims, explains why he is now so ruthless at showing how misplaced such illusions were. It is hard to accept the claim of naivety but either way the writing in this book is a brilliant combination of anger, sheer abuse and wit, or as the subtitle puts it, 'reports on the sinister and preposterous'.
Many of the articles in this collection are from his weekly Observer column, although there are others. What this means is that you are reminded of every filthy little climbdown and sell out that the Labour leadership has been responsible for since the day it got elected. The list is long.
There are the plans to allow advertisers into schools which when allowed in the US led to children in the schemes being more likely than their peers to answer yes to the statements, 'A nice car is more important than school; designer labels make a difference; money is everything.' Or there's the Labour leadership's attempt to stitch up the Labour National Executive Committee elections by printing ballot papers with the recommended candidates already filled in. 'if you decide not to endorse the leadership's preferences you will have to fill out another form and make a dangerous public declaration that you are off-message.'
Cohen has some favourite themes--Jack Straw on law and order, his excellent work on asylum seekers, social welfare and the corruption of the fat cats that circle around the government: 'in theory Britain has monopoly laws that prevent a tycoon cornering a market. But you only have to look at Tony Blair's eagerness to plant wet kisses on the thin lips of Rupert Murdoch to know the New Labour Department of Trade and Industry would sanction Hitler's invasion of Poland as a legitimate exercise of the free market in military force.'
On the influx of women into government and the cutting of single parent benefit he is scathing: 'Joining New Labour is like joining the Mafia--you must kill what you love to prove your loyalty to the capo--and the MPs who had shouted loudest about the triumph of women were put on the committee and ordered to fight the class war against the poor.'
This book is a great exposure of the New Labour project, where it might be leading and who suffers the most--the working class, poor and vulnerable.
Judith Orr


New foundations

Art as the Cognition of Life
Aleksander Voronsky
Mehring Books £19.99

Art as the Cognition of Life

This new collection of his writings is crammed full of the deepest insights into artistic creativity, and going beyond the portrayal of the individual unique artist.
After the end of the civil war in the Soviet Union there followed a surge of cultural aspirations and outpourings embracing many sections of the population, which turned the 1920s into a golden age of cultural and artistic expression. This was accompanied by intense and passionate debate, which ended only with Stalin's iron heel of intolerant authority stamping over the entire life of the country towards the end of the decade.
Two of the the greatest critics in the debates on art were Leon Trotsky and Aleksander Voronsky, who became very close both intellectually and personally. Trotsky produced his great work Literature and Revolution in 1922-23; Voronsky became editor of the foremost literary journal Red Virgin Soil in 1921, and wrote prolifically throughout the decade. During the civil war Voronsky was sent to various key cities to establish Soviet rule. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1904 at the age of 20, becoming a leading member, and missed being elected to the Central Committee in 1912 by one vote. He joined the left Opposition with Trotsky in 1923, refusing to leave despite intense pleading by top party members. He was arrested and exiled to Lipetsk in 1929, two years after Trotsky's exile. Suffering heart problems in 1930, he was allowed to return to Moscow for treatment, on condition he resigned from the opposition, which he then did, though it is clear he did not change his mind, at least on artistic matters. He was readmitted to the party and allowed to work in a minor editing post but not permitted to publish any major critical articles in literary journals. He was expelled from the party again in 1935, rearrested in 1937 and shot at the age of 53 after one of the big show trials of the time, together with large swathes of the greatest writers and artists in the country. Voronsky and all his brilliant and profound literary works were then erased from Russian history till his rehabilitation in 1957.
A major preoccupation of both Trotsky and Voronsky was a struggle against Proletcult, a widespread cultural movement which, after 1917, believed the workers had won against the bourgeoisie on the economic and political fronts but for whom the battle on the cultural front had yet to be victorious.
They were therefore dead set against the use by the government of bourgeois specialists in the army, in industry or anywhere else (though of course there were practically no proletarian ones), and against any state support, material or otherwise, for non-Communist writers.
Both Trotsky and Voronsky were scathing about Proletcult's pretensions. The October Revolution, said Voronsky, was immeasurably more talented than the literature written about it. The young proletarian writers were still very weak. In so far as the proletariat had not overthrown capitalism in the most important countries, it was as yet the creator of a very limited reality. Indeed, the Russian proletariat had not yet the minimal welfare necessary for the flowering of science and art. The task of the transition period after 1917 had been to make fighters for the revolution. Socialist society has different tasks.
The fellow travellers of the Communists were vast in number, and the contribution of fellow traveller authors to literature was immense. Some were children of the revolution, honest in depicting 'the living man of the revolution'. Then there were the older fellow travellers, and their contribution was a great mastery, an understanding of the essence of art, ability and output. Their attitude towards bourgeois civilisation was negative. They hated the spiritual emptiness and human degradation of tsarism, and stood positively alongside the Communist artists. It was nonsense for Proletcult to supply the workers with third rate authors while they gave the best to the philistines and the petty bourgeoisie.
There was another failing of Proletcult--its spurning of the need for objectivity. Voronsky says of Proletcult: 'Their method and approach to the artist is something like this: since the artist serves a definite class with his works, and the life of a class is determined by its interests, therefore in his pieces there is nothing and can be nothing except naked class interest, directed against another class. There can be no talk about any objective content.'
Voronsky counters this by pointing out that the best Marxist theoreticians who have written about art never fail to stress the objective, universally significant value in genuine great works of art. It is this objective element, the engagement with universal common features, shown, for example, in feelings of love, fear death, and so on, that enabled the artist to rise above the subjective immediacy of the class struggle, which Proletcult turned into a metaphysical, absolute category. The best representatives of bourgeois literature during the best of times, even though dominated by a class outlook, embodied the general psychological traits which were common to mankind throughout whole epochs. This made its works, so to say, speak to us across the centuries and very different class societies.
In a thousand different ways Voronsky explains and urges that, in order to reorganise society on new foundations, the working class must, before anything else, master the cultural heritage in science, art and other fields, of which it has been deprived. Without doing this, it will not be able to strengthen and fortify its victory. It will not establish the socialist order. In illiterate, hungry, plundered, destitute and wooden Russia, we are ominously reminded of this at literally every step. There cannot be proletarian art as long as we stand before the task of assimilating the old culture and the old art: 'You must know Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and others. Then, as art lags behind economics and politics, by the time the proletariat was able to create a new culture, the conditions would already exist for the death of the proletariat as a class and the transition to a classless society.'
Voronsky and Trotsky walked together when it came to the more expressly political artistic criticism. But Voronsky strode on alone in researching the very springs of artistic creativity and artistic truth. To pick out a few themes can give a flavour, but only a slight one, of his thoughts.
Voronsky constantly stresses that genuine art is concrete, reflecting and transforming the reality of life. 'Art always has reality as its object; it is materialistic.' 'What is created in our imagination is a life which is condensed, purified, sifted---a life which is better than it is, and which is more like truth than the realest reality. Together with the artist, we begin to see what we had passed by without noticing.'
And genuine art is active, not passive. 'The artistic image is always attained as a result of sensuous and intellectual activity. Artist and model both participate in the creative act. Readers, listeners and spectators experience the creative process together with the author or actor... they follow his path, experience his sorrow, failures or happiness, wage his battles with the material.'
But what comes through clearly in this collection of writings is that Voronsky was a political animal through and through, a dialectician, a Bolshevik and an internationalist. It is this which enables him to reach the heights of artistic criticism that he does.
Chanie Rosenberg


Man of many sides

Orwell's Politics
John Newsinger
Macmillan £42.50

John Newsinger's aim here is to reclaim Orwell's work from those on the right who try and use it to discredit socialism, and those on the centre left who want to place Orwell squarely in the reformist tradition. Detailed research makes it a fascinating record of Orwell's political development.
Orwell came from a public school, colonial background. In 1922 he enthusiastically enrolled as a colonial policeman in Burma. What he witnessed there changed him for life. Just as he arrived the imperial administration was involved in violently repressing the emerging nationalist movement. After five years service Orwell returned to England determined to oppose not just imperialism, but 'every form of man's domination over man'.
His desire to break all links with his establishment past led him to identify with the downtrodden. Down and Out in Paris and London tells of his excursions amongst the poor in these two cities and The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant documentary account of the life and work of Britain's miners.
But it was his experience of the Spanish Revolution that really moulded his politics. On arrival in Barcelona he was overwhelmed. Not only had the rich seemingly disappeared but most significantly, he was aware the workers were attempting to shape their own future. Orwell joined a militia run by the POUM, on the far left of the Republican forces, but it was when he returned on leave to Barcelona and found that 'the revolutionary atmosphere had vanished' that he began to understand the significance of the political differences on the left. As he explains so graphically in the marvellous reportage of Homage to Catalonia, 'the Communist Party was destroying the revolution by a series of small moves--a policy of pinpricks.'
Newsinger's book goes on to question the common view that during the Second World War Orwell simply supported the Allies' war effort. Although he didn't oppose the war, early on he expected the incompetence of the British ruling class to lead to a revolutionary crisis. Indeed, he argued that a revolution was necessary to defeat fascism. But as the war went on this 'revolutionary patriotism' evolved into something much milder. At times in fact Orwell became positively dewy eyed about British democratic traditions, and although his famous BBC broadcasts to the colonies got him in trouble for stressing the anti-fascist content of the war, Newsinger has to admit that whatever his personal views, his broadcasts were uncritical of the Allies conduct.
After the war Orwell became literary editor of the soft left Tribune magazine and made an accommodation with the Labour Party. But Newsinger argues that his political development was more complex than it might appear. As well as writing for Tribune, Orwell was involved in a revealing dialogue with the 'cultural Trotskyists' in the US around the Partisan Review. These articles show that his support for the Labour Party was based more on disappointment than any real enthusiasm. He had, he said, exaggerated the extent of social change and underrated 'the enormous strength of the forces of reaction', but he remained a committed opponent of 'class distinctions and imperialist exploitation'.
Orwell's last books, Animal Farm and 1984, have regularly been used by the right as ammunition against communism but, as Newsinger shows, any sensible reading of Animal Farm demonstrates that the target of Orwell's satire was the Stalinist hijacking of the Russian Revolution, not the idea of socialism itself. Though he had little hope in revolutionary change when he died prematurely in 1950, Orwell was still a socialist, and privately still very critical of the Labour Party.
Although it would have been interesting to read more about Orwell's failure to mount a theoretical challenge to Stalinism, Newsinger has done a very impressive job of salvaging Orwell from some of his false friends.
Chris Nineham


Marx lives

Marx in Soho
Howard Zinn
South End Press £7.99

Marx in Soho

This is a surprisingly light read for what could have been a weighty work. It takes as its starting point that if Karl Marx were brought back from the grave in the 1990s, what would he have to say to us? It's the sort of subject that daydreams are made of, but Zinn intended this to be a play. It has been performed over the past couple of years in the US (it's set in Soho, New York), but it works fine as a readable monologue.
There are a number of different facets to the book. It is partly an attempt to humanise Marx, take away his theoretical stature and give him a personality. So he drinks beer and tells us about his family. He describes their arguments and their mutual respect, their many exiles and their love for each other, the daughters that survived and the children who died as infants. But he also broadens our picture of the world in which he lived. He explains how their exile came about (for political agitation, naturally), and he rails against the poverty that caused their ill health and their uncertain existence.
The political environment is also delved into, in surprisingly different ways. There is a retelling of a fight with the flamboyant anarchist Bakunin, which is purely fictional, but there is also an inspirational account of the Paris Commune and the hope this gave of the possibility for real democracy and equality.
Engels is conspicuous by his absence in all of these discussions. He is merely mentioned as a financial benefactor, not the ideological partner he so evidently was.
This is more than an historical overview of Marx's life. As he mentions near the beginning of the monologue, Marx has returned to clear his name: 'Don't you wonder why is it necessary to declare me dead again and again?' Every description of 19th century poverty is balanced against the massive inequality that still exists now, and there is a deep anger that the reasons are exactly the same:--Giant merger of Chemical Bank and Chase Manhattan Bank. Twelve thousand workers will lose jobs... Stocks rise." And they say my ideas are dead!'
This book is a tirade against the pundits who declare that the ideas of Marx belong in the last century. Marx's ideas are not any less true now than when they were written. Capitalism is still producing technological development, but only in the name of profit.
The rage and the humour that run through the book are the more obvious signs that this is Howard Zinn talking, not Marx. Some historical preferences or omissions and various imagined conversations are also indicators. As long as you remember that this is Marx through a Zinn filter it doesn't really detract from what is a witty and fun book.
Esther Neslen


Blight on the century

Fascism: Theory and Practice
Dave Renton
Pluto Press £10.99

Fascism: Theory and Practice

The rise of fascism in the 1930s brought with it the slaughter of the Second World War and the barbarism of the Holocaust. As we enter the new millennium, fascist parties are once again on the rise.
In France, despite the split in Le Pen's National Front, the Nazis still remain a serious electoral force. Jörg Haider's Austrian Nazi party won about a quarter of the vote in last month's European elections. And recently in Britain we have seen the sickening sight of Nazis resorting to planting nail bombs in London.
There have been a large number of academic books on the subject of fascism published recently. Most give no explanation of how the fascists can be defeated. Dave Renton's new book not only gives a theoretical understanding of fascism, he also discusses how it can be challenged today.
Renton looks back at the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany during the 1930s in order to give a better understanding of the origins of fascism. His work is grounded in the Marxist tradition. As well as examining the brilliant writings of Trotsky, he also looks at the contribution that Marxists such as August Thalheimer, Ignazio Silone and Antonio Gramsci have made to the debate. The chapters that deal with their contributions are some of the most interesting in the book, and many of the ideas will not be familiar to readers.
Renton's book smashes the arguments of a number of right wing historians. They claim that because the Nazis were defeated in 1945 it is possible to carry out a 'more objective' study of fascism. Renton demolishes the idea that there is a 'revolutionary' strand of Nazi ideology.
The book also gives a concise and accessible account of the rise of Nazi parties across Europe today. Unlike many accounts of the rise of the fascists, Renton also shows how mass movements have played and continue to play a massive part in opposing the Nazis.
There are, however, some criticisms of the book. One is the unfortunate title of the book. I also found that some of the research is inaccurate, which makes it frustrating to read at points. For instance, Renton claims that the French National Front annual conference in Strasbourg in 1997 was almost closed down by an anti-Nazi counter-demonstration. Unfortunately this is just not true. The demonstration marched nowhere near the conference. Likewise, Renton claims that civil servants struck when the Nazi British National Party candidate Derek Beackon won a council seat in Tower Hamlets, east London in 1993. It was in fact local government officers.
I have to be honest and say I found the book disappointing in parts. Nevertheless, this is a useful survey of the writings and struggle against fascism.
Martin Smith


Global slavery

Disposable People
Kevin Bales
University of California £19.95

Disposable People

In this book Kevin Bales argues that, far from disappearing, slavery has successfully adapted to 20th century capitalism and continues to thrive, with an estimated 27 million slaves in the world economy in the late 1990s. The greatest part of that number is repressed by bonded labour in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, but slavery exists to a greater or lesser degree in every country of the world. However, Bales argues that there is a new form of slavery emerging in the world that has different characteristics to the old New World format.
The new slavery has emerged for two main reason. Firstly, due to the dramatic increase in the world's population, the greatest population growth has been in those countries where slavery is most prevalent today. The second reason is the profound economic and social changes that are taking place at the same time. Economic development and the arrival of transnational corporations produced a new indigenous ruling class on the one hand. On the other, modernisation and globalisation have shattered traditional family structures and small scale subsistence farming, and in so doing have helped to bankrupt millions of peasants and drive them from their land, sometimes into slavery.
There are, however, crucial differences between the old and the new slavery, and for Bales the changes lie in the way that the new slavery has mimicked changes in the global economy.
Critical to the new slavery is, firstly, that ethnicity is no longer a central defining characteristic and secondly that violence is a central element tying the slave into the relationship. Bales outlines three basic forms of slavery: chattel slavery, debt bondage-the most common form of slavery in the world, and contract slavery, which for Bales shows how modern labour relations are used to hide the new slavery. Contracts are offered that guarantee employment but when workers are taken to their workplace they find themselves enslaved. The contract is used as an enticement to trick an individual into slavery as well as a way of making slavery look legitimate. The Asian sex industry and the Brazilian charcoal industry are examples of this form.
There are, however, problems with Bales' analysis and in particular with his anti-slavery action programme. The description of the new slavery has the new slaves, for the most part, trapped by real and threatened violence in their appalling conditions. Resistance is heroic but largely futile in the face of such violence. Therefore solutions must look beyond the actions of the new slaves themselves. Bales constructs a new form of middle class abolitionism that involves putting pressure on investment actions by pension funds, ethical trading initiatives by supermarkets (supported in Britain by New Labour and some supermarkets) and demands for government sanctions on countries promoting slavery.
Whilst it is true that abolitionist propaganda and 19th century versions of Bales campaigns did play a part in abolishing plantation slavery, the main reason slavery was abolished was the action of the slaves themselves. Between 1638 and 1837 there were 75 major slave rebellions in the British West Indies. Bales does point to organisation and activity by new slaves in India, Pakistan and Brazil but downplays its importance. However, it is precisely such action and activity, rather than a reliance on the ethics of Blair, Tesco's and the pension funds, that will ring the death knell of the new slavery.
Al Rainnie


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