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China
New US President’s approach to China

21/01/2017: Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

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Russian Revolution Centenary
New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution

20/01/2017: 1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

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Regime increases repression

20/01/2017: Citizens forced to register with police at all times

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US
Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration

20/01/2017: CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

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Portugal
Purge in the Left Bloc

20/01/2017: 6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

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Ireland North
Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly

17/01/2017: Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

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What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?

17/01/2017: Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

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India
Struggle against land grab in Pune

16/01/2017: Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

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Book Reviews
Trotsky and February 1917

16/01/2017: Preparing for revolution

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13/01/2017: Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

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Mexico
Mass movement against “gasolinazo”

10/01/2017: Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

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Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party

10/01/2017: Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

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Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness

09/01/2017: Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

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Book Review
‘A Very British Ending’

07/01/2017: Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

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'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive

06/01/2017: Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

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Trump prepares vicious attacks

05/01/2017: Mass resistance needed!

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CY Leung forced out!

04/01/2017: Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

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Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'

03/01/2017: Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

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Russian Revolution centenary

02/01/2017: Defending the legacy in a new era

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2017
Upheaval and fightback will continue

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The Iron Heel

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24/12/2016: During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

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Book Review

‘A Very British Ending’

www.socialistworld.net, 07/01/2017
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

Review by Tony Saunois

Rarely does a political spy novel contain so much historical fact, as opposed to fiction, and written in such a gripping manner as Edward Wilson’s ‘A Very British Ending’. Like Wilson’s other novels, this one, first published in 2015, makes no attempt to mask the author’s own socialist political sympathies. For reasons that are self-evident his novels have received scant coverage in the press and media. They have simply buried it.

This story charts the drama of events which unfolded in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s centred on the attempts of the security services to undermine and overthrow Harold Wilson’s Labour government. It is portrayed through the eyes of William Catesby, a dissident MI6 agent – SIS – and his boss Henry Bone who struggle to thwart the plots and coup against Wilson.  Throughout the narrative the struggle between the right pro-capitalist wing of the Labour leadership and the socialist left is portrayed with historical accuracy.

The story begins with Catesbury - at the end of the second world war - assassinating a former Nazi commander attempting to flee captivity with the assistance of the US secret service - the CIA. Harold Wilson, in 1947, as Head of the board of Trade had overseen the selling of Rolls Royce engines to the USSR despite the agreement being made prior to Wilson’s appointment. Wilson was warned by Attlee and Stafford Cripps at the time that this could well become a poisoned chalice later. Indeed it did as Wilson was never forgiven by the CIA or sections of the British security services for allowing the deal to go ahead. Later he resigned from the Labour cabinet in protest at the introduction of prescription charges which was linked to opposition to increased defence expenditure. For these reasons, he was viewed with extreme suspicion by them. In fact, as the book reveals, Wilson was never trusted and was suspected of being a Soviet agent.

Labour politician, Hugh Gaitskill, the favoured candidate of the right-wing, the capitalists and the CIA and MI5/6, died at an early age, vacating the Labour leadership. This paved the way for Wilson to be elected and defeat George Brown. The real class nature of the Labour right-wing is well portrayed in the novel. In one chapter a house party is hosted by Gaitskill – or “Gaiters” as his friends called him- in 1956 in a leafy Hampstead suburb.  Present at the party is Kit Fournier, CIA agent and labour attaché at the US London Embassy together with other friends from the ruling elite of capitalist society. “The house was bursting with refined British voices and urbane British elegance…They (the CIA) were grooming the non-socialist pro-American wing of the Labour Party for power – an Oxbridge led elite that felt comfortable within the traditional ruling circles of Britain. There was no way that Washington was going to let its unsinkable aircraft carrier be taken over by mutineers…” observed Catesby.  As Militant was attacked by the Labour Party right-wing in the late 1970s and 1980s we published a pamphlet exposing the links between Dennis Healey and Labour's right-wing with the CIA.

Plots and intrigues

The novel runs through the subsequent elections which Labour won in 1964, 1966 and again in 1974 under Harold Wilson's leadership. Here the campaign of plots and intrigues by the state machine and sections of the ruling class is fully depicted in the novel. The background to these events is a massive upsurge in the class struggle and strikes.

 At the time a section of the ruling class and the state machine were flirting with the idea of overthrowing the Wilson government by a military coup if necessary. The Times daily ran an editorial headlined “Is Britain heading for a military coup?” These events are brought centre stage in Wilson's novel. In the novel and in real life tanks and army divisions were deployed to Heathrow airport – without the Labour Minister of Defence being informed on two occasions. Northern Ireland, Catesby and Bone concluded, was being used as a training ground for operations in Britain.

 A retired general in the novel mobilises a secret “army” to be used to break a general strike and and to fake sabotage by the domestic “enemies of the state”. In real life, a retired General Walker organised such a force, as was reported at the time and covered in the Militant newspaper. Discussions within the clubs of the ruling elite and maverick sections of the “secret state” are well depicted in this novel centred on possible plans for a coup headed by a member of the royal family. As was subsequently revealed, at the time, Earl Mountbatten and “dissident” elements in the state machine had considered such options. As the unnamed press baron in the novel sates, “there is no constitutional problem involved. The oaths of allegiance taken by the military are to the Crown, not to elected members of parliament”.

At the time the ruling class in Britain held back from taking such a drastic step. However, there is no doubt that more maverick sections of them and sections of the state machine were considering such an option. However, the ruling class as a whole pulled the rug from under them as this was not in their interests at the time. This is reflected in the novel when the unnamed member of the Royal family storms out of the meeting.  The banker later does the same declaring to the army general present, “I am not taking orders from you”.

The election of Ted Heath as Conservative Prime Minister in 1970 and the bitter strikes and social upheavals also feature in the novel including the two miners’ strikes and three day week which ultimately ended with the defeat of Heath’s government and return of Labour under Harold Wilson to power in 1974.

The crisis in Britain is not the only drama drawn out in the stormy events of this period. The removal of Gough Whitlams’ Labour government in Australia, the military coup in Chile and many other events are all drawn into the drama of this novel.

Trotsky

Correctly Edward Wilson dismisses the idea propagated in Washington and elements in the British “secret state” that Harold Wilson was a Soviet agent. “He is not even a socialist let alone a Communist” comments Catesby, at one stage. In the novel, Catesby is rather too sympathetic towards Harold Wilson who although the candidate of the Labour left was not a socialist and whose government had attempted to introduce the anti-union ‘In Place of Strife’ legislation.

Significantly Edward Wilson challenges the idea of the CIA that the aim of the USSR was “world domination” as part of an international revolution. Significantly, Catesby even invokes Trotsky to refute these claims. “Caseby stared into the fire. The “Team B” Americans seemed unaware that Trotsky’s scheme for world revolution had been rejected long before Trotsky had been murdered with an ice axe. Since then, the Soviet Union had turned into a paranoid inward-looking state. Catesby reflected – and not for the first time – what would have happened if Trotsky had come to power instead of Stalin. And what role, thought Catesby, would he himself have played in such an alternative universe...?”

The novel covers the election of Margaret Thatcher and the defeat of Heath who the plotters regard as “unreliable” and “a queer”. Anticipating more recent trends the banker involved in the coup plot muses “what we will see in the future... is the privatisation of British foreign and military policy”.

This is a dramatic and highly enjoyable novel based on events that occurred at the time. Edward Wilson, a native of Baltimore, USA, served in the Vietnam War in the Special Forces unit.  Following this he renounced his US citizenship and eventually emigrated to Britain where he became a teacher and later a novelist.  Read this novel and you will not be disappointed. It will assist understanding how the British ruling class will react to defend its interests when they are threatened.

‘A Very British Ending’ by Edward Wilson, Published by Arcadiabooks Ltd. £8.99

 

 

 

 

 

 



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NEWS

Russian Revolution Centenary: New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

Kazakhstan: Regime increases repression
20/01/2017, Andrei Prigor from Campaign Kazakhstan:
Citizens forced to register with police at all times

US: Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

Portugal: Purge in the Left Bloc
20/01/2017, Ysmail, Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal):
6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

India: Struggle against land grab in Pune
16/01/2017, Venkatesh Harale, New Socialist Alternative (CWI in India):
Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

Book Reviews: Trotsky and February 1917
16/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, from the February 2017 issue of Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
Preparing for revolution

Tunisia: Six years after the fall of Ben Ali, demands of revolution still to be realised
14/01/2017, Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki, CWI in Tunisia:
New revolts brewing

US: Seattle activists win $29 million for house building
13/01/2017, Adam Ziemkowski, Socialist Alternative:
Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

Palestine/Israel: Everyday life under occupation
12/01/2017, Per-Åke Westerlund of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden) :
Discussion at Socialism conference in Tel Aviv

Mexico: Mass movement against “gasolinazo”
10/01/2017, David Lopez, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Mexico:
Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

US: Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party
10/01/2017, Calvin Priest, Socialist Alternative:
Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

Ireland South: Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness
09/01/2017, Councillor Michael O’Brien, Anti-Austerity Alliance and Socialist Party member:
Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

Book Review: ‘A Very British Ending’
07/01/2017, Review by Tony Saunois :
Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

Ireland North: 'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive
06/01/2017, Dave Carr from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

Chile: The state is murdering Machi Francisca Linconao
05/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Solidarity appeal for messages of protest

Hong Kong: CY Leung forced out!
04/01/2017, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) statement
:
Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

Sri Lanka: Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'
03/01/2017, By Clare Doyle, carried on Tamil Solidarity Campaign web-site, November, 2016 :
Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

Iranian “election”
30/12/2016, P. Daryaban:
Crisis continues; infighting escalates

Review: The Iron Heel
26/12/2016, Jon Dale, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales)<br />
:
Jack London’s timeless classic

Britain: Labour's nuclear conflict
24/12/2016, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) :
During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

Germany: Berlin Christmas market tragedy
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Commiserations must not be exploited for racism

US: Inaugurate the resistance
23/12/2016, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative, US :
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Austria: Victory & defeat for everyone & noone
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Yemen: Three employees found killed, as workers demand unpaid wages
22/12/2016, Socialistworld.net :
Solidarity with workers and their families! Justice for the slain employees!

Romania: New government, old policies
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Kazakhstan: Fifth anniversary of Zhanaozen massacre
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CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

China: New US President’s approach to China
21/01/2017, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info :
Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

Ireland North: Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly
17/01/2017, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast :
Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

Spain: What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?
17/01/2017, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Spanish state, editorial :
Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

US: Trump prepares vicious attacks
05/01/2017, Philip Locker and Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative (US):
Mass resistance needed!

Russian Revolution centenary
02/01/2017, Editorial from Socialism Today, Dec/Jan 2017 edition:
Defending the legacy in a new era

2017:Upheaval and fightback will continue
01/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary :
Everything to play for in 2017

Britain's shifting political contours
22/12/2016, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) from Socialism Today Dec/Jan 2017 edition :
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CWI International Executive Committee: European capitalism “battered by events”
16/12/2016, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Report of discussion on Europe at CWI IEC meeting in November

CWI International Executive Committee: World shaken by seismic political events
14/12/2016, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Report of first session of the CWI International Executive Committee, discussing World Relations

World capitalism in deep crisis
08/12/2016, CWI :
Perspectives documents agreed by November CWI international meeting

Sudan: Three day nationwide strike shuts down the country, in unique defiance of Al-Bashir’s rule
30/11/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
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US: Trump prepares attacks on working people,immigrants and women
27/11/2016, Tom Crean and Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative (USA):
We must prepare massive resistance!

Cuba: Fidel Castro, leader of 1959 revolution, dies at 90
26/11/2016, Tony Saunois, CWI :
Castro's life and the Cuban Revolution

China: New stage in power struggle
24/11/2016, chinaworker.info reporters:
Xi Jinping becomes “core leader”

Hong Kong: Government purges Legislative Council
17/11/2016, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) :
“Nothing short of a coup”

Ireland: The Jobstown trial and the threat to democratic rights<br />

12/11/2016, Eddie McCabe, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Biggest political trial in decades, as Socialist Party & Anti Austerity Alliance MP and councillors face threat of lengthy prison sentences

History: Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
November 7th anniversary of workers’ taking power

Capitalist system “on the edge of the volcano”
03/11/2016, International Secretariat of the CWI:
Draft documents for November CWI international meeting

Spain: PSOE leadership hands power to the PP
03/11/2016, Izquierda Revolucionaria editorial :
A new phase in the class struggle

Hungary: The political revolution of sixty years ago
23/10/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
When workers fought arms in hand to end Stalinist dictatorship

Britain: The fight for real democracy in the Labour Party
20/10/2016, Editorial of the Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Defend Corbyn and transform Labour into a party acting for working class

Crisis of social democracy in Britain
19/10/2016, Peter Taaffe, from next issue of Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England and Wales) :
Which way forward for the Left?

US: The disastrous failure of ‘lesser evilism’
18/10/2016, Patrick Ayers and Ty Moore, Socialist Alternative (originally published at CounterPunch.org) :
Change through mass struggle  - a new party should act as an organizing and for solidarity

Spain: Crisis in social democracy
17/10/2016, Juan Ignacio Ramos, Izquierda Revolucionaria general secretary, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England and Wales) :
PSOE and the class struggle

Britain: Tories whip up division over Brexit
17/10/2016, Editorial from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
Fight for a socialist, internationalist exit