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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 July 2011

Music review - "This place is coming like a ghost town..."

The prospect of mass unemployment and the threatened job losses at train-building firm Bombardier could lead to the midlands city of Derby being called a ghost town.

Here, Dave Gorton writes about a hit single by the Specials, 30 years ago, which foretold a fightback.

Summer 1981 - Britain's streets exploded with rage. Brixton in April set the scene - working class youth fought back against their poverty-stricken existence and police oppression.

July saw the cauldron bubbling in Toxteth, Handsworth, Southall and dozens of other areas. For me, those July days played out to the accompaniment of two sounds.

One was boards being hammered into place to protect shop windows; the other was the No.1 single in the charts.

The Specials' Ghost Town, released 30 years ago, summed up an era. The 'no future' generation of 1976/77 were proved correct when Thatcher took power in 1979.

The Tories started systematically dismantling much of Britain's industry and would soon start selling off public assets wholesale to her big business friends.

Unemployment had rocketed up by a million in 12 months. Whole areas of Britain looked as if they were closing down.

Car, iron and steel industries were being decimated. Mining would be next - postponed temporarily only because of the strength of the National Union of Mineworkers.

The spectre of the far-right National Front (NF - one of the BNP's forerunners) haunted the streets and vicious racist attacks were all too commonplace.

In Coventry, an angry but peaceful anti-racist demonstration called after the murder of Satnam Singh Gill in the full view of city centre shoppers, was attacked first by the NF, then by the police.

The Specials were formed in Coventry as a mix of black and white youth, firmly entrenched in the anti-racist movement. By 1981 they had already had six top ten singles, but will be remembered for Ghost Town.

From the haunting introduction through the spoken opening words "This town, is coming like a ghost town, All the clubs have been closed down" to the trombone solo, it was something that just hadn't been heard before on Top of the Pops.

"This place, is coming like a ghost town

"No job to be found in this country

"Can't go on no more

"The people getting angry"

The similarities between Britain in 1981 and 2011 are clear. True, the capitalist class learned a little from their past mistakes.

No longer do most city centres look like they've been bombed; bright new buildings, well-lit walkways, statues and other works of art in open spaces all help to avoid the impression of utter squalor and despondency.

But capitalism's inability to provide long-lasting stability means the same problems as 30 years ago still exist - in fact they are much more acute. City centres have been given a brush-up, but in many town centres and inner city areas boarded-up windows and run-down estates are as prevalent now as in 1981.

Ghost Town defined an era. But that era wasn't unique.

1981s will recur while capitalism remains. 2011 saw the start of a massive fightback against the system which makes most people's lives a misery.

The first tremors are already felt in the Middle East and North Africa, in Greece and Spain, and in Britain too. And the people are getting angry.

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In The Socialist 20 July 2011:

News International scandal

Force Cameron out!

Get rid of Cameron, Murdoch and all they represent

Socialist Party news and analysis

Capitalism stuck in a blind alley

Anti-cuts news and campaigning

'No cuts' budgets or 'parallel' budgets?

Legal Aid Bill - Access to justice is under attack

Immigration Advice closure shows need for industrial struggle

Stop Swansea coastguard closure

Southampton council workers' struggle continues despite imposition of new contracts

Labour takes axe to Sure Start in Liverpool


Privatisation and cuts undermine the NHS

A day in the life of a student nurse: Overworked - but happy to help

Socialist Party workplace news

Bromley Unison reps resign in protest at union's disgraceful actions

South Yorkshire journalists start all-out strike

Strike solid at BBC Leeds office

Renationalise Bombardier to save jobs

London NSSN meeting - 'real debate' on preparing for coordinated action

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Defending state education - Brighton academy victory

TUSC: Building an electoral challenge to Con-Dem and Labour cuts

Tolpuddle says: 'step up the action'

The Work Programme: is it only chasing people off benefits?

International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Massive metal workers' strike

Selling the Socialist

Throw away the Murdoch rags!

Socialist Party review

Music review - "This place is coming like a ghost town..."


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