The climate fire raging under the international political system

October 8, 2018

Review of Climate Leviathan: a political theory of our planetary future, by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright (London: Verso, 2018)

What are the real political prospects, as the world hurtles towards global warming? Not our hopes or desires, but really possible changes – good, bad and horrible – starting from where we are now?

Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, researchers of political theory who have been actively

Photo: Mikael Miettinen, creative commons

engaged in the “climate justice” movement for many years, address these questions in this thought-provoking book.

There are two fundamental ways to divide the options, they argue (pp. 28-29). First, whether the future economic order will be capitalist or not. Second, “whether a coherent planetary sovereign will emerge, that is, whether sovereignty will be reconstituted for the purposes of planetary management.” By “planetary sovereign” they Read the rest of this entry »

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Prisoners of a frack-friendly establishment

September 27, 2018

The British establishment is stepping up its deranged assault on anti-fracking protesters. How else can we interpret the 15-16 month jail sentences handed out yesterday at Preston Crown Court to three peaceful protesters?

Simon Roscoe Blevins (26), Richard Roberts (36) and Richard Loizou (31) were convicted in August of causing a public nuisance. They took part in a four-day direct action that blocked a convoy of tricks carrying drilling equipment from entering the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, operated by Cuadrilla.

The judge, Robert Altham, made clear the political nature of his decision in court yesterday. He said he thought the three men posed a risk of reoffending, and could not

Anti-fracking protesters (l-r) Rich Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe-Blevins, outside Preston Crown Court with supporters before sentencing

be “rehabilitated” – because “each of them remains motivated by an unswerving confidence that they are right.”

He added: “Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions. Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

The judge’s vindictive sentencing is squarely in line with a small section of the UK Read the rest of this entry »


Starting to understand the Syrian tragedy

August 14, 2018

Review of The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy by Yassin al-Haj Saleh (London: Hurst and co., 2017)

We all need an understanding of the fate of the Syrian revolution: what it was up against, how and why was it drowned in blood, what its future holds. To this end, the publication of Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s book in English is very welcome.

The Syrian tragedy is a turning-point for movements of social liberation internationally. A mass popular uprising of exceptional scope and scale was defeated with an exceptional torrent of violence. In the rich, horrific history of repressive governments, few have waged such savage, relentless war on their citizens, or so cynically chosen to destroy the fabric of society by civil war rather than lose control of it.

Not only did the world’s governments allow the regime a free hand to torture and murder Syrians, but much of the so-called “left” stayed silent, or even supported the torturers and murderers. Reckoning with this disaster, and the reasons for it, is a precondition for any meaningful radical politics in future.

Syrian fascism

Saleh’s book comprises a series of articles written between the 2011 uprising and 2015, in which he returns again and again to analyse the Syrian regime, the “new bourgeoisie” with which it is most closely associated, and the social forces that support it.

In “The Roots of Syrian Fascism”, written in April 2012 – when the uprising was just over a year old – Saleh calls for a discussion of the roots of the fascist violence by Bashar al- Read the rest of this entry »


Support Ukrainian political prisoners

July 24, 2018

Ukrainians and Londoners demonstrated at the UK parliament yesterday, calling for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. On the hottest day of the year, they chanted “free political prisoners”, “free the hostages of the Kremlin” and “stop the war in Ukraine” to passers-by.

They highlighted the case of film director Oleg Sentov, who was yesterday on the 71st day of a hunger strike, and is seriously ill. Sentsov is demanding the release of the 70 Ukrainian prisoners. The

The demonstration in Parliament Square, London, yesterday

prisoners include opponents of Russian military action in eastern Ukraine, some Crimean Tatar community activists. Many of them, including Sentsov himself, have been framed up on fictitious “terrorism” charges that have been condemned internationally as bogus.

For information on the prisoners’ cases, see these links.

“Sentsov considers his solo release would be a ‘total failure’”: article, with links to pages on other Ukrainian prisoners (from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Report of a visit to Oleg Sentsov (from the Russian Reader)

An interview with Oleg Sentsov’s cousin, Natalya Kaplan, who visited him earlier this month (from the Russian Reader)

An outline of the case of Pavlo Hryb, the Ukrainian school student framed up by the Russian authorities (from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Report of the campaign of repression against Crimean Tatars (from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

What Sentsov could die for, by Maria Kuvshinova (from the Russian Reader)

■ Stories by Oleg Sentsov, on the PEN International web site: “Testament”, “Autobiography” and “Dog”.


Heathrow: “jobs vs climate action” is a false choice. Reject it

June 28, 2018

Parliament’s vote for a third runway at Heathrow airport shows how far the Labour party is from putting together economic policies combining social justice and action to curb global warming.

More than 115 Labour MPs – well over half the parliamentary party – voted for Heathrow expansion on Monday, ignoring a warning in the debate by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, that it posed “a threat to the planet”.

McDonnell, a long-standing opponent of Heathrow expansion, said that, if a legal challenge by local councils and Greenpeace failed, an “iconic, totemic” battle would be unleashed to stop the project. The Vote No Heathrow group is already gearing up for such a battle.

Before the vote, Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union – a big financial donor to Labour and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn in internal political battles – wrote to MPs urging them to support Heathrow expansion.

It is the false choice that McCluskey hinted at in his letter – that if the workers’ movement participates Read the rest of this entry »


Social justice and ecological disaster: Red Green Study Group comments

June 28, 2018

Integrated strategies to face the crisis in relations between society and nature – “essentially, the dynamics of capitalist economic relations” – have been proposed to Labour by the Red Green Study Group in the UK.

In a response to the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum consultation, Environment, Energy and Culture: A Greener Britain, the group says a “combined approach” to tackling poverty, inequality and environmental degradation is vital.

The whole response is attached as a PDF here. Or you can read it on line on the Red Green Labour blog here. Or download it from the Labour party site here.

The group’s summary says:

This response is the result of prolonged discussion among members of the RED-GREEN STUDY GROUP, which has been working since 1992 on bringing together green, socialist and feminist thinking.

Contributors include trade unionists, members of the Labour Party, members of the Green Party and unaffiliated socialists. Our commitment to producing this response arose from the renewal of hope given by the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the new leadership of the Party.

Our response covers a wide range of topics, across transport, industrial production, farming and food, fishing, biodiversity, planning, energy production and conservation, climate change, health, education Read the rest of this entry »


Desperately seeking socialism

June 18, 2018

A response by GABRIEL LEVY to Dissidents Among Dissidents, by Ilya Budraitskis – and Budraitskis’s response to that response. (Dissidents Among Dissidents (Dissidenty Sredi Dissidentov) was published in Russian in 2017 by Free Marxist Publishers [Svobodnoe Marksistskoe Izdatelstvo].)

Русская версия здесь / Russian version here

The “new cold war” is the subject of the most politically compelling of the essays in this book by the Russian socialist Ilya Budraitskis. He wrote it in the summer of 2014, as Russian troops streamed into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside the Russian-armed militia of the separatist “people’s republics”, and the Russian ultra-nationalists, mercenaries and volunteers who joined them.

The existence of a “new cold war” was already being treated in public discourse as an “obvious and indisputable fact”, Budraitskis argues – but “the production of rhetoric has run way ahead of the reality” (pp. 112-3).

To question the assumptions behind the rhetoric further, in the essay, “Intellectuals and the Cold War” (in English on line here), Budraitskis considers the character of the original cold war, i.e. between the Soviet bloc and the western powers between the end of the second world war and 1991. The cold war was a set of “principles of the world order”, construed by ruling elites and then confirmed in intellectual discourse and in the everyday activity of masses of people, he writes (p. 112).

The reality of continuous psychological mobilisation, and the nerve-straining expectation of global military conflict, as apprehended by society as a whole, became a means of existence, reproduced over the course of two generations, in which loyalty to beliefs was combined with fear and a feeling of helplessness before fate.

This proposition, that the cold war was essentially a means of social control, in which masses of people were systematically deprived of agency, certainly works for me. I wondered whether Budraitskis knows

Prague, 1968: students take on Soviet tanks

of the attempts, made during the cold war on the “western” side of the divide, to analyse this central aspect of it – for example of the work of Hillel Ticktin and others in the early issues of the socialist journal Critique (from 1973). (Ticktin wrote on the political economy of the Soviet Union, interpreting it in the context of world capitalism. The journal web site is here.)

Today, the cold war’s binary ideological constraints live on, Budraitskis argues. “The trauma of choice between hostile camps has still today not been overcome” (p. 123). As an example, he quotes the reactions to Russia’s participation in the war in eastern Ukraine by, on one hand, Aleksandr Dugin, the extreme right-wing Russian “Eurasianist”, and, on the other, the American historian Timothy Snyder. (See here (Russian only) and here.)

For Dugin, the military conflict in eastern Ukraine amounted to “the return of Russia to history”. For Snyder, it was confirmation that Ukraine had finally to recognise that it was part of Europe. Dugin’s Read the rest of this entry »