Socialism and science fiction

Published on: Sun, 05/04/2020 - 14:54

Eduardo Tovar

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

The simple connection between socialism and science fiction is that sci-fi imagines alternatives to the status quo. Frequently, this involves implicitly critiquing our present society or projecting possible outcomes of existing social trends. More to the point, sci-fi tends to imagine change at the level of the entire human species, such as by envisaging how humanity will evolve socially through the application of scientific inventions and discoveries.

Since sci-fi imagines alternative worlds, it links in complex manners to both utopian and dystopian

Is De Beauvoir worth reading?

Published on: Tue, 10/03/2020 - 18:23

Dave Kirk

What's often called 'second-wave' feminism is sometimes dated to begin with the publication of The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir in 1949. De Beauvoir herself was critical of that claim later in life; whilst acknowledging that she had some influence on the women's movement that grew in the 1960s, she argued that it had other more pressing, contemporary influences.

It's a long book. Over 700 pages. So why is it worth reading a book long on how women have been treated in philosophy and literature and short on the specifically political? The pre-WW1 British women's suffrage movement is glossed

The story of the Polish workers

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 10:30

Eduardo Tovar

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Solidarność (Solidarity), the Polish independent trade union, at what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. Solidarność both emerged from and provided the organisational infrastructure for the mass strikes of August 1980.

This intense period of struggle thrust strike leaders like Lech Wałęsa and Anna Walentynowicz into the international limelight. With the signing of the Gdańsk Agreement on 31 August 1980, Solidarność became the first independent union to be recognised by a Warsaw Pact country.

At its height in September 1981,

The world's housing crisis

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 09:02

Steve Allen

A new film, Push, documents the work of a UN Special Rapporteur as she travels the globe to understand the housing crisis.

On the face of it, it could be an inspiring call to arms. Unfortunately, it provides few solutions beyond governments working together to tackle global finance.

The film title is a nod to the process of gentrification, whereby residents are “pushed” out of their homes to make way for typically more expensive developments. Housing has become a financial asset to be traded at the whims of private equity firms. Meanwhile tenants face ever increasing rents and stagnating wages

Combatting antisemitism within the revolution

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 08:41

Dale Street

“Bolshevism has made Russia safe for the Jew. If the Russian idea should take hold of the white masses of the western world, then the black toilers would automatically be free,” wrote the Jamaican-American author Claude McKay in September 1919.

By contrast, journalist and playwright Isaac Babel’s description of antisemitism in the Red Army in the years immediately following the October Revolution led him to ask the question: “Which is the Revolution and which the counter-revolution?”

Echoing Babel’s question, the writer Ilia Ehrenburg described his experience of waiting to vote in the

Simple, but potent

Published on: Wed, 26/02/2020 - 10:43

Dan Rawnsley

I continue to enjoy Janine Booth’s poetry for its humanity. Her latest collection Fighting Tories: The Force Awakens (order online, £5, here) develops compelling political ideas out of personal experiences and observations.

Janine is good at moving from the specific to the abstract and can make a political point without losing her audience or becoming too didactic.

This Place is a great example. Drawing on Janine’s visits to one of her sons in hospital, it is both moving on a personal level and an understated but blistering attack on the lack of support over-stretched councils and the NHS are

Barbarism or barbarism?

Published on: Wed, 19/02/2020 - 10:42

Paul Cooper

The South Korean film Parasite, a satire of social and economic inequality, has made quite an impression on two major institutions of world cinema.

At the Cannes film festival it won the Palme d’Or, and then it won Best Film at the Oscars.

It is not difficult to satirise such things, especially when there is an appetite for such in the institutions and audiences of the bourgeoisie. These are feel-good films because they help maintain the myth that world cinema is in fine aesthetic and moral health.

In his previous works (The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer, and Okja) director Bong Joan-ho follows

Shedding the cloak of invisibility

Published on: Wed, 19/02/2020 - 10:30

Daisy Thomas

Analysing and discussing the gender data gaps across employment, transport, car manufacturing, homes, medicine, academic research, and more, in her book Invisible Women: Exposing the Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez came to the conclusion that there are three themes that define women’s relationship with the world at large.

First, the seeming invisibility of the female body and how that invisibility can result in architectural, technological, and medical design which fails to accommodate the needs of women. This can result in prescription of medication that hasn’t

After 12 years of Tory misrule

Published on: Wed, 19/02/2020 - 09:30

Barrie Hardy

Prolonged periods of Tory rule have a habit of ending in a tide of sleaze and scandal. John Major gained the largest Tory vote in history in 1992, but his party was brought to a historic low five years later, with their worst election result in 90 years.

A similar set of circumstances faced the Tories in 1964, after what Labour Party leader Harold Wilson famously called “thirteen years of Tory misrule”. On that occasion the most infamous scandal besetting them was “the Profumo Affair”. Today we are in a third long period of continuous Tory rule (from 2010), so BBC’s The Trial of Christine

Being “minimally civil”

Published on: Wed, 12/02/2020 - 10:32

Cathy Nugent

Keith Kahn-Harris, in his book Strange Hate: Antisemitism, racism and the limits of diversity, argues that selective anti-racism and selective racism have become dominant modes.

Certain minorities, and certain sub-sections of minorities, are approved when they express a political or social orientation that is a close fit to another group. In other words, there is a process of political selecting out going on.

For Kahn-Harris, Jews have precipitated the development of selective anti-racism, and in his book how Jewish people are treated forms a “case study”. Unfortunately he does not make any

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