Solidarity 362, 29 April 2015

Stop Mediterranenan deaths, open the borders!

More than 1,700 people have believed to have died so far this year, crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, and other north African countries, to Europe. Many are fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria. Yet as European interior minsters met for crisis talks last week, they still talked about Mediterranean rescue missions being a “pull factor” for migrants. The gruesome logic here is one journalist put it, “drowning migrants to save migrants”. The current death toll is 50 times higher than the same point in 2014, when the more extensive search and rescue mission Mare Nostrum was still operational...

Killed for “failing to obey”

The US National Guard was called into Baltimore on Monday 27 April to put down riots which followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died last week of injuries sustained during a violent arrest by police. Freddie suffered a broken neck which left his spine “80% severed” and his voicebox crushed. He lapsed into a coma and died a week later. Freddie was chased and arrested for “catching an officer’s eye” and running away. Mobile phone footage of Freddie's arrest shows him being dragged into a police van while yelling in pain, one of his legs appearing limp. Police chiefs have...

Industrial news in brief

On Friday 1 May, the UCU union at Lewisham and Southwark college will begin the ballot for industrial action to save 110 full-time equivalent jobs. We are now one of several colleges in London preparing to resist attacks on our jobs and our ability to serve local working class students with what is for many the last chance to escape poverty and the hopelessness of unemployment. The bulk of the leadership and governance of further education in the UK are socially useless and parasitic on the funding of further education. They do little more than administer the dismantling of educational hope...

Poverty multiplies Nepal earthquake toll

Shaheen Chughtai, an official with the charity Oxfam, has written that Nepal’s “ability to cope with a major disaster”, like the 25 April earthquake, is “crippled by the lack of the kind of economic and social infrastructure that people in richer nations take for granted”. “I first arrived in Kathmandu in 2007 to begin a new job with Oxfam. I remember looking at the thousands of flimsy shacks and hovels lining Kathmandu’s dusty slums and the sturdier but still precarious multi-tiered family homes, the cheaply-built apartment blocks and ornate temples that collectively give the city its...

Reclaim Brixton!

Two thousand people gathered in Brixton on Saturday 25 April under the banner of Reclaim Brixton. The day included a short lived occupation of the Town Hall, several marches and speeches and music in Windrush Square. Reclaim Brixton brings together a number of new and existing campaigns together. Demands of the protest included: • Refurbishment not regeneration of council estates — no evictions of Lambeth residents • Stop racist policing, stop police violence, no more stop and search • No cuts to local services — save Lambeth Libraries • Private rent cap, new property development to be used...

The urban dystopia

“The Yankees have invented a stone-breaking machine. The English do not make use of it, because the ‘wretch’ who does this work gets paid for such a small portion of his labour, that machinery would increase the cost of production to the capitalist.” (Marx, Capital: Volume One) My recent visit to Shanghai was the last of nine in which I have glimpsed urban development “the China way”. My photo story captures themes present in each of my visits that have haunted me. The former Chinese Communist Party leader, Deng Xiaoping, who initiated the era of “opening and reform”, famously said:...

The hinterland of the contemporary left

This book presents six occasional essays in which the American novelist Benjamin Kunkel gives an account of recent work by contemporary thinkers of the left. In an autobiographical introduction, Kunkel declares his support for “replacing a capitalism bent on social polarisation, the hollowing out of democracy, and eco-ruin with another, better order... marked by public ownership of important economic and financial institutions... and by social equality”. In Kunkel’s view the left has been intellectually disorientated for a generation. It appears uncertain about how best to analyse contemporary...

The hegemony of neoliberalism

Philip Mirowski addresses the left, very broadly defined — “people who have taken it as a fundamental premise that current market structures can and should be subordinate to political projects for human improvement” — but with “a simple message: Know Your Enemy before you start daydreaming of a better world”. He dismisses most already-circulating “better world” schemes as helpless against the dominance of neoliberalism. He quotes Paul Krugman — “I am quite fanatical about defending the relevance of standard economic models” — Joseph Stiglitz — “fortunately we don’t need to rewrite the...

IFS: Tory cuts may total 33% by 2019

The four biggest parties in the next parliament – Labour, Tories, SNP and Lib-Dems – are all intending to continue to implement austerity policies after 7th May. Where they differ is in relation to the size of the cuts they intend making, the timetable for implementing those cuts, and the extent to which their election manifestos clarify the cuts which they intend making. This was the verdict of a detailed number-crunching analysis published on 23 April by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS): “Post-Election Austerity: Parties’ Plans Compared”. (The IFS report refrains from making any...

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