Tuesday, August 28, 2018

ResoluteReader: Brian Aldiss - Non-Stop

ResoluteReader: Brian Aldiss - Non-Stop: *Warning Spoilers* Brian Aldiss' Non-Stop is a extraordinarily fine science fiction novel that has barely dated since its initial publication.

It's a classic novel that no connoisseur of science fiction should fail to read.

ResoluteReader: Charlie Clutterbuck - Bittersweet Brexit: The Futu...

ResoluteReader: Charlie Clutterbuck - Bittersweet Brexit: The Futu...:

The argument of his book, is that Brexit offers a unique opportunity to transform British agriculture in order produce healthy, sustainable food that rewards those who work the land, and produce the food. As Clutterbuck explains while dealing with the question of the limitations of our current food system:

The contradiction... that the problem is not overpopulation, but overproduction - has still not been addressed. We need to produce 'better, healthier and greener food'. And we can. Leaving Europe may be our opportunity to do so.
He continues:

But it will be a battle. Consumers will still want cheap food. That won't stop any time soon. Yet cheap food costs the earth... We cannot rely on individual consumers to do this. If ever there was a case for state intervention, this is it... It means we have to have political answers, not individual ones, however well-meaning.
Much of the book is a clear explanation of why the food system is like it is. Clutterbuck highlights the role of the EU in this, but it is not a problem simply of the EU. British agriculture is part of a capitalist food system that is geared, not towards feeding people, but towards making profits for the food corporations, farmers and capitalist companies. Unfortunately this system only benefits the most wealthy - large landowners, big farmers and food multinationals. It does not help the workers, agricultural labourers, small-holding farmers and those who consume the food. Clutterbuck argues: 

The biggest opportunity in the Brexit process is to redirect the £3bn EU CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] funding... We need to subsidise labour in the food sector to keep food prices down, which customers demand. This will fund local produce and rural communities

ResoluteReader: Matthew T. Huber - Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom & the F...

ResoluteReader: Matthew T. Huber - Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom & the F...:

For those of us battling for radical action on climate change the role of the fossil fuel corporations within capitalism is a key issue. How they operate, why they behave like they do, and their role in maintaining fossil fuel capitalism is central to understanding why states have failed to enact the sort of radical action that is required. Matthew T. Huber's book is an attempt to understand, in the words of the publisher, "If our oil addiction is so bad for us, why don't we kick the habit?"

Huber begins by analysing the way that the oil corporations developed in the United States. It's a fascinating history of how the oil industry came to be closely associated with the US state and how it became central to the US economy. It's a story of dodgy dealings, strikes and repressive measures and state intervention. I learnt a great deal from this history and I would suggest that together with Andreas Malm's wonderful Fossil Capital, it is a very useful read for anyone trying to understand oil's centrality to capitalism. In this review I want to focus on Huber's central thesis. He argues, for instance, that while (say) the anti-war movement have traditionally seen oil as central to US Imperialism, radicals have missed its wider centrality to how capitalism (particularly in the US) functions:

Thus political resistance to the geopolitical games of imperial control over oil reserves must cast their critical sights toward not only the US military state but also the geographies of social reproduction that situate oil as a necessary element of 'life'. The cries of 'no blood for oil' assume oil is a trivial 'thing' but a more effective antipetroleum politics must struggle against the more banal forms through which oil-based life gets naturalised as common sense. (*)
Huber continues later:

The forces behind the New Deal attempted to rescue capitalism through the construction of a new way of life based around high wages, home ownership, and auto-centric suburban geographies predicated upon the provision of cheap and abundant oil. 
This new way of life, the American Dream, was based not simply on oil fuelling the system, but also the cheap goods, abundant food and materials that oil provided. What Huber describes as "a particular suburban landscape: a geography of mass consumption". The New Deal and the Second World War allowed the construction of this new "geography" and the export of this around the world through the Marshall Plan. The US, Huber argues, came out of the War as a "perfected petro-capitalist social formation" with a huge fossil fuel infrastructure for "mass production and mass consumption of petroleum". He continues by showing how everything from housing to food became fossil fuel industries.

ResoluteReader: Mike Wendling - Alt Right: From 4chan to the White...

ResoluteReader: Mike Wendling - Alt Right: From 4chan to the White...: The election of Donald Trump as US President allowed a tidal wave of far-right politics to enter mainstream political discussion. But this new "alt-right" did not come from nowhere, rather they had been growing in confidence and numbers for a number of years prior to Trump's candidacy. They represented both a new political force, emboldened and strengthened by Trump (whom they saw as 'their man') as well as an established group that had existed below the radar, usually grouped around a few blogs and websites, that had allowed them to develop their ideas and organisation (such as it is).

Mike Wendling has done us all a favour by doing the dirty work investigating the origins and individuals behind the alt-right. While an accessible work, his book is not an easy read, as the reader has to wade through a quagmire of racist, misogynist and bigoted views that often have little relationship to reality. Wendling deserves an award for this work, if nothing else, because it highlights how a large section of people think and if anti-racists are to challenge these ideas and the individuals that propagate them, then they need to understand.

At the heart of the story is an internet subculture that will be unfamiliar to many. Wendling sees the /pol section of 4chan as key to the development of the alt-right (he calls it their 'home turf'). A relatively free-flowing, un-moderated section of the internet, its style is highly alienating to outsiders, and difficult to engage with from a progressive position. From here individuals were able to build links (both unconsciously and consciously) with a wider world of "men's rights" activists, neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and so on. These networks are both terrifying and fascinating, and Wendling let's us see inside the mindset of those at the heart of them.

ResoluteReader: Peter Binns, Tony Cliff & Chris Harman - Russia: F...

ResoluteReader: Peter Binns, Tony Cliff & Chris Harman - Russia: F...:

This short 1987 collection of essays brings together four short pieces by leading British Marxists of the International Socialists and the Socialist Workers' Party. Only the first, an introductory piece by the Palestinian Jewish Marxist Tony Cliff is new for this piece, the others are from various other socialist journals and books. Cliff's piece is short and the meat of the argument is presented by Chris Harman's pieces which deal with the defeat of the Russia Revolution and the nature of Russia and its satellite states. The first Harman piece How the Revolution Was Lost (online here) is one of the clearest arguments about why Russia, first through isolation and the defeat of the post-World War One European Revolutionary movements and then the development of a new bureaucratic class, led to the defeat of the Revolution itself. It's a classic article that I have read numerous times and which I highly recommend to socialists.

Harman's second piece can be seen as a basic introduction to the idea that defines the International Socialist tradition, that Russia was State Capitalist. Because of the origin of the articles as separate pieces there is some duplication, but again, Harman's argument is clear and accessible and like the following Peter Binn's article he returns first to a study of what capitalism is, before showing what Russia was/is. Harman shows how the basic dynamics of capitalism existed in pre-1989 Russia (and the Eastern bloc countries), showing how they could not possibly be socialist:

whereas under pre-capitalist societies production is determined by the desires of the ruling class and under socialism by the desires of the mass of the population, under capitalism the nature and dynamic of production results from the compulsion on those who control production to extract a surplus in order to accumulate means of production in competition with one another. The particular way in which the ruling class owns industry in Russia, through its control of the state, does not affect this essential point. That is why the only meaningful designation in Marxist terms of the society that has existed in Russia for the last forty years [Harman means since the 1920s] is 'state capitalism'.
Peter Binn's piece The Theory of State Capitalism (which can be found online here) is an extremely good short introduction to the idea. Like Harman he develops this through a study of capitalism, with frequent references to Marx's Capital. Crucially he shows how accumulation is a central feature of the economy of Russia, and this is because Russia is not an isolated economic system but one in intense competition with the Western Powers. This competition, like the competition between rival capitalists, drives the economic accumulation. Binns shows that this is true by showing how even within the developed capitalist powers, where the concentration and monopolisation of capitalism has meant that frequently only a single multinational dominates its sphere of production, yet these remain capitalist systems. State ownership, and indeed the existence of state planning, does not undermine this dynamic.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

ResoluteReader: Sally Magnusson - The Sealwoman’s Gift

ResoluteReader: Sally Magnusson - The Sealwoman’s Gift: *** Spoilers *** Sally Magnusson's novel

Sally Magnusson's novel The Sealwoman's Giftis one of those stories which seems so unbelievable, it cannot possibly be based on fact, and yet it turns out that the events at the heart of the story, and much of the detail did, actually take place. It seems extraordinary that pirates from the Mediterranean travelled as far north as Iceland and took hundreds of captives back to slavery in north Africa, but they did, and many thousands of coastal inhabitants from the countries of Western Europe were similarly captured. The novel is based on the true account of Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson whose real life capture alongside his wife, children and four hundred, is well attested to. While we don't know the name of Ólafur Egilsson's historical wife, in Magnusson's book she is called Asta, and her independent spirit is not diminished by the horrors of the voyage to Algiers. Instead she becomes emboldened despite seeing her son sold off and her imprisonment in the harem of Cilleby a wealthy merchant and slave trader.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

 Chinese experts have not recordered any increase in background radiation level following North Korea's alleged nuclear weapon test, Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement Wednesday.
BEIJING (Sputnik) — On January 6, 2016 Pyongyang claimed it had carried out a hydrogen bomb test. The same day, the Chinese Environment Ministry said the test had no impact on the environment in China’s northeast bordering North Korea so far.
"As of 12:00 local time [4:00 GMT] January 13, the monitoring data show that rates of gamma radiation in the air are within the norms, no artificial radionuclides were detected in the air, radiation situation is normal," the ministry said.
According to the ministry, Pyongyang's nuclear tests will not affect environment or China's citizens.
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, having earlier withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it ratified in 1985.


ALSO SEE: https://plawiuk.blogspot.com/search?q=NORTH+KOREA+NUKES+