Area for all other political discussion
Useful piece here on the recent slump in oil prices.
Oil and gas reserves are trapped in layers of shale rock and can be released by a process of hydraulic water pressure called fracking. By sinking hundreds of rigs in quick succession, shale rock can produce significant supplies of tight oil and natural gas – and this process in North Dakota, Texas and other areas has turned US oil production round. US oil output up to now had been based in traditional deep oil reserves in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. US production was in decline from the mid-1970s to around 4mbd and falling. But with shale, annual output has rocketed back to 9mbd, near previous peaks. Fracking for tight oil and gas is now spreading across the globe as those countries with large shale reserves look to exploit it in Poland, China, Europe and even the UK.

The other side of the price equation is demand. Global demand for energy, particularly oil, has slowed. That’s mainly because global economic growth has slowed since the Great Recession ended. China has led the way with slowing growth, along with the other large emerging economies, like Brazil and India; and the major advanced capitalist economies remain in ‘low gear’ (see my post, ... -low-gear/" onclick=";return false;). Industries are increasing their use of fossil fuels at a slower pace than expected, while transport demand is in decline (Americans are driving less). Energy conservation has been stepped up and energy intensity (energy per unit of output) is falling everywhere. All the international energy agencies now expect oil and gas prices to stay at these new lows for some years ahead. ... deflation/" onclick=";return false;
One thing that's already happening in the US is that energy conservation measures are starting to become less cost-effective and some medium-future installs are beginning to be scrapped. Where this will balance out is anyone's guess, but there is little doubt that it will result in the release of more carbon.
Wasn't mad keen on James Meek's book, but this is good.
In 2012, when Frank Ledwidge was researching his book, which tallies the personal and financial cost of Britain’s Helmand campaign, he approached all six ministers who had held the defence portfolio since the start of the operation to ask what they thought its legacy would be. Not one – not Labour’s John Reid, now Baron Reid of Cardowan, or Des Browne, now Baron Browne of Ladyton, or John Hutton, now Baron Hutton of Furness, or Bob Ainsworth, or the Conservatives’ Philip Hammond or Liam Fox – was prepared to answer. For those not directly affected, the acceptable form of exculpation and remembrance involves obliterating any consideration of dead Afghans and folding the British war dead into a single mass of noble hero-martyrs stretching from 1914 to now. That, and more, bigger, shinier poppies.

The consequences of the Afghan war will linger. Neither the British in particular nor Nato in general kept count, but Ledwidge estimates British troops alone were responsible for the deaths of at least five hundred Afghan civilians and the injury of thousands more. Tens of thousands fled their homes. ‘Of all the thousands of civilians and combatants,’ Ledwidge writes, ‘not a single al-Qaida operative or “international terrorist’” who could conceivably have threatened the United Kingdom is recorded as having been killed by Nato forces in Helmand.’ ... n-a-defeat" onclick=";return false;
Really enjoyed this interview with an activist from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. ... rs-strike/" onclick=";return false;

Can't remember whether I've already posted this documentary in this thread and can't be bothered to check, so here it is.


Good talk on the miners' strike here from Dave Douglass as well.

An interesting read...

20 January 2015 Last updated at 02:22
How do we go about saving democracy?
By Prof Conor Gearty Director, Institute of Public Affairs" onclick=";return false;
#401528 ... ight/50898" onclick=";return false;

You get the occasional whiff of this on our side of the Atlantic.
Of course, we've been following these developments closely on here for the past 5 years, but Toynbee's latest looks useful. ... GL0NQO1LJ7
Great piece from Arun Kundnani on counterterrorism, surveillance on censorship. Odd how this seems to have been left out of the recent moral panic over freedom of speech on university campuses:
In universities, from the 1980s there has been a statutory duty to defend freedom of speech but now the new guidance, backed by the statutory duty in the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, creates a situation where a person who wants to speak at an event on a university campus has to be approved by the counter-terrorism unit of the local police department. That, in effect, is what the new guidance is saying and it’s giving the police a kind of informal censorship power. The guidance says universities must take seriously their duty to exclude those expressing extremist views. How are they going to implement that? By having a Prevent officer on the campus to scrutinise who is speaking and what are the activities of groups that are considered radical or extremist. That Prevent co-ordinator will then liaise with the police counter-terrorism unit, who will have a list of people who cannot speak. So using the language of risk assessment and of tackling extremism, we have created this kind of censorship power on campuses and we’ve created this normalisation of surveillance on campus, all of which is an odd way to teach the ‘British value’ of freedom of expression. Of course, these same structures will spill over to other forms of political activism: we saw this already with the upsurge in student protests around cuts to education a few years ago. It was the Prevent officers on universities who were trying to provide police forces with advance information about protests and demonstrations, those involved and so forth. ... extremism/" onclick=";return false;
Classic essay from Eric Hobsbawm on the history behind International Workers' Day.
The crucial matter at issue was whether the workers should be asked to demonstrate in working time, that is to go on strike, for in 1890 the First of May fell on a Thursday. Basically, cautious parties and strong established trade unions - unless they deliberately wanted to be or found themselves engaged in industrial action, as was the plan of the American Federation of Labor - did not see why they should stick their own and their members' necks out for the sake of a symbolic gesture. They therefore tended to opt for a demonstration on the first Sunday in May and not on the first day of the month. This was and remained the British option, which was why the first great May Day took place on 4 May. However, it was also the preference of the German party, although there, unlike Britain, in practice it was the First of May that prevailed. In fact, the question was to be formally discussed at the Brussels International Socialist Congress of 1891, with the British and Germans opposing the French and Austrians on this point, and being outvoted. Once again this issue, like so many other aspects of May Day, was the accidental by¬product of the international choice of the date. The original resolution made no reference at all to stopping work. The problem arose simply because the first May Day fell on a weekday, as everybody planning the demonstration immediately and necessarily discovered.

Caution dictated otherwise. But what actually made May Day was precisely the choice of symbol over practical reason. It was the act of symbolically stopping work which turned May Day into more than just another demonstration, or even another commemorative occasion. It was in the countries or cities where parties, even against hesitant unions, insisted on the symbolic strike that May Day really became a central part of working-class life and of labour identity, as it never really did in Britain, in spite of its brilliant start. For refraining from work on a working day was both an assertion of working-class power - in fact, the quintessential assertion of this power - and the essence of freedom, namely not being forced to labour in the sweat of one's brow, but choosing what to do in the company of family and friends. It was thus both a gesture of class assertion and class struggle and a holiday: a sort of trailer for the good life to come after the emancipation of labour. And, of course, in the circumstances of 1890 it was also a celebration of victory, a winner's lap of honour round the stadium. Seen in this light May Day carried with it a rich cargo of emotion and hope." onclick=";return false;
#416180 ... nc-by.html" onclick=";return false;

Short but interesting essay about how insane the corporate personhood bollocks is within the present system.
Been re-reading this Ralph Miliband essay for the first time in a while. Bang on the money, to be honest.
For most social democratic politicians, capitalist society (in so far as the existence of capitalism is acknowledged at all) is not a battlefield on which opposed classes are engaged in a permanent conflict, now more acute, now less, and in which they are firmly on one side, but a community, no doubt quarrelsome, but a community nonetheless, in which various groups – be they employers, workers, public employees, etc. – make selfish and damaging demands, which it is the task of government to resist for the good of all; and it is a community in which help must naturally be extended to the weakest members. On this view, what is required of government, and what a social democratic government is peculiarly well able to provide, is good will, understanding, fairness, compassion, so that specific problems may be tackled and resolved; and it also follows that social democratic leaders, in practice as distinct from rhetoric or even sentiment, are by no means separated from their conservative opponents by an unbridgeable gulf. On the contrary, there are many channels of communication, understanding and even agreement between them. The business of social democratic leaders is conciliation and compromise. Their concern may be to advance reform, but also to contain the pressure for it. Gramsci spoke of intellectuals as ‘managers of consent’: the formulation is even more applicable to social democratic politicians. As such, they play a major role in the stabilisation of the politics of capitalist-democratic societies.

Given this, it is easy to understand why social democratic politicians, with the partial exception of Salvador Allende in Chile, have never sought to probe the limits of ‘reformism’, and have always retreated long before they faced a serious confrontation with conservative forces. To have done so would have required them to assume the leadership of a mass movement from which their whole view of the world led them to recoil. It is simply not realistic to expect such people to provide the inspiration and the leadership required to bring about a transformation of capitalist society in socialist directions: the task demands, at the very least, a set of ideological commitments which they do not possess. ... yondsd.htm" onclick=";return false;
Important, and succinct.
In reality, economic crises express themselves not only in a lack of effective demand, but above all in a reduction of profitability of the capitalist class. Austerity constitutes a strategy for raising capital’s profit rate.

Austerity is the cornerstone of neoliberal policies. On the surface, it works as a strategy of reducing entrepreneurial cost. Austerity reduces labor costs of the private sector, increases profit per (labor) unit cost, and thus boosts the profit rate.

It is complemented by economizing in the use of “material capital” (alas, another demand curtailing strategy); and also by institutional changes that, on the one hand, enhance capital mobility and competition and, on the other, strengthen the power of managers in the enterprise and shareholders and bondholders in society. As regards fiscal consolidation, austerity gives priority to budget cuts over public revenue, reducing taxes on capital and high incomes, and downsizing the welfare state.

However, what is cost for the capitalist class is the living standard of the working majority of society. This applies also to the welfare state, whose services can be perceived as a form of social wage.

It is clear, therefore, that austerity is primarily a class policy. It constantly promotes the interests of capital against those of the workers, professionals, pensioners, unemployed, and economically vulnerable groups. In the long run, it aims at creating a model of labor with fewer rights and less social protection, with low and flexible wages, and no substantial bargaining power for wage earners. ... m-tsipras/" onclick=";return false;
Excellent piece by James Bloodworth ... ce=twitter" onclick=";return false;
As well as representing a bloody monument to the bankruptcy of ethnic nationalism, the 1995 genocide at Srebrenica stands, or at least it ought to stand, as a sordid reminder of how the international community should not respond to mass killing. Indeed, the murder twenty years ago this month of 8,372 Muslim men and boys over the course of three days by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of Ratko Mladic was eminently preventable. Worse, the conduct of several European nations prior to the slaughter – Britain in particular – created a situation propitious to mass murder.
Littlejohn's brain wrote:Excellent piece by James Bloodworth ... ce=twitter" onclick=";return false;
He gives a potted history of the Srebrenica massacre in order to make a one line comparison with Obama's policy over Syria.

What is of greater relevance in the Balkans is a defaulting Greece turning to Russia for funds in exchange for a bridge head. How will the Turks react to Russian battleships on the other side of the Black Sea on joint manoeuvres with the Greeks? A move that would strengthen Serbia who'd be happy to lend helping hand to square up to the Turks. Which in turn could be a game changer for the Ukraine who may wish Turkey well. Suddenly we have all just stumbled back into the 19th century.
Abernathy wrote:Intelligent and perceptive piece by John Gray, with plenty of food for thought : ... generation
He (Miliband) proved a better communicator than many believed possible, and eerily calm under fire. The problem lay with the message that the former Labour leader had decided to deliver.
Really? the findings I've seen have shown Miliband's policies to be more popular than the public trust in his competence as a PM. Its another cliched 'Labour is out-of-date' article that hacks have been writing since Gatiskill was leader. Miliband's policies played particularly well with under 40 categories where Labour was the clear winner. Gray doesn't explain why we have a nation full of young fogies yearning for a Britain which apparently doesn't exist.
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Jeremy Corbyn.

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