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Liverpool F.C. - you reap what you sow


The sickening sight of Tom Adeyemi (Oldham defender) being reduced to tears by racist insults shouted at him by Liverpool fans during an F.A Cup tie, is a result of Liverpool’s response to Suarez’s racism. It also shows the seeds that the England national team and Chelsea are sowing by allowing Terry to continue to play and to captain a side, despite facing criminal charges of using racist language against Anton Ferdinand in a Premier League game.

Suarez was found by an F.A. enquiry to have used the term ‘negro’ seven times in two minutes when playing against Evra. After Suarez had been found guilty and issued with a lengthy ban, Liverpool players, with Dalglish’s approval, wore t-shirts in support of him. There were fans at the F.A. Cup tie with Oldham who were wearing Suarez t-shirts – a clear indication that Suarez is becoming a mascot for racist fans. Liverpool F.C. has allowed this to happen by refusing to condemn Suarez.

The continuation of Terry as England captain compounds the situation and makes a mockery of the F.A.’s ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign. It is telling that Terry was sacked as England captain when he was alleged to have had an affair with a team mate’s estranged partner. It appears slighting a team mate’s pride and ‘stepping on his toes’ is deemed more serious than allegations of criminally racist acts.

This is a dangerous time for football. Football is a hugely popular sport and, in my opinion, it is indeed ‘the beautiful game.’ The continuing scandals about player behaviour, including allegations of sexual assaults and racism, need to be clearly responded to by fans. There is real danger that the racism emerging from some Liverpool fans on Friday night could grow and allow the club to become a focus for organised racists and fascists.

Liverpool fans need to organise petitions and demonstrations at the ground to ensure pressure is brought on Dalglish and the Directors at Liverpool to condemn Suarez and any racist fans. The wearing of provocative t-shirts, such as those with Suarez on, should be banned at Liverpool matches. England fans should be demanding the sacking of Terry as England captain and his suspension from the team.

There can be no return to the days when organised fascists were welcomed on football terraces and it is anti racist fans who now need to organise to fight back. There have been fantastic examples of football fans collecting for workers on strike stretching from the 1984 Miners’ Strike to the collections for striking journalists in Doncaster last year. Football fans are the workers, students and unemployed people that are standing up against the current cuts and who can also stand firm against racism taking a hold at their grounds.

German football clubs such as St.Pauli in Hamburg give a vision of what a progressive football club could look like. St Pauli’s constitution contains a position against racism, sexism and homophobia. It banned adverts by the men’s magazine Maxim from the ground because of their sexist nature. The club’s principles speak of ‘tolerance and respect in mutual human relations.’

The 50+1 rule in German football has always meant that fans have a majority control of their club. Something that would be great to see here. But, more importantly, the fight is now on to ensure Liverpool and England fans, and all lovers of football, organise against any resurgence or expression of racism within the game and actually realise the goal of ‘Kicking Racism Out Of Football.’


  • Written by Laura Woods
  • Category: Comment

Give our Kids a Future protest challenges right-wing backlash

This is Peter Stauber's report for Counterfire:

'The response was clear and powerful. After the government and the mainstream media had been vilifying and condemning young people for a week, around 1,500 people got together to express a different view: One that doesn't blame the riots on “sick” elements within our society, which need to be dealt with “robustly”, but instead tries to take into account the underlying causes.

The organisers of the demonstration, called “Give our Kids a Future”, said they did not want to judge the events of ealier in the week, but to make a statement against the criminalisation or our kids, and to highlight the fact that it is the job of our communities to rebuild our society. The crowd assembled on Gillet Square in Dalston around midday and marched northwards to Tottenham in the afternoon, growing in numbers as it drew supporters from the areas in between.

The general feeling among the protesters was that the media and government response to the unrest completely missed the point.

“It has been dispiriting”, said Ricky, 23, who had come from Pimlico to show his support for the communities of Hackney and Haringey. “One of the most shocking things was the fact that people who were trying to explain what had happened were portrayed as trying to excuse the violence. Left-wing explanations were considered excuses, but not right-wing ones. Take the BBC, for example: Almost everybody they have interviewed has talked complete bullshit.”

Another young protester, Lorna, expressed a similar view:

“The media response has been unintelligent, just as the government's. I don't know why the government was so surprised about the riots, and I don't know what they think they'll achieve by telling people that it's unacceptable or criminal – I think people know that it's criminal. But it was also entirely predictable – it was clear that people would get very angry sooner or later because of what they been doing to public services – it's not only this government, it goes back further than that.”

There was a strong sense that the communities themselves need to put forward their own narrative – a narrative that corrects the notion that the riots were simply an expression of greed and corrupted morals. Chants and banners expressed the view that the real violence was not carried out by rioting youngsters, but by the police and our government of millionaires. Various placards pointed to the contrast between the rather minor looting of electronic equipment and food items, and the large-scale looting carried out by bankers and tax evaders.

“After the right-wing backlash against young people, it's important to put forward our own message. We can't allow Cameron to use this as an excuse to further erode our liberties and our rights. It's for the left to fight back and show support where it's needed”, said Alex, who had come all the way from Norwich to show his support for the communities in the poorer parts of London.

Above all, there was a sense of unity. People of all ages and from different ethnic backgrounds joined the march – Turkish, Kurdish, Afro-Caribbean... Everybody understood that criminalising our youth will lead nowhere.'

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

David Starkey, immigration and the 'new atheism'

David Starkey, it turns out, has a close association with the National Secular Society, which peddles a conservative version of 'secularism'. Reuben writes:

'Most of us by now will have seen David Starkey's disgraceful, Powell-esque commentary about “black culture” in the aftermath of the riot. Currently the National Secular Society proudly dedicate a webpage to him, as one of their “honorary associates”.'

It is not the society's only connection with the issue of immigration, as this link to a seasonal message from NSS President Terry Sanderson in December 2009 indicates. The whole piece is incoherent and muddled, but this passage stands out as politically significant:

'While we know that the traditional places of worship – the Church of England and the Catholic Churches - are declining rapidly, further evidence has emerged this month showing that immigrants are importing their own brands of religion into Britain. They generally take their faith more seriously than the “I’m spiritual but not religious” brigade that makes up the majority of the population in Britain (or the “fuzzy faithful” as they’ve been called).

Muslims from Pakistan and India, Catholics from Poland and evangelical Protestants from Africa and the Caribbean are bringing with them unpleasantly conservative religious beliefs that sometimes shock and repel the majority. They often seem primitive, hysterical, fanatical and alien, full of hatred and intolerance and crazy, senseless rules. Honour killings, violent, sometimes fatal, exorcisms, denial of medical treatment to children on the assumption that prayer will be sufficient, the treatment of women as chattels and the spouting of unvarnished hatred of non-believers, gays and Jews from the pulpits of mosques.

These new religious enthusiasts are still a relatively small minority, estimated at the 4.5 million mark. Among the mainstream population the move continues from indifference to religion to outright hostility to it.'

So much prejudice packed into so few words. There is elitist and ignorant contempt for the majority of non-immigrants, but the virulent hostility is reserved for immigrants. All immigrants, it seems, are indiscriminately branded as bringing evil practices with them. While it isn't stated explicitly, the only logical conclusion is that they should be kept out of the country.

There is an underlying assumption that the problems listed don't exist other than in immigrant communities. They are entirely imported problems, as if anti-semitism and homophobia, for example, have never been an issue in this country before. But of course that doesn't mean the majority of 'us' are safe from the minority of 'them', for these immigrants are bringing their evil ways into 'our' country and shocking and repelling the majority of us.

There is no suggestion that within communities there may be differences of religious practices, social attitudes and beliefs. Instead there's a simple polarisation between 'our' religion and 'their' religion: the former is objectionable but relatively harmless Anglicanism, while the latter is 'primitive. hysterical, fanatical and alien'. If someone consciously tried to use racialised language, they couldn't do better than 'primitive, hysterical, fanatical and alien'. It echoes the old colonial discourses about 'savage' Africans, used to justify empire-building.

It's no surprise, either, that particularly strong condemnation is reserved for Muslims - notice the 'pulpits of mosques' reference at the end of that litany of appalling degradations. Different 'alien' religious traditions - Christian and Islamic alike - are lumped together, but it's the Muslims who get the most fiery denunciation.

How curious, too, that no source is given for that figure of 4.5 million. It's almost like Sanderson made it up, as it certainly has no relation to the number of socially conservative immigrants who practise religion.

It isn't a mere quirk that the NSS has Starkey as a high-profile supporter. It is a 'broad church' (pardon the pun) which attracts many liberal supporters, with its honorary associates including several people I admire such as the Marxist playwright Edward Bond and Stewart Lee, one of my favourite comedians.

But the NSS represents a strand of secularism which largely uncritically adopts the conservative assumptions of 'new atheists' like Richard Dawkins (it is perhaps, in the present context, worth recalling this intervention from Prof Dawkins). It is a politicised and racialised kind of atheism which overstates the alleged threat from Islam - and indeed overplays the influence of religion on society and politics in general - dovetailing neatly with the Islamophobia and authoritarianism which have accompanied Western imperialist wars and occupations of the last decade.

Them and us: they are a minority and we are the majority. They threaten our enlightened and rational Western ways with their backward values, characterised as both archaic and, crucially, alien. Islam is the number one target and, among Christian denominations, it is the African churches who pose the greatest threat, followed by the foreign habits of the Catholic Church (far worse than toothless Anglicanism).

It's not just time for the NSS to - as Reuben suggests - abandon David Starkey. It's time for anyone who is anti-racist - whether atheist or religious - to reject the bigoted stance of Terry Sanderson and friends. The language of secularism should not be used to bolster the kind of neo-Powellite immigrant-bashing we heard from David Starkey on Friday. We need, instead, to unite in opposition to the right-wing racist backlash which has followed the riots.

Tip: Splintered Sunrise 

Video: David Starkey echoes Enoch Powell in racist Newsnight rant

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Video: Israel flag removed from Cairo embassy by protestors

'On August 20, 2011 Egyptians mobilized for a demonstration in front of the Israeli Embassy demanding the removal of the flag and for the ambassador to leave. After hours of flag-burning trials, a man called "Ahmed El-Shahat" managed to climb the embassy building and remove the Israeli flag and replace it with the Egyptian one.' The Guardian has background HERE.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Populist authoritarianism - and its limits

Dietrich Wagner, victim of police use of water cannon
There's a good post at Latte Labour called 'The Carnival of Reaction' about political and public responses to the riots. This is a slightly developed, edited version of a comment I posted there.

The results of polling in recent days are grim, but I don't think public opinion is as bad as it may initially appear. There is, as ever, a difference between attitudes when things are at a very abstract/general level and when it is more human.

It's like when someone is hostile to immigration in a survey but defends a family threatened with deportation in their own area. It's easy for people to say 'bring out the water cannon' or 'send the troops on the streets', but if these things actually happened many of them would soon be horrified. The more real something becomes, the more attitudes shift (see HERE for the background to the picture above).

It's also worth noting that the latest polling on cuts and the economy is good news for the left. There's also been a general shift in polls against the Tories and government, with falling approval ratings etc - a pretty steady curve for a year now. It's not like there's a broader shift to the right or in support of the government.

A key factor in public support for ludicrously disproportionate measures is a widespread view of an underclass which is a 'feral mob': something different to ourselves, apart from society. It's roughly what Owen Jones writes about in 'Chavs'. Most people don't see the rioters as being like themselves. It's thus far easier to support brutal measures against them, and not give a damn if they're jailed, evicted or have their benefits cut.

This reflects how some of the right-wing attitudes about class and poverty have become embedded in popular consciousness. Many people don't appear to be thinking 'That could be the lad next door getting banged up just because of what he put on facebook', or 'it could be one of my family getting their benefits cut'. Instead they perceive such people as 'other', as 'them' not 'us', as a threat.

This is a problem for the left, but fortunately such prejudice co-exists with more progressive instincts. There are a number of key responses, it seems to me. 
Firstly, we need to articulate a clear class-based politics that cuts through the scapegoating, rejects writing off a small minority as 'undeserving', 'sick' and 'feral', and reasserts shared class interests.
We need to re-direct the fire against the real enemy. A number of good arguments are currently being articulated by many socialists, such as noting the gulf between draconian sentences for rioters and the light touch approach to MPs who fiddled their expenses or senior News International executives, or drawing attention to the hypocrisy of old Bullingdon boys like David Cameron and Boris Johnson demanding tough sentences for behaviour no worse than their own youthful escapades.
It is also a matter of re-focusing attention on the social and economic conditions - poverty, inequality, racism and austerity - which give rise to social unrest, and calling for action to tackle them instead of a punitive, authoritarian backlash.  
Furthermore, we need a mass anti-cuts movement to embody those arguments and to fight for that kind of class politics. It needs to unite different sections of the working class, including those living in the most deprived communities (thus undermining attempts at divide and rule), and ensure there is broad-based political resistance to channel the widespread anger at injustice and inequality in our society.
  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Libya - what next?

John Rees on Libya:

'There will be no tears for the end of the Gaddafi regime if that is indeed what we are watching. The Gaddafi regime was a brutal dictatorship and it deserved to be overthrown just as much as that of Ben Ali’s in Tunisia or Mubarak’s in Egypt. But, unlike the defeat of Ben Ali or Mubarak, the end of Gaddafi has not been brought about mainly by a popular revolutionary rising. It has been brought about by a military victory in a civil war in which the rebel side has become largely dependent on western military fire power.

So the question now posed is this: in whose interest will the new rulers of Libya act? NATO is already saying that it will work with the Transitional National Council. This, more of a threat than a promise, should be no surprise. The point of the western intervention in Libya was to gain a foothold in the fast moving Arab revolutions and to create a compliant regime by making it militarily and economically dependent on the west in a way in which, say, the Tunisian UGTT or the Youth Coalitions of Egypt could never be said to be.

So the major powers will be looking for payback. They will want an Arab regime which is a home for western military bases. They will want a regime that is supportive of Israel (and the TNC has already made supportive statements in favour of the ‘war on terror’). And they will want a Libya that is safe for BP, Shell and other western corporations, whether from the oil industry or elsewhere.'

Read in full HERE.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

David Harvey and the changing geography of capitalism

I finally got round to reading David Harvey’s superb ‘The Enigma of Capital’ recently. This post is a brief summary of a few key themes in a book which also covers several major topics that I barely touch on here (financialisation, debt, the history of capitalist crisis, origins of the current crisis etc).

My focus here is on Harvey’s analysis of the development of capitalism as a truly global system – and, correspondingly, the growth of a global urban working class.

Capitalism depends upon labour. It needs what Marx called ‘an industrial reserve army’ to do the work that generates profits for the capitalists. The expansion of capital requires a growing supply of workers. David Harvey observes that:

‘In the last thirty years…some 2 billion wage labourers have been added to the available global workforce, through the opening-up of China and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe’.

It is possible to take issue with the assumption that China and eastern Europe were previously outside capitalist relations, but it’s undeniably true that recent decades have seen market capitalism come to dominate the globe.

There is a correlation between capital expansion and population growth. Harvey writes: ‘There is, in fact, a very general relation between compound population growth and compounding capital accumulation.’ In China the rapid economic growth since 1980 has been linked to an earlier dramatic reduction in infant mortality rates, which in turn ‘resulted in a massive young labour force clamouring for employment’.

Capitalism emerged, initially in north-western Europe, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Capitalism has grown and expanded alongside a massive increase in the world’s population. Harvey writes:

‘Since around 1700, the world’s population has grown at a compound rate that, interestingly, parallels the compounding rate of capital accumulation. Global population topped 1 billion around 1810. It rose from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 2.4 billion by 1950 and to over 6 billion by 2000. Estimates now put it at 6.8 billion. Projections put it at 9 billion or so by 2050.’

The perpetual expansion of the population – as both workers and consumers – has been essential to the flourishing of capitalism. This has been complemented by the expansion of capitalist relations into new areas.

In recent decades the growing proletarianisation of rural populations in China has provided the basis for spectacular economic growth. The transformation of peasants into proletarians which happened generations ago in the West has in recent decades become a global phenomenon, in some places happening more rapidly than during the industrial revolution in western Europe.

Urbanisation has accompanied the global expansion of capitalism. Cities numbering millions of people used to be a rarity, limited to the US and Europe. That has changed enormously, especially with the rise of mega-cities in Asia. The growth of the ‘urban’ has been closely intertwined with capital accumulation and the development of a truly global working class.

Migration for work is another characteristic of this highly urbanised, expansive global capitalism. Harvey writes:

‘Captive labour forces of indentured domestic servants, migrant gangs of construction workers and agricultural labourers vie with local populations and individuals who move in search of better chances in life… diasporas of all kinds (of both business and labour) form networks that intricately weave into the spatial dynamics of capital accumulation.’

Migration is closely linked to the search for work: migration from the countryside to the cities, or from one part of the world to another. Harvey relates that ‘while the foreign-born population of the US stood at around 5% in 1970, it is over 12.5% today.’ One consequence is the ethnically diverse character of the workforce in many countries, though there has often also been a rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and prejudice.

Roughly simultaneous to these processes of global expansion and urbanisation has been ‘the mobilisation of women, who now form the backbone of the global workforce’. In more recently industrialised areas of the globe, like east Asia, women make up a huge portion of the workforce, but gender pay disparities are often (even) worse than in countries like the US and UK.

Such inequalities in the working class are used to suppress the interests of all workers. Harvey analyses how capitalists, and pro-capitalist politicians, have fostered divisions inside the working class:

‘All along, capitalists have sought to control labour by putting individual workers in competition with each other for the jobs on offer. To the degree that the potential labour force is gendered, racialised, ethnicised, tribalised or divided by language, political and sexual orientation and religious beliefs, so these differences emerge as fundamental to the workings of the labour market.’

There is, though, huge geographical unevenness in both population growth and capitalist expansion. As Harvey writes: ‘The more advanced centres of capital accumulation, such as much of western Europe and Japan, have slipped into negative population growth… while the rest of Asia, Latin America and Africa continue to increase.’

This refers, broadly speaking, to the divide between Old Capitalism – centred in the US and western Europe – and the New Capitalism of China, east Asia and Latin America. These are the two inter-related but distinct halves of the global capitalism.

Harvey traces the changing fortunes and recurring crises in Western economies since the 1970s, but is also highly sensitive to the differences within the global economy in any given period.

Since the 1970s the major Western economies have been afflicted by a series of crises. The crisis which developed in 2007/08, and which shapes contemporary politics for many of us, is primarily one affecting Europe and the US. While it has global ramifications, there is huge unevenness across different regions. This is against the backdrop of a general shift in the dynamics of the global system, with China and east Asia experiencing long-term growth while many advanced Western economies struggle.

Harvey writes:

‘Bilateral trade between China and Latin America increased tenfold between 2000 and 2009. Is the urbanisation of China the primary stabiliser of global capitalism? The answer has to be a partial yes. But it is also the case that real estate development has been crucial to class formation in China. This is where immense personal fortunes have been made in very short order.’

Harvey is alert to the evolving balance of economic and political power between different nation states, which principally represent the capitalist and ruling class interests located inside their borders. The end of the Cold War saw the collapse of a former superpower: the USSR. Although this appeared to leave the US dominant – the sole remaining superpower, with unrivalled hegemony – the US economy has in fact been in decline relative to a number of emerging economies, notably China.

The modern world was shaped in the era of imperialist expansion, and rivalry between the European ‘Great Powers’, from around 1870 until the aftermath of World War One. The major European powers utilised their economic strength to build empires, colonising large swathes of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and achieving global dominance. Harvey recalls: ‘Most of the world’s territorial boundaries were laid down between 1870 and 1925 and most of these were drawn by British and French imperial power alone’.

By 1945 the old European powers were in decline; a process of decolonisation rapidly developed. Rivalry between the US and USSR – each with considerable spheres of influence – dominated world politics. The US, however, was the unrivalled economic superpower, a status sustained during the long post-war boom. It shrewdly established new international economic and political institutions, at the end of the Second World War, to assert its dominance (as well as using its military superiority for the same purpose).

Harvey writes:

‘The geographical configurations of state power achieved after 1945 remained fairly stable, once decolonisation was completed. But in recent times the map of the world has changed. The United Nations originally comprised 51 states but it now boasts 192 members. A whole series of reterritorialisations began after 1989 with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of Yugoslavia.’

The 1990s was primarily a decade of neoliberal hegemony, of unrivalled liberal capitalism, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, reinforced by the trend of market liberalisation in China. The east Asian crash of 1997-98 scuppered the illusion of unstoppable neoliberalism, though without triggering a global crisis. Since then the emergent Asian economies have recovered and have tended to sustain higher growth levels than advanced Western economies. The geography of capitalist crisis has decisively shifted back to the West.

It is still possible that the current crisis will become the first truly global slump in history, but so far the effects have been very geographically uneven with China, for example, maintaining rapid growth while the US and most of Europe stagnate. For now there remains a clear distinction between Old Capitalism and New Capitalism.

The evolving economic situation influences changes in geopolitical power relations. It isn't obvious how this will play out in the long term - or exactly what repercussions there will be in terms of political or even military conflicts - but it is apparent that the world's economic and political geography is changing profoundly.

Links for David Harvey videos I've posted on Luna17:

Animated: Crises of capitalism
Wall Street, Wisconsin and the crisis of capitalism
The crisis deepens - what's going on?

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Less tweeting, more talking (or blogging)

"Don't talk to her - she's a colonial feminist"
If something can't be said in 140 characters or less, why bother trying to say it in 140 characters or less?

I was reminded of this elementary point today by two faintly depressing spats on my Twitter timeline. Both of them illustrate the limits of Twitter, which I recognise is handy for many things - and I'm hardly Twitter-shy myself - but inadequate for developing an even remotely coherent argument.

The first spat concerned the Home Secretary Theresa May's ban on all marches across large swathes of London, an opportunistic response to the planned EDL and anti-racist marches in Tower Hamlets on 3 September. Some tweets are at the playground level, barely more sophisticated than 'Billy Bragg is a smelly poo' or 'The SWP are fatty stupidheads'.

But even the more intelligent interventions in the debates about the banning of racist marches and how to respond to the EDL are weak. This is no surprise - you can't articulate a reasoned critique in a tweet.

The other dispute is between two fine Egyptian revolutionaries Gigi Ibrahim and Hossam el-Hamalawy in the red corner and US-based commentator Mona Eltahawy in the blue corner (or blue and white corner, if slurs about her being a 'Zionist' are to be believed). Hossam called her a 'colonial feminist', which is like calling someone 'fatty stupidhead' after reading some Edward Said. It is name-calling as substitute for political argument. The marxist wing of the greatest revolution of our times can do much better than this.

What's even worse is that Twitter means lots of other people get drawn in too, even if just at the level of reading such silliness. The adversaries retweet supportive comments - or, more likely, tweets which disparage the other side. Polarisation rapidly shuts down any space for thoughtful debate; personality clashes obscure political issues.

My grandad used to say when I was a bairn, "if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Or, to be more precise, if you want to say something not very nice then take the time to explain, substantiate and critique. And without the personalised mud-slinging. (That's not strictly what my grandad said - let's call it paraphrasing).

It's a reminder of why those who claim Twitter's 'microblogging' has made blogging redundant are missing the point. A blog post (and the same goes for a comments thread) is a chance to - in a phrase I associate with the late Chris Harman - think things through. Subtlety and balance, not to mention scope for offering evidence to support your assertions, are possible.

Talking is even better. There's no substitute for face-to-face meetings as a way of conducting political discussion. It is possible to pose questions, interpet tone and refine ideas. And if anyone denounces someone as a 'colonial feminist', the immediate laughter of derision operates as an instant reality check.  

It occasionally crosses my mind that Trotsky would have made an amazing blogger. On Twitter, I fear, it would have been different - and, with that level of distraction, there's no way he'd have finished 'A History of the Russian Revolution'! 

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

It's all kicking off - but why now?

Tunis, 18 January 2011
Damian Carrington shares some revealing new research findings:

'Seeking simple explanations for the Arab spring uprisings that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, is clearly foolish amidst entangled issues of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and water stress. But asking "why precisely now?" is less daft, and a provocative new study proposes an answer: soaring food prices.

Furthermore, it suggests there is a specific food price level above which riots and unrest become far more likely. That figure is 210 on the UN FAO's price index: the index is currently at 234, due to the most recent spike in prices which started in the middle of 2010.

Lastly, the researchers argue that current underlying food price trends - excluding the spikes - mean the index will be permanently over the 210 threshold within a year or two. The paper concludes: "The current [food price] problem transcends the specific national political crises to represent a global concern about vulnerable populations and social order." Big trouble, in other words.'

I recommend reading the article in full. While the research is focused on current developments, there is an interesting historical perspective on this too. I was reminded of this insightful post from Paul Mason in April: Revolutions and the price of bread: 1848 and now

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

Five reasons why we need Europe Against Austerity

1. We need unity and co-ordination, nationally and internationally. The European Conference Against Austerity in London will strengthen the links between different groups and activists, countering problems of division and fragmentation. Our government is a weak, fragile coalition which can only survive if the opposition to austerity is localised and fragmented. Much the same is true in many other countries. We need maximum unity in action.

2. The 1 October conference takes the step up to international co-ordination. The UK government's attacks on public services and welfare are part of a wider assault across Europe, an attempt to make the vast majority of people pay the price for bailing out the banks. We need to organise across borders in response.

3. This is the first major international initiative for the anti-cuts movement - it is on a significantly bigger scale, involving broader forces, than any previous initiatives. It is desperately overdue and may become the start of something even bigger in the longer term.

4. The conference is a superb chance to discuss the big political issues and talk about alternatives to the eurozone crisis and ruling class 'solutions' to it. Europe's economic and political crisis is one of the dominant themes of global politics in 2011. This is a unique opportunity to wrestle with the issues in the company of the anti-capitalist left and campaigners from across the continent.

5. The conference isn't just about activists across a wide range of countries communicating with each other. It holds out the hope of co-ordinated action. A first step will be the forums and demonstrations in France in early November, providing an antidote to the G20, but there is potential for much more. The conference can be the launchpad for co-ordinated action across Europe.

Find out more - and register for the conference - at Europe Against Austerity.

  • Written by Alex Snowdon
  • Category: Comment

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