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Anarchist Studies' artwork editor Allan Antliff explains the history behind this issue's cover image, 'Follow Your Leader' by David Wilcox.
This article opens with a press report of a particularly violent action involving anar-chists at an anti-fascist action in the USA, shows how it was inaccurately perceived by media and law professionals, and how this indicates a universal lack of under-standing about anarchists and militant anti-fascism. We then focus on the UK to see how anarchists prioritise anti-fascism and show their historical connections with militant groups like Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), No Platform and Antifa from the 1980s through to the early 2000s, and their current support for the militant Anti-Fascist Network.
Sara Farris, Catherine Rottenberg
Sara Farris and Catherine Rottenberg introduce New Formations 91: Righting Feminism.
In this essay I reflect on a sample of a relatively new literature that has emerged in recent years on the growth of ‘womenomics’ and what Adrienne Roberts has called ‘transnational business feminism’. Are these developments a triumph for the influence of feminist activists around the globe? Or do we see them as yet another classic attempt by the agents of capitalist globalisation to contain the energies of women and turn them to the advantage of the bottom line? I look at some examples of TBF on the part of Goldman Sachs, Unilever, Levi-Strauss, and the Nike Foundation; at the debate among feminist scholars over whether neoliberal feminism is ‘really’ feminism; at the rise of the concept of ‘empowerment;’ and finally, at some elements that TBF leaves out of the picture, including the neoliberal assault on social reproduction; the extreme exploitation of women workers, from Walmart to Export Processing Zones; the retreat from class analysis under neoliberalism; and the continuing effects of ‘structural adjustment’ on countries in the North like Greece subject to the ravages of the international financial order. I conclude with a call to the international male left to be as welcoming and as creative toward the ideas and the activism of the international women’s movement as their corporate adversaries.
Niall Gildea, Joe Darlington, Simone Natale, Debra Benita Shaw, Sean Phelan
Books reviewed: David Wills, Inanimation: Theories of Inorganic Life, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, 318pp; $30.00 paperback. Trebor Scholz, Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers are Disrupting the Digital Economy, New York, Polity Press, 2016, 242 pp. Esther Leslie, Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Liquid Form, London: Reaktion, 2016, 296pp, £25 hardback.
How do we build on the hopes raised in the June election? Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign, and its outcome, is without doubt the most positive development that has taken place in British politics for more than twenty-five years - since Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. The reason for this is that it is the first substantial challenge to neoliberalism that has emerged from Labour in all those years. Corbyn’s campaign has now demonstrated that a politics based on the rejection of neoliberalism - the contemporary version of ‘full capitalism’ - and the development of an alternative to it - is capable of electoral success.
Rebecca Bramall, Joe Painter, Ash Ghadiali, Ewan Gibbs, John Barry, Kirsten Forkert
We invited a range of contributors to reflect on the results of the June 2017 election, to think about what the results mean for the future of the country, and what we might do to consolidate and develop the gains they represent.
Ben Little, Alison Winch
In this first instalment of our Soundings series on critical terms, we look at the idea of ‘generation’, a term which has become highly prevalent within political discourse since the financial crisis.1 As with all the concepts in this series, the idea of generation is differently mobilised by different political actors. Right-wing thinkers use generation in a sense that can be traced back to Edmund Burke to mean the transmission of property and culture through time, while other commentators draw on meanings derived from Mannheim to refer to the experiences of particular cohorts at times of rapid political change. For activists on the left, it is important to distinguish between these different connotations of generation. The Burkean approach has regressive implications, for example in the justification of austerity as a way of protecting future generations from debt; and the Mannheimian understanding, although not as conservative, needs to be connected to an intersectional analysis that looks at other identity markers alongside those of age - such as class, race, gender and sexuality - so as to avoid flattening differences within cohorts and impeding solidarities between generations.
Inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It has long been the Labour Party’s lodestar. We need to take a clear-eyed look at its causes and consequences in the twenty-first century in order to put together coalitions and policies to tackle it effectively. The challenges are great, but there are new analyses and ideas on the left that should give us hope.
Income inequality may soon start to fall, but this isn’t a cause for great optimism. Inequality is at far higher levels in Britain than other large European countries, with hugely damaging effects for society and quality of life, as well as for politics: high inequality tends to go along with political disengagement and high levels of far-right voting.
The left has traditionally viewed the fight against inequality through the lens of the poorest in our society. But the stagnating real incomes of those in the middle of the income spectrum means we need to reframe it as a majoritarian issue, and tackle it with a comprehensive plan that attacks inequality from different angles.
Mike Savage, Sam Friedman
Britain’s class landscape has changed: it is more polarised at the extremes and messier in the middle. The distinction between middle and working class is less clear-cut. The elite is able to set political agendas and entrench their own privilege. The left needs a clear narrative showing how privilege leads to gross unfairness – and effective policies to tackle the ‘class ceiling’ so entrenched in our society.
Climate change will only break out of its eco bubble if we understand not only the impacts, but also the opportunities that tackling it effectively can open up for greater economic and social justice.
Trump is a particular type of reactionary American populist. The article tracks the history of American populism beginning with the formation of the People’s Party (also called the Populist Party) in 1891 as an agrarian movement based on anger of the Little Man against the western elite.
Deborah Grayson, Ben Little
Our new series, Soundings Critical Terms aims to explore and build on a range of theoretical resources that members of the editorial group have found helpful to their own understandings of politics. This article offers a framing statement for the series as whole, and makes a strong case for the place of conjunctural writing at the heart of the project. It looks at four key ways in which thinking conjuncturally can be of assistance to the left: as a means of analysis of periods of conjunctural crisis and contradiction; as an a priori necessity for effective political intervention; as a space open to bringing together longer trajectories of thought; and as an enabler of reflection on the shifting forces of socio-political histories. The aim is to begin to develop a rich toolkit of concepts, histories and understandings that enable us to think through what is possible, to determine the direction of future interventions, and to provide a space in which crucial differences and agreements within left activism can be explored.
Part of the Soundings Futures series, the first part of this article is an assessment of the scale of regional inequalities in Britain and the failures of the orthodox policy initiatives that have been advanced to address them. The main weaknesses of successive policy shifts have been that: overall expenditure has simply been inadequate to the tackle the scale of the problem; any expenditure on regional aid has been vastly out-weighed by other forms of government expenditure which tend to favour the more economically advantaged parts of the country; regional problems have been attributed to underlying deficits in lagging regions rather than being understood in terms of unequal power relationships between regions, or more fundamental aspects of the centralised system of British political economy. The Northern Powerhouse model shares aspects of all these policy flaws. In response, the article sets out some elements of an alternative agenda, based upon a fundamental reshaping of the structure of economic governance. Measures proposed include: much greater real political decentralisation and new forms of regional governance; an industrial policy focused on job creation in industries that offer middle-level skilled jobs, such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare; a policy of inclusive growth - one that seeks growth that promotes good quality jobs and poverty reduction; a geographical shift in central government investment patterns and a relocation of good quality government jobs to the regions.
Matthew Worley, Evan Smith
In 2014, we edited a collection of essays under the title Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 (Manchester University Press). Our objective was really twofold. First, to generate discussion on the British left in general; to bring together scholars and writers in order to present a ‘way in’ to current thinking on the history of the British left. The context of the book’s gestation was telling: the idea began in the wake of the 2010 general election and the fall of New Labour.
The History Workshop movement, a grassroots coalition of radical-academic, feminist, and labour historians founded at Ruskin College in the late 1960s under the guidance of Raphael Samuel, represents a powerful example of the fusion of political commitment with historical practice. However, outside of a handful of general commentaries, the history of the Workshop remains mostly unexplored. This article focuses on two central pillars of the Workshop’s programme, the annual workshop gatherings held at Ruskin and the History Workshop Journal, in order to examine how its socialist (and feminist) political aspirations were translated into democratic and radical historical forms. It argues that this connection between politics and history should not be simply understood in theoretical or ideological terms, but should also encompass the symbolic, aesthetic and emotional dimensions of historical practice. While critical attention is paid to the tensions and limits of the Workshop’s project, the article suggests that it was precisely in the effort to negotiate the contradictions inherent in its own ideals that the relevance and productive use of the case of History Workshop endures.