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A selection of poems from the first in a new biannual series of anthologies, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons from prison arts charity the Koestler Trust.
Roshi Naidoo reviews Alexandra Stein, Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in cults and totalitarian systems, Routledge 2017
Sylvia Walby explores what economic growth for people would look like.
Michael Rustin, Myra Barrs
The first instalment of the Soundings Futures analysis of education.
In the international media, the current situation in Catalonia is often explained with reference to the Franco era and the suppression of Catalan language and culture during that time. Commentators also refer to the fact that during the Spanish Civil War the majority of Catalans fought on the side of the Republican government, which meant that after Franco won the war, oppression in Catalonia was especially brutal: large numbers of Catalans were imprisoned, disappeared and killed by the Franco regime.
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.
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.
There is currently a lot of frustration with the failures of liberal democracy, and a turn by some on the left towards a politics that eschews liberal democracy in favour of a radical politics based on ideas similar to those of communism. But a key lesson from the history of communism is that one of the main causes of its failure was its attitude towards democracy. In countries ruled by communist governments, the party was seen as embodying the working class and hence democracy, and all other standpoints were repressed. Waite analyses how the repressive structures of state communism arose, before going on to discuss ways in which Gramscian communists sought to rethink issues of democracy and to shape new communist oppositional practices within liberal democracies.
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.
The September 2016 re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, with a renewed and increased mandate, was a significant political event, which should not be overshadowed by recent electoral successes by the populist right. On the contrary, these successes make it all the more important to understand the challenges facing the left.
An extensive critique of the market conception of health provision, combined with a vision for an alternative way of running the health service. The failure of market ‘reforms’ cannot be addressed by tinkering with new models of provision.
A personal account of key moments in the development of a black intellectual, and of the importance of the work of Stuart Hall in that development, told through ten ‘moments’.
We went to press the day after the referendum, which gave us little time for thinking about a response. This will be something we address in the next issue. In the mean time we hope that some of the articles in this issue offer ideas that can help us in the difficult days ahead.