October 4, 2016 at 7:33 pm (Anti-Austerity, Anti-Austerity UK, Anti-Austerity UK Alliance, Brexit, Uncategorized)
Tags: Homelessness, Housing crisis, Land reform, London, Sadiq Khan, Squatting, United Kingdom, Urban land reform
In his campaign for London mayor, Sadiq Khan stated repeatedly that his greatest challenge would be the housing crisis. What we have experienced instead is a disappointing dearth in the mix of tactics to confront property speculation and skyrocketing rents.
Previous generations responded to their own housing crises with massive social housing projects, housing benefit, rent control, cooperatives – and squatting. Already back-tracking on slightly more radical policies such as rent control, Khan’s central initiative has been Homes for Londoners, a private-public partnership to encourage investment in additional housing capacity. But, while Khan has criticised investors for regarding residential assets in London as “gold bricks for investment,” his own policies in fact capitulate to the speculative property market by offering “affordable homes” as just another investment brand.
Khan recently stated that he would be friendly with business as mayor of London. Yet, as a public official, his remit extends beyond the narrow interests of business toward those of the wider community. If his rapport with the market is to surrender to its logic, Khan will merely perpetuate the root cause of the housing crisis. In line with the neo-liberal mantra, the “free market” is not meant to efficiently allocate housing as a social need, but to generate revenues and maintain property values.
The housing crisis, in this way, would seem to be a matter of perspective. For landlords and investors, there is in fact no crisis at all, but record profits and expanding opportunities for investment. The crisis exists only for end-users, housing consumers in a seller’s market – where supply is maintained in artificial scarcity. Bound by this logic, Khan’s Homes for Londoners will provide little incentive for a shift in investment behaviour – and will therefore not solve the housing crisis.
A credible housing strategy – indeed, a housing revolution – must deploy a mix of tactics and must transform the logic of housing provision through public investment, regulation, and cooperatives. Yet, as we have seen, Khan has not challenged the pre-eminence of the market – even though in housing allocation, it has so clearly failed. In the face of the contradiction between property as a residential asset and housing as a social necessity, Khan must challenge the market by expanding his range of options to deliver on his promises to London.
To read the rest of the article, please visit: Squat to own – Sadiq Khan must think bigger to solve the housing crisis.
September 8, 2016 at 2:32 pm (Agriculture, Anti-Austerity UK Alliance, Brexit, British Politics, European Structural Funding, European Union, Sustainability, Uncategorized)
It is emblematic that on the day after the EU referendum, Donald Trump (perhaps the next president of the United States) was in Scotland, inaugurating his controversial new golf resort. Oblivious to the country around him which had just voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, Trump congratulated his audience on their new independence.
Yet, he was not speaking to the common people of Britain (much less to Scotland, trapped, along with Wales, in the Brexit scenario), but those in his audience, the new placeholders of aristocracy – wealthy investors, media moguls, business leaders and others set free from EU barriers to land ownership, property development, tourism and speculation.
The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the greatest barrier to a collapse in the UK property market. The CAP is concerned with market stability, tariff-free trade in the EU and farmer livelihoods. It consists primarily in a subsidisation of farmer incomes through direct payments. It is well-known that most farmers make a loss on their operations and would not otherwise be able to continue without the subsidy. As the tendency toward losses is primarily due to the downward pressure on prices from supermarket competition and its monopoly on distribution, the farmer’s subsidy is in many ways a backdoor subsidy for the retail and food processing industries.
With the elimination of the CAP, these subsidies will disappear and it is possible that they will either not be replaced or will be phased out in the near term. The CAP has tended to maintain the status quo, not only protecting member states within the single market and in international trade deals, but also preserving the operations of loss-making farms. The IMF, which Angela Merkel brought in to manage the Eurozone, has been pushing its 188 international members to quickly reduce or eliminate farming subsidies, a policy shift at odds with the pace of EU policy. The UK could decide to weather the storm of a radical re-adjustment in the structure of land ownership, especially in agriculture where it would become a corporate affair.
To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Corporate Countryside.
August 21, 2016 at 5:44 pm (Agriculture, Anti-Austerity UK, Brexit, British Politics, Europe, Uncategorized)
Among its myriad effects, Brexit threatens a radical shakeup of UK agriculture with the withdrawal of billions of pounds of EU subsidies. There is considerable anxiety in the agricultural community as most farmers rely on some form of income support from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Without a policy of smooth transition, the transformation of agriculture will lead to a radical shift in land values as many farmers lose their holdings to the international market.
The fall of the CAP opens up the ominous possibility of the corporate countryside, the brave new world of high intensity agribusiness, accelerated road building, suburban residential and retail commercial developments, airports and tourist facilities. In an era of cheap land and perhaps negative interest rates – not to mention the housing crisis – development will proceed apace as the integrity of the countryside is forever altered.
Contrary to this nightmare scenario, the current CAP policy favoured stability, and in recent decades, environmental criteria and objectives, linked through cross-compliance to farming subsidies. Activities such as crop diversification, pesticide control, wildlife corridors have been central to the Pillar I requirements for EU subsidies. Such activities are still in place across the UK and indicate an alternative path for the British countryside, other than the corporate takeover of rural Britain.
It is ironic that British scholars and scientists have been central to the articulation of EU environmental law and policy, the most developed body of such law in the world. Indeed, given the high level of public education in the UK on environmental issues, especially of such issues as climate change, it would be difficult, and in fact, counter-productive, to walk away from such a longstanding commitment to the environment.
Confronted however by the forced choice between economic development and the environment, many may tolerate the incremental destruction of the rural landscape. But, we must be clear that this is a false choice and that a better approach to the countryside is possible than a passive drift toward the wasteland. To get a glimpse of the nightmare scenario, we need only consider the American (formerly rural) landscape of suburbs, retail malls, theme parks, landfills and industrial farms.
Nevertheless, Britain differs from the Americans since they have already created their wasteland. The UK still stands at the crossroads, not having taken the plunge toward overdevelopment and corporate agriculture. Indeed, while the UK will leave the EU, there is no good reason to simply surrender the countryside to the vast corporate monolith. Yet, such surrender will occur in the absence of political clarity, imagination and investment.
To read the rest of the article, please visit “After Brexit – New British Landscapes”.
August 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm (@AntiAusterityUK, Anti-Austerity UK, Austerity, Brexit, Europe, European Democracy, European Union, Uncategorized)
The central motif for the Leave campaign’s agitation for Brexit was that of sovereignty.
As the story went, membership of the European Union entailed a loss of sovereignty in diverse fields, from agriculture, fishing, and domestic economic policy to immigration management, foreign policy, and international trade.
The narrative continued with promises of an independent and resurgent (“Hopeful”) Britain, one, with a hint of nostalgia, that can stand on its own two feet on the world stage.
The audience was also tantalised with the prospect of a bonfire of EU regulations and the end of the allegedly remote rule of an “unaccountable” Brussels.
There were finally re-assurances that new trade deals would be negotiated, through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and that Britain could position itself globally (not merely in relation to the EU) as a multi-lateral trading partner. With the elimination of EU regulations, the UK would have the competitive advantage of a ‘flexible’ economy.
There are many problems with this story, not the least being the very meaning of the word sovereignty. Indeed, in many senses, Brexit substantially reduces the sovereignty of the UK. Not only will the new everyday situation be a more costly version of business-as-usual, but Britain itself will also exist in a more dangerous environment of risk.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Little Britain.
July 22, 2016 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized)
The relentless tragedy of narcotic addiction, especially of opiates, across America has overwhelmed already depleted public resources, leaving a trail of devastated communities, families and lives – threatening a new lost generation.
April 29, 2016 at 2:56 pm (Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales, Uncategorized, Wales, Wales and the European Union)
Tags: Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales, The Party of Wales, Wales
The Herald, April 22, 2016, Ceredigion, Wales
Leanne Wood was not at all satisfied with a fourth place finish in the 2015 General Election.
Her immediate response to the loss – and the mere hold of her three MPs – was to declare that the campaign for the National Assembly elections of May 2016 would commence without pause.
This most recent campaign has been the culmination of decades of political action: miner’s strike, CND, devolution, various assembly elections, and the 2011 referendum.
Already in campaign mode, and convinced that there would have been a breakthrough in the General Elections with a few more weeks to campaign, Wood began a series of major engagements: visiting local constituencies, attending cultural events, making visits to schools and giving major addresses on politics and policy at Aberystwyth University. Linking up her network on the ground, Wood engaged local organisations in the campaign, giving speeches at party events and demonstrations, outlining her message for the May elections.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Leanne Wood’s Long Campaign.
March 20, 2016 at 5:30 am (Aesthetics, America, International Law, Syria, Uncategorized)
Tags: Assad, European Union, France, Hezbollah, International Law, Iran, Iraq, Israel, NATO, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, TeleSUR, TeleSURtv, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom, United Nations, United Nations Security Council, United States, UNSC
DAMASCUS, SYRIA – JANUARY 31: In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)
February 28, 2016 at 12:12 am (Bernie Sanders, Uncategorized)
Tags: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Political Revolution, Presidential Election 2016, United States
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young – RTX27S2R
February 15, 2016 at 1:02 am (China, Literature, Lu Xun, Nietzsche, Poetry, Romanticism, Uncategorized)
Tags: Bataille, Bryon, China, Chinese Literature, comedy, Cultural Revolution, Literature, Lu Xun, Nietzsche, philosophy, Revolution, Shelley, tragedy, Xi Jinping
Daggers and Spears: Lu Xun and Nietzsche on Cultural Revolution
O my brothers, not long will it be until new peoples will arise and new fountains rush down into new depths.
For the earthquake—it chokes up many wells, it causes much languishing: but it brings also to light inner powers and secrets.
The earthquake discloses new fountains. In the earthquake of old peoples, new fountains burst forth.
Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘On the Old and New Law Tablets’, 25.
Lu Xun – On ‘China’s Nietzsche’
Lu Xun was nineteen when Nietzsche died in 1900. He had already begun to write poetry, in classical Chinese style, and came into contact with Western literature in Nanking, where he attended a mining school. It was not until the following year however that he, with a government stipend to study mining in Japan, intensified his relationship with the available threads of world literature, European, British, and Russian – and Nietzsche. The work of which he had the most access was Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Japanese renditions of his thought, including the Untimely Meditations. Lu Xun travelled to Japan at the right time – amid the chaos of the post- war years, the reformation toward modernity, Japan sought to become an industrial and military power with the aid of Western, i.e. ‘Modern,’ science, including Western medicine and literature.
Lu Xun immediately recognized the political and cultural significance of literature, especially that of the English Romantics, Byron and Shelley (to the exclusion of the more introspective poets Wordsworth and Keats) in their individuality and defiance of a corrupt and oppressive cultural and political order. He found a similar though deeper message in Nietzsche, one simultaneously of a poetic and philosophical order. Yet, it is the meaning of this influence, and of Nietzsche’s message, that has remained controversial.
This current writing will be an attempt to dissolve this controversy through the exposure of the intellectual and artistic affinities of Lu Xun and Nietzsche upon their own respective and overlapping topoi. It could be argued that Nietzsche had his most immediate impact in Japan, which already by 1903 (at a time which Lu Xun was already in Japan) had a ‘Nietzsche Dispute’, and had experienced ‘Nietzsche fever.’ Such an intellectual event could hardly have been missed by Lu Xun, and his first essays of 1907 and 1908 mention Nietzsche, echo Nietzsche, yet, from the perspective of a Chinese radical democratic ‘Mara’ poet.
Lu Xun is not served well by the name of ‘China’s Nietzsche’ – unless, that is, it is clear what we mean by ‘Nietzsche’. Such clarity seems to have been lacking in many of the early receptions of Nietzsche, especially in regards to the notion of the Übermensch, which in the context of the early Japanese reception resembles more closely Zarathustra’s ape, a caricature of Zarathustra, of which Nietzsche had already anticipated, and which he warned would be due to poor reading, in his own prophesy of widespread mis-understanding of his philosophy. In this light, I will cast into the light the caricature of Nietzsche in order to exorcise it from our subsequent discussions.
To read the rest of the essay, please visit Daggers and Spears: Lu Xun and Nietzsche on Cultural Revolution.