yes we canada: the student movement in québec

Ollie Sutherland argues that students in the UK have much to learn from current anti-fees protests in Québec

One cannot help but contrast the current, powerful student movement in Québec, Canada, to its counterpart in the UK. It was considered a big deal when in November 2010 we had roughly 100,000 (who came from around the country) on the streets of London, whose population proper is roughly 8 million. In comparison, 200,000 turned out for recent protests in Montréal, whose population proper is roughly 1.6 million (and only 3 million in the wider urban area).

Both events were provoked by a hiking of tuition fees – in the UK a 200% increase to a whopping £9,000 a year, in Québec a 75% increase to £2,400 a year. This is not to mention Québec’s tuition fees were, and with the increase, are still lower than the North American average. This is in contrast to the UK, whose fees of £3,000, before the trebling, were already much higher than the European average. Continue reading “yes we canada: the student movement in québec”

trouble in ‘paradise’: the maldives coup

Taimour Lay writes about the reality of power and struggle in the Indian Ocean country better known in the West for its luxury resorts

People tend to fall for Mohamed Nasheed. It’s not because he possesses the specious charm of a politician or the skills of a social operator. It’s not down to good looks or wealth (though he has both). He has made mistakes, inherited privilege and never strayed far from a patrician liberalism. But he has always drawn people in with sincerity and bright humour and a uniquely open kind of moral clarity after years of harassment, torture and struggle.

A brief democratic opening was thwarted by a coup d'état

An investigative journalist, author, political prisoner and finally President of the Maldives before being ousted by a coup on 7 February, he is one of many charismatic individuals who claim they don’t want power but end up having it thrust upon them by popular acclaim. With ‘Anni’, as Maldivians know him, he really did mean it. Continue reading “trouble in ‘paradise’: the maldives coup”

love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

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“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Continue reading “love nor money: unpaid work at tesco”

more liberal wars for democracy?

This month’s editorial looks at the rising threat of war in Syria and Iran

March was quite a month for the champions of liberal imperialism. Not only does the raging civil war in Syria raise the prospect of Western intervention, but the social media-based ‘Kony 2012’ campaign  saw such luminaries as Russell Brand and Rihanna promoting the cause of humanitarian intervention in Uganda. Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu complained that his country would not wait long in attacking Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities.

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dressed to kill

It was against this backdrop that David Cameron and Barack Obama reaffirmed the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States, a ritual of Prime Ministerial visits to Washington dating back more than thirty years. Many media noted their chummy relationship, including visiting a basketball game and playing table tennis. Continue reading “more liberal wars for democracy?”

reza shahabi must be free!

Omid Rezai looks at the case of a jailed militant on hunger strike in Iran

Reza Shahabi, an Iranian labour activist, has been in held in Block 209 of Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, for months without conviction or even proper charge. Paying attention to the reality of his case shows that the situation for workers and working-class movements in Iran is different to that in Europe only in degree; bureaucratic and bourgeois-legalist excuses manufactured ad hoc to justify his continuing political incarceration, his alleged second trial remaining always just around a corner, since he was found to have no case to answer to on 25th May.

The authorities have attacked him still further. He has been subjected to aggression and intimidation, pressured to cut even his scheduled fortnightly telephone conversation with his family. In response, Reza began a hunger strike, demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Beginning on 1st November, his hunger strike led to the formation of a committee for his defence which attracted hundreds of signatories from across the Iranian labour movement. Mahmoud Salehi, himself recently released from jail, has become the spokesperson for the group. The authorities increased their attacks on Reza, at one point using his weaknesses as an excuse to stop him from talking to his family, telling them that he would not see them.

Continue reading “reza shahabi must be free!”

the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be

David Broder went to see The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep starring as Margaret Thatcher

After the adverts for the merits of cinema advertising, and the adverts for the cinema itself, came a trailer for War Horse. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, this is a film about a horse from a humble farm who is deployed for use in World War I, runs around a lot through battlefields as carnage rages all around him, and ultimately saves the day and warms all our hearts. This plot is more-or-less identical to about half of The Iron Lady, although seeing Maggie Thatcher rise from grocer’s daughter to Prime Minister and obstinately press ahead with austerity as rioting and mass unemployment wreak havoc on all around her… it’s just not as uplifting

Indeed, the message of The Iron Lady is rather curious. Structured as a series of flashbacks by the now seriously mentally ill Baroness Thatcher,  she repeatedly recalls people giving her saccharine nuggets of advice: ‘Be yourself’, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what to do’, ‘You can achieve anything’, and so on. Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol apparently considered the film a ‘Left-wing fantasy’; while they are wrong insofar as the film portrays its hero largely sympathetically, it is nonetheless a sort of liberal mystification of who Thatcher was: her fight against class and gender prejudice is pushed to the fore, and through her determination she manages to overcome these barriers and thus forces the establishment to accept her. Continue reading “the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be”

‘when the crisis comes’

An essay by Henrik Johansson, exploring the perverse ideology perpetuated during capitalist crisis

When the next crisis comes, and it will, you will lose your job. There is a connection, but you will not see it. The management will say it’s a result of reduced orders and lack of work, with what you perceive as honest intimacy and regret.

You shall consider not telling anything to your family, but every morning to get up, drink coffee and leave home. You imagine that you will be looking for a new job that you can  proudly present to them one fine day. The plan is too absurd and you never try it. Continue reading “‘when the crisis comes’”