Four new books for ecosocialists

Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus takes a look at four new books for an ecosocialist bookshelf.

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Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World
Joshua B Freeman
WW Norton, 2018

The factory revolution has transformed human life and the environment. Freeman traces factory history from the textile mills in England to today’s sweatshops that make sneakers, toys and mobile phones in China and Vietnam, and shows how protest movements won workers’ rights and protections that are taken for granted today. A magisterial work on factories and the people whose labour made them run.

Exposing the cynical power of the pokies

One Last Spin: The Power & Peril of the Pokies
Drew Rooke
Scribe, 2018, 325 pages

Ever wondered if it possible to win against the pokies? Why not ask someone who should know, like a poker machine technician.

“I make these machines in order to grab your money,” one such techie said when asked by freelance Sydney journalist, Drew Rooke. “I would not be so stupid to play myself.”

In his book, One Last Spin, Rooke expands on the simple truth that pokie machines are rigged to make you lose. They are deliberately engineered to hoover up the loose change from the pockets of casual punters and to deep-mine the bank accounts of the addicts. They are concentrated in the poorer suburbs, from whom the real pokies profits (40% of them) are made.

These jackpot junkies, the “problem gamblers”, have their lives shattered in the process.

UN slams Hungary gov't over cruel and racist policies

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto accused United Nations officials on September 19 of “spreading lies” with their criticism of Budapest’s anti-migration policies.

The comments came just days after new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and UN rights experts harshly criticised Hungary’s immigration policies.

Szijjarto told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that “it was obvious” the UN officials were “biased pro-migration officials”.

He insisted Hungary would “never be a country of migrants … We will never allow one single illegal migrant to enter the territory of our country.

“Hungary will remain a country of the Hungarians, which is happy and which is proud of its more than 1000-year-long history and Christian culture and traditions.”

Participatory socialist economics: the vision of British Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell

Tory-supporting media have been portraying Britain’s socialist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a Soviet fellow-traveller. Meanwhile, Hilary Wainwright notes, Labour’s shadow chancellor and close Corbyn ally sets out a vision that breaks with the old bureaucratic state model.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell can usually barely breathe a word about nationalisation without setting off a media frenzy, so it’s strange that his most interesting comments yet on the subject passed with so little comment.

Speaking in February about the Labour Party’s proposed new economics, McDonnell said: “We should not try to recreate the nationalised industries of the past … We cannot be nostalgic for a model whose management was often too distant, too bureaucratic.”

Instead, he said, a new kind of public ownership would be based on the principle that “nobody knows better how to run these industries than those who spend their lives with them”.

DJs refuse to spin for Israel

Dozens of DJs and music producers have joined an international call to support the cultural boycott of Israel.

“As long as the Israeli government continues its brutal and sustained oppression of the Palestinian people, we respect their call for a boycott of Israel as a means of peaceful protest against the occupation,” reads the statement artists posted on their social media pages, along with the hashtag #DJsForPalestine.

Popular artists such as The Black Madonna, Four Tet, Caribou, Ben UFO, Call Super, Laurel Halo, Ciel and Rrose showed their support for the boycott, along with record labels such as Truants and Discwoman.

We need a drug policy for the 21st century

Canada’s historic vote in June to legalise cannabis is yet another nail in the coffin of the so-called War on Drugs, conceived in the 1970s by then US-president Richard Nixon, writes Natalie Sharples.

“So called” because it was deliberately conceived to obscure what it really was: not a war on substances at all, but on Black people and the anti-war left.

As John Ehrlichman, an advisor to Nixon, told journalist Dan Baum in 1994: We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalising both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

Like many ’70s throwbacks, the racist legacy of the war on drugs lives on. The poor and racial minorities continue to be disproportionately targeted by, and suffer as a result of the enforcement of harmful drug laws.

Trump ratchets up attack on immigrant children

As the plight of child asylum seekers separated from their parents fades from the news, hundreds of children remain incarcerated and separated from their families, writes Barry Sheppard from San Francisco.

Of these, about 400 are children of parents who have been deported. There is little chance these families can be reunited soon, and probably never will be.

Others are children of parents arbitrarily deemed unfit. A typical example is Juan Hernandez, who came with his three-year-old daughter Maria seeking asylum. The government kept her in detention and wouldn’t let her be reunited with her father because of his two alcohol-related offences that occurred more than 12 years ago.

Hernandez was then tricked into signing papers he couldn’t read agreeing to be deported after officials told him doing so would allow him to be reunited with Maria. He was deported and his daughter remains in detention.

How climate chaos hurts the poor first and most

Climate change catastrophe has confronted hundreds of thousands of people of the eastern seaboard of the United States and on the Philippines island of Luzon, writes Phil Shannon, as Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall simultaneously.

Mangkhut also threatens Hong Kong, South China and potentially Vietnam.

In the US, President Donald Trump has promised all necessary aid to the affected states — North and South Carolina and Virginia in particular. But the US’s recent hurricane history is one of neglect and indifference towards poor and non-white populations — often the same people — not least by the Trump administration towards the US’s Caribbean colony of Puerto Rico.

In the US, the same set of factors recur. First, poor populations are disproportionately victims because their housing is substandard, flood defences have been neglected and they tend to live in the most vulnerable areas.

Mexico: AMLO’s policy no friend to migrants

Mexico’s incoming president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), wants to work with US president Trump to reduce migration and tighten borders. But, Tamara Pearson writes from Puebla, his approach doesn’t address key humanitarian issues.

When it comes to immigration and refugees, Mexico’s progressive president elect, AMLO, has more in common with US President Donald Trump than you’d expect.

While the world watches on as the US deports refugees and immigrants and locks up children, Mexico is already deporting more Central Americans than the US. Further, between 2016 and 2017, nearly 60,000 Central American children were detained here in migration prisons (officially dubbed “stations”).

In Syria, Idlib defies Assad

Large rallies were held in towns throughout Idlib on September 14 in response to the threat by the Assad regime to invade the province in Syria’s north-west.

Idlib is currently controlled by a mixture of rebel groups. The strongest is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an extremely reactionary Islamist group that controls 60% of the province.

Rally participants mostly carried the Syrian independence flag that was adopted when Syria became independent of France in 1946. It was later replaced by a series of other flags, but was taken up again by opponents of dictator Bashar al-Assad after the 2011 uprising.

HTS held separate rallies under its own flag.

Some protestors also carried Turkish flags. This reflects their hope that Turkey will deter Assad’s planned invasion of Idlib. Turkey has 12 “observation posts” (military bases) in Idlib.

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