Posts

Showing posts from 2017

WE SALUTE OUR FRIEND MEHMET AKSOY

Image
PEACE IN KURDISTAN
WE SALUTE OUR FRIEND MEHMET AKSOY




It is with deep sadness and horror that we learn of the death of Mehmet Aksoy who has been killed in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) on 26 September 2017.

A dynamic Kurdish activist and talented young film maker, Mehmet died while working in Raqqa where he had journeyed in order to record the experiences of the Kurdish fighters in their resistance to ISIS.

His death is a tremendous loss: it is not simply a terrible and grievous personal loss to his family, friends and comrades, with whom we mourn, but it is a great loss to the Kurdish movement.

Mehmet was totally dedicated to the cause of Kurdish freedom which he expressed in all his activities and in the choices he made.

He was a capable leader who could inspire others by his transparent integrity and honest commitment. Leading by example he was successful in galvanising Kurdish youth to take action to demonstrate their opposition to ISIS and in support of the people of Kobane.

He …

THE RENT TRAP

Image
THE RENT TRAP BY ROSIE WALKER AND SAMIR JERAJ. PLUTO PRESS. 2016
Samir is a friend and Pluto Press regularly publish my books, so I must admit a conflict of interest, nonetheless with this warning I hope my brief review will be useful. It is generally acknowledged that the UK housing market is broken.  More and more, especially young people are either homeless or suffering from high rents, on the other side of the equation landlords are growing richer. Own property and your income and in turn your wealth in property tends to grow.  Fail to own property and you pay more and more in rent.  Rent controls are seen as anti-market, rent controls that limit rent increases are thought to discourage landlords from renting, restrict the quantity of rent accommodation and make shortages worse.
Walker and Jeraj challenge this view.  Landlords can make enormous amounts of money by renting, so tend to buy up housing, this crowds out potential homeowners and, in turn, pushes up rents.  The Rent Tra…

How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

Image
My wife, noting my interest in but poor understanding of mathematics, borrowed How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, for me from Bracknell Library.  It is in the genre of light physics and mathematics, I have also recent enjoyed Simon Singh's The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (which incidentally is very good).
The conceit of the quantum physics book of explaining to the dog is stupid but fun too.

Much of this I don't understand but I guess if I keep reading something  will rub off.

More seriously it fits with my more lengthy posts recently on epistemology, the question of how do we know what we know, here and here.

Clearly while I am committed to both rationality and materialism, what we mean by matter is up for debate and any one with any kind of mathematics knows that things get seriously weird quite quickly when rationality based upon mathematical formalism comes into play.  So while we should eschew anything goes relativism (if that is really a thing rather …

Statement condemning the international arms fair in London

Image
Image from Red Pepper http://www.redpepper.org.uk/arms-fair-protesters-put-weapons-industry-on-trial/
Peace in Kurdistan condemns the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair being held at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands from 11th to 14 September 2017. It is the world’s biggest arms fair and will host guests from among the world’s most oppressive regimes, including from Turkey. This exhibition, promoting the wares sold by the merchants of death, will be addressed by British government ministers. Britain is the world’s second largest, and Europe’s largest, arms exporter. Over half of the weapons that British companies sell go to the Middle East. British companies and politicians share responsibility for the murder and mayhem inflicted on the Middle East for decades. There are some 9,000 arms companies in the UK, including smaller businesses. These firms seek to profit from the war being waged by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people.  This must be stopped. Kur…

Gaston Bachelard

Image
Gaston Bachelard by Roch C. Smith, Twayne Publishers: Boston. 1982




One reason I keep my hand in with university teaching is library access, working at a University of London college, means I can borrow books from Senate House Library.  Its an impressive building rather brutalist and soviet but in a kind of good way!  While my academic experience is around political economy I have long had an interest in the methodology of science.  A key figure in this area is the great and provocative French thinker Gaston Bachelard. I don't read French and his texts on scientific method are often untranslated.  I have found Roch Smith's book entitled, quite simply, Gaston Bachelard useful and since borrowing it from Senate House have read it quickly.

It is not a recent title and is short but I feel I understand more about Bachelard than I did last week before reading it.  Bachelard, he of the splendid beard, combined a resolute rationalism in examining science methodology with an expansive and…

Farming, Fascism and Ecology

Image
Farming, Fascism and Ecology: A life of Jorian Jenks by Philip M. Coupland, Routledge 2016.




Philip Coupland was kind enough to send me a copy of his book on Jorian Jenks last year. What with one thing and another, including helping to organise the Global Greens Congress, finishing my own book on Elinor Ostrom and that episode with Mrs May, I have only just got around to reading it.

Jenks (1899-1963) was both a leading fascist and a founder member of the Soil Association.  His story is part of a picture of ecofascism.  While the current Green Party is on the left, picking up votes from those disillusioned with Blairism and now competing with Jeremy Corbyn, green politics has not always been on the left.

If we take the key pillars of green politics often described as 'ecology, social justice, non violence and grassroots democracy' this describes an ideology which is indeed left.  However the union of politics and ecology has in the past been on the right.

The Green Party, was or…

Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations

Image
I am a great visitor of charity shops in search of books, I picked up Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations by James Anderson, for 75p in the Red Cross shop in Blandford Street, Sunderland.  Every penny was well spent!

The book is aimed at students taking communication studies of various kinds and looks at the various assumption behind research in this area.  However it would be useful for any student interested in the basis of knowledge claims in the social sciences and, has something to say to those working in the natural sciences too.

Epistemology is a big bad word but its meaning is straightforward, it is the study of how we know things, it is about truth claims,  How do we know that something to put it bluntly and simplistically is true or false.  From the moon landings to climate change to the theory of evolution to debates in politics about the effects of benefit cuts, truth can be highly contested.  So while this is a rather technical book dealing with research me…

Donna Tartt's The Secret History

Image
I finished reading this about five weeks ago and have been meaning to write something about it ever since.  However from indexing my own book (Elinor Ostrom's Rules for Radicals) to painting my little wooden home, the next thing has always come up.
It is of course a 'why dunnit' the murderer fesses up in the first couple of pages to murdering Bunny, the rest of book deals with why the crime was committed and the consequences.
It works as a very solid holiday read.  I will have to give you the cliches but the cliches are true, it is unput downable and yes the prose is very clear too.
Is this literature?  I guess this is a question that should never be asked, culture is so much about distinctions in taste which are perhaps arbitrary but used to establish class and other hierarchical social divisions (Read Bourdieu for the theory and most episodes of Frazier for comedy illustration).
It doesn't do anything experimental or dramatic, if you want experiment House of Leaves, Beck…

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Image
For I am—or I was—one of those people who pride themselves in on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all—a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named—but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not. (Baldwin 2001:24)

I have been thinking of reading some James Baldwin for quite a long time; he looked so iconic and I am always interested in the intersection between literature and politics.  Politics is more than a language game I tend to think but it is certainly very strongly influenced by questions of identity that are shaped in part by language.  …

Seumas Milne's The Enemy Within

Image
I have just finished reading Seumas Milne's The Enemy Within, originally published in 1994, the fourth edition is from 2014.  It examines the media campaign against National Union of Miners leader Arthur Scargill during the 1980s

Its quite a read!  Highly recommended. And lets not forget Milne in 2017 is one of Jeremy Corbyn's closest political associates, an important mover and shaper...

1984-85 saw the bitter strike that pitted Britain's most disciplined and effective trade union against right wing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  After the end of the strike when the NUM was defeated, the television programme The Cook Report and the Daily Mirror newspaper, ran a campaign accusing Scargill of corruption, initially suggesting that he had used money meant for the trade union to pay off his mortgage.

When it was revealed that Scargill did not have a mortgage the campaign eventually collapsed!  Before collapsing the script was rewritten with new accusations against the NUM…

The Philosophy of Marx by Etienne Balibar

Image
The Philosophy of Marx 
By Etienne Balibar (translated by Gregory Elliot and Chris Turner)
Verso, 2017
240 pp., $38.95
Etienne Balibar notes ‘The general idea of this little book is to understand and explain why Marx will still be read in the twenty-first century, not only as a monument of the past, but as a contemporary author - contemporary both because of the questions he poses for philosophy and because of the concepts he offers it.’ (p.1).  And with some reservations, I feel he achieves this goal. While is a thought provoking book, it may disappoint readers who seek either an introduction to Marx’s philosophy or a straightforward account of how Marx’s ideas can inspire focussed political action in the 21st Century.  There is a very useful guide to reading more about Marx’s philosophy and some very clear panels describing key thinkers and themes from Gramsci onwards.  However Balibar discusses some very complex and subtle ideas, that demand a good knowledge of Marx’s key works, as w…

Elinor Ostrom's Rules for Radicals

Image
My next book will be out in the autumn, its a guide to Elinor Ostrom, first woman to win the Nobel for Economics, published by Pluto. Elinor Ostrom was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics. Her theorising of the commons has been celebrated as groundbreaking and opening the way for non-capitalist economic alternatives, yet, many radicals know little about her. This book redresses this, revealing the indispensability of her work for green politics, left economics and radical democracy.

Ostrom has often been viewed as a conservative or managerial thinker; but Derek Wall's analysis of her work reveals a how it is invaluable for developing a left political programme in the twenty-first century. Central to Ostrom's work was the move 'beyond panaceas'; transforming institutions to widen participation, promote diversity and favour cooperation over competition. She regularly challenged academia as individualist, narrow and elitist and promoted a radical take on ed…

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign OPEN LETTER TO THE TIMES

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
OPEN LETTER TO THE TIMES

Dear Sir,

We write in response to an article “Corbyn linked to Lobbyists behind Istanbul bombers” published in your newspaper on 17th December, 2016. See article here: https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/2016/12/23/article-in-the-times-corbyn-linked-to-lobbyists-behind-istanbul-bombers/

We appear to be the so-called lobbyists referred to in the title of the article.

Peace in Kurdistan is a voluntary organisation formed in 1994 by the late Lord Avebury, the playwright Harold Pinter and several other leading writers and journalists with the objective of campaigning for a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish Question, as is stated in its title.

This campaign has widespread support from independent analysts, lawyers and academics in the UK, Europe and internationally including Noam Chomsky. Our list of Patrons includes MPs and members of the House of Lords from a broad spectrum of trade unions and UK political parties including the…