Transparency, what transparency?

October 14, 2014

by Justin Schlosberg

In 2011, as the phone-hacking scandal unfolded, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a new era of transparency in the government’s dealings with the media. All meetings between senior government and media figures were to be recorded and published on a quarterly basis and a major public inquiry was launched – partly with a focus on the relationship between press and politicians.

Schlosberg T02658The Leveson hearings that followed cast an unprecedented spotlight on the intimacy of these relations complete with gossip, threats, family get-togethers and texts signed off with ‘lots of love’ and kisses. It had very little to do with the day-to-day interactions between politicians and journalists – both on and off the record – which are an intrinsic part of the political newsgathering process. It revealed instead something over and above those interactions – an exclusive club at the heart of the establishment that seemed to undermine the very fabric of British democracy, and underline the growing public mistrust of both politicians and the media.

Within this dynamic, Leveson was pre-occupied with the flow of influence from media owners to politicians. The founding premise of his inquiry was that press power was out of control, undermining the integrity of government, parliament and the police, whilst severely infringing on the privacy rights of individual citizens. Leveson’s detractors, on the other hand, perceived the gravest threat to democracy as operating in the other direction. It was creeping state control of the press – supposedly heralded by his reform proposals – which threatened to fatally undermine the independence of the fourth estate.  In the intense debate that followed, a fundamental truth was obscured: media and political elites are not rivals but partners in a relationship that works ultimately to promote the shared interests of power. This was vividly demonstrated when Rebecca Brooks – former editor of the News of the World – told Leveson that the Prime Minister had sent her a consoling text during the height of the scandal, apologising for not being able to be more ‘loyal’ to her in public. Read the rest of this entry »


How we should ensure UK arms exports do not help crush pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong

September 30, 2014

Nicholas Gilby, author of Deception in High Places, discusses the latest protests which have broken out in Hong Kong and the role that the UK arms trade is playing in supporting its repression.

On Sunday, serious unrest broke out in Hong Kong and large-scale protests still continue.  A student-driven movement drew tens of thousands on to the streets of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, calling for a truly free election for the Chief Executive of the territory in 2017.  The police used considerable amounts of tear gas on the peaceful protesters, in an attempt to disperse them.  Sadly, it appears that some of the tear gas used in the attempt to crush the pro-democracy protests may have been licensed for export by the UK Government, the former colonial power.

When, after 99 years of British rule, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 it was agreed that “the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”.  In practice this means the people of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) enjoy much greater civil liberties than those in Communist-run China, including, for example, unhindered internet access and freedom of speech.  Further, the rule of law of prevails, and corruption is not nearly as widespread as in mainland China.

The Chinese Government had previously promised that universal suffrage would be used in the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in 2017 and in the election of all legislators in 2020.  But, in August, the Chinese Government decided that all candidates in the election for Chief Executive had to be approved by Beijing.  In other words, Hong Kong’s citizens will not have a free choice to elect who they want. Read the rest of this entry »


Pluto Press Megasale: 40% off all books!

September 29, 2014

It’s finally the autumn, many of us are going ‘back to uni’, and Pluto is offering a lip-smackingly delicious 40% off all our books, via our website. And that’s 40% off the usual web price too, not the somewhat mythical ‘rrp’! All you need to do is go to bit.ly/plutob2u and the site will be configured to discount everything.

Check out the banner below for all the above information in a brightly coloured format! Happy shopping.

Megasale banner


Tony Benn: a visionary whose time has come

September 24, 2014

tony_benn_2Alan Freeman explains why Pluto’s republishing of The Benn Heresy: a biography of the late, great Tony Benn, is so important.

‘I last saw Tony earlier this year, when I visited him with an Argentine friend to ask how we might deal with the British Establishment’s stubborn refusal even to discuss the Malvinas Islands with the democratically-elected government of Argentina. His mind was as sharp as ever; he could remember every detail of those thirty-year old events, and as always contributed many incisive and insightful suggestions on what we might do.

The encounter came back to me in the torrent of media coverage following his death, virtually all of which completely missed the point of his legacy: it is not done with. I knew at this point that the re-publication of The Benn Heresy was important precisely so that readers could hear the voice that was missing from these polite dismissals of the ‘impractical Benn’ as some kind of eccentric English treasure – Tony’s own voice.

History made Tony Benn the champion of ideas that can, and have, transformed our lives for the better by solving the problems he confronted in his time, precisely because these problems are unsolved. The legacy of his victories has been a substantial, but unacknowledged transformation of the field of British politics, the legacy of his defeats is that all the problems his policies were designed to address, are back to haunt us.

Read the rest of this entry »


State Crime and Resistance in the South Pacific: Uncovering a Denied History

September 1, 2014

Kristian Lasslett gives a detailed overview of some of the issues discussed in his new book, State Crime on the Margins of Empire, recently published by Pluto.

Lasslett SCDuring a fiery Senate Estimates hearing in Australia earlier this year, a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was asked by Senator Lee Rhiannon if she was aware of significant evidence on Australian state criminality published in the British Journal of Criminology.

The journal article cited by Rhiannon recounts Australia’s role in the perpetration of war crimes in neighbouring Papua New Guinea (PNG) during the bloody Bougainville conflict (1988-1997) – a war triggered by a large copper mine owned by Anglo-Australian giant, Rio Tinto.

George Brandis, Australian Attorney-General, interjected launching a broadside at Senator Rhiannon for even posing the question. This he claimed was a ‘scandalous allegation’. Brandis continued by demanding to know if the source was credible.

The journal article at the centre of this particularly hostile exchange, was the initial intervention, of which State Crime on the Margins of Empire is the final expression. To echo the words of the Attorney-General, the allegations are indeed ‘scandalous’ and, what is more, they are highly credible too.

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Making Our Own History

August 26, 2014

In an exclusive piece for Pluto, Laurence Cox and Alf Nilsen discuss the relevance and central message of their new book – We Make Our Own History.

Cox WMOOHApril 2014: In Dongguan in the Pearl River delta, tens of thousands of Chinese workers walk out of factories owned by a Taiwanese company that produces shoes for global brand leaders like Nike and Reebok in protest over the corrupt handling of their pensions. Following in the wake of the strikes at a Honda-owned factory in Foshan – also in the Pearl River delta – in 2010, the April walkouts in Dongguan are expressive of a new wave of labour militancy in China, which increasingly targets the transnational corporations that have been so central to the export-driven growth strategy of the Chinese authorities, and which have been successful in winning wage gains for the country’s working classes.

May 2014: In Spain’s elections for the European Parliament, a new political party – Podemos – wins 5 seats and 7.9 per cent of the vote (approximately 1.2 million votes). The unexpected levels of support for the party are seen as a continued expression of the widespread anger against unemployment and austerity policies that was initially voiced by the Indignados. “We want to build a political majority”, argued the party leader Pablo Iglesias as he described the politics of Podemos, ”that reflects the social majority of Spain.” In aspiring to do this, Podemos is developing and deepening the project of mass-based, participatory democracy that started to take shape in public squares around the country during the 15-M protests of 2011 and 2012.

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From Captive Revolution to Grand Gaza Prison

August 21, 2014

By Nahla Abdo

 

In her new book Captive Revolution, Nahla Abdo talks to Palestinian women imprisoned within the Israeli prison system and analyses the apparent gendered forms of oppression and resistance in such extreme conditions. For this article in time for the book’s publication, she discusses the concept of the entire Gaza Strip as a prison colony, and reveals the attitude of the Palestinian people who resist within it.

Captive Revolution‘Today in the Gaza Strip, we are witnessing a new chapter in the story of Israel’s ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. On the twenty-ninth day of Israel’s bombardment of the Strip, more than ten thousand women, children and men were killed and injured. In a population of about 1.8 million people, half a million have been displaced, most of these women and children. All these crimes against the Palestinian’s human rights were committed while the rest of the world (including most Arab governments) watched the massacres silently and in complicity with Israeli state terrorism. On the thirtieth day, reporters were able to visit areas previously kept out of reach from their own inhabitants and rescue teams. One announced: “I was there, and it was very difficult to watch the catastrophe which befell the people in areas such as Khuzaa’a, Beit Hanoon, Jabalia and Rafah to mention just a few. Several women interviewed declared the situation as “Another Nakba!” However, the situation is even worse than that. In addition to the 1948 Nakba which resulted in the permanently high ratio of refugees in Gaza (around 80 percent), we have seen three Israeli wars in the last six years. These wars destroyed the Strip’s infrastructure, its social, cultural and economic institutions and turned it into a place where even human survival was questionable. The current attack is, more and more, being seen as the most vicious.

Most shockingly, perhaps, today, not unlike yesterday and the day before; in 1948, 1967, 2008 and 2012, Palestinian women and children appear to have been targeted by the Israeli state. They continue to be used by Israel as a colonial tool aimed at forcing the population into submission.

In Captive Revolution special emphasis is placed on the gendered methods of torture that Israel is using against Palestinian women political detainees. By its colonial logic, Israel believes that in frightening the women, through sexual threats, torture, displacement and murder, it can control the rest of the population, silence them into submission and kill their spirit of resistance.

Read the rest of this entry »


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