Immanuel Ness – Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class

Earlier this month at the Historical Materialism conference in London, we caught up with Manny Ness,  Professor of Political Science at CUNY, New York, co-editor of our new Wildcat book series, and author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class.

In this video Manny talks about his new book, and the exciting developments in workers’ movements around the world – specifically focusing on China, India and South Africa.


Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He is author of Guest Workers and U.S. Corporate Despotism and Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labour Market and numerous other works. He is editor of the International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Working USA: The Journal of Labour and Society.


Southern Insurgency is available to buy from Pluto Press here.

Shelley’s ‘Poetical Essay on the State of Things’

A poem by the radical romantic poet Percy Shelley is now on display at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, after being lost for 200 years. It passionately confirms the extent of Shelley’s political convictions. Jacqueline Mulhallen, author of the new biography Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary discusses the importance of this fiery, combative poem Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things.

Front_cover_of_a___3497031b In 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley, then a student at Oxford, wrote a poem, A Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, as part of a campaign to support an Irish journalist, Peter Finnerty, in an English prison. Finnerty’s offence was to write an expose of the incompetence of the commanders of a British military expedition, intended to block the French fleet, in which 20,000 lives were lost from typhoid in the fever marshes of Walcheren. Lord Castlereagh, the Secretary of State for War, had ordered the expedition and Finnerty’s article also referred to Castlereagh’s role in the savagely brutal putting down of the 1798 Irish Rising. Finnerty was jailed for two years and was badly treated.  Sir Francis Burdett, a radical MP who had exposed conditions in Cold Bath Fields Prison, London, launched a campaign in Finnerty’s support with the help of the radical newspaper, The Examiner. The Oxford University and City Herald, described as a ‘very liberal’ newspaper with a large circulation in the south of England, followed suit. Its publishers advertised Shelley’s poem to help with the fund-raising. It is said to have raised nearly £100, a large sum of money since the pamphlet cost 2 shillings, but of course many supporters may have added a donation.

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Frantz Fanon for Our Times: Reflections on Peter Hudis’ Biography of Fanon

fanon3Tithi Bhattacharya writes on Peter Hudis’ new biography of Frantz Fanon.

‘To Peter we owe a particular gratitude.  He did not write a simple narrative biography of Fanon— that would have been a historicist exercise in which the past of Fanon would connect seamlessly to our present and we ‘draw lessons’ from it.

The past is a tricky customer and both Fanon and Peter understand that well.  So following the methodology that Walter Benjamin recommends, Peter has blasted Fanon out of linear, empty time and has constellated for us moments in Fanon that are necessary to consider for our present.

These distilled Fanonian moments that Peter offers us may have been important or not so important for those seeking to change the world in Fanon’s own time.  But they are recognizably relevant for our times and what is significant is how Peter has captured these fugitive concepts to help change the world for a new generation.

So I will outline a few of those moments that Peter has picked, that have flashed for him, in our ‘moment of danger’ and explore their significance.

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Racism UK 2015

Dr. Mike Cole’s new book Racism: A Critical Analysis traces the legacy of racism across three continents, from its origins to the present day, from a neo-Marxist perspective. For the Pluto Blog, he shares his take on racism in the UK today and the ideological manoeuvrings of the Conservative Party.

‘In the six month lead up to the 2015 General Election, politicians and others fell over each other to Racismoutdo their opponents’ racism in an attempt to win the favour of the electorate. Xeno-racism (that directed at predominantly white eastern European migrant workers) eclipsed other forms of racism, while anti-refugee and anti-asylum-seeker racism came second. It was left to the white supremacist fringe to invoke anti-Asian or anti-black racism.

While one of the most important facts about ethnicity in Britain is that there is more poverty in every minority ethnic group than among the white British population, a clear legacy of the colonial era, there has been some upward social mobility among Britain’s black and Asian population,. Thus David Cameron, at the recent Conservative Party Conference, is able to wax lyrical about black British and British Asian members of his Government, while at the same time, his Home Secretary can ratchet up the barometer of anti-immigrant racism, by drawing on ‘evidence’ that suits her purpose – ‘the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero’. Against the arguments of some commentators, I would suggest that there is no real contradiction between the respective conference speeches of David Cameron and Theresa May. So Cameron can express genuine ‘disgrace’ that ‘people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs’, as May warns that the ‘numbers coming in from Europe are unsustainable’, and ‘we must work to control immigration to put Britain first’, and Cameron has no reason to disagree.

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Securing the Climate of Capitalism

Ben Hayes and Nick Buxton, editors of the forthcoming book The Secure And The Dispossessed, ask: do we really want the military and corporations to lead on how we deal with the climate crisis?

For anyone interested in US leadership on climate change, the Democratic debates last week were aBuxton SATD welcome relief from the freak show of the Republican alternative. At least no-one pretended that there’s no such thing as man-made climate change, or as billionaire joke candidate Donald Trump put it, that it was something to be encouraged. Instead self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders was unequivocal when asked what the US’ greatest national security threat was: “The global crisis of climate change”.

Declaring climate change a national security threat has become a favoured way of arguing for progressive environmental policies. Indeed, the idea is now vigorously promoted by socialists, greens and democrats alike.

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Who Controls our Money? The case for public money and against austerity

Mary Mellor introduces the concepts in her new book Debt or Democracy: Public Money for Sustainability and Social Justice, which is published this month.

Debt or Democracy was written to address the current debate about austerity and fiscal Debt of Democracy‘responsibility’. It argues for the necessity of deficit and a thriving public economy, and in doing so, explodes the myths about money that underpin neoliberal ideology. Central to the book is a rejection of the concept of ‘handbag economics’, in other words, that the public sector is analogous to a household, dependent upon external wealth from the private sector. The book challenges handbag economics’ view of money as essentially limited, with all public expenditure presented as either a burden on, or a threat to, private investment and expenditure. Finally, it rejects the idea that the supply of money to the public sector can only originate with the taxpayer or private ‘money markets’.

The book deconstructs mainstream economic presumptions by uncovering neoliberal myths of money as well as mistaken ideas about the origins of money and banking. For example, money did not originate in trade – in fact rulers and public monetary authorities were far more instrumental in the process than conventional economics suggests. Equally, the ‘Janus face’ of central banks obscures this fact by combining the public function of money creation with the commercial role of banker to the banks. The history of public money and central banking reveals two circuits of money in modern economies, one commercial, the other public. Indeed, it is the establishment’s failure to recognise the essential role of the public circuit and the crisis-prone nature of the commercial circuit which lies behind the recent financial crisis.

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The Dangers of Business and Financial Journalism

An important but overlooked factor in the last two UK general elections was the influence and role of financial and business journalism. In his new book Complacency and Collusion, Keith Butterick explores the history and development of financial and business journalism and how it influences not just political journalism but also sets the political agenda.

‘There is a new report focusing on media coverage throughout the May election written by the Complacency and CollusionCentre for Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College London. It concludes that the, ‘Conservatives ‘won’ the battle to set the campaign agenda focussed on the economy rather than health, education or immigration.’ They noted that reports and commentary about the economy focussed first on spending cuts (1,351 articles), then economic growth (921 articles) followed by cutting the deficit (675 articles).

Interestingly, the study also demonstrated how the traditional print media set the political agenda rather than new media such as Twitter.

It follows then, that since 2005 the Coalition government and the current Conservative government have used the issue of economic management as a stick to successfully beat the Labour Party. Only last week Chancellor George Osborne was at it again, in the debate over the so-called fiscal charter he accused the Labour Party of wanting to run a permanent deficit. Once again Labour stood accused as being deficit deniers, or in other words, the party that couldn’t be trusted with the economy.

This link between financial journalism and politics is not new. For over 200 years, the financial and business pages have been important arenas where economic philosophies are promulgated and discussed. Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes, for example, both used the print media of their day to establish their ideas. Continuing the trend in the late twentieth century, the financial and business sections have also played a crucial role in establishing the intellectual credibility of both neoliberalism and austerity.

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