‘Voices from the ‘Jungle” Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

To coincide with the publication of Voices from the ‘Jungle’, we present a blog, introduced by one of the book’s editors, Katrine Møller Hansen, and accompanied by the voices of the book’s authors: the Calais Writers.

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This book brings together the personal stories of people who lived as refugees, during 2015 and 2016, in the Calais camp on the northern French coast, just 26 miles from the UK: a camp that was often called the ‘Jungle’. For the authors, that have all left behind CalaiswritersT03221loved ones and a place of belonging, the ‘Jungle’ became home for a short or a longer time. Through poetry, prose poems, diary entries, photography, drawings and conventional accounts they narrate their personal experiences, life stories and they imagine the lives that lie ahead of them. We hear about the borders – geographical, national, cultural and religious – they have crossed, drawn or dissolved on their journeys and in their search for better and safer futures.

The authors want their voices to be heard and they call for audiences willing to listen. Aware that they are becoming objects of distrust and fear and that they have been depicted as benefit cheats, criminals and terrorists, they take control in this book, of their own representation. However, they do not speak in unison. Differences in opinion appear and the stories may ‘disagree’ with each other. Through such conversations, the book displays the human face of the current world crisis. This implies a multiplicity of truths and life trajectories rather than one homogenic narrative or life story. Their collective voices negotiate what it means to belong and to be human and their stories may resonate with any reader that queries into the human consequences of the displacements and human rights violations we witness today.

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The Marikana Massacre: The government that pulled the trigger and the workers who survived it

Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.

Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana  a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.

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The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.

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Israel, Migrants and the right to nationhood

Mya Guarnieri Jaradat’s new book, The Unchosenexamines Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of these newcomers and in doing so presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’. As we stand witness to mass deportations and charter flights, Guarnieri Jaradat’s blog forces us to confront the exclusionary and dispassionate preconditions imposed on those seeking to belong to a nation.

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The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, is a culmination of a decade’s worth of reporting on the lives of Southeast Asian migrant workers and African asylum seekers protest, Tel Aviv, Israel, 13.2.2014African asylum seekers in Israel. Studying these two groups of non-Jewish ‘others’ throws the Israeli claim that its treatment of Palestinians is predicated on security into harsh light; rather, it shows that Israel’s relationship with Palestinians and other non-Jews is predicated on racial separatism and couched in its overriding concern about maintaining a Jewish demographic majority. The treatment of non-Jews can be understood as a feature of Israel’s particular brand of settler
colonialism. Put best by Drs. Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini in their book, The Human Right to Dominate:

‘Not unlike other forms of settler colonialism, in the Israeli case colonial power is exerted also through the coloniser’s desire of appropriating the position of the native, of “going native.” … the coloniser’s nativeness can, so to speak, be achieved only through a twofold process, beginning with the dispossession of the colonised and followed by protecting the coloniser from a presumed invasion carried out by the colonised.’

The initial dispossession, happened in 1948 with the displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians. As for the ‘invasion’, many Israelis imagine this happening not militarily but demographically; they worry that they’ll be outnumbered. In recent years, the Israeli obsession with demographics—which Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir, an Israeli lecturer and legal expert in immigration, refugee, and international law, refers to as the ‘fear of numbers’—has been extended beyond the indigenous population to non-Jews in general. Separation is one manifestation of this ‘fear of numbers.’

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Trump, Brexit and the twilight of neoliberalism by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen

It’s 2016 and the phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’ lacks currency. Is this neoliberalism’s swansong? In this article, an extended version of a blog post for the Sociological Review, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen examine the ‘organic crisis’ engendered by Brexit and the election of Trump and what the future holds for social movements now the status quo has been upset. 

Something remarkable has happened in the Anglophone countries where neoliberalism first came to power. After over two decades of popular resistance to trade deals, from the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion against NAFTA and the 1999 Seattle WTO summit protest, the its-the-economy-stupid-pin-clintonU.S. has elected a candidate openly opposed to such deals, and TTIP may not survive the experience. Meanwhile, the UK – where conventional wisdom has had it that state economic policy always takes its lead from the City of London – now has a government attempting to set its course for “hard Brexit”.

Of course neoliberalism is not yet over, and the power of existing money will no doubt find ways to make itself heard in the Trump administration as well as in Brexit-land. But the social and electoral coalitions which Thatcher and Reagan stitched together to push through a monetarist revolution are no longer delivering what for the past third of a century has seemed an unstoppable neoliberal juggernaut, experimented in the global South and later expanded across Europe.

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The Trump Emergency by Bill V. Mullen

 

W.E.B. DuBois was quoted as saying ‘either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States’. Trump’s bid to ‘Make America Great Again’ was vitalised by this potentially destructive ignorance; racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia were omnipresent during his campaign and his appointments stoke a similar fire. 

Bill V. Mullen, author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Colour Line’, deconstructs the recent election; making predictions and prescribing the measures necessary to fight this destructive ignorance. 

Three things must be said at the start about the role of racism, xenophobia and nativism in Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Firstly, Trump scapegoated immigrants from Mexico and Muslims in what has become a kkk_trumpright-nationalist move globally to split the working-class.  As a result, we have seen an upturn in hate crimes and racist attacks in the U.S., especially against Muslims, in the seven days since the election. African Americans and Latinos, many poor or working-class, overwhelmingly rejected him by margins of 8 and 9 to one. Black women voted against Trump by 93 percent, the highest of any single group in the electorate. Trump’s solid majority of votes was won among whites without a college degree. Though Trump voters did list immigration as one of their main reasons for supporting him, the deeper, longer-term effect of that scapegoating is not easy to determine, it is important to note that Trump’s actual margin of victory among whites was almost exactly the same as Mitt Romney’s over Obama in 2012 (20 percent – 21 percent).  See Mike Davis:

The great surprise of the election was not a huge white working-class shift to Trump but rather his success in retaining the loyalty of Romney voters, and indeed even slightly improving on the latter’s performance amongst evangelicals for whom the election was viewed as a last stand. Thus economic populism and nativism potently combined with, but did not displace, the traditional social conservative agenda[1]

Secondly, voter suppression, especially of minority votes, massively effected the outcome. Hillary Clinton earned 10 million fewer votes than Barack Obama in 2008 and a smaller percentage of the African-American vote than did Obama in 2012: 88 versus 93 percent.  In some states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana, the combination of new “voter I.D.” laws and reduction in polling places likely repressed minority turnout.

Third, the fact that 60 million people in the U.S. voted for an openly racist, nativist, misogynist candidate has devastated and enraged the political morale of many, especially racial minorities. Trump’s formal endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan, his appointment of an anti-semitic white nationalist, Stephen Bannon, to a key advising post, his campaign’s open outreach to white supremacists, is a toxic reminder of the U.S.’s history as a capitalist, slaveholding empire of war, genocide, imperialism and ruin. ‘Whitelash’ is one current popular expression for this development.

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Hezbollah, Syria and the Arab uprisings

We recently published ‘Hezbollah: The Political Economy of Lebanon’s Party of God’, Joseph Daher’s analysis of the Lebanese party argues that Hezbollah are misunderstood and to understand them better we must position them within socio-economic and political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. In this comprehensive article, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, Daher examines the changing tone of Hezbollah’s support for people’s movements in the Middle East, arguing that their continued support for the Assad regime in Syria has been the main determinate on their opinion.  More broadly, this article seeks to disprove the theory that Hezbollah’s political activity is grounded in revolutionary spirit and is imbued in the economic and political apparatus of the Middle East.

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In the last few weeks, the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has reiterated his vow to maintain Hezbollah’s “jihad” in neighbouring Syria and declared that “there are no prospects for political solutions” in the country, “the final word is for the battlefield”. All this, in spite of the human and material costs of bombing by Russian and Assad’s regime airplanes in Aleppo. This rhetoric is matched by Hezbollah’s military activity. Currently, Hezbollah fighters are participating in the offensive against the liberated neighbourhood of Aleppo,[1] alongside regime forces and Shi’a fundamentalist militias sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

In spite of this, Hezbollah is still considered by large swathes of people as defending the “oppressed” throughout the region, it is even believed to be advancing the revolutionary processes of the Middle East and North Africa. This is an illusion we must challenge. It is imperative that we accurately see the record of the Lebanese Islamic Shi’a movement (Hezbollah) towards various uprisings and pay close attention to Syria where Hezbollah played a determinant role in support to the authoritarian Assad regime.

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The uprisings are part of the resistance project

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In early 2011, Hezbollah officials were claiming that the Arab uprisings were part of their project of resistance. During a massive rally in support of the Arab uprisings, organised by Hezbollah in Dahyeh, Nasrallah made a speech in which he voiced his support to the Arab people and their revolutions and sacrifices, but failed to mention the first demonstrations, occurring a few days before, that would become the Syrian uprising. The uprising would be severely repressed by the Assad regime with the support of Hezbollah.

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Modern Journalism and The Pay Wall Conundrum

This month we’re publishing the 20th anniversary edition of the classic Universal Journalist by David Randall. Now in its fifth iteration, it’s been updated to reflect the changes, both positive and negative, to the journalistic climate. For this post, the author discusses what he considers to be the main issue destroying international journalism today – free content and the ‘dreaded’ pay wall…

‘It’s April, and so time for one of my twice a year visits to a training centre in the north of EnglandThe Universal Journalist
to speak to the young journalists on its course. I’ve been going there for  seventeen  years and it’s always rewarding, not least because, unlike most lectures I do, there’s time to sit down and chat afterwards and hear what young journalists think about news, newspapers, and the state of UK media. I’m used to being mildly surprised by some of what they have to say, but this time I got a real jolt.

Most of the sessions required me to pass on the best tips about journalism I’ve received or stumbled upon in my forty years as an editor and reporter. This trot through my personal history wound up with me telling the trainees about the gathering I went to in March to mark the final press night of my old paper, the Independent on Sunday. It has now died and gone to join other defunct publications on the great landfill site in the sky.

A sadder event in a London pub I have yet to attend. It was not so much young reporters asking me if I knew of any jobs going, or talking to senior staff who have no idea if they will ever work in newspapers again. Nor was it even the death of my paper (its daily counterpart, the Independent, continues only online). It was the thought that the forces which are helping to see off such newspapers (and smothering many jobs on those that remain) are now everywhere weakening journalism and its scrutiny of the powerful by professional reporters – essential to any democracy. At the risk of sounding like a nostalgic old guy ruing modern circumstance, I told the trainees of these forces.

A lesser one first: the transfer of spending from commercial media to the public sector which has led to the relentless trend for newspapers to shed staff at the same time as national and local governments and other public services employ ever more public relations people to spin, dissemble, and, if necessary, cover up negligence and failings. When I edited a British provincial paper more than thirty years ago, I had twenty-one reporters and there were almost no PR staff at any public body. We spoke directly to the senior officials and politicians running things. Today, that same paper has just five reporters, who must deal in the main, not with top officials, but press offices. In Britain, there are now 37,000 PR staff, and 37,000 full-time employed journalists, most of whom are not reporters. So for every news reporter trying to find out what’s happening there are at least a couple of media relations people whose job, in part, is to stop them. Less information, less reason to buy a paper, less scrutiny, less real democracy.

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