RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND VIOLENCE IN THE TRUMP ERA

by Lotty Clare

Content warning: mentions of gun violence, child sex abuse

Look closely at a Trump rally and you will see banners and signs with cryptic slogans like ’Q’ or ‘WWG1WGA.’ These are the signs of a growing far right pro-Trump cult-like conspiracy theory that has slid into the mainstream and is growing rapidly. 

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RESISTANCE IN BUDAPEST: STUDENTS DEFY LATEST MOVE IN VIKTOR ORBÁN’S CULTURE WAR

free szfe hungary title
by Bernard Rorke

On the Wednesday evening of the 2nd of September, in a narrow street in Budapest’s eighth district, a large crowd gathered in solidarity with the students who have staged an occupation of Hungary’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE). The students had sealed the entrances to the building with red and white tape in protest against the latest power grab by the far-right government of Victor Orbán. 

From the first-floor balconies, students stood silently in yellow face masks with clenched fists, while below, leading figures from Hungary’s cultural and literary scene recited apposite verses from the country’s rich reserve of defiant, liberty-loving poetry. The students closed the event with a folk song and the crowd joined in defiant chants of ‘Szabad Ország, Szabad Egyetem! (Free Country, Free University!)’.  

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CRIMINALISING TRESPASS, PART ONE: SEDENTARIST IDEOLOGIES AND THE OUTLAWING OF TRAVELLING LIVES

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by Tesni Clare

Something strange is happening. Certain ways of life are slowly, quietly being enclosed, along with the land on which those lives depend. 

Last year Priti Patel opened a consultation on ‘Strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments’ ; in short, the government hopes to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales. The consultation is now closed and responses are being reviewed. The decision came as no surprise, considering Patel’s draconian desire for control over minority ways of life, along with the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto commitment to ‘make intentional trespass a criminal offence’.

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RUPERT READ IS NOT THE PEER THE GREEN PARTY NEEDS

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By Lewis Martin

Content warning: mentions transphobia

As the Green Party lets its members elect its third member of the House of Lords, one candidate’s name has jumped to my attention more than the rest: Rupert Read. For those who don’t know, Read is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, a former Green Party Councillor in Norwich and, according to his website, a ‘climate and environmental campaigner’. Whilst this can be seen as an impressive list of roles and beliefs, these aren’t the reason that Read’s name caught my eye.

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LEBANON’S PRIME MINISTER HAS RESIGNED, WHEN WILL OURS?

downing street 10 door
by Howard Green

The date is the 10th of August 2020. The capital of Lebanon, Beirut, has witnessed a great tragedy. A warehouse filled with ammonium nitrate had exploded 6 days prior leaving much of the city’s port destroyed. With over 220 confirmed deaths, hundreds more missing, 6000 injured, 300,000 homeless and around $15 Billion worth of property damage, the prime minister was set to make a statement. It was his resignation.

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THE GOVERNMENT’S ANTI-OBESITY STRATEGY STIGMATISES FATNESS AND WORKING CLASS PEOPLE

by Lotty Clare

Cw: fatphobia

Following the Prime Minister’s COVID hospitalisation and his revelation that he was ‘too fat,’ on July 27th Public Health England launched the ‘Better Health’ campaign as part of the national Obesity Strategy, encouraging people to lose weight and reduce the risk of becoming ill as a result of COVID-19. Whilst the research does indicate that being overweight increases the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, the government has received widespread criticism in its approach; namely that nothing is being done to address the underlying causes of obesity, and the broader, more pertinent crisis of health inequality.

The strategy is an attempt at a quick-fix before a second wave of this deadly virus hits. Some of the initiatives being rolled out include: calorie labelling in chain restaurants and on alcohol packaging; banning of TV adverts for high fat, salt and sugar content foods before the watershed; restrictions on buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) offers; incentives for GPs to refer overweight patients to weight loss programs; and NHS approved apps to calorie-count and reduce Body Mass Index. The policy document for the strategy recognises that economic deprivation is a significant factor in health and weight, but sets out no meaningful steps to address this.

Body Mass Index is essentially a calculation of a person’s weight and height to determine whether or not their weight is considered ‘healthy.’ It may be a relatively good proxy for looking at risk factors for groups of people, but on an individual level it is not in fact an accurate measure of health as it fails to take into account other indices such as muscle mass and fat distribution. Furthermore, fatness is sometimes wrongly conflated with being unhealthy. There are many fat people who are in fact fit and have no health issues, and the body positivity movement has achieved a great deal in dismantling false stereotypes and fat-shaming.

Calorie counting has also been proven to be ineffective in improving people’s health. Conversely, it can actually contribute to disordered eating, which millions of people in the UK already suffer with. There is a real worry that this focus on weight rather than holistic health, will give diet companies the green light to target young people with harmful fad diets, and further stigmatise fat people.

It is much easier to blow the fatphobic and racist dog whistle than to take a good hard look at racist economic marginalisation as being a risk factor for health problems.  

This intentional focus on the weight of individuals gives a permission slip for fatphobia and misinformation around fatness to run rampant. Victim blaming COVID sufferers for being ‘too fat’, rather than what surely amounts to criminal incompetence on the part of the government echoes the way they shifted the burden of the national coronavirus response onto individual citizens with the highly criticised ‘stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ slogan.  

Officials often point to environment, culture and individual behaviour in order to explain the causes of being overweight.  Sometimes this emerges with racist overtones, like pointing to South Asian communities having higher levels of obesity and higher levels of COVID infections than White British communities because of their ‘culture.’ It is much easier to blow the fatphobic and racist dog whistle than to take a good hard look at racist economic marginalisation as being a risk factor for health problems.  

Of course, there are people of all socioeconomic backgrounds who are overweight, but levels of obesity are disproportionately higher in deprived and disadvantaged areas.  Whenever the topic of obesity surfaces, so too does class and income. Food writer and activist Jack Monroe, who has spoken about her life in poverty, wrote in blog post recently: ‘Whenever food poverty, obesity, or food in general comes into the media spotlight, I adopt a mental brace position, awaiting the onslaught of tweets… with their hastily-Googled prices of spring greens and potatoes, crowing about how! cheap! vegetables! are!’

I’d like to see Boris Johnson try to feed his family nutritious food, and lose weight whilst on meagre Universal Credit and see how he manages.

This kind of ignorant thinking is common; like the old trope that poor people are lazy and stupid because they don’t manage their money properly. This is a flawed neoliberal way of thinking believes that people should make rational decisions toward purely economic and egoist ends. Ironically it is the poorest people who are most economical, knowing how to make a little last longer. I’d like to see Boris Johnson try to feed his family nutritious food, and lose weight whilst on meagre Universal Credit and see how he manages. I’d like to see him try and lose weight living in a crowded council estate with no parks nearby. Or with a chronic health problem, on a zero-hours contract and let him see how difficult it is to provide decent food every day. I wonder how he would cope in temporary housing with no oven or fridge, trying to cook up healthy meals. Or see how he’d fare as an NHS nurse relying for months on food bank parcel low in nutritional value.

Being poor is not just about being cash poor, it is also often being strapped for time, or having poor mental health because of the incessant daily grind of living in Tory austerity Britain.  Many working class households rely on discounts, so restricting ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offers are cutting an important source of affordable food. The government’s strategy does nothing to transform our food system or make fresh fruit and veg more accessible. Shaming lower income people with calorie labels if, god-forbid, we eat out at a Pizza Hut once in a while rather than a pricier independent restaurant, doesn’t help anyone.

Just last year, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty published a damning report stating that poverty in the UK is ‘systemic’ and ‘tragic’ and that the social safety net has been ’deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.’  The UK has one of the highest obesity levels in Europe, as well as one of the highest levels of child malnutrition. About 4.1 million children are living in poverty in the UK, and in 2019 approximately 19% lived in food insecure households. If the government wants to take meaningful action towards tackling obesity, it is necessary to analyse it from a  food insecurity and poverty perspective.

If we have learnt anything from the many fault lines and flaws that the pandemic has unearthed, it is that social welfare, inequality and racism are  public health issues, and that individualist thinking fails when it comes to public health. Rather than promoting the idea that poverty and health issues are the result of individuals making the wrong decisions, let’s actually try to understand these issues for what they are: a political and ideological choice by the political class.

Featured image: Adapted from logo for the Better Health Campaign


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CHINA TIGHTENS ITS GRIP ON HONG KONG, AND BEYOND

by Gunnar Eigener

‘The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.’

Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law

The recent introduction of the new Security Law in Hong Kong by the Chinese government has sent waves throughout the city, and beyond. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is exactly the type of security legislation it sounds like. The law views subversion of central authority, secession from the mainland and collusion with foreign entities as criminal actions; furthermore, all applications of the law are open to interpretation. In line with communist tradition, the management of non-governmental organisations and media outlets will be stricter. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave her blessing to the legislation, and encouraged the international community to accept its legitimacy, but reactions have varied.

The tit-for-tat diplomacy that threatens to break out into a full-blown trade war between China and the United States continues to flare up regularly with the US, who is no longer justifying special trade and travel privileges for Hong Kong. In a gesture of solidarity with the people, Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and the UK reassured that it would not turn its back on its commitments to Hong Kongers. The UN has issued an oral rebuke, and The EU has urged China to reconsider the law. 

Two significant escape routes for the people of Hong Kong have presented themselves since. One is through the United Kingdom, where Boris Johnson announced that those in Hong Kong with a British (Overseas) Passport could gain British citizenship, with potentially up to 3 million who could claim. The second is through Taiwan, which has set up an office to help Hong Kongers resettle  and adapt to a new life in their own borders. There has also been increased internet searches for properties abroad, particularly in the UK, Australia and Canada. 

China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

China has reacted strongly, however, accusing the UK of interfering in its former colony and accusing Taiwan independence activists of colluding with Hong Kong independence activists. Both countries face risk, as Taiwan lives with the constant threat of military action hanging over its head while the UK may well depend heavily on economic and financial relationships with China in the future. With its lure of cheap labour, as well as Beijing’s vast global investment funds, China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

But alas, the UK has shown itself woefully incapable of influencing Chinese policy; only the US really has that power, but Donald Trump sways between disdain for Chinese business practises and admiration for the Chinese leader. Should Joe Biden win the upcoming US presidential election in November, the US might change its stance. Biden is likely to prove more amenable to creating strong trade bonds and dispensing with tit-for-tat diplomacy.

China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights.

The new security law in Hong Kong is the latest in a string of assertive action against political dissent, and hardly comes as a surprise. China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights. Despite outrage over the Uyghur ‘re-education camps‘, the international community has done next to nothing about it. Despite Chinese agents kidnapping dual-nationals and putting them on trial in China, the world has stood still. Even in regards to the land grabs by China in the South Seas and on the borders with India and Nepal, the global community says a lot and does nothing. It is little wonder that China is now unafraid to pursue aggressive state actions. 

China is not going to change. The belief from Western authorities that China can be slowly tempted to change its ways is not realistic. At the same time, pointing more missiles at the country is hardly likely to encourage them to lower their guard. China has never shown any intentions of softening its position on any of its issues, such as developing bases in the South China Sea, closing so-called re-education camps or giving independence to Tibet. Ever more media savvy, the reactions to any topic in which the country or party is criticised are always measured and strong-worded. China will continue to defend itself from public criticism even if that means cutting off its nose to spite its face. Suppression of the population through the Sesame Credit system, restriction on internet access, and threats of re-education discourage many from social and public criticism and, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye, China will push ahead. 

The situation in Hong Kong has drawn condemnation from various countries mainly because of its global financial status, but the biggest problem remains mainland China’s ability to mass-produce cheap goods; goods which Western economies are relying upon to reboot their domestic economies in the wake of Covid-19.

Most countries have incoherent policies when it comes to China. Condemning its actions while continuing to seek trade deals or accept Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Most countries have allowed their supply chains to become interconnected with China to the extent that any significant action poses an immediate and serious economic risk. The Security Law is a warning shot across the bows; China intends to bring what it considers its own back into the fold and increase its political and economic reach; and that likely extends beyond Hong Kong.


The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution to fund a better media future.

WHY IS THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NOT PUSHING TO ENTER THE US UNDER THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT?

un meeting room

by Sarah Edgcumbe

CW: racism, violence, police brutality, suicide

I’ll admit, the title of this article is posed in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, but the underlying premise points to two concurring factors: the hypocrisy and northern hemisphere-bias underpinning global governance, and the distinct shift towards authoritarianism that we are currently seeing in Trump’s America; the latter possibly justifying intervention under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. The Trump administration’s current bent towards authoritarianism is not mere hyperbole, nor the incendiary Twitter-ranting of an orange mad man, but a dark and extremely worrying leap towards the kind of repression that characterizes Assad’s Syria, or the recent kidnappings in Iraq, wherein those protesting against the regime are bundled into unmarked cars and whisked away into the night. Continue Reading

FROM SCHALKE TO NEWCASTLE: ARE FOOTBALL CLUBS BECOMING COVERS FOR CORRUPTION?

By Howard Green

Professional football has been hyper-commercialised by every means available. Billion pound deals between private entities to secure TV rights, ridiculous sponsorship schemes that see clubs partner with the most strange or dangerous of companies, and ever-rising ticket prices turning the sport into an occasional daytime activity for the well-off rather than dedicated working-class fans. But there are still instances of defiance, of fans and players organising and speaking out against the commercial elements of the sport.

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COVID AND EXPLOITATION; GARMENT INDUSTRY WORKERS ARE FIGHTING A DOUBLE-PANDEMIC

by Lotty Clare

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the worst parts of the global system of racial capitalism, and has put into stark focus the number one priority of corporations: wealth accumulation above all else. One of the most exploitative facets of this economic regime is the garment industry.

With governments poised to bail out massive corporations for their losses during this pandemic, who will bail out textile workers in the Global South, where so much of the labour that has generated enormous corporate profits has been outsourced to?

An abrupt halt in demand due to mass store closures has led to brands cancelling orders at short notice and in some cases refusing to pay for orders that suppliers are already manufacturing. CEO of New Look, Nigel Oddy, sent a letter to its suppliers stating that they would not be paying for any costs “in connection with any cancelled orders….this is a matter of survival for New Look.” For big brand executives, the pandemic is a concern purely in terms of profit loss, but for millions of garment workers, delay in payment of wages is quite literally  a matter of survival. 

Labour and human rights abuses in these supply chains occur mostly in the Global South, conveniently hidden from Western consumers. 

The global garment industry relies on a combination of low wages, rapid production lines, and precarious job security, with its buyer-driven supply chains designed in a way which allows corporations to avoid accountability at the production end. The costs of labour and production are outsourced, and brands then enforce extremely unrealistic production targets. As a result, suppliers are left with little alternative but to exploit their workers in order to operate. Labour and human rights abuses in these supply chains occur mostly in the Global South, conveniently hidden from Western consumers. 

The vast majority of the 50 million workers engaged in garment production in the Global South are women of colour. Many of these women are engaged in informal employment, have little or no savings, and are consequently living in a state of income poverty in countries which offer limited if any social security. Furthermore, most small factory suppliers lack the cash reserves or access to credit to pay workers and cushion financial shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In such a context, millions of workers and their families in the Global South face an imminent risk of losing their livelihoods.

In Burma, the pandemic is even being used as a cover to sack unionised garment factory workers. Employees at the Huabo Times factory – a supplier for brands including Zara and Primark – have been resisting ongoing exploitation and abuse of their labour rights carried out by the factory. Nwe Ni Linn, president of the workers’ union there, explained that only 3 days after submitting a union registration form, 107 workers were dismissed, most of whom were union members or leaders. This was done under the guise of COVID-19 physical distancing measures but a matter of days after this took place, 200 workers were then transferred from another factory to replace the workforce lost. 

employees often work 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week and earn around $3 a day,

This is not an isolated incident. In the Yangon-based Jin Sen factory, workers took part in a sit-down strike after the factory reportedly sent spies into union meetings; 13 union leaders were fired shortly after. Sit-down strikes have also been used in other factories to avoid COVID-19 laws that ban demonstration gatherings. In one of Primark’s Yangon supplier factories – Amber Stone factory – workers have been wearing red headbands to protest a similar case of union busting, in which union leaders had allegedly been intimidated and beaten up by company thugs. At the Rui-Ning factory, 298 union members were fired in early May, and Myan Mode factory recently fired 520 of its unionised workers.

These employees often work 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week and earn around $3 a day, however very little has been done in response to workers’ demands for better treatment.

In India too, similar stories are emerging. On the 9th of July more than 300 garment workers organised a demonstration in Erode district of Tamil Nadu to protest non-payment of wages and lack of health and safety measures in factories. In Bangladesh, labour activists have raised the alarm about pregnant textile workers being illegally fired, employees who asked for PPE losing their jobs, and union members being purged under the cover of pandemic response measures. 

Garment factory workers’ strike in Myanmar. Image credit: Food Not Bombs Myanmar Facebook page (Wai Yan Phyoe Moe)

The pandemic has not only revealed the exploitation of workers in the garment industry of the Global South, but closer to home too. In the UK, warehouse workers for ASOS have raised objections and campaigned with GMB trade union over a lack of social distancing and hygiene measures in the workplace. Headlines over the past week have also exposed the exploitation of workers in Boohoo supplier factories in Leicester. Wages of £2–3 an hour have been reported as being commonplace in Leicester factories that supply Boohoo, and employees have said that they were forced to continue work despite being unwell with the coronavirus.

Brands are pushing hundreds of thousands of working class, migrant, and Black and Brown workers into increasingly desperate situations. Yet this is taking place at the same time that these very same brands are releasing statements standing against racism; promising to ‘listen to learn’. But when will they actually listen to workers resisting exploitation in their own factories?

When working conditions are revealed, brands tend to spout empty words about their commitment to fairness and transparency. Sometimes brands will respond to criticism by cutting ties to the individual suppliers in an attempt to shed the blame. But this is not about a few bad factories treating their workers poorly, this is a systemic problem which needs a transformative systemic solution.

The pandemic is making it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that struggles for labour rights are global struggles. Despite international campaigns, reforms have not done enough to improve working conditions and have done little to change fatally unequal power relations that exist in the garment industry.  Successful change will mean real international solidarity between workers movements in the Global South and Global North.


The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution to fund a better media future.