WHY ISN’T EVERYONE A SOCIALIST?

by Jonathan Lee

It’s a dirty word for many who don’t really understand what it means. People often broadly sweep Socialism into a single ideology, which is much maligned as an unworkable and authoritarian regime, seemingly unsuitable for the modern day, and unpopular amongst the electorate.

I’ll start out being optimistic, and assume that this ignorance of what Socialism is explains why some people discount it out of hand. Because the premise of Socialism is generally one that I have to believe most people should aspire to in some way. “Every human being should be a moderate Socialist,” Thomas Mann said.

Why? Because Socialism is a general set of social, political, and economic views that places people first. And what’s the point of having a democratic society, in which we the people place power in the hands of a select few to manage our lives, if not to make things generally better for people as a whole?Continue Reading

CHALLENGING MISCONCEPTIONS IN THE CAMPUS FREE SPEECH DEBATE

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by Bradley Allsop

Over the last 8 years, higher education in the UK has been subject to some of the largest and most invasive reforms in its history, guided by a deliberate, neoliberal project with the aim of crafting a marketised sector. This has set a new bar for invasive reforms that is now extending into the murky realms of the ‘free speech’ debate, with recently departed universities minister Jo Johnson proposing the illogical and frankly dangerous step of imposing fines on universities whose students’ unions fail to support free speech on campus.

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ENGINEERING UTOPIA: CHINA’S PROJECT FOR DESIGNING ‘TRUSTWORTHINESS’

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by Justin Reynolds

Visions of a great civilisation enjoying ‘peace under heaven’ have haunted the Chinese imagination from the time of the sages to today, when President Xi Jingping’s ‘China Dream’ of a prosperous ordered nation is propagated ceaselessly by the state-controlled media.

Here hypermodernity is filtered through ancient virtues. China’s gleaming new cities, high-speed rail links and technology parks are studded with billboards urging honesty, modesty and filial piety. Its vast wired economy is screened for decadent Western influences, blocking Facebook, Google and YouTube, and magazines infatuated with celebrity gossip or ‘crude language’. This year the ‘Great Firewall of China’ was reinforced when the state banned VPN services used by millions to break through to the global web.

Now China is finetuning the ultimate technological fix for designing a virtuous society: a ‘Social Credit System’ that will use the data produced by a population of some 1.4 billion citizens in the course of their daily interactions with digital services to rank them according to ‘trustworthiness’.Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #3 – CAN FREE TRADE BRING WORLD PEACE?

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.)

‘World peace’ is a staple for utopian theorists, science fiction writers, and beauty pageant winners. Sadly, an end to all international conflict still seems like a very distant dream. However, when it comes to war, for the last 60 years there has most definitely been an elephant in the room. Why are we all getting on so well?

Of course this is to say nothing of civil wars, hybrid wars, and grassroots violence, all of which remain (sadly) rife. But when it comes to wars between states, especially between great powers, we are living in the most peaceful era in recorded history. This is even more impressive considering that many were worried a third world war would immediately follow the second. So what’s going on?Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #2 – THE STATE AND THE MARKET. WE ARE BEING LIED TO.

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here: How to Hunt the Stag: Power, Blackmail and Exploitation)

Let’s suppose I am the editor of a brilliant and highly successful politics and arts magazine (ahem). My magazine is so utterly brilliant that I believe it’s time to break into an international market. I’m aiming big – I want to sell my magazine in China. However, all manner of obstacles lie in my way. Firstly, there is the physical distance – my magazines have to reach the other side of the world. Next, I would need to alter the magazine to comply with Chinese laws and regulations (which could be completely unrecognisable, even if they weren’t written in a different language). Then I require the local infrastructure to advertise my product, a shop to sell it from, and local workers to operate this shop. Each of these steps will also require a translator, as will the translation of my magazine itself. I also need the Chinese State not to have any subsidies for local magazines that price me out of the market, nor quotas which restrict my sales. Finally, even once all this has been achieved, cultural differences may render my once gripping magazine totally uninteresting to locals.

In short, my magazine isn’t going to sell many Chinese copies any time soon.Continue Reading

IGNITING STUDENT ACTIVISM #3 – WORKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE

by Bradley Allsop & Calum Watt

Rarely in our lifetimes has there been a more exciting time for young people to engage in politics. Change is in the air and nowhere else offers more opportunities to engage in this conversation, to learn valuable skills and to help shape society than university campuses. This series of articles seeks to offer some guidance for those aiming to ignite student activism at their institutions. Drawing on our experiences as campaigners we hope to highlight some common challenges and give you some advice on how to combat them.

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IGNITING STUDENT ACTIVISM #1 – FIRST STEPS

by Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

Rarely in our lifetimes has there been a more exciting time for young people to engage in politics. Change is in the air and nowhere else offers more opportunities to engage in this conversation, to learn valuable skills and to help shape society than university campuses. This series of articles seeks to offer some guidance for those aiming to ignite student activism at their institutions. Drawing on our experiences as campaigners we hope to highlight some common challenges and give you some advice on how to combat them.

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THE RIGHT TO ENVY

by George Laver

If, over the last year or so, anybody has been monitoring political discourse, it should have come as no surprise that the Labour Party has collapsed into meltdown. From an anti-electoral onlooker’s perspective, it is over trivial matters; but to the dedicated parliamentarian, it is a cause for some concern. In particular, there are the issues surrounding supposed “entryists” and “Trotskyists” amongst the rank-and-file of pro-Corbyn Labourites. A bitter repeat of the witch hunts against members of the “militant tendency” in the 1980s, this too would be no surprise to those who had the foresight to expect it.

Whilst I am not writing this to defend Trotskyism – or even to defend entryists tactics, parliamentarianism, and so on – I am writing in defence of those who hold viewpoints that are considered outliers to the common political discourse; and in spite of the fact that left-wingers are brandished with the label of “the politics of envy,” there is a perfect justification for envy. It is not a label from which we should blush and shy away.Continue Reading

THE CLIMATE BETRAYED AGAIN — AND WHO BETTER TO DO IT?

by George Laver

With the recent news that the Swedish government has backtracked on its pledges at the Paris climate agreement by selling off state-owned coal assets to private buyers EPH, now is a better time than ever to ask: when is it enough?

It should come as no surprise that governments will betray the public façade of agreement on positive terms. Such is the cycle of history. I am thinking, in particular, of the Paris Agreement that took place just last year. Not yet past its stage of infancy, and already it has been shot in the back. The selling off of a lucrative coal asset to private industrial proprietors has set a clear line for where their favour lies and where the climate — which has recently passed a dire milestone — sits in the rank of importance.

This agreement, climate scientists from Stockholm University have warned, will violate the terms of the Paris Agreement. Even so, it is not as if it can be claimed that the Swedish government has worked around loopholes in the agreement. At least if this were the case, with all technicalities applied, the government would not be violating the agreement — that is not to say that they would not be violating climate integrity. But even so, the case as it exists is one of straight up betrayal — and who else could we expect it from?Continue Reading

LONE-WOLVES AND STATE WARRIORS

by Joshua Ekin

Content warning: mentions suicide, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, mass shooting, murder

A massacre in an LGBT+ space, by a Muslim, with a legal gun, and alleged connections to Daesh. It’s easy to see how contemporary American anxieties converge in the political aftermath of the Orlando shooting. The media response to this — the largest massacre in modern American history — exposes how truth is controlled by the present political regime.

For those who do not spend their days fretting about radical social discourse, homophobia can be difficult to define. Before Obama legalised same-sex marriage federally, it dominated the media conversation, establishing rights as the fulcrum of group empowerment. While the LGBT+ movement focused on this, statistics revealed that LGBT+ kids across the world were entering sex-work and committing suicide at an alarming rate. If such statistics were ever mentioned, it was to bolster marriage as the unequivocal endowment being denied to the LGBT+ community. The institution Australian Marriage Equality claims that the ‘higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation [are] all directly related to the discrimination.’ Marx might have called this ‘bridal false-consciousness.’Continue Reading

THE ARROGANCE OF THE QUEEN AND ‘LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS’

by George Laver

On Wednesday 18 May, the ceremonial state opening of parliament accompanied by the Queen’s speech took place. Pomposity and excessive grandeur aside, what it meant for the radical mind was something altogether divergent from the norm; a fresh load of unpicking and semantics in which to delve in order to blow away the proverbial smoke from the mirror. The point of interest, however, came with the Queen’s declaration – without a hint of irony – that we all must “live within our means”. Undoubtedly, this opened up a lot of questions to be answered – whose means? what is this statement saying? why are we to live within them? – within the broader context of class society.

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ONLINE DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Faizal Nor Izham

One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.

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THE EU REFERENDUM – WHAT IS BEING OFFERED TO US?

by George Laver

Amidst the giants of British politics, there is an ever-growing rift that threatens to split central parties in all directions. Even though the stereotypical dichotomy of the right-wing representing anti-EU camp – playfully dubbed ‘Brexit’ – and the left-wing representing the pro-EU camp tend to stand up to truth, there are subdivisions within the parties that make this a more complicated matter. In particular, the main figures on both sides having differed opinions over the matter.

For example, Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that he believes Britain should remain in the European Union (EU), whilst London Mayor Boris Johnson – an associate and old Eaton friend of Cameron’s – is thoroughly backing the ‘Brexit’ campaign. If anything, it shows that this point of contention can trigger big differences amongst the closest of allies. It is not just these individuals that we must consider, but also the collateral damage that their campaigning has: those who see their efforts will more often than not draw inspiration from them, casting an influence over their vote when the day arrives.Continue Reading

‘THE RULES APPLY, UNLESS…’ — DOUBLE STANDARDS WITHIN CONSERVATIVE MUSLIM SOCIETIES

by Faizal Nor Izham

We keep reading news reports on the Islamic State, immigration from Syria and all-round growing Islamophobia that we often forget that there are other real, everyday problems affecting Muslim countries that are very easy to overlook. The increasing trend in focusing on much broader, impersonal issues by the international media has a tendency to de-humanise Muslims altogether, making it easy to forget that they too face ordinary problems, which often have nothing to do with the abovementioned huge issues.

In an increasingly globalised world, it is inevitable to encounter people from families who have settled in host nations with customs and norms that are different from their own. Coping with this culture clash and confusion of identities is therefore an increasingly common complaint, albeit one that is not always raised publicly. For example, Arabs who have been raised in the West not only have to endure daily Islamophobia (whether they are actually Muslims or not — other religions in the Middle East also include Christianity, Judaism, Baha’i, Druze, Yazidism and Zoroastrianism), they also have to deal with the inevitable clash of East meets West.Continue Reading