AMERICA’S FADING ROLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

by Gunnar Eigener

America’s influence in the Middle East is beginning to fray at the edges. This is bad news for both the region and the global community. America has, over the past decade, became something of a pariah in the area. Its foreign policy, already distrusted by enemies and allies alike, has looked increasingly unclear and erratic under the current administration.

While previous Presidents acted with caution and measure, the Trump White House presses on, having found in its new National Security Advisor John Bolton the man who would seemingly give weight to any decision that Donald Trump would be likely to favour, yet is already being rumoured to be behind Trump’s decision to withdraw from the North Korea Summit. Continue Reading

DO PROTESTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

by Gunnar Eigener

If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.

                                                    unattributed African proverb

 

Protests and demonstrations are an important part of democracy. They allow the people the opportunity to express their feelings about the behaviour of the state and its agents. They are a chance to point out society’s ills to those who can do something about it. But do they truly make a difference? Do those who are targeted by the protests feel their impact or are they just able to ignore (or worse) any public displays of anger or upset?

The election of Donald Trump saw mass protests take place across the US. Protests in Gaza have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Every G7 or G20 summit is greeted by demonstrations. In Nicaragua, protests against the government intensified after flippant remarks by the President, Daniel Noriega, and his wife, the Vice-President, demeaned the people. There have been protests in India over the caste system and the Supreme Court, in Tunisia against the cost of living, in Venezuela over the lack of food and medicine, and high inflation rates. The Women’s March globally, protests against abortion laws, the list goes on but the changes do not. Too often nothing seems to change. This is not to say that change should happen purely based on a protest but many protests are about the same thing. So what is the issue?

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IRAN AND THE ART OF THE DEAL

by Gunnar Eigener

The US President, Donald Trump, has announced that the US will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran much to the dismay of all those involved and many other countries around the world. The deal was viewed by Trump as ‘the worst deal ever’, possibly an overstatement since Iran surrendered 97% of its enriched uranium stockpile and limited to installing at a maximum 5,060 centrifuges, making the production of a nuclear weapon impossible. Still, time limits were placed on these and other elements of the deal, meaning that in 15 years, Iran could have begun its nuclear programme again. While the JCPOA can, and should, be viewed as a successful deal, it is another example of not dealing with the root cause of the problem, which is the part Iran plays in propping up terrorist organisations and brutal regimes worldwide.Continue Reading

VENEZUELA: FROM INSPIRATION TO DESPOTISM

by Chris Jarvis

CW: torture, rape, political violence

Less than a decade ago, left-wingers across the globe turned towards Latin America as something of a road map towards a more progressive and socialist politics. Many a left tradition could be identified in the range of regimes, leaders and parties that had come to power throughout the region. Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Ollanta Humala in Perù, Jose Mujica in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, the ever present Castros in Cuba, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The “Pink Tide”, as this phenomena became loosely known, was high, and international awe developed among the left.

Breaking out of the 1990s, in which the global institutions of neoliberalism, from the IMF and the World Bank to the US state and multinational corporations drove an agenda of austerity, privatisation of services and market liberalisation, Governments of the “Pink Tide” brought promise of a better deal for the various Latin American nations which elected them. To greater or lesser degrees, these Governments sought to recentre economies away from international capital and towards the needs of people, increase spending on and provision of welfare and public services – whether through anti-hunger initiatives, healthcare programmes or education projects, and deepen democracy. Across the region, the Pink Tide brought with it decreasing levels of economic inequality, higher literacy rates, reduced poverty and greater levels of health.

In 2017, the legacy of these leftist Governments lies tarnished – and perhaps the most emblematic of this turn is Venezuela.Continue Reading

COMMODITY PRICES, REVOLUTIONS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE

by Sam Alston

You can probably be excused for failing to notice that commodity prices on the whole have been falling. The price of gold (19.5% fall over the year), wheat (20% fall), and oil (over 30% fall) on global markets have all dropped recently. This has left mainstream finance reporters rather excited. As with house prices rises, commodity price falls are apparently a fundamentally good thing.  However it’s worth considering what this commodity price movement actually means.

Lower commodity prices means lower production costs for net importers of commodities (much of the western world), thus supposedly lower prices. The continual rise in the price of things like energy and bread that we have seen in the past few years should abate.  Since it has been made clear over the last few years that society no longer guarantees the right to commodities needed to live (like food), a reduction in these prices would potentially be the best step to stop people starving.

Those of a more revolutionary bent, may be slightly disappointed. A high cost of living has helped to bring down dictatorial governments in places like Tunisia, helped prompt the occupy movement, and just last week promoted an uprising in Burkina Faso that saw the parliament burnt to the ground.Continue Reading