The study of warfare in archaic and prehistoric societies has enjoyed something of a fashion in recent years, even including the thesis that warfare played a critical role in the evolution of humanity. In the scientific literature (or at least in the literature of scientific vulgarisation), Lawrence Keeley’s book War before civilization has achieved a certain status as a work of reference.
The familiar arguments over the link between the trade unions and the Labour Party have been wheeled out in the latest episode of a tedious soap opera ... The Unite union was accused of cramming the Falkirk constituency with new members, a little bending of the rules to install one of its favoured candidates.
In the latter part of his life Nelson Mandela was widely considered to be a modern ‘saint’. He appeared to be a model of humility, integrity and honesty, and displaying a remarkable capacity to forgive.
A recent Oxfam report said that South Africa is “the most unequal country on earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid”. The ANC has presided for nearly twenty years over a society that threatens still further deprivations for the black majority, and yet, despite having been an integral part of the ANC since the 1940s, Mandela was always seen as being somehow different from other leaders, throughout Africa and the rest of the world.
The chancellor’s public spending review at the end of June announced that austerity will continue well into the next parliament, to the tune of £11.5bn worth of cuts in 2015/16. And since Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has promised to match the government’s current spending plans after the next election, we should be in no doubt that it will. In that sense the result of the election will be completely meaningless for the working class. We should not forget that the one promise carried out to the letter by the 1997 Blair government was to stick to the spending limits imposed by the previous administration, and that in 2010 the only issue at stake on spending was how quickly austerity should be imposed, with the majority of the coalition’s first cuts having already been announced by the Brown government.
This powerful statement sums up the real nature of the recent revelations concerning the use of undercover police to penetrate and manipulate various protest movements. It was made by one of the women with whom various agents of the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS) deliberately established relationships in order to gain wider acceptance in the protest movements they wanted to infiltrate. The motto of the SDS was “by all means necessary” and this sums up the general attitude of the capitalist state to maintaining its dictatorship. Human feelings and dignity mean absolutely nothing to the ruling class and their servants.
The revelations about the extent of cyber-surveillance by the capitalist state – the result of the whistleblowing by former National Security Agency operative Edward Snowden – have been piling up in the last few weeks. All the major internet servers, search engines and communication programmes – Windows, Google, Yahoo, Skype, etc etc – are more than willing to put any information required by the state in the hands of the NSA or other state surveillance bodies. Emails, phone calls, encryption codes – none of it is private; and the technology of surveillance is so sophisticated that even without the compliance of these corporations the American state can tap almost any form of electronic communication, whenever and wherever it wants.
The war in Syria is an example of the decomposition and growing irrationality of capitalism as expressed through its capitalist war machines. We can trace this descent if we go back a couple of decades to the ‘Cold War’ period from 1945 to 1989. The two-bloc system, while threatening incidental nuclear annihilation, was, in a perverse way, the height of geo-military organisation and cooperation of capitalism. All the national states involved were subservient, willingly or unwillingly, to the aforementioned bloc leaders and to the interests of the bloc. This was the apogee of imperialist 'stability' even with the brutal carnage that it involved and the risks that it carried.
Everywhere around the world, there is a growing feeling that the present order of society cannot go on as before. After the revolts of the ‘Arab spring’, the Indignados movement in Spain and Occupy in the US in 2011, the summer of 2013 has seen huge movements on the streets of Turkey and Brazil. In June and July it was again the turn of Egypt to see millions on the street, returning to Tahrir Square which was the epicentre of the 2011 rebellion against the Mubarak regime.
Whatever the final verdict on George Zimmerman, "justice" is not to be found in the bourgeois courts. Prosecuting one man, regardless of how distasteful we may find his character and actions, cannot solve the deep rooted historical scars that produce racial stereotyping and prejudice as persistent social problems in the United States (and many other countries); nor can it compensate for the galloping social decomposition that produced the ideological and social conditions that are ultimately responsible for the tragic and fatal events of that day in February of last year.
Germany's tormented 20th century history is rich in dramatic and terrible themes, and in her latest film, a biopic of the German Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, the producer Margarete von Trotta deals head-on with the profound and difficult moral issues raised by Arendt in her report on the Eichmann trial at the beginning of the 1960s.
The film represents a daring attempt to illustrate the evolution of a philosopher's ideas - ideas which at the time provoked an enormous controversy over anti-fascism and the understanding of Nazism's nature.