Visionary thinking

1 April 2024Review

House of Anansi Press, 2023; 352pp; £14.99

Progressives need to talk and think much more about insecurity. Indeed, our failure to do so has been a ‘strategic mistake’.

So says author and activist Astra Taylor in this print version of her 2023 CBC Massey Lectures.

We all experience ‘existential insecurity’ as a core part of the human condition. We can all be wounded (physically and psychologically), we are all dependent upon others for our survival, and we will all die.

But, Taylor notes, we are all also ‘ensnared…

1 April 2024Feature

Revisiting the insights of German Jewish thinker Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980)

The psychoanalyst, sociologist, social commentator and activist Erich Fromm attained fame and something of a cult status in the ’60s and ’70s for his books and campaigns criticising both capitalist and communist societies, and calling for radical social transformation based on rationality, humanism, genuine freedom, and love of life.

An admirer of Marx, a humanist and a member of the Socialist Party of America, Fromm campaigned vigorously against US nuclear policy and made a point of…

7 March 2024Blog

Just ahead of the second anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, a former head of the British armed forces called for a negotiated end to the war, trading ‘peace for land’. General David Julian Richards, lord Richards, said on 20 February: ‘War is the very last resort and we seem to too often treat it as the first resort and we’ve got to get back to diplomacy and seek some sort of resolution to it.’ Richards was echoing views expressed by a top US general back in November 2022.

Ukraine should negotiate an end to its war with Russia, and be prepared to trade ‘peace for land’.

That’s the view of one of Britain’s most senior retired military leaders, a former chief of the defence staff, general David Richards (lord Richards), expressed in a surprising interview with the BBC on 20 February. The full transcript of his interview is below. We should point out that we have not found any reporting of this interview, or of Richards’s call for negotiations, in any…

1 August 2022Review

Verso, 2017; 224pp; £17.99

Sometimes you discover a book which you just can’t believe slipped past you when it was published.

Marcus Rediker’s 2002 book The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (co-authored with Peter Linebaugh) has become a modern classic. So how could anyone with an interest in radical history fail to spot the publication of a new book by him – let alone one with this book’s subtitle?

Fortunately, it’s not too late to correct this oversight.…

28 September 2020Review

Granta, 2019; 192pp; £12.99

In the afterword to this, her latest collection of essays, Rebecca Solnit describes her book as ‘in a sense, transcripts of my side of some conversations with the society around me as it undergoes tumultuous changes, with the changemakers winning some remarkable battles against the forces trying to protect the most malevolent parts of the status quo as it crumbles away’. These include both ‘seismic activity in feminism, racial justice, climate action’ (among other movements) and ‘changing…

18 September 2020Comment

Doing the right thing isn't always the same as doing the thing that makes you feel right, argues Milan Rai

The other day, a friend told me she was sick of being bombarded with evangelical veganism on Facebook.

Posts that feel like they’re saying: ‘If you don’t become vegan, you personally are destroying the climate!’ ‘You must become vegan! Or you are a bad person!’

‘I got a message like that,’ she said, ‘and I suddenly had a very strong urge to eat a bacon sandwich. I don’t even eat bacon! I’ve maybe eaten one bacon sandwich in my life!’

Having done a lot of urgent-…

1 December 2019Review

Democratic Thought, 2019; 528pp; £10

In this substantial collection of essays and poems, Daniel Jakopovich proposes a personal philosophy of peace, developed through years of education and intellectual enquiry. It is the work of a courageous writer who consistently asks the awkward questions of peacemaking and pursues them without fear.

The essential ingredients, drawn from sociology, history, and the work of peacemaking men and women, are progressively revealed, as the book explores periods of change in countries…

1 December 2019Review

Common Sense for the 21st Century, 2019; 80pp; £6

According to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of the British public now believe that climate change is ‘the biggest issue facing mankind’ and over half say that the issue will either ‘greatly’ or ‘somewhat’ influence who they are likely to vote for in a general election – a major shift in public opinion.

Much of the credit for this must go to Extinction Rebellion (XR). And much of the credit for XR’s creation must, in turn, go to its co-founder Roger Hallam.

Indeed, much of…

1 February 2019Comment

We need to break the huge visions that we have into smaller, winnable struggles, argues PN editor Milan Rai

There is a farmworkers union in Oregon in the US called Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN). The union campaigned for a year to get Kraemer Farms to be the first growers in the area to accept collective bargaining.

After that failed, PCUN got student groups to put pressure on NORPAC, which purchased vegetables from Kraemer Farms.

After seven years of failure, PCUN changed focus again. They chose to pressure the veggie burger firm, Gardenburger,…

1 October 2018Review

PM Press, 2017; 288pp; £17.99

In his preface to this book Noam Chomsky claims that the book ‘merits great respect and close attention’ and I cannot disagree. In fact, I strongly recommend it to anyone presently involved in activism or movement building aimed at meaningful social change.

In part two, Albert puts forward a persuasive argument for ‘participatory economics’ (an economic system  based on participatory decision making) as an alternative to markets and central planning.

Thankfully however…

1 June 2018Feature

A chapter in the story of the next American Revolution

This is an excerpt from a new book by US activist and thinker Michael Albert. RPS/2044 is an oral history of a revolution in the US, about 25 years from now. The book is made up of interviews (conducted in the future) by ‘Miguel Guevara’ (MG) with the people who helped to make the revolution. They describe how their organisation, ‘Revolutionary Participatory Society’ (RPS), began in 2020, developed over the years, and won its victory in 2044. RPS 2044 connects the movements that…

1 February 2018Feature

The lonely scholar who became a nonviolent warrior

Gene Sharp. Photo: Conor Doherty

Once again, I rang the bell at the brick row house in East Boston where Gene Sharp lived. When he opened the door I said proudly: ‘Today I drove here instead of taking the T [public transport].’

‘You drove?’ he said in mock horror. ‘Man, are you trying to get yourself killed? Haven’t you heard about Boston drivers? They show no mercy, especially toward Philadelphians!’ That was the Gene Sharp I knew, always loving to find a joke in the…

1 June 2017Review

Verso, 2016; 160pp; £8.99

Echoing the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Frase opens this book with the claim that ‘two spectres are haunting the Earth’: ecological catastrophe and automation.

The first is a crisis of scarcity – of fresh water (think melting glaciers), fish (think ocean acidification and overfishing), habitable places to live (think rising sea levels and rising temperatures) and so on. The second is a crisis of abundance – the prospect that our technology could soon…

1 April 2017Feature

Finding common threads in different lives, different organisations

Caroline Kempster (left, behind vegetables) and two fellow members of Trinity Wholefoods in the shop. Photo: Trinity Wholefoods

In the summer of 2005, Rebecca Dale had three young children, Nik (3), Ben (2) and Katherine (six months old). She had been working as a research fellow at Warwick University, increasing co-operation between industry and the academy, especially within the automation industry.

Now she needed a new job that could fit in with her commitment to her…

1 February 2017Review

OR Books, 2016; 128pp; £10

The writer and radical Walter Mosley is best known for his crime novels, in particular those featuring his African-American private investigator Easy Rawlins, hero of the best-selling Devil in a Blue Dress. But Mosley’s prolific output also includes science fiction, erotica, non-genre fiction and five short political tracts addressing issues such as race and US foreign policy.

In this, his latest foray into politics, he turns to economics, proposing a ‘shotgun wedding’…