Visionary thinking

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

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 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 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’…

1 October 2016Review

Wolf Press, 2016; 248pp; £8.99

There’s a referendum in the offing and the far right is on the rise.... in East Berlin, 1994, the capital of the counter-factual people’s Grassroots Democratic Republic of East Germany, created when the Communist government was dissolved and the people turned down the option of uniting with West Germany.

In this action-packed sequel to Stealing the Future (see PN 2586-87), the country is now five years old, growing in confidence, and considering taking down the…

1 October 2016Review

Berrett-Koehler, 2011; 198pp; $17.95

Linda Stout starts her book with a successful mobilisation that dwindled rapidly and is now almost forgotten – the US ‘Nuclear Freeze’ campaign of the early 1980s. She points out: ‘Supported by 70 percent or more of the [US] population, the freeze was endorsed by 275 city governments, 12 state legislatures, and the voters in nine out of ten states where it was placed on the ballot in the fall of 1982.’

The Freeze campaigners demanded an end to the testing, production and…

1 June 2016Feature

Words of wisdom from the late Daniel Berrigan

Radical priest Daniel Berrigan speaking at a Witness Against Torture event held on December 18th, 2008 in the Lower East Side (New York City). Source: Thomas Good / NLN

1) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the redwoods feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

2) Generally speaking, when asked to speak, be silent; when asked to shut up, accede on the instant.

3) Keep your soul to yourself. (Soul is…

1 February 2015Review

Center for Global Non-Killing, 2014; 274pp; £12

Co-founder of the Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-Violente, Jean-Marie Müller is one of the leading contemporary thinkers on nonviolence. Despite authoring over 20 books on a wide range of nonviolence-related subjects, he is little known in Britain: so the recent publication in English of The Principle of Non-Violence is particularly welcome.

Originally published in 1995, it represents Jean-Marie’s most comprehensive statement of his view of nonviolence as a…