Belfast, Ireland (Novara) – On 23 December 2014 the Stormont House Agreement was published, marking the conclusion of 11 weeks of talks between the Northern Ireland Executive and the governments of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The talks…
We are entering a new utopian age. That may seem counterintuitive to suggest as the most right wing government since Thatcher leads the UK into a bleak post Brexit future, Trump prepares to enter the White House flanked by a team of white supremacists in the US, and the far right finds itself in ascendency across Europe, but it is happening.
Signs that a new utopian era is emerging can be read in the way we encounter these events as impossible: Brexit; Trump winning the Republican candidacy, and going on to defeat Clinton in the US presidential elections; even Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest. These all represent realities we collectively refused to conceive of as possible, until we awoke the next morning to find ourselves living them.
Impossibility, of course, is the territory of utopia.
Climate change has long had its heaviest impact on people of colour. Were it not for structural racism that dehumanises them, and the interconnections between big oil and the arms industry, the world would have taken action to protect the climate long ago.
The Philippines has opened a new chapter in the fight against climate change. The south-east asian nation has initiated legal proceedings to summon the 47 worst polluting corporations to its Commission on Human Rights. The case asserts these major polluters should be held to account for climate change and its impact upon the human rights of Philippines citizens; notably the death and destruction that resulted from ‘super typhoons’ linked to climate change. The lawsuit is being brought by the survivors of these intensifying super typhoons, which batter the archipelago annually. These kill people thousands, and displace people in their millions. Defending against the effects of these unprecedented storms, and clearing up afterwards, consumes an increasing proportion of the nation’s GDP. To continue with this destructive business as usual, big oil conglomerates must both deny the destruction and deny the worth of those being annihilated.
Earlier this year the government urged universities to reduce the ‘drop-out’ rates of Black students. With Black students 50% more likely to drop out than their peers, the universities minister Jo Johnson argued that “there needs to be much greater support” for ‘BME’ students. Yet this seems little more than rhetoric, and reflects only a superficial interest in racial equality.
The idea of ‘support’ presupposes that drop-out rates are a consequence of the failures of individual Black students. This is a misunderstanding. Rather than ‘supporting’ individual Black students, the government should turn its attention to the institutional transformation of universities.
The referendum has passed and if you are a non-UK citizen of the European Union you may feel some uncertainty about what is your lawful status in the UK now is.
Under current law, you can stay in the UK for three months without any conditions. Afterwards, you need to ‘exercise your treaty rights’. That means you must be in the UK in one of the categories covered by EU law. These are: jobseeker (max 91 days), worker, self-employed (requiring you to pay national insurance contributions (NICs), etc), self-sufficient (with private health insurance and no reliance of benefits), student (with private health insurance), certain types of family member of an EU citizen exercising treaty rights (eg spouse or dependent child). Currently no one is really checking this, but if for instance you are studying but do not have private health insurance, you are not exercising your treaty rights and are in the UK illegally.
The European left can’t catch a break. There is more sad news from Spain. After the December 2015 elections shattered the traditional two-party system, and six months of failed negotiations detonated a call for re-elections, the new left coalition, Unidos Podemos, has failed to meet the number of seats that all polls had lined up for them. Last night, Pablo Iglesias’s plan to ‘take the heavens by storm’ has suffered a major setback since Podemos’s meteoric rise began two years ago.
1. Great expectations, mediocre results.
The polls didn’t even get the voter turnout right, which remained higher than assumed (69%). But the real problem came in estimating the vote transfers of left-wing voters.
For weeks, polls were suggesting a low mobilisation of centre-ground parties and a sharp polarisation on both ends of the ideological spectrum. The 7.30pm exit polls confirmed these expectations and projected a whopping 95 seats for Unidos Podemos (up from a combined 71 in December), overtaking centre-left rival PSOE (the party of old social democracy) – the main objective of these re-elections. Three hours later, as results started coming in, this didn’t happen: Unidos Podemos had stagnated at 71 seats and lost over a million votes. Against all odds, PSOE has somehow resisted the encroachment of the anti-austerity radicals and defended the throne of the parliamentary left.
The EU referendum debacle has, regrettably, boiled down to a choice between David Cameron’s business-oriented ‘Project Fear’ and Ukip’s anti-migrant sentiment.
For left-wing progressives, a Remain vote in support of an institution which prioritises profits over people flies in the face of socialist ideology. The alternative – Brexit, with its overtones of jumped-up xenophobia – is equally unappetising.
But what will actually happen if the UK leaves the EU? Is it really all doom and gloom?
1. The EU won’t implode.
There are mixed opinions on what the impact of Brexit would be on the EU itself. Some speculate that Britain’s exit would encourage other member states to hold referendums of their own: a ‘domino effect’. Surging euroscepticism seems to walk hand-in-hand with Europe’s swing to the right, and Morten Messerschmidt, an MEP with the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party has described Cameron’s in-out referendum as an ‘inspiration’.
Optimists suggest that Britain’s exit from the EU could actually strengthen what is ‘good’ about the Union. The UK has famously been a dissenting voice within the EU: from 2009-2015 it voted against legislation in 13.3% of cases and failed to ratify some of the most crucial pieces of policy the EU has produced, such as the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women. Throw into the mix the fact that David Cameron is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would (amongst other things) give corporations the power to sue governments for loss of profits, and it begins to look like the EU might function better without the UK gumming up the works.
The Indonesian president, Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, recently finished his tour of the EU, signing five cooperation agreements with the UK during his stop in London. The protest that confronted Jokowi’s visit fractured his attempt to keep hidden one of Indonesia’s dark secrets: the 50 year war in its easternmost provinces. Here are five things you should know about Indonesian rule in West Papua:
1. It is one of the world’s longest-running military occupations.
Indonesia seized West Papua, the western half of the island of New Guinea, in 1963, shortly after the Dutch colonists pulled out. Political parties were immediately banned, nascent Papuan nationalism crushed, and tens of thousands of troops, police and special forces flooded in. In 1969 a UN-supervised sham referendum was held, and just over a thousand hand-picked representatives were bribed, cajoled and threatened into voting in favour of Indonesian rule.
A police state has shackled the vast region ever since, battling a low-level tribal insurgency and suppressing independence aspirations with such vigour that raising the Papuan national flag can land you 15 years in prison.