Dead Men Left

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqi electoral fraud: two articles, and a guide to the candidates

Salim Lone, former adviser to Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN envoy to Iraq killed in 2003, writes in the International Herald Tribune on the elections in Iraq. The message is unambiguous:

This election is a sham
...[E]ven as the Americans proclaimed their mission as one designed to introduce democracy and human rights in Iraq, they fought against demands for early elections even from putative allies like the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They also maneuvered to put into place a self-governance and electoral plan that, through carefully circumscribed United Nations involvement, they thought would ensure that the hand-picked Iraqi leadership would enjoy some legitimacy, with the elections scheduled for Sunday providing an added boost of Shiite support...

But as this blood-stained election shows, the complete breakdown of this plan has been one of the most colossal U.S. policy failures of the last half-century. Indeed, this is not an election that any democratic nation, or indeed any independent international electoral organization, would recognize as legitimate.

For the only time in memory, electoral candidates are afraid to be seen in public and are forced to campaign from underground cells, with many afraid to even link their names to their faces in the media. There are no public rallies where voters might glean some information about candidates' positions. As one voter told CNN, he would prefer to vote for George Michael, since he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates running for office.

Those sages interminably repeating that the success of the election will be determined by the level of the turnout do not understand Iraq, or for that matter, elections...

It will come as no surprise that Lone, a high-level UN cadre, argues for the replacement of the bitterly unpopular US military with a multinational, UN-led force. The wisdom of this has to be doubted: the US is detested in Iraq, for sure, but it did not directly administer deadly sanctions on the country for 13 years, killing 500,000 children. Illegitimate as the US may be, it is hard to imagine a UN force having any greater claim to popular support. The bigger question - why the Iraqis must be continually denied self-determination - is left unaswered.

The Project for Defense Alternatives, meanwhile, has a lengthy document on the likely consequences of the current elections. (If you're pushed for time, an "executive summary" can be found here.) Its assesment is all-but identical to Lone's:

The balloting due to take place on 30 January will not fulfill the promise of democracy nor satisfy the Iraqi passion for self-determination. This, due to insecurity, voter confusion, secrecy, ad hoc and chaotic procedures, and the systematic favoritism afforded some candidates and parties over others. These problems attest to the fact that the US mission and the interim authorities it appointed have failed to create the necessary foundation for a democratic process. As a result, the balloting (and the government it produces) will not fairly represent the balance of interests and opinion in Iraqi society. Nor will it unite the country, quiet dissent, or channel dissent along avenues of peaceful political compromise.

Finally, here's a PDF containing the full list of candidates. Except, of course, where those candidates have requested not to have their names printed.

ASBOs and the "war on terror"

Thanks to Harry Hutton, taking a brief detour away from the usual drollery, this article was brought to my attention:

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is transforming Britain into a police state, one of the country's former leading anti-terrorist police chiefs said yesterday.

George Churchill-Coleman, who headed Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad as they worked to counter the IRA during their mainland attacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Mr Clarke's proposals to extend powers, such as indefinite house arrest, were "not practical" and threatened to further marginalise minority communities...

He added: "I have serious worries and concerns about these ideas on both ethical and practical terms. You cannot lock people up just because someone says they are terrorists. Internment didn't work in Northern Ireland, it won't work now. You need evidence."

Particularly cruel and unusual in Clarke's scheme is the way in which what is basically a freakishly overgrown Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) will be used to detain those who could not be held under criminal law. The humiliation - supposed international terrotist suspects threatened by measures more generally applied to fourteen year-old shoplifters.

There's a serious point in this flippancy. It's not the "police state" that should cause alarm, since the police (theoretically) need never be involved in the process. What should make us twitchy and nervous are the expanding range of quasi-legal tricks the government has discovered, and are applying more and more frequently.

At present, an ASBO is administered through a civil process by civil authorities. This might include a local council, who would make an application to a civil court for the Order. It will stipulate certain conditions that the individual receiving the Order must fulfil. Conventional common law standards of proof, access to legal defence, and so on, need not apply. If the terms of the ASBO are broken at any point, however, the individual will find themselves facing criminal proceedings: even if the act breaking the ASBO is itself not criminal.

Perhaps we can admire the Kafkaesque logic behind it all; but if anything like "police state" approaches in Britain, it will come through this unpleasant tangling of special civilian procedures with draconian powers.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Education (we don't get no)

Johann Hari's recent article on New Labour's closet socialism irked me a great deal. His claim that, "All the evidence suggests that there has been a significant redistribution of wealth under Blair" simply flies in the face of thorough, well-respected - and, frankly, widely-available - research that says precisely the opposite. Income inequality has not improved under Blair; wealth has become significantly more inequitably distributed; and relative poverty has worsened. Hari has now somewhat corrected his earlier claim, but has left untouched his major contention: that opportunities in education are now more justly distributed because of New Labour.

I'll leave higher education and tuition fees aside for the moment, since they are not the Hari's focus. Instead, he states that a massive programme of redistributive funding for schools has taken place under Labour, based on a study by John Atkins for the National Union of Teachers.

The most recent figures we have suggest that 10,000 pupils are "missing" from the education system. Mainly in years 10 and 11, these pupils "disappear" just as they are entering a period of decisive examinations, the GCSEs. Those most likely to disappear are those likely to do less well in their exams: bad for their future opportunities, but very convenient for schools looking to improve league tables.

These aren't necessarily exclusions, either, which have in any case started to increase, following some success in reducing numbers expelled. (The Insitute of Public Policy Research estimates there has been a 14% rise in permanent exclusions since 2000.) These "missing" students might be simply those caught between schools in the mess of the system, quietly non-attending, or persistent truants, the government having abandoned its original target to cut truancy rates.

Prof Tim Brighouse, of the Institute for Education, put it like this:

Competition between schools desperate to improve their league table positions has left thousands of children on the streets, a situation branded "Dickensian" by a senior government advisor yesterday.

The current system of allocating places is "inimical to fairness", said Professor Tim Brighouse, commissioner for London schools, as many secondaries are left with an unfair share of troubled and under-performing students - the sort of pupils that more successful schools are often reluctant to admit. Speaking at the start of the annual North of England education conference, held in Belfast, he said that schools should be allocated thousands of pounds in additional cash to help them cope with pupils who struggle with the basics.

Paul Cooper, of the University of Leicester's education department, compiled a report for Barnados as far back as 2001, "We Can Work It Out", showing a six-fold increase in the rate of exclusions following the introduction of the national curriculum and league tables in the previous decade. This wasn't due to a sudden outbreak of unruliness; this was precisely the result of the perverse incentives "competition" provides for schools. Those most adversely affected are, of course, those who need the most attention: those with "social, emotional and behavioural difficulties". The problem has been known about for years; yet, as we have seen, the government has done nothing to address it - quite the opposite: league tables, gimcrack nonsense like "foundation colleges", and "competition" more generally has all been positively encouraged.

This is the heart of the problem. The expectation of all these reforms is that they will allow more to be squeezed from a reduced investment. The Institute of Fiscal Studies journal, the imaginatively-named Fiscal Studies, published an article on British public investment in September 2002. Over the last thirty years, public investment expenditure has sharply declined as a share of national output, from 8.9% of GDP in 1975 to 1.7% now.

Education investment expenditure has declined from 0.7% of GDP in 1973, to 0.2% now. Most of this slump took place between 1973 and 1982, with Thatcher, Major and now Blair governments maintaining a consistently low public investment spend on education. What should unsettle particularly is this: the school-age population of Britain started declining after 1977, with the slide in investment following the slide in pupil numbers. It began climbing again in the early 1990s: yet investment continued at the same low level. In other words, investment per pupil has declined sharply: by 1999, the number of enrolled pupils had reached its 1970 level - 10.2 million. In 1970, the investment considered necessary to support these school students was 0.57%; by 1999, it was 0.19%.

Whatever small, very recent improvements there have been in funding, they will do very little to address that shortfall; moreover, they come attached to still further attempts to "reform" the education system along market lines. They do not work because it is impossible to run a public education system on the cheap.

"Leaked document confirms plans to restore Ba'ath-style dictatorship in Iraq"

Strange little bit of news at Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation:

According to an apparently genuine document, received by IDAO on Thursday, the US-appointed government of Ayyad Allawi is bent on restoring Baath-style dictatorship in Iraq.

Signed by General Taleb Al-Hamadani, 'overall coordinator for security matters' for Ayyad Allawi, and addressed to Allawi, he appears to comment on another discussion document circulated within the Ayyad Allawi government and suggesting full restoration of the Baath party in Iraq. While advocating caution to stem "international opposition" to such move, General Al-Hamadani nevertheless supports the return of leading Baathist to government and cites measures to ensure that "those belonging to other parties are excluded from military and security institutions", in effect advocating a dictatorship in Iraq.

The US seems to sponsor such moves, see for example IDAO article on the Salvador option, by which the US occupation authorities are happy to allow an election process that does not threaten their plans for Iraq but rather encourage it by providing legitimacy to the emergence of new dictatorship in Iraq on the model of other Arab states. Most indications are that the elections will be fixed to allow Ayyad Allawi, himself a leading Baathist in the past, to return to government, ensuring continued US hegemony on Iraq's oil and its politics.

When the 'elections' process is passed on Sunday without real change to the status quo, the focus will return for a time-table to end the occupation and the corruption it has brought with it, for security and real democracy to the Iraqi people. The extent to which those Iraqi forces interested in democracy and an end to the occupation, who certainly represent the majority of Iraqi people, can unit on a common program, will shape the future of Iraq and prevent dictatorship and the threat of civil war.

Camberwell: does not like occupation of Iraq

Having plugged it remorselessly (once), the Troops Out meeting down in Camberwell went extremely well: something over 200 in attendance, an excellent platform, and a debate afterwards centring on two upcoming elections: those in Iraq, and those in the UK. Galloway, and two Iraqi contributions from the floor dealt very effectively with the elections there: I had not realised how few ex-patriate Iraqis had registered to vote: something like 25% of the estimated possible electorate. It says much for the bloody, farcical proceedings in Iraq that so little enthusiasm can be mustered for elections amongst a selection of people certainly not overburdened by loyalty to the Ba'ath party.

Kate Hoey added something to proceedings, since not only do I suspect numbers of people turned up simply because a local MP was speaking, but because it added an immediacy of the question of who longstanding Labour supports should vote for. The Stop the War Coalition itself doesn't have a position, stating simply that people should vote for candidates who opposed the war, but that doesn't prevent a certain amount of grandstanding. The Greens, for all their fluffy image, are consistently the worst for this sort of trick: it seems to be accidental sectarianism, but demanding Labour MPs and Labour members leave the Party (as their candidate for the are did) wins them few favours. It's the extreme electoralism that produces it: if elections are the only things that really count, and Greens the only party really worth voting for, there's little reason to work alongside anyone else.

Respect's position is more subtle, and I think the right one to take. There's little point in asking anyone opposed to New Labour to vote against, say, Jeremy Corbyn, or Diane Abbot, or a sliver of other left-wing Labour MPs. (For my part, it looks like I will have to vote Labour for the first time in my life in the general election. Perverse, but what else can you do with a sitting Liberal Democrat MP?) There's certainly no point alienating potential support by making demands that first they break with Labour then we can properly oppose the war, tuition fees, foundation hospitals, cuts in incapacity benefit, council-house sell-offs, ASBOs, new road schemes, anti-terror legislation... etc. It seems fairly elementary that the question should be put the other way roud: first we work together on this issue or that, then we can talk about wider representation.

Final thought. Having stood on the door, badgering people for money, names and addresses, emails and so on, there's a distinct new layer of people wanting to get involved with all this. There were around 100 people who left contact details (hey - I'm good at badgering, ahem): that is to say, a very large portion of the audience had never been in organised contact with Stop the War before. Speaking to a few, the divide seemed to be a large group of those rather passively opposed to the war, now wanting to do more; and small bunch of those who supported the war, and were now seethingly angry about it. This makes me quietly optimistic, if we can maintain the momentum, for the national demonstration on March 19th.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Swedish dirty bum sex"

You read it over here first. (Am simply following sound advice with the title.)

Quick plug, has to be done. If you're in South London tomorrow evening, it'll be a good event to get yourself to:

Lambeth and Southwark, January 27
Kate Hoey MP (Labour Against the War), George Galloway MP, Andrew Murray (Stop the War Coalition), chair John Rogers (UNISON). St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street

Wild delusions of grandeur

Now this is why people start blogging.

DML briefly tweaked Harry's Place's collective noses last week about their complete failure to mention the single biggest story in the British press at the time. Though the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British troops involves at least two of HP's favourite things - Iraq, and occupying soldiers - for some reason or other the antics of a minor football club was deemed of greater importance. Seems Harry himself is a regular reader, though:

According to that handful of aggressively student Stopperblogs, which few people seem to bother reading (and which I don't link to) [I like his embarrassed furtiveness here; it makes me feel very dirty], if I fail to comment on an issue it must mean I don't think it is important at all.

...I want to add more guest posts and I repeat my invitation to all readers - if you would like to write an essay, an analysis, or even a short commentary on an issue, feel free to get in touch with your idea and we can discuss giving you some space here.

Obviously the primary aim is to give an opportunity for those on the dissenting, democratic left a chance to expand debate but each proposal will be judged on its merits.

Result. He wants suggestions - so what are you waiting for? And remember, "Liberty, if it means anything..." (Ta very much to Kate, whose blog will be added at some point to the blogroll, along with all the others I ought to have added some time ago.)

But wait, dear reader, come back, it gets better. A mere two days after speculating about the length of time the government was taking to act on freeing illegally-detained prisoners held in British gaols, this happens:

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is expected to announce today that he will accept the law lords' ruling that the indefinite detention without trial of 12 terror suspects in Britain breaches human rights laws.

The ruling, which came just before Christmas, struck at the heart of the emergency anti-terror legislation passed in the aftermath of September 11 by the former home secretary, David Blunkett.

Mr Clarke is expected to outline to the Commons today his proposals to amend the legislation to meet the human rights concerns raised by the House of Lords. He is likely to propose a new civil order, similar to an anti-social behaviour order.

Now, I know what you're thinking. When members of the most senior court in the country start saying things like

The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws like these. may form the opinion that a serious legal problem has emerged which might have slightly more sway over the Home Secretary than a hastily-written note on a blog with a limited (but, as we have seen, certainly rather select) readership. You may also be thinking 1. this sort of thing is far too serious for studentesque self-indulgence on this scale and 2. providing the Secretary of State with hugely increased powers of house arrest, without recourse to the courts, is hardly a great improvement in matters.

Pfft, I say. Luddites be damned. Welcome to the future of politics.

ICA debate: further proof of why voting Liberal Democrat is such a bad idea

Went to the ICA. Len's got a report here, saving me the effort.

Instead, I thought I'd bang on about the Lib Dems. Floating out there somewhere is the happy idea that this lot are a happy, fluffy bunch of tofu-munching lefties that all those disillusioned with Blair can go and fling their votes at. (Taxloss has been considering just that over here.) The Lib Dem's claim to the Left's affections, as far as I can tell, boils down to their opposition to the war on Iraq.

The only problem being, really, that they didn't oppose the war on Iraq. Like a man claiming to be a vegetarian between meals, they supported it once it had started; which is to say, they supported it when it really mattered.

To recap: The Liberal Democrats supported the invasion of Iraq.

Just so this is clear. But the whole charade is carried on a little bit further. People may remember the fuss that greeted the publication of an overgrown pamphlet, the "Orange Book", containing the distilled political wisdom of eight years' worth of concerted Lib Demmery. Disturbingly, it revealed our fluffy sandals-wearers to be sub-Thatcherite free-marketers: promoting a nineteenth century vision of liberalism, covered up with the twenty-first century flannel of "choice" and "lifestyles".

Now, this caused some embarrassment at the time. Critical to the Lib Dems' triangulation strategy is not appearing to be too right-wing at any one time. Ha ha ha, it could be said, we're just bouncing some ideas around, y'know?

Yet look at what might be called the party's Bright Young Things. Ben Ramm, editor of The Liberal who so roused Lenin's ire at the ICA debate, spent his entire contribution frenetically distancing himself from any idea that the Lib Dems were anything other neoliberal managers par excellence: incredibly, out of the entire platform, this "progressive" representative from a "progressive" party sounded closest to the Institute of Ideas-style fruitcake merchant, Brendan O'Neill, who apparently runs a website inbetween denouncing the vote and pretending global warming doesn't happen. O'Neill's argument, in sum: votes don't matter because we have the market. Ramm's argument, in sum: votes only matter where we don't have markets.

More seriously: read this letter from Charles Kennedy, no less, in this morning's Guardian. Read it carefully, and bear in mind that Lib Dems have formed "anti-Labour" coalitions with Tories in local councils up and down the land: Birmingham, Leeds - in Burnley, they even used the BNP to bring down the Labour council:

Labour would find the Liberal Democrats enthusiastic participants in any discussion about reforming our unfair voting system. That debate could begin now and we would support it.

But I will repeat, yet again, for the benefit of your correspondent (Letters, January 24) that if there is a hung parliament after the next election - an unusual outcome - it would mean that Labour had squandered a three-figure majority. That would represent a huge loss of confidence in a Blair administration. In such circumstances, we in the Liberal Democrats would let ourselves down if we were to chase deals for partisan advantage.

As for the politics of Leeds city council (also Letters, January 24), since the Lib Dems took over six months ago, we have achieved a good Ofsted report (which follows "intervention" after Labour's poor rating) and we have already increased the number of police support officers.

That's immediate progress in education and fighting crime. It just shows the improvements you get with the Liberal Democrats in power.
Charles Kennedy
Leader, Liberal Democrats

No support for Labour then, but.... vote Liberal Democrat, get Conservative?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Three years


The last four British men held as terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay are on their way back to the UK, after almost three years in US custody...

BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said it was expected the men would be arrested by police and questioned when they arrive back in the UK.

It is understood police already had "lengthy dossiers" on each of the men compiled by agents from the UK's security service MI5 who had visited the men nine times at Guantanamo, he said.

He said some of the alleged evidence "may well have been obtained in circumstances not acceptable in courts here, perhaps under duress or perhaps from the battlefields in Afghanistan and so on".

Washington has alleged that all four men trained at camps run by al-Qaeda.

"...may well have been obtained in circumstances not acceptable in courts here..." is particularly fine. The courts, of late, have been showing what in these dangerous times must be an ill-placed concern for basic freedoms like the right to a fair trial. The government hasn't quite made clear yet how long it intends to illegally detain prisoners without trial; nor does it show much inclination to drop the ludicrous deportation attempt against Babar Ahmad. (See Stop Political Terror for more on his campaign. I say "ludicrous": this innocent man is facing indefinite detention in the US, quite probably in Guantanamo Bay.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The horrible truth descends

Johann Hari has realised what an almighty damn great horrid stinking foul-up we've made of Iraq. The pro-war "left" barely exists outside a division of the myopic and parochial British "political class", a felicitious phrase of Italian origin to sum up the self-selecting clique who do proper politics: MPs and journalists at one end, a sliver of the Sunday newspaper readership at the other. But its prominence in the assorted media has always marked it out, with Johann himself amongst its noisier members. To now have one of the pro-war "left's" leading lights so bluntly proclaim his apostasy indicates how extraordinarily tenuous the position has become; as Lenin points out, Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch have continued with their pro-war Laurel and Hardy act, from which a certain amusement can be squeezed, if little else. Credit, once more, to Johann for his comparative honesty here.

I raise this because Johann's speaking at the Institute of Contemporary Arts tomorrow evening. (I'm going, Lenin's going, Mr Staines may put in an appearance - 7pm onwards) He'll be presenting the case for voting Labour, in opposition to - amongst others - China Mieville, improbable sci-fi author and the "sexiest man in British politics" (Evening Standard, c. April 2001), who'll be speaking for Respect. Given that Johann will presumably not list the dawning of a new era of peace and freedom in the Middle East amongst his reasons to vote Labour, I suspect he'll make a great play of the government's supposed achievements on bread-and-butter Labour issues: redressing fundamental inequalities, tackling poverty, improving social mobility - that sort of thing.

As a few recent posts at DML have indicated, the government's record here is actually pretty dire, with few exceptions; but in the absence of any better reasons to vote Labour, I strongly suspect this very thin material will be stretched and stretched again before this year's general election by those trying to cover New Labour's failing of the most basic standards of progressive government.

Friday, January 21, 2005

"Unremittingly New Labour..."

...says Blair. Oh, jolly good:

However the study, carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found working adults without children had been left behind by Gordon Brown's tax and benefit reforms.

Although many people have gained from rising living standards and falling unemployment, large numbers depend on benefits whose value has been frozen.

The proportion of households below three-fifths of national average earnings - the official poverty line - rose from 12 per cent to 13 per cent from 1997 to 2003.

Bottom, disappearing up one's own*

Good to see one small outpost of the British media keeping things in perspective. When even The Sun loses its bearings and splashes the "our boys" abuse story over five pages, I'm so glad the wannabe neo-cons at Harry's Place can keep us focused on the issues that really matter. No point cluttering up a political blogsite with the big political stories, is there?

[*] The discerning reader will appreciate the somewhat self-referential aspects of this title.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Holiday snaps: more "friends" of Iraq, pt.2

What's surprising about the photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis is not their existence, but the fact they've taken so long to emerge. (Presumably assorted legal obstacles placed by the army delayed court proceedings somewhat.) Around the time of the Mirror fake photographs, the Independent despatched a reporter to Accrington, home of the Queens Lancashire Regiment, and found evidence for the widespread circulation of "atrocity" photographs amongst troops back from Iraq:

In Accrington, the town where the regiment implicated is based, the reaction of old soldiers, saddened by what they had seen, was that they were genuine. Some of those who heard rogue squaddies bragging in the Accrington working men's club about the treatment they had dished out to Iraqi prisoners did not like what they were listening to.

Some of the younger ones seemed to think that tales of bullying and torture were a good laugh. Veterans of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the cold war found it stomach-turning.

"I told their ringleader it was unspeakable. Absolutely out of order," said Anthony "Sam" Quinn, 35, a former grenadier guardsman who served in Northern Ireland and Berlin. He added: "They were sitting round practising their Iraqi phrases. They showed us the pictures. It caused big trouble. One of them said: 'Don't get them out in here.'"

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

More "friends" of Iraq

Three British soldiers carried out "shocking and appalling" physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners that was photographed by servicemen, a court martial heard today...

Among the disturbing images was a picture of two naked Iraqi men simulating anal sex with their thumbs raised up to the cameras. There was also a close-up picture of two Iraqis simulating oral sex.

In other images, detainees are bound and apparently been assaulted by British troops.

Story here.

Not exactly Robin Hood: New Labour and rising income inequality

Continuing a theme, a few brave souls are prepared to trumpet New Labour's underlying commitment to "social justice". Except...

Poverty among childless adults of working age has grown to record levels since Tony Blair came to power in 1997, according to an independent analysis of Labour's performance by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation...

The proportion of households below three-fifths of national average earnings - the official poverty line - rose from 12% to 13% from 1997 to 2003, higher than under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

To which we might also throw in (amongst so much else) that John Hills' latest research finds the gap between the richest and the poorest to have grown between the last year of the Tory government until 2003. To Blair's utter discredit, a combination of a recession and high government spending ensured that income inequality was actually reduced under Major's Conservative administration.

This ought to unsettle the never-mind-Iraq crowd: how can a government professing any concern for social justice have been less redistributive than John Major?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Blair: a "radical, reforming" government in an exceptionally cunning disguise

Briefly. Apropos the "never mind Iraq - look at the happy paupers" line sections of the pro-Labour liberal media are pushing, I've been reading The Labour Market Under New Labour: the state of working Britain (as edited by Richard Dickens, Paul Gregg and Jonathan Wadsworth). It's a collection of articles from assorted academics and researchers on a scattering of different aspects of life under Blair. In its own quiet way, it's rather explosive. Compare, for example, the government's own claims on the success of its New Deal for Young People scheme, intended to reduced long-term unemployment by providing training and subsidised work:

More than 375,000 long-term unemployed 18-24 year olds have found jobs through NDYP [New Deal for Young People]...

Sounds good, doesn't it? Except... some of this impressive number would have found work, anyway, with or without the New Deal. Unemployment has been falling for 18-24 year olds since 1994. A group of researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in their chapter on the New Deal, provide a rather different estimate of the scheme's impact. Stripping away all those who could have found work regardless, they reckon that just 17,000 new jobs were created by the NDYP. (Blundell et al. in "The Labour Market...", p.27)

"Three-hundred and seventy-five thousand", say the government. "Seventeen thousand," say the independent researchers. Over the four years they evaluate, 1998-2002, the New Deal for Young People cost £394m to administer, over and above the benefits paid in the scheme, or over £23,000 per job created.

Spin spin spin spin spin.

Class. (I think. It's quite late. My judgement may be clouded.)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hobsbawm's (partial) defence of history

The Guardian yesterday reprinted an extract from Eric Hobsbawm's speech to the British Academy colloqium on Marxist historiography. (I'm told it was a great success, with large numbers being turned away for lack of space: further evidence of Marxism's intellectual revival, perhaps.) It deserves a more thorough comment than I'm providing here, but, whilst Hobsbawm's essential theme is entirely correct - that the writing of history should be treated as a process of rational inquiry - his second is more difficult:

Not the least of the problems for which the perspective of history as interaction is essential, is one that is crucial for the understanding of the historic evolution of homo sapiens. It is the conflict between the forces making for the transformation of homo sapiens from neolithic to nuclear humanity and the forces whose aim is the maintenance of unchanging reproduction and stability in human social environments. For most of history, the forces inhibiting change have usually effectively counteracted open-ended change.

Today this balance has been decisively tilted in one direction. And the disequilibrium is almost certainly beyond the ability of human social and political institutions to control. Perhaps Marxist historians, who have had occasion to reflect on the unintended and unwanted consequences of human collective projects in the 20th century, can at least help us understand how this came about.

It is odd to assert the past is rationally intelligible, but the present remains beyond our comprehension and "certainly beyond our... ability to control". This is to accept more than half of the irrationalist argument Hobsbawm is otherwise at pains to attack.


The muffled sound of Fischerspooner's #1 being played in its entirety[*] in the flat upstairs has lead me into compiling a late entry for Norm's rock n pop best of poll. I'm deeply distrustful of these online lists - they same to combine the blogger's two worst faults of rampant narcissism and a taste for cloying imitation. Since this one comes with the Normblog seal of approval, however, I suppose it's ok to indulge. (NB: I find it's best to assume the Normblog seal of approval extends only as far as music and other fripperies, lest you end up accidently supporting the invasion of Iraq or Liam Byrne or whatever.) Non-definitively, off the top of my head, without looking at my music collection, and in no particular order:

1. Like A Prayer - Madonna
2. I Wanna Be Your Dog - The Stooges
[hey! two pervy entries for starters! hoopla!]
3. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo - Pere Ubu
4. Shed Some Skin - Slow Gherkin
5. Push It - Salt and Pepa
6. My Love Lies Limp - ATV
7. Olio - The Rapture
[Can't recommend The Rapture highly enough. Never had the recognition they deserve.]
8. Set You Free - N-Trance [the greatest song of the 1990s, by some distance]
9. Another Girl Another Planet - The Only Ones
10. Hurt - Johnny Cash version

Hm. It'll do. (Why no early Violent Femmes?) Probably best not to examine the peculiar train of thought involved here. On a vaguely related theme, is "This Is Hardcore" the bestest Pulp album ever, or what? Eh? Eh?

[*] Anyone remember Fischerspooner? The only really decent tracks on #1 - the only recent decent things they have ever done, I suspect - are "Emerge" and that bonus track about coprophillia. I'm faintly impressed that anyone can be bothered rattling through the whole thing.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

There is a god (possibly)

Hurrah for the weekend, I say. This has undoubtedly put me in a better frame of mind.

Chart-topping pop band Busted have confirmed that they plan to "take a break", following rumours that they were on the verge of splitting.

A statement from the band's record company Universal said frontman Charlie Simpson planned to spend some time working with his other band, Fightstar.

Hah! The nasty little jumped up Tory squits should be all but forgetten in a month's time. Fingers crossed, readers. (Bet you they went to "native and colonial" parties, too. Which one would have picked the Africa Corps uniform, I wonder?)

NB: Not winning any prizes for speedy blogging at the moment. Will clear the backlog of old news by Monday, with any luck.

He's not a Nazi, he's pig-ignorant overprivileged pile of shit

It's quite possible to be both, of course.

What I hadn't realised is that Harry Windsor had settled on his costume choice for a "natives and colonials" party.

Prince William appeared in a leopard outfit with black leggings... Others donned cowboy boots or stuck feathers in their hair as American indians or swirled a kaffiyeh round their heads.

What are these people on?

And does William Windsor's choice of "native" costume mean he is the more progressive of the two? "Progressive" is a relative term, obviously. In the event of a fascist coup, will we be forced to support William against his alleged half-brother? (Sod that - I'm with the Partisans on this one.)

The other thing that struck me was: how on earth did Windsor track down a Nazi uniform, anyway? But it looks like I've been hanging around the wrong sort of fancy-dress shops:

At Angels Costume Hire in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, staff said colonial parties tended to be popular only among society types. "The Nazi uniform is a frequently-requested costume," said Emma Angel, the shop manager.

At the Party Superstore on Lavender Hill, London, a Nazi costume can be hired for £49; it is a popular choice.

"People dress up as Nazis all the time for various reasons," said Duncan Mundell, the owner, who had some sympathy for Prince Harry. "The poor guy. He's just gone out to a fancy dress party without thinking," he said.

Erm, whoops.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Finally... Third Avenue is back and blogging in New York. Go look.

Publicity has arrived for this meeting. Am very pleased with it:

End the occupation of Iraq

Kate Hoey MP (Labour Against the War)
George Galloway MP (Respect)
Andrew Murray (Stop the War Coalition)
chair: John Rogers (Lambeth UNISON, pc).

St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street
7pm, Thursday 27 January

Details of other Stop the War events here.

Complete and utter lack of surprise

Member of royal family in Nazi costumes shock. Mr Staines has a word or two. I'm told that the Queen Mother was pelted with stones and pennies when she toured London's East End during WW2, forcing her to cut short a programme of visits. The Nazi sympathies of herself and her family combined with their evident contempt for the sufferings of ordinary Londoners during the Blitz to render the entire sociopathic gang rather less than popular. (Right in the heart of the East End, Stepney Green elected a Communist MP, Phil Piratin, in the first post-war election.)


Hoo boy! Interblogging rivalry extravanganza ahoy!

Marcus of Harry's Place has previously merited comparison on these pages to the pseudonymous author of a 19th century pamphlet advocating infanticide to cure unemployment. (It seems to have irritated him ever since, for some reason.) This early "Marcus" has been surpassed by his 21st century desecendant, however, who mixes an extraordinary, irrational support for the deaths of 100,000 people with a nice turn in removals from context.

In a comment on Lenin's page, one reader had mentioned his general unhappiness with the formulation "by any means necessary", as supported by Trevor Phillips (no less). I suggested that

It's been said before, but I don't think there's anything wrong with the "by any means necessary" formulation: "necessary means" clearly does not include the murder of trade unionists; this will do nothing to liberate Iraq.

I say that as one member of the Stop the War Coalition. Clearly, others in the Coalition will disagree with that, for all sorts of reasons. That's fine by me. For the Coalition to work at all, as Robin says, all kinds of compromises have to be made.

"That" refers to the entire formula "any means necessary", as is clear enough from the preceding comments. There are some people in the Coalition opposed to all violence. It is an understandable position, and one with which I think many people have an innate sympathy. It thoroughly deserves representation within StWC. Hence "compromise".

But, bless his socks, Marcus has become sufficiently excited about one comment of mine posted on a website he presumably detests to construct a delirious fantasy around it. "Flattering... but not a little creepy," as he may have said elsewhere, of some other issue.

(I wonder if now is a good point to mention weapons of mass destruction?)

Thursday, January 13, 2005


This one could run and run. A shower of pro-war apologists are currently attempting to hide their support for 100,000 deaths behind the murder of an Iraqi trade unionist. With the invasion and occupation of Iraq more unpopular than ever, a fairly concerted effort is being mounted to smear the leading anti-war organisation in the UK, the Stop the War Coalition.

Following the murder of Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), Nick Cohen and Johann Hari (aided and abetted by their blogging sidekicks) penned disgraceful attacks on the Coalition for the national press. Both were based on the lie - the absolute, flat-out lie - that the Coalition supports civilian deaths and urges the resistance on by "any means necessary". I dealt with the slander here; Lenin adds more to the story here and here.

Hari has now attempted a response to some of his critics. Credit to him for trying. It's worth noting for his back-handed repetition of the lie that the SWP disrupted a meeting at the ESF at which Sabhi Mashadani, IFTU's London representative, was attempting to speak.

Rubbish, Johann, plain and simple.

I've posted my account of the meeting here; but more importantly, SWP member and Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German stood in front of a crowd of some 2,000, berating the (tiny) disruptive element and insisting that Mashadani be allowed to speak. The most elementary investigation would have uncovered this. Hari admits that "he does not know" what Lindsey German did during the meeting, though quite why in this context he felt her actions to merit so little attention, I cannot say.

"Labour Friends of Iraq" continue their own disinformation campaign, claiming that Andrew Murray's unambiguous condemnation of Salih's death on behalf of the Coalition is

the only comment from StWC leaders on the murders - one line, in one post, on one blog, while writing about another topic - ‘We condemn this killing and its perpetrators, whoever they are.'

The "topic" being discussed was that of Hari's initial op-ed piece: Salih's murder. Exactly the same "topic", then. The Independent, for its own reasons, chose not to print Murray's letter; it has, however, been available on the Stop the War Coalition website since at least Tuesday evening - Tuesday, 11 January. It is highlighted on the website's front page. "Labour Friends of Iraq" posted their lurid claims about the Stop the War Coalition on Tuesday, 11 January.

An apology is unlikely, but they might have the political decency to fully acknowledge the Coalition's statement.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Good news:

The four remaining Britons held at Guantánamo Bay are to be released within the "next few weeks", foreign secretary Jack Straw announced today.
The imminent release of Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar comes after months of what Mr Straw told the House of Commons had been "intense and complex" discussions with the American government over US security concerns.

Just as long as they don't replace these four with this man. The campaign to free Babar Ahmed, wrongfully held pending possible deportation to the US is, slowly but surely, starting to gather momentum. A small example: the otherwise notoriously right-wing Students' Union at Imperial College, where Ahmed was previously a student, have vowed their support.

Imperial College Union has resolved to actively support the ‘Free Babar Ahmad’ campaign.

Mr Ahmad, a former student and staff member at Imperial College, was arrested in December 2003 under the Terrorism Act and subsequently released without charge. He was rearrested in August this year on allegations of involvement in acts of terrorism and is currently awaiting extradition to the United States. His case is due to be reviewed in the near future.

Mr Ahmad’s supporters believe that he was abused by police while in custody, his human rights may be under threat if he is extradited, and he should be given a fair trial in the UK.

Every union branch out there should do something similar. (Pleasing, as an aside, to see my old colleague, Colin Smith, getting the motion passed in, and getting chucked out of the same union meeting.)

"With friends like these..." (predictably)

It is a shame, shortly after his insightful article on the Asian tsunami, that Johann Hari has flollopped straight back into the gutter. (I should have seen this coming: Hari's article was merely a teaser for Blair's subsequent conversion to Bonoite messianism: only the Great White Man, or possibly his Great White Chancellor, can save Africa now. Not that Hari has any particular insight on Blair's thinking; he's just showing his usual propensity to, as Deep Throat put it, "follow the money".)

A few days after the murder of Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions, Hari opined thus:

The Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution recently saying the resistance should use 'any means necessary' - which prompted Mick Rix, a decent trade unionist, to resign from the STWC on the grounds that this clearly constituted support for the murder of civilians.

During a lucid moment at the end of a barely comprehensible article, Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer, made an identical claim:

The Stop the War Coalition, which organised one million people to march through the streets of London, told the kidnappers and torturers from the Baath Party and al-Qaeda that the anti-war movement 'recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary'.

Should we go through this slowly? The Stop the War Coalition did not tell "kidnappers" any such thing. The actual text of the public statement, made concerning IFTU's intervention at the Labour Party conference last year, is here. It does not contain the phrase "by any means necessary".

The Stop the War Coalition is called a "Coalition", because it is a coalition: any organisation aiming to represent Quaker pacifists, Labour-voting Muslims and Trotskyist revolutionaries does not have much choice but to be careful in its public statements and political opinions. Its current campaign - troops out of Iraq - is deliberately left as broad as possible.

Repeatedly, the Coalition has condemned civilian deaths, whether of the British hostage Ken Bigley, or in this case of Hadi Salih. Andrew Murray, chair of the Coalition, wrote to the Independent the following day:

Johann Hari falsifies the position of the Stop the War Coalition in relation to the recent brutal murder of Hadi Salih. We condemn this killing and its perpetrators, whoever they are. The Coalition has never adopted a resolution or issued a statement as outlined by Mr Hari, and we have repeatedly denounced the murder of civilians. Also, we did our best to ensure that the Iraqi trade union speaker invited to the European Social Forum was able to be heard, and publicly criticised those who disrupted his meeting.

Mysteriously, the Independent chose not to print the letter. Perhaps this would explain the confusion of an organisation calling itself "Labour Friends of Iraq", who, in near-hysterical tone, have more directly claimed the Coalition's responsibility for Salih's murder. Whilst their concern for the death of an Iraqi trade unionist is affecting, one may wonder how many Iraq trade unionists are amongst the 100,000 excess deaths the invasion brought about: perhaps a clear statement, condemning this mass murder, would be in order. As Murray says in his conclusion:

We differ from Hari in two respects. Firstly, we condemn all civilian deaths in Iraq, including those tens of thousands which are the responsibility of the occupying forces he supports. And we recognise the right of Iraqis to resist that unlawful occupation, which is at the root of violence in Iraq and is the consequence of the war which Hari promoted. It is time those liked him faced up to their own responsibility for the situation in Iraq, rather than smearing the millions who marched for peace with the Stop the War Coalition.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Oh, and another thing...

The Iraqi elections will not elect a government for Iraq. An election in which you can't change the government is not democracy. Just ask this man.

Jumping happily on board a runaway bandwagon

Just what is going on? As if living up to Grauniad reader stereotypes, numerous of m'blogging colleagues (this man and this man and even this man amongst them) have decided that Celebrity Big Brother is where it's at for opinionmonging, rubbing up against the proles for their own bit of slumming-it liberal jouissance.

The most shocking thing about this series of Big Brother, by the way, isn't Germaine Greer - of course not; it's the fact it seems about two weeks since Bubbles or Gimpboy or Nadalene or whoever won the last series. We're rapidly moving towards a 24-hr Big Brother society: in a hideous parody of Orwell, Channel 4 will get so desperate for new contestants that they'll take to running press-gangs, shackling hapless victims into the house for their own compulsory 15 minutes of fame with John McCirrick.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Kenan Malik: missing Islamophobia

Found via new(ish) blog, The Importance of Disappointment, Kenan Malik, writing in the Guardian yesterday, claims that Islamophobia is exaggerated "to stifle criticism of Islam":

Everyone from anti-racist activists to government ministers wants us to believe that Britain is in the grip of Islamophobia - a morbid fear and hatred of Islam and of Muslims. Former Home Office minister John Denham has warned of the "cancer of Islamophobia" infecting the nation. The veteran anti-racist Richard Stone, a consultant to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, suggests that Islamophobia is "a challenge to us all". The director of public prosecutions has worried that the war on terror is "alienating whole communities" in this country.

Malik rattles out a few statistics to attempt a demonstration that, to the contrary, British Muslims may walk the streets with only a little "minor... shoving and spitting" to worry about. Malik further claims that racism now is nowhere near is bad as it was in the '70s '80s. Now, I don't dispute that 30-odd years of anti-racist campaigns and a reasonably concerted political effort have made Britain less overtly racist than the society which British Asians found themselves growing up in. I disagree, however, with Malik's implicit claim that this direct and often physical abuse is the only form of racism that matters. The critical point hinges on the blurred distinction modern Islamophobia makes between being a Muslim and merely "looking like" a Muslim. It functions in what is often a far more sinister fashion than the blunt, irrational hatred of simple difference.

Malik inadvertently makes the point himself: quoting the author of the EU's report on public racism following 9/11, he writes that Islamophobia "manifested itself in quite basic and low-level ways." It is not the overt harrassment, nor the obvious use of anti-terror laws, that constitute the driving force of Islamophobia. It is not the ability of racist boneheads to single out (real or imagined) "Muslims" for abuse that push the process of marginalisation onwards. Alarmingly, modern Islamophobia is a political inclination, making definite claims about the structure of the world and Muslims' place in it: it is Islam as such that is the focus.

For this reason, amongst others, David Aaronovitch was quite correct to compare Islamophobia in the West to the classic form of antisemitism: not simply the hatred of the Other for being "different", but hatred of them for their supposed power, or their political machinations, or whatever other sinister importance they hold. Based on a deep ignorance of the faith itself, this tendency has become disturbingly well-settled under guise of the "war on terror": the idea that, unless carefully controlled, Muslims constitute an insidious fifth column of wannabe suicide bombers and theocrats. The vile Will Cummins was allowed space in a national newspaper to state these unexamined assumptions a little too directly; Cummings described the outer limits of a widely-held worldview, generally laid out with rather less vehemence. It is the Clash of Civilisations made flesh. (For my own part, it has been particular unsettling to sections of the presumed Left indulge in the same rhetoric should British Muslims show inclinations not to, for example, vote Labour as they ought.) It means the struggle against Islamophobia is necessarily more politicised, forced immediately to deal with the political questions raised by the "war on terror", in a way that long-standing liberal appeals solely to "tolerance" cannot deal with.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Samuel Smiles would be proud: death to welfare

Direland has a short post on the "insidious" use by the Bush administration of the tsunami as "downsizing propaganda". Doug writes:

The Bush 1/Clinton tandem brought to stand at Dubya's side as bi-partisan cover [for government-led charity initiatives] actually represents part of the Republicans' continuing offensive to down-size government by shunting its proper functions to private sector groups. This notion is the exact opposite of the concept of government developed in the civilized Western democracies over the last century and a quarter--to be the collective instrument by which one does for people what they cannot alone do for themselves. And even Dubya's having humped up the official figure for U.S. Tsunami aid to $350 milllion, after charges of stingyness left an omelette on his face, still reflects a horrendously embarrassing chintzyness and meanness of spirit on the part of the world's only hyperpower.

There's been a few references, regarding US "stinginess", to the propensity of the poorer US states to donate more per capita to charity. It's often made alongside the observation that the red states are apparently more generous than the blue. It's getting rather late, but a swift glance down the statistics here suggests that the blue states express their "generosity" through the tax system, being frequent net benefactors to the total tax take. We might think we are looking at differences in attitudes, with Republicans prefering virtuous private donations to meddlesome big government; except that those same Republican states are more often net beneficiaries of state handouts. No distaste for public funds here. This opens the intriguing possibility that poorer, Republican-dominated states are having to rely on private donations in the absence of effective public provision: not "generosity", as such, but the nineteenth century necessity of self-help reasserting itself.

Alas, it is now late - horribly late - and I've not quite got the time to follow this up properly. If anybody can fill in the gaps, I'd be glad to hear.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Forgot Histologion previously. Tsk.

Newness and spangliness.

In a hurry, so here are some things other people write:

bogol: a regular at Harry Hutton's house of whimsy - from whom I've nabbed the link - HA HA HA has bowed to popular demand and started a blog. It is quite splendid and you will laugh. Or stare in bewilderment.

Ajeeb: "the stranger side of life...", apparently.

At Any Street Corner who is charitably forgiven the Camus quote. No, it's good. Really.

Semitism, "pro-Jewish, pro-Arab, pro-peace". Can't say fairer than that.

Via Scarecrow, I found Hackney Lookout, which could be used as a handy guide to London's most-unjustly maligned borough. ("Could be," notice.)

Not sure if I've mentioned it already, but Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar should repay a visit.

Adding a few links can take up an improbable amount of time. Grrr.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Back in London. Also in London (well, just about) is Mark Elf, whose blog I haven't plugged for some time. (He's really got the hang of this short, pithy posting business. How I envy him.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Kyoto and development

Johann Hari, somewhat improbably, has reprinted a sharp piece on his website concerning climate change. It is, as one of his visitors says, one of the few recent articles on the environment that has explicitly referred to the inequitable distribution of environmental destruction. This isn't a matter of geography: that some countries sit on fault-lines, or that some are marginally above sea-level. This is about how the global economy has distributed its wealth. Hari puts it like this:

The best-known solution is woefully inadequate. The Kyoto Treaty promises a real cut in the world's carbon emissions of just 2 per cent within a decade. The Royal Commission on Environmental Protection found that, in fact, a 60 per cent reduction by 2050 is necessary if we are to seriously reduce the dangers of climate change.

Yet even Kyoto's paltry step in the right direction has been rejected by the SUV-stuffed United States, which pumps out 25 per cent of the world's carbon emissions despite having only 4 per cent of the world's population. Some brave campaigners are taking legal steps to try to force the US to take responsibility. The Inuit - facing the melting of their Arctic environment - are considering lawsuits against major US polluters, as are the people of Tuvalu.

The major industrialised countries, led by the US, contribute very significantly to the factors causing climate change, out of all proportion to their population sizes. The most serious effects of global warming, however, are likely to be distributed amongst those who have contributed least: the less developed world. The economic security of the industrialised North has been bought, thus far, at the expense of the environment. This economic security, in turn, allows those nations to insulate themselves against the worst effects of their environmental depredations. To him that hath, shall be given: the same law that governs the global economy applies here as elsewhere.

The thorny problem, however, is that - as this commentator says - the North cannot legitimately ask the South to forgo economic development: to enforce their poverty as the price of our consumption. Ross Clark continues, though:

Contrary to the many fatalistic leading articles and columns written last week, which marvelled at the awesome power of Nature and encouraged us to believe that we are entirely at her mercy, there is something countries can do to improve their chances of surviving natural disasters: namely to do everything they can to achieve prosperity and the true security that comes with it. A fully industri‐alised Indonesia would have had a transport system capable of getting help to the required areas. It would also have been able to react to the earthquake alerts which were issued by US seismologists hours before the disaster. At the very least it would have had a network of refrigerated mortuaries to cope with the bodies of victims without leaving them to putrefy on the beaches.

It would be fatuous to make these points were it not for the fact that the world's strategy for averting natural disasters increasingly revolves around a policy of stunting the processes of industrialisation. For the past 15 years the governments of most developed nations and most international development agencies have been preoccupied with one threat: that of steadily rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Poor old Kyoto. Clark's unfortunate blindness, however, is to assume that the path of development followed in the North is the sole route to prosperity. This is a very old-fashioned view of national development, in which individual economies, through their own efforts, can pull themselves up to the big league. Walt Rostow, later an advisor to Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War, wrote in the early 1960s of the necessary "stages of economic growth" that all economies were fated to follow. Aleksander Gerschenkron most clearly stated the opposing case that the conditions of initial development can vary wildly; more recent work on the development has stressed how paths of economic growth can be quite divergent. Much of this has concentrated on the small-scale effects of institutions like the Grameen Bank, and the effective mobilisation of local resources - even within individual villages.

These initiatives collapse, however, when overwhelmed by catastrophic events like the Asian tsunami. To put in one good word for Kyoto: amongst all its serious and probably crippling inadequacies, at the treaty's heart is the correct recognition that the natural environment can only be effectively managed on as large a scale as possible. Where the Kyoto agreement falls apart most decisively is in its attempts to overcome the competitive anarchy of global capitalism, through a (too) ingenious pollution trading scheme that theoretically attempts to provide market-based incentives towards emissions reduction. Without effective enforcement mechanisms, and without critical major economies participating in the scheme, it will prove difficult for Kyoto to meet even its minimal targets.

Any long-term solution to climate change has to include both a credible global body able to enforce its wishes, establishing strict targets and ensuring compliance; but it must, in turn, be a comprehensively democratic organisation, as the only sure route to meet the concerns of the less-developed nations. For the immediate future, the various noises from Blair, ahead of the G8 summit, on the environment and global poverty have to be matched by credible action: both to cancel remaining Third World debts, and to act - unilaterally, if necessary - on domestic carbon emissions. It is a tribute to the strength of the anticapitalist movement that it has forced both these issues into the public domain, and tied them together so comprehensively: as we have tragically seen over the last few weeks, without major public compulsion governments in the North have little incentive to act effectively.