Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rebranding the Tories

John Corner

Professor of Communication Studies, Leeds University,
Managing Editor of Media, Culture & Society

6.30 – 8.00 pm (note slightly later start than usual)
27th January, 2010

The Boardroom, Old Broadcasting House
Woodhouse Lane
Leeds Metropolitan University

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tony Bunyan essay

For those who were at Tony Bunyan's Taking Soundings talk on Surveillance culture the EU (or indeed, for those who missed it), here is a link to Tony's essay on the EU's response to the 'War on Terror' http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/oct/ecln/essay-11.pdf

It makes for an illuminating, if unsettling read, from one of the most well-informed observers of the State and Civil Liberties in Europe.

More on this and related topics can be found at http://www.statewatch.org/

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Climate & Violence Workshop

Securing the State: Securing the Corporate Nexus
The Coming Militarization of Climate Change
27 November 2009 9:30am-5:00pm
The Rosebowl 408
Leeds Metropolitan University
£10 (waged), £6 (unwaged)

The climate crisis deepens...
As part of the Climate and Violence series, this workshop will explore military and corporate responses to climate change and mass migration, and brings together key researchers on new military crowd control, surveillance and space technologies.
The world is holding its breath for a successful outcome to the International Panel of Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen December 2010. The meeting will bring together the world’s leading scientific experts in climate change, and its consequences.
The Copenhagen conference is rich in the number of technical issues covered including migration. However, what is less explored is how states will respond if told they could be facing over a billion people being forced to migrate if the world’s temperature rises by more than three degrees.
This workshop will, therefore, examine how the current revolution in military affairs has financed a new generation of weapons and control technologies in the "war against terror," and how these will become rapidly reoriented toward area denial and for border exclusion purposes.

How to book your place
To book your place for this workshop please visit the Leeds Met online Store
Speakers include experts on sub-lethal and paralysing weapons, new techniques of urban control and destruction, and the development of militarized robotics. Also discussed will be state responses to human security as the climate crisis deepens, and how these could go beyond the limits of international and humanitarian law.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Climate Crunch: Postcapitalism or Green New deal?

Emma Dowling (Writer, Researcher, Global Activist)
6.00 – 8.00 pm
25th November

Room 103, Humanities Building - Broadcaasting Place (rust-coloured exterior)
NEXT to our usual venue Old Broadcasting House

Leeds Metropolitan University

Woodhouse Lane, Leeds

Climate Change Talk - Video

Here is a video from our talk on Climate Change from a few months ago:

29th April 2009 Chair - Roger Tyers
Speakers - Dr. Simon Lewis (The Royal Society, University of Leeds )
Dr. Paul Chatterton (University of Leeds)
Paddy Gillett (Plane Stupid)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Money And Power - Book Launch

Wednesday, 28th October
6-8 pm
Old Broadcasting House,
Woodhouse Lane, Leeds Metropolitan University.

Sarah Bracking explores the role of governments and development finance institutions in managing the markets in which the poorest countries operate. These institutions - the 'Great Predators' - are trapping the populations of the south in a permanent cycle of austerity. Bracking shows how pseudo-public 'development' institutions retain complete economic control over Southern markets, yet the international system is itself unregulated. Operating in the interests of North America and the European Union, they have a political purpose, and yet serve to cloud the brute power relations between states.This book will be of interest to anyone studying debt and development, global financial institutions, and the way the world economy is regulated and governed.

For further information contact Barry Winter: b.winter@leedsmet.ac.uk

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Richard Hoggart conference in Leeds

Richard Hoggart: Culture & Critique Conference

An international conference hosted by:
The School of Cultural Studies and The Institute of Northern StudiesLeeds Metropolitan University10-11 July 2009
Keynote speakers include Peter Bailey, Ros Brunt, Sue Owen, Jim McGuighan, Mac Daly, Jeremy Seabrook, John Corner, Sean Matthews, among others.
Conference Papers will be discussed on aspects of the work or influence of Richard Hoggart on the following themes:
. Cultural Studies: Then & Now. Uses of Literature. Cultural & Social History . Adult Education . Media, Culture & Society. Cultural Policy. Gender, Sexuality & Race
Papers will be organized into panel sessions of 90 minutes, each comprising three 20-minute papers and time for discussion.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Leeds Salon on Energy Innovation

ENERG!SE: A Future For Energy Innovation
James Woudhuysen will present and debate Energise: A Future for Energy Innovation by James Woudhuysen & Joe Kaplinsky at Leeds Metropolitan University, Room C409D on the fourth floor of the Civic Quarter Building, Woodhouse Lane, LS1 3HE - entrance opposite the Dry Dock pub.
Monday 6 July 2009, 6:30pm (for a 6:45pm start) - 8.30 pm.

About the Authors
James Woudhuyen is visiting Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, Leicester, and a contributor to Computing magazine. He read physics at the University of Sussex, and at the Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex, did postgraduate research in the political economy of nuclear energy. His website is www.woudhuysen.com
Joe Kaplinsky is pursuing postgraduate research in chemical biology at Imperial College London. He read theoretical physics at the University of Manchester, staying there to do research in low temperature physics.

About the book
Energise looks at why the future of energy has become so fraught and puts the case for an alternative. At a time when the debate is dominated by calls for us all to cut back and reduce our carbon footprint, Energise makes the case for an expansion of supply. Instead of trying to conserve our way out of our problems, it argues, we need the innovation and investment capable of building up a new energy infrastructure.The book looks at the prospects for different technologies - nuclear, fossil fuels and renewables, and explains why each has become so contentious. The book builds on a solid but accessible technical analysis. But in each case it looks beyond the technology to take apart the political myths that are holding back energy today, ranging from the association of oil and war, to nuclear risks, to the idea that we are all greedy consumers addicted to energy consumption.Energise puts the energy problems, with special attention to climate change, in perspective. It argues that, rather than be overwhelmed by the difficulties, we can and should generate more energy as the key to building a better world.

Relevant readings
Joe Kaplinsky talking about nuclear fission and fusion: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2698144/chill_out_desk_nuclear_fusion_fission/

James Woudhuysen on nuclear and tidal energy: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/6611/ and http://www.nce.co.uk/the-severn-barrage-calling-greens-bluff/1967356.article

This DIUS website outlines the UK government’s investment strategy in energy: http://www.dius.gov.uk/partner_organisations/office_for_science/science_in_government/key_issues/energy.aspx

Energy is one of the highlighted areas of UK government research spending, an overview is here: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/ResearchHighlights/Energy/default.htm

The US government’s department of energy: http://www.energy.gov/

Please note, a voluntary contribution will be asked for on the night towards costs. To let us know you’re coming please reply to this e-mail. Visit our website and join our mailing list at: www.leedssalon.org.uk/contact-leeds-salon.html

Leeds Salon is a new public debating forum which aims to promote lively and open debate around contemporary political, social, cultural and scientific issues.

Paul Thomas

Revitalising parliamentary democracy

Public meeting: Lidgett Park Methodist Church Hall. North Park Avenue, Roundhay, 7pm-9pm Friday 3rd July 2009 –all welcome
Come and take part in a debate on how to revitalise our democracy with the Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, and the Leeds North East parliamentary candidates for the Conservatives, Matthew Lobley, the Candidate for the Liberal Democrats, Aqila Choudhry and representatives from the Green Party and the Alliance for Green Socialism.

Amongst the questions to be debated are:
How do we make politics more open and transparent?
Electoral reform: Does it matter how we elect our representatives?
What do we think our representatives role should be?
Does it matter most of our representatives are male, middle class and white?
Should citizens have the right to call for the reselection of their MPs?
Should there be fixed term parliaments?
How do we hold the government to account? Do MPs need more power to scrutinise government legislation?
Should we restrict the role of party whips and allow more cross party voting in parliament?
Do we need a written constitution or a bill of rights?
How can we empower citizens?
Should local government have more powers?

For further information please contact
Sarah Perrigo
01132 686426

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Join the debate: politics after the crash

Texts now online to the Soundings seminar Saturday 20 June

Lynsey Hanley, Mike Kenny, Paul Mason, Doreen Massey, Andrew Pearmain, Ben Rogaly, Becky Taylor, Ejos Ubiribo and Leanne Woods are discussing the role of place and belonging in a post-crash politics.

Read Leanne Wood on civic nationalism in Wales

Read Andy Pearmain on Labour's lost voters and the BNP

Read Ejos Ubiribo on young black men and street life

Read Doreen Massey on London as a global city

Politics after the Crash
10.30am-4.30pm, Saturday 20 June 2009
120 Belsize Lane,
London NW3
(nearest tube stations Belsize Park and Finchley Road)

Registration: £25 (includes an excellent lunch).

Reserve a place online

Or: Phone 020 8533 2506 or email sally@lwbooks.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Ford McGuire Society (Leeds's own excellent local history group) is presenting a meeting on 'Trade Unions and Chartism' by Malcolm Chase from the University of Leeds (author of Chartism: A New History).

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 23rd at 7.30PM in Bridget's Bar in the Victoria Hotel on Great George Street behind Leeds Town Hall.

Should be good.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Economic Justice for All: What needs to be done to move to a greener, fairer, future?

Special Cafe Economique on Thursday 11th June 2009 from 6.30 pm

Thursday 11th June 2009, from 6.30 pm, at the Methodist Centre, Town Street, Chapel Allerton.

Please note this is a different venue and a different weekday, in relation to our usual meetings.

A number of the speakers at previous cafes are coming to discuss with us ways forward to a fairer, more eco-sustainable future.
The question for the evening will be: Economic Justice for All: What needs to be done to move to a greener, fairer, future?

We think a useful framework for this discussion is provided by Professor Tim Jackson, of the University of Surrey, in his report for the UK Sustainable Development Commission -
'Prosperity without Growth? The Transition to a Sustainable Economy'
There is a useful summary on pages 6 - 13. This includes 'Twelve Steps To a Sustainable Economy' which are listed below.

Because this is a special event, two years since we started the Cafe Economique, we plan to have a simple buffet supper from 6 30 pm. You, and any other interested people you know, are welcome to join us for this. As usual there is no charge for this event, but if you are planning to come, please let us know, to help with the catering arrangements..

Attached is a list of all our previous cafes with the names of the speakers and the topics.
We also attach a schedule for the evening, and a flier that you may wish to use to advertise the meeting to people you think may by interested.

We look forward to hearing that you will be able to join us on 11th June 2009.

Lorna Arblaster, David Adshead and Claire Bastin
Economic Justice for All

Red Pepper Magazine in Leeds

We would like to invite you to our next event. It features a gig from the

'Red Pepper Magazine'. We will be discussing with editor Hilary Wainwright about RPs Plans and Political Prospects.

In the second part of the meeting we will discuss together with Wainwright and other on a Post-election Debate titled: What kind of progressive future?

See you there!

6.00 pm – 8.00 pm, Monday, 22nd June

Old Broadcasting House,
Leeds Metropolitan University, Woodhouse Lane

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Kenan Malik speaks to Leeds Salon

Leeds Salon is a new public debating forum which aims to promote lively and open debate around contemporary political, social, cultural and scientific issues.

From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy
Kenan Malik will present and debate his new book From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy, Borders book shop, 94-96 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NP, Thursday 4 June 2009, 6:00pm (for a 6:15 start) - 8.00 pm.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Rushdie fatwa, "From Fatwa to Jihad" tells, for the first time, the full story of this defining episode and explores its repercussions and resonance through to contemporary debates about Islam, terror, free speech and Western values. When a thousand Muslim protesters paraded through a British town with a copy of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" before ceremoniously burning the book it was an act motivated by anger and offence as well as one calculated to shock and offend. It did more than that: the image of the burning book became an icon of the Muslim anger. Sent around the world by photographers and TV cameras, the image announced a new world.

Twenty years later, the questions raised by the Rushdie Affair - Islam's relationship to the West, the meaning of multiculturalism, the limits of tolerance in a liberal society - have become some of the defining issues of our time. Taking the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa as his starting point, Kenan Malik examines how radical Islam has gained hold in Muslim communities, how multiculturalism contributed to this, and how the Rushdie affair transformed the very nature of the debate on tolerance and free speech.

About the Author
Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer, broadcaster, regular panellist on Radio 4’s Moral Maze and author of Meaning of Race (1996); Man Beast and Zombie (2000): What science can and cannot tell us about human nature; and Strange Fruit: Why both sides are wrong in the race debate (2008). He’s also a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Surry. His website is www.kenanmalik.com/.

Book reviews and related articles:
After the Fatwa, the Free Speech Wars, Kenan Malik, spiked review of books, April 2009
Britain Since the Fatwa, Faisal Gazi, Guardian, 14 April 2009
Lisa Appignanesi, Independent, 10 April 2009
Marcus Dubois, politics.co.uk, 9 April 2009
Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times, 5 April 2009
Why the Fatwa is Still a Burning Issue, Robert McCrum, Observer, 5 April 2009
Stuart Kelly, Scotsman, 5 April 2009
Lindsay Jones, New Humanist, March-April 2009

Coming up at Leeds Salon on Monday 6 July 2009:
James Woudhuysen, visiting professor of Broadcasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, writer and journalist will be discussing Energise: A Future For Energy Innovation by James Woudhuysen & Joe Kaplinsky (Beautiful Books, 2009). Fuller details will be announced shortly.

This is event is free. To let us know you’re coming please reply to this e-mail. Visit our website and join our mailing list at: www.leedssalon.org.uk/contact-leeds-salon.html.

Friday, 15 May 2009


Campaign against BNP!

Vote and get involved ahead of June 4th elections

Our campaign in the next 6 weeks centers around the European Parliament Elections, which take place on June 4th. The BNP are standing candidates across the country and we face the prospect, according to current polls, of as many as FOUR fascist MEPs from the British National Party representing the UK in the European Parliament come mid-June.


Any BNP success will rely on low turnout so we want to ensure that people are aware of this threat and that they register to vote in the June 4th poll, and use that vote on any party other than the BNP.

Each MEP that the BNP gains garners respectability for their racist views and "normalises" their poisonous message. Each MEP can claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in office and staff expenses. The BNP would use this money to employ full-time organisers to peddle race hatred. Areas where the BNP gains an electoral foothold see a sharp rise in the level of racist attacks as words of hate are turned to actions.



The deadline for voter registration is 19th May. You can check whether you are registered at: www.aboutmyvote.com

If you’re not yet old enough to vote then give older friends or family a nudge to make sure they do.


17 May. Chapel Allerton – Leafleting, meet outside The Three Hulats at 11am.

17 May. Harehills- Unite to Stop the BNP and Fascism in Europe, 2pm, Bangladeshi Centre, Roundhay Road.

23 May. Beeston – Unite to Stop the BNP and Fascism in Europe, 1.45pm, Hamara Centre, Tempest Road.

24 May. Beeston and Holbeck- Leafleting, meet outside the Hamara Centre, 11am.

29 May. LMHR: Paper Tiger LIVE @ TJ's, Woodhouse Liberal Club (with Mikey J, Fantastic Mr Fox & Rich Reason, High Pressure Soundsystem).

30 May. Love Music Hate Racism Festival 2009, transport leaves 10am, various locations across Leeds, tickets £20 including transport.

More leafleting sessions to be announced- look out for future e-mails, or sign up for text alerts (see below).


If you can’t make any of the leafleting sessions, or want to do more, can you leaflet some streets in your area?

Fill in the attached form and send to:

e-mail: info@leedsuaf.org.uk

phone: 07932 221 014

post: Leeds UAF
c/o Leeds National Union of Teachers
Spen Lane
LS16 5BE


Fill in the attached form, or get in touch using the above contact details. Visit the Leeds website at: http://www.leedsuaf.org.uk.


Text your name to 07932 221 014, to receive texts about additional leafleting sessions and emergency protests against the BNP.




Co-organised by Stoke City FC and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Supported by Kick Racism out of Football, The Independent, Unite the Union, NASUWT, Signal Radio, The Sentinel + many more

The 2009 Love Music Hate Racism Festival will be taking place at Stoke-on-Trent’s Britannia Stadium on the 30th May, running from 12 midday til 10pm.

The festival will be the highlight of LMHR’s campaign against the BNP in the European Parliament elections.

The fantastic initial line up announced this weeks includes…

Main stage:


Reverend & The Makers

Jerry Dammers + very special guests (live)

The Beautiful South

The Beat

VV Brown


Helsinki (Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell + special guests – last year’s included The View, Guillemots, Noisettes, Poly Styrene and Jimmy Pursey)

Roll Deep

The Sport

Delilah’s Dance Arena:

Mistjam (Radio 1/1Xtra) presents Speakerbox:

DJs inc Mistajam, CJ Beatz, Nighttrate, Blame.

PA’s inc Donae’o, Selah (w/Blame), Crazy Cousinz ft Kyla, Skepta

More headliners for both stages still tba!

Tickets cost just £10 and are available from:

Gigantic.com: http://www.gigantic.com/gigantic/home_love_music_hate_racism.html

Stoke City FC website: http://www.scfcdirect.com/boxoffice/chooseevent.aspx

Book yours now!

The Stoke Festival will be a nation-wide symbol of unity against racism and fascism. We’re urging local LMHR and UAF groups, trade unionists and student unions to block-book tickets (email us with your order) and book or sponsor local coaches to the Festival.

For more information and updates keep checking the festival site:


Thursday, 30 April 2009

Responding to the economic crisis: What might governments do?

The next Cafe Economique, at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 12th May 2009, at The Old Stables, 7 Regent Street, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 (venue details below).

The topic will be: ‘Responding to the economic crisis: What might governments do?’

The discussion will be introduced by Brendan Sheehan, Senior Lecturer, Leeds Metropolitan University, whose book ‘Understanding Keynes’ General Theory’ was published earlier this year.

Governments worldwide are grappling with ideas to address the current economic crisis. Drawing on important policy insights from the economist John Maynard Keynes’ work, Brendan Sheehan will look at the reasons behind different government actions and what these might be expected to achieve.

The meeting will start at 7.30 pm at The Old Stables, 7 Regent Street, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 4PE (up the driveway opposite the Sukhothai Restaurant). The doors will be open from 7 pm, and the discussion will be from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Thoroughly Modern Marx

From the latest edition of the slightly liberalish but very establishment American Foreign Policy magazine is this piece by Socialist Register editor Leo Panith.

Original at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4856&print=1

Thoroughly Modern Marx
By Leo Panitch
Foreign Policy May/June 2009

Lights. Camera. Action. Das Kapital. Now.

The economic crisis has spawned a resurgence of interest in Karl Marx. Worldwide sales of Das Kapital have shot up (one lone German publisher sold thousands of copies in 2008, compared with 100 the year before), a measure of a crisis so broad in scope and devastation that it has global capitalism—and its high priests—in an ideological tailspin.

Yet even as faith in neoliberal orthodoxies has imploded, why resurrect Marx? To start, Marx was far ahead of his time in predicting the successful capitalist globalization of recent decades. He accurately foresaw many of the fateful factors that would give rise to today’s global economic crisis: what he called the “contradictions” inherent in a world comprised of competitive markets, commodity production, and financial speculation.

Penning his most famous works in an era when the French and American revolutions were less than a hundred years old, Marx had premonitions of AIG and Bear Stearns trembling a century and a half later. He was singularly cognizant of what he called the “most revolutionary part” played in human history by the bourgeoisie—those forerunners of today’s Wall Street bankers and corporate executives. As Marx put it in The Communist Manifesto, “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. . . . In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

But Marx was no booster of capitalist globalization in his time or ours. Instead, he understood that “the need for a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe,” foreseeing that the development of capitalism would inevitably be “paving the way for more extensive and exhaustive crises.” Marx identified how disastrous speculation could trigger and exacerbate crises in the whole economy. And he saw through the political illusions of those who would argue that such crises could be permanently prevented through incremental reform.

Like every revolutionary, Marx wanted to see the old order overthrown in his lifetime. But capitalism had plenty of life left in it, and he could only glimpse, however perceptively, the mistakes and wrong turns that future generations would commit. Those of us now cracking open Marx will find he had much to say that is relevant today, at least for those looking to “recover the spirit of the revolution,” not merely to “set its ghost walking again.”

If he were observing the current downturn, Marx would certainly relish pointing out how flaws inherent in capitalism led to the current crisis. He would see how modern developments in finance, such as securitization and derivatives, have allowed markets to spread the risks of global economic integration. Without these innovations, capital accumulation over the previous decades would have been significantly lower. And so would it have been if finance had not penetrated more and more deeply into society. The result has been that consumer demand (and hence, prosperity) in recent years has depended more and more on credit cards and mortgage debt at the same time that the weakened power of trade unions and cutbacks in social welfare have made people more vulnerable to market shocks.

This leveraged, volatile global financial system contributed to overall economic growth in recent decades. But it also produced a series of inevitable financial bubbles, the most dangerous of which emerged in the U.S. housing sector. That bubble’s subsequent bursting had such a profound impact around the globe precisely because of its centrality to sustaining both U.S. consumer demand and international financial markets. Marx would no doubt point to this crisis as a perfect instance of when capitalism looks like “the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the netherworld whom he has called up by his spells.”

Despite the depth of our current predicament, Marx would have no illusions that economic catastrophe would itself bring about change. He knew very well that capitalism, by its nature, breeds and fosters social isolation. Such a system, he wrote, “leaves no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’” Indeed, capitalism leaves societies mired “in the icy water of egotistical calculation.” The resulting social isolation creates passivity in the face of personal crises, from factory layoffs to home foreclosures. So, too, does this isolation impede communities of active, informed citizens from coming together to take up radical alternatives to capitalism.

Marx would ask first and foremost how to overcome this all-consuming social passivity. He thought that unions and workers’ parties developing in his time were a step forward. Thus in Das Kapital he wrote that the “immediate aim” was “the organization of the proletarians into a class” whose “first task” would be “to win the battle for democracy.” Today, he would encourage the formation of new collective identities, associations, and institutions within which people could resist the capitalist status quo and begin deciding how to better fulfill their needs.

No such ambitious vision for enacting change has arisen from the crisis so far, and it is this void that Marx would find most troubling of all. In the United States, some recent attention-getting proposals have been derided as “socialist,” but only appear to be radical because they go beyond what the left of the Democratic Party is now prepared to advocate. Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, for example, has called for a $2 million cap on certain Wall Street salaries and the enactment of a financial transactions tax, which would impose an incremental fee on the sale or transfer of stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. Marx would view this proposal as a perfect case of thinking inside the box, because it explicitly endorses (even while limiting) the very thing that is now popularly identified as the problem: a culture of risk disassociated from consequence. Marx would be no less derisive toward those who think that bank nationalizations—such as those that took place in Sweden and Japan during their financial crises in the 1990s—would amount to real change.

Ironically, one of the most radical proposals making the rounds today has come from an economist at the London School of Economics, Willem Buiter, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and certainly no Marxist. Buiter has proposed that the whole financial sector be turned into a public utility. Because banks in the contemporary world cannot exist without public deposit insurance and public central banks that act as lenders of last resort, there is no case, he argues, for their continuing existence as privately owned, profit-seeking institutions. Instead they should be publicly owned and run as public services. This proposal echoes the demand for “centralization of credit in the banks of the state” that Marx himself made in the Manifesto. To him, a financial-system overhaul would reinforce the importance of the working classes’ winning “the battle of democracy” to radically change the state from an organ imposed upon society to one that responds to it.

“From financialisation of the economy to the socialisation of finance,” Buiter wrote, is “a small step for the lawyers, a huge step for mankind.” Clearly, you don’t need to be a Marxist to have radical aspirations. You do, however, have to be some sort of Marxist to recognize that even at a time like the present, when the capitalist class is on its heels, demoralized and confused, radical change is not likely to start in the form of “a small step for the lawyers” (presumably after getting all the “stakeholders” to sit down together in a room to sign a document or two). Marx would tell you that, without the development of popular forces through radical new movements and parties, the socialization of finance will fall on infertile ground. Notably, during the economic crisis of the 1970s, radical forces inside many of Europe’s social democratic parties put forward similar suggestions, but they were unable to get the leaders of those parties to go along with proposals they derided as old-fashioned.

Attempts to talk seriously about the need to democratize our economies in such radical ways were largely shunted aside by parties of all stripes for the next several decades, and we are still paying the price for marginalizing those ideas. The irrationality built into the basic logic of capitalist markets—and so deftly analyzed by Marx—is once again evident. Trying just to stay afloat, each factory and firm lays off workers and tries to pay less to those kept on. Undermining job security has the effect of undercutting demand throughout the economy. As Marx knew, microrational behavior has the worst macroeconomic outcomes. We now can see where ignoring Marx while trusting in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” gets you.

The financial crisis today also exposes irrationalities in realms beyond finance. One example is U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for trading in carbon credits as a solution to the climate crisis. In that supposedly progressive proposal, corporations that meet emissions standards sell credits to others that fail to meet their own targets. The Kyoto Protocol called for a similar system swapped across states. Fatefully however, both plans depend on the same volatile derivatives markets that are inherently open to manipulation and credit crashes. Marx would insist that, to find solutions to global problems such as climate change, we need to break with the logic of capitalist markets rather than use state institutions to reinforce them. Likewise, he would call for international economic solidarity rather than competition among states. As he put it in the Manifesto, “United action, of the leading . . . countries, at least, is the first condition for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

Yet the work of building new institutions and movements for change must begin at home. Although he made the call “Workers of the world, unite!” Marx still insisted that workers in each country “first of all settle things with their own bourgeoisie.” The measures required to transform existing economic, political, and legal institutions would “of course be different in different countries.” But in every case, Marx would insist that the way to bring about radical change is first to get people to think ambitiously again.

How likely is that to happen? Even at a moment when the financial crisis is bleeding dry a vast swath of the world’s people, when collective anxiety shakes every age, religious, and racial group, and when, as always, the deprivations and burdens are falling most heavily on ordinary working people, the prognosis is uncertain. If he were alive today, Marx would not look to pinpoint exactly when or how the current crisis would end. Rather, he would perhaps note that such crises are part and parcel of capitalism’s continued dynamic existence. Reformist politicians who think they can do away with the inherent class inequalities and recurrent crises of capitalist society are the real romantics of our day, themselves clinging to a naive utopian vision of what the world might be. If the current crisis has demonstrated one thing, it is that Marx was the greater realist.

Leo Panitch is Canada research chair in comparative political economy and distinguished research professor of political science at York University in Toronto, and coeditor of the annual Socialist Register.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Policing The Crisis

Policing The Crisis

A public forum with speakers on the G20 in London, the recent mass arrests in
Nottingham, and the policing of dissent in Leeds

Organised by wewontpayfortheircrisis Leeds

Thursday, May 14, 2009, 7:00pm

The Common Place
23 Wharf Street

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Book Launch: Feelbad Britain

Taking Soundings Leeds presents:

Feelbad Britain: How to make it better
by Pat Devine, Andrew Permain, and David Purdy

Book Launch event to be held on Wednesday 3 June 2009 Old Broadcasting House, 6-8 pm.

Pat Devine (co-editor) – Introduction honorary Research Fellow University of Manchester

David Beetham – Democracy Professor Emeritus University of Leeds

Noel Castree – Environment Professor School of Environment and Development University of Manchester

Linda Patterson – Health OBE, consultant physician

Taking Soundings own Matthew Caygill will be a critical discussant to the four presentations.

Taking Soundings is happy to announce that the event will be followed by a wine reception.

About Feelbad Britain:
The central thesis of Feelbad Britain is that after the decades of neoliberalism the institutions and social relations on which solidarity, trust and citizenship depend have been undermined. This has left contemporary British society in a troubled and dysfunctional state, without the cohesion or confidence needed if we are to escape from recession, combat climate change and restore faith in government. The authors put forward a theoretical framework for understanding contemporary politics; and they consider what is to be done to revitalise the British left, challenge neoliberal hegemony, and develop a political project aimed at creating a greener, fairer, happier, more democratic and less divided Britain.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


DIY newspaper hits the streets of Leeds

Free copies of the Yorkshire Evening Pest are being handed out to thousands of people across Leeds, in a format that mimics the city's Yorkshire Evening Post – albeit with articles on the collapse of the city centre, climate change, the role of public transport and the financial turmoil at Elland Road.

In fact, the parody is just a little too accurate for many in the city. "While some people were queuing up to take them out of our hands, others rushed past, thinking it was just another Evening Post," said Colleen Platts, one of the people behind the project.

The Yorkshire Evening Pest is the latest example of a new form of 'citizen journalism' which has emerged in the current financial crisis. Last week, thousands of spoof copies of the Financial Times were handed out in London ahead of the G20 summit. Its editor accused the media of complicity by failing to to ask the difficult questions in the lead-up to the fiscal meltdown. "It's the job of journalists to support facts and not opinions, but a lot of what's reported as facts are actually the opinions of powerful people," said Raoul Djukanovic.

With falling advertising revenue and the inexorable rise of other media, the UK's regional papers are facing problems of their own. Johnston Press, owners of the Yorkshire Evening Post, are embroiled in a bitter industrial dispute: 140 workers have been taking strike action since mid-February over its plan for compulsory redundancies at the paper and its sister title, the Yorkshire Post. As the Yorkshire Evening Pest explained, such cutbacks inevitably mean even less time to research stories, and greater pressure to regurgitate press releases.

But it's not all doom and gloom, as Colleen Platts explained. "Local papers still have a hugely important role to play. They have a street presence which means they can provide that city-wide 'water-cooler moment' in a way that online news portals can't. But they'll only do this if they ask the right questions – something they seem increasingly reluctant to do."


For further information, contact info@yorkshireeveningpest.co.uk

Biofuels: Do they have a role in a sustainable future?

Cafe Economique Leeds invites you

21 April, 7.30pm:
‘Biofuels: Do they have a role in a sustainable future?’
The discussion will be introduced by Jen Dyer, Researcher, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds.

Biofuels produced from crops are promoted as a solution to climate change. Can they help or will they make matters worse?

A short summary about biofuels can be found here.

A longer report can be found here. .

Tuesday 21st April 2009, at The Old Stables, 7 Regent Street, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7(up the driveway opposite the Sukhothai Restaurant). The doors will be open from 7 pm, and the discussion will be from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Politics after the crash

5th annual Soundings event
10.00 am – 4.30 pm
20 June 2009

Tavistock Centre
120 Belsize Lane
London NW3

The discussion will focus on political responses to the financial meltdown, including putting forward an alternative narrative for understanding the crisis, and discussing new alliances and ideas for change.

Join the debate on the new socialism. How shall we
Respond to the economic crisis and what sort of
politics and alliances do we need to develop in the
longer term? The future starts today

More information to follow. For updates go to

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Saskia Sassen Reimagining Socialism

The American left magazine 'The Nation' is carrying an impressive range of contributors for a Forum on 'Reimagining Socialism'.

Here's how 'The Nation' introduces the latest contribution by the important theorist of globalization and global cities Saskia Sassen.

Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now," 'Newsweek' declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the USSA. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? In the March 23issue, we published Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr.'s "Rising to the Occasion" as the opening essay in a forum on "Reimagining Socialism." TheNation.com will feature new replies to their essay over the coming weeks, fostering what we hope will be a spirited dialogue.

Go to TheNation.com for the full range and for various hyperlinks. The other contributors so far are listed at the bottom of the piece.

An Economic Platform That Is Ours.
Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum
By Saskia Sassen

March 25, 2009
As Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher note in their essay, we lack a plan for a post-capitalist society. I find the idea of such a plan almost an impossibility. But we do have the elements of a map of what's to be done by the left--including socialists and other adherents of critical politics--with inconsistencies and many blanks. Together, several comments in this forum begin to draw such a map. Henwood, Solnit and Wallerstein each argue for interventions in response to today's crisis that are either already underway or that we can work on now.

I want to add one element to that map. Let's focus on the work that needs to be done in our country. It is vast--we need to produce housing, healthcare, build urban parks and develop urban agriculture, clean our waters, weatherize all housing, and so on. Doing that work would absorb all available workers, and then some. It would require those who are skilled in the task at hand to train the unskilled. In short, we would all be occupied.

The reason that beginning such a long term project is more of an option now than in the last fifty years is that the government has shown that it is willing to pump money into the economy. Pity it has been pouring most of it into rescuing zombie banks.

Over the last few months we have gotten used to hearing talk of the trillions it will take to rescue our financial system. But it would take billions, not trillions, to begin the work that needs to be done. If we think in terms of the billions of the economy, rather than the trillions of high-finance, it all looks better. Indeed, this project only really makes sense as part of a larger effort to reconstruct key building blocks of our political economy away from vulture capitalism. And there are over 6,000 small traditional deposit-based banks in the US that also function in billions or millions and are doing fine and can be channels for offering credit to the small to medium-sized firms that could be engaged in this kind of effort.

What I have in mind is a widely distributed range of "growth sites" that incorporate more and more people. Clearly, this is not a revolution. This would occur within capitalism, but it begins to lay the ground for a widespread and distributed economic network, which can function as one platform for gaining entry into the economic "system" and begin to relate to it as ours. It is a sort of parallel to the notion of an organizational infrastructure, which the left has long viewed as necessary to take us past this type of brutal capitalism.

In a capitalist economy, the government needs channels to use taxpayers' money to work on social needs, needs that cannot easily be met through market mechanisms. Infrastructure repair/development and greening are two key mechanisms for governments to channel money to localities, small and medium sized firms and indirectly, households.

Just a few numbers to illustrate what we could do.

Spending on infrastructure creates jobs. For example, one US government study concludes that for each $1 billion of federal spending on highway construction nationwide, 47,500 jobs are generated annually. The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) estimated that the US needs to invest an average of $300 billion a year over the next five years to repair our overall infrastructure. It documents that most components of America's infrastructure are poor or mediocre, and all sectors except aviation have declined since 2001. For instance, by 2007, 26 percent of the nation's 599,893 bridges were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. According to EPA estimates, the US needs to invest $390 billion over the next twenty years to replace existing waste treatment systems and build new ones to meet increasing demand. The EPA's 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey calls for an estimated investment of $134.4 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $54.8 billion for combined sewer outflows and $9 billion for storm water management. If this is not done, then we risk losing the gains that have been made in cleaning up the nation's rivers, lakes, and streams since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

For a list of all kinds of infrastructure projects that would together cost less than $1 trillion and would make an enormous difference along the lines I describe above, see this article.

Other Contributions to the Forum
Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr., "Rising to the Occasion"
Immanuel Wallerstein, "Follow Brazil's Example"
Bill McKibben, "Together, We Save the Planet"
Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred"
Tariq Ali, "Capitalism's Deadly Logic"
Robert Pollin, "Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic"
John Bellamy Foster, "Economy, Ecology, Empire"
Christian Parenti, "Limits and Horizons"
Doug Henwood, "A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible"
Mike Davis, "The Necessary Eloquence of Protest"
Lisa Duggan, "Imagine Otherwise"
Vijay Prashad, "The Dragons, Their Dragoons"
Kim Moody, "Socialists Need to Be Where the Struggle Is "

Acting on Climate Change

Next Soundings Meeting

6.00 – 8.00 pm
Wednesday 29 April
Lecture Theatre 2 (LTB2)
Leeds Met University, Woodhouse Lane

Climate Change is the challenge of our lifetime. While the rhetoric of government policy addresses the urgency to act on Climate Change, many policy decisions undermine the transformations needed. From air-travel expansion to the renaissance of coal powered energy production, government decisions driven by powerful lobbies drive us closer to climate chaos. Our three speakers will assess ways of political action and lobbying that address the failure of government policy and offer stepping stones to transition.

Dr. Paul Chatterton
Course Leader MA Activism and Social Change, University of Leeds

Paddy Gillett
Plane Stupid

Dr. Simon Lewis
Royal Society Research Fellow on Tropical Forests and Climate Change

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Leeds Salon

Taking soundings has a new rival in Leeds. Let's hope it's a success! Here's their invite:

We would like to invite you to the first Leeds Salon debate on Friday 17 April 2009 at Waterstone’s in central Leeds.

Leeds Salon is a new public debating forum which aims to promote lively and open discussion around contemporary political and cultural issues.

Global Citizenship in the School Curriculum
Friday 17 April 2009, Waterstone’s, 93-97 Albion Street, Leeds, 6:30pm.
Alex Standish, Assistant Professor of Geography, Western Connecticut State University, author of 'Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum: Reviewing the Moral Case for Geography', (Routledge, 2009).

Dr Vanessa Pupavac, Lecturer in International Relations, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham, author of 'Children’s Rights and the New Culture of Paternalism; The Disciplining of Desires and Emotions'.

As the school curriculum in Britain and in the U.S. has changed from a subject-centred and national approach towards a child-centred and multicultural one, global citizenship - a new set of values to do with respecting the environment, diversity, and human rights – has been imposed on almost every subject and geography in particular.

For its supporters, the turn towards global citizenship represents a belated opening of education to the real problems facing the world. It is a change that has the potential to connect children’s lives to global problems and to show how, by modifying their lifestyles, individuals can contribute to the wellbeing of the planet and of humanity. For its critics, the teaching of global citizenship is a moralistic attempt at behaviour modification which undermines the integrity of school subjects and children’s understanding of the world. Far from creating better citizens, it fails to develop children’s capacity for autonomous judgment.

Interesting articles:
Keep ‘Global Issues’ Out of the Classroom, Spiked 18 Dec 2008

Geography lessons sacrificed in favour of trendy causes, Daily Telegraph 20 Jan 2009

If you would like to join the debate please reply to this e-mail. This event is free, but a small, voluntary contribution will be asked for on the night towards costs.

Coming up at Leeds Salon on Thursday 4 June 2009:
Kenan Malik, author, broadcaster and Moral Maze panellist will discuss his new book From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy. Details to be announced.

Paul Thomas
Leeds Salon http://www.leedssalon.org.uk/

Friday, 20 March 2009

We won't pay for their crisis meeting

We won't pay for their crisis Leeds invites to its next public meeting on 25th March 20.00h in the commonplace. Discussion focus will be plans for London protests at the G20 summit. Further actions in Leeds will be also be discussed.

Reading Group on G20 in Leeds

Economic Justice for All (EJFA) in Leeds invites to a discussion and reading group on the G20. The meeting will take place parallel to the G20 summit on the 2nd of April from 10 30 – 12 30 pm in the cafe area of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

Two set of texts will form the background to the open discussion.

The current edition of the New Internationalist focuses on economic alternatives, especially on ideas coming out of the World Social Forum meeting in Belem in Brazil in February 2009. http://www.newint.org/issues/current/.

Information setting out the ideas behind the ‘Put People First’ March in London on 28th March 2009, especially the ‘policy platform’ and their ‘full policy platform document’ can be found at http://www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk/about-us/policy-platform/.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

25th Anniversary of the Miners Strike

People in Leeds might be interested in a meeting organised by the local Labour history society, the Ford McGuire Society.

It's on 23rd March 2009 at 19:30 in The Victoria pub, behind the Town Hall.

The speaker is Ken Capstick (fromer VP Yorkshire NUM and editor of 'The Miner') and he will be speaking on the history and the lessons of the strike for today.

For more on the Ford McGuire society: named after two great 19thC pioneers of socialism and feminism in Leeds go to http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/roger/FMS/.

The miners were Shafted

I was lucky enough to go to the book launch for ‘Shafted: The Media, the Miners’ Strike & the Aftermath’ in Leeds last week and it was a marvellous occasion. People were being turned away. About 100 of us, mostly there by word-of-mouth or email, crammed into a too small and too hot room to remember the 25th anniversary of the miner’s strike. Can it really be 25 years? There was at least one contribution from someone not born at the time and Chris Kitching, who was on the picket lines at age 17, spoke as Secretary of the NUM.

We listened to some Roy Bailey songs and heard Anne Scargill from Women Against Pit Closures talk about some of her experiences from the strike. It was a warmly human and moving event, with stories about some of the good and even funny moments in a hard year, even if the anger at the treatment that the miners got during the strike from the state and from the media was still pretty hot.

The book is fantastic – it looks good, feels good and will do you good. The event was put on by Granville Williams from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and they deserve support as well. They have a web-site which can easily be found.

There was a strong connection with the present. The woman in the famous photograph from Orgreave, showing the mounted police taking a swing at her head, was there and spoke about what is going on now. One of the contributors to the book is Pete Lazenby from the NUJ. I warmly remember Pete addressing ANL meetings in the late 1970s and his journalism in the miners strike is clearly remembered by miners and activists today. Anne Scargill said it was only his involvement that got her involved. And Pete is key to the current round of NUJ strikes against major redundancies at the Evening Post in Leeds. You can find out about this strike and much else via the NUJ Left. Pete had a blistering letter in The Guardian on Thursday, replying to the craven and stupid lies and distortions made by that paper in its editorial the previous Saturday. Check it out here.

And track ‘Shafted’ down – it really is a very good book. Available from Amazon if you can't find it anywhere else.

Immanuel Wallerstein going over the top?

The distinguished American progenitor of world-systems theory produces a short fortnightly column that you can sign up for. Always worth a look. Wallerstein is vry much in the school of unstoppable American decline, but is he getting too alarmist (or excited) in this latest piece?

Mar. 15, 2009, Commentary No. 253
"Civil War in the United States?"

We are getting accustomed to all sorts of breakdowns of taboos. The world press is full of discussion about whether it would be a good idea to "nationalize" banks. None other than Alan Greenspan, disciple of the superlibertarian prophet of pure market capitalism, Ayn Rand, has recently said that we have to nationalize banks once every hundred years, and this may be that moment. Conservative Republican Senator Lindsay Graham agreed with him. Left Keynesian Alan Blinder discussed the pros and cons of this idea. And while he thinks the cons are a bit bigger than the pros, he was willing to spend public intellectual energy writing about this in the New York Times.

Well, after hearing nationalization proposals by arch-conservative notables, we are now hearing serious discussions about the possibilities of civil war in the United States. Zbigniew Brzezinski, apostle of anti-Communist ideology and President Carter's National Security Advisor, appeared on a morning television talk show on February 17, and was asked to discuss his previous mention of the possibility of class conflict in the United States in the wake of the worldwide economic collapse.

Brzezinski said he was worried about it because of the prospect of "millions and millions of unemployed people facing dire straits," people who have become aware "of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals without historical precedent in America."

He reminded the listeners that, when there was a massive banking crisis in 1907, the great financier, J.P. Morgan, invited a group of wealthy financiers to his home, locked them in his library, and wouldn't let them out until they all kicked in money for a fund to stabilize the banks. Brzezinski said: "Where is the monied class today? Why aren't they doing something: the people who made billions?"

In the absence of their doing something on a voluntary basis, Brzezinski said, "there's going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could even be riots!"

Almost simultaneously, a European agency called LEAP/Europe that issues monthly confidential Global Europe Anticipation Bulletins for its clients - politicians, public servants, businessmen, and investors - devoted its February issue to global geopolitical dislocation. The report did not paint a pretty picture. It discussed the possibility of civil war in Europe, in the United States, and Japan. It foresaw a "generalized stampede" that will lead to clashes, semi-civil wars.

The experts have some advice: "If your country or region is a zone in which there is a massive availability of guns, the best thing you can do...is to leave the region, if that's possible." The only one of these countries which meets the description of massively available guns is the United States. The head of LEAP/Europe, Franck Biancheri, noted that "there are 200 million guns in circulation in the United States, and social violence is already manifest via gangs." The experts who wrote the report asserted that there is already an ongoing emigration of Americans to Europe, because that is "where physical danger will remain marginal."

If Brzezinski hopes for the emergence of another J.P. Morgan in the United States to force sense upon the "monied" class, the LEAP/Europe report sees a "last chance" in the April 2 London meeting of the G20, provided the participants come forward with a "convincing and audacious" plan.

These analyses are not coming from left intellectuals or radical social movements. They are the openly expressed fears of serious analysts who are part of the existing Establishment in the United States and Europe. Verbal taboos are broken only when such people are truly fearful. The point of breaking the taboos is to try to bring about major rapid action - the equivalent of J.P. Morgan locking the financiers in his home in 1907.

It was easier in 1907.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

Monday, 2 March 2009

We won't pay for their crisis Report

We won’t pay for their crisis!-Leeds

An afternoon of talks, discussions and ideas, with speakers from Greece, Italy and Iceland.

A great meeting of about 70 heard reports about protests in relation to the global financial crisis from Iceland, Greece and Italy. The reports were recorded and are available online. In a following discussion several ideas were developed how to act on the crisis locally.
Later the meeting heard about plans to protest in London for the G 20 meeting at the beginning of April. More information about the plans for London can be found at Put People First, Climate Camp 09 and G20 Meltdown.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

25 March 2009: Barack Obama's Presidency

We invite you to our next talk

Open Forum: Barack Obama's Presidency
On what he actually can

25 March
6 to 8 pm
Old Broadcasting House
Woodhouse Lane
There is disabled access.

On the eve of the new American president's first official visit to the UK, Taking Soundings Leeds will assess the potential of Barack Obama to deliver on his progressive agenda.

This meeting is intended to provide space to a broad discussion among all participants. Two speakers will give short presentations.
Barry Winter will introduce the debate reflecting the 'special relationship'.
Sobel will discuss the potentials of the Obama presidency. Alex was working in the Obama Campaign last autumn.

Crisis of Capitalism or Bad Day(s) at the Office

On 14 Feburary Taking Soundings Leeds hosted its second event in 2009 reflecting the current global economic crisis. Over 70 people attended.
Our speakers were
Sarah Bracking from Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, Peter Lawrence from the University of Keele and Alfredo Saad-Filho, Professor of Political Economy at SOAS.

Sarah Bracking provided a printed version of her presentation that can be downloaded here: