Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Capital and Class 89

Capital and Class 89 ( Summer 2006): Market, Class and Society

Martin Upchurch on 'State, labour and market in post-revolution Serbia'
This article looks at the trade union strategies developing in Serbia since the anti-Milosevic revolution of October 2000. It examines the interplay between the forces of state and market, and explores the lessons for trade unions in transformation economies.

Hazel Conley on 'Modernisation or casualisation? Numerical flexibility in public services'
This paper focuses on research data that highlights the way numerical flexibility undermines key aspects of public service delivery and the modernisation agenda, such as equal opportunities and recruitment and retention. It argues that the poorer terms and conditions of temporary workers provide additional support for trade union claims of the existence of a 'two-tier workforce' in local government.

Steve Fleetwood offers 'A critical-realist-socioeconomic perspective'
This article offers a critique of mainstream theories of labour markets, and presents a critical-realist alternative assessment. The author argues that labour markets are inextricably related to the social structures that create them.

Peter Nielsen and Jamie Morgan on 'From mainstream economics to the boundaries of Marxism'
This paper explores Marxism and critical realism by addressing Ben Fine's Addressing the Critical and the Real in Critical Realism. Using Fine's argument as a starting point, the authors take the opportunity to clearly define the parameters of the Cambridge-based critique of mainstream economics.

Ben Fine offers 'Debating critical realism in economics'
In offering a rejoinder to Nielsen and Morgan, Ben Fine argues once more that the relevance of critical realism for advancing the prospects of political economy rests on its moving beyond the methodological critique of deductivism alone in order to address issues of economic theory.

Matt Hampton on 'Hegemony, class struggle and the radical historiography of global monetary standards'
In this article, the author argues that a radicalised power politics pervades the Left's analysis of global monetary standards, and proposes an alternative framework that places the class relation between capital and labour at the forefront in explaining the rise and fall of these monetary standards.

Mike Bessler provides a research note on the Marxists Internet Archive
The Marxists Internet archive brings together people of widely diverging views behind the common goal of creating and maintaining the world's largest digital library of Marxist works. This article comprises a brief account of the content, organisation and usefulness of the MIA.

Alastair Rainnie on G Healy et al's The Future of Worker Representation
Lewis Higginson Michael Albert's Parecon: Life After Capitalism
Jonathan Joseph on Ellen Meiksins Wood's Empire of Capital
Luis M. Pozoon Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya's Zimbabwe's Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

If Robert Fisk says it...

Independent June 6, 2006 (access by payment)
Robert Fisk penetrates the world of the Palestinian 'martyrs' flooding over the border to fuel the insurgency

The last time I saw Hassan, he was standing in the gateway you've just walked through."
Labiba Oweydah points at the garden door behind me with its shroud of bougainvillea. "I thought he was going to go and that I might not see him again and I said 'come back'. But he said to me: 'Leaving is not like returning. It is not important for me to return'." With those words, Hassan Jamal Sulieman Oweydah left the muck and rubble of the Mieh Mieh refugee camp in Lebanon to become a suicide bomber. In December 2004, he rammed his explosive-laden car into an American military convoy at Tal Afar, the first Palestinian "martyr" in the war against the United States' occupation of Iraq.

Hassan Oweydah's story - and his fiery end - have, until now, been a secret. Never before has the West seen the face of a suicide bomber in Iraq. But the violent saga of these young men is even more extraordinary - for it now transpires that 26 Palestinians from just two of Lebanon's refugee camps, Mieh Mieh and Ein Al-Hilweh, have been "martyred" in Iraq. Others have left from the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut, site of the infamous 1982 massacre by Israel's Lebanese militia allies. In all, well over 1,000 suicide bombers from across the Arab world have now blown themselves up in Iraq.

While all the Palestinians who arrived from Lebanon intended to die in Iraq, not all were car bombers. Faraj Mohamed Abdullah Zeidan, for example, died in a gun battle with US troops eight weeks ago. He was a friend of Hassan Oweydah. Ahmed Ali Ahwad, a member of the al-Ansar religious movement, was in charge of a local anti-aircraft ammunition store in Iraq and was killed by a US missile. Abu Mohamed al-Kurdi also died in a US air strike. But Ahmed al-Faran from Mieh Mieh - married with a daughter - appears to have been a suicide bomber. He was killed, his friends say, in a "martyrdom operation" in Fallujah.

The details of each death are carefully preserved by the Palestinians of Mieh Mieh and Ein Al-Hilweh. Another man, for example, attacked a US base exactly four months ago but while he was withdrawing - according to his colleagues - a wounded American soldier shot him dead. Two other Palestinians who died in combat in Iraq - Mohamed Mbarak and Mahmoud Mbarak - were cousins. Amateur video tape from Iraq now in the possession of The Independent shows Palestinians receiving weapons and combat training in the orchards along Iraq's Tigris river.

Conversations with Hassan Oweydah's family prove that the Palestinians ask for "martyrdom" in Iraq and are "called" to leave their homes on specific days - perhaps when the supply of suicide bombers is short. "We are all waiting to be called," one middle-aged man told me. He agreed that Syria was the only available transit passage for Palestinians leaving Lebanon for Iraq.

Hassan Oweydah's life was typical of those of his colleagues who were to die in Iraq. The family was originally from Acre in what is now northern Israel. They fled to Lebanon in 1948. Hassan Oweydah's father married four times and the boy had two brothers by his mother. Two of his uncles were killed in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. And another relative had been killed by the Israelis in 1989. Oweydah was only 17 when he left for Iraq dur-ingthe 2003 US invasion. He had already sold his car and gave the money away. "He was devout, a single man, always thinking of his family - but he talked of 'martyrdom' to his father and sisters," his first cousin, Maher Oweydah, said. "He arrived in Baghdad two days after the Americans reached the city and he called us on the phone from there. He had wanted to 'martyr' himself inside Palestine but he could not cross the [Lebanese] border -that is why he chose Iraq."

Hassan Oweydah's mother remembers another call from her son, just before his suicide attack. "He telephoned to say he was getting married in heaven. I said to him: 'Come back to Lebanon and you can get a wife here and go to "martyr" yourself in Palestine later'. He said: 'No I will find a bride in the higher firdous [paradise]'."

The family - and those of other Palestinians who have died in Iraq - say they have no direct connection with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida. "Every Muslim wishes he had met bin Laden but to us he was not an organisation or an intellectual," Maher Oweydah says. "His jihadi ideology and military operations are very close to the Palestinian situation but he no longer rep-resents an organisation. Bin Laden represents an ideology." Hassan Oweydah was apparently outraged at the US invasion of Iraq. "He thought this was a crusade against all Arab and Muslim centres," his cousin says. "He felt we should resist... And his friend Faraj, who was 26, was very close to him. There were people in Iraq waiting to welcome them, of course."

Maher Oweydah, who has the mark of the Muslim prayer stone on his forehead, has been a political and religious influence on the family. "The world of justice and truth will prevail," he says. "The Americans have fallen into a trap in Iraq. They had no idea what they were walking into. Who would have thought, two days after the fall of Baghdad, when Hassan arrived there, that there would be such a resistance?"

So why did the Palestinians defend Saddam Hussein? "He supported the Palestinians and every Palestinian 'martyr's' family received $25,000 from him. But that is not defence of Saddam as such. For us, Saddam was a dictator oppressing his people. But if we are to talk of this so-called democracy of the Americans - well, of course, Iraqis were victims [of Saddam] but that period was definitely better than the American occupation. The massacres that the [American] occupiers are implicated in - that's what our 'martyrs' like Hassan have been fighting, the violation of an Arab and Muslim country." As for Saddam's oppression of Iraq's Shia Muslims, Maher Oweydah - like thousands of Iraqis Sunnis - has little sympathy. "The truth is that Saddam was a Sunni and his struggle was with the Shia. Then after the [US] invasion of Iraq, the Shia clerics and intellectuals and politicians entered the country on the American tanks."

Extended members of the Oweydah family - those who are waiting for further "calls" to Iraq - nodded at this narrative. Then they led me into a living room and played a DVD of Hassan Oweydah saying goodbye to his mother and talking of his forthcoming death. Brothers and sisters and Labiba Oweydah sat in silence to watch him - as they have done many times before -and to study the faces, mostly bearded, of the insurgents who crowd around him. At one point, the son can be seen laughing at the wheel of an Iraqi car. Was this the suicide vehicle, perhaps?

And what was Labiba Oweydah's reaction when she heard of her son's death? "I did not imagine it, not in a million years. It shocked me completely. I know he wanted to go to Palestine - but ... I could not imagine him being 'martyred' in Iraq. But I am a proud mother. I will meet him in heaven - in the higher heaven. I am happy he will be married in the spring of heaven."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Imprints Vol 9,1 (2005)

The new Imprints: egalitarian theory and practice (although dated 2005) is as uninteresting as ever, except for a review by Alex Callinicos of Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. Callinicos starts with the current spate of natural catastrophes, pointing to political relevance of these events (especially the unequal social distribution of advantage and disadvantage) and the connections with anthropogenic climate change. For Callinicos this makes Diamond's theme of collapse important for immediate practical reasons as we face a 'perhaps' of imminent catastrophe. Easter Island offers the clearest picture of the 'mutual ruination of the contending classes', explained by Diamond in terms of a society destroying itself by overexploiting its resources. And Diamond clearly links what happened to Easter Island with the potential threat to a globalised world.

But Callinicos also thinks that Collapse is analytically shallow compared to Guns, Germs and Steel as the explanatory focus is environmental (ecocide) despite his willingness to include other factors. Diamond clearly connects environmental stress to 'failed states', but Callinicos wants something that challenges Anglo-American foreign policy assumptions, and doesn't think that Diamond can explain the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. Callinicos bases himself on Clifford Geertz's criticisms (in New York Review of Books) to say that Diamond doesn't fully take into account conflicts of interest in understanding the bad choices that societies make. And Callinicos brings in Jerry Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History to say Diamond focuses on the role of productive forces, ignoring social relations of production and refers to Robert Brenner on the rules of reproduction' as an explanatory strategy for this.

Callinicos finishes with praise for Diamond's call to action over the threats, but obviously wants the specifics of capitalism to be central and naturally praises the recent work of Mike Davis for doing precisely this.

Next to this the other material seems arid. Even the usually entertaining interview lacks unch.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Weekly Worker 627 June 1st

Weekly Worker (#627 June 1st ) has a cover devoted to events in the SSP: 'Tommy Sheridan's power grab: SSP spirals into all out civil war', and Peter Manson's story even starts on the front cover. Events at the SSP National Council were clearly fraught and angry and leave a nasty residue. Looks like a big victory for Sheridan and his supporters (including the SWP), but we'll have to see how Alan McCombes and the named 'petty-bourgeois feminist' MSPs respond. Socialist Worker saw it as the start of a rebirth for the SSP, could be the start of a split with George Galloway already stirring the pot and forming an alliance with Sheridan. The CPGB, of course, sees this as the almost inevitable result of the 'opportunistic rejection of working class socialism and seem to welcome this as it will undermine the 'notion that the SSP is something for us to aspire to.'

WW also carries Sheridan's 'Open Letter', a long and repetitive rant against his SSP enemies. It is his party. Peter Manson thinks it carries the ring of truth. Alan McCombes much shorter, issued on his release from Saughton jail carries some milder reproof, but calls for Tommy to withdraw his letter and to 'meet me face to face to thrash out these issues'. Risky!

Jack Conrad in 'Changes and responses' continues the CPGB theme of criticising green arguments about climate change and left adaptation to these ideas, especially via Campaign for Climate Change. Conrad sees this as Canute-lie: we can't stop climate change and Conrad produces a litany of long-term evidence for patterns of abrupt and other change. There is some acknowledgement of an anthropic contribution, before Conrad lays into varieties of Green-thinking, including a reiteration of the old policy of population at 20 million logically leading to extermination camps.

The Euston Manifesto gets a couple of pages devoted to it, even though it is 'totally bereft of vision, repeats all the standard CIA tropes about terrorism and, more than that, fears open debate'. A Laurence Parker argues that it's a rightist reaction against the mainstream anti-war movement. Much more interesting is an interview with Alan (not the minister) Johnson, titled, ' Third camp to first'. Blog accounts of the Manifesto launch on May 25th have Alan asa star and indeed inspritational speaker. Alan presents his shift as being based on realising that his old Third Campism was based on a Trotskyist 'death agony' perspective that doesn't work, so that there is a need to choose a lesser evil in order to defeat an 'immediate menace'. Alan's on-line journal Democratiya is worth looking at, critically, of course.