Jack Farmer

Writing Britain

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An attempt to convey the essence, as the author perceives it, of a particular time and location is often central to literature. This has arguably become more important in the last 200 hundred years, as writers have attempted to memorialise places that are being rapidly transformed by industrialisation.

So Wordsworth's beloved Lake District is punctured by Blake's dark satanic mills; for George Eliot's provincial characters the railways are a thrilling but threatening herald of progress; from a train carriage in Edward Thomas's well-known poem "Adlestrop", the serenity of an English village seems complete - but the horror of an industrial world war is just round the corner.

States and capital, the banks and the bailouts

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Right wingers usually argue that the state should get out of the way of private capital - that economic problems are caused by an overbearing state or regulation. Jack Farmer argues that the state actually serves to prop up the private sector, a role confirmed by the way that capitalism has evolved in recent years

Tories often say that they don't like the state. They say it's a drag on the economy, dampening the risk-taking creativity of the private sector.

Bring back the bawdy Bard

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Recently Shakespeare has been popping up everywhere, even more so than normal. Alongside the usual productions there is an exhibition coming to the British Museum and lots more smaller performances, many happening under the banner of the Cultural Olympiad.

Should we care? Isn't Shakespeare just the preserve of the pretentious literati who get a kick out of saying they like stuff that most people struggle to understand?

That's certainly what I used to think. I used to agree with Blackadder, who, in a great scene in Blackadder: Back & Forth, castigates Shakespeare (played by the pointless Colin Firth, in his perfect role sitting quietly on the ground getting kicked) for inflicting boredom on generations of schoolchildren. Blackadder sums up a typical Shakespearean scene: "Oh look here comes Othello, talking total crap as usual."

Buzz off Beecroft

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Adrian Beecroft seems to have all the answers. Unemployment presently blights the lives of millions of Britons and looks set to increase as Britain sinks further into recession.

So, in this time of economic woe, what's Beecroft's key recommendation to the government in his much anticipated report? Make it easier to sack workers. Brilliant.
When Business Secretary Vince Cable criticised the proposal, Beecroft once again displayed his penchant for thinking outside the box by branding Cable a "socialist".

The Arab Spring

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Hamid Dabashi

Hamid Dabashi's latest book is a joyful celebration of the ongoing revolutions and uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. It deserves to be read by anyone with even a passing interest in what must surely rank as the most important series of events in our time.

Dabashi is an Iranian academic based in the US. His writings on Iran's opposition Green Movement are essential reading. This book combines an extended commentary on events, written as they unfolded, with an attempt to integrate these comments within a broader theoretical framework.

Trouble brewing in China

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Estelle Cooch and Jack Farmer spoke to Geoffrey Crothall from the China Labour Bulletin about workers' resistance in China.

What are the main reasons behind the upsurge of strikes in China recently?
There are lots of different reasons. The most fundamental is that workers don't really have any other option if they want to pursue their economic interests or defend their legal rights. There is no established system of dialogue workers can use to express their grievances with employers. The only way they can get their voices heard is basically to go on strike.

The $7.7 trillion dollar question

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Think austerity is inevitable because there simply isn't enough money? Think again.

Non-financial corporations in the US, Europe and Japan are sitting on an astonishing $7.7 trillion in cash or equivalents, according to global banking association The Institute for International Finance. That's more than three times the annual GDP of the UK, held in cash by big corporations.

The myth of crony capitalism

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Those who suggest that we are witnessing a crisis of "crony capitalism", rather than capitalism itself, are wrong, argues Jack Farmer

Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about the "crisis of capitalism". This matters - it's one thing to say that the current economic mess was brought about by a failure of regulation, finance, greed or state interference. It's quite another to admit that the system itself might be fundamentally prone to generate destructive crises.

The spirit of Occupy

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John Sinha and Amy Leather are socialists who have been part of the occupation of St Paul's since it began. They spoke to Jack Farmer about the Occupy movement

What has been the ideological impact of the Occupy movement?

John: It's had a huge impact, which can be summed up in the slogan "We are the 99%". What people meant by that is that we are fighting for the interests of the 99% of people who have lost out as a result of neoliberalism.

Amy: The slogan is also the beginning of an argument about class. It's made people think that it is possible to take on those at the top and do something to change the world.

What were the differences between Occupy in Britain and elsewhere?

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