Joseph Choonara

Coronavirus and capitalist crisis

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Pandemic is triggering what may be the deepest economic crisis of our lifetimes.

As its most essential level, capitalism, as Marx pointed out, is based on a circuit. Capitalists use their capital to assemble raw materials, machinery and labour-power in workplaces, and through exploiting labour-power, generate goods and services.

They sell these goods and services to other capitalists or to workers, hopefully for a profit, expanding their capital. Then they buy more raw materials and machinery, and hire more labour-power, to begin the process anew.

If at any point, and for whatever reason, this circuit breaks down, a crisis will erupt.

A bloody bitter pill

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The reasons for the Tory victory extend back beyond Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour Party leader and beyond Brexit. Joseph Choonara explains and points a way forward.

Yes, this was the Brexit election. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn, the most decent figure to lead a major British party in recent history, was subjected to a campaign of slander in the media, aided and abetted by the right-wing of the Labour Party. This was indeed the context in which Labour’s “red wall” of formerly safe seats in the north of England and Midlands came crashing down, paving the way for Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory.

But the wall began crumbling long before — back when Corbyn was a peripheral figure within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Uprisings are driven by common trends

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The protests around the globe may not be a coordinated wave, but they share long-term roots, writes Joseph Choonara.

Chile: millions on the streets, protests and strikes amid images of burning buildings. Ecuador: the government flees the capital in the face of demonstrations. Hong Kong: five months of pitched battles between police and protesters. Catalonia: a general strike in response to the jailing of pro-independence politicians.

Economic warnings

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All the signals suggest the global economy could be heading for another recession. Joseph Choonara looks at the factors behind a crisis that the system could find difficult to resolve.

“The economy is the BEST IT HAS EVER BEEN! Even much of the Fake News is giving me credit for that!” With this tweet, Donald Trump greeted news this summer that the US economy had achieved the longest period of expansion in its history — 121 months of growth.

Kashmir: the poisoned legacy of partition

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The plight of the Kashmiris has long roots, stretching back to the end of Empire and the division of India after the Second World War.

Kashmir is the most militarised region on the planet. An estimated half a million Indian security personnel police a population of about 7 million.

About 80,000 have been killed in an insurgency against Indian rule. From 2016, shotguns filled with lead pellets have been used for “crowd control”, deliberately fired to blind civilian protesters. Stories of torture, rape and abduction abound among the mainly Muslim population.

The logic of capital online

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Shoshana Zuboff’s new book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, explores the world of the giant tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. We all know they collect our data for profitable uses; how deeply does this affect capitalist relations, asks Joseph Choonara.

I was part of the last generation in Britain to experience childhood before the Internet. It still seemed miraculous when, in the mid-1990s, it became possible to browse the Web, using search engines such as Altavista and Lycos — Google being as yet neither a search engine nor a verb.

The Internet had none of the pervasiveness it has today. Mobile phones, for those who had them, were mostly used for phone calls. Beyond my university computer room, going online meant using a dial-up modem with speeds one thousandth of my current connection.

Tory impasse: how can the left intervene?

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After two and a half years of negotiations, it is still absolutely unclear what will or will not happen with Brexit. Joseph Choonara looks at the scale of the crisis for Theresa May’s government, but also at the potential opportunities for the left to shape events, rather than simply spectate.

It is astonishing that, as I write this article, two months before Britain was scheduled to leave the European Union (EU), and after two and a half years of negotiation and planning, it is entirely unclear what fate awaits us.

Back in summer 2016, few people predicted that one of the greatest stumbling blocks would prove to be the Irish question — an issue fusing the legacy of Britain’s colonial past with the EU’s determination to police its external borders.

The left and the European Union

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In the light of debates about how the left should relate to Brexit, Joseph Choonara discusses a new book examining the structural problems of the EU.

The People’s Vote march in London on Saturday 20 October, which, whatever the exact numbers, was one of the largest protests since the start of the new millennium, marked a strange fusion of social forces. On the one hand, many of the speakers at the march, along with those bankrolling the publicity and transport, were firmly part of the establishment.

Trotskyism under the Spotlight

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A new book analyses the history of the British groups that have based their political strategies on the works of Leon Trotsky. Joseph Choonara looks at its strengths and contests its weaknesses.

There is something quite peculiar about the first history of contemporary British Trotskyism being written by someone who was, during the 1980s, a member of the Communist Party — rather like a version of the Acts of the Apostles penned by Pontius Pilate.

How Marx discovered the working class

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Workers need to free themselves. Joseph Choonara argues that as we celebrate the bicentenary of Marx’s birth, we should emphasise this hard won and most original contribution to radical politics.

Back in 1999, as the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle was shut down in a cloud of teargas, a global anti-capitalist movement was born. The best of the socialist left sought to engage with this movement, while also showing that it had something to contribute.


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