Simon Assaf

Qatar: pulled back into line

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One of the many casualties of the end of the Arab Spring is the Gulf state of Qatar, a country that up till recently had seemed best placed to emerge as a leading power in the new post-revolutionary Arab world.

Its main allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have turned on the island kingdom, withdrawing their ambassadors and hinting that the gas rich monarchy would be expelled from the powerful bloc.

Recent reports appear to indicate that Qatar is recanting its support for the Arab Spring, and reining back its sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Why read...Imperialism and World Economy

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Lenin described Nikolai Bukharin's Imperialism and World Economy as essential to understanding not only the economic basis of imperialism, but also its political and social impact.

The book, which was published at the height of the First World War, set out to prove that the war was not a "descent into madness", or to halt "German militarism", but the consequence of the emergence of imperialism, itself a "higher stage" of capitalism.

Bukharin's work was a reply to the tendency at the time to reduce imperialism "to the level of a cuss-word".

New Spirits: Images of a Revolution - Radical Jazz in the USA 1950-75

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Stuart Baker, Thames & Hudson, £30.00

Every now and then a book appears that, despite the price, you have to buy. New Spirits: Images of a Revolution - Radical Jazz in the USA 1950-75, by Stuart Baker is one such book.

Baker, who is the founder of the London-based Soul Jazz Records, has collated an impressive collection of album covers that have a special place in the history of graphic design and music.

New Spirits traces the movement that redefined the art of the album cover in the era of the civil rights movement, Black power, and the afro-funk style that characterised the mid 1970s.

Class, power and the state in the Arab Spring

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This month marks the third anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution. Simon Assaf examines some key lessons while Anne Alexander spoke to three Egyptian revolutionaries.

At the forefront of the Arab Spring were the movements that took to the streets in vast numbers. The revolutions drew in diverse social forces - workers organisations, youth movements, left wing parties, liberals as well as Islamists - that have over the past three years battled to put themselves at its head. The revolutions have revealed the shortcomings of the established opposition parties, as well as the ability of the state and old ruling classes to adapt and survive. They have thrown up powerful street movements, but also forces of sectarianism and reaction.

Iran: shifting sands

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The deal between the so-called P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and Iran represents a recalibration of power relations in the Middle East.

On the surface the deal, which temporarily eases some of the sanctions on Iran in return for a suspension of is nuclear programme, is a dramatic breakthrough. Beneath it lay the tectonic shifts in a region that was once marked by military standoff and quiescent populations.

Taste of victory

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Zero hours contracts have become a symbol of austerity Britain. Workers at the Hovis bakery in Wigan have shown how they can be beaten.

Bosses have been using the recession to impose so-called "zero-hour" contracts. These contracts allow employers to hire temporary workers on a short term basis, with no guarantee of further work, at lower wages and worse conditions.

According to government figures there are some 200,000 people on these contracts. Zero-hour contracts have spread to the health service and colleges, as well as the high street. These contracts are a direct attack on workers' pay and conditions, and contrary to popular belief, are not simply in workplaces with low union organisation.

Hezbollah's sectarian turn

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Simon Assaf examines the trajectory of Hebollah since 2006 that has led to their support of Assad in Syria

A party once lauded for its resistance to Israel is fast becoming a pariah in the Arab world. Hezbollah (The Party of God) is now openly derided as Hizb al-shaytan (Party of the Devil). Sunni Muslim preachers who once declared their support for it now call for holy war against it. Shia Muslims are now the victims of shocking violence and sectarianism.

The transformation of Hezbollah from the "heroes of resistance" into a sectarian party siding with a brutal civil war in Syria is rooted in its dependence on outside powers.

Syria: the vultures circle

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There is growing alarm in Israel, the West and its Arab allies at the turn of events in Syria. Barack Obama's administration is divided between those who urgently want to create a Syrian proxy by arming the official Free Syrian Army (FSA), those who advocate direct military intervention, and a growing number who consider Syrian dictator Bashar Assad "the lesser evil".

There is growing alarm in Israel, the West and its Arab allies at the turn of events in Syria, exasperated by a paralysis on how to approach the revolution. Barack Obama's administration is divided between those who urgently want to create a Syrian proxy by arming the official Free Syrian Army (FSA), those who advocate direct military intervention, and a growing number who consider Syrian dictator Bashar Assad "the lesser evil". The recent attempt by Britain and France to lift the embargo in order to arm "friendly forces" was sharply slapped down by its European partners.

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