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Pick of the year

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Our writers’ cultural and literary highlights of 2018

Eve R Stone Light

There was an evening during the hot sunny summer and Beyonce and Jay-Z were on stage in East London. Every time I think of it, I smile.

My favourite book of the year turned out to be the first book I read, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. It is quite simply a masterpiece. I am hoping to find Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel Unsheltered under the Christmas tree.

What has #MeToo achieved?

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The #MeToo phenomenon is still going strong, but what exactly are its demands, and how can we judge what it has achieved so far? Sally Campbell assesses the trajectory of the movement.

In September Christine Blasey Ford bravely and matter-of-factly testified before a senate hearing about her accusation of attempted sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The next day president Donald Trump, at a rally, mocked Blasey Ford and bemoaned that “A man’s life is shattered”. He said of her and her supporters, “They destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people.”

Why the demise of Merkel?

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Socialist Review spoke to socialist activist Martin Haller in Germany about the crisis facing the “stronghold of stability in Europe”.

After the disastrous results for the CDU in the Bavaria and Hesse state elections in October, Angela Merkel announced she would be standing down as CDU leader. The mainstream explanation for her demise is that it’s because she let in refugees. How do you explain it?

How the right won in Brazil

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The victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential election was a shock felt the world over. Jorge Almeida discusses the crises which led to this point.

Brazil has elected a far-right president. But, three months before the election, the main issue was not the election of Jair Bolsonaro. The far-right did not have a public political tradition in Brazil, and almost no politician assumed to be from this wing.

Bolsonaro appeared with 17 percent of the polls at the end of 2017. But then it was hoped that this year’s presidential election would be one pitting the Workers Party (PT) against the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), a liberal right wing party.

Is left populism a viable strategy?

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Several socialist thinkers claim the left should employ the “populist” model being taken up by the right. Héctor Puente Sierra explains why they are wrong.

Phenomena as varied as Donald Trump’s election, Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity and the Brexit vote have been explained in the mainstream media as the result of “populism”. The term is abused by the defenders of the neoliberal consensus to dismiss anybody that questions the dominant economic and political set-up — whether the racist right represented by Italy’s new Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, or the radical left.

Why capitalism loves plastic

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There has rightly been public outcry over the state of the oceans, with shocking images of sea creatures trapped in plastic bags. Amy Leather looks at how plastic developed as a by-product of fossil fuel processing, and has been promoted by the petrochemical industry ever since.

Plastic is bad, isn’t it? That is certainly the new consensus. And no wonder there has been a public outcry. Many of us have been shocked by images like those on Blue Planet of a sperm whale with a stomach full of plastic waste, albatrosses feeding their young plastic or turtles trapped in plastic bags.

A report prepared in 2016 for the billionaires attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans already, with another 8 million tonnes being added each year.

A right royal crisis prods dormant unions into life

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Recent upheavals in the Royal College of Nursing are a sign of a wider transformation among nurses and white collar workers, argue Andy Ridley and Mark L Thomas

There were unusual scenes at the end of September in the Royal College of Nursing. Delegates at an Emergency General Meeting in Birmingham clashed with the RCN’s leadership over the way it had sold the 2018 NHS pay deal to members, while the leadership in turn attacked their critics as “political infiltrators”. Such red baiting however failed to stop a motion of no confidence in the RCN Council being overwhelmingly voted through. As a result the bulk of the RCN Council has stepped down to face immediate re-election contests.

Taking on the far right

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With a toxic realignment of the far-right seemingly taking place across the planet, how should socialists respond to push back against the racists?

We face a grim situation on a global scale. As Socialist Review went to press the second round of voting in the Brazilian election was about to take place and the far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, looked likely to be elected president.

This is a man who celebrates police killings and has said of left wingers, “These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history” — this in a country which was run by a right wing military dictatorship for over 20 years.

Intervening in the national immigration conversation

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A number of recent reports and surveys have contradicted the assumption that Brexit Britain is overwhelmingly racist and anti-migrant. However, writes Brian Richardson, there is still a long way to go to counter the racist ideas pumped out from above and enacted on the streets.

Mainstream politicians and pundits frequently lament the lack of a supposedly “grown up debate” about the impact of immigration in Britain. Such claims are usually followed by the suggestion that the reason for this is because the media is dominated by a cosmopolitan elite who are worried about causing offence to “ethnic minorities” and whose comfortable lifestyles protect them from any negative effects.

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