In my view column

Disaster capitalism

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Volcanic ash, eh? What is it about disasters and capitalism? It seems that any event outside the daily norm exposes all the system's horrors and weaknesses.

Throughout the general election campaign, the consensus of the major parties remained that private enterprise, the free market, low taxes and a move away from "welfarism" are all good things. You would hardly think that a system founded on these principles was going through the worst economic chaos experienced by anyone not old enough to have lived through the 1930s.

Nor would you think that this chaos was in no small part created by the unfettered and unregulated behaviour of ultra-greedy bankers and capitalists.

Support Tusc!

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I put myself forward as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc) candidate for Tottenham because cuts in my college are a microcosm of the cuts threatened by all the main parties.

An electoral challenge to David Lammy MP had to be mounted. The campaign is gathering momentum. A growing team of people from the college and the community have been postcarding door to door and on the street. The response has been really positive.

I've lived and worked in Tottenham for 21 years and have seen the effects of rising social inequality. We now have the highest unemployment in London and life expectancy is 17 years lower than in the wealthiest areas.

The 'population bomb'

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The "population bomb" is on the environmental agenda once more.

Green guru Jonathon Porritt recently lambasted the politically correct for ignoring the demographic elephant in the living room - "exponential population growth". Is he right?

When Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, our rising numbers were seen as the primary threat to the planet's future. Only strict birth control could prevent doomsday. Some demographers said we should require a licence to have children, as you would for a dog.

It is important to vote

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I was struck by an obituary in the Guardian a few months ago. It was in the "Other Lives" section, where friends and family write in to celebrate the lives of people who were their own "local heroes".

This man had lived in Plymouth, where he worked on the railways, went off to fight in the Second World War, then carried on working on the railways, was a member of Aslef, and a Labour councillor who became mayor.

Then in 2003 he left Labour because of the war in Iraq.

Peace, or just war?

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"The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace." So said Barack Obama in Oslo last month as he accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Obama's speeches are increasingly remarkable. His announcement of the 30,000 surge of troops to Afghanistan was made at West Point military academy to a near all-white audience. With shades of George Bush, he evoked visions of the US's manifest destiny and made repeated references to 9/11 as the continued justification for war in Afghanistan. He could have come straight from the pages of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

One, two, a thousand Seattles

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On the tenth anniversary of the Seattle protests the temptations and opportunities to misremember them were legion.

The New York Times led a revisionist charge by retelling the protest as a moment of collective vandalism, brutally memorable but politically forgettable. Fortunately, this didn't go unchallenged. David Solnit, one of the best US organisers in 1999, recently published a chronicle of the skirmishes between memory and forgetting entitled The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle.

21st century feminism

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"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."

The novelist Rebecca West wrote this nearly 100 years ago. Today women who want to differentiate themselves from doormats face some of the same problems. More than 40 years after women's liberation became part of radical politics it seems incredible that there is still so much confusion and division about what feminism is.

The Afghan quagmire

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The summer of 2009 marked the time when the war in Afghanistan came back to haunt the British government.

The "good war" has now become a hotly contested conflict. The new head of the British armed forces has predicted a 40 years British presence in the country, while the US army chief has admitted that Nato forces are losing the war and that they have a year to turn the situation round.

Operation Panther's Claw, launched as the US and British attempt to finally deal with the Taliban, caused ever higher casualties among the occupying troops and was manifestly failing in its stated aim.

Unrepentant empire

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The long shadow of the Iraq war still hangs over British politics.

Instead of assuaging worries about the government's role in the war, and drawing a line under it, Gordon Brown's announcement of an inquiry into the war rekindled all the opposition and discontent which led to the mass movement against the war in the first place.

Brown's own goal is quite remarkable. Just days after committing to greater transparency and democracy he announced an inquiry in secret, which would not apportion blame and would be conducted by four knights and a baroness.

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