The ugly truth about beauty

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Rena Niamh Smith unpicks fashion’s ambiguous relationship with gender, revealing how it relies on the labour of poor women, while both exploiting people’s insecurities and claiming to celebrate “empowerment”.

Every fashion show I’ve ever attended names “strong women” as inspiration in the show notes, whether the collection was conceptual art pieces, or micro dresses and four-inch heels.

Style can be empowering. Angela Davis’s afro was a bold, beautiful middle finger to the Eurocentric beauty standards imposed on black women, symbolic of systematic oppression of black people. Like music, style is an art and individual garments, or hairstyles, both hold aesthetic merit and operate in a wider, often political, trend.

Fundamental British tosh

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The government’s Prevent strategy is inherently racist and it attempts to turn teachers into agents of the security services. Ümit Yildiz looks at the problems with enforcing a spurious notion of “British values”.

Paul Gilroy wrote that “racism does not, of course, move tidily and unchanged through time and history”. While on the surface “acceptable” racism in the UK has shifted its focus from colour to creed, culture and religion, its tools of operation remain the same: the judiciary, the police, the education system, the media, namely the British state itself.

Following the attacks on 11 September 2001, already growing anti-Muslim racism was normalised by the US administration and successive British governments.

The future’s already here

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The IPCC climate change report grabbed headlines with the notion that we have 12 years to avert climate crisis. We would be better served by recognising that the crisis is happening now, writes Martin Empson.

The publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report in October provoked major discussion. Headline writers seized on a figure that suggested we have 12 years to prevent catastrophe.

Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts, used similarly apocalyptic language: “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now… This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

Scotland: business versus working class interests

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Demonstrations involving thousands of people from different parts of Scotland, organised by All Under One Banner (AUOB) calling for Scottish Independence, culminated in an Edinburgh march of 100,000 in October.

There is a growing impatience among the rank and file of the independence movement at the lack of headway by first minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership to announce a date for a second referendum, even though the Scottish government has a mandate from the Scottish parliament to do so.

Orwell or Carroll?

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Many people have turned to George Orwell and his novel Nineteen Eighty Four for assistance in trying to understand the Trump presidency and its implications for both the US and the wider world. This is a mistake. Orwell certainly offers insight into the activities of the many Big Brothers who have paraded on the world stage since he wrote the novel, but if the truth be told, Big Baby is completely beyond him.

When hypocrisy’s in fashion

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A handful of significant appointments of black designers and cover stars marks something of a change for the fashion industry, but racism is rooted in much deeper structural problems.

This year is being hailed as a breakthrough year for black figures in the fashion industry.

Virgil Abloh was appointed creative director for menswear at Louis Vuitton. Ghanaian-born Edward Enninful, who took over as editor-in-chief of British Vogue in late 2017, made Rihanna the first black woman to star on the all-important September issue. A record number of other major magazines had black September cover stars, from Beyoncé for American Vogue to Slick Woods for Elle UK.

Glasgow model is no panacea for violence

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“Sadiq Khan’s Crime U-Turn” screamed the front page of the London Evening Standard on 19 September. The article’s subtitle added, “Mayor finally backs new public health approach we demanded”.

This followed the announcement by London’s mayor of a “new approach” to tackling violent crime in the capital.

The paper’s boastfulness continued in an editorial which indicated, “We welcome the zeal of the Mayor’s conversion even if he didn’t manage to find time to credit us.”

100 years of RAF bombing

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This year the establishment has been celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. All very well if you enjoy celebrating colonialism made cheaper and more deadly.

In 1921 eight RAF planes carried out a bombing raid against a village in Iraq. The villagers were terrified and men, women and children fled their homes, taking shelter in the shallows of a nearby lake. This, as the official report noted, made them “good targets for the machineguns”.

Their crime was non-payment of taxes. For some reason the massacre of rebellious “natives” from the air for non-payment of taxes has not really figured in this year’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the RAF.

Revolutionaries and the state

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History is littered with lessons on why workers’ action is the key to real change, and Marx’s insights are crucial.

This month marks 45 years since the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government in Chile. On 11 September 1973 general Augusto Pinochet seized power and within days oversaw the murder of about 30,000 people. Exile, prison and torture would follow for thousands more in the 17 years that Pinochet ruled the country.

Ireland: the border is the problem

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One of the ways that Brexit negotiations are breaking down is over Ireland. Yet much of the discussion ignores both imperialist history and the consequences for working people.

At first glance the shape of the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country makes no sense. It is a squiggly line stretching 310 miles from Lough Foyle in the north west to Carlingford in the east. It follows no natural boundaries and cuts across 180 roads. Donegal is indisputably in the north of Ireland, but not part of Northern Ireland. Neither was the border based on the division of Ireland into four historical provinces with Ulster as the northern one. Three counties of Ulster — Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal — were excluded from the newly created statelet.


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