Opinion

Airports study misses the point

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The run-up to the international climate talks in Paris coincides with the period in which the government will make its decision on new airport capacity.

When it came to power in 2010 the Tory/Lib Dem coalition ruled out any new runways but just two years later, under pressure from big business, it set up the Airports Commission. Chaired by the financier Sir Howard Davies, it was tasked to look again at whether new runways would be needed and, if so, where they should be.

Neighbourhood predators

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Gentrification is often described as a tale of David and Goliath where local residents and local businesses struggle to keep their heads above water against a rising tide of global corporate chain stores and heartless property developers.

It is the ground offensive in capitalism’s war on the poor, a street by street up-marketisation of shop fronts, housing, public space, goods and services. It is market speculation and commodity trading in culture and community that drives inequality and class segregation.

Bloodbath at Waterloo

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The Tories' commemoration of the bicentenary of Waterloo is another example of their wish to boost the image of the armed forces today. John Newsinger relates the real reasons for the battle in June 1815.

The Conservative right was determined to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Waterloo bloodbath in style.

After all, the centenary in 1915 had been spoiled by the fact that, at the time, the British were allied with the French against the Germans who had been Britain’s allies in 1815.

Indeed, there had been more German troops in the field that year fighting the French than there were British.

Wrong for human rights

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The appointment of the loathsome Michael Gove as justice secretary bodes ill for human rights in Britain. Solicitor Madeleine Corr seeks inspiration from teachers who ousted him from the education department.

“It is of course a while ago now but let’s just enjoy again, for a moment, the departure of Michael Gove from the Department for Education…and all those ‘Gove Must Go’ badges now take their place with all the other campaign memorabilia.”

Those were the words of Christine Blower addressing this year’s National Union of Teachers conference.

It is a victory for teachers that Gove is no longer spearheading the demise of state schools; it is a disaster for those working in legal aided law that he is now spearheading the demise of access to justice.

Different aspirations

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Class is often the missing element in politics, and when it is raised, it is in terms of suffering or aspiration, rather than power.

A quarter of a century ago socialist journalist Paul Foot observed, “When the Labour Party was first formed, and had to win votes from the Liberals, politics for Labour Party people was saying what you believed and persuading people to vote for it. Today, stricken by psephology, politics for Labour is finding out what most people believe and pretending to agree with them.”

Can divestment save the world?

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Four years ago a report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative sparked the global campaign to persuade universities, faith organisations and public institutions to sell financial holdings in fossil fuel companies.

The reasoning behind the divestment campaign is simple. Fossil fuel emissions have played a major role in setting the world on course to a 5˚C rise in temperatures.

Limiting global warming to 2˚C is generally agreed as being a safe limit to avoid catastrophic climate change requires leaving around 82 percent of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

The dark heart of West Germany

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Günter Grass, novelist, poet and human rights campaigner, died in April aged 87. He was called the conscience of Germany, or more accurately West Germany. But at the heart of both the writer and the state lay a dark secret that has haunted his reputation. He was born in 1927 in the “free” city of Danzig, a port between Germany and Poland, today Gdansk in Poland. Its free-ness was a state given after the First World War as a price paid by Germany for its defeat.

Marxist feminism: A question of class

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Can Marxism shape feminism? And if so, what kind of Marxism and what kind of feminism? A 500-strong conference in Berlin provided some answers but left some questions open, writes Sheila McGregor

Along with the rise of the “new feminism” has come a resurgence of interest in Marxist feminism and materialist approaches to the question of women’s oppression. The publication of new books, such as the collection of essays Marxism and Feminism (ed Shahrzad Mojab), and the re-publication of old ones by socialist and Marxist feminists like Lise Vogel and Michele Barrett are signs of this.

Summers vs Bernanke: Sick capitalism

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Heavyweight economists can offer only a partial understanding of the weak recovery. Step forward, Karl Marx.

A fascinating debate is taking place between former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and former US Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke. These two big beasts of economics are slugging it out over the reasons for the weakness of the half decade long recovery.

Safe spaces?

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The cancellation of feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite’s gig at Goldsmiths College in February — possibly out of fear of protests by other feminists over her views on sex work — has escalated into a row over who is allowed to speak on campuses and who decides.
Different examples are being lumped together with little clarity. A recent article in the Guardian is a good example:

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