Joseph Choonara

Carillion lays systemic flaws bare

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The level of extortion made obvious to millions last month is a sharp illustration of the logic of capital.

Carillion was a creature of government cronyism and capitalist dysfunction. It was born in 1999 when parent company Tarmac sought to refocus on its core business of building supplies and span off Carillion, which inherited the facilities management and construction business.

The secret of Carillion’s early success was the manner in which the recently elected government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown expanded the previous Conservative administration’s privatisation programme.

Bolivarian revolution in trouble

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The right is on the attack against President Maduro of Venezuela, the successor to Hugo Chavez and his project of socialism in the 21st century. While attempts to topple him must be opposed, it is the contradictions of Chavismo that have laid the basis for the current crisis, writes Joseph Choonara.

What can be learnt from Venezuela, currently witnessing a deadly struggle to topple its president, Nicolás Maduro? Over 100 have been killed, and the upheaval has added to the hardship in a country that has seen its economy shrink by one third since 2013.

The media and the political establishment in Britain have derived a simple lesson: misery is the only possible outcome if you elect a government promising, as Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez did, “socialism in the 21st century”. In other words, this is what will happen if you elect Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.

Wishy-washy review won't fix gig economy

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What has happened to employment in the modern era of the “gig economy” and “zero hour contracts”? And what should be done about it?

The Taylor Review, or “Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices” to give it its full title, was supposed to answer these questions. However, its arrival on 11 July was something of a damp squib.

Interview: 'People are searching for ideas to explain the system'

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Camilla Royle spoke to Joseph Choonara, author of a new guide to Capital, about the relevance of Marx’s great work to the world today.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Capital volume 1. As you say in your book, the 50th anniversary was the year of the Russian Revolution and the 100th anniversary was right before the events of 1968 such as the civil rights movement and the general strike in France. How relevant is Capital today?

Can the left shape Brexit?

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Now that Britain’s exit from the European Union has been triggered, there will be a battle over terms. Joseph Choonara assesses the strengths of the different forces at play.

Theresa May has enacted Article 50. Her letter has been despatched, and so the two-year process of Britain leaving the European Union has begun. Where does British politics stand on this occasion? Not quite, perhaps, where some had expected. A few days before the referendum, one left-wing blogger spoke of a Leave vote paving the way for an “incoming government headed by Johnson, Gove, IDS [Iain Duncan Smith], and Farage”. Such claims were commonplace in the run-up to the vote.

If robots took our jobs, could they do them?

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The Science Museum’s major new Robots exhibition is hailed as the ‘greatest collection of humanoids ever assembled’, but it fails to take up the question everyone is asking: will a robot take my job? Joseph Choonara looks at the reality of automation under capitalism.

Robots are taking over. At least that is the impression given by the mainstream media. Headlines in recent weeks include: “Robots Could Replace 250,000 Public Sector Workers” (Independent), “Amazon To Open A Giant ROBOT-Run Supermarket Staffed By Just Three Humans” (Daily Mail) and “Give Robots ‘Personhood’ Status, EU Committee Argues” (Guardian).

An important distinction

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Marx discussed the concepts of productive and unproductive labour in Capital and it has been a source of debate ever since.

There was an interesting letter in last month’s Socialist Review from Ken Muller. In it he questioned the approach taken by my recent book, A Reader’s Guide to Marx’s Capital, to the concept of “productive labour”.

Ken’s argument is that my definition of productive labour — actually Marx’s definition — as labour hired by capital which produces surplus value (the source of profit) is too narrow.

Brexit wounds

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The prime minister’s commitment to both nationalism and neoliberalism is the worst of both worlds.

Theresa May has delivered her long-awaited speech on her Brexit strategy — knowledge of which was hitherto limited to the handwritten note spotted on the pad of a hapless Tory aide: “Have cake and eat it.”

May is pushing for a “hard Brexit”. Britain will leave the single market and the customs union governing trade between EU states. Instead she envisages a deal covering specific areas of the economy allowing “frictionless” tariff-free trade with the EU.

A bad year for the extreme centre

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With further elections coming this year in Europe, socialists must organise against racism and for alternatives to neoliberal politics.

If the year just ended had a single guiding theme, it was the accelerating crisis of what Tariq Ali dubs the “extreme centre”: mainstream political parties and institutions that have become addicted to the neoliberal status quo.

December was a fitting end to a year that had already seen Britain reject the EU and the US reject Hillary Clinton. In Austria, where the annulled presidential election run-off was restaged, an independent candidate from the Green Party defeated the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) candidate.

Is this the end of the neoliberal consensus?

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The Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump's victory in the US have both damaged the neoliberal project of the past three decades. Joseph Choonara questions the depth of neoliberalism's crisis and advocates continuing struggle against capitalism armed with clear socialist politics.

The global neoliberal order has suffered two wounding blows this year. First the Brexit vote removed from the European Union its second biggest economy. The howls from large capitalist firms, who overwhelmingly advocated a Remain vote, still echo. Now Donald Trump has won the US presidential election on the back of a campaign that promised to reverse the country’s longstanding commitment to free trade and to enact a major economic stimulus package.


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