A forward motion
'No Platform' debate at Sussex University, 1-2 May 2008
Two campaigners reflect on two days spent arguing for the motion to
abolish 'No Platform' at Sussex University.
Abigail Ross-Jackson, Luke Gittos
Radical Oxford Blues
Oxford Radical Forum, Wadham College, Oxford, 29 February - 2 March
Marx wrote in the 18th Brumaire that revolution cannot take
its poetry from the past, but only from the future. The speakers at
the Oxford Radical Forum too frequently ignored both the poetry of the
past in contextualising the relevance of Marxism today, and the radical
potential of talking seriously about the future.
Maria Grasso, George Hoare and Lee Jones
What is (Jewish) literature?
'In Praise of Diasporas', Jewish Book Week, London, 2 March 2008
Adam Thirlwell argued that, rather writing than for the reader, great
writers always write against the reader, meaning that expectations
based on identity or ethnicity are bound to be confounded, except perhaps
in mediocre literature. Might it even be said that Jewish writing is
an attempt to escape Jewishness?
Intelligence Squared debate:‘Britain should have a referendum
on the EU Treaty’, Royal Geographical Society, London, 5 March
European political elites are retreating into the EU because of the
shrinking of any kind of domestic political engagement which can, one
way or another, give them a political project and engagement with their
societies. The broader problem is at home.
Risk and Childhood
RSA, London, 31 October 2007
stranglehold of ‘risk management’ on much of public life
is perhaps even more worrying than the risk averseness that it seeks
to counter. It provides the rationale for a particularly stifling policy
orientation to every issue it touches.
Is there a new global working class?
ICA, London, 20 November 2007
speakers at this debate all agreed that there is a new global working
class in terms of rising percentage of the population and occupation.
However, they disagreed as to the details, the causes of this rise,
whether the new class expressed itself politically and what the future
Immigration: which way forward?
America at a crossroads
Perhaps it is time to replace the rhetoric with an honest and open debate
about what immigration means today - and why residents do not get the
same treatment all round as citizens and, shockingly, immigrants are
presented as 'illegal' because they come to work where they are needed.
Compulsory voting: a smokescreen for disengagement
Fabian Democracy Day, London, 8 September 2007
For the political elite today, the issue of low turnout centres not
around why people do not want to vote but how they can be made to vote.
I asked Fiona Mactaggart if she was comfortable with overruling people’s
decision not to vote. 'I don't care about that,' she said, 'people ought
A hot-button issue
The changing politics of abortion in the USA
Interestingly, where once those who were clearly pro-choice argued their
case from the point of view of women’s rights and the freedom
to retain individual autonomy and control over one’s body, it
seems to be increasingly the case that arguments are being reposed in
Fast Food Nation
The pre-cinema meal
Actually, Mickey D's burgers are a bit boring. They should put some
of the fat back. They're dry and bland at the moment. I mean, it's a
burger for christ's sake. The ones you get from Iceland, you know, four
for a pound, they're actually surprisingly tasty.
Antony Gormley in conversation with Will
Self Purcell Room, South Bank
Centre, 24 July 2007
The role of the artist, Gormley believes, is to move away from drawings,
towards drawing up from deep within the global hub a glowing source
of light into our darkened bodies. He believes in public art because
‘art is inherently political, trying to make the world different’.
Launch event for Reclaiming Marx’s ‘Capital’,
by Andrew Kliman, SOAS, London, 6 July 2007
Blaming the contemporary distortions of Marxism on the machinations
of the ‘academic Marxists’ of the 1970s is dubious enough,
but to have a panel of leading ideologues effectively say ‘not
me guv!’ en masse really stretches credulity.
Andrew Keen on the Cult of the Amateur
ICA, London, 25 June 2007
In reality, Keen is not challenging the ‘nethusiasts’, to
coin a term, on the basis of their naïve, utopian pseudo-radicalism,
but rather is just lambasting the internet. In this, Keen makes the
same error as his antagonists – he places far too much emphasis
on the technology itself.
Slaves to the Past
Institute of Ideas debate for Museums and Galleries Month, National
Portrait Gallery, London, 21 May 2007
Historical parallels are tricky beasts and in this case complicated
the issue unnecessarily. It seems to me you need to get into the issue
of slavery in the 19th century and get a grasp of human trafficking
in the 21st century before any meaningful parallels between the two
can be made.
From Star Wars to the Battle of Ideas
Is sci-fi good for public debate?, Sci-Fi London Festival, 3 May 2007
While the panel came to no firm conclusions about the question at hand,
it was clear that science fiction does not have to be mainly about science,
but at its most excellent it provides an arena to engage imaginatively
in the implications of science and to explore the positive and negative
consequences of ideas.
A Night of Crime
Spit-Lit Festival, London, 6 March 2007
Perhaps fiction editors need to reconsider a world beyond the bounds
of literary taste, or the constraints of dubious literary theories.
Because today, crime seems to be leading the field when it comes not
only to reader popularity, but to exposing the skull beneath society’s
Is the BBC institutionally biased?
ICA, London, 22 February 2007
In an era when 'left' and 'right' have less political purchase in society
than ever before, it seems strange to be proclaiming that 'left-wing'
as opposed to some other kind of bias, such as a preference for particular
issues like the environment, crime policy or the Iraq war, dominates
the BBC's output.
The New Left and its influence
ICA, London, 19 February 2007
The New Left was necessarily fragmentary, because while it promised
freedom, it was just as much a flight from previous forms of radical
politics, be it in some cases the Communist Party, or in others a long-held
attachment to old left pieties. For all the talk of liberation, disillusion
lay at its root.
What's Left of the Left?
ICA, London, 12 February 2007
Martin Kettle and Hilary Wainwright tried to distance themselves from
Nick Cohens extravagant militarism, but couldnt accept Mick
Humes point that intervention always makes matters worse both
for those on the receiving end of Western militarism, and for the political
culture in the metropolitan countries.
Medical Marijuana: should the sick be able
to smoke? DPSFF, New York, 18
Bob Barr stressed his larger concern was with how the government uses
the War on Drugs rather like the very 'gateway' it presents drugs as
- and then proceeds to make other laws which are attacks on citizens.
Fabian New Year Conference: 'The Next Decade'
Imperial College, London, 13 January 2007
The consensus was that if people feel no affinity with Labour policies,
it is because they have not been 'sold' correctly. Political 'renewal'
thus was approached in the same way one treats a pair of old shoes that
have served one well up to now - give them a bit of a shine and they'll
be as good as new.
Anti-Academies Alliance conference
Institute of Education, London, 25 November 2006
The simplicity of 'a good local school for every child' makes the notion
particularly attractive in today's climate of parental confusion and
frustration at the number of different schools supposedly on offer,
when that choice is quite clearly only a façade.
Marxists v Feminists on education
Marxism and Education: Education and Social Class, London, 25 October
Whilst the intention of this conference was to discuss the relationship
between education and social class, it was clear very soon that the
real issue up for discussion was whether Marxists or feminists had the
greatest claim to represent the Left.