Tuesday, 3 March 2015

V for Varoufakis: the Greek Finance Minister in his Own Words

"The next dose was the next loan tranche. We don't want the next dose. We don't care about the next loan tranche when our debt is unsustainable. We want to get rid of the addiction." So said Yanis Varoufakis, following last week's controversial deal to extend Greece's bailout loan. Speaking to CNN in this interview, Varoufakis vows to use the bought time to make moves in relieving the serious issues of poverty affecting the Greek people. The renegotiated deal means the Syriza government can now reconfigure the austerity strategy imposed on Greece - so long as the net repayments remain the same. For a government elected on the promise of rejecting such Troika demands, the political effect has surely been controversial and damaging. Last week Varoufakis took to a number of platforms to explain his political and economic background, shedding light on possible reasons for this turnaround.

Writing for the
Guardian's Long Read section, the Greek Finance Minister and author of The Global Minotaur explained the development and roots of his political and economic outlook:

Karl Marx was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in, from my childhood to this day. This is not something that I often volunteer to talk about in “polite society” because the very mention of the M-word switches audiences off. But I never deny it either. After a few years of addressing audiences with whom I do not share an ideology, a need has crept up on me to talk about Marx’s imprint on my thinking. To explain why, while an unapologetic Marxist, I think it is important to resist him passionately in a variety of ways. To be, in other words, erratic in one’s Marxism.

It wasn't just Marx, of course. The "erratic Marxist" learn much from "Thatcher's neo-liberal trap", and is steadfast in his desire not to fall into it, or the idea that old-fashioned socialist demands can repudiate Thatcherite politics. So a new radical position is needed; economically fluent, forward-thinking and optimistic. Nonetheless, Marx remains a lodestone of any critique of capitalism, he says:

At a time when neoliberals have ensnared the majority in their theoretical tentacles, incessantly regurgitating the ideology of enhancing labour productivity in an effort to enhance competitiveness with a view to creating growth etc, Marx’s analysis offers a powerful antidote. Capital can never win in its struggle to turn labour into an infinitely elastic, mechanised input, without destroying itself. That is what neither the neoliberals nor the Keynesians will ever grasp.

It's not just his background in Marxist economics that Varoufakis has been espousing recently. It's also his background in Game Theory. It seems this, as much as theoretical economic models, that is pertinent to last week's negotiations.
Writing in the New York Times, Varoufakis says "my game-theory background convinced me that it would be pure folly to think of the current deliberations between Greece and our partners as a bargaining game to be won or lost via bluffs and tactical subterfuge."

The trouble with game theory, as I used to tell my students, is that it takes for granted the players’ motives. In poker or blackjack this assumption is unproblematic. But in the current deliberations between our European partners and Greece’s new government, the whole point is to forge new motives. To fashion a fresh mind-set that transcends national divides, dissolves the creditor-debtor distinction in favor of a pan-European perspective, and places the common European good above petty politics, dogma that proves toxic if universalized, and an us-versus-them mind-set.

His flight from Game Theory, he claims, is not based upon a radical political strategy. Instead, he is motivated by a Kantian desire to "escape the empire of expediency by doing what is right." How does that square with what many have perceived to be a reneging on the promises Syriza made to the Greek people to reject austerity by taking a tough, no-nonsense approach to the Troika? Writing for
Channel 4 News, Paul Mason suggests that angry Syriza voters may be appeased by a new tax regime against Greece's oligarch class, or the disbanding of the hated DELTA riot squad, notorious for their violence and neo-fascist sympathies. However, according to Mason, there could also be a long-term upshot regarding the symbolic terms of the (potential) Grexit:

The shock in Syriza’s upper echelons, symbolised by the expression on Alexis Tsipras’ face as he addressed the nation on Saturday, was real. It was the shock of realisation that, Germany was stronger than Italy and France combined, and that there really is no space inside the euro for a radical left government.

Since this realisation, many ordinary Greeks, and some previously pro-euro politicians and advisers,  have come to the conclusion that Syriza should prepare Greece for a “controlled exit”. Instead of “we were kicked out”, it would be sold as “we escaped” – and I think however positively today’s deal is spun, the push for Grexit will grow stronger as constraints become obvious.

To learn more of Varoufakis' political and economic outlook, download Zed Books FREE Varoufakis ebook,
Europe After the Minotaur, featuring selected extracts from The Global Minotaur.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

*WIN* a copy of new Zed book 'Clothing Poverty'

Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes

To celebrate the release of Andrew Brooks' Clothing Poverty on 12th February, we are giving away a free copy.  All you have to do is 'Like' and 'Share' this post on Facebook.

We will also be officially launching the book at the beginning of March with a talk from author Andrew Brooks followed by a Q&A and a drinks (yes, drinks) reception.  Here are the details:


Are Public Services still Public?

How public are your services? This great little animated video from Municipal Services Project (MSP)

David A. McDonald is co-director of the MSP. In his recent book Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South McDonald examines the growing trend towards corporatization - both those strategies that otherwise further neoliberal ideas, but also equity-focused attempts at providing the vitals of life in the Global South. To learn more on this growing model of service provision, check out Rethinking Corporatization.

Friday, 6 February 2015

February Highlights from Zed Books

Varoufakis rattles the Minotaur's Cage!

The Troika has been shaken by Syriza's stunning election victory in Greece. Promising a backlash against EU fiscal policy, Alexis Tspiras' young leftist party looks to shake up the status quo of the austerity regime punishing Europe.

At the centre of the political storm sits Yanis Varoufakis, the erstwhile economics professor newly appointed as the Finance Minister of the new Greek coalition government. Varoufakis has already described austerity as a form of "fiscal waterboarding", and promised that Syriza will "destroy the Greek oligarchy system". Varoufakis outlined what he sees as the cause of the financial crisis - and his plans for pulling Greece out of it - in his powerful book The Global Minotaur.

In recognition of this sea-change in European politics, Zed Books have released a special free e-book containing key extracts from The Global MinotaurEurope After the Minotaur outlines his economic and political thinking and how he believes Europe can move beyond cuts and austerity.

Varoufakis shows how today’s crisis in Europe is one inevitable symptom of a global ‘system’ which is now as unsustainable as it is imbalanced. With powerful clarity and conviction, he lays out the options available to us for reintroducing reason into a highly irrational global economic order.This is a unique insight into the thinking of a key figure in the Syriza government, who is set to become a hugely influential figure in European politics.

To download your free copy of Europe After the Minotaurjust follow this link. 

More on Greece and the European Crisis

If you're interested in reading more on the European financial crisis, the following titles are fantastic guides, offering a different perspective to the mainstream economics that shapes much of our media coverage.

Europe on the Brink: Debt Crisis and Dissent in the European Periphery Tony Phillips

Europe is suffering from a bipolar economic disorder. Financial journalists divide the continent into two groups of nations - centre and periphery - not by geography but by credit rating. Europe on the Brink is a critical investigation of the root causes of this sovereign debt crisis, and the often misguided policy choices made to resolve it.

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, together with two other finance experts, compares debt contagion in Europe with regional financial crises elsewhere, while Roberto Lavagna, former economics minister in Argentina, provides a poignant comparative analysis with his own country’s experience. Crucially and uniquely, Portuguese, Greek and Irish economists provide hard-hitting case studies from the perspective of the periphery.

This much-needed book offers a heterodox economic perspective on the causes, symptoms and solutions of the biggest economic issue currently facing Europe.

Paperback / £18.99 / $29.95 / 9781783602131

The Great Eurozone Disaster: From Crisis to Global New Deal
Heikki Patomäki
The last couple of years have seen the eurozone lurch from crisis to calamity. With Greece, Portugal and Ireland already driven to the brink of economic catastrophe, and the threat that a number of other EU countries are soon to follow, the consequences for the global economy are potentially dire. In The Great Eurozone Disaster, Heikki Patomäki dissects the current crisis, revealing its origins lie in the instability that has driven the process of financialisation since the early 1970s. Furthermore, the public debt crises in the European deficit countries have been aggravated rather than alleviated by the responses of the Commission and leaders of the surplus countries, especially Germany.

Providing a captivating narrative about how Europe ended up in its present predicament, Patomäki presents a radical new vision for 'global economic democracy' as the only viable way out of the current crisis.

Paperback / £12.99 / $19.95 /9781780324784

New Titles from Zed Books

South Sudan: A Slow Liberation

Edward Thomas

After a long liberation struggle, South Sudan won its independence in 2011. Two years later, the world's youngest state erupted into new torment, with civil war pitting ethnic communities against each other. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, Edward Thomas provides a multi-layered examination of what is happening in the country today.

Paperback / £18.99 / £27.95 / 9781783604043

Asia-Africa Development Divergence: A Question of Intent

David Henley

Why have Southeast Asian countries been so successful in reducing levels of absolute poverty, whilst in African countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, despite recent economic growth, most people are still almost as poor as they were half a century ago? Henley's convincing comparative study suggests the explanation lies with a lack of serious intent from national leaders.

Paperback / £21.99 / $32.95 / 9781783602773
Nice jeans, where did they come from? You don't know? In Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand Clothesauthor Andrew Brooks stitches together the rich story of the worlds of high-fashion and international clothes recycling. Following a pair of jeans across their lifetime, Brooks reveals how fast fashion and international charities are embroiled in commodity change and political system that perpetuate poverty, from Mozambican markets and Nigerian Smugglers to London's vintage fashion scene and Vivienne Westwood's high-end fashion house.

Paperback / £14.99 / $21.95 / 9781783600670

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Yanis Varoufakis: Exclusive FREE e-book from Zed Books

To celebrate Yanis Varoufakis' election to Greek parliament as a Syriza MP, and his new role as a Finance Minister threatening to crack the austerity consensus in Europe, Zed Books are offering a free e-book containing extracts from "The Global Minotaur", his provocative account of the causes of the financial crisis (and his plan for getting out of it). The e-book, "After The Minotaur: Greece and the Future of the Global Economy" will go on general release for all platforms on Thursday 29th January.

However we are offering readers of our monthly Zed e-newsletter exclusive early access to the e-book. All subscribers will receive a download link in January's newsletter, delivered free-of-charge straight to your inbox at lunchtime tomorrow, Wednesday 28th.

To get your copy of "After The Minotaur: Greece and the Future of the Global Economy" by the new Greek Finance Minister, simply sign-up for Zed's free monthly newsletter here.

Asked of his plans for power, the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, responds "We are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system". Such fighting words will come as no surprise to anyone aware of the work of this radical heterodox economist who has blogged about the global financial crisis and its discontents for the past 5 years.

But what are Varoufakis' plans for a new economy based upon equality and social justice? The author outlined much of his vision for a new economics in his book "The Global Minotaur". In it he explodes the myth that financialisation, ineffectual regulation of banks, greed and globalisation were the root causes of the global economic crisis. Instead, he has a much more provocative thesis...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Join our mailing list and win the ENTIRE "Critique. Influence. Change." series!

The “Critique. Influence. Change.” series brings together pivotal texts by notable academics and activists from Zed Books’ publishing of the last thirty-five years, with new introductions by the authors and other leading scholars. These are books that have helped challenge contemporary discussions and shape radical politics aiming for a more just world.

Now you can win all 14 titles in the series, including Ecofeminism by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale by Maria Mies and Reclaiming Development by Ha-Joon Chang and Ilene Grabel.

For your chance to win, simply sign up here for our new monthly newsletter by 6pm GMT on Wednesday 28th January.

One lucky winner will be picked at random and receive all 14 of the CIC series.

Register for The Coming Insurrection in Publishing - Feb 4th

Friday, 9 January 2015

Islamism - a eurocentric position?

Following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week, voices are once again rehashing old narratives of a "Clash of Civilizations" between Islam and 'the West'. But is this a particularly eurocentric view - or is Islamism itself a eurocentric position? We reprint here Hamid Dabashi's new foreword to the upcoming new edition of Bobby S. Sayyid's A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism, published by Zed Books in February 2015, part of the Critique. Influence. Change series.

Though it was originally published before the iconic events of 9/11, now more than a decade ago, S. Sayyid’s A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (1997) has assumed even more timely significance since its first appearance. In this pioneering book, Sayyid provocatively suggests, and one can still see the logic of his proposition, that we must see political Islamism as a particular phase of decolonization of Muslim political cultures. Sayyid took the rise of Islamism as a challenge to ‘Western’ political hegemony, and particularly its self-congratulatory declaration of the End of History. That proposition still demands attention.

When exactly was the moment of ‘the rise’ of political Islamism? The Iranian revolution of 1979; or before it, back in the 1920s when Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood; or even before
then, during the Tobacco Revolt in Iran in 1890, when a clerical fatwa triggered a major anti-colonial movement; or perhaps even earlier than that, when Jamal al-Din al-Afghani commenced a massive pan-Islamist movement in the 1860s; or perhaps in the 1850s, when the Babi movement shook the Qajar foundation to its roots? Or is it after all of these: in the 1980s, when the Taliban appeared in Afghanistan; or the 1990s, when Hezbollah and Hamas entered the political map of the Arab world in earnest; or was it after September 11, 2001 perhaps; or even later when the Muslim Brotherhood completely took over the Egyptian revolution of January 2011? All of these dates and events (and others) can be used to mark a particular phase of Islamism in one direction or another, some of them indeed as marking the decolonization of the Muslim mind, others in fact its opposite. Sayyid was spot on (as the British say) in noting that we had to see political Islamism as an integral part of decolonization. But there is a period of gestation right before that decolonization, which is actually the mark of a deeply colonized Muslim mind that defined its identity in terms decided by its colonizers. This much was known and understood from Albert Memmi to Ashis Nandy.

In his seminal book, Sayyid suggests that Muslims were now after offering a master signifier to counter and balance the one offered by ‘the West’. He also takes issue with those critical thinkers who had begun to speak of multiple Islams by way of opposing the Orientalist manufacturing of an essentialized Islam. By the time we read Sayyid’s take on postmodernism and post-structuralism, we know that he is after something more critical than just a reading of political Islam, namely, the modes of knowledge production about Islam. Those modes and moments of knowledge production about Islam, we can all concur, were contingent on two critical factors: (1) who was producing that knowledge and by what authority and purpose, and (2) what regional or global event, or set of events, had occasioned this new phase of knowledge production about Islam.

A decade and a half into Sayyid’s argument, this point in particular remains steadily critical – with a crucial twist. Since the publication of my Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror (2006), I have been arguing that the fictive delusion of ‘the West’ is no longer a valid
or legitimate interlocutor for the post-colonial world. We (people hitherto at the mercy of this delusional phantasm of power and domination that calls itself ‘the West’) are no longer talking to ‘the West’. We have finally come to realize it for what it is: a mirage. It does not exist.

Upon this recognition, then, the world at large does not corroborate the work of Orientalists by producing a militant Islamism that reverses the angle on the selfsame object of curiosity. The particular intellectual developments trying to grapple with the end of modernity, or the crisis of the subject, are almost exclusively a European preoccupation (philosophical or moral), with little or no consequence to the rest of the world, unless and until the fact and phenomenon of coloniality and the passage through that epistemic challenge becomes the primary focal point of our dismantling the myth of ‘the West’.

A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism marked a critical stage in that transformative period. Eurocentrism is no longer an irksome reality. It has become positively blasé. Of course Europeans are eurocentric. Why should they not be? They asked Molla  Nasreddin where the centre of the universe was, and he said where he had nailed his donkey on the ground. The same is with eurocentrism. The question is no longer why are Europeans eurocentric, but why should anyone care? That euro- at the commencement of eurocentrism has, in fact, imploded; it is so deeply troubled and anxiogenic that it can no longer function as a colonial catalyst of thinking for any other regime of knowledge.

Sayyid was right when he traced the origin of Islamism to eurocentrism, though the origin of that binary could be traced back to a much earlier period than the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini – to
the intellectual forebears of Khomeini like Jamal al-Din al-Afghani or even Sheykh Ahmad Naraqi, who had originally formulated the notion of Velayat-e Faqih. But Sayyid had identified something else: the politics of identity, which has become particularly poignant for Muslim émigrés to Europe and the US, where in the face of rabid Islamophobia that particular politics of identity has become even more acerbic. There are an increasing (however limited) number of disenfranchised Muslim youths in Europe who are attracted to the murderous adventurism of ISIL, which seems to them to be the only way to combat the racist Islamophobia – from mass murderer Anders Breivik to the so-called new atheists like Bill Maher and Sam Harris – that engulfs Europe and the US. That politics of identity is today definitive to the European Union, or its spectre, to the degree that this ‘Europe’ only recognizes itself in so far as it can imagine its alterity in the bearded face or scarfed head of a Muslim person.

Sayyid correctly diagnosed the fact that the rise of Islamism was the end of the myth of ‘the West is the best’. But the same challenge had in fact corroborated the myth of ‘the West’ itself. In the aftermath of world-historic events in the Arab and Muslim world, marked by the Arab Spring and the Green Movement in Iran, the very relevance and authenticity of that delusion is now depleted.

Books like A Fundamental Fear are registers of where we are and how far or how little we have moved towards a geography of liberation that has left the self-centring focal point of ‘the West’ and the eurocentrism it entails behind and allowed them to become the local and nativist mythologies that the incoming anthropologists of a new worldliness might consider worthy of their ‘fieldwork’. Until then, every book that is written about ‘Islam’ is also a book about its doppelganger, ‘the West’.

Hamid Dabashi
Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies 
and comparative literature, Columbia University
New York, Doha, November 2014

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Michael Brown and Eric Garner: Peace and Violence in “American Democracy” | Arnold August

IMAGE: New Yorker / Ron Haviv/VII

When the grand jury rendered its non-indictment verdict on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, protesters from the area converged on the local police department headquarters. They were there to express their outrage and demand that justice be done. The whole world witnessed the occupation of Ferguson by the fully militarized and armed police. It looked more like an invading army than anything else. These armed forces were the only barrier between the people and the police station. It is perfectly understandable that people express their anger against the police and judicial system. While the occupying force protected the police station, individuals were free to loot and burn small local businesses under very dubious circumstances: the jury decision was rendered late at night and no protection at all was offered to the local businesses. Was this done on purpose? The FBI had already sent “an extra 100 FBI agents to Ferguson just before the grand jury decision.”

The true story behind the arbitrary destruction is not known at this time. In any case, it is now history. These conveniently burned-out buildings and civilian vehicles have been easily converted by the media – and by the Obama administration down to the local authorities in Ferguson and other cities – into the stereotype of what is simply labelled as “violent demonstrations” in order to dampen the spirit of principled resistance. The widely propagated scenes of burning, looting and its aftermath instantly became the archetype of what is painted as typical of noble, militant and conscientious resistance. The anarchist scenario completely overshadows all the perfectly legitimate and courageous forms of action taken by the people against the occupying armed forces positioned in the Ferguson area to protect the police headquarters. The Ferguson protests spread to other cities across the U.S, where on many occasions people faced off with local police forces.

The Ferguson case may generate controversial discussion around the looting, destruction and burning. However, one cannot ignore the important question that it raises regarding protest and just resistance by the people in the face of the state’s use of force to deter people from fighting for their dignity and rights. It is not cut and dry. The U.S. state, in the broad sense of the term, from the federal government to its tentacles in the local state and city authorities, is the purveyor of violence in the U.S. Let us therefore place Ferguson in perspective. By so doing, we can keep in mind the most grotesque manifestation of this violence, as seen in Ferguson, in the form of the heavily militarized police. Its deadly military equipment is funnelled into the local areas by the U.S. federal government and the military. The Ferguson violent occupation was revealed for the world to witness, yet the dismantling of the militarization is not on Obama’s agenda. The goal, according to the President, is only to “to make sure that the program is transparent.”

As for the protestors, what actions are they supposed to carry out to demand that justice be done, if not by resisting the forces that protect the local police? In American democracy, the right to resist is labelled “violent,” while defending the status quo is considered normal and non-violent.

This contradiction was intensified in the aftermath of the grand jury decision to clear police of the murder of Eric Garner. It proved to be the last straw: his murder, captured on film, was even more blatant than Michael Brown’s. The accumulation of injustice was combined with the fact that it took place in New York City – the centre of many, as the media admit, “icons” of U.S. wealth and the establishment. The New York City movement spread to other major cities in the U.S. The main goal was to paralyze and disrupt. The media placed emphasis on just (but relatively defensive) slogans such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” or “I Can’t Breathe” to overshadow the slogans “Shut It Down” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Others raised the slogan: “This Is What Democracy Looks Like.” This is an allusion, consciously or not, to the crying need for political power of the people in the face of a false American democracy representing the status quo through elections in a truncated “two-party system.” What was the purpose of blocking important highways and streets and invading icons of big business to disrupt normal commerce? One protester explained it well: “People who don’t already realize what is happening, maybe they will open their minds a little bit, or people that do realize and don’t care will realize that people are angry and it’s not OK.”

The mainstream media showered the New York police and city authorities with compliments on their “restraint.” Media had a field day with the New York police’s description of their particular tactic: allowing people “to blow off steam.” Do the police and media perhaps not realize how condescending and arrogant this sounds to the people who courageously demonstrate for hours on end in the street? Obama congratulated NYC authorities and police in their handling of the protests, which he termed peaceful. What was “peaceful” about the protests New York and Chicago? In both these cities, as well as in others, hundreds were arrested. In Chicago, a “standoff” in front of a police station that was protected by a wall of police was reported to be nonetheless “so far peaceful.” What does “so far peaceful” mean? The assertion is that as long as the people do not defy the police, the situation can be qualified as “peaceful.” The police forces, to the contrary, by their very nature are supposedly “peaceful” in protecting the state, abstracting the armed instrument of the state from the actual system it is meant to defend and protect. Any obvious exception to this rule of police acting “peacefully” is treated as merely an “abuse” that can be camouflaged through some superficial reform, such as “police training”, changing some individuals and faces in positions of authority or even remove some “bad apples”, all in an attempt to stem the people’s anger.

In New York City, several hundred people were arrested two nights in a row. Why? While the charges may be minor, what was their “crime”? Why were they carted off in police vans? In most cases, their “crime” was not obeying orders to refrain from marching in the streets and thus blocking the road and traffic. To strive to limit and forcefully contain demonstrations to the sidewalks, as do the police in New York, is in itself an act of violence even though it may go under the guise of keeping the peace. They are preventing those who try to draw the attention of – as stated by the demonstrator quoted above – first, the people who remain indifferent or aloof from the problem, and, second, those who are indeed conscious but have not yet physically joined the movement. These street activities are the only means at their disposal at this time: blocking main arteries, converging on the large, commercial monopolies and temporarily disrupting them. It is completely arbitrary to consider this as violent in any way or a violation of the law. This accusation of “violence” is based on American democracy and similar systems in other countries. It is meant to protect the status quo. Even if  people resist arrest and indeed actively confront authority, they are, in my view, entirely justified.

This warranted intransigence in the face of police arbitrariness was highlighted through an incident in New York on the night of December 4 that was not at all covered by the mainstream media. According to alternative news source AlterNet, about 100 protesters in Manhattan were on the streets at 1 a.m. The police ordered them to disperse, as they were supposedly disrupting “vehicular traffic.” A journalist reported that the demonstrators refused and instead threw glass bottles at the police, resulting in several violent arrests. The police responded by using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to disperse the demonstrators.

“One person who was present at the scene, Moth Dust, a photographer, said people became aggravated after the LRAD was used and began throwing trash and rocks in the direction of police. She said she was affected by the sound waves.

‘I thought I was fine until I realized I was getting dizzy and migraine was spreading to all over my face,’ she said.

LRADs were used in the first days of unrest in Ferguson Missouri, and have been used by police at protests throughout the world. They were developed by the US military after an insurgent attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and were used by the NYPD [New York Police Department] against Occupy Wall Street protesters.

According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, ‘The LRAD can reach decibel levels as high as 162. For comparison, a normal conversation is usually 60 decibels, while a lawn mower can reach to 90 decibels. A level of 130 decibels is typically considered the average pain threshold for most humans.’

Furthermore, Informed Health Online [IHO] notes that a jet engine registers at about 140 decibels. Anything at or above this range, IHO explains, ‘is called acoustic trauma. Depending on how long the ears are exposed to the sound and how intense it is, it may damage the eardrum, the middle ear and/or the inner ear. Damage like this is usually temporary, but some hearing loss may remain.’

The head investor and media relations for the LRAD Corporation in San Diego, California, told Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty that the weapon is so precise that those ‘standing behind or next to’ the device can hardly hear it. However, the YouTube footage shows dozens of people scurrying away from the sound blasts, which can be heard clearly on film.”

In another episode, on the night of December 6–7, this one in Berkeley, California, a violent confrontation took place. The media in a chorus headlined that the demonstration by mainly University of California Berkeley campus students “turned violent.” What happened? A wall of armed police was deployed to confront the demonstrators protesting directly against the Berkeley police headquarters. The demonstrators on the street were blocked. The so-called peaceful police tried to disperse the crowd that resisted. This is one account, by an intern minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, published in a local newspaper:

“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”

The situation and the reports from Berkeley are still ongoing at the time of writing. According to the established logic, the “turning violence” buzzwords are only applied when the people resist orders to disperse, but is not suitable for the orders to disperse backed by the armed police. In the same report quoted above, the slogans rhythmically chanted by the protesters consisted of, among others, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Hey cops, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” In comments posted on the newspaper’s blog, some people raise the possibility that the looting that took place that night in Berkeley by a splinter anarchist group could well have been organized by the state’s infiltrators to discredit the demonstration.

Based on the New York and Berkeley reports, it may seem difficult at first glance to distinguish between peace and violence: who are the perpetrators of violence and who stands and acts in favour of peace? However, these articles accompanied by photos and videos bring to the fore two points.

The first is that the right, and indeed the obligation, to oppose injustice is an inalienable right that goes beyond the niceties of the superfluous trappings of democracy considered in the abstract. One either recognizes this or does not.

Second, behind the veneer of American democracy lies the real nature of a state that is based on extreme militarism and aggression. While the struggle to counter the injustices committed against Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and in favour of dignity for the people, was being played out in the streets of America, Obama swore in the new Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, on December 5, 2014. Obama said on that occasion that the U.S. military is “the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.” Ashton returned the compliment by saying that he will serve the “greatest fighting force the world has ever known.” This military is increasingly known on the world scale as an aggressive force leaving death, destruction and torture in the wake of its attempt to impose American democracy on a global scale. The military efforts of the U.S. abroad are an extension of the violence that pervades U.S. society domestically, from the widespread use of guns to the murder of blacks and suppression of demonstrators by police forces, as the New York and Berkeley examples above indicates.

Were these incidents in New York and Berkeley exceptions? As long as the resistance continues, people can expect more of the same. Thus, there is the need to deepen and extend defiance, while ensuring not to fall prey to the mainstream media misinformation and political pressures regarding peace and violence in American democracy.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and, more recently, Cuba and Its Neighbours:Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are the U.S., Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August.

Friday, 5 December 2014

2014: Zed Books Christmas Gift Guide

For all you busy people who haven't had a spare moment to even think about Christmas, never mind consider braving the cold weather and busy high streets, here's Zed's top 10 picks for this years perfect book-shaped gift.

For your politically-aware and intellectually-minded nearest and dearest...

1. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum.

Available in paperback for £9.99

2. America's Deadliest Export: Democracy - The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by William Blum

Available in paperback for £8.99

Available in paperback for £16.99

Available in paperback for £8.99

5. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Available in paperback for £8.99

6. Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Jackson

Available in paperback for £16.99

7. Feminism and Men by Nikki van der Gaag

Available in paperback for £14.99

8. Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons by Max Haiven

Available in paperback for £14.99

9. Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Available in paperback in £8.99

10. North Korea: State of Paranoia by Paul French

Available in paperback for £12.99