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Bite-sized briefing: world

The Pakistani army continues its ground assault on the militant stronghold of South Waziristan, facing fierce resistance from the Taliban. Up to 100,000 civilians have fled the conflict zone. At least eight people died in a retaliation suicide attack on the International Islamic University in Islamabad. All schools and universities have been closed.

Iran has accused "the Great Satan America and its ally Britain" of supporting Sunni terrorist group Jundullah, after a suicide attack in the south-east of the country killed 42 people, including six senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. Britain and the US dismissed the claims.

Talks between Iran and world powers on a uranium enrichment deal stalled on the second day, when Iran suddenly announced that it would not deal directly with France, accusing it of reneging on contracts to deliver nuclear materials in the past. Talks later resumed.

Voters in Niger are electing new MPs after President Mamadou Tandja dissolved parliament in May for rejecting his bid to extend his stay in power. West Africa's trade grouping Ecowas has suspended Niger in response.

Thirty-four Kurdish separatist guerrillas surrendered to the Turkish army after crossing the border from their camp in Iraq. It's a symbolic gesture of rebel support for government plans to broaden Kurdish rights.

In Rio de Janeiro, 21 people died during two days of gang warfare which followed the death of three policemen when a police helicopter was shot down on 17 October. The violence has revived concerns over Rio's suitability to host the Olympic Games in 2016.

Iceland says it has come to a new agreement over the repayment of £3bn to the governments of the Netherlands and the UK, which paid the money out to the 400,000 savers affected when Icesave collapsed last year. Reykjavik hopes the agreement might ease the financial pressure it is under in the long term.

The Australian defence minister, John Faulkner, has asked for recommendations on how to complete operations in Afghanistan as early as possible, in the clearest signal so far that Australia may withdraw its 1,500 troops sooner than expected.

Somali pirates have hijacked a Chinese cargo ship with 25 crew on board. The De Xin Hai was seized between the Seychelles and Maldives, 700 miles east of Somalia's coast. China pledged an "all-out" rescue attempt.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, faces a run-off against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, after a UN-backed panel said there was clear evidence of fraud in the first round of August's presidential elections. It will take place on 7 November.

Kyrgyzstan's government has announced its resignation in the wake of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's call for sweeping reforms to increase
his own power.

Roman Polanski lost his appeal to be released on bail from a Swiss jail. The decision came as the film director faced possible extradition to the US over his 1977 conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The US Senate has voted to continue to allow Guantanamo Bay inmates to be tried on US soil, marking a modest victory in President Obama's efforts to close the camp.

Dozens of ethnic Uighurs have disappeared since being detained in the wake of riots in China's Xinjiang region, according to Human Rights Watch. The riots in early July left nearly 200 people dead.

This article first appeared in the 26 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, New York / London

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times