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Bite-sized briefing: world

Thousands of Tamils have left military-run camps in northern Sri Lanka. People are free to leave, but must give their details in order to be monitored. The camps hold about 130,000 people driven from their homes during the offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year.

Barack Obama will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by August 2010 (see column, below). This will bring the number of US troops in the country to over 100,000. He also said the US would begin to withdraw military forces by 2011.

South African babies aged one and under will have access to HIV treatment, President Jacob Zuma announced. Treatment will also be more widely available to children and pregnant women. The announcement came on World Aids Day, as the WHO issued new treatment guidelines.

Australia's emissions trading plan was defeated in the Senate. The country hoped to be one of the first to install a cap-and-trade system, but the bill was rejected by the opposition, who elected a new, global-warming-sceptic leader, Tony Abbott, following disagreements over the plan.

Andal Ampatuan Jr, a mayor from the Maguindanao province of the Philippines, has been charged with 25 counts of murder, after 57 people were massacred on 23 November. The dead were trying to file nomination papers for a candidate challenging Ampatuan.

The International Court of Justice is set to begin hearings on the legality of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, the first case of its kind. Sixty-three countries have recognised Kosovo's independence, but Serbia - which requested the hearings - does not.

The Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December following its ratification by all 27 of the European Union's member states. It will change the way decisions are made in the EU.

Two inmates of Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Italy, to face trial for terrorism-related offences, which they deny. The transfers are part of an effort by the US to close the camp.

Dubai World, the emirate's highest-profile company, sparked worldwide market turmoil when it announced it was struggling with repayments of a £36bn debt.

The Venezuelan government has shut down four private banks, accusing them of financial irregularities. The closures come ten days after the state took over the banks after it suspected them of violating regulations.

Uruguay's presidential elections were won by José Mujica, a former left-wing militant who spent almost 15 years in prison during the country's military rule.

John Demjanjuk, an alleged guard at a Nazi death camp, is on trial in Germany accused of helping to murder nearly 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp. The 89-year-old, deported from the US in May, could face 15 years in jail.

Honduras elected Porfirio Lobo, an opponent to ousted Manuel Zelaya, in its presidential elections. The US cautiously welcomed the vote, but several countries in the region refused to recognise Lobo's election.

Switzerland voted to ban the building of minarets. The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, condemned the move as "anti-foreigner scaremongering".

In Nairobi, the UN held a three-day meeting for developing countries to discuss issues including trade and the Millennium Development Goals. It is the first meeting of its kind in decades.

Rwanda is to be declared landmine-free, the first country to achieve such a status. Mines were laid between 1990 and 1994; over the past three years Rwandan soldiers removed more than 9,000.

High levels of toxins are still present in drinking water 25 years after Bhopal's chemical disaster, two reports found. Thousands of people were killed by the gas leak in 1984.

This article first appeared in the 07 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Boy George

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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