The Week so Far

1. Asia

Nearly 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Sarpoza prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, through a 360-metre tunnel on 25 April. The Taliban claimed to have constructed the tunnel over five months, adding that the jailbreak took nearly four and a half hours. A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said: "This is a blow. It's something that should not have happened."

2. Middle East

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen said on 24 April that he "will not accept being overthrown in a coup", only a day after he reportedly agreed to step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The speech triggered protests in Sana'a, where police fired bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators, killing two and injuring hundreds.

3. North America

Leaked military documents have exposed the inner workings of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, including abuse of prisoners and the flimsiness of evidence used to hold detainees. One document revealed that the "matrix of threat indicators" used by the US forces categorised a popular Casio wristwatch as an identifying feature of a potential terrorist.

4. Europe

The Pope answered questions from the public, submitted over the internet, on television for the first time on Good Friday. In his more traditional Easter message on Sunday, the pontiff called on "diplomacy and dialogue [to] replace arms" in Libya.

5. South America

Heavy rains have left 93 dead and 69,000 homeless in Colombia after landslides and floods in April. Last year's rainy season killed more than 300 and affected over two million people.

6. Africa

The nine countries of the Nile Basin have failed to reach an agreement on Ethiopian plans to dam the river. A British-backed 1929 treaty gave Egypt the right to veto any upstream dams.

7. Business

Gold hit $1,518 an ounce on 25 April, largely due to the unrest in the Middle East and Africa, the eurozone's debt crisis and threats from credit rating agencies to downgrade the US's AAA status. Silver rose to $46.69 an ounce, its highest level since 1980.

8. Technology

Norio Ohga, the former Sony president credited with the development of the compact disc, died on 23 April, aged 81. Ohga demanded that CDs were 12cm wide, so that they would have the capacity to contain all 75 minutes of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

9. People

Donald Trump came under fire after New York City's board of elections claimed that the business magnate had failed to vote in any primary election since 1989. The prospective Republican presidential candidate denies the allegation and insists that he "voted in every general election". Trump is in joint first place with Mike Huckabee among Republican voters.

10. Health

The screening test for tuberculosis used on immigrants arriving in the UK misses most cases, according to medical researchers at Imperial College, London. The scientists say that the current test does not identify cases where the infection is dormant and is not causing symptoms.

This article first appeared in the 02 May 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The Firm

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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