Zimbabwe and the lesson for leaders

The military coup and forced resignation (surely to come within days) of Robert Mugabe is great news for Zimbabwe. It’s very unlikely that they could end up with a worse leader than Mugabe.

Hearing this news while listening to the final episode in Mike Walker’s fantastic radio drama Tsar cover Russia post-1989 got me thinking about Mugabe’s final, fatal mistake.

If your government has popular support, you can exercise your will over the army and still sleep safely at night. If your government leads without popular support, as some in the world still do, military backing is the only reason you’re still in power and you absolutely cannot piss them off.

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Marching with Catalans

Today the Catalan parliament declared independence.

This is an 800 word edit of an earlier post entitled “One evening in Catalonia“, published to contribute to the conversation. Events took place on Tuesday 17th October 2017.

In Girona, on an unusually warm October evening, I find myself in the centre of a crowd of Catalans noisily demanding independence. Jaume responded to my advert on Couchsurfing for a place to stay. To his surprise, I asked to join him on tonight’s protest. The previous day the Spanish state imprisoned two of the leaders of the independence movement, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, on charges of sedition. They face a maximum sentence of 14 years.

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One evening in Catalonia

It is by sheer chance that I find myself in Girona, on an unusually warm October evening, in the centre of a crowd of Catalans noisily demanding independence. Jaume responded to my advert on Couchsurfing for a place to stay. To his surprise, I asked to join him on tonight’s protest. The previous day the Spanish state imprisoned two of the leaders of the independence movement, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, on charges of sedition. They face a maximum sentence of 14 years.

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The Hungry Empire

This post is just a quick recommendation to listen to an audiobook currently available on the BBC Radio iPlayer. It’s called The Hungry Empire, by British food historian Lizzie Collingham, and in five 15-minute episodes charts the history of the British Empire, from the 1500s to the 1960s through the lens of food. It turns out that the history of food in the Empire has some really important things to tell us about how ordinary life was lived in that period and how it has shaped much of our modern world.

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Accidental Anarchist

This is a short post recommending a BBC Four documentary  – Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government.

I agree wholeheartedly with Carne Ross’ mistrust of the state and deeply sceptical view of the structure of international relations. Unlike him, however, I’m less hopeful about of our ability to make any meaningful changes to either.

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Stealing independence

It’s Independence Day in America. The declaration on this day, July 4th, in 1776 was the culmination of many decades of becoming a distinct nation, apart from and opposed to the British crown. But how did the America of 1776, this brand new nation out of nothing, come to be, and how did those 13 precarious colonies turn into the continental superpower of today?

In this post I’m going to look at just one specific facet of the development of the United States of America, and it’s relevance to us all and the unjust capitalist system we endure.

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The Qatar question – a primer

I don’t know an awful lot about contemporary Middle Eastern politics, but this week’s panellists on the Talking Politics podcast clearly do.

Qatar have until tomorrow to agree to all 13 of the very exacting demands set by four neighbouring Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – on June 23rd. After this time, they will face economic and political sanctions; blockades and diplomatic isolation. This is a sudden and dramatic action that wildly destabilises the Middle East, and we should be under no illusions as to its potential future impact on us all.

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Legitimate criticism of Trump

Bercow champion of the commons

John Bercow, champion of the commons! Citing opposition to racism and sexism, support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary he announced that he would not invite Trump to address Parliament if the proposed state visit does indeed take place.

Predictably, headlines began to pour in slamming the short speech as outrageous, an attempt to silence the president, a breach of speaker impartiality, unjustifiable and hypocritical.
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This new age

I studied politics at university from 2010 to 2013. It was a period of global economic recession and non-recovery. It was a time in which Obama reigned in the worst excesses of Bush and Blair’s War on Terror but at a fundamental level failed to end (an unsympathetic commentator would say actively continued) the very same clandestine, extrajudicial foreign policy methods. Neoliberal austerity punished the people for the disastrous consequences of under-regulated, free-as-a-bird capitalism.

The dominant ideology of politicians, policymakers and their institutions – domestic and international – was liberalism. The cutting edge of international relations (and all interesting political philosophy) was all critical theory and post-structuralism. Pushing back against the narrative of the ’90s that the West had won. Highlighting the institutional violence and injustice in the assumptions and policies of universalist liberalism.
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