Pick of the Quarter

Issue: 182

Joseph Choonara, Richard Donnelly and Sascha Radl

Andreas Bieler and Adam David Morton have an interesting article, entitled “Reframing the geopolitics of global capitalism”, in the 2024 edition of the journal Socialist Register. Although framed in a somewhat obscure discussion of the philosophy of form or content, the thrust of the article is to defend the importance of inter-imperialist competition in shaping recent conflicts.

This includes the current war in Ukraine, which, like us, they view not just as a war of national defence but also a clash between rival imperialisms. They write: “It has been transformed into a proxy war [of] the United States and its allies against Russia, fought with Ukrainian personnel on Ukrainian soil.” In making these points they engage with our own writings on the conflict.

The latest issue of Middle East Report, published by the Middle East Research and Information Project, delves into Israel’s war against Palestine, exploring its broader repercussions across the region and beyond. The opening contributions feature assessment of the situation in Gaza from various (left-leaning) scholars and activists, alongside an examination of international law and the recent interim ruling by the International Court of Justice.

Following these introductory contributions, the issue provides important yet concise analyses of the political situation in Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, Lebanon, Yemen, and Britain. According to Hesham Sallam, recent protests in Egypt in solidarity with Palestine bear “the spirit of the 25 January ­uprising”, which overthrew the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Sallam’s article ­suggests that the issue of Palestine poses a significant challenge to the ­dictatorship of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as he tries to maintain his alliance with the US while simultaneously grappling with profound economic troubles. Palestine emerges as a rallying point to express opposition to the regime.

As an article by Jillian Schwedler outlines, Jordan’s monarchy faces comparable challenges; here too, Palestine offers a window of opportunity for activists. Though the Jordanian king remains unchallenged, the wider context of the current pro-Palestinian protests—discontent with new austerity programmes and state repression—makes the situation more dangerous for him.

Samar Alwan’s article on the mobilisation of pro-Palestinian sentiment in the Gulf region sheds some light on why a repeat of the oil embargo of 1973 (when Arab states imposed a block on oil exports to the US in retaliation for its support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War) seems unlikely. Today’s dynamics lack the significant presence of struggles of migrant workers from Palestine and neighbouring countries that were important in the enforcement of the embargo.

Nisha Waller and Naima Sakande have authored a fascinating article for the ­forthcoming issue of Race & Class journal, digging into archives at the Home Office and other institutions to reveal the racist history beneath the shift to ­majority verdicts in English and Welsh jury trials in 1967 (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/03063968231212992). Prior to Criminal Justice Act of that year, convictions by jury required a unanimous decision by the 12 jurors, whereas the new law allowed for decisions of 11 to one and ten to two. The authors ­demonstrate that the background to this change was a widespread atmosphere of anxiety about black immigration and the supposed “disenfranchisement” of white people.

Labour Party home secretary Roy Jenkins played into these fears with claims that juries were being “nobbled”—bribed or intimidated by criminal gangs—but, as Waller and Sakande show, there was little evidence of this being a common ­problem. Instead, much of the rhetoric about “nobbling” appears to have been based on panic about the effects of allowing “coloured” people onto juries. The article details how a number of organisations and judges that submitted evidence to the Departmental Committee on Jury Service, which shaped the new rules, claimed that black people lacked a sufficient understanding of the “British way of life” and enough education to serve as jurors. The resulting changes to the jury system made it considerably easier for prosecutors to secure convictions.

Matt Foot has also written an interesting article about racism and the legal system, “Corrupt Cops”, in The London Review of Books, exploring the crimes of Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell (www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v46/n03/matt-foot/short-cuts). Ridgewell, who worked for the British Transport Police in South London, ranks as one of Britain’s most corrupt officers. As the leader of an anti-mugging unit, he was a leading edge of the 1970s moral panic about “black muggers” detailed by Stuart Hall’s sociological research at the time. Ridgewell fitted up many black men by attacking them in the street while in plain clothes and arresting them when they fought back, before falsifying evidence and extracting confessions under duress.

JC, SR & RD.