This quarter’s selection

Issue: 147

The latest issue of New Left Review (II/93) is dominated by two pieces by Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, whose sudden and explosive electoral emergence turned the Spanish state upside down last year. The first is an article that he describes as “the fullest reflection… that I’ve been able to set down since being elected leader of Podemos last November”, the second an interview. The latter is more revealing—although Iglesias skips past the difficult questions, he is quite explicit about why Podemos has tried to present itself as somehow transcending the antagonism between right and left:

today, the option of a socialist strategy, or a Marxist critique of neoliberalism, poses immense problems in the practical, political sense—to articulate an actual opposition that could have even the option of countering the current state of affairs. So the strategy we have followed is to articulate a discourse on the recovery of sovereignty, on social rights, even human rights, in a European framework.”

Elsewhere in the same issue Mike Davis continues the re-evaluation of Marx’s writings of the 1840s and early 1850s started in previous issues by Gopal Balakrishnan with a major study of Marx’s writings on the 1848 Revolution. Davis argues that in these texts—most famously The Class Struggles in France, 1848-50 and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte—Marx develops “an incipient political sociology of the middle landscape between the relations of production and the collision of ­politically organised economic interests” that could, for example, provide the basis of a Marxist theory of nationalism.

The most interesting of the other articles is an acerbic portrait of Japan under Shinzo Abe by R Taggart Murphy. He argues that Abe’s main ambition is to transform Japan into a “normal” imperialist power but that this means denying the crimes Japan’s rulers (including his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi) committed in the first half of the 20th century—a policy that antagonises China and South Korea, which need the memory of these crimes to sustain their own domestic legitimacy.

The May/June issue of Against the Current carries several interesting articles. Malik Miah reports on the murder of Walter Scott, a 50 year old black man who was shot several times in the back by a police officer while running away. Assessing the prospects for the Black Lives Matter movement that has sprung up in response to such killings, Miah argues that it should resist calls to focus on electoral politics: “every major social change in law or policies was directly a byproduct of strikes and mass protests”. The magazine also highlights the nightmarish situation facing women in El Salvador where abortion is illegal in all circumstances and a miscarriage can lead to imprisonment. In a strikingly similar case, Purvi Patel, who also suffered a miscarriage, received a 20 year prison sentence earlier this year in Indiana.

In the same issue Marcel van der Linden asks why global trade union density is so low—with only 7 percent of the roughly 2.9 billion workers in the world in formal unions. He roots the problem in changes to the working class and the decline of both traditional social democratic and Communist parties and argues for a revitalised transnational unionism that can better adapt to the challenges posed by globalisation for example by facilitating solidarity actions across national borders. See

In a special issue of the journal Intersections (“Mainstreaming the Extreme”) Singre Bangstad explains how the use of the term racism has become taboo in Norway. The far-right, including mass murderer Anders Breivik, have long been aware that they could increase their appeal by talking about culture (and especially concerns about “islamisation”) rather than race or skin colour. However, Bangstad shows how extreme Islamophobic ideas, including comparisons between Muslims and Nazis, have seeped into the rhetoric of more mainstream right wing populists in the context of widespread denial that Islamophobia is a form of racism.