Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Solidarity reviews #LeftTurn

The following review appears in this month’s edition:

Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left
Edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow
Melbourne University Publishing
$27.99

Left Turn, according to editors Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow, aims to, “argue for positions that don’t often get heard in Australian public life.” The book gives a welcome hearing to left-wing ideas on many of the central political issues of the moment, a refreshing change to most political commentary.

It’s worth getting your hands on a copy just to read the story of how the Aboriginal community at Wadeye fought for control of alcohol in their community in Chris Graham’s “Violence, Non-Violence and Aboriginal Australia”.

Pamela Curr’s essay, “Seduced by Panic”, is a reminder of how the mandatory detention regime under Labor is reproducing all the horrors of the Howard years (though unfortunately she frames her argument for a more humane policy around stopping people smuggling).

The new sexism

One of the best essays is Jacinda Woodhead’s “Sexiness and Sexism: Neoliberalism and Feminism”—a polemic directed at some of the weaknesses of contemporary feminism.

The 1970s women’s liberation movement fought to overthrow the stultifying taboos on women’s sexuality. But what’s presented as a liberated sexuality today is an awful caricature of a genuine sexual freedom. Woodhead describes it as, “participation in the construction of… sexual image via participation in the marketplace.”

Yet contemporary feminism, as her quote from Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman says, is hampered in the fight against the new sexism by, “liberalism that enshrines personal choice as the baseline of political emancipation.” Too often that means celebrating the faux choices presented by the market about how we can look and live.

One only has to think about the pain so many women go through to make themselves fit the mould of feminine perfection (thin, straight, big-breasted, wrinkle-free… and the list goes on!) to realise how little choice is truly involved. Similarly, the common championing of women’s ability to climb the corporate ladder or get into parliament ignores the way women in positions of power facilitate the oppression of others, reflecting class inequality.

The Slut Walk demonstrations in Australia were a little burst of outrage at the resurgence in sexist ideas, and a culture where rape and sexual abuse are common place. They were “heartening”, Woodhead argues, yet unwilling to challenge broader questions of “the market and its interests”. Her argument for an active, campaigning focus on issues like the NT Intervention, abortion on demand and state-funded childcare is one of the book’s most convincing.

Rebuilding

Jeff Sparrow’s essay on the Occupy movement, and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s on the future of the Greens are two others that attempt to look at how left-wing ideas can have an influence on Australian politics.

Sparrow defends the Occupy movement from right-wing critics, explaining the reason why Occupy so offended conservatives was because it dared demand a radical alternative to the alienating and hollow world of modern capitalism.

His argument that “Occupy matters because it provides a glimpse of how the left might revive” is welcome in the context of Rhiannon’s argument for a parliamentary strategy, and some of the other essays in Left Turn that bemoan the ignorance of ordinary people.

But as he quotes Zizek, “carnivals come cheap”. There were debates in Occupy about how to build beyond the romanticism of the city square occupations, and though Sparrow comes to these at the end of his piece, he unfortunately sidesteps offering his own views.

Occupy was crying out for a stronger left intervention that, among other things, argued to link up the movement with the power of organised workers. In Sydney, links were made with striking MUA dockers, who led one of the demonstrations, and with Qantas workers in their battle against Alan Joyce.

Similarly, though the movement had a radical anti-systemic quality, the rejection of demands was often a rejection of left politics. There was a real argument to be had about taking on causes and issues that could broaden Occupy’s support—like taxing the rich, ending mandatory detention, demanding green jobs. This could have provided some concrete focus beyond the encampments themselves, which very quickly became bogged down in maintaining themselves for their own sake (a very difficult task in the face of police intransigence).

The focus on struggle is missing from Lee Rhiannon’s essay. Rhiannon admits parliament’s conservatising influence, and argues, importantly, that The Greens must build themselves as a left-of-Labor party with policies that put the interests of working people at the forefront. That is refreshing when others in The Greens are pushing better relationships with business and farmers (witnessed in the preselection of former investment banker Peter Whish-Wilson in Bob Brown’s old Senate seat).

But her solution is effectively representing the membership better. Yet the power to advance the agenda Rhiannon and the left in The Greens envision doesn’t lie within the halls of parliament, nor simply within the ranks of the party, but in the wider struggles outside parliament.

While Rhiannon acknowledges the role of struggle, her vision of success is a parliamentary one. But it is the parliamentary focus that has dragged The Greens to the right and produced policies like the unpopular carbon tax. The Greens could drag politics to the left if they used their parliamentary weight to fan the flames of resistance.

Let’s hope that Left Turn stimulates these important debates amongst the wider left.

Amy Thomas

 

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