Focus on Latin America: Colombia’s rejected peace and the Pink Tide in trouble

Political Eh-conomy Radio returns with a new logo, new life and a new episode focused on Latin America. First up: Aaron Tauss, assistant professor of International Political Economy at the Universidad National in Medellin, Colombia. I spoke with Aaron to better understand the devastating and unexpected “No” vote in Colombia’s referendum on a peace deal that would have ended 50 years of civil war. His analysis is deeply rooted in the broader economic forces shaping contemporary Colombia.

Second, I speak with Kyla Sankey, a researcher from the UK who wrote a terrific article for Jacobin on the state of the Pink Tide of left governments that swept Latin America in the early 2000s. Kyla looks at the present problems and future prospects of a Pink Tide limping along as the right has returned to power in Argentina and Brazil, while Venezuela remains mired in political and economic crisis.

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When the left takes the city

This week, the focus is on experience of left parties and organizations at the municipal level. Although the left has still exercised only limited political power in many places since the financial crisis, some cities have seen left projects come to power or build new institutions in interesting ways. My two guests shed light on two examples of municipal socialism in Europe and North America.

First, Yusef Quadura describes the experience of Barcelona en Comu. In 2015, this new left coalition took control of the municipal government in Barcelona. Led by the housing activist Ada Colau, the party did what Podemos couldn’t do nationally and garnered enough support to govern with the intention of implementing a left program, at least at the municipal level. To get a sense of the plans, accomplishments and challenges faced by Barcelona en Comu just over a year into its mandate, I spoke with Yusef, a member Barcelona en Comu’s international group. Yusuf is also part of the party’s co-ordinating committee in the Gracia district, where we met and talked over coffee (excuse the ambient noise), and a substitute counsellor for the Gracia district council.

My second guest is Kali Akuno, a leader within Cooperation Jackson, a municipal organization far beyond just a political party in Jackson, Mississippi. Although the group elected the radical Chokwe Lumumba as mayor of Jackson in 2014 (before he died tragically only a year into his term), electoral politics is only a small, supporting part of Cooperation Jackson’s mission. Kali describes what this network of worker-run cooperatives, party and movement congealed into one is up to and some of challenges it faces.

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The improbable rise of Jeremy Corbyn

So far this week, Jeremy Corbyn has caused over 100,000 new members to join the UK Labour Party he leads, has apologized for a war he opposed from the beginning and appears to have survived a coup attempt on his leadership. And despite his backstabbing MPs, he’s one of the few party leaders left standing after the Brexit referendum.

Given all this mayhem on the British political scene, I figured it would be a good time to speak with the writer Richard Seymour, author of the recently-released Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. Richard regularly publishes in major UK and international media; his  previous books include Against Austerity, Unhitched, and The Liberal Defense of Murder. He’s long been one of the best voices on British politics on the left.

Our conversation focused on the roots of Corbyn’s sudden rise to power, both within the Labour Party and politics in the UK more broadly, the failure of today’s Blairite coup plotters and the prospects of a long-term shift in ideology effected by Corbynism.

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Canada’s spring of occupations

Welcome back to the first podcast episode after a two-month hiatus! This week, three guests talk about two significant occupations of public space that have happened in Canada in the interim: the Black Lives Matter occupation of police headquarters plaza in Toronto and the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices across the country.

In this first half, I speak with journalist Desmond Cole about the Black Lives Matter occupation of the police headquarters plaza in Toronto. Activists took over the plaza for two weeks in March and April over continuing police brutality and lack of unaccountability. Desmond reported regularly from the camp and spent several nights there. Aside from his column in the Toronto Star and his other print and radio work, he is also currently writing a book about black history and black politics in Canada.

The second half features my conversation with two activists and organizers behind Occupy INAC in Regina, Robyn Pitawanakwat and Susana Deranger. Susana is a veteran of the long struggle for justice for Canada’s First Nations, an activist for over 40 years in Saskatchewan. Robyn is from a younger generation, though as the daughter of a long-time Indigenous activist, she too has deep roots in the same fight. The Colonialism No More camp has been up for 50 days in front of Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Regina. It started as part of a wave of occupations of INAC offices across the country in response to the state of emergency in Attawapiskat over youth suicide.

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Defending Bernie-nomics and debunking the housing market

This week, I interview two guests on fairly different topics linked by the fact that they both give very effective debunkings of some mainstream economic thinking. First, I speak with JW Mason, economics professor at John Jay College in New York City, about the debate that has erupted around Bernie Sanders’ economic program. JW argues convincingly that the criticism of Sanders from mainstream liberal economists is about managing and keeping a lid on regular people’s expectations for the economy. The critics are effectively saying “this is the best we can do” even when millions are condemnded to poverty and shitty jobs. Be sure to check out his posts (1, 2 and 3), which are among the best on this debate.

Second, I speak with Nathan Tankus, a writer also based in New York City, on why housing is so unaffordable in large cities even amidst massive condo building booms. Nathan goes through the history of his Chelsea neighbourhood in NYC and its long process of gentrification as a way of drawing some conclusions about why the housing market is so screwed up. It turns out this market doesn’t work like the model described in Economics 101 textbooks. For further reading on the topic, Nathan suggests Bob Fitch (especially The Assassination of New York), Doug Henwood and Michael Hudson.

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Where is Quebec going after the strikes, where is Canada’s economy going after the oil crash?

I have two Canadian updates this week. The first is from Nora Loreto on what’s happening in Quebec after the fall’s anti-austerity strikes. Nora is a Quebec City-based journalist and labour activist. She gives an account not only of what happened during the strikes in Quebec, but also what to expect in their wake (see the previous podcast, from just before this strike wave, here). Second, Armine Yalnizyan, economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is back with an analysis of Canada’s economy after the oil price crash.

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The return of the modernist left

In the past few years, what has been loosely called the modernist left has seen some revival. Whether coming out of the ultimate failures of the Occupy movement, dissatisfaction with moralistic lifestyle politics or an attempt to analyze the current conundrum of moribound but hegemonic capitalism, some have returned to the idea of the left as a modernizing force—progressive in the most literal sense. Agree with its postulates or not, this broad current on today’s left deserves to be engaged, as it seriously grapples with everything from ecology to technology to economics and the left’s strategic response to our unhappy contemporary situation. This week, I present two interviews with authors of recent books that fit squarely into this current.

First, I speak with Nick Srnicek, who, along with Alex Williams, has written Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Next, I speak with Leigh Phillips, author of the more colorfully titled Austerity Ecology and the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defense of Growth Progress Industry and Stuff.

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2015: Podcasting year in review

As 2015 comes to a close, here’s a podcast and a post that’s something in between a best of and a year in review. It’s a look back at some of my interviews from 2015, both in terms of significant subjects and personal favourites. (more…)

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COP21, climate inaction and corporate power

This week marks the beginning of the COP21 climate talks in Paris, the latest episode in a UN framework that has been trying, and failing, to reduce global carbon emission for over two decades now. For my first interview, I caught up with Oscar Reyes, Barcelona-based climate policy researcher, to get an overview of what to expect from the talks. Oscar works with the Institute for Policy Studies and has also been affiliated with the Transnational Institute; he has a long history of excellent critical writing and activism on climate issues.

In the second part of the episode, I speak with Shannon Daub, Communications Director for the CCPA British Columbia office. Shannon discusses the CCPA’s important new project that will trace the fossil fuel industry’s networks of money and influence across Canada, particularly the Western provinces. Climate inaction and corporate power: a key duo to examine on the eve of another summit that looks to tinker at the edges of a very dangerous status quo.

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