As we close out a year in which many incredible texts were published, this brief article notes a few examples of what’s to come in the New Year. Taken from a range of publishers, each listing is considered in terms of what new insights, understandings and inspirations these new contributions might bring to the left in Scotland.
Whilst parts of Scotland being blanketed white over Christmas brought joy to some, the risk of further disruption to public transport struck fear in others. The urgency of turning the heating on for warmth was suddenly greater than the desperation to keep the leccy meter down. So too, with a sustained cost of living crisis, foodbanks (still treated by the state as something to be celebrated), have seen ever increasing demand.
Through Joseph Rowntree Foundation we’ve already seen folk requesting food packages that don’t require heating up on the stove, nor use of the oven to, once again, keep bills low as many households face fuel costs exceeding thousands.
These dual crises of the climate and energy are intimately connected to food insecurity, yet, rarely does any given movement sincerely work to address these in tangent or with any longer term meaningful planning. Instead, as activists we tend to plug the gaps left by state ineptitude by adding a few items to our basket for the supermarket collection box, when we can, or through frontline organisations like Food Not Bombs if we’re inclined towards direct action and a practice of care. Sustainable food practices extend far beyond merely ensuring everyone has access to food, but includes supply chains – an issue exposed over the last year – and the affordability of healthier food choices, as well as storage and preparation costs.
Despite this, the U.K. Government has dismissed concerns, deploying that ‘resilience’ buzzword that simultaneously is applied to everything, yet has long ceased to hold any resemblance to being a positive attribute.
In this forthcoming work, Universal Food Security: How to End Hunger While Protecting the Planet, Glenn Denning asks exactly ‘What would it take to achieve a genuinely food-secure world—one without hunger or malnutrition, where everyone gets to consume the right quantity and quality of food to live a healthy, active, and productive life?’.
The premise of not only one of ensuring food security (including an emphasis on the need for that to be appropriately nourishing rather than merely the current ‘take what you can get’ mode) but examines whether it is possible that we might cease and perhaps, even reverse some of the damage done to the planet as we do so. Built on arguments basing back to the 18th century, and by engaging with numerous actors involved in establishing and maintaining genuinely sustainable food systems, Universal Food Security argues for prioritising local-knowledge and regionalised expertise, with insights offered including those from independent and organisationally-supported workers.
The terminology adopted for the text, particularly that of ‘universal’ as opposed to more generic ‘global’ aspirations, is carefully selected in order to emphasise the sincerely totalising ambition of genuinely ensuring that all have enough to eat and, at minimum, some degree of agency of what that diet consists of. The book is out in January, though the preface from the book is currently available on the link above.
Historically, many in Scotland have sought to situate the country as de facto modern and progressive, attesting that we’re a step ahead of our neighbours elsewhere in the U.K. – ‘less racist; less conservative’ – yet, as the so-called ‘debate’ surrounding what should’ve been an incredibly straightforward process of implementing the Gender Reform Act (G.R.A.) demonstrated, we’re anything but. Part of that broad proclamation posits Scotland as innately leftist – this, a country with a politics that allowed a repeat of the homophobic lies that sought to retain Section 28; that has failed to address the educational attainment gap; and that criminalised football fans in a way Thatcher could only dream of.
The Alba Party now hold seats in Westminster despite never having won anything via election, U.K.I.P. were successful in gaining one of the six M.E.P. seats for our final full term in the E.U., with the Brexit Party the second most successful party during the 2019 European election… The far-right, then, isn’t as dormant as some think and Judith Butler was right to recognise the prominence of fascism within the recent political movement. David Broder’s Mussolini’s Grandchildren: Fascism in Contemporary Italy, therefore, bears many lessons for us, if we are to avoid the same creeping fascism taking bolder steps domestically. Due out in March, Broder’s work recognises that fascism never truly disappeared. Indeed, he argues that ‘eighty years after the fall of Mussolini, his heirs and admirers are again on the brink of taking power’. This text serves as a warning to us over an ideology that has reared its head throughout Europe, the U.S., and in Latin America.
Interest in Scottish-Chilean connections spiked as Felipe Bustos Sierra’s Nae Pasaran(2018) shared a forty-year-old story of resistance in East Kilbride that prevented fighter jets receiving their engines, thereby impacting the Pinochet dictatorship’s assault on what was previously a left-wing state. Though the realities of the Scottish Football Association still supporting a friendly match between the countries in the very stadium where thousands had been executed mere months earlier is still largely unknown.
The relationship between the then British and U.S. leaders with the Chilean dictator are infamous. These three heralded the neoliberal ideology – one that plagues every sector and industry today, and Sebastian Edwards’ forthcoming The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism provides a situated history of the rise in a context left familiar to those of us in the west, but one no less important for a full understanding of what it is we’re fighting. Not merely a retelling of how Pinochet murdered the socialist state, this book critically examines what may be yet to come if incumbent Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s proclamation that ‘if Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave’ is to come to pass.
For the fourth entry, Rebecca Solnit (Guardian journalist and academic) and Thelma Young Lutunatabua (climate activist) have overseen a detailed collection of works from activists, academics and artists who speak to the current state of the global and localised climate movements, examining topics including fossil fuel consumption and political (in)action.
Contributors to the work, Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, include Marshallese-Hawaiian poet and educator Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, as well as Professor of Paleoecology & Plant Ecology Jacquelyn Gill. Solnit delivered a talk in May 2022 offering insights into the book and it is available on YouTube via this link. In praising the text, U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben (2022) suggests that ‘two of our greatest climate voices have rounded up many more realistic and determined colleagues who help us see the path ahead much more clearly’. This is one for those interested in challenging neoliberalism, anti-capitalism, and supporting environmentalism, though the diversity of inclusions make it also relevant to those interested in social movements more generally. An audiobook version will be available in April 2023, with the print edition to come in May 2023.
And finally, Make Bosses Pay: Why We Need Unions, from social affairs journalist Eve Livingston. Whilst technically a cheat answer, accessibility is vital to any movement claiming to truly be ‘inclusive’, so, although Make Bosses Pay was released in paperback already, the audiobook is out on the 20th January 2023 from Pluto Press. In her work, Livingston engages with activists-workers and researchers from across the trade union movement to understand why the British state continues to demonise organised labour.
What makes this contribution all the more unique, however, is its focus on young worker-led action, with examples cited including the Trades Union Congress (T.U.C.), Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (I.W.G.B.), Acorn International. Indeed, its relevance goes significantly beyond merely justifying the sustained presence of unions, instead considering what’s needed to regain control over them and ensure they are fit-for-purpose amidst the pressures and precarity of modern Britain
With public discourse during much of latter 2022 centring on industrial action and the strikes undertaken by educators, healthcare professionals, postal workers, and more, it would be a serious omission from this list to not advocate that we (re)visit Make Bosses Pay as we gear up to fight even harder in the new year.
- Denning, G. (2023) Universal Food Security: How to End Hunger While Protecting the Planet. New York (U.S.): Columbia University Press
- Broder, D. (2023) Mussolini’s Grandchildren: Fascism in Contemporary Italy. London, England: Pluto Press
- Edwards, E. (2023) The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism. Princeton, New Jersey (U.S.): Princeton University Press
- Solnit, R., and Young Lutunatabua, T. (2023) Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility. Chicago, United States: Haymarket Books
- Livingston, E. (2023) Make Bosses Pay: Why We Need Unions. London, England: Pluto Press
Happy reading (and listening), folks! See you in 2023.