As 2018 comes to a close, we look back on this year’s most popular online reads.
It’s been a tough year. The climate change alarm is now ringing louder than ever, more people are migrating in deadly and brutally policed terrain and an ex-military man nostalgic for dictatorship was elected to the presidency of the largest nation in Latin America.
But there’s cause for some optimism. Mass movements are beginning to mobilize. Extinction Rebellion, Gilets Jaunes (the ‘yellow vests’) are on the rise and immigration detention systems are losing the veneer of legitimacy.
As always, social movements in the Majority World paved the way for the more radical modes of organising. In India, tens of thousands of farmers marched to the capital demanding debt waivers and higher crop prices. In South Africa, the shackdwellers movement resisted political assassinations in the fight for the right to housing. And in Hong Kong, leaders of the pro-democracy ‘Yellow Umbrella’ campaign are standing trial for ‘public nuisance’ after taking a stand against China’s authoritarian clampdown in the region.
At New Internationalist, we’ve covered those political crunch points in various ways. But this year, here’s our countdown of what readers were most grabbed by:
First up, an honorary mention: Revealed: Princess Diana visit linked to Bahrain crackdown
Secret documents show that the regime’s massive crackdown on opposition groups paved the way for the Royal visit and that Britain’s own ‘Butcher of Bahrain’ approved of the situation. Phil Miller investigates.
‘British staff in Bahrain were fully aware of torture occurring in Bahrain in the 1970s and early 1980s.’
10.A Q&A with Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky is a renowned linguist, the author of an abundance of books and arguably the most famous dissident intellectual in the United States. He talks to Andy Heintz about US exceptionalism, the best way to approach North Korea and the truth about ‘free trade agreements’
‘The Left should continue to support the victims of oppression, no matter who is the agent.’
9.Save the Children whistle-blowers speak out
Brie O’Keefe and Alexia Pepper de Caires speak to Ben Phillips about the ‘loneliness’ of taking on powerful institutions.
‘What happened to them, after all, took place in the NGO sector in London; the offences were committed against, among others, ‘middle-class white women with degrees’ by happily married men at the pinnacle of respectability in the NGO sector.’
8. Priced out no more: how a London group defied gentrification
Not resigned to lose their homes and workplaces to the whims of the property market, a group decided to fight against the odds. This is their plan to stay where they are. Alessio Perrone writes.
‘Over time, the community grew concerned more faceless student blocks would pop up in the neighbourhood, fearing a spike in housing prices and that welcoming more students with no interest in the community would impoverish it.’
7.Is China detaining a million Uyghur Muslims?
The country’s economic influence may be buying silence on a massive human rights violation. Nithin Coca reports.
‘Now huge, what the Chinese government describe as, ‘re-education’ centers, hold a ‘low’ estimate of 500,000 and a staggering high estimate of up to 3 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. The vast majority of those detained have never been tried and committed no crime.’
6. The efficiency myth
Heard the tale about the private sector always doing things better? Nick Dowson wonders why it still has believers.
‘In Bolivia, water privatization was swiftly followed by a rate increase of 33 per cent, triggering the country’s famous “water wars”.’
5. If we all became vegan tomorrow
Emboldened by a recent study, The Guardian repeats the myth that becoming vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth. Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul disagree.
‘Changing your shopping list – no matter how radically – will not solve these systemic problems. Thatcher said ‘there is no society’. Individualist ‘solutions’ to climate change – like prioritizing veganism – support this myth. We need to restructure our economy away from fossil fuel reliance and improve livelihoods as we do it.’
4. Kerala rises above the floods
This Indian state’s current struggle sets a good example for the rest of the country, writes Mari Marcel Thekaekara.
‘In a communist-led state, the opposition and people normally fanatic about their politics joined hands to work together to rescue and provide relief to the flood ravaged people across the state.’
3. The trashing of Oxfam
Abuse must be eradicated but the attack on Oxfam is disproportionate, argues Maggie Black in this opinion piece.
‘Attitudes towards Oxfam operate as a lightning rod of attitudes towards overseas aid, and aid charities, generally. Because Oxfam is not about something unimpeachable, such as ‘children’ or ‘health’, but embraces within its mission everything connected to poverty from slavery to diarrhoea to climate change, its name is exposed. Oxfam came into being as a dissonant voice on behalf of the dispossessed, and its intrinsically political nature has landed it in hot water many times during its 75 year history.’
2. The next financial crisis
Clueless central banks? A trade war? Southern debt? Ten years after the last one, leading economists including Jayati Ghosh, Cédric Durand and others think about where the next crisis might come from...
‘The mainstream economics view is that free trade is good for all. And yet the historical evidence contradicts this.’
1. How Black Lives Matter has changed US politics
The struggle against institutionalized oppression in the US goes beyond protest to an inclusive politics of identity. And it’s not short on policy ideas either, says Jamilah King.
'There is a long history of wrongly blaming black people for the fundamental failings of electoral politics.'