Science and Technology

Green triumph in power generation? Not really

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 10:34
Author

Misha Zubrowski

A report by Carbon Brief on Monday 14 October headlines that “UK renewables generate more electricity than fossil fuels for first time” — an exciting prospect. Digging deeper, the picture is more complex.

The report concerns the third quarter of 2019, and it shows “renewables” a hairline over fossil fuels in generation, each contributing roughly two fifths, and nuclear the final fifth.

But generation is not the same as consumption. The UK is a net importer of electricity, with fossil fuels providing a greater share in the imports.

And counted in the renewables is biomass, which is not “low

Hipster reformism and the technological fix

Published on: Wed, 17/07/2019 - 09:25

Bruce Robinson reviews Aaron Bastani's 'Fully Automated Luxury Communism'

Back in 2013-14 there was a lot of excitement on the left about “left accelerationism” and the prospect of a transition to a “post-capitalism” fuelled by technological advances based on information.

Aaron Bastani coined the meme of “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” (FALC), and it led a fitful life on the Internet. It has now returned in the form of a book which sets out to be a manifesto. Since 2015 Bastani has moved from a politics rooted in “post-workerist” thinkers to become a born-again supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

T

HBO’s Chernobyl: a service to us all

Published on: Wed, 03/07/2019 - 10:29
Author

Les Hearn

Chernobyl was a disaster — there is no doubt about that — but what lessons should we learn from it?

Though the catastrophic meltdown and explosion of the RBMK Reactor No 4 happened almost half a lifetime ago, when police states claiming to serve the workers ruled eastern Europe, the recent HBO mini-series Chernobyl has brought that time back to life.

Though partly fictionalised and sometimes wrong (according to survivors and experts), the basic facts are correct.

During an “experiment” aimed at improving safety procedures, Reactor No 4 responded erratically and attempts to bring it under

A new humanist politics?

Published on: Wed, 05/06/2019 - 11:02
Author

Matt Kinsella

Paul Mason’s latest book, Clear Bright Future, is written as a defence of humanism and human-centred politics, against the resurgent threat of the far-right, from Trump to Bolsonaro, Le Pen to Salvini. The title is a reference to Leon Trotsky’s testament. Mason entreats us to fight “all evil, oppression, and violence”, and shares Trotsky’s optimism for the future.

Mason draws a convincing link from the financial crash in 2007-08 to Trump’s election. Mason emphasises how the monopolisation of information (think Google and Facebook) has led to systems outside our control, for example, of online

How to win “Net Zero”, and soon

Published on: Wed, 15/05/2019 - 12:43
Author

Mike Zubrowski

On 2 May, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published official advice on the UK’s emissions’ reductions, Net Zero. It argues that the UK should aim to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050.

CCC, a government-appointed body, mostly of academics, notes that the government is seriously failing in 15 of 18 areas, and set to miss its current, more conservative, targets. CCC’s proposed targets themselves aren’t ambitious enough, but they point in the right direction and are worth unpacking. Inadvertently, they indicate the need for democratic planning of the economy.

Net Zero estimates that the

Letters

Published on: Wed, 10/04/2019 - 08:20

As Aristotle is one of the “giants” on whose shoulders Marx stands, we should take an interest in issues of distortion or vulgarisation of Aristotle’s key ideas. It might be that Martin Thomas’s comments on Aristotle (Solidarity 499) carry a “trace” of this process.

One thing Marx and Aristotle certainly have in common is their having been subject to sustained vulgarisation and distortion. The vulgarisation of Marx is a part of our inheritance and that demands we are scrupulous and forensic in our approach to classic texts (comrades might find useful the work of Michael Heinrich on the

Letters

Published on: Wed, 20/03/2019 - 10:24

Janine Booth (Solidarity 494) writes that ″[t]he brain wiring that is now called dyslexia has probably existed for thousands of years, but it did not become a problem and was not labelled “dyslexia” until written language became widespread.″

She does acknowledge that this ″so-called impairment, [this] disability, is constructed by something that has developed socially i.e. the form that language takes.″

I′m not convinced that dyslexia can be reduced to a ″brain wiring″, nor that particular ″wirings″ are given, that just the problem and label arise from social factors.

I have been diagnosed

Letters

Published on: Wed, 27/02/2019 - 11:37

Janine′s article on “Neurodiversity, capitalism, and socialism” in Solidarity 494 was interesting and informative. I agree with most of what she advocates. However, I′d like to query her implication that “text-heavy” newspapers are no longer very important, and that alternative media (videos, meetings) can replace them.

Those other media can′t replace in-depth reading. Videos can and should play a useful supplementary role, and meetings are of course vital. Text allows for in-depth studying of topics in a way that is often much more difficult or impossible in other formats. Text-based

Letters

Published on: Wed, 20/02/2019 - 12:10

Japanese language not more socialist

Janine Booth’s article on neurodiversity and socialism (Solidarity 494) was valuable and interesting, but I want to query one (maybe unintended) implication.

Janine cites an individual “severely dyslexic in English and not dyslexic at all in Japanese” and takes that as showing that capitalism develops language in a form that “does not suit”. To build anything on a single case is dubious. So far as I can see from scanning the research, there is some indication that dyslexia may be less with ideographic languages (where symbols correspond to meanings rather

Marxists and science

Published on: Wed, 06/02/2019 - 12:52
Author

Les Hearn

“Marxism does not provide a ready-made key for making judgements about scientific ideas. It cannot substitute for a detailed knowledge of the appropriate scientific material.”1

Marx and Engels saw themselves applying a scientific method to economics and the dynamics of class societies. Their philosophical approach was derived from that of Hegel who used dialectics, a discussion between opposing points of view, to arrive at truths. Marx and Engels applied Hegel’s methods to the real world, in particular showing that the capitalist mode of production gave rise to a class whose interests lay in

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