ad interim

Stratos Fountoulis. a simple reader – visual artist.

Category: news

Eric Hobsbawm brought to life lost voices…

…and placed reality centre stage

© Getty Images

Hobsbawm was not only one of Marxism’s finest scholars, he was an Enlightenment giant whose passing leaves us all poorer

By, Monday 1 October 2012

In the foothills of Hampstead Heath, where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used to take their afternoon strolls, stands the home of Eric and Marlene Hobsbawm. To enter the Nassington Road drawing room for a conversation with Hobsbawm was to be transported back to the great ideological struggles of the extreme 20th century. Here was where ideas mattered, history had a purpose, and politics was important. And one could have no more generous, humane, rigorous, and involved a guide than the late Eric Hobsbawm.

The breadth of his work and the reach of his intellect was always startling. Right to the end of his days, he stayed up to date with scholarship, never failed to flay an opponent, and continued to write. Afternoon tea with Hobsbawm could range from the achievements of President Lula of Brazil to the limitations of Isaiah Berlin as an historian, the unfortunate collapse of the Communist party in West Bengal to what Ralph Miliband would have made of his boys, David and Ed.

But his lifetime’s achievement was to transform the study of history in Britain. He was part of a postwar generation that rescued the subject from parochialism and dry-as-dust empiricism to shed new light on the past – from the history of social protest to the invention of tradition and the impact of jazz.

For Hobsbawm, history had to be part of the conversation of the present. He fitted well into the English historical tradition of writing popular history books for an educated public. He was part of the practice of historical writing stretching back to Thomas Babington Macaulay and GM Trevelyan, alongside his peers AJP Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper. His 19th-century series on industry and empire and his bestselling account of the 20th-century provided the kind of global history for a broad readership few scholars have been able to match.

His most important contribution was to open up the study of class and economy within the British academy. His membership of the Communist party historians group and his involvement with the French Annales school of historians led him to emphasise the role of social history and structure in any comprehensive account of the past. Social history, for Hobsbawm, had to be part of the broader political project of the left – bringing to life lost voices and placing the lived reality of the people centre stage. But Hobsbawm was never a crass materialist – he always believed in the importance of the history of ideas. None more so than Marxism.

Hobsbawm was one of Marxism’s finest scholars. On day one, week one of any course I teach on Marxism, I give the students Hobsbawm to read. He explained its intellectual origins, historical function and 20th-century failings like few others. Of course, he was a believer – writing at the end of his life that “the supersession of capitalism still sounds plausible to me”. And the recent crisis of capitalism only gave his ideological commitment more fervency. As he told me in one of his final interviews, “a different combination, a different mix of state action and control and freedom would have to be worked out … It may well no longer be capitalism, certainly not in the sense in which we have known it in this country and the United States”.

When it came to his own continued membership of the Communist party after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Hobsbawm refused to play the apologist game. As a historian, he demanded to be understood in his own context – someone whose political identity was forged in the 1930s when the struggle against fascism took place on the streets of Vienna and the Communists were on the right side of history. He never sought, as he put it, “agreement, approval or sympathy”. It was part of who he was and that was that.

If all of this makes him sound a dour, Marxist professor then it could not be further from the truth. He loved to talk politics and academic wrangling over a vodka and tonic; he enjoyed a good book launch; he was an adept performer at history festivals (after a nip of whisky); and revelled in his large and adoring family.

I last saw Hobsbawm at a lunch organised for himself and Hugh Thomas, the great scholar of Spain, at the House of Commons. There he expressed his great affection for Britain for adopting him in the 1930s, reflected with brio on the general correctness of his lifetime’s historical work, and affirmed his conviction in a “proper” understanding of the past. Over coffee, Ed Miliband came to pay his regards and in the mix of history and politics, an appreciation of the past in the actions of the present, there was an affirmation of Hobsbawm’s work.

But, Hobsbawm being Hobsbawm, he immediately complained that Ed wasn’t being nearly radical enough. There was always more work to be done, more criticism needed, more understanding shared. Hobsbawm was an Enlightenment giant whose passing marks a sad pulling away from the 20th century and all it entailed.


Tristram Hunt is the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He teaches and lectures on modern British history at Queen Mary, University of London

[The Guardian]


L’historien britannique Eric Hobsbawm

est mort…

L’œuvre la plus connue de cet historien à la renommée internationale est «l’Age des extrêmes», parue en 1994.


L’historien marxiste britannique Eric Hobsbawm, auteur notamment du célèbre Age des extrêmes, est décédé lundi à Londres à l’âge de 95 ans, a annoncé sa fille. «Il a succombé à une pneumonie aux premières heures de la matinée», a précisé Julia Hobsbawm. «C’est une immense perte pour son épouse, Marlene, qui était sa femme depuis 50 ans, ses trois enfants, ses sept petits-enfants et arrière-petits enfants, mais aussi des milliers de lecteurs et d’étudiants dans le monde entier», a-t-elle souligné.

Né le 9 juin 1917 à Alexandrie en Egypte, Eric Hobsbawm avait d’abord vécu à Vienne pendant l’entre-deux-guerres, avant de partir pour Berlin en 1931, puis pour Londres deux ans après l’arrivée des Nazis au pouvoir. Il a participé à la dernière manifestation contre Hitler, le 25 janvier 1933.

Après des études d’histoire à Cambridge, il avait commencé à enseigner en 1947 au Birkbeck College à Londres. Il a travaillé aussi avec l’université de Stanford et le Massachusetts Institute of Technology aux Etats-Unis, ainsi que des facultés réputées en France et au Mexique. Membre à partir de 1936 du Parti communiste de Grande-Bretagne, il collabora jusqu’en 1991 à la revue Marxism Today, il quitte le parti en 1989.

En 1962, Hobsbawn publie L’Ere des révolutions – étude comparative de la révolution industrielle anglaise et de la révolution politique française – qui deviendra le premier volet du triptyque sur «le long XIXe siècle (1789-1914)» comprenant «L’Ere du capital» (1975) et «L’Ere des empires» (1987).

L’œuvre la plus connue de cet historien à la renommée internationale, dont la vie a été marquée par son engagement marxiste, est L’Age des extrêmes, parue en 1994. Cet ouvrage consacré au XXe siècle, le«court XXe siècle», selon son expression, a reçu de nombreux prix internationaux et a été traduit en 40 langues, dont l’hébreu, l’arabe et le mandarin.

En 2005, l’auteur britannique, alors âgé de 85 ans, avait publié Franc-tireur (titre originale: Interesting Times, 2002), son autobiographie. L’intellectuel et historien n’en était pas moins un grand amateur de jazz et un fervent admirateur de Duke Ellington, Hobsbawn a écrit sur le genre, dans la revue New Statesman, sous le pseudonyme de Francis Newton. Il a également publié une histoire du jazz, toujours sous son surnom.

[La Liberation]

Willesden Herald short story competition 2012

And the result is…

The results of the international Willesden Herald short story competition 2012 as judged by Roddy Doyle were announced at Willesden Green library centre tonight. First prize went to “Winter Lambing” by Virginia Gilbert. Equal runners up were “Curtains” by Charles Lambert and “Frost Heave” by Geraldine Mills. Thanks to all who helped tonight, more details to follow. You can read all the finalists in New Short Stories 6.

In the video Sam Taradash introduces Steve Moran, who shambles through the results announcement to some merriment and eventually arrives at the prizegiving and inveigles Charles Lambert and Virginia Gilbert up on stage. You can follow the links on YouTube to individual videos of each of the readings from Friday 12th…

[Willesden Herald]

“Christopher Hitchens, a symbol of the honesty and dignity of atheism…”

Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens has died aged 62 (AP)

Richard Dawkins: Illness made Christopher Hitchens a symbol of the honesty and dignity of atheism

On 7 October, I recorded a long conversation with Christopher Hitchens in Houston, Texas, for the Christmas edition of New Statesman which I was guest-editing.

He looked frail, and his voice was no longer the familiar Richard Burton boom; but, though his body had clearly been diminished by the brutality of cancer, his mind and spirit had not. Just two months before his death, he was still shining his relentless light on uncomfortable truths, still speaking the unspeakable (“The way I put it is this: if you’re writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word ‘fascist’, if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with ‘extreme-right Catholic party'”), still leading the charge for human freedom and dignity (“The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously.

The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do”) and still encouraging others to stand up fearlessly for truth and reason (“Stridency is the least you should muster … It’s the shame of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements’.”).

The following day, I presented him with an award in my name at the Atheist Alliance International convention, and I can today derive a little comfort from having been able to tell him during the presentation that day how much he meant to those of us who shared his goals.

I told him that he was a man whose name would be joined, in the history of the atheist/secular movement, with those of Bertrand Russell, Robert Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, David Hume. What follows is based on my speech, now sadly turned into the past tense.

Christopher Hitchens was a writer and an orator with a matchless style, commanding a vocabulary and a range of literary and historical allusion far wider than anybody I know. He was a reader whose breadth of reading was simultaneously so deep and comprehensive as to deserve the slightly stuffy word “learned” – except that Christopher was the least stuffy learned person you could ever meet.

He was a debater who would kick the stuffing out of a hapless victim, yet did it with a grace that disarmed his opponent while simultaneously eviscerating him. He was emphatically not of the school that thinks the winner of a debate is he who shouts loudest. His opponents might have shouted and shrieked. Indeed they did. But Hitch didn’t need to shout, for he could rely instead on his words, his polymathic store of facts and allusions, his commanding generalship of the field of discourse, and the forked lightning of his wit.

More at the Belfast Telegraph

…et le vide intersidéral résigné de Durban

Climat très frileux à Durban

Dans l’histoire des négociations climatiques, il y aura eu l’emballement médiatique de Copenhague en 2009, la reconstruction migraineuse de Cancún en 2010 et le vide intersidéral résigné de Durban en 2011. Avant même la signature d’un accord, qui pourrait survenir samedi, certains participants évoquaient vendredi une immense «déception», voire un «échec désastreux». Petit tour d’horizon des points de litige.

La survie de Kyoto

Durant deux semaines à Durban, l’Europe a joué au saint-Bernard de Kyoto en mettant un deal clair sur la table : l’Union européenne est prête à signer pour une seconde période d’engagements après 2012, si, et seulement si, tous les pays – les gros émetteurs comme les Etats-Unis ou la Chine, mais aussi le Brésil, l’Inde, l’Afrique du Sud… – souscrivent à un accord global de réduction d’émissions dans les années à venir. Le hic, c’est que le statut de cet accord constitue le nœud gordien des négociations.

A 18 heures vendredi, les ministres sont partis discuter en «indaba» (terme zulu désignant des palabres sous la tutelle du chef) sur la base d’un texte produit par la présidence sud-africaine. Ce document suggère que l’accord global pourrait être un «cadre légal applicable à tous» («legal framework», en anglais), s’inscrivant dans la Convention onusienne sur le climat. Cette formulation est la clé du blocage. L’Europe souhaite un «accord juridiquement contraignant» de réduction d’émissions de CO2, ce que refusent mordicus les Etats-Unis. La Chine, en revanche, s’est fortement assouplie en envisageant un tel accord, à condition qu’il prenne effet après 2020. Sentant qu’ils allaient passer pour les bad guys de la négo, les Américains se sont montrés plus ouverts à «une plateforme légale commune» ou «partagée», termes juridiques flous censés désigner ce fameux «cadre légal».

«Un cadre légal ? Ça ne veut rien dire, rigole Pierre Radanne, vieux briscard des négociations, familier de la novlangue climatique. Le protocole de Kyoto est déjà un cadre légal !» «Avec un tel texte, on passe du mauvais au pire, soupire Pablo Solon, l’ancien chef de la délégation bolivienne. Si l’Europe valide une telle formulation, elle cède aux Américains et aux Chinois.»

Lire la suite...  “La Liberation” …>


Only a Referendum of the People Can Stop Them Now

Bankers Gear Up for the Rape of Greece, as Social Democrats Vote for National Suicide


The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack. The threat of bank overlordship is not the kind of economy-killing policy that affords opportunities for heroism in armed battle, to be sure. Destructive financial policies are more like an exercise in the banality of evil – in this case, the pro-creditor assumptions of the European Central Bank (ECB), EU and IMF (egged on by the U.S. Treasury).

As Vladimir Putin pointed out some years ago, the neoliberal reforms put in Boris Yeltsin’s hands by the Harvard Boys in the 1990s caused Russia to suffer lower birth rates, shortening life spans and emigration – the greatest loss in population growth since World War II. Capital flight is another consequence of financial austerity. The ECB’s proposed “solution” to Greece’s debt problem is thus self-defeating. It only buys time for the ECB to take on yet more Greek government debt, leaving all EU taxpayers to get the bill. It is to avoid this shift of bank losses onto taxpayers that Angela Merkel in Germany has insisted that private bondholders must absorb some of the loss resulting from their bad investments.

The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect.

Socrates said that ignorance must be the root of all evil, because no one deliberately sets out to be bad. But the economic “medicine” of driving debtors into poverty and forcing the selloff of their public domain has become socially accepted wisdom taught in today’s business schools. One would think that after fifty years of austerity programs and privatization selloffs to pay bad debts, the world has learned enough about causes and consequences.

The banking profession deliberately chooses to be ignorant. “Good accepted practice” is bolstered by Nobel Economics Prizes to provide a cloak of plausible deniability when markets “unexpectedly” are hollowed out and new investment slows as a result of financially bleeding economies, medieval-style while wealth is siphoned up to the top of the economic pyramid.

My friend David Kelley likes to cite Molly Ivins’ quip: “It’s hard to convince people that you are killing them for their own good.” The EU’s attempt to do this didn’t succeed in Iceland. And like the Icelanders, the Greek protesters have had their fill of neoliberal-learned ignorance that austerity, unemployment and shrinking markets are the path to prosperity, not deeper poverty. So we must ask what motivates central banks to promote tunnel-visioned managers who follow the orders and logic of a system that imposes needless suffering and waste – all to pursue the banal obsession that banks must not lose money?

One must conclude that the EU’s new central planners (isn’t that what Hayek said was the Road to Serfdom?) are acting as class warriors by demanding that all losses are to be suffered by economies imposing debt deflation and permitting creditors to grab assets. As if this won’t make the problem worse. This ECB hard line is backed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner, evidently so that U.S. institutions not lose their bets on derivative plays they have written up.

This is a repeat of Geithner’s intervention to prevent Irish debt alleviation. The result is that we enter absurdist territory when the ECB and Treasury insist on “voluntary renegotiation” on the ground that some bank may have taken an AIG-type gamble in offering default insurance or bets that would make it lose so much money that yet another bailout would be necessary. It is as if financial gambling is economically necessary, not part of Las Vegas.
Why should this matter a drachma to the Greeks? It is an intra-European bank regulatory problem. Yet to sidestep it, the ECB is telling Greece to sell off its water and sewer rights, ports, islands and other infrastructure.

This veers on financial theater of the absurd. Of course some special interest always benefits from systemic absurdity, banal as it may be. Financial markets already have priced in the expectation that Greece will default in the end. It is only a question of when. Banks are using the time to take as much as they can and pass the losses onto the ECB, EU and IMF – “public” institutions that have more leverage than private creditors. So bankers become the sponsors of absurdity – and of the junk economics spouted so unthinkingly by the enforcers, cheerleaders for the banality of evil. It doesn’t really matter if their names are Trichet, Geithner or Papandreou. They are just kindred lumps on the vampire squid of creditor claims.

The Greek crowds demonstrating before Parliament in Syntagma Square are providing their counterpart to the “Arab spring.” But what really can they do, short of violence – as long as the police and military side with the government that itself is siding with foreign creditors?

The most effective tactic is to demand a national referendum on whether to accept the ECB’s terms for austerity, tax increases, public spending cutbacks and selloffs. This is how Iceland’s president stopped his country’s Social Democratic leadership from committing the economy to ruinous (and legally unnecessary) payments to Gordon Brown’s Labour Party demands and those of the Dutch for the Icesave and even the Kaupthing bailouts.

The only legal basis for demanding payment of the EU’s bailout of French and German banks – and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s demand that debts be sacrosanct, not the lives of citizens – is public acceptance and acquiescence in such policy. Otherwise the imposition of debt may be treated simply as an act of financial warfare.

National economies have the right to defend themselves against such aggression. The crowd’s leaders can insist that in the absence of a referendum, they intend to elect a political slate committed to outright debt annulment. International law prohibits nations from treating their own nationals differently from foreigners, so all debts in specified categories would have to be annulled to create a Clean Slate. (The German Monetary Reform of 1947 imposed by the Allied Powers was the most successful Clean Slate in modern times. Freeing the German economy from debt [including reparations to Greece for the havoc of WW2, Editors] it became the basis of that nation’s economic miracle.)

This is not the first such proposal for Greece. Toward the end of the 3rd century BC, Sparta’s kings Agis and Cleomenes urged a debt cancellation, as did Nabis after them. Plutarch tells the story, and also explains the tragic flaw of this policy. Absentee owners who had borrowed to buy real estate backed the debt cancellation, gaining an enormous windfall.

This would be much more the case today than in times past, now that the great bulk of debt is mortgage debt. Imagine what a debt cancellation would do for the Donald Trumps of the economy – having acquired property on credit with minimum equity investment of their own, suddenly owing nothing to the banks! The aim of financial-fiscal reform should be to free the economy from financial overhead that is technologically unnecessary. To avoid giving a free lunch to absentee owners, a debt cancellation would have to go hand in hand with an economic rent tax. The public sector would receive the land’s rental value as its fiscal base.

This happens to have been the basic aim of 19th-century free market economists: tax land and nature – and natural monopolies – rather than taxing labor and capital goods. The aim was to keep for the public what nature and public infrastructure spending create. A century ago it was believed that monopolies such as the privatizers now set their eyes should be operated by the public sector; or, if left in public hands, their prices would be regulated to keep them in line with actual costs of production. Where private owners already have taken possession of land, mines or monopolies, the rental revenue from such ownership privileges would be fully taxed. This would include the financial privilege that banks enjoy in credit creation.

The way to lower costs is to lower “bad” taxes that add to the price of production, headed by taxes on labor and capital, sales taxes and value-added taxes. By contrast, rent taxes collect the economy’s “free lunch,” and thus leave less available to be pledged to banks to capitalize into debt service on higher loans. Shifting the Greek tax burden off labor onto property would reduce the supply price of labor, and also reduce the price of housing that is being bid up by bank credit.

A land tax shift was the primary reform proposal from the 18th and 19th century, from the Physiocrats and Adam Smith down through John Stuart Mill and America’s Progressive Era reformers. The aim was to free markets from the landed aristocracy’s hereditary rents stemming from the medieval Viking conquest. This would free economies from feudalism, bringing prices in line with socially necessary costs of production.

Every government has the right to levy taxes, as long as they do it uniformly to domestic property owners as well as to foreign owners. Short of re-nationalizing the land and infrastructure, fully taxing its economic rent (access payments for sites whose value is created by nature or by public improvements) would take back for the Greek authorities what creditors are trying to grab.

This classical threat of 19th century reformers is the response that the Greeks can make to the European Central Bank. They can remind the rest of the world that it was, after all, the ideal of free markets as expressed from Adam Smith through John Stuart Mill in England, and underlay U.S. public spending, regulatory agencies and tax policy during its period of take-off.

How strange (and sad) it is that Greece’s own ruling Socialist Party, whose leader heads the Second International, has rejected this centuries-old reform program. It is not Communism. It is not even inherently revolutionary, or at least was not at the time it was formulated. It is socialism of the reformist type that two centuries of classical political economy culminated in.

But it is the kind of free markets against which the ECB is fighting – backed by Treasury Secretary Geithner’s shrill exhortations from the United States. Obama says nothing, leaving it all to Wall Street bureaucrats to set national economic policy. Is this evil? Or is it just passive and indifferent? Does it make much of a difference as far as the end result is concerned?

To sum up, the aims of foreign financial aggression are the same as military conquest: land and the public domain. But nations have the right to tax their rental yield over and above a return to capital investment. Contrary to EU demands for “internal devaluation” (wage cuts) as a means of lowering the price of Greek labor to make it more competitive, reducing living standards is not the way to go. That reduces labor productivity while eroding the internal market, leading to a deteriorating spiral of economic shrinkage.

The need for a popular referendum

Every government has the right and indeed the political obligation to protect its prosperity and livelihood so as to keep its population at home rather than drive them abroad or drive them into a position of financial dependency on rentiers. At the heart of economic democracy is the principle that no sovereign nation is committed to relinquish its public domain or its taxing, and hence its economic prosperity and future livelihood, to foreigners or for that matter to a domestic financial class. This is why Iceland voted “No” in the debt referendum. Its economy is recovering.

Ireland voted “Yes” and now faces a new Great Emigration to rival that which followed the poverty and starvation driven emigrations of the mid-19th century. If Greece does not draw a line here, it will be a victory for financial and fiscal aggression imposing debt peonage.

Read the rest of the article here 

Greek Protesters Are Better Economists Than the European Authorities

Greece: bond slave to Europe

Without sovereign control of their country’s debt, the Greek people are being punished with extortion by the ECB and IMF

Imagine that in its worst year of our recent recession, the United States government had decided to reduce its federal budget deficit by more than $800bn – cutting spending and raising taxes to meet this goal. Imagine that, as a result of these measures, the economy had worsened and unemployment soared to more than 16%; and then the president pledged another $400bn in spending cuts and tax increases this year. What do you think would be the public reaction?

It would probably be similar to what we are seeing in Greece today, including mass demonstrations and riots – because that is what the Greek government has done. The above numbers are simply adjusted for the relative size of the two economies. Of course, the US government would never dare to do what the Greek government has done: recall that the budget battle in April,which had House Republicans threatening to shut down the government, resulted in spending cuts of just $38bn.

What makes the Greek public even angrier is that their collective punishment is being meted out by foreign powers – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. This highlights perhaps the biggest problem of unaccountable, rightwing, supranational institutions. Greece would not be going through this if it were not a member of a currency union. If it had leaders of its own who were stupid enough to massively cut spending and raise taxes during a recession, those government officials would be replaced. And then a new government would do what the vast majority of governments in the world did during the world recession of 2009 – the opposite: that is, deploy an economic stimulus, or what economists call counter-cyclical policies.

And if that required a renegotiation of the public debt, that is what the country would do. This is going to happen even under the European authorities, but first, they are putting the country through years of unnecessary suffering. And they are taking advantage of the situation to privatise public assets at fire sale prices and restructure the Greek state and economy, so that it is more to their liking.

I have maintained for some time that the Greek government has had more bargaining power than it has used, and the past week’s events seem to confirm this. Because of the massive opposition to further economic self-destruction – the latest polls show that 80% of Greeks are opposed to making any more concessions to the European authorities – the Greek government has so far been unable to reach an agreement with the IMF for the release of their latest loan tranche on 29 June.

So what happened? The IMF is going to hand over the money anyway, while the European authorities (who are in control of IMF decision-making on matters of Greek economic policy) continue to quarrel over how long they will postpone Greece’s inevitable debt restructuring, roll-over, or whatever they choose to call it.

That’s because the prospect of a disorderly default – as would be triggered by the IMF simply sticking to its programme and not lending Greece the money – is too scary for the European authorities to contemplate. For this reason, the many news articles about the possibility of a financial collapse comparable to what happened after Lehman Brothers went under in 2008 are somewhat exaggerated. The European authorities are not going to let that happen over a measly $17bn loan installment. The events of the past week were all a game of brinkmanship, and the European authorities had to blink because the Greek government, as much as it wanted to, couldn’t get approval for the deal.

A democratically accountable Greek government would take a much harder line with the European authorities. For example, they could start with a moratorium on interest payments, which are currently running at 6.6% of GDP. (This is a huge interest rate burden, and the IMF projects it to increase to 8.6% by 2014. For comparison, despite all the noise about the US debt burden, net interest on the US public debt is currently at 1.4% of GDP.) That would release enough funds for a serious stimulus programme, while they negotiate with the authorities for the inevitable debt write-down. Of course, the European authorities – who are looking at this from the point of view of their big banks and creditors’ interests generally – would be enraged, but at least this would be a reasonable opening bargaining position.

The IMF’s latest review of its agreement with Greece suggests that the Euro, for the Greek economy, is still 20-34% overvalued. This makes a recovery through “internal devaluation” – that is, keeping unemployment extremely high and therefore lowering wages to make the economy more internationally competitive – an even more remote possibility than it would otherwise be. But the big problem is that the country’s fiscal policy is going in the wrong direction; and of course, they cannot use monetary policy because that is controlled by the ECB.

The European authorities have more than enough money to finance a recovery programme in Greece, and to bail out their banks if they don’t want them to take the inevitable losses on their loans. There is no excuse for this never-ending punishment of the Greek people.

from “The Guardian”

Japon compte ses morts, continue de trembler…

Le Premier ministre, sous le choc comme le restante du pays : «La situation actuelle, avec le séisme, le tsunami et les centrales nucléaires, est d’une certaine manière, la plus grave crise en soixante-cinq ans, depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale

Trois jours après le séisme, le pays compte ses morts et craint une catastrophe nucléaire.

Photo Copyright©

New Short Stories 5

Results event

Willesden Green Library Centre
98 Willesden High Road, London NW10
8 pm – 10 pm, Thursday, 7 April

Join acclaimed author Maggie Gee for an evening to celebrate the short story and discover who has taken the one-off inscribed mug and first prize in the international Willesden Herald short story competition 2011, supported by Willesden Green Writers’ Group. If the printers do their bit then copies of the anthology of the short-listed stories should be on hand.

Last year’s winner Wena Poon went on to have her novel “Alex y Robert” serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime for 10 nights and now for sale on the high streets everywhere from WH Smith. Jo Lloyd who won the previous year, her first ever win for her writing, went on to win the Asham Award in the same year for another story. The debut novel by previous winner Vanessa Gebbie is about to be published by Bloomsbury in the UK and the US. We’re hoping to see Vanessa and many other friends at the event as well. Several of the writers have already confirmed they plan to be there on the night.


Facebook event page
About the 12 short-listed authors
Special Google map page for Willesden Green Library Centre

About the writers

A. J. Ashworth was born and brought up in Lancashire and is a former journalist who now works in publishing. She has an MA in Writing (distinction) from Sheffield Hallam University and her stories are published or forthcoming in Horizon Review, Tears in the Fence, Crannóg, The Yellow Room, Lablit and the Voices anthology.

Alex Barr’s short stories have been broadcast on radio 4 and have appeared in magazines such as STAND. He has published two poetry collection, LETTING IN THE CARNIVAL (Peterloo 1984) and HENRY’S BRIDGE (Starborn 2006) and won third prize in the National Poetry Competition 2000. He is currently collaborating with Peter Oram on a translation of RILKE’S French poem sequence VERGERS and a series of books for children. He has worked as a journalist, architect and lecturer, and now lives on a small holding in West Wales with his wife Rosemarie, a ceramic artist.

Michael Coleman is a 60 year old Archive Conservator from Belfast. He has 3 children, 3 grandchildren and has been besotted, and sometimes dumbfounded, by his wife Patricia for the past 42 years. He loves sailing and jumping in puddles. He writes short stories, poetry and has a completed novel for teenagers waiting on a publisher.

David Frankel was born in Salford, but can now be found lurking around the darker corners of Kent, where he lives and works as an artist. He has been a secret writer most of his life, and is now working on the final stages of his first novel and a collection of short stories. He won the Earlyworks short story prize in 2009.

Adnan Mahmutovic is a Bosnian Swede, a homely exile who teaches literature at Stockholm University in daytime, and works with people with mental disorders at night. His book Thinner than a Hair came out in 2010 as the winner the Cinnamon Press first novel competition. His short stories have appeared in Stand, The Battered Suitcase, Rose&Thorn Journal, Cantaraville, SNR, and anthologised in [Refuge]e (Konstafack), and We’re Créme de la Crem (Biscuit publ). (

Emma Martin lives in Wellington, New Zealand, arguably the windiest city in the world. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Victoria University of Wellington. In previous lives she has been a taxi driver, circus worker and film censor.

Adrian Sells is married with a young daughter and lives in London. As a global markets strategist, his only published works to date have been in the financial press. He read English at Cambridge and, after many years recovering from the experience, now writes in his spare time. He has completed numerous short stories and is currently seeking representation for his second novel, a thriller set in South London called “Thirteen Days in Winter”. Away from work and writing, he loves opera (twice a judge on the Olivier Awards opera panel) and the theatre. ‘Thingummy Wotsit’ will be his first published work of fiction.

Mary O’Shea’s ambition to have an ordinary life sprang, more or less directly, from one summer spent working as an undercover agent at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp in North Wales, and another waiting tables at a Mafia-run restaurant in Newport, R.I. Ordinary living led her to the practice of fiction. Stories have become her passion. She published some (New Irish Writing, London Magazine), won prizes for some (Hennessy Literary Award and runner-up in the William Trevor International Short Story Competition), designed and presented a course to encourage like-minded others (U.C.C. 2005-2008). She lives with her husband, in Cork.

Angela Sherlock has worked in information retrieval; as a chefs’ assistant and as a (not very good) coil winder. She taught English in secondary schools in London and in Devon, where she currently resides, as wife, mother and fiction writer. Leaf Writers’ Magazine has published two of her short pieces. Her first novel (as yet unpublished), The Apple Castle, was long-listed for The Virginia Prize and shortlisted for the Hookline Novel Competition. Set Dance is from her second novel, Exports, a collection of interlinked short stories about the Irish Diaspora.

Teresa Stenson’s short fiction has been published in various places, most notably the 2009 Bridport Prize Winners’ anthology. She is 29 and lives in York, where she balances two jobs with her writing ambitions. Along with writing short stories, Teresa is in the midst of creating a longer piece of fiction. She keeps a blog about her writing at

Nemone Thornes was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and studied Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. At nineteen, she sold her first story to The Yorkshire Post, and her humorous short stories appeared in the Post for the following eight years. Since starting to write serious short fiction in 2007, Nemone has won prizes or been shortlisted in over twenty literary competitions. Her stories have been published by Leaf Books and Writers’ Forum, and are awaiting publication at Dark Tales magazine.

Y.J. Zhu is a native of Beijing, China who now lives in San Francisco. Her first published work describes racing a motorbike across the Taklamakan Desert. She has also delivered a yacht to Mexico, sailed up the Mekong River, and cruised down the Irrawaddy River. Materials for stories come from a variety of life experience, including biking across France, exploring Angkor and Machu Picchu. She currently makes her living managing projects for financial institutions.

du jamais vu, les gents rends fou

Une juge de paix et un greffier ont été tués par balles jeudi dans une salle d’audience à Bruxelles par un homme qui a pris la fuite.

«C’est le drame. Un magistrat, pour la première fois de l’histoire de la Belgique, ainsi que son greffier, ont été tués en pleine salle d’audience», a déclaré Stefaan De Clerck sur une chaîne de télévision belge.
«Une personne est entrée dans la salle d’audience, est restée là un certain temps, puis à la fin de l’audience, elle a tué, de près, et elle s’est enfuie», a-t-il ajouté. «Nous sommes à la recherche de cette personne», a expliqué Stefaan De Clerck, en soulignant qu’il «y avait des témoins