Thursday, December 28, 2017

How Not to Do Trade Deals

In my opinion one of, if not the, most important article I read this year:

How Not to Do Trade Deals

Swati Dhingra and Nikhil Datta

About half of Britain’s trade and investment is with the EU, and currently, as members, we implement almost the same standards for products and services. One of the few concrete things stated in the government’s white paper on Brexit was its intention to establish UK trading schedules – including import tariffs and quotas – at the World Trade Organisation, replicating ‘our existing trade regime as far as possible’. If no trade deals were struck with the EU after Brexit, the EU and UK would need to charge each other the tariffs they charge other WTO members. The average tariff rate is low – around 1.5 per cent – but some products attract higher tariffs. Cars, for example, incur a 10 per cent tariff, which the head of European manufacturing at Nissan stated would be a ‘disaster’ for the UK industry.

Tariffs also have an effect on the price of food. The pound’s loss of around 10 per cent of its value after the Brexit referendum may have benefited certain export industries and increased the number of tourists coming to the UK, but food price inflation – which until Brexit had been negative – contributed to overall inflation hitting its highest level in four years, at 2.9 per cent. Food price inflation has a significant impact on living standards, especially for those on lower wages who spend a larger proportion of their income on food. Evidence from the Resolution Foundation suggests the real wages of around 40 per cent of the workforce are falling, so many people are already feeling worse off. Agricultural products imported into the EU have very high tariffs: meat can be as high as 84 per cent, dairy produce up to 74 per cent and grains 63 per cent. Since 71 per cent of the UK’s agricultural imports currently come from the EU, if no new trade deal is reached, UK food prices are likely to rise even higher. And UK farmers will also suffer, since the current annual figure of €16.1 billion of agricultural exports from the UK to the EU is bound to drop.

Hard Brexiters often see leaving the EU as an opportunity to drop tariffs completely, which could reduce prices for British consumers. When it’s no longer a member of the customs union, the UK would be free to set its own tariffs, or could unilaterally decide to abolish them. But tariff levels are an important bargaining chip: if the UK drops its import tariffs without getting reciprocal access to foreign markets, it would be hard for prices to fall enough to make up for the job losses incurred in industries that would face competition from imports. Since tariffs are higher in manufacturing, higher job losses would be likely in areas of the UK that are already in economic difficulty.

The customs union binds all members to charge the same common external tariffs, so ensuring that members don’t import goods from outside the trading bloc using lower tariffs, and then export them into the single market, bypassing other members’ tariffs. Goods exported to the EU from Norway and Iceland, which are members of the single market but not the customs union, have to go through customs checks to ensure that the goods were indeed (largely) made there. The cost of complying with customs checks is estimated to amount to about 8 per cent of the value of an import, with almost all this the result of the extra paperwork. Even firms that already meet the necessary standards will have to bear these compliance costs. Since the EU has one set of ‘rules of origin’ that applies to members of the single market outside the customs union – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – and to those with Free Trade Agreements, like Switzerland, the current situation of Norway can be used to assess the impact that these checks could have on trade. A survey by the Swedish National Board of Trade of almost a thousand businesses found that Norway ranked top along with Russia as a problematic trading partner: 70 per cent of those companies which found trade with Norway problematic singled out ‘incredibly cumbersome’ customs handling and rules.

Such rules would have a severe effect on the UK car industry, since 56 per cent of the cars made in the UK are currently exported to the EU. The UK supply chain is highly integrated with the EU, with some car parts crossing borders about forty times. As a result, car makers and the government would like a sector-specific trade deal, that keeps the tariffs on cars and car components at zero and counts components from EU countries towards the rules of origin. But the UK and the EU can’t sign a deal that removes tariffs on cars and no other sector. To prevent countries cherry-picking and discriminating against other members, the WTO only recognises bilateral trade deals that cover almost all forms of trade between the signatory countries. A zero tariff deal for the car industry is therefore unrealistic.

Firms that operate tight production schedules and have complex supply chains, such as the car industry, depend on parts passing through customs quickly and easily. Both Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover operate a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain: for some components they keep available only the amount of stock used in a two-hour period. Even very brief customs disruptions could effectively halt production in plants that produce two cars every minute.

To pre-empt this problem, the UK could increase the number of customs staff it employs. HMRC is woefully understaffed compared to similar sized countries and totally unprepared for the extra work involved in being outside the customs union: the UK has about 5000 customs staff while Germany employs more than 35,000. The UK will also need to open British versions of EU regulatory agencies. The cost of setting up a UK version of the European Aviation Safety Agency has been calculated as £400 million over a decade, and this is just one of almost forty agencies. It’s possible that some EU regulators will continue to be used by the UK, but this would mean the UK would be answerable to the European Court of Justice, and this was expressly ruled out in the white paper and in Theresa May’s recent statements.

Many of those lobbying for Brexit saw the supposed ability to cut red tape as a key element of ‘taking back control’. But signing any trade deal involves giving up some amount of sovereignty. As a WTO member, the UK agrees to bind its tariffs to rates agreed with other members and to respect the judgment of the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

To sustain trade volumes at current levels requires trade deals that keep non-tariff barriers low by reducing divergences in standards and streamlining conditions imposed on foreign operators. Enforcing similar policies across markets effectively turns a free trade area into a single market where goods and services can be provided with the assumption that they meet the necessary requirements. Countries trying to make a trade deal have to agree on similar sets of standards and oversight policies that can be mutually recognised. If partner countries have similar preferences over standards, it’s much easier to make trade deals without giving up much sovereignty. For instance: the UK gives up some sovereignty when it applies the EU’s Toy Safety directive. But the loss is small because the safety concerns of UK consumers are similar to those of EU consumers. Following a common standard also enables UK businesses to sell goods in the EU without additional verification, and this reduces the non-tariff costs of trade to businesses. For some sectors, including food processing and pharmaceuticals, the value of applying similar standards is that it lowers the risk of cross-contamination from batches intended for a different market and ensures that all businesses are treated equally.

There won’t be much change to start with in the regulation of many products that currently carry the ‘CE’ (Conformité Européene) marking, and the UK could make a mutual recognition agreement with the EU covering electrical goods, machinery and medical devices, as countries such as Australia, Canada and the US have done. In the longer term, however, if UK standards diverge from EU ones, British businesses may have to produce two different product lines, one for the UK and one for the EU; this would be costly and reduce competitiveness.

A larger problem is trade and foreign investment in the services sector, which makes up 80 per cent of the UK economy. There are no tariffs on services: non-tariff barriers are the main hurdle. Access to the single EU aviation market, for example, requires a company to have its headquarters and majority shareholdings located within the EU, so that the EU can have regulatory oversight on safety. This could have an impact on companies such as easyJet, which recently announced plans for a new business, easyJet Europe, that would have its headquarters in Vienna. Even if the UK is recognised by the EU as having an equivalent regulatory regime, it could be cost-effective for some firms to relocate if the UK doesn’t keep pace with changes in EU regulations. The government’s recent position papers give no detail on how mutual recognition agreements will accommodate future changes in EU rules. Estimates of the ‘trade cost equivalent’ on services thanks to non-tariff barriers range from 8.5 to 47.3 per cent for trade between the US and the EU. The UK could expect to see some of these costs applying to its trade with the EU after Brexit.


As tariffs and the cost of non-tariff barriers rise, studies based on detailed customs data estimate that UK-EU trade will fall by between 13 and 40 per cent, depending on the level of market access negotiated. Brexit supporters are banking on outside trade deals cushioning this fall. Discussions of reawakening trade with the Commonwealth, striking deals with developing nations and strengthening the trade relationship with the US are common. With Britain on its own, the argument goes, it will be easier to strike deals, as bilateral agreements should be more straightforward than a deal between 29 countries.

But trade deals, even between two countries, take time and diplomatic resources. Which deals should the UK prioritise and what should they look like? The most discussed contenders are a new deal with the EU, deals with China and India, populous, quickly developing nations, and with the US, whose GDP is almost the same size as the EU’s.

It would be sensible to prioritise a trade deal with the EU. Countries have always traded the most with their biggest, closest neighbours. This is by far the most reliable fact about international trade and holds true no matter which set of countries, time period or sector (goods, services, e-commerce, foreign investments) is looked at. Given that the EU is within swimming distance from the UK, has a population of more than 500 million and a GDP of almost $20 trillion (double that of China), an equivalent replacement is effectively impossible. EU standards on goods and labour are more acceptable to British people than those in the US, China and India, even if Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Treasury Select Committee last year: ‘We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here … We could take it a very long way.’ But if we want trade deals that reduce non-tariff barriers without compromising domestic standards, it will be harder to achieve with the US, China, India et al than with the EU.

Currently, 3 per cent of UK exports and 7 per cent of imports are with China, so trade with China would have to increase ten times to get anywhere near the levels we have with the EU. The economy most like the UK’s to have a deal with China is Switzerland. The deal took nine negotiation rounds and around four years of talks. Swiss tariffs on Chinese industrial products, shoes and textiles were removed immediately, whereas Chinese tariffs on Swiss exports are being dismantled in some cases over a 15-year period, while other sectors like machinery and chemical products are keeping their tariffs. As a report by Lalive, a Swiss law firm, makes clear, the agreement ‘is more favourable to Chinese exports’, and a survey conducted by the Swiss Chamber of Commerce two years after its introduction concluded that ‘the FTA is not very attractive.’ In that survey, 89 per cent of respondents claimed that the agreement had had no clear effect so far, and that the biggest problems they faced were red tape, time delays and customs officers’ lack of knowledge. The deal did cover services, but didn’t really extend the already existing WTO services commitments. The most recent Swiss embassy report noted that service exports from Switzerland to China shrank by 0.3 per cent in 2015, dropping 1.3 per cent from the year before, during most of which the agreement wasn’t in force. The Swiss are not inexperienced in negotiating deals, so it seems unwise to expect a UK-China deal to create an export market that will replace the EU market.

Despite all this a UK-China deal could still lower costs of goods for UK consumers, but deep integration with a country like China, where labour is cheap and abundant and which has very different standards of safety and environmental regulation, is likely to hurt British blue-collar workers – the people who voted for Brexit. To avoid this the UK could insist on worker protection and consumer rights in its trade deals with developing countries. It could insist on social clauses in trade agreements that include the monitoring of safety standards, as the US has done with its Better Factories Cambodia project. But getting countries like China to agree to such clauses would be very difficult.

Similar concerns on the quality of regulations would arise in a future trade deal with India, which was the first stop on May’s Global Britain tour late last year. It might seem that Brexit would make a bilateral UK-India deal easier to accomplish because one obstacle that arose in EU negotiations with India would be removed: the UK, unlike the EU, may be happy to reduce tariffs on agricultural products from India. A deal with India is popular partly because UK trade with the subcontinent has been dropping. At the moment less than 2 per cent of UK exports go to India so, again, even substantial growth wouldn’t make a huge difference to export volumes.

UK businesses would like access to the Indian market in service industries such as law, insurance and finance. In January 2016, the UK reached an agreement on opening up legal services and infrastructure investments in India for UK businesses. But the Indians wouldn’t be keen on deep liberalisation in other sectors, like financial services, without getting reciprocal access for services that matter to India, such as information technology. This was a major sticking point during the EU-India negotiations, and May’s refusal as home secretary to reform visa rules for students and skilled professionals from India stalled EU-India negotiations as early as 2010. Since the Brexit referendum, the May government has if anything hardened its rhetoric on visas. A new trade deal is therefore not going to be as straightforward as it seemed before the prime minister’s visit to India.

While increasing trade with China and India wouldn’t go far towards making up for loss of trade with the EU, increased trade with the US might be thought to get us nearer plugging the hole. But here too there are problems. First, since import tariffs for both the EU and the US are already low (1.6 per cent), any expansion in UK-US trade would need a lot more regulatory harmonisation. There are some simple ways of reducing non-tariff barriers which the UK and the US could pursue: extending mutual recognition of technical standards and expanding labelling for food products. But many of these barriers reflect a clear difference in the two countries’ preferences. Regulation is aimed at ensuring quality, whether of employment, environment or of a product. Dropping the regulations preventing the import of hormone-fed beef or chlorine-washed chicken from the US may not be something the UK wants to do. Another hurdle to harmonisation with the US is the difference in the way new products are regulated. The precautionary principle in EU law, which has no counterpart in the US, holds that in the absence of scientific consensus, the burden of proof of the safety of a new product is on the company wanting to introduce it. US law, however, asks government agencies to show that a product is unsafe, rather than requiring companies to prove that it is safe, before it enters the market. It’s highly unlikely that the UK could get the US to switch to a precautionary policy and so a new trade deal that reduces non-tariff barriers would therefore mean abandoning that principle and following the US approach.

Another hurdle, probably the biggest one, is the investor rights that the US demands in deals with trade partners. Typically, the US insists on an investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism to settle disagreements between US firms and host governments. The ISDS gives foreign firms the right to bring claims against national or regional governments if they feel they have not been given fair and equitable treatment. The Calgary-based, Delaware-registered company Lone Pine Resources, for instance, has claimed damages for potential losses from the Quebec government’s moratorium on fracking. Although a decision is pending, this case has become the poster child for the ‘excessive’ powers that ISDS gives foreign firms, allowing them to undermine national and local government sovereignty, especially in socially sensitive policy areas like the environment, natural resources and public health.

The UK currently has about £250 billion worth of investment from the US, so any investment-related clause would have far-reaching implications for firms, workers and consumers. There is little evidence to show that ISDS clauses increase economic activity. An LSE study concluded that they expose the state to political costs, without providing much economic benefit. In a trade deal with Australia, however, the US accepted an agreement which settles such disputes within the domestic court system. Following the Australian example, the UK could try to improve on the agreement that the EU was negotiating with the US, which proposed less transparent ways of resolving disputes with foreign companies.

Counting on future trade deals with countries like China, India and the US to replace our existing economic ties to the EU is wishful thinking. We would be better off pursuing these deals as a long-term strategy. If the UK negotiated an interim arrangement like the one Norway has, outside the customs union but in the single market, we would buy a few years to negotiate better trade deals outside the EU. But such deals won’t do much to revive the stagnating wages of those who voted for Brexit.

Thursday, September 28, 2017



Against all advice and common sense
Our deposit left on the floor
where milk bottles were delivered
By our own backdoor

We voted Brekshit
Now we're Brekshitting
If we stay on this path
We've Brekshat
We may have shat on our own mat
But we got our cunt tree back

Look it's failing! We did the right thing to leave!
Not that they were grieving
From Charles de Gaulle to Merkel, they know
we never pulled our weight
Now May finds, oops, we've nothing up our sleeve
for negotiating our leaving
If Banks & Hannon and Carswell say 'we go'
then we go riding Mogg & Foxes wave of hate

'We got our cunt tree back'
And what a cunt tree it is
Free market playground for the rich? Tick
Safety rules and regs ditched? Roger
Workers rights?
What were they good for anyway,
eh, Maggie?
But mercy mercy me,
the ecology

It's a barren slave plantation
we're making of our nation

We voted Brekshit
Now we're Brekshitting
If we stay on this path
We've Brekshat
We may have shat on our own mat
But we got our cunt tree back

But our leaving shook the mountain
An avalanche begins to rumble
The hate begins to fountain
The nations start to tumble
We unleashed the tsunami, the whirlwind, the rain
And now watch our country circle the drain
Watch the ice shelf of neighbourly nations
Now calving, imploding dividing
The glacier of Europe melting under the warming of cry
Of nationalism, populism and against-ism

We voted Brekshit
Now we're Brekshitting
If we stay on this path
We've Brekshat
We may have shat on our own mat
But we got our cunt tree back

Look the euros failing! Good thing we didn't join
But why'd it fail? Coz we didn't join!
Coz we sided with the Yanks
for whom we were just their Trojan
From whom we'll get little thanks
But for whom we fought those dang iraqis
who threatened mighty wall street
whose free market lies only go so far
with oil trade in euros they would not compete
Hussein, Gaddafi, Chavez
all in winding sheets
And a strong europe rent sunder

We voted Brekshit
Now we're Brekshitting
If we stay on this path
We've Brekshat
We may have shat on our own mat
But we got our cunt tree back

Rule one of brekshit club, no wogs no gyps, no towel-heads
no Poles, Rumanians or jews

Yet the wave of refugees shook from their beds
Came from our wars and empires
yes, we started these bonfires
and in the great conflagration
that is now shaking our 'great' nation
we lionise the malodorous scum
coz us Brits we is really dumb
until blown all to kingdom come
and burned away by the sun

We voted Brekshit
Now we're Brekshitting
If we stay on this path
We've Brekshat
We may have shat on our own mat
But we got our cunt tree back

it's a brand new day!
And things can only get worse

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Brexit Coup

The Brexit Coup

The Bad Boys of Brexit, by Arron Banks; What Next?, by Daniel Hannan; All Out War, by Tim Shipman

review by Tim Barton

Back in the Eighties the beginnings of an ideologically 'American' coup began to roll out across the British economy. Channelling Ayn Rand and Nietzsche as much as Maggie's much vaunted but misrepresented Adam Smith, a neo-liberal agenda began to toxify our hearts and minds.

The first wave was influenced by a century-long tradition beginning with Charles Gide, and moving toward the present via Milton Freidman, Hayek and von Mises, and manifested in small true-believer organisations such as the ridiculously influential lobby group The Adam Smith Institute. The latter group was a guiding think tank behind Thatcher's neo-liberal clique in the Conservative Party - this strand of her policies almost destroyed the Party, saved at the last minute by the nationalist fervour whipped up during the Falklands skirmish.

This brand of new economic thinking became mainstream – so much so that Labour leader Tony Blair's rise to power witnessed his claim that it was the only way forward for Britain. The results have been economic disparity and collapse of basic infrastructures, but we have truly seen nothing yet.

Because we were sold a pup in 2016. The great British public, informed for decades that nothing was the fault of our government - it was all the fault of 'blacks', 'Poles', the unemployed, Brussels, Islam, etc - took the bait. A referendum based on a tabloid understanding of reality was always going to be a risky business. Immigration was clearly the red-rag vote-winner, with saner voices somewhat muffled.

The campaign to vote Leave had an interesting rogue's gallery at it's head. The motivations of frontmen like Farage may seem a little obscure, though their statements concentrated on the issue of free movement across borders. But the people behind the clowns on the stage were not mere xenophobes, they were a different breed altogether.

Several books have already arrived in print, two written by some of the true powers behind the campaign. I am betting that 90% of those who voted 'Leave' would not recognise the motivations of these men, men they could hardly empathise with socially either. Arron Banks – expatriate family (South Africa), privately educated, UKIP donor and co-founder of Leave.EU, massive funder of Brexit; Daniel Hannon – expatriate family (Peru), privately educated, Tory MP, UKIP apologist, senior member of the Vote Leave team... Hardly representative of the electorate, but a high-ranking part of an elite informal grouping that includes another important player: Douglas Carswell – expatriate family (Nigeria), privately educated, Tory then UKIP MP (friends with another Tory-UKIP defector, the aptly named Mark Reckless).

Their shared expat childhoods, followed by public school (obsessed with Platonic oligarchy, and the Spartans) then Uni, leads to their Empire2.0 attitudes to our supposed future Commonwealth free-market horizon. Totally disdaining ordinary people, they not only cynically ran a xenophobic campaign that did not reflect their true Brexit desires, but in reality sold us all down the river. Because they are the spiritual children of the Adam Smith Institute, but from an even more dangerous than average class 'bubble'. In these books they show no compunction at laughing at us all and boasting about their true motivations – UK(plc), a neo-liberal slave-plantation, asset-stripped and ecologically degraded, with the tax haven junta smugly walking away jingling the cash in their pockets.

The pronouncements of Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg - that we should remove workers rights, health and safety regulations, environmental protections... – are right on target for the Right-wing Brexit that was always on the table as our true 'out' future. The money and power behind this is illustrated rather bare-facedly in 'What Next?', and with complete disdain for us lot in 'Bad Boys'. The icing on the cake is Rudd and May attempting to add the UK to the short list of firewalled dictatorships: North Korea, Turkey, Iran and China. Come on guys, smell the coffee!

Meanwhile, whilst we read in the media about the Russian's hacking the US election, closer to home we have increasing evidence of collusion between Trump's mates Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer and our own Nigel Farage in using data analytics to manipulate floating voters on social media to get them to vote Leave (as exposed by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer, May 7
th , 2017). And of the Saudi's, who paid, via a rather circuitous route (a Scot's foundation co-founded by the ambassador's father, donating to the DUP in Ulster!), for a £300,000 4-page 'Out' advert wrapped around the London Metro last May (Finton O'Toole, Irish Times, May 16th, 2017), pressured no doubt by Cameron and our arms industry, also manipulating our democratic process. A very British coup indeed.

Any right-thinking person should be declaring the referendum void and pushing for trials for treason for those behind the undermining of fair process (this would include press barons Murdoch, Rothermere and Desmond as well). The best evidence against them comes from their own mouths. Meanwhile, no doubt stuck as we are with Brexit, let's lobby hard for a protectionist Left-Brexit, or we are all screwed.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Revolution in Rojava & The Political Thought of Abdullah Öcalan

Revolution in Rojava, by Knapp, Flach, & Ayboga

£16.99, published by Pluto

The Political Thought of Abdullah Öcalan, by Abdullah Öcalan

£12.99, published by Pluto

review by Tim Barton

Welcome to two new books on, arguably, the most important radical movement in Eurasia since the Spanish Anarchists. Like them, it seems likely that Rojava will be 'shot by both sides', but, also like them, they are currently an unlikely seeming beacon of hope.

Abdullah Öcalan has been leader of Kurdish revolutionary groups for decades. In the west, the perception of many was that he was a died in the wool unrepentant Stalinist. The evidence here suggests he was always much more savvy than that, but that, since his western 'democracy'-backed rendition and subsequent incarceration by the Turks in 1999, he has moved very far from that. My first awareness of him, beyond anti-PKK propaganda, was in the early 2000's, when he began to publish work that overtly channelled thinkers like Murray Bookchin and Immanual Wallerstein. His selected political writings here relate directly to developments on the ground in the Turkish-Syrian borderlands of Rojava. The subtitle of the collection is 'Kurdistan, Women's Revolution and Democratic Confederalism'. The book 'Revolution in Rojava', meanwhile, is an excellent introduction to what is happening there: it's subtitle is 'Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation is Syrian Kurdistan'.

Both books give excellent background on the plight of the Kurds, and of the ethnic divisions in the region. They clearly give a central place to women's liberation as key to change,  Öcalan also taking an interesting, if not wholly objectively convincing, walk through possible neolithic matriarchy in the region. To an extent, this builds on Bookchin's work in 'The Ecology of Freedom'. In the foreword to  Öcalan's book, Nadje Al-Ali says “it was mind boggling for me to hear Kurdish women's rights activists tell us that nationalism was bad for women, whether Turkish nationalism or Kurdish nationalism.' Indeed, it is overtly not a goal to have a 'state', the movement is overtly concerned with self-determination and autonomy with no 'stare' structures to coerce them, flattening hierarchies and resisting domination of all kinds.

The Rojava movement is inclusive of a high percentage of Muslims, yet is secular, and feminist, directly democratic and alert to ecological issues as well. It is an important example to counter the knee-jerk narrative presumptions of the right-wing and anti-Muslim press. It is a threat not just to conservative religious culture, but also to patriarchy and capitalist culture.  Öcalan's book gives a very detailed background to the theoretical background to the movement. This theory is intertwined at all points with his practical experience. Like the communities of Rojava, his work is explicitly self-critical, allowing dialectical thinking to be exposed on the page. His experience with the PKK is critiqued in a very clear-eyed and self-critical manner: 'the PKK had been conceived as a party with a state-like hierarchical structure similar to other parties. Such a structure, however, causes it to contradict dialectically the principles of democracy, freedom and equality […] Although the PKK stood for freedom-oriented views, we had not been able to free ourselves from thinking in hierarchical terms.'

Öcalan sees the nation-state as explicitly NOT 'concerned with the fate of common people', but as 'a vassal of capitalist modernity [..] a colony for capital', that only 'serves the capitalist process of exploitation'. His alternatives are explained in detail, aiming for flexibility, multiculturalism, anti-monopoly and consensus oriented forms, with ecology and feminism as central pillars. His confederated councils owe much to thinkers such as Kropotkin and Bookchin. The rejection of a traditional state solution for founding a balanced and socialistic society, one that resolves 'the ethnic, religious, urban, local, regional and national problems caused by the monolithic, homogeneous, monochrome, fascist social model implemented by modernity's nation-state', explicitly criticises the Marx/Engels line of thought, and, most importantly, is practically expressed I action, through the KCK (Union of democratic Communities in Kurdistan).

'Revolution in Rojava' is a fine introduction to the practical expression of this approach. It is not Öcalan's dictated plan, but a live flowering of complex and highly contested evolving political community. The role of women as fully free actors in Kurdistan is discussed in detail, warts and all. An explicit belief amongst the women's militias (who are actively and often successfully fighting ISIS/Daesh) is that 'you can't get rid of capitalism without getting rid of the state. And you can't get rid of the state without eliminating patriarchy'. David Graeber, author of 'Debt: the first 5000 years', writes, in the foreword, 'if one had told almost anyone who wasn't part of the Kurdish movement in 2010 that by 2015 there would be an armed feminist uprising demanding direct democracy across a significant swath of the Middle East, they would probably thought you were insane. Yet there it is'. After a great background analysis, the authors relate their direct experience and report through interviews the experience of many actors on the ground in Rojava, and provide copious maps and photographs. They talk through the cultural diversity of the region (and the Turkish and Syrian attempts to destroy it), and have excellent chapters on democratic confederalism and autonomy, women's revolution and the realities of the liberation and defense. They detail the developing justice system, democratisation of education, health care and the social economy, and, not least, the ecological issues facing a desert culture in an oil-rich area contested by the great powers. Neoliberalism, as a particularly vicious strain of capitalism, is clearly identified as the biggest global threat.

The final chapters look at more immediate threats: Islamisation of neighbouring states, Turkish moves towards a virtual genocide of Kurdish culture, and prospects for the future. As with Spain, my prognosis for them is poor, but they are not even close to giving up - '”we know every day will be a little better,” Asya Abdullah, PYD co-chair,has written. “Our society will continue to resist out of sheer conviction that it must take its fate into its own hands. The longer the resistance continues, the more experience we will accumulate in this struggle. Currently the people of Syria are undergoing great difficulties, but we see those troubles as the price of freedom.”''