September 2019


16 September 2019

At the ICA

Anna Aslanyan

Sergei Loznitsa’s film The Trial is composed from the original footage of one the first Stalinist show trials. The only additions are intertitles, which reveal at the end, for anyone who didn’t already know, that the ‘Industrial Party’ never existed. Some of the footage was used in a 1931 propaganda film directed by Yakov Poselsky (and, as Loznitsa joked in his introduction at the ICA, by Joseph Stalin). A team of investigators worked on producing the show trial for more than a year, drafting the script and coaching the actors. It isn’t clear if the public filling the hall are aware of their role: some listen to the proceedings intently, others fall asleep, some take notes, others shield their eyes when the lights are on them.


13 September 2019

A sharp crack and a heavy explosion

Liam Shaw

The first V2 to hit London fell on Staveley Road, Chiswick, on the evening of Friday, 8 September 1944. There was a small gathering to commemorate the 75th anniversary at the site last Sunday. Unlike the V1s, which you could hear coming with the buzzing of their pulsejet engine – Iris Murdoch described watching them ‘tottering past the window’ – V2s gave no warning at all. Fired from continental Europe and tracing out a parabola into space, they fell at supersonic speed from at least fifty miles up.


11 September 2019

‘Eliminate the teachers’

Matthew Bennett

In September 2018, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that there had been an 8 per cent cut in total school funding per pupil since 2010, a figure that even special advisers at the Department for Education don’t try to dispute. Around two thousand headteachers marched to Downing Street in a protest over funding. There has been a steady drip of stories of teachers buying materials, clothing and food for their pupils. Many schools have been forced to adopt four-day weeks. The money that the new chancellor, Sajid Javid, promised in last week’s spending review would bring funding back up only to 2009-10 levels, and the policy of ‘levelling up schools across the country’, announced by Boris Johnson at the end of August, means more of the money would go to schools that need it less (often, as it happens, in Conservative constituencies). Gavin Williamson, in his first speech to Parliament as Johnson’s education secretary, called for a return to ‘the Victorian spirit of ingenuity’.


10 September 2019

Empty Houses

James Butler

Beyond the theatrics, and the justified outrage, three major changes now affect the next two months of British politics. First, the prorogation means the government avoids parliamentary scrutiny until October: Johnson escapes not only the pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow, but also avoids the more forensic questioning of the Liaison Committee, to which he was due to give evidence afterwards. During prorogation, government statements on Brexit will endure only the haphazard interrogation – or adulatory stenography – of the British press.


6 September 2019

Green and White Nationalism

Elizabeth Chatterjee

A few minutes before 22 people were murdered in a Walmart in El Paso on 3 August, in a now-familiar ritual of American gun violence, a manifesto was uploaded to the fringe online forum 8chan (tagline: ‘Embrace infamy’). For the most part, the four-page screed parroted standard white supremacist themes, warning of a ‘Hispanic invasion’ while fretting that the 8chan community might find its contents a little ‘meh’. Yet the manifesto’s title, ‘The Inconvenient Truth’, suggested a second fixation. Its opening lines praised the lengthy statement published on the same forum five months earlier by the New Zealand mosque attacker – a self-proclaimed ‘eco-fascist’ – and it name-checked an unexpected source: Dr Seuss’s 1971 environmentalist children’s fable The Lorax.


4 September 2019

In Exarchia

Zoe Holman

The squad of armed riot police arrived at 5 a.m. on 26 August. The abandoned office block at Spirou Trikoupi 17, near Exarchia Square in central Athens, had been home to more than a hundred asylum seekers since 2016. The police hauled the men, women and children from their beds and loaded them onto buses, with no notice of their destination. Those without papers were taken to Athens’ main immigration prison to be deported. When the building had been evacuated, the police took their batons and smashed everything inside. The entrance was sealed with bricks and mortar.


2 September 2019

Johnson’s Opening Salvo

James Butler

Boris Johnson announced last week that Parliament is to be prorogued days after MPs return from their summer recess: both Houses of Parliament will stand empty for five weeks. A new session will begin on 14 October. A Queen’s Speech debate typically takes a week of parliamentary time, which leaves just over six sitting days until the Brexit deadline. Across the press, opposition politicians have described Johnson’s power grab as an affront to democracy. The speaker of the House of Commons said it was a ‘constitutional outrage’. The thousands of people protesting in cities and towns across the UK on Saturday were clearer and bolder: they called it a coup.