Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jonathan Watts - When a Billion Chinese Jump

I will admit that when I fixed picked up Jonathan Watts' book I did not have much hope that I would enjoy it. Books on the environmental crisis and China often fall into crudities about the country something George Monbiot once called a manifestation of old racist tropes about the "Yellow Peril". Happily Watts' book is far better than this and as well as being thoughtful it is also very readable. China is a rapidly developing economy and since this book was first published in 2010 it is likely that some of the figures given are now dated. However the trends that Watt shows remain the same, if not worse, and it is this that makes it very useful for understanding China's environmental crisis and its role within the crisis.

Unusually for an environmental work, Watts bases his writing on his travels and specifically his encounters with individuals, often ordinary people on the frontline of the impact and the battle against climate change. Here are Chinese workers, farmers and migrant labourers, as well as officials, bureaucrats and business leaders.

Almost every book about China, its economy, environment or people begins with the scale of the country and its population. China's enormous economic power and, crucially, its cheap labour has allowed the current regime and previous ones to literally move mountains in the pursuit of economic improvement. Needless to say that historically this has had a devastating impact upon Chinese environment, an impact that seems to be growing worse by the day. Often current practise has been shaped by what has gone before:
[China's] waterways are now blocked by almost half of the world's 45,000 biggest dams... China's president Hu Jintao is a trained hydro-engineer. His view of the world - now imprinted into the communist ideological canon as a 'Scientific Outlook on Development' - has been shaped by his knowledge of water and how it can be controlled.
Hu Jintao's Presidency ended in 2012, yet it is fair to say that this approach continues, along with an belief that technology and science can cure the threat of environmental disaster. Famously we see this with the Three Gorges Dam, designed to harness the massive waters of the Yangtze River yet it brought along with it massive environmental and social disruption, and Watts dams tend to attract heavy industry enthused by the possibility of cheap and accessible electricity.

Despite whole areas of China being famed for their beauty and ecological diversity, much is under threat from industrial, agricultural and urban expansion. The global biodiversity crisis is enormous, but "the situation is particularly grim in China, where the die-off is reckoned to be taking place a twice the speed of the global average. According to the China Species Redlist, it is accelerating."

Much of Watts book looks at the different aspects of China's environmental crisis - water shortages, air pollution, fossil fuel expansion and so on. But the reason the book is useful is that he doesn't simply focus on these and the human tragedies that flow from them. He shows how the environmental crisis is not new - there were plenty of environmental mistakes, disasters and errors made throughout the 20th century - but how the current crisis is closely linked with the rise of industrial production for consumerism. In part this is due to demands of the Chinese population, a large section of which has far more wealth than ever and wants to emulate the lifestyles of the West. There's a fascinating section where Watts interviews Kan Yue-Sai, a multi-millionaire who got rich through marketing cosmetics who prides herself in helping launch China's "consumer culture" and for whom environmental problems were simply buzzwords to spout during the interview.

But crucial to the immense destruction caused by Chinese manufacturing is the outsourcing of emissions from the developed world. Western companies, attracted by cheap wages, low costs and minimal environmental restrictions have effectively moved emissions and waste to China. Pan Yue, a minister for environmental protect told Watts, "they raise their own environmental standards and transfer resource-intensive and polluting industries to developing nations; they establish a series of green barriers  and bear as little environmental responsibility as is possible."

This is of course not to let China itself off the hook. Not every factory is manufacturing goods for the west, the coal mines being dug and the land being destroyed are assisting the development of China's economy too. But this does help locate the problem in the right place. China is attractive to the west because it has low costs and high wages, something that its own capitalists are keen to exploit.

Resistance

Thankfully there is resistance. The Chinese have to acknowledge 1000s of "mass incidents" and Watts sees the aftermath of them, as well as often coming across accounts of protests, petitions and movements that have (sometimes successfully) challenged environmental destruction. In part this, as well as the very obvious destruction, has led the Chinese government to implement various pieces of environmental legislation. Sadly these are all too often ignored, or bribes ensure that no one is ever prosecuted. But it would be wrong to say there is no awareness of the problem.

The problem is that China's headlong rush to industrialise is done, not in the interest of people, but of capital. The need to compete with the United States, and the potential for a minority of people to get extremely rich, helps to undermine environmental laws. The immense bureaucracy doesn't help, nor does the short term interests of capital. It's staggering to read, for instance, that 1/3 of China's wind turbines are not connected to the grid and simply rotate pointlessly. Without fundamental change, the situation will not improve. Take agriculture:
China is the new frontier for agriscience. With a fifth of the world's population to feed on a tenth of the planet's arable land, the temptations of biotechnology have been enormous. Urbanisation and industrialisation add to the pressures by taking land for factories, roads and housing blocks. With the population expanding and appetites growing, China faces and uphill struggle to feed itself. As Vaclav Smil noted: 'All of the world's grain exports together would fill less than two-thirds of the country's projected demand for food.
Alongside technical fixes for agricultural comes threats to the environment, and while Watts highlights a few examples of more environmentally sound farming, they are far and few between (and some of them don't work at all).

Those that suffer are inevitably the poorest. "The rich folk have already moved out... It has become a slum" notes one woman about their polluted town. Though few in the country except the very rich can escape the worst pollution. In one of Watts' more startling statistics, he points out that only 1 percent of China's population breath air deemed safe, for a country of over 1.3 billion, that's a lot of illness.

Jonathan Watts concludes by saying that China cannot save the world, but it forces us to "recognise we are all going in the wrong direction". He highlights that there are many in the country who are struggling for a sustainable future, but focuses on individuals to change their behaviour to solve the problem. This seems barely credible given the scale of the problem he describes, and I tend to agree more with an old man he meets on a train who, when discussing the environment points out "The problem of a corrupt bureaucracy cannot be solved by bureaucrats. We need a mass movement to clear them out. I think there will be one within five years". The old man hasn't been proved right yet, but if we're to survive the 21st century as a global society it increasingly looks like we should follow his dream.

Related Reviews

Lafitte - Saving Tibet
Shapiro - China's Environmental Challenges
Au Loong Yu - China's Rise: Strength and Fragility
Gittings - Changing Face of China

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Claire North - The End of the Day

Claire North's first two books focused on individuals with odd powers. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was about people who returned to the beginning of their lives with their memories intact upon their death. Touch was about people who could possess other peoples bodies at will. This book however is very different, it's about Charlie, who is employed by Death as her harbinger. Charlie has no special abilities except perhaps, a faith in individuals (which is greatly tested by some of the people he visits) and being good at listening, which is particularly useful as people tend to pour out their thoughts to him.

The plot is fairly thin, but the book is extremely readable. It's as much a comment on the state of the world, as on the lives of the people Charlie meets. Chapters are interspersed by random snippets of conversation which betray both the happiness and sadness of people's lives and their rage at the world around them. War, Famine and Pestilence, as well as their respective harbingers, stalk the land and North depicts how their abilities have changed with the modern world, but how the opportunities for disaster have spread. I was struck by the contemporary relevance of this in a small aside at the end as War looks at a small island in the South China Seas and the captain of the ship comments how "they" have put their flag on it. Its never mentioned who they are, but War is suitably pleased at what this means.

As Charlie travels the world meeting people and giving gifts the reader is often left wondering what happens next. Charlie is at pains to explain that his visit doesn't mean death is imminent, and his gifts often help the recipient live longer. This is a bureaucratic process run by a expertly staffed office in Milton Keynes (having visited the place I'm not surprised that Death's office is there), and when Charlie finds himself in difficult situations, he is helped out by the bureaucracy. Though his activities attract the attention of the authorities who like many, want to bargain with Death itself.

Oddly the thing that worked least for me, is that Death, and his harbinger, are simply accepted by so many people. The news reports on him occasionally; people are often completely unsurprised by his presence, or existence and crucially, the authorities track him.

At the end of the book what I remembered most was the anger. North's characters are angry at racism and poverty (there's an interesting scene with a Black Lives Matter demo); war and climate change are constant backdrops. Imperialist destruction of South America and the Middle East are repeatedly mentioned and the way that the profits come before people is behind some of the key scenes of the book. The first time that Charlie is caught on camera, for instance, is when he visits a family being forced out of their London home by a company that wants to build luxury apartments.

The End of the Day is not as good a novel as North's earlier books - the central idea just didn't quite work for me this time. But in turns tragic and funny, it is a book that made me think, which is no bad thing at all. It also contains a highly appropriate quote from Karl Marx if you can find it.

Related Reviews

North - Touch
North - The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Kee - The Most Distressful Country

A recent trip to the North of Ireland prompted me to look at the history of Ireland. Robert Kee's Green Flag trilogy is often recommended as a good place to start to understand the historical developments that have led to the anachronistic situation we see today - the north of the Island part of the British State and the remainder "the South" an independent country.

Kee's book is not a complete history of Ireland, rather it is a history of the development of Irish Nationalism, used here in the sense of thinking of Ireland as a nation, rather than today when it might be used to distinguish a political outlook separate from that of the loyalists. The context for all of this is of course the fact that Ireland was Britain's first colony. The majority Catholic population were kept down trodden and oppressed while Britain used the Protestant landowning class to govern in its interests through a process of divide and rule.

That said, modern divisions - Catholic and Protestant - weren't necessarily appropriate historically. In the context of the struggle for Irish "nationalism" as Kee shows, many leading figures were Protestant. They were also keen to struggle for improvements to the rights for Catholics, who had historically had few rights. Take the famous figure Robert Emmet, who lead an uprising in 1803. Emmet was a wealthy Protestant who supported Catholic rights, in particularly their right to stand for parliament. The defeat of previous movements, including the United Irishmen, meant that Emmet could downplay the potential for the nationalist cause:
Asked by the Speaker if it were not so that 'the object next their hearts was a separation and a republic', Emmet replied: 'Pardon me, the object next their hearts was a redress of their grievances.;' He said that if such an object could be accomplished peaceably, 'they would prefer it infinitely to a revolution and a republic'.
The reality is, of course, that a redress of grievances could not happen without a struggle against British rule, and for some form of independence. The period covered in this volume covers some of the great movements for this, such as the United Irishmen's rebellion of 1798. These took place in the context of the French Revolution and it is interesting to  speculate what might have happened had the military support from France been successful, or better organised.

Kee is particularly good an analysing events when he puts class at the heart of his history. Take the debate about the "union" between Britain and Ireland that was passed in 1801. Kee writes:
Opinion about a union did not run clearly down any political or social dividing line. The most solid opinion seems to have been among the Orangemen who were very generally described as being against it. This to may seem a paradox in the light of later events, but it was a logical attitude at the time, for the Orangemen simply represented the most extreme expression of the Protestant point of view, namely that they held a dominant position in Irish society and the legislature as things were, and what they held they wanted to hold. Even in later times, after they had identified their interests with the Union they were always to make clear that, in the event of a clash between those interests and the Union, it was the Union they were prepared to sacrifice.
One of the strengths of Kee's book is that he doesn't focus just on the ideas or actions of prominent figures. He writes with sympathy and understanding of the majority of the Irish population, particularly its peasantry and shows how their confidence in struggling against the status quo rises and falls. He also covers the great tragedies that befall them, particularly the Potato Famine but also the route cause of their poverty - the way that land ownership was organised solely to profit the owners and those who sublet land, rather than those who did the work.

The book finishes just before a new outburst of radical nationalism, the Fenian movement, following the decline of the earlier struggles. I look forward to reading part two.

Related Reviews

Woodham-Smith - The Great Hunger
Mitchell - A Rebel's Guide to James Connolly
Davis - Late Victorian Holocausts


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Andrew Ward - Our Bones Are Scattered: The Cawnpore Massacres & the Indian Mutiny of 1857

This is an incredible work of history. It describes, in often horrible detail, the Indian Mutiny and specifically the Cawnpore Massacre of the British and the resultant bloody retribution by the East India Company's troops. The author is unapologetic in this, writing in the preface:
I have tried to depict the massacres at Cawnpore unflinchingly because though they were more terrible than anything I hope you can imagine, they were less atrocious than the British public was encouraged to think, and more complicated than either imperialist or nationalist historians have made them out to be. I have tried not to spare the reader the horrors of British retribution because they were more atrocious than the British public was encouraged to think. No one can say how many thousand of Indians - including women and children - died during the suppression... but many times more, certainly, than the Europeans who died at Cawnpore.
Ward locates Cawnpore (including the specific violence of the uprising) and the wider Mutiny in the longer history of British rule in India. He notes the systematic robbery of India's riches, the racism that pervaded everything that Europeans did with regard to the native population, the violence with which the military was used to enforce company interests and the casual belief in white supremacy that meant Europeans simply could not comprehend that the Indian population would revolt against them.

There were a number of issues that meant 1857 brought the native soldiers to the brink of mutiny. Discontent was growing throughout the country, indicated at first by the circulation of chupatty's among the population. This is a fascinating phenomena which clearly has its roots in much older village traditions - headmen would bake these bread and pass them onwards and those who took them, and made others to pass one, where declaring their allegiance. But Ward points out that the colonial administration ignored this, he quotes a British administrator saying that officers "who dared to look gravely on the 'chupatty mystery' were denounced as croakers".

But more direct problem was the question of the new ammunition. Some authors writing on 1857 have argued that the question of the tallow used on new cartridges supplied to the regiments, made from pork and beef, was not as important as historically thought. The tallow was offensive to Hindus and Muslim's alike, and "even the most complacent Calcutta bureaucrat had to concede that the cartridge business was more worrisome". But as Ward points out the "history of the Company's army was replete with such blunders, but at a time of dangerous disaffection in the army's ranks this one proved colossal". It was commonly believed that the British wanted to systematically destroy the Indian population's caste and belief, and rumours regularly circulated that there were factories that manufactured things deliberately to do this.

Ironically, the violence retribution of the British reinforced this idea. As we shall see captured rebels were treated in ways that were designed to be as offensive as possible, reinforcing the beliefs that led to the rebellion in the first place.

Ward's story focuses on events in Cawnpore, a key town in British rule. Here, hundreds of European's, men, women and children, found themselves under siege in a inadequate defensive compound, surrounded by tens of thousands of well armed rebel soldiers. In appalling conditions the mainly British defenders survived weeks of shell-fire and attack, as well as hunger and thirst. Eventually they brokered an agreement with the leader of the rebels, but were betrayed and most of them were killed. The women and children that survived were eventually massacred in the most horrific and brutal way, their dismembered bodies thrown into a well.

I found it difficult to put down Ward's day to day account of the siege and then the massacre, as well as events elsewhere in India. It is brutal, but it's obsessive detail brings to life the reality of the Uprising, and the reasons behind it. The Europeans cannot believe that their world has fallen apart; the Indians are confident they can end British rule, even if they are often unclear on what this means and the true nature of British power. It is extremely clear to the reader that the violence that takes place is a direct result of the nature of Company rule; despite racist European beliefs that such behaviour was inherent to the population they ruled.

The rebellion was eventually overwhelmed by British military power, and weaknesses in the Indian leadership that meant, for instance, failing to take Cawpore quickly and moving forward to other important targets. British retribution, was overwhelming, and appalling. British army columns moved through rebels areas:
Sending the rebels to paradise was not the column's ideas of revenge... so hanging parties devised means of defiling and degrading them before death. Many captives were not permitted to call witnesses or testify in their own defense, some were even gagged... condemned prisoners were often flogged... Soldiers then forced beef down the throats of the Hindu captives, pork down the throats of the Moslems. Prisoners were daubed with animal fat; some Moslems were even sewn into pig skins before hanging. Sweepers were employed to execute Brahmin prisoners, many of whom were first smeared with cow's blood.
From blowing victims from guns, to rape and systematic murder, the violence continued. Despite this, and not unexpectedly, the British public never heard about the revenge. The story of Cawnpore however was used to justify the taking of India into the British Empire and the further rule of India for another century. As Ward concludes:
None of the many wells that the British filled with rebel corpses were memorialised... It was not until April 13 1919, that the well at Cawnpore was displaced in India's moral imagination by another: the well at Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar into which Indian men, women, and children jumped to escape the volleys of a party of Gurkhas under the command of British General Dyer... 379 people were killed and another twelve hundred wounded.
It has often been said that victors write history. This is absolutely true of the Indian Mutiny. For years the narrative focused on the appalling violence and betrayal of the rebels, without putting it into context, while the British response was downplayed or ignored. Andrew Ward's detailed, scrupulously researched and extremely well written history rectifies this. I encourage you to read it.

Related Reviews

Davies - Late Victorian Holocausts
Newsinger - The Blood Never Dried
Farrell - Siege of Krishnapur
Macrory - Signal Catastrophe
Holmes - Redcoat
Dalrymple - Return of a King

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gabriel Lafitte - Spoiling Tibet

Since ancient times people have known that Tibet is an area rich in mineral resources. As China's economy continues to expand at an unprecedented rate, there are greedy eyes looking at the gold, chromium and copper in Tibetan plateau in the hope of making a swift, and large, profit.

Gabriel Lafitte's new book looks at what this means for the Tibetan people and their environment. Unsurprisingly given the disdain with which China has treated the region for decades, the prospects are grim. That they aren't worse is not out of benevolence from the Chinese state, but because most of the resources can be accessed cheaper and easier from abroad. Tibet's remoteness, its underdevelopment and the fact that some resources are simply not as rich as in other places means that investors look elsewhere first. That said, there are major industries moving into the region, and with them comes repression, environmental destruction and undermining of local communities.

Into this context Lafitte puts Tibet's history. In particular he notes that Tibet is not a barren, peopleless area. In fact the mainly nomadic population has created a "cultural landscape" shaped by centuries of habitation. All this is under threat from the Chinese state's desire to access raw materials.

None of this takes place without resistance. It has been widely acknowledged that there are thousands of "mass events" every year across China protesting environmental impacts of industrialisation, or the destruction of communities etc. Tibet is not immune from this, and Lafitte points out that despite the brutal behaviour of authorities and draconian punishments, "Tibetan communities  have had some success in resisting mining, especially when miners were based far away and had not local protectors". Lafitte continues by arguing that as "national mining corporations" are coming to dominate production in Tibet, the people are "losing the capacity to delay or fend off any longer the party-state's plans for Tibet.

This trend, away from small scale mining, towards "state-owned and private corporations" systematic exploitation certainly does hamper ability to resist, but I am not sure its as bleak as the author makes out. After all, Tibet's movements have managed to put the spanner in Chinese plans before and I am always wary of commentators who argue that resistance won't be successful because of this or that change.

The best parts of Lafitte's book are where he highlights the enormous destructive power of mining and the way that this is central to an economic strategy by the Chinese state. The massive economic investment that is being made to support industrial plans for Tibet - whether its the building of railways and electrical grids, or the diversion of rivers for hydro-power - is truly staggering. Yet Tibet's resources, are but small change in China's insatiable demand for energy and material.

Sadly the book is undermined for me by Lafitte's theoretical framework which begins from the Tibetan people's spirituality. While there is no doubt that their Buddhist beliefs inspire a particular world view as well as resistance to the destruction of their communities, in and of itself it is a limited way to understand the motivations of Chinese State Capitalism. It is not enough to say that "Tibet should be seen through Tibetan eyes, as a land conducive to material comfort and ease" without also understanding that this is true of many other places that capitalism has destroyed in its hunt for profit. This is not to downplay the awfulness of what has and is happening to the Tibetan people; but to seek an alternative way of understanding capitalism and what it does to the planet.

Sadly, Lafitte's conclusion is extremely week. Stopping the destruction of Tibet's environment and the wider planet will require challenging the priorities of Chinese capitalism. It won't be enough for readers to choose a "mobile phone, computer or car [that] is not made in China from Tibetan metals". It's going to take mass mobilisations of workers, peasants and the Tibetan population to stop this environmental destruction, not western consumerism.

Related Reviews

Shapiro - China's Environmental Challenges
Au Loong Yu - China's Rise: Strength and Fragility
Gittings - Changing Face of China

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Richard Lewontin & Richard Levins - Biology Under the Influence

I am often wary of books that are collections of essays written elsewhere and collected together simply because they are all by one or more authors. Without a theme that holds things together they can become little more than a mix of random ideas. So I was pleased that this collection of essays by two of the world's foremost biologists works very well, despite the variety of subjects and original publications. This is because the essays approach a single question - what is the best way for scientists to try and understand the world they live in, and solve the scientific challenges they face. The subtitle of the book, "Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture and Health" show the authors' approach to this.

Lewontin and Levins argue that a dialectical approach to science is important because it allows us to understand subjects in their widest context; to appreciate the links between things and how some factors affect others and vice-versa. There is an excellent early example of this, when they look at what might cause a cholera outbreak. For some scientists an outbreak would simply be seen as "the coming of a cholera bacteria to lots of people". In a sense this is absolutely correct. But why does it come to lots of people? Why do some get sick and others not? Lewontin and Levins approach it like this:
But cholera lives among the plankton along the coasts when it isn't in people. The plankton blooms when the seas get warm and when runoff from sewage and agricultural fertilizers feed the algae. The products of world trade are carried in freighters that use seawater as ballast that is discharged... The small crustaceans eat the algae, the fish eat the crustaceans and the cholera bacterium meets the eaters of fish. Finally, if the public health system of a nation has already been gutted by structural adjustment of the economy, then full explanation of the epidemic is, jointly, Vicrio cholerae and the World Bank.
Much of the book then is given to understanding how to use this approach. The example above is a good one because it shows how a wider understanding of dialectical systems can allow the scientist to better understand the dynamics of the world they live in. This is particularly applicable, as the essays demonstrate, to medicine, ecology and agriculture and the essays here illustrate the method well.

The dialectics outlined here is not an abstract set of ideas. I was struck, for instance, while reading this, about recent left debates about ecology which have misused dialectics to try and discredit Marxist approaches that use metabolic rift theory. These have argued that such approaches reinforce a dualism between nature and society, because they talk about both these things simultaneously, even though they are inseparable. In a slightly different context Lewontin and Levins write:
No individual human being can fly by flapping his or her arms and legs... Yet human beings do fly as a consequence of social interaction and culture that have created airplanes, pilots, fuel, airports and so on. It is not society that flies, however, but individuals in society. "Parts" have acquired properties contextually.
There is much in this book, but the reader must be warned. Some parts of it are quite difficult, and while every chapter contains real gems of insights, I found some of the subject matter difficult. So the sections that examine Systems Theory or different examples of feedback in systems are hard to follow, even though the authors' do very well in trying to make them accessible.

It is worth concluding by reminding ourselves that the central task of the book is to argue that it would be wrong to approach subjects by stripping them of their context; or understanding issues as part of wider, dynamic, constantly changing systems. You can't understand public health without looking at the state of public health services, the costs of treatment, atmospheric pollution and so on. Its not simply about germs, but the context in which those germs exist. Similarly, hunger is more than simply a lack of food; its also about a entire food system geared to making profit, not feeding people.

The final chapters look at this approach and the way the authors suggest it has tried to inform the practical reality of science, agriculture and medicine in Cuba. Here they argue the nature of the government and its isolation as a result of blockade and embargo has required a different approach. I don't agree with the authors that Cuba is an actual example of socialism in practice. But it is certainly true that their approach to medicine and agriculture has real benefits to the population of the island. I actually found some of this material very interesting and particularly illuminating.

The title of the final chapter, "Living the 11th Thesis" is a demonstration of how the authors' approach to science cannot be separated from their activism. Marx's thesis, that the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it, runs through this book like a red thread. This is not a book about science. This is a book about how to make science a tool of human liberation, and I recommend it to readers, despite the inherent difficulties, as a wonderful example of that practice.

Related Reviews

Levins & Lewontin - The Dialectical Biologist

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

John Saville - The Consolidation of the Capitalist State

There are any number of books by Marxists that look at the way that English capitalism developed out of the earlier, feudal society. Following Marx they show how the outcome of the English Civil War and Revolution gave those with capitalist interests the freedom to develop their wealth and their interests. This involved the systematic transformation of the economy in the interests of capital. Countless laws were passed to enshrine private property as above anything else. Land was enclosed, common rights destroyed, nature was turned into a commodity.

But for capitalism to fully succeed required, in the title of Saville's short book, the consolidation of the state in its interests. Some of how that took place fits in with the processes of primitive accumulation - the laws passed to support enclosure or criminialise poaching etc. Other processes described by Saville are much more explicit - the creation of a national police force for instance - that could act in the interest of private property.

The crucial period of this process, 1800-1850, is described in Saville's book. It coincides with wider changes that were further entrenching the interests of capital. Saville notes, for instance, that this half century saw the final eclipse of the rural economy, at least in terms of those working on the land. In 1801 the ratio of urban to agrarian population was 20:80; by 1850 it was 50:50 and had completely reversed to 80:20 by the end of the century.

This was the period when the new capitalist class conscioussly acted to further its interests. Those who "were using capital for ecnomic development" were moving towards the "centre of political power". All the changes; economic, legal and so on, were simply about making the system "efficient" for the bourgeoise. Saville gives a handful of examples, but fopcuses on the Anti-corn law movement as openly reflecting the interests of the middle classes;
The Corn Law of 1815 imposed directly in the itnerests of the landlord classes, led to the vigorous reactions of the 18440s,... but the formation of the Anti-Corn Law LEague in 1838... reflected the middle classes' growing confidence in their political and social positions in society. It gave a clear warning to agricultural interests that the blance of ecnomioc power was shfting steadily towards the commercial and industrial sectors.
All this was resisted: the scale of riot by the labouring  populations of the British Isles meant that some countries saw the British as "ungovernable". In an excellent discussion of Ireland, Saville notes just how much the subjugation of Ireland was part and parcel of the development of capital for the British bourgeoisie, and that required the constant "shuffling" of troops back and force to attempt to maintain order. The scale of Irish impoverishment in the interest of the colonial power is forgotten, points out Saville, but the British ruling class also learnt valuable lessons about the controlling of rebellious populations.

Key to the consolidation of the capitalist state was the year 1848. This was the point when the first great working class movement, Chartism, threatened the British states' control. Saville discusses the various ways the movement was repressed and the mistakes made by its leaders, and the way that 1848 saw a "historic fracture in working-class political consciousness". Following this, the mainstream movement fought for reforms, rather than the revolutionary reconstitution of society. Summed up, Saville, argues by the slogan "A Fair Day's Work for a Fair Day's Pay". This, says Saville, meant in part the belief that "fair dealing was available... in capitalist society". This was the crucial final piece in the capitalist state's jigsaw.
A turbulent and dissatisfied working people was not helpful [to the development of capitalism] and althugh their activities could be contained by oppressive laws and iproved policiing it was their polittical attitudes that had finally to be confronted and defeated. That was the meaning of 1848, and for the rich and powerful, and their middle-class allies, it was a famous victory.
At only 82 pages this is a short work, but Saville packs a lot in. It is one of the best Marxist writings I have read on the period and I recommend it to everyone trying to understand the origins of capitalism.

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