This chapter considers three case studies of lobbying in action: the campaign to reduce sugar consumption; issues relating to fixed odds betting terminals; and the future of the Green Belt. Two of these cases relate to potential harm: in the case of sugar, to the population in general; in the case of fixed odds betting terminals, to a subset of those who gamble. The issue of the Green Belt relates to deeply held values in one section of the population. A number of apparently independent reports on Green Belt development appeared, which turned out to be funded by, or closely linked to, the same group of housing industry consultants. Economists and the pro-development lobby helped to get the Green Belt on to the political agenda, changing its hitherto sacrosanct status.
In this short article, which was first published on 'Normblog' in 2009, Geras speaks of the inclination of certain Marxists, as well as others who admire Marx's work, to deny the antisemitic material there is in his essay On the Jewish Question. Geras brings in this article Bruno Bauer's argument that the political emancipation of the Jews, their availing themselves of political and civil rights within the democratic state, was incompatible with their Jewish particularism and Marx's counter-argument that political emancipation, so far from being incompatible with religious particularisms, presupposes them. None of this, however, can obscure the themes which Marx deploys in the second part of his essay and the article presents a key passage from it. It is fruitless to pretend that these themes are expressed merely ironically when there is no clear supporting evidence that they are to be read in that way rather than straightforwardly.
In this article, which was first published in 'New Left Review', Geras begins from an astonishing fact: Leon Trotsky's prediction of the impending Jewish catastrophe, which is a common and well-grounded theme in the literature of the Holocaust that the disaster was not really predictable. He offers some general reflections on Marxism as a body of theory in relation to the Nazi genocide against Jews, presenting a couple of brief phrases on the singularity of the Holocaust and a critical review of Ernest Mandel's thinking on the subject. Mandel connects to a wider historiographical, socio-psychological and other literature on the Holocaust, adding to it, to be sure, what Marxism is best-placed to add. He asserts that the Holocaust was an extreme product of tendencies which are historically more general. But he perceives a need to balance the assertion with an emphasis on the singularity of the fate of the Jews.
This chapter explores the key relationship between the inter-governmental organisation (IGO) and its member states. It examines the basic relationship between the United Nations (UN) and states in terms of membership through admissions, withdrawal, expulsion, suspension, and representation. The chapter provides case studies, including the pursuit of Palestinian membership and the consequences of the break-up of states for membership, showing how the rules on membership are at the same time rudimentary and difficult to adhere to. It shows that membership of an IGO no longer guarantees full sovereign equality of member states, and that with qualified majority voting and weighted voting, sovereign equality becomes more and more qualified. The chapter also explores how the obligation to pay, when combined with a scale of assessments that requires powerful states to pay more, produces considerable tensions within the UN and other IGOs, sometimes in the form of a refusal to pay.
Forcible sanctions, involving the use of force organised or authorised by the UN, regional or defence organisations, raise issues of compatibility with the rules governing the use of force in international relations, which are found in the UN Charter and customary law. This chapter considers the role of inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) in implementing and upholding those rules, necessitating an analysis of Article 2 and Chapters VII and VIII of the UN Charter, and the constituent treaties of security organisations. It discusses different military responses undertaken by IGOs, ranging from observation and peacekeeping, to peace enforcement and war-fighting, in terms of legality and practice. The chapter also considers whether there is an emerging duty upon the UN (and possibly other IGOs) to take action in response to the commission of core international crimes, embodied in the idea of a Responsibility to Protect and practiced in Libya in 2011.
This chapter offers a few reflections on Geras' minimum utopia. They do not trace out a history of the concept, nor do they attempt to explore its thematic range and variety. They are simply one person's thoughts on the subject as we approach a new century and millennium. They have been arranged into ten summary theses. Some of them are: socialism is utopian, including in its most influential version to date, namely Marxism; one should unashamedly embrace utopia; maximum notions of utopia have their indispensable place; minimum utopia is a revolutionary objective; minimum utopia is to be conceived not only as socialist but also as liberal; and embracing utopia means embracing an alternative ethics.
This chapter analyses whether referendums have gone from being a shield against executive dominance to being a weapon in the hands of the executive. It presents an analysis of all the votes held in different countries since 1973 to shed light on whether referendums and plebiscites have become more associated with populism and semi-authoritarian tendencies. The chapter examines the reasons for the increase in the number of referendums in Free states and democracies like the United Kingdom. Citizen-initiated referendums come in two forms: initiatives (which allow voters to propose legislation) and citizen-initiated referendums (which allow voters to hold a vote on an already enacted law or bills before they are promulgated). The chapter also looks at plebiscites in Not Free states where they are held not merely to confer legitimacy upon an autocratic regime but also to signal the total control of the authoritarian government.
Norman Geras's work on the subject of Karl Marx's antisemitism involved significant dissent from the Marxist tradition in which he located himself, precisely because unvarnished honesty prevented him from glossing over the many troubling ideas and notions that, simply, are there. His Normblog demonstrated how Geras, as a Marxist, took on the shibboleths of the postmodern left, and in particular the relativism whose malign influence he had noted when writing his book on Marx's conception of human nature. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' This book shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' play an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history. It explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies as well as then theses on utopia. The book also reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice, and the controversy that has fuelled its growth, and distinguishes three meanings (personal, intellectual and socio-political) of 'being a Marxist'. It discusses the significance of the Euston Manifesto, antisemitism on the left anti-Jewish stereotypes, and Marxism before the Holocaust. The book concludes with insights into the 9/11 incident, the principle of humanitarian intervention and international law for military intervention.
In a body of work marked by the meticulous exegesis, scrupulous critique and creative development of the classical Marxist tradition, Norman Geras established himself as the twentieth-century Marxist theoretician we need most in the twenty-first century. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' Armed with that insight, he proceeded to excavate from the Marxist tradition some precious theoretical resources to serve a democratic and self-emancipatory socialism, resources that had been buried by Stalinism and scorned by social democratic reformism. In some of his essays, he moved from highlighting the huge strengths of both thinkers to alerting us to the lacunae and errors in their thought that inadvertently offered points of support to authoritarianism. Later, and in relative solitude, Geras did much to work out the shape of articles of conciliation between Marxism and liberalism.
This is a short article which was originally published on 'Normblog' in 2013. Geras here speaks of how Washington and other Western powers, including Britain, were considering military action against Syria on account of the regime's apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. The article focuses on three types of issues that are centrally involved in the debate whether such action be justified: whether there is a basis in international law for military intervention; whether it is likely to do any good; and whether it might be merited in any case on retributive grounds.