A year in the shadow of bullets and ballots: looking back at 2015

Whilst they chatter about the parliamentary labour party, life goes on…

Cautiously pessimistic

Saying you prefer bullets to ballots is often used as a shorthand for wanting revolutionary change rather than working within the system. But in fact, the politics of armed struggle and electoralism can have a surprising amount in common – they’re both ways in which mass participation can be cut off, when decisions stop being collective things that everyone takes part in and are instead left to specialist representatives, whether they’re politicians or military specialists of one kind or another.

All of this is another way of saying that when I think about the big stories of 2015, and about trying to come up with some kind of a grand narrative to sum up the year, I keep coming back to the upsurge of (roughly) 2010-2012, a wave of, if not quite revolutions, then at least uprisings and insurgencies of various kinds, and the ways in which that wave was…

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