Matt Kennard has written an excellent account of the global battle against capitalism’s crimes, says STEVE ANDREW
The Racket: A Rogue Reporter Versus the Masters of the Universe
by Matt Kennard
(Zed Books, £16.99)
IN THE dictionary, a racket is defined as anything that it is an illegal, violent or dishonest scheme for obtaining money. After years of working in mainstream journalism, the unassuming Matt Kennard came to the conclusion that there was no better way of describing capitalism than this.
Beneath all the nonsense about democracy and progress, of countering terrorism and launching a war on drugs, contemporary politics is largely dictated by a small group of psychopaths who are happy to wage an unrelenting war against ourselves and the planet in the pursuit of even greater power and wealth.
With that in mind, Kennard decided to leave his comfortable job at the Financial Times and start to do some real journalism instead. The Racket, his second book, is very much the result of this transformation and it is nothing sort of marvellous.
Angry, scornful and yet optimistic about the potential for change, it’s a socially engaged and often autobiographical exploration packed with solid research and interviews with those on the class-war front line.
After exploring historical contexts, Kennard deals with the recent upheavals in Haiti — no doubt countless other countries could recount a similarly sorry tale — and overall his comments on Palestine cover more familiar territory.
But it’s heartening to see a detailed account of the often neglected Bolivia of Evo Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism in a country where imperialist subversion poses as much a threat as it does to Cuba and Venezuela.
Kennard is perhaps a little uncritical in his analysis of the Zapatistas in Mexico although again he merits full marks for focusing on a movement which no longer gets much coverage even in the left media.
Similarly, his evaluation of the struggle in Kurdistan sheds much light on developments there and is timely, given the heroic struggle against Isis in Kobane and elsewhere.
Subsequent chapters deal with the plight of First Nation Americans in Canada, of convicts caught up in the prison-industrial complex there and of those continuing to cope with low wages and poor housing, giving the lie to the idea of that nation as a beacon of freedom and equity.
Recent manifestations of resistance — principally drawn from the countries of the Arab Spring — are dealt with in a concluding section in which Kennard makes the telling point that change in Egypt came as much from a background of massive industrial unrest as it did from the middle classes using Twitter.
And there are some important thoughts on culture in which Kennard recalls Brecht’s famous comment that art should not be seen as a mirror to reflect society but rather as a weapon with which to shape it.