Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

By-elections and updates

Reading: Pages from Ulysses, Urban 75 politics boards, Guardian Comment is Free site, essays by MG and PO'R, Derek Wall's blog.
Listening: Coldplay, TalkSport Radio.
Viewing: None.

Today saw the three by-elections in Bromley & Chislehurst and Blaenau Gwent for Westminster and the Welsh Assembly. (BBC Report)
Good Green candidates are standing in both Bromley and the Welsh Assembly election. Good luck to them both.

An update on the proposed Incapacity Benefit 'reforms' I have blogged on previously - the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have produced a report condemning the likely effect of the 'reforms'. Good to see an established and respected body speaking out on this.

Finally, my union, Unison held a conference last week and some good progressive policy was passed, sometimes in the face of opposition from the leadership.

As well as backing the campaign against the Trident missile system replacement, conference agreed to oppose a new generation of nuclear power stations and called for 'massive investment' in renewable energy to help in the fight against global warming. A well deserved defeat for those elements of the leadership seeking compromise with New Labour came with the victory of an amendment to a motion on the energy industry. The successful amendment explicitly called for the industry to be taken into public ownership and control.

The need is there for mass, united movements against both the civil and military nuclear projects and for concerted action on climate change and emissions. The victories in Unison for those supporting these positions are therefore a very encouraging sign.

STOP PRESS - It now seems that the ASDA workers strike action that was scheduled for the next few days, and which I blogged on last week, has been called off by the GMB union after an agreement with ASDA management - announced in this press release.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Support workers' action at Asda Wal-Mart depots

Reading: Local paper, James Joyce, BBC and Guardian websites, Guardian Comment Is Free Website, Urban 75 boards, Indymedia UK.
Listening: Mozart
Viewing: Flicked between France v Togo and South Korea v Switzerland in the World Cup.

Workers at Asda Wal-Mart depots in Britain have voted to take industrial action and deserve the support of the whole green, left/progressive and labour movements in their struggle against one of the worst union-busting and exploitative employers.

Union news release reprinted from Indymedia -

GMB Shop Stewards National Council agree programme of industrial action including an initial period of 5 consecutive days strike to be followed by comprehensive further industrial action

GMB Shop Stewards National Council meeting in Manchester today agreed a comprehensive programme of industrial action in Asda Wal-Mart's 20 distribution depots to secure their objectives. From 00.01 Friday 30th June until 23.59 Tuesday 4th July (Independence Day) there will be a complete withdrawal of labour by all GMB members in all Asda Wal-Mart depots. This will be followed by a further comprehensive programme of industrial action.

GMB members working in Asda Wal-Mart's 20 distribution depots across the country voted by 3 to 1 (74.1% in favour) to take strike action in support of their outstanding claims with the company. They also voted by an even bigger margin of more than 4 to 1 for industrial action short of a strike to secure their objectives.

GMB members who will take part in the industrial action work as HGV drivers and warehouse picker and loaders at Asda Wal-Mart 20 distribution depots including Bedford, Chepstow, Dartford, Didcot, Erith, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Ince George in Wigan, Lymedale Staffordshire, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Portbury in Bristol, Skelmersdale, Teesport, ADC Wigan, Wakefield and Washington. They move 30,000 tonnes per day of ambient, fresh, chilled and frozen produce from 20 distribution depots to 300 Asda Wal-Mart Stores around the country.

GMB members in Asda Wal-Mart's distribution depots want to see the establishment of proper national bargaining structures between the company and GMB covering pay, conditions and union facilities in all 20 distribution depots.

Once established the first thing GMB members employed in the depots want is an agreement, via the new national negotiating structures, that Asda Wal-Mart pay the unpaid 2005 bonus of £300 per worker. The second issue GMB members in the depots want dealt with via the new national negotiating structures is an end to the unilateral introduction of new technology leading to higher work rates in the depots which health and safety experts say will seriously injury GMB members over a long period of time. (See Note 5). GMB members want an agreement that safe work rates are established by a panel of independent experts.

Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary said, "GMB members know full well that Asda Wal-Mart are gearing up to try to break this strike. This decision today to set a comprehensive programme of industrial action starting with the 5 days stoppage shows that GMB members are determined to win national collective bargaining rights which are common across British industry.

There appears to be a clear clash of cultures between the way workers do business in Britain and the way Wal-Mart does business. It is significant that the strike dates set by the Shop Stewards covers Independence Day. GMB members in Asda Wal-Mart want independence from the anti-trade union tactics of Wal-Mart worldwide.

GMB members spoke decisively yesterday. The Shop Stewards decision today shows they are prepared to follow it up with decisive action.

GMB will also step up the campaign against the agencies that we know are collaborating with Asda Wal-Mart to break this strike and GMB will use the full force of the law against them."

More from Derek Wall's blog - including Green support.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Solstice Greetings!

Reading: James Joyce and Robert Goddard, BBC News website, Guardian Unlimited and Comment is Free websites, Morning Star, Indymedia UK site, Urban 75 politics boards, local papers, Greenpeace UK website.
Viewing: 75% of Argentina v. Netherlands in the world cup.
Listening: Travis.

Greetings on the Summer Solstice, and I hope the summer continues to be a pleasant one for those of you reading in the Northern hemisphere!

Indymedia have some more pictures of the lovely sunny day that was the occasion of the demonstration about Incapacity Benefit in Sheffield at the weekend.

Depressing/alarming news for those of us living in the few remaining mining areas - it seems that existing deep coal mines are amongst the 530 plus sites named as possible nuclear waste depositories, according to Greenpeace.

Not only do old mining areas in Britain have to cope with the consequences of the neoliberal globalisation policies that have been acted on to destroy their industrial base (With the resulting social problems of poverty, deprivation, anti-social behaviour and spiralling narcotics use), it now seems they are amongst the areas considered to be blighted with nuclear waste transportation and storage. This is of course, of a piece with the proposed siting of many of the next generation of urban waste incinerators to be built in areas of social and economic deprivation. These are classic examples of 'externalisation' of the costs of the most polluting elements of the capitalist economy. The movements set up to oppose these impositions on largely working class communities must be rooted in the communities themselves, calling on the broadest possible support from the local people, and based on solidarity and the most democratic structures and methods.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

SWAN Stroll, Roll and Rally

Reading: Observer blogs, a "News Of The World"(Aargh!) someone left lying about, pages from a Robert Goddard novel, Indymedia pages.
Viewing: Bits of Japan v. Croatia, 2nd half of Australia v. Brazil and last ten minutes of South Korea v. France, The Office(BBC2), Funland (BBC2).
Listening: Radio Five.

I travelled to Sheffield yesterday for the Sheffield Welfare Action Network (SWAN) Stroll, Roll and Rally against the proposed 'reforms' to incapacity benefit (it was remarked at the rally how New Labour have given an entirely new meaning to the word reform, such that people arguing for short term positive changes now have to prefix any use of the word 'reform' with the word 'positive' to make clear they do not mean it in the New Labour sense!)
It was good to meet friends from Urban 75 and some activists I had not met for many a year. It was a lovely sunny day, and what we lacked in numbers we made up for in volume with the Sheffield Samba band and sincerity from the good range of groups and individuals represented. You can see a Green Party Trade Union Group (GPTU) flag in the background, a statement with solidarity greetings was handed round and newly elected Sheffield Green Party Councillor Bernard Little spoke at the rally. It was good to hear from people from different disability action groups, trade unions, political and unemployed groups united by commitment to the cause. As someone said at the rally, this rally and demo were just a start to building a united national campaign against New Labour's attack on welfare and benefits.

The rest of the pictures from the event can be found here

Fellow Green Left blogger Matt Sellwood has information on his blog on the hunger strike at the Campsfield House Detention Centre which is well worth reading.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

A rash of left founding statements!

Reading: BBC News website, Guardian website, Guardian Comment is Free Blogs, Urban 75, Indymedia, Morning Star, local paper, Robert Goddard and James Joyce.
Viewing: Lots of world cup football may account for some of lack of blogging this week!
Listening: Radio Five, Talk Sport, Manic Street Preachers.

Well, England did it, managed to get beyond the group stage. But not before putting the England supporters through the usual edge-of-seat, leaving-it-to-the-last-minute, playing-poorly (against-the-least-well-known-and-poorer-sides), nailbiting scenario that seems obligatory in English World Cup campaigns! Never mind, still great entertainment for anyone with even a mild interest in football. Argentina look to be playing some of the most exciting football so far.

On the political front the Green Left seems to be creating waves. An interesting thing is that manifestos of the left seem to be flavour of the month, what with the Euston Mob and now these founding statements from the SSP United Left and the now united German Left Party.

Anyhow, not much blogging time this week, too busy watching the football and preparing stuff for the demonstration in Sheffield on Saturday! Will let you know how it went.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Demonstrate against neo-liberal attacks on benefits!

Sheffield Welfare Action Network (SWAN) have been active on the Incapacity Benefit "reforms" and have organised a national march and rally against this latest neo-liberal attack on some of the most vulnerable people in society. This is well worth support from Green Left, GPTU, and progressives more generally, I understand Sheffield GP have been supportive (from the pictures of previous demos on Indymedia - pages linked below) - the SWAN site (also linked below) has a downloadable leaflet. These attacks are part of a concerted, Europe wide attack on the gains made by working people during the post-war reconstruction and Cold War. They are very much part of the neo-liberal plan to impose a new "discipline" on the working people of Europe so that they can be more easily used in the conflict with other rising capitalist power blocs, and so that the rate of exploitation and profit can be safeguarded in the interests of capital worldwide.

National People's March and Rally - June 17th
SWAN has called for a national demonstration to challenge the proposed incapacity benefit reforms on Sheffield 17th June, 2006. Assemble Devonshire Green at 12:00pm for 12.30pm march. Major Speakers, music and info.

SWAN says there should be no cuts in benefit, no compulsion or sanctions and no Work Focussed Interviews for those too sick to attend. We call on all decent and caring people to support the national peoples march and rally in Sheffield - and to help pressure for a fairer welfare system. Join the Event! Bring placards, union banners, music, your voice, your self!

Indymedia article on SWAN's campaigns and forthcoming national demo-
Indymedia Sheffield

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Green Left Website Launched!

Reading: Some pages from Robert Goddard's "Past Caring" and James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake", Znet, e-mails.
Listening: Radio Five.
Viewing: Parts of the World Cup matches between Mexico and Iran, Holland and Serbia & Montenegro and Portugal and Angola.

I am pleased to report that the new ecosocialist grouping, Green Left, has already managed to get a website up and running at

This is excellent progress. Will link the new site in my pageside links.

A very interesting debate is to be found on Znet between proponents of two alternative socialist economic models - Economic Democracy (which seems very close to a generalised form of what used to be known as self management or market socialism) and Participatory Economics or Parecon, which seems to be an updated version of what used to be known as libertarian communism.

Here, from Znet is Adam Weiss, contrasting David Schweikart's Economic Democracy” model with Michael Albert'’s “Participatory Economics”.

And here is the review (of Albert's book on Parecon) by Schweikart and subsequent exchanges between the two socialist economists.

Food for thought.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Green Left statement released

Green Left Founding Statement

Green Left has been launched as a network for socialists and other radicals in the Green Party of England and Wales. It will act as an outreach body that will communicate the party’s radical policies to socialists and other anti-capitalists outside the party.

Green Left (GL) is based on the assumption that capitalism is a system that wrecks the planet and promotes war. A green society must be based on economic, political and social justice. GL in short works to promote ecosocialism as a solution to our planetary ills.

GL supports the democratic structures in the party and encourages transparency, accountability and engagement in all organs of the party. We also see the Green Party as a ‘bottom up’ political organisation where the principles of the membership are paramount and not a ‘top down’ one where a self-designated political elite decide on policies and principles.

GL aims to increase and improve the international links of the Green Party, building links with radical greens and ecosocialists across the planet. It will work closely with members of other European Green Parties to reform the workings of the European Green Party structures that must be democratised. Green politics must realise the slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ by linking practical local campaigns to global issues of ecology, democracy, justice and liberation.

GL aims to act within the Green Party so as to raise Green Party politics to meet the demands of its’ radical policies. Green politics needs to be based on dynamic campaigning and hard intellectual groundwork to create workable alternatives.

GL aims to build regional campaigns and contribute to coalition building through coherent alignments and open discussion with progressive anti-capitalists. The movement that is required to address the issues across Britain, Europe and the world will not be the sole preserve of one party. The movement requires the development of united action by progressive forces including organisations formed by working people to defend their interests in the workplace. Within this diverse movement GL will stand firmly in favour of the libertarian and democratic traditions of ecosocialism.

It is vitally important that the Green Party works to develop the continuing peace, environmental and social movements. An orientation to organised working people through the Green Party Trade Union Group (GPTU) also requires maximum support from GL, with the emphasis on supporting radical and rank and file currents in the unions. Likewise, GL should seek to promote organisation and solidarity amongst currently unorganised and marginalized groups.

GL will work to enhance Green Party contributions to demonstrations, marches and other solidarity events. Greens must be active on issues that affect ordinary working people in their everyday lives and aim to be known as amongst their strongest defenders.

While GL is keen to build links with members of faith communities, and to fight alongside them against intolerance and discrimination, it will not compromise on human rights – including issues concerning women, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and people with disabilities.

Since the activism of William Morris in the Social Democratic Federation and Socialist League in the late nineteenth century, there has been an ecosocialist tradition in Britain. Green Left believes that ecosocialism provides an alternative to a society based on alienation, economic exploitation, corporate rule, ecological destruction and wars. Our analysis demands that in the best tradition of the historic left we ‘agitate, educate and organise’ to build such an alternative.

The time has come for drawing together forces that can present a serious challenge to the disastrous neo-liberal project. We believe that ‘Another World is Possible’, based on ecological and socialist values. In conclusion, Green Left would work to enable you to live in a society based on peace, ecological balance, economic equality and inclusion. Come and join us!

Agreed at the founding meeting of Green Left in London on Sunday 4th June 2006

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Green Left Founding Statement

Reading: Some pages of Derek Wall's "Babylon and Beyond", some pages of Finnegan's Wake, BBC News, Guardian and anti-incinerator websites.
Listening: Silence! (The joy of a day off work)
Viewing: None so far.
The meeting of the new Green Party ecosocialist grouping took place yesterday and is reported on Derek Wall's blog here
The original "Headcorn Statement" of Green Revolution was revised into the founding statement of the new grouping "Green Left"
A first draft of this revised statement will be posted as soon as the official statements have been issued.
Watch this space!

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Climate Change

Reading: Some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Goddard's "Past Caring", local paper, Daily Express, BBC News website, various pages on climate change.
Listening: Local Radio, Radio Five.
Viewing: England v. Jamaica match, BBC News.

Today was the Climate Change conference at the LSE organised by the excellent Campaign Against Climate Change - hope it went well. Climate Change is the major issue of our day and is a priority issue for Green Parties. Our British Euro MEP Caroline Lucas is an able spokesperson on this issue and was due to speak at the conference today - here is a piece from her blog. Another speaker was Mark Lynas, who has some interesting articles on his website here. Mark also blogs and recently blogged about David Attenborough coming on board with the climate change concern movement, as reported here by the BBC. The political climate now seems to be changing along with the actual one, but as Mark notes, climate scientists who offer analyses unpopular with the fossil fuel industry in the US are still subject to harassment and political attack by Republican politicians, and he has launched a petition against the harassment of some of these scientists, here.
A major concern, though, must be to win over ordinary working people to a political agenda that can tackle the issues, as recognition of the problem still goes hand in hand with great suspicion of those offering potential strategies for tackling it. An interesting piece on this can be found at the European Social Ecology Institute website here by Terry Leahy.
Sunday sees the green left meeting in London - looking forward to meeting fellow ecosocialists!


Friday, June 02, 2006

2nd June 2006 - First British Republic Day

Reading: Some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Morning Star, Guardian and BBC News websites, "Comment Is Free" blogs, various Wikipedia pages.
Listening: Local radio.
Viewing: None.

Firstly, I have just added a link to the excellent ZNet and Zmag sites - happy radical reading!
Today is the first "Republic Day" in Britain, initiated by the campaign group "Republic". This is a welcome development. Monarchy is an expensive and dangerous anachronism - its supporters are quite open that it is something to weld together different classes with opposing interests ("national unity") and is there to be wheeled into action when the "interests of the state" (for which read the interests of the capitalist ruling class) are threatened. What is more the British Prime Minister has monarchical powers, shown particularly during the rule of neo-liberal demagogues like Blair and Thatcher. There is a proud republican tradition in Britain - from Scottish, Welsh and Irish republicans to the English Levellers and Diggers of the Civil War period, through Tom Paine and others to the republican clubs of the 1870s, from the "red republicans" that grew out of the Chartist and early socialist movement to the modern republican campaigners and individuals. There are now several British republican websites like Republic and Throne Out. Those who say the monarchy is an irrelevance to the struggle ignore the power of symbols and archetypes that I have mentioned on here before, as well as the very real monarchical powers that are held in reserve to serve the ruling class. Hereditary monarchy is an offence to the democratic principle at the very head of the Britsh state - this offence filters down through the other organs of power like the crony-filled, appointed second house, the dictatorial Prime Minister and the established church.
As far as republcan symbols are concerned there has been recent interesting debate occasioned by an article in the Morning Star by Nick Wright. In response to his call for adoption of the red, white and green tricolour as a flag of recognition for British republicans with historical precedents there were letters arguing the case for the alternatives of the blue, white and green tricolour used by the nineteenth century English Republican propagandist Linton, and for the adoption of a tricolour in purple, white and green, as used by the suffragettes in their battle for the vote. I tend to favour the latter, as the red, white and green is too close to several existing flags, and Linton's flag appears to be currently used by some dubious elements. I like the suggestion on the vexillologist website that it could be in the proportions of one to the square root of three - that would add a certain uniqueness!
Anyhow, in celebration of the day, here they are -