Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Latest from Spokesman and Keep Space For Peace

Spokesman Books is the publishing imprint of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and have just mailed out details of their latest publication. The latest issue of their journal The Spokesman is entitled The Carnage Continues...and now for Trident! and includes an interview with Noam Chomsky on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Lebanon. Ther is also an article by Professor Paul Rogers of the Bradford School of Peace Studies on the planned Trident replacement. Kurt Vonnegut, a frequent contributor to The Spokesman also has a piece in the current issue.
Keep Space For Peace week is coming up and there is a march and picnic at RAF Croughton on the afternoon of Saturday October 7th from 12-3pm. Details of this and other events are on the CND diary pages. The would-be Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell and blogger Felicity Arbuthnot are due to speak.
Going back to Spokesman Books, they also publish the interesting The Levellers and the English Revolution by H. N. Brailsford and the important discussion of anarchism, syndicalism and Socialism by Bertrand Russell entitled Roads To Freedom.
Another book of important English radical writings is their A Radical Reader - The Struggle for change in England 1381-1914 edited by Christopher Hampton..


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Greens, Contrarians and Lobbyists

Recently I seem to have clashed more than is usual with bile-filled anti-green contrarians on the internet. I am not alone - any article about or involving greens attracts the Bjorn Lomborg- spouting, abusive technophile futurist, usually, (though not always) of extreme free-market beliefs. Their views seem startlingly uniform for so-called individualists and sceptics.

Being contrary is sometimes welcome and constructive. Whilst I agree with Peter Sanderson that Greens should encourage and tolerate questioning of unquestioned assumptions within our own ranks, much of the criticism we encounter from so-called contrarians on bulletin boards and comment pages is not in the spirit of testing and improving, but in the spirit of destructive criticism, mockery and stereotyping in the service of neo-liberalism and corporate power. Yes, some Deep Greens, primitivist elements and people uncritical of state socialist experiments annoy me. I feel enthusiastic about humanity's potential future in space and defend a progressive and humanistic, libertarian ecosocialist position at the expense of sometimes being characterised as an advocate of technical fixes or of democratic purism, but we must highlight the difference between legitimate and discriminating criticism of the ideas of some greens or some green ideas and hate-filled indiscriminate attacks from those with another agenda entirely.

Some of those who launch into anti-green attacks (and they always accuse you of being "totalitarian" or unable to accept criticism if you point out the inaccuracies or idiotic generalisations in their statements) seem to get their ideas from largely US-based conspiracy theory which sees the Greens as part of some UN/Red/Occult/Primitivist/Neo-religious agenda (delete or conflate as appropriate depending on flavour of conspiracist). Greens are attacked as "priggish" and "anti-pleasure puritans". Well, this is a caricature, but even if some of us are latter day Roundheads or Levellers, it is certainly true that some of our free-market critics are latter day 'Cavaliers'. They are cavalier with the facts, and have dispensed with the divine right of Kings to replace it with an equally mystical faith in the divine rights of entrepeneurs, the Market and Capital.

George Monbiot has what promises to be a very interesting and useful book coming out which deals with one source of some of the nonsense that gets thrown at greens. (A welcome break from his somewhat ludicrous and alarming "world government" musings!) He has blogged several articles along these lines of late - on big tobacco links to climate change deniers, on covert corporate lobbying and lobbyists and the BBC.
The source of much current anti-green propaganda was the US "Wise Use" movement, a network with strong links to the current Bush administration.
However, there are many good sites which expose corporate lobbyists and far-right ideologists like the US based PR Watch of the Center For Media and Democracy and the British version Spinwatch
Spinwatch now has a very good linked site exposing the current pro-nuclear offensive, Nuclear Spin

The lobbyists, the right wing "libertarian" fanatics and the conspiraloons should not stop us having good legitimate debate in the green movement about priorities and long term goals. I believe that the strongest green movement is likely to be built from taking on board the best ideas and valuable experiences of socialist, democratic and libertarian left movements and leaving behind some of the new-age mysticism, romanticism and techno-phobia that provides stereotypes and ammunition for our detractors.

The need for good ecosocialist theory and practice has never been greater as the climate change situation becomes more pressing. Attacks on greens are likely to become more frequent as we are seen as advocates of the responses that present the greatest challenge to vested interests. It is good that we have a well known figure like Peter Tatchell to get our views an airing as he does in his Guardian 'Comment is Free' Blog.

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NHS, Labour and DHL

Various interesting developments today. Firstly the second NHS logistics strike day took place. It coincided with a Health debate at the Labour Party Conference which the leadership lost (apparently the leadership also lost out to the grassroots in a motion on Council Housing in the morning)BBC Report. Though this is good, we cannot expect the Labour leadership to pay any more attention to conference votes than they are accostomed to - i.e. little to none. It is amazing that controversial motions manage to get to the floor of conference after what we have heard about the blocking of motions on the war and Trident replacement!

Meanwhile there are signs that the union busting DHL firm that newlabour have lined up to take over NHS logistics is experiencing another range of difficulties itself, with a ballot of 5000 GMB members for strike action on the plan to sack 3000 permanent staff and replace them with 2500 casual workers. This might affect 102 DHL depots across the country. The potential is there for building links between workers in the public and private sector to fight both cuts and privatisations.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Protests

At the risk of sounding like I am indulging in SWP-type hyperbole, I must report that the Defend the NHS march and rally in Nottingham were brilliant! A couple of thousand NHS workers, trade unionists, political activists and ordinary people marched through Nottingham to a rally at the Albert Hall. The march was very friendly and good natured with colourful banners, placards and flags. The response from the public was great, with car and bus horns honked in support all along the route and people clapping and waving from buildings and walkways. Two sets of excellent photos from the skilfull camera use of Nottingham photographer "Tash" are here and here. It was good to see some of the NHS Logistics staff from Normanton and Alfreton on the march - their next day of industrial action co-incides with the health debate at the Labour conference in a few days.

Meanwhile there was another big anti-war march in Manchester to impress on Labour the continuing strong feelings on this issue. An interesting range of home-made placards in the photos from Indymedia here.

Finally, a Baptist minister today led a runway invasion at East Midlands Airport over the climate change threat from airport expansion and the unchecked growth of the aviation industry. Indymedia report with link to BBC report here.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Green Party Conference, Hove

The Green Party Conference is taking place in Hove. The male principal speaker Keith Taylor gave his "keynote address" today, including a demand that we "declare war on carbon dioxide!" (well, it's probably more winnable to wage war on a chemical compound than an abstract noun like "terror") and there was also a good emergency motion from the GP TU group backing the striking NHS distribution workers in their fight against privatisation. Sian Berry, who is a candidate for female principal speaker is blogging the odd message from conference courtesy of the New Statesman (!)but seems to be finding it hard to fit the blogging in (I know how she feels having attended a few conferences over the years - so much to do and hear, so little time.) Jim continues to blog humorously and informatively about his first visit to a GP conference.
The mainstream media have been snidey and snooty as usual, (when not studiously ignoring the Green Conference), but there does appear to be more attention this year with climate change grabbing the headlines. The BBC did one of their Newsnight tongue-in-cheek jobs of a report, where their camera prefers to ignore everyone else in the hall and linger on Brig Oubridge and John Norris, distinguished by their impressive hirsuteness.
A lot happening at the moment, with the party conferences and NHS and peace demos tomorrow. I will try and blog on the demos over the weekend.
Good luck and greetings to all at GP conference and all those on the NHS demo in Nottingham and the anti-war demo in Manchester tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Top 100 UK green blogs

My fellow Green Left supporter Jim is currently compiling a list of the top 100 green blogs in response to the recent compilation by a well known Tory blogger of the top 100 Tory, Labour and Liberal blogs. More here. If there is one you would like to recommend that he does not yet list, then Jim wants to hear from you!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Defend The NHS Demo - Nottingham

For those in the Midlands not demonstrating against the war at the Labour Party Conference, there is a Demonstration in Nottingham on 23rd September - Indymedia Notice - to defend the NHS. There is already major concern over what is planned for hospitals and health services in the City. The demonstration is now even more relevant due to the NHS Logistics strike planned for next week - one of the major distribution centres is at Alfreton, not far to the North West of Nottingham. Nearby North Derbyshire is also relevant - it was here that the US health privateers were recently fought off by community resistance when they tried to take over the local GP practice.
As I have said before on the blog and on Indymedia, this is a crucial moment, a possible turning point where large numbers of ordinary people in Britain start to move into active opposition to the Blairite neo-liberal project. Everyone who opposes neoliberalism from the left should give maximium support and solidarity to the striking healthworkers and the campaign to defend the NHS.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NHS staff to strike over privatisation

The NHS logistics staff that are threatened by the privatisation that I have previously mentioned have voted to strike. They deserve our full support in their struggle against the piecemeal break up and privatisation of UK healthcare.

Meanwhile Blair got at least some of the reception he deserved at the TUC conference (mind you he really deserved not just boos and walkouts, but being booted out as a war criminal and enemy of the working class!)

Later the union leaderships got the chance to hear Gordon Brown saying he would not change course on privatisation either, so much for those so-called left wing leaderships that put their faith in him

There is a real opportunity now for a fightback against the whole new labour charade, which is no more than social democratic window dressing for the same old vicious neo-liberal products. The NHS campaign has the potential to be something really big and with massive public support. It is to be hoped that the growing forces of the Green Left, Green Party Trade Union Group and Green Party as a whole will be found in the thick of the struggle arguing for community and workplace solidarity and proper workers' and community ownership and control of public services.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rising tide of NHS protests

I have just got back from the "Save the NHS" demonstration and rally in Birmingham. I have not been to Birmingham for a number of years - hasn't it changed! Three or four hundred joined the march and a smaller number stayed for the rally to hear speakers including Dr Elizabeth Barrett from the community in North Derbyshire that just fought off a giant private health multinational, Dr Richard Taylor MP- the independent elected on a defend the health service platform, a speaker from the Campaign Against Euro Federalism on the effects of the latest EU directives on healthcare, a very good speaker from Keep Our NHS Public and some local MPS and health workers. The National Pensioners Convention had mobilised for the march and the pensioners groups are to be congratulated for their turnout. I marched with some Birmingham Green Party members who had brought along their banner. Respect also had some representation, mainly members of the SWP and ISG.
The turnout could have been better, but looking around the country this is just one part of a wave of unrest on the government health plans and current funding problems and cuts. The BBC reports on TUC concern and demonstrations around local health provision crises in various parts of the country. Keep Our NHS Public said of today -

“Across England NHS patients and local communities have been linking up with nurses, doctors and other health care workers to meet, march, protest and lobby as they fight to stop further closures and cuts in local NHS services.

Beds, wards and even whole hospitals are closing down. 30 community hospitals are under threat. Newly qualified nurses and other health professionals are finding no jobs in the NHS, and thousands more health workers' jobs are being axed.

But alongside the cuts, an unprecedented process of privatisation is under way: vital services and precious NHS resources are being handed over to the private sector, including companies run for profit for shareholders here and overseas.

Now is the time to fight back to Keep Our NHS Public!”

The campaign is a rising tide and anger at both New Labour and the implications of EU policy on health services are very much a part of this along with concern for jobs and health provision in local areas. It is good that some of the unions are starting to unite in fighting to stop these attacks. It is time there was a united national campaign of action, and all on the progressive left should be backing it. Check the Keep Our NHS Public website for details of upcoming protests, and let them know of any in your area.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

English Commonwealth in a British Republic?

Have added this blueprint for an English Republican organisation to my 'interesting links' column.
"No map is complete without utopia"

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The not-so-stealth privatisation of the NHS

The blatant carve up and privatisation of the National Health Service in Britain continues apace. This week the privateers DHL got their fingers in the till. The Green Party health spokesperson comments here. This shows up the need for a united national campaign for a publicly funded and publicly accountable modern health service and shows the need for support for the demonstrations in Birmingham tomorrow and Nottingham later in the month. The Labour leadership fuss and our dislike of the neo-liberal Bush poodle Blair should not blind us to the fact that Gordon Brown is one of the chief architects of privatisation mania in Britain. McDonnell may put up an honourable resistance to all this, but does anyone really expect him to be the next labour leader? And we cannot expect any better from Cameron and his tories. So the need is there to build up a counter power of trade unionists, communities and service users to confront the neo-liberal agenda for health.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

SSP Split

For those interested in the situation in Scotland where the SSP has split following the Tommy Sheridan case against the News of The World, my fellow Green Left supporter Jim Jepps was lucky enough to attend both the recent meetings in Scotland of the old and new socialist groupings. Amongst a lot of sectarian reporting from some of the left, where factions line up with one group or the other, Jim's report for Socialist Unity Network shines out as an honest account of the meetings and the general situation, though like me he does tend to have more sympathy with the arguments and trajectory of the United Left/SSP than the new Sheridan/"Solidarity" group. Well done Jim!

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Defend Council Housing

This looks like an interesting new pamphlet from the Defend Council Housing campaign group-
Defend Council Housing has produced a new 98 page pamphlet making the case for a change in government policy to fund direct investment to improve existing and build new council homes. Download “The Case for council housing in 21st Century Britain” and DCH Interim Response to DCLG discussion paper.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Support Remploy Workers!

A national demonstration was planned today in Liverpool in support of Remploy workers fighting closure proposals that could lead to the loss of up to 5000 jobs. The closure plans came about when the government asked the company to do a review. Ministers were unhappy with the answer that Remploy came back with and asked that management and unions get together to draw up a plan to save Remploy factories. Remploy was originally set up to employ disabled ex-servicemen and is now Britain's largest employer of disabled people. It is therefore highly ironic that these closure proposals should come about at a time when the government is attacking disabled people through the benefits system to force those unable to work into jobs, as I have previously reported on this blog. The unions (GMB, T&G, Amicus and Community) have come up with a plan to restructure Remploy and save the factories - pressure should now be put on the company to respond positively.
Whilst on the subject of industrial disputes, tomorrow sees the annual commemoration of the famous Burston School Strike where, all being well, there will be some Green Party/Green Left/Green Party Trade Union Group presence.

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