Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Stern Commentary

There has been more commentary on the Stern report in blogs and mainstream media throughout the day. Caroline Lucas sounds a note of caution and asks very good questions on her Guardian hosted blog here.
Also on Comment is Free, George Monbiot sketches out what he thinks are the sort of measures that could be taken that would be more equitable and effective than the proposals from Stern and the main parties.
Various British left groups and blogs are making their own comments, including members of what British leftists know affectionately as the Small Party of Good Boys, who post on the Socialism or Your Money Back blog.

It is of course Halloween, that commercialised, secularised version of the Christian All Hallows Eve, that is itself a Christianisation of the pagan Samhain. A night where children light up lanterns carved from Pumpkins or swedes to ward off evil spirits and the barrier between this world and the next allegedly thins to a veil......Bwahaha... But neither the scariness of the season, nor of the house of horrors that is a radio chat programme involving some of England's most acerbic bloggers have put off Green Party Principal speaker Sian Berry from facing up to a challenge! She was due to appear on the Resonance 104.4FM show "The Knives Are Out" tonight promoted by heavyweight Brit bloggers Guido Fawkes and Recess Monkey.


Parliamentary Debate on Iraq War

This is from Global Women's Strike -

On Tuesday 31 Oct 2006, MPs will debate the war in Iraq in the Commons, 3.30pm onwards. How about filling the gallery?
Lobby of Parliament - 2pm

On Tuesday, 31 October Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party will initiate a full Commons debate on the "Conduct of government policy in relation to the war in Iraq and its aftermath".

This will be the first full debate on the war for two years. The government has refused to call for a debate that would review its policies in Iraq -- despite the deaths of over 650,000 Iraqi women, children and men, the huge anti-war marches in Britain and around the world, the ongoing picket and other demonstrations in Parliament Square, and the growing numbers of military personnel refusing illegal and immoral orders.

Over the past 80 years British Governments have given binding undertakings to the world that Britain would never wage a war of aggression [1], never use armed force to threaten or attack another country [2], never kill or harm human beings [3], never destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group [4], always settle international disputes peacefully, respect human rights, uphold and enforce the rule of law and act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood and co-operation [5], yet over the past five years this Government has reneged on every one of these treaties and worse still, by waging a war of aggression [6], has committed the world's worst crime, a crime against peace.

Extract from "When will Parliament uphold the laws of war?" Chris Coverdale, letter to MPs, October 2006.

In the debate in Parliament on Wednesday, 25 October 2006, on "Troop withdrawal from Iraq", Adam Price MP (Plaid Cymru) called for the withdrawal of UK forces and that the government should:

"Make a commitment to make reparations for the suffering that we have caused-not just the invasion and the occupation, but the 12 years of sanctions that devastated millions but did nothing to harm the political elite, and all those years that we in the UK and the US supported and armed Saddam while he committed his worst atrocities." (Hansard)

In the same debate, war criminal Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram had the audacity to claim that: "some would say" the anti-war movement is "pro-dictator"!

· On Tuesday 31 October, the Global Women's Strike and Payday men's network will lobby our MPs and attend the debate. We hope there will be many others. Join us in the central lobby at 2pm.

· If you can't make it, call or email your MP. To find your MP and her/his contact details see

· Insist that your MP support a call for an independent public inquiry into the conduct of government, and that those who have acted criminally be charged.

· See below for the "The Laws of War"- information for us all about the government's illegal conduct - please use to lobby MPs.

· Please forward this email to your friends and networks.

Hope to see you there!


The Laws of War

The laws governing warfare and armed conflict

1/ All war is illegal. There is no such thing as a just war or lawful armed conflict. War was outlawed in 1928 when the world's major nations including Britain, America, France, Germany and Japan agreed The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War (The Kellogg-Briand Pact) promising never to wage war. In 1950 the UN enacted the Nuremburg Principles which placed the criminal responsibility for planning and waging a war of aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes on all persons who initiate or take part in such crimes.

"The solemn renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy necessarily involves the proposition that such war is illegal in international law; and that those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in so doing... War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

The Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal

2/ The use of armed force is illegal. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force. Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, the nations of the world drew up a solemn and binding agreement promising never to threaten or use armed force, to work together to promote social progress, human rights, freedom, justice and respect for the law, and to settle their disputes by peaceful means. The role of the UN Security Council is to keep the peace and it can never authorise the use of armed force. The only circumstance in which the use of armed force is legal is when it is used (proportionately) to defend a state under attack.

3/ Wilful killing is a crime regardless of whether or not it takes place during or as a result of war. Knowingly engaging in or taking part in an act which brings about the death of a person constitutes the crime of murder. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 states that:

"Where any murder or manslaughter shall be committed on land out of the United Kingdom, whether within the Queens dominions or without, and whether the person killed were a subject of Her Majesty or not, every offence committed by any subject of Her Majesty in respect of any such case, whether the same shall amount to the offence of murder or of manslaughter, may be dealt with, inquired of, tried, determined and punished in England or Ireland."

4/ Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court incorporated the crimes of genocide, a crime against humanity and war crimes into international law and set up the world's first permanent court to hold to account all those responsible for such crimes. Britain signed and ratified the treaty and incorporated the crimes into domestic criminal law in the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

It is an offence against the law of England and Wales for a person to commit genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime, or to engage in conduct ancillary to such an act. This applies to acts committed in England or Wales or outside the UK by a national, resident or a person subject to service jurisdiction.

Genocide is "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such, (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part..."

A Crime Against Humanity [7] is "any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: (a) Murder; (b) Extermination;... (e) Imprisonment; (f) Torture; (h) Persecution; (i) Enforced disappearance; (k) Inhumane acts causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health."

War Crimes are "grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, namely any of the following acts against persons or property (i) Wilful killing; (ii) Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; (iii) Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; (iv) Extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity; (vi) Wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of a fair trial;

7/ Aiding, abetting or assisting Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity or War Crimes. The International Criminal Court Act 2001 introduced the offence of 'conduct ancillary to genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime'. This makes it a crime for residents of Britain to aid, abet or assist in such crimes and means that any supportive behaviour such as paying tax, supplying weapons, writing a supportive article, or voting in favour of an offence, is an equally serious crime. This enables MPs, civil servants, arms manufacturers, bankers, taxpayers or journalists who support such crimes to be prosecuted as accessories to the crime.

8/ Chemical and biological weapons. The Chemical, Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions prohibit the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical, biological and toxin weapons.

9/ Landmines are illegal. Stimulated by the horrific deaths and injuries inflicted on children in the third world, the Landmines Convention was agreed in 1997 forbidding the manufacture, possession or use of landmines and anti-personnel explosives.

10/ Torture is illegal. The Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment prohibiting torture, came into effect in 1985 and was incorporated into British legislation in the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

11/ The right to life was granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is guaranteed in Britain by the Human Rights Act 1998.

"Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No-one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided in law."

Everyone is guaranteed the right to life and to live in freedom under the rule of law. The only circumstance in which it is legal to kill an adult occurs in a few less civilised states when a person has been tried and convicted of a capital offence in a court of law.

We have the laws but no-one to enforce them. International conflicts are started by political leaders and governments, never by the people. American, British and Israeli Governments regularly violate international treaties and commit the worst crimes known to mankind. They get away with these crimes because no-one holds political leaders to account for such crimes. Britain's law enforcement authorities conspicuously fail to do what they are paid to do, to investigate crimes and arrest, prosecute, convict and punish offenders. If no-one enforces the law, is there any point in enacting it in the first place? What will you do today to ensure that Parliament upholds, and our law enforcement authorities enforce, the laws of war?

Chris Coverdale, Action Against War, October 2006

1. The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War 1928

2. The United Nations Charter 1945

3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

4. The Genocide Convention 1948, The International Criminal Court Act 2001

5. The United Nations Charter 1945

6. The Nuremburg Principles [No VI] 1950

7. These are extracts. The complete definitions can be found in ICCA 2001 Schedule 8


Monday, October 30, 2006

Green is the colour....

...of British politics this week, apparently.
The much trailed Stern report - links and commentary on Calvin Jones' useful blog here - is having a definite effect. It seems a certain crucial tipping point has been reached in political attitudes, to the point where we even have Dave Cameron on TV saying that environmental tax measures must not be regressive, but socially just! (We await the hard policy David!)
Much talk around fellow bloggers. Derek Wall responds that 'Stern is not enough', whilst Jim Jay is taking a straw poll on whether he should boycott flying.
The GPEW (Green Party of England and Wales) issued an official press release with Caroline Lucas' comments on the possible Climate Change Bill to be announced in the next Queen's Speech, here.
Finally, interesting commentary from Dave Osler (whose manifesto I blogged on yesterday) on Stern and the prospects for green-left unity.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dave Osler's Manifesto

Dave Osler recently published a manifesto for the left on his blog, Daves' Part.
I publish it below, with my comments, in the interests of debate.

Several recent posts on this website have highlighted the seeming inability of all sections of the current UK left to modernise socialist politics. But what would a credible twenty-first century left reformism look like?

Most socialist thinking remains stuck in the ideological paradigms of the second half of the twentieth century. It's all 'renationalise this!' and 'rebuild that!'. There is far too much nostalgia for sundry icons ranging from Clement Atlee to Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili.

Little consideration is given to a dramatically changed political landscape, from the environmental crisis to the collapse of communism, from the emergence of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies to the rise of Islamic radicalism.

For those who define socialist utopia as something more than a renationalised gas industry, it is high time policies were developed that go beyond what is essentially a demand to return to the Britain of the early seventies. Those of us who remember it will testify that it certainly wasn't a workers' paradise, anyway.

It is also necessary to think beyond the 'wait for the revolution' project espoused by almost all the fractured forces of the far left, which have little to say on the subject of immediate political demands.

And - wakey, wakey, comrades - we need take at least a large swathe of the general public with us. That necessitates policies that would prove electorally popular.

Amen to all that.

So, purely in a back-of-a-fag-packet Friday afternoon kind of way, I'd like to offer a few bullet points for discussion. Not a Marxist programme. Not transitional demands. Just weedy updated social democracy for mass consumption. Here are some of the ideas I'd like to see in the platform of my fantasy Labour left:

Social ownership

Britain in the post-war period has tried both Morrisonian nationalisation and neoliberal privatisation. There are massive drawbacks to both models.

But inefficiency, fat cattery and the death toll from cutting health and safety corners has seen private enterprise in the transport and utilities sector discredit itself more thoroughly than any amount of agitprop ever could. There is certainly no public appetite for further private involvement in the NHS.

However, the left needs to come up with practical schemes for public administration - offering greater employee and user involvement - as part of our strategy for a return to public ownership.

We also need to rethink the seventies experiments with worker ownership and industrial democracy for smaller concerns.

Dave has some definite points here, and although someone commented in his blog comments on public perception of private involvement in the Health Service as being positve according to a recent survey, I think if the question is asked in terms of democratic control and private firms making profits out of public need and finances, then you would probably get a different answer than if it is posed in terms of "private finance=improvements". Still there is much work to be done, as Dave suggests, in terms of arguing the case for democratically controlled public services that are different to old inflexible centralised models.

Union rights

Trade unions are voluntary organisations, reliant on the efforts of full-time officials and lay activists. They cannot be 'decreed' into better health. The emancipation of British trade unionism will largely be an act of the trade unionists themselves.

There is currently a thoughtful article by Bill Mullin on the Socialist Party's website, making the case that regeneration is inseperably bound up with the fight for a new political vehicle. It's well worth a read.

But British unions are currently hampered by what Blair openly boasts is the toughest employment legislation in Europe. Reforms along the lines of the TUC's proposed Trade Union Freedom Bill are long overdue.

The ideas the TUC is canvassing include better protection from dismissal for those taking part in lawful industrial action; simplified ballot procedures; and a restored right to solidarity action.

The entire Left should get behind the Trade Union Freedom Bill, as the Green Party has just done. The GPTU group in the England and Wales Green Party is doing its' small bit to push forward the arguments for freedom. The Rank and File ideas being put forward by Bob Crow and RMT activists are also an interesting route forward. The IWW could even become an organising tool both of militants in existing unions, and as a method of organising the unorganised. Whilst political representation is linked, the Campaign For A New Workers' Party Project is unfortunately entirely unsuitable to the task as it is currently mostly a Socialist Party (ex Militant) front, and is seen as such by most working class activists outside their milieu who have heard of it. The IWCA idea has more potential, alongside efforts to co-ordinate the left currents in the Green, Labour and left-nationalist parties. Why do we need "One Party"? Is this not a throwback to Leninist mass party rhetoric - something of a different age, with a different balance of forces, different class structure and different economic base? Surely in the conditions of modern Britain a more flexible approach is needed to create strategic unity amongst people working from different angles, in different sections of the population - march together, organise separately - but have common strategic outlook?


Racism in Britain right now is predominantly focused on the Muslim population. Politicians of all stripes exploit this to what they see as their electoral advantage. Straw and Reid happily play dog whistle politics, while the Respect slates even rational secularist criticism of the Islamic faith as 'Islamophobia'. Another section of the left - many with the political training to know better - have given currency to the shockingly politically illiterate term 'Islamofascism'.

The secular democratic left should combine a strong positive argument in favour of assimilation into secular democratic society with an equally strong defence of the right of religious observance. The socialist project is ultimately for the breakdown of all barriers between humanity, including not just barriers of class but of race and religion too. At the same time, we recognise that it is the role of the state to force the process.

Ultimately, we would be working with the grain on this one, if the experience of the Jewish side of my family is anything to go by. Assimilation will happen. We should advocate it.

Neither Galloway nor Euston!

The working class

The working class remains the only realistic agency for socialist change. But New Labour's adoption of neoliberalism has weakened Labour support in working class communities to the point where political apathy has already made massive inroads. So has the fascist right, thankfully to a lesser extent.

A key task for a modern left is reconnection with our traditional base. Our politics have to promise tangible goodies for working people of all ethnicities, with social housing and job creation being the most obvious places to start.

Community level organising is important here - Community Councils are one vehicle, getting stuck in at local (street/community)level is crucial as Green Party, IWCA and even Respect local politics have shown. Parts of the left that reject local politics from an economistic viewpoint, or as "irrelevant", "reformist" or "not as important as ...insert name of latest bandwagon or front" hand a crucial political space over to the far right.

A libertarian social agenda

In the sixties and seventies, the left was often the driving force behind initiatives on issues such as women's rights and sexual freedom. These days all three mainstream parties try to annexe such ground. Most of the right legislation - from the Equal Pay Act to the Civil Partnership Act and an equal age of consent - is in place, even if it not adequately enforced. It's seemingly only the SWP that wants to backpedal on this.

Yes, and I think the British left has to be very careful not to get tarred with the brush of New Labour's meddling and social engineering which is presented as "public health" or "environmentalist". New Labour's authoritarianism is not an aberration, it is a natural development of Fabian paternalism - it is necessary to examine and critique this phenomenon.

The environment

Trotsky once remarked: 'If you conceive that some cosmic catastrophe is going to destroy our planet in the fairly near future, then you must, of course, reject the communist perspective along with much else.' And unfortunately the shit could be about to hit the fan on that one.

But the best the EU is offering is the gradual extension of the carbon trading scheme. The left should develop policies for tough immediate action, perhaps starting with immediate Europe-wide legislation forcing all industries to adopt the best-available technology to reduce pollution in all their operations. At their expense. Now. As with social ownership for basic utilities, such a demand would prove massively popular.

The current environmental challenges offer great opportunities for job creation, democratisation and decentralisation of power. The left should be careful not to become associated only with top down-initiatives, though national and international action have their place. Both Greens and the left need to have something distinctive to say now that the mainstream parties are often echoing environmentalist groups. The key issue is social environmentalism - it is clear that the main parties will make the poorest pay the major part of the cost for the coming crises if they are allowed to do so.


This is an area where the left should have something meaningful to say, but by and large doesn't. The problem with brandishing placards with the slogan 'Bush is the real terrorist' is the implication that Osama bin Laden isn't.

Of course citizens want to be protected from terrorism of all stripes. New Labour has taken this as the starting point for a sustained assault on civil liberties, with the de facto introduction of house arrest and internment without trial.

And of course the left needs to lead the fight against such reactionary measures. But that does not absolve us of the need to develop positive proposals of our own.

Completely agree on the damaging nature of idiot SWP-style slogans "We are all Hezbollah" indeed! Beyond this Dave needs to be more specific.

Foreign policy

For me, Rwanda marked a turning point in my political thinking. Humanitarian intervention is sometimes justified. That's something John McDonnell explicitly recognises in his stance on Darfur.

The problem here is that the words 'humanitarian intervention' are all too frequently advanced as a justification for blatant imperialism. The democratic left needs to think through it's criteria on the subject. Who intervenes? Under whose auspices?

Hmmm....we also need to be clear about our capacity to have any effect on what the imperialist/neo-colonialist powers do at this level. The issue of reform of the UN comes in here, but this is majorly problematic, and Monbiot's suggestions have rightly been severely questioned. It is interesting to listen to the complaints of the African Union forces expected to help in current situations like Darfur, and reflect on the political dynamics of regional/continental defence forces. Our first concern should be the welfare of ordinary people under threat, but this should not blind us to the nature of the forces and interests active on all sides of most conflicts in the world today.


You can still find sections of the left calling for 'immediate withdrawal from the bosses' common market'. But the project of a united Europe that transcends nation-states is clearly historically progressive. The struggle is to ensure that the united Europe has a social content.

An immediate priority should be co-ordination between the social democratic parties, giving them the leverage to co-ordinate social democratic policies in periods when they hold office in the main EU member states.

Another thorny one - if the recent European Green Party moves are any guide, socialist and social democratic co-ordination may well go in the same direction - towards weakening rather than strengthening of the positions of more left wing or progressive national sections and strengthening rather than weakening of 'Europeanist' elements who are bought into a naive or openly collaborationist approach to the corporatist direction of Europe. Again, perhaps what is needed is co-ordination and information sharing amongst all those on the left from whatever party/current who would like to see a confederal social Europe, and so are resolved to fight most of the moves towards a federal corporatist Europe, as well as retreats to narow nationalism.

There you go. The crisis of contemporary leftwing politics sorted. Easy, eh? Still, I expect some of you will be churlish enough to disagree with me. The comments box is open.

Thanks to Dave for giving us this opportunity for debate and comment.

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Indymedia Journalist and Four Others Killed in Mexico

The news has broken that on Friday pro-government paramilitaries in the rebel Oaxaca area of Mexico shot dead the New York Indymedia Journalist William Bradley Roland, known as Brad Will. Reports here and here.
Here is the main page of US Indymedia, and here is Brad's last report. Here is the Indymedia report with relevant links.

Mexico is currently a major battlefield in the war between US military-industrial complex backed gangster neo-liberalism and working class, socialist and democratic currents. Indymedia journalists bravely report the struggles from the front lines of popular struggles, struggles that the mainstream media are not interested in reporting, or simply report from a pro-government/pro-capitalist perspective. Brad is said to have died with his camera in hand.

Let the forces of reaction and imperialism know, that for every bullet fired in our direction the forces of progress, democracy and equality will redouble their efforts to make sure the truth is told and tyranny defeated.
No Pasaran!

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

March and Lobby for the NHS

The National Pensioners Convention is holding a march to join the mass lobby of Parliament for the NHS on Wednesday 1st November in London, supported by the Keep Our NHS Public campaign and the TUC. This will follow the successful and widely reported lobby on Pensions that took place earlier this week. The action takes place from 11am and all are welcome to attend and support.

I have added some more blog links to my sidebar - to the Uncapitalist Journal blog and to Justin Delacour's interesting Latin American News Review blog.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Sian's Blog and other links

I have added a link to the blog of the new Female Principal Speaker of the Green Party of England and Wales, Sian Berry, to my sidebar. Sian has done a lot of excellent work with the Alliance Against Urban 4X4s. In her latest post she addresses the issue of contrarians and conspiracists that I blogged on here. Huge amounts of money are flowing into the coffers of contrarian and thinly-disguised corporate fronts, now that the scientific, political and economic arguments for real action on things like climate change are gaining widespread acceptance. The contrarians counter this revelation by dragging out allegations of funding streams for the green and left movements from another wing of capital - the Soros/Rockefeller orbit, the so-called "high roaders" who oppose the "low roaders" of Exxon, Halliburton, Carlyle Group et al. But as Sian points out, cash flows from big business are unknown amongst grass roots activists in Britain who run on shoe string budgets to oppose corporate interests. Whilst the nature of politics in America means that the progressive side of the spectrum there may well be encouraged into dubious alliances and funding sources, and some of this may leak out internationally, that is more a reflection of the state of American politics than it is of some global conspiracy from the feverish imaginations of Freepers and right-wing conspiracists. To the rest of the world, official American politics has for a long time looked like a battle between opposing wings of capital. Meanwhile the cultish ex-RCP clique in Britain are holding their latest contrarian shindig, no doubt with generous corporate funding, as recently mentioned on the Harry's Place Blog.

Other links added recently are to Daniel Ketelby's Metaphysics As A Guide To Lunch blog with reflections on green politics, philosophy and religion, and to the website of Ursula K. Le Guin, the Science Fiction writer most famous for the novel "The Dispossessed" set on neighbouring planets running on anarchist and capitalist lines.
I have also added links for the UK organisations of Friends of The Earth and Greenpeace, and the main British Trade Union Centre, the TUC.
Finally, whilst we are on the topic of hidden hands and shady influence, I have added a link to the interesting British parapolitical journal, Lobster.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Climate Change Events at the LSE

Even a mainstream media sceptic like myself was a little impressed by the campaigning front page of the Independent on Climate Change today.
Elsewhere the Guardian leader was on the political "bidding" war on environmental issues that I alluded to yesterday.

Preparations for the forthcoming international meeting on climate change and attendant demonstrations continue apace. News today of an exciting range of events organised by the Students Union at the LSE in London in the lead up to the big day of actions on 4th November:

MONDAY OCTOBER 30th, 6.30pm, D302

Does Capitalism Equal Climate Change?

SPEAKER: Dr. Derek Wall, Visiting Lecturer in Political Economy at Goldsmiths College and author of Babylon and Beyond

TUESDAY OCTOBER 31st, 6pm, D202

Minor Distraction or Massive Challenge - How Does Modern Politics Deal with Climate Change?

SPEAKERS: Michael Meacher MP, Labour Party MP and former Environment Minister

Jean Lambert MEP, Green Party MEP


DVD and Talk: The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

SPEAKERS: Sian Berry, Green Party Female Principal Speaker
Shane Collins, Green Party Drugs Policy Spokesperson


Climate Change - An End to Development? The Wealth of Nations and the Health of the Planet

SPEAKER: Andrew Simms, Policy Director and Head of the Climate Change Programme at the New Economics Foundation (nef), and author of Ecological Debt


Climate Change: Reasons for Concern and Options for Action

SPEAKER: Dr. Simon Dietz, LSE Academic, Geography and Environment Department

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 2nd, 7pm onwards, The Quad

Climate Change Film Showing and Social!

FILM: The Great Warming, narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morisette

FOLLOWED BY: Drinks, Food and Entertainment from the Live Music Society!

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 3rd, 2pm, E168

Reducing Global Emissions Equitably: the Contraction and Convergence Model

SPEAKER: Aubrey Meyer, Director of the Global Commons Institute (GCI) and Pioneer of the Contraction and Convergence Model

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 4th - People and Planet Climate Carnival and 'I Count Gathering' in Trafalgar Square - MEET outside the Old Building at LSE at 10am before going along to the biggest environmental demonstration in British history!


Welfare Reform Bill

Louise at Stroppyblog is keeping a helpful eye on the progress of the Blair government's draconian "Welfare Reform Bill". It is also being tracked on the BBC's Action Network, here, and by the Campaign Against the Welfare Reform Bill here.
The Sheffield Welfare Campaigners, SWAN also keep up their good work.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Latest Links Added

I have been merrily adding Greenman's Occasional Organ to various blog directories to try and ensure I am not talking to myself. I am either having various degrees of success, or the various directories are rather slow at updating their lists!

I have added a few more interesting links to my sidebar - the interesting blog of Paul Stott (love the McGoohan Prisoner quote title!), the very useful Democratic Left Infoasis with its multitudinous links, and UK Poli Blogs, part of the ubiquitous web presence of Voidstar, AKA Julian Bond, who seems to be a fellow Robert Anton Wilson fan.

Various environmental stories in the British news today including Cameron responding to the media hype of Blair's forthcoming Climate Change Bill announcements and arguments over nuclear waste in Scotland. Much of the media has also covered the story of the Lib Dem Council intending to use rises in domestic parking permit fees to target "gas guzzling" vehicles.

Yes, in Britain we're all "green" now....

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Save the NHS latest news

I have added a link in the Campaigns section of my sidebar to Keep Our NHS Public. I was lucky enough to hear the excellent Dr Sally Ruane of Keep Our NHS Public speaking alongside Dr Elizabeth Barrett at the rally after the NHS demonstration in Birmingham last month. They are both due to speak again at a protest meeting in Leicester on the afternoon (1-3pm) of Saturday 25th November at the Y Theatre, East Street. The meeting is organised alongside various anti-Eurofederalist groups such as the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism (CAEF), making the connection between the neo-liberal measures being pushed for by corporate capitalists through the EU and the cuts and privatisations on the ground in Britain.
Meanwhile there is a TUC-organised lobby of parliament on the NHS from 11am onwards on Wednesday 1st November, and a public meeting organised by KONP at the Abbeydale Room in the Sheffield Grosvenor House Hotel at 7.30pm on Thursday 2nd November, with their natioinal spokesperson John Lister.
Green Blogger Stuart Jeffrey keeps up a good commentary on NHS topics, and there is also interesting stuff on this student medic's blog.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Amicus and T&G

Concern is rising about the implications of the forthcoming merger of two of Britain's largest Unions - the Transport and General and Amicus. Concerns were recently expressed by T&G members in the Green Party Trade Union Group. Dave Osler blogged on the issue some time ago and returns to the issue today.
Dave's Part: Amicus and T&G: you read it here first
Now the Guardian appears to have picked up on the story too, though seem to be approaching it in a "red baiting" fashion. Somewhat strangely the story is credited to David Hencke, the Guardian's Westminster correspondent. It was Hencke who investigated the Neil Hamilton affair and blew the whistle on the Mandelson home loans story. Does this indicate something about the possible source of this story?


Sunday, October 22, 2006

William Morris

A very busy weekend with various family events leaves me little time for blogging at the moment, but I have managed to add several sidebar links concerning the influential 19th Century English Socialist William Morris, who is mentioned by many ecosocialists as anticipating some of their concerns. Much of his work is gathered at the William Morris Internet Archive. I have also added a link to his Wikipedia entry in my thinkers section.

Elsewhere, Jim Jay has a useful digest on five things (mainly British left) bloggers are talking about this week, including various opinions on the resignation from the Labour Party of Clare Short.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Interesting developments in the USA

At the same time as Green Left has been establishing itself as a radical anti-capitalist current in the Green Party of England and Wales there have been interesting developments on the American left over the last six months. Some of this relates to the growth of the student anti-war movement in the states, and some is the coming together of some long established radicals for new ventures in cyberspace and networking.

The anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1960s saw the heyday of the radical student group, the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). Inspired by Tom Hayden and the Port Huron Statement the group split into two or more fragments, some heading down the dead end of ‘Weathermen’ armed struggle, others soldiering on through fragmenting left groups, entryism, identity politics and community organising into the lean years of the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II eras. The current upsurge seems to have inspired US students to re-establish the SDS. A perhaps encouraging sign is that various members of the old pre-split SDS, (from various sides of the splits), are supporting the initiative and formed a “Movement for a Democratic Society” in September to offer financial support and hopefully, the benefit of their own experience, so that the new student anti-war radicals can avoid some of the pitfalls that the now grey haired 60s/70s radicals fell into. MDS has Chomsky, Howard Zinn and SDS veterans Dohrn, Rudd, Davidson, Hayden, Al Haber, Penelope Rosemont, Michael Klonsky, and others on board.

At the same time as all this, some of the long established radicals like Carl Davidson involved in the SDS/MDS project and followers of the mutualist-socialist economic theorist David Schwieckart have come together for a theoretical and organising project around the new website This draws some ideas from the earlier ‘cyrev’ project and also draws on the thought of people such as Gramsci, Bukharin and Andre Gorz. There are some questions and problems with some of the stated approach so far, such as what appears to be residual over-centralism and a possibly problematic approach to alliances with “high road” capitalism (as with Porritt and some of those from the old Democratic Left tradition over here), but the analysis and willingness to question sacred cows is refreshing. Their security consciousness may seem a little paranoid to British radicals, but then you remember that older American radicals have the memory of the havoc wreaked by the FBI’s Cointelpro programme, police infiltration and other secret state activities on the socialist and progressive movements in America in the 60s and 70s. (as their parents and grandparents had the memory of MCCarthyism in the 50s and vicious attacks on organised labour all the way back to the Pinkerton men.) Hopefully the new movements can begin to rescue the US youth,anti-war and political radical movements from the domination by manipulative sectarians and dogmatists that the equivalent movements suffer from over here, and begin to renew the appeal of the ideas of participatory democracy, unity and dynamic theoretical development that were the best legacy of the radical movements of the older generation.

I watch the US situation with interest for further developments.

I have added links for various of these groups and individuals to the appropriate sections of my links column.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sustainable Communities Bill

I have just had a mailing from “Local Works” about the Campaign for the Sustainable Communities Bill in the UK Parliament. It is very difficult to achieve meaningful and positive changes through the current undemocratic parliamentary and electoral system in Britain, afflicted as it is by corporate lobbying, reactionary inertia and timidity, but one way that has achieved some success has been that pursued by the campaigner Ron Bailey and others who have lobbied for a series of “Private Members Bills”. These are Bills that individual MPs can put forward without government or Party support, with the small number of MPs that are allowed to do so each term selected by a Parliamentary Private Members Ballot. The next one of these is 23rd November this year, and Local Works is leading a campaign for adoption by one of the 7 MPs that top the list of the Sustainable Communities Bill. They are asking that people write to their MP now (You can find the details of yours through They Work For You.Com) asking him/her :

- To sign the parliamentary motion entitled Early Day Motion No.641 in support of the Sustainable Communities Bill; and
- To please agree to “adopt this bill if you are successful in the Private Members’ Ballot to be held on 23rd November”. If we can, by massive lobbying, secure advance pledges from MPs we can really ‘shorten the odds’ regarding the possibility of success in the ballot.

If successful, the Bill could be law by mid 2007.

Here is a brief description of the Bill and what it aims to achieve –

One Page Brief of the Sustainable Communities Bill
Have you noticed the following things happening in your community?:
o closure of local independent shops
o closure of the local Post Office
o closure of the local bank branch
o decline of local street markets
o closure of the local pub
o closure of local services e.g. health centres
o green spaces being built on
o more traffic and less people walking on the streets
o less public transport services
o more "clone" branded shops and huge superstores
Local Works is the campaign that aims to change this situation that is known as Ghost Town Britain. Instead we want local sustainability, which has these 4 measurements:
1. thriving local economies
2. environmental protection
3. social inclusion
4. active democratic participation
We want a more ‘bottom-up’ society in which communities are developed and empowered and local authorities and citizens are given a powerful role.
Local Works is campaigning for the Sustainable Communities Bill. If made law the bill will greatly empower local government and communities. Central government will be required to provide for the implementation of local sustainability strategies that local communities will be asked (but not told) to draw up.
These sustainability strategies will state ways in which ‘appropriate authorities’ will promote local communities and sustainability according to specified indicators. These include local services, local jobs, local businesses and economies; measures to reduce social exclusion and increase active citizenship; and environmental measures. The strategies may set targets for these indicators, or even introduce new ones, and these may differ from area to area. Politics will be turned upside down as local communities are given the power to reverse Ghost Town Britain and decide how the places where they live are developed or conserved.
Huge support is needed to win this campaign. It will only be through individuals signing up to Local Works that the Sustainable Communities Bill will become law! The campaign is cross-party supported and is constantly building more support from individuals and organisations across the country. 15000 individuals, 70 national organisations, 300 local organisations and 335 Members of Parliament support the campaign.

That the time for this Bill is here is shown by the recent 4 million signature petition submitted over the protection of rural post offices.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Black History Month

October is Black History Month in Britain.

An appropriate time on a green political blog to praise the efforts of the excellent Donna Warren in the USA.

Here is Donna’s “Smart Voter” page for the November 7th election.

And here is Donna’s article in the Winter 2006 issue of Synthesis/Regeneration.

Back in Britain, here is an event this weekend at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in London.

Theatre Workshop
- Buried Pasts -
We are all asylum seekers
with internationally acclaimed playwright Kay Adshead

10am-4pm Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October 2006
Crossroads Women’s Centre 230a Kentish Town Rd, NW5 2AB

** Entrance Caversham Rd ** Wheelchair accessible ** Nearest tube Kentish Town **

4pm Sunday 22 October street theatre @ Kentish Town tube

Led by Kay Adshead of Mamaquillo, a woman-led theatre company which spotlights human rights abuses and author of the award winning Bogus Woman, this two-day workshop will focus on writing and performing street theatre.

The workshop builds on over two years’ experience of the Welcome to Fortress Europe theatre project at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. Countering often hostile media coverage of asylum seekers lives, which aims to divide us and hide what we all have in common, the project publicises the experiences of the All African Women’s Group, a self-help group of women seeking asylum. Using a cast of those with and without papers the latest piece “Put Yourselves In Our Shoes” has been performed in schools, at public events and on the streets to great acclaim. Enthusiastic audience participation has been a hallmark of the performances with young people from eight year olds to sixth formers throwing themselves into roles that spoke to their experience or that of their family or mates.

The weekend workshop will draw on the memories and lives of all participants, asylum seekers and
non-asylum seekers and the ways in which we are all seeking asylum – that is trying to find protection and safety from harm. It will begin on Saturday with the performance of a new piece written by Kay Adshead and end with street theatre performed on Sunday 4pm at Kentish Town underground.

Sponsored by Camden Council for Black History Month

Kay Adshead's "Bones" is currently on at the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Links

Ecosocialist blogger Derek Wall added the second installment of his history of the Green Party of England and Wales to his blog today. He also has had something to say about George Monbiot's new book, Heat. I have added Monbiot'’s site to my links.

Keen observers of this blog will note that the side bar links are now significantly enlarged and rorganizeded in an attempt to make the page more useful and user friendly. The Monbiot link comes in the new section headed “Writers, Thinkers ...and Comedians”, along with new entries for Michael Lowy, Ken Coates, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Peter Kropotkin, Mark Thomas and Rob Newman -– an eclectic and select group! Another section “Greenman on..... links to my previous posts on various topics.

I have added links to the interesting, well established British left blogs Little Red Blogger, Stroppyblog, Dave's Part, Chicken Yoghurt, International Rooksbyism and Disillusioned Kid.

A new list entitled Documents lists some links to important documents, manifestos and programmes from a green left viewpoint.

The new section, Ideas gives links to mainly Wikipedia based articles on ideas that might be interesting to readers of the site, and also perhaps acts as something of a glossary for concepts that might be unfamiliar.

Links regarding Authors I find interesting or stimulating have been separated out, as have (British)Mainstream News Sources and Campaigns, to which I have added Make My Vote Count.

There is a new Unions and Workplace Organizing section with new links to the British RMT transport Union which has broken from the Labour Party, the Swedish Syndicalist SAC union, and the British Miner's Advice website.

A Resources section has been created and finally a not too exhaustive list of links to relatively interesting Brit Lefty Political Groups And Blogs.

Hopefully I will get round to making the lists alphabetical, and also be able to add further links in future.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Come Off It!

I have just been informed of this interesting site promoted by a guy who calls himself the "Carbon Coach". The basic idea is to cut personal emissions (oo-er!) by starting with a big push on the 4th November, particularly through reducing demand for electricity on that day. Those of us on the demos and actions on 4th November won't be using much electricity anyway on that day, but it might give an opportunity for a larger group of people to act in solidarity if it caught on.
Here are some of the other events of the day in London, circulated by Calvin Jones:

10.00am Cycle protest assembles at Lincoln's Inn Fields, South side (Holborn/Temple tube). Goes via ExxonMobil offices, Australian Embassy and Downing Street to arrive at US embassy at 11.30 am.

11.00am Rally opens : Messages from around the world, performance poetry & musical protest with "Seize the Day" and others.

12 noon Main Rally at US Embassy, Grosvenor Square. Speakers include George Monbiot, Colin Challen MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Norman Baker MP, Zac Goldsmith.

1.00 pm March for Global Climate Justice from US embassy to Trafalgar Square

1.45 - 2.00 pm March joins i-Count's.. Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

1.00 - 3.00pm i-Count Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

Stop climate chaos are limiting their activities to the UK but the march organisers, CCC, are keen on international solidarity, more on:

Join us for the biggest event of the year to stop climate chaos!

Here is one of Calvin's Blogs - Climate Change Action.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Incinerator firm refuses to take no for an answer

In the first week in October the Guardian's Environment pages made NAIL, (Nottingham Against Incineration and Landfill)their campaign of the week:

“Landfill or incineration? The row over which is worse continues. Nail (Nottingham Against Incineration and Landfill) have made their decision: they are opposed to both, and their recent victory against Waste Recycling Group's application to expand their Eastcroft incinerator will give all similar campaigns encouragement.”

However, despite the decision of the Nottingham Planning and Control Committee to reject expansion of the city's Eastcroft incinerator, it now seems that WRG are not going to take no for an answer. According to NAIL's latest Communique:

“NAIL has received a letter from WRG announcing that they have lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate, following the refusal of their planning application to expand Nottingham's Eastcroft incinerator. “

However, NAIL are not going to give up now:

“We are all obviously very disappointed and angry at WRG in taking this approach, we believe that they should accept this democratic decision and not subject tax payers to an expensive legal challenge. WRG are attempting to use their power and financial might to overrule a democratic process.

The people and political parties of Nottingham have clearly said NO and this has been reinforced by the Development and Control Committee decision last month. WRG now aim to force their plans on us, however we are determined more than ever to fight on.”

NAIL deserve the full support of everyone who supports waste reduction, re-use and recycling as a waste strategy rather than the New Labour policy which appears to have the long term aim of 40-50% of waste being incinerated, and the short term aim of even larger percentages going to either landfill or incinerators.

The animated incinerator tour on this Irish based anti-incinerator site shows some of the true dangers and stupidity of a waste policy based on mass incineration.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday links

Following on from yesterday's posts on CND, this weekend is their conference as reported here on the BBC.

Meanwhile, the wave of NHS protests continues, with demonstrations today in Brighton, Oxford and Haywards Heath.

George Galloway's Respect is having its conference this weekend - we await reports from this Respect Blog as well as less loyal sources.....

Finally, I have previously reported on the National Anti-Incinerator meeting held in London earlier in the year. Another conference is planned for October 28th, this one led by Friends of The Earth.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Faslane 365

I have added various links to the sidebar, including the Green Party in Wales, the Scottish Green Party, Synthesis/Regeneration online green magazine, the US Green Alliance, Stuart Jeffrey’s Green NHS blog, Legume Sam’s West Coast green blog, Eugene Plawiuk’s Spanish Civil War and Revolution website, and CND (UK).

CND are promoting the Big Trident Debate website where you can go to sign up to pressure the government into allowing a full debate on the replacement of Britain’s costly not-so-independent “deterrent” Weapons of Mass Destruction. There is also a poll on there for you to vote for or against it, and a politician mailing page.

Here is the statement on the Big Debate Page –

Trident is Britain's nuclear weapons system. It was brought into service during the 1990s, and is expected to reach the end of its service life in the 2020s. A replacement for the system is likely to take around 14 years to develop, and the government has said that it will take a decision on this matter before the end of this year.
Last year, the government promised that there would be a full and open debate on the future of Britain's nuclear weapons. Since then, there has been considerable demand from all points of view for a genuine public and parliamentary debate but the government has done nothing to ensure that this happens.
This Big Trident Debate website has been established, with widespread support, with the single aim of pressing the government to facilitate that debate, and to provide a public space for debate of the issues. It is not confined to any one point of view and we urge participation from all perspectives.

Meanwhile the ambitious Faslane 365 protest has got underway at the home base of the current Trident missiles.
Here is how the BBC reported the start of the marathon protest actions.

The aim is to have a protest with various affinity groups from different areas and political backgrounds booking actions throughout a whole year to keep up the pressure and keep the Trident and Trident replacement issues in the news. Contingents from Sheffield and North Derbyshire, veterans of Greenham Common and Women in Black, Assynt, the South West, Cyclists and Edinburgh have already got the protest underway and the Green Parties of England, Wales and Scotland are due on the 15th October. Good luck to all those taking part!

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Climate Change - Keep Up The Pressure!

Two quite interesting stories with an environmental content in the British media today.

Firstly the long running saga of the proposed de-commissioning and "recycling" of rusting warships in the North East has developed as reported here

Secondly, the BBC's political correspondent got himself a scoop with government sources telling him that they were going to announce a Climate Change Bill in the Queen's Speech next month. The shape of the Bill, how much it is neutered and amended and its actual effect on emissions remains to be seen - so it is vital that pressure be kept up, in particular by building for the Climate Change Action demonstrations and events planned for 4th November. This is a global issue, and events are taking place around the world on that day. Details of the London march and events, and transport details, can be found on the Campaign Against Climate Change website.


Spin, Lies and Videotape?

What is it with British politicians and videos these days?

First we have, in the blue corner, Mr Cameron and his rather cringe making attempt at directing himself in the less-than-blockbuster "Dave Cameron - Ordinary Bloke" (as reported by the BBC).

Then we have in the red corner, the fly on the wall surveillance video shot by Shagger Sheridan's former Best Man (You couldn't make it up, could you? Though that is what various parties allege has been going on in claim and counter claim!)allegedly revealing the great man condemning himself with his own words. (as reported here by Andy Newman on the Socialist Unity Blog)

Finally, we now have the achingly poor, unfunny and rather embarrassing attempt by turncoat one-time Blairite Sion Simon (i.e the-not-so-red corner)to satirise Cameron's feeble efforts on YouTube. (As gleefully reported, again on the BBC, here)

And they say British politics is dull and boring these days......


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lest we forget - Spain 1936

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Civil War and Revolution in Spain - a pivotal event in Twentieth Century History and a crucial period for anyone looking at the different alternatives open to people on the left when faced with crises and conflicts. The weeks of October 1936 were crucial for a number of reasons for the Republican side. It was in these weeks that the seeds were arguably sown for the crushing of the social revolution in Republican controlled areas, and for the gradually increasing influence of Stalin and his agents.

10th October 1936

The Republican Government announced the creation of the Popular Army. This was to incorporate both the Army units that had remained loyal to the Government and the Party Militias.

12th October 1936

The first Russian aid for the Republic arrived.

The Republican submarine B5 was sunk by Nationalist aircraft off the coast near Malaga.

15th October 1936

The Popular Army established a system of Commissars (Political officers) for each unit.

25th October 1936

A large part of Spain's Gold Reserve (which remained in Republican controlled Spain after the Rising) was transferred to Russia. This was to pay for Russian "aid".

This site, created by Eugene Plawiuk, is an interesting treasure house of articles and information on the conflict. There is also an interesting selection of links on Plawiuk's blog.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is there a British Left left?

Interesting article, along with interesting comments on Dave Osler's blog today. He asks what has happened to the left in Britain, and is answered by quite a few people saying "talk about your own bit of Britain, the left is quite healthy in our bit!" The site was flagged up on the Guardian's Comment is Free Homepage as being one of today's "hottest" Brit blogs. Dave's blog has some of those fun polls in the side column, including one for voting for the best (of an admittedly limited list) of Brit lefty blogs. Greenman put his cross by our friends at the Socialist Unity Blog, striking a blow against the Eustonites and Swappies also represented on Dave's list! ;)
Comment is Free itself had the latest interesting essay by George Monbiot, today on the looming global water crisis.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Stop Mandelson's Corporate Agenda!

Due to the importance of the communique, I am posting here the latest press release of the Seattle To Brussels Network (S2B)-

Seattle to Brussels Network
Press release

European Commissioner to present EU external competitiveness strategy,
12.30pm CET

Mandelson drops development guise and launches final attack on European Social Model

4 October 2006

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will today announce a damaging new corporate-driven trade strategy, warn European activist groups and civil society organisations united in the Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B).

The EU's external trade policy will undermine the European social model.
The EU's insistence upon the "least trade-restrictive" regulations has
the potential to wipe out a wide range of policies, from food safety
standards to job security. Meanwhile, European and foreign corporations
are being given an ever greater say in Europe's policy decision-making
process, through a system of prior consultations.

The European Commission's aggressive new "competitiveness" drive also
threatens to cause mass unemployment and poverty in developing
countries, pitting their poor farmers and infant industries against some
of the world's most powerful transnational corporations. Mandelson is
also attempting to re-introduce issues such as government procurement
and investment, repeatedly rejected by developing countries in world
trade talks.

The Seattle to Brussels (S2B) network, representing more than 70
activist groups, civil society organisations and networks from all over
Europe, condemns Mandelson's initiative. If the European Union accepts
this vision, millions of poor farmers and workers both in Europe and in
the global South will lose their livelihoods, says Susan George, board
director of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute. By repackaging
issues that poor countries have already rejected, the EU is denying
developing countries the right to local business development.

S2B also firmly denounces the EU's drive for internal restructuring in
the interest of trade facilitation. Marc Maes of 11.11.11 (Belgium)
said: By imposing least trade restrictive criteria, the EU is putting
the breakdown of regulation at the core of its external competitiveness
strategy. This will lead to increased hard-nosed competition,
flexibilisation and deregulation. It will also place severe limits upon
the capacity of governments to set their own social and environmental
protection policies.

Note to the editor:

The Seattle to Brussels (S2B) Network is a pan-European network
campaigning to challenge the corporate-driven agenda of the European
Union and other European governments for continued global trade and
investment liberalisation. The S2B Network is part of the global
coalition Our World is Not for Sale.

Tuur Elzinga
X-Y Solidariteitsfonds / Solidarity Fund - Coordinator

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lost, The Prisoner and the Zeitgeist

So, the day that Lost fans across the world (and particularly in the USA and Canada where it airs tonight on terrestrial TV) have been waiting for is here - the opening episode of series three of the cult castaway drama. In those parts of the world with TV and IT where the third series of the show is not scheduled to be on terrestrial or easily accessible satellite/cable TV for many months yet, there will be a flurry of interest in bit-torrent and the like.

For those who are not aware of the series, it has been described as "Twin Peaks on the beach". It revolves around passengers of a crashed passsenger plane flying between Australia and the USA that has crashed in the vicinity of a mysterious island. The island has strange out-of place beasts, abandoned bunkers and exotic technology created by a secretive cabal of businessmen and scientists, and weird and confrontational inhabitants known as "the others". In series one and two we have been treated to flashback back-stories of the crash survivors as they struggle to survive on the island and find out more about the bunkers and the elusive others. Along the way we have allusions to various philosophers, philosophical and religious concepts, pop cultural references, numerology, mysticism and the paranormal.

Responses to the show have varied greatly - popular response has been to lap it up, but boards and discussion sites are full of sceptics and critics of the phenomenon.
I find it interesting that many of the responses to Lost are very similar to those reported to Patrick McGoohan's original 1960's cult TV series The Prisoner. (i.e. incomprehension, mockery of bits that were thought too obvious and banal, anger at not getting "answers", criticism of "boring repetition", criticism of lack of character development - The Prisoner constantly changed most characters except for McGoohan himself to give a constant disorientation feeling, along with giving the characters numbers, not names)

Elements of Lost are directly cribbed from The Prisoner - i.e numerological elements, the "inescapable island prison", the lack of explanation, mysticism, paranoia, forays into pop philosophy, psychology (contrast the unmasking of "number one" in McGoohan's series with the mind games of "Henry Gale" and the changing perspective of Locke), politics and religion without "fully committing" or revealing an authorial position, (In The Prisoner that authorial perspective tended to appear to fluctuate between extreme individualism and esoteric "traditionalism", whilst in Lost the perspective hints at religious apologetics, whilst teasing with a more esoteric/conspiracist worldview)
There are hints at a broader global conspiracy (The Hanso Foundation/Dharma Initiative in Lost, suggestion of interchangeability or co-operation of East and West intelligence services, or an over arching purpose for both in The Prisoner) Hanso/Dharma may be inspired by the conspiracist views circulating about organisations like those linked to world federalist and Baileyite/Theosophical organisations (that appear to have a whole range of fronts and networks working towards some shady global "plan".) Both series give the odd nod to the pioneers in the field of meta-fiction and attempt to graft themselves onto the tradition of Surrealism, Dada, Oulipo, Joyce, O'Brien, Pynchon, Rennes-le-Chateau/Sion/Sirius mythologists etc (Irrelevant note - the author of the Wizard of Oz Books - whence Henry Gale and balloons etc in Lost - was a theosophist)

Where Lost is able to differ from The Prisoner is in current technological and cultural possibilities - intertextuality, multi-media through viral marketing, the Lost Experience game played out across various linked websites on the net, plus 40 more years of popular cultural and political/philosophical reference points. It has been noted that the programme owes some debt to comic art, particularly that of Alan Moore, one of the most successful comic art writers of recent years. The "knowingness" of the creators extends to them giving the impression of "making it up as they go along", similar to McGoohan's notorious reluctance to "explain" anything about the planning, ideas or meaning behind The Prisoner. With the internet game making it difficult to know what is a fan site, what is an advert, what is a "secret clue", and what is based on reality, this all creates a different feeling where the players/viewers may even feel they have a part in "creating" the Lost reality.

Ah, the joys of late capitalism......

It seems to me that Lost taps into the Zeitgeist as did earlier shows like Twin Peaks and the X-Files. It grabs onto the feeling of disorientation and "lostness" people feel in a globalised world, where in the words of the Communist Manifesto "All that is solid melts into air", where organised religion has relaxed its' grip to be replaced by the religion of shopping, where we sometimes notice with barely supressed paranoia dimly understood forces acting on our behalfs or against our interests in the shadows, where technology creates a global village and nothing and nobody is quite what they seem, where the multiple apocalyptic threats of war, resource exhaustion, environmental catastrophe and civil strife haunt our nightmares.
From what looked like a fairly standard popular cultural product, Lost has developed into a symbol of the times, with all the flaws, contradictions and exhillaration that that implies.....
4 8 15 16 23 42 ;-)

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Climate Justice Meeting in London

The following are details of a major public meeting on Climate Change in London this week. It is part of the build up to the large demonstrations and actions on November 4th.


A Public Meeting

Wednesday October 4th,

Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London (Holborn Tube) at 7.00 pm


George Monbiot, Campaigning Journalist

Benedict Southworth, Director World Development Movement

Johan Hari, Journalist on the Independent

Billy Hayes, General Secretary Communication Workers' Union

Claire Fauset, Camp for Climate Action/Drax Protest spokesperson.

Phil Thornhill, National Coordinator, Campaign against Climate Change

The rich burn carbon while the poor suffer the consequences. Does climate change represent the greatest global injustice yet ?

Come to discuss these issues – probably THE most important of our time. Also the issues at the heart of why the November 4th Climate March needs to be the biggest ever. Come to the meeting and help build the momentum that will make sure it is !

Contact your local climate change activists for details of transport and events on the 4th November through the Campaign Against Climate Change site, here.