Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Support Victimised Starbucks Worker!

The IWW Starbucks Union, recently victorious in a number of cases against the coffee shop company is running a campaign to support a worker who has become homeless after a demotion and drastic hours cut based on racist smears and attacks on her character.
The worker in question, Simone Gordon, can be supported by joining in the e-mail campaign that the union is running.

More information here -

The e-mail action template is here -

Solidarity Forever!

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The New Labour Legacy - Humpty Dumpty Language

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean, - neither more nor less.'
Lewis Carroll, Alice Through The Looking Glass

One of the things, amongst many, which annoys me about the New Labour experience under Blair and Brown has been the perversion of language. New Labour and their spin doctors have taken words from the socialist and radical lexicon and given them a completely different meaning to previous common usage.

To be fair, this mangling of language and meaning went on under the previous Tory administrations in Britain too, where anarchistic, anti-state language redolent of the Sixties revolts was put in the service of monetarism and reaction. People were to be 'liberated from the state', were to be free to 'realise their aspirations and desires' in a new world where old fashioned institutions and barriers were 'swept away' by the 'revolutionary' action of government. In fact the Thatcher and Major years saw a massive strengthening of the repressive apparatus of the state and a loss of any vestige of democratic control and accountability in whole swathes of public life as services were transferred (sometimes via a brief period of populist 'mass share ownership') to control by slippery remote financial centres and transnational corporations.

This process continued under New Labour - the same neo-liberal agenda pursued, if anything at a faster and more enthusiastic pace. However, this time crumbs were thrown to community and workplace organisations and the so-called reforms were dressed in the language of 'libertarian socialism' (a favoured term used by New Labour Minister and lickspittle Peter Hain) with nods to the cooperative and mutualist traditions. Blair even wrote an intro to a work on mutualism today. Again, like the Tories' 'mass share ownership', the New Labour 'liberation' of public assets to ALMOS, quangos and voluntary & faith organisations has been a transmission belt to corporatism. Their 'localism', pinched from green thought, is by and large an excuse to break up organisations with some level of public oversight and ownership to ready them for piecemeal and patchwork privatisation.

Unsurprisingly some old greens and socialists have been taken in, dazzled by the thought of the '68 generation coming to power and lulled into a false sense of security by the superficially radical language. You therefore have the unedifying spectacle of Solidarity (the libertarian socialist group of the 60s and 70s) old hands and Ecology Party veterans leaping to the defence of the neo-liberal privatisation agenda, with its accompanying capitulation to American imperialism on the global stage. In some cases this appears to be foolish naivete (still crazy after all these years!) in others it is transparently venal self interest for those who now have a large stake in the status quo - like the ex-left commentariat.

Much the same could perhaps be said of the New Labour clique itself and its closest supporters - a collection of those who have fully capitulated to the doctrines and ideology of the market-worshipping New Right (but are clever enough to cover this with leftist babble as notably evident in the recent Deputy Leadership contest in the Labour Party)and those who still hold to a simple minded belief that words have the same meaning now when spoken by New Labour ministers as they did when spoken in the streets and smoke-filled meeting rooms 30 or 40 years ago. This ever-decreasing group of simple souls still believe that incremental progress towards 'socialism' and 'democracy' is ongoing and unabated.

The Mandelson/Campbell breed are archetypes of those whose words, like those of Humpty Dumpty, mean whatever they choose them to mean. The shame, and quite possibly the intention of this mangling of language is that the real alternatives to state capitalist centralised bureaucracy or casino economy neo-liberal corporatism are tainted by the misuse of terms arising from their historical ancestors. It is the Situationist concept of "recuperation" made real in the 21st Century.

The real third way between rampant neo-liberalism and sclerotic command economies was never the corporatist security state perched on a casino economy that we are headed for in Britain, plutocracy with a nice line in liberatory rhetoric. The real alternative, in Eastern Europe and elsewhere was local democratic control and workers power - a self managed economy. In the East at the fall of the command economies and their security apparatus the first priority of both the kleptocratic nomenklatura and Western plutocratic imperialism was to prevent anything of this nature taking root. And of course, they got something approximating to what they wanted - full capitalist restoration to gangster-capitalist regimes led by right-populist demagogues.

The question of economic democracy is one inherent in the history of libertarian socialism, cooperativism and mutualism, but it is a concept that would never cross the minds of the New Labour Cuckoos, entranced by the orthodoxies of the Washington consensus. For them, the new Father, Son and Holy Ghost are the Market, Confidence and the Invisible Hand.

Maybe a new New Left, a new socialism, will have to develop different ways to describe
things, use different terms with less room for abuse around the concepts of economic democracy and ecosocialism. We will have to be careful that the language we use is selected not to be misunderstood in the light of the fake-left free marketeers' rhetoric.

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Carnival Against Climate Change

A quick plug today for Greater Manchester Carnival Against Climate Change.

It may be rather wet this Saturday, but then this freakish weather is rather making a point for us!

BBC website-

A consequence of climate change is that we will see extreme weather patterns across the world.

Clearly, it is impossible to link climate change to any one event.

But there is no doubt that the globe is warming up and that at the same time we are witnessing severe weather across the planet.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Won't Get Fooled Again?

Here comes the new boss.........
......Same as the old boss?

An interesting attack (from a greenish social-democratic left angle) on the disastrous policies of New Labour and where they are leading can be found in the new book by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson - Fantasy Island.

From the Guardian review -

For Elliott and Atkinson, there is a vast contrast between the popular perception of a successful British economy and the reality of a country still recording record trade deficits, with a government that deludes itself that it is somehow a world leader in research, development and the 'knowledge-based' industries of the future. (They cite a battery of statistics to prove otherwise.)

On Fantasy Island, the army is ill-equipped, but Prime Minister and Chancellor think nothing of spending tens of billions to remain in the nuclear club. Employees in theory have protective legal rights, but the government boasts that entrepreneurs can enjoy 'flexible labour markets'.

This is an angry tract, written like a thriller. It captures the public mood of dissatisfaction. Gordon Brown should take note.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Patchwork Privatisation Of The NHS

I have just been reading the excellent pamphlet by Alex Nunns for Keep Our NHS Public. This is a very useful "Users Guide" to what is happening to the Health Service in Britain. It is particularly useful to those of us who do not work in the NHS and so may not be aware of all the things that are happening across the service. It is written in very clear language with comprehensive references and footnotes. Well worth buying copies to give to friends, workmates, colleagues and activists - it can be ordered (details on the NHS Support Federation page linked above)for £1 each for the first 10 and 50p each subsequently.
From the NHS Support Federation page -

Executive summary

• The government is carrying out the ‘patchwork privatisation’ of the NHS. For the first time, this report presents a comprehensive picture of the many kinds of privatisation occurring in the health service. It provides indisputable evidence that a process of privatisation is in train.

• This is happening on such a scale and in so coordinated a way as to make it a unique phenomenon – the ‘patchwork privatisation’ of a major public concern.

• Unlike the Thatcher privatisations of the 1980s, the entire NHS is not being put up for auction – but historically this is only one manifestation of privatisation. The deregulation of state monopolies, the outsourcing of state responsibilities and the cessation of services are the forms of privatisation we see in the NHS today.

• The government is transforming the NHS from a comprehensive, equitable provider of healthcare into a tax-funded insurer, paying for care provided by others. What emerges will still be called the NHS, but it will take the form of a kite-mark attached to selected services.

• The government argues that while the health service remains free at the point of need, funded from taxation, it is still public. However, access does not determine whether a service is public. ITV is free for all to watch, but is clearly different from the BBC. Neither does public funding automatically translate into public service status. There are examples of private ventures that are publicly funded.

• The ‘patchwork privatisation’ of the NHS is deeply worrying because privatised healthcare tends to cost more; accountability suffers; the fog of ‘commercial confidentiality’ makes scrutinising public spending impossible; the profit motive encourages ‘cherry-picking’ of the lucrative work, ultimately leading to NHS services being cut.

Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Support Federation who provide offices and staff for the campaign are doing an excellent job but need ongoing financial support. To make a donation send cheques payable to Keep Our NHS Public to the NHS Support Federation, Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton BN3XG.

There is a demonstration against local privatisation moves in the NHS in Brighton on 30th June, gathering on The Level at 12 noon.

The lack of movement in the unions on the National Demonstration for the NHS called by the Unison Health branch for 13th October in London is becoming a little worrying, if not entirely surprising given the union bureaucracies' desire not to rock the boat for the new New Labour Leadership. Meanwhile it has been "leaked" to the media that Mr Brown is keen on putting even further distance between his party and the unions. Comment and discussion on Dave Osler's blog.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Green Sacred Cows #1: Romanticism

I blogged a short while ago about a series of posts on green "sacred cows". The first of these follows. It is worth re-stating what I said when introducing this series of posts at this point : "I do this not because I want to be iconoclastic or argumentative, but because I believe that these positions seriously handicap the Green movement in the short term and might potentially have disastrous effects in the longer term.
My position is clear. I am a progressive (in the technological and social rather than narrow political sense), a libertarian socialist as opposed to a statist or authoritarian, and a green seeking sustainability and protection compatible with an advanced and advancing technological civilisation rather than regression to an earlier mode of production."

My first sacred cow up for slaughter is Romanticism.

Now you might ask "how is this important to some greens?" , and you would be right to do so. Romanticism here is used in the sense of both calling upon the work and stance of the romantic movement in art and literature to bolster environmentalist confidence and also in terms of sloppy thinking and that excessive reverence for the past which is all too common in some quarters. The mystification of nature is something that usually causes me some unease - Lovelock's use of terminology such as the 'Gaia' concept has something of this about it, whether originally intended as a convenient metaphor for material realities or not, Schumacher also went down this path. I am not here about attacking the undoubted poetic, musical and artistic achievements of the Romantic movement. They bequeathed some great and beautiful creations. But as critical and analytical people in the 21st Century we should be able to look beyond these to the roots and nature of the present day influence of this 19th Century current in Western thought.

From the Wikipedia on Romanticism:

Many intellectual historians have seen Romanticism as a key movement in the Counter-Enlightenment, a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment. Whereas the thinkers of the Enlightenment emphasized the primacy of deductive reason, Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination, and feeling, to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.

That right greens see the romantic movement as precursors is no surprise, some of them see themselves as aristocratic, cultured rebels like their 19th Century idols. Like those of the artistic and poetic circles of early 19th Century Britain the right greens move to steadily more reactionary positions as well. The fear of the rising working class created by the industrial revolution and the experience of the bloody French Revolution and its treatment of 'sensitive artistic aristocrats' like themselves drove the likes of Wordsworth to reaction and conservativism. Likewise, Zac Goldsmith and his cohorts are now the "green" shock troops of the Conservative Party, running scared of the growing global conflicts, the global justice movement in the streets and the perceived threats to cosy English rural life. Goldsmith's Ecologist Magazine published a leading article a few years ago which hailed the Romantic movement as the great precursors and anticipators of the Ecologist's brand of environmentalism.

The left is not immune from the negative legacy of romanticism either though. Whilst the work of William Morris in wedding a socialist framework of thought to a concern for the natural environment and healthy living is rightly lauded, the medievalist-romantic element of his thought far too often goes uncritiqued on the left. This was not a unique failing as the Guild Socialists of GDH Cole also could be criticised on these grounds. However, whereas Cole is now seen as a mildly interesting diversion from the main socialist line of development Morris is sometimes elevated to guru status. This reverence for the 'great man' could be seen as another outbreak of romanticism.

Romanticism can also be found in the idealisation of heroic individuals and their power to alter history. With the Romantics like Beethoven and others it was the idealisation of Napoleon that the facts of history forced them to reconsider - with some romantic-minded greens today it is Chavez, Al Gore, or more farcically on the right, Dave Cameron. While the Romantics invested unreasonable hopes in the French Revolution, 20th Century Western socialists romanticized the Russian revolution and there is a worrying trend of romanticizing the Bolivarian 'revolution'. This is not to fall in line with reaction and condemn the very idea of radical social change as many of the Romantics ended up doing, but to take a rational and historicist view of these events, progressive elements, authoritarian warts and all. It does not help the progressive cause to give the impression that many of us are starry-eyed idealists, wilfully blind to the flaws in 'anti-imperialist' movements and regimes. Still less does the unsocialist elevation of the importance of individual leaders help the understanding of the historical dynamic and balance of forces.

The anthropomorphising of animals, the "cute" factor in conservation and animal rights is another aspect of this. Often, Nature and individual living things are not seen as they are in the light of what science reveals about them, but in either an aesthetic sense as something that must be preserved due to intrinsic "beauty" or in a mystical sense as worthy or reverence and worship for expressing the "wholeness" and unity of creation - and I use the word creation deliberately. (See Emerson and Thoreau) This is not to deny that many creatures are beautiful, nor that the natural world is awe inspiring in its complexity and variation - who can deny this after seeing one of David Attenborough's films like the gorgeous "Saving Planet Earth" pilot broadcast the other evening. However, it is to say that quasi, or not so quasi-religious reverence for nature and sentimentalising of animals and plants are not particularly useful when contemplating the huge social and economic issues that underlie our current environmental predicament.

It is not surprising therefore, that many of the more reactionary and anti-human elements of the broader green movement have come to their views through conservationism or animal welfare. This is not to deny that there are those who have stated out as conservationists or animal liberationists who have come to a more fully rounded social ecologist or ecosocialist position, nor that many in the conservationist and animal welfare movements have a scientific outlook and do a lot of good work - but it is to point out the dangers of unreformed naturalist romantics.

It is from these quarters that one is most likely to hear unpleasant views about humanity as a "plague" and the "cleansing" virtues of war and disease. The tragic trajectory of Rudolf Bahro and those who followed his lead is indicative of where the kind of mystical natural absolutism can lead even those with originally useful and innovative ideas.

Without in any way condoning other elements of his thought, the opinions of one of the greatest modern authors upon Romanticism have resonance beyond the literary framework in which he originally addressed them -

In realism you are down to facts on which the world is based: that sudden reality which smashes romanticism into a pulp. What makes most people's lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism, some unrealizable or misconceived ideal. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we lived down to fact, as primitive man had to do, we would be better off. That is what we were made for. Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her, which is a false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms. In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact.

(James Joyce, quoted in Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, ed Clive Hart, 1974, 98.)

As Lowy and Robert Sayre have noted (in Romanticism Against The Tide of Modernity) socialism, Marxism, anarchism, feminism, environmentalism and a range of humanistic movements all owe a debt to, and have incorporated elements of the Romantic critique of industrial civilization and bourgeois society. The point is not to deny the undoubted influence of Romanticism in the evolution of social and political movements, but to be aware of that influence and negate the regressive elements of it.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blogs on Sunday 24/06/07

A big welcome to the blogosphere to Pete Murry and friends and their new Green Left aligned blog greenleftwindfarm
which they started earlier this month. Of particular note is the
posting of Sean Thompson's excellent discussion paper Towards
The Development Of A New New Left
which was delivered at
this year's Green Left AGM in London.

I will be publishing my own analysis of the current situation on Greenman's Occasional Organ in the near future. I have added greenleftwindfarm to my blog links. Other additions today are the links to the useful Marxists Internet Archive sections on the great socialists and sometime Wobblies James Connolly and Eugene V. Debs. The Socialist Unity blog report that this valuable resource has been under cyber-attack.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere this weekend Daves Part has a piece on the CIA and the US left.

The Climate and Capitalism blog has a Joel Kovel piece on the latest IPCC report.

Ken MacLeod, meanwhile, speculates on the departing British Labour leader's real religious affiliation.

Green health spokesperson Stuart Jeffery reflects on another downside of the continuing centralisation of services and closures of local facilities in the NHS.

Finally over at the Carnival of Anarchy (!)Eugene Plawiuk who blogs in his own right at Le Revue Gauche has an Appreciation of Murray Bookchin, the main theorist of Social Ecology.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Support The Postal Workers!

The national post strike is now scheduled for next Friday. Whatever our criticisms of the 'New Labourite' elements of the CWU leadership, now is the time to get behind this group of workers taking on the neo-liberal project. The liberalisation is being driven in part by EU directives, themselves constructed as part of the corporatist project for a European Capitalist 'paradise' fashioned by the lobby groups and think tanks of the corporations. The slight delay at EU level in imposing further postal service "liberalisation" announced earlier this month and the quarreling by the political leaders over the last two days do not significantly alter this trajectory, which must be fought by working people and the left at every opportunity. I am happy to reprint below the Communication Workers Union statement which they are urging members and supporters to distribute as widely as possible to counter misleading propaganda from Royal Mail and the government.

Defending Postal Services
A Message To The Public From The Communication Workers Union

Britain’s postal workers – members of the Communication Workers Union – are asking you to support our campaign to stop Royal Mail’s cost-cutting business plan which will mean cuts in your postal service (with hikes in stamp prices, fewer collections and deliveries and more post office closures) and cuts to our members’ pay and pensions.

CWU members want to do our job serving the public. We have tried every measure possible to seek a fair resolution to this dispute. Over 70% of our members voted for strike action to force Royal Mail to think again but they are simply refusing our offer of meaningful talks.

Starved of investment for decades Royal Mail now faces unfair competition from private operators who, for a discounted price , collect and sort profitable bulk business mail before passing it on to the Royal Mail to deliver the “final mile”. The result is Royal Mail has lost millions in revenue while the profits of private competitors has soared.

In 2006 Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union agreed that we would work together to tackle the impact of competition in the mail market, use government investment to introduce automation, improve efficiency, introduce innovative products that we know customers want and raise the value and status of postal workers’ jobs. Instead, Royal Mail has ditched the agreement, refused to negotiate a pay settlement and insisted on unilateral imposition of its cost-cutting business plan with mass job losses and cuts to members’ pay and pensions. Royal Mail has been deliberately misleading the public by saying the CWU wants a 27% pay rise. The CWU has never asked for a 27% pay rise.

That’s why the CWU are asking for your support in our campaign to stop Royal Mail’s cuts, end unfair competition and preserve a vital public service.

A combination of Royal Mail’s ‘slash and burn’ strategy and rigged competition rules now threaten the future of Britain’s universal postal service. As competitors queue up to cream off the most lucrative work, Royal Mail is facing a financial black hole and proposing a swingeing round of cuts both to postal services and to our members’ terms and conditions. That’s why the CWU is asking you to support our calls for:

· Royal Mail to enter meaningful talks with the CWU on resolving pay and major change and to honour the 2006 agreement which committed both parties to agree a joint approach on pay and modernisation.
· A Government review of the damaging impact of competition on the Royal Mail to date, in line with Labour’s manifesto commitment.
· An immediate change to Postcomm’s competition rules and a fairer pricing and access regime that gives the Royal Mail the revenues it needs to support the universal postal services and post office network.


150 The Broadway
SW19 1RX

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Three New US Links

I have added three new US links to my sidebar - Green Party of The United States and The Greens/GPUSA in the Green section and Socialist Party USA in the Left section.

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Mobilise Against Planning Proposals

A coalition of groups including Friends of the Earth are due to mobilise in England and Wales up to a day of action on 14th July to oppose the government's planning proposals put forward in the recent white paper. Friends of The Earth's information and action guide are here.

As I posted back in May these planning proposals are all about driving through the pro-nuclear, pro-incinerator, pro-big business agenda of the new labour government. Friends of the Earth have a good "translation" of government rhetoric on this topic:

The government says: Let's make planning better, but it means: Let's make planning better for big business

"We want to deliver on climate change" means - We want to build new nuclear power stations

"A new specialist body will decide on Major Infrastructure Projects (MIPs)" means - An unelected unaccountable body will enforce Westminster policy.

"We believe in town centre first" means - Councils will lose vital controls over out-of-town supermarkets.

"There will be meaningful public engagement" means - You will lose your right to debate vital issues in public enquiries.

"Developers should compensate objectors" means - Developers can bribe people who may object

"We need to prioritise economic growth" means - Sustainable development is not as important as profit

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Remploy Consultation Begins

A formal 90 day consultation on the proposed Remploy factory closures begins today with a meeting in Leicester attended by representatives from all over Britain.

Unions representing Remploy workers yesterday announced plans to step up their campaign to save the jobs at stake. The unions are said to be "moving towards" a national strike ballot. The unions intend to closely scrutinise the criteria used for choosing factories for closure. At the moment these criteria are not clear.

I would hope that the situation is the same elsewhere as it is in our local area where union branches, individuals and groups are offering their support to the Remploy workers who are planning a demonstration later in the summer.
GMB Remploy site.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A Tale Of Two Green Parties

Now that their relationships to the governing party in each of their respective national assemblies is finalised it is worth contrasting the stances of the Green Parties in Scotland and Ireland. The Irish Greens have voted to go into coalition as a (very) minor partner to Fianna Fail, whereas the Scottish Greens have agreed a deal based on their favoured model of "Confidence and Supply" with the SNP.

The Irish Greens voting to go into government on the modest terms as read, and with the widely despised right-wing PDs also in the coalition is outrageous. They are now seen by a large number in the Irish environmental and peace activist coalitions as selling out at the first whiff of (very compromised and limited) power. They will have to be part of a government bulldozing the Hill of Tara related archaeological sites they previously campaigned to save, snd allowing the USA use of Shannon Airport to support US Imperialism which they sought to curtail. Pipelines and motorways will go unchallenged or will only face muted criticism. Also outrageous was the public intervention of the general secretary of the European Greens calling for the Irish Green Party to vote yes to coalition! Let us not forget from a European perspective the he was calling for the Irish Greens to go into government with two parties that ally in one case on a European level with the "Europe of Nations" group - that contains so-called "post-fascists" - and in the case of the PDs with the right wing of the liberals - closest to the German FDP/Orange Book types.

The first TD and founder member of the Irish Greens Roger Garland and also one of their ex-MEPs, Patricia McKenna spoke out against the deal, but to no avail - less than 70 members backed them. Roger Garland predicted it could lead to a "wipe out" in future elections. The Progressive Democrats have just experienced this effect having been the whipping boys for Fianna Fail as well as generating vicious neo-liberal policies.

An Irish Socialist wrote the following about the Irish Green Party on the Urban 75 discussion forum:
They have adopted the position known over here as becoming Fianna Fail's mudguard. They have next to no say over policy, but they will take a disproportionate share of the blame for anything unpopular the government does. They will be the public face of faux-environmental right wing policies like part privatisation of the bus service or the re-introduction of the water tax. Simultaneously, they will get the blame for not opposing things they previously made a big deal of opposing like corporate donations. A related process got the Progressive Democrats nearly wiped out at this election, but it appears that the Greens have no capacity to learn from experience.

Well, there obviously is a principled section of the Irish Greens as the vote was not unanimous and some well known figures such as McKenna voted against. Their voice will become stronger if the TDs actually start to implement policies that go against their main campaign objectives. It emerges that on the Tara issue alone the new Green Minister responsible has been bound to the unpopular policy by a mischievous act of the outgoing Minister. The likelihood is, (provided the activists stay and fight and do not go off to mess around with some typical IST/SWP style front-farce) that there will be a major 'bloodletting' in the Irish party at some stage in the future. The German experience shows that leaving the Party simply consolidates the right in control. If we want to fight for principled Green and Left ideas and policies we must be prepared to stick our heads above the parapet as GL are doing in England and Wales and as the "Green Empowerment" grouping is now doing to oppose the centralist "leader campaign" in the coming referendum in the Green Party of England and Wales. This will be a key battle allowing the collectivist viewpoint to be set up against both the authoritarian tendencies and the "Maingreen" style media-pleasers. (You can just feel the media's and right's anticipation of and desire for the "New Green leader stamps his/her authority on unruly conference" type headlines.)

I personally have never ruled out splitting from the GP if the situation became hopelessly untenable, I have considered the alternatives in the past, prior to foundation of Green Left. However, it is again clear that it is far better to leave as a principled and organised grouping and either set up independently or join another grouping than it is to drift off as individuals, leaving the right/centralists in control. And we are far from having to make this kind of choice in England and Wales at the moment.

We need to look at organising as left activists in the European Green Party across the continent - at the moment, as shown by the intervention of the EGP general secretary in the Irish situation the right are not being slow to use the structures and offices of the EGP to their advantage.

For me, the Green Party and parties were and never will be the be-all and end -all of politics or struggle, I leave that view to the rightists and "green government" fantasists. The question is whether the Green movement and parties can be aligned with a broad popular and international movement of the left and the working class, rather than as we now see ending up as the "mudguard" for right and centre-right coalitions. It is a broad and popular movement that will facilitate change and empowerment, not one particular party. It will require extra-parliamentary and direct action (ideally in tandem with an attack inside the systemic structures) to bring about the changes that are needed.

Do not despair, there is work to be done.

Meanwhile, the position in Scotland shows how preferable their strategy is, at least in the short term, to the shambles in Ireland. The Greens were instrumental in getting the recent anti-Trident replacement vote passed in the Scottish Parliament-

BBC - MSPs vote against Trident Renewal.

What is more they are pushing forward more radical demands-

"The Scottish Greens have proposed using Scottish powers to prevent the movement of nuclear weapons on Scotland's roads and seas.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie called on MSPs to express their opposition to renewal, adding: "If we do, the message from Scotland will be very clear - the majority of Scots rejecting this plan."

All this without being bound to the more questionable elements of the SNP programme and retaining the possibility of defeating the SNP where necessary, but supporting them against the UK-wide neo-liberal parties as required. The Scottish Greens retain freedom of action and political independence as well as respect from activists.

Meanwhile in France, the Greens are up one to four seats in the National Assembly and the predicted landslide for right did not occur, nevertheless, still much needs to be done to look at what went wrong with the left's presidential challenge and what is unattractive about their current image. The avoidance of a right wing landslide may indicate various things - that the left can mobilise its' vote when really required, that voters are now not so sure they want to give Sarkozy carte blanche (to use an approriate phrase!) or possibly that the voters of the right were complacent in the face of the Presidential victory and the predictions of a landslide.
Whatever the case, Sarkozy is saying he is still determined to carry on with his radical right programme, so the level of left co-operation and organisation seen in the campaign against the EU Constitution in France needs to be regained and improved upon.

The work that needs to be done by left greens and the broader left across Europe becomes more urgent, as recent events show.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Green Sacred Cows?

Over the next few weeks/months I hope to run a series of posts severely questioning a number of viewpoints, attitudes and policy positions found amongst the broad Green movement, and even amongst ecosocialists, that I find worryingly regressive, dead end and redundant. I hope that this will spark debate and political reassessment amongst my readers and hopefully a wider Green audience. Some of these points will be relatively uncontentious on the Green Left, others may be seen as attacks on unquestioned "givens". I do this not because I want to be iconoclastic or argumentative, but because I believe that these positions seriously handicap the Green movement in the short term and might potentially have disastrous effects in the longer term.
My position is clear. I am a progressive (in the technological and social rather than narrow political sense), a libertarian socialist as opposed to a statist or authoritarian, and a green seeking sustainability and protection compatible with an advanced and advancing technological civilisation rather than regression to an earlier mode of production.

Amongst the sacred cows up for interrogation and potential slaughter are ideas stemming from the thought of those seen by some as "guiding lights" such as Schumacher and Morris. I think these and other thinkers should be approached, like Marx, as flawed thinkers with some useful ideas and analyses, but with a whole load of superceded and superfluous ideological baggage that can be critiqued and discarded. Morris is infected with a reactionary fetishisation of earlier modes of production and Schumacher is quite frankly, on close examination, a philosophical, political and social regressive.

So what might I seek to illuminate and critique over the coming period?

Amongst areas I might look at are Romanticism, the idea that small is almost always more beautiful than large, the cult of Schumacher; the New Age and mysticism, and worrying residual hero worship and "package deal leftism" that gives an impression of being relatively uncritical of left authoritarians, demagogues and primitivists on the basis of "anti-imperialism".

The ideas of out-and-out primitivists , crypto- and not-so-crypto-fascists, reactionaries and the Stalinist/Maoist dead-enders are easily defeated. What are more dangerous are the residues of authoritarian influence and regressive thinking within the green movement, some of which even infect the nascent ecosocialist movement. These residues can be found in language, unquestioned ideas, attitudes and structures. It is time for a bit of house cleaning and introspection if we are to present a coherent approach and have a clear view of those pieces of historical experience and theory that are useful, and also if we are to present an accurate and appealing image to those we seek to influence beyond the confines of the small ideological green and left movements in Britain.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Defend Council Housing Fringe and Conference

Defend Council Housing, the campaign fighting to defend and improve public housing in Britain, has a fringe meeting at the Unison Conference this week. This is on Monday lunchtime at The Belgrave Hotel, across King Street from the Conference Centre on Brighton seafront.

DCH also have a national conference planned for Thurday 12th July at the TUC. It is important that the pressure is kept up on Labour, whose incoming leadership have been making conciliatory noises about being in favour of the "Fourth Option" backed by DCH. DCH are now aiming for concrete proposals and a timetable if the warm words are to be more than honeymoon PR. They demand implementation of the Fourth Option to :

1. Improve all existing council homes and estates
2. Start a new council house building programme
3. Ensure sufficient funds to maintain all council homes in future years

Left Greens continue to support the demands of Defend Council Housing and demand that elected Greens take a principled stand on this, and other issues.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

NHS Meeting - 24th July

Here is the latest from Keep Our NHS Public.
Good to see the Green Health Spokesperson (and fellow blogger) Stuart is speaking at the meeting.

A New Prescription for the NHS?
Public Meeting

Can Gordon Brown solve the problems of the NHS once and for all?
As Prime Minister he will confront a service in the midst of major
reform, much of which is controversial and lacks any evidence to say
that it will work. So what are the alternatives for the NHS? We are all
crying out for a lasting solution.

What is working and which polices should be scrapped?
How can we make the most of the strengths of our NHS?
Are we heading in the right direction, and what can we learn from other

Speakers include...
Frank Dobson MP
Stuart Jeffery (Green Party health spokesperson)
Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat health spokesperson)
Neal Lawson (Compass)

The time and the place...
July 24th 2007, 7.00pm, Grand Committee Room, House of Commons

To register simply email your registration request and details to us
(see below). There is no charge, but if you can, we ask you to make a
donation towards the cost.

Please tell us the following...
Organisation/group (if applicable)
Post code
Number of places required

Email your registration request to... or

Or send your details to...
NHS Support Federation
Community Base
113 Queens Road

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Socialist Unity Blog Have Moved

Our comrades over at the Socialist Unity Blog have moved to a new location -

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Eco Hints!

I recently received "50 Tips on how to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions" from the local climate action campaigners. Some are fairly straightforward, but there are a number that are well worth repeating here:

21. Buy organic milk. It takes over three times as much energy to produce a litre of non-organic milk as a litre of organic milk. Much of this extra energy is used in the production of the fertiliser
(BBC News: )

22. Recycle aluminium. The energy saved by recycling one aluminium drinks can is enough to run a TV for three hours
(Environment Agency:

35. Turn lights off! For comparison, lighting an empty office overnight can waste the energy required to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee .
(Carbon Trust. )

39. Resist stand-by. If all UK households turned off their TVs at night instead of leaving them on standby, we would avoid emitting enough CO2 to fill the Millennium Dome 38 times each year . Stand-by is expensive too – British people pay £163 million every year paying for the electricity used in keeping their appliances on stand-by. That goes for PC screens too .
( Kent Energy Centre:
“a PC monitor switched off overnight saves enough energy to microwave six dinners” - Carbon Trust.

41. Keep fridge and freezer doors closed. Each minute a fridge door is open it can take three energy-intensive minutes for it to cool down again. Similarly, it can take as much as half an hour for a freezer to regain its temperature once a door has been opened for just sixty seconds . And remember to install the fridge or freezer away from hot appliances and direct sunlight.
( National Energy Foundation: )

42. Keep your freezer full. It takes less energy to keep a full freezer cool than it does an empty one . If you don't have enough food to fill it, use plastic bottles filled with water or even scrunched up newspaper. If you find your freezer is often half empty, you might want to think whether you need such a large model when it is time to replace it.
(Friends of the Earth: )

45. Only use a washing machine on full-load. Ninety percent of the energy that washing machines use goes toward heating the water , so switch to a cooler wash temperature: using 40°C for all clothes can use a third less electricity per wash. Today's washing powders are just as effective on low temperature programmes, saving both energy and money.
(UK Department of Energy: )

48. Switch office equipment off at night. A photocopier left on overnight uses enough energy to make 1,500 photocopies
(Carbon Trust. )

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Further Shifts To The Right In France And Belgium

The elections in France and Belgium appear to signal a further shift to the right in both countries.

The result in France will not be clear until the second round next week, but the likelihood is that Sarkozy will cement his victory in the recent Presidential elections by securing a heavy majority for his right wing allies in the National Assembly. The left forces have all done badly, with Socialists, Communists and Greens all likely to be severely reduced in parliamentary representation.

The picture is similar in Belgium, where the Liberal-led government of Guy Verhofstadt and his socialist and centrist-regionalist allies have been delivered a knockout blow by the Flemish Christian Democrats and their allies. However, the Green vote (Groen! and Ecolo in Flemish and Walloon communities respectively) appears to have held up - vindicating their decision to distance themselves from the ineffective "centre left" government.

In both countries the far right vote is worrying, though much reduced from Le Pen's heyday and held back by the electoral circumstances in France. In Belgium the Flemish Far Right Party held its' ground and other new right forces made modest advances.

A period of reflection may now ensue on the left but, particularly in France, mobilisation may be just as important as the incoming government has signalled its' intention to implement "shock therapy". The progressive and workers' forces need to be ready to resist the kind of Thatcherite assaults we are only too familiar with in Britain.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Workers' Guide To Private Equity Buyouts

Private equity buyouts and their implications are a hot topic in TU circles at the moment - the IUF (The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant,Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations) based in Geneva, have published an interesting guide to the issue which can be read and downloaded by clicking the link on this IUF page.

The IUF first drew the attention of the international trade union movement to the growing scale of private equity buyouts in the context of the "financialization" of corporate investment to deliver maximum short term financial returns to shareowners. The secretariat has briefed UK and European parliamentarians on the threat of private equity, established a unique website on private equity in the IUF and other sectors and assisted affiliates in responding to private equity buyouts.

Last week the GMB union accused the private equity industry of raiding workers’ pensions and dumping liabilities into insolvent pension funds

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

5000 Naked Cyclists In London!

In a massive show of bravery and defiance after recent attacks on the rights of "Critical Mass" bike rides over 5000 cyclists stripped off to ride through London in a protest against car culture, prudery and oil dependency.

Some amazing photos on Indymedia here.

Resistance is fertile!

Note - the BBC put the figure at "700" cyclists. Hmmmm.....

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Friday, June 08, 2007


A message from Green Party of England and Wales Campaigns Coordinator, Tim Summers about the demonstration in London tomorrow:

Calling all Greens!
The Green Party is affiliated to the "Enough" coalition, who are mounting a
significant protest march and rally for Israeli withdrawal/Justice for the
Palestinians on Saturday 9th June 07, 1.30pm at Lincolns Inn Field, London
(Holborn tube). The march ends with a Rally at Trafalgar Square, where
Caroline Lucas MEP will speak. I appeal to you to come and form a visible
Green contingent by meeting up at 1pm for placards. Tim Summers, campaigns

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

British Postal Workers Vote To Strike Over Pay

Postal workers in the CWU union have voted to strike over the Royal Mail's 2.5% pay offer. The vote was quite strongly in favour of taking action, 77% in favour of action on a 67% turnout. Socialist Worker report.

Quote :

Outgoing chair of the CWU postal executive Pat O'Hara condemned Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton for saying that the envisaged strike would be "bloody" and comparing it to the miners' strike of 1984-5.

O'Hara said that such comments would be unacceptable from any government – but were particularly outrageous from a Labour government.

The potential now exists for combined strikes between postal and other workers against Gordon Brown's imposition of pay limits on public sector workers. His below inflation wage freeze means an effective cut in wages for millions across Britain.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Starbucks Workers Organising - London Event

The London IWW (Wobblies) are holding a film night, supported by Wandsworth and Battersea TUC, on Thursday 7th June with two short films by New York IWW member Diane Krauthamer on the groundbreaking organising work amongst Starbucks coffee shop workers.

* “Together We Win: The Fight To Organise Starbucks”
* Previously Unseen Undercover Documentary - Union Busting In Starbucks

This is a rare opportunity to find out about the historic and groundbreaking organising work taking place inside Starbucks in the US and to hear from the film-maker and other IWW organisers about the recent international campaigns by the IWW; Solidarity Federation; UNITE; CNT-F; CGT-F and CGT-E to organise Starbucks workers in the UK, New Zealand, Germany, France and Spain.

The event has a 6.30 start for food with the meeting starting at 7.30 -

(nearest tube – Clapham North)

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Benefit Gig For School In Tanzania

There is a benefit gig for Butiama School in Tanzania on 16th June, 8pm 'til late at Trinity United Reformed Church, Buck Street, London NW1 (Camden Town Tube). Entrance is £10 waged, £5 concessions. Performers are Friends African Dance and Drumming Group, BIN, singer-songwriter Stefano Bellavia, Shalika and Harin from Sri Lanka and Yaabafunk Afrobeat Hi-Life. The gig is put together by Global Womens Strike of Crossroads Women's Centre to mark the Slave Trade Abolition, Indian and Ghanaian Independence anniversaries.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Successful Green Left AGM Sets Out Tasks For The Year Ahead

The AGM of the Green Party of England and Wales' Green Left group was held in London on Saturday and was a good forum and rallying point for left activists in the Green Party. We heard several interesting papers from members and supporters on leadership, democratic changes and party renewal. A new member with a long history in the Labour movement gave an excellent talk on the position of radicals in Britain and the lessons of the Twentieth Century socialist movement for Green Left.

Motions were agreed and signed up for to be put to the next party conference. Amongst the topics of motions were the minimum wage, migrant workers and housing. Motions were also put forward to oppose the actions of some Green Councillors who have risked the Party's principled reputation by doing right-of-centre deals with the Tories and Lib-Dems in exchange for meagre 'green' promises.

The forthcoming Eco-socialist international meeting in Paris was discussed, as were various worrying developments in the European Green Party. Calls were heard to mobilise for the coming "Enough" demonstration on the Israel-Palestine situation and also for the large NHS Support demonstration being planned for the Autumn.

New officers were elected with pledges to increase the visibility and contacts of Green Left and to maintain the good work of the first year.

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