Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Friday, July 27, 2007

NHS and Remploy Mobilisations

The date of the big national demonstration in support of the NHS in London this Autumn has been finalised as the third of November. More details from Unison website here.
Now that national Unison are taking this seriously at last it is time for all local health activists, trade unionists, socialists, greens and service users to get organised locally and build this into a massive show of strength. A demonstration is not the be-all and end all of this campaign, but it can be a useful tool for linking together different groups for future action, and establishing the kind of feeling of strength and unity of purpose that is needed (above and beyond the excellent local campaigns that exist in many areas).

Meanwhile, the GMB have announced a "Crusade" (Not sure about that terminology in this day and age, brothers and sisters, - but take it as reference to the Jarrow March, rather than a military religious campaign!) from Aberdeen on Tuesday 28th July to the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth on Monday 24th September, taking in meetings and rallies at all the 43 threatened factories. Take a look at the list of events on the downloadable documents on the GMB Remploy site to see if there is an event in your area.

The following Remploy factories are marked to close: Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Aintree, Ashington, Bradford, Bridgend, Brixton (London), Halifax, Hartlepool, Hillington (Glasgow), Hull, Leatherhead, Leicester, Lydney (Forest of Dean), Manchester, Mansfield, Medway, Pinxton (Derbyshire), Plymouth, Poole, St Helens, Southend, Spennymoor, Stockton, Treforest, Wigan, Wisbech, Wishaw (Lanarkshire), Worksop, Wrexham and York.

The following factories are marked to merge with another site: Barnsley, Birkenhead, Brynamman, Jarrow, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Pontefract, Redruth, Southampton, Stockport, Woolwich (London) and Ystradgynlais.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekly Links - 22/07/07

The first link this week is to the growing campaign, Hands Off The People of Iran, dedicated to opposing both the theocratic authoritarian regime and US/Israeli war plans:

We recognise that there is an urgent need to establish a principled solidarity campaign with the people of Iran. The contradictions between the interests of the neo-conservatives in power in the USA and the defenders of the rule of capital in the Islamic Republic has entered a dangerous new phase.

US imperialism and its allies are intent on regime change from above and are seriously considering options to impose this - sanctions, diplomatic pressure, limited strikes or perhaps bombing the country back to the stone age.

In Iran, the theocracy is using the international outcry against its nuclear weapons programme to divert attention away from the country's endemic crisis, deflect popular anger onto foreign enemies and thus prolong its reactionary rule.

The pretext of external threats has been cynically used to justify increased internal repression. The regime's security apparatus has been unleashed on its political opponents, workers, women and youth. The rising tide of daily working class anti-capitalist struggles has been met with arrests, the ratification of new anti-labour laws and sweeping privatisations. Under the new Iranian government, military-fascist organisations are gaining political and military strength, posing an ominous threat to the working class and democratic opposition.

Paradoxically, the US/UK invasion of Iraq has actually increased the regional influence of Iran's rulers - it led to the election of the pro-Iranian Shia government currently in power in Baghdad.

This means that any support from the anti-war movement for the reactionaries who currently govern Iran and repress its people is in effect indirect support for the occupation government in Iraq.

We recognise that effective resistance to this war can only mean the militant defence of the struggles of the working class in Iran and of the rising social movements in that country. We want regime change - both in Iran and in the imperialist countries. But we know that change must come from below - from the struggles of the working class and social movements - if it is to lead to genuine liberation.

We call on all anti-capitalist forces, progressive political groups and social organisations to join activists of the Iranian left to both oppose imperialism's plans and to organise practical solidarity with the growing movement against war and repression in Iran headed by the working class, women, students and youth.

* Our campaign demands are: No to imperialist war!
* No to the theocratic regime!
* The immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US/UK troops from the Gulf region!
* Opposition to Israeli expansionism and aggression!
* Support to all working class and progressive struggles in Iran against poverty and repression!
* Support for socialism, democracy and workers' control in Iran!
* For a nuclear-free Middle East in a nuclear-free world!

Here is the address for the full statement :

Next a link to the Green Empowerment site set up by those opposing the centralising moves in the Green Party of England and Wales where there is to be referendum asking members if they wish to move away from the current participatory and collective leadership model towards a more traditional, personality-based, individual leader model. One can almost feel the "mainstream" media itching to be able to go on about the "weak leader", whilst demanding the unfortunate individual "stamp their authority" on the party. The pro-leader side are having themselves led by the mass media in the strange belief that the establishment media are about allowing radicals to get their message across - they are not, they are about playing up every conflict, creating drama to snare their audience, enforcing adherence to the neo-liberal consensus and mocking/destroying those who step out of line with it. A single leader will be lapped up by the establishment media because it will make all these things easier. If you are a GP member who opposes the centralising move please sign the petition on the Green Empowerment site. The site was linked by Mike Armstrong from Croydon on his "Fairfield Life" blog, where he says the Green Party needs an individual leader "like a fish needs a bicycle!"

An example of how far 'leaders' can get from the grass roots of their party is highlighted by Jim on his Daily (Maybe) blog - he is campaigning against the actions of the Australian Green Party Senator (possibly under pressure from Green Party Leader Brown) who has asked for the resignation of an activist who was involved in a direct action that was attacked by the Police.

A plug for the Glasgow Radical Independent Bookfair project, who have this year's bookfair planned as follows -

SAT 4th AUGUST- 2007

12 - 10pm

Kinning Park Complex - Cornwall Street - Glasgow
(next to Kinning Park Subway)

stalls / resources / videotheque / events

FREE entry

In the evening they are showing two films on the IWW Coffee Shop organising project.
More info on the events here.

Speaking of organising, the new TUC guide to organising is now available online here.

Meanwhile an excellent example of united action is ongoing in Leicester where the Social Forum, the IWW and the local Green Party are supporting the Leicester Post Office Users' Group and the campaign to Save Bishop Street Post Office.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Left, The Green Left And The Way Ahead

As promised, my attempt to look at the big, longer term picture from the point of view of a member of Green Left in England. Unfortunately I cannot attend this weekend's Green Left Summer Camp in Kent, so this is my contribution to the ongoing debate.

1. A Snapshot

In order to have a clear picture of the tasks that face us and plan acordingly we must first consider the current deployment of forces and their trajectories.

It is clear to anyone with a relatively unbiased view of political matters that the left in Britain is in a fairly desperate state compared to either many comparable countries, or even the past situation in Britain itself. This is taking the "left" description to include all who would have been fairly termed as such during the social and political battles waged in the 1970s and 1980s - before the madness of totalitarian neo-liberalism established its' current domination. That is , before the "consensus reality" of Western capitalism re-defined left and right within its' own narrow boundaries following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its' satellites and created a situation where any attempt at discussing alternatives to the narrowly defined economic status quo were dismissed by virtually all mass media and ridiculed in public discourse.

These days, Blairites can describe themselves as of the "left" and foaming at the mouth crypto-fascist commentators such as Littlejohn, mad Mel Phillips and Peter Hitchens view even the Tories and Orange Book Liberal Democrats as "left" from their extreme right position that is not uncommon in the print media. Blairism, even in its' new 'nuanced' Brownite form, is in fact far to the right (in economic terms) of mainstream 1970s British Conservativism, of much of European Christian Democracy, and even major parts of Thatcherism. Cameronian Conservativism is simply a slightly more protectionist and reactionary version of Blairism with social-liberal spin for the disgruntled 'progressive' elements of the middle class.

In the Lib Dem sphere, Orange Bookery's 1970s closest equivalents are probably the swivel-eyed right-wing loons of the Freedom Association.

By any sensible definition "left" is about defending the rights of the working majority, vulnerable minorities and the poorest against the attacks of big business and the oligarchy. It is about radically extending democracy. It is about seeking social justice, environmental sustainability and a peaceful, co-operative foreign policy. It is about building an international counter-power to US imperialism and the monopoly capitalism it serves. All three main parties fail on most of these tests. Those parts of this agenda their more apologist members might say they are in line with turn out on closer examination to be not principled positions, but mere electoral window dressing or worse, cover for the further extension of corporate power.

The hold of corporate interests on mainstream British politics - through lobbyists, direct and indirect funding, and in the final analysis economic blackmail (do as we say or we take our business and jobs overseas)- is evident in all three major parties and even finds expression to a lesser extent in the the civic nationalist parties of Scotland and Wales.

So where are "the left" situated in Britain today and what sort of numerical strength are we looking at? This is not an academic study, but a personal view based on experience, observation and discussion - but I can still hazard an informed guess at the answers. In looking at the question we must also ignore the views of disgruntled ex-leftists like Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch and the whole Euston shower as the "left" that they critique is a terrifying phantom, based on their own, limited middle-class political history and their need to justify their now cravenly reactionary positions to themselves and others of their class. Their positions continue to move rightwards in the fashion of earlier examples like the US Schachtmanites who became Neo-Cons. To this end the Eustonites and friends pretend that the British "left" is simply the SWP, a few groupuscules, one or two troublemaking MPS and a handful of middle class mavericks. Even more ridiculously, they identify themselves as the only remaining representatives of the "true" left and philosphically dress themselves in the ill-fitting gaudy clothes of the court jesters of the European Enlightenment.

Significant by omission in the Eustonite worldview is any mention of the TU left, the true composition of the peace movement (far broader than the SWP/CPB as they pretend) the left of the environmentalist and green movement and those activists currently focussed around issues as wide ranging as debt and poverty in the developing world, housing, disability and race.

To me, the Left in Britain can still be found both inside and outside the Labour Party and Trade Unions, though much reduced in power and influence. It can now also be found in the left wing of the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Green Party, the left of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Respect and various localised manifestations of attempts to build an electoral alternative such as the SSP/Solidarity, Forward Wales, the Socialist Party and others who do not have a more uniform national presence. The Left in the terms I wish to speak of here includes many who focus on single issue or community campaigning and also the left-libertarian or 'direct action' left who are actually a larger constituency than the membership figures of the tiny British Anarchist groups would suggest. Current poles of attraction for these left forces include the Campaign Against Climate Change, Anti-Trident and Anti-nuclear activity, NHS defence groups and in some areas the Stop The War Coalition. There are groupings around social centres and projects in many British cities.

2. The Numbers Game
The Left in Britain, defined as above probably still numbers in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands. Though severely fragmented, the potential for a more coherent force is still there. So what is the distribution of this left across the parties and movements?

Polls of Labour Party members during the recent abortive McDonnell/Meacher leadership campaign showed support for a left candidate (who would perhaps have just about broadly met the tests mentioned earlier, at least on paper) to be around 15% of the sample. Even allowing for not all the Labour left backing the two for various reasons I would say that the broadly defined "left" in the Labour Party is probably around 20% of members - i.e perhaps 30-40,000 people. Given the structure of the LP this percentage is insufficient to have a major influence, though concentrated among the activist base and, one suspects, the more Metropolitan areas.

The debacle of the McDonnell campaign not even being allowed to get their candidate onto a ballot paper shows how much these leftists are currently prisoners of a party dominated by careerists and corporate puppets who are safe in the knowledge of backing from the majority of an apathetic, if not apolitical and in many cases right-wing, rank and file. This means that if in the short term these prisoners of New Labour are to have an effect on a social and political level it is likely to be outside the formal structures of their own party (notwithstanding the passing of populist social democratic motions at conference - that the leadership ignores - and even this 'privelege' has now been signalled by Brown to be under threat)

So what of the left outside labour that they might work with?

The largest electoral forces in Britain outside of and to the left of Labour are those of the Green Parties. On the definition of "Left" previously given the GP certainly passes on policy grounds, but with the proviso that again we are talking largely about radical social democracy here rather than full blooded socialism. The other problem is that there is still a right wing (who would probably self-describe as 'centrist' or 'moderate') and centralising faction prominent in most of the National Green Parties in these islands. The Greens also carry the burden of the trajectories and histories of the Greens in the rest of Europe, from the neutered and bureaucratized ex-radical parties of Germany and France to the ecological parties of the East where 'left' is still often a dirty word.

The Green Left grouping in GPEW draws together disparate left elements in the Greens here - we are probably talking about a circle of influence and co-ordination of a few hundred activists. The left in a broader sense perhaps makes up a third to a half of the party by my estimates - say 3000 people. These are again concentrated amongst activists, but whereas in Labour the undemocratic structures minimise the left influence in the Greens the left influence is felt in a more proportionate way.

3000 is also the probable figure of left activists in and around the SWP/Respect projects and satellites, again, with an active right in Respect. The other "far left" groupings in England and Wales probably total around 3-4000, perhaps 800 to 1000 of these in the Communist Party of Britain and its' satellites. There are perhaps 3000 active left wingers in Scotland across the left outside Labour (a better proportion of the population than in England!)

Taken with their political periphery and students 'passing through' these extra-labour left groupings may muster perhaps 20-30,000 people in the UK. A figure for the TU left from a UK union membership of 7 or 8 million trade unionists could be gained by saying that if 1% are broadly defined as leftist (as TU stewards tend to be)then we are looking at 70-80,000 people, some of whom will of course overlap with the Labour and extra-labour left I have already mentioned. Again, the position of these activists amplifies their influence on their fellow workers, but as with the Labour left their influence within the structure of their unions is limited by bureaucracy and inertia. Nevertheless, the Labour right are still prone to bemoan the "entrenchment" in the unions of people they have sought to marginalise and exclude from the Labour Party.

So, if we are talking about an estimate of 80-100,000 activists, radical unionists and sympathisers with socialist, radical democratic and even revolutionary viewpoints in Britain, how can this constituency be brought closer together and prepared to act in unity in a diverse movement for social, economic and political change?

3. One Big Party?
We can look abroad for some examples of what to do and what not to do. I am sorry to say that the experience of Scotland, Italy and parts of South America indicate that the perspective of aiming for a single, hegemonic party of workers and the left is a very tricky and potentially disastrous project. This is not to say that a 'new workers' party' is not needed or cannot be formed, but that the relative importance given to it by likes of the Socialist Party/CWI's "Campaign For A New Workers' Party" in Britain is misplaced. The age of the hegemonic mass party is gone, at least in late-capitalist Britain. We are in an age of movements rather than parties, where unity is dependent upon common goals rather than common structures, and where democracy and diversity are closely guarded by those who have achieved some element of them in their current organisations. Though the RMT initiative (National Shop Stewards Network)is more understanding of the fact that a mass party cannot be brought into existence by sheer willpower of handful of activists without a social and economic base, one worries that the perspective of the "leading role" of one big party is similar. To repeat - a new party to regroup labour and left activists is desirable, but it is not a magic bullet, it might (if broad, radical and democratic enough) be one aspect of the kind of movement we need. The other point, is that as Peter Tatchell has argued, there is a already a tried and tested electoral vehicle available to those on the left wishing to make a break with Labour - the Green Party, with Green Left as an organising centre. The position may change, but at the moment the Green Party in many areas of England and Wales offers the only viable electoral platform for socialists and radical democrats. In other areas it is at least as valid a vehicle as Respect or other left of labour formations.

The class, economic and social structure of modern Britain also need looking at and assimilating into any analysis that seeks a way forward. Socialists of all stripes should try and base their analyses and programmes on observation of the real world and the material basis of it, on actually existing socio-economic structure and likely trajectory and development.

4. The economic and social setting

Capital is now, more that ever, global. Neo-liberal ideology and practice are both a recognition of this and its' result - an attempt on part of the global ruling class to extend their power and wealth still further. The globalisation of capital has dissolved, as Marx predicted, whole sections of the edifice of national capitalist stability. In Britain, food, energy and financial security are long gone. Autarky was never really a long term possibility for these islands from the beginning of the industrial age, the British Empire itself was an early example of a paternalist and nationally based globalism - liberally deploying racism and military might to aid in sucking the resources and labour power out of the dominated regions to fuel an armed, mercantile-industrial behemoth.

Since the Second World War British Capital has been cemented to the economically expansionist and belligerent US military industrial complex, tied first by aid and trade and mutual opposition to the restraining force of the opposing Soviet bloc, and then latterly by the intermeshing of US and British capitalist interests. British economic and foreign policy have been shaped to make them entirely dependent on the continuance and deepening of the neo-liberal economic model on a global scale. It goes without saying that Britain's industrial base has been filleted, its' agriculture tied to the interests of European policy and agribusiness rather than domestic supply needs. The remaining state, service, defence and productive industries are dependent upon the casino economy of the City of London, the corporatist diktat of Brussels and repatriated capital from the the tentacles of British business around the world, (particularly from the home economy of the New Rome, the United States).

The effect of this on class structure, allegiance and consciousness in Britain cannot be ignored. The export of extractive and productive industrial functions has fundamentally altered the shape of the British working class. The mass industrial organisations that sprung up from the late 19th to early 20th Centuries and fought their last set-piece battles against the resurgent capitalism of the 1970s and 1980s are largely gone or much reduced - the trend to mergers and 'super unions' are an ironic effect of this - a move away from the craft unionism that handicapped the British working class in the unions' heyday towards a pale imitation of the industrial and general unionism advocated by the syndicalist radicals of an earlier age. The 'super' unions are a drawing together for warmth of the labour bureaucracy in the face of the arctic blasts of neo-liberal industrial destruction and deregulation.

The deregulation and atomisation that accompanied the Thatcherite crushing of industrial organisations have a tangible effect on the working class of today. Whilst the (probably temporary) triumph of unipolar US economic, military and political hegemony has allowed the UK poodle economy to bask in the warmth of their ill-gotten gains, a large proportion of the ex-industrial working class have flowed into the service economy and the public sector. The pumping up of service and public sector employment has attempted to serve the ruling class objective of creating a UK economy based on high skill, creative, technological development and financial sectors - in effect a global niche with minimum self-sufficiency and independence from the global market. A parallel need was to police and direct the unruly parts of the workforce and youth to fit into the sweatshops and burger bars of the new economy. The bluff of this strategy is now being called as China, India and other developing countries use the capital flows generated by their rapid industrial development (itself fuelled, in part, by "off-shoring") to develop just those economic sectors that Britons were told were their optimum options. The idea that new economic zones could not be just as good, or better "knowledge economies" than Britain was a piece of racist imperial hangover nonsense in the first place anyway!
Indeed, corporations based in the leading developing economies are already expanding their ownership to productive industries in less developed countries to avoid their own rising wage costs, while developing more "knowledge based" and service functions in their own economies.

Nevertheless, the flow of workers into either 'professional' or poorly organised service sector employment in Britain has been accompanied by confusion, self delusion and avoidance of the question as far as class identity, interests and capacities are concerned. This is not as pronounced in the expanded public sector where the history of workplace organisation meant that many of the new workforce were integrated into the public sector union culture, some bringing the baggage of their previous failures and successes in an industrial setting along with them. On a personal note I recently met three old friends recently that I had not seen for about twelve years. When I last met them they were all politically involved on the left and one was a miner, another a bricklayer and the third an ex-miner working casually in construction. When I met them recently all three were now teachers! They were no longer politically active but seemed embedded in the public sector culture and as far as I could tell were good union members. Regardless of their current becalmed state, such people carry a political history and awareness with them that can be activated and drawn upon, particularly when economic and social conditions change as they surely will and make 'hiding out in normal life' less of an option.

The private service sector is somewhat different. The lack of a history or tradition of workplace organisation across much of the private service sector has meant a lot of the energy, experience and organising ability/potential of ex-industrial workers flowing into the sector has been at least temporarily submerged. Under such circumstances there can be a rapid loss of class consciousness and combativity. The structure of the service economy is designed to encourage individualism, yellow unionism, dog-eat-dog competition and lack of continuity in relationships and organisation. It is difficult to organise, though credit is due to activists in some unions and left organisations who are seeking to organise, agitate and educate when they find themselves in this sort of employment. The efforts of the IWW seeking to organise coffee shop workers in both the US and Britain are relevant here.

Beyond these two segments of workers there are those who have been left behind by the development of the capitalist economy. (Or perhaps in some cases play a vital role as a vulnerable reserve force) The casualised sectors, the semi-legal economy, and claimants are more isolated physically and consciousness-wise from the larger more prosperous parts of the working class than in the post-war 'consensus' years, aided and abetted by media vilification and social prejudice. Unemployment is now at the same level it was when it was a major election issue in 1979 ("Labour Isn't Working")yet now it barely registers on the political seismometer and tabloid newspapers feel free to stereotype and encourage hatred of the unemployed, the disabled and those too sick to work. Added to this sector are many migrant workers, another group subject to vilification and scapegoating in the media.

5. Conclusions - The Way Ahead

So, in conclusion, what are my tentative suggestions as to the most appropriate way forward?

It seems clear to me that the current socio-economic set up in Britain and the different levels of political development mean that a strategy which seeks a united movement based on a diversity of political and social organising structures and tools is more likely to be able to cope with the segmented nature of the non-employing class and the diversity of points of focus. The political poles of regroupment should cover the major political differences so that major currents of left thought can retain a voice without compromising on the need for a united movement, but there is also a need for geographical or community level organising - no area of control by the ecocidal ruling class should be left uncontested - it is at the local level that the largest potential for unity is found. On the other hand, at the point of production (or distribution, exchange or reproduction!) maximum unity is required on an organisational level - in 'normal' times through industrial unionism and rank and file organising, and in times of heightened struggle possibly through assemblies or other democratic forms. As (eco-)socialists we should recognise that the economy is the main seat of ultimate power in society - as a green with revolutionary syndicalist roots I would say that it is in this sphere that we need "One Big Union", but we do not need "One Big Party" in the political sphere, for the reasons mentioned above.

As regards the larger picture it seems clear to me that the economy and the neo-liberal challenge demand that we need European and global level organising - international solidarity and co-ordination at the workplace level and global political networks above and beyond the current social forums.

Finally, with what we know as eco-socialists about the challenges the world faces and the changes likely to impact very heavily on all of us in the years ahead, we need to build a movement with the capacity for independent action and the ability to defend itself. The need for direct action in the face of the nuclear programme, the incinerator programme and the lack of action on climate change becomes clearer by the day. As the global situation becomes more severe in the shadow of climate change, peak oil, etc etc it is likely that we will need to be able to oppose the far right and defend ourselves against them and the unleashed security apparatus of the ruling class. The movement will need to unite on questions of security and defence and pool resources for these purposes.

It is time for the left in Britain to face up to the changes that are beginning to take place and the massive challenge we face as the neo-liberal order faces its' environmental and economic limits. It is time to unite in action and work towards a credible alternative politically, economically and socially.

July 2007

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

North West Postal Dispute March and Rally

Postal Dispute

North West Regional March & Rally

Saturday 21st July 2007

Assemble at 12.30pm Myrtle Parade, Liverpool City Centre
March to St Georges Hall 1.00pm

Guest Speakers
Billy Hayes – General Secretary CWU
Frank Hont- Regional Secretary UNISON
Kieran Quinn – CWU Regional officer
Mark Walsh – Branch Secretary Merseyside

Jane Loftus – CWU President (Chair)

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Links on Sunday - 15/07/2007

The first link I have for you today is to an interesting site of social ecologist articles - Communalism - The International Journal for a Rational Society. Two articles that particularly caught my eye were the latest one from Sveinung Legard on participatory budgeting, and an older article by Peter Zegers on the Dark Side of Political Ecology. Zegers starts with a great quote from Bookchin's Ecology of Freedom -

“[I]f the word ecology is used to describe our outlook, it is preposterous to invoke deities, mystical forces to account for the evolution of first nature into second nature. Neither religion nor a spiritualistic vision of experience has any place in an ecological lexicon. Either the term ecology applies to natural phenomena by definition, or it is a chic metaphor for the disempowered consciousness that fosters mysticism or outright supernaturalism.”

Earlier this week the Greens launched their short campaign for the Ealing Southall By-Election - good luck to Sarah Edwards.

Back in blogland a big welcome back to my Urban 75 friend Bernie, who has posted three interesting pieces on his blog "Fundamentalist Druid" this week.
He imagines what situation and questions we might face fifty years on and then examines the questions raised by those raising free market economics as a panacea to the problems we face. Finally he tries to imagine what a sustainable UK might look like. I think my question would be what is the highest and most advantageous level of production we are likely to be able to sustain given the energy constraints we are likely to face? Regardless of what sacrifices need to be made, and what social/economic framework those changes are made under (though these issues are very important), I think it is also crucially important for the future of the species and the planet that technological and scientific progress continue. Energy and climate change are not the only challenges our civilisation faces, and we will need the highest level of technical and scientific effort possible to face the challenges. Also, I would suggest that whatever changes are made in lifestyles and production our aim as people in the socialist and democratic tradition should be that co-operation and co-ordination on a national and international scale are of vital importance. There can be no retreat to an insular localism, even if much more of production and exchange/distribution is locally based. Politically and socially we should be aiming for a more internationalist framework.

Over at Daily (Maybe) Jim is re-running his thing about the best UK Green bloggers that he ran last year.

Finally this week, congratulations to Paul Kingsnorth who is going to be a dad.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Johnny Ball, Talking B*******!

The latest celeb spokesperson for man-made climate change denial and the pro-nuclear, pro-incinerator and anti-wind energy lobbies is Johnny Ball. As Mark Steele said in a recent Indie article, what is it about cheesy 70’s TV personalities and contrarianism? Perhaps the answer is in the question. One way to recapture the limelight and get some corporate speaking dates and funding for washed-up old has-beens like Ball and Bellamy is to parrot the corporate-funded speroids of the counter-factual conspiracists. Googling on Ball's name gives immediate hits for his corporate speaking dates.

Ball was on local radio round here today, spouting nonsense. He went on about insects being a bigger source of CO2 than humans (so?), denied current warming was any more than a ‘cyclical’ change, attacked Al Gore’s film and Live Earth, and said we need lots more lovely incinerators to deal with our waste. He quoted the percentages like his ilk always do, deliberately obfuscating by implying that 1, 2, 3 or 4 percent of a global problem or quantity is negligible. So if 2% of a global figure is negligible, not worth bothering with, I’ll have 2% of the global gold reserve please! I'm sure they won't notice such an "insignificant" amount going missing.

For a so-called scientist his bloopers were obvious even to a more arts and social sciences oriented person like myself. For example he denied sea level will rise and said Al Gore claimed “Greenland will melt” and "Greenland is a land mass, ho ho ho" – disingenuous nonsense. In his film Gore shows that sea ice melting will not cause rises (though it will cause further warming due to reduction in reflection) , but land ice melting will cause rises. Greenland will not “melt”, but the ice covering it will, and enter the oceans to raise sea levels.

On incinerators Ball was likewise counter-factual – they are totally safe he says. They must defy the laws of physics if Ball is to be believed – loads of stuff goes in and nothing comes out, eh? In fact, even highly filtered, latest-design incinerators cause air pollution, they are also subject to accidental release incidents on a regular basis – and that is before we mention the highly concentrated toxins in Fly Ash which is - guess what – transported by road to landfill!

Ball continued in this vein – “you can’t have a grid with wind energy”, Yeah? So who exactly is advocating we meet all energy demand through wind energy Johnny? I smell the whiff of a burning straw man!

The other thing we can smell is the propaganda emanating from various US corporate funded lobby groups and the Furedi circle of infiltrators.

His main argument was with teaching “negative science” in school. Presumably science in schools must be some rose-tinted corporate-funded propaganda for the utopian status quo? What is negative about young people learning about the challenges caused by previous and current lack of attention to detail and consequences and the real technological and scientific solutions that can be applied to overcome or mitigate these problems? It is knowledge of challenges and problems that are the motivators to scientific and technical effort and innovation, not hubristic satisfaction or reverence for the wilful disinformation propagated by washed up “gentleman farmers”…..

You there, in the corner, Ball! – Pay attention! D minus for effort......

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Comment is free....

Interesting pieces on Comment is Free this week from George Monbiot (on the Unions and the Labour Party) and Derek Wall (on Jeremy Clarkson's latest antics). Also a (perhaps uncharacteristically restrained) piece from Tony Greenstein (on Littlejohn's programme on anti-semitism) and an article by Graham Smith of Republic (on the Royals and the media.)
All four pieces set the resident right-wing trolls raging. What is it about right-wing trolls that draws them day after day to a site attached to Britain's foremost "liberal" (in the US sense) organ?
Is there any equivalent 'left' infestation on right wing bulletin boards and media sites?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Solidarity With Colombian Trade Unionists

Pleased to pass on this call out for a demonstration on 20th July- (Apologies for the erratic cut and paste job!)

"On the Friday 20th July ( Colombia ’s ‘National Day’) at 1pm the Solidarity
Federation will be holding a protest outside the Colombian embassy (3 Hans Crescent SW1. Tube: Knightsbridge. Between Sloane Street and Brompton Road.
It's about a mile from Parliament.)as part of a international day of action
to highlight the ongoing war waged by the Colombian state on trade

We call on everyone who believes in the right of unionists to organise without the fear of death to join us on the picket and show solidarity with our fellow workers.

Colombia is amongst one of the world’s most repressive regimes, the US backed government of Alvaro Uribe Velez continues to allow transnationals, such as Coca Cola and Chiquita Brands International and Colombian business interests a free hand to destroy any opposition. Indigenous tribes' people, the Afro-Colombian communities as well as human rights activists have all been targeted. For trade unionists death threats, intimidation, harassment, beating and assassination are a regular feature of daily life.

The international Centre for Trade Union Rights says at least 72 members of trade unions were murdered in 2006 (

In an explosive new report submitted to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the ITUC has presented direct evidence of collusion between Colombia’s notorious DAS Security Agency and paramilitary death squads in the murder of at least seven trade unionists since the early 1990’s. The DAS (or “Administrative Security Department”)is under the direct authority of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez."

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Links, Blogs and Petitions 8/7/07

Various stuff to draw to your attention this week.

With the focus on Climate Change and the carbon based economy, the blog of Robin Nixon (It's The Only One We Have) is riding high in the Blogflux Top Sites listing for Politics sites.

Recently had my attention drawn to the Oil Depletion Protocol promoted by the Post Carbon Institute. Well worth a read
There is a petition on the oil depletion protocol here.

Happy to report that the UKWIN (UK Without Incineration) network is up and running and is developing a website. You can affiliate your group or sign up as an individual here.

I blogged last week about the National Blood Service workers' campaign - a related blog has now been set up here.

The persecution of nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu by the Israeli authorities continues. There is a petition in his support here.

A petition on Lockheed Martin's involvement in UK Census info gathering, a topic brought to public notice by Green Party Female Principal speaker Sian Berry, is here.

Here is a petition supporting the staff in dispute with management at London Metropolitan University.

And finally on petitions, here is the latest one from campaign group Republic, on Royal Finances.

More on the international Ecosocialist conference in Paris coming up this Autumn on the Climate and Capitalism blog here.

Andy Newman reports on Saturday's Shop Stewards Network Launch meeting here.

Jim comments on Live Earth and shoots down some of the more ridiculous cynical arguments against it here. He is quite right to draw the line between justified scepticism over the effect of the event (and the past history of some of those associated with it), and the reactionary cynicism that has been displayed in some of the media.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

. . . - - - . . .

Whoever thought green would become so fashionable, cool and trendy?

Enjoy Live Earth this weekend, at least those bits that are not too cheesy!

Here is June Sarpong's Live Earth Blog -

Let us just hope that when the gig is over and the bandwagon has rolled on there is a significant increase in the numbers who are more fully informed and motivated to actually do something to make a difference.

Another take on the event from Dave Osler here.

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Another Appropriate Quote From 1909

Earlier in the week I quoted James Connolly on Pensions, noting how the relative positions of the employing class and their apologists versus the rest of us have not changed all that much in a century. Immediately after that section of Workshop Talks, comes another section where Connolly reflects on leadership and "practicality". Again this all sounds very relevant to the debate currently going on in the Green Party of England and Wales regarding the coming membership referendum on whether to install a more orthodox "leader and deputy system" to meet the demands of the media and be "practical". Connolly could see through these sorts of demands for "practicality" with the clear view of an experienced worker and activist -

Let us be practical. We want something pr-r-ractical.

Always the cry of hum-drum mediocrity, afraid to face the stern necessity for uncompromising action. That saying has done more yeoman service in the cause of oppression than all its avowed supporters.

The average man dislikes to be thought unpractical, and so, while frequently loathing the principles or distrusting the leaders of the particular political party he is associated with, declines to leave them, in the hope that their very lack of earnestness may be more fruitful of practical results than the honest outspokenness of the party in whose principles he does believe.

In the phraseology of politics, a party too indifferent to the sorrow and sufferings of humanity to raise its voice in protest, is a moderate, practical party; whilst a party totally indifferent to the personality of leaders, or questions of leadership, but hot to enthusiasm on every question affecting the well-being of the toiling masses, is an extreme, a dangerous party.

Yet, although it may seem a paradox to say so, there is no party so incapable of achieving practical results as an orthodox political party; and there is no party so certain of placing moderate reforms to its credit as an extreme – a revolutionary party.

The possessing classes will and do laugh to scorn every scheme for the amelioration of the workers so long as those responsible for the initiation of the scheme admit as justifiable the ‘rights of property’; but when the public attention is directed towards questioning the justifiable nature of those ‘rights’ in themselves, then the master class, alarmed for the safety of their booty, yield reform after reform – in order to prevent revolution.

Moral – Don’t be ‘practical’ in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines, and in the grooves those who rob you would desire you to think.

In any case it is time we got rid of all the cant about ‘politics’ and ‘constitutional agitation’ in general. For there is really no meaning whatever in those phrases.

Every public question is a political question. The men who tell us that Labour questions, for instance, have nothing to do with politics, understand neither the one nor the other. The Labour Question cannot be settled except by measures which necessitate a revision of the whole system of society, which, of course, implies political warfare to secure the power to effect such revision:

If by politics we understand the fight between the outs and ins, or the contest for party leadership, then Labour is rightly supremely indifferent to such politics, but to the politics which centre round the question of property and the administration thereof Labour is not, cannot be, indifferent.

To effect its emancipation Labour must reorganise society on the basis of labour; this cannot be done while the forces of government are in the hands of the rich, therefore the governing power must be wrested from the hands of the rich peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary.

In the phraseology of the master class and its pressmen the trade unionist who is not a Socialist is more practical than he who is, and the worker who is neither one nor the other but can resign himself to the state of slavery in which he was born, is the most practical of all men

James Connolly
Workshop Talks

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Important New Report On Nuclear Power Expansion

Here is the Guardian story on the Oxford Research Group report on the nuclear industry.

A worldwide expansion of nuclear power has little chance of significantly reducing carbon emissions but will add dangerously to the proliferation of nuclear weapons-grade materials and the potential for nuclear terrorism, says a leading research group that has analysed the possible uptake of civil atomic power over the next 65 years.

The Oxford Research Group paper, funded by the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust, says that the worldwide nuclear "renaissance" planned by the industry to provide cheap, clean power is a myth. Although global electricity demand is expected to rise by 50% in the next 25 years, only 25 new nuclear reactors are currently being built, with 76 more planned and a further 162 proposed, many of which are unlikely to be built. This compares with 429 reactors in operation today, many of which are already near the end of their useful lives and need replacing soon.

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Quote For The Day : Connolly On Pensions

With the continuing attacks on pensions and benefits in the UK, accompanied by the usual chorus of apologetics sounding off about 'welfare dependency' and 'demotivation', it is interesting to note that the ruling class and their apologists do not alter their position in a century. Nor should we. Massive gains may have been made by the working people of Europe and to a lesser extent other parts of the developed world, but they are always dependent on our willingness to fight to defend them. Likewise, workers in developing economies will have to fight in a determined and united fashion to gain even the most basic of the limited rights and welfare of workers in the developed world. With this in mind, read the words of James Connolly on the battle for decent pensions in his Workshop Talks of almost a century ago -

But the Socialist proposals, they say, would destroy the individual character of the worker. He would lean on the community, instead of upon his own efforts.

Yes: Giving evidence before the Old Age Pensions’ Committee in England, Sir John Dorrington, M.P., expressed the belief that the “provision of Old Age Pensions by the State, for instance, would do more harm than good. It was an objectionable principle, and would lead to improvidence.”

There now! You will always observe that it is some member of what an Irish revolutionist called “the canting, fed classes,” who is anxious that nothing should be done by the State to give the working class habits of “improvidence,” or to do us any “harm.” Dear, kind souls!

To do them justice they are most consistent. For both in public and private their efforts are most whole-heartedly bent in the same direction, viz., to prevent improvidence – ON OUR PART.

They lower our wages – to prevent improvidence; they increase our rent – to prevent improvidence, they periodically suspend us from our employment – to prevent improvidence, and as soon as we are worn out in their service they send us to a semi-convict establishment, known as the Workhouse, where we are scientifically starved to death – to prevent improvidence.

Old Age Pensions might do us harm. Ah, yes! And yet, come to think of it, I know quite a number of people who draw Old Age Pensions and it doesn’t do them a bit of harm. Strange, isn't it?

Then all the Royal Families have pensions, and they don't seem to do them any harm; royal babies, in fact, begin to draw pensions and milk from a bottle at the same time.

Afterwards they drop the milk, but they never drop the pension – nor the bottle.

Then all our judges get pensions, and are not corrupted thereby – at least not more than usual. In fact, all well-paid officials in governmental or municipal service get pensions, and there are no fears expressed that the receipt of the same may do them harm.

But the underpaid, overworked wage-slave. To give him a pension would ruin his moral fibre, weaken his stamina, debase his manhood, sap his integrity, corrupt his morals, check his prudence, emasculate his character, lower his aspirations, vitiate his resolves, destroy his self-reliance, annihilate his rectitude, corrode his virility – and – and – other things.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Save Our Blood Services

This is from the latest Health Campaigners Mailing from Keep Our NHS Public -

Save Our Blood Services

The National Blood Service (NBS) is currently engaged in a hotly disputed strategy of reconfiguration. Directors plan to close blood processing and testing labs at 10 local centres in favour of just three supercentres in Bristol, Manchester and Colindale (London). Hundreds of technical staff - about half the laboratory workforce - face redundancy.

Save Our Blood Services campaign group, based in Birmingham, is defending the NBS staff from the proposed cuts, and vociferously arguing that the strategy will lead to a dangerously reduced service.An ageing population means that transplants and the need for specialised blood products for chronic patients will rise. While staff could be trained in readiness for these new challenges their skills acquired over years, even decades, of service will be wasted, Save Our Blood Services argues.

NBS management justifies the reconfiguration strategy as a necessary means of making savings. The costs of blood products are on the increase, and the NBS is unwilling to charge hospitals more. (Unsurprisingly, they will not disclose how much taxpayers' money the NBS spends on external management consultancy agencies.) Short-sighted cost-cutting is the primary concern, it seems, rather than patients, hospitals, or the skilled and loyal workforce. The Financial Times was told about the strategy before staff were informed.

The official line is that services which need to be close to hospitals will stay there, like the issue blood banks. Staff believe otherwise. A patient died recently waiting to be rushed a 'washed' platelet from the local centre. 'Washing' is done by the processing lab - which is being centralised. Road congestion could add to delays to the smooth flow of products around the country in similar cases. There will be no northern centre east of the Pennines, and no centre for the west Midlands, so the unhindered movement of the blood products from the supercentres will be vital. Meanwhile, police figures back up staff concerns about jams on long south-west transport routes.

Managers claim that most of the job losses will be through natural wastage. However, with redundancy for existing staff who are unable to relocate to the new supercentres, and with the new centres to be run on harsh 24 hour shifts to cope with the massive blood requirements of the UK's health service, the working conditions of the reconfigured NBS are clearly being negatively affected.

Unsurprisingly no staff input to these plans has been accepted and industrial action is just around the corner. Neither has there been any consultation with the public despite blood being donated both by and for members of the public.

Staff are speaking to donors, patients and the public on campaign street stalls to tell them what the reconfiguration agenda really means. Leafleting, petitioning and demonstrations are getting the message out and making sure the NBS directors can't put their plans into operation without a fight. The more media attention and sustained angry pressure from the NBS workers' supporters the better. Morale is low but solidarity can help the staff carry on the struggle.

You can help the cause by writing letters to both local and national newspapers and to the NBS chief executive:

Martin Gorham
Chief Executive
National Blood Service
Oak House
Read's Crescent
WD24 4PH

The IWW has members in the National Blood Service who are very active in the campaign, here is their page on the dispute.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blogs on Sunday 01/07/07

Earlier this week the focus in British political blogs was very much on the new Labour leader and his first Cabinet. Jim at Daily (Maybe) suggested that we should not underestimate the political savvy of Brown and co.

The Quiet Road reflected on the comments of the outgoing Labour administration bigwig Lord Goldsmith.

Paul Kingsnorth took a look at the balance sheet of the Blair administration in his piece Goodbye Mr Tony.

Dave's Part had a piece on Brown's appointment of Sir Digby Jones (Jones has always struck me a cross between Ricky Gervais' David Brent character and rent-a-gob Jeremy Clarkson). Dave then posted a discussion piece on socialist ideas in the post-Thatcherite era.

Of course, events since midweek appear to have put the new Brown administration to a test, but perhaps not such a severe one as the fear-mongering media would suggest, as noted by Chicken Yoghurt.

Stuart Jeffery meanwhile, had a piece posted yesterday on the effect of Peak Oil scenarios on healthcare.

Finally this week, a big thank you to Tim at Green Left Infoasis for supporting the Simone Gordon campaign I blogged on yesterday.

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