Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disestablishment and secularism needed more than ever!

An interesting article on the Guardian Comment is Free site today from Terry Sanderson, long time Gay Times columnist and elected President of the National Secular Society in 2006. Terry focuses on the recent off-the-cuff comments of the Bishop of Carlisle who let slip that the leaders of the church have been in a prolonged conversation with the government about the church taking over the running of a range of services :

Dow revealed that the government had, for more than two years, "been in conversation with church leaders about the possibility of the church providing extensive welfare services, rather in the way that the church plays a major part in education". Part of this, apparently, is a 20-year contract for "Christian groups bidding to deliver dentistry".

Not only does the bishop envisage the church taking over welfare provision with the use of public money, he doesn't want that provision to be regulated. "Church projects of course would be audited, but not controlled. My opinion is that, recently, we have been building a society that is very low on trust and very high on inspection and control," said his reverence.

But we've trusted churches before to carry "faith-based welfare" provision without regulation, and we got the Magdalen laundries.


It seems like it is high time that those who are serious about a tolerant and progressive secular society in Britain stepped up their support for the likes of the National Secular Society and others campaigning for the disestablishment of the Church of England and the complete separation of Church and state.

It seems clear to me that some in government and ruling class circles are intent on moving to a situation of modern corporate feudalism - where, as in the previous feudalism services are the preserve of the church and religious charities and absolute power lies with the modern barons - the banks, transnational corporations and their political and media puppets.

One does not have to be a rampant atheist to feel angry at the government conspiring to bring the church back into a position of power over people's lives, nor to believe that it is perfectly possible to have a good and moral society where religion has no official or specially protected status.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

50th Anniversary of First Aldermaston Peace March

The peace movement of the 1980's - mobilising against the threat of tactical nuclear weapons and the insane idea of "limited" or "theatre" nuclear war in Europe - was part of my introduction to politics. The marches, rallies and demonstrations against the siting of Cruise, Pershing II and SS20 missiles in Europe were formative experiences of activism and public protest for me. CND - the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - was central to the movement in Britain, but started even earlier, in the 1950s with mobilisations against global nuclear testing and weapons development at Aldermaston.

Recently even the Tory journalist Matthew Parris had to recognise that CND and the broader peace movement played a crucial role in raising public awareness of the nuclear threat and created a more restricted environment for political and military figures who wished to take risks or act beligerently. The peace movement also was a key field in the early development of the New Left in Britain, and the arena in which Civil Disobedience and Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) were developed by the likes of the Committee of 100. In turn, the Committee was the subject of a popular Peace News Pamphlet published during the 1980's revival called "From Protest To Resistance" - a slogan taken up by many radicals at the time and used as the title of a song by 80's anarcho-punks Conflict.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the famous original Aldermaston marches, recalled in the original march organiser Peggy Duff's interesting autobiography, "Left Left Left".

The following is an invitation from CND to this year's 50th anniversary protest at Aldermaston on Easter Monday, 24th March at 12 noon.

We invite you to participate in a lively demonstration against the development of nuclear weapons at Aldermaston and to celebrate 50 years of anti-nuclear protest in Britain.

This Easter marks the 50th anniversary of the first march to the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston - the heart of Britain's nuclear weapons programme. We need you - and your friends, colleagues, communities, and networks - to surround the base and create a colourful, effective, and massive demonstration.

With parliament voting in March 2007 for a new fleet of nuclear armed submarines, and with the construction of facilities for a new generation of nuclear warheads already underway at Aldermaston, it's time to send a clear message to the government that 50 years is enough!

While celebrating five decades of sustained campaigning against nuclear weapons, the emphasis will be on embracing the future, pushing for disarmament and working together to build a broad movement that grows from strength to strength.

The event will be lively, with each gate at the site being linked to a different era - with appropriate decoration and entertainment - and is being organised by CND national and regional groups and people from the wider anti-nuclear, peace and anti-war movements. If you would like to get involved in organising for this event in your area, please get in touch.

Groups can come dressed as they want, could be in theme with the gates, or as weapons inspectors, or campaigners from the future, or as nuclear bombs, or flowers!

The possibilities are endless! The event will be organised using the ' Block' structure so that your group comes ready to take up as much space around the site as possible. We have a website for your 'Block' to add their details and how much space they can take up along the fence line.

For Example, Eastern Block, dressing as nuclear cowboys can take up 200 meters of fence line using 2 banners 100 people and a radioactive horse prop!

That's just an example.

We need to start mobilising now and get our coaches booked and the seats full! It will take 5,000 people to surround Aldermaston AWE. The developments at Aldermaston are well on their way, we need to move our campaigning to the next stage, build an even stronger movement and stop the development of new nuclear weapons. THE BOMB STOPS HERE!

Aldermaston 2008 is organised by CND

For more information email: or call 0845 3370282

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekly Links - 27/01/08


The hot news of the week on space related topics is the probable falling to earth of a US spy satellite reportedly the "size of a bus" in February or March.

Green Politics

Green Party of England and Wales MEP Caroline Lucas has contributed a piece to a book that was published a few days ago called "Do Good Lives Have To Cost The Earth?" the collection of essays is edited by Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and Joe Smith of the Open University.

Derek Wall is spreading the green message on the Socialist Unity Blog and this week posted a downbeat but realistic assessment of the US Presidential Election situation and the evolution of the Green challenge by Todd Chretien who has stood in California for the Senate as a Green candidate.


Interesting industrial stories on Labourstart this week include the possible end of the honeymoon period enjoyed by the new Australian Government as regards the unions, increasing friction between public sector unions and government in Germany, and Remploy staff in Liverpool voting for strike action.
One green union story is the exposure of the "green" hypocrisy of currently-job-exporting Cadburys.


A very good post over at Climate and Capitalism this week, where Ian Angus has posted the text of his keynote speech at “Smells Like Green Spirit,” a conference sponsored by the University of British Columbia Student Environment Centre, on January 19, 2008. The piece is entitled "How To Avoid Action On Climate Change" and though it deals with the Canadian government, the behaviour it describes is familiar on this side of the Atlantic as well.

Jack Ray lays into the odious Nick Cohen here over the latest red-baiting around the London Mayoral election. The Sunday Times returned to the attack on the Mayor this weekend, dragging in CND, and Andy at Socialist Unity Blog published CND's response.

Jim at The Daily (Maybe)reports this week on Peter Tatchell ambushing the limo of the Dictator of Pakistan, Musharraff; and on the more regrettable story that the Countryside Alliance won the Channel 4 Political Awards.

And they say on the recently returned News at Ten a cheery little look at the Black Death from Peter at Earthquake Cove.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation Accelerating

The following is an alarming story that was carried in Friday's Morning Star:

Sharp Rise in Amazon deforestation worries Brazil

The rate of Amazon deforestation rose sharply during the final five months of 2007 as land was cleared for soya and cattle, prompting a top-level emergency meeting by Brazilian government officials to deal with the problem yesterday.

Environment Minister Marina Silva and other ministers met President Ignacio Lula da Silva to discuss possible emergency measures after the report on deforestation was issued on Wednesday night.

Ms Silva's ministry estimates that as much as 2,700 square miles of rainforest was cleared from August to December, meaning that Brazil could lose 5,790 square miles of jungle by August if the rate continues.

That would represent a sharp increase from the 4,334 square miles that was cut down and burnt from August 2006 to July of last year.

Most of last year's destruction was concentrated in the three Amazon states of Mato Grosso, Para and Rondonia.

Mato Grosso is the centre of Brazil's soya production.

Jungle is typically cleared in the Amazon in order to provide pasture for cattle before soya farmers move in to cultivate their crops.

Greenpeace in Britain highlighted this issue back in 2006 when the Brazilian President visited the Queen. A New Statesman article back in the same year called Soya "The bean that threatens the Amazon"

Then last year, there was premature celebration that the rate of destruction had slowed. The renewed destruction comes as world food prices rise and demand for soya and beef rise. There is the danger of a vicious cycle where climate change reduces food supply, raising prices and putting more pressure on remaining "Carbon sinks" like the Amazon. Greenpeace have called on President Lula to make urgent structural reforms to protect the rainforest.

It seems like another classic case of free market economics being a major part of the problem...............

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Farewell to Tower Colliery

Tower Colliery in Hirwaun, Rhondda Cynon Taf has finally closed, bringing the history of deep mined coal in Wales to an end. Tower was an example for workers faced with management and government intransigence and fatalism. Green writer Molly Scott Cato wrote of Tower in her book Market Schmarket : Building The Post Capitalist Economy

Wales also has its own unique workers' cooperative which is a source of great pride to its local community: Tower Colliery, in the Cynon Valley near Hirwaun. It is the only worker-owned deep mined in the world and a rare sign of hope to come out of the destructive political battle over coal mining in the UK. Following closure of this modern and well-endowed pit as a result of politically motivated government policy, the miners organized to buy it themselves, 239 of them investing their £8,000 redundancy money to fund the buyout. Since 1995 they have managed the pit themselves with enthusiastic support from the local community. They have now operated with surpluses in each of the past 10 years. Tower is the largest deep mine operating in the South Wales coalfield, employing 300 men, 90 percent of whom are shareholders. In 2002 it was one of Wales' top 300 companies, with a £28 Million turnover, a surplus of £2.7 million and a 26.8 per cent return on capital. It also provides its employees with high-quality employment iin which people feel pride and for which they do not need to sacrifice autonomy or self respect.

The coal at Tower is now worked out, and tragically mining in Wales will now be largely of the particularly environmentally destructive open cast variety, still serving power stations that belch out greenhouse gases without the benefit of Carbon Capture technology. However, the unfortunately destructive nature of current mining should not blind us to the good example set by the Tower miners. They showed that even within the current rapacious neo-liberal market workers control and self management can be made to work. How much more would this be the case in a social and economic environment that was based upon these ideas, with elected bodies and authorities in support. In such a situation one suspects that environmental protection and sustainability might also be more to the fore if the principles of cooperation, mutual aid and interdependence were more important in social and economic life.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Buy That Commenter A Pint!

The Guardian CIF pages are hot with the sound of battle at the moment as the Borisite hordes invade all the comment threads on the London Mayoral election and the latest Channel 4 contrarian controversialist effort. All the usual right wing suspects are there and one, a soi-disant right-libertarian who goes by the name of Pike Bishop, or Pikey to CIF regulars, took the opportunity to launch one of his regular attacks on "totalitarian socialism". Whilst for Mr PB the right is a multi faceted thing with various positions, all the left are one homogenous mass of active or latent Stalinism.

Hence this bile:

Quote - FreemanMoxy : "hint for Pikey: "socialism" is a belief that the world should be run for human need"

Whose needs? Who decides? How will those needs be met? Socialism is a deak duck - incoherent and incapable. Didn't work, won't work, can't work. Evil philosophy of theft and slavery.

So hats off to another regular poster, "FreemanMoxy" who today took him to task over his simplistic rubbish and whose post gets today's Greenman's Occasional Prize for services to the libertarian left :

Freemanmoxy begins by addressing Pike Bishops rant about nobody deciding what is fair for him....

Who decides? Well certainly not me. And Not some rinky-dink faux socialist State/Dear Leader neither. That would be "presumptious", to say the least.

I know - how about the people themselves? Socialism doesn't *have* to be all about monolithic state governments, you know. That's a serious imagination failure.

As I tried to make clear, "socialism" is just a concept, which can be implemented in the "real world" in as many ways as capitalism itself has been implemented. It is not a one-size-fits-all template.

You fancy yourself as some sort of libertarian, so get this: What these "human needs" might be, and how to deal with them should be the preserve of decentralised, democratic communities. Not governments; not dictators - and not bosses.

Let the workers "own" their workplaces and let the residents "own" their communities, rather than being - as they are now - serfs and subjects. Then, they can decide how things will be done. Direct democracy. Social libertarianism coupled with economic mutualism. My kinda place.

People owning their own resources and controlling their own lives. Soz, Pikey, but I can't see where your notions of "theft" and "slavery" fit into that.

Now capitalism, with its "Keep Out" notices on previously common land, its unregulated "service charges" and soaring energy bills based on bugger all, plus its funneling of all our wealth into the hands of a few, seems to fit the "theft" template perfectly.

As for "slavery", yer average sweatshop worker doesn't have much time to cavort in "freem", and one look at a) corporate support for old-style fascism and b) their eagerness to make a buck from the current slide into CCTV/detention-without-trial/nanny-state repression rather gives the lie to *their* love for the liberty of yours and mine.

But hey, who cares? Let's all pay more and earn less, and in the meantime we can comfort ourselves by repeating "we are free, we can vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee; we have a wide-screen TeeVee."


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rebranded European Constitution Battle Commences

The Parliamentary battles over the ratification of the "Lisbon Treaty", the rebranded European Constitution, have begun in earnest. The Lib Dems have said that they do not support a referendum and have sought to present all who question the treaty as being in favour of UK withdrawal from Europe - arguing any referendum should be on that basis. So much for Lib Dem honesty and simplicity. The Lib Dems voted with the New Labour Government for the Treaty Bill to proceed to a second reading.

The following 19 Labour MPs stood up for Democracy and Accountability in the face of Government capitulation to the centralising neo-liberal project for Europe:
Michael Clapham, Jeremy Corbyn, John Cummings, Ian Davidson, David Drew, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Lindsay Hoyle, John McDonnell, David Marshall, Austin Mitchell, Dennis Skinner, Graham Stringer, David Taylor, Robert Wareing and Mike Wood.

The measures will now be debated line by line over the coming weeks. A bigger revolt is expected over an amendment on the subject of a referendum.

Meanwhile Trade Unions Against The European Constitution (TUAEUC) have inaugurated their new website that details the arguments against the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty. They set out their position clearly:

The renamed EU constitution will turn the EU into a highly undemocratic state and will fundamentally change the way we are governed and how laws are made.

The Treaty would establish an EU that has all the legal, constitutional, political and military features of a single state. It would put aside intergovernmental arrangements to create a new entity where member states are reduced to the status of regions or provinces.

Under the constitution, power is transferred from elected national governments to an un-elected European Commission in Brussels. It confirms the sole right of the Commission to initiate new laws and removes from member states the power to veto proposed legislation in more than 60 new policy areas.

As Sir Stephen Wall of the pro-Constitution group Britain in Europe recently confirmed: "The rules are not designed to allow a member state, which has been outvoted on a piece of legislation, to opt out from applying what would then be law"( Financial Times Jan 20 2005).

This should concern all European trade unionists, as it would deliver a fatal blow to any attempt to win progressive change in the law. You may be able to lobby an MP or parliament, but you don't stand much of a chance with the remote, unaccountable and unelected institutions in Brussels or MEPs who have no rights to table legislation.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

There May Be Trouble Ahead........

Well, the markets have been tumbling and the US Federal Reserve have dramatically slashed interest rates.

No prizes for guessing who will be lined up to pay the biggest price for the latest unfolding failures of neo-liberal capitalism, and who will seek to consolidate their power still further on the back of any crisis!

A left view of this from the Lenin's Tomb blog ends thus:

Recessions destroy capital, and many of the world's richest people and companies are panicking. However, from the point of view of the broader capitalist class, that destruction can be brilliantly creative. It can create opportunities for highly profitable redeployment after the smoke clears, and for the further consolidation of class power as the labour market is successfully disciplined. If the crisis is very deep, it can be system-threatening, but only if there is a movement ready with an alternative. As things stand, the global Left and the working class do not meet this crisis in an optimal condition to ensure that it results even in social-democratic reform, much less fundamental social transformation. And there is always the far right waiting in the wings. How bad can it be? Very bad.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekly Links - 20/01/2008

An eclectic mix this week.

A debate has raged on Comment Is Free after right wing loon David Cox posted an article suggesting that the Russians' active SETI (Search for extra terrestrial intelligence) is a threat to humanity.

Elsewhere on CIF reactionary philosopher John Gray lays into the Greens and suggests we are all (note how we are somehow a homogenous movement and uniform in our beliefs) no different to George Bush. Gray exposes himself as a Lovelock fan, but ignorant and simplistic on the topic he is discussing.

Earlier in the week Gordon Walker of Lancaster University covered the question I raised on my blog this week with regard to the siting of these putative new reactors.

A report on Indymedia of the anti-fascist meeting I blogged about on Friday.

Around the blogs, Jim is talking about Ethics, Derek is discussing biofuels, Louise reviews the new Coen brothers film on the Socialist Unity Blog, and Anton at Enemies of Reason has been looking at New Labour increasing inequality.

Cedar Lounge Revolution has a report on the Irish Greens vote on whether to take sides on the Lisbon Treaty vote (another rightward shift as far as I am concerned, with voters lobbied by unwanted intervention from the sold out, corrupted and decaying ghost of 1968, Cohn Bendit..... grrrr!)

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

PFI Leading To Rip-Offs - What A Surprise!

The National Audit Office have reported that PFI schemes are leading to massive variations in the amounts being charged to schools and hospitals financed under such schemes for minor repair work.

In one example the NAO found charges for installing plug sockets ranging from just over £30 to £302.30!

The benchmark figure suggested by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for installing an electrical socket is between £51 and £103.

This is of course all in addition to the fact that PFI schemes are usually a rip off for the public anyway, as the case is that if the money had been loaned in the public sector the work would be cheaper in the long term.

Here is the Unison union information page on PFI projects, and here is their "Positively Public" campaign.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Rock Against Racism 30th Anniversary

This year sees the 30th Anniversary of the Rock Against Racism Carnival that was a high point in the political and cultural fightback against fascism and racism in Britain in the 1970s. This period of struggle (1977-1981) was the topic of a recent book by Dave Renton.

The 30th anniversary of the carnival is being celebrated by a gig at Brixton Academy on Wednesday 30th April with Alabama 3, Misty in Roots and special guests.
On Friday 8th February there is the launch of the RAR Club Night at Brixton Jamm with The Others, The Thirst and The Mentalists.

This weekend there is an organising conference in Nottingham to oppose the growth of the BNP in the Midlands and their use of the area for their "Red White And Blue" Festival.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

UK Coastal Report Shows Major Flaw In Nuclear Plan

A report on the changes happening on Britain's coast and the likely effects of climate change has once again illuminated one of the flaws in the government's nuclear energy plans. The government approval for a new generation of reactors was officially announced last week - but the government have for a long time made it clear that they want the next wave of reactors to be sited at existing nuclear generating plants. Aside from fairly minor logistical concerns this appears to be largely for political reasons. (They gamble that resistance and unpopularity will be much less at existing facilities) In the UK this means largely coastal sites - some of them, like Dungeness, already requiring constant attention to ward off the encroaching seas.

The government sponsored Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership report, as reported by the BBC says "seas are becoming more violent, causing coastal erosion and a higher risk of flooding". Furthermore, "The increasing choppiness of coastal waters means that 17% of Britain's coastline is being eroded. England is feeling the impact most, with 30% of its coast affected, compared to 23% for Wales and 12% in Scotland."

"An increasing trend in extreme water levels has been observed," the report concludes, which is most likely to be caused by the rise in average sea level, and which brings an increased risk of flooding.

MCCIP expects rising sea levels and an increase in storm intensity to spread the extent of erosion in future.

Even in the short term this is likely to mean expensive and CO2 emitting activity is required to defend the power stations against the seas. As the sea levels rise (with the now wideley predicted melting, for example, of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets) the situation may become untenable - and remember the decommissioning and making safe of nuclear sites can take up to a century to achieve at the moment. The potential for extreme weather events and tidal surges presents an even more alarming scenario.

As I have said before, we have now gone beyond "business as usual" and even beyond the point of desperate measures (which is what the nuclear option is - as well as ineffective, expensive and dangerous). We must think of survival and giving those of our species who do survive te coming events a fighting chance. The nuclear option looks more and more like it will severely degrade those survival chances.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

European Greens Call For Release Of All Hostages And Political Prisoners In Colombia

Following the release of hostages in Colombia the European Green Party issued the following statement :

Release of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez must be followed by release of all hostages in Colombia

The EGP calls on the EU to press for a political solution to end conflict in Colombia and secure the release of all hostages and political prisoners

Commenting on the release yesterday of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez who had been held hostage by the FARC guerrilla, EGP Co-Spokesperson Ulrike Lunacek said: “We European Greens are delighted that FARC have finally released Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, more than three weeks after it was announced that they would be set free. We hope that Clara Rojas can soon be reunited with her son Emmanuel who was born in captivity and who Clara hasn’t seen since June 2005. However, this release must be the start of a process which will result in the speedy release of all hostages being held, including Ingrid Betancourt, the former Presidential candidate for the Colombian Green Party. We once again call on FARC to immediately release all hostages.”

EGP Co-Spokesperson Philippe Lamberts continued: “We would like to express our appreciation for the mediation efforts carried out by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba. We also call on EU representatives, in particular Javier Solana, the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner for External Relations, to urge the Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe to move ahead with plans to create a limited demilitarised zone where negotiations between the government and FARC can be held. The EGP has always argued that this conflict, which has caused so many deaths and brought so much suffering to the Colombian people, will only be ended through a humanitarian agreement and political solution .We hope that the Colombian government now realises that there can be no military solution to its conflict with FARC.”

NOTE: Ingrid Betancourt, the leader of the Colombian Green Party (Partido Verde-Oxigeno) and a former presidential candidate, was abducted alongside her campaign manager and running mate Clara Rojas by FARC in February 2002. . More information about Ingrid Betancourt, in several languages, can be found at Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo is a former Liberal Party Congresswoman.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekly Links - 13/01/08

First up this week, the energy debate has been high on the agenda with the British Government's nuclear announcement. After the article I linked in my Thursday blog, Peter Tatchell posted another piece on the Guardian Comment Is Free site about the renewable options. My prediction that the Labourite apologists and neo-liberal drones would try to blame the coming energy crisis on the Greens has come true already, with this ridiculous outburst from the increasingly puffed up and hysterical Nick Cohen. Yes there is a problem with middle class greenery, Nick - but left greens will take no lessons from someone who now spends his time sucking up to the neo-liberal and neo-conservative projects - no middle class beardies amongst Nick's new friends, mind, just bona-fide members of the ruling class and their oily apologists.

Various blogging reactions to the Peter Hain affair from Jack Ray, (Practically Insurgent), Louise at Socialist Unity Blog, and Septic Isle (Obsolete).
Dave Osler puts a different perspective on it by republishing a 1986 article by Hain from the days when he laughably (it is an even sicker joke today) called himself a "libertarian socialist".

Elsewhere this week the Anglo-Irish blog Organized Rage has two interesting stories - the first that Alliance For Green Socialism member Tony Greenstein has forced an apology out of revolting Blairite journalist David Aaronovitch (Kept watch on here). Secondly that CIA-defector, socialist and writer Philip Agee has passed away.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Greens Back Workers Against Birmingham City Council

The following is a news release from the Green Party of England and Wales :

Green Party commits total support to Birmingham City Council workers

Restructuring always means misery for workers

Public protest at Birmingham City Council offices - Saturday 12th January, Midday.

Green Principal Speaker Dr Derek Wall today led Green Party support for the 40,000 Birmingham City Council employees being dismissed and forced to re-apply for their jobs.

Despite overwhelming opposition from Trade Unions the City Council intend to make employees re-apply for their old positions, often on lower terms and worse conditions. The Council is also embarking on a massive programme of outsourcing many frontline services. Crucial public service posts like finance, HR & customer service points have already been outsourced to Capita, with more decisions planned.

Dr. Wall said:

'"I condemn Birmingham City Council's plans to dismiss and re-employ all 40,000 of their workers on new and presumably lower pay grades. Unison has the 100% support of the Green Party in opposing these measures and Birmingham Green Party is mobilising to support their protest. Privatising jobs is the essential message here and we need to prevent it occuring.

"It seems PFI has once again reared its ugly head.

"Flexible labour markets are defended in terms of cost gains and efficiency but they always mean pay cuts and insecurity. Restructuring always means misery for workers. Green politics is about social justice but Birmingham City Council are attempting to push down pay and reduce security for their workers. This most be resisted.

"I urge people who believe in fair workers' rights to attend the planned public demonstration outside Birmingham City Council offices on Saturday."

The following is from Birmingham City Council's Joint TUs:

What you can do!
* Send support & Branch Banners for the Mass Rally on Saturday 12th January 12-1.30, Victoria Square, Birmingham
* Circulate & encourage members to sign the petition available from Birmingham Unison
* Write to the leader of Birmingham City Council registering your concern about their proposals.

If you wish to receive further information about the campaign & dispute please remember to include your E-mail address in any communication.

Yours in solidarity
Caroline Johnson
Unison Assistant Branch Secretary on behalf of Birmingham City
Councils Joint Trade Union's (T&G, Amicus, Unison, GMB, UCATT)

Write to Birmingham UNISON Local Government Branch
c/o 3rd Floor Albany House
Hurst Street
B5 4BD
Tel: 0121 622 8700

You can write to the Leader of BCC, Cllr. Mike Whitby (Tory) at:
Birmingham City Council
Council House
Victoria Square
B1 1BB

His email address is

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Brown Govt. Greenlights New Nukes

So, it is now official, the Brown Government sort of, half unconvinced, believes in the nuclear "technical fix" to the Climate Crisis. I say sort of, because the whole announcement and the things that it means the government is going to do remain shrouded in spin and obfuscation. Hutton was on C4 News and was adamant that the piece in the White Paper that talked about Carbon Pricing did not mean they were going to rig the market for the nuclear industry. He wriggled like a fish on the hook when it was suggested the government were going to pick up the bill for cleaning up the mess and said the companies would have to build in the cost of decommissioning and waste management into their plans. Oh yeah? Hmmm

The whole announcement and the government's stance reeks of their being stuck in a mass of contradictions - their commitment to the free market coming up against their wish to be seen to be doing something about the coming energy crisis and their wish to be seen as "green" coming up against their instincts and previous practice of pushing costs into the future and living on the never-never. I would not be surprised if the private argument in the govt. is that if the nuclear industry cannot deliver then they, and/or the pesky greens, can be blamed for the energy crisis, and the big "gap" forecast for 2015-20. Then the government's nuclear pals can be given loads of extra cash to "solve the problem" if the public will wear it, or be quietly marginalised if they won't. It amounts to political gambling with our environmental and energy future in a most dishonest way.

Suffice it to say that the Brown Government is once again exposed as Janus faced - talking about reducing emissions and approving new runways, motorway expansions and the likely expensive and environmentally nasty "stop gap" measure of further gas and coal fired power stations. Then a return to nuclear when the public have been softened up by the effects (high fuel bills and energy shortages) of the government's own incompetence. All this avoids the real short term wins of energy efficiency and conservation and new renewables and the necessary massive investment to bring this about. If (when) the nuclear option has to be bailed out, it will siphon off the resources needed for further growth in renewables, CHP, Biomass etc.

Plenty of stuff on the net about this -

BBC Report here.

Peter Tatchell on "Gordon's Nuclear Con Trick"

Tony Juniper of Friends of The Earth comments.

John Sauven of Greenpeace's view here

Green Party of England and Wales view here.

Caroline Lucas MEP view here.

A Blogging response from -
Derek Wall

And last, but not least a relevant story from Socialist Unity Blog

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Support National Blood Service Workers - Protest This Thursday

There is an opportunity this Thursday in London to protest against the proposed National Blood Service cuts and support the workers involved.

The following is from the IWW who are campaigning strongly on the issue:

10 out of England's 13 blood processing centres are due to be shut if greedy NBS management get their way. The IWW has been campaigning throughout 2007 to prevent a dangerous plan of centralisation, along with local communities and the big unions in the NBS, particularly Unite and Unison. 600 jobs are due to be axed, blood will have to be transported further to get to hospitals, putting patients at risk, and our useless government seem happy to just let NHS bosses reap the benefits of this stupid "cost-saving" plan.

The campaigns around this plan have already forced NBS bosses to reconsider. Thursday will see the results of their review. We are calling people to show their support for NBS workers at this meeting:

NHS Blood and Transplant
Meeting of the Board of Directors

Thursday 10th January 2007
Start time: 9.00am

Venue: Royal College of Gynaecologists, front entrance.
27 Sussex Place, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RG


This is a critical meeting for the NBS staff and our future, as consultancy agency McKinsey & Co. will be reporting back their findings from their review of the centralisation strategy. We want a crowd of angry supporters to greet the director scum as they go in and make sure they are aware their plans are seriously unpopular.

Background information at

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Weekly Links - 06/01/2008

Various interesting pieces to link to this week.

On the Climate Change Front, Ian at Climate and Capitalism noted the report out this week that 2007 was Britain's second warmest year.

Peter Tatchell had an interesting article posted on his Guardian Comment Is Free Blog this week, on the subject of global water poverty - contrasting the expenditure required with the global arms budget.

On the subject of the Guardian, am I alone in thinking that this was one of the most patronising leading articles (particularly the concluding lines) that the liberal establishment organ have published in a long time? The Iowa events in the US Presidential race excited more comment from this side of the pond at the Socialist Unity Blog, and from Ireland at the Cedar Lounge Revolution.

In light of the fuss over the comments on the alleged poisoning danger from energy efficient lightbulbs, this piece from Green Party Principal speaker Derek Wall is relevant.

Jim announced the return of the blogging event known as the "Carnival of Socialism" in February on Daily (Maybe) this week, more info here.

Both SUB and Derek have had articles on Green second preference votes in the coming London Mayoral Election. The Green Mayoral candidate in May is Sian Berry.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Oliver Kamm Exposes His Thatcherism And Stupidity

It is unfortunately a rare occurence that one of the cheerleaders of the Anglo-American ruling class global project exposes what they really think about economics and domestic issues. One of these occasions has just come about with a startlingly stupid post by Oliver Kamm on Guardian CIF. Kamm, better known as one of the Atlanticist Hawks of the Eustonite/Harry's Place variety (kept amusing watch on here) wrote his article in response to the latest book of Oliver James on "Selfish Capitalism". James, a popular psychologist, blames increasing mental illness and stress related conditions in the Anglo-American/Turbo-capitalist economies on the particular strain of capitalist ideology which has become dominant there over the last 20-30 years. He has expounded this view in two recent books. This is not the place to assess James' ideas (which do seem to suffer from some over-simplification in parts), nor his seemingly rather naive suggested solution of "unselfish capitalism" that he - perhaps through rose tinted glasses - sees in Scandinavian and other continental countries.

However, the response of Kamm is very revealing. Kamm's attack is not primarily on detail or accuracy, but on the very fact that someone could fail to see what a veritable utopia we are living in, and how grateful we should be that Margaret Thatcher defeated "producer interests" (for which read workers and their unions!) Like his Neo-con friends Kamm airbrushes socialism and social democracy out of history along with worker's self organisation and suggests all the benefits of current British Society are the products of some ill defined capitalism "tempered" by concerned liberals like himself. Kamm approvingly quotes his partners in crime, the SDP-er turned Tory Daniel Finkelstein and rapidly rightward tracking ex-left Nick Cohen

Another interesting thing is the class interest here displayed. It is revealed in the comments, and by his wikipedia entry that, aside from his feeble attempts at journalism and political commentary Kamm works in the financial sector himself - the parasitic sector of the economy before which Thatcher, Blair and now Brown have prostrated themselves. You see, in Kamm-world, the views/interests of producers (i.e workers, manufacturing industry, even public service workers who help to service and reproduce the labour force) are now irrelevant, the only people governments should now listen to are people like Kamm and the giants that tower above him atop the corporate behemoths. (Like our latter day Moloch, Murdoch) Wealth is now created (in Kamm world)not by labour and production, but by exotic financial instruments and manipulation, by the operations of latter day snake-oil merchants and the predictive ability of latter day soothsayers.

Kamm's "argument" receives a well deserved lashing and demolition in the comments on the online version of his article - the loathing that people feel for him due to his imperialist apologetics drawing critics to consider his pathetic foray into the fields of economics and psychology and find him seriously wanting.

Kamm more regularly spouts, like Finkelstein, in Murdoch's Times. The mental universe of the Murdoch Empire must be somewhere he feels quite at home.

This is all a good reminder of the place at which New Labour have arrived - where amongst their few remaining friends and apologists are Times Columnists and hedge fund founders who think Thatcher did us all a great service by crushing working class organisation and morale and back the foreign policy of George W. Bush 100%.

The only way that people like Kamm can be described as "Left" is that they are the residue, the slime, that is left behind when everyone who has a shred of decency has left the pool of public supporters of the ruling clique and given up trying to defend its role as vassal of Neo-Con foreign policy and aggressive exporter of neo-liberal economics.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Defend Council Housing Prepare For Lobby

Defend Council Housing are preparing for a major lobby of Parliament on 22nd January where they will be seeking support for an amendment to the Government's current Housing Bill to allow councils the "fourth option" - building social housing to meet need and improving current housing stock. With the credit crunch and a teetering economy this becomes all the more pressing.

More information here.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Equal Pay Fiasco Reveals Choice For Workers

The ongoing process around the implementation of “equal pay for work of equal value” in local government in this part of the world is continuing to cause all sorts of unforeseen problems. Various groups of workers are very disgruntled about the situation, which in many cases around the country is leading to disastrous pay cuts for some and substantial rises for others. What was hailed by management, unions and government as something leading to more equality and as a good example of “partnership unionism” in action is leading to division and anguish on the ground.

In my local area for example, there have been mass resignations from local government Union Unison as low paid women white collar staff face pay cuts that in many cases will mean they cannot afford to stay in their jobs. There is a wave of anger against what is seen as a stitch up between the local authority and the Unions (chiefly Unison and GMB – both Labour Party affiliated and vulnerable to the accusation of yellow unionism when facing Labour local authorities and a Labour government.) I speak as a Unison member myself, albeit not employed in local government at the moment.

This all seems to be a somewhat inevitable result of the established social democratic TUC affiliated unions’ stance and approach. Instead of militant defence of all workers’ interests, (supporting each group of female workers to fight against differentials that could be argued to be gender based and leaving the employers to sort out the financial aspects and take the heat for any negative consequences), the main local government unions have fully cooperated with the process, waving their commitment to “equality” and “feminism” as ideological justification. The unions have gone along with typical management-consultants-style job evaluation exercises and a legalistic approach. Hence, when the Councils say that they are proposing pay cuts as part of the process, and possible job losses, and when the government simply will not pay up, but only allows councils more borrowing to get themselves in more difficulty (and incidentally continue to aid the private sector to get its claws into local government services) the Labour-affiliated unions are tied in and implicated - and left exposed to face the wrath of their members.

With many workers in local government this has been the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is sickening enough to get the likes of “Unison Labour Link” propaganda delivered through your door (unasked for even when you are not a subscriber to the affiliated political fund) at election time - when you face cuts, privatisation and attacks on conditions from administrations led by the very same Labour Party. To then have your union stitch up a deal that leads to victimisation (ironically in some cases of low paid women workers, who we were told that this was all about), division and further cuts leaves many workers in local government angrily demonstrating against their own unions as well as the employers.

It is now time for a return to the kind of workers organisation in the public sector and elsewhere that fights for the interests of all its members, does not depend on legalistic strategies and does not tug the forelock to management or fund their political organisations. It is the time for rank and file organisation in the existing TUs and for building up networks and unions through the IWW (who allow dual card membership to avoid isolation of activists in workplaces organised by TUC unions). We must get together within the existing unions where necessary and outside them where possible. This kind of militant industrial unionism is fortunately also the type of organisation best suited to organise the now largely unorganised part time, casual, migrant and hyper-exploited sectors of the workforce. It was amongst these sections of workers that the original IWW in the USA spread and developed in the days before the cataclysmic wars of the last century.

2008 should see redoubled efforts from syndicalists, industrial unionists and rank and file activists to get their message across and help a new generation of workplace militants organise in Britain. The sell outs and stitch ups by the leaderships of the bureaucratic unions in their last citadels of mass membership (the public sector) should act as a rallying cry for a different and more effective form of organisation across sectors the labourist unions either milk or ignore.

The appeal of radical industrial unionism is growing on a global scale as we see the conditions that existed in America and Europe during the early days of the movement reproduced worldwide by neo-liberal globalisation. It is perhaps significant and appropriate therefore, that IWW members have just voted to hold their first main assembly outside of North America – in London. Hopefully this will provide an opportunity for contact between delegates from many of the exciting new and renewed syndicalist and industrial unionist groupings from around the world.

Internationally society and economies are changing rapidly, and tried and trusted methods and approaches to struggle have renewed relevance in the face of the global challenges faced by working people. In 2008 as before, but with the added urgency of threats from climate change and war, we have a world to win and nothing to lose but our chains.

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