Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Bhopal Marchers Have Reached Delhi

I blogged back in February about the struggle of the survivors, relatives and supporters of victims of the Bhopal Disaster (December 1984) and their renewed march on Delhi after the Indian government failed to live up to previous pledges. The marchers have now reached Delhi. Here is the press release issued at the end of the arduous protest march:

Bhopal Survivors Arrive on Foot to Remind PM of Unkept Promises

28 MARCH, 2008. NEW DELHI – Marking two years since their last padayatra from Bhopal to Delhi, 50 people, including survivors of the 1984 gas tragedy, their children, people exposed to contaminated drinking water and their suupporters, today concluded their second 800 km march by walking from Nizamuddin park to Jantar Mantar. "We were forced to undertake this grueling walk because the PM failed to keep his word. This time, we are not going back until we get a public declaration from him that he will deliver on his promise," said Hazra Bee, a survivor and one of the padayatris.

The PMO has rejected a request for an appointment with the PM, and two further requests have not elicited a reply. However,international support for the survivors is pouring in. More than 1300 faxes from 18 countries have already reached the PMO, prompting officials there to threaten survivors with legal action. Yesterday, members of the Scottish parliament marched to the Indian embassy in Edinburgh, even as other Bhopal supporters in London went to the Indian embassy there to submit a memorandum urging the Prime Minister to meet the Bhopalis' demands.

On April 16, 2006, the Prime Minister ended a 21 day strike, including a 6-day hunger strike by the Bhopalis, by promising to meet the demands of the survivors. The survivors had demanded an empowered Commission to implement social, medical and economic rehabilitation schemes for survivors and their children, in addition to cleaning up Union Carbide's toxic wastes, providing clean water to water-affected communities, and taking legal action against Dow Chemical and Union Carbide. However, the PM suggested a Coordinating Committee to oversee implementation of rehabilitation schemes and environmental remediation.

Over the last two years, the Coordination Committee has had three meetings and accomplished nothing. More than 25,000 people continue to consume poison-tainted groundwater in the absence of reliable and good quality water supply. More than 5000 tons of toxic wastes remain buried and spread in and around the factory site, and no efforts have been taken to contain them or export them to the US for final disposal. No rehabilitation schemes have been implemented.

Government inaction on rehabilitation and environmental remediation has placed Bhopalis at the receiving end of two disasters – the 1984 gas leak and the ongoing water contamination -- both with pronounced effects on children and future generations. Despite a 1991 Supreme Court order directing the Government to extend insurance benefits to 100,000 gas-affected children, not one child has been covered, leading to a spurt in destitution among families with sick children. In contamination-affected communities, congenital deformities among newborns is a rising trend.

The future generations are in danger. That, say Bhopal survivors, is why any Commission that is set up has to execute its schemes over at least 30 years. The Bhopalis estimate that the Government needs to invest in a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore to provide an annual budget of Rs. 100 crores for the Commission throughout its term.

In contrast to the inaction on Bhopal, the Government has, in the last two years, openly advanced the cause of Dow Chemical and Union Carbide. Information unearthed from the PMO through RTI indicates that ambassador Ronen Sen, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Ratan Tata, P. Chidambaram and Kamalnath have all written letters supporting Dow Chemical. In response, the Cabinet Secretary has suggested exonerating Dow Chemical keeping in mind the scope of investments by Dow and other US companies in India.

In less than a decade, Dow Chemical has chalked up an impressive list of violations of law and due process. In February 2007, Dow caught for paying more than Rs. 80 lakhs in bribes to Indian agriculture ministry officials to register three toxic pesticides. In 2005, Indian Oil revoked a technology deal with Dow after it found out that Dow was trying to sell Union Carbide's technology by lying that it was its own. Recently, Dow has managed to convince Government of India to approve the sale of Union Carbide's technology to Reliance Industries despite the fact that a 1992 court order directs the Government to confiscate all Union Carbide's assets in India.

"This is a repeat of the betrayal of 1989 where the Government colluded with Union Carbide to shortchange the people of Bhopal on the compensation settlement," said Satinath Sarangi, another padayatri and a long-time Bhopal activist from Bhopal Group for Information and Action. "23,000 people have died, and the collusion still continues. We're determined to break this corporate-Government nexus that plays havoc with people's lives."

A daily account of the 2008 march can be found here.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Something Nasty Stirs In English Politics....

There is a whiff of something unpleasant coming from a clutch of articles and op-ed pieces from people at some stage seen as influential in the two main parties in Britain this week. I say English politics as any fool knows that "British Nationalism" is almost always "English Nationalism" and frequently "White Anglo Saxon Protestant English Nationalism". I doubt whether the disturbing drift in the views of some of the political writers I am about to name will have much echo in Scotland, for example.

Tory Adviser and "thinker" David Selbourne has an odd article, given front page prominence in the main Conservative leaning magazine, The Spectator, entitled We Are Living In A State Of Emergency: And We Are Getting Angrier. At first glance the piece appears a typical, perennial Mail/Express Why-Oh-Why essay on the Country going to the dogs, but on closer inspection appears to go further down a dangerous path than writers like Phillips, Littlejohn, Glover et al have done of late. The editors of the Tory organ are obviously aware of the controversial nature of Selbourne's opinions and cover their backs by prominently calling for comment in the print edition.

Selbourne's analysis of the current malaise of Western societies, and in particular liberal democracies pursuing neo-liberal economic policies and social engineering, is certainly forthright and persuasive :

The ills of Western democracies are afflicting the most liberal societies known to history. Among other things, Britain suffers from growing inequality, housing shortage, a falling quality of health provision, rising rates of many types of crime, a failing pedagogy, agricultural impoverishment and a huge scale of ‘consumer debt’. Yet, for many, we are not free enough, being allegedly threatened by encroachments upon our personal liberties, coddled by a ‘nanny state’ and menaced by Orwellian surveillance.

However, his final call, after lambasting the main British political parties, and by implication, much of the population is for some kind of strong man, the "smack of firm government", ID cards, nationalistic corporatism etc - something that sounds like a caricature of the path that New Labour are already leading us down -

‘Up and be doing!’, said the great Protector in 1643, speaking directly to us now; ‘we must act lively, do it without distraction, neglect no means’; and, going to the heart of today’s confusions also, ‘weak counsels and weak actings undo all’.

Moreover, as the ‘free society’ disintegrates, it is a progressive not a reactionary stance to favour the restoration of the idea of nation, the values and duties of citizenship, the safeguarding of the public domain from the privateer, the elevation of the ethic of public service over private interest and, yes, ID cards too. To hold otherwise is to invite, or incite, the justly angered to find their own ways to a new political settlement in Britain — or to leave it in ever greater droves.

It is no wonder that the orthodox Thatcherites of the Spectator blanched at the thought of his article being seen as an editorial view and saw fit to invite comment on the controversial piece. Selbourne's attachment to democracy and civil liberties seems to have evaporated (if it was ever there) at the same time as his Islamophobia grew to obsessive proportions.

A slightly more liberal and watered down version of Selbourne's appeal for a powerful state appears in Matthew Parris' Times article, although he does opine that

People need governing. People need governments, strong governments. People need certainty. People need consistency. People need constraining, inspiring, harnessing and directing, and they need it done with the clarity and command that central government alone can offer.

Nevertheless, he hedges round his new found faith in authoritarian solutions with the usual Parris one nation Tory liberalism. Not so Selbourne, who seems to take pleasure in repeatedly quoting Britain's one time Military Dictator, Oliver Cromwell, implying that someone of Cromwell's "calibre" is what is required. Selbourne, unlike Parris, approaches from a new-found radical rejection of what he calls the "corner shop" mentality of the Tory party and a barely concealed urge for political and religious conflict (Selbourne has form - Muslims play the scapegoat role that Catholics played for his revolutionary hero.) It is all too much for some rightists still in thrall to those who Parris names as his fallen and now historically irrelevant "household gods" - Hayek, Sherman and Joseph - they lambast the heretic Selbourne in the comments, as do the Royalists enraged by his elevation of the regicide and the Protestant bigots upset that he does not locate the source of all the ills he describes in the decline of subscription to their superstitions and bigotry. (Of course, Selbourne has his own superstitions and bigotries) At least one commenter makes the observation that Selbourne's advocacy of ID cards, culture wars and strong state are at least a little reminiscent of a former little bald dictator of the country in which Selbourne now apparently lives.

Nevertheless, all this rightist sectariana and backbiting aside, the intersecting opinions of Parris and Selbourne are still of importance as we have just witnessed the ruling party and the establishment fawning to the rightist French President - a President who combines envy of vicious "anglo-saxon" neo-liberal economic and social policies with residual statism and that figleaf of republicanism and laicite that is used in France and the Low Countries to justify anti-muslim bigotry and the division, where possible, of the working class along racial and religious lines. It seems that neo-liberal economics, fake-enlightenment cultural supremacism and authoritarian statist politics are coming together more explicitly than previously. It is ironic that Selbourne sees himself as the ignored prophet and rebel, when the spokespeople of the establishment "left" echo his outlook.

Look no further than right-labourite witchhunter in chief Martin Bright at the New Statesman - equivalent of the Spectator for the ruling Labour Party. The magazine itself backs off from Bright's stance of recent weeks which seemed to suggest that a defeat for Ken Livingstone in London would be a good thing - this week it headlines a demolition job on the Tory Candidate Boris Johnson. However, Bright is still in there, digging his claws into his former leftist comrades like a latter-day Paul Johnson. He opines about the futile horribleness of 1968 and the anti-war movement in 2003, (much in line with the French President's views)and without a blush quotes Tariq Ali as "negative and gloomy" where Ali is in actual fact attacking people very much like Bright and his new-labourite pals. Bright meanwhile can only negatively and gloomily reflect on the fact that both 1968 and "Third Way/Liberal Interventionist" idealism both came to grief.

Now, before any misconceptions take hold, I, and this blog, resolutely defend secularism, republicanism and progress. Whilst seeing a role for localisation and mutualism - ideally seeking workers' control - I can see that in the short term public ownership of utilities and transport would be a step forward, and national and international planning would play a major part in any sustainable ecosocialist strategy. This makes opposition to the Selbournes, the Brights, the Parrises (and those who would fellow travel with them on the right of the European Green movement) even more important. The superficial attraction of some of Selbourne's analysis (e.g. his condemnation of the sell off of council housing) and the mild social democratic sound of some of what Parris has to say, the appeal to enlightenment secularism of Bright should not blind us to the fact that they are at best apologists for the authoritarian trajectory of the ruling class, and in Selbourne's case advocates of a kind of anti-democratic, xenophobic and militaristic nationalism that comes close to the "F" word that we should not overuse to avoid accusations of exaggeration and hyperbole.

The ruling class of Europe in "left" and "right" manifestations - Brown and Sarkozy - move ever closer to the nuclear-powered-corporatist-national-security state, meanwhile some of those sanctioned by the establishment media as "controversial" critics offer as alternatives a return to the 1930s or the 1650s!

The time for a real oppositional movement with a developed understanding of the crises facing modern "capitalist civilization" and the perspective of bonding together the social forces that can move us forward to the next stage is clearly upon us. The despairing views of Selbourne and Bright are evidence of the political and social decay that is fast setting in. They must be countered by a positive, internationalist and inclusive movement committed to democracy, ecosocialism and progress.

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Green Left to host discussion at left conference on globalisation

Green Left are to host one of the headline discussions at the left conference on globalisation put together by the Morning Star newspaper and sponsored by unions FBU, UCATT, Unite, NUM and others.

Derek Wall is to address the meeting on Climate Change - Ecosocialist Alternatives.

Other items on the agenda of the conference are "Fighting Neoliberalism in the Americas", "Migrant Labour: Good, bad or inevitable?", and "Global Capital and Trade Union Rights"

The conference is scheduled for Saturday 19th April 2008 at Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1 from 9.30am to 4pm. Registration fee is £10 waged, £5 unwaged. Contact address is Morning Star Conference, William Rust House, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS. Cheques payable to PPPS.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Selected News from Indymedia Newswire

Various actions, emergency demos and activism posted up on the UK Indymedia newswire over the last few days.

First an emergency demo in London today for Mumia Abu-Jamal here.

Secondly the fight for freedom of assembly goes on with a demo planned for 5th April.

International Rising Tide Network have demos on climate change issues scheduled for 1st April.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Latest Ice Shelf News Underlines Climate Change Campaign Urgency

The latest news regarding the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica- detailed here, here and here - gives added urgency to the campaign for meaningful action on climate change. With this in mind it is good to see that the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Network continues its' work to alert trade unionists to the dangers and the role they can play in mobilising for action. The following is a model motion from the Campaign Against Climate Change for union meetings, supporting the Campaign and the demonstration against Airport Expansion planned for 31st May -

Model Motion in support of the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC)

This meeting notes:

1) That the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is up one third on that of pre-industrial times: a level higher than it has been for at least 400 000 years.

2) The evidence that human activity is changing the climate is now overwhelming. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that future greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase average global temperatures by between 2 C and 6.5 C this century.

3) That continued global warming threatens to undermine or even reverse human Progress, as flooding, drought, disease and ecological disruption increasingly affects the world's population. The IPCC notes that the poorest countries will be by far the worst affected by climate change. Ultimately ‘run-away’ climate change threatens a global catastrophe of unimaginable scale.

4) The contradiction between the Government’s stated aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and its practice of expanding roads and airports.

5) The devastating impact a proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport would have on local communities as a consequence of increases in air and noise pollution, and on climate change as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

This meeting therefore demands that the UK government immediately scraps all plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

This meeting agrees to:

1) Affiliate to the Campaign against Climate Change (Affiliation fees: National Unions £250 per annum; Districts and Regions £100 per annum; local branches £25 per annum), and help its work with a further donation of £... (cheques payable to Campaign against Climate Change should be sent to Campaign against Climate Change , Top Floor, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX)

2) Send a delegation and banner to the National Demonstration against the third runway at Heathrow at 12 noon on Saturday 31st May 2008.

Aims and Objectives Statement of the Campaign against Climate Change

The Campaign against Climate Change exists to push for the urgent and radical action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate. The destabilisation of global climate has become the very greatest threat to our planet and everyone on it - with the possible exception only of all-out war with modern weapons of mass-destruction. We do not know how much irreversible damage we have done already but we know that if we do not act now the effects will be many times more devastating still.

1/ The CCC exists to secure the action we need - at a local, national and, above all, international level - to minimise harmful climate change and the devastating impacts it will have. To that end the CCC seeks to raise awareness about the gravity and urgency of the threat from climate change and to influence those with the greatest power to take effective action to do so with the utmost speed and resolution. Where ignorance, short term greed and vested interests stand in the way of the action that is urgently needed, the CCC exists to fight against all of these things.

2/ In particular the CCC brings people together to create a mass movement to push for our goals, including street demonstrations & other approaches.

3/ The CCC seeks a global solution to a global problem
and aims to push for an international emissions reductions treaty that is both effective in preventing the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate and equitable in the means of so doing. To be effective such a treaty needs to secure such reductions in the global total of greenhouse gas emissions as are deemed by the broad consensus of qualified scientific opinion to be necessary to prevent harmful climate change. The CCC aims to campaign against those with the greatest responsibility for preventing or delaying the progress we urgently need towards an international climate treaty.

4/ The CCC recognises that the issue of the destabilisation of global climate has enormous implications in terms of social justice and global inequality. The damage to the earth's atmosphere has so far been done mainly by the rich nations but it is the poorest who will suffer the greatest and most immediately. The CCC recognises that any solution to the problem must be as fair as possible, incorporating principles of social justice and not exacerbating global and local inequalities

5/ The CCC aims to bring together as many people as possible who support our broad aims of pushing for urgent action on climate and reducing global emissions. The CCC does not therefore campaign on the important but more detailed questions of how best to achieve these emission reductions and recognises that supporters will have different and deeply held views on these issues.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Aldermaston Demo Pics and Reports

As promised on Monday here are some pics and reports from the 50th Anniversary CND demos at Aldermaston.

Here are some pics and a report from the East Midlands contingent, posted on Indymedia.

More pictures here.

From the MSM, here is the report from the Independent, and here from the Guardian.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekly Links - 24/03/2008

Today is the anti-nuclear demonstration at Aldermaston marking 50 years of CND (The Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament.) I will hopefully be able to post some links to reports later in the week. First here are some photographs from the 15th March anti-war demo in London posted on the Green Party Trade Union Group blog. The blog also advertises the South East London Health Rally planned for Saturday 29th March.

Around the blogs this week A Very Public Sociologist comments on the turmoil within the Labour Party in Scotland, and Jim at The Quiet Road started a discussion on CO2 emissions per barrel of various oil products here, and continued it with corrections to some dubious oil company data here.

Chicken Yoghurt and Enemies of Reason blogs have posts about the human-animal embryo debate.

Smiffy has a post on Cedar Lounge Revolution blog dissecting the latest war apologetics of Christopher Hitchens which found their way to the Irish Times after being published in Slate (Warning for those of a nervous disposition - it starts with a truly stomach churning pic of Hitchens in the shower!) Dave Osler this week looked at the Iraq War anniversary.

Louise posted on the "counter terrorism" bill at the Socialist Unity blog this week, while Charlie Marks at Rebellion Sucks commented on the failure of the Police to prosecute the Tory MP at the centre of a nepotistic corruption scandal.

Liam MacUaid reports on the experience of attending a local Catholic Mass over Easter, while Jack Ray comments on the current debate around religion, race and politics in the US started by the words of Barack Obama's associate Reverend Wright. Green Left Infoasis has comment on similar topics from Cynthia McKinney.

Lastly, Derek Wall at Another Green World over the weekend blogged on food miles and the despicable behaviour of Foreign Office Minister and Columbian regime apologist Kim Howells.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Defend Adult Education in Leicester

The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) are fighting to defend their members, other workers and service users in Leicester, where the local adult education college, LAEC, is under attack.

Here is a message from the IWW in Leicester -

The Adult Education College on Wellington Street in Leicester is under serious attack. It's a sorry tale of privatisation and the destruction of adult education by stealth. Staff have been treated incredibly badly by management, with no consultation or even basic information, and with some staff being told to pack up and move at a moment's notice. Jobs are under threat.

The LAEC job branch of the IWW's education workers' union is spearheading the defence of the college, together with Leicester IWW, midlands region IWW and UCU members at the college. We call on all members of the public, users and students at the college, staff, all unions and community organisations to get involved with the campaign.

First step, sign the petition at

Next step, get involved in the campaign, come to the public meeting, back the workers at LAEC and save the college from further destruction and privatisation. Please forward this to any other lists, websites, newsgroups, etc. Spread the message.

We can win this. The IWW spearheaded the campaign to save Crichton campus and we won that one. We can do it again!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Rob Blow
IWW Midlands Regional Organiser

Here is the text of a leaflet that has been produced -


You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that something rotten is going on at Leicester Adult Education College. With job losses; staff being re-located; skilled people disappearing; restructuring, with staff having to do more than one job; people who’ve left not being replaced… it all adds up to one thing - Leicester Adult Education College is being set up to fail.

The Incredible Shrinking College
We’ve seen courses being streamlined, other courses disappearing. We’ve already seen the closure and privatisation of the Creative Writing School. The Art Department is visibly shrinking with the loss of one of its three rooms, and now the loss of yet another.

Saatchi & Saatchi, it isn’t!
Courses are not being advertised well; the website was down for ages and has only recently been working again; students were receiving prospectuses late; people have been turned away from art courses when spaces were available; removal of the art display in reception, with bizarre reasons for this given… the list goes on.

It’s good to talk
Management don’t seem to be particularly hot on their communication skills. But it’s obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that the College is being wound down and made ready for closure - either that, or we’re witnessing wholesale vandalism on the part of management. But has management actually taken the trouble to inform anyone of what’s happening and why? The answer is a resounding no!

As for public accountability…
Leicester Adult Education College is a public institution and a public building, belonging to Leicester City Council. In other words, it’s partly financed by your Council Tax payments. Because of this, you’d expect a degree of public accountability.

So, just who’s been informed of what’s happening at the college? Has there been any public consultation? No. Have staff been consulted? No. Have those trade unions party to recognition agreements been consulted? No. Have students and college users been consulted? No. In fact, student reps are ignored. Are local councillors aware of what’s happening? If they are, they’ve not said anything. So much for accountability then.

So what’s it all about?
As management are so reluctant to inform anybody about what the hell they’re up to, we can only speculate.

· Why all the secrecy? If it’s for the public good, why isn’t management being more transparent with their plans? Why all the ducking and diving?

· Could it be that the college premises on Wellington Street is worth a load of money to the council, who just want to discretely sell it off with the minimum of public fuss?

· Is adult education being privatised? “Partnership” is being touted as the way forward with other non-adult education agencies now being moved into Wellington Street. We suspect this may be quite a lucrative venture for the council.

· What’s actually going to happen with the building? Will there be any actual adult education courses or will they all be shifted elsewhere?

Talking of being shifted elsewhere, art courses are being relocated to Holy Cross church with a view to eventually moving them to New Walk Museum. This move presents a serious health and safety risk, as the tutors are women on their own who will be working in a building where anybody can just wander in. No security will be provided. No first aider will be present either. Also, there’ll be no disability access. While current learners have been accommodated, it will mean discrimination against new learners, who will have to be turned away.

We have no argument with the new “partners” who are taking over the space, but we realise they are not involved in adult education. Moreover, as they are offering advice services and used to operate from a unit in the shires, they can go anywhere and don't actually need to be in a college, nor do they need as much space.

Stop the rot!
Whatever the reasons for all these changes, it’s clear to us that Leicester Adult Education College is being closed on the quiet. It is our intention to put a stop to this.

The IWW union represents various workers at Leicester Adult Education College, who all say enough is enough. This leaflet is the first step in organising a public campaign to fight the closure of the college. We already have the support of other IWW education branches, the Leicestershire general branch and the wider IWW.

Our union has real experience in saving colleges from closure. The IWW recently spearheaded the fight against the closure of the Crichton Campus in Dumfries… and we won!

We call upon members of other trade unions, students and the general public to back us in saving jobs and saving the college. So get involved, join the campaign!


Finally on 17 March, staff receive an email from Head of Adult Skills and Learning, Chris Minter, who is “pleased to announce” certain details of the privatisation of Leicester Adult Education College.

Minter tells us that this is “an exciting new opportunity to diversify the use of the college's facilities and income streams and will provide an excellent resource that fits well with our strategic priorities around employability.” In this new multi-agency initiative, Highcross Development Employment Hub is IN, Art and Design is OUT! Art and Design staff will be moved to inappropriate accommodation, some of these workers may well lose their jobs. So, non-vocational education gets the boot, while the kind of jobs training and advice which can be placed literally anywhere in the city gets prime position at the college.

We repeat, there has been zero consultation on this, and Minter’s email is an announcement of a done deal. In fact, the first some staff heard about this was when they were given two days notice to pack up their things for a move to Holy Cross. Students and college users have still not been informed of these plans either.

Save Leicester Adult Education College!
Stop the privatisation of adult education and save jobs!
7.00pm on Wednesday 9th April
at Leicester Secular Hall
75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1
(opposite Sainsbury’s)

Organised jointly by Industrial Workers of the World LAEC job branch 620, Leicester general members’ branch of the IWW, UCU members and other staff at LAEC.

Contact: IWW, Unit 107, 40 Halford Street, Leicester LE1 1TQ. Tel: 07981 433 637
Email: Website:


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Survivors to return to TV

I have in the past referred to Terry Nation's memorable 1970s apocalyptic drama series Survivors as raising interesting questions and even playing a role in the growth of the green movement in Britain.

After much talk since the success of the new version of Doctor Who back in 2006, it seems that a new version of the drama is set to arrive on our screens. The new version is to be written by Adrian Hodges, responsible for bringing two of Philip Pullman's gothic dramas to life and the promising, but perhaps ultimately disappointing Primeval on ITV.

This follows the success of the CBS post-apocalyptic drama Jericho, set in small town America in the aftermath of a series of nuclear explosions in the USA. (N.B. - I have just had news that CBS have today again cancelled further episodes of Jericho)

The new Survivors has been discussed on a variety of blogs, forums and sites over the last 6 months or so. It is actually going to be a dramatisation of Terry Nation's novel rather than a remake of the three original series.

Here and here are fan sites of the original Survivors with some nice pics and links. Here is the TV Gold discussion forum for Survivors.

Finally, there is a blog on the progress of the new Survivors, which linked my own humble ruminations of last year.

Whilst we are on the subject of survival and resilience, perhaps it is not too much of a leap to link to the increasingly popular ideas of Transition Towns.

A Transition Initiative is a community that is unleashing its own latent collective genius to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and to discover and implement ways to address this BIG question:

"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain
itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate
the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to
mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"

The resulting coordinated range of projects across all these areas of life leads to a collectively designed energy descent pathway.

The community also recognises two crucial points:

* that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy upslope, and that there's no reason for us not to do the same on the downslope
* if we collectively plan and act early enough there's every likelihood that we can create a way of living that's significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.

Food for thought....

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unity against the Right in London

Lots of comment across the British blogosphere and elsewhere about the developments in the London Mayoral campaign this week. Sian Berry, the Green Candidate and Ken Livingstone, the "maverick" Labour Party encumbent have both asked that their voters second preference the other left of centre candidate. To me this seems an admirable display of the kind of left unity that this blog promotes. It in no way suggests that the Greens are uncritical of Mayor Livingstone, still less that they are uncritical of the current trajectory and policies of his Party which is neo-liberal and imperialist. Sian Berry said as much in her statement. What it does say is that the Green candidate and Party members in London are aware that if she is not elected, there are significant differences between the two main contenders, Livingstone and Johnson, that mean Greens cannot stay neutral if their preferred candidate is knocked out in the first round. It also puts down a marker that the Green Party should be the first choice for previous Labour voters who are dissatisfied with their former party and want to send a strong message without giving succour to the neo-liberal Lib Dems and reactionary Tories. The London election in May presents a serious challenge to the left. If we are not careful we will see the reactionary and most likely incompetent Johnson as mayor with an assembly containing members of the far-right BNP. This is a situation that we must do everything we can to prevent.

Ken presents a number of problems for truly progressive voters, in terms of both policies and record, but compared to Boris he is a paragon of leftist virtue. Sian would undoubtedly be a better choice than either of them.

The best method left of centre voters can use to avert the BNP getting a significant foothold in the assembly via the proprotional list, the electoral system in operation, is to give their votes to the Greens - a party committed to social justice, environmental protection and sustainability.

More discussion on SUB, (the Socialist Unity Blog) here, and at the Daily (Maybe) here.

Meanwhile Liam MacUaid (of Respect Renewal, who are not running a Mayoral Candidate) gives you your chance to state your own preferred preferences in the race here.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Orwellian Nightmare Marches On

I have just finished reading Ken MacLeod's recent novel The Execution Channel, which has just come out in paperback in the UK. An exciting, intriguing and terrifying experience - the terrifying element being in recognising how many elements of his dystopian near-future vision are already in place. (His dystopian near-future is linked to an amusingly re-envisioned present and recent past) As ever, Ken's book has lots of fun lefty and other political references and in-jokes, but awareness of these should not be a necessity for enjoying and appreciating his work.
Here is part of the publisher's blurb -

It's after 9/11. After the bombing. After the Iraq war. After 7/7. After the Iran war. After the nukes. After the flu. After the Straits. After Rosyth. In a world just down the road from our own, on-line bloggers vie with old-line political operatives and new-style police to determine just where reality lies.

James Travis is a British patriot and a French spy. On the day the Big One hits, Travis and his daughter must strive to make sense of the nuclear bombing of Scotland and the political repercussions of a series of terrorist attacks. With the information war in full swing, the only truth they have is what they're able to see with their own eyes. They know that everything else is--or may be--a lie.

Ken has interesting things to say about such varied topics as extraordinary rendition, conspiracy theorists, blogging, spooks, survival and the human psyche under extreme stress. The renditions and torture/interrogations are imagined in a way that communicates the human reality of such things in a more direct and impressive way than cold journalistic accounts. There is little doubt of the warnings Ken MacLeod is giving us about where we are heading.

So today's news management (for that is all we can call it) around the "National Security" plans seemed particularly blatant to me. Listing risks without putting them in context or suggesting how they might be reduced (rather than just "managed") seems a good way of cranking up fear and (they hope) dependency. What British Governments and establishments never say, but are of course aware of is that the biggest risk to their security would of course come from a population that began to see them as a major part of the problem and sought ways in which they might be removed.....

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Health Campaigners' News

The latest Health Campaigners' News from Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Support Federation contains a range of interesting stuff.

Amongst items that caught my eye were the following -

NHS London patient survey
NHS London is conducting a strategic review, to improve three aspects of NHS care in London: patient safety, clinical quality, and the patient experience. The survey deadline is Tuesday 18 March, so if you live in London, or access London NHS services, complete the survey to call for adequate resources to improve all levels of NHS services.
Complete the survey here.

Confuse & conceal - the NHS and independent sector treatment centres by Stewart Player and Colin Leys

A devastating analysis of the independent sector treatment centre programme and the reaction of the Health Select Committee's investigation into the programme. Available to KONP members from Keep Our NHS Public, 19 Vincent Terrace, London, N1 8HN at a discounted price of £10 per copy including postage and packing (full price £11.95 in book shops). Send your order with a cheque made payable to KONP.

Virgin Healthcare - what's been happening?

As reported in the last Health Campaigners' News, Virgin Healthcare have launched a roadshow around the country targeted at GPs and clinical staff with the aim of encouraging GPs to join the private company's new health centres. While these Virgin branded health centres are being promoted as a means of meeting staff and rental costs, the other side of the deal will be the siting of for-profit healthcare services alongside NHS general practice. Unison has expressed serious concern that Virgin Healthcare's products will be marketed to vulnerable patients.

Now that the roadshow to 26 locations has begun, activists who have attended events have been finding out what Virgin are saying. Details have been fairly hard to find, with just a reiteration that the company will provide buildings and rent space to GP practices. At one roadshow session a campaigner learned that space would be rented at the same cost per square foot that GPs are currently paying.

Virgin would employ all non-clinical staff, and most significantly staff would have to leave the NHS pension scheme with the replacement Virgin pension plan not being a final salary scheme. The non-clinical staff (e.g. managers, receptionists, cleaners) currently employed by a GP practice which then joins a Virgin health centre would be subject to Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE). Staff transferred in this way would lose NHS pay, terms and conditions as well as pension rights.

GPs in a Virgin health centre would share 10% of the centre's profit for contributing to the Virgin brand. This, of course, would not involve referral of patients to the Virgin practitioners (dentists et al) at the health centre! The planned services at the new health centres are thought to include dentists (private only), pharmacists, podiatrists, counsellors and laser eye surgery. It seems that Virgin also wants to offer local diagnostics, pathology and maybe imaging, which could take funds and staff from the local NHS hospital. It is interesting to see that there is little difference between Virgin's plans and the "polyclinic" proposals of Lord Darzi.

The roadshow event at Manchester was greeted with a lively protest from local campaigners, three of whom attended the presentation. The impression gained was that Virgin's main interest in courting GP practices was to act as a draw to patients who could then be turned into paying customers for the various products and services on offer. This mirrors Unison's concern about marketing to the vulnerable.

At Peterborough, TUC pickets seemed to cause the Virgin organisers some annoyance, and questions from the floor were only accepted from GPs or practice managers.

At Colgate, West Sussex, Unison and KONP activists picketed the event. After the event manager tried to expel the campaigners (even calling the police) and denied them entry to the presentation (despite bookings having been made) the clinical director eventually agreed to answer questions from one of the campaigners, Zena Dodgson. While very little new information was forthcoming from this private audience, the clinical director did say that GPs might be financially compensated for taking on extra work as requested by Virgin Healthcare.

Other roadshow events have been happening around the country, with pickets at a number of them and members of the public asking for leaflets explaining Virgin's intentions. If you have any reports from this travelling circus email and we'll post them on the NHS Support Federation website.

Our healthcare, who cares?

NHS Support Federation has put together a brief summary of the Government's private sector reforms of the NHS covering commissioning, PFI, Independent Sector Treatment Centres, polyclinics and out-of-hours GP services.

In the spotlight - Camden surgeries handed to United Health

Contracts for three of Camden's GP surgeries have been given to United Health, the American healthcare giant. The three surgeries, Brunswick Medical Centre in Bloomsbury, the King's Cross Road Practice and the Camden Road Surgery in Camden Town, have a total of 4,500 patients. The handing of the contracts to United Health attracted immediate and widespread opposition, with former Health Secretary Frank Dobson joining local councillors, Camden and Islington Local Medical Committee, KONP and many others in their condemnation of the move. Failed bids for the contracts came from GPs who had been running the surgeries, and a non-profit cooperative of 300 local GPs. The government had said that private companies would only be considered where there was no alternative.

Fears that private companies are being awarded contracts for GP surgeries simply on the basis of cost seems to be borne out by news that United Health won the Camden contracts on "value for money" tests but not on service. Indeed, the group of GPs also bidding were judged to offer a superior service, but were seemingly undercut by the private provider.

A local resident, Barbara Saunders, is challenging the PCT, arguing that patients were not properly consulted. The original consultation had not mentioned that a private company was under consideration for the contracts. Ms Saunders' legal challenge is being led by Richard Stein of Leigh Day solicitors who successfully appealed against the award of a similar contract to United Health in Derbyshire in 2006.

In early March a health scrutiny committee meeting attended by over 60 resulted in the PCT reluctantly agreeing to hold a public meeting after urging from councillors. At the public meeting in the PCT's headquarters hurriedly arranged for 10 March, it emerged that the contracts have not yet been signed, and that there are now two legal challenges to the PCT's decision, with the doctors from the Brunswick Street surgery joining the fray to stop the plans. Camden PCT maintains that all consultation procedures have been correctly followed and is adamant that United Health remains the preferred bidder. So the battle to save the surgeries from the privateers continues.

Dates for your diary

Lobby of Virgin Healthcare, Bristol

Wednesday 19 March 7pm. Hilton Hotel, Aztec West, Bristol

The lobby has been called by the Avon Mental Health branch of UNISON, supported by the Central Bristol Health branch of UNISON, and also by UNITE Bristol Health. Join supporters of Bristol Keep Our NHS Public at the lobby.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The World This Week

Three crises loom large this week.

First, the banking crisis continues with the effects of the latest developments in US banking rippling out across the world's stock markets and governments. The bargain basement buy out of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan will give both economists and conspiracy theorists plenty to speculate fruitlessly about! A view here from Martin Wolf in the establishment Financial Times early last week, and here from the left from Barry Grey on the World Socialist Website.

Second, gold and oil prices continue to rise - more here from Barry Grey and here, the more establishment view from Anthony Reuben at the BBC.

Finally, the turmoil in Tibet continues, with some interesting overflow of problems into neighbouring provinces of China. This could all be shortlived, or be something that gathers momentum to develop into something quite different.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekly Links - 16/03/2008

Reports on the weekend peace demonstrations in London and Glasgow can be found here , here and here.
There was a good Green presence on the London demo in terms of numbers and propaganda.
More pictures from London here and here. Indymedia has a report of an incident involving a Police Forward Intelligence Team.

Human Rights
In light of recent cases, like the one I blogged on within the last fortnight, where LGBT people are being threatened with deportation from Britain to countries where they face persecution, or even execution, a petition has been started -

London Green MEP Jean Lambert has been speaking out over deportations to Iraq and also raised the case of Mehdi Kazemi who was threatened with deportation to Iran, in the European Parliament.

There was disturbing news this week of further violence and murder directed at trade unionists in Guatemala.

Peter Tatchell, (who had a bit of a row this week with George Galloway over Galloway's comments about the Kazemi case) posted an interesting piece on Comment Is Free about pollution and the Beijing Olympics

Workplace Struggle and Climate Change
More has been posted on Notts Indymedia about the Nottingham Library uniforms dispute that I have mentioned before.

Workers' Climate Action this week alerted me to an interesting article from The Nation about US unions and climate change.

On Space issues there is a piece this week on Cedar Lounge Revolution.

US IWW member and environmental activist Marie Mason has been detained after a raid on her home - more info on Indymedia here and here.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Press Release From People Against Incineration, Notts

This is the latest press release I have received from People Against Incineration - PAIN - the anti-incinerator group based in Rainworth in Nottinghamshire:

Incinerator threat to human health for miles around

Nearly 200 people packed into the Rainworth Village Hall on Wednesday night (12th March) to hear Dr. Dick van Steenis talk about health problems caused by waste incinerators. The event was organised by the Rainworth-based People Against incineration (PAIN). Dr. van Steenis explained how the proposed incinerator would cause premature death and serious illness, including asthma, clinical depression and heart problems.

A scientist and medical doctor with decades of experience told the audience that incineration is not the best available method for dealing with waste. He pointed to studies from DEFRA and others showing that the tiny particles (between 1 - 2 microns) have been proven to cause a range of fatal illnesses, and even the most modern incinerators are not equipped with filters capable of capturing these microscopic particles. These life-threatening emissions are strictly controlled in other countries, including the US since 1997, but are currently unregulated and unmeasured in the UK.

Dr. van Steenis urged the Public health director, Chris Kenny, not to sign any documents that would allow an incinerator to be built. “This would be like signing a death warrant for the very people whose health he is paid and legally obliged to protect” says van Steenis.

PAIN members and supporters were told of a Harvard university study showing that health damage is spread over a 7-mile area for every 100 feet of chimney. Veolia’s proposals would endanger the health of anyone living or working within 17-miles of Rainworth.

The entire presentation, along with the extended question and answer session, was recorded to be made available as a DVD. If you are interested, please contact

The event attracted much-needed donations and many new members to the local anti-incineration campaign group. PAIN Membership Secretary, Newark and Sherwood District Councillor, Allen Tift, said: “The group is just getting into its stride, growing stronger by the day. Our arguments are getting stronger too, thanks to the hard work of our legal and research team and the information provided by knowledgeable guest speakers like Dick van Steenis”.

PAIN’s next meeting, open to the public, takes place on Thursday 20th March from 7PM at The Potters, Kirklington Road, Rainworth. All are welcome to attend.

A petition has recently been started on the subject of PM 2.5 and below particles here -

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Green Wins Top Students' Union Post

Congratulations to Aled Dilwyn Fisher, whom I have met on a number of occasions and have found to be a very committed, hardworking and eloquent advocate of Green and ecosocialist ideas. Aled has been elected General Secretary of the London School Of Economics Students' Union - Results here.

I am sure Aled will serve the students of LSE very well and continue to be an excellent ambassador for many of the ideas and movements that I try to promote and discuss on this blog.

More on Aled's victory and record at Derek Wall's blog here.

Well done Aled!

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Remploy Chief Executive Resigning

Following yesterday's blog on the Remploy situation, it seems that earlier this week the Chief Executive of Remploy announced his resignation, which is seen as a good sign by the unions.
The GMB representative Phil Davies said:

He has presided over decline and has introduced extensive bullying into industrial relations within the Remploy. I am pleased to see the back of him and hope that the Labour government will appoint someone with compassion as well as good business sense in their dealings with the disabled workers and their Remploy.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

GMB Officials Resign From Labour Over Remploy

Union reps involved in the Remploy Dispute have been ripping up their Labour Party cards over the behaviour of the government.

More at the Socialist Unity Blog here and in the Guardian here.

After the failure of an 11th-hour appeal to Gordon Brown, 28 factories employing the disabled will close. The workers are accusing the government of a 'shameful and gross betrayal' of society's most vulnerable.

Phil Davies, a national official for the GMB union, which has fought the closures, has ripped up his Labour party card in disgust. 'There is a lot of anger and bitterness at the cruel way Labour has given up on these people,' he said. 'This has caused very bad blood between the government and unions. We have never seen workers treated in such a despicable way. They are being bullied into accepting these closures.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Save Victoria Baths!

No apologies for the local East Midlands flavour of the blog this week - there are a lot of things going on around here!

Nottingham City Council is currently coming under pressure from workers and service users in a variety of areas. One is the issue of uniforms for library staff that I mentioned in my 17th February blog entry - the issue is covered in this Indymedia post.

A campaign is also being fought to oppose the City Council's plan to close Victoria Baths. The City Council Executive Board meet on Tuesday 18th March and if they vote to close the Victoria Leisure Centre it could be shut down by the end of Easter.

The campaign website is

Please support the campaign by signing the petition, writing to your councillors, joining the mailing list and attending the public demonstration on Tuesday 18 March 2008 at 1.30pm in Market Square.

Nottingham City Council announced their proposal to close Victoria Leisure Centre on Friday 8 February. On Tuesday 19 February the Council's Executive board voted for the closure of the Leisure Centre in principle. They have now allowed for a month long period of consultation with local residents and Leisure Centre users before they meet again to make a final decision on about its fate on Tuesday 18 March 2008.

Jon Collins, Leader of the Council assured us that this consultation period is not a ‘façade’, as some people have speculated, and that they are a 'listening council' who will take our views into consideration when making their final decision. The land has not already been sold and it is not a foregone conclusion that the Leisure Centre will close!

We cannot stress enough the importance of making your views known to the Council between now and Tuesday 18 March 2008, to help us save our much loved Leisure Centre!

Remember that Nottingham City Council tried to close Victoria Leisure Centre once before in 2000 and that a campaign run by local residents and Leisure Centre users successfully managed to convince the Council to keep it open. We’ve done it once before and we can do it again, but only with your help!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Dodgy Lib Dem Deeds In Nottinghamshire

Liberal "Democrat" councillors in Ashfield have agreed a plan to build a "refuse derived power station" (i.e. waste that has been formed into "briquettes") in Kirkby-in-Ashfield using their delegated powers and avoiding public scrutiny and the planning committee. Is this the true face of Clegg's new Orange-Book-rightist dominated Lib Dems revealed?

The waste incinerator cum power station is planned to incinerate 72,000 tonnes of "briquetted" waste per year and put the population and environment both locally and downwind at risk. This is of course in addition to the 180,000 to 210,000 tonne per year County incinerator planned for the old Rufford Colliery and the existing Eastcroft incinerator in Nottingham. Notts could become an incineration hotspot!

Alarmingly, the first person to comment on the local Chad newspaper website was a representative of the local BNP, so it seems as well as bringing local democracy into disrepute councillors Smith and Madden are also giving succour and ammunition to democracy's enemies.

Read the first report of the horrible story here

PAIN (fighting the Rufford proposals and having a meeting this Wednesday 12th at 7pm at Rainworth Village Hall with speaker Dr van Steenis), NAIL (fighting Eastcroft) and principled members of the anti-landfill campaign in Ashfield (those who also oppose the false solution of incineration) must come together to fight for a sensible waste policy and oppose those politicians who are suspiciously close to the profiteering waste companies.

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Caroline Lucas On The Lisbon Treaty

Caroline Lucas was recently quoted on BBC Politics Online regarding the Lisbon Treaty. Below is the full text of the unedited quote which Caroline gave to the BBC:

"The Green position demonstrates that it's perfectly possible to have a progressive pro-European perspective which is at the same time opposed to the Treaty of Lisbon. I voted against the Corbett and Mendez de Vigo report on the Treaty to register my objection to the arrogance and disregard shown by political leaders throughout the EU towards the wishes of EU citizens, and to state very clearly that I believe the people of the EU should be given a referendum on this issue.

"The Treaty of Lisbon is essentially a repackaging of the old Constitution, which was rejected by France and the Netherlands - two countries where referenda have been allowed. As key architect of the original text, Valery Giscard D'Estaing, himself has said: "The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through the old treaties in the form of amendments."

"I don't oppose the principle of a constitution. But I oppose this
particular one (and the Treaty which reproduces it) because EU citizens deserve better. While the Treaty of Lisbon includes some positive measures, in my view these are outweighed by negative ones - the further militarisation of the EU, for example, as well as measures to promote greater economic liberalisation and privatisation. Worse, it squanders a unique opportunity to put sustainability and climate security genuinely at the heart of the Union, and fails to bring the EU institutions closer to
European citizens.

"The Green Party's vision of the European Union is one based on peace, democracy, and social justice. We have a vision of a Green Europe, which enforces ambitious policies for a more sustainable future, and which allows for rich cultural and social exchange between nations and regions."

Not sure I 100% agree with all of that, but it is at least ten times more honest than most of the guff on the subject coming from the politicians of the three largest parties. I would prefer a confederal Europe which cooperates on agreed policies, rather than a federal Europe which enforces them. Representative democracy is flawed at the best of times and on the smallest of scales. When we get to European level, even a really representative democratic system where the elected reps held real power would be questionable in terms of accountability and connection of reps to their constituents, and that is not what we are being offered at the moment. The whole direction of travel in Europe with the Lisbon Treaty is towards an inflexible and authoritarian, bureaucratic and centralised corporate vassal state.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Weekly Links - 09/03/08

Firstly, away from politics for a while, and as a Yorkshire born lad myself, may I say Glory, Glory Barnsley FC! who yesterday repeated their FA Cup "giant killing" of Liverpool by defeating the "mighty" (ho-ho)Chelsea. Barnsley's success and the promotion chasing efforts of Doncaster Rovers in League One give some much needed excitement to football in South Yorkshire, away from the trials of the two Sheffield Teams. Come on Barnsley and Donny!

Onto the blogs, and a football link there to start too - Anton at Enemies of Reason Blog has a piece on the latest despicable behaviour of the Express newspaper - this time in relation to Paul Gascoigne and his troubles.

Elsewhere, Phil from A Very Public Sociologist blog reports the death of holocaust survivor and veteran anti-fascist Leon Greenman.

Over at the Cedar Lounge Revolution there are some interesting thoughts on the return to print of the anti-postmodernist hoaxer Sokal.

Louise reports on the International Women's Day events in London this weekend over at the Socialist Unity Blog.

Septic Isle reviews the latest George Romero film, Diary of the Dead at Obsolete.

Liam MacUaid this week publishes an account of the situation with the Green Party in the USA as regards the upcoming elections, written by New York State Green Party Member Steffie Brooks.

Jack Ray has interesting reflections this week on the meaning of democracy and self determination in a world of globalised capitalism.

The GPTU blog has Derek Wall's Green Party statement on the Shelter dispute.

Green From Below this week has Guy Debord's Situationist Theses on Traffic.

Jim at Daily (Maybe) reports on the call from Green MEP Caroline Lucas for progressive opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. He also has a piece on the Bush regime and torture, and some thoughts on death. A cheery note to end on this week!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Urgent Action - Britain and Iran

A gay teenager from Iran, whose boyfriend was hanged for homosexuality in his own country is now being threatened by the British Government with deportation to almost certain persecution and probably death. More at the Independent here.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights campaign group Outrage, described the Government's policy as "outrageous and shameful". He said: "If Mehdi is sent back to Iran he will be at risk of execution because of his homosexuality. This is a flagrant violation of Britain's obligations under the refugee convention.

"It is just the latest example of the Government putting the aims of cutting asylum numbers before the merits of individual cases. The whole world knows that Iran hangs young, gay men and uses a particularly barbaric method of slow strangulation. In a bid to fulfil its target to cut asylum numbers the Government is prepared to send this young man to his possible death. It is a heartless, cruel mercenary anti-refugee policy."

More, including action that can be taken, from LGBT Greens here.

We urge everyone to contact the Home Secretary at and 020 7035 4848 and to sign the online petition at

Peter Tatchell also posted on the Guardian Comment is Free site yesterday about the campaign to free jailed Iranian Trade Unionists, with plenty of links for further info and action. I did think Peter's condemnation of the "revolutionary" left for not being involved in this campaign was a bit "broad brush" - some groups have been, others haven't. By all means criticise the spinelessness of some elements of the left eager to appease dubious temporary allies, but we must try not to use the tactic we criticise in them of tarring everyone who shares similar politics with the same brush on a particular issue or campaign. Things are more complicated than that. That aside, well done to Peter for highlighting this important campaign.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

A time to get angry......

There are plenty of reasons to be angry today for anyone concerned for democracy in Britain, for anyone who thinks that broadly defined class interests are more real and important than racial and cultural differences that are used to divide us, for anyone concerned about human rights and peace in the Middle East, for anyone who would like to see the promising shoots of change and challenge to global neo-liberalism in South and Central America blossom and grow rather than be drowned in blood.

Last night saw the New Labour drones and Euro-nationalist utopians of the Lib Dems combine to defeat the (for once) principled stance of the Tories and those in the Labour and Lib Dem parliamentary parties who have any respect for public opinion or democratic accountability. Recent polls show 80% plus favour a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (the rebadged European Constitution) and a large campaign has been fighting to get such a referendum. "Stalin-Bean" Brown whipped his troops into line and the increasingly dislikeable rightist liberal leader Clegg attempted to whip his, but failed (though only a quarter of Lib Dem MPs showed any conscience). So for now, you will not get a say on the Treaty, which countless statements of less duplicitous European pro-constiturion politicians say is virtually indistinguishable in effect to the constitutional treaty (the British pro-treaty politicians are of course playing with words in a pedantic manner when they say it is "not a constitution") Another nail in the coffin of any respect that the British people had for what (if I remember correctly) Morris in News From Nowhere made into the "Westminster Dunghill". And just to rub it in, further announcements this morning about the roll out of National Identity Cards.

The BBC is running a malevolent campaign around the "forgotten White Working Class". The same BBC whose general line (from its' liberal establishment groupthink ivory tower) for many years has been that the working class in Britain either does not exist, is irrelevant or backward. Their programmes seem to be designed to further cement division. Anyone with an ounce of political awareness on the left (the real left, not the social/cultural liberals more concerned with defending the legacy of Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins than changing the power structure or uniting a force capable of resisting rampant, corrosive, destructive neo-liberalism) knows that the moment you locate your identity around race rather than class you are lost in a morass of division and resentments. We only have to look at the history of "progressive" politics in the United States for proof of this - even at its most inclusive and liberating moments (the civil rights movement) the lack of a specific orientation on power and structures in society sowed the seeds for the movement's decline into a mess of competing special interests and petty rivalries. And the threat to the establishment posed by those who began to break out of the narrow mould of racial/social liberal struggle was shown by the vicious and documented way in which the US state and state security forces dealt with those who began to take a more dangerous stance (Malcolm X, Cointelpro etc etc.)

Meanwhile, Gaza burns and starves, and the tanks face off over the borders of South America whilst the Oil Company vultures circle.

As I say, now is the time to get angry. But it is also the time to try and put together some left unity, whilst there is still time.
They will always try and divide and rule, be we must unite and fight back.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

No Incinerator In Sherwood Forest!

I mentioned the planned incinerator that Veolia are hoping to build in Nottinghamshire as part of the Notts CC Waste PFI in my weekly links on 25th February. PAIN, ( the group leading the local campaign against the proposals are stepping up their work with a meeting to be addressed by the high profile anti-air pollution campaigner Dr Dick van Steenis.
The meeting is scheduled for 7pm at Rainworth Village Hall on Wednesday 12th March, all welcome.

Some of Dr van Steenis' work can be found at UK Health Research
PAIN have just submitted their comprehensive planning objection.
The planned incinerator would be situated in the heart of Sherwood Forest - the Major Oak, Edwinstowe, Center Parcs and other main tourist attractions would be immediately downwind. This at a time when Nottinghamshire's elected reps are licking their wounds over losing out to Sustrans in a major funding bid, and still seeking to establish Nottinghamshire's most famous area as one of the country's major conservation and "eco-tourism" areas.

The only note of caution to PAIN would be to treat cautiously the support (welcome as it is on an individual level) of climate change deniers such as David Bellamy, and note that Dr van Steenis' work is also carried on the site of "Country Doctor" David Roberts, who is another denier prone to veering into reactionary Vernon Coleman territory. Health experts and botanists pronouncements on meteorology and climate science should be given the same amount of weight as those of other people who have no particular expertise in the field - i.e uninformed opinion. On climate change, I will stick with the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed scientists in the field. I will listen to medical doctors on health and epidemiology. The fact remains that majority relevant scientific opinion is that increased CO2 emissions are a bad thing, and this is an additional reason to object to the projected large expansion of incineration as opposed to proper development of alternatives like anaerobic digestion.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

More Lefty Blog Links

There are currently over 600 blogs listed under the category "left" on the Blogarama blog directory. Now some of these are questionably or mischievously placed under that category, but there are still a lot of interesting sites to visit. Here are a few interesting (English speaking) ones that I came across in the first 15 or so pages under that category (and linking in no way shows approval of all the views of the bloggers!):

Idealistic Pragmatist is the blog of a Canadian NDP supporter describing themselves as "American by birth, Canadian by choice". This analysis of the Canadian left from a year or two ago is worth reading.

Power To the People is the blog of "an African revolutionary in America" who seems to draw on both socialist and anarchist traditions.

whenua, fenua, enua, vanua is the blog of a "revolutionary Polynesian" in "occupied Australia". Lots of good pics of actions in Australia and info on anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist struggle in the Pacific region.

extra! extra! is an Irish blog concentrating on peace and war, with the current post saying it is on hold while some health matters are sorted out - hope everything is OK.

newsoc is the blog of Len Richards from Auckland, New Zealand.

I may try and post another selection later this week.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Blogs on Sunday 02/03/2008

A big Happy Mothers Day to mothers everywhere!

I am pleased to welcome a new lefty-green blog into the blogosphere this week - green from below - who has a refreshingly open, non-sectarian and honest approach, articulated in the Disclaimer -

This blog will contain occasional political commentary and opinions from a broadly eco-socialist perspective.

Please note however, that I’m no expert on most of these matters and am merely throwing my/an extra view into the ring. I may well be wrong!

Equally, publishing or linking to the work of others should not be interpreted as unconditional or uncritical support from here.

It should also be noted that I do not intend to impose these opinions on the reader. It is up to them to draw their own conclusions, not act upon mine.

green from below also posts up the original Ecosocialist Manifesto and Bookchin's What Is Social Ecology ?

I am happy to add the new blogosphere comrade to my Fellow Bloggers column.

Around other Brit left green blogs this week Derek Wall at Another Green World reports on the call to ExxonMobil to respect Venezuela's sovereignty which he and various other well known figures from the British left have recently signed.

Jim at Daily (Maybe)has this week blogged on the forthcoming Convention of The Left that I mentioned last week, along with a thoughtful article on Cuba and reflections on the Prince Harry stories.

Noel, at the Green Room blogs on London Greens' preparations for the London Mayoral and Assembly elections in two months time.

Student Medic at Life Is Complicated recently blogged a report of attending Green Party Conference for the first time.

Over at Gaian Economics Molly reflects on rampant capitalism as practiced in Britain and Portugal.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The more things change.......

The treatment in the mainstream British media of the announcement regarding the contracts for building wings for the US Imperium's new refuelling aircraft (to enable their continued global reach and "full spectrum dominance") is a timely reminder of the supine and craven attitude of the establishment media. This in a week in which the "Prince Harry's Big Afghanistan Adventure" has been an excuse for blatant sycophancy and forelock tugging (regardless of Harry's obvious contempt for the media and his refreshingly unconstrained - even what people of his class might in the past have called "vulgar" - way of expressing himself in public); in a week in which this Royal story has been used to "rally the nation" around the increasingly desperate imperial project, in which Britain is allotted the role of faithful (albeit resented and condescended to) poodle.

So, to the howls of US nationalists and "labor representatives" who think their aircraft should be 100% domestically built, 20% is to be built in Europe and up pop the New Labour-lapdog bureaucrats of Unite to uncritically applaud this example of (not quite) "British Jobs For British Workers" in the carefully chosen BNP-voter-wooing-words of the Prime Minister at the Labour Conference. Of course it is excellent manipulative politics from the US side, whatever their domestic "labor representatives" may say - cement a level of support for the US imperial project through "guaranteeing" thousands of British jobs. This reveals of course, that US labor can be ignored to woo British Labour (in both senses of the word)to support of the larger goals of the US ruling class. A grand chess game with workers as pawns.

The craven media discourse and quiescent political establishment is of course not a new thing. Here are the wise words of E.P. Thompson writing in 1960, published 20 years later in Writing By Candlelight:

As the arteries of parliamentary life have hardened, the arteries of communiccation have hardened in sympathy. One process has reinforced the other. A bewildering variety of opinions must somehow be compressed into one or other pack, under an authorized party brand-image. Constitutional procedures become confused with the expedients of voluntary institutions. The breach of party or trade union discipline becomes confused with a breach of law - and may indeed entail effective loss of political rights. Outraged morality and outraged orthodoxy adopt the same tone of reproof to the 'proscribed' organization, the 'unofficial' striker, 'extra marital' relations, and actual illegality.

In such a climate, the possibility of propagating an alternative ("unauthorized") diagnosis of our social problems becomes more remote. And it is made doubly remote by the conformity of those media which - in classic liberal theory - should have been the first to resist the insolent encroachments of party and Parliament upon the political rights of the citizen. It is true that a world of discrete political discourse continues, in which all questions are open and the ailments of mass society are itemized. But it is a world of small circulation journals, student societies, enterprising publishers, 'intellectuals'.
BBC and ITV, quality and popular press - these inhabit the world of 'responsible', practical politics. Of course - for it is a world which they have created.

It is not only the number of 'responsible' views which are determined by the media. They also determine, to great degree, the questions which it is possible to have views about, and the form in which these questions arise. An issue which arises outside the media - let us say the clause four controversy in the Labour Party - is taken up, shaped and altered out of recognition when it is admitted to their vast distorting hall. Some voices are magnified, others silenced; some issues seized upon, others dismissed; the view of Mr Gaitskell or Mr Crosland may be reported in extenso ; other views may be personalized, caricatured, or dramatized, not as arguments, but simply as a Row.

p4-5 Writing by Candlelight, "The Segregation of Dissent", Merlin Press, London, 1980.

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