Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"1930s Territory" ?

Apparently the BBC Economics Correspondent said last night that if shares and the economic situation did not start to improve today then we are truly in "1930s Territory". This was presumably before the US Financial Bail out plan was torpedoed!

Things are moving very fast. Those of us who believe in democracy, sustainability, social justice and workers' organisation must be very ready for what is now coming over the horizon. Let us not be over dramatic, but the election result in Austria over the weekend, where the far right got nearly 30% of the vote to become "kingmakers" is a very ominous sign of the direction things might go.

Left Greens, ecosocialists, syndicalists and industrial unionists have the ideas and vitality (relatively untainted by the excesses of bureaucratic "state socialism/state capitalism") to offer viable alternatives and defensive structures in the coming period - let us not be shy in coming forward. We need to be at the centre of resistance to both the coming attempts of the ruling class and financial elite to make ordinary working people pay the harshest price for their crisis and to the perhaps now inevitable rise of right populist/fascist reaction.

The coming period will demand unity, cool heads and patient building up of networks, groups and capacity (not to mention bravery in some likely circumstances) - but there are now real prizes to be won as some of the barriers represented by the cocksure ideological grip of the neo-liberal version of capitalism have been blasted away by events, leaving the brutal and dishonest reality of the neo-liberal model in full view of many.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

York Greens Speak Out On Remploy

The following is a press release from York Green Party:

York Green Party has reacted with great dismay to the announcement that the Remploy factory in York has been recently sold on the day that the GMB union announced at the Labour Party conference that it would campaign to re-open the factory.

Of the 54 workers who lost their jobs when the York factory closed down around half have been unable to find alternative employment.

Green Party Trades Union Spokesperson Andrew Collingwood stated, "Remploy workers from York and across the country have been seriously let down by the Labour government. They have been forced into menial jobs well below their skill levels or, even worse, unemployment. We call for an immediate and independent review of the factory closures and for the government to support those Remploy workers who have been unable to find employment after 6 months."

The Green Party's candidate for York Central, Andy Chase, added,"We should stop mumbling platitudes about 'mainstream employment' and instead sit down and listen to the Remploy workers themselves."

Visit Andy Collingwood's blog at

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Final Reports From The Convention Of The Left

Final reports from the Convention of The Left in Manchester indicate the event was a great success and the atmosphere at the final "Question Time for The Left" certainly sounded good from the report on the Red Pepper Convention blog -

Their verdict on the convention was unanimous, though: it was ‘historic’ (Wainwright), ‘a tremendous success’ (McDonnell), and even ‘maybe, just maybe, the start of 21st century socialism in Europe’ (Wall).

The discussion darted from why left organisations are so ‘pale and male’, to the anti-war movement, to free public transport to tackle climate change – but it somehow stayed on track, making real links between the problems we face without resorting to the old ‘the problem is capitalism’ schtick. Suddenly the underlying question wasn’t ‘what are the problems?’ or ‘can we work together?’ – it was ‘how will we win?’

The final Convention Bulletin from Wednesday is here.

The optimistic assessment of John Nicholson, prominent organiser of the Convention is here. The idea of a united campaign against fuel poverty coming out of the Convention is a good one.

By all accounts a good basis for further progressive cooperation has been established and hopefully the proposed Local Left Forums will start springing up and becoming spaces for positive cooperation on mutually agreed projects and goals.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pensioners Step Up Campaign In Centenary Year

2008 is the Centenary of the state pension in Britain, introduced after a successful campaign by unions, social reformers and elderly people in 1908. I attended a rally in Nottingham at the weekend to celebrate this milestone social advance and gather support for the campaign for a decent state pension. The renewed campaign by pensioners is very timely given the rocketing prices of essentials and the economic crash and its likely effect on those on fixed incomes and those who make good use of public services. I have to say I am always impressed by senior citizens campaigners - younger activists and trades unionists have a lot to learn from the persistence, good organisation, radical motivation, mobilising strength and energy of the older generation. The good point was made that we must all be united in the struggle for social justice and this means solidarity with those fighting both pensioner poverty and child poverty.

A lobby of Parliament is planned for Wednesday 22nd October with a rally at Westminster Central Hall at 12 noon. It is good that many national unions are backing this day of action, let us hope they can deliver supporters on the day.
Support for the 4th October Keep The Promise event on Child Poverty was also raised at the Nottingham meeting.

I am adding the National Pensioners Convention to my campaigning organisation links list.

National Pensioners Convention Declaration
This Convention declares that every pensioner has the right to choice, dignity, independence and security as an integral and valued member of society. These rights require an adequate state pension linked to average earnings, comprehensive free health care and concessionary travel on public transport

There is also a Pensioners' Charter-


Every man and woman on reaching state pensionable age will have the right to:

*a basic state pension set above the official poverty level and linked to average male earnings.
*a warm and comfortable home.
*free health care treatment based on clinical need and an annual comprehensive health check.
*free community care and services to assist living at home.
*free long-term care.
*free nationwide travel on all public and local transport.
*free education, access to and participation in leisure and cultural activities.
*goods, services and benefits without age discrimination.
*active engagement and consultation on national and local issues affecting older citizens.
*advocacy, dignity, respect and fair treatment in all aspects of their lives.

As a first step towards establishing these rights we call on the government to implement the Pensioners’ Manifesto.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekly Links 21/09/2008

British Politics
It is the annual Party conference of the ruling Labour Party in Manchester this week - long term Labour MP and media personality Diane Abbott explains why she won't be going here.

John McDonnell MP reports on his hopes for the parallel Convention of the Left.

On the same site David Lowry has an article on the nuclear commitments of the Prime Minister.

Red Pepper have established a blog for the Convention of the Left.

Human Rights
Peter Tatchell has alerted us to several significant cases of human rights abuses in recent days. First he had an article in the New Statesman on the situation with Balochistan activists in Pakistan and the UK. Secondly he had an article on low caste Dalit people in India on the Guardian Comment pages. Finally he alerted us to an urgent action alert over the treatment of sexual minorities in Uganda.

Another Green activist has alerted us to the case of Annociate Nimpagaritse, who has been in danger of being deported to a very hazardous situation in Burundi.

On 29th September Mark Thomas has a Book Launch with Amnesty International of his new book, Belching Out The Devil - Global Adventures With Coca Cola.

Green Issues
Helpful news items from EUWID, a site that gives news for the recycling industry - a study has shown that recycling PET plastic bottles is much more environmentally friendly than incinerating them.

On the same site, news that the European recycling rate for paper and board has now hit 64.5%, on course for the 66% by 2010 target that the industry set itself. Good news for all those campaigning on these issues, but we need to keep up the work and pressure for higher rates of recycling in the UK.

Unions and Work
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) report for the UNI global union network on their action at the 2008 European Call Centre Awards Ceremony.

Greek ecosocialists (working within the broad left electoral coalition SYRIZA)have organized and now have an excellent website in several languages.

I have had the following solidarity request from the IWW International Solidarity Commission -

Dear friends and comrades,

For two week in late-April and early-May four members of the Industrial Workers of the World traveled to Haiti to meet with labor leaders and document the plight of the Haitian working class. During our trip we encountered a Haiti still reeling from food riots which had gripped it just weeks prior. We found the workers and organizers that we met with to be extremely competent and passionate, but almost completely immobilized by a severe lack of resources.

Now a new crisis grips the Haitian people in the form of over a thousand dead and one million out of a total population nine million people displaced as a result of the recent hurricanes which have battered the island.

Haiti's government struggles to respond to what can only be called a humanitarian disaster, but no longer has the infrastructure after years of brutally enforced hollowing out as a result of neo-liberal economic policies. With the shell of the government unable to respond, and profoundly corrupt and bloated NGOs unable deliver aid to where it is needed, the best hope for Haiti lies in the response of citizens and organizers who live and work in the country.

The Haitians themselves have the skills, the energy, and the organization to accomplish this task, what they lack is the resources.
We are making this urgent appeal for aid in order to help those we met in Haiti, who hosted us in their homes, who fed us when they were hungry, who showed us that they have the know-how and the energy, they just need the resources to get the job done. The International Solidarity Commission of the IWW has established a fund to help get money and aid to the people on the ground that need it most. Please send your donations to
*IWW Haiti Fund c/o General Headquarters
PO Box 23085,
Cincinnati OH 45223*

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Signposts, Programmes And Ideas For The Left In Britain

Unfortunately I am unable to get along to the Convention of the Left in Manchester over the next few days, so I thought I would link some useful background reading, information and programmes and give my tentative suggestions.

The Convention itself has been left with as open an agenda as the organisers could without leaving it totally without suggested outcomes. This, despite the inevitable complaints of the usual suspects is a good idea IMO. (And the fact that some are complaining they did not have a clear enough policy programme in advance and others are complaining that making any suggestions pre-empts the discussion shows they have got it about right.) The tentative idea of local left forums for co-operation on matters of broad agreement does not seem overly controversial. The idea would be that co-operation only took place in such cases between people who agreed on the task or strategy in hand, rather than acrimoniously debating in an externally alienating manner what they did not agree on, as has too often been the case in the past.

So, to some of the ideas, transitional, broad brush and otherwise that have been circulating. One of the debating points at the moment is the Green New Deal drawn up by various figures on the environmentalist left to give a progressive, social-justice-based approach to the pressing climate crisis and current economic difficulties. This programme should not be seen as an end in itself, but a series of transitional/progressive demands that can help change the territory of debate and open the frozen ground for more radical demands and approaches. The report can obviously be criticised, but can at least give some pointers to possible immediate demands.

In terms of broad concrete demands and unity platforms there are a number of Charters circulating and being proposed. Here is the People Before Profit Charter (promoted by amongst others the SWP and their "Left Alternative"), and here is the CPB idea for a new People's Charter.

It is important that the English left do not forget, or fail to learn from, the situation in Scotland and Wales, or indeed the situation of our Irish neighbours. It is good that there is at least a debate scheduled (put together by Scottish Left Review) around the situation as regards devolution, autonomy and independence early in the convention.

The convention and current events also call us to look at the relationship of the left to the greens and vice versa, with a key role for groups like Green Left, the AGS and the Ecosocialist International Network. Here is a contribution from SUB by Green Left activist Sean Thompson.

Industrial work, alongside community organising, must become more of a priority for activists in Britain given the likely assaults that will be made by New Labour and the bosses to try and deal with the economic crisis and by any incoming Tory government eager to "go where New Labour daren't". Whilst the NSSN shop stewards network is a good initiative that is still worth exploring, and developing, as a Wobbly I would like to see the IWW in Britain (already larger and more inclusive than the vast majority of British left political groups) developed as both a radical union in its' own right but also as a network for linking up industrial unionists in existing unions during the coming struggles.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Left Comment On The Financial Crisis

Various left and green discussions and comment on the unfolding global financial crisis linked below.

Dave Osler asks Has the (British) left got any answers?

The Guardian got sound bites from various people they characterise as representatives of anti-capitalism (I have to say this is stretching it a bit with some of those consulted!)

Ed at International Rooksbyism found some interesting background info courtesy of the SSP website.

And here is the famous lefty blogger at Lenin's Tomb's take on events from his Tuesday blog.

Meanwhile over at Obsolete, SepticIsle reflects on the football connection to the Credit Crunch.

All this, in conjunction with the turmoil in the government and the alarming rise of the right and far right in Britain adds extra relevance to the Convention of the Left scheduled to take place in Manchester from this weekend - an event that will be in stark contrast to the stage managed corporate farce that has become the Labour conference - to be held in the same city at the same time.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Weekly Links - 16/09/2008

Plenty of worthwhile links this week.

Derek Wall is looking forward to the Convention of The Left, which could be a good step forward for the left in Britain....or not. Time will tell. Hope is ever the triumph of optimism over experience. He has also been blogging like mad on Socialist Unity blog (all that free time now he is not Principal Speaker of the GP being made good use of perhaps?) including this news about passenger resistance to a violent deportation to Nigeria.
Aled's submission to the NUS Reform Consultation from the end of last month is blogged by him here.
Jim blogs about the rightward drifting Lib Dems during their conference week.
The current financial and economic crisis brings to mind some words of TS Eliot for Molly.
Meanwhile James Caspell directs our attention to further evidence of the creeping rise of fascism in Italy.
Jack Ray reports on US government hypocrisy over the latest developments in Bolivia.

New Books
The eagerly awaited latest novel from acclaimed left-wing Scottish science fiction writer (and blogger) Ken MacLeod is now out. The Night Sessions is again set in a near future devastated by war and altered by climate change and technological advance. In this book the futurescape is explored through the lens of a police procedure and investigation into the murder of a Catholic Priest. Sounds a gripping read - more here and here.

Green Politics
News from the Scottish Green Party that long time co-leader of the party Robin Harper is to stand down from the position and is favouring a move to single leader model as adopted by the Green Party in England and Wales.

Keep up with developments in Bolivia beyond the capitalist media interpretation at Another source is the Democracy Center. Ecosocialist Ian Angus reports on the plight of Cuba after the devastating storms and hurricanes. Hands off Venezuela and the Venezuela Info Centre have info on the coup plots there.

As well as the sad loss of Peter Camejo the last week has seen the death of legendary Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright and excellent author and essayist David Foster Wallace.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peter Camejo 1939-2008

Sometimes controversial US Green and Left activist Peter Camejo has died as a result of lymphoma. This from Wikipedia -

Peter Miguel Camejo (December 31, 1939, New York City – September 13, 2008, Folsom, California) was an American author, activist and politician. In 2004, he was selected by independent candidate Ralph Nader as his vice-presidential running mate on a ticket which had the endorsement of the Reform Party.[1][2] Camejo was a three-time Green Party gubernatorial candidate most recently in 2006 receiving 2.3% of the vote. Camejo also ran in the 2003 California recall election finishing fourth in a field of 135 candidates (2.8%), and 2002 finishing fourth with 5.3%.

In January 2007, Camejo announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma, a cancer that is usually treatable.[3] As of March 2008, after a series of chemotherapy treatments, the cancer was in remission,[4] but in May it was announced that doctors had made a second diagnosis of lymphoma; Camejo died on September 13, 2008 in Folsom, California.[5]

More from the Guardian/AP here.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coal Debate - Welcome, But Needs To Be Broader

Dave Douglass and his IWW branch have been instrumental in getting together a day of debate scheduled for early November around the question of the challenge to working class organisations posed by climate change, with particular reference to the coal industry. This is a discussion that needs to continue - it was good that there was some engagement led by Scargill and Douglass at the Kingnorth climate camp, although events at the time (other things happening at the time of the meetings) led to less impact and meaningful exchange and progress than would have been desired.

However, the meeting in the North East as currently constituted looks a little one sided at the moment with a lot of NUM heavyweights "up against" in a somewhat confrontational style, some anarcho-greenie types, who though whilst admirably committed to the cause of combatting climate change are hardly representative of the whole movement. It would be useful to have more people involved who are technically and scientifically qualified to comment on the most controversial issues like the viability of, and likely timescales for effective carbon capture and storage (CCS). It would also be useful to have representation from the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group like Roy Wilkes or a socialist perspective from someone like Jonathan Neale or a rep of Workers' Climate Action, or an ecosocialist perspective from a rep of Green Left or the Alliance For Green Socialism or the Green Party Trade Union Group. This would give more balance and increase the chances for some meaningful progress and constructive debate. This issue is bigger than "the Climate Camp versus the NUM" which in my opinion is not a particularly constructive way of framing the debate. What is needed is hammering out what a just transition to a low emissions economy might look like and how workers and their organisations can help to bring this about.

Here is the current info from the North East about the projected meeting -

Labour Movement Conference;
Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal

The Climate Campers and The Unions.

The Upstairs Lounge
The Bridge Hotel
Castle Garth
Newcastle Upon Tyne

1st November 2008
11-30 - 5-30

Speakers and Agenda

(in order to maximise debate the conference will run strictly to starting times and invited speakers will be set time limits)

Davie Hopper, Gen Sec, Durham Miners Association
(NE Area NUM) Chair and introduction to conference

David Douglass, IWW (and retired NUM official)
A brief overview on ‘the environment’ and class in the politics of energy

Rachel Whittaker, Wrekin Anarchist Group, Climate
Direct actionist;

Arthur Scargill’ Hon President National Union Mineworkers. Which way for energy?

Paul Chatterton; Leeds University and Climate Camp Activist. Why Not Coal?

Debate and Discussion on first half of conference.

Mid day, break 1-30/ 2-00 pm
In the interests of leaving time for debate, comrades urged to just take half hour food break at this point and save their main meal until 5-30 at the end of the conference, there are numerous eating places and cafes within five minutes walk of the venue in the Bigg Market. We advise taking packed lunch for the mid day break.

Chris Kitchen; General Secretary NUM
Chair and introduction to second half

Mr Bob Crow, General Secretary, Rail, Maritime and Transport Union; How we view it.

Kev Bland, Green Anarchism and Climate Camp direct actionist. How we see it.

Ian Lavery, President NUM and International Energy and miners Organisation; Prospects for Coal Production and consumption worldwide.

Paul Morrison; Greenpeace and Climate Camp Activist.

Stan Herschel, Regional Organiser RMT.
On or off the rails on Energy and Climate.

Davie Guy, President North East Area of NUM (and DMA) Prospects for revival of the Great Northern Coalfield.

Discussion and debate and questions from the floor
End of conference 5-30; go for some dinner in the toon.
Social 7-30 with live bands in The Bridge, or the delights of the ‘the toon’ on a Sat night, or stay downstairs in the bar for a more leisurely drink ____________ _________ _________ _________ __
(Invited but not confirmed at time of publicity UNITE, Community, GMB, Powerfuel)
Organised by IWW Tyne and Wear in conjunction with The NUM in association with RMT , Newcastle Central Branch 1901 Unite, and the ‘Green’ movement.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Defend Iranian Student Under Attack!

Last Sunday Hands Off The People of Iran (HOPI) held a successful fringe at Green Party Autumn conference in London, chaired by my fellow blogger Jim Jepps and featuring Peter Tatchell and Yassamine Mather. The latest mailing from HOPI details the ongoing persecution of Iranian student leader Anooshe Azadbar -

Iranian Student Leader Arrested

On September 4 at 11am, Anooshe Azadbar - overwhelmingly
voted one of its honorary vice presidents by the
British student union at its annual conference in
April - was brought before a court in Iran. She faced
multiple charges:

– plotting against the Islamic regime
– plotting against the Islamic order
– acting against Iranian national interests with a
left wing group

This arose from her prominent involvement in the 4
December 2007 demonstrations where Hands Off the
People of Iran placards were prominent.

Anooshe denied the charges, stating that this was a
legal student demonstration against the threat of war,
not an explicitly anti-regime protest.

In court, it was pointed out that this contradicted
what she had said under interrogation. Anooshe replied
that these statements had been obtained after she had
been subjected to great psychological pressure.

Vague charges were also made that she had either
received financial help from leftwing groups or had
given money to certain groups. Her lawyer denied these
charges, simply pointing out that as his client is
penniless, she is clearly neither receiving money or
in a position to dish it out. The judge eventually
decided that the dossier was 'incomplete' and so
Anooshe must go back to court at a later date for
further questioning.

It is not clear when the next court hearing will be.
She will be summoned to give another interview at the
prosecutor's office and following this there will be
another court appearance. She is not the only student
leader currently facing this oppression – it is
estimated that another four or five other students are
facing similar court procedures.

Ben Lewis of the Hopi steering committee commented:
"The dominant trend within the Islamic regime is
clearly using the tension generated by the
sabre-rattling of imperialism to clamp down on
internal dissent. The harassment of our comrade
Anooshe Azadbar comes at the same time as the
sentencing of women's rights activists of the One
Million Signatures campaign
to six-month prison terms
and the ominous threats against the 2003 Peace Nobel
Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, who has been dubbed an agent of Zionism.

"It seems the regime will not tolerate even
mild-mannered reformist attempts to moderate its
repressive rule, let alone the militant action of
students. The threat of war plays into their hands -
that's why we stand against the warmongering of the
imperialists and the repressive regime in Tehran."

Hopi demands that all charges against Anooshe Azadbar
are immediately dropped. Our campaign will be
organising press conferences and protests in
solidarity with the arrested students. See subsequent
releases and our website for details.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review - Steve Tilston, Ziggurat

Last night I was privileged to attend a gig by a stalwart of the British folk scene, Steve Tilston. Folk (and occasional Blues) singer-songwriter Tilston has new album out called Ziggurat, and he played a variety of tracks from it last night, along with some old favourites like Slip Jigs and Reels (a version of which has been recorded by Fairport Convention).

The songs on Ziggurat are a combination of reflective compositions inspired by incidents in his life, traditional songs, and political songs.

I particularly enjoyed Steve's political songs - his reflection on English identity and an alternative pantheon of radical English heroes and heroines ( including Tom Paine, John Ball, mass trespassers, striking match girls, Levellers and Tolpuddle Martyrs) in Speaking in Tongues and his very timely observations on City greed and the financial manipulation of the "new Coiners" in A Pretty Penny.

And behind their hedge,
They don't plant wheat,
They don't cut corn,
they don't pick tea,
They don't dig coal,
They don't forge steel.
They just push numbers about. They push too far, we bail 'em out,
Keep their fingers firm on fortune's wheel.

There is also an anti-war song, The Spoils of War and reflecting on destruction in Iraq and the threat of war with Iran gave him the title of the collection, Ziggurat.

These are supplemented by some lovely ballads like After Summer Rain and a traditional song taken from the wonderfully titled "Holroyd's Yorkshire Ballads" - The Fisher Lad of Whitby.

Well worth a listen.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Final Green Party Conference Reports

A final report from Jim at Daily (Maybe) here - congratulations to Jim on being elected to the Standing Orders Committee (SOC), a brave man to take that on, given the traditional wrangling SOC has been involved in, and recent history in the Party!

Results of the ballots for Chair, Equalities and Diversity and External Communications officers posted to Green Despatches by Jim (busy bee!) here.

Also on Green Despatches, Scott Redding reports on the screening of the new climate change - themed film "The Age Of Stupid", starring Pete Postlethwaite. The film will apparently be released early next year. By all accounts it was very impressive.

Matt Sellwood's report on conference is here.

For a view on how the opposition view all this here is Tory uber-blogger Iain Dale - have a laugh at all the ranting, fuming and spewing of rightist hatred in the comments underneath!

Here is the local Norwich paper reporting Adrian Ramsay's election as Green Party Deputy Leader and here is the BBC report of Caroline Lucas' speech.

One interesting note is that the Guardian, supposed mouthpiece of liberal-left politics in Britain continued its' policy of completely ignoring the Green Party Conference, despite Caroline Lucas and Peter Tatchell both having Online Guardian Comment Is Free blogs. The Guardian continue to favour Labour Cabinet kremlinology and new-labourist apologetics from ex-SDPers as the staple of their politics coverage.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Green Party Conference Updates

Green Jobs
Jean Lambert MEP opened the Green Party conference with the launch of a new report, Green Work on the potential for new jobs and industries created by the need for a move to a lower carbon economy. The report also highlights how the current British Government is failing on green jobs and skills -

The publication calls for greater investment in green industries and skills for workers to help transform the UK to a low-carbon economy.

The new research has found that there is huge potential for job creation in green industries like wind and solar power, which is not yet being exploited. The report also warns of a skills gap in the UK which will hold back our ability to capitalise on the green revolution unless it is addressed now.

The UK is currently lagging far behind its European neighbours in terms of green jobs. For instance, in Germany there are currently 250,000 jobs in renewable energy, while in the UK there are 26,000 at best.

More here

Windfall Tax
New Green Party leader Caroline Lucas added her voice to Trade Union calls for a windfall tax on the mammoth energy industry profits. More here.
In response to the profiteering of the "robber baron" energy corporations Dr Lucas proposed a Green New Deal -

"When the world faced economic depression back in the early 1930s, it was President Roosevelt's New Deal that got people back to work with a massive investment in infrastructure.

"Today we stand on the brink of a triple crisis – a combination of a credit-fuelled financial meltdown, accelerating climate change, and soaring energy prices.

"We need a Green New Deal in response.

"The core would be a 21st century project to make the nation's buildings truly energy efficient, with local authority bonds being issued to raise the necessary funds for a major investment in insulation, efficiency and renewables, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

Minimum Wage
The Green Party Trade Union Group backed motion on the minimum wage was passed in an amended form - see here
The motion committed the Party to campaign -

"A. for the immediate ending of the British opt-out of the European Working Time Directive;

B. for the National Minimum Wage level to be increased to come in line with the Council of Europe Decency Threshold, which is set at 60% of net national average earnings (this would currently mean a minimum wage of £8.17 per hour);

C. a new top rate of income tax to be levied on incomes over 10 times the National Minimum Wage"

Union Workplace Environmental Reps
Another motion supported by GPTU and Green Left was on workplace environmental reps.


"Trade Unions and their branches will have the right to establish workplace environmental representatives, who will have the same rights at work as other trade union representatives. This will include appropriate facilities and time off to undertake their duties. Such representatives should play a decision making role in the development of strategies and implementation plans for making workplaces, companies and other public, private and third sector organisations greener and more

(This text to be inserted in the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, the main GP policy document)

The TUC guide on "greening your workplace" is here.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Defend Public Transport In The North East Of England

The following might be of interest to readers in the North East and elsewhere -

The Fat Cats Come to Town

Keep Metro Public Campaign

The Fat Cats Come to Town

Tuesday 9th September - St James Park- Newcastle

On Tuesday 9th of September over 100 Companies have been invited to a seminar organised by NEXUS.

It is important that we let these carpet baggers know that they are not welcome.

We are asking all interested parties to demonstrate outside of St James making our feelings quite clear.

Arrangements are as follows:

10 am - meet at Centre for the Unemployed - The Cloth Market - to pick up banners and placards

10.30 am - gather at car park - St James Park (NUFC) to give the predators a traditional North East Welcome

At this stage of the campaign it is important that as many people as possible turn out.

Stan Herschel
Bill Green

RMT Northern Organiser
Unite Northern Organiser

More info from Ed Whitby's blog here, UK watch here and the RMT here.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

The LHC - Progress, Responsibility and Risk

"The End Of The World - Coming Next Week! (Possibly)" Has been the sort of sensationalist line of the UK media this week when commenting on next week's scheduled switch on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator complex, buried deep beneath the French-Swiss border.

Beyond the hysteria, the operational stage of the LHC experiment raises serious questions about progress, responsibility and risk. The questions can also be related to the effect of the media frenzy over MMR and the current rise in Measles cases in the UK, and to the treatment of the science of climate change in the UK tabloid and reactionary press.

In the case of the LHC we have a massively expensive and technically difficult engineering project to facilitate an experiment that might seem esoteric and lacking in practical application to the general public. The experiments and observations scheduled at the LHC are designed to look at the building blocks of the universe by recreating on a tiny scale some of the conditions that may have existed at the theorised origins of the universe. Questions around particle physics and such subjects as Higgs boson and dark matter may be illuminated or resolved.

The fears that have been raised by some unconnected with the project and exploited by the media are to do with the creation of micro black holes or alternatively, "strangelets".

The worries expressed in the media and in the law suits raised in the USA and Europe have been that a stable black hole would be produced which would migrate to the centre of the planet and then devour the earth and the solar system, or that strangelets would be produced that would convert all surrounding matter and also result in global destruction. These worries have been dismissed both by the project and those involved in safety enquiries into the projected experiments. The counter arguments are that any tiny black holes produced would be inherently unstable and short lived and that there is no chance of the Strangelet scenario.

It does seem unlikely that anyone involved in the project would continue if they thought that there was any chance at all of their work leading to the destruction of themselves, their families or their planet, let alone larger scale destruction. The doom mongers counter that the vast amounts of money involved, the vested interests, the professional careers and reputations at stake, and "intellectual arrogance" militate against serious questioning of the safety risks involved. This is not too convincing and sounds rather similar to the arguments put forward by climate change deniers as to why the world's scientific and political establishments would "lie" and collude on such a large scale as required by the broad IPCC consensus. It is also reminiscent of the arguments about the safety of the triple MMR vaccination programme, following the now discredited single piece of research that was used by the media and "natural health" campaigners to sow doubts about safety in the minds of parents. In that case the inevitable result is now seen in the steady increase in cases of measles in the UK, with potentially tragic results for some of the parents and children that avoided vaccination. The consequences of the political power of climate change denial could be even more serious given the predicted timescales and what we are told by the majority of experts about the necessary reductions in CO2 emissions.

I believe that there is a middle path to be taken between uncritical techno-utopianism and ill-informed technophobia.

A techno-progressive approach, with a democratic, ecosocialist and humanist grounding would suggest that all technical advances should be held up to scrutiny and debated as openly as possible - with their social and environmental consequences assessed as well as their economic and scientific ones. Whilst a certain suspicion of the distorting potential of the current economic and social systems is reasonable (we only have to look at the massive PR and spin currently around nuclear power and GM foods), reflex anti-scientism and cynicism are not helpful, particularly when they are coupled with a religiously based conservatism or rose-tinted glasses view of history and tradition, as is often the case. (As I have said before on here, these latter objections are my main criticisms of the work of writers such as Schumacher, regardless of their uncriticised popularity amongst some sections of the Green movement.)

All this said, the LHC experiment does raise ethical issues. Whilst defending the right and necessity of scientists exploring blue sky areas of research with no currently appreciable practical application one does feel a little uneasy about the colossal cost and concentration of research effort that has gone into this single project. Let us hope that the "technological/commercial spin offs" which some of those involved in the LHC have suggested give some extra credibility to the project are valuable enough in human terms to justify some of the expense and effort if, as sometimes postulated, the experiments do not yield significant results to add to, or alter, our understanding of the universe.

One of the most convincing criticisms of the whole thing comes from the former UK Government Chief Science Adviser Sir David King, who suggests that in the light of the pressing problems with energy and climate change then expenditure and research effort in the area of renewable energy would be a better use of £500 Million the UK have contributed and the money contributed by other governments. A Guardian article today contrasts the £83 million spent (on average per annum) since 2002 by the UK government on renewable energy sources with the £78 Million (on average per annum since 1995) contribution to CERN, the body responsible for the LHC. This criticism is not so much of the nature or supposed dangers of the project, so much as its' timing.

Whilst I would very much like to believe all the assurances of the LHC scientists and accept that they have to a large extent answered the worries raised in the lawsuits, let us hope that there really are no unforeseen consequences to their experiment. However, when it comes down to it, the odds for survival of intelligent lifeforms on this planet in the long term are very slim (as detailed in Martin Rees's work I have previously referenced) - and without intelligent lifeforms it would seem that the long term survival of any earth-based lifeforms is also limited by the cosmic constraints of the lifetime of our star, and more pressingly the incidence of meteor, asteroid and cometary collisions.

Correspondingly, the ability to leave the confines of this beautiful and delicate, (but ultimately imprisoning and limiting) planet and solar system will depend on continued expansion of knowledge and technical ability for humans and whatever lifeforms may evolve from, or after us. Thus experiments like that at the LHC may on the one hand raise the (allegedly so slim as to be not worth measuring) possibility of our destruction, but may also be one of the only ways in which we can gain the knowledge necessary to ensure survival/continued evolution of humanity and earth-evolved life forms in the long term. In short, we, and the life that has evolved here may perish either way. Life's choices are seldom easy and seldom without risk - those who would seek to minimise some risks may unwittingly (as in the case of MMR vaccination) expose us to other risks of variable magnitude.

Those of us who are able must strive for the utmost transparency and accountability so that risks that we must take are properly assessed and understood. In the end this can only be fully achieved in a society with far more economic and social democracy than we currently experience even in the allegedly most "advanced" parts of the world.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Early Reports From Green Party Conference

The Guardian reported briefly on the start of the conference, concentrating mainly on the election of the new Green Party Leader. Caroline Lucas MEP was elected leader of the Green Party today and Norwich Councillor Adrian Ramsay was voted Deputy leader. Jim reports on the election results at Daily (Maybe) here.
Student Medic has been blogging on Green Left's activities around the GPEW conference here, here and here.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

2008 Green Party Autumn Conference

I won't be at the Green Party of England and Wales Autumn Conference this weekend, so hopefully will be able to follow some of it through blogs and websites.

Jim at Daily Maybe gives an introduction, with some links here.

Right on cue, another petulant outburst from Charles Clarke about his own Party and government, raising the profile of the campaign of (likely Green Party Deputy Leader after the conference) Adrian Ramsay and Norwich Greens to unseat the New Labour bruiser at the next election!

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Rally For Public Services in Nottingham

Public Services Not Private Profit
7.30pm, 16th September
New Mechanics Institute
B3 North Sherwood Street
Hosted by Notts and Mansfield TUC
Speakers to include -
Mark Sertwotka, General Secretary PCS
Alan Simpson MP
Jeremy Dear , General Secretary NUJ

More info on Public Services campaign at

Hopefully the newly formed Notts IWW will have a leaflet out for this event.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cinema Worker Sacked - IWW Call for Solidarity

The IWW (Industrial Workers Of The World)have just concluded a historic 2008 General Assembly in London attended by workers from the growing number of countries where the international union has a presence, including the USA, UK, Canada, Germany and Portugal, and from other parts of the world where the union has allies or workers showing an interest in joining. More on this later when the reports are published. Meanwhile in Britain the union has launched a campaign to support a victimized worker at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield -

Support IWW Worker Chris Lockwood - Fired for Organizing!

Please circulate widely.

On the 21st August Chris Lockwood, union organizer and member of the Industrial Workers of the World was fired from his bar job at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield (UK). This has been part of a long campaign by management of picking off and isolating workers who have voiced objections to recent changes that have worsened the conditions of all who work there. The Showroom cinema is a registered charity and claims to be an "investor in people", yet has consistently attacked workers pay and conditions with the sole aim of greater profits.

We believe that every worker (no matter what the industry) is entitled to respect and should be organized to defend themselves in the work place. Chris’ firing represents a direct and illegal attack against union organizing. Management have refused our request to review his dismissal, so on the 12th of September members of the Industrial Workers of the World will be picketing the Showroom cinema to demand the immediate reinstatement of Chris Lockwood.

Scroll down to find out how you can support us:

1) Joining the picket lines.

Picketing will begin at 10am and go on until the bar shuts at 1:00am. Busiest times, however, are between 12 and 3 and 5 and 8. If you are able to bring food or drinks to support picketers this will also be very much appreciated.

The Showroom cinema is at –
7 Paternoster row
S1 2BX

If you are coming by train then the cinema is directly opposite the entrance to the train station. If you are coming by coach then you have to
walk up Pond Street (towards the train station) to get to paternoster row. If you require accommodation this can be arranged (please email beforehand).

2) Solidarity actions or emails and calls of protest to affiliates

The Showroom cinema has a number of affiliate organizations who provide it with funding and support. These include –

Europa cinemas –

54, Rue Beaubourg - F-75003 Paris
Tél. + 33 1 42 71 53 70 - Fax + 33 1 42 71 47 55

General Director
Claude-Eric POIROUX

International Relations & Events

The Independent Cinema Office –

Independent Cinema Office
3rd Floor
Kenilworth House
79–80 Margaret Street
London W1W 8TA

T. 020 7636 7120
F. 020 7636 7121

The UK Film Council –

10 Little Portland Street
London W1W 7JG
Tel 44 (0) 20 7861 7861
Fax 44 (0) 20 7861 7862

3) Support our telephone and email blockade.

On the 12th September from 10am til 1am on the 13th we are calling for an email and phone blockade on the showroom cinema.

Either telephone (+44) 0114 276 3534 and ask to speak to Julie Simpson (or a member of the senior management team about the dismissal of Chris Lockwood.

Or copy and paste the following email and send to and

Template email:

To whom it may concern,

I am contacting you today to register my protest against the illegal dismissal of Chris Lockwood. Chris is a union organizer and member of
the Industrial Worker of the World and has been discriminated against on this basis. A member of senior management has stated in conversation to a union delegate that you believe Chris' dismissal to be fair because he was only a “casual” labourer. This may be how you chose to label those who work just above minimum wage in your bar and cinema. I, however, believe that workers are entitled to respect in their workplace and the right to organize. The clearly trumped up charges and your failure to follow statutory procedure represents an illegal move by your management team against union organizing. I will not support or patronize your business and will do everything in my power to publicize and protest your actions until the complete reinstatement of Chris Lockwood.

Yours Faithfully,


Thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.

Industrial Workers of the World (Sheffield)

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Workers' Struggle in India

The following is a message about an ongoing workplace struggle in India that I have just received -



(Dear friends please forward this information)
PepsiCo Foods India Ltd is a MNC in the district of Sangrur of Punjab on the highway connecting Patiala and Sangrur. The management of the factory always tried their best to ensure that a union of workers may not be formed in the factory. Whenever workers tried to organise themselves either they transferred the leaders to far off places or sometimes leaders sold their conscience and were given better positions in the hierarchy.

The workers of the factory who are approximately 280 and the number of contractual workers is 450. The regular workers started the formation of a union in a secret way. But the management immediately suspended their leader Sanjeev Kumar.

The management on 12-04-2007 suspended Sanjeev Kumar for instigating workers against management and for also taking more leave in 2007. An enquiry was going on and he was dismissed on 2-08-08. Four other workers were also suspended on very silly grounds that they are associated with union activities. On 5-5-08 the workers union got registered with the name PepsiCo India holdings workers union No.23 which got affiliated to AITUC.

Since 15-06-06 management started harassing the workers.
On 19-08-08 at 2.00 p.m. all workers started Dharana. Since then the the production of Uncle Chips Kurkure and other such products has stopped.

On 23rd of August a heavy police force came at about 7.30 a.m. with about 220 workers (almost 100%) on the gate. Suddenly the owners and drivers of the Truck Union from the nearby town of Bhawanigarh came. They insisted on getting their trucks inside to get them loaded. The workers protested. Workers blocked the gates by lying down on the gate. The truckers started beating the workers with lathis but police were watching the whole scene silently. About one dozen workers got injured. Villagers from surrounding area gathered in thousands in a few minutes and they resisted the truckers and then the villagers blocked the national highway for about six hours. Only then civil administration became active.

Up to now the management has dismissed the president of the union on very silly charges and suspended another nine workers.
On 25th August dozens of peasant organisations especially the farmer's organisation reached the factory gate in support of the struggle of the Pepsi workers. An action committee is formed by these organisations and a huge protest rally is organised for 1st September at the gate of Pepsi.

Three rounds of negotiations have taken place between management, civil administration, union representatives and some representatives of the surrounding villages. Management is reluctant to reinstate the president of the Union.

Pepsico India details for protests -

Pepsi Foods Private Limited

3B, DLF Corporate Park, 'S' Block, Qutab Enclave, Phase-III
Gurgaon - 122002
Haryana, India
Tel: 0124-2355880 Email:

If you would like to contact Customer Care, please email or call 1800224020

This comes amidst a rising tide of workers' struggles in India -

See here
and here

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