Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Night Sessions

I have just finished reading Ken MacLeod's latest book, The Night Sessions. I really enjoyed Ken's last book, The Execution Channel and I am a great fan of his Fall Revolution series, so I was really looking forward to The Night Sessions. I was not disappointed. Ken revisits some of the themes and technological innovations of the Fall Revolution novels whilst exploring the new area of religious belief and motivation. So we have self conscious machines and artificial intelligences, a 24-7 online society and moves towards expansion of human civilization into space alongside the aftermath of "Faith Wars" and the global marginalisation of religion, creationist exiles from a US civil war conspiring in New Zealand and underground Christian fundamentalists conspiring in a hi-tech Scotland dominated by Russian capitalists, booming green technology and space industries, war weariness and sexually liberated hedonism! The action largely takes place in an Edinburgh at once recognisable and remote and a New Zealand of natural beauty, philosophical absurdity and technological wonder. A key part of the plot is an attempt to "techno-fix" climate change.

Like The Execution Channel, the new book is part detective story, part philosophical enquiry, but it is also a lovingly crafted depiction of a future world shaped by climate change, the aftermath of the "Armageddon" result of current conflicts and developing technologies, seen from the point of view of ordinary and extraordinary people.

As with his dissection of the political life and evolution of left sects and cults in the Fall Revolution series, Ken here looks at the life of churches in decline and the development of fundamentalism, re-occurring just when everyone thinks it has been defeated. This mirrors our modern experience. Religious conflicts, and class or national conflicts filtered through a religious frame had begun to seem very old fashioned and irrelevant even just 15 or 20 years ago. Yet now, by accident or design, religion and fundamentalism are hardly out of the news and are ascribed as causes to many events, even where Occam's Razor would suggest a much more easily understandable and basic causation.

Ken MacLeod again succeeds in bringing us a novel that not only entertains and amuses but asks serious questions of us all, enlightens and educates. I heartily recommend The Night Sessions to lovers of science fiction, politics, detective fiction or just those in search of a good read.

The other good news is that we are promised a new book entitled The Restoration Game in 2009.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lucas at Guardian Debate, Monday 1st December

Who Owns The Progressive Future?

Who owns the progressive future?
7pm Monday 1 December
With Aditya Chakrabortty, Beatrix Campbell, Caroline Lucas, Ken Livingstone.
Chair John Harris

Who owns the progressive future? is the final debate in the series organised by Comment Is Free and Soundings journal. It will take place in London at Kings Place on December 1 at 7pm. Guardian readers can obtain tickets at a special rate of £5.75 by phoning Kings Place box office on 0844 264 0321 and quoting "Guardian reader offer". Book online here.

To see the full description and details of the third debate go to

Green Party leader Caroline was also scheduled to be on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions on Friday 28th, which is re-aired this afternoon.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

ID Card Launch Greeted By Protests

The launch of the national ID card this week - an attempt at a "stealthy" phased launch by first issuing to Non-EU students and spouses - has been greeted by protests around the country. This is another small step on the road to the "total surveillance" national security state in Britain. Some links below:

There was a protest outside the UK Border Offices in Cardiff, protesters from Manchester joined others from Liverpool outside Reliance House on Merseyside. (More pictures here) In the West Midlands there was a protest in Solihull. Anarchist activists joined a protest in the North East. In the South East there was a demo at the UK Border Agency in Croydon.

One encouraging sign is the move of the Airline Pilots for strike action should ID cards be imposed on airport workers and pilots.

NO2ID continue their campaigning against the expensive, unnecessary, authoritarian ID card project with actions and initiatives including their pledge campaign.

A list of the problems with, and objections to, the ID card and database project can be found here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre Budget Statement - "A Missed Opportunity"?

Whilst some of the measures announced in the government's Pre Budget Statement (trumpeted as a dynamic range of measures to shorten and lessen the depth of the recession) cannot be sniffed at and others positively welcomed, (as indeed they have been, by various TUC union leaders) the missed opportunities on some environmental and energy issues and open reverses on others are frankly underwhelming. Here is Mark Lynas from the Guardian website:

A "green new deal" it ain't. More motorways, cheaper fuel, more of the same. The planet's ecological crisis makes the current financial crisis look like, well, something very small and insignificant indeed. Had he aimed to shift the UK economy on to a greener track, creating jobs and reflating the economy at the same time, things might be looking more positive. But he just doesn't seem to get it.

And even the most radical version of the Green New Deal put forward by the New Economics Foundation (whose website was inexplicably inaccessible at time of writing) does not really go far enough or adequately tackle the inequalites of power and weatlh that are the crux of the problem (to be fair it was not meant to - it is presumably meant as something that is implementable without major political upheaval or change) But at least some of the Green New Deal measures might be a start. Instead Labour have given us re-hashed, not-quite-Keynesianism designed to return us to a situation where we can restart the economy and carry on "as normal" (where carrying on "as normal" self evidently aids and abets economic insanity and planetary disaster). It is a measure of the disarray and lack of ambition or long term strategy of the soft left that some of the liberal left commentariat are heralding this return to not-quite social democratic politics as a brave new dawn of European-style welfarism. As with their unjustified, (though understandable given what it replaced) hopes for the new Obama regime, I suspect they are courting disappointment at least.

Most of the mainstream papers have gone with the line that as the Independent puts it, the Pre-Budget Report is "A gamble that will decide Britain's political future" And indeed , it is a gamble, though the stakes may be higher than even the yellow press anticipate.

Quoted in the same paper, Green Party of England and Wales leader Caroline Lucas said of the Report :

"The Chancellor's plan to cut taxes to promote a consumer spending boom is short-term thinking in the extreme. Even if it works, it will simply ship money abroad, as most consumer goods are imported, rather than supporting jobs here in the UK. More seriously, it also represents a return to the vicious cycles of debt and over-consumption that caused the crisis in the first place. Not only is this economically unsustainable, it is environmentally unsustainable, driving a major depletion of natural resources and growth in climate emissions."

Other interesting comments came from psychologist Oliver James:

"If everybody is agreed that we have been spending too much money, how can spending more be the answer? The fact is we're already poisoned and Mr Darling wants to give us more poison. We've built our economy on debt. And now the demand is for us to spend yet more. We're in this mess because of selfish capitalism; why not try unselfish capitalism, which is what they do on the continent? We should, like Denmark, work a 35-hour week and redistribute the work. Then we should hammer the rich, so that all of us can learn to work less and buy less."

John Sauven of Greenpeace did not spare the rod over the lack of environmental and energy foresight:

"We had hoped Mr Darling might fire the starting gun on a clean energy revolution that would unlock hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs and develop a new UK manufacturing base capable of exporting renewables and energy-efficient technologies to the world. This was an historic opportunity to invest billions in a low-carbon, high-technology future, but the Chancellor blew it. We can only hope that by the time he formulates the Budget itself, he will have grasped the potential of hi-tech climate solut-ions to get us out of this recession."

I suspect that even on its own terms this package may not achieve that much - anecdotally a lot of people are saying that they do not feel the measures will alter behaviour too much, and any extra cash may just go into paying off some of the massive accumulated debts. (Consumer debt overtook Gross Domestic Product last year) Not that the main opposition offer anything likely to appeal - just Blairified Thatcherism. The New Year may bring interesting challenges for us all.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Survivors, Episode One - BBC1

Wow! The BBC had promised us a "re-imagining" of Terry Nation's original story from the 1970s first series of Survivors, and the result was certainly imaginative, and by turns grim, poetic, moving and engaging.

We were introduced to the main characters who included "re-imagined" up to date versions of those in the original story, plus new characters to give a more contemporary feel. The events of the virus period were told very quickly, as in the original - giving the viewer a feeling of the terrible speed at which the illness spreads and brings civilisation crashing to its knees within a couple of weeks.

I thought the performances of Julie Graham as the central character Abby Grant and Philip Rhys as Al Sadiq were particularly good. Max Beesley was on good, menacing form again. The worries about the treatment of the story brought on by awareness of some of the recent lightweight previous projects of some of those involved were quickly dispelled - at least in the first episode we were looking at serious, quality TV.

The horror of Julie Graham's character, waking up after "missing time" in a fever and finding all those around her dead was faithfully depicted from some of the most memorable scenes of the original, whilst the new stories of "Playboy" Al Sadiq and Najid, an 11 year old Muslim Mancunian, were seemlessly sewn into the plot. In the original Tom Price was a wisecracking Welsh homeless man of dubious morality, (played by Talfryn Thomas) in the 2008 version Max Beesley's Tom was a violent prisoner who escapes from his prison full of dead by killing the only other survivor there, a Prison Officer. This adds an extra element of danger and drama to the plot - without totally demonising the Price character (his murder of the prison officer was in response to his plan to lock him up in a food store that would have resulted in Price's almost certain death.) Max Beesley must feel he is getting typecast in plague scenarios - his last major BBC role was in another excellent drama on BBC1 - The Last Enemy - also set in a nightmare future.

The important dialogue that Abby has with the outdoor pursuits worker she meets when searching for her son, (a dialogue that points out the nature of the situation they are in and implies a criticism of the distance most people in advanced economies now have from an understanding of nature or basic practical and technical skills needed to survive without ready long-term sources of oil or electricity, food or tools) was also kept in from Nation's 1970s original and seemed if anything even more relevant today given talk about Peak Oil and the increased dependency of most of us on electrical and electronic gadgetry in our everyday lives. Someone involved in the new series said that in the original there was no dependency on mobile 'phones, cars were much easier to break into and start and fuel was much more easily accessed through siphoning or manual emergency pumps - modern security and pumps would make getting fuel a much more dangerous affair, as demonstrated explosively in the first episode of the new version of Survivors.

Hopefully the series might make some of us think a bit more carefully about our resilience in a potential crisis situation - lack of resilience in the UK being illustrated by the rapid effect of the year 2000 fuel blockades.

New elements in the 2008 Survivors are the inclusion of a junior Government Minister and a scene at the end which adds a novel element in keeping with the paranoia of our times!

I await further episodes with interest.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekly Links 23/11/08

The 2008 Climate Change Campaign march in London is coming up in a couple of weeks, and the day after is the No Sweat Gathering in London for those wishing to make a weekend of it.

No Sweat Gathering - Sun Dec 7
As well as Mark Thomas reading from and signing copies of his new book about Coca Cola, Belching Out The Devil, hear Garment Worker Activists From Bangladesh tell their story; Colombia Solidarity Campaign on the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist and loads more...

Sunday December 7 at Queen Mary & Westfield College, Uni of London.
Crash accommodation for Sat night can be arranged for anyone coming to the benefit and / or the climate march. Glossy fliers available on request. More info and downloadable flier (agenda to follow) at:
Tickets at: (£6 full price) (£4 concs)

British Republicanism
Republicanism continues to get more column space in the British press and to be taken more seriously than for a long time. After various articles in the Guardian, including some by members of the broad campaign group Republic, this Thursday Johann Hari had an article in the Independent that has provoked a similar level of response, pro and anti as greeted the Republican articles in the Guardian. the message is getting across that modern British Republicanism is not just about being against the monarchy, but is part of the broad movement for democratic change at all levels.
Meanwhile, socialist republicans from all parts of these islands are meeting in Scotland at a Convention organised by the Scottish Socialist Party. More information here.

Saturday November 30th this year sees the 85th anniversary of the death of the great Scottish socialist and republican; John McLean. It is therefore fitting that the SSP choose that day to organise a major conference on Republicanism in Britain.
The struggle for the establishment of an independent Socialist Republic is at the heart of the SSP’s programme for Scotland, but what will this new Republic look like and what are the implications for the rest of the Left in Britain?

International Left
An interesting article by David Graeber, US anarchist and anthropologist, here on the prospects for a global radical opposition in light of the current economic crisis of capitalism.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Convention Of The Left Statement Of Action

The Convention of The Left (supported by Green Left and a number of local Green Parties) organising group has published a statement of action ahead of the recall event on January 24th 2009.

Convention of The Left – moving forward – Statement of Action

The September launch of the Convention of The Left exceeded expectations and was a significant event on the left. We must now work out how to build on this positive beginning.

We re-affirm our intention “to join together with all those seeking a better society, as an anti-capitalist left fighting for an alternative socialist society” (September 21st 2008 Statement of Intent).

Local Campaigning

To do this effectively we must “go local” – building local Conventions, experimenting with organisational and political models, learning from each other and from experience, building on “what works”, with an emphasis on bottom up campaigning, participation and decision making.

Local Convention of The Left groups or forums should develop a combination of campaigning and political discussion – not duplicating other campaigns or seeking to replace them but drawing the left together in co-operation and struggle. We should go out of our way to overcome the division that exists between the organised left and the direct actionist and libertarian groups.

Campaigns should be developed and supported locally. Already some local groups have taken a lead in actions coming out of the financial crisis, on house repossessions, on fuel poverty and energy costs. Other areas of activity might include anti-academy campaigns, defence of local GP surgeries against poly-clinics, campaigns against privatisations, in support of migrants and opposing deportations, fighting the fascist threat.

Local Convention of The Lefts should be encouraged to:

1. produce reports for a local convention section of the website

2. discuss demands and programs of action around their struggles

3. submit these demands and charters to the Convention website and future events for
further discussion.

National Campaigning

We re-affirm that this is not the construction of another political party. Rather, the strength of the Convention lies in attempting to bring local groupings together and to provide a wider forum for discussion and united action – so that we can strengthen the anti capitalist left by uniting ourselves around action and policies where we can.
The Recall Event on January 24th 2009 should elect a steering committee to build on the work of the group that organised Manchester 2008’s Convention. This steering committee should be charged with organising or co-ordinating future activity – such as a further day or weekend Convention in summer 2009 – and with exploring the possibilities of a similar event at TUC and/or Labour Party Conference in Brighton 2009 as was organised in Manchester 2008.

John Nicholson, for the organising group, also sketched out the proposed shape of the recall event in an e-mail to supproters -

The provisional agenda is for a general political discussion (particularly about the development of a socialist economic alternative) followed by three parallel workshops (loosely along the lines of planet, peace, people) and a final plenary for agreeing demands, actions, campaigns, and ways of working that we can all carry out together across the left.

All sessions will follow the style developed by the Convention in September - participation rather than top-down platforms, consensus rather than polarisation - and we encourage background contributions or suggestions for action that will fit with the themes outlined. We would also welcome progress reports from local Convention groups or forums that may have started to develop. (We do request that all contributions are short and, in line with the Statement of Intent agreed in September, we request that contributions are not about the creation of a new left party now.) Please can you email these or submit to the website discussion - no later than January 10th, so that we can collate and circulate for the day itself.

Here is the Convention's discussion blog.

Let us hope we can see real progress as grassroots unity of all progressive left forces on the ground in Britain is going to be very important in the coming period of struggle against recession, attacks on living standards and possible ominous far-right electoral inroads.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Devil's Whore

The first episode of Peter Flannery's The Devil's Whore was aired on Channel 4 last night, and very good it was too. We were introduced to the fictional characters of the Fanshawes and historical characters such as Charles I, Rainsborough, Cromwell and John Lilburne and his wife. The style was lush and expensively costumed with the occasional surreal or supernatural element helping to distance us and lessen the effect of the artistic license and historical shorthand necessary to link all the characters and stories together. Excellent performances came from a brooding John Simm as Edward Sexby and Andrea Riseborough as the central fictional character of Angelica Fanshawe.
I look forward to the rest of the episodes.
Here are previews and reviews from :
The Telegraph

The Independent

and The Guardian

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekly Links 17/11/2008

The waiting is over! Two long awaited drama serials are set to start on terrestrial TV in Britain this week - the remake of Terry Nation's seminal apocalyptic series Survivors, which I have blogged on before, and the English Civil War story The Devil's Whore by the man who created the brilliant Our Friends In the North.
The BBC is due to air its first episode of Survivors on Sunday 23rd November.
Channel 4 air the first episode of The Devil's Whore on Wednesday 19th November.
Here is a topical (see later) piece by Ronan Bennett on The Devils Whore.

I am very excited by both of these series and will report back in due course, along with posting more links on both.

British Republicanism
Graham Smith, of Republic returns to the fray at the Guardian Comment is Free site this week after a Republican article by him last week got a massive response, pro and anti.

"You may have seen reports that prince Charles wishes to become an activist-King. Not content with meddling in political debates and haranguing ministers as heir to the throne, he craves power and influence at the highest level, but wants to be spared the inconvenience of an election. In the article I argue that a politically active King would be tantamount to winding the clocks back on centuries of gradual democratic reform. The only answer of course is the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of a democratic alternative."

Graham blogs here.

Workers and Unions
This is from Eric Lee at Labourstart -
I doubt if many of you regularly buy leather goods sold by Prada, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Nicole Farhi. These are luxury brands, priced too high for ordinary working people like us.

But the people who make those products are often low-paid, non-union workers. When those workers stand up and fight for their rights, it's our responsibility to stand with them.

Earlier this year, hundreds of workers at the Turkish leather manufacturer DESA -- which produces for all the luxury brands mentioned above -- joined a union. The reaction of the company was fierce: 44 union members were sacked, and 50 more compelled to quit the union.

Nevertheless, the workers have stood firm, holding daily protests outside the factory. Local police have been called in to arrest them, and bribes offered to union leaders to call off the demonstrations.
Families have been threatened.

Workers at DESA need a union urgently. They complain of poverty wages, long hours and terrible health and safety conditions.

Please take a moment to send off a message to DESA's customers -- the luxury fashion brands -- telling them that you support the DESA workers in their struggle:

Tell them that a union is right, not a luxury.

Thanks - and spread the word!

Eric Lee

Green Politics
The German Green Party, much reduced after its years of historic compromise has elected a new broom as co-leader.

This from the BBC -
The first ethnic Turkish head of a German political party has dismissed any comparisons between himself and US President-elect Barack Obama.

Cem Ozdemir, who was elected co-leader of the Green Party at the weekend, told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper such comparisons were "inappropriate".

Closer to home, the Green Party Trade Union Group's latest bulletin is now out.

Lefty Politics
For us lefty trainspotter types, there are some interesting, dare I say even slightly original (if still mainly plagiaristic)new boys on the block of lefty politics these days - for example the International Luxemburgist Network and in Britain The Commune, Group of International Communists who put a libertarian socialist motion to the recent Labour Representation Committee conference -

Social Ownership and Workers Self-Management

After years of being told 'There is No Alternative', the crisis of global capital has shown that the entire system can be brought into question. Furthermore the widespread state intervention to preserve finance capital has brought into question previously conceived ideas of nationalisation and "public ownership" traditionally accepted in the labour movement.

As part of developing a vision of a viable alternative to capitalism our movement needs to develop new ideas of social ownership and abandon statist conceptions which have proven to be an historical failure.

1. State ownership, no matter what pseudonym it goes under is not social ownership. They are in fact two counter-posed things: one cannot equate the state with society.

2. The state is not a neutral force concerned only with the welfare of society and possessing the ability and the means to take measures suited to this end. The state
is not a vehicle to achieve 'socialism' and cannot be relied upon to act as a protective shield against capital.

The capitalist system, whether in its private or state forms of appearance, does not and cannot work in the interest of the majority. It is an unjust system, an economic tyranny where the rulers at all levels make the crucial economic decisions that affect our lives, solely on the basis of what will increase their profits and promote their interests. The Labour Representation Committee considers that the people who should have the deciding voice on the economy and its problems are the people most directly connected with it, the workers who produce the goods and services.

As such the Labour Representation Committee sets as it goal a system of genuine social ownership, organised on the basis of workers' self-management, a system of participatory democracy based on the sovereignty of those who produce the goods and services in society.

Conference recognises that if we are to realise the slogan 'another world is possible' workers' self-management is a necessity in the creation of a new cooperative society based on common, social ownership. Workers' self-management is not something which can be proclaimed or enacted from above, nor is there a blueprint. It requires a process of social self-organisation and creativity from below.

The publication of Building a new common sense, Social Ownership in the 21st Century is a welcome initiative in helping rejuvenate discussion of these issues in the movement.

Conference agrees:

1. To hold a series of forums and conferences on the question of social ownership and workers' self-management, with LEAP and fraternal organisations.

2. To publish a series of pamphlets on making the case for social ownership and workers' self-management, drawing on historical, international and contemporary experiences of the working class.

3. To develop with affiliated trades unions the case for workers' self-management in specific industries.

4. From these discussions and debates to take forward a campaign for workers' selfmanagement and social ownership

Interesting blogging here on the situation in Iceland.

Some updates from my blog on Saturday re



The Paris Demo

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Workers and Students On The March In Rome, Paris, Madrid And Berlin This Week

Students and workers have been on the march in many parts of Europe this week as governments, bosses and bureaucrats try to impose further cuts and neo-liberal "reforms".

Rail workers, including a delegation from the British Transport union the RMT protested in Paris this week against the neo-liberal attacks at EU level on public transport. Meanwhile, Air France pilots began a four day strike against proposed changes to their retirement arrangements, and Wildcat strikes continued at the Italian airline Alitalia over job losses likely to follow a proposed takeover by the Cai investor group.

Protests have continued in Italy against the Berlusconi regime's attack on students and education workers.

There have been solidarity protests organised across the continent. Workers and students in Italy are now moving into direct conflict with the far right regime and its fascist outriders.

In Spain this week there were demonstrations to commemorate the anniversary of the murder of a young antifascist, including an impressive manifestation in Madrid -

Protests by school students have also erupted in Germany.

High School students struck and marched across Germany yesterday in protest against classroom overcrowding, lack of teachers, and the pressure of examinations.

Some 100,000 participated in demonstration across the country, walking out of classes and marching in over 40 cities. They protested for more permanent staff, smaller classes, and against a sped-up version of the school leaving exam, called the “turbo-abitur”. School students face intense exam pressure in Germany, where they are "streamed" at the age of 10 and selected to go to either a vocational or grammar school, often determining their prospects and chances in adult life. Demands that the pressure be relieved were made, and many teachers are also reported to be supporting the students' efforts.

A 10,000 strong protest march in Berlin ended with the invasion of the prestigious Humboldt University, where the conference room and terrace were occupied and draped with banners. There are reports of university staff battling with the students to defend statues of Hegel and Fichte, and of the university president Christoph Markschies barricading himself inside his office. 8,500 marched in Hanover, 8,000 in Stuttgart, and 6,000 in Hamburg.

Let us hope that these are the harbingers of much needed, sustained mass resistance across the continent !

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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Wave Of Job Losses

It did not take long for the effects of the credit crisis to begin to seriously impact the real economy in Britain. This week has seen announcement follow announcement of job cuts. The total announced by Friday 14th November of major UK job losses was at least 20,000 with 10,000 of these at British Telecom. This followed announcements by JCB, Leyland, Yell, Virgin Media and Vodaphone. In addition, job losses continue almost unremarked in the construction industry, now spilling over in to supply lines like brick factories. As I was writing news was breaking of further planned job losses in the financial and banking sector - at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The response so far of most of the unions whose members are being affected has not been overly promising. A mood of fatalism and bipartisan "flexibility" can only encourage the employers to further offload the costs of the downturn onto the workforce and consumers rather than their profits, bonuses or shareholders. The time could not be more appropriate for building the necessary links, organisation, strategies and solidarity being advocated by some Trades Councils, the National Shop Stewards Network and the British Isles Regional Organising Committee of the IWW.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Convention Of The Left Recall Conference

The Convention of The Left recall conference originally planned for later this month has been re-arranged for Saturday 24th January. This is from the organisers -

Capitalism isn't working - what is the alternative?

The organisers of the Convention of The Left would like to invite you to the free one day recall conference agreed at the Convention on Saturday January 24th 2009.

Following the success of the Convention in Manchester, this conference will discuss the current crisis of capitalism and develop our ideas for action in response to it. We have been clear all along that the wealth exists in society to pay for our essential needs - and now the way the Governments of the UK, EU and US have found this money at the drop of a hat proves what we have been saying. The poor should not be punished for the crisis of capitalism. We must provide the alternative.

Please note that this event has been moved from November 29th to a new date of Saturday January 24th 2009. This is due to an unfortunate problem with the previous venue. The event will now take place from 10,00am till 4.30pm at the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester. We apologise for any inconvenience.

We look forward to seeing you in January.

The Convention of the Left blog is here.

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Monday, November 10, 2008


This week sees the 90th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of the First World War. That brutal slaughter imposed on the young and workers by brutal clashing imperialisms still holds the power to shock in the awesome numbers slaughtered, even if we only count actual combatants killed often in the truly hell-like conditions such as existed in the trenches and no-mans land of the Western Front.

My own maternal grandfather joined up early and found himself in the early slaughter at Ypres. Shot in the chest (he carried the bullet to his dying day in the 1970s) he was shipped back to England, patched up and sent out again, just in time to join Churchill and Kitchener's Dardanelles adventure that led to mass casualties amongst the fresh faced ANZAC forces supported by various redeployed and newly recruited British troops. Wounded again (this time in a place that caused some ribaldry in later years, though not within his earshot!) he survived a hospital ship before returning to England. I owe my existence to the couple of centimetres that was the difference between that first bullet killing him and survival.

We should never forget what massacres our ruling classes will lead us into (and does anyone, looking at the unmissed Tony Blair and lame duck George Bush, pugilistic Putin or xenophobic demagogue Berlusconi really believe that all current leaders are less stupid, brutal and careless with the lives of others than their WW1 predecessors?) Our struggles to create a better world should go on with this in mind when tempted by the siren songs of the mainstream media that the leopard has changed its spots and that nationalism, militarism and fascism, big power rivalry and demagogic adventurers are all a thing of the past. They will only really be things of the past if we, the organised workers, youth and ordinary people of the world make them so.

Here is Chumbawamba's version of the subversively sarcastic graveyard humour song sung by the "poor bloody infantry" of that conflict - Hanging On the Old Barbed Wire.
( )

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekly Links 09/11/2008

I'm very busy at the moment, so just a short links posting this week.

Food for thought from the Guardian regarding the prospects for the British economy -

News from France regarding the electoral list launched for the coming Euro-elections involving the Greens and anti-globalisation campaigners like Jose Bove.

The New Economics Foundation published the much talked about Green New Deal proposals some time ago, this week their policy director Andrew Simms posted some ideas and recommendations for approaching the crisis at the Guardian Comment Is Free site ahead of the NEF publication of 20 First Steps To Rise From The Ashes Of The Crash

The Times has picked up on a story about Prince William that Republic have been pursuing via a Freedom of Information request.

The big news of the week was of course the US election. The people at Avaaz have been supporting a campaign to demand a change in US foreign policy from the new regime. The campaign highlights the importance of holding Obama to his campaign promises which are likely to come under significant pressure from global vested interests and reactionary elements of the US state apparatus - the mass mailed letter is below -

Dear President Obama:

As citizens across the world, we congratulate you on your election, and celebrate your campaign commitments to sign a strong new global treaty on climate change, close Guantanamo prison and end torture, withdraw carefully from Iraq, and double aid to fight poverty. No one country or leader can meet the world's most pressing challenges alone, but working together as one world in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation, yes we can bring real and lasting change.

Fianlly news this week from the Green Party Trade Union Group blog of a success in the London Living Wage campaign after Green Councillor Jenny Jones was successful in getting passed a motion to make Southwark Council a Living Wage employer.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Left, Green and Green Left Views On Obama's Victory

The victory of Barack Obama and the Democrats over John McCain and the Republicans in the US elections brings a variety of comment from the political segments of the blogosphere that I regularly read, as would be expected given the fact that for most Left, Green and Green Left Bloggers these elections were a case of waiting to see if the slightly less aggressive capitalist party would win out. In Britain particularly there are eerie echoes in the euphoria over the election of Obama of the 1997 landslide victory of Tony Blair and New Labour - another politician who carried a huge weight of expectation. Another weird echo came today with the news that Obama has made his first appointment - a Chief Of Staff who bears more than a passing political resemblance to Peter Mandelson (aaargh!)

Nevertheless, in purely symbolic and social psychological terms the election of the first black US President is an important milestone, just as was the election of Britain's first women Prime Minister in 1979, or the first post-apartheid election in South Africa (the symbolic importance of both of which events was quickly overshadowed by the real political nature of the forces involved). The defeat and passing of the Bush regime, with its unholy alliance of ex-leftist Neo-Cons, religious fundamentalists, militarists, imperialists and neo-liberal ideologues is also something to celebrate, though with an eye on the likely continuing power and influence of the military-industrial complex, lobbyists and finance capitalists in the successor regime. The hope remains though, that there may be at least some relaxing of the anti-union mood and legislation to allow the long suppressed power of American labour to begin to reassert itself.

The Socialist Unity Blog has posted a variety of voices from the American Socialist Left. Andy Newman dismissed the Blair analogy, but provoked a lot of response with his article here.

Derek Wall at Another Green World publishes Ralph Nader's open letter to Obama, and the response to the US election of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Stroppyblog reflected on the mixed messages that came out regarding sexual politics and same sex couple civil rights during election night.

Jim Jay at Daily (Maybe)had a look at the response of Brit and US leftists who actively argued against voting for Obama and did not like what he saw, and strangely finds himself being criticised from the left by Rupert Read! (Green Party in-joke alert)

An Irish Left comment here from the Cedar Lounge Revolution Blog.

Septic Isle was cautiously optimistic, whilst noting the Blair parallel.

Whatever your view, we certainly are living in interesting times.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reports from conference on class, coal and climate change in Newcastle

Here are two contrasting accounts of the conference in Newcastle at the weekend looking at the controversy around coal, energy workers and climate change.

Here is the positive view from a trade unionist and supporter of Workers Climate Action -

Ed is Red blog

And here is the view from North Eastern climate activists-

Toon Climate Camp

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Richard Greeman London Meeting - 10th November

I have blogged previously on the visit to the UK of US ecosocialist activist and writer Richard Greeman promoting his 2007 book Dangerous Shortcuts and Vegetarian Sharks (retitled "Beware of Vegetarian Sharks" for the 2008 edition, I understand).

A London date on his tour has now been announced by the Alliance For Green Socialism who are hosting the event. Hopefully Richard will also have some comments on the situation in his country in the wake of the Presidential election.

Meeting Details
7.30pm, Monday November 10th
"The Goose"
Rushley Green
SW6 (8 minutes from Catford Station)
Buses: 47, 54, 75, 136, 160.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weekly Links 02/11/08

Green Issues
There is to be a meeting on Thursday 27th November 2008, where The Public Interest Research Centre will launch the report "Climate Safety" at Friends Meeting House, Euston, London. Speakers Caroline Lucas, George Monbiot, Kevin Anderson, Jeremy Leggett and Tim Helweg-Larsen will be discussing the question 'How do we get back to climate safety?'

An ecosocialist view on climate change from writer John Bellamy Foster here.

Unions and Work
Labourstart this week linked to a variety of interesting stories - a mass teacher's strike looming in Romania, conflict brewing between local government workers and the state in Nigeria, a series of strikes in motor vehicle and electronics plants in Germany and news on the struggle of workers employed by transport companies subcontracted by Unilever in Turkey.

Closer to home Scottish Water workers are being balloted on industrial action.

The IWW British Isles Regional Organising Committee now have a website created by members in Wales -
In Welsh ->
And English ->

A fellow worker alerted me to an article by US journalist Frank Joyce that has provoked debate on Alternet - Union Card or Mastercard - How a nation of workers became a nation of debtors

The dispute between teachers, pupils, lecturers and students and the right-wing Italian regime continues. Interesting stories and links on UK Indymedia about this - here, and here (with an account of protesting students clashing with far rightist students - some of the far right seem to want to attack the movement, others to infiltrate it)
Another report here from Libcom.

Meanwhile, the Italian Airline Alitalia is still in a state of crisis - Reuters report this weekend. The BBC has further news on this.

US Politics
The big media event of the week of course, barring any unexpected drama, should be the US election. Looking at the possible election of Obama from the left a range of positions are possible - here are the views of Howard Zinn, Todd Chretien and Mike Davis

Ecosocialist writer John Bellamy Foster has written a Postscript to "The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis" which is available here.

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