Wednesday, 22 March 2017

London Terror Attack - Westminster in Lockdown

Photo credit The Independent

The terrorist attack in and around Parliament today, where five people died, including the attacker and an unarmed police officer, with forty injured, some seriously, has brought a strange mood in the area.

I work in Westminster, and our building, along with many others was in lockdown this afternoon. We were finally allowed to leave the building at 4.45 pm, but told to 'disperse' quickly. The area was much quieter than normal at rush hour as I made my way home, with large sections of Whitehall and around Parliament Square roped off by the police, and police and security vehicles sirens continually blaring as a backdrop. The mood reminded me of the 2005 tube bombing in London, which carried on for weeks.

The attack came exactly one year to the day after the Brussels underground attack, and is being treated by police as a terrorist incident, which seems to be the case. I've been thinking, with all of these terror attacks in Europe, in France and Germany mainly, there was sure to be an attack on London at some stage. Today it happened.

It bore similarities with the vehicle attack in Cannes in France, and the knife wielding ones in Germany, in fact it was a combination of the two. These 'lone wolf' type of attacks are very difficult to prevent. How you know what is going on in one person's mind? You can't, you can only prepare a response, and the security services do look to have responded quickly and efficiently to it.

With these events, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you are unlucky, it is unfortunately a fact of modern life, but it isn't so easy to be philosophical about that. I've been inside Parliament myself, and the police look like Robo Cops, very heavily armed, but somehow it does not make you feel safer, it kind of makes you nervous. It is though necessary, unfortunately, as today's events demonstrate, though 'softer' targets are impossible to protect. Parliament and its surrounds is the most protected area in the country, and it happened there.

Life carries on, I suppose, but the city has taken a big knock today. Thoughts with those affected and their friends and family, a dreadful day in London.

Monday, 20 March 2017

'London should become a city state after hard Brexit'



Written by David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham in north London and first published at the Evening Standard

Last week Nicola Sturgeon stole the headlines by firing the starting gun on another Scottish independence  referendum, but it is London that stands to lose the most from Brexit. To borrow the Prime Minister’s favourite phrase, now is not the time for London to foot the bill for this hardest of all hard Brexits.

Sturgeon complained that the Government has ignored the wishes and interests of Scotland, leaving her with no choice but to push for independence. London’s economy is double the size of Scotland’s and there are almost twice as many people living in London as in Scotland, so why have the capital’s interests been totally sidelined and why isn’t London’s voice being heard?

Throughout history there have been great cities that are essentially also states in their own right — Rome, Athens, Singapore and Hong Kong. London — given its predominance in our economic, social and cultural national life — certainly fits the bill too.

What all great cities have in common is an ability to change with the times. If London is to retain its position as the pre-eminent global city we must recognise that this is not a Brexit that will work for the capital — this is a Brexit for the Europhobe hardliners on the Tory backbenches.

This Brexit at any cost, regardless of the consequences, will be absolutely catastrophic for London and our place in the world. But as things go pear-shaped, there is a way out of this and nothing should be off the table when it comes to protecting the strength and future prosperity of our capital.

Whitehall has begun the devolution of control over adult skills, criminal justice services and employment support to City Hall, but Brexit changes everything, so it is perfectly rational to consider more radical proposals than piecemeal devolution.

Let’s not forget that 60 per cent of Londoners voted to Remain. The referendum result sent a shock wave through the capital, but as the dust begins to settle, London finds itself increasingly constrained by — and at odds with — the policies and priorities of our central Government.

If Scotland can have another referendum on independence, then why can’t we have a well-overdue debate about London becoming more autonomous and independent from the rest of the country? If Brexit was a victory of smalltown conservatism, resurgent nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment, then London’s status as the financial and cultural capital of Europe depends on resisting these shifts.

Earlier this year the London Finance Commission proposed a comprehensive London devolution package in light of Brexit, including additional control over the tax paid by Londoners and London businesses to bring us into line with our global competitors. New York keeps around 50 per cent of the taxes raised in the city and Tokyo keeps almost three quarters, so a comprehensive settlement to enable London to keep more of the taxes generated here would give the capital the tools we need to mitigate the impact of Brexit and stay ahead in the global race.

Take the issue of immigration. Huge swathes of our nation — including the ministers calling the shots around the Cabinet — view freedom of movement as a problem so severe that we must leave the single market in a desperate bid to reduce net immigration to the “tens of thousands”, regardless of how much it hurts our economy. But London would grind to a halt without European migrants coming to the capital to work, and separate visa arrangement will be essential to enable London to maintain access to the talent it needs to grow.

Fast forward a couple of years and London’s status as the world’s pre-eminent global city will be under threat. Our position as the financial services capital of Europe is at risk and could disappear overnight if there is a flight of capital and talent to cities on the Continent.

Over the course of the next two years as the reality of Brexit begins to bite, the economic, social and political cleavages between London and other parts of the country will become more pronounced. London’s status as a de facto city-state will become clearer and the arguments for a London city-state to forge a more independent path will become stronger.

London already accounts for just under a third of all UK tax revenue — up a quarter in real terms since 2005 — so it beggars belief that the interests of the capital have been completely overlooked when planning for Brexit. The Treasury is increasingly reliant on London to subsidise expenditure and investment in other regions so embarking on a course that will hurt London economically is bad for the whole country, not just the capital.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated the cost of Brexit at around £60 billion in additional borrowing over the next five years, and it is London that will foot the bill. We cannot afford a lost decade. We are already seeing London schools hit by huge cuts as money is shifted from the capital to the shires. Local authorities in the capital are already on their knees after seven years of swingeing austerity.

This is the last thing we need when urgent attention and huge investment is crucial to address the capital’s housing crisis and a deepening chasm between top earners and workless poor in many London boroughs. We can’t go back to the Seventies: needles strewn across our public parks; our schools falling apart; the National Front marching on our streets; political paralysis, civil unrest and economic turbulence.

What has become clear since June is that the Government will not fight London’s corner in the Brexit negotiations. The case for a London city-state has never been stronger. As Sturgeon told the SNP conference: we are not powerless, we can still decide which path we take. If you identify with London’s values, it’s time to fight for them.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Eco-activists Vandalise a Trump Golf Course



Several media outlets are reporting that a group of environmental activists did a massive nocturnal redecoration job on the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Under cover of night, a group of anonymous individuals snuck onto the $250 million course and carved the message,

“No More Tigers, No More Woods” in giant letters. They even took video of the whole thing for your viewing pleasure.

According to a statement from the group sent to the Washington Post they said, “In response to the president’s recent decision to gut our existing protection policies, direct action was conceived and executed on the green of his California golf course in the form of a simple message: NO MORE TIGERS. NO MORE WOODS.”

“Tearing up the golf course felt justified in many ways,” they went on to say. “Repurposing what was once a beautiful stretch of land into a playground for the privileged is an environmental crime in its own right. We hope this sends a message to Trump and his corrupt administration that their actions will be met with action.”

Write up from Earth First.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World — And Democracy

Ada Colau

Written by Oscar Reyes, Bertie Russell and first published at Common Dreams

“We’re living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it.” – Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona.

On 24 May 2015, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú was elected as the minority government of the city of Barcelona. Along with a number of other cities across Spain, this election was the result of a wave of progressive municipal politics across the country, offering an alternative to neoliberalism and corruption.

With Ada Colau — a housing rights activist — catapulted into the position of mayor, and with a wave of citizens with no previous experience of formal politics finding themselves in charge of their city, BComú is an experiment in progressive change that we can’t afford to ignore.

After 20 months in charge of the city, we try to draw some of the main lessons that can help inspire and inform a radical new municipal politics that moves us beyond borders and nations — and towards a post-capitalist world based on dignity, respect, and justice.


1. The best way to oppose nationalist anti-immigrant sentiment is to confront the real reasons life is shit.


There is no question that life is getting harder, more precarious, more stressful, and less certain for the majority of people.

In the U.S. and across Europe, racist reactionaries and nationalist politicians are blaming this on two things — immigrants, and “outside forces” that challenge national sovereignty. While Trump and Brexit are the most obvious cases, we can see the same phenomenon across Europe, in the rise of far-right parties like Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the Front National in France.

In Barcelona, there is a relative absence of public discourse that blames the social crisis on immigrants, and most attempts to do so have fallen flat. On the contrary, on February 18 of this year, over 160,000 people flooded the streets of Barcelona to demand that Spain take in more refugees.

While this demonstration was also caught up with complexities of Catalan nationalism and controversy over police repression of migrant street vendors, it highlighted the support for a politics that cares for migrants and refugees.

The main reason for this is simple: There is a widespread and successful politics that provides real explanations of why people are suffering, and that fights for real solutions.

The reason you can’t afford your rent is because of predatory tourism, unscrupulous landlords, a lack of social housing, and property being purchased as overseas investments. The reason social services are being cut is because the central government transferred huge amounts of public funds into the private banks, propping up a financial elite, and because of a political system riddled with corruption.

While Barcelona played a leading role in initiating a network of “cities of refuge,” simply condemning anti-immigrant nationalism isn’t enough. In a climate where popular municipal movements are providing a strong narrative as to what they see as the problem — and identifying what they’re going to do about it — it’s incredibly difficult for racist and nationalist narratives based on lies and hatred to take root.


2. Politics doesn’t have to be the preserve of rich old white men.


Ada Colau is the first female mayor of Barcelona. She is a co-founder of BComú, and was formerly the spokesperson of the Mortgage Victims Platform, a grassroots campaign challenging evictions and Spain’s unjust property laws. Colau leads a group of 11 district council members, seven of whom are women, whose average age is 40.

BComú’s vision of a “feminized politics” represents a significant break with the existing political order. “You can be in politics without being a strong, arrogant male, who’s ultra-confident, who knows the answer to everything,” Colau explains. Instead, she offers a political style that openly expresses doubts and contradictions. This is backed by a values-based politics that emphasizes the role of community and the common good — as well as policies designed to build on that vision.

The Barcelona City Council’s new Department of Life Cycles, Feminisms, and LGBTI is the institutional expression of these values. It has significantly increased the budget for campaigns against sexist violence, as well as leading a council working group that looks to identify and tackle the feminization of poverty.

The changing face of the city council is reinforced by BComú’s strict ethics policy, Governing by Obeying, which includes a €2,200 monthly limit on payments to its elected officials. Colau takes home less than a quarter of the amount claimed by her predecessor Xavier Trias. By February 2017, €216,000 in unclaimed salaries had been paid into a new fund that will support social projects in the city.


3. A politics that works begins by listening.


BComú started life with an extensive process of listening, responding to ordinary peoples’ concerns, and crowd-sourcing ideas — as summarized in its guide to building a citizen municipal platform.
Drawing on proposals gathered at meetings in public squares across the city, BComú created a program reflecting immediate issues in local neighborhoods, city-wide problems, and broader discontent with the political system. Local meetings were complemented by technical and policy committees, and an extensive process of online consultation.

This process resulted in a political platform that stressed the need to tackle the “social emergency” — problems such as home evictions on a huge scale, or the effect of uncontrolled mass tourism. These priorities came from listening to citizens across the city rather than an echo chamber of business and political elites. BComú’s election results reflected this broader appeal: It won its highest share of the vote in Barcelona’s poorest neighborhoods, in part through increasing turnout in those areas.

On entering government, BComú then began to implement an Emergency Plan that included measures to halt evictions, hand out fines to banks leaving multiple properties empty, and subsidize energy and transport costs for the unemployed and those earning under the minimum wage.


4. A politics that works never stops listening.


Politics doesn’t happen every four years — it is the everyday process of shaping the conditions in which we live our lives. This means that one of the central tasks of a politics that works is to forge a new relationship between citizens and the institutions that we use to govern our societies.

For BComú, the everyday basis of politics means citizens and civil society organizations directly shaping the strategic plan of their city. It means not just consultation, but active empowerment in helping move citizens from being “recipients” of a politics that is done to them, to active political agents that shape the everyday life of their city.

In the first months of occupying the institutions, BComú introduced an open-source platform, Decidim Barcelona, for citizens to co-create the municipal action plan for the city. Over 10,000 proposals were registered by the site’s 25,000 registered users. While that’s a small share of the city’s population, the online process was complemented by over 400 in-person meetings.

The Decidim platform is now being adapted to run participatory budgetary pilot-schemes in two districts, as well as being used in the ongoing development of new infrastructure, pedestrian-friendly spaces, and transport schemes. Meanwhile, the municipal Department of Participation is undertaking a systematic rethinking of the meaning of participation, looking to move away from meaningless “consultations” and towards methods for active empowerment.

This is an imperfect process, and BComú have gotten things wrong at times — such as the failure to properly engage when introducing a SuperBlock in the Poblenou district — but the principle is simple. To govern well, you must create new processes for obeying citizens’ demands.

At the same time, the structures that built BComú remain in place, with 15 neighborhood groups and 15 thematic working groups providing an ongoing link between activists and institutions. No structure is perfect, and it remains unclear if these working groups can help BComú avoid institutionalization and remain connected to social movements, but the hope is that this model provides a basis for remaining in touch with grassroots concerns.


5. Politics doesn’t begin with the party.


BComú isn’t a local arm of a bigger political party, nor does it exist merely as a branch of a broader strategy to control the central political institutions of the nation-state. Rather, BComú is one in a series of independent citizen platforms that have looked to occupy municipal institutions in an effort to bring about progressive social change.

From A Coruña to Valencia, Madrid and Zaragoza, these municipal movements are the direct efforts of citizens rejecting the old mode of doing politics, and starting to effect change where they live. Instead of a national party structure, they coordinate through a network of rebel cities across Spain. Most immediately, this means coordinating press releases and actively learning from how one another engage with urban problems.

That doesn’t mean that BComú can reject political parties entirely. While the initiative arose from social movements, it ended up incorporating several existing political parties in its platform. These include Podemos — another child of Spain’s Occupy-style indignados movement — and the Catalan Greens-United Left party, which had consistently been a junior coalition partner in city councils headed by the center-left Socialist Party of Catalonia from 1979 until 2011.

These parties continue alongside BComú, with their own completely separate organizational and funding structures. But entering BComú has forced existing parties to significantly change how they operate. Coalition negotiations encouraged the selection of new council members (only two of the elected candidates have previously held office), and they are subject to a tough ethics code that considerably increases their accountability.

The fluid relationship between the new coalitions and political parties allows for multiple levels of coordination, without having to pass through a rigid central leadership. It may also be replicated in regional government, where the recently formed Un Pais En Comú seeks to replicate the city government coalition across Catalonia.

On a terrain that contains a different set of politics — not least a strong national-separatist sentiment — it remains to be seen whether this latest initiative will be successful.


6. Power is the capacity to act.


BComú doesn’t subscribe to traditional notions of power, whereby if you hold public office, you somehow “have” power. On the contrary, power is the capacity to bring about change, and the “occupation of the institutions” is only one part of what makes change possible.

BComú emerged after almost a decade of major street-protests, anti-eviction campaigns, squatting movements, anti-corruption campaigns, and youth movements — the most visible form being the indignados protests that began in 2011. After years of being at a high level of mobilization, many within these movements made a strategic wager: We’ve learned how to occupy the squares, but what happens if we try to occupy the institutions?

Frustrated by the limits of what could be achieved by being mobilized only outside of institutions, the decision to form BComú was to try to occupy the institutions as part of the same movement that occupied the squares. In practice, this isn’t so simple.

Politics is a messy game, full of compromises forced by working in a world of contradictions.

In the most practical sense, BComú may be leading the council, but it holds only 11 of the 41 available seats. Six other political parties are also represented on the council, mostly seeking to block, slow down, or weaken its initiatives. Frustrated by these moves — and overwhelmed by the demands of the institutions — BComú formed a governing coalition with the PSC, a move supported by around two-thirds of its registered supporters.

But it remains a minority government, and two left parties that refused a similar pact responded by stepping up their block on almost all legislative initiatives. The resulting political crisis delayed the passing of the city’s 2017 budget, which was eventually forced through on a confidence motion when BComú challenged the opposition to unite around another plan — which it failed to do.

While this experience has shown the resilience of BComú in the confrontational confines of the council chamber, the key lesson here is that occupying the institutions isn’t enough. An electoral strategy is not sufficient alone to create change.

The power to act comes from a combination of occupying both the institutions and the squares, of social movements organizing and exercising leverage, providing social force that can be coupled with the potential of the occupied institutions. The power to change comes when these work in tandem.

It’s been a bumpy ride, but BComú has been able to justify its budget on the grounds that it prioritizes social measures (such as building new nurseries, combatting energy poverty, and focusing resources on the poorest neighborhoods) with reference to the extensive and ongoing process of participation that it has encouraged.

One of the biggest dangers in looking to build radical municipalist movements in other cities is to mistake electoral victory with real victory — to sit back and think that now we’ve got “our guys” in the institutions, so we can sit back and let change occur.


7. Transnational politics begins in your city.


In a time where reactionary political movements are building walls and retreating to national boundaries, BComú is illustrating that a new transnational political movement begins in our cities.

To this end, BComú has established an international committee tasked with promoting and sharing its experiences abroad, while learning from other rebel cities such as Naples and Messina. Barcelona has been active in international forums, promoting the “right to the city” at the recent UN Habitat III conference, and taking a leadership role in the Global Network of Cities, Local, and Regional Governments.

These moves look to bypass the national scale where possible, prefiguring post-national networks of urban solidarity and cooperation. Recent visits of the first deputy mayor to the Colombian cities of Medellin and Bogotá also suggest that links are being made on a supranational scale.

One of the most tangible outcomes of this level of supranational urban organizing was the strong role played by cities in the rejection of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, or TTIP — a massive proposed trade pact between the U.S. and Europe. As hosts of a meeting entitled “Local Authorities and the New Generation of Free Trade Agreements” in April 2016, BComú led on the agreement of the Barcelona Declaration, with more than 40 cities committing to the rejection of TTIP. As of the time of writing, TTIP now looks dead in the water.

At this early stage, it remains unclear how this supranational network of radical municipalism may develop. Perhaps the most important step for BComú is to share their experience and support those in other cities that are looking to reclaim politics, helping to build citizens platforms across Europe and beyond.

But the idea of a post-national network of citizens also allows us to dare to dream — of shared resources, shared politics, and shared infrastructure — where it’s not where you were born but where you live that determines your right to live.


8. Essential services can be run in our common interest.


The clue to BComú’s strategy for essential services is hidden in its name: The plan is to run them in common.

At the end of 2016, and faced with a crisis in the funeral sector in which only two companies controlled the sector and charged prices almost twice the national average, the Barcelona council intervened to establish a municipal funeral company that is forecasted to reduce costs by 30 percent.

Around the same time, the council voted in favor of the re-municipalization of water, paving the way for water to be taken out of the private sector at some point this year.

In February 2017, Barcelona amended the terms and conditions for electricity supply, preventing energy firms from cutting off supply to vulnerable people. The two major energy firms — Endesa and Gas Natural — protested this by not bidding for the €65-million municipal energy contracts, hoping this would force the council to overturn the policy.

Instead, a raft of small and medium size energy companies were happy to comply with the new directive to tackle energy poverty, and stand to be awarded the contracts if a court challenge from the large firms proves unsuccessful. BComú is also actively planning to introduce a municipal energy company within the next two years.

However, it’s important to recognize the major difference between the public and the common. As Michael Hardt argues, our choices are not limited to businesses controlled privately (private property) or by the state (public property). The third option is to hold things in common — where resources and services are controlled, produced, and distributed democratically and equitably according to peoples need.

A simple example of what this could look like was the proposal — which narrowly failed only due to voter turnout — for Berlin to establish an energy company that would put citizens on the board of the company.

This difference underpins the Barcelona experience. This isn’t a traditional socialist government that thinks it can run things better on behalf of the people. This is a movement that believes the people can run things better on their own behalf, combining citizen wisdom with expert knowledge to solve the everyday problems that people face.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dutch Election - Wilders Falters, Labour Crash, Green Left Gain



The political establishment across Europe are celebrating yesterday’s Dutch general election result, where Gert Wilders' party, PVV, did not make the large gains that opinion polling have been suggesting. The turn-out, at 80%, was unusually large.

The PVV stood on an unambiguous platform of anti-EU, anti-Muslim immigration policies, and it was thought would follow the right wing popularist trend of Brexit and Trump in recent protest votes. Well done to the Dutch people for rejecting this type of divisive politics.

The high turnout and spread of votes amongst several parties, played a part in halting PVV's advance, but perhaps more significantly, the centre right VVD party, stole some of the anti-immigration rhetoric from PVV, and the public row with Turkey probably helped as well.

Echoes of the UK, where the Tories are playing the same game, and thereby gaining former UKIP voters with anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. It is a widely held view that the rise of the National Front in the UK in the 1970’s was halted by the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, which was big on patriotism.

The Labour Party, PvdA, were the big losers, after participating in a coalition government with the centre right party VVD, with further echoes of the Lib Dems, this time, in the UK, and a continuing slide by social democrat parties in Europe that have embraced neo-liberalism. PvdA went from 38 seats to just 9.VVD won the most seats, with 33, down 8.

Smaller parties were the main gainers, with the Dutch GreenLeft Party (GroenLinks in Dutch) gaining 10 seats, going from 4 to 14. As the name suggests the party is a left wing environmental one, and describes itself as "green", "social" and "tolerant." Not explicitly ecosocialist, it is after all a reformist party, but certainly heading in an ecosocialist direction.

The result demonstrates that a Green Left party can take significant votes off social democratic parties, particularly in the bigger cities. GreenLeft topped the poll in Amsterdam.

A coalition government will have to be built between at least 4 parties, but GreenLeft have said all along that they will not participate in a right or centre right government. It would be wise to stick to that after what happened to the PvdA at this election.

This is an English translation of a statement by GreenLeft about yesterday’s Dutch general election. 

From their website GroenLinks:

Thank you for voting, thank you for your commitment to the campaign. We have shown along that ideals do matter in politics. We showed together that we can get the country moving. We have written history.

Together we form a great new movement, which connects green and leftist values together. A movement for change. We go on.

Join us so we can listen to you. We need you, to share concerns with each other. To exchange new ideas. To discuss how we proceed not only from The Hague, but also in the country to bring real change in the Netherlands.

Let's change the Netherlands together.

Congratulations to GroenLinks from Green Left in London.  

Monday, 13 March 2017

Scotland Indyref2 – Tell May where to Stick her Hard Brexit





Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, fired the starting pistol on a second Scottish independence referendum today, by announcing her intention to hold a vote in the Scottish Parliament on the matter, probably next week.

Although the Scottish National Party (SNP) does not hold an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Green Party announced today that they will support the SNP, and their six MSPs are enough for an overall majority, even if all, as seems likely, the other parties vote against.

Scotland will need authorisation by the full UK Parliament, which may prove more problematical, although the Prime Minister, Theresa May, fell short of over ruling the referendum at Westminster today. What she did say was that there is no demand in Scotland for it, which is open to question, the SNP was playing politics and that it will be ‘divisive.’

What a cheek May has. She has been playing politics all along with the Brexit issue, fighting tooth and nail to stop MPs have a say on the outcome of negotiations with the European Union (EU), and using her hard Brexit stance as way to consolidate her power within the Tory Party. Her predecessor, David Cameron, only held the referendum in the first place to manage the Tory Party Euro-sceptics. And as for divisive, well her hard Brexit stance has further torn apart the country, when what was required was a healer of the wound, a one nation approach, if you like.

No, May has made Indyref2 inevitable with her hard Brexit approach to the issue, and now the chickens are truly coming home roost. May could have aimed for a softer version of Brexit, perhaps retaining membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and through that joined the European Economic Area (EEA) with Norway and others. She could have conceded some ground to Sturgeon on Scotland staying in the single market, but she has refused point blank to concede anything to the Scots.

If the referendum goes ahead, it will be tough for the SNP to win a yes to independence vote, but the opinion polls have been moving in that direction in last couple of weeks, since it has become clear what the UK government strategy is going to be. Demand everything from the EU, and when they don’t let you have it, howl about foreigners aided and abetted by the right wing media, and crash out of the organisation with no deal at all.     

This may be the start of the unravelling of the UK, with much unhappiness in Northern Ireland about the UK government’s handling of Brexit. Northern Ireland as well as Scotland voted to remain in the UK, and if one good thing comes out of all of this, Brexit might lead to the overdue uniting of the island of Ireland.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has also called for an independence referendum in Wales, despite a majority of the Welsh voting for Brexit.

And then there is London, which voted almost as strongly as Scotland to remain in the EU. I’ve written before on the desirability of London independence from the UK, but unfortunately we in London are saddled with a Labour Party mayor, Sadiq Khan, who refuses to countenance the idea. He gave his rather feeble response reported on Labour List today to the latest developments on Brexit. But pressure may now increase on Khan, with Scotland making its intentions clear today. In 2014, at the time of the first Scottish indyref campaign, I saw a poll of Londoners which showed 20% support for London independence, and this time it could well be higher. It seems when the Scots consider independence and it is in the national news, Londoners think along the lines of ‘if they can have it, why not London, with a bigger population and economy than Scotland?’

Who can blame the Scots for wanting to ‘take control' of their destiny, rather than be lashed to the mast of a Tory government in England, hell bent on a potentially disastrous Brexit? Having to live in a shit country, where racism and bigotry is on the rise, when they can rule themselves, in the way they want to be ruled.

Solidarity with Scotland from the people of London.  
   

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Kurdish Women's Movement in Europe (TJK-E) - Statement on Million Women Rise



AGAINST FASCISM, WOMEN ARE EVERYWHERE

On the 8th March we welcomed the 107th International Women's day, we salute the memory of Rosa Luxemburg, Sakine Cansiz and all revolutionary women who paid the heaviest prices to protect us and show us the values of a free life, resistance, hope and the culture of the Mother Goddess who birthed the history of resistance.

We salute the Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Ocalan (Apo) who has supported us in our journey to find our true essence, to create a meaningful self-defence, to organise ourselves and to create our system for Women's liberation. We take today as an opportunity to renew our promise of liberation to our comrade Apo who has broadened our boundaries of freedom.

On the 8th of March 2017, we are proud to be part of the Kurdish women's movement, which proved that the revolution of women is a reality, not a utopia. This movement allowed us to believe in justice, equality and freedom in the face of fascist and nation-statist mentalities that ensure their survival through wars, destruction, injustice and rape. The pinnacle of the patriarchal system, capitalist modernity, thrives with world wars, economic crises, deregulated economies, and erased democracies which is causing the explosion of society. We must answer by deepening our critical consciousness, resisting, further organising ourselves, fighting and developing our self-defence and building meaningful solidarity with one another.

Ocalan observed, "Women left to the 'goodwill' of men are doomed to lose." Therefore, we will continue our organisation by expanding our communalism and our asemblies that are essential to a confederal system of women. We will strengthen our system of self-defence through the courage, creativity and aesthetics of the women's fight in their battle against the barbarism of Daesh in Kobane, Shengal and in the whole of Northern Syria.

We will develop this system with promise to the of the Cizre massacre, from Miray of 3 months to Mother Taybet of 57 years whose corpse remained in the street for 7 days, to the mother of Cemile Cagirga who had to keep the dead body of her 13 year old daughter in a freezer, for her burial was banned. Armed with our unconquerable self-defence and strong-will, we will confront the male-mentality of the vile attackers of the corpses of Ekin Van and other women.

We will strengthen the presence of women in politics against the shameless fascism of Erdogan's AKP, at a time when elected women politicians are the first victims of his political genocide. HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag, who recently had her MP title revoked is the latest to be subject to this political genocide.

Just like our comrades Seve Demir, Pakize Nayir and Ftma Uyar, who were brutally massacred by Turkish state forces in Sur and Cizre, we will never give up on our politics. The people are our strength, no attack can revert us from our path to truth. Through our resistance, we will hold Erdogan's AKP to account for the destructions in Sur, Cizre and Nusaybin.

The development of women's cooperatives will strengthen our means of self-defence. We will defend all women who are forced to marry their rapists to 'clear' their honour. As women, we will say 'NO' to the upcoming referendum in Turkey and be an obstacle to the efforts of establishing a 'one-man' executive presidency.

We reject masculine, male-dominated modes of thought that destroy collective thought and knowledge production. Jineology, women's science is an important tool for the development and liberation of women, it is our guide in our journey for Xwebun (to be yourself) and the answer to all those who try to dominate our identity, our spirit and our body.

The rejection of the anti-women policies and actions of the global patriarchal system can only be achieved through the union of women's knowledge, our organisations and our struggles. Strengthening Democratic Modernity through solidarity between women will overcome capitalist modernity's statist, class and power oriented structures which is the high-point of a patriarchal system.

No to Sexism! No to Femicide! Against colonialism, we are everywhere! Long live women's solidarity! Jin, Jiyan, Azadi - Women, Life, Liberty!

The Kurdish Women's Movement in Europe (TJK-E)

Taken from a leaflet handed out on yesterday's Million Women March in London.
    

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Million Women Rise March Today - London - Photos and Report


Million Women Rise (MWR) believes that male violence against women and children is a global pandemic. Violence devastates the lives of women, our families, and our communities. It also threatens to undermine efforts to bring about sustainable development. Therefore our campaign to end violence against women is an international struggle for female emancipation and liberty.

This year is the 10 year anniversary of Million Women Rise. A woman’s right to live free from violence and/or the fear of violence has not been achieved. Women continue to be attacked, exploited, and violated in many different ways, in our homes, on our streets, on our public transport, at our places of work. More than ever, we need to gather as a critical mass.  Women be ready... get ready... stay ready. Let the rise begin. From the Million Women Rise Website


Thousands of women marched through central London today to a rally in Trafalgar Square, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the US Million Women Rise, and to make a stand against violence against women, all around the world.






















Women from many different countries and grouping attended the London rally, reflecting the city's rich diversity. It was an unusually warm day for the time of year, quite Spring like.  












Speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square, again a diverse racial mix.












As reported by the London Evening Standard, Ann Samuel, a student from London who attended the march said: "It's about awareness and women raising their voices and making themselves heard. 

"I think more needs to be done against domestic abuse, domestic violence for women. They say when one woman stands up, they stand up for all women.

"Services are being cut and we can't let that happen. It affects everyone one way or another so being here makes a difference."

Friday, 10 March 2017

20th Century Socialism took the Eco out of Socialism



You could, no doubt, write a long book along the lines, and some have, that my headline suggests, but this a short blog post, so I can’t really go into huge detail here. It is a summary. However, I hope this blog stimulates some debate, and maybe encourages some to think about socialism differently.

There have been threads of socialist thought, and ecosocialist thought, going back hundreds if not thousands of years, but the concept really, self-consciously, began around the 1820s and 1830s. 

Around this time, of the industrial revolution, capitalism started to resemble the economic system we see today. The factory workers would soon realise their strength within the system, as well as their weakness, and a way of thinking about the way capitalism worked began to form out of necessity.

Later in the nineteenth century, Karl Marx emerged as the most important socialist thinker and writer, and his three volume work Capital, became the basis for much of what socialism stood for, and what it was against. In fact, it was mostly about what it was against, capitalism that is, in what was a brilliant and radical critique of how the system exploits those who only have their labour to sell.

Marx is a somewhat controversial figure for ecosocialists, with some thinking he was essentially a productivist, whilst others arguing that he was misinterpreted, and Marx was at heart ‘green.’ The American ecosocialist writer, James Bellamy-Foster, has developed an impressive thesis with the work he has done on identifying Marx’s theory of capitalism causing a ‘metabolic rift’ between humanity and nature. Taken from Marx’s volume 3 of Capital, and building on his earlier Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Bellamy-Foster says this is a "mature analysis of the alienation of nature."

Personally, I take the view that Marx’s thinking and writing was of its time and perhaps more crucially, it is incomplete. I can certainly see that Marx had a green side to him, and much of this is demonstrated in his volume 3 of Capital, where ecosocialists find encouragement.

Take this quote from the same volume of Capital which most ecosocialist will be familiar with, but maybe other socialists will not be:

“From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another. Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.”

The Russian revolution in 1917 made socialism flesh, and in the early days of the revolution, it had ecosocialist content, such as the conservation of land and the integration of production at sustainable levels. And Lenin introduced national parks to the country.

Arran Gare, in Soviet Environmentalism: The Path not Taken writing about Lenin says he ‘interpreted Marxism in such as way as to acknowledge the limitations of the environment, and of the existence of dynamics within nature with which humanity must accord.’

This concern with ecology did not last though, under pressure internally and externally from enemies of the revolution, understandably in many ways, socialism in Russia took a productivist path in competition with capitalism. The economic advances made in a relatively short time, from near feudal economy in 1917 to putting the first man in space by 1961, was impressive. But this all came at a cost, to the environment and in the lack of freedom and democracy, not forgetting the brutality of the regime too. It also sowed the seeds of the eventual demise of these societies.

Marx’s concept of a free association of producers, which is accepted in the anarchist political tradition also, which he explored in, yes, you guessed it, volume 3 of Capital, is completely absent from the 20th century socialisms that came into being, led by Russia (USSR).

What Marx meant by this is a relationship among individuals where there is no state, social class or authority, and no private property of the means of production. This gives individuals the access to the means of production enabling them to freely associate, and produce their own conditions of existence and fulfill their individual and creative needs and desires.

The 20th century socialisms all relied on the Party-state as the active force directing the revolution. They used the centralised state to direct accumulation by political means rather than the economic incentives that capitalism uses for the same purpose. What has been called state capitalism was the result. It was not socialism, in the true meaning of the philosophy, which to be fair these states realised, but they saw it as a staging post along the way to socialism, when in fact it was the wrong pathway completely.

A pathway that led to ecological destruction on a scale that was even worse than that of capitalist nations, as well as being rigid and authoritarian.

Ecosocialism is an attempt to return socialism to the right pathway, but this means going back to the beginning in terms of theory, there is no short cut. The ecosocialist revolution, if it comes, will not only come from the bottom up, rather than be directed from above, it will need to stay grounded at the bottom, to refresh and democratise the revolution as it proceeds. No vanguard party, no Party-state. A democratic, decentralised socialism with ecological rationality.
 
This is what ecosocialism is, and what socialism should have always been.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Lords Vote for Parliament to have a Say on Brexit Deal has made a Snap General Election More Likely



The House of Lords tonight voted by a majority of 98 for Parliament to have a final veto over whatever deal the government agrees with the EU, for the country’s post Brexit relationship with Europe.

MPs in the House of Commons will now vote on this amendment, and the one the Lords passed last week to unilaterally allow resident EU citizens the right to stay in the UK. Tonight’s vote in the Lords causes potentially more problems for the government, in that it strikes at the heart of the government’s Brexit strategy.

This strategy, if we can call it that, is to demand everything from the EU and if we don’t get it, to make no deal at tall. If this amendment is passed by the House of Commons, MPs will effectively be able to send the government back to the negotiating table, to try and get something better.

Of course, whether the House of Commons will vote for the amendment is another matter, as it will require perhaps 20 or 30 of the pro-EU Tory MPs to vote for it. It could be that the government makes some kind of compromise offer, if they fear losing the vote, but this government has shown no signs on compromising over its Brexit stance.

If the vote is passed in the House of Commons, I suspect the government will be amenable to calling a snap general election. If the Tories won the election, which looks highly likely at this stage, it would give it an extra authority over Parliament in terms of a mandate for its Brexit position. Risky maybe, but it would give the government the opportunity to get its way, if it won.

The 2011 Fixed Parliament Act, would have to be got around, but the potential rewards of a snap election for the government are huge. The 2011 Act allows for two ways an election can be called, other than the 5 year fixed term.

The first is for a vote for an election by two thirds of MPs in Parliament, so opposition parties, particularly Labour, would largely need to vote for it. The other way is that a no confidence vote is passed against the government, and after 14 days, another government that did command the confidence of a majority of MPs, could not be formed.

The first option is probably easier, although Labour may block it, despite what its leader Jeremy Corbyn has said about wanting an early election, not all Labour MPs may want this. There are two other possibilities, the 2011 Act could be repealed by a majority in the House of Commons, or it could be bypassed as an exception to the Act, as a one off. Again a simple majority of MPs is required for this.

The former Tory leader Lord Hague has thrown his weight behind the government calling an early election, by one of the means available, as he thinks the government would win easily and so increase its authority over Parliament on Brexit.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said all along that she is not in favour of an early election, as there is no need for it, and no desire from the public for it, but if her Brexit plan is knocked sideways by the Lords vote tonight, and if enough Tory MP rebels can be found to support the Lords, she may have little choice.

It would be a major humiliation for May, if her whole strategy was rejected in this way, and it would leave her vulnerable at the next scheduled general election in 2020, if she made it as far as still being Prime Minister in 2020, which is doubtful. The Tories are ruthless at ditching leaders, and she would be a sitting duck.

It is time her enemies in the Tory put down a marker, Nicky Morgan, George Osborne et al, that they start the process of getting revenge on May for the way she treated them when she became Prime Minister. Will they do it? The odds are still against, but maybe, just maybe.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Grim news for the success of recycling in England


Guest post by Dr Aidan Bell, director of EnviroBuild, a supplier of sustainable landscaping and construction materials. Please note I am not endorsing this company, but find the post of interest.

For the first time since 2010, the percentage of household waste recycled in England has fallen. The overall drop, from 44.8% in 2013/14 to 43.9% in 2014/15, might seem small, but it’s a troubling statistic nonetheless.

None of this is to say that there aren’t areas that have improved, but as you can see in our map, there are very few areas shaded green and indicating an improvement in recycling. Despite the success stories, the inconsistency in the recycling rates of England’s various local councils raises questions regarding the wisdom of giving local council complete control over recycling measures that they currently have.

Worrying signs for the future


If the fall in recycling rates was the only negative statistic to have arisen in the last couple of months, you could perhaps wave it away. However, there is at least one other significant figure that suggests our issues with recycling are deeply ingrained. As the BBC discovered, the percentage of waste put forward but rejected for recycling has risen by 84% in the past five years. Does this suggest a lack of education from councils as to what can and can’t be recycled?

Some MPs do seem to be trying to carve a path through Brexit’s environmental uncertainty. A cross-party group has recently pushed for a new Environmental Protection Act to be passed before Brexit is completed, which would maintain the UK’s environmental targets and ensure that existing EU environment law doesn’t get eroded into nothingness in the years after the UK’s exit.

Glimpses of success


It is easy to be negative in light of the most recent statistics, but there are councils out there doing a good job, and education seems to be the reason why. Richmondshire District Council was the most improved local authority, and displays a prominent banner on its site informing people of new collection days.

Similarly, high-performing Colchester Borough Council displays a big advert for their Greener Living newsletter, which encourages locals to ‘reduce waste and get involved in your local community’.

When you compare examples like these to the worst performing councils, you see a lack of similar promotional material that would encourage residents to recycle. This, in essence, is the problem that England is facing at the moment: although there are areas performing well, the lack of consistency between local authorities means that benefits and success are unlikely to be emulated beyond the borders of individual councils.

The futility of local recycling schemes


There are over 300 different recycling schemes across the UK today. That’s over 300 different ways of promoting recycling, and over 300 different lists of what can and can’t be recycled. There are at least two major problems with this segmented approach.

The lessons learned by successful local authorities are not being shared with others. On a national scale, it doesn’t matter if Richmondshire has an effective way of advertising changes to recycling collection, or if Colchester has a greener living newsletter that helps their residents live in a more environmentally friendly way, because these ideas aren’t getting used more widely.

The other major problem is the lack of consistency in what is recycled. Different local councils work with different recycling companies, which means that what is and isn’t classed as recyclable waste changes. In a time of high geographical mobility and a bombardment of information from countless sources, it is inevitable that a lot of people will be confused about what they can recycle, leading some to not bother, and others to try and recycle waste that they can’t, which wastes time and money down the line.

Thinking towards a solution


One logical solution would be to coordinate recycling guidelines on a national scale, with a single scheme in place for the whole country. It would be much easier to gain publicity for changes to a nationwide scheme, and there would never be area-by- area confusion as to what can and can’t be recycled.

Of course, there are question marks over this approach as well. Existing infrastructure isn’t identical throughout the country.  There would need to be conversations with the businesses that actually recycle the waste to decide on an optimal process and to ensure the convergence of a system. Under a government determined to slash the budget more and more for environmental issues, it is unlikely that the resources would ever be invested into a unified recycling system.  There would also be pushback from councils who would likely feel suspicious of central control and implications on their budgets.

Another mechanism that has proved successful across Europe is the principle that the polluter pays.  Manufacturers and retailers have to pay towards packaging on products: the more packaging there is, the higher the fee.

There are various solutions available, but their implementation will require political will: technology alone takes too long to implement in a fragmented market that requires large capital investment and the security of long-term policy.

If there can ever be such thing as a definitive solution, it will have to run deeper than a unified environmental policy. It would require a national commitment to good environmental education in schools and further incentives to avoid landfill.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Lords Urge MPs to get some Backbone with Amendment to Allow EU Nationals to Stay in the UK after Brexit



Yesterday the House of Lords voted by 358 to 256 in favour of amending the Brexit bill, to give EU nationals living in the UK the right to stay in this country. The amended Bill we now be passed back to House of Commons to vote on.

MPs rejected a similar amendment last week, but the tide may have turned on this issue. It is now said that around 30 Tory MPs are considering voting for the amendment, which could swing the vote in favour of the amendment.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP and co leader of the party tweeted:

'Great to see Lords defeat govt over rights of EU citizens. Govt must now concede - will fight for that in Commons.'

Government Whips will be out in force to try and ensure rebel Tory MPs toe the line and reject the amendment, and they may be successful. The government has promised that this will be the first issue to be resolved when negotiations begin, and hopes a reciprocal arrangement for UK nationals living in the EU, can be concluded early on in talks.

They also implied that the EU are holding things up, by not allowing pre-Article 50 talks, but this rings hollow, and is probably an indicator of how things will be spun, particularly in the right wing media. Expect furious stories in the Mail, Express etc on how unreasonable the EU is being by not letting us have everything we want out of a Brexit deal. It will not be pretty.  

There are around 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU and around 3 million EU nationals living in the UK. The government has refused to guarantee EU nationals the right to remain here, saying that this will be part of the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. It does rather look like these people are being used as bargaining chips in the negotiations, which the government denies, but what other conclusion can be drawn?

Nicolas Hatton, the chairman of the 3 million campaign group which has been lobbying for the rights of EU citizens said that while he had some concerns about the amendment it was a relief that for the first time since the referendum, a majority was secured in parliament to support the rights of the 3 million EU citizens “who came in good faith to live and work the UK”.

I think the government is wrong on many levels in taking its approach:

First of all, we need to reassure people living in the UK about their future here. It is not fair to people, who need to make life decisions. It must be a worry for EU nationals in the UK. As even a Brexiteer like Michael Gove said just after the referendum result, ‘it is a matter of plain decency,’ to allow these people to continue to live and work in the UK (if they wish).

The vast majority of the EU nationals living in the UK are young, whereas the largest grouping of UK nationals living in the EU, are pensioners, living in Spain, roughly about half of the EU total. Younger people are productive in the UK economy, whereas our ex-pats in Spain are not, to a large extent, anyway. 

If these older people come back to the UK they will need more health and social care, a sector of the economy which at present has large numbers of EU nationals doing the work.

The idea of expelling 3 million productive workers is a recipe for a collapse in the UK economy. EU nationals work across all sectors of the economy, and of course pay tax here. It would be madness.

For this to be the opening salvo of negotiations, it will likely harden attitudes in the EU, when we want relations to be as amicable as is possible. To state unilaterally, that the UK will allow all those EU nationals already residing here, to remain, would be a gesture of goodwill.  

And, because it is just plain right to allow people to stay. Natural justice demands that people who came in good faith to this country should not be penalised.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Climate Change and Eco-Socialism



Written by Jason O’ Neal and first published at Facts for Working People

Climate change is a fact of life in the twenty-first century. Our society’s dependence on fossil fuels to encourage more economic growth is directly contributing to the global warming crisis.  Climate models accounting for changes in surface air temperatures, ocean currents, land masses, and polar ice cover have forecast extreme weather events occurring on a more regular basis.  Organizations such as the Pentagon, the UN, NASA, and 90% of the world’s scientists forecast the end of life on Earth as we know it in the decades ahead unless things are changed.

For the past several decades, scientists and government policy makers have modeled possible solutions to the problem based on stabilizing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air at 350 ppm, (parts per million) a level that is probably no longer feasible.  If CO2 concentrations within the atmosphere continue to increase, the ability of the planet to sustain the environment will diminish.  Possibly crashing the entire ecosystem.  How did we arrive at such a dangerous precipice? And, can we do anything about it?  Current debates are between market-based approaches of taxes on emissions or trading programs against stricter government regulation.  What is left out of this discussion on the economic front is how to rapidly reduce emissions and improve carbon sequestering capabilities, both natural and technological.  With the easiest path to 350 ppm by the year 2030 becoming an unrealistic expectation, where do we set the next target? And, how did climate science and our political and economic goals become so disconnected?  

The use of carbon-dense fossil fuels helped to industrialize America as productivity exploded and the economy expanded.  Two hundred years had passed since the transition from feudal labor relations to industrial labor relations created the Second Industrial Revolution.  Rural communities were realigned with workers migrating to urban areas where they were forced to sell their labor for income.  The emerging economy became one based on social relations and interactions that were held in place by commodities.  Like the arguments between early economists during the transition between mercantilism and capitalism, questions about who was best equipped to responsibly manage surpluses from the economic boom remained.  Because ‘capital’ needs to be free and allowed to work in a global economy, neoclassical economics became the preferred economic system in the United States by the end of the nineteenth century.  The downside of this heightened productivity was that it was based on energy from fossil fuels and the risks associated with climate change were an unknown threat at the time. 


However, economists were concerned with the availability of fossil fuels, as indicated by William Stanley Jevons in his book The Coal Question, published in 1865.  Jevons’ answer was to maximize the “effects at the margin” and to not be “concerned with the last piece” as coal mining was no longer a physical restraint, but an economic restraint based on a “difficult” adjustment to the costlier extraction process.  The material comfort of society was based on efficiency and access to resources, but what Jevons failed to realize was that efficiency accelerated the process of extraction and his concept of maximizing at the margin did not solve the question of depletion.  Again, the atmospheric effects of burning fossil fuels was not addressed, perhaps not even considered, as economists were focused on control of the production and distribution process.


The first pushback against neoclassical economics was from, John Maynard Keynes, a British economist.  Keynes stated that people with money to invest prefer to “sit-out” of the economy waiting for better returns on their investment, “parking cash” elsewhere and saving it for future opportunities.  A strict “monetarist” economy, based on a free and self-regulating market that could only be adjusted by supplies of money through interest rates, would not solve this problem.  Keynes advocated for direct government intervention through increased spending to stimulate the market.  This was a fundamental element to FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression which allowed the U.S. government to redirect surpluses through taxation of those who were hording the money.

The successes of the New Deal and the increased production during World War II faced a new economic threat.  The Soviet Union and the United States emerged from the war as the two major economic powerhouses in the world.  With both sides arguing for national security and access to developing world markets, the Cold War became a chess game of foreign policy and economic stability.  The hard stance of anti-trust against monopolies taken by the U.S. during the early twentieth century began to change after World War II. 

The Chicago School of Economics took the lead on economic philosophy to counter the state-run socialism of the Soviet Union under Stalin.  The Chicago School’s interpretation of neoliberalism was not as critical of private control of the economy as much as it was with government control.  The 1960s witnessed the horizontal integration of energy companies as they began to control physical resources.  After the early 1970s access to petroleum fields would eventually determine currency pricing and demand as the dollar remained the world reserve.

Part of this shift was helped by Milton Friedman, an American economist and critic of Keynes.  Friedman attacked social programs which he claimed created a dependency on welfare and he argued that the private sector could perform better at providing services to the public.  Economic systems need to naturalize themselves and neoliberal free-market ideology created by conservative economists, like Friedman, limited economic policies to market reasoning.  This gained influence through the popularity of his book, Capitalism and Freedom, and Friedman became a well-known and integral part of the economic policies of the Reagan administration. 

Also, The Volker Fund, named after William Volker, assisted large corporations to spread capitalism as a global management system.  This Volker Fund controlled the structuring, curriculum and ideas that were vetted for the Chicago School during this time and it now functions as The Heritage Foundation, a think-tank promoting neoliberal economic policies.  Unfortunately, neoliberal economic growth models focus on “sustainable growth,” not “sustainable environment.”


A voice of reason not so popular at the time, was an American mathematician and economist, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.  A Romanian immigrant, Georgescu-Roegen argued for a return to biophysical thought as a foundation for economics.  Because resources have been treated as if they have no limits, his work with ecological economics was classified as outside of the normal parameters of economic policies.  Georgescu-Roegen argued that all production is based on materials and energy and that the earth’s natural resources were irreversibly downgraded when used in the economy.

These natural resources would eventually be depleted and the world economy would ultimately collapse.  Introducing thermodynamics into economics, although he was mistaken in some interpretations, Georgescu-Roegen was the inspiration for “de-growth” movements across the globe.  This forced many people to rethink neoclassical economics and its ties to “Promethean technologies” which helped to industrialize the process of food production and has resulted in more environmental degradation and deforestation to convert ancient forests into farmland.

Another ecological economist who was critical of neoclassical economics was Howard Odum.  He conducted his Silver Springs study to track energy inputs/outputs in a natural ecosystem.  Working on general systems theory, Odum also introduced the concept of “energy memory,” or Emergy, which is a measure of energy used in the past to form our environment today.  Because of the biophysical limits of the earth, Odum argued that “physical capital” will level off. 

His focus on Energy Return on Investment (EROI) showed how production growth is tied to energy efficiency, or outsourcing the energy consumption, and any step up the energy ladder (possibly using secondary sources which will become more energy expensive because they are based on a dwindling fossil fuel) could lead to irreversible climate change.  Odum advocated for an energy policy which offered a “prosperous way down” arguing that a complex adaptive living system must sustain itself.  Under current economic policies and development the addition of capital and labor has not reduced the use of energy; it has led to more energy consumption.  Increased infrastructure of the energy sector begins drawing more energy to produce and maintain itself. 

This results in an “infrastructure trap” where resources are exhausted with diminished returns on investment for maintaining the structures of society .  Odum criticized the economic philosophy of social structures built on a wave of cheap energy in the face of diminishing supplies from natural resources.  Although he was less enthusiastic of nuclear energy, because of costs associated with production and ecological degradation, Odum was not convinced that neoclassical economists placed our development on the right path.  We are now “constrained by the complexity of society.”


Today’s argument about climate change and how to best reach 350 ppm has become one hinged on atmospheric limits and trade-offs for interest rates by “discounting the future.”  The neoclassical economists’ favorite champion for intergenerational equity is William Nordhaus.  A Yale economist working on climate change models, Nordhaus’s most often cited model is DICE, an interpretation of climate change optimized for the economy while limiting the worst case scenarios for damage to the environment.  Nordhaus is still tethered to neoclassical economics and its “laissez-faire” attitude toward markets as the arbiter of climate change.  His position is that a social cost per ton of carbon should be discounted higher because future generations will have more money to combat climate change.  However, this limits the available options for structural change with every passing year as global temperatures are now exceeding forecasted predictions. 

Nordhaus’s opposition opinion is held by former chief economist at the World Bank, Nicholas Stern.  In his review he called for immediate and drastic measures to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere.  Nordhaus was a harsh critic of the “Stern Review” and he claimed Stern went too far, possibly because Stern advocates for a world economy with the ability to regulate carbon emissions to encourage their reduction.  Stern linked climate change to neoclassical economics and called it humankind’s “greatest market failure.”  When models for their positions are compared to one another they take different approaches for reaching their target goals.  Nordhaus uses a higher discount rate to not upset investment in the hopes that future generations will solve the crisis, while Stern uses a lower rate which values the quality of life of future generations over profits.  Perhaps a reasonable compromise between the two would suffice, but it would be more beneficial to do as much as possible now. 


Marx identified the contradiction of a stationary state in capitalism—he said it could not exist.  If a stationary state is needed to “de-grow” the economy and reverse the effects of climate change, then perhaps capitalism must go away.  Currently, policies are drafted about “reality” based on what the “economy is telling us.”  These policies dominate our social and environmental life and they restrict our ability to see our existence without it.  Capitalism is based on growth and, as it stands, infinite growth is not possible.  Would the answer be to allow governments to produce and distribute resources in a sustainable way to prevent ecological degradation, species extinction, pollution, and climate change?  


Economic models explain the interactions of members of different societies and their relationships to one another in a system of exchanges.  A basic mechanical representation of capitalist economics in the United States would be a grandfather clock.  Like the clock telling the time of day, a phenomenon which would still exist without the clock, models of American capitalism attempt to describe what is happening within the economy.  The pendulum on the clock swings from side to side like a smooth and reliable business cycle responding to monetary policies or fiscal spending through government intervention.  However, just like the clock that was designed more than a century ago, the working gears on the inside of the economy need to be re calibrated.  Before mechanics can make the required changes they must decide what size gears to use, this is also the puzzle facing most economists when it comes to adjusting the economy to mitigate for climate change. 


Do we make small changes to facilitate continued growth hoping on a technological breakthrough, possibly at the expense of future generations?  Or, do we make drastic changes in our current lifestyle and consumption patterns to allow our civilization to arrive at a safe place in a distant future?  One thing is for sure.  Doing nothing will not fix the clock and, as each second ticks by, the time to act is running out.   

Unfortunately, all the different suggestions for how to combat climate change have one thing in common. They look for a solution within the boundaries of capitalism. But environmental catastrophe, nuclear war, starvation, global drought, these all threaten to destroy life on Earth as we know it and the harsh and brutal reality is that there is no solution to these crises on a capitalist basis.


All these economists and climate change people refuse to face this reality. Keynes, when he was faced with the inability of his economic theories to solve capitalist crisis, when he was faced with the inevitability of wars and catastrophe under capitalism, came up with the pathetic response: "In the long run we are all dead." This is an appropriate answer to all the economists and climate change people who are trying to find a solution on the basis of capitalism. In a recent article on this Blog we referred to the scientist Stephen Hawking who recently said that the human race would only have a future if it emigrated to another planet. Capitalism cannot solve the problems of society. The capitalist class is driving the human species and the planet down the road to disaster. This is the reality. So is there no hope?

A common expression that business likes to use these days is “thinking outside the box.” And this is what working people have to do if we want to solve the issue of climate change. Capitalism is one system of social organization but there is an alternative system and that is democratic socialism. And there is an alternative social power that can bring about that system and that is the working class, the vast majority of people on the planet.

This system would be based on democratically elected workers and poor peoples councils that would be linked together worldwide. Through their democratic integrated structure the wealth and resources of society can be taken out of the private hands of the capitalist class. On this basis, and with the help of today's new technology and communications systems which exist as never before, the working class would be able to draw up a democratic sustainable economic world plan of production, distribution and exchange.  The working class internationally represented in their councils would have available to them the knowledge and resources that humanity possesses.


We rarely think of it but why do factories have to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year long?  Think of the energy this requires. The only thing that halts that process is when recessions or slumps occur and production is halted by the capitalists themselves in the interest of profits. Under a democratic socialist system, the drive to produce would be based on social need, not profits. The working class would not draw up a plan that would destroy the planet’s environment and our own futures.  This democratic plan could be broken down industry by industry, sector by sector, workplace by workplace, even worker by worker. On this basis every worker would be able to know what work they had to do to meet the plan.

The building of 2400 square feet homes for two people would be curtailed. Mass transit, rationally planned housing and the way we construct society would be entirely different.  This in turn would allow people to be at one with their labor, would end the alienation of people from their labor. And flowing from this, as production increased and met the needs of society, the working week could be reduced and the human species could move forward into a new world.


Capitalism is wasteful and inefficient because profit is the prime mover. There are more than sufficient solar, tidal, wind and other natural resources to provide energy for the world without using destructive fossil fuels.

This is the alternative to the threatening catastrophe of capitalism and only the working class can make it possible. As Marx pointed out, “The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.” The economists and climatologists who tinker at their computers to try and solve the environmental crisis under capitalism are never going to be able to succeed. Capitalism cannot solve the crisis of climate change. Not only that. They are doing harm to the entire discussion of climate change because by their refusal to stand up and say the crisis of climate change cannot be resolved under capitalism, they are maintaining illusions that it can. They are maintaining illusions in capitalism and the capitalist class. They are refusing to assist the working class to see that it and only it can save life on the planet as we know it. 

Jason O'Neil was Founding Member Green Party, UC Berkeley