Thursday 27 November 2014

Natalie Bennett: We have to ban zero-hours contracts

The Green Party’s leader put forward her views on education, pay and the NHS in a live debate with young voters

Last night Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was the first politician to appear on Leaders Live, a new debate series that gives young people the chance to put questions directly to leaders.

Broadcast live on YouTube, the series is created by Bite the Ballot, an organisation that empowers young people to make informed voting decisions.

Bennett’s appearance was significant as she has been omitted from the BBC’s scheduled debates that will mark the run up to the general election.

You can watch the full debate here.

The questions that the audience asked Bennett showed that jobs and education are at the top of their list of worries.

When asked who she proposed would cover the cost of the free higher education the Greens have promised, Bennett pointed to rich individuals and multinational companies who do not pay their taxes.

She stressed that there is a need for society to be “rebalanced” and that multinationals need to take responsibility for contributing towards society.

The issue of equality also informs the Greens’ policy on drugs.

Bennett was adamant that drugs “should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue”, and said that the amount of discretion given to police means that more people from minority backgrounds are arrested for drug misuse than people from other backgrounds.

This, she said, is despite the fact that more privileged people are no less likely to be using drugs.
Bennett also pledged to end zero-hours contracts, and stated that her party was “absolutely opposed” to unpaid internships. Alongside workers who currently receive a minimum wage, interns, she said, should be paid the Living Wage as a minimum.

The NHS was also a key issue in the debate. Bennett warned that the UK is ‘racing towards’ an American style privatised health system, and criticised the private finance initiatives (PFI) which are holding the NHS hostage with huge interest rates and service charges.

Campaign group Drop the NHS Debt estimate that by 2020-21, the annual costs of the 118 NHS PFIs will be £2.14bn. Saving 46 per cent of that would release about £1bn a year.

As part of the Greens’ plans for the NHS, Bennett promised that more detail on mental healthcare would be added to their manifesto. She criticised the way that mental health problems are regarded as less urgent than physical ones, and pledged parity of esteem for people with mental illness.

On education, Bennett said that no school run by a faith group should receive government money. She predicted that in the event of this becoming legislation, many faith schools would choose to come into the secular system rather than become private.

The school system also face criticism from the Green leader over its competitive nature. Bennett said that the system should be based on cooperation, and shold include a more practical curriculum covering things like relationships, health and nutrition, in order to give pupils an “education for life”.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter and first published here

Wednesday 26 November 2014

No More Deaths From Fuel Poverty

This Friday 28th November pensioners will lead a march from Charing Cross to Energy UK- the Big Six energy company’s lobby body  under the banner ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty: Energy Rights Now!’

Why? Because this is the day that the Office of National Statistics will also be releasing the numbers of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ in winter 2013/2014- and it’s estimated that at least 30% of these deaths caused by the impacts of living in a cold home. Shockingly, in winter 2012/2013 there were more than 10,000 deaths in the UK from cold homes (with 31,100 Excess Winter Deaths recorded in total) whilst in the same year the Big Six energy companies- British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE- made £3.7billion in pure profit.

Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Reclaim the Power are inviting everyone angry about fuel poverty, deaths from cold homes, Big Six polluting and profiteering, lack of government action on badly needed home insulation , home break-ins by energy companies, benefit cuts and more to come and join the march and ‘powerful and creative’ action outside Energy UK.

We are also inviting you to attend the end of the protest where there will be n ‘Energy Rights teach-in’ – where we will learn, collectively, how to negotiate if you’re in debt to your energy supplier or steps that you can take if you can’t afford your bill. We will also read out Fuel Poverty Action’s ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ which recently had a rowdy launch in Parliament- a Bill of Rights that asserts our right to access affordable, sustainable and democratic energy as well as decent housing that doesn’t waste heat. We think that until we make real demands about our Energy Rights we will continue to be at the whim of the profiteering companies and couldn’t-care-less government.

Join us to express sadness, anger, solidarity and to point fingers at some of those responsible for outrageous cold home deaths. Take action with us this Friday 28th November.
Facebook event:

-A Pensioner? Join the Pensioner Bloc meeting at 11am at Charing Cross Station!/events/708554315906912/?fref=ts

-A student? Join the SOAS Student Bloc, meeting 10.45am!/events/732599153496936/
-Join the main protest gathering outside the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall at 11.30am

Can’t come?

Tweet support using the hashtags

#HeatNotGreed and #EnergyRightsNow

From Fuel Poverty Action published at UK Uncut

Saturday 22 November 2014

The Climate Crisis is Capitalism

Much Western discourse around environmental crisis reiterates the self-serving frame that ‘the world,’ rich and poor, global North and South, capitalist and communist, produced global warming. The assertion is posed as pragmatic, as avoiding the Cold War oppositions that tend to shut down discussion of important issues. If ‘we all’ are responsible for this or that catastrophe then we all have a responsibility to solve it. But what if, in terms of facts and history, a very specific and well defined form of political economy contains the guiding principles, modes of social organization, necessary technocratic skills, motive and two hundred years of easily assignable history of environmental destruction, can be blamed?

The question of whether or not capitalism is responsible for climate crisis is more pragmatic than ideological. A first step to solving a problem is to understand what is causing it. Capitalism as a form of political and economic organization— political economy premised on guiding principles about human ‘being’ and a ‘science’ of economic organization tied to a specific idea of economic ‘efficiency,’ arose in its early industrial form in mid-eighteenth century Britain. From the birth of capitalism to the rapid growth of industrialization beginning around 1850 to the growing dominance of state capitalism in China today, the carbon emissions responsible for global warming have followed the spread of capitalism.


Graph (1) above: atmospheric CO2 levels from burning fossil fuels to power industrial production began to rise dramatically around 1850. The widespread use of automobiles and other fossil fuel powered transportation began in the early twentieth century. Framed by Western economists as ‘consumption,’ transportation is necessary to get to and from work in much of the West because of decisions around economic organization made by self-interested industrialists. Note the drop in CO2 emissions in the 1930s, the Great Depression. While the data in the graph ends in 1960 to avoid outsourced production that misrepresents national CO2 emissions, total emissions doubled again between 1970 and 2011. Units are MtCO2. Source CAIT.

The residual Cold War ‘competition of ideologies’ behind reluctance to address capitalism relies on the Western conceit that ideology determines history rather than evolves with it. Capitalism became ossified as ideology when it served the political and economic interests of its proponents to ossify it, usually in the context of engineered crisis like the ‘stagflation’ of the 1970s. As an effort at historical explanation, the idea of capitalism ‘competing’ with other ideologies makes sense only through deference to factual political economy. Colonial history, sequential devastating wars, different ‘endowments’ in terms of unifying social tendencies and natural resources and different ‘starting’ times have been flattened to ‘equivalence’ in improbable opposition.

This is to make the point that capitalism in its facts neither implies nor requires ideological opposition— the facts are what they are without any. Capitalist theory, a/k/a Western economics, has been used to organize and motivate these facts. The profit motive pays capitalists for environmental destruction. This destruction is a ‘cost’ of production absorbed by ‘the world’ to the benefit of the capitalist. This same profit motive provides the imperative to mechanize and automate to lower costs. From about 1850 forward this mechanization became increasingly reliant on fossil fuels as the energy source that powers it. And the burning of fossil fuels is the major source of carbon emissions over the history of capitalist production.


Graph (2) above: from the large scale industrialization of the second ‘industrial revolution’ to the most recent waves of globalization the overwhelming preponderance of CO2 emissions were directly tied to capitalist production. In the 110 years between 1850 – 1960 ‘ the West,’ the U.S., U.K. and Germany, put over ten times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the far more populous combined Russia and China. China didn’t evolve into the world’s largest emitter of CO2 until the U.S. and Europe began outsourcing dirty production there in the 1990s. Units are MtCO2. Source: CAIT

Western economics is capitalist economics in dimensions that appear largely invisible its practitioners. These dimensions include the relation of ‘civil’ government to capitalist production and the relation of ‘consumers’ to the ‘system’ of capitalism. From the integrated state-capitalism of mercantilist Britain to the military-financial-industrial state capitalism of the U.S., and more recently China, distinguishing state from economic actors is the product of an improbable theoretical overlay over integrated political economy. And the high-capitalist conceit that consumer demand drives economic production faces the facts that modern ‘consumers’ were born into developed economic contexts where ‘consumption’ could reasonably be framed as production.

Both of these conceits are a function of the theoretical time-space that is the basis of Western economics. The separation of ‘economics’ from political economy is the product of deductive theories of ‘economy’ and economic ‘system’ that have no place for ‘the political.’ This leaves the theoretical and methodological constraints used to define the realm of the ‘economic’ inferred back as social description. It is deduced imposition, simple assertion put forward as ‘fact.’ Today this maneuver finds a broad swath of Western economists incredulous that Wall Street bailouts, guarantees and subsidies; subsidies and wars for military and oil and gas interests and the public-private surveillance state are evidence of class interests driving corporate-state policies.


Graph (3) above: a favorite conceit of Western economists, that ‘we are all in this economy together,’ is placed in context when CO2 emissions are considered. North America— overwhelmingly the U.S., emits roughly 2X more CO2 per capita (per person) than Europe and more than 4X as much as Asia as of 2011. While total CO2 emissions are the relevant metric for resolving global warming, per capita emissions point to who benefits and who pays for capitalist production. Even per capita emissions understate the disproportionate benefit received by the capitalist West because dirty production from the U.S. and Europe has been outsourced to China. Units are MtCO2 per person. Source: CAIT.

The concept of ‘consumer-driven’ economic production is an artifact of this same theoretical time-space. The Western economists’ separation of consumption from production places the housing, clothing, food and transportation necessary to work as consumption when work can’t be done without them. Economic ‘freedom’ in this context is the choice between competing products, not the choice of form of economic organization. The ‘environmental’ choice between a hybrid car and a gas guzzler has little bearing on the social organization that makes driving a car necessary to economic existence. Placing ‘responsibility’ on consumers for environmental resolution arbitrarily conflates consumption with production and it places the locus of social resolution with an improbable ‘individual.’

Additionally, this conflation ‘naturalizes’ consumer culture when it is demonstrably a creation of technocrats in the service of capitalist plutocrats. Modern consumer culture required about a century of capitalist propaganda, a/k/a advertising, to evolve to its current state. ‘Public relations,’ efforts at public suasion through appeals to psychology, was straightforwardly tied to ‘propaganda,’ the use of psychology for political suasion, until the Nazis gave it a bad name in WWII. Advertising is premised on psychological suasion, on appeals to ‘buried’ understanding. The Western economists’ concept of ‘consumer choice’ excludes psychological suasion because appeals to ‘buried’ understanding, psychology, challenge the idea of ‘free’ choice. Adding irony is the billions that capitalist enterprises pay to advertise.


Graph (4) above: the blue line across the bottom of the graph represents the wealth of the bottom 90% of U.S. households. The red line represents the wealth of the richest 0.1%. With environmental destruction, including CO2 emissions, being the detritus of capitalist production— costs shoved onto ‘the world’ that show up as profits to capitalists and corporate executives, the differences in wealth are rough measure of this economic taking. The American aversion to discussion of class warfare is well earned. The benefits of environmental destruction are so narrowly distributed while the costs are so widely distributed that class warfare launched from above is the only viable conclusion. Units are constant 2010 dollars. Source: Emmanuel Saez

Given the historical, geographical and direct physical ties of capitalist production to environmental destruction, including potentially catastrophic global warming, the contention that capitalism can continue without its unwanted consequences requires implausible parsing. The problem isn’t just global warming per se; it is the swath of environmental destruction that is the product of the approach to the world that is capitalism. With industrial fishing as fact and metaphor, capitalist ‘competition’ takes until there is nothing left to take— the seas are being systematically emptied of fish. And half or more of the sea life slaughtered in industrial fishing is thrown back into the ocean as garbage. This is capitalism.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) provides an analysis of global warming suggesting that large scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions must begin immediately and go far beyond proposals currently under consideration for catastrophe to be averted. As illustrated by per capita CO2 emissions, the geopolitical tension is that the West has the wealth from two hundred years of economic exploitation of the environment in the pockets of a few thousand astonishingly wealthy people while the associated environmental destruction is distributed around the globe. Convincing the Chinese people to forgo economic development for environmental resolution while Americans produce four times as much CO2 per capita seems unlikely.

Ideas like taxing the profits of oil and gas companies to fund programs of environmental resolution assume that these programs exist; are plausible and won’t result in unintended environmental and social destruction in other dimensions. In the 2000s the production of ‘green’ solar panels and wind turbines was outsourced to China and the result was environmental catastrophe estimated to be 4X more expensive than cleaner Western production when environmental costs were considered. They also assume that the governments of the West held captive by business interests for the last four decades will suddenly become responsive without a full-scale revolution.

The base social tension of environmental resolution is illustrated in the graphs above. Resistance to changing the status quo begins with the very rich in the West who have the most to lose from change. From there resistance comes from high per capita CO2 emissions countries— the ratio is direct evidence of the benefit received versus the cost not (yet) borne. Within rich countries the ‘external’ division of global class interests also exists internally. Cynical plutocrats like the Koch brothers have ‘invested’ heavily to frame class division in the mythology of economic ‘freedom.’ But the ‘freedom’ of some to destroy the world creates a clear division.

Reluctance to address capitalism directly might be pragmatic if there were any evidence that it is effective. The ‘better than nothing’ incrementalism of Western economists proceeds from the premise that ‘no one knows’ what needs to be done when the IPCC analysis is a decent place to start. A ‘rational’ plan of resolution might turn the report into programmatic action. But a ‘rational’ plan, one where peoples and governments work together, assumes a unity of interests that capitalism assures will never arise. And the cautionary chide that ‘we’ move slowly to minimize social dislocations runs up against the past, present and future dislocations of two hundred years of capitalist environmental exploitation.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is forthcoming.

This was first published at CounterPunch

Friday 21 November 2014

Rochester and Strood By-Election Result

Mark Reckless (UKIP) 16,867 (42.10%)

Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative) 13,947 (34.81%)

Naushabah Khan (Labour) 6,713 (16.76%)

Clive Gregory (Green) 1,692 (4.22%)

Geoff Juby (Lib Dem) 349 (0.87%)

Hairy Knorm Davidson (Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 151 (0.38%)

I left off the minor parties and independents who got less than 100 votes. I only include the Loonies to give context to the Lib Dem vote.

So, UKIP won its second seat in Parliament with a majority of 2,920 on a turnout of 50.67%. Of course by-election results can be deceptive, and voters behave differently at general elections, but this result will do nothing to settle the nerves of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem supporters.

The Conservatives put a great deal of effort into defending the seat after the defection to UKIP of Mark Reckless MP, and they have been managing expectations down all week, to such an extent that they now claim the result is better than predicted. There is some truth in this, but I suspect that Labour and Lib Dem voters backed the Tories to some extent, as the best placed anti UKIP party. Such is the perversity of our First Past The Post electoral system.

But behind the spin this is a terrible result for the Tories just six months before a general election. It is also a personal humiliation for the Prime Minister, who made five visits to the constituency during the election campaign. If they want to win the general election next year, then this is just the sort seat they need to retain, and a seven point deficit to UKIP is nothing short of a disaster.

The only thing that will have cheered the Tories, is that once again Labour stole the show and deflected attention onto Emily Thornberry’s ill-judged tweet mocking white man van and his flag draped house. This was a Labour seat up until 2010, so to finish such a poor third doesn’t suggest Labour will do better at the general election either.

But for complete and total humiliation, we once again must look to the Lib Dems. To gain only 349 votes and 0.87% of the total cast, is risible really.  This is the eleventh time this Parliament that they have lost their deposit in a by-election and represents the worst result in their history (including when they the Liberals) and worst for any party of government in a by-election. Oblivion beckons, and over on the LibDem Voice site, some are calling for Nick Clegg’s head.    

As for the Green candidate, 4.2% is not spectacular, but this is a pretty no hope seat for us, and normally I expect only about 1 or 2%, but we are of course not in normal times. If this continues, we should at least save many deposits in the general election, and where we are stronger, deliver some MPs too.  

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Left Unity Minority in Support for ISIS

Apparently the motion below was submitted to the Left Unity conference last weekend, but LU people on Facebook say it was defeated. I find it astonishing that anyone, even a small minority in LU can support these murderers, rapists and thugs, particularly as they besiege Kobane where a fledgling ecosocialist type grouping of Kurds are desperately holding out against them.

What a disgrace!

“The call for the Caliphate, however vague and malleable the concept is, reflects a strong internationalism among Muslims, reinforced and reproduced for hundreds of millions each year by the Haj (Pilgrimage to Mecca), which breaks down and demotes any attachments to nation states of origin. At bottom the caliphate means one government for all Muslims, in which non-Muslims who accept its authority are also welcome.”

“To show solidarity with the people of the Middle East by supporting the end of the structure of the divided nation states imposed by the Versailles settlement and their replacement by a Caliphatetype polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse. Left Unity Resolution.

“We also distance ourselves from the Eurocentric brand of secularism that believes that the peoples of the Middle East must accept western terms of reference by consigning their religious faith to a separate part of their lives from their political aspirations, if they are to develop progressive societies.”

Monday 17 November 2014

Seven things everyone should know about the Private Finance Initiative

The Private Finance Initiative is a big part of the privatisation that's killing the NHS, so why aren’t any of the main parties opposed to it?

1. What is PFI?

Rather than Central Government directly funding infrastructure works like schools or hospitals, Private Finance Initiative (PFI)  means a consortium of private sector banks and construction firms finance, own, operate and lease them back to the UK taxpayer, over a period of 30-35 years.

PFI financing of public infrastructure is now in use across the NHS, as well as the Departments for Education, Local Government, Defence, Transport, and Justice.

2. How much PFI debt do we owe?

UK taxpayers now owe £305 billion in PFI repayments across 700+ projects for the next 30 years. 

3. Do PFI deals provide value for money?

PFI deals have been universally criticised as horrendous value for taxpayers, likened to “paying for a hospital on your credit card” by BBC Panorama.

PFI is significantly more expensive than Government funded projects with the cost of borrowing at least two times higher than Government financed works according to a 2011 HM Treasury Report.

PFI rewires the relationship between the citizen and the state, so that our public services are no longer owned by, or directly accountable to us. 

4. Who is to blame for PFI?

Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes were introduced to the UK under the John Major Government in the 1990s, with the first PFI project [Skye Bridge] tested in Scotland

Tony Blair’s New Labour Government significantly expanded PFI as a convenient way of funding public infrastructure “off balance sheet.”

Despite frequently calling for an end to "Labours flawed PFI program" whilst in opposition, in 2011 Chancellor George Osborne rebranded and continued the PFI gravy train under the "PFI 2" banner.

5. What impact is PFI having on the NHS?

NHS Trusts owe £80bn in PFI loan repayments and “unitary charges,” the technical term describing the extortionate ongoing running costs of maintainingPFI hospitals via PFI - where private contractors are granted 30-year monopoly rights to deliver maintenance and services.

Next year alone, NHS Trusts will make some £2bn in PFI repayments - but the issue was conveniently ignored by the NHS England 5 year plan.

6. What can we do about PFI?

A public movement is building to fight back against the PFI scam.
At The People vs PFI Conference this month at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, activists, professionals and academics came together to call for an end to the madness of PFI. 

Practical examples abounded. Dexter Whitfield discussed the PFI project across Europe and highlighted the need for movement building to oppose it. David Price set out the sorry history of PFI in the NHS, and Stuart Hodkinson explained why PFI is no answer to housing problems in Lambeth and Islington. 

Ann Pettifor set out how solutions must also address the issue of money creation and capital controls. Nick Hildyard explained how PFI (also known as PPP) is a key tool of neoliberal capitalism, being used globally to extract finance, and Ashley Seagar highlighted how PFI damages ‘intergenerational fairness’.

The conference also focused on finding ways of organising locally to demand solutions to PFI.

Participants heard how to get stories into the media, research the dodgy deals, follow the money and build a movement, with workshops led by experts from Focus E15 mums, UK Uncut, Spinwatch, World Development Movement and others.

Check out the Storify and follow us on Twitter for more - @PplVsPFI and #PplVsPFI

7. Who is listening on PFI?

The question remains, who within our political establishment is listening? 
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said this weekend that ‘only Labour can save the NHS and deliver a recovery that works for all’. Labour have also pledged to solve the affordable housing crisis.
But in his Labour Party conference speech this year, Balls promised:  “no proposals for any new spending paid for by additional borrowing".

So where’s finance for investment in hospitals, housing and other infrastructure to come from? If not from traditional government borrowing, the suspicion must be that the Labour party, under Ed Balls economic stewardship, would instead continue to spend via the taxpayer-funded, off balance sheet, rip-off PFI credit card.

People vs PFI called up Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham for clarification on the Labour party line ahead of our PFI conference a couple of weeks back.

Would Burnham commit to no new PFI deals in the NHS, we asked?
His spokesperson  responded: “PFI policy is for HM Treasury to determine.”

So People vs PFI called up Ed Balls.

His office declined to even comment.

Hardly the stuff that inspires confidence in Labour’s commitment to saving the NHS!

Continuing PFI costs the taxpayer much more over the long term. It allows private financiers and construction firms to make a killing out of public infrastructure, privately owned via offshore tax havens. It captures fewer benefits captured locally in the form of tax receipts and wage growth. And it ensures our public services are non-transparent, unaccountable to local citizens, and set up to fail for future full privatisation.

It’s absurd for the Labour party to claim fiscal responsibility with one hand, and to propose more PFI with the other. 

Ed Balls should make a radical departure from Labour’s failed PFI experiment, and admit publicly that Government financing of infrastructure is always cheaper than private sector finance.

Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS here to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter. Thank you. 

Written by Joel Benjamin and first published at Our Kingdom

Thursday 13 November 2014

What is Ecosocialism? – Part 2

In the first part of this exploration of ecosocialism, we looked at the theory. In part two we turn to some practical approaches that we can take in the here and now.

If the cause of our ecological problems is the capitalist system, and because we as humans are part of the planet’s ecosystem, it is bad for the people too, then it follows that ecosocialists must work towards toppling this system and replacing it with something which is better. The changes that are needed would make capitalism so unrecognisable, that it would not really be capitalism anymore. We must reject the false notion of eco-capitalism or eco-liberalism as at best piecemeal or at worst greenwash.

This is a daunting challenge though. Capitalism has an extremely strong ‘force-field’ so much so that most people can’t even imagine the world without it. But things can change. In my lifetime, I never imagined I would see the fall of the Berlin Wall or Nelson Mandela become president of South Africa, so we mustn’t be overawed or despondent. Social change, when it happens, can be very swift indeed. Time, of course is not on our side with things like climate change, but capitalism has regular bouts of crisis, as at present, which will always afford us the opportunity to bring about its demise.

There are a few things we can do now. The slogan of Green Left is ‘organise, educate, agitate’, and this provides an outline guide of how we should begin to bring about the transformation that is so badly needed.

One of the weaknesses with the anti-capitalist movement of recent years is that it is negative by its very nature. It is fine to be ‘anti’ things, and we should certainly support this movement, but we should also say what we are for, and with some credibility, so we can’t be just dismissed as dreamers. 

One such way, is to form what are known as pre-figurative ensembles. These ensembles are a snap shot of what a future ecosocialist society would look like. There are plenty vehicles already around where this can be pursued, like Occupy, UK Uncut, People’s Assembly, as well as many other social movements. Also, we should involve ourselves in things like local food, energy and transport co-operatives. There must be thousands of ‘islands’ of ecosocialism all over the world, and the aim is to form these into a great archipelago of ecosocialism which can have real influence.

Trotsky was no ecococialist, although there is a bit of Trot in my thinking, so these pre-figurations can also be seen as ‘transitional demands’ or as I prefer to call them, ‘transformative demands’. We should always oppose privatisation of our public services in favour of social and community ownership. Other organisations such as trade unions, political parties and resident’s associations can be used to press our demands too. Unions are moving in an eco direction with some appointing environment reps and resident’s associations will campaign against things like fracking and for other environmental causes, which we can use to spread our philosophy, but I’m going to concentrate here on political parties.

There are, in the UK, a few small parties that claim to be ecosocialist. The Alliance for Green Socialism (AGS), have their roots in Militant Tendency who were expelled from the Labour party in the 1980s but are only a presence in parts of Yorkshire. I have my doubts about them being truly ecosocialist. The recently formed Left Unity (LU) say they are ecosocialist, as do at least two of their party affiliates, Socialist Resistance (SR) and Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (RS21). RS21 were formed recently after the implosion of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Then of course there is the Green party, which is much bigger and includes Green Left which is ecosocialist, if the party as a whole is not quite there yet. I chose this route because the potential here is much larger than the tiny sects already mentioned, but the task is similar with whichever party you choose. That is, greening the red parties and reddening the Green party, all of which is a work in progress. This blog, in part, is an attempt to do this.

It should be stated that ecosocialists do not subscribe to the Leninist ‘vanguard party’ approach. No, we think that we have to bring the people with us, every step of the way, or we will be unsuccessful.This is where the social movements and pre-figurative ensembles mentioned above come into play.

Ecosocialism must also be internationalist, given the challenges of contemporary global capitalism. There are ecosocialist currents all around the world, and an Ecosocialist International has been formed, and you can see the third version of the Ecosocialist Manifesto which was recently agreed here at the a meeting in Peru.

In South America ecosocialism has made its most influential contribution to government of anywhere in the world. In Peru, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela and especially in Bolivia, ecosocialist movements of mainly indigenous peoples have managed to elect eco-friendly socialist governments. This offers an alternative to neo-liberal orthodoxy, to which we can point as evidence, to the prevailing ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) as Margaret Thatcher used to say, mantra of the ring wing media.

There was once, an open Ecosocialist International email list, which was great for sharing our experiences around the world. I found out from this list there are three ecosocialist parties in the Greek SYRIZA movement. The internet and social media make it easier for us to communicate with the like minded of the world and I would like to see this reinstated. (I think it was hacked and was closed down). There is a forum on the Ecosocialist Unite site, but you need to register and it doesn’t have many members.

So, cautious cause for optimism then, but I am in no doubt that replacing capitalism with ecosocialism, will require a revolution. It should be made clear however, that this will be a peaceful revolution, although I am not so naïve as to think that the powers that be will give up without a fight. But we have seen violent revolutions lead to tyranny from a new group of rulers once ensconced in power. I’m with Emma Goldman when she said, ‘If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution’.

So, there you have it. We have just skimmed the surface here really, but I hope this gives you some idea of the philosophy and a little hope for the future.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The IPCC report: Between nightmare and revolution


The International Panel on Climate Change has now published its fifth Synthesis Report along with a Summary for Policy Makers. The diagnosis is no surprise:
  • Global warming is advancing. It is mainly caused by burning fossil fuels, and the negative consequences are more important than the positive effects.
  • It is probably still possible to avoid an average temperature increase  of more than 2°C compared to the pre-industrial period, but the policies followed for the last twenty years will lead to a warming of between 3.7 and 4.8 °C (between 2.5 and 7.8 °C, taking uncertainty into account) and “high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.”

A palpable concern

The evaluation made in this fifth report is not fundamentally different from previous ones, but the confidence level of the warning is greater. Some areas of uncertainty are becoming clearer and the authors’ concern is more obvious than ever.

The phrase “virtually certain” (more than 99% probability) is used more and more in describing the likelihood this or that phenomenon. For instance, several centuries of melting  permafrost and rising sea levels are now considered “virtually certain,” even if emissions are drastically reduced,

Behind the “objective” scientific tone of the report, the IPCC is clearly sounding an alarm. The experts’ concern is palpable. This is particularly apparent in the fact that the summary for policy makers contains a section on the increased risk of “irreversibility and abrupt changes” beyond 2100.

For example, we read that “The threshold for the loss of the Greenland ice sheet over a millennium or more, and an associated sea-level rise of up to 7 m, is greater than about 1°C but less than about 4°C of global warming.” So limiting the temperature rise to 2°C does not completely eliminate the risks of very profound changes to Earth’s ecosystems. [2]

Fossil fuels, the main culprits

The media regularly repeats statements that blame methane gas produced by ruminants and CO2 emissions caused by deforestation. There is some truth in these claims, but the IPCC puts the record straight: “Emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the increase during the period 2000 to 2010.” A graph showing the amount of the different gasses between 1970 and 2010 confirms that the main problem is the use of coal, oil and natural gas as energy sources.

This conclusion is crucial when it comes to developing solutions. The IPCC experts synthesized existing literature on models of “mitigation” of global warming. They describe eight different scenarios, depending on the level at which the atmospheric concentration of the greenhouse gasses is stabilized by the end of this century. For each scenario, a table shows the emission reductions of emissions that would be required between 2050 and 2100 and the probability that temperature increase would stay below a given level, (1.5°, 2°, 3°, 4°C)  compared to the pre-industrial period. In every scenario, reducing CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels plays a central role.

Scenarios: between nightmare and revolution

The least restrictive scenario is the one in which emissions continue to rise at approximately the current rate. In this case, the probability of going beyond a 4°C rise, is “more likely than not.” The list of social and ecological disasters resulting is long and nightmarish. For human health, for example, the report states that “the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors (high confidence).” The productivity of agriculture and fisheries will be severely affected. Biodiversity loss will accelerate.

At the other extreme of possibilities, a small number of studies consider stabilization of the atmospheric concentration at 430ppm of CO2e [3]. But this is the current level, and the effort necessary to maintain it will be extremely restrictive, even colossal. In 2050, global emissions will need to be cut 70 % to 95 % (below the 2010 level); by 2100, they must fall 110% to 120 % [4]. The Summary for Policy Makers says no more about that.

That scenario implies a revolutionary reorientation of all areas of life, but it is the only one that offers a chance of avoiding global warming above 1.5°C, the objective that many scientists (including the president of the IPCC!) consider necessary.

In practice, the report focuses on two scenarios: stabilization at 450 ppm and  at 500 ppm. In those cases, they estimate the chance of achieving a 2°C  maximum as “likely” (more than 66% probability), “more likely than not”, or “as likely as not.” Staying beneath 1.5°C is barely possible with stabilization at 450 ppm, but the chance is very slim (“more unlikely than likely”).

A gigantic difficulty

These scenarios allow a (small) margin for an increase of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere from continued burning of fossil fuels for a limited time, but the constraints would nevertheless be severe. For example, to stabilize at 450 ppm, world emissions have to decrease by 42% to 57% by 2050 and by 78% to 118% by 2100, compared to 2010. In 2050, the amount of energy produced with zero or very low carbon intensity, must increase by 90% on a worldwide scale[5]. The fact that 78% of emissions are CO2 from burning of fossil fuels and that this represents 80% of the energy used by humanity, shows the magnitude of the difficulty.

There is of course a technical dimension, which I won’t consider here. There are, above all, social and political dimensions. The report insists on a just distribution of effort among countries based on their historical responsibility, on technology sharing, on the need for international collaboration, on the importance of combining the fight against climate change and the fight against poverty, on the ethical imperatives of this combination and on the challenge posed for the human species. These are crucial issues which potentially challenge the logic of neoliberalism. No previous IPCC report as previously delivered such a message so forcefully.

‘Devalue the assets’

There is a another social difficulty about which  the Summary for Policy Makers has little to say, despite its importance. At a certain point we read: “Mitigation policy could devalue fossil fuel assets and reduce revenues for fossil fuel exporters, but differences between regions and fuels exist (high confidence). Most mitigation scenarios are associated with reduced revenues from coal and oil trade for major exporters (high confidence).”

These two little sentences refer to a crucial issue: in order to stay below 2°C of warming, 80% of current known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the soil and never be extracted. But these stocks are part of the assets of the oil companies and of the ruling families in producing States. It is a euphemism to write that a policy of mitigation could devalue fossil fuel assets. In reality, any mitigation policy worthy of the name will lead to the pure and simple destruction of most such capital.

The bosses of the fossil energy sector are well aware the danger. That’s why they have massively financed the “climate deniers” and by doing that have won themselves some time. But in the long run, it is unlikely that the lies of these charlatans can cover up the disturb scientific evidence presented by the IPCC. That is why emphasis is increasingly being put on the search for “realistic” mitigation policies that are compatible with maintaining the profits of the bosses in the coal, oil and natural gas sectors.

Challenging capital

Carbon capture and geological sequestration (CCS) has a strategic place in this, and the report by the IPCC attaches much importance to it. But don’t be confused by the media’s focus on the “good news” that remaining below the 2°C will reduce growth by only 0.06%. That figure is mentioned in the report, but it also says that is was calculated on the assumption of massive deployment of Carbon Capture and Sequestration. According to the report, the energy transition needed between now and 2030 will require investment of several hundreds billions dollars per year, globally. That’s a pretty enough sum … but without CCS, the price would increase by 138%, even 200%.

However, the role of fossil fuels is only one aspect of a much larger question: the logic of accumulation is at stake. It has become a cliché to say that infinite growth is impossible on a finite world. Since the energy conversion process itself will generate significant new emissions, radically reducing emissions between now until 2050 will require reducing final energy consumption to a degree and in ways that challenge logic of “always more” energy. To put the matter briefly: we must reduce material production and transportation.

This is possible without harming the quality of life (on the contrary, while increasing it) if we abolish all useless and harmful production, planned obsolescence, the ridiculous amount of transport required by globalization, etc. It is possible without destroying jobs (on the contrary, while creating jobs) if we share work, wealth, knowledge and technologies. But each of those options leads inevitably to the same conclusion: we have to challenge capital as such.

The majority of researchers who create mitigation models do not take this possibility into account. For them, accumulation is part of the landscape, a law of nature. So in addition to CCS, most strategies include expansion of nuclear energy and massive burning of biomass. These are, so to speak, repair patches on accumulation. The Summary for Policy Makers does mention some risks of those technologies, especially competition between food production and biomass, but the IPCC only compiles existing studies and is therefore dependent on them.

More than an ecological struggle

The Paris summit (COP21) at the end of 2015 is supposed to deliver a climate accord. The IPCC report puts everyone’s responsibilities squarely in front of them. We expect it to play an important role.But the governments won’t consider anticapitalist alternatives. The contours of the catastrophe are becoming more certain, more visible, and more frightening, while hundreds of millions of poor people are already the first victims of global warming. At best, the government negotiators will only be able to concoct — behind closed doors — a climate agreement which will be ecologically insufficient, socially unjust, and technically dangerous at the technical level. Recent decisions by the European Union show this danger clearly.

The possibility of another road depends on social mobilization. Because this is more than an ecological question: the human challenge is fundamental, and the choices of society and civilization will determine everything else. Our opponents are powerful. Only collective action of all the oppressed and exploited can drive them back.

From now on, we must use the alarm issued by the IPCC. to build the largest front possible in favour of a social and ecological alternative. In a word: ecosocialism.

  1. The IPCC is composed of three working parties whose work centers on: (1) the science of climate change; (2) its impact and adaptation to it; and, (3) mitigation strategies. Each working party writes a report that is published with its own a Summary for Policy Makers. The reports are written by scientists. The Summaries for Policy Makers are co-written by scientists and state representatives who speak on behalf of their governments.
  2. In the short term (from now until 2100),  it is possible to limit (more than 66% probability) to keep sea level rise at about forty centimetres. But this projection does not include the disintegration of the most fragile part of the ice cover of the Antarctic. Two American researchers warned six months ago that this disintegration has started and is impossible to stop: this will inevitably bring a rise of 1.80m during the coming 300 to 400 next years.
  3. The concentration of gas is expressed in parts per million (ppm: the number of molecules of a given gas per one million molecules). The radiative power (warming capacity) of different greenhouse gasses is translated into the radiative power of CO2, we call it CO2 equivalent (CO2e).
  4. A decrease of more than 100% means that the Earth absorbs more greenhouse gasses than it produces, which is possible if large surfaces are planted with trees which absorb CO2 through photosynthesis.
  5. The constraints are analogous for the two other scenarios
Written by Daniel Tanuro and first published at Climate and Capitalism 

Saturday 8 November 2014

What is Ecosocialism? – Part 1

Well, I have set myself some task here, to explain this philosophy in two short blog posts, when people much smarter than me have written whole books on the subject, but here we go anyway. In this first part we will look at the theory.

Ecosocialism at its basic level is a fusion between green (eco) and red (socialism) approaches to political economy. But it is not quite as straightforward as that. So it may be best to begin by stating what ecosocialism isn’t.

Green politics has many strains of influence from the right, left and centre of more traditional political thinking but at its heart is a concern for the ecology of the planet and all creatures that live on it. So far, so good.

Someone like James Lovelock who came up with the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the interconnections of the chemical and physical environment, is from one strain. This type of thinking is commonly known as ‘deep ecology’, and its many critics (ecosocialists amongst them) tend to view it as ‘anti-human’ since mankind gets the blame for much of the ecological damage we see. 

There is a truth in this of course, but to put the emphasis on often the poorest human beings and see our species as somehow separate, even alien from the rest of the planet’s ecology is to massively miss the point.

The ‘too many people’ population brigade are from the deep ecology category, and this Malthusian thinking is the polar opposite of ecosocialism. The deep greens want to drastically reduce human population, and although they don’t often go into detail about how this would be achieved, I’ve always thought it has fascist undertones. Indeed, Hitler is said to have been an animal lover and vegan!

Other variants of ecological thinking tend to stress theories like bio-regionalism, which is less objectionable, but still yearns for a bygone age when people didn’t travel far and populations were relatively low. The native American tribes are often cited as living the bio-regional way, before the Europeans came along and spoilt it all.

Most Green parties around the world adopt a form localism as their main policy platform, and this ecological philosophy which is, at its core, a kind of neo-Smithian (Adam Smith) theory, where small, localised businesses offer a competitive and localised economy. This is relatively soft on the environment, whilst also ensuring diversity between nations and regions, it is essentially a form of liberalism. Often local currencies are championed along with good ecological practices such as organic farming and using renewable energy sources.

In the red corner, ecosocialism (like some other forms of socialism) is definitely not like the twentieth century authoritarian socialism of the Soviet Union and its satellites or China. Ecosocialists view this first epoch socialism as ‘state capitalism’, and not really socialism at all, with its obsession with production as well as being if anything even more damaging than capitalism to the environment. Of course, there were logical reasons for this, being under threat from hostile capitalist states all around them, but this departure from real socialism was disastrous to the cause. 

This socialist model of aping capitalism in the end led to its downfall, and the notion of this as an alternative philosophy appears to have been tossed into the dustbin of history now anyway.

It should also be made clear that ecosocailism is different from Western social democracy (or as some call it ‘democratic socialism’), although the Green parties that ecosocialists often inhabit, often conform to this type of politics (as more traditionally practiced in the last century), rather than the neo-liberal lite approach of parties such as Labour these days.

So, to return to the opening question, what exactly is ecosocialism? Fundamentally it is an eco-centric socialism. The effective cause of the ecological problems that are all too familiar is capitalism, with its need to grow, exponentially, relentlessly over time. Logic suggests that this is impossible, where resources are finite, but if it doesn’t grow, then capitalism is thrown into crisis, and will eventually die. But this doesn’t mean that a whole lot of damage can't be done in the meantime, as we see with climate change.

Ecosocialism stresses the need to cooperate, rather than compete, to share rather than to horde selfishly, and to conserve rather than exploit. All this is applicable to the wellbeing of the people as well as the planet.

A very important concept in ecosocialist thinking is the ‘commons’. This thread goes way back in history, probably as old humanity itself. ‘Primitive’ societies were often based around a commons concept and the earliest stories about Robin Hood in England were of the fight against commons enclosures, by the crown or nobility. History is littered with the desire of the powerful to enclose and then profit from common land. The Diggers during the English civil war are another example of people trying to establish commons against the tide of enclosure.

It was brought home to me a few years ago when I visited Senegal in west Africa. I spoke to a local fisherman who complained about the factory fishing boats from Japan, Russia and the European Union. He said whilst the local fishermen fished in balance with nature, these ships were hoovering up all the fish, and it was becoming more difficult to catch enough to survive on. It struck me, that this was another example of the commons, which was working perfectly well for people and fish, being enclosed by capitalism and unbalancing nature and starving the people.

There is a debate about whether Karl Marx was ecosocialist, where some say he was, for example his concept of a ‘metabolic rift’ between man and nature caused by capitalism. On the other hand, some see him as essentially a productivist. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other. I think Marx had his green side but also I can see the other view too. Maybe he just didn’t get around to fully joining up the eco side of his thinking with the rest. 

Where ecosocialists are at one with Marx, is the centrality of production for ‘use value’ as opposed to ‘exchange value’, as under capitalism. I don’t have enough room here to go into this deeply, but in short, production should be for need, and not to make money.

There are lots of ecosocialist writers if you want learn more, for example, Joel Kovel, Sarel Sarker and Green Left’s own Derek Wall, and ecofeminist writers (which is a very similar philosophy) like Maria Myes and Shiva Vandana.

In part 2, we’ll look at what we can do in practical terms.  


Thursday 6 November 2014

Book Review - Safe Planet: Renewable Energy Plus Workers' Power - John Cowsill

Book Review: Can Marxist ideas help save the planet?

Those of us involved in the struggle for climate action are very aware how time is running out for the planet.  There are two sides to the problem: the technical and the political.  We need to understand whether there is a solution using currently available technology that can be applied in time, but also why progress is so difficult and slow that many of us are beginning to despair.

John Cowsill’s new and important book is in two parts, considering both these aspects.  In the first part he tackles the technical question.  Do the numbers add up?  He takes on some prominent commentators on climate change, George Monbiot and Prof. David Mackay (author of Sustainability without the Hot Air), both of them on record saying that renewables cannot supply all the energy we need, and takes their arguments apart, pointing out logic and arithmetic errors.  He then takes us step by step through the relevant calculations to show how the UK can convert to 100% renewables and how quickly we need to do it. His approach is that of an engineer. The devil is in the detail and we need to understand his arguments if we are to hold our own in discussions about the feasibility of what we advocate.

John’s scheme is based more or less completely on wind turbines, and contains some ingenious ideas about how we can solve the problems and drawbacks of wind power. His is just one of several books working out in some detail how we could decarbonise our energy generation.  None of them need to be considered compulsory blueprints for the transition to a zero-carbon economy, but together they form a convincing body of evidence that should give us hope.

But here’s the rub.  The problem is one that can only be solved on a government and international scale and the political will is conspicuously absent.  John tackles this in the second part of his book.

Identifying the cause of the problem as capitalism and the drive for profits, and the solution as the agency of the working class is something many readers of this website will broadly agree on. Connecting that simple position to an analysis that would guide the movement for climate action and allow it to move forward has proved to be much more difficult.

Presumably addressing the many activists who are not Marxists, John devotes an entire chapter to a broad but very detailed coverage of classical Marxist economics and the politics of the revolutionary left. The chapter is somehow isolated from the rest of the book and I fear will not convince many of those for whom this material is not already their bread and butter.

John’s final chapter is better at drawing the two strands of this problem together. His attempt to bring revolutionary socialist politics to bear on the urgent problem of climate change is a brave and much needed step. He urges us to join a union, but what about the Campaign against Climate Change trade union group?  What about the explosion of anti-fracking activity?  Mostly they are not Marxist, but they have a potential to learn in struggle. So what should Marxists be discussing with them?   It’s disappointing that John fails to connect theory with the practice of climate action in the here and now.

Written by Ewa Barker and first published at RS21

Monday 3 November 2014

First World War - Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

This is probably Wilfred Owen's best known poem about the horrors of World War 1, which some right wingers (Michael Gove for example) are trying to revise the history of it to make out it was some sort of noble conflict. It was a disgusting slaughter for which the establishment should apologise. Anyway, Wilfred Owen says it all much better than I can. The title is ironic.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (It is sweet and right to die for your country).

Saturday 1 November 2014

The joined-up policies of the Green Party

Is it any wonder that much of the mainstream media and political elite are attempting to exclude the Green Party from the television election debates?

With two recent national polls on voting intentions showing the Green Party ahead of the Liberal Democrats, it can only be a matter of time before the latter disappear into the oblivion of the “Other parties” category.

These results can only strengthen the Greens’s call to be included in the 2015 televised general election debates, which, if successful, will give the Greens the opportunity to reach millions of voters. And presuming party leader Natalie Bennett does her job what viewers should hear about is the party’s holistic policies that have countless positive, and sometimes surprising, knock-on effects on the rest of society.

Take the Green Party’s manifesto commitment of making 35-hours the standard full-time work week in the UK. Most obviously, as the UK has some of the longest full-time working hours in Europe, this would reduce the amount of hours people spend in paid work. Who could possibly object to this?

More seriously, there are many more important spin-offs as well. Ill health and stress from overwork would likely reduce.  The New Economics Foundation argues moving towards a shorter working week “would help break the habit of living to work, working to earn, and earning to consume.” This, in turn, would give people an opportunity to focus on friends and family, voluntary work, pastimes and other non-paid activities. From a feminist perspective, less hours at work would make it more likely domestic labour and childcare could be more evenly balanced between women and men. A move away from earning to consume would also help to address the climate chaos that is already engulfing the global. “A number of studies have found that shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change”, noted a 2013 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The relationship between these two variables is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Another key Green Party concern is to reduce private car use and increase funding for public transport. First, this would lead to a reduction in exhaust pollution that contributes to thousands of deaths a year. Fewer cars would also mean less traffic noise, which can have a negative effect on stress and sleep quality. Fewer cars on the road means a safer road environment which would lead to more people cycling and walking. And more people cycling and walking means more people will be getting more exercise. And people who take regular exercise are less likely to be overweight and depressed. And less overweight and depressed people means a reduction in numerous associated health problems, which will mean less stress on the NHS.

And like the 35-hour week, a reduction in private car use helps to address the Green Party’s core concern – climate change. And addressing climate change itself has many welcome spin offs – from consciously weaning the world off fossil fuels before they run out at a time and place not of our choosing to all the positive social impacts I mention above. Taking a global view, Naomi Klein argues in her incendiary new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate “Many of the changes that need to be made to dramatically cut emissions would also materially benefit the quality of life for the majority of people on the planet.”

In contrast to the Green Party’s joined-up thinking, arguably the headline policy for all the three main parties is austerity (the Greens are in favour of a Green New Deal). And using the same ‘dropping a pebble in a pond’ logic, we know this (highly ideological, counterproductive) belt-tightening has had, and will continue to have, a never-ending stream of negative consequences for wider society. Rather than being ‘all in this together’, austerity politics have led to increased levels of inequality, which Professor Richard Wilkinson and Professor Kate Pickett have shown has a deleterious effect on a whole range of issues from social mobility to mental health, drug use, obesity and trust of other people.

Austerity means more people living in poverty, more people visiting food banks, more depression and more suicides, as Dr David Stuckler explains in his 2013 book The Body Politic. More broadly, the political elite’s austerity obsession pushes society closer towards social breakdown, leading to both organised, overtly political resistance and more spontaneous, often criminal mass actions like 2011’s nationwide riots.

With the possibility of millions of voters being presented with these radically different political visions of the future, is it any wonder that much of the mainstream media and political elite are attempting to exclude the Green Party from the television election debates?

Written by Ian Sinclair and first published at Our Kingdom