Sunday 29 December 2019

2019 – The Year in Blog Posts

Below are the most popular posts on this blog, as judged by unique page views, by month, for 2019. The blog is closing now until late January.

Happy New Year to all our readers.


I am Not a Criminal – The Air Polluters are the Criminals

In Milton Keynes, on Friday 25 January, I was one of 24 Greenpeace activists found guilty of ‘aggravated trespass’. All those (myself included) without any previous criminal convictions, were given 12-month conditional discharges, with damages and court costs of £105 each. Those who had got previous convictions were, in addition, fined £200 each. More


The tenacious refusal of the world’s business and political leaders to heed the warnings of climate scientists about global warming raises the stark possibility that it may already be too late. The tipping point beyond which concerted preventive action becomes impracticable is just 12 years away, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. More


In April of 1649 a group of radicals, some veterans of the recent English civil wars, occupied a bit of common grass on a plot known as St. George’s Hill in Surrey and they began to grow vegetables. These radicals called themselves “True Levellers” to distinguish themselves from another, more moderate political faction, but everybody else called them “Diggers” in reference to both a scriptural passage as well as their literal activity on the hill. More


Some point to the Green New Deal introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Edward Markey as the answer. Apparently it has been rendered DOA as far as Congress is concerned, via a "stunt vote" by Mitch McConnell in the Senate. But the impact of U.S. economic and military actions around the world make it clear that more than a "new deal" is needed, that decolonization and demilitarization are central to overcoming global climate injustice. More


The present economical and ecological crisis are part of a more general historical conjoncture: we are confronted with a crisis of the present model of civilization, the Western modern capitalist/industrial civilization, based on unlimited expansion and accumulation of capital, on the “commodification of everything” (Immanuel Wallerstein), on the ruthless exploitation of labour and nature, on brutal individualism and competition, and on the massive destruction of the environment. More


If any further evidence were needed of the direction of the contemporary Tory party, a YouGov survey of party members published last week has provided it. Sixty-three per cent of members said they would be prepared to accept Scottish independence to get Brexit, while 59 per cent said the same about a united Ireland. Just 29 and 28 per cent were opposed, respectively. More


UK Right Wing Think-Tank Aims to Discredit the Extinction Rebellion

Policy Exchange, the right wing British think-tank published a report this week entitled ‘Extremist Rebellion – A Review of Ideology and Tactics’. Written by Richard Walton, a former Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, and Tom Wilson, a Senior Research Fellow in the Security and Extremism Unit at Policy Exchange, the report looks into the Extinction Rebellion campaign, which began in the UK, but has now spread around the world. More


Climate Change is Class War

Contemporary capitalism presents a direct threat to the survival of most of the world’s species: climate change. The global capitalist economy is anchored in fossil fuels. Burning these fuels releases warming gasses into the atmosphere where they accumulate over time, raising the earth’s temperature. The rising temperatures have significant effects. For example, melting glaciers and polar ice caps lead to rising sea levels. Changes in air and ocean temperatures impact weather patterns, which leads to droughts in some places and floods in others. More


Marx’s lessons for today’s climate rebels

Imagine you came across a 150-year-old message in a bottle that predicted the world would face a catastrophic crisis as a result of profit-driven capitalism.

Imagine that prediction also explained why capitalism — sustained for generations through the exploitation of nature and human labour — would push aside all moral, rational and scientific objections in the blind pursuit of profit.

And imagine that prediction said it would come to a point where the majority of people would have to choose between capitalism or a new democratic, rational and socially just system capable of maintaining a sustainable relationship with Earth. More


Capitalism Made This Mess, and This Mess Will Ruin Capitalism

You and I have the unfortunate honor of facing down a crisis the likes of which our species has never before seen. Rapid climate change of our own making is transforming every bit of ocean and land, imperiling organisms clear across the tree of life. It’s killing people by way of stronger storms and hotter heat waves and unchecked pollution. More


Green Party Members Dismayed with Lib Dem Election Pact

The decision by the leadership of the Green party to enter into the Unite to Remain electoral pact with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) has been greeted with dismay by the party’s membership and supporters. Under the pact, the Greens have agreed to stand down in 43 constituencies, mainly to the benefit of the Lib Dems. The Greens will get a free run in 10 constituencies, but are unlikely to gain any seats at the election. More


Weaponising alleged antisemitism in the Green Party

Since 2016 a systematic campaign has been weaponizing alleged antisemitism in order to protect the racist Israeli regime from criticism, especially from the global campaign of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).  This has been conflated with antisemitism through the so-called ‘IHRA definition of antisemitism’, which serves a racist agenda.  The Green Party leadership has colluded with this agenda in several ways – by concealing official support for the BDS campaign, promoting the IHRA definition within the Green Party and abusing its disciplinary procedure to retaliate against a prominent critic.   A pro-Palestine re-orientation will depend on members holding the leadership accountable for its collusion and pushing it instead to promote BDS as anti-racist. More

Monday 23 December 2019

Weaponising alleged antisemitism in the Green Party

The leadership undermines its pro-Palestine policies, but members push back

Written by Les Levidow


Since 2016 a systematic campaign has been weaponizing alleged antisemitism in order to protect the racist Israeli regime from criticism, especially from the global campaign of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).  This has been conflated with antisemitism through the so-called ‘IHRA definition of antisemitism’, which serves a racist agenda.  The Green Party leadership has colluded with this agenda in several ways – by concealing official support for the BDS campaign, promoting the IHRA definition within the Green Party and abusing its disciplinary procedure to retaliate against a prominent critic.   A pro-Palestine re-orientation will depend on members holding the leadership accountable for its collusion and pushing it instead to promote BDS as anti-racist.   

Weblinks are provided for numerous sources below.

Introduction: Green Party policy undermined

The 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has been the focus of the global movement of Palestine solidarity.   Its many supporters include the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW, henceforth Green Party).  It has voted for ‘active participation’ in the BDS campaign, e.g. conference motions in spring 2008 and autumn 2014.  BDS was featured in the Green Party’s magazine and was promoted by its former Leader Natalie Bennett.  Some members established a BDS Facebook page. 

Yet the Green Party’s pro-BDS policy has nearly disappeared.  It is absent from the International Policy webpage, hidden in the autumn 2014 motion on Israel’s Ground Invasion, and absent from 2019 election statements, which have been deceptive in this regard.  Meanwhile the leadership has been accommodating the pro-Israel lobby, amidst its smear campaign falsely accusing Israel’s critics of antisemitism. 

Since 2016 this high-profile smear campaign has been weaponizing alleged antisemitism in order to protect the Israeli regime from criticism and from BDS.  The allegations have been targeting critics in the Labour Party and more recently the Green Party (the focus here).  A key weapon has been the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, whose examples conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel. 

Since 2017 the Green Party leadership has been promoting the IHRA definition.  Moreover, a prominent member has sponsored a complaint from a racist pro-Israel campaign group against another member who led opposition to the IHRA definition.  By undermining the Green Party’s pro-Palestine policies, the leadership has provoked internal unease and revolt.

This article next explains the conflict between BDS versus the IHRA definition, as the context for the leadership’s collusion, Green Party members’ push-back and ways forward.

IHRA definition: weapon against BDS

Not coincidentally, the smear campaign escalated shortly after the Labour Party elected a new Left-wing, anti-imperialist leadership in 2015.  Pro-Israel activists trawled members’ social media posts going back several years, including anti-Israel comments.  Despite that intensive trawl, complaints about allegedly antisemitic comments have amounted to only 0.1% of the Labour Party membership.  Just imagine how this ‘antisemitism problem’ compares with any other UK organisation, e.g. the Conservative Party.  The accusers have been largely absent from opposing other forms of racism. 

Weaponizing alleged antisemitism is psychological warfare protecting the UK’s alliance with the Israeli regime.  This agenda generates fear that a unitary ‘Jewish community’ faces an ‘existential threat’ from pro-Palestine policies and politicians. The UK government encourages and exploits this fear to justify the UK’s pro-Israel policies as necessary for ‘social cohesion’. 

Such allegations and fears invert political reality, namely: the anti-racist Palestine solidarity movement opposes Israel’s institutional racism.  The 2005 call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) says:  ‘The Palestinian BDS campaign… aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and to end international support for Israel’s regime of settler colonialism and apartheid.’  This racist regime systematically violates international law, inherently denying basic human and civil rights to the Palestinian people. 

Efforts to counter BDS as ‘antisemitic’ gained a weapon from a US pro-Israel lobby group, the American Jewish Committee (AJC).  As a general mission, it attempts to counter ‘the one-sided treatment of Israel at the United Nations’.  Since 2004 it has promoted a so-called Working Definition of Antisemitism including 11 examples, 7 about Israel, 4 of them designed to stigmatise Israel’s critics as antisemitic.  To make a long story short, skipping a decade-long conflict over the definition:  In 2016 the AJC’s guidance appeared on the website of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Let us examine two examples often used as political weapons.

An IHRA example of supposed antisemitism is ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.  Such a claim is indeed meant by the epithet ‘apartheid Israel’, which thereby is supposedly antisemitic.  The example is racist in at least two ways:  It stereotypes global Jewry as a nation needing collective ‘self-determination’ through the Israeli state. And it denies the Palestinians’ national narrative of dispossession by a racist settler-colonial project.

That taboo on ‘apartheid Israel’ has been designed and deployed to suppress Palestine solidarity events. In December 2016 the full IHRA guidance document was adopted by the UK government.  In February 2017 the Department for Education warned all universities that they must apply the IHRA criteria and that ‘antisemitic comments’ may arise during Israel Apartheid Week 2017.   Accommodating the government, some universities denied or cancelled permission to student groups for pro-Palestine events.

Another IHRA example of supposed antisemitism is ‘drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’.  Indeed, such comparisons  have been drawn by many Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors, e.g. under the slogan ‘Never Again for Anyone.  In particular, they have drawn comparisons with the racist 1935 Nuremberg Laws, under which German Jews lost their entitlement to German citizenship, voting rights, the right to marry a German, or to retain Government office.; this was a major official step in dehumanising German Jews.  The Israeli state has likewise dehumanised Palestinians, especially non-citizens in the West Bank and Gaza.  Such analogies have been published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in English and Hebrew. Are all those voices antisemitic?

In response to false allegations around the IHRA examples, many universities have imposed bans, bureaucratic obstacles or speech restrictions on pro-Palestine events.  Public venues are regularly bombarded with allegations that a forthcoming event would contravene the IHRA definition.  Often administrative staff cancel the booking in panic, thus pre-empting any debate or scrutiny of the allegations.  Such pressures have intensified since 2017.  Activists have no recourse to any formal procedure for defending the right of free assembly and expression. 

Given its weaponization role, the IHRA definition has been opposed globally by all pro-Palestine groups.  The Jewish-led UK campaign, Free Speech on Israel, detailed grounds to oppose the Israel examples above (among others).  According to a joint statement by Jewish pro-Palestine groups around the world, the IHRA definition ‘undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism’.  Numerous BAME groups and Palestinians have denounced the IHRA definition on similar grounds. 

But their voices have been marginalised by a political agenda associating all Jews with the Israeli state.  This agenda further equates antisemitism with ‘offence to Jews’, i.e. pro-Israel Jews, while marginalising the many Jews who regard this equation as offensive.  Politicians defer to the pro-Israel lobby, thus conveniently avoiding any responsibility to judge what is or isn’t antisemitic.

Green Party autumn 2018 conference: members revolt against pro-IHRA leadership

After the UK’s Conservative government adopted the IHRA full definition in December 2016, many politicians did likewise.  Having slandered Ken Livingstone as antisemitic, John Mann MP sponsored an EDM supporting the IHRA definition; signatories included Caroline Lucas MP.  When local authorities voted for motions supporting the IHRA definition, they were supported by Green Party politicians such as Caroline Russell and Sian Berry (now co-Leader). 

Jewish members of the Green Party sent email messages denouncing those politicians’ actions and encouraged other members to do likewise.  The politicians gave scant responses, denying any contradiction with BDS or anti-Israel criticism. 

The Green Party’s internal conflict eventually erupted at the autumn 2018 conference.  Prominent politicians endorsed a pro-IHRA motion.  It was countered by an anti-IHRA motion, led by Shahrar Ali, who has been a Home Affairs spokesperson, Deputy Leader and frequent candidate of the Green Party.  Delegates gave considerable applause to speakers on both sides, both including Jewish members.  Some opponents displayed Palestinian flags to highlight the issue at stake. 

The pro-IHRA leadership was unnerved by this revolt.  A new procedural motion proposed to remit the original ones, apparently for fear that the pro-IHRA motion would be defeated.  Conference voted to remit both.  

The pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle reported the outcome as a ‘failure’, implying that the obstacle was antisemitism.  It reproduced the title of my Green Left magazine article, ‘Palestine solidarity under racist attack.  My article included a cartoon (below) mocking the racist agenda of false allegations; strangely, this too was reproduced by the Jewish Chronicle. 

When an anti-IHRA motion was put forward for the subsequent conference, the Standing Orders Committee ruled that the IHRA definition may come up again only if the two contrary motions were reconciled in a single motion – obviously impossible.  This ruling protects the pro-IHRA leadership from further debate, defeat and embarrassment.  As a substitute for political debate, the leadership has abused the disciplinary procedure, as explained next.  

Leadership retaliates against Shahrar Ali, members again push back

In retaliating against Shahrar Ali, the leadership instrumentalised the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which has been promoting a racist Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian agenda.  It has made false allegations of antisemitism against many of Israel’s critics, especially Labour Party members, including many Muslims and Jews.  Indeed, it throws such allegations at Jewish pro-Palestine groups who criticise pro-Israel groups for weaponising alleged antisemitism (as in this article).  One Jewish target of its false allegations, Tony Greenstein, led a petition asking the Charities Commission to deregister the CAA as a Right-wing lobby group with no charitable aims.

The CAA also promotes Islamophobic stereotypes, featuring a scary dehumanised image of ‘antisemitic Muslim males’ (2016 report, page 8).  They ‘are more likely to sympathise with terrorism, violence and extremism’; those terms are left undefined.  In the UK political context, so-called ‘extremism’ encompasses anyone opposing the racist Prevent programme or supporting resistance to the Israeli regime.  

Eventually the CAA launched false allegations against a prominent Green Party member, Shahrar Ali (see above).  They cited his denunciation of Israel’s attack on Gaza at a 2009 rally outside the BBC, as well as his  speech opposing the Party’s adoption of the IHRA definition at the 2018 Autumn conference.  Under pressure from pro-Palestine members,  the Green Party Regional Council (GPRC) refuted the false allegations, followed by a similar 2018 press release.

In 2019 the CAA escalated the attack by sending the Green Party a formal complaint about allegedly antisemitic comments by Shahrar Ali.  The complaint was sponsored by a prominent Green Party member who has chosen to remain anonymous.  As a plausible motive for this collusion, it was retaliating against him for have led the pro-IHRA motion at the 2018 conference.  The Disciplinary Committee could have simply rejected the complaint on numerous grounds, especially its racist agenda.  Instead it initiated an investigation, asking Shahrar Ali for a response to the allegations.

In October 2019 his supporters launched a petition which quickly gained over a hundred signatories from Green Party members including many elected officers, local candidates and Councillors.  It said, ‘To take up this complaint would be to collude in an anti-Palestinian agenda that would also discredit the Green Party. It is astonishing that the Party could fall for such a tactic, unwittingly or through lack of political courage.’  The petition concluded with these demands:

We call upon the Green Party to withdraw this politically motivated and internally damaging complaint and to work alongside Shahrar Ali to respond, as appropriate, to politically motivated attacks in the best tradition of the Green Party.
The Green Party must also, as a matter of urgency, instead investigate the hostile environment which misuse and abuse of process risks engendering internally.

Some members of the Green Party Executive Committee (GPEx) received, circulated or signed the petition.  Some proposed that its next meeting discuss the conflict, possibly to suspend the disciplinary procedure against Shahrar Ali.  But the meeting declined to add such an agenda item, on the spurious grounds that GPEx does not consider individual cases.  The leadership evaded the generic issue of the racist accuser and its false allegations, thus colluding with them.

The Disciplinary Committee decided instead to take up a subsequent complaint that Shahrar Ali allegedly brought the Green Party into disrepute for publicly sharing the petition supporting him; again the complainant chose to remain anonymous.  Thus the disciplinary procedure escalated the leadership’s retaliation for Shahrar Ali’s prominent role against the IHRA definition.  The complaint inverts reality, namely: that the leadership has been discrediting the Green Party by colluding with a racist agenda and then bureaucratically persecuting an anti-racist critic, while evading political debate over its shameful role. 

General Election 2019: Green Party leadership promotes IHRA definition, while members again push back

In the 2019 General Election, the Green Party’s pro-Palestine policy was again softened and concealed.  The Manifesto’s section on global justice says: ‘Seek resolution in line with international law and the principles of self-determination to long running conflicts, illegal occupations and human rights violations.’  Indeed, that has been a key aim of the Green Party supporting ‘active participation’ in the BDS campaign –absent from the manifesto.

The leadership further colluded with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and its racist agenda.  As political background, the Board has consistently supported Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, especially its Gaza massacres in 2008-09 and 2014.  After Israel killed numerous civilians at the Gaza border in 2018, the Board’s statement blamed Hamas; in response, hundreds of Jews denounced the Board for placing no responsibility on Israel.  

Jeremy Corbyn criticised Britain’s failure to call for an independent investigation as ‘morally indefensible’.  In response, the Board pleaded self-defence by Israel, as grounds to denounce his modest demand for an investigation.  The Board also has led false allegations of antisemitism.  This consistently racist pro-Israel agenda indicates its political aims when intervening in the 2019 general election. 

The Board sent political parties ‘10 commitments for GE2019’, especially to ‘Adopt, promote and implement the full IHRA Definition of Antisemitism’. An honest response from the Green Party might have read as follows:  ‘Our autumn 2018 conference debated the IHRA definition, ultimately voting to remit both the pro-IHRA and anti-IHRA definitions for future consideration’.  Instead its response said, ‘The Green Party is likely to consider adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism at a policymaking session of its party conference in the future’.

The questionnaire also asked political parties to ‘Promote peace projects that unite communities and resist boycotts that divide communities’.  The Green Party weakly responded, ‘Non-violent protest actions, such as boycotts against specific policies (for example, against Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories) are a legitimate tool for bringing about change.’  This response concealed the Green Party’s official support for BDS.    

The Green Party’s response was circulated to Parliamentary candidates as guidance with this encouragement: ‘Candidates who sign the [IHRA] definition are welcome to promote this on social media, as some already have.’  By anticipating its future adoption and omitting BDS, the guidance misled candidates about the Green Party’s policies and debates.  Some candidates expressed unease to other members, thus alerting them to the deception.  

Soon dissenters consulted numerous members.  Together they drafted more honest responses to several questions from the Board of Deputies.  This alternative version deleted the prediction that a future conference would consider the IHRA definition; and it added a link to the Green Party’s policies strongly criticising Israel.   But the leadership’s response was unsatisfactory.

Its strong support for the IHRA definition facilitated yet more ‘antisemitism’ allegations.  In November 2019 the Campaign Against Antisemitism announced the results of trawling social media posts.  The CAA denounced several Parliamentary candidates of the Green Party (and again Shahrar Ali) for statements contravening the IHRA’s Israel examples, as grounds to demand their expulsion. As reported in the Jewish Chronicle,  several candidates had drawn analogies between Nazi Germany and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or they suggested that ‘complaints of antisemitism were being used to defend Israel’.  Anyone making such statements would be in the good anti-racist company of Israel’s Jewish critics, among others (see earlier section).

A Green Left statement countered the false allegations against Green Party candidates.  It reiterated previous criticism of the IHRA’s Israel examples as an invalid basis for identifying real antisemitism.  By contrast, the Green Party leadership may have difficulty in defending its candidates while supporting the IHRA definition.

In parallel the Palestine Solidarity Campaign had sent all Parliamentary candidates a questionnaire. Of 290 candidate responses across all parties, 138 of them were from the GPEW.  This had the highest response rate, giving pro-Palestine answers to nearly all the questions.   The questionnaire was not mentioned in the Green Party’s email briefings to candidates.   

Conclusion: hold the leadership accountable

As this article has shown, since 2017 the Green Party’s leadership has been undermining its pro-Palestine policy.  It has been concealing support for BDS and promoting the IHRA definition, a key weapon against BDS. The leadership has colluded with a wider racist agenda, especially from the Board of Deputies and so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism, against the Palestine solidarity movement. 

In such ways, the leadership has been discrediting the Green Party -- yet pursues such an allegation against a prominent critic.  A formal collective complaint would be warranted against members sponsoring or making such false accusations, but they choose to remain anonymous.   These bureaucratic manoeuvres evade political debate.  Many members have revolted against the leadership’s approach. 

Now the stakes are being raised by efforts to ban BDS.  The US Federal government and many state governments have legislated for financial penalties against any academic institution giving a platform to BDS.  US president Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively defining Judaism as a nationality, thus equating the Israeli state with Jewish national self-determination (as in an IHRA example).  This will further stigmatise pro-Palestine activities as antisemitic.

The UK government has a similar plan to counter the BDS campaign.  A new law will prohibit public bodies from working with anyone involved in BDS. In particular, it will ban local authorities from any boycott against foreign countries, e.g.  against companies violating international law there.  The government’s arguments again smear the BDS campaign as antisemitic by equating Jews with Israel, as in the IHRA definition.

Given these higher stakes for the BDS campaign, how will the Green Party leadership respond?   By further colluding with a racist agenda and retaliating against anti-racist critics?  Or else by defending its pro-Palestine policies?  A pro-Palestine re-orientation will depend on members holding the leadership accountable for its collusion and pushing it instead to promote the Green Party’s BDS policy as anti-racist.

Les Levidow  is a Member of Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW), Camden branch and Member of Steering Group, Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP). He is a member of Camden Green party and a Green Left supporter.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Could Labour’s lost election open the way for eco-socialism?

Forget Brexit, Corbyn and anti-Semitism, Labour lost the general election because it tried to look back rather than forward.

Written by Dee Searle

Media reports of Tory victories in former Labour heartlands included an almost wide-eyed amazement at the scale of the loss. But this should come as no surprise to anyone interested in politics, least of all political commentators and the Labour leadership, because the writing has been on the (red) wall for decades.

As long ago as the early 1990s, during development work for Red Pepper magazine, a number of left-wing academics and activists were attempting to warn about the erosion of Labour’s traditional support base in the trade union movement, former industrial towns and council estates by years of Thatcherite cuts and sell-offs and four general election defeats. In fact, one of the aims of Red Pepper magazine, when it launched in 1994 as an independent, radical voice for the left, was to explore and help develop new red-green politics both inside and beyond the Labour Party on the understanding that ‘one last heave’ was unlikely to bring the party back into power.

This new politics was not merely about policies, but about new, more inclusive ways of organising and embodying the vital connections between social and environmental justice. Red Pepper and its forerunner, Socialist newspaper, adopted the banner ‘Red, Green and Radical’ and opened its pages to writing by Greens (such as Penny Kemp), human rights and liberation group activists (such as Peter Tatchel), critical voices in the trade unions, plus lifestyle and cultural commentators. It advocated proportional representation as well as looking internationally at different models of green-left organisation.

Labour experienced a false reprieve through Tony Blair’s New Labour election victories, based on moving the party to the centre ground, winning over voters in key marginals and appealing to the more aspirant sections of Labour’s heartlands. But the malaise was merely in abeyance, as defeats by subsequent more traditional Labour leaders (Gordon Brown, Ed Milliband and Jeremy Corbyn) have shown.

Disappointingly, when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, rather than developing a new, collaborative, radical red-green politics, the party dusted off old, dearly held policies and went all out for ‘one last heave’. Political tribalism dominated, with a refusal to work with other parties nationally and no sign of living up to some Greens’ hopes that the widely respected Green MP Caroline Lucas would be invited to join Corbyn’s team as shadow Environment Secretary.

Corbyn’s Labour failed to grasp the threat and opportunity from climate emergency as a means of enabling the Party to develop an inspirational new means of tackling global capitalism and inequality. Instead they produced a growth-based manifesto with a bit of green-washing, such as planting trees. Even Labour’s Green New Deal was more about reassuring their union backers that there would be jobs for their members rather than genuinely re-gearing the economy.

The Party retains its centralised, hierarchical, command-and-control structure, apparently oblivious to the more open, horizontal organisation of successful radical European parties such as Denmark’s Alternativet or even Portugal’s Red-Green alliance.

While it’s completely understandable for Corbyn’s Labour to want to reclaim traditional socialist values, it was misguided to think enough of the electorate would understand them and hold them in sufficiently high esteem. Numerous studies show that societies tend to prefer a bright future than a worthy past, even if that bright future (in the case of Boris Johnson’s promises) is a con.

A case in point was Labour’s pledge to bring back state control of utilities and key industries, which was in direct conflict with the 1996 paper for Capital and Class by the socialist academics Huw Beynon, Ray Hudson and David Sadler. The study pointed to the ‘disastrous experiences of public ownership’ in Britain and argued that nationalisation had been a form of state capitalism rather than any critical overhaul ‘of the purpose of production or a communistic or socialist alternative to capitalist forms of organisation and life’. The authors’ research in the North of England revealed that state-run coal mining, steel production, railways and shipyards had wreaked more havoc on local communities than multinational corporations. Going by the election results in the North, many voters seem to agree.

Closer to home, the Green Party needs some of its own soul-searching. The Unite to Remain agreement with the LibDems and Plaid Cymru failed to realise either of the two extra seats the party was aiming for, while attracting criticism from some quarters for working with the austerity-supporting, unGreen LibDems and losing some long-standing members.

Although the 865,697 Green vote total was an improvement on 2017’s 512,327, it was still below the 2015 tally of 1,111,603, with many more lost deposits and fewer second places. There is substantial concern in the party over the decision to fight some marginal seats which contributed to Labour losses. And the Green Party has its own ‘one last heave’ in terms of relentlessly pursuing its ‘Target to Win’ local elections strategy, while ignoring the fact that it does not work everywhere and leaves scant resources to put into attracting new members or building local parties.

A Boris Johnson government is not going to introduce proportional representation and to seriously tackle climate emergency, and it remains to be seen how and whether the Labour Party will recover from this major setback, so the immediate future is bleak. However, if, as seems likely, the UK will leave the EU, there will be new areas where reds and greens need to collaborate, including on defending the environment, basic rights and consumer safety, and creating an optimistic narrative about the benefits of creating a low-carbon economy. That will entail learning lessons, not ignoring inconvenient truths and addressing the tribalism within and between all of our parties.

Postscript: Corbyn’s leadership prompted Red Pepper to ditch any pretense of its founding aims of nurturing broad radical politics and to declare its support for Labour. If Red Pepper is to avoid going down with the Corbyn ship, it’s a good time for it to revive its 1990s red-green vision in the context of the prevailing 2020s urgency.
Dee Searle was launch editor of Red Pepper (1994-95) and editor of Socialist (1991-93). She is a member of Camden Green party and a Green Left supporter 

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Green / Lib Dem Electoral Pact was a Mistake that Shouldn’t be Repeated

As the full implications of last Thursday’s general election result sinks in, with five more long years of Tory rule, and a hard right Tory government at that, what lessons can be learnt from the election by the Green party?

The Greens did stand in some marginal constituencies where in the end Labour lost out to the Tories, like Kensington and Bury North, where the size of the Tory majority was less than the Green vote. These were outside of the pact with Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru and where Labour had refused to enter into any electoral arrangements, but may well have damaged the Greens reputationally. But it was the pact, with its high profile story at the beginning of the election campaign, that may do more lasting damage.  

The electoral pact with the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru failed to deliver any wins for any of the parties involved, so must be judged a failure all round. But what the pact may have achieved is making Labour’s defeat even heavier than it might otherwise have been. Constituencies like Stroud where the Lib Dems stood down in favour of the Greens, the Green vote was more than the majority that the Tories attained. Likewise, Warrington South, where the Greens stood down in favour of the Lib Dems, the Lib Dem vote was larger than the Tory majority.

Of course, there is no guarantee that had the pact not existed, voters would have backed Labour, but in marginal constituencies like these, which neither the Lib Dems or Greens could have won anyway, the risk was clear. Considering that the pact was organised via the Unite to Remain (UTR) campaign group, and Labour were offering a second referendum on Brexit, this pact made it more likely that we would be leaving the European Union (EU), rather than getting an opportunity to remain. It was counter-productive, to say the least.

Furthermore, the Greens initial objective of making this the ‘climate election’ was undermined and played into the Tory narrative of it being the ‘Brexit election.’ The pact probably didn’t lead to the Greens losing many votes, although perhaps some, as most Green voters are remainers. The modest increase of 1.1% for the Greens in the overall result of the election, as against 2017, appears to show this, but given the way climate change and environmental matters more widely have risen up the political agenda recently, it could well be argued that the Greens should have done much better.

The pact wasn’t universally popular amongst the Green party membership either, with many resigning from the party, and other activists were demotivated at the very beginning of the election campaign. And with all of this for no electoral benefit to the Greens, despite claims by the party’s leadership before the election. It was all wishful thinking.

The Green Party conference motion which allowed the leadership to indulge in electoral pacts, was fairly vague, but did stipulate that the final decision on any pacts would be left to local parties, but this doesn’t appear to have been the case everywhere. Sources from inside one of the local parties involved in the pact has told London Green Left blog that their opinion wasn't sought. 

The Brecon and Radnorshire constituency where the byelection in August was a proto-type for the eventual pact, albeit without the local party's consent, when they were not planning to stand anyway. The leadership of the Welsh party knew that they rejected any notion of a pact at the byelection, and that their officers were not in favour of any association with UTR. The pact was announced, before the end of nominations, so their choice then became to either not stand and become part of the pact they hadn't consented to or attempt to stand and severely embarrass the national party.

There was no contact between the local party and the Lib Dems or Plaid Cymru, all of this was done by the national party. Radnorshire Greens were not even aware their constituency was being included in the discussions with other parties. The local party had also taken a democratic vote which rejected entering into any pacts at the general election.    

There is the feeling that discussion was stifled and the local party kept in the dark as to what was going on, until it was too late to change the leaderships' decision. This does not sound like leaving the final say on any pacts to local parties, rather the reverse.  

The risk for the Green party was that this pact with the neo-liberal Lib Dems, with a leader seemingly keen to launch a nuclear war, would tarnish the Green brand and conversely would allow the Lib Dems to paint themselves as ‘green,’ which they are not. I’ve always been of the opinion that in some places, local circumstances might make standing or not standing Green candidates, a legitimate course of action. But this should be a genuinely local decision, and not be manipulated by the leadership of the national party at all.

We perhaps became too blindsided by the desire to remain in the EU too, and this led to poor judgement at the top of the party. I hope the party can discuss all of this in the coming months so as we don’t take such amateur decisions in the future.

Monday 9 December 2019

Climate emergency demands an ecosocialist solution

Written by Debbie Brennan and first published at Freedom Socialist Party

Remember where you were on September 20, 2019? It’s one of those memorable watershed dates. The global Climate Strike, launched on this day, was the largest climate mobilisation in world history. In that week, more than 7 million people took action on all seven continents — from Antarctica to the Americas, Africa to Asia and Oceania. From pre-teens to “baby boomers” and older, we were in the streets.

In Australia — where 130 bushfires had been burning in New South Wales and Queensland, signalling more infernos — 300,000 marched in 100 cities. In Melbourne, the only way to move was in sync with the 150,000-200,000 who put the city in gridlock. 

The youth-led, international strike was not a one-off event. It has been building up over four years, and it’s not going to stop.

Record-breaking droughts, heat waves and fires are scorching parts of the planet. Violent hurricanes, typhoons and blizzards rip through communities and countries. Rising seas are threatening lowland areas and island nations. Species not yet extinguished, ecosystems not yet ruined, livelihoods not yet destroyed, populations not yet displaced are under imminent threat.

The UN panel on climate change (IPCC) warned in October 2018 that we have 12 years — now less than 11 — to rein in global warming or face catastrophic consequences. The average temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution explains today’s unprecedented phenomena. If no steps are taken, we face a 4-degree rise by the end of this century, which, scientists say, can’t sustain human life. 

A 2-degree hike would still mean 10 million more displaced from their homes, the complete loss of coral reefs and fishery damage — affecting 300 million people — by 2030. The IPCC states that to avoid this, carbon emissions must be reduced by 45 percent, holding the rise in temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees, by 2030.

Young leaders step up. This year’s historic September global strike spanned generations, but it was overwhelmingly young, from early primary school upwards. International organising preceding this goes back to November 2015, when students walked out of their schools in 100 countries on the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference held in Paris. They demanded 100% clean energy, fossil fuels to be kept in the ground, and help for climate refugees.

Nearly three years later, Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist, then in the ninth grade, began her solo protest outside the Riksdag (parliament). Angered by the heat wave and wildfires that swept Sweden and inspired by the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, who organised the March for Our Lives against gun violence, Thunberg held her protest every day during school hours. Her protest and message on her placard, “School strike for the climate,” spurred on the movement.

School strikes erupted across the world, starting in November 2018. And they’ve been defiant. In Australia, for example, thousands of students ignored Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who insisted on “more learning in schools and less activism,” and held weekly Friday actions. International protest continued through 2019. Earth Strike — which describes itself as an international grassroots movement — called the September 20-27 Global Week for Future and organised a series of lead-up protests to educate and build it.

Rejecting capitalism. “System change, not climate change,” “Planet over profit,” “We can’t eat money and drink crude oil” are some slogans adorning the millions of colourfully creative placards, showing that young people know where to lay blame — not on individuals who drive cars, buy plastic-wrapped products or fail to haul household waste to recycling centres, but on the corporate polluters. Their warning: “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

This leadership extends beyond the climate strikes. The courageous stands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Djab Warrung people protecting their ancient birthing trees from road construction in central Victoria point to the magnitude of this fight to save the planet from corporate wreckage.

Young women, especially indigenous and women of colour, are the face of the global resistance. They are closest to the crisis: their lands are invaded by corporate predators or poisoned by toxic waste; their communities, neglected by government, most susceptible to climatic destruction; their homelands taken over by rising seas or turned into deserts; and their families displaced.

In the growing army of environmental defenders and leaders are Autumn Peltier, 15-year-old Wikwemikong First Nation water protector in Ontario, Isra Hirsi, 16-year-old co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike and Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network organisers, Amelia Telford, from Bundjalung country in New South Wales and Nicole Hutton, descendant of the Garawa people of the Northern Territory. There are so many others. The sheer scale of resistance is showing the power of Autumn Peltier’s exhortation to the world to “warrior up.”

Warrior up the union movement. In Australia, unionists were visible on September 20. In Melbourne, for example, National Tertiary Education Union members organised a contingent. You couldn’t miss the big, green Rail, Tram and Bus Union banner. Flags of the National Union of Workers, Australian Education Union and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and others were held high. Brightly colourful union T-shirts speckled the march. But workers participated on their own time: unions didn’t mobilise a strike. The ready answer from officials is that strikes are illegal (except during bargaining periods). This begs the question: what will it take for unions to show some union power?

Montreal’s climate march of 500,000 was the largest in the world. Despite laws prohibiting political strikes, 11 union locals representing 7,500 workers went out, shutting down most of the province. Rank-and-file teachers involved in the grassroots environmental movement started organising for this in January. 

They wanted a real climate strike. They worked outside the formal union structures to get motions passed at local membership meetings. This led to members coordinating without official interference. They were united and made State authorities back down from their threats of hefty fines. Students across schools and universities then voted to strike. Due to this, 150 businesses also closed for the day, allowing workers to join the march.

From resistance to workers’ control. In Ecosocialism: The solution for survival on planet Earth, Steve Hoffman says this: Energy corporations “have the political power to make sure that capitalist governments do not require them to shift to renewables until the last oil well is dry and the last piece of shale is fracked.”

Many Melburnians witnessed this at the climate protest outside the International Mining and Resources Conference in late October. Police, armed to the teeth with batons, pepper spray, guns and horses, brutalised protesters. This didn’t dent the protest, but many were injured and arrested. Victorian Premier Andrews congratulated Victoria Police, and Prime Minister Morrison flagged legislation to proscribe any form of protest, including consumer boycotts, that potentially or actually damage business — laws similar to those already used against unions. Morrison’s threat signals a crackdown on the right to protest, prompted by the need to safeguard profits from coal and natural gas, Australia’s two major exports.

Corporate-serving governments across the world understand the potential power of environmentalists, unions and First Nations linking arms. The prospect, which must trigger flashbacks to the youthful 1960s movements, terrifies them.

We also need to remember the 1960s — what made the anti-war, women’s, Civil Rights, American Indian and Gay Liberation movements so mighty and inspirational but also how the State was able to rein them in. The fatal flaw was their failure to go beyond militancy to insurrection. Many leaders not killed by the government were bought off with careers and funds. We’re still suffering the consequences.

The demands of Extinction Rebellion, for example — net zero greenhouse emissions by 2025, a government declaration that a climate and ecological emergency exists and the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice — may sound good, but they’re not system-changers.

However, this demand is: Nationalise energy under workers’, indigenous and community control. It gets to the source of the problem, the profit system. And it’s about uprooting the system by removing energy production and distribution from private hands and placing this under the control of working and First Nations peoples. It is a transitional demand — a pathway to revolution to replace capitalism with workers’ control.

Also, civil disobedience alone, as advocated by Extinction Rebellion, is not a strategy for building a movement capable of rocking the system.

Our most powerful weapon right now is a united front led by the working class, and based on organisations democratically working together around agreed principles and unity in action. This solid unity for environmental justice needs to be international. Given that capitalism operates globally, it must be destroyed globally. 

An international united front could transition into a vanguard leadership for ecosocialist revolution, the ultimate solution — creating a new society where decisions about energy production and transport are based on science; an international planned economy puts the workers of today’s coalmines, oil refineries and forestry industry to work in developing alternative energy systems; and democratic decision-making places the world’s majority in charge of resolving key social and environmental challenges. The unionists, First Nations peoples and environmentalists who today march in global resistance are showing that such a united front is possible.

Capitalism is killing the planet. The young people fighting for their future know this. “There’s no Planet B,” say the placards. But there is a bright and creative solution, and from these environmental warriors an ecosocialist revolutionary vanguard will emerge.