Monday, 28 June 2021

Video Recording – Ecosocialists Challenge the G7 Meeting


This is a recording of the Zoom meeting of the Ecosocialist Alliance on 9 June 2021, to discuss the then forthcoming G7 meeting in Cornwall, England. Most of the attendees are from the UK, but with some from north America. As events transpired, they proved that we were right to be sceptical that anything significant would come out of the G7.

This is part of a campaign in the run to COP26 in Glasgow, in November later this year, which began with the release of a statement by the Alliance, which you can read here.

There will be more actions taken before and during COP26, and ecosocialists worldwide are encouraged to support these actions, in any way that you can. The Ecosocialist Allaince is for all ecosocialists, but we in the UK will take the lead in presenting our solutions to the ecological crisis to governments at COP26.

Time is running out – let’s make them listen to reason, and to take some meaningful action to mitigate the emergency.

The video is unedited, so is a little raw.

Contact for more information:  eco-socialist-action@protonmail.com


Friday, 25 June 2021

Degrowth Remains a Slogan

 


Written by Sara Abraham and first published at Jamhoor

Though illuminating key debates, Jason Hickel’s recent case for degrowth falls short of its global objective – with not enough to offer regions like South Asia. 

The constant refrain on growth, more growth, and expansion is found globally in public and policy economic discourse and is a truism of capitalist common sense. South Asian countries are no exceptions to the obsession with growth, for one assumption is that the bottom rises with growth.

Growth benefits all, even if unequally, is the expectation. And even if there isn’t this assumption, since many at the bottom appear so obviously locked in spiralling poverty and early death, an expanding middle class sitting on the rump of growth is still considered huge progress. It equals the spread of modernity and democracy to larger numbers of people. Further, growth is “natural”, keeps up with expanding populations and allows all to enjoy more, enriches our lives with newer products, technologies and lifestyles, and allows for extra income and wealth (to be then redistributed). 

This is the hegemonic view of growth in the world and it makes ideas around “degrowth” deeply contrarian. Degrowth or any related idea, like controlling carbon emissions or stopping mining, is quickly castigated by many in South Asia as a Western import to keep developing countries poor. 

Yet the immense power of the narrative of growth begs the need for critical theory that advances new paradigms within which equitable economic development can be conceived. If degrowth is a paradigm which can offer a reduction in poverty and inequality while saving the planet, then it deserves our keen attention.

Further, the degrowth paradigm claims to envision an economy that is richer, more expansive and pro-nature than capitalism, for it puts life, not exploitation, at the centre of the economic system. For this reason, the paradigm has been cautiously praised by progressives. Michael Lowy, for instance, has argued that eco-socialism and the degrowth movement are the two most powerful currents of the ecological Left.

Jason Hickel’s new book, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, therefore comes at an opportune moment. It is his ambitious attempt to make the case for why degrowth will save the world. However, I found the book theoretically muddled on multiple levels and unfortunately blind to much of the world. 

Part One of the book is a competent general statement on the scale of ecological downslide, the rapacious nature of capitalism and the core contradiction between the drive to growth and rising GDP, on the one hand, and the immediate need for ecological conservation and cutbacks in resource-use and waste, on the other. Its accessible prose makes it an excellent primer for the new reader.

Hickel links the drive to profit with the need for growth. He discusses the high scale of growth that global capitalism requires every year, and how the OECD in 1960 was mandated to follow policies that generated the highest rates of growth. He shows how neoliberal policies chasing growth basically entrapped all governments, be it in the global South or North, in “growth without development.” 

Despite quibbles with states being proxies for companies in Hickel’s characterization of the nature of geopolitical competition, and growth being an awkward proxy for profit, his statements are largely true. He then goes on to show how capitalist driven “growth” is no longer ecologically sustainable, for it has drained the earth, heated the oceans, and polluted the air. This, too, is certainly true.        

Having laid out the basic problem in empirical terms, Part Two of the book traverses, though far too briefly, across a range of contemporary radical ideas on reorganizing the economy away from capitalist imperatives and growth-ism. It suggests that the ideas of the commons, cooperation, and reduced luxury consumption are core pillars of a degrowth economy.

Public goods of sanitation and rent control are examples of urban commons and Hickel shows that such public goods, rather than “growth”, are what have led to longer lifespans and richer lives. People across the world in areas of good public health and educational infrastructure have much better lives than many deprived sectors in the core capitalist West, especially the United States. 

In a trenchant criticism of wasteful consumption, Hickel claims that a drastic cut in the disposable income of the rich (through taxation) can only have significant ecological benefits. This argument also undermines any claim about the beneficial, redistributive power of wealth. 

These distillations of older research findings challenge assumptions that aggregate growth and wealth lead to general prosperity or have any beneficial value. Yet in this discussion, Hickel does not explain the financial basis for public goods in the West or elsewhere, be it taxation (of profits generated by growth?) or the redirection of surplus (from growth?) into public programs. His larger point is that high levels of human development have occurred with low GDP per capita. Countries should not be chasing GDP. They should be reorganizing internally, redistributing wealth and building their public sectors. 

So is degrowth then a process towards equitable austerity, which requires us to cut back on consumption and live simply? Yes to the latter, but no to the fear of austerity. Rather, Hickel asserts that with the “commons” comes “abundance”. For him, degrowth is liberating precisely because it is linked to abundance, not austerity.

In fact, a core argument of his book is that it is capitalist forms of growth that have led to the imposition of austerity in major parts of the world. Degrowth (after providing for a certain minimum standard of living which need not be low) allows for flourishing through an abundance of social relationships, leisure, and culture, and a renewed relationship with nature. The go-slow wisdom of today would be an aspect of degrowth.

Undertheorized Concepts

But here one comes up against a wall. Firstly, abundance is at no point in the book explained properly, or grounded in any social or economic theory. Is it linked to material abundance primarily, or is it linked to (a non-material freedom), and if so how? Is it, as Linsey McGoey defines it, “the surfeit of goods, energy, desires, actors, interests and information that characterize modern life” – in which case, is it not partly the antithesis of degrowth? Hickel needs to elaborate with particularity how he understands “abundance” if he wants to convince readers that degrowth, and not overproduction, will lead to it.  

Clarity and penetration of vision is also so important as all readers are not located similarly. That academia has lately been entranced by the idea of abundance while there have been a surfeit of sheer death, dead time, dead rivers, violence, and so forth, doesn’t help. I wanted to know what “abundance” could mean for our present times in terms of a program to mitigate pain.

Here, one strand of economic theory seems to offer a program in relation to abundance which Hickel might have in mind. For example, as Yanis Varoufakis has advocated, of the billions of dollars handed over to banks in 2020-21, a small fraction could have been used to vaccinate the world’s population, or to clean the world’s rivers, or any number of things.

Hickel himself chooses to mention in passing that governments found the power to make debts disappear with the pandemic, thereby pointing to the speculative basis for much of financial “wealth” as well as the un-exerted power lying latently with governments. But when and where did this disappearing act happen? He offers no explanation. Was it an act of abundance, or was it a reversible reform? Hickel merely gestures. And does the occasional redistribution of wealth undermine capitalism or restore it? This question needs no recourse to the terms growth or degrowth and is not addressed in the book at all. 

Degrowth as a core concept in Hickel’s book is also heavily undertheorized. It seems little more than an unspecified consequence of decommodification, deprivatization, decapitalization, the cancellation of debt and interest, redistribution of wealth into public projects, and so forth. These concepts are older, practical and have offered programs of action and resistance which have challenged capitalism, if not blocked it. “Degrowth” does not do the work in explaining why these programs are important, and neither does “decolonization”, which Hickel comes to later in the text.

Provincializing Degrowth?

Even as Hickel marveled at governments’ unused power to make debts disappear, I asked myself, what would enable ordinary people to find their power to make imposed (even if elected) governments disappear? Posing this question to myself made me realize that this book doesn’t go there. It mostly plods on UK radical policy ground. Hickel is interested in governments implementing radical economic reforms of the types he mentions, but what balance of forces, what struggles, would be needed for governments to pursue these policies in the first place? Hickel doesn’t tell us. 

He mentions the “exciting” news that fewer work hours in the global North have great ecological benefits. But Hickel does not consider at all how this idea of “less work” can be translated for the global South – that is, again, to the most of the world, where unemployment is so dire a problem.  

Despite my growing misgiving that the UK and parts of the West is really his wicket, Hickel is sure he wants the whole world to be his lab for the paradigm of degrowth. He praises certain countries for their equitable development and creation of public goods – namely, Sri Lanka, Kerala, Costa Rica, and Cuba.

This only raised again for me strong misgivings on his style of argument and limited width of canvas. Academics and lawyers are trained to marshal evidence on the side of their frequently pre-conceived arguments, and it is for the opposing side to debunk the claims. However, these are heuristics, and fail to capture the texture of social life, political contradictions or the deep penetration of capitalism into all of it. Hickel does not guide us through the mess of what is really going on in each of these countries.

The choice of naming Sri Lanka, in particular, got my attention, as surely it is better understood as an authoritarian-militarized political economy that was produced in the aftermath of a decades-long, vicious civil war. Could all this really disappear into the remote computer screen surveying its development indicators? What about the non-existent sewerage systems and entrenched patriarchy of Kerala? Could a capitalist outpost like Costa Rica be put in the same sentence as Cuba? Maybe, but the work is not done to flesh out when, why and how much revolution and struggle went into winning a better standard of living. Without that, we are left with very false equivalences. 

I also wonder why Hickel has not explicitly drawn on feminist scholarship on the uncounted value and wealth produced by women’s unwaged labour. This body of theory and politics, associated with people like Selma James and Silvia Federici, is tied closely to a critique of conventional measures of GDP and growth. Feminists sought to calculate the value of women’s work and their contribution to the GDP, which long ago began melting its ties to capitalist needs.

Ecological critique is just the latest on the block to attack capitalism and its props and measures. Why does Hickel find it superior to any earlier thrust of critique? He eventually does mention “caring” for a full paragraph, but only as an economic arena that will gain attention once degrowth is on the cards, rather than an active site of struggle for a politics of degrowth. 

But I really want to come to my own pet peeves: that, despite what the book’s title proclaims, there is no application of degrowth thinking to the large, agricultural labour-intensive economies of parts of South Asia, where a dangerous dismantling of the public distribution system and a centralization of regional and local agricultural markets is ongoing, without recourse to ideas of growth but with every interest in profit. And there is equally no reflection in the book on countries which have already witnessed large scale devastation of public infrastructure and indebtedness such as in parts of Africa. Is it sufficient to say that these trends need to be reversed? 

As this is most of the world, it is safe to say that Hickel really does not prove his case that degrowth will save the world. 

A Romance with Indigeneity?

Part 3 of the book leaves the urban and rural worlds altogether and moves to describe Indigenous conceptions of living within nature as natural beings, and in relationships of exchange. He views these forms of living as shaped by valorizations of use value over exchange value, and understandably praises these processes. An old but still important implication from his discussion is how organized religions are pillars upholding dualistic forms of thought, separating man from nature and how this must be surpassed.

Hickel wishes to surpass modernist ways of being, and he says the struggle is over our very way of being. For this transition, we need new sources of hope, new wellsprings of possibility. We need to regain real ecological intelligence, which is invested in integration rather than expansion.

Hickel shares what gives him this hope: it is the thrilling experience of seeing like a shaman who mediates between the human and the natural world. It is through animism, which does not distinguish between humans and other living beings, that one can find connection and even radical empathy. Hickel here attempts to catapult his readers into a deeper spiritual appreciation of the world around them; that only a cultural revolution at this deep level will create the ground for radical struggles against capitalism. 

Yet, on reflection, Hickel basically concedes argument to faith and fantasy. Hickel presents decontextualized snippets of Indigenous and ecological thought at face value. For instance, I found Hickel’s celebration of the fact that the Ganga river was granted legal rights quite unconvincing. How can this recognition mean absolutely anything in the current political-economic and ecological condition of India?

This old, gracious and sacred river, given legal rights which can never match the ancient spiritual role it has had in people’s lives, currently has thousands of corpses floating in it as people can no longer find the tree branches needed to build funeral pyres. Should the river assert its rights and demand that the earth absorb the bodies? What about the earth’s rights? Can a river have greater rights than the people of the land, who have next to none? The only genre for this whole discussion is satire, or, at best, science fiction, as it compresses multiple time periods into one space.

Further, why does the long history of third-world based movements against dams, overfishing, pollution, dirty mining, water privatization, the peasants’ movements and so forth find no place in this text which is concerned with asserting the commons in the face of capital? Why is that only Indigenous “ways of being” matter, but not their material struggles?  

I find Hickel’s thoughts, tweets and blogs fresh and provocative, and a good counterpoint to mainstream thinking. He is actively rethinking economic myths and can gesture to new directions. The degrowth current on the ecological Left is important, even if thus far only a placeholder for the conceptual journey that must be made. It will force greater thinking by socialists and other radicals. However, degrowth is still a slogan it seems, and not a program for development. 

Sara Abraham is a lawyer and researcher based in Chennai, India.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Towards a Programme for Eco-Socialism


The founding programme of An Rabharta Glas-Green Left, the newly formed Eco-Socialist political party (their website is here.

An Rabharta Glas – Green Left ([ənˠ ˈɾˠəuɾˠt̪ˠə ɡlˠasˠ], “The Green Tide/Flood”)[2][3] is an unregistered Irish political party, launched on 5 June 2021 as a split from the Green Party. It has two councillors, who had previously been elected as Green Party members — Lorna Bogue, on Cork City Council, and Liam Sinclair, on South Dublin County Council.[4] Its outlook has been described as “eco-socialist“.[1]

This document which is twenty pages long describes itself as being ‘Towards a Programme for Eco-Socialism’. It contains two broad sections, one titled ‘Analysis’ and the other titled ‘Approach’. 

Under the former section various areas are addressed including ‘The political system and the economy, ‘counter-hegemony and intersectionality’ and ‘class politics’. Under the latter section consideration is given to areas such as ‘Eco-socialism’, ‘State power’, ‘Renewing the commons’ and ‘Electoral politics and policy’. An ‘Agenda’ is offered and a Conclusion arrived at.

 The document primarily addresses the Republic of Ireland, though it notes that ‘The party will seek to develop its approach to Northern Ireland in future documents’.

There document notes in relation to class politics that:

Little progress however is being made on the class7 front. Class is the glaring vacuum at the core of

Irish politics. Of the few political parties, trade unions and other organisations which grapple with

class formation as a serious objective, none have managed to articulate and promulgate class

politics to a wider audience. Several organisations which claim to represent ‘the working class’

have variously been subsumed into normative neoliberal governance or lack a strategy for a

transition to socialism beyond fomenting transient anger. Outside small bubbles of activism,

virtually no political discussion takes place on class formation as a substantial objective, despite

the atomisation and alienation of the most disadvantaged sections of Ireland’s working class being

quite obvious during the pandemic.

The party explicitly looks at the Democratic Socialists of America and Podemos as offering “examples of a successfully operationalised class politics of ecosocialism in tough circumstances”. And it agues against the approaches of Die Linke and SYRIZA with respect to the ‘pitfalls of eschewing class politics’.

Based on this analysis, we seek to offer a demonstratively new prospectus: we are not offering

“green” capitalism like the Green Party, nor “green” socialism like the smaller Left parties, but ecosocialism.

Eco-socialism symbiotically and inextricably unites the twin objectives of decarbonising

human activity and transitioning from a capitalist society to a socialist one. While individual

definitions for either of these objectives vary, perhaps the most important role of ARG-GL is to

establish the frame for developing eco-socialism in Ireland within the limited time frame

permitted by climate emergency [emphasis in the original – ILA].

It concludes:

Relating our vision of eco-socialism to the everyday lives of working people is a task which ARG-GL

takes as being of equal priority to the mechanics of advancing our political programme. This means

inverting the lens on the spatial and social order of villages, towns and cities, workplaces, homes

and communities to demonstrate that not only can working people be in control of their lives and

the spaces in which they live them, but they must be if people and planet are to survive in the

coming decades. Offering a prospectus based neither on designed utopias nor wishful thinking, but

on the momentum and space produced through and by popular struggle, has the power to reverse

the truism so that it is easier to imagine the end of capitalism than to imagine. 

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Solidarity with Resistance to Extraction

Child Labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Written by Don Fitz and the Green Party of St. Louis (USA) 

People the world over are opposing fossil fuel extraction in an incalculable number of ways.  It is now clear that burning fossil fuels threatens millions of Life forms and could be laying the foundation for the extermination of Humanity.  But what about “alternative” energy?  As progressives stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those rejecting fossil fuels and nuclear power, should we despise, ignore, or commend those who challenge the menace to their homes and their communities from solar, wind and hydro-power (dams)?  The Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance gave its answer with unanimous approval of a version of the statement below in May, 2021. 

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         

 Global Conflicts Over Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Alternative Energy 

The monumental increase in the use of energy is provoking conflicts across the Earth.  We express our solidarity with those struggling against extraction, including these examples. 

Standing Rock, North Dakota.  We stand in solidarity with the on-going Native American protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota protesting environmentally irresponsible and culturally damaging pipelines that transport crude oil extracted from tar sand, destroying their ancestral lands. So-called “clean” and “renewable” energies depend on the climate killer oil for their production. 

Ogoni People vs. Shell.  We stand in solidarity with the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People against Shell. The Niger-Delta was devastated and traditional culture weakened by soil, surface and groundwater contamination that makes farming and fishing impossible.  Local communities still seek to receive denied compensation, clean-up, a share of the profits and a say in decision-making.

Coal extraction in India.  We stand in solidarity with the Centre for Policy Research in India as it opposes efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open 41 new coal mines because burning coal is a major factor in climate change, leads to asthma, premature births, and spreads toxins (including mercury) by air, water and land. 

Fracking in Pennsylvania.  We stand in solidarity with the Green Party of Pennsylvania which has opposed fracking since 2008 when it realized that use of volatile chemicals could harm local communities and waterways and contribute to climate instability. Local residents have become ill and major waterways and delicate ecosystems have been damaged.   

Nuclear power and Olympic Games.  We stand in solidarity with the No Nukes Action Committee of the Bay Area who are demonstrating against the Olympic Games slated for Tokyo in order to raise awareness of the ongoing disaster of Fukushima nuclear power since nuclear power is deadly and intimately connected with the potential for nuclear war. 

Uranium Mining in Africa.  We stand in solidarity with Solidarity Action for the 21 Villages” in Faléa, Mali against the French multinational COGEMA/Orano. After years of struggle, this NGO defeated a uranium mine through community mobilizing.  Aware of the detrimental effects on health, environment, agricultural land, water sources and cultural heritage, they are still fighting to undo already done infrastructural damage. 

Solar arrays in Washington State.  We stand in solidarity with rural Klickitat County, WA residents who are being invaded by industrial solar facilities which would exceed 12,000 acres and undermine wildlife/habitat, ecosystems, ground/water, and food production because solar panels and lithium ion batteries contain carcinogens with no method of disposal or re-cycling and could contribute to wildfires from electrical shortages. 

Wind turbines in Broome County NY.  We stand in solidarity with the Broome Tioga Green Party’s fight against industrial wind turbine projects that would increase drilling and mining, dynamite 26 pristine mountain tops, and destroy 120,000 trees while requiring precious minerals and lithium for batteries and being dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture, maintenance and operation.  

Hydro-power in Honduras.  We stand in solidarity with the indigenous Lenca people opposing the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River in Honduras whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered for uniting different movements to expose how dams destroy farmland, leave forests bare, disturb ancestral burial sites, and deprive communities of water for crops and livestock. 

Lithium mining in Thacker Pass.  We stand in solidarity with activists aiming to stop Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass open-pit mine (Nevada).  Essential for electronic devices including electric cars, the mine would destroy rare old-growth big sagebrush, harm wildlife including many endangered species and lower the water table. Its operation would require massive fossil fuel use and toxic waste ponds. 

Cobalt Extraction in DR Congo.  We stand in solidarity with the child laborers slaving and dying in Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines.  Cobalt is an essential ingredient for some of the world’s fastest-growing industries—electric cars and electronic devices. It co-occurs with copper mining, used in construction, machinery, transportation and war technology worldwide. 

Most of all, we stand in solidarity with thousands upon thousands of communities across the Earth opposing every form of extraction or transmission for energy which seeks to cover up human health and environmental dangers. 

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *        

The version adopted by the Gateway Green Alliance differs only by referring to its organizational name in the text.  If you would like to join those spreading the word regarding the need to challenge all forms of energy extraction because we can provide better lives for every society on Earth by reducing the global production of energy, please contact the author at the email below. 

Don Fitz (fitzdon@aol.com) is on the Editorial Board of Green Social Thought where a version of this article was first published.  He was the 2016 candidate of the Missouri Green Party for Governor.  His book on Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution has been available since June 2020.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Ecosocialist Alliance Meeting on G7


This is a transcript of my introduction to the Ecosocialist Alliance Meeting on G7 – 9 June 2021. The recording of the meeting will be released once some technical problems have been corrected.

The statement itself can be read here.

Welcome all.

This ecosocialist campaign, in the run up to the COP26 climate conference later this year, began with our G7 statement released on Saturday.

But we have been talking to comrades from different groups for months. First in the UK and then in other countries – the movement has grown to 12 groups now and many individuals.

This meeting will be recorded and shared around our collective.

In August we will have a presence at the Wigan Diggers Festival and in September/October we are planning to hold an ecosocialist conference – all pandemic permitting - and we invite ideas for other actions as we approach COP26 in November, where if possible we will have presence.

 

The G7 –

 

that rich neo-liberal club – of which the leaders will start jetting into Newquay airport in Cornwall tomorrow evening – for a fancy dinner or such like – ahead of the conference itself – are the very nations that have largely caused the dual crisis of ecological disaster and gross inequality in wealth.

What can we expect from these leaders?

Well, I suggest – not a lot.

It has already been reported that Joe Biden’s proposal for a minimum level of corporation tax of 21% across the G7 – has been watered down to only 15%

Which doesn’t seem fair – as a basic rate income tax payer in the UK – I pay 20%

Why should the G7 corporations – with all their wealth – pay less than me?

We can expect more of these piecemeal at best announcements – nothing that will upset the prevailing status quo will emerge from the conference.

At the same time, these countries are hoarding vaccines in the midst of a pandemic – more than they need - which has seen many thousands, probably millions of deaths around the world, from the Covid 19 virus.

 

On COP26

 

We see the warnings from scientists almost on daily basis – of devasting climate change approaching.

But what largely goes unreported is that it is capitalism’s unquenchable demand for endless growth in producing often useless things – to make profits for the capitalist class – that is driving these dangerous ecological changes.

 

The demands that the Ecosocialist Alliance have put forward – in our open statement – are, we think, quite reasonable – modest even – but they have virtually no chance of being adopted by the G7 nations.

But that was never the intention of the statement – we were well aware that it would be ignored by the politicians

It is aimed at the people, the general public of the world. Getting them to agree with our analysis is the only hope we have of forcing the hand of these governments – to do the right thing – by the people and the planet.

 

There will be many groups who will make similar demands of the G7 conference and COP26  – and we will join with them in this.

But the idea of this alliance – is to promote an ecosocialist analysis of our global problem – and put forward ecosocialist solutions to the problem.

And I say problem in the singular – because we know, as ecosocialists, that the root cause of all our social and ecological ills – is the dominant world economic system of Capitalism.

Only when capitalism is replaced with a more rational economic system – ecosocialism – do we stand any possibly of avoiding disaster.

 

We demand a Just Transition to a fairer, more sustainable world – before it is too late.

 

We hope you enjoy this meeting – and when it is over, you go back to your communities and talk to people, think about how we can grow this movement. We need to make a very loud noise indeed. 

Friday, 11 June 2021

Eco-socialism, democracy and the case for proportional representation

 


Written by Claire Fairbrother

“It is not enough to be a revolutionary and an advocate of socialism in general. It is necessary to know at every moment how to find the particular link in the chain which must be grasped with all one’s strength in order to keep the whole chain in place and prepare to move on resolutely to the next link”. 

Lenin, Sochineniya, xxii, 466. November 2017.

There are no signs today of anything comparable to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets in the UK. Nor is there any evidence that a serious dual power situation will ever present itself in this country, but for the General Strike when the Prime Minister declared a State of Emergency.  After 10 days into the strike and on 12th May 1926, three member’s leaders of the TUC General Council visited 10 Downing Street. They were swiftly challenged by Stanley Baldwin about their readiness to take power.  As they failed to grasp the strength of their position, they called the strike off.  

Much has been made since of their “betrayal” of the working class.  However those three formidable trade-union leaders, Robert Smilie (Miners), J. H Thomas ( Railways)  and Ernest Bevin (Transport) were solid social democrats. They believed in reforming capitalism gradually rather than overthrowing the state by revolutionary means.  

Having created the Labour Party to represent the interest of their members and of the working class in Parliament for over a century now, the trade union movement has played a key role in supporting social democracy in the UK.

To this day, the Labour Party depends almost entirely on trade union members’ political levy for the financing of its local and national elections campaigns. It is debateable that the Labour Party would be financially viable if links with its Affiliated Trade Unions were to be severed.

Although it has only been in power for 35 years since its foundation in 1900 and Ramsay MacDonald’s first Labour administration in 1924, the Labour Party has been relatively successful in delivering on some of its reformist electoral promises to trade union members. The creation of the NHS by Clement Attlee’s government in 1945 remains its most enduring legacy as does what is now left of the Welfare State.

But the Labour Party has been out of power since 2010 and has suffered four successive electoral defeats. This downwards trend over the last decade culminated in its historical and humiliating crash in December 2019 when the Conservatives picked up 3.5 million former Labour voters and swept into power with an 80 strong majority.  

A review as to why the Labour Party lost so spectacularly in 2019  undertaken by Ed Miliband and Lucy Powell* commented  that in order to win a majority of just one under the existing First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting system, Labour would have to win an additional 123-124 since Hartlepool byelection loss - at the next General Election.  This would need a uniform swing of 10.52%, larger than Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997 and the post-war-election of 1945.

Sir Keir Starmer is determined to win, as he keeps reminding everyone since he was elected as the new leader of the Labour Party, but he is also acutely aware that this will indeed be “a mountain to climb”.  However, genuine concerns are being expressed by a growing number of Labour MPs, a few trade union leaders and grass roots activists that for the Labour Party to win an absolute majority under our existing FPTP voting system will prove to be mission impossible.  

Interestingly enough for a would-be future leader of the Labour Party and when asked by Make Vote Matters about his views on Proportional Representation on the eve of his successful re-election as Mayor of Greater Manchester  - with a 67.3% share of the vote -  Andy Burnham declared he had “come round to it” *.    

Although trade unions have seen a marked drop in their membership over the past two decades, they remain a strong voice for workers and are willing to continue providing critical support to the political party they created.

But the key question that is being raised is:  for how long? The dire prospect of a fifth electoral defeat in a row is concentrating the minds.

Always pragmatic rather than ideological, members from trade union branches and their elected officers have begun to express their concerns. They worry that Labour may no longer be able to deliver on their “investment”.

A suggestion was made recently by one of the candidates for the general secretaries’ post of a large trade union that his members’ £19 million paid into the Labour Party’s coffers could perhaps be put to better use by investing the money in a new TV channel.  

Whilst this is a long held dream from the left which will probably never materialise, others are turning their attention to the role played by our unfair and undemocratic FPTP voting system which is keeping the Conservative Party in power.

At the December 2019 General Election, the Conservative/Brexit Party electoral pact got less than 2 million votes than all the left/centre left and nationalists  parties’ votes put together.  But they still won a huge majority in Parliament because of the  voting system.

As a result, we are now subjected to the most authoritarian, criminally incompetent, and corrupt populist government this country has ever seen.

So why should eco-socialists concern themselves at this point “in the link of the chain” of events about something as bourgeois  as universal suffrage?  

Scrapping FPTP and replacing it with a fairer system where every vote counts is not going to lead to a storming of the Bastille, the Winter Palace or even the Mother of All Parliaments by the “working class” or the working classes.  

It will however put a significant break to the grip on power by the most experienced imperialist political party in the history of Western Democracies.

As evidenced in Scotland for Holyrood Parliament and the Senedd in Wales where members are elected under the Additional Member System (AMS), it is clear that such voting systems can achieve a greater level of consensus in policies and decision making and that voters welcome this.

We have also seen recently how some Conservative Ministers went into panic mode with a proposal to scrap the Supplementary Voting (SV) system used for the Mayoral elections as Labour made some considerable gains.

In this early part of our 21st century, we are facing an existential crisis.  As declared in the Paris Ecosocialist Conference of 2007, “Humanity today faces a stark choice: eco-socialism or barbarism”. The survival of humanity and all living species is indeed at stake. Time is fast running out and we all know it.

But our democracy is broken. This is the case in the UK in particular where we are facing the prospect of a permanent pro-capitalist authoritarian conservative /populist government elected with a minority of votes.

At this precise moment in time, people and young people in particular, are demanding that politicians take action against profit driven exploitative and polluting multi-nationals operating in the fossil fuel, plastic, genetically modified food and poisonous agribusiness sectors. 

Unfortunately, it is hard to see how the environmental catastrophe we are facing will be stopped with negotiated treaties or international agreements approved or implemented by entrenched pro-capitalist politicians.

This is because what is needed over the next decade is a radical transformation of the world economy. We need concrete and urgent reforms to drastically reduce greenhouse gases, fast-track the development of clean energy sources and anti-pollution clean-ups, build an extensive free public transport system, eliminate nuclear energy and nuclear bombs and redistribute of wealth to eliminate poverty and inequalities on a scale never seen before. 

Under our First-Past-the -Post voting system, our battered and fragmented Labour Party founded by the trade union movement over 100 years ago can no longer deliver a majority for government. It must commit to include PR in its next election manifesto as a pre-condition to any electoral deals to keep the Tories out.

With a fair voting system where every vote would count, together with the mobilisation of the Youth, the labour movement as a whole and its allies from the environment and social justice movements, such change could open the door – and minds – to the creation of a healthy,  participative democracy essential to laying the foundation towards a 21st century eco-socialist revolution.

https://electionreview.labourtogether.uk/chapters/the=scale-of-the-challenge

https://twitter.com/AndyBurnhamGM/status/1389630600143855618?s=20

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=we+divide+they+conquer

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/09/government-to-change-english-voting-system-after-labour-mayoral-victories

Claire Fairbrother is a British ecosocialist activist and a co-founder of Get PR Done !

Friday, 4 June 2021

Ecosocialist Alliance Calls on G7 for a Just Transition

 


On this, World Environment Day (BST), an Ecosocialist Alliance has released a public statement (reproduced below), ahead of the G7 conference, calling on the leaders of those nations, for a Just Transition away from social inequality and the ecological crisis. The G7 conference is from 11 to 13 June, in Cornwall, England. Ecosocialist organisations and individuals from the UK and other countries have signed up to the statement.

This is the effective launch of a campaign begun by ecosocialist activists in the UK, which will see other actions taken in the lead up to the COP26 Climate Conference, in November later this year in Glasgow, Scotland. The statement will be released by the signatory groups on their websites and social media today (5 June).

The Ecosocialist Alliance will make the case for ecosocialist solutions to the economic recovery and ecological crisis, publicly, in the months ahead, leading up to the COP26 conference of world leaders.

Many groups will protest at G7 and COP26, and be asking for similar things, and we join with them in this. But in what is, I think, the first of a kind for a growing world ecosocialist movement, we will promote an explicitly ecosocialist agenda.

There is an email address at the end of the statement, to use if you would like to add your support, and to receive details of future actions, including a public Zoom meeting on 9 June, at 19:00 hours (BST).

Ecosocialist Alliance Statement on G7 Conference 

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US (and the EU) have a great part of the immense wealth of the richest countries in the world in 2021. This wealth is more than sufficient to provide for the needs for food, water, health, housing and education of the global population.

We face multiple interlinked and inseparable crises. Climate, environment, mass extinctions, emergent infectious diseases and economic. Oligarchic ownership of industry and the transnational corporations are key contributors to environmental degradation and to emergent infectious diseases crises. They are inimical and a core barrier to the urgent measures needed to address the nested crises we face. 

The world and its population need system change, a just ecosocialist transition from the unsustainable chaos of neo-liberal capitalism. 

We call upon the G7 nations to agree a plan in preparation for the COP26 meeting in November this year: 

On the Covid-19 pandemic and emergent infectious disease crisis to: 

· Immediately introduce a patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines that would allow countries to manufacture treatments locally, fully fund COVAX, and set up an aid fund to help with vaccine manufacturing, research and development. 

· Increase funding to the WHO. 

On the Climate Crisis: 

· Agree that fossil fuels must stay in the ground – (no new coal mine in west Cumbria, UK) – We need a massive global program of green public works investing in green jobs to develop renewable energy, replace harmful technology reliant on fossil fuel energy in homes, industry and agriculture, with free technology transfer for developing countries. 

· Agree and implement a significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 70% by 2030, from a 1990 baseline. We need honest and transparent accounting in measurement of emissions, taking account of outsourcing, exposing the dishonesty of offsetting calculations, and including military greenhouse gas emissions in calculations of the reductions needed. 

· End emissions trading schemes and make genuine reductions in harmful emissions. 

· Recognise the particular impacts of the long-term global crisis and the knock-on effects on the localised catastrophic events on women, children, elders and disabled people – catastrophe climate events and sea level rises produce the casualties of the event, but the victims are the result of systematic abuse, discrimination, and failure of governmental and corporate responsibility. 

On the environment and mass extinction crises: 

· Move away from massive factory farms and large scale monoculture agribusiness as a method of producing food and support small farmers and eco-friendly farming methods, and invest in green agricultural technology to reduce synthetic fertiliser and pesticide use in agriculture, replacing these with organic methods. 

· End deforestation in the tropical and boreal forests by reducing demand in G7 countries for food, timber and biofuel imports. 

· End food and nutrition insecurity for small farmers in the global south by promoting an agricultural system based on human rights and food sovereignty through giving local control over natural resources, seeds, land, water, forests and knowledge and technology. 

· Commit to a massive increase in protected areas for biodiversity conservation, both in the G7 countries and make funding and support available to do this in the global south. 

· To recognise that migration is already and will increasingly be driven by long term environmental change and degradation resulting from climate change, driven primarily by the historic emissions of the metropolitan countries of the global north – accommodating and supporting free movement of people must be a core policy and necessary part of planning for the future. 

On the Economic Crisis: 

· Increase wages and cut working hours for all G7 workers and involve trade unions in the economic transition without any loss of living standards, and to allow for greater worker involvement in workplace safety and resilience. 

· Adopt ‘Just Transition’ principles, creating well paid jobs in the new economy. 

· Outlaw tax havens, so wealthy corporations and individuals pay their fair share to the economic recovery. The economic costs of the pandemic should not be borne by those least able to do so. 

· Cancel all international debt of the global south. 

· Support urgent development of sustainable and affordable public transport. 

· Provide resources for popular education and involvement in implementing and enhancing a just transition. 

If groups/individuals would like to add their name to this statement please email eco-socialist-action@protonmail.com, stating your country of residence. You can also get details of our future actions including our public Zoom meeting on 9 June, 19:00 hours (BST).

Supporters

Groups

Green Left (UK)

Left Unity (UK)

RISE (Ireland)

Anti Capitalist Resistance (UK)

Ecosocialist Independent Group (UK) Lancaster City Council

Global Ecosocialist Network (International)

Anti-Fracking Nanas (UK)

Green Eco-Socialist Network (USA)

Socialist Project (Canada)

System Change Not Climate Change (USA/Canada)

Pittsburgh Green Left (USA)

Climate and Capitalism (International)

Undod (Unity or Solidarity, in English) (Wales, UK) 

Individuals

Beatrix Campbell (UK) (OBE, writer and broadcaster)

Romayne Phoenix (UK)

Victor Wallis (USA) (ecosocialist author)

Professor Krista Cowman (UK), historian

Dee Searle (UK)

Lucy Early (UK)

Patrick Bond (South Africa)

Derek Wall (UK) ecosocialist author, Lecturer in Political Economy, former Green Party of England and Wales International Co-ordinator

John Foran (USA)

Felicity Dowling (UK)

Steve Masters (UK) (Green Party of England and Wales activist & West Berkshire District Councillor)

Dr. Henry Adams (UK) (ecologist & environmental activist)

Charles Gate, (UK)

Nicole Haydock (UK)

Gordon Peters (UK)

Mark Hollinrake (UK)

Pat McCarthy (UK)

Clive Healiss (UK)

Rafael Arturo Guariguata (Germany)

Declan Walsh (UK)

Jim Hollinshead (UK)

Ken Barker (UK)

Tina Rothery (UK)

John Burr (UK)

Emma Lorraine Coulling (UK)

Andrew Francis Robinson (UK)

Richard Finnigan (UK)

Frank McEntaggart (UK)

Roger Silverman (UK)

Oliver Charleston (UK)

Louise Channon (UK)

Ian Angus (Canada)

Richard Mellor  (USA)

Peter Sainsbury (Australia)

Cathy Slaughter (UK)

Steve Ongerth (USA) Occupied Ohlone Territory - Co-founder, IWW Environmental Union Caucus (listed for ID purposes only) 

Stephen Hall (UK) President, Greater Manchester Trades Union Councils

David Schwartzman (USA) climate/energy scientist - Member of the Global Greens COP26 WG

International Committee, Green Party of the United States)