20 Aug 2014

Palestine in the World's Heart

This is the editorial from the latest issue of 'Lucha Indigena', a Peruvian based newspaper, published by my good friend Hugo Blanco.....solidarity with Gaza is strong in Latin America.

The Lucha Indigena 'Indigenous Struggle' website can be found here

                                     PALESTINE IN THE WORLD'S HEART


Given the ongoing nature of the murderous assault, the casualty figures cited here -- deaths, the wounded, physical destruction and people rendered homeless -- lag far behind the daily mounting reality.

          As the furious attack on Gaza began, pain and anger spread through the hearts of those people throughout the world who keep a sense of human solidarity against the neoliberal system's culture of selfishness.  The latest news can only add to our distress.  Already more than 1100 have died, and the wounded amount to more than 6500.  According to the United Nations (UN), more than 80% of the victims are civilians.  The Israeli armed forces are dropping leaflets, asking "tens of thousands of residents" to leave their homes.

          Gaza's sole electrical plant has had to suspend operation, while the systems for delivering water and collecting waste are not functioning.  Throughout all this, there are enthusiastic marches in Israel with chants of "No more children in Gaza, so no school tomorrow, yeah, yeah, yeah!", "Gaza is a graveyard" and "Death to the Arabs."

          Nonetheless, as pain and anger have risen, people of good will are moving into action.  Let us begin with Israel, where the "refuseniks" are Israeli conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the army.  Some of them make a point of saying that they will not serve in the occupied territories of Palestine.  The movement originated in 1979 when Gadi Algazi refused during his military service to serve in the occupied territories.  In Gaza, Israel has killed UN staffers, as well as foreign doctors and other medical personnel.

          Let us also consider Latin America.  In Lima there was a demonstration on 25 July outside Israel's embassy, demanding that Peru withdraw its own embassy from that country.  There was also a demonstration in Cusco.  In the face of these events, on 29 July the government of Peru called its ambassador home for consultations.

          Ecuador had taken that same action on 17 July.

          In Argentina, a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy on 25 July demanded a break in diplomatic relations.

          On 1 July, 5000 Chileans marched to the Israeli embassy in Santiago, where they stuck photos of murdered children on the walls before marching to the embassy of the USA, a key enabler of the genocidal attack.  The previous day in Temuco there was a demonstrations by the Mapuche people in solidarity with Gaza.  The Bachelet government has suspended talks on a free-trade agreement with Israel, while the Foreign Ministry has announced plans to aid victims in Gaza.

          Uruguay has also condemned the attack.

          In Brazil the government called its ambassador to Israel home and voted for sending a commission of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate war crimes.

          Bolivia has asked the High Commission for Human Rights to open a case of "war crimes against humanity" before the International Court of Justice.  The president of Bolivia has characterized Israel as a "terrorist state".  Israeli citizens will henceforth require a visa to enter the country, in contrast to the previous policy.

          Venezuela had already broken relations with Israel in 2, due to a previous attack on Gaza.  In Caracas on 14 July there was a protest demonstration with parliamentarians in attendance.  The government denounced the hypocrisy of those who blame both sides for the genocide.

          In Mexico there were demonstrations in the capital and the native zone of Chiapas.

          Cuba, which has not had diplomatic relations with Israel for many years, also condemned the massacre.

          There were also protests in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

          The best news is that the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition -- with participation by citizens of Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the USA, Canada and Australia -- is planning a new flotilla to break the blockade of Gaza in the near future, with participants from around the world.  It has announced the intention of returning from Gaza with Palestinian exports, a continuation of the Gaza's Arc project.

          The main vessel in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, took the brunt of the armed Israeli assault, with nine Turkish citizens and one American murdered.  The Mavi Marmara will soon be ready to join the flotilla with hundreds of peace activists from around the world on board.

19 Aug 2014

The 'tragedy of the NHS'

THE NHS is being dismantled before our eyes. Since the 1990s it has been forced to mimic the market with competition between NHS providers.  
This has created a less efficient and more chaotic system of health provision. 
The last Labour government introduced private finance inititives, where private companies built hospitals but saddled the NHS with appalling debt in return. 
The Con-Dem government has massively accelerated the process of NHS destruction. 
Services are increasingly being auctioned off to private healthcare companies. Think tanks are floating the idea of charging for more and more NHS services.  
So when it is owned by private companies and we find ourselves charged for services, can we even call it a National Health Service?  
The process of destruction is aided by the media, political parties and academics. Most commentators suggest that if the Conservatives are re-elected in 2015 the NHS will totally disappear. However, even if they lose, the NHS looks far from secure.
Politicians increasingly accept a neoliberal approach which, they argue, means that only the market works. State intervention always, so the consensus goes, fails. 
What we have is a kind of “tragedy of the NHS.” I don’t mean the situation is “tragic” simply in the sense of bad. The planned extinction of the NHS will make the most vulnerable pay for expensive healthcare and increase inequality and human misery, while reducing life expectancy.  
I mean “tragic” in the original use of the word that can be traced back to ancient Greek tragedies — something that is inevitable (or at least seems so).  
I fear that in the future, in the same way we are familiar with the term “tragedy of the commons” the phrase “tragedy of the NHS” will also become common currency.
It will be said, in the future, perhaps, that in 1945 the great reforming socialist government of Labour’s Clement Attlee established a brave experiment to promote equality and social justice. 
Yet this great experiment, while well-intentioned, did not work. Free healthcare was abused, people took more and more from the system, which became progressively more expensive. Planning made it inefficient and without market-based incentives performance dropped.  
Increasing demand for healthcare, rising costs and chaos meant that by 2015 the NHS had to be shut down.  
The brave attempt to provide free healthcare for all was tragically doomed, it will be claimed. 
In fact “the tragedy of the NHS” is just like “the tragedy of the commons.”  
In 1968, the biologist Garrett Hardin argued in an article in the journal Science that common land was bound to be over exploited.  
If no single individual owned a resource, say a forest or pasture land, no-one had an incentive to conserve it. There was a “free rider” problem, as laid down in free-market economic theory, that if one person fished less or took their cattle off the common to preserve it, others would just fish more or put their livestock on to graze more intensively.  
The commons was “tragic,” ie doomed. Sharing, in Hardin’s eyes, always leads to disaster.
As in many free-market logics, a mathematical axiom is connected to a metaphor, to show that anything other than private property and self-interest will lead to disaster. Good intentions always lead, tragically, to the worst outcome for all.
However, when we look at the “tragedy of the commons” we find a quite different tale of woe. Professor Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a prize in economics, won it for showing that the commons, far from being “tragic,” quite often worked well.  
She did research into hundreds of commons, forests, fisheries and pastures all around the world.  
She found that sometimes they did get degraded and fall apart but often local people got together, agreed rules to conserve them and found ways of enforcing them.  
Some of the commons she looked at, for example, the Torbel commons in Switzerland, had worked well for over 1,000 years.  
I am a bit of an Ostrom obsessive, so I will avoid going into detail about her interesting work, but you can easily find out more about her by looking on the net.
Historians like the great EP Thompson also found that far from the commons failing, they often thrived.  
In Britain, commons allowed users to raise animals, gather firewood and collect food, a kind of primitive welfare system. The commons were often taken from the people by force, using violence or the law, or a combination of both.  
Karl Marx wrote extensively about the enclosure of the commons, and he was perhaps at his most passionate and exact in chapter 27 of Das Kapital Volume One, which I would highly recommend reading.
The “tragedy of the NHS” is about the fact that we actually have a really good model of healthcare, which has served us well but is being dismembered because of ideology and greed. 
The vultures are circling and coming down to feed on our collective assets, absorbing resources from a government committed to the rich and powerful. The media is silent about the enclosure and destruction of our health commons, the NHS, but every day reports on its real or imagined failings.
We all have to fight in solidarity to defend the NHS, working with trade unions and those few MPs, like Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, who are really committed to a publicly owned socialist healthcare system.  
We also need to be aware of how ideas like “the tragedy of the commons” are used by the rich and powerful to seize resources.  
Free-market economists like Friedrich von Hayek argued that a planned socialist society was impossible — without the market chaos would reign.  
The very existence of “socialised” medicine appals them. After all, if we can do free healthcare, why not free public transport or free housing? If the NHS works, why not banish the market from other areas of society?  
Yes, the NHS has failings and yes there are problems with public planning, but remember, far from being doomed to fail, the NHS can be made to work for all of us.  
We should, like Ostrom might suggest — and indeed, she has researched health commons — take a hard-nosed look at what works and what doesn’t work in the NHS.  However we need to note that critics of the NHS come not to heal it, but to kill it, because health for all, free to those in need, offends their ideological point of view.
Derek Wall is international co-ordinator for the Green Party of England and Wales.

18 Aug 2014

Global Greens 'Write to us about your climate actions and we’ll make sure Greens everywhere see your work'

Dear Global Greens,
Today’s a big day. Today is the day that the Global Greens are launching our first campaign - and we want to hear from you!
Global warming affects everyone. From government and the grassroots, Green parties everywhere are leading the campaign for urgent solutions to climate change.
So many of us have had big successes and learned big lessons - so it’s time to bring together all of our hard work, and make it even bigger.
That’s why the two of us - Keli from Taiwan and Josh from Australia - are here to help you and your Green Party show your action on climate change to a global audience.
Are you taking action on climate change? Protesting to stop dangerous coal, gas or nuclear projects? Planning a community solar project? Pushing for political change?
We want to hear about it. Write to us about your climate actions and we’ll make sure Greens everywhere see your work: ggclimatecampaign@gmail.com
Send us photos, videos, stories - the lot! And please write to us in your language - we will be conducting the campaign in many languages, not just English.
That’s the first part of this campaign: sharing your actions with Greens around the world, so we can inspire each other. Next, we’ll act together at big climate events this year.
The Green movement will be central at the worldwide People’s Mobilisation in September, the G20 meeting in November and the UN Climate Conference in Lima in December - just for starters. And we’ll be helping you be heard at these global events.
To get started, write to us today with your climate plans, and let us know what you want from the Global Greens’ climate campaign: ggclimatecampaign@gmail.com
This campaign is your campaign. Tell us how we can help you!
Green wishes,
Keli Yen & Josh Wyndham-Kidd, Global Greens Climate Organisers
P.S. If you have any questions at all about the campaign, please get in touch. We’re always here to answer them. You can write to us at ggclimatecampaign@gmail.com.