22 Feb 2011
Con Dem plans to privatise England's 258,000 hectare forest estate, run by the Forestry Commission, have been defeated for the time being. There have been big and rowdy demonstrations, Mark Harper the Tory MP for the Forest of Dean was egged by constituents, a flurry of newspaper articles opposed the sell off and back bench Tory and Lib Dem MPs have become restive, indeed the Daily Telegraph has suggested that 50 percent of Tory MPs opposed forest privatisation. A petition which gained over 500,000 signatures shows that cyber activism, while derided, can achieve results.
The coalition governments’ attempt and ultimate failure to privitise forests in Britain is an excellent, illustration of what the Hungarian radical Karl Polanyi described as the 'double movement'. Polanyi in his epic book 'The Great Transformation' published in 1944, a strident attack on liberal economics, noted,
'To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment ... would result in the demolition of society (Polanyi 1957:73).’
The double movement was a process whereby attempts to marketise society, the first movement, would result in widespread resistance, the counter movement.
Forests seem to strike at the soul of millions of people in Britain, the idea of selling them off to corporations for profit instead of using them for children to play and wildlife to inhabit sickens voters. Thatcher too tried to sell off forest commission land, and was also defeated. While arguably the major environmental NGOs have been slow to act in defence of the forests, grassroots campaigns have sprung up like mushrooms, inspiring people who are not usually politically engaged to anger and action. Assaults on libraries and the NHS are also likely to provide iconic targets for anti-cuts campaigners and prove costly to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Posted by Derek Wall at 9:17 am