31 Aug 2012

Resistance to ATOS (video

The Conservatives and Lib Dems are attacking those with disabilities just as the paralympics celebrates their achievements.

All the money the government save from driving those with disabilities into poverty helps with their tax cuts for corporations.

I wonder whether Nick Clegg offers to push people in wheel chairs and then propels them into the local canal?

Its shocking to be in Con Dem Britain, so good to see some protest.  Hope these people roll up to the Lib Dem conference.

29 Aug 2012

Venezuelan Presidential election film

A group of British socialists are planning to make a film of the Venezuelan Presidential election in October.

Hugo Chavez looks is if he will win but the US government continue to try to destabalise Latin American governments and the mainstream media tend rather than looking at the real strengths and weaknesses of the left in Venezuela to follow the line of the established powers.

So alternative voices are vital

Using our video team from London, our plan is to capture the process in Venezuela, documenting as much as possible in order to spread the inspiring example of the Bolivarian Revolution far and wide.
It seems that the British corporate media (including the BBC) have pre-set plans to slander the Venezuelan people and their struggle for democracy (see link).
We aim to smash the British media blockade by bringing real news and real reporting to explain the Venezuelan process to people in Britain. Not only will we be uploading short clips and interviews as we record them across Caracas, but we will use the footage of the amazing people we meet on this journey to make a full documentary on our return.
We have experience of filming both short and long form projects through our work in Britain and we aim create a dynamic video blog, regularly updated right here, with information on our progress with the production of our documentary.

We need your help to ensure this project lifts off and becomes a success. 
Once our videos get online, we need you in our network of supporters to promote, blog, Facebook and Tweet our videos to all your friends and followers. This way we can ensure the truth is being spread about the success of the Venezuelan process, undermining the corporate media which has no time for real democracy, people power or the creation of true equality.
Knowledge is power! We demand the truth!

And do look at their previous
Cuba documentary up in full on youtube now - 

27 Aug 2012

Women of the Oglala Lakota nation march against White Clay liquor store

Just got this from Intercontinental Cry do follow them http://intercontinentalcry.org/white-clay-a-town-where-kids-get-pepper-sprayed-for-saying-no-to-alcohol/

Photo: Deep Green Resistance
On August 26, women of the Oglala Lakota Nation stood alongside allies to send a message to the predatory liquor vendors in White Clay, Nebraska.
It wasn't long before the police came to rescue the blight of a town. White Clay only has a population of 14, yet it has 4 liquor stores and sells approx. 12,500 cans of beer each day. They sell those cans to anyone, be they bootleggers, intoxicated people or minors. They also trade beer for sexual favors. They need to be shut down.
Jessica Garraway of Deep Green Resistance Great Plains reports.

Women’s March and Day of Peace Turns Violent– Protesters Arrested

Women of the Oglala Lakota nation along with activists from Deep Green Resistance, AIM Grassroots, Un-Occupy Albuquerque, Occupy Lincoln, and Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center took part in a march from Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge into White Clay to protest against the predatory liquor industry present there.
White Clay has a population of 14, yet 4 liquor stores in the town sell 12,500 cans of beer each day. The stores have been documented repeatedly selling to bootleggers, intoxicated people, minors, and trading beer for sexual favors.
“For over 100 years the women of the Oglala Lakota nation have been dealing with an attack on the mind body and spirit of their relatives”, says Olowan Martinez who is a main organizer of the event and resident of Pine Ridge. “The Oglala have been silenced through chemical warfare waged by the corporations who are out to exploit and make a profit off of the suffering and misery of our people. The time has come to end this suffering by any means necessary.”
Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist and resident of Pine Ridge who spoke at the event proclaimed, “A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian. We have to send a message to Nebraska and its citizens that we are not going to tolerate business as usual. This is the Women’s Day of Peace but that peace will soon be over”.
After the march and speeches members of Deep Green Resistance locked down and blockaded the road into White Clay.
Less than a half hour after the lockdown began a police officer rolled down their window and indiscriminately pepper sprayed into a crowd. Up to 12 people were pepper sprayed including the 10 year old son of a Lakota woman who helped organize the march. Also, an elder Lakota woman, Helen Red Feather, reported having her leg hit by a police car in motion. Medics with the protest treated pepper spray injuries.
At 7:39, the five activists who participated in the lock down were hauled off in a horse trailer to the Sheridan County jail in Rushville. They have since been released on their own recognizance.
Today, justice is far from complete, since White Clay continues to enable and enact the destruction of the Oglala Lakota and the people of Pine Ridge. The continued subjugation of the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation will not end as long as the liquor stores in White Clay continue to operate.
Chants of “As long as it takes!” began by those locked down and the people standing with them in the crowd at the beginning of the lockdown. The struggle continues.
For press inquiries, please contact Jessica Garraway:
Email: garrawaj@riseup.net
Phone: (253) 906-4740

Liberties and Commons for All

I have been cracking on with my book about Elinor Ostrom so blogging less but this is a great piece from Peter Linebaugh on commons.
Liberties and Commons for All Weekend Edition August 24-26, 2012  Preface to the Korean Edition of Magna Carta Manifesto  Liberties and Commons for All
  http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/24/liberties-and-commons-for-all/ by PETER LINEBAUGH Of the aristocratic and stylish six Mitford sisters, Jessica provides us with the Lazy Interpretation of Magna Carta beloved by sluggards everywhere. As a lovely communist (two of her sisters were fascists) she was disowned by her family and fell from the social peaks of English aristocracy to the Dickensian depths of the Rotherhithe docks in London in 1939. Unable to pay the rent she and her husband lived in fear of the process-server who they avoided by going in disguises which the process server soon came to recognize. "Esmond had a theory that it was illegal and in some way a violation of Magna Carta to serve process on people in bed." So they stayed in bed all day and then all night, and again all the next day, and all the next night under the covers, before deciding to emigrate to America. (Tom Paine, too, thought that independent America was a realization of Magna Carta). Once we stop smiling, we see the wisdom of rest. William Morris's wonderful utopian novel, News from Nowhere, is called in its sub-title "An Epoch of Rest" and the story actually begins in bed! The Bible solemnly orders that the earth itself be given a rest every seven years. This of course made sense agronomically at the time to prevent soil exhaustion. And it makes sense today than ever. Because earth, air, water, and fire, formerly common, are utterly exhausted by the world's privatizers who call their exploitation "business."

But business is the opposite of rest. The sub-title of this book, Liberties and Commons for All, expresses two aspects of the ancient English Charters of Liberty; first is the restraint on political power of the King, second is the protection of subsistence in the commons. The former are legal issues – rule of law, trial by jury, prohibition of torture, habeas corpus; the latter are economic principles – neighborhood, subsistence, commons, reparations, and travel. How have they fared since the book was published? A world-wide crushing financial crisis of austerity has been met with new demands in the Occupy Wall Street movement and anti-capitalist mobilizations in Greece, Spain, Egypt, and a renewed push-back against nuclear power. Can the Magna Carta and its sister companion, the Charter of the Forest, contribute to these discussions? How to put the commons into the constitution, and the constitution into the commons? Can the centuries of human wisdom found in these Charters help the people of Jeju Island preserve the last pristine commons on earth from the inevitable destruction entailed by the construction of a U.S. naval base in its bid for Pacific hegemony? The book was conceived at a time of the systematic devaluation of the working-class of the world. The U.S.A. gloated in its imagined omnipotence and one after another destroyed the internal restraints on that power, and eliminated the external restraints with endless global wars. War provided the shock for devaluation and enclosure.

From nurses and doctors health care was turned over to insurance profiteers; from carpenters and masons housing or shelter was turned over to bankers; from gardeners and farmers food was turned over to genetic engineers; and from librarians and scholars knowledge was turned over to machine operators. Work was as much alienated drudgery as ever, only now as "jobs" became a desperate social desideratum to have one was to be privileged. "Jobbery" once was scorned as corrupt careerism second only to stockbrokers in vile repute, instead it has thoughtlessly become the ultimate good. Prison has become a mass experience. They have combined to destroy self-respect, creativity, wellness, clearness of thought, probity of mind, and actual usefulness. They undermine integrity, and re-enslave mind, body, and soul.

 The Gwangju People's Uprising of May 1980 occupied a central city square renaming it Democracy Square. Some commentators stress three aspects of that uprising, the struggle for truth, the transcendence of secular life, and the creation of a historical community. George Katsiaficas compares it to the Paris Commune. One might also compare it to The Commons Rebellion of 1381 in England both for those three aspects and for the occupation of central urban spaces, and for the miracle of mobilization, accomplished at least in the 13th and 14th centuries by "murmuring." Knowledge of previous struggles for justice is transmitted in many ways through the law and extra-legally. Among the latter are commemorations, such as July Fourth commemorating the declaration of independence of the 13 American colonies in 1776 or Fourteenth of July commemorating the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. The commemoration itself may become an occasion to renew the struggle of the past in the present of the events it commemorates, though this is dangerous. Nostalgia or official piety is the safer course. "All men are created equal" sounds good, as does liberté, égalité, et fraternité though the actual process of equalization, actual real equality, entails a perilous, though necessary, historical course of redistribution, confiscation, and leveling.
 The spectre of the commons has haunted the long arch of British history. The leader of the Commons Rebellion of 1381 was Wat Tyler who forced the King to negotiate the return of expropriated commons. He was massacred on 15 June 1381. The fact that 15 June was the date when King John was forced by civil war to succumb to limitations on his power in Magna Carta in 1215 was not mentioned by the chroniclers of 1381. The archive of human knowledge is controlled by the rulers. This is not to argue that the class war of the Commons Rebellion of 1381 and the civil war leading to the armistice of Magna Carta in 1215 were either the same issues or led by the same social forces. In the latter the barons and nobility were enjoined to restrain the King, while in the former this was left to the commons. Yet both acted for the commonweal, or the common good as we might say. The concept of the commonweal emerged after the Commons Rebellion of 1381 whose insurgents included craftsmen, proletarians, and vagabonds in addition to the peasants who were the most numerous and fundamental. Ever since the semantic field of the "commons" includes this association with rebellion. David Rollison shows that "weale" derives from the Anglo-Saxon term wele itself meaning wellness, welfare, or well-being. Riches, or the accumulation of commodities, undermines well-being, as all the world's religions once taught. At best, properties can be instruments for the attainment of wellness; at worst, they impeded it. The English State in its 16th century depended on the centralized monarchy and established religion to oppose the commons. Thomas Elyot, Renaissance humanist, clerked for the King's Council and did business for Star Chamber. He wrote The Book Named the Governor (1531) and dedicated it to King Henry VIII and it was published by the King's printer. It went through eight editions in the 16th century. Its second paragraph is an argument against communism. People have mistaken "republic" for a "commonweal." The English word, "republic" derives from two Latin words, res publica, which means things belonging to the populous, or the public, which is to be distinguished from the plebeia, or common people. Plebs is Latin for English commonality and plebeii is commoners. Res plebeia thus should be translated as the "commonweal." Those who make this mistake, claims Elyot, do so "that every thing should be to all men in common." "… if there should be a common weale, either the commoners only must be wealthy and the gentle and noble men needy and miserable, or else excluding gentility, all men must be of one degree and sort, and a new name provided." He feared the Biblical text requiring Christians "to have all things in common." Why was the argument against commons conducted on philological or semantic grounds? It had to do with the control of language, and thus the control of understanding, as Latin was giving way to the vernacular English during the period of the formation of a national market in commodities (traffic). The clerical, or priestly, caste was losing its monopoly on political discourse. It no longer was the exclusive voice of the nation. Latin was the soft-ware code, as it were, of what they called "the republic of letters." Those letters, as Marx wrote, were "letters of blood and fire," that is the expropriation of the commons. They did not want the subject to be generalized from local practices, nor did they want the struggles against expropriation to be linked as they had been at the time of the Commons Rebellion of 1381, any more than do the powers-that-be want the struggle at Gwangju or Jeju Island generalized.
Whispering and "murmuring" were means of communication among the people who were wise enough to express themselves just short of the coherent articulation that rulers could understand, and yet all the more ominous for that. The ruling class wished to exclude such voices and thus to control the human archive upon which the human story is based. Thomas More, the same King's loyal servant, was late in delivering the manuscript of Utopia (1516) to his printer and made excuses by blaming his wife, his children, and his servants. Written and published in Latin it was not translated into English until 1551. The translator, Raphe Robinson, rendered More's Latin excuse for not having the time for writing, "For when I am come home, I must common with my wife, chat with my children, and talk with my servants … ." Common with his wife! Communism was not a dream! Utopia was not nowhere, it was right here at home! So much is implied with this translation. It occurred just after Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk, the largest effort in that century to preserve English commoning. Three years later (1562) the English monarchy established the famous 39 Articles of the Church of England. Preached from every pulpit, studied by every child, from that century on, the penultimate, 38th article, flatly stated, "The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common…." The control of the pulpit was as jealously guarded by the state as the internet is against Wikileaks. In the following century another effort to secure the commons and gain access to the pulpit, led by Levellers and Diggers in the English Revolution, gave the ruling class a lasting fright.

Between 1551 and 1684 commoning had considerably diminished, with the defeat of many rebellions, riots, and revolution. The patriarchy was unable to common. The domestic system of production was also diminished as the workshop or manufacture advanced as a separate establishment from the family. The attack on women proceeded with multiple burnings and torture. So, it should not surprise us that Gilbert Burnet, the complacent defender of the Whig Establishment after the restoration of monarchy should translate Utopia anew in which commoning between husband and wife has disappeared to be replaced by "discourse." In the U.S.A. neither aspect of Magna Carta has flourished, despite important attempts. The Afro-American, T. Thomas Fortune wrote in 1880s in the depths of the Jim Crow segregation of the American south installing slavery under another name, "that land is common property, the property of the whole people." He too reached deep into the human past, "The fires of revolution are incorporated into the Magna Carta of our liberties, and no human power can avert the awful eruption which will eventually burst upon us as Mount Vesuvius burst forth upon Herculaneum and Pompeii. It is too late for America to be wise in time. `The die is cast.'" Franklin Roosevelt sought to be wise in the crisis of capitalism during the 1930s, and to cast the dice again. At his 3rd inauguration as President in January 1941 he reminded America that "the democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history … it blazed anew in the Middle Ages. It was written in Magna Carta." In the context of the Four Freedoms, and the explanation of Freedom from Want was provided by the commoner and proletarian, Carlos Bulosan. Bulosan had worked the succulent cornucopia of mother earth: in the orange groves, flower fields, asparagus rows, winter peas, vineyards, Wyoming beets, plant cauliflower, picked hops, lemon farms – but working as a proletarian he suffered beatings, gambling, prostitution, drugs, homelessness. As for the commons, this became a memory of family life in the Philippines.


25 Aug 2012


Confirmed TOMORROW - Sunday 26th 1pm!

ARCTIC SEA ICE IS CRASHING. To mark the breaking of the all time record minimum for arctic sea ice extent, we will meet outside Downing Street with a block of ice carved to represent an iceberg and, authorities willing, will hand in a letter to Number 10.

When you think that the actual minimum for this season is unlikely to be reached till mid September or possibly later then you begin to realise how much of a bombshell this really is - we could see the all-time low
record not just broken this year but obliterated....!!!

This means that an ice free arctic ocean could very rapidly become a reality and the consequences could be profound....for the effect that the warming arctic is already having on global weather patterns - with devastating impact on global food supplies.


24 Aug 2012

Hugo Blanco ' the attacks on Zapatista communities are intensifying'

Peruvian campesino Leader asks #YoSoy132 to Support Zapatistas 
 ** The leader urges them to defend the “island of freedom” created by the EZLN
by: Hermann Bellinghausen
Hugo Blanco, campesino leader and director of the Peruvian publication Lucha Indígena (Indigenous Struggle), denouncedfrom Peru “the real reasons and forces” that want to destroy what he calls the “zone liberated from neoliberalism, where the people govern themselves”, in a message of support to the communities of the Zapatista National Liberación Army (EZLN, its initials in Spanish), which speaks “to those who search for a free world”. “In 1994, at the full culmination of the neoliberal system that oppresses us, a voice of rebellion arose, the Zapatista movement in Chiapas”.
Blanco calls on the #YoSoy132 movement to “understand that it is their fundamental task to defend the isle of freedom that is in their own country. Crushing the Zapatistas would make it easy to crush #YoSoy132.” Considering that “it is in the direct interest of humanity” to defend that “island of freedom,” Hugo Blanco calls for the “actions in defense of San Marcos Avilés, and against the other attacks in the zone” and in the struggle for the freedom of Francisco Sántiz López and Alberto Patishtán Gómez.
And he recalls: “Carlos Salinas de Gortari, then president, launched a bloody military offensive thinking to quickly smash the rebellion. It wasn’t so. The combatant indigenous population resisted. Faced with the bloodletting, the people of Mexico were indignant and demanded that the attacks cease. The United States government became alarmed, because with the number of oppressed Mexicans and Chicanos in its territory there could be the danger that the rebellion might be extended to the heart of the empire. Therefore, it ordered the Mexican government to stop the attack,” while “the rebels demonstrated that they would obey the people of Mexico who ordered the war to stop.”
Blanco remembers: “The government offered talks, the Zapatistas accepted. With the democratic spirit that they have, they didn’t want to be the ones who would speak in the name of indigenous Mexicans, and they called to the indigenous and indigenists of the whole country so that they could set out the demands. Their arguments were so convincing that the governmental commission had to accept many of them. Both parties signed the San Andrés Accords. As they had to take legal form in order to be approved by the parliament, it named a commission with the responsibility of putting them into the appropriate format. The commission completed its task and presented it to the parties. The Zapatistas accepted, but the government did not. Instead of that it presented another document, betraying the accords that it had signed.” The (political) parties in the Congress “bowed to the outrage.”
In its time, the government of Ernesto Zedillo “launched a treasonous military attack, seeking to liquidate the EZLN’s leadership.” It failed, Blanco points out, “but (whoever may be president for a term) does not abandon the intentions of disappearing that island of freedom that exists in the world. Let us not forget that the first international meeting of those oppressed by the neoliberal system that is crushing the world was called by the indigenous Zapatistas and was held on Chiapas soil years before the World Social Forum.”
The campesino leader from Peru emphasizes: “Lately the attacks on Zapatista communities are intensifying, the principal and strongest one is the one that the autonomous Zapatista community of San Marcos Avilés is suffering.” The Good Government Juntas towards Hope and Heart of the Rainbow of Hope have denounced other attacks, he says. “These attacks and the continued detention of Francisco Sántiz López and Alberto Patishtán Gómez, are the spearhead of the attack to crush the zone liberated from neoliberalism, where the people govern themselves through the Good Government Juntas. These (the Juntas) are seen as the great enemy by the transnational corporations as they are a living example of the fact that “Another World is Possible”, “A World where Many Worlds Fit”.”

20 Aug 2012

Slavoj Zizek on Pussy Riot


The True Blasphemy

Pussy Riot members accused of blasphemy and hatred of religion? The answer is easy: the true blasphemy is the state accusation itself, formulating as a crime of religious hatred something which was clearly a political act of protest against the ruling clique. Recall Brecht’s old quip from his Beggars’ Opera: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?” In 2008, Wall Street gave us the new version: what is the stealing of a couple of thousand of dollars, for which one goes to prison, compared to financial speculations that deprive tens of millions of their homes and savings, and are then rewarded by state help of sublime grandeur? Now, we got another version from Russia, from the power of the state: What is a modest Pussy Riot obscene provocation in a church compared to the accusation against Pussy Riot, this gigantic obscene provocation of the state apparatus which mocks any notion of decent law and order?

Was the act of Pussy Riot cynical? There are two kinds of cynicism: the bitter cynicism of the oppressed which unmasks the hypocrisy of those in power, and the cynicism of the oppressors themselves who openly violate their own proclaimed principles. The cynicism of Pussy Riot is of the first kind, while the cynicism of those in power — why not call their authoritarian brutality a Prick Riot — is of the much more ominous second kind.

Back in 1905, Leon Trotsky characterized tsarist Russia as “a vicious combination of the Asian knout and the European stock market.” Does this designation not hold more and more also for the Russia of today? Does it not announce the rise of the new phase of capitalism, capitalism with Asian values (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia and everything to do with the anti-democratic tendencies in today’s global capitalism). If we understand cynicism as ruthless pragmatism of power which secretly laughs at its own principles, then Pussy Riot are anti-cynicism embodied. Their message is: IDEAS MATTER. They are conceptual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who embody an Idea. This is why they wear balaclavas: masks of de-individualization, of liberating anonymity. The message of their balaclavas is that it doesn’t matter which of them got arrested — they’re not individuals, they’re an Idea. And this is why they are such a threat: it is easy to imprison individuals, but try to imprison an Idea!

The panic of those in power — displayed by their ridiculously excessive brutal reaction — is thus fully justified. The more brutally they act, the more important symbol Pussy Riot will become. Already now the result of the oppressive measures is that Pussy Riot are a household name literally all around the world.

It is the sacred duty of all of us to prevent that the courageous individuals who compose Pussy Riot will not pay in their flesh the price for their becoming a global symbol.

—Slavoj Žižek

18 Aug 2012

Ecuadorian Embassy rally This Sunday, 13:00

CALL OUT: This Sunday, 13:00, Ecuadorian Embassy

Ecuadorian Embassy- Fight US Imperialism in London!

Where Knightsbridge, behind Harrods

THIS Sunday!
Please come to London to support Assange! The Ecuadorian embassy has a 24 hour vigil.

Please spread the word, online and to Latin Americans living in UK about the disgusting invasion of Ecuador's sovereign territory; 22:00 the previous night 8 police vans pulled up to the Ecuadorian embassy and attempted to storm sovereign Ecuadorian territory of the Ecuadorian embassy under a rarely used 1987 law regarding defunct embassy properties.

There were only 3 of us vigiling at that time!- I was one of them. (we have maintained a vigil at the sight for the past 8 weeks). We did get a call out; and the response was massive.

This threat is still real - A martial law police station is set up in the same building where the Ecuadorian embassy is housed- total lack of respect for Ecuador!

Please translate and circulate widely!The UK has no respect for Ecuador!
They must learn! http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2012/aug/17/julian-assange-asylum-william-hague-video?intcmp=239

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has convened an "extraordinary meeting" in Ecuador on Sunday to discuss the situation at the embassy.
A statement released on the website of the foreign ministry of Peru, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the intergovernmental union, said: "The Foreign Ministry of Peru lets public opinion know that, in concordance with the statutory responsibilities of the temporary presidency of UNASUR, at the behest of the Republic of Ecuador and after consulting member states, an extraordinary meeting of the Counsel of Foreign Ministers of the Union has been convened on Sunday August 19 in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
"The meeting has been requested with the intention of considering the situation raised at the embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom."

Assange Extradition Fact Shee thttp://notesonwikileaks.tumblr.com/post/15251907983/assange-extradition-fact-sheet

has been financially blockaded<http://wikileaks.org/Banking-Blockade.html> without process for 622 days.
Julian Assange
has been detained<http://justice4assange.com/ > without charge for 619 days.
- 59 days
at the Ecuadorian Embassy <http://wlcentral.org/asylum > .Bradley Manning has been in jail<http://www.bradleymanning.org/> without trial for 816 days. A secret Grand Jury on WikiLeaks has been active<http://wikileaks.org/ > for 702 days.
[Ecuadorian Embassy is next to the Colombian Embassy , 3 Hans Crescent– back of Harrods. Nearest tube Knightsbridge – Piccadilly line]

14 Aug 2012

Unite Political Summer School Belfast

Ireland has amazing green and socialist political traditions, although sometimes troubled ones, I have for example quite been quite critical of the Irish Greens coalition with Fianna Fail.

My friend and comrade Greg Sachno of Unite invited me over to take part in last years' Jimmy Brown lecture. It was a superb event and I was very pleased and humbled to be invited over.  Jimmy was a trade unionist from county Fermanagh and very much concerned with defending rural works.

If you can get along please do so, I am sure it will be a great event and nice to see Steven Agnew Green Party MLA taking part.

13 Aug 2012

Andean struggles links in English via Hugo Blanco

Just had these links from Hugo Blanco, gracias comrade!

Peru: Cajamarca dialogue nears collapse

Peru: more protests over mining, water

Peru: state of emergency extended in VRAE

Ecuador to export via north Peru pipeline

Colombia: UN calls for dialogue with indigenous movement

Chile: mine workers occupy church in protest

5 Aug 2012

Derek Wall for International Coordinator (video and interview)

We posed questions to all the candidates for international coordinator. Here Derek Wall replies to our questions;
  • Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a writer and economics lecturer.  I live in the countryside in Berkshire and enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and children.  I am keen on cooking, gardening and reading.  I have plenty to occupy myself but since I was 14 I have been absorbed by Green politics. Green politics is so important, we can live well without wrecking the environment but we are failing to do so. Since I joined the party in 1979 I have been busy campaigning, electioneering and working to promote a green vision of ecological responsibility and social justice.  At present I am a Parish Councillor and I have had nearly ten books published on Green politics including the No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics.
  • What do you think the priority of the international co-ordinator should be?
To build solid links with Green Parties and the green movement globally.  Green Parties setting up in places like Japan or India can learn from us and we can be inspired by them.  The green movement is wider than Party politics, so I see a role for promoting solidarity with indigenous people and social movements globally campaigning for change.  We should also be supporting global occupy, the Arab Spring movements for democracy and to give one specific example that I am very moved by women in Saudi Arabia demanding basic rights.  Communication is vital in the role, putting the GPEW view on issues like austerity and climate change within the European Green Party.
So I would use Green World and Conference to promote our global links, I would strengthen our role in the European Green Party and I would promote practical solidarity with green activists globally.
  • What experience specific to this role would you be bringing to the job?
I have a long experience in the Party, for example, I have been a member of the Green Party Executive on several occasions. From 2006-2007 I was Principal Speaker, a role I shared with Caroline Lucas.  In this role I did a huge amount of international work, for example, inviting Benny Wenda the West Papuan indigenous leader to speak with me at our Swansea conference.  I have global green connections and have recently worked with the Turkish, Indian and Japanese Green Party activists.  I am lucky enough to have spent considerable time with Hugo Blanco the Peruvian green activist and indigenous leader.
As an economist I have worked with the Sustainable Development Commission and have a good knowledge of anti-austerity economics .
  • How do you think the international co-ordinator and committee can contribute to winning votes and making our elected representatives more effective?
If I was co-ordinator I could use the role to inspire activists and recruit new members.  I recently wrote about the Green Party of India for Green World, informing members about exciting developments in this dynamic but unequal country (http://www.greenworld.org.uk/page336/page336.html).  The UK is made up of many nationalities and strong global green links can be used to win votes.  I am just back from being the main speaker at El Sueno Existe (The Dream Continues), a festival held in honour of the memory of Victor Jara, a Chilean singer killed after Pinchot’s 1973 coup in Chile. My speech was followed by a workshop by a Welsh Green Party member and used to help start a local party in the area.  I think the kind of international work that Caroline Lucas does is a good example of how a global vision can promote electoral success.
The International co-ordinator can also support our elected representatives through research and information, for example, I have recently promoted an Early Day Motion challenging the removal of Paraguay’s President which Caroline Lucas has signed.
  • What do you think would be the most difficult part of this role?
We need to make more of an impact in the European Green Party.  At present I don’t feel we have a strong influence on how the EGP works, we need to think strategically about how we make a bigger impact.  Palestine seems to be an area of controversy, we need to be 100% on the side of Palestine and promote green solutions from opposing the arms trade with Israel to promoting shared democratic governance in the Middle East.

Food Production and Nature: the Deadly Paradox of a Class-Riven Society

(just had this from Chris Williams, thanks Chris)
More than 50% of counties in the United States are now officially designated “disaster” zones.  The reason given in 90% of cases is due to the continent-wide drought that has been devastating crop production.  48% of the US corn crop is rated as “poor to very poor”, along with 37% of soy; 73% of cattle acreage is suffering drought, along with 66% of land given to the production of hay. 
The ramifications of the drought go far beyond what happens to food prices in the United States. With the US producing half of all world corn exports, as corn and soy crops wilt from the heat, without coordinated governmental action we can expect a replay of the disastrous rise in food prices of 2008, which caused desperate, hungry people to riot in 28 countries.  In that instance, food was available, but hundreds of millions of people couldn’t afford to buy it.  Should food prices increase to anywhere near the levels of four years ago, it will be a catastrophe for the two billion people who are forced to scrape by on less than $2/day. 
The poor in developing countries spend 80% of their income on food, much of it directly as grain, rather than as manufactured products like bread or cereal, and so any increase in the price of basic necessities immediately puts them in dire food distress.  In the US, prices for a loaf of bread or a corn muffin are unlikely to see major increases because, in a nod to capitalist priorities, the cost of those products is largely determined by packaging, advertizing, transportation and storage costs – and ultimately the labor that is embodied in those activities, not the cost of growing the corn or other natural base material.
However, because about one third of corn in the US goes to feed animals, the US dept. of agriculture predicts that the price of animal products such as beef, dairy products, chicken, eggs and turkey will increase by 4.5% or more, depending on just how bad the harvest turns out to be.  There will be a similar impact on vegetable oil due to the dire predictions on soy production, though these effects will likely not be felt until early 2013.  The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publishes its monthly Food Price Index figures on August 9th.  Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the FAO commented, "It will be up…How much up is anyone's guess”, ominously, he adds; “It would really surprise me if we didn't see a significant increase."
 For the 1 in 5 children in the United States living in food insecure households and the millions of Americans living from hand to mouth, still trying to recover homes, jobs and a stable livelihood after the crash of 2008, let alone tens of millions of other poor people around the world, any rise in food costs will be a crushing, and for many, life-threatening, calamity.
With the possibility of food shortages, the vultures of finance, otherwise known as commodity speculators, will once again begin to circle the food markets, looking for a killing.  As the financial markets were not re-regulated after the economic crisis of 2008, hedge funds and short-sellers will inevitably be on the look-out for additional profits by gambling on the price of food, exactly as they did four years ago.  Rather than any lack of actual food, most analysis indicates that the primary cause of the dramatic escalation in food prices that caused the 2008 food crisis was financial speculation in the food commodity sector.  That is to say, a human tragedy manufactured by the laws of motion of capitalism, rather than the laws of nature. 
The US dept of agriculture could and should be taking pro-active steps to ensure that there is no replay of 2008 as the number of people who became “food insecure”, which is to say starving, topped 1 billion worldwide.  In the short-term, any crop failures need to be compensated by changing the allocation of US corn and preventing commodity speculation on food.  In the longer-term, measures to raise grain storage volumes, address infrastructure deficiencies through appropriate investment, re-evaluate inhumane, environmentally-destructive and dangerously-unhealthy industrialized livestock feeding practices and examine the location, sustainability and type of crops and monoculture farming, are all issues that need attention. 
Up to now however, US secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has resisted calls to reduce or eliminate the federal mandate that sees more than one third of the US corn crop diverted to ethanol refineries to make “bio-fuel” to burn in car engines.  The federal government has mandated that over 13 billion gallons of ethanol is made from corn this year, which would equate to 40% of this year’s crop.  Supposedly adopted to reduce demand for “overseas oil” and associated geopolitical concerns after oil almost topped $150/barrel in 2008, the Obama administration raised the federal requirement to 36 billion gallons by 2022, with at least 15 billion coming directly from corn. 
Even on the best of days, turning corn into ethanol is an idiotic thing to do.  Many studies have shown that it takes more energy to turn the corn into ethanol than is recovered when the ethanol is burnt in a car engine.  Not only that, but ethanol doesn’t have  the energy density of gasoline, so cars running on a mixture of ethanol and gasoline have to burn more fuel to go the same distance and the blended mix costs more to transport.  In any year, this is bad policy; in a year of extreme drought, it should be a criminal offense to waste food resources in this manner. 
Additionally, in one of the more ridiculous circular irrationalities to emerge from the anarchy of capitalist decision-making, because growing crops in the West is heavily dependent on oil for fertilizer production and mechanization - to the extent that it takes 10 calories of oil to produce 1 calorie of food, and because ethanol derived from corn - which in turn is derived from oil, is increasing in price because the corn is dying, means that the cost of ethanol-blended gasoline in the US is also on the rise.
Immediate elimination of the biofuel mandate is a concrete step that Vilsack could be promoting, particularly after he predicted at a Whitehouse press briefing that the drought would cause "significant increases in prices" by the end of the year.  
The large-scale effect of such a move on the price of corn is disputed, in part because “It turns out it's really the price of gasoline and the profitability of selling ethanol" whereby the abstract and impersonal thing called “the market” determines whether corn will be distilled or sold as corn. Oil companies, which are required to blend ethanol into gasoline as part of the utterly inappropriately-named, “renewable fuel standard” (RFS), are allowed to carry RFS credits over year to year and thus have 2.4 billion credits available to allow the continued acquisition of corn for ethanol refineries.
But it’s hard to imagine suddenly freeing up 40% of whatever remains of the US corn crop for livestock and human use, having a negligible impact on corn prices, even accounting for the activities of the oil companies.  As Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research for Oxfam America has argued, "The federal government can ... put an end to the biofuel mandates, which are diverting food into fuel, and work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are leading to ever more erratic and extreme weather".  Vilsack should be arguing for such a policy shift; significantly, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has the power to make it happen without waiting on legislation. 
This is especially necessary as some experts are beginning to worry about next year’s crop.  For much of the US corn-belt, the main precipitation period has already passed.  So, without some unseasonal weather events releasing massive amounts of rain, Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska, has said what matters is getting enough rain for the beginning of next year’s crop, "This drought isn't going anywhere…The damage is already done. What you are looking for is enough moisture to avert a second year of drought."
Vilsack could also offer to annul small farmer debt to the banks.  The only step he’s taken in this direction is to allow farmers an extra 30 days to pay insurance premiums –as if an extra month is going to make any difference if you’ve got no crops to sell.   He could campaign for greater agricultural aid for farmers in the Global South, specifically to build food storage facilities. Investment in this kind of food infrastructure to smooth out harvests saw drastic cuts in developing countries throughout the 1980’s and ‘90’s as international lenders demanded cuts to government spending in exchange for loans. In addition, such insurance was seen as unnecessary when “the market” would automatically adjust for any shortfall; similarly in the United States, grain reserves are low and unable to make up any deficit because of a reduction in grain storage. 
Perhaps more importantly still, if Vilsack, and the Obama administration in general, had any concern for humanity and the world’s poor, they could begin an aggressive campaign to re-regulate financial speculation on food prices in international commodity markets; such an attack on the bankers, stockbrokers and speculators would, no doubt, prove wildly popular. 
In practice, the myopic priorities of capitalism dictate the solutions on offer.  Vilsack has enacted short-term palliatives which are highly likely to make the long-term situation far worse.  The $383 million in emergency drought payments to farmers that was just voted for in Congress is appropriating the money directly from cuts to conservation programs designed to promote more sustainable farming practices.  Indeed, cuts to those programs are three times what is allocated for emergency drought relief, leading a coalition of environmental groups to write a letter to all members of Congress stating their opposition: "Using disproportionate cuts to conservation to fund disaster assistance undermines the successful conservation programs that are currently being utilized…Disproportionately cutting conservation dollars to pay for disaster aid is shortsighted, and the long-term investment in conservation should not be usurped by the short-term thinking to address severe drought."  
Rather than downsize the powerful corn-to-ethanol industry, much of it situated in Obama’s home state of Illinois which has the third largest production capacity (Iowa, a campaign-defining state for Obama in 2008 and a swing state this time around, produces the most ethanol), Vilsack has instead sacrificed 3.8 million acres of conservation land for grazing and the production of hay in order to circumvent livestock owner’s anger directed at ethanol producers.
Most absurdly, considering this is, after all, the 21st century, at the same press conference where Vilsack predicted food price increases, he offered his own personal solution to the drought crisis: "I get on my knees every day, and I'm saying an extra prayer now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."
So, while there is a clear and easily achievable solution at hand – reallocation of corn from ethanol distillation to food production, the agriculture secretary of the world’s biggest corn exporter believes a more useful way of spending his time is in genuflecting to an all-powerful, invisible deity in the sky.
In the medium term, rather than being driven by profit, for the good of animal and human welfare, the industry practice of feeding corn to cattle in huge, enclosed feeding lots to speed the fattening process needs urgent re-examination.  To enhance profit margins, successively larger animals have been selected for so that over time, the animals themselves have changed.   The larger a single animal is, the larger the profit ratio you obtain from chopping it up. 
Cows in giant feed lots are typically around 1200-1300 lbs rather than the more usual 900-1000lb.  A cow in the open field would have to eat a simply enormous amount of grass or hay to fatten when its overall body mass is almost 30% larger.  Hence corporations have created a cow that can’t survive except through being force-fed high-energy corn meal.  Apart from the misallocation of corn, the knock on effects of that decision for animal and human welfare, the incubation and mutation of pathogens, the disposal of huge volumes of toxic animal waste laden with antibiotics and growth hormones concentrated in small areas, all feed in to the incredibly wasteful, dangerous and unsustainable nature of capitalist agriculture.
At a time when the reality of anthropogenic climate change has become so hard to ignore even some famous climate skeptics have given up protesting, drought is going to be an increasing factor that agricultural planners need to take into account.  Therefore, cutting money from programs designed to manage the land more sustainably is a suicidal policy. 
As climate blogger Joseph Romm pointed out in an article in Nature, assuming business-as-usual, which is exactly what is going to happen without a mobilization of the people that dwarfs the revolts of 2011, there will be a cascading series of destabilizing changes which will all negatively impact our ability to grow food:
“Precipitation patterns are expected to shift, expanding the dry subtropics. What precipitation there is will probably come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun’s energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature. That is why, for instance, so many temperature records were set for the United States in the 1930s Dust Bowl; and why, in 2011, drought-stricken Texas saw the hottest summer ever recorded for a US state. Finally, many regions are expected to see earlier snowmelt, so less water will be stored on mountain tops for the summer dry season.”
Even worse, the recent results of 19 different climate models predict that drought will become a permanent feature of large areas of the North American continent:
“If climate change pushes the global average temperature to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, as many experts now expect,  [almost all of Mexico, the midwestern United States and most of Central America] will be under severe and permanent drought conditions.
Future conditions are projected to be worse than Mexico’s current drought or the U.S. Dust Bowl era of the 1930s that forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate.”
In other words, we are only beginning to glimpse the outlines of a situation that will become far worse without drastic ameliorative action in the near-term future.  Climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, is creating extended droughts that threaten to undermine agriculture and, thereby, our ability to feed ourselves.  Rather than a swift redirection of societal priorities – toward energy conservation, renewable technologies and sustainable farming practices, instead there’s a continuation and extension of the policies that got us here in the first place. 
Nothing can explain this paradox between, on the one hand, the prolongation of unsustainable food production practices that don’t even feed people successfully, and on the other, the way in which the natural world functions as an inter-connected whole, other than to examine the factors that drive a society artificially divided into antagonistic classes with opposing priorities.  We live under a system that is inexorably leading to greater and greater climatic dislocations, due to its inherently anti-ecological dynamic that is predicated on exponential growth and the prioritization of short-term measures in the interest of profit. 
We see the same irrational process played out in India, which is suffering from a 20% shortfall in precipitation, with some states recording 70% reductions from historic averages.  60% of India’s 1.2 billion people work in agriculture, which accounts for 20% of Indian GDP.  But less rain doesn’t just affect farmers directly. 
Less rain leads to less hydroelectric power, which means farmers have to use their own pumps to obtain water from underground aquifers for crop irrigation to save their harvest.  Those pumps run on electricity.  So at a time when there was less electricity available because of drought, there was an increased demand for electricity to overcome the drought, a factor contributing to the massive blackout in India.  Additionally, pumping groundwater has led to aquifers dropping in some areas by between 60-200 meters, requiring bigger, more powerful pumps for deeper wells to continue the unsustainable practice of tapping groundwater supplies at such volumes. 
This is despite the fact that while 90% of water use in India is for agriculture, only about 10-15% ends up reaching the crops, as most of it evaporates on the ground before it gets to them.  Rather than investing in sustainable agricultural practices to combat the problem, the Indian government bought heavily into the Western-backed Green Revolution of the 1960’s, and promoted the planting of water-intensive crops such as rice.
According to Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University's Earth Institute, the whole water and energy problem [in India] is dire, and it's caused by government policy."  He gives the example of the Punjab, which has an annual rainfall of .40-.80 meters, but now grows rice, which requires 1.8 m of annual rainfall.  The intersection of energy, water and food with capitalist development is illustrated in India in stark form.  But the solution, abstracting the limitations imposed by class society, is once again quite simple, in that crops should be grown where the climate makes most sense, not where they will make the most money or merely to add to foreign cash reserves or national status.  However, rather than taking those kind of measures or addressing climate change, India is building more coal and nuclear plants and is one of the country’s most resistant to taking effective action on climate change.
Around the world, the evidence is mounting that, apparently, there are no circumstances, even ones as cataclysmic as drastic changes to planetary climate that take precedence over the need to accumulate capital by the tiny segment of society that actively benefits from the process. 
If we are to survive at all, given all of the above, it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that to survive on a planet that looks remotely like the one we were born on, we must confront the system that produces a society at odds both with itself and the natural world for the same reason - class stratification.  That means the building of an organized resistance in every workplace, community, school and farm all across the world.  The exploitation and oppression that is meted out to the vast majority of the world’s population as a consequence of the way system works, is the mirror image of the exploitation of the biosphere which, ultimately, forms the basis for life; a scientific fact the capitalists seem capable of ignoring.  We can’t afford to let them get away with it.  That’s why we have to organize, in order to say: for the good of humanity and the rest of the biosphere upon which we depend, you need to go.
Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis (Haymarket, 2010).  He is chair of the science dept at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the Dept of Chemistry and Physical Science.  His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truth Out, Socialist Worker, ZNet and ClimateandCapitalism.com.  He reported from Fukushima in December and January and is currently a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas.