28 Dec 2012

Mumia Abu-Jamal 'The fiscal cliff? It’s “Blazing Saddles.”

 

New Mumia Column: “What ‘Fiscal Cliff’?”

 

[col. writ. 12/11/12] © ’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal
From every TV and radio news broadcast, the words, `fiscal cliff’ are being mentioned, in a tone and frequency of dread and fear. Listeners, viewers and readers can sense the dread and faux fear, but little clarity arises from the dust.
What is the fiscal cliff?
It is a political creation – made by Congress itself, as a self- made rule to force agreement (but really to blackmail political opponents), or else massive cuts will be automatically made in defense, social services and other government programs.
In the Mel Brooks-made cowboy comedy, Blazing Saddles, a Black sheriff moseys into town to the shock and surprise of the white townspeople. When things get ugly, the sheriff (played by actor Cleavon Little (1939-1992), pulls out his Colt. 45 and points it at himself, warning them to get back, or else he’ll shoot.
The fiscal cliff? It’s “Blazing Saddles.”
But, it’s no comedy.
As Workers World’s Larry Holmes sees it, this so-called `fiscal cliff’ is a recent political invention designed to erect an American austerity program-cut-backs in social services so that more money could be sucked up by the ruling 1 %.
Holmes, in remarks made to a recent Workers World party conference, made the following analysis:
We are going to hear a lot about the so-called “fiscal cliff”. It is worldwide austerity. In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Ireland and in South Africa, all throughout Latin America, and here in the U.S. From the point of view of the capitalists, the idea is to fix their system on the backs of the workers. They can’t get it from profits because of overproduction, so let’s just go literally into the body of the workers and get more pounds of flesh by stealing things from them. It is a mad, insane exercise in destruction, social destruction. It really should be called “the terminal crisis-of-capitalism cliff.”*
In sum, this is economic warfare parading as a political conflict, between two capitalist parties. It is a self-made squabble among brothers.
–© ’12 maj
[Source: * Holmes, L., "Reviving a Global Revolutionary Perspective", Workers World(weekly), Dec. 13, 2012, p.7]
——————–
Mumia’s essays have been lovingly and tirelessly transcribed and broadly posted by Sis. Fatirah Aziz for many years and is a treasure to Mumia (and us all!)

27 Dec 2012

The Economics of Common Pool Property

(draft article, comment and feedback welcome)
The tragedy of the commons was a concept put forward by a biologist but Garrett Hardin’s underlying assumptions, when he developed it, are drawn quite distinctly from economics.   As Elinor Ostrom, who shared a Nobel Prize in economics for her efforts in challenging the idea of the 'tragedy', noted while Hardin was a biologist, he shared the assumption of most economists that human beings focus on personal gain and found cooperation between each other difficult. She noted that Hardin echoed the logic of the distinguished economist, H. Scott Gordon, who had argued that,‘The fish in the sea are valueless to the fisherman, because there is no assurance that they will be there for him tomorrow if they are left behind today (2009: 522). 

            While economists claim that their subject is a 'value free' social science, their critics argue that it is based on particular beliefs that may be open to discussion and interpretation.  These are worth briefly outlining if we are to understand the strengths and potential weaknesses of such a way of examining commons.  The word ‘economics’ is derived from the study of 'oikos' the ancient Greek word for a household.  According to the well-known definition from Professor Lionel Robbins, economics 'is the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between given ends and scarce means which have alternative uses' (1932: 16).  Economists focus on concepts such as choice, resources, rationality and opportunity cost, all of which are seen as neutral rather than culturally determined and can be applied universally to different human societies.  It is assumed that human being need to make choice, in fact, the concept of choice is perhaps the essence of economics.  Resources that can be used to produced goods or services can be used in different ways.  We must choose how to use such resources.  Opportunity cost is the notion that when one choice is made, other choices are given up.  The choice or choices not made are the opportunity cost.  There is a strong assumption of 'rationality', within economics, which stresses that individuals pick the alternatives that provide them with the most personal gain.  Thus Erik Olin Wright notes, 'economists assign a privileged place to self-interested rational action in their micro-level explanations of social phenomenon, and thus give central weight to the problem of incentives in explaining variations across contexts' (2008: 235).  

Implicit in economics is the notion of methodological individualism, which the political philosopher Jon Elster has defined in the following terms, 'The elementary unit of social life is the individual human action.  To explain social institutions and social change is to show how they arise as the result of the actions and interaction of individuals' (Elster 1989: 13).  The interaction of communities is largely ignored by economists who may find it difficult to understand collective forms of property and communal action.

            Economists argue that individual choice determines outcomes, for example, if more consumers are prepared to pay for a product, such increased demand tends to push up the price.  In turn price increases tend to increase profits and motivate producers to provide what consumers desire.  Individual preferences based on the need to gain the maximum personal benefit drive the economic system.   Individuals compete to try to achieve the greatest personal benefit.  The commons, in its varied forms, seems to cut across many of these assumptions because of the apparent free rider problem.  Garrett Hardin and others critical of common pool property arrangements, argue that in a commons individuals will take advantage of others, who might conserve a resource, by using it more intensively.  Apparently selfish behavior from a 'free rider' is perversely rewarded and economists assume that an individual cannot trust other individuals to conserve shared ground.  Thus those who act ethically and attempt to promote sustainability, say by removing their cattle from the commons, will see the commons destroyed if others continue to put their cattle on.  The rational individual may even put more cattle on the commons, exploiting the good action of the supposedly moral individual.  Self-interest pushes ethical action to the margins and, as Garrett Hardin argued, means that commons must be eliminated if land is to be sustained ecologically.  Thus he sociologist Erik Olin Wright suggests that for economists 'a well-maintained commons is a puzzle' and as such 'cries out for an explanation'.  He notes that economists tend to be surprised and confused that commons might work (Wright 2008: 234).

 

            In contrast, Elinor Ostrom has used assumptions of broadly rational methodical individualism to suggest that in particular circumstances commons can be maintained to sustain shared prosperity.  Given particular conditions it is possible for the bounded commons, particularly on a small scale basis to be preserved.  Individuals can join together and agree to maintain conservation processes, especially where sanctions can be applied and rules are mutually agreed rather than imposed by outsiders.  The commons, can as Elinor Ostrom argues, in many circumstances be an economically rational solution to resource management.

           Elinor Ostrom might be seen as moving beyond economics in her largely 'economic' account of commons, certainly there are number of reasons to see her approach as more sophisticated and flexible than previous attempts by economists to analyze common pool property.  However,  she has been  criticized as an 'economic imperialist' who applies the notions of traditional economics to areas of human life where they are inappropriate, rather than making economics more cultural,  she might be seen as making social and cultural matters part of the economic approach of costs, benefits and rational maximizing behavior (Fine 2010).  Ostrom's approach to economics is quite complex and it is important to understand her theoretical approach developed with her husband Vincent if we are to assess her description of commons in terms of its relationship to questions of culture.

The Ostroms are various described as members of the 'Bloomington School' or 'New Economic Institutionalists' or as advocates of ‘institutional analysis and development’ (IAD).   Bloomington refers to the main Indiana University campus where the Ostrom's were both based.  'Institutional analysis and development' is the particular variant of New Economic Institutionalism (NEI) developed by the Ostroms.  NEI is a product of market based economics; it is rooted in the thought of individuals like Austrian economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises whose assumptions seem much closer to those of Garrett Hardin than Ostrom (Aligica and Boettke 2009). Indeed, as we have seen Ludwig von Mises specifically criticized the notion of common pool property.  Elinor Ostrom was even a President of the Public Choice Society, public choice is an approach to governance which is strongly critical of the state and advocates market based policies such as privitization.   Rational choice theory is at the heart of public choice theory and NEI, an approach which seeks to extend economic reasoning, based on costs and benefits, to sociology to explain human behavior outside areas normally covered by economics.    Elinor and her husband Vincent did not abandoned the rational choice theory that underpins public choice but took it in a new direction.  NEI is based on the assumption that rationality is 'bounded' i.e. individuals follow self-interest but within a particular context shaped by particular values and circumstances.  

Thus the New Institutionalists explicitly bring in the influence of particular institutions and varied culture.  From their perspective they build on concepts such as rational choice but apply them in what they see as a messy, complex and often rather irrational world.  From the perspective of much traditional economics this is boldly radical, from that of disciplines such as sociology and anthropology it remains rather conservative.  Maximizing behavior continues to drive the models used, rather than alternative goals.

Elinor Ostrom argues that property rights are not simply 'state' or 'private' and that, in many circumstances, it is impractical to replace commons with private property.  Through negotiation and learning individuals can often get together and find ways of managing common property so that, through collective action, individuals can maximize their net collective benefit.   From her perspective, failure to work out common rules and apply them would lead to the destruction of the commons, so self-interest is served by establishing consensual frameworks.  Such consensual construction of effective rules may, according to Ostrom, be difficult to achieve in some circumstances, but is far from impossible.  The approach of unrefined rational choice theory that suggests that cooperation is virtually impossible, because of the Prisoners’ ’ dilemma and similar models that invoke the free rider problem is rejected by Ostrom.

 

The Icelandic economist Thrainn Eggertsson sums up the neo-institutional approach to commons noting that commons are often efficient economically but their relative benefits depend on social and political factors as well as pure economic considerations(1993:20).

            This is approach is a form of political economy, in that political assumptions and institutions are seen as shaping economic decision making.  The rules depend on the institutions constructed and institutional design is a political act.   Even at the level of a Japanese village or indigenous territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the politics of rulemaking and negotiation is apparent.  This approach is based on the development of particular cultures, which are refined, transmitted from generation to generation and evolve over time.  Such cultural foundations of an economic system are usually ignored by economists but are of vital importance to both Ostroms and to other institutional economists.
 
There is also a good article here from the Economist magazine on the commons.

26 Dec 2012

Mumia Abu-Jamal on the revolution for Mother Earth




Message for ‘Earth Amplified’ 
[Speech writ. 5/27/12] © ’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Ona Move!
What is Global Liberation?
Is it the election of people that, (we think), thinks like us?
Is it the replacement of one system with another one?
Is it the imposition of more humanistic economic theories of governance?
If we’re honest, we see that it is none of these things; for if global
liberation means anything, it means all-encompassing, total –affecting every
sphere of our existence.

Who can deny that our politics is deeply corrupted? That the rich –as in
the days of the robber barons – own the political class, lock, stock and
barrel?

Moreover, the corporate class is plunging Mother Earth into Eco shock--for
mere pennies. Remember the massive and obscene oil spills of recent
years?

John Africa, the revolutionary Founder of the MOVE Organization, in his
booklet, The Judges’ Letter, said:
“The courts are the tools of industrial plague, granting big business
privilege to poison our earth.”

Man is at war with his Mother – and unbridled capitalism is the formal
organization of this instinct.

Global Liberation, then, must be a holistic attack on all forces that
pollute our earth; corporate, cultural, chemical and consciousness-wise.

We need to fight for deeper solutions.

Be a part of that great struggle that is being born.

-© ’12 maj

23 Dec 2012

Statement of SWP Democratic Opposition



FYI I found the SWP on the whole a positive group to work with over the last couple of years, particularly around ecology and climate change.  However I was interested to see this call for democratisation. comments welcome

Statement of SWP Democratic Opposition
Four comrades have been expelled for forming a ‘secret faction’ during the discussions prior to
SWP conference. The expelled members had been legitimately concerned about the handling of
very serious allegations directed at a CC member and the way that this was being handled by the
organisation and had discussed about what this represented and how comrades could ensure the
matter was dealt with properly.
There had been some discussion about whether to declare a faction or not. Some comrades, out of
concern for how these matters had been dealt with previously, were in favour of doing so - but other
comrades were worried that this might be premature or even disloyal. It is for having this discussion
and sharing these concerns that the comrades have been expelled.
Importantly, the accusation of ‘secret faction’ was made against those concerned about declaring
one whilst those in favour of declaring one have been referred to as ‘honest’ in a number of report
backs from the CC to affected local branches, implying that those expelled were ‘dishonest’. We
unreservedly reject this description as slander against the four excellent and valuable comrades who
have been expelled.
We feel that this incident raises serious questions about democracy in the SWP in general and about
the coming conference in particular. First of all, it cannot be right that a discussion about whether to
form a faction is used as evidence of a ‘secret faction’ when it is in the general discussions of the pre-
conference period. On a basic level, if we cannot have discussions about whether to form a faction or
not, then, in reality, factions are de-facto impossible to organise and the right to form them is purely
notional.
Secondly, it is not the case that this is the first, or even the most significant case of comrades
discussing meeting before conference to discuss the possibility of a factional organisation that never
ended up being formed.
In the run-up to the highly contested 2009 conference, a number of unofficial meetings between SWP
members occurred, mainly in pubs and on one occasion after a party council, of members concerned
about the developing crisis following the botched electoral strategy in 2008. The pace of events meant
that these meetings, which were certainly planned in advance, never coalesced into a named faction,
but no members were disciplined for involvement, certainly not the two people who serve on the CC
since who had participated. The unofficial pre-conference meet-ups of 2008 were followed in Summer
2009 by an even more unorthodox grouping: a petition, written and organised entirely in secret and
outside pre-conference season and mainly signed by party staff, to oust the then-editor of Socialist
Worker. Again, no disciplinary procedure was employed – particularly not against the party worker
who organised this factional group, who is now in the CC. These incidents, and doubtless others,
show that any claim that the rules regarding factions are not, and have never been, implemented with
a degree of judgement taking into account prevailing circumstances are wholly false.
There should not be an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the run up to conference. Leninism
requires discipline to confront the class enemy – not to prevent debate amongst our own comrades.
We believe that these malicious expulsions must be revoked immediately and that the CC must
retract its accusations against the four people.
We are also deeply concerned about the impact of all this on our reputation inside the movement. It is
little short of incredible that if the expulsions are not rescinded, comrades are going to be expected to
defend the expulsion of four comrades (including one woman) simply for discussing concerns about
the handling of very serious allegations in their own organisation.
Our feeling is that this is an untenable situation and will have an appalling impact on the morale of
members and our ability to build in today's movement. We think that one of the key lessons of the
democracy commission was that no comrade should be treated as indispensable. We make no
judgement of guilt or innocence of the comrade concerned but note that any other comrade facing
allegations of this type with such frequency would be suspended until such time as the allegations
were resolved. It is disturbing that the comrade concerned did not voluntarily step down when it
became clear that the allegations, whether justified or not, had the potential to seriously damage the
organisation. An attitude which treats individuals as indispensable and sacrifices the interests of the
membership for them has nothing to with Leninism and more closely resembles the self-interested
behaviour of reformist bureaucracies.
Importantly it is not just our reputation at stake here but the health of our own tradition. In response to
the expulsions some comrades have repeated the language of some of Galloway's defenders. There
have been complaints about 'liberal feminism' and even belief-beggaring accusations that some of the
comrades expelled have been MI5 agents, or acting on behalf of Chris Bambery's organisation. Whilst
the CC cannot be held directly responsible for such idiocy it is a warning of the kind of ideological
degeneration possible when administrative coercion replaces the norms of debate in socialist
organisation.
We are aware that serious concerns have already been expressed by those involved in the disputes
committee case around this matter, as raised at a recent NC meeting, and that space has been set
aside to discuss the way the organisation has mishandled the allegations. This is a positive
development, but we believe that beyond the direct issue of the DC there are now equally serious
questions about the condition of the SWP that makes a faction necessary if we are not to be expelled
for expressing our concerns.
We propose that three things are necessary to prevent further damage to the good name of our Party:
The expelled comrades deserve a full and frank apology from the CC and the expulsions must be
declared null and void.
Conference must re-affirm that comrades have full rights to conduct any and every kind of discussion
in the pre-conference period. This should include raising questions of whether such freedom ought
not to be extended beyond the pre-conference period.
The dispute concerning a member of the CC highlighted above must be re-examined, and the CC
member concerned must be suspended from all Party activity and cannot work full time for the Party
or in the name of the Party until all the allegations against him have been settled satisfactorily.
In addition to these statements, we are asking comrades to support the motions raised on the
question of party democracy at conference. In our view, the conduct of the CC regarding both
the expulsions, and the disputes committee referred to above, come as a result of structures and
perspectives that restrict internal democracy and discussion.
We are aware that some comrades may share our concerns regarding the expulsions and/or this
disputes committee investigation, but reject our conclusions regarding party democracy. We hope to
persuade them of our position on this; but even if we cannot accomplish this, we would still ask you to
vote for the reinstatement of the four comrades who have been expelled.
[Here was the list of declaration signatories.]
If you are an SWP member, you agree with us and would like to join the Democratic Opposition in the run up
to 2013 Party Conference, please email democratic.opposition@gmail.com. The Democratic Opposition is a
temporary faction, in line with Party rules, and will dissolve itself after Conference closes.

21 Dec 2012

Get down to Combe Haven, trees being cut down need defending (friday 21st december)


Defend the trees at Adams Farm! (Fri 21 Dec)

December 21, 2012 by combehavendefenders
HELP NEEDED NOW TO DEFEND THE TREES! Early morning reports on the ground suggest contractors are going to attempt to fell trees at Adams Farm (TN33 9AY). This is one of the last remaining areas with significant number of large trees on the route of the road.
Security and police reported at the top of the access track, and we believe the footpath from Crowhurst playing field car park has been closed. Other more imaginative routes in to Adams Farm exist: cross-country, from the Upper Wilting Farm direction, even across the partially flooded valley from the Bexhill end.
Note also a significant pocket of trees at risk located near Decoy Pond, half way between Adams Farm and Upper Wilting Farm. To receive info and action reports throughout the day text 07926 423033.

http://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/defend-the-trees-at-adams-farm-fri-21-dec/

20 Dec 2012

The Commons in Mongolia


In the early medieval period nomadic herders travelled across huge territories freely however access to land over time, while remaining communal became more formalized and restricted.  Genghis Khan (1162?-1227) granted land to his allies to cement his political and military power.  This allowed a Mongolian nobility to control communal pastureland and they were able to tax herders.  Thus as in England, an essentially feudal system was introduced, with a monarch, granting land to an elite who were rewarded for their loyalty and extracted wealth from the wider population.  The reintroduction of Buddhism in 1586 was another important development.  As in England the church was a major owner of land and an important political and economic power.  The formalization of land rights under the Buddhist authority and the system of patronage established by Genghis Khan accelerated with the Manchu Qing dynasty occupation of Mongolia in 1691.  The occupiers drew up a legal code and rigidly divided up the land, eventually creating a hundred military territories known as khoshuun.  Herders who had previously moved from one territory to another had to stick to the territory within which they were born, showing allegiance to the ruler of such territory  (Fernandez-Gimenez 2006: 31).

After Manchu rule ended their system of formal property rights continued however transhumance with herders moving their animals seasonally was maintained.  Yet herders had to remain in the same khoshuun rather than ranging where they liked throughout Mongolian territory.  Gradually some privately control campsites emerged but communal and nomadic ways of life continued.  The creation of a 20th century Mongolian Republic, at least briefly, led to a return to more flexible and locally controlled property ownership as in 1925 feudal and religious structures were abolished.  The 20th century saw the introduction of soviet style collectivism that peaked in 1959 with 99% of herders cemented into this system of state central control of agriculture.  Once again the freedom of herders was restricted by a governing power.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a market orientated Mongolian Republic emerged which saw attempts to privatize land holdings.  In the 21st century a greater understanding of the benefits of communal herding may be re-emerging.  Yet with economic and political change in Mongolia communing has diminished.  While commons still exist and nomadic herding continues the territory used by herders has shrank, their control over their animals has been reduced, while informal regulation has been increasingly replaced by formal legal control (Fernandez-Gimenez 2006: 33). 

            Mongolia shows also that commons while difficult to eliminate totally or control centrally are affected by external political events.  Genghis Khan, Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese invasion, the Soviet experience and market based policies encouraged by bodies such as the World Bank have all shaped the commons, nonetheless despite formalization and erosion the Mongolian pastoral commons remains.  The anthropologist David Sneath (2007) has stressed the libertarian nature of Mongolian society, arguing that central control has remained relatively weak with herders enjoying a large measure of independence throughout many centuries.  It is interesting to note that intercommoning by nomadic people is still a feature of life in Mongolia but was eliminated in England perhaps as early as the medieval period.

            David Sneath (2000) has also suggested that religious values that predate Buddhism influenced attitudes to land in Mongolia during much of its history.  Herders believed that spirits known as gazariinezed were the owners of the land rather than humans.  These spirits were treated as high dignitaries and were given offerings in ceremonies known as oboo.  Typically, the tsagaanluu or white dragon had to be presented with white food such as dairy products and rice.  Such ceremonies were followed by sporting festivals that included wrestling contests.  Today communal use remains a hot political topic with the land issue differentiating new liberal parties in Mongolia who seek land privatization and more traditional and left opponents who oppose this.  In Chinese controlled Inner Mongolia, mining is displacing herders and indigenous people causing conflict.  The conflict between communal agricultural use of land or hunting and the needs of high growth economies to extract metals, minerals and fossil fuels is played out in many parts of the world.

11 Dec 2012

Understanding the property game


Direct action by UK Uncut has been brilliantly effective at putting the spotlight on tax-evading corporations.

The group's recent occupation of Starbucks branches up and down Britain has embarrassed the company into admitting that it pays virtually no tax and even volunteering a token sum.
Of course, the Con-Dems love corporations. Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement included a promise to cut corporation tax even further.
So drawing attention to rampant tax avoidance exposes the coalition's disastrous austerity agenda - it's increasingly clear that if large companies paid their tax bills we could halt the cuts and find new ways of meeting our country's needs, such as expanding the NHS, raising pensions and building new homes.
Raising taxes from fat-cat firms is important, but there hasn't been much discussion of the deeper cause of economic pain and widening inequality.
Politicians, think tanks and the media tend to ignore the issue of property ownership.
Yet without questioning how we own property we will tend only to look at the symptoms of inequality, not its fundamental causes.
Property ownership means owning the sources of wealth in any society. From home ownership to the ownership of land and shares, it largely determines who is rich and who is poor.
If you own access to economically productive resources, the means of creating wealth, you won't have a problem getting by.
And the ownership of property is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority - this is key to the growth of inequality both in Britain and worldwide.
Our country has had some of the most unequal patterns of land ownership in the world since 1066.
Adescendant of a Viking raider - William of Normandy - invaded via Sussex and took all the land in England, then parcelled it out to his trusted allies.
The existing population was dispossessed and, if we're honest, still is - from the Duke of Westminster's properties in central London to the huge royal estates, land ownership is dominated by a powerful minority.
Land is still a big issue in much of the world, as land grabs in Africa and elsewhere show - local people find their resources stolen by a greedy few almost every day.
But it's no longer the key source of wealth in Britain.
Wealth is derived from our collective labour and economic resources are increasingly owned by shareholders.
Shares too tend to concentrate in a few hands, with a handful of big shareholders controlling most corporations.
Con-Dem ideology and conventional economics stress that hard work is the source of wealth.
In a real sense it is, but that doesn't mean the wealth ends up where the hard work was done. Share ownership provides dividends without the need to get one's hands dirty with production.
The rich rarely sweat and while their ancestors on occasion may have done so, the motto originally from the French novelist Honore de Balzac that introduces the great US novel The Godfather still generally holds: Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime.
Neoliberalism is driving further the concentration of property ownership.
The austerity agenda involves countries across the world taking resources - whether those are library buildings, roads, land or radio spectrums - that are publicly owned and selling them off.
The cheap sale of assets transforms public ownership into ownership by shareholders, and the resources controlled by shareholders have to be used not to benefit communities but to provide the most short-term profit.
Thus control of the economy passes more and more into the hands of a minority. Short-term cash considerations lead to environmental damage. And politics becomes more and more distorted by the whims of an elite.
For democracy to function a diverse media is necessary - access to information shapes our ability as voters to make meaningful choices. As media ownership, like everything else, becomes dominated by a minority, groups like Rupert Murdoch's News International gain more and more power over events.
It's a never-ending cycle - control of property gives the ability to raise more cash from financial institutions which can then be used to control yet more property.
Centralisation of property ownership leads to falling incomes for the majority of us and is accelerated by processes of liberalisation.
Ultimately property ownership is a bit like society's DNA. Different forms of property rights give rise to different futures.
That's why we need to think creatively about property. It's interesting that the often far from forward-looking Romans didn't simply have "private" and "state" property but more than six different kinds of property, including community ownership and even ownership by the gods.
We might not wish to give the likes of Zeus a controlling stake in resources, but is it any less rational to sell control of our NHS or our roads to corporations based in Texas or Bavaria?
There are all sorts of alternative options on the table. Radical US economist John R Commons developed the concept of a "bundle" of property rights - instead of having an exclusive right to own and sell property on an individual basis, different users might have different rights to property in terms of access for productive use.
It would build on structures such as common land, of which incidentally there is over 400,000 acres in England and Wales. This land is provately owned but gives "commoners" a range of rights from grazing cattle to flying kites.
We need to put democratic ownership back on the agenda. Whether it's establishing a real democratic input into how existing public property is used, so it isn't controlled by distant bureaucrats, or it's giving workers control of companies, property needs to be owned and enjoyed by more of us.
The aspiration for democratic politics was dismissed as "mob rule" and rejected as utopian extremism before the 1789 French revolution.
Today the aspiration for democratic ownership is seen as so extreme that it is rarely even articulated.
But from Wikipedia to the co-operative movement to communal councils in Venezuela, the idea that we can extend ownership from the few to the many is slowly emerging.
  • Derek Wall is international co-ordinator for the Green Party of England and Wales.

9 Dec 2012

The Wealth of Commons

Derek Wall
International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales, author
The Wealth of Commons
Edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich
Levellers Press
http://bit.ly/UTst79

The popularity of collective, ecologically-responsible ownership is growing . From Venezuela's creation of 21st century socialism based on communal councils to the late great Professor Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize in economics, commons are becoming better known.
This is a superb collection of 73 short essays on the commons, covering very diverse and exciting perspectives. The essay on the connection between the indigenous idea of buen vivar (good living) is especially good. Massimo de Angelis warns how the commons can be co-opted by capitalism and Peter Linebaugh links commons to the work of Marxist historians like the great English ecosocialist E.P. Thompson.
David Bollier had the book printed at his local left and community printers in Amherst, Massachutes and you can order a copy via http://www.wealthofthecommons.org/.
However, being about the value of free, as in free beer, he and Silke will be putting the whole book on the web for free in the future. This is my favourite green left themed book of 2012. Commons is about property and, for me, whether it is indigenous land or fighting the enclosure of the web from corporations, property is about class struggle.

From Green Left Weekly here

8 Dec 2012

A song for Doha. Climate Song.



Summer Tumblers - Climate Song

"Imagine a world where the leaders of nations should some respect for future generations and couldn't be bought by big corporations, imagine the thinks they would do.

So lift up your voices and never be silenced....:

7 Dec 2012

Save Heatherwood Hospital, march 11.30, saturday 8th December



Save Heatherwood Hospital | Public March | December 8th

The Save Heatherwood Hospital campaign is planning a march up Ascot High Street to Heatherwood Hopsital, on Saturday December 8th.  Assemble 11.30am in Car Park 6, at the bottom of Ascot High St, next to the Jaguar showroom. A presentation of a  23,000  signature petitions to senior
Primary Care  Trust  representative, calling for retention of hospital and full services :an historic occasion is planned!

spike.humphrey@lineone.net