31 Jan 2013

Celebrating Ecuador's Citizens' Revolution 12 Feb Bolivar Hall, Grafton St, London

  • Speakers include:

    - José María Guijarro, adviser to the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister
    - Robin Blackburn, author and writer who recently interviewed President Correa for New Left Review
    - Stephanie Pearce, Queen Mary’s University
    - Chris Williamson MP
    - Francisco Dominguez, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

    Organised by Ecuadorian Movemenet in the UK (MERU).

    Supporters include:
    -Unite the Union
    -TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes
    -Venezuela Solidairty Campaign
    -Tribune magazine.
    -Morning Star
    -Caribbean Labour Solidarity.
    - Alborada.net
    -Latin America 2013

    Ecuadorians go to the polls to elect their President on 17 February 2013. Like other parts of Latin America, Ecuador is today being transformed by progressive social and economic reforms.
    Known as the Citizens Revolution and led by President Rafael Correa these policies are tackling the deep crisis caused by years of extreme neo-liberalism.

    Ecuador's Citizens Revolution is offering a real alternative. A tripling of social investment in just five years has significantly boosted economic growth and meant that Ecuador never entered recession despite the global slowdown. One million Ecuadorian households have been lifted out of poverty. Unemployment has almost halved and the minimum wage has doubled. The huge increases in social spending are guaranteeing free education, including at university level, free healthcare and better public services for all. Ecuador is also at the forefront of ground-breaking environmental measures.

    All this is why Rafeal Correa is way ahead, polling at over 50% with his nearest rival former banker Guillermo Lasso on around 10%-20%.

    Despite clear popular support, President Correa warned in early January of possible external plots to remove him in the run-up to the election. A right-wing coup was attempted against him in September 2010.

    This meeting will look at the achievements of the Citizens Revolution, the undemocratic attempts to overturn these and why we must defend the right of the Ecuadorian people to determine their own future free from external intervention.

    Come and find out more about how Ecuador and Latin America is showing how there is an alternative!

    Bolivar Hall, Grafton S

27 Jan 2013

Will Duckworth, the new Green Party Deputy-Leader will be visiting Sunderland

Will Duckworth, the new Green Party Deputy-Leader will be visiting Sunderland to promote the Party's vision for a better future.

Will will be speaking at a meeting of Sunderland Green Party at the Museum Vaults at 2pm on sunday 3rd February The Museum Vaults

Silksworth Row, SR1 3QJ City of Sunderland

Will is a life long trade unionist and former teacher. He was elected as the Green Party's first councillor in Dudley in the West Midlands. Very much a working class grassroots activist he wants to build the Green Party into an effective force for fighting the Condems austerity programme and defending the NHS. He believes that environmental issues like climate change cannot be seperated from issues of economics and social justice. If we wreck the environment, we destroy the possibility of a good future for ourselves and future generations.

You can find out more about Will on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Duckworth

For more details of Will's visit, contact Emily Blyth on momuloe@hotmail.co.uk

22 Jan 2013

Idle No More Teach In & Global Indigenous Network Meetin


  • This event will be led by Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum, co-founder of the Idle No More movement in Turtle Island (Canada).

    It will be part of the international day of action for the Idle No More campaign on the 28th January. We will have various speakers, of Indigenous descent, who will be talking about the current issues surrounding land in Turtle Island (Canada) and throughout the entire continent and world.

    Other speakers:
    Cristina Motta - (Lost cultures and traditions)
    Gobi Sivanthan - Tamil Coordinating Committee
    Luwezi Kinshasa - Uhuru Movement

    Topics to be presented include:
    - White supremacy/colonialism
    - Decolonization of identity, culture and lands
    - Indigenous rights, lands and waters
    - Lost cultures and traditions
    - Indigenous identity
    - Forced migration/displacement of Indigenous people
    - European borders in the "Americas"

    Donations are welcomed and will go to Sylvia's travel expenses.

13 Jan 2013

Editorial "Lucha Indígena" no. 77‏ Idle No More and Zapatists.

This is the editorial from Lucha Indigena, Hugo Blanco's newspaper....more here in Spanish

         Mexico and Canada: A POWERFUL NATIVE PRESENCE


In December the native people of this hemisphere gave rise to two striking events.  The more notable of these, unquestionably, was the silent march in the rain, with fists raised and faces covered, of 40 thousand natives in five cites of Chiapas state, Mexico.  We can assure you that it was a clangorous silence, which forced the news media -- which have been telling us that zapatism is in steep decline, now almost nonexistent -- to hear it.

     The march took place on 21 December, the day the ancestors of today's Mayan shopkeepers had identified as the start of a new era, and for which traders and other frauds predicted the end of the world.  The directory of the Zapatist National Liberation Army (EZLN) issued the following brief communiqué:

     "Now are you listening?  That is the sound of your world tumbling down.  It is the sound of our world rising up.  Day is becoming night, and night is turning into day."

     The Zapatists have shown that they are alive and stronger than ever, an obstacle to the system's cowardly attacks through its goon squads on the communities that support Zapatism.  Later they communicated that they are becoming ever stronger in self-government, housing, health and education.  They also announced that they are now building bridges to coördination with other movements.  It was in this respect that the youth movement Yo soy123 arose in repudiation of President Peña Nieto.

     The other important movement is the recently organized, militant Idle No More in Canada.  The native people of that country have placed themselves in the vanguard of those who are struggling in defense of the environment against the extraction and transport of oil and gas, as well as against open-pit mining.  Idle No More, the strongest native upsurge in Canada in many years, has passed through several cities, blocked highways in protest, set up camp in public places and demonstrated in front of government offices.

     These two developments are a great boost to our spirits.  This is something we very much need in Peru, where the news are no nearly so uplifting.  Here we find President Humala adding to his well-earned reputation as a traitor and assassin -- as the people of Cajamarca are well aware -- that of hypocrite.  In Europe he proclaimed that his government gives priority to water rights.  In reality he, as a servant of predatory foreign companies, is launching deadly attacks on the very defenders of water and life.


Aaron Swartz not so much RIP but we must never rest in his name.

F2C2012: Aaron Swartz keynote - "How we stopped SOPA"

Ben Samuel from the Young Greens sent me this, thank you Ben!  Lets make noise to celebrate the life and vision of Aaron who so sadly died.

I am extraordinarily proud of what I achieved whilst I was at University (Nottingham), and Aaron Schwarz' loved ones should be proud of his achievements too.  One of those achievements is only really visible in hindsight, after it was revealed how scientific papers are now enclosed within top universities like Nottingham or the M.I.T., and Aaron's act of publishing them was viewed by the security services as unlawful hacking.  I was planning to convert to law after my science degree and become an Intellectual Property Professional, but one way or another I rejected this lucrative career to join the Green Party and I eventually found my way towards a green career instead.  One day, will it be proven that these priveledged intellectual property professionals have blood on their hands?

It was said on the Lessig blog that the deceased never made a penny out of his work... while our recent policy statement "Make ACTA History" notes the creation of profit out of intellectual property.

The Green Party has global alliances with the Pirate Party, the party political wing of digital activists like Aaron.  One of the Green Party, allies is the newly-incorporated Wikimedia UK, sharing an office block with ours.  At London Wikimedia's 65th meeting today, I hope supporters of Aaron will be there to mark his passing. 

In the spirit of new years resolutions one of my favorite pages to share Aaron's story is https://www.facebook.com/WeAreChange.org

Peter Eckersley, staffer at the EFF, Electronic Frontier Foundation, posted this on the 12 January (Eastern Standard Time), Our farewell to Aaron Schwartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/01/farewell-aaron-swartz

One of the first spaces to break the story was far from impartial; the Lessig Blog with the angry title "Prosecutor as Bully", was written only the day after the news.  I shared it on my facebook page.

If I know Aaron Schwarz as well as I think I do I think he would have wanted lots of media coverage!

B. Samuel

2 Jan 2013

Gasland the new film about fracking at 11am, Sunday 13 January 2013 at the Renoir Cinema, Brunswick Square, Brunswick Centre, London

I am speaking at a showing of Gasland the new film about fracking at 11am, Sunday 13 January 2013 at the Renoir Cinema, Brunswick Square, Brunswick Centre, London It is a London Socialist Film Co-op event. 


1 Jan 2013

Commons strategy and politics

Some rough notes....feedback welcome.

Political and strategic approaches to the commons can be found in the work of Karl Marx, philosophers such as Deleuze and Guttari as well as the autonomist Marxist authors Toni Negri and Michael Hardt. Latin American left governments, indigenous organizations and commons orientated think tanks and non-governmental organizations such as On the Commons have, in varied ways, sought to campaign for commons.

Marx, to simplify, argued that capitalism eroded the commons. Yet capitalism via economic accumulation raises the productive forces and the birth of a political agent, the working class, who could restore democratically owned common property as the basis of a new society. His son-in-law Paul Lafargue summarized such a view in his own book on ancient property, arguing, that in the ancient past, property such as land or cattle, was common to all members of a ‘clan’ and thatCommunism was the cradle of humanity.’ He felt that ‘the work of civilisation is twofold: while on the one hand it destroys, on the other hand it reconstructs; while it broke into pieces the communist mould of primitive humanity, it was building up the elements of a higher and more complex form of communism’ (Lafargue 1984: 44)

However there is some evidence that Marx rejected such a linear view of 'history.’ For example, he explored the idea that in Russia the peasant Mir would allow for the recreation of commons without the need to move through and beyond a capitalist economy (Shanin 1984). Marx's broad framework has been at best delayed or at worst destroyed. The international working class have not as yet re-created the commons. Marxists have generally replaced Marx’s belief in the commons with forms of central planning. Marx’s interest in the commons has been forgotten by communists. However workers have tried to create commons. In Britain during the 1970s the workers at Lucas Aerospace constructed an alternative production plan (Wainwright and Elliot 1982). Peer-to-peer production of manufactured goods is possible and workers' control is necessary for the commons.

The often rather impenetrable work of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari, dripping in obscure terminology and in debt to the challenging work of the psychologist Jacques Lacan, and European philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Baruch Spinoza,  have described a process of deterritorialization. Deterritorialization, they argue, occurs where a political territory is invaded, its rules and norms destroyed and replaced by new rules and norms in a process of reterritorialization. Property rights can be seen as the codes or DNA of society. Deterritorialization involves removing them and replacing via reterritorialization with new rules, or to be more precise, removing codes from their context and re-articulating them. The process of primitive accumulation, identified by Marx, where commons are enclosed to make way for capitalist expansion, can be linked to these concepts. The destruction of the European commons and the commons of empires like those of the Incas and Aztec by the Spanish can be understood in terms of de- and re-coding. The coding point is illuminating, with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari illustrating this understanding poetically with the suggestion that a club is a deterritorialized branch. What was once a living part of a tree is ripped out of its context and placed in a new context.

When the branch is separated from the tree it becomes something else, it takes on different functions, such that it has been deterritorialized from its original territory (the function of gathering sunlight in the process of photosynthesis) and reterritorialized elsewhere (the function of warfare or violence). (http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/deterritorialization/)


Jeanette Neeson in her book on the enclosure of the English commons quotes the novelist John Berger, who wrote 'Do you know... what the trees say when the axe comes into the forest? ... When the axe comes into the forest, the trees say: 'Look! The handle is one of us!' (Berger 1983: 69 cited in Neeson 1993). Property rights give power to human beings to access and use resources, as such they are intrinsic to questions of political power. Property rights provide the means to code and recode. The current battles to enclose the World Wide Web by companies, attempts to extend copyright and legislation to establish access to countryside for citizens, are conflicts which involve property right coding.

Toni Negri and Michael Hardt in a re-reading of Marx, strongly influenced by the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, as well Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari, see information commons as key. Negri and Hardt stress immaterial labor and the actions of 'the multitude rather than the working class or indigenous as creators of potential commons. They argue that intellectual and emotional work increasingly produce value in the 21st century. Commons, especially in cyber space, are increasingly central to the production of such value and social subjectivity. The individuals who create such value are the multitude.

More concretely Latin American left governments have taken elected power and have promoted, via the notion of 21st century socialism, the idea of grassroots ecological collective production. They have been influenced in their wider policy making by notions of socialism as decentralist democratic provision, rather than the central planning of the Soviet Union. Rene Ramariaz the influential Ecuadorian planning minister noted: 'The perspective of Elinor Ostrom goes in hand in hand with the idea of good living. What she says is something fundamental, that collective interaction can handle the [management of] natural resources more efficiently.' 

The notion of 'buen vivir', the indigenous concept of 'good living' i.e. sustainable living has been promoted globally by Bolivia's President Evo Morales and other indigenous thinkers and politicians, as well as grassroots social movements. While these developments are welcome, they are also problematic. Conflicts over environmental issues continue in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, all of which remain strongly dependent on extracting fossil fuels including oil and gas, despite such rhetoric of 'good living.’

Commons movements, outside cyber space, the radical left and indigenous, have grown more slowly but organizations such as On the Commons in the USA and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Germany are increasingly active. On the Commons seeks to educate citizens and policy makers. It is strongly opposed to the privatization of resources and builds on the work of Elinor Ostrom along with ecofeminists, like the Indian writer Vandana Shiva, and indigenous leaders. It also promotes individual action to conserve and create commons. Quoting the green economist and author of Small is Beautiful, Ernest Schumacher, 'Perhaps we cannot raise the wind. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind comes we can catch it," they list 'fifty one 'easy ways to promote a commons revolution. These range from number one, 'Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions', to forty nine and onwards:


Think yourself as a commoner and share your enthusiasm. Raise the subject in conversation, art, professional circles, and organizations with which you are involved.

50. Launch a commons discussion group or bookclub with your neighbors and colleagues, or at your church, synagogue or temple.

51. Spread some hope around. Explain how commons-based solutions can remedy today’s pressing problems. http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/51-mostly-simple-ways-spark-commons-revolution


On the Commons notes political solutions such as opposing the extension of patents.

In Europe and the USA recent economic crises have challenged conventional market based economics and notions of private property; protest movements are increasingly advocates of commons. Political power at a national level is necessary to defend, extend and deepen the commons. Governments guarantee property rights, and property rights are the basis of commons or the destruction of commons. Clearly pro-commons governments have a role to play. However, while we might fault Ostrom's absence of discussion of the conflicted nature of commons under capitalism and imperialism, she provides an important caution to statist notions of a non-state society. A government from the top down cannot proclaim commons, they need be built on the ground by citizens who cooperate and learn, if they are to have a real existence. The new Forest Rights Act in India is a good example. It is an advance that after hundreds of years of attacking commons, both under British rule and after independence, that with the introduction of this law the Indian government now recognizes them. However this new law has not entirely halted the erosion of the commons, as Elinor Ostrom has noted in a recent interview, ‘It is a good and powerful first step but not the solution,’

Nonetheless the introduction of legislation that supports commons is important. In Latin America, and to a lesser extent India, vigorous social movements based on peasant farmers and indigenous have had a positive political impact, which has helped stimulate political change, which has promoted common pool property.

Globally the information commons has led to a culture of hacktivism that has been used to attack concentrations of power. The UK based political scientist and commons activist Aaron Peters has noted that ‘the communicative ecology of the internet 'promotes economic activity through mass collaboration and the rejection of ‘traditional notions of intellectual property rights.’ He notes that this peer-to-peer economic approach is behind diverse projects including Wikipedia, Pirate Bay, hacktivism, Indymedia, the music of TecnoBrega and GirlTalk, as well as Cory Doctorow’s writings’ (http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/aaron-peters/movement-that-needs-no-name). He also argues that protest movements such as Occupy and the Arab spring mobilizations have been infused with this spirit of commons and collective creativity.

            However less radical forces can promote commons. While the fight for commons in software and cyber space has been linked to political activism, the libertarian Eric S. Raymond has taken a different approach arguing that the best way of promoting commons is via an emphasis on its practical benefits (Raymond 1999). His concept of open source as oppose to free software has been grown rapidly in scope. It is also worth noting that one of the most successful contemporary examples of commoning, Wikipedia was launched by another libertarian Jimmy Wales. However Wales acknowledges the need to fight corporate inspired forms of recoding such as the SOPA legislation that seeks to enclose the commons. The politics of commoning remains an essential but essentially contested area of discussion.

On New Year’s Day, the herdsmen blew their horns

A commons new year.  Having defeated the feudal lords the German commoners ran their own communities and celebrated.  I liked this from The Wealth of Commons book.

Community life was lively and featured an annual procession around the boundaries of the village and the lands belonging to it, a communal drink after auditing the common box (the community funds). Folk customs were combined with the common pasture. To the peasants, the bell that the village bull wore around his neck on the pasture signaled, ‘the reeve is coming, the reeve is coming!’ (The reeve kept the community’s breeding bull.) On New Year’s Day, the herdsmen blew their horns, went from door to door and sang their songs, asking peasants to give them something – such as their best-smoked sausages. The gifts were considered an expression of the peasants’ esteem for the community employees’ careful handling of their livestock. (Zückert 2012)