25 Feb 2011

My message to Green Party conference 'you can't pay the debt with recycled bottles'

"When an environmental issue is probed to its origins, it reveals an inescapable truth - that the root cause of the crisis is not found in how men (sic) interact with nature, but in how they interact with each other - that to solve the environmental crisis we must solve the problem of poverty, racial injustice and war - that the debt to nature, which is the measure of the environmental crisis, cannot be paid person by person, in recycled bottles or ecologically sound habits, but in the ancient coin of social justice."

The cuts are not in any sense about our real debt to the planet or living better.

If we were really "all in it together" cuts in the armed forces and rising taxes on the rich would be as significant as burdens on the poor.

Yet this is not the case.

VAT, which takes a larger proportion from those on lower incomes, has gone up, while the tax on corporations has been cut.
What we have is a crisis caused by the gambling habits of wealthy finance capitalists and we, the people, are picking up the tab for their expensive casino losses.

Housing benefit is being cut, pensions attacked, vital services being sold off to pay off bills incurred by bankers.
The slogan "close down a children's nursery to fund a capitalist" comes to mind.

We should not pay for their crisis.

Social welfare should not be cut to sponsor bankers.
The cuts have nothing to do with the environment - the very fact that the government tried to sell off our forests shows this.
In an uncertain world we need to share more and provide security for all.
What could be more ecological than a library, where we can share books and other resources. yet libraries are being crushed by the cuts.

In fact the Green Party has resisted the cuts because of these concerns.

During the general election Green Party leader Caroline Lucas made opposing the cuts the party priority.
Lucas has published a report showing that the deficit can be tackled by taxing the wealthiest rather than hitting the poor, and by cutting Trident rather than cutting vital public services.

The Camp for Climate Action has also become involved in the Coalition of Resistance set up to fight the cuts.
This is not shared austerity.

Instead it is a way of using government debt as a justification for restructing British society to make it more friendly to corporations.

Capitalism drives the ecological crisis and the cuts mean more capitalism rather than any kind of rational conservation.
Sweetened with the big society rhetoric, the cuts programme is about rolling back controls on business and completing Thatcher's project of smashing the unions, and cutting and selling public services.

So greens need to be at the forefront of the anti-cuts movement.
This throws up a number of strategic considerations.

Greens have to link opposition to the cuts to an ecological agenda, which is what leaders like Morales have done - coming to power through social movements fighting back against IMF-inspired cuts and privatisation.

Green councillors and all councillors on the left need to fight cuts rather than simply make them more acceptable.

In councils up and down the country budgets are now being set that will destroy services.
There is an argument that the cuts should be based on participatory budgets, so voters choose how they will be punished or cuts softened in various ways.

However, while councillors often have little power against central government, to go through with cuts is naive - it makes the government's task easier.

Real, tough and determined opposition can have an effect.
The protesters against forest sales did not ask how they could raise money to buy the woodlands or how they could reform the plans.

They took to the streets and the woods, raised a storm and sometimes threw eggs at Tory MPs.
We are in era where global financial forces such as bond markets and global neoliberal institutions use a kind of economic violence to control societies.

But whether in the Forest of Dean or the Middle East, determined people can raise a storm and resist.


1 comment:

WillORNG said...

There's no need to borrow for a sovereign monopoly issuer of floating exchange rate currency.

Government spending credits private sector bank accounts and taxes debit them...all the borrowing does is mop up the excess bank reserves created by net government spending.

Check out Modern Monetary Theory and the Job Guarantee at places like Bill Mitchell's Australian blog or Warren Mosler and UMKC.


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