29 Jan 2014

Why Population Matters are wrong on asylum!

I have a good friend who was imprisoned and tortured after the Chilean coup in 1973. I know him because he was granted asylum in the UK.  Asylum rights are under severe threat, tabloid extremism has fuelled the growth of UKIP, and mainstream politicians are competing with each other to reduce the number of asylum seekers and new migrants in Britain.  As we know, our tabloid media takes our worst prejudices, justifies and magnifies them and projects them back to us.  Politicians, rather than challenging the fear and hatred of others, are increasingly joining in.  When Ed Miliband, the son of a father who sought refuge in Britain from Hitler, seeks to show that Labour is as tougher on migration than Cameron, it is easy to feel disgust and pity.  Dismay that Miliband finds it impossible to take a stand in defence of the free movement of people, even people under severe threat of persecution, is mirrored by our understanding that it is difficult to challenge a well nurtured media campaign promoting prejudice.

I find it particularly appalling that environmental concern is being used to justify the UK halting asylum.  Yet this is apparently exactly what 'Population Matters', an NGO committed to reducing human numbers, is doing. Ever since the overfed clergyman Thomas Malthus claimed that poverty was a result of human breeding, Malthusian ideas have proved controversial and have often led to reactionary politics.  However even if one is concerned about population growth, rather than seeing corporate greed as a key source of environmental destruction, what has population growth to do with the movement of people?  We live on one planet; preventing people from moving from one country to another does not affect the number of people on our planet.

According to a post on the Population Matters website, entitled ' Distant countries shouldn’t accept Syrian refugees' http://www.populationmatters.org/2014/population-matters-news/distant-countries-accept-syrian-refugees/ asylum seekers ideally should not be given refuge in the UK.  The crisis in Syria is so horrific that even Nigel Farage of UKIP, albeit briefly, called for Syrians fleeing the war to be given shelter in the UK.  Labour too has, despite much anti-migrant rhetoric, been campaigning for Britain to reverse opposition to Syrians seeking sanctuary here.  Yet a charity committed to environmental protection seems to be supporting those who would refuse to protect refugees seeking asylum in the UK and other developed countries.

Population Matters has increasingly linked its work to reduce population to opposition to migration and now apparently is linking asylum, the need for refuge from persecution, to migration in general.  This seems pernicious but the author of their post claims it is based on a 'point of principle'. 'Refugees' are apparently a threat to the environment of developed countries which are 'already unsustainable in terms of resource use and the environment and quality of life of these countries are increasingly affected by growing populations.'

Of course, like the author of the piece, I would agree that countries that take in refugees in the developing world should be supported, and that conflict that displaces peoples should be addressed.  The priority of the article, though, is not the needs of Syrians or other potential refugees but the demand to cut the number of people living in the UK.

Climate change is with us, extreme weather conditions are becoming more common, conflict including war is likely to increase with the pressures caused by such changes, so there will be more refugees.  The poorest countries in the world are those with the least resources to help and also the countries whose populations have the least effect on the rising emissions that fuel climate change.  There is a fortress mentality in Europe and other developed capitalist countries. The wish of Population Concern has already been achieved, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, because in 2013 no EU country is in the top ten of countries taking in refugees.  Pakistan with 1.5 million refugees tops the list, EU failure to take in refugees is a cause, to my mind, for shame rather than Malthusian inspired celebration.

Sometimes it is necessary to move a long way from home to seek protection.  In the 1970s, Chileans might have found it impossible to seek refuge in neighbouring countries because they too (one thinks of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil), at the time, were right wing dictatorship where democrats were tortured.  Today, the countries around Syria are in turmoil, and when the UN calls for Britain to protect a relatively small number of the Syrian refugee population, we should do our bit.  Green politics, as opposed to environmentalism, has long held that ecological responsibility needs to be combined with social justice.  Environmental concern combined with social injustice and a fear of others can only lead to a bleak future.  As well as having a friend who sought asylum, I am in a political party led by a migrant.  Natalie Bennett, an Australian, leads the Green Party and I am proud that my party defends migrants, seeks to protect refugees and challenges those who link environmental protection to xenophobia.

24 Jan 2014

Captain Jack 'Our job is to gnaw through the shark, to make no terms with British Imperialism'

During the 1945 General Election an unusual political event occurred in the constituency of Antrim.  An election meeting held in the local Orange Hall, was booked in the name of Jack White standing as a republican socialist.  Captain White denounced the union, the British Royal Family, capitalism and a number of other icons, using strong language. The Orange Order, a sectarian organisation based on opposition to Irish Unity, must have had a shock hiring the hall to an opponent of everything they stood for.  Sadly Captain Jack failed to make it on to the ballot paper, because of his last battle, where bullets had not defeated him, cancer did and he died in a Belfast nursing home in 1946.
The strange story of Captain Jack, the transformation from a British Imperialist who fought in the Boer War, and whose father was Governor of Gibraltar, to that of a republican socialist who founded the Irish Citizens Army is both colourful and inspiring.
Born in 1879, White stares from the history books looking in his photos like Indiana Jones or, as he once was,  a strong jawed British Army officer.  The story of how he he converted to socialism, joined a commune in Stroud , became a medic in Spain and fought the British Empire, is the stuff of films but flawed hero as he was, I doubt that Hollywood would celebrate him.
He was born in County Antrim in 1879, a member of the Protestant farming community, like his father Sir George Stuart White, he was educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He fought in the Boer War, where he was decorated with the Distinguish Service Order for his bravery. It was also during the Boer War that he first became disillusioned with British imperialism.  A commanding officer told him to shoot a scared teenage solidier to frightened to fight. Jack responded by aiming his pistol at the officer and telling him ‘Do so, and I’ll shoot you’. Disillusioned he left the army and undertook a variety of adventures including joining the Whiteway commune in Stroud and travelling in Bohemia. Founded on Tolstoy’s principles it still exists in a modified form today as part of the town’s green and socialist tradition.  The 1905 Russian Revolution, along with Tolstoy,  was also an influence on this transition to socialism.
He returned to Ireland to find Sir Edward Carson, recruiting the local Protestant community to the Unionist cause. Jack believed in Irish independence, describing unionism as based on ‘bigotry and stagnation.’  He organised a meeting in Ballymoney to support home rule, one of the other speakers was Sir Roger Casement.  There is an often forgotten tradition of republicans from a protestant tradition stretching from Wolf Tone in the 18th century to Erskine Childers, Casement and Captain White. During the 20th century Irish revolutionaries from a Protestant tradition were active in the the Civil Rights campaigns in the 1960s including my fellow Green Party member Roy Johnston.  Such a tradition is too easily forgotten and shows that sectarian opposition to emancipatory politics can be overcome.
Because of the Ballymoney meeting Jack was invited to Dublin, where he met the great Scottish revolutionary James Connolly, known for his participation in the Easter Uprising of 1916. Connolley converted Jack to socialism.  This summer sees the hundredth anniversary of the Dublin lockout, where workers battle for trade union rights. After brutal police attacks on the workers, Captain Jack offered his services in the fight for workers rights. He and James Larkin founded the Irish Citizens Army, the volunteers were drilled and trained by Jack, who later recalled that their appearance ‘put manners on the police’.
He believed that Irish people should organise for self-defence against Britain and was active in the struggle for self-rule. When after the Easter rising Connolly was sentenced to death in 1916, Jack travelled to South Wales to try to bring the miners out on strike to save Connolly’s life. Jack failed and Connolly was executed, tied to a chair, because he was too weak from his injuries to stand up.  Jack was imprisoned for three months and was in Pentonville on the day that his friend Roger Casement was hung.
The dislocation of the Irish Civil War left him politically isolated but he remained an active revolutionary.  He considered joining the Communist Party of Ireland, became involved with Sylvia Pankhurst’s Workers Socialist Federation and later the Republican Congress. In fact in 1934 he organised a Dublin branch of the Republican Congress made up of other like himself who had once been in the British military.  Republican politics was complex and splintered and White was by no means a consistent or disciplined political thinker, but his activism continued.  He identified increasingly with anarchism and volunteered in the Spanish Civil War as a medic.
He was not I suspect an easy man to work with, life in the British military and a background as a member of an upper class loyalist family, no doubt may have reduced his ability to act cooperatively.  Its a bit difficult to think of him making the lentil stew at Whiteway Coloney and he fell out with many former comrades including Larkin.  However he reminds us that people can cross the line and reject their own elite class to stand with the workers.  It is remarkable that the son of the governor of Gibraltar could become an implacable opponent of empire. In a 1936 pamphlet entitle Where Casement Would Stand Today, he wrote ‘Our job is to gnaw through the shark, to make no terms with British Imperialism, not to gain our unity and a deceptive pretence of freedom by lying down quietly in-side the shark's belly.’ Embarrassed by his revolutionary legacy, after his death his family burnt his political papers including a study of the Cork soviet and he was buried in the family plot with no mention of his role in the republican socialist tradition.
His story cannot of course be distilled into a couple of paragraphs and some simple political lessons. His autobiography ‘Misfit: A Revolutionary Life’ has recently been recently republished and is available from Carlton Books the Glasgow based socialist book shop and publishers, if you would like a copy you can email them on shop@calton-books.co.uk.  

 I guess if I had ever met the good Captain I would have argued with him vigorously but he is one of my heroes, not quite Che, but a reactionary gamekeeper turned peoples poacher. So lets drink to his memory and all the other defenders of the Dublin workers like Connolly and Larkin.

16 Jan 2014

2009 NO2EU Candidate and NW Trade Unionists back Peter Cranie to kick out Nick Griffin

This is via Peter's blog at http://petercranie.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/prominent-2009-no2eu-candidate-and-nw.html


Prominent 2009 NO2EU Candidate and NW Trade Unionists Back Green Campaign

I am very pleased to report the following letter has been published in the Morning Star today. I’d like to thank all of the signatories and extend an open invitation to all anti-racist political parties considering standing in the NW to engage in dialogue with us before nominations close this year.

In particular, I’d like to thank Alec McFadden. We have campaigned together and worked within Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism (MCARF) when the BNP were on the ascendancy and conceivably threatened a breakthrough at council level on Merseyside.

Alec and the others are Trade Unionists, with far more prominent roles than my own (I’m a Branch Membership Secretary and Green Rep in my college for UCU). Last time the BNP sneaked in. Many good anti-racist votes were wasted. We need to get it right and consign them to history this time and this letter is a big step in that direction.

Dear Editor,

The news that Nick Griffin, Chairman of the BNP, has been declared
financially bankrupt is an insult to all the people struggling
financially in the North West region he represents.

As a Euro MP, Griffin earns a salary equivalent to £80,000 a year. In
addition he can claim for travel, living expenses and other costs. On
the other hand, the average wage in Britain is just £26,000 and
households are being hit with the bedroom tax, privatised rail fare
increases, rising privatised energy company bills and privatised water
bill increases.

Griffin's views on non-white British residents, his denial of the
holocaust and his hateful comments about asylum seekers and immigrants
have appalled decent people for four and half years. Now his financial
incompetence is added to the picture.

In 2009 the BNP beat the Green Party to the final MEP seat in the
North West by less than 5,000 votes out of over 5 million registered
voters. On May 22nd, in the European elections, voters have the chance
to make the North West a region with no BNP elected representatives by
voting him out.

The biggest barrier to removing Griffin is that 3 out of 4 people
simply didn't bother to vote in the last European elections. However
it is also true that if just 1 out of 10 voters for the Socialist
Labour Party and NO2EU had instead backed the Greens at the last
election, we could have avoided Griffin being elected in the first
place. Let's avoid making this mistake again.

We need green activists, trade unionists, anti-fascists, socialists
and anti-cuts campaigners united in our focus to remove racism and
fascism. We need to combat the victimisation of refugees and economic
migrants, and minority religious communities while continuing to
oppose the destruction of our public services under this government.

Peter Cranie, UCU and North West Green Party European elections lead candidate
Alec McFadden, President Merseyside County TUC (in personal capacity)
Clara Paillard, PCS Culture Sector President (in personal capacity)
Mark Hattersley, Secretary, St Helens TUC (in personal capacity)
Liz Epps, Secretary, Merseyside TUC (in personal capacity)
Sue Lloyd, PCS North West Regional Green Officer (in personal capacity)
Peter Billington, Secretary Lancashire County TUC (in personal capacity)
Steve Hall, President, Greater Manchester TUC (in personal capacity)
Don Naylor, Environmental Rep, Stockport UNISON (in personal capacity)
Paul Filby, Secretary, National Construction Safety Campaign (in personal capacity)
Ross Quinn, President, Wirral TUC (in personal capacity)
Angela Grant, Vice President, Wirral TUC (in personal capacity)

11 Jan 2014

Homo sapiens under threat of extinction

Editorial  Lucha Indigena from Hugo Blanco

(Homo sapiens: The hominid species that will go to extinction the fastest)

The oldest known hominid species, Homo habilis, lived from about 1.9 to 1.6 million years ago.  Homo ergaster appeared 1.75 million years ago and disappeared one million years ago.  Homo erectus lived from 1.8 million to 300,000 years ago.
          Our species, Homo sapiens, has existed for hardly 200,000 years and yet is already on the point of disappearing.  This short time-span is due to the fact that we are the only "civilized" hominid and are using this civilization to drive ourselves to extinction, killing off many other plant and animal species in the process.
          "Civilization", in its drive toward "progress" and "development", is making a furious assault on the environment of which -- even if neoliberalism refuses to acknowledge it -- it is a part.  This destruction, termed "man-made" is just that, but those who claim that humanity as a whole is at fault are quite mistaken.  The responsibility lies with the insatiable appetite for profit of the big transnational corporations that rule the world through subservient governments such as those headed by Humala and Obama.  In various ways, these governments are attacking those who seek to defend nature and life.
          The forms of aggression are becoming ever stronger and more varied.  They make use of scientific and technical experts, as seen in the modern us of fracking.  We will mention here some of the assaults: open-pit mining, deforestation, hydroelectric plants, extraction of hydrocarbons, agroindustry, atomic power, and perforation of the ozone layer (which exposes us to harmful ultraviolet radiation).
          Native peoples are in the front line of defense of the environment.  They are the cultural remnants of a collectivist social organization in solidarity with and respect for nature in existence since the origin of our species.  They were already there and living in this natural way before the rise of individualist "civilization".
          This defense is coming to embrace more and more sectors of humanity as it finds itself face to face with the real danger of extinction.  These sectors include scientists, who are coming to see that the only effective way to defend our environment is through collective mobilization.  In actively joining the struggle, some scientists have already suffered repression by governments in the service of predatory capital.
          Big capital's most dangerous attack and one linked most closely to the looming extinction of humanity is global warming of the atmosphere, fostered by massive emissions of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and others.
          Part of the sun's heat that strikes the planet's surface is absorbed, while the rest is reflected back into space.  Greenhouse gases cause more of this heat to be retained in the atmosphere, which in turn alters the natural climatic cycles.  This gives rise to droughts, flooding, hurricanes, colder winters and hotter summers, melting of the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, drying up of streams and ponds, narrowing of rivers, rising sea levels, death of the marine plankton that feeds fishes and other animals, vegetations loss, etc.
          Lately a great danger has become apparent.  The loss of arctic ice due to global warming is leading to yet greater warming.  This occurs because the decreased reflection of the sun's rays by the white ice allows more heat to be absorbed at the Earth's surface.
          And it can have even graver consequences.  Massive quantities of methane are now trapped below the arctic ice.  This gas causes much greater greenhouse effects than any other, so that its release into the atmosphere will accelerate the warming trend.
          As if to aggravate the danger, the petroleum companies that are the main culprits in this situation have expressed satisfaction at the melting of the Arctic, as it makes it easier to drill for oil.  This will in turn give rise to even greater methane emissions into the atmosphere and thus increased warming.  This destructive effect is of no concern to the companies, whose sole interest is their profits, not the survival of the human race.
          This criminal voracity is evident not only in the corporations, themselves.  We see it also in meetings on climate change organized by the United Nations and dominated by governments in the service of the big global warmers.  In these meetings there is no agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Rather, they discuss how to profit from climate change.  We had a demonstration of this recently in the Warsaw meeting, in which we saw the imposition of big capital's will even more clearly than in previous meetings.  We also see how this extremely grave topic is played down by the mass news media, which serve as big capital's mouthpiece.
          This year, 2014, the international meeting on global warming will take place in Lima, Peru.  Does anyone believe that Ollanta Humala, the parliament, the mass media or the "political class" will speak truth on this occasion?  To their shame, they would all prefer to kneel submissively before their masters' drive for profits.  We call on the people to demonstrate their respect for the environment and their repudiation of the genocidal criminals and their servants.
          We hope that humanity will be able to wrest power from the hands of big capital, so that we can govern ourselves collectively, taking loving care of Mother Nature, while of course preserving and furthering all positive advances of civilization in a way that does no harm to the planet.
          This is the only alternative to the approaching extinction of the human species, Homo sapiens.

Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles

Derek Wall ’s article entitled  Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles , argues that Ma...