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Solidarity with the uprising in Kazakhstan (Statement issued 12 January 2022)

 

Around 200 activists from over 40 countries have signed have signed a worldwide statement of solidarity with the uprising in Kazakhstan – published below.

The statement was coordinated by Paul Murphy, an eco-socialist member (TD) of the parliament in the Republic of Ireland state and includes members of parliament in Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland, city councillors in Greece and Sweden, a member of the European Parliament from the Spanish State, and dozens of trade union, socialist, and human rights activists from around the globe.  ecosocialist.scot is delighted to sign the statement and among the other signatories from Scotland are Frances Curran, former Scottish Socialist Party Member of the Scottish Parliament and activist in Socialists for Independence, members of the Republican Socialist Platform and ScotE3 organisations, and other trade union, community, independence and socialist activists.

The statement rejects the idea that the uprising in Kazakhstan is a result of foreign intervention but is about the rights and demands of working people sick of a tyrannical dictatorship.  It calls for the overthrow of this dictatorship and the rights of working people to control democratically the vast natural resources and wealth of Kazakhstan.  The statement also rejects the intervention of foreign troops from the Russian state and condemns the hypocrisy of the EU and USA.

Further reports and initiatives will follow and be publicised on ecosocialist.scot.

 

Solidarity with the uprising in Kazakhstan

We, socialists, trade unionists, human rights activists, anti-war activists and organisations have watched the uprising in Kazakhstan since 2 January with a sense of deep solidarity for the working people. The striking oil workers, miners and protesters have faced incredible repression. The full force of the police and army have been unleashed against them, instructed to ‘shoot to kill without warning’. Over 160 protesters have been killed so far and more than 8,000 have been arrested.

 

We reject the propaganda of the dictatorship that this uprising is a product of “Islamic radicals” or the intervention of US imperialism. There is no evidence of that whatsoever. It is the usual resort of an unpopular regime – to blame ‘outside’ agitators. 

 

Instead, the trigger of the protests was the rise in fuel prices. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a country where immense oil wealth exists side by side with terrible poverty and exploitation. It is also the result of the crushing weight of a brutal dictatorship on people’s backs. This regime has liquidated all opposition parties, imprisoned and tortured trade union and human rights activists, and was responsible for a massacre of striking oil workers in Zhanaozen ten years ago.

 

The position of all the major capitalist powers is clear. Putin stands full square behind the regime. The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) has sent 3,000 troops to Kazakhstan to intimidate protesters. Chinese President Xi Jinping also announced his support for the Kazakhstan government and claimed the unrest was the deliberate result of “outside forces.”

 

The US administration has called for “restraint by both the authorities and protestors”. The EU has similarly called on protesters to “avoid any incitement to violence” and called on authorities “to respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest and proportionality in the use of force when defending its legitimate security interests”!

 

Unsurprisingly, they all prioritise ‘stability’ for their oil companies who are benefiting from the exploitation of the natural resources and Kazakh workers. 

 

In response to the class solidarity of the capitalist regimes, we respond with working class solidarity and commit to raise the following demands in our trade unions, parliaments and organisations:

 

  • Solidarity with those rising up against the dictatorship in Kazakhstan
  • End the repression of the protests 
  • Release all the detained protesters and political prisoners
  • No to Russian and CSTO intervention – withdraw the troops now
  • No to the hypocrisy of the EU and US who equate the revolt of the masses with the brutal violence of the regime
  • Down with the dictatorship 
  • Support the call from oil workers for nationalisation of the oil wealth and major industries under workers’ control
  • Support the building of an independent trade union movement and socialist movement in Kazakhstan

 

Albania

Redi Muci

 

Aotearoa / New Zealand

International Socialist Organisation

Joe Carolan, Unite Union, Senior Organiser 

 

Argentina

Christian Castillo, por la Dirección Nacional del Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS) 

Nicolás del Caño, Diputado Nacional por la Provincia de Buenos Aires por el Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores – Unidad, dirigente del Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS)

Myriam Bregman, Diputada Nacional por la Ciudad de Buenos Aires por el Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores – Unidad, PTS,  Abogada del CEPRODH – Centro de Profesionales por los Derechos Humanos

Alejandro Vilca, Diputado Nacional por la Provincia de Jujuy por el Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores – Unidad, dirigente del Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS)

 

Raúl Godoy, ex Diputado provincial de Neuquén por el Frente de Izquierda. Dirigente del PTS, ex Secretario General de SOECN (Sindicato de Obreros Ceramistas), obrero de la fábrica ex–Zanon recuperada por sus trabajadores

Eduardo Ayala, trabajador de Madygraf (ex Gráfica Donneley recuperada por sus trabajadores), PTS

Claudio Dellecarbonara, dirigente por la minoría de Asociación Gremial de Trabajadores del Subte y Premetro (AGTSYP)  y referente de línea B de Subterráneos Buenos Aires. Diputado Provincial (Buenos Aires) electo por el Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores Unidad, PTS

 

Australia

Caitlin Doyle-Markwick, Solidarity (IST), Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Miroslav Sandev, Solidarity / Teacher’s Federation

Luke Alexander, NTEU

Dani Cotton, National Tertiary Education Union, Branch Committee, University of Sydney

Susan Price

Mick Armstrong, Socialist Alternative, National Executive

 

Austria

Christian Zeller, Netzwerk Ökosozialismus, Global Ecosocialist Network, Professor of Economic Geography, University of Salzburg

Manfred Ecker, Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten GPA, Member

David Heuser, Linkswende

Heidi Specht, Arbeiter*innenstandpunkt

Karin Wilfingseder, GPA (Trade Union), Shop Steward

 

Belgium

Daniel Tanuro, Gauche anticapitaliste, Ecosocialist author

Jean Vogel, Marcel Liebman Insitute, President

Eric Toussaint, Fourth International, international activist & historian

Freddy Mathieu, FGTB, Ancien Secrétaire Régional

SAP – Antikapitalisten / Gauche anticapitaliste

 

Britain / England and Wales

Simon Hannah, Lambeth UNISON, Joint Branch Secretary  

Fiona Lali, Marxist Student Federation (MSF)

Anne Alexander, Middle East Solidarity magazine, Co-editor  

Labour Representation Committee (LRC)

Neil Faulkner, , Archaeologist, historian and writer

Kazakh Solidarity Campaign

John McInally, Public & Commercial Services Union, Former Vice-President  

Socialist Appeal 

Workers Power

Ukraine Solidarity Campaign

Alex Callinicos, Emeritus Professor of European Studies, King’s College London 

Andy Richards, UNISON, Brighton and Hove Branch Chair  

Donny Gluckstein, SWP, Educational Institute of Scotland, EIS Council

Gareth Jenkins, SWP

Jon Woods, Portsmouth City UNISON, Chair

Gilbert Achcar, UCU, Professor

Michael Tucker

Ian Parker, Unite 

Andrew Kilmister, Oxford Brookes University UCU (Universities and Colleges Union), Branch Secretary

Rowan Fortune, Anti*Capitalist Resistance, EC Member 

Penny Foskett, SWP.  NEU

Campbell McGregor, Scottish Socialist Party / UNISON

Tony Foley, NEU, England 

ACR, Anti*Capitalist Resistance, England and Wales

 

Costa Rica

Paola Zeledón, editora de La Izquierda Diario Costa Rica.

Fernanda Quirós, dirigente de Pan y Rosas Costa Rica

Esteban Fernández, dirigente de OSR, profesor de filosofía UCR.

 

Cuba

Frank García Hernández, Comunistas Cuba blog, member of the Editorial Board

 

Cyprus

Athina Kariati, NEDA – New Internationalist Left

New Internationalist Left, NEDA

 

Denmark

Søren Sondergaard, Red-Green Alliance, Memmber of Danish Parliament, spokesperson on European Affairs

 

Dominican Republic

Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores, MST

 

France

Christian Mahieux, International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles

Malewski Jan, Inprecor (révue), rédacteur 

Penelope Duggan, International Viewpoint, Editor 

Michael Löwy 

Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste / New Anticapitalist Party 

 

Germany

Yaak Pabst, , Redaktion marx21-Magazin 

Michael Findeisen, Fellow 

Joachim Ladwig, Verdi 

Daniel Behruzi, ver.di TU Darmstadt (Trade Union), Shop Stewards Speaker 

Alexander Keim, LiK/ die Linke/Verdi 

Internationale Sozialistische Organisation (ISO) 

Dr. Winfried Wolf, Lunapark21 – Zeitschrift zur Kritik der globalen Ökonomie, responsable in the editorial board of LP21-Magazine 

Aron Amm, Lernen im Kampf 

Martin Suchanek, Gruppe ArbeiterInnenmacht, Germany section of League for the Fifth International, Editor of journal “Revolutionärer Marxismus” 

Wilhelm Schulz, Gruppe ArbeiterInnenmacht, German Section of the League for the Fifth International 

Jaqueline K. Singh, REVOLUTION – international communist youth organisation Germany

Matthias Fritz, former TU converer (VK-Leiter) IG Metall Mahle 

Yunus Özgür, Delivery Worker, Berlin 

Charlotte Ruge, Hebamme, München 

Tabea Winter, Studentin, Freie Universität, Berlin 

Thies Gleiss, Die Linke, Member of National Party Executive 

 

Greece

Panos Garganas, Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma (SEK), Editor Workers Solidarity weekly 

Editorial Team of Elaliberta.gr, www.elaliberta.gr, Athens 

Serafeim Rizos, Chania city/Union of Teachers-Chania, councilor Chania/member of board of Teachers Union Chania 

Thanasis Diavolakis, Peiraus city/Teachers Federation of private schools, councilor Peiraus city/member of board of OIELE 

Katerina Thoidou, Nikaia-Renti city, councillor 

Maria Styllou, Sosialismos apo ta kato Review, Editor 

Thanasis Kampagiannis, Athens Bar Association Board, Elected councillor (personal capacity) 

ANTARSYA, Front of the anticapitalist Left 

Xekinima – Internationalist Socialist Organization 

NAR, New Left Current 

Manthos Tavoularis, Docker, trade unionist 

Tassos Anastassiadis, member of General Council of POESY (Federation of Greek journalists) 

TPT (Fourth International Programmatic Tendency, Greek Section of 4th International) 

Petros Constantinou, Athens city/KEERFA-Movement United Against Racism and Fascist Threat, councillor Athens city/coordinator of KEERFA 

Aphrodite Fragkou, Marousi city, councillor 

Dimitris Zotos, Lawyers Association of Athens, Civil action Golden Dawn trial 

 

India

Rohini Hensman, Internationalism from Below, Writer, researcher and activist 

 

International

International Marxist Tendency International

Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (www.thecommunists.net)

 

Iran

Morad Shirin, Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign, International Organiser 

Maziar Razi, Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency, Spokesperson 

 

Ireland

Bríd Smith, People Before Profit, TD (Member of Parliament)   

Paul Murphy, People Before Profit, TD (Member of Parliament)   

Gino Kenny, People Before Profit, TD (Member of Parliament)   

Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit, TD (Member of Parliament) 

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit, MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly)

Mick Barry, Solidarity and Socialist Party, TD (Member of Parliament)   

People Before Profit   

Socialist Democracy   

Goretti Horgan, People Before Profit   

Jess Spear, RISE, National Organiser   

John Molyneux, People Before Profit, Unite The Union., Editor, Irish Marxist Review.   

Ailbhe Smyth, Le Cheile: Diversity Not Division, Member   

Eddie Conlon, Teachers Union of   , Member/Former National Hon Secretary,   

Emilio Maira, People Before Profit  

Memet Uludağ, Unite the Union, Union Rep   

Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit, People Before Profit Cllr Derry City and Strabane District Council   

Mark Price   

 

 

Italy

Giacomo Turci, La Voce delle Lotte, editor 

Scilla Di Pietro, Il Pane e le Rose feminist current, spokesperson 

Mary Rizzo, Le Voci della Libertà, Activist / Translator 

 

Japan

Tsutomu Teramoto, Japan Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL)

JRCL (Japan Revolutionary Communist League) 

 

México

Jose Manuel Aguilar Mora, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México & Member of La Liga De Unidad Socialista (LUS), Professor-Researcher, Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores 

Edgard Sánchez, Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores 

 

Nigeria

Salako Kayode, Revolutionary socialist movement, Spokesperson 

Dimeji Macaulay, Revolutionary Socialist Movement, National Organiser 

 

Poland

Andrzej Żebrowski, Pracownicza Demokracja (Workers Democracy) 

Agnieszka Kaleta 

Michał Wysocki, Pracownicza Demokracja (Workers’ Democracy), worker 

Filip Ilkowski Associate Professor, Polish Teachers Union at the University of Warsaw, Member of the Presidium of the Council for Higher Education and Science of the Polish Teachers Union 

 

Russia

Daria, IST Russia, 

Semyon, Trotskyist

Socialist Tendency (IST) 

Denis Zagladkin, Socialist Tendency 

 

Switzerland

Hannah, Bewegung für den Sozialismus 

 

Scotland

Paul Inglis, Radical Independence Campaign, Glasgow City Branch Unison, Clydeside IWW, Partick Living Rent, Member 

Connor Beaton, Republican Socialist Platform, Secretary 

Allan Armstrong, Republican Socialist Platform, Educational Institute of Scotland (life member) 

Frances Curran, Former member of parliament and member of Socialist for Independence 

Pete Cannell, Scot.E3 (Employment, Energy and Environment), Secretary 

Bob Goupillot, Radical Independence Campaign Edinburgh, (Personal Capacity) 

Ecosocialist.scot (organisation), ecosocialist.scot 

 

South Africa

Mametlwe Sebei, President, General Industries Workers Union of South Africa

 

South Korea

Workers’ Solidarity 

 

Spanish State   

Anticapitalistas 

David Karvala, Social movement activist and member of Marx21.net, Catalunya

Carlos de Pablo Torrecilla, UGT de Catalunya , Secretari de Política Institucional, Catalunya 

Gerardo Pisarello, Unidas Podemos-En Comú Podem, member of the Spanish Congress, and First Secretary of the Bureau of the Congress

Miguel Urbán Crespo, Anticapitalistas, Member of the European Parliament 

Marx21.net    

Santiago Lupe, portavoz de la Corriente Revolucionaria de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras – CRT, historiador    

Lucía Nistal, doctora en Teoría Literaria Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), impulsora de Referéndum UAM y portavoz de CRT    

Juan Carrique, abogado laboralista, miembro de la Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados, afiliado a CGT    

Josefina L. Martínez, periodista, historiadora, escritora, editora revista Contrapunto    

Asier Ubico, presidente del Comité de Empresa de Telepizza por CGT – Zaragoza    

Juan Carlos Arias Sanz, delegado por UGT de la Consejería de Políticas Sociales y Familia de la Comunidad de Madrid    

Cynthia Lub, doctora en Historia, escritora, editora de Esquerra Diari.cat y afiliada a CGT Lleure    

Maria Dantas, ERC, social movement activist in Catalunya, Member of the Congress of Deputies    

 

Switzerland

Manuel Sepulveda, Mouvement pour le Socialisme, Militant actif 

Stéfanie Prezioso, Ensemble à Gauche, Member of Parliament 

Jean BATOU, Ensemble à Gauche, Member of parliament (Geneva) 

Philipp Schmid, Movement for Socialism, teacher and union activist 

Christian Zeller, Network Ecosocialism and Global Ecosocialist Network, Professor of Economic Geography 

 

Sweden

Jonas Brännberg, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna – International Socialist Alternative, Member of Luleå City council 

 

Syria

Jackal, Revolutionary Left Movement 

 

Taiwan

黃梓豪, International Socialist Forward 

 

Turkey

Sosyalist Demokrasi için Yeniyol, Turkish section of IV. International

Ecehan Balta, Sosyalist Alternatif 

Nihat Boyraz, Sosyalist Alternatif

Sosyalist Alternatif 

 

USA

Andrew Berman, Veterans for Peace, Peace and Solidarity Activist    

Brandon Madsen, Democratic Socialists of America / AFGE 2157    

Reform & Revolution, Caucus of Democratic Socialists of America    

Dan La Botz, New Politics, Co-Editor    

Tyron Moore, Washington Federation of State Employees, Organizer    

Phil Gasper, New Politics, Co-editor    

Richard Burton, Montgomery County Education Association (ID purposes only), UniServ Director/Organizer    

Tempest Collective    

  1. Reed, Boston Revolutionary Socialists, Coordinating Committee Member    

David McNally, Editor in Chief, Spectre Journal, Professor of History, University of Houston    

Steve Leigh, Seattle Revolutionary Socialists (*for identification purposes only)    

Joel Geier    

Sherry Wolf, Tempest Collective, author, Sexuality and Socialism    

Socialist Resurgence    

Charles Post, Tempest Collective, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), member of editorial board of Spectre: A Marxist Journal    

Zachary Levenson, Editor, Spectre, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UNC Greensboro    

Ashley Smith, Tempest Collective, Democratic Socialists of America*, National Writers Union* (*for identification purposes only)    

 

Venezuela

Angel Árias, dirigente de la LTS, trabajador estatal 

Suhey Ochoa, Pan y Rosas, trabajadora de Apps 

 

Zimbabwe

Tafadzwa A Choto, ISO – Zimbabwe, Member




Protests rise against repression in Kazakhstan

An uprising has begun in Kazakhstan but has been met by brutal repression and a Russian intervention.  ecosocialist.scot condemns the repression and supports the uprising.  We reproduce statements from Russia, Kazakhstan and a report on  London protests.  Further coverage to come.

For a democratic and socialist Kazakhstan! Stop the intervention, release the detainees! Statement of the Russian Socialist Movement

Mass protests have been going on in Kazakhstan for several days. The detonator of the uprising was the rise in prices for liquefied gas, but it is obvious that the contradictions, which eventually led to a social explosion, accumulated in Kazakhstan for years.

At the moment, the protesters are forming their own self-governing bodies, in some cities administrative buildings and offices of law enforcement agencies have been taken by storm.

Despite the fact that the country’s nominal president, Kosym-Zharmat Tokayev, tried to calm the people down by freezing gas prices and the resignation of the government, the protests only intensified and entered a new phase, which speaks of deep-rooted discontent with authoritarian-bureaucratic capitalism in Kazakhstan.

The vanguard of the protest is the working class, and we are convinced that only it will be able to carry through to the end the democratic transformations, without which the struggle for freedom, democracy and socialism is impossible. Only the working people and all the progressive forces of Kazakhstan will be able to bring the revolution to its goal, without looking back at the lulling speeches of the government and not handing over the fate of the protest into the hands of “democratic” opposition politicians.

We stand in solidarity with the insurgent people of Kazakhstan, demanding:
• Immediately release all detained protesters and political prisoners.
• Stop the military intervention of the CSTO member states.

We call on the Kazakh left to participate in the protests and defense of Kazakhstan against military incursion. Introduce a socialist agenda into the program of the insurgent people of Kazakhstan and build their own independent political organization.

The statement was signed by:

  • Russian Socialist Movement,
  • Executive Committee of the movement “Labor Russia”,
  • Altleft.org website editorial office,
  • Interregional Coalition of Left Forces “Left Bloc”,
  • Marxist Tendency.

6 January 2022

Reproduced from Fourth International/International Viewpoint: https://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article7469=

 

Statement of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, there is now a real popular uprising. From the very beginning the protests were of a social and class nature, as the doubling of the price of liquefied gas on the stock exchange was only the last straw in the overflowing cup of patience. After all, the protests began in Zhanaozen on the initiative of oil workers, which became a kind of political headquarters for the entire protest movement.

The dynamics of this movement are indicative as it started as a social protest, but then it began to expand, and the labour collectives used the meetings to put forward their demands for a wage increase of 100%, the cancellation of the results of optimisation, the improvement of labour conditions and freedom of trade union activity. As a result, as early as 3 January the entire Mangistau region was gripped by a general strike, which spilled over into the neighbouring Atyrau region.

As early as 4 January, oil workers at Tengizchevroil, where American companies have a 75% stake, went on strike. It was there that in December last year 40,000 workers were laid off and a new round of layoffs was planned. They were supported later in the day by oil workers of Aktobe and West Kazakhstan and Kyzylorda regions.

Moreover, in the evening of the same day, strikes of miners of ArmelorMittal Temirtau in Karaganda region and of copper smelters and miners of Kazakhmys corporation began what is essentially a general strike in the whole extractive industry of the country. There were also demands for higher wages, lowering of the retirement age, the right to trade unions and strikes.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, open-ended strikes already started in Atyrau, Uralsk, Aktyubinsk, Kyzyl-Orda, Taraz, Taldykorgan, Turkestan, Shymkent, Ekibastuz, in towns of Almaty region and in Almaty itself, where barricading of streets during the night of 4-5 January led to the open clash of demonstrators with the police, as a result of which the city administration was temporarily seized. This gave Kassym-Jomart Tokayev grounds for declaring a state of emergency.

It should be noted that these demonstrations in Almaty were mainly composed of unemployed youth and internal migrants, living in the suburbs of the megalopolis and working in temporary or low-paid jobs. And attempts to placate them with promises to reduce gas price to 50 tenge, separately for the Mangistau region and Almaty have not satisfied anyone.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s decision to dismiss the government, and then to dismiss Nursultan Nazarbayev, the chairman of the Security Council, did not stop the protests either, as mass protest rallies began on 5 January in those regional centres of Northern and Eastern Kazakhstan, where there were none before – in Petropavlovsk, Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk. At the same time, in Aktobe, Taldykorgan, Shymkent and Almaty, attempts were made to take the buildings of regional administrations by storm.

In Zhanaozen itself, the workers formulated new demands in their indefinite rally – the resignation of the current president and all Nazarbayev officials, the restoration of the 1993 Constitution and the related freedoms to create parties and trade unions, the release of political prisoners and the end of repression. The Council of Aksakals [Elders] was established as an informal governing body.

In this way, demands and slogans were transmitted to the entire movement, which are now used in various cities and regions, and the struggle was given a political content. There are also attempts on the ground to create committees and councils to coordinate the struggle.

At the same time, troops were brought to Almaty, Aktau and Zhanaozen. While in the Mangistau region, all passed peacefully, and the soldiers refused to disperse demonstrators, in the southern capital skirmishes began, and during the night of January 5 to 6 special forces were brought in to cleanse by force the airport and the neighbourhoods occupied by the insurgents. According to various reports, dozens of demonstrators have been killed.

In this situation there is a danger that all protests and strikes will be violently suppressed and the country must be completely paralysed by a general strike. It is therefore urgent to form united action committees along territorial and industrial lines to offer organized resistance to the military-police terror.

In this connection we also need the support of the entire international workers’ and communist movement and left-wing associations, with the aim of organising a major campaign in the world.

The socialist movement in Kazakhstan demands:

An immediate cessation of hostilities against its people and the withdrawal of troops from the cities!

The immediate resignation of all Nazarbayev officials, including President Tokayev!

Release of all political prisoners and detainees!

Ensuring the right to form their own trade unions, political parties, and to hold strikes and meetings!

Legalisation of the activities of the banned Communist Party of Kazakhstan and the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan!

We call on all workers and employees of the country to implement in practice the demand of the murdered oil workers of Zhanaozen – to nationalize, under the control of labour collectives, all extractive and large-scale industry in the country!

Reproduced from Fourth International/International Viewpoint – https://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article7468=

Report of London Picket of Kazakhstan Embassy

Around 50 people braved teeming rain and the challenges of travelling during the pandemic to protest against the barbarous actions of the Kazakh regime against its own people, writes Terry Conway.

Called by AntiCapitalistResistance (ACR) and supported by the Ukraine Solidarity CampaignLabour Representation Committee (LRC),  rs21Workers PowerSocialist AlternativeWorkers Liberty and a number of individual activists, people had been galvanised  by the speed and depth of working class resistance to the major attacks on their living standards that the removal of the price cap on liquefied gas – and then outraged by the repression that followed.

Russia sent 2,500 troops into the country, on Thursday in response to an appeal from President Tokayev who was clearly worried he was losing control. The night before the rally, Tokayev ordered troops to shoot to kill protestors, who he has consistently labelled “outside agitators”. It is difficult to know how many have been murdered – even the BBC balks at using Tokayev’s term of “eliminated” without comment. Certainly thousands have been arrested.

Meanwhile China’s President Xi also expressed support for the regime. While the European Union is worried about Russian intervention, it makes little criticism of the Tokayev regime, seeming to blame the protestors for the violence…. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said: “People have the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. At the same time, protesters, no matter how angry or aggrieved they may be, should not resort to violence against others.”

Biden and his team have made similar comments.

Britain  is certainly not absent from this gang of thieves. Johnson has echoed the comments of other world leaders in recent days – not a surprise when he welcomed the Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov to London in late November, saying he looked forward to working with him on “global security”.

And of course, as was pointed out at the protest, Tony Blair acted as advisor to former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power for more than three decades until 2019 and who still has a significant influence.

The rally was chaired by the ACR’s Simon Hannah who read part of the statement of the Kazakh Socialist Movement. Then we heard from Yuliya Yurchenko speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian Social Movement and Chris Ford from the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign who read messages from the Ukrainian Socialist League and from Ukrainian socialist writer and historian Marko Bojcun.

Other speakers were from Socialist Alternative, Pete Firmin from LRC, Steve McSweney from Workers Power and journalist Paul Mason. Paul, as a member of the NUJ, sent particular solidarity to journalists in Kazakhstan, trying to disseminate news of the resistance under impossible conditions.

A police van arrived quite early on and spoke to the organisers but then moved back. During the speeches one of the protestors noticed the poster on the embassy window – Kazakstan a great place to visit and amended it to Kazakstan a great place to overthrow the president. Shortly afterwards the police moved in and arrested the comrade and took him to Charing Cross police station, saying he would be charged with criminal damage.

This was despite the fact that others in the crowd removed the graffiti before he was taken away and took timed photographs to show no damage had in fact been done. A number of speakers made the point that the police were more concerned about protecting the property of a repressive murderous regime than respecting our democratic rights to protest. Such sentiments are undoubtedly bolstered by the Police bill wending its way through Westminster.

During the action at the embassy we heard that there was a gathering of the Kazakh community in Trafalgar Square and made our way to join them, The organisers who were clearly inexperienced, seemed nervous about being joined by the left, though they were happy to borrow our megaphone. Later John McDonnell MP who had been speaking at an event in another part of the square to mark the shameful 20th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay came and addressed them so some links were made.

As Simon Pirani argues here, the left needs to urgently discuss the most effective forms of solidarity we can develop with the people of Kazakhstan, of the other Eastern European countries and with those in Russia itself. The ACR is committed to being part of this process.

Thanks to Steve Eason for the photos.

10 Jan 2022

Reproduced from Anti Capitalist Resistance https://anticapitalistresistance.org/london-picket-of-kazakhstan-embassy/




The Island and the River

COP26 brought all the world and its political issues to the Clyde for a few weeks in November. Catching a quiet moment away from the demos and kettles, Paul Inglis [of ecosocialist.scot] spoke to Paul Figueroa, a prominent member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party visiting Scotland during the conference. Ranging across the history of the island and its politics, particularly the issues of climate change and imperialism, this interview presents the cause of Puerto Rican independence to a Scottish audience.

Puerto Rico is not usually an island that occurs to the Scottish political imagination. Our international awareness, at least within the independence movement, is mostly centred on places like Catalunya and Wales, with an occasional (but rather reserved) glance at the Basques now and then. We draw lesson and inspiration, if at all, from a fairly small pool of contemporary national movements, and barely look beyond Europe in the process. Apart from fairly predictable Euro-centrism, this narrowness of outlook speaks to the fact that our most ready analogues are afforded by countries in similar social and economic situations.

Not just the enthusiasts of the left but most indymarchers would point out that Scotland has little in common with the historical experience of colonised nations like Egypt or Angola, never mind ongoing anticolonial struggles like those in Puerto Rico or the Mapuche lands. Scotland is simply not a colonised country (though of course one could speak of a form of internal colonialism practiced by both Scots and English against the Gaels) and only in the wildest dreams/tweets of certain sectors of the indy movement do the problems imposed on us by Westminster bear even slight resemblance to anything visited upon the Kurds by the Turkish government.

As such, it is either by an unconscious or a tactful choice that we generally keep our eyes on European matters. This certainly avoids falling into ridiculous and insulting direct comparisons between ourselves and peoples who are currently experiencing brutal, life-or-death struggles for freedom, but I also believe it can accidentally result in a different, and distinctly limiting, kind of euro-centrism, one that assumes offhand that little of the previous or current history of national liberation in Africa, Asia and Latin America can teach us anything.

So keen are we to not seem appropriative or offensive that we can risk ignoring great and helpful lessons. Just think about the challenges that the national question sets before Scottish socialists on a daily basis: What sort of classes (or fractions of classes) take part in the national movement? Where do the goals of the working class and the nationalist bourgeoisie/middle class diverge? How does imperialism constrict and hinder self-determination? How does the socialist movement orientate itself amidst all this? We should realise that these exact questions have troubled national movements past and present all over the globe, and that the ways in which they attempted to give answers yield a vast storehouse of reference material for us to consult. As long as we do not pretend that we can simple harvest direct or ready-made lessons, there is a lot that we can gain by looking beyond Europe, and we should not be afraid to do so.

It was for this reason that I was excited to sit down and speak to Paul Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), amid all the rush and activity of COP26. Paul, who stood as the PIP’s candidate for council in San Juan during the 2020 elections, had come here during the conference on the invitation of Scotland’s Radical Independence Campaign to speak at a meeting of the COP26 protest coalition’s “Peoples’ Summit”, and to make international links and connections. Naturally then, it was the perfect opportunity to find out what the fight for Puerto Rican freedom can teach us here in Scotland.

 

My first question dealt with the topic that was on everyone’s lips during those November weeks: Climate change. I asked Paul a question with two parts: What does climate change, and what would climate justice mean for Puerto Rico? Climate change is a bleak prospect in general, obviously, but for an island nation it is especially pressing. Paul said that “if austerity and privatisation don’t kill off the Puerto Rican people, climate change will,” pointing to the fact that for every one centimetre rise of the sea, the island loses a yard of coast. Not only this, but there is the impending threat of consistent drought and the danger that an increase in landslides means for a mostly mountainous country like Puerto Rico.

The problem with getting climate justice, Paul explained, is that the kinds of steps Puerto Rico must take to help tackle climate change are essentially blocked off by the economic interests of the United States of America. In the last year, the entirety of the island’s energy grid was privatised, falling into the hands of an American company, Luma Energy, which has stated that it has no interest in pursuing green energy. Indeed, American interests have even pushed the Puerto Rican government to enact what Paul termed a “tax on the sun”- that is, a tax on anyone going off the fossil fuel-based grid to use solar power. As a Caribbean country, the green alternative for Puerto Rico is naturally solar energy, but Luma is standing in the way of this in favour of fossil fuels. Just as the grid is controlled by an American company, so too is the supply of coal and gas, most of which comes from the firm Applied Energy Systems. This leaves Puerto Rico dependent on the USA for energy when a safer, cleaner alternative is right at hand. And the fruits of this toxic, dirty dependency are dearly bought. Paul was stark on this point: “For island nations, climate change is a matter of life and death.” To underline this, he gave the example of the town of Peñuelas, where the coal ash from the power plants is dumped. It has the highest rate of cancer and birth defects in Puerto Rico.

All of this for the profit margins of the Yankee coal industry, and the stuffed pockets of West Virginian members of congress. And they too, like Luma Energy, lobby the Puerto Rican government to keep their vested interests secure. In contrast to this, climate justice would mean an opportunity for Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans, to make their own climate policy, not lobbyists from Wall Street or Washington. This is a freedom that has long been denied the Puerto Rican people, held down as they are by the United States’ political and economic imperatives. Considering a situation like that, Paul was not enthusiastic about COP26’s significance for the island. Discussing Puerto Rico’s lack of representation on international bodies like the United Nations, CARICOM (Caribbean Community), CELAC (Community  of Caribbean and Latin American States) and the OAS (Organisation of American States), Paul argued that the island therefore lacks a seat at the table for global discussions and decisions which will be crucial for its future. Frustrated by “the posturing of the larger countries and leaders like Biden and Johnson”, Paul felt that “they need to decide if they lead, follow or get out of the way” and let the countries with the most at stake have the deciding say.

Unavoidably, this talk of freedom to make choices, and the obstacles to that freedom, led into a discussion of the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. How did this state of affairs, where the USA, and American businesses, can do what they like with Puerto Rico, come to be? In order to get an idea of why, I next asked for some historical background. Of course, the history of any land is a rich and varied ocean, and the story  of Puerto Rico is no exception. Therefore, Paul aimed at giving me a quick gloss, one that covered the key points.

He started at the beginning of Puerto Rico’s time as a colony, with the Spanish invasion of Borinquen, as the island is known in the indigenous Taino language, in 1493. From there stemmed three hundred years of indigenous and enslaved African rebellions, centuries of continuing struggle against imperial Spanish rule. One of the most important uprisings of this Spanish colonial period was el Grito de Lares (the Cry of Lares) in 1868. This was an insurrection, beginning in the town of Lares, which aimed at independence and a Puerto Rican republic- The first such national rebellion in the island’s history. And while it may have been defeated, Lares was the birth of the Puerto Rican national consciousness, identity and flag. Thirty years later, the Spanish-American War saw Puerto Rico, as well as Cuba and the Philippines, wrenched from the grip of Spain by a new colonial overlord, the United States of America,

Any hopes that Puerto Ricans might have had for a better future without Spanish control were quickly dashed, as the American takeover precipitated a dramatic, costly change in the island’s fortunes. Immediately following their victory, the United States devalued the currency by 40%, stopped Puerto Rico from controlling its own trade with other countries, and began breaking up the networks of small farmers that underpinned Puerto Rico’s economy in favour of large scale, industrial sugar farming run by a handful of absentee American businesses. The result was a strengthening of the sort of export-crop monoculture that has thus far played such a limiting, exploitative and destructive role in the history and ecology of the Caribbean. While the United States profited from its new colony, Puerto Rico came to be known during the Twentieth Century as “the Poorhouse of the Caribbean.”

Not just economic damage, but cultural oppression came with the Americans. Most blatantly, there was the attempt to make the Spanish language illegal, to anglicise the country. In a particularly crass move, the island’s name was even officially changed to the more Anglo-sounding “Porto Rico” from 1899 to 1932. Students of Russian history might here be reminded of the old empire’s attempts at forcibly “Russifying” its national minorities, or perhaps  the long campaign against Gaelic by first the Scottish and then the British state has sprung to your mind. The Americans also attempted to clamp down on Puerto Rican holidays and foist their experiment with booze prohibition onto the island too.

These simultaneous cultural and economic troubles, and their joint link to the effects of American imperialism, meant that the independence movement and the workers’ movement became easily and naturally connected. Paul gave the example of how, from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, there were more than two hundred workers’ strikes, and almost all of them were led by the nationalist party. In 1950, the nationalists would take the fight for independence even further, renouncing pacifism and launching a war for independence that, like el Grito de Lares almost a century prior, was defeated. The years following this setback marked the most intense period of persecution for independence supporters, with the Americans bringing in a gag law which made the Puerto Rican national anthem illegal and banned meetings or discussion of both independence and socialism. This, coupled with the “Carpeteo”, the constant FBI and police spying on independence supporters, spurred the emergence of clandestine militant groups on the lines of the Guevarist guerrilla strategy popular across Latin America in that era.

These days did not yield a favourable environment for the PIP. Unlike the nationalist party and the guerrilla groups, the PIP does not uphold armed struggle as a strategy or tactic. But with the repressive Carpeteo making open organising for independence and socialism difficult, the PIP quickly went from being the main opposition party to a minority party, holding just two percent of the vote right up to the present day. As for the armed conflict, it would continue into the early 2000’s, with the 2005 assassination of guerrilla leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the FBI marking something of a turning point for the independence movement- People who wouldn’t necessarily have agreed with Ojeda Rios’ methods or politics were incensed by his murder, and took to the streets protesting against U.S. intervention in Puerto Rican politics.

Paul saw this as one of the chief causes of a renewed inerest in Puerto Rican independence since the millennium. Another lies in the concurrent dispute taking place over the island of Vieques, one which had a similar galvanising consequence for the movement. Vieques is an island of the Puerto Rican archipelago which the U.S. military used as a testing ground for above-ground and underwater bombs from 1941 onwards. After an American bomb accidentally killed David Sanes, a Vieques citizen, the PIP launched a campaign against bomb testing which saw activists sailing from the main island to Vieques on fishing boats to camp out on the beaches and occupy U.S. military property. Even with arrests and repression, the sustained militancy of the campaign led to a success, with the U.S. military withdrawing from Vieques in 2003. In a speech celebrating this victory, the president of the PIP, Rubén Berríos Martínez, said: “Yesterday Lares, today Vieques, tomorrow Puerto Rico!”

This recent history brought us up neatly to the matter of my next question, which turned on contemporary events and their significance for the Puerto Rican independence movement. Paul emphasised the importance of the Puerto Rican economic crisis, which has been ongoing since 2006. To prop up the economy, the island’s government has taken on a great deal of debt since the crisis- fifty billion dollars from 2006 to 2016, which dwarfs the twenty billion dollars of debt accumulated between 1952 and 2006. By 2016, the former governor Alejandro García Padilla had declared the debt unpayable, calling on the U.S. government to address the debt crisis.

At the level of normal peoples’ lives, the figures Paul had for me were grim ones- From the beginning of the crisis in 2006, around a quarter of Puerto Rico’s population has migrated away to the United States. There is a poverty rate of sixty percent, and the island is one of the top five countries of the world for income inequality. In a typical austerity response by the government, huge swathes of Puerto Rican society have been privatised- Healthcare, the highways, public transport, energy and sections of the education system. In particular, the marketisation of education can be seen in how university tuition fees have more than quadrupled since 2006.

The youth of Puerto Rico, the first-time voters of today, Paul continued, “are people who have never had a memory of Puerto Rico in prosperity, of Puerto Rico not in a time of crisis. They see no opportunity or future in their own country.” A result of this is that the fear people have traditionally had that independence and socialism would cause massive poverty has tended to fall away. After all, Paul pointed out, Puerto Rican people “are living those conditions right now under a U.S. flag.”

This growing discontent manifested in 2019 with the “Ricky Renuncia” protests against governor Ricardo Rosselló over the government’s response to Hurricane Maria and his overall apathy to the problems of the people. From that movement, Paul traces a new openness to Puerto Rican independence and new youth participation in the electoral process, this from a youth that tends to be overwhelmingly pro-independence. An illustration of this is the PIP’s recent electoral fortunes, with an increase from two percent of the vote in 2016 to almost fifteen percent in 2020 during a five-way race. Paul was understandably very, very hopeful about these new developments among the youth.

Of course, the problems of austerity have continued to make life tough, especially because they are imposed from outside with little Puerto Rican say in the matter. There is the continuing issue of the Control Board, an unelected body of seven people chosen by the U.S. president and salaried with Puerto Rican tax money who are in charge of overseeing Puerto Rican finances and repayment of the debt. The board have proven voracious, bringing in a forty year long hike on sales tax and a forty year tax on electricity to make up for the period when energy was nationalised. PROMESA, the law that inaugurated the board, states that the Control Board will exist until Puerto Rico has had five consecutive years of balanced budget. However, the Board recently marked its fifth anniversary without a single year of balanced budget. Paul pointed out that like any austerity program, the point is not to save the economy but simply to perpetuate the problem, to asset strip and transfer whatever wealth isn’t nailed down into rich pockets. In contrast to this, the PIP’s position is that the Board should be abolished, PROMESA repealed, and Puerto Rico’s debt should be forgiven. As ever, an essential part of any meaningful self determination is economic sovereignty.

Bringing things to a close, I asked Paul what importance the solidarity of other independence movements, like ours in Scotland, has for the Puerto Rican struggle. “No country exists in a vacuum,” Paul began. Discussing world politics today, he was struck by the way in which independence movements are on the rise across a variety of nations, like Scotland, Wales and Catalunya. He was also very impressed by Barbados’ recent steps towards becoming a republic. He explained that local actions and developments like the ones already mentioned have repercussions on a global scale, so that what might seem on first glance to be isolated fights for self determination end up taking on a significance that  leaps borders and crosses oceans to inspire and teach others. It is well to remember, even if we never learn of them, that we in Scotland have sympathisers and admirers all across the world, and our struggles, and, I hope, our victories, will cheer and excite the passions of a great multitude of fellow fighters.

Secondly, solidarity matters to Paul because part of the essential groundwork for Puerto Rican independence is establishing relationships with other countries and movements. After all, Paul argued, “independence is not to separate us from the United States but to unite us with the rest of the world.” And this unity is to be a different kind of unity from the one-sided, opportunistic unity Puerto Rico has thus far experienced with the United States. The PIP looks for relationships of reciprocity, solidarity, camaraderie and respect with other countries- International co-operation, not exploitation. That wish, to be an active and progressive player in the wider world, not just one part in a stifling union with an imperialist power, is something I’m sure Scottish readers with readily sympathise with. It is a fine sentiment, and Paul summed it up wonderfully by once more quoting Rubén: “One day we’ll be able to hug our brethren from across the world and say to them: Comrades, we have arrived late to freedom, but because of that we love it even more.” May the day arrive swiftly!

If you want to keep up with Paul Figueroa and the PIP, you can follow them on social media:

Paul’s Twitter: @paul_delpip
Paul’s Facebook Page: @paulfigueroapip
The PIP’s Twitter accounts: @PIPTwitteando @PIPSanJuan
The PIP’s websites: independencia.net  and juandalmau.com

Reproduced from Bella Caledonia: https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2021/12/24/the-island-and-the-river/

 

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Beyond Glasgow – what happened at COP26 and where we go next

It is a month since Alok Sharma as president, fighting back some tears, brought down the gavel on the 26th Conference of the Parties – the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow. The initial flurry of reactions and comments has subsided. Here in Scotland we have already seen some early signs of the impact – with the beginnings of a victory against the development of a new offshore oil field at Cambo. On Saturday, 4 December, activists in Glasgow held a first gathering to take stock and plan future steps.

So this is intended as a contribution to that process of weighing up what happened, both inside the official talks, and outside in the struggle for climate justice. We need to do this as fully and accurately as we can, to provide a guide for what we do next.

This is perhaps most urgent in Scotland, where the huge protests on the streets of Glasgow on the 5 and 6 November have had a major impact on the political and ideological landscape, and could have a lot more in the years to come if we are able to learn the most useful lessons, and build on them. But it is also important for the climate movement in England and the rest of the UK, which faces a possible moment of refoundation.

And it is not without significance at a global level, where, as a representative of one Indigenous organisation who made it to Glasgow argued, it is time to be thinking about a new kind and scale of international coordination.

Three outcomes

We can divide the main conclusions from COP26 into three. The most important has to do with the success of those mobilisations outside the official talks, and we’ll come back to that.

The second was also immediately obvious to many, and relates to the spectacular failure of the official summit, when measured against its own stated objectives. World leaders definitively did not “embrace their responsibilities” to “act now”, as the UK presidency had asked them to six months earlier, when Alok Sharma stood in front of the huge, commercial Whitelee wind farm, 15 kilometres south of the COP26 venue on the Clyde, and called on them to “pick the planet”.

They did not bring to Glasgow the commitments that would keep global warming at less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Those were not tears of joy on Alok Sharma’s face as he had to close the summit summit with a watered-down target on “phasing down” coal power. The concluding statement by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, used diplomatic language but left little room for doubt: “unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions. …We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. …We did not achieve these (ie. the main) goals at this conference.

The third kind of conclusion is less obvious. It got little mention in the mainstream media coverage, and for the most part lies buried in the detail of the deliberately opaque discussions on wrapping up the rulebook for the Paris Agreement and related “technical” aspects. Here we find the moves made by governments and the private sector, including fossil fuel companies and big banks, to put in place the procedures and organisational infrastructure to secure the still evolving, and still contradictory, ruling class response to the climate emergency.

It was not an accident that the largest single delegation at COP26, bigger than any single government, was constituted by lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry. There were at least 503 of them and there have been no reports of tears on their faces.

The second biggest delegation was the Brazilian one. It had 480 members, including many lobbyists from the agribusiness, mining and forestry sectors, all with a special interest in resolving the rules around carbon markets, for example. Their moves made significant progress in Glasgow. But they did not have it all their own way.

They were thwarted, or maybe just delayed, on several key questions by the pressure of civil society on the inside of COP26 – for example the inclusion of forests as tradable carbon credits under Article 6, or the use of nature based solutions as offsets (see below).

It is at the intersection between these three levels that the future of the climate movement, and indeed of humanity, will be decided. So let us look more closely at the last two, before returning to the movement itself.

The Glasgow Get-out

The final “agreement”, officially called the Glasgow Climate Pact, but dubbed by some in the climate movement as the Glasgow Get-out, is a laboriously constructed work of smoke and mirrors. In some ways, it is ambitious. It is certainly longer and more wide-ranging than such “cover decisions” (the technical term for these interim negotiated texts) usually are. In line with the latest scientific reports from the IPCC, it focuses much more sharply than the 2015 Paris Agreement itself on 1.5 degrees maximum warming as the key goal. It stresses the need for “accelerated action in this critical decade”. It even has a few seemingly specific promises, like developed countries doubling by 2025 their financial contributions to the Adaptation Fund, to help countries in the global south adjust to the climate change that is already on the way [[This was seen as a gain for developing countries made during the talks. No such provision had been on the formal agenda, and when it first appeared in the draft texts the language had been much vaguer. The final text takes 2019 as the baseline, meaning that developed countries are urged to come up with an additional US$40 billion a year for adaptation by 2025. However, this is still well short of what is needed. The UN Environment Programme estimates the current annual need at US$70 billion, and suggests this is likely to quadruple by 2030. It also remains unclear that developing countries accept this is not part of the US$100 billion a year that they promised back in 2009 and have still failed to deliver.]]

Some of this sharper language is the result of hard-fought battles by poorer countries and civil society delegates, over the position of commas and this or that adjective. But more than anything it reflects the understanding by most imperialist governments that, at the very least, they have to be seen to be taking the climate crisis seriously. They know that the level of concern among their citizens has increased very significantly in just the last few years, even the last few months, as floods and fires have ravaged Europe and North America as well as India, China or Bolivia. People expect their governments to act. And these governments in turn fear that public concern will deepen. When their discourse of vandalism or even terrorism leveled at direct action groups largely falls flat; when very large numbers of people actually sympathise with people gluing themselves to motorways, or Indigenous communities occupying oil wells and blocking mines, the authorities know the situation is serious.

The gaping hole in the Glasgow Climate Pact is the almost total absence of detail. There is virtually nothing specified about who will do exactly what by when, and how anyone will be able to verify it, much less enforce it. In the English language, a pact usually means an agreement to do something. In that sense, this is not a pact at all – more of a political statement about a series of things the parties agree (more or less) that they would like to see happen.

The two main, overlapping, texts of the Glasgow Climate Pact have 71 and 97 points respectively. [[In characteristically confusing fashion, there are three versions of the main cover decision text, one for each of the three meetings that officially took place in parallel under the the umbrella of COP – firstly the COP26 itself, that is the 26th Conference of the Parties of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; secondly the CMP16, the 16th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which is largely irrelevant and whose texts say very little: and the CMA3, or the 3rd Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, which actually has most detail in relation to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.]] Almost all of them begin with words like recognizes, expresses, notes, stresses, emphasizes, urges, invites, calls upon. Only one point in the COP.26 version of the Pact begins with resolves, while the longer, CMA.3 text has 6 points that begin with decides and 3 with resolves. These very few “decisions” all refer to organisational questions of arranging future meetings and work processes and mechanisms. None of them refer directly to the substantive issues of emissions cuts or climate finance.

From Binding to Voluntary to Proclamation

This illustrates one of the two overarching developments in the UN climate negotiations that we need to note if we are to make sense of what happened in Glasgow. This is how the process has moved away from any kind of binding commitments, of the sort contained in the Kyoto Protocol that came into force in 2005. During and after COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the U.S. and the EU systematically assaulted this approach. This meant that the Paris Agreement in 2015, while achieving advances in some respects, contained only voluntary commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. These were the core of the famous NDCs, or nationally determined contributions. The whole point of COP26 – the reason it was hailed as a make or break moment – was that this was the time, five years on from the Paris Agreement, by which the 193 signatories were meant to have come up with their enhanced NDCs, their plans to make the bigger cuts and provide the greater finance, that would allow global warming to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably below 1.5 degrees. But it was entirely up to each party to announce whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted. There was never going to be, and never could be, given the nature of the Paris Agreement, a deal negotiated in Glasgow to ensure this outcome.

The scale of the shortfall left by these voluntary contributions on the core issue of emissions cuts, or mitigation as it is called in the language of the UNFCCC, is tucked away in paragraphs 22 and 25 of the CMA.3 version of the final text. The first recognises, what the IPCC Report on 1.5 Degrees had brought to the fore of the climate change agenda in 2018, that “limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around midcentury, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases”. Now the climate justice movement centred around the COP26 Coalition has questioned, at length and in depth, the scale, timing and distribution of these IPCC targets, including especially the new and very unscientific mantra of net zero by 2050. And not of course because they are too ambitious.

However, even against these inadequate targets, paragraph 25 “Notes with serious concern the findings of the synthesis report on nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, according to which the aggregate greenhouse gas emission level, taking into account implementation of all submitted nationally determined contributions, is estimated to be 13.7 per cent above the 2010 level in 2030”. The failure of COP26 to achieve its main objective could hardly be clearer. If you add up all the new, more ambitious plans (enhanced NDCs) submitted by 151 parties up to day 3 of the COP (2 November, 2021), they project not a cut of 45% in CO2 emissions by 2030, but an increase of 13.7%.

This is not a small discrepancy that we can make up later. It is a colossal move in the wrong direction.

Carbon Action Tracker, a well-respected research body, calculated that these pledges would, at best, keep warming to 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100. More probably, given the recurring failure to meet even inadequate promises, we would end up with 2.7 degrees. Others regard even this as over optimistic.

The fact that the Glasgow Pact does call on countries to submit new, more ambitious NDCs by COP27, in Egypt next year, and on a yearly basis after that, was held up as evidence of greater ambition. It is certainly an improvement on the 5-year cycle agreed in Paris. But the fact this call was made at all only highlights the spectacular failure to meet the targets needed by COP26.

The UK presidency knew well in advance the dimension of this failure. Its strategy was to seek to bury it in a welter of rhetoric about keeping 1.5 alive. That is the function of the more ambitious language in the final text. The same concern, to be seen to be taking action, characterised the flurry of announcements made during the World Leaders Summit, which took up the Monday and Tuesday of the first week of the COP.

First there was the pledge by 130 countries to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. Then it was 109 countries promising to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030, 190 countries announcing commitments to phase out coal power, and 30 countries and financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuel development overseas. Beyond the headlines, it was never perfectly clear who had agreed to do quite what.

And some of the announcements began to unravel as soon as they were made. For example, critics immediately pointed out that most of the deforestation pledge was the same as the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, which had produced no results at all. The environment minister of Indonesia, which had been touted as one of the key signatories, took to twitter to call the pledge “clearly inappropriate and unfair”. Bolivia, one of very few countries taking a firm climate justice stance inside the COP26, was also listed as a signatory; but when we interviewed the Bolivian president, Luis Arce, on the day of the announcement, he told us his country had not signed and was still evaluating the pledge.

As Alex Rafalowizc from Colombia told one of the daily Movement Assemblies in Glasgow that week, the COP process has moved from binding agreements through voluntary targets to the rhetoric of grandiose but unverifiable announcements.

Forget Equity

This shift in the shape of the UN climate talks – to abandon binding agreements – goes hand in hand with another – the shift away from the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. (CBDR) This principle of CBDR was enshrined in the UNFCCC by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It means that those countries who historically have been most responsible for putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the industrialised countries of the global north, the Annexe 1 countries, in the terminology of the Convention, should take the major responsibility to address the climate change that has resulted. It became an important part of the movement to demand climate justice.

During the discussions on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, at Copenhagen and the COPs that followed, the U.S. and its allies attacked the principle of CBDR on the grounds that all countries needed to do their bit, just as it sought to overturn the practice of binding agreements. In part this opposition was due to the predictable reluctance of imperialist countries to pay for the harm they have done. But it also had to do with the growing obsession in Washington, under Obama and since, with the threat posed to U.S. hegemony by China.

The Paris Agreement retained some of the language about CBDR. But the practice had already moved on. And without any mechanism to enforce commitments, any differentiation between the amount done by rich countries and poor countries would also be entirely voluntary.

This accentuated move away from equity was a hallmark of the Glasgow COP, in every area and at every step, even if developing country delegations did manage to get a few references to CBDR re-inserted into the Glasgow Climate Pact. It is inscribed in the dominant narrative of “net zero by 2050”, which the UK presidency tried so hard to impose. Many global south delegates described this as carbon colonialism. That is because it completely contradicts any idea that there is a finite carbon budget, an amount of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases that the human race can still afford to emit while keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, and that the rich countries have already spent all of their share of that budget. What is left, about 600Gt of CO2 equivalent, should therefore be reserved, as far as possible, for countries of the south so that they can combat extreme poverty.

Net zero is centred on the notion that rich countries and major corporations can continue to emit greenhouse gases, either because they will pay someone else not to (offsets), or because they will use some untried or non-existent technology to remove those gases from the atmosphere in the future. So in addition to these two bogus premises (that offsets can lead to real cuts in emissions, and that we will eventually be able to count on negative emissions technology), the net zero narrative depends on jettisoning any pretence of justice for those in the global south who are the main victims of climate change. It calls on all countries to pursue this common goal of net zero by the middle of the century, while glossing over the fact that the route envisaged to get there is conceived entirely with the financial and technological capacities of rich countries in mind.

It was this sleight of hand that allowed the UK presidency, and the mainstream, northern media to blame India, and indirectly China, for that last minute watering down of the wording on “phasing down” instead of “phasing out” unabated coal power. Of course, India, like China, does want to get off the hook of its own dependence on coal. But the point it was making was that it is not fair – and it is not in line with the CBDR principles of the UNFCCC – to expect developing countries with high levels of poverty to implement the same scale of mitigation at the same speed as rich countries. In fact earlier in the week, India had proposed language suggesting that all fossil fuels should be phased down, not just coal. But the the U.S. and Europe were having none of that.

The other side of this shift away from equity was clear in the attitude displayed by rich countries in Glasgow to climate finance. After shuffling numbers and dates backwards and forwards, they still ended up with still no commitment on when they would come up with the US$100 billion a year they had promised back in 2009 to provide by 2020 to help developing countries transition to clean energy and green technologies – a figure that had been pulled out of a hat at Copenhagen to placate governments in the South incensed by the assault on CBDR, and which had been woefully adequate even then. Another UN report recently suggested the amount needed would be more like US$6 trillion. The important thing to understand here is that such significant sums of climate finance are an absolute prerequisite for a just transition at a global level. Without such support, most countries in the South would have no way of moving towards zero carbon by investing in renewable energy, recycling, clean public transport, electric vehicles and so on.

Even worse, rich countries steadfastly resisted the attempts by developing countries to agree a common definition of climate finance. That may sound bureaucratic, but governments in the South wanted to make it clear that to qualify as climate finance it should be new money, given in the form of grants or other kinds of concessional finance (eg. loans at below market level interest rates). By rejecting a common definition, rich countries signaled their intention to continue fudging their already paltry commitments, by re-labelling existing development aid as climate finance and including commercial loans that will only increase the debt burden of the south and the profits of northern banks.

Led by the U.S. and the EU, they also refused to apply a 5% levy on the buying and selling of carbon credits between governments, which developing countries wanted as a reliable source of finance for the Adaptation Fund.

Perhaps most tellingly, the U.S. flatly refused to countenance a separate stream of funding to pay for Loss and Damage, which has been one of the most pressing demands of many southern countries for the last several COPs. This means money to pay for the damage already caused by climate change, including extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, told leaders on the second day of the COP that countries like his may be forced to seek redress in the international courts, if no loss and damage funding were agreed. The country’s second island of Barbuda was rendered uninhabitable by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The U.S., however, terrified of admitting liability for such costs, would only accept a minimal move of funding the operations of the Santiago Network, set up at COP25 but not activated, to advise and give technical support to nations facing such losses. As another southern delegate wryly commented, what we don’t need is more consultants flying around the world to tell us what loss and damage is.

Article 6 – the architecture of climate capital

These apparently obscure details all feed into that third kind of conclusion we mentioned above. Somewhere just below the radar of the mainstream media, COP26 made significant advances towards putting in place the structures and procedures by which a significant section of international capital is seeking to put the climate crisis at the centre of its business model for the decades to come. The centrepiece of this project is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Article 6 deals with three kinds of what is called, euphemistically and misleadingly, “voluntary cooperation” between countries aimed at allowing “higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions”. Essentially, this means offsets and carbon markets. In other words, Article 6 establishes the mechanisms by which high-emitting countries (mainly in the global north) can massage their promises to cut emissions (their NDCs), by continuing with some of those emissions (or even most of them), if they pay someone else (mainly countries in the global south) not to emit (or to absorb) an equivalent amount. Paragraph 6.2 refers to such “cooperation”, or trade in carbon credits, bilaterally between parties or countries. Paragraph 6.4 refers to such carbon trades on a wider basis between public and private entities, in other words to carbon markets as such. Paragraph 6.8 refers to “non-market” approaches to such exchanges, mainly involving the aid programmes of rich countries.

These mechanisms are absolutely central to how imperialist countries have approached the climate crisis and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. They are what makes it possible for them to “commit to” the goals of “net zero by 2050” and the like, because they make it possible, in theory, for capitalism to look like it is taking bold steps to confront the crisis, while in fact only making comparatively modest changes to how it operates in the foreseeable future. That is, they seem to offer the possibility of pushing off into the future the existential contradiction that confronts capitalism, between its inherent obligation to grow and the environmental imperative that we consume less.

In the mean time, they also hold out the offer of a major new area of accumulation to a sector of global capital, especially finance capital. This is what David Harvey would call accumulation by dispossession – in this case the dispossession is of vast swathes of “nature” in the global south, bought up (or seized) from local, sometimes Indigenous communities, by northern governments and companies to offset their failure to cut emissions at home.

Not surprisingly, discussion of the precise rules that would govern how this vital piece of the jigsaw operates have been complicated and fractious. The battles have been shrouded by impenetrable jargon, but mostly they had to do with accountancy – with who would be able to include what, and when, as part of these carbon trades, and consequently who would benefit most. Successive COPs following Paris failed to reach an agreement. Civil society groups argued that no agreement would be better than a bad one, and almost any agreement on these terms would be a bad one. At Madrid they staged a last-minute protest that helped to block a deal. The problem was kicked down the road to Glasgow.

In Glasgow, there was an agreement on the rules for Article 6. The logjam seems to have been broken by a clever accounting suggestion from Japan. This is undoubtedly a significant victory for those banking on the future of offsets and carbon markets. Alongside the agreements reached on the timeframes for reporting emission cuts and standards of transparency, it means the rule book governing the Paris Agreement is now, in general terms, complete. However, not all the details are resolved. The example of forests illustrates how battles will continue to be fought over this market-driven agenda for the climate crisis.

Contrary to what some climate activists assume, forests have not so far been part of the UNFCCC’s carbon trading regime. In the Paris Agreement they come under Article 5, not Article 6. So there have indeed been programmes like REDD+, which provide for what are called “results-based payments” to countries that reduce their emissions from deforestation and conserve forests as carbon sinks. But such forest protection has not been able to generate carbon credits that could be traded on carbon markets, and which could therefore be bought by other governments or companies to offset their continued emissions and therefore help those countries meet their NDCs. Of course, many forest communities and others in the global south thought this was clearly the direction of travel, and feared the aim of many northern delegations was to turn the world’s forests into one more thing that could be bought and sold so that they could avoid making the emissions cuts that are needed.

In the run-up to Glasgow, a concerted campaign in this direction was mounted by the ill-named Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN), supposedly represented at COP26 by Papua New Guinea. The CfRN claims to include 50 rainforest nations. However, the give-away is in the preposition. Because this is not an alliance of countries, but a “not-for-profit”, set up “for rainforest” nations by two graduates of Columbia Business School, from the U.S. and Italy, one of whom was brought up in Papua New Guinea. Its offices are in Manhattan, its board and staff are almost all investment bankers, and since 2005 it has been the main proponent of putting a price on the world’s rainforests, in theory as a way of compensating countries for conserving them. Since then it has led the promotion of RED, REDD and REDD+, each of which took a step closer to making forests one of the most important offsets on sale in the world’s carbon markets.

The CfRN, supported by several northern country delegations, pushed hard for COP26 to include emissions reductions from REDD+ to be included as carbon credits under Paragraph 6.2. This would cover both past REDD+ reductions, from 2015 to 2021, and a fast track for such reductions in the future from 2021, thus for the first time allowing the governments of high-emitting countries to buy up such “forest credits” as a way of achieving their NDCs. They also supported draft wording for Para 6.4 that would define carbon “removals” as relating specifically to the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector, thus putting forests directly into the carbon markets for the first time. Environmental campaigners from Brazil and elsewhere argued strongly that these moves would be disastrous for forest communities in Amazonia and elsewhere, and for the forests themselves, because they would unleash an even more intense wave of land grabs and commercial pressure on their territories, as rich countries and big corporations scrambled to buy up the rights to keep on polluting.

In the end, these campaigners won a small victory. REDD+ reductions were not mentioned in relation to 6.2, and the reference to forestry in 6.4 was replaced by a more generic definition of removals. However, these may be temporary stays of execution. Forests are not excluded under either mechanism, and there will surely be new attempts to include them explicitly when some of the further definitions come up for discussion.

Some initial conclusions for the movement

These three kinds of outcome from COP26 point to three kinds of conclusion that may help to orient our future action.

  1. It is increasingly unlikely – one could say it is increasingly close to excluded – that the 197 parties to the UNFCCC will not take the action needed in the current decade – either neither in terms of emissions cuts or nor in terms of climate finance for the global south – to ensure that global warming will remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius. At least not unless there is a dramatic shift in the political balance of power that forces their hand.

  2. There will continue to be mass pressure, from public opinion and from protests on the streets and in communities, to demand that those governments do take such action.

This is not because most of these people trust their governments to do what is needed. Most of the 100 or 150 thousand on the streets of Glasgow certainly don’t. The same goes for many of the millions more who watched with sympathy. Almost certainly, most of those protesters already think “system change” is needed, although they may not be clear what that might involve.

But for the moment, they still see putting pressure on governments as the best available option. The more those governments don’t take such action, and the more the impact of extreme weather events is felt in major population centres, the more the movement may radicalise.

There is already widespread sympathy for others taking direct action. That sympathy may increase. In some specific circumstances, the mass movement itself may resort more to direct action to block mines, power plants or whatever.

But overall, and unless there is a dramatic shift in the political balance of power, the mass movement will not take upon itself the task of shutting down the fossil fuel industry, as some are suggesting it should.

  1. While governments in the global north will continue to claim they are working to keep 1.5 alive, the most coherent sectors of the capitalist class, especially in the financial sector, will be working hard and fast to put in place the mechanisms that can turn the climate and biodiversity crises into a new, core domain for capital accumulation. Of course, much of the ruling class in the global south is already well integrated into this project. Governments and civil society organisations that are not will continue to fight their corner within the framework of the UN climate talks. They don’t have much choice. There may be increasingly sharp contradictions between some of them and the way the governments of the global north are driving the process forward at their expense. But there will also be many occasions where these representatives of the global south, both governments and sometimes movements, buy into the short term benefits apparently on offer from global capital and its market mechanisms for addressing the climate crisis. One example of this is how even some radical sections of the Indigenous movement in Brazil have been tempted to sign up to aspects of the commodification of forests, as a way of getting much-needed cash to their communities.

It is understandable that point one above will lead to, indeed has already produced, calls to radicalise the movement. In part those calls are right. But it would be a bad mistake to misinterpret this. The temptation to “disengage from the COP” altogether and “set our own agenda” risks driving a wedge between some of the more radical sections of the climate justice movement, still a relatively small minority, and those much bigger forces that were both on the streets in Glasgow and were represented, in a mediated form, by some of the governments of the global south and many of the civil society groups that operate and fight within the UNFCCC process. Many Latin American Indigenous organisations, to take that prominent example again, were very active both on the streets of Glasgow, and inside the Blue Zone.

When 1000 delegates walked out of the Blue Zone on the final Friday, it was the biggest such revolt in the history of the COPs, at least since the Alba countries banged the table and rejected Obama’s stitch-up in Copenhagen. 750 civil society delegates packed out one of the main halls for an impromptu People’s Plenary, which ended with them singing “power to the people”. Then they were joined by several hundred more who couldn’t get in, to march through the Scottish Events Campus venue singing “the people are going to rise like the water… I hear the voice of my great grand daughter, calling climate justice now”, and finally to exit the blue zone and link up with the movements protesting outside the gates. It was a powerful and moving illustration of the kind of links that are possible, and necessary.

What we need to find, in Scotland as in other parts of the UK and around the world, are the particular organisational forms that can bring these different component parts together – into a more lasting, consistent and potent force – not to drive them apart.

Climate Justice, Social Justice and Independence in Scotland

Here in Scotland, the aftermath of COP26 presents us with a special opportunity. This can be illustrated with one short story, told backwards.

At the time of writing, the private equity-backed oil exploration company, Siccar Point Energy, has just announced it is “pausing” its project to develop the Cambo oil field, located 1,000 metres below the North Sea to the west of the Shetland Islands. Although not a big field, and economically a marginal one, for campaigners and the UK government alike, Cambo had become symbolic of the confrontation between an official strategy of maximum fossil fuel extraction on the road to a low carbon future, and the demand to leave it in the ground, now. For the campaigners, Siccar’s announcement feels like a big victory.

Siccar’s decision came 8 days after Shell pulled out of its 30 percent stake in the project, saying “the economic case… is not strong enough at this time”.

Just over two weeks earlier, on 16 November, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for the first time expressed open opposition to the new oil field, saying it should not get the green light and was incompatible with targets for “net zero”. Previously she had only called for a reassessment of the project by the UK government, which has the power to approve oil exploration licenses.

Ten days before that, Glasgow hosted the biggest climate demonstration ever seen in the UK, and one of the biggest protests of any kind ever held in Scotland.

When Shell announced its decision to pull out, Friends of the Earth Scotland quite rightly commented that “People power has made the climate-wrecking Cambo development so toxic that even oil giant Shell doesn’t want to be associated with it any more.” That was true. But there was a step in between as well. Two steps in fact: government, and the national question.

The fact that so many people demonstrated in Glasgow, and that “Stop Cambo” was one of their most visible demands, no doubt had an impact on Shell. The oil giant can do without this or that new oil field the size of Cambo (170 million barrels over 25 years, about the same as Saudi Arabia produces in three and a half weeks). And it is concerned about its image, especially that it is now publicly committed to becoming “net zero” by mid century. But those demonstrations were probably not the decisive factor in its decision. The threat of climate campaigners waging legal warfare and dragging the project through endless appeals and court delays probably weighed heavier.

However, that huge protest in Glasgow surely did weigh large in Nicola Sturgeon’s shift to opposing Cambo. And Nicola Sturgeon’s change of heart probably had an even greater bearing on Shell’s economic calculations. The Scottish government may not have the power to say yes or no to new oil fields, but it could make the practicalities of access and operations a lot more difficult. And even Shell can probably see that well before the end of the 25-year life span of the oil field and its economic viability, there is a realistic possibility of Scotland becoming an independent country, with a government that may now want to get rid of all such oil fields.

This is one concrete example of how the national question is sharpening the climate question in Scotland, and vice versa.

The combination between the insulting exclusion of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP government by the Johnson-Sharma UK unionist presidency of COP26, and the historic scale of the mobilisation on Scottish streets, has increased the pressure on an ambiguous SNP government, and already brought some modest results, like that over Cambo. The Scottish government budget, revealed last week, also makes some partial steps in a positive direction, with addressing the climate crisis made one of its three top priorities. This of course has coincided with the incorporation into government of the Scottish Green Party – significantly to the left of the Greens in England, Germany, or probably anywhere else in the EU. The Scottish government took another very small but symbolic step in the first week of COP26, when it became the first administration in the global north to make a concrete offer, of just £1 million, later increased to £2 million, to a fund for loss and damage in the Global South – an initiative which was promptly trashed by the Biden administration.

In the other direction, the climate question is itself beginning to bisect, and polarise, the national struggle. It may be little more than a footnote, of some interest in Scotland but not much elsewhere, but this has become clear in the attitude of the former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Salmond broke with Sturgeon and formed last year Alba, a supposedly more radical nationalist party, backed by a strange amalgam of anti-trans “feminists” and misogynist leftists. After Sturgeon came out against Cambo, he promptly attacked her for selling out Scotland’s right to its own oil and putting jobs at risk.

In other words, the issues of climate justice and climate action now traverse the national struggle in Scotland, just as the issue of closing down North Sea oil and the need for a just transition led by workers in the sector cuts across and polarises the trade union movement in Scotland.

These are potentially explosive combinations. Climate struggles are already stoking national demands, and they could add a whole new dimension to the struggle for independence. At the same time, any advance towards an independent Scotland is necessarily going to pose the issues of climate justice much more sharply. The SNP government has taken some modest, positive steps, just as it has in various areas of social policy. But its overall “social liberal” orientation and its attachment to market-led policies means it is still wedded to the vision of net zero (by 2045) and illusions about carbon capture and storage, about Scotland as a powerhouse and exporter of renewable energy and so on. Dismantling the net zero narrative and its attendant false solutions therefore takes on a particular importance here in Scotland, both for the climate movement and for the radical wing of the pro-independence movement.

The big challenge in the coming months – and it is a challenge that needs to be embraced swiftly, or the moment will have passed – is to find the organisational forms and the political initiatives that can capture, consolidate and develop the energy, the diversity and the political radicalisation that burst onto the streets of Glasgow in November. This will need some sort of specific initiative here in Scotland, but an initiative that is articulated with similar, appropriate moves in other parts of the UK and internationally.

Iain Bruce, 11 December 2021

Iain Bruce is a member of ecosocialist.scot living in Glasgow.




Ukrainian history holds lessons for Scottish socialists

Paul Inglis of ecosocialist.scot writes on Marko Bocjun’s recent book The Workers’ Movement and the National Question in Ukraine, 1897-1918

The Historical Materialism book series has been the source of a number of useful works for my political thinking over the years. Previous volumes I’ve encountered, like Alan Sennett’s book on Revolutionary Marxism in the Spanish revolution and Ralf Hoffrogge’s book on Richard Müller and the German workers’ councils, have served as both examples of erudite scholarship and as powerful influences on the way I think about socialist politics, strategy and tactics. One of the latest entries in the series, Marko Bojcun’s The Workers’ Movement and the National Question in Ukraine, 1897-1918, looks set to hold a similar place in my estimation going forward.

This book presents a fascinating account of a lesser-known movement for leftists today, telling the fraught story of the Ukrainian working class movement, its political parties and organisations, and how they faced up to the national question amid the revolutionary tumult of the year 1917. Reading the book, it is like hearing about something of a lost world – tendencies and movements shrouded by the success of the Bolsheviks in the conflicts that followed the collapse of the Russian Empire. Furthermore, it is simply solid, detailed writing on the national question, and like any good writing on the national question, it has a relevance that leaps beyond its own subject matter and which sheds light on other national struggles and movements, past and present.

As someone who has hitched my political commitments as a socialist to the opportunities and risks presented by the cause of Scottish independence, I am always interested to learn more about national movements from all over the world: how they organised, how they fought, what kind of compromises they made, and especially where they failed. In short, lessons of history! I think it is a shame that for a lot of the left and the national movement more broadly here in Scotland, there is a tendency to act like the only comparable situations for us are Catalunya, the Basque Country and Quebec, presumably because these are contemporary movements in Western nations.

As long as we don’t pretend there are any directly, exactly comparable situations, we can take valuable lessons from national movements both here and across the Global South, and from across history – specifically lessons pertaining to questions of approach and attitude. How does the working class get involved with national movements? How do we bring the class on board? What attitude should we take towards the moderate or liberal political parties and groups? How do we manage to get socialists from the larger nation, in our case England, to consider our national movement seriously and enlist their support? These are questions that face us today as they faced the Ukrainian socialists.

Bojcun’s book contains much on the specific historical difficulties of Ukrainian socialism and nationalism and the lessons gathered therein, but I wanted to focus this short article on some of the questions and thoughts about Marxism that I had running through my mind as I read the work, particularly the discussions in the third chapter on Social Democracy and the National Question.

It is very useful that this book not only gives a historical narrative of Ukrainian socialism, but also addresses theoretical concerns, problematising classical Marxist thinking on the national question – Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Lenin and Luxemburg – and subjecting them to analysis and criticism in the light of contemporary nationalist movements in Eastern Europe. I was excited to see this as I have in recent years, especially as I have become more interested in the national question, come to believe that there is an unfortunate weakness in the Marxist “canon” where the national question is concerned, one that plagues it to this day. Where thinkers like Marx or Engels can be thrilling and enlightening on a wealth of matters, they can be flippant, arbitrary and cruel when speaking about the fate of “smaller” nations.

Take, for example, the remarks from Marx’s early work, quoted by the author, on how Scots, Gaels and Basques are “historically unprepared for nationhood”, national leftovers that “will become and will remain until their final extermination or denationalisation fanatical partisans of counterrevolution, since their entire existence is in general a protest against the great historical revolution”. The thoughts of Engels on the South Slavs, which I first encountered in Mark Leier’s excellent biography of Mikhail Bakunin, are a similarly crass diatribe.

In this conception, the smaller nations of the world were simply written off as barriers to the centralising tendency of capitalism towards more unified, larger states and, apparently, a more effective and efficient development of the productive forces conducive to building socialism.

What use is any of this to socialists in these smaller nations? Leaving aside the more complex tapestry of uneven economic development that resulted from the spread of global, imperialist capitalism and which calls into question the effective base for socialism that such great power “assimilation” has given us, the brutal reality of how stateless people have been forcibly integrated into larger nations through repression should give us all pause when we read of “denationalisation” and the like. No culture disappears from the scene of history cleanly, and no language simply dies out gently.

Now, to their credit, Marx and Engels of course came to a more sophisticated position on small nations in their later years, particularly regarding Irish freedom, but the “great power assimilationist” tendency in Marxism still runs through the thought of Kautsky, Lenin and Luxemburg, as the author shows. I quite enjoyed the exploration of the ambiguities of Lenin’s writing on the right of nations to self determination, and the criticisms of the Ukrainian socialist Lev Yurkevych on this matter – how Lenin sort-of wants to have his cake and eat it by both supporting the right to national self determination but also discouraging it, lauding the advantages of big states and bourgeois development. Another area of Yurkevych’s criticism looked at Lenin’s assertion that the achievement of democratic multinational states would see strivings for complete freedom of secession weaken.

This, considered in light of the modern day, feels like wishful thinking. The national question is alive and well in multinational democracies like the United Kingdom and Spain, and even if it is countered that this fact is only because of democratic deficits in these big states, it should be kept in mind that the centralising tendency of states like the United Kingdom and Spain has precluded the kind of genuine national autonomy that would render secession irrelevant. One need only think of the “fruits” yielded by Spanish democracy to the Basques in the 1980s, and how they can be measured in murdered, tortured and unlawfully detained independence activists.

What I feel all of this criticism poses, and what I would hope all of you bear in mind as you read this work, and other works like it, is: how do we overcome this weakness in Marxist theory, and how do we do better in the future? How do we conceive a radical alternative to the current state of affairs that genuinely grants self-determination and security to national cultures, no matter how small? This is especially pertinent for us Scots, because we absolutely must make sure that, whatever Scotland emerges from the next period, the Gaelic language and culture is preserved and supported, and that the Gaels have whatever autonomy they feel is appropriate. To do otherwise would be to continue the historical record of the British state.

Watch a recording of the full event with Marko Bojcun below👇

Paul Inglis is a member of the RSP and Socialist Resistance, based in Glasgow. This article is adapted from Paul’s spoken contribution at a joint RSP/SR meeting in September 2021 to discuss Bojcun’s book.

Ukraine, Marxism and the National Question: A Conversation With Marko Bojcun – YouTube

Reproduced from the blog of the Republican Socialist Platform https://republicansocialists.scot/2021/11/ukrainian-history-holds-lessons-for-scottish-socialists/




Kanaky referendum: statement of the Independence forces

The 12 December 2021 referendum on Kanaky independence from France was boycotted by the pro-independence forces, leading to a turnout of only 43% – half that of previous elections and denying the referendum any legitimacy.

ecosocialist.scot is pleased to republish below, in solidarity, parts of the statement of the pro-independence forces explaining their boycott stance.  [The statement is translated by International Viewpoint, from  l’Anticapitaliste. the journal of the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party) in France. ]

Kanaky is a multi-ethnic colony of the French state in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia, with a population of over 250,000 people.  Nouméa is the capital and largest city.  It came under a vicious French military occupation in 1853 and was used as a penal colony, housing many of those imprisoned from the uprising of the Paris Commune in 1871.  The French colonialists curently call it Nouvelle-Calédonie or  “New Caledonia”, apparently because it reminded the first European colonist to visit it – James Cook in 1774 – of Scotland!  The Kanak indigenous inhabitants support an independent sovereign state from France that encompasses all ethnic groups living in Kanaky.  Solidarity from Scottish organisations for Kanaky independence and the independence movement would be welcome.

Further background can be found here and (in French) here.

 

“The population will not accept the result of a consultation organized under the current conditions”

Gathered under the name of “Independence Strategic Committee of Non-participation”, the representatives of the political parties (FLNKS, the nationalists of MNSK, PT, DUS, MOI) and the independentist trade unions (USTKE, FLS, CNTP) call for the non-participation in the referendum of 12 December, maintained by the French authorities.  We publish extracts from their joint declaration.

We, the participants of the Yes camp, hope that this final consultation of the Nouméa Accord will take place in a serene and peaceful climate; everyone can see that this will not be the case. Since 6 September 2021, our country has been hard hit by the health crisis. The death toll continues to rise and the time has come for compassion and condolences for the families. The Covid-19 has created a climate of anxiety, the population is divided on the vaccination obligation and the health pass, both among the Yes and No supporters, in addition to its impact on the world of work, from sensitive sectors to those impacted by the reduction in their turnover. […]

A biased consultation

The final declaration of the Nainville-les-Roches round table of 12 July 1983 opened a 38-year long period in which the Kanak people decided to share their right to self-determination with the other ethnic groups present in New Caledonia. We invited the victims of colonial history, who no longer have any other country, to be part of us, through three consultations and through Caledonian citizenship. This citizenship open to others also provides non-Kanak citizens and communities with a political guarantee of equal treatment and inclusion in the common destiny. It secures the future of the populations concerned. It is the matrix of the legitimized people of this Country. Is there a forced march towards the destruction of this living together?

We refuse to be locked in, as the French State is trying to force us to do, in a choice between a solitary independence of rupture and a new status in France with the enlargement of the specific electoral body to the citizens of this Country. The State’s document on the consequences of Yes and No does not enjoy consensus. It was judged as “being neither more nor less than a propaganda manifesto for the No” by the 39th FLNKS congress on 21 August in Nouméa, and by the other pro-independence movements. […]

An irrevocable decision of non-participation

The Minister for Overseas France limits his arguments to a health situation that has become acceptable, without addressing the question of the social climate. In all countries, health and social issues go hand in hand, never one without the other. It would be more appropriate to work on the conditions for organizing a new electoral campaign and voting modalities for a consultation whose date would be agreed for September or October 2022 depending on the health situation, which would however, by that time, have continued in the local way of life.

The Nouméa Accord provides that in the event of a third No, the political forces will discuss the situation thus created. We will only respect the outcome of the last consultation if it takes place in a calm and peaceful social climate and after a fair campaign.

If the French State decides to maintain the date of 12 December, the political groups have already given notice of their irrevocable decision not to participate by not sending any propaganda material to the control commission for the referendum consultation.

Refusal of any commitment to the transition period

If the French state decides to maintain the date of 12 December, who will be around the table to discuss the following day? We won’t be there. We do not feel committed to the timetable of a period, transitional or otherwise, that would take us to June 2023.

The consequence of maintaining the date of 12 December will make it impossible to be serene about our institutional and economic future in the short or medium term. The French state will have to assume sole responsibility for the situation thus created. The population will not accept the result of a third consultation organized under the current conditions. When the time comes, if necessary, we will point out to the international community the failings, the underbelly and the shortcomings of a backward-looking state that does not keep its word and clings to the reductive schemes of yesteryear. The time of colonization is over.

Our future will be one of full and complete sovereignty, because today what divides us is French neo-colonization. We must put an end to this situation once and for all. We have always reiterated our desire to define a new link with France or other countries, as advocated in the Nouméa Accord. This choice is that of a sovereign State free to co-construct interdependence, as Jean-Marie Tjibaou stated. The deepening of these interdependencies or partnerships must be at the heart of the reflection on a project referendum for the 3rd consultation. But if it is absolutely necessary to choose between freedom and these interdependencies, then we will choose our freedom.

8 December 2021

Translated by International Viewpoint from L’Anticapitaliste.




Denmark: Red-Green Alliance win in Copenhagen

The radical left wing political party the Red-Green Alliance won the largest number of votes in the local elections in the Danish capital Copenhagen in November’s local elections to emerge as the largest political party in the city.

Across the country, the Red-Green Alliance, or Enhedslisten (“Unity List”, EL) as it is also known,  won 114 council seats, an increase of 12 on its previous results.

The Red-Green Alliance was formed 32 years ago as a new broad left party contesting elections by an alliance of left wing parties, including the Danish section of the Fourth International, SAP.  It now has significant representation in the Danish Parliament, where it has 13 out of the 179 seats and is widely regarded as one of the most successful ecosocialist parties in Europe.  The Red-Green Alliance is also part of the European Left Party.

Below we publish an interview with Eva Milsted Enoksen of the Copenhagen Red-Green Alliance by Andreas Thomsen of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation that has been widely published.  You can also find coverage of the election here, from the US radical magazine Jacobin.

Scottish local elections take place in May 2022.  Sadly, we don’t have a political party in Scotland comparable to the Red-Green Alliance … yet … “unity” appears to be in short supply among the Scottish left, but through its links with the Fourth International, ecosocialist.scot is proud to be associated with the Red-Green Alliance’s success and looks forward to the building of such a party in a future independent Scotland.

 

Danish municipal elections: Red-Green Alliance strongest party in Copenhagen

Interview with Eva Milsted Enoksen, Copenhagen by Andreas Thomsen

Nov 18th, 2021
Eva Milsted Enoksen

Andreas Thomsen: The red- green Alliance achieved a very good result in Copenhagen with 24.6 per cent and 1st place. Can you briefly describe the political situation? What were the reasons for this success from your point of view?

Eva Milsted Enoksen: The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten, EL) had the best election in our 32-year long history. With 24,6 % of the votes we are now by far the largest party in Copenhagen, the second largest being the Social Democrats (SD) who had a catastrophic election and only got 17,3 %. This is the culmination of a trend of more than 10 years. It is the first time in over 100 years that the Social Democrats are not the largest party in the capital.

There are a few reasons worth mentioning. First, there is the controversy of urban development in Copenhagen, where housing prices are exploding. Social Democrats, together with the right wing, the Social Liberal (RV) and Socialist People’s Party are planning to build an artificial island at the entrance to Copenhagen harbor with housing for 35.000 people. Their argument is the crisis of affordable housing. However, the residential building planned on the island are to a large extent going to be sold on the free real estate marked, meaning very expensive flats that no ordinary worker, let alone student or unemployed person, will be able to afford. The real reason behind the project is that the city is in debt and needs money to pay for a costly metro system. Secondly, there a severe climate and environmental impacts of the project. Many are against the growth logic behind the it; more (expensive) housing calls for more investments in infrastructure (including for cars), which needs to be paid by selling off more building plots to build more (expensive) housing, needing more infrastructure etc. There has also been a huge environmentalist movement organizing against urban development in one of the very few nature areas in Copenhagen.

Also, voters are now more concerned about the climate emergency. Here EL has an advantage over S, being traditionally both red and green and having a very strong support from the young voters. Finally, the Social Democrats did not field a well-known top candidate. The former Lord Mayor from S (Frank Jensen) was forced to leave politics last year after a series of sexual harassment cases and the new Social Democrat candidate is much less known in Copenhagen.

Andreas Thomsen: How does the municipal system work in Copenhagen? Will we see a red-green lord mayor of Copenhagen now?

Being the largest party does not necessarily translate into getting the lord mayor post in Copenhagen. The system is such that you need to form a majority of the 55 seats in the city council in order to become lord mayor. Copenhagen has one lord mayor and six deputy mayors, each with certain administrative autonomy. After elections, parties form loose alliances in order to form majority or minority groups who can then claim (deputy) mayor posts according to their size. A minimum of seven seats is required to name a deputy mayor, and 28 seats is required to name the lord mayor. The majority group gets to choose posts first. After this election, the Social Democrats quickly formed a group with three small far-right parties, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Social Liberals. This was not a major surprise as all these parties had previously declared that they would not tolerate a lord mayor from the far left. This majority group (32 seats) claimed the lord mayor post for the Social Democrat’s Sophie Hæstorp Andersen and three deputy mayor posts for the largest right-wing parties. Enhedslisten together with the Socialist People’s Party and the Alternative formed a minority group (23 seats) and claimed two deputy mayors for Enhedslisten and one for the Socialist People’s Party.

However, the election leaves EL in a stronger position. The party´s two deputy mayors are in charge of urban development, housing, energy and environment, as well as social affairs. It is yet to be seen if this will mean a substantial change in the development and priorities in Copenhagen such as many voters seem to have wanted. If the Social Democrats will choose to work exclusively with the right wing in the next four years, it will leave EL in a difficult position with a strong election result but difficulties delivering major results. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Social Democratic power position in Copenhagen is weakened, and EL might succeed in including the decisive Social Liberals in forming alternative majorities on specific issues such as environment or climate mitigation.

Andreas Thomsen:  The agendas of progressive urban policy are similar in many larger cities, especially in the area of housing – what do you think can be achieved in the next few years? Do you follow the debates in Berlin on this issue? Is there cooperation?

Eva Milsted Enoksen: Many in Enhedslisten have followed the successful referendum on remunicipalisation of housing in Berlin. That’s a great inspiration. The model we propose as a radical alternative to the current market-based development in Copenhagen is partly inspired by Vienna. We are campaigning for a rent cap. We propose that the municipality shall provide low-interest loans to non-profit housing. And we want to create a municipal fund for housing construction and urban renewal. All in all, we want 75 per cent of new construction to be affordable housing.

Andreas Thomsen:  You are explicitly a red AND green party, an organisation that is committed to ecological transformation as well as socialist class politics. doesn’t that create contradictions? How do you deal with them?

Eva Milsted Enoksen: Actually, I don’t’ think there is a contradiction. The green transition is acutely necessary, and it is at the same time a unique opportunity to change the capitalist logics and the growth ideology defining most societies today.

Most parties in Denmark are painting themselves green. But solutions are quite different. While the right wing has just recently accepted that there is in fact a genuine crisis which is man-made, Social Democrats have long been vocal about the need to act. However, it has not been a priority in their politics, neither in Copenhagen nor in the national parliament. To a large extent, their strategy is the same as the right wing; we should invest in better technology and that way we don’t need to change our society or the way we live and consume. This is also seen as a good business case for Denmark which is already strong in green export technologies such as windmills, waste-to-energy etc.

EL is not against having a focus on new technologies but is also saying out loud, that we need to fundamentally change the way we have organized our societies. In the city we don’t need more parking spaces for private cars, we need more space for cyclists and pedestrians and better and cheaper busses and trains. Off course, not all workers who depend on a car for their daily commute agree with us on this point but here we choose the green focus over the (traditionally) red one.

In general, our green policies aim to benefit ordinary people not elites. The wealthiest countries, multinational enterprises and the extremely rich are also the ones with the largest carbon footprints. We need to make sure that they are also the ones paying the largest part of the bill for the transition.

_________________________________________

Eva Milsted Enoksen is a long time member of Red Green Alliance living in Copenhagen, Candidate for national parliament and former member of the Copenhagen party leadership.

Andreas Thomsen is the former Head of Office of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Brussels and is now the deputy head of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s national work in Berlin.

Reprinted from https://www.rosalux.eu/en/article/2049.danish-municipal-elections-red-green-alliance-strongest-party-in-copenhagen.html




COP26 Coalition – Final Press Statement

“This agreement is an utter betrayal of the people. It is hollow words on the climate emergency from the richest countries, with an utter disregard of science and justice. The UK Government greenwash and PR have spun us off course.

The rich refused to do their fair share, with more empty words on climate finance and turning their back on the poorest who are facing a crisis of covid coupled with economic and climate apartheid – all caused by the actions of the richest.

It’s immoral for the rich to sit there talking about their future children and grandchildren, when the children of the South are suffering now.

This COP has failed to keep 1.5c alive, and set us on a pathway to 2.5c. All while claiming to act as they set the planet on fire.

At COP26, the richest got what they came here for, and the poorest leave with nothing.

The people are rising up across the globe to hold our governments and corporations to account – and make them act.”

 

14.11.12




Glasgow COP 26: INSIDE OUTSIDE – daily reports from the COP26 Coalition

INSIDE OUTSIDE brings you daily reports of developments at the Glasgow COP26.  Brought to you by the COP26 Coalition and presented by Sabrina Fernandes and Iain Bruce, the programme will cover what is happening both inside the COP26 conference and outside in the streets and protests in Glasgow.

You can access the programme daily on You Tube at the COP26 Coalition channel: COP26 Coalition – YouTube




Glasgow COP26: Zero Carbon by 2050 is far too late!!

If dire warnings resolved the environmental crisis we would be heading for victory writes Alan Thornett.

Boris Johnson tells us that we are heading for a new dark ages, which indeed we probably are. The UN Secretary-General has called it a “code red for humanity”. A report from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), just before the Glasgow COP concluded that changes to the Earth’s climate are now “widespread, rapid, and intensifying”.

Such warnings are important, of course, but the gap between such words and action is enormous. At the moment we are heading for a 2.7 degC increase by the end of the century – which would be catastrophic – and that is only if countries meet all of the pledges they made in Paris.

The problem in Glasgow is not just whether an agreement is reached, or even whether it will be implemented, it is that the target that has been set by the elites – ‘a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and then ‘net’ zero by 2050’ – was entirely inadequate before the conference opened.

The 1.5degC limit was a last-minute breakthrough at the Paris COP in 2015, and was agreed only as an aspiration and not a policy. Two years later (in October 2018) it was officially adopted in a Special Report on Global Warming published by the IPCC. The Report concluded that the 1.5degC limit was entirely possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but would require unprecedented effort in all aspects of society to implement. The IPCC also warned that we have just 12 years to do something about it, since a 1.5degC increase could be reached as soon as 2030.

After this the climate movement then adopted the slogan net zero by 2030 – which was adopted by the 2019 LP conference, for example, with the ‘net’ part hotly disputed. The resolution was supported by the UNITE union. Extinction Rebellion (XR) adopted it with a date of 2025.

Zero carbon by 2030, however, has been replaced in Glasgow by a demand for a ‘50 per cent carbon reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050’. The British government has adopted this position and according to Ed Miliband Labour has also, with 2040 instead of 2050.

We should reject the notion that that zero carbon by 2030 can’t be done – from whoever it comes. It would, of course, need a dramatically new approach and degree of political will commensurate with an existential threat. And it would have to be led by governments, who alone have the resources to do it. It means putting their economies on a war footing – a point made strongly (and bizarrely) by the heir to the British throne.

During the Second World War the British economy was taken over by the government and completely turned over to war production within months.

The USA acted in the same way once it entered the war. The US War Museum puts it this way: “Meeting these (wartime) challenges would require massive government spending, conversion of existing industries to wartime production, construction of huge new factories, changes in consumption, and restrictions on many aspects of American life. Government, industry, and labour would need to cooperate. Contributions from all Americans, young and old, men and women, would be necessary to build up what President Roosevelt called the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Leaving aside the jingoism, the scale of the ecological emergency also requires mobilisations of this kind which go way beyond anything that the free market can achieve – despite the profile it has been given in Glasgow.

It means forcing major structural changes at every level of society very quickly. It means a major transfer of wealth to the impoverished countries to facilitate their transition and lift them towards western levels of development. It also means major reductions in energy usage and wastage alongside renewable energy. It also means recognising that this decade – the 2020s – is crucial in all this. Once we go beyond this decade the problems escalate and the task becomes more difficult.

As Greta Thunberg insisted in the Guardian last month: “Science doesn’t lie. If we are to stay below the targets set in the 2015 Paris agreement – and thereby minimise the risks of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control – we need immediate, drastic, annual emission reductions unlike anything the world has ever seen. And since we don’t have the technological solutions which alone will do anything close to that in the foreseeable future, it means we have to make fundamental changes to our society.”

Increasing public support

Last month a poll of 22,000 people, conducted by Demos, found that up to 94% public supported radical action to stop climate change including a carbon tax on industry, a levy on flying, a speed limit of 60mph on motorways, and a campaign to reduce meat eating by 10%. Last week another poll of 35,000 people, this time by GlobeScan, found that a big majority want their governments to take tough action against climate change.

Protest actions have also greatly increased. Not only those around the Greta Thunburg, the remarkable school strikes, and the Fridays for Futures movement, but around XR and Insulate Britain who have played a major role in the run-up to Glasgow.

Last week 49 members of Insulate Britain were arrested after the group blocked three major junctions in London as part of an ongoing campaign in defiance of injunctions banning them from protesting anywhere on England’s strategic road network. The group, is calling on the government to commit to insulate all British homes by 2030 as a key step to tackling the climate crisis. Along with XR in particular they have played a major role in mobilising public opinion in the run-up to Glasgow.

Alongside this science is telling us that we have 10 years to hold the global temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5degC. After that a dangerous and irreversible feedback process could take un-challengeable control.

How all this will affect the outcome in Glasgow, however, remains to be seen over the next two weeks. Many world leaders, heading for summit, were already more concerned with how they can get away with pledging as little as possible and how many loopholes and excuses they can deploy to avoid serious action.

Johnson – a dangerous liability

Any gains that might come out of this conference will be in spite of Boris Johnson, who was deeply discredited on environmental issues well before he got there – even in capitalist terms.

He acts as if he is a lifelong environmentalist dedicated to the defence of the planet when most of the time he acts as a climate sceptic and runs a party that is stacked out with climate sceptics. Other than supporting electric cars – though in a totally under resourced way – his domestic record on environmental issues is appallingly

In the UK budget last week – you couldn’t make it up – he actually reduces the tax on domestic air travel– a more direct snub to COP26 it is hard to imagine. He is also supporting the development of a major new oil field in the North Sea off Shetland [Cambo] with an estimated capacity of more than 1,000-bn barrels. He continues to defend the opening of a new deep coal mine in Cumbria – which he claims is nothing to do with him. (Britain is currently producing 570m barrels of oil and gas a year and has a further 4.4bn barrels of oil and gas reserves to be extracted from its continental shelf.)

His huge road building programmes, alongside airport expansions, are still on his government’s agenda. He cut Britain’s foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP in advance of this COP26. His government has refused to prevent the water companies dumping millions of tonnes of raw sewage a year into UK rivers making them amongst the most polluted in Europe.

His biggest lie, however, is his oft repeated claim that Britain has reduced its carbon emissions by 44 per cent since 1990.

This is only true if you exclude the embedded emissions that Britain has exported to China and India and other developing countries as a result of massive de-industrialisation. The emissions from which now appear in the carbon budgets on those countries not the UK. Britain also excludes from its figure carbon emissions from to major emitters, aviation and shipping. These exclusions have a huge effect, amounting to around 50 per cent of Britain’s carbon budget.

(Johnson also arrived at the G20 in Rome banging his little Englander drum after flouting the agreement he signed with the EU in terms of the access of goods into the north of Ireland and French fishing rights around the Channel Islands, in order to boost his support amongst UK Brexiteers.)

Conclusion

Despite it self-evident weakness, and its inability to reach conclusions and take actions commensurate to the problem the COP conferences are important in raising global awareness of the problems and as a focal point of struggle for real and decisive action. The climate movement is right to take these conference seriously and to place demands on them that would begin to have positive results. Those who argue that we (the movement) should have nothing to do with the process should think again.

Stopping climate change and environmental destruction, however, will not be resolved by COP conferences but will require the broadest possible coalition of forces ever built – and the struggle around the COP conferences is important in building such a movement.

Such a movement must include vast range of activists from those defending the forests and the fresh water resources to those that are resisting the damming of rivers that destroy the existing ecosystems. It must include the indigenous peoples who have been the backbone of so many of these struggles along with the young school strikers, and those supporting them who have been so inspirational over the past two years. And it should include the activists of XR who have brought new energy into the movement over the same period of time.

It will also need to embrace the more radical Green Parties alongside the big NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF, the RSPB, which have grown and radicalised in recent years alongside the newer groupings that have come on the scene such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees. These organisations have radicalised, particularly in the run up to Paris, and have an impressive mobilising ability. Such a movement has to look wider, to embrace the trade union movement, and also the indigenous peoples around the world along with major social movements, such as La Via Campesina and the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST).

The involvement of the trade unions is also crucial, though it remains difficult in such a defensive period. Progress has been made, however, via initiatives such as the campaign for a Million Green Jobs in Britain, which has the support of most major trade unions and the TUC, and the ‘just transition’ campaign (i.e. a socially just transition from fossil fuel to green jobs) which has the support of the ITUC at the international level, and addresses the issue of job protection in the course of the changeover to renewable energy. This opens the door for a deeper involvement of the trade unions in the ecological struggle.

The real test, however, will be whether it can embrace a much wider movement as the crisis develops drawing in the many millions who have not been climate activists but are driven to resist by the impact of the crisis on their lives and their chances of survival.




Just Transition events at COP26 in Glasgow

The Just Transition Partnership was launched by the Scottish Trades Union Congress and Friends of the Earth Scotland in 2016 in a joint statement also signed by various trade unions and environment campaigns.  It highlights the need for action by governments to secure a just transition for workers in the decarbonisation of employment.  The Partnership is helping organise a series of events aimed at trade union and worker organisations at the Glasgow COP26.  These are detailed in a JTP mailing from which we have extracted the following list of events below.  You can contact the Just Transition Partnership here.

 

JUST TRANSITION HUB

9.30 – 19.30 Monday 8 November, Govan Parish Church, 796 Govan Road G51 2YL

Hosted by STUC, Friends of the Earth Scotland, War on Want, Platform, TUC & the Just Transition Partnership – this will be one of the most comprehensive events  yet on what just transition really means. It’s part of the People’s Summit. There will be loads of top speakers bringing great depth of experience from Scotland and around the world. Read about all the sessions here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/just-transition-hub-at-the-peoples-summit-tickets-189587420077

PEOPLE’S SUMMIT – OTHER RELEVANT EVENTS

Sunday 7 – Wednesday 10 November

Among the other enormous number of other events there are many which are about specific aspects of the just transition. A few are listed below but you can do your own search of the programme by checking the just transition box on the left. You might also do a search using topics like ‘climate jobs’ or ‘green new deal’.

See and search all events Events – COP26 Coalition

GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE 6 NOVEMBER:

TRADE UNION BLOC ON THE GLASGOW MARCH –

CLIMATE, JOBS JUSTICE

 

Assemble Kelvingrove Park: 11.30 pm March off: 12.45 pm Rally at Glasgow Green: 3 – 4 pm Saturday 6 November

The trade union and workers bloc of the march will be headed by an STUC banner: Climate:Jobs:Justice (you’ll have seen that headline before!). To see where is the assembly point for trade unions, go to Global Day of Action – STUC

OTHER EVENTS RELATING TO JUST TRANSITION

Monday 1 November

13.30       Glasgow Climate Dialogues: Elevating the Voice of the Global South (with section on just transition).

Wednesday 3 November

13.30     The imperative of a Just Transition for the workforce to save our climate International Trade Union Confederation

18.30     Just Transition: Transforming public transport to fight climate change

Thursday 4 November

12.30     Beyond Energy: A Just transition for all – WWF

17.00     Work and Unions Movement Assembly – COP26 Coalition

Friday 5 November

17.00     Climate Action – Strike Action- People’s Assembly COP26 Rally

LINK TO THE RECORDING OF THE JUST TRANSITION ONLINE CONFERENCE IN SEPTEMBER 2021 – Climate, Jobs, Justice: Making the Just Transition Happen (jtp.scot)




“Net Zero” – Still a Big Con!

Earlier on in the year, ecosocialist.scot reported on “The Big Con”, a report by Friends of the Earth International and other organisations on “net zero” – The Big Con: ‘Net zero’ emissions is a dangerous hoax.

Now we have further evidence of the way that “net zero” is being used by corporations to block climate policy with the publication of an set of case studies compiled by four campaigns listed below.

“Net Zero” is a significant policy campaign of both the Scottish government and the UK government, the Scottish government even has a dedicated website called “Net Zero Nation” with the slogan “Scotland. Let’s do net zero”.

But this research shows how “net zero” is an empty slogan and is being used as greenwashing by six major corporate players – BP, Microsoft, Drax, IETA, BlackRock and Shell.

One of the essential slogans of the COP26 Coalition call for a Global Day for Climate Justice on 6 November is

We Need Real Zero, Not Net Zero“.

This needs to ring and loudly and clearly across Glasgow and Scotland on 6 November!

We reproduce the press report from the Corporate Europe Observatory that links to the new evidence.

 

On the road to COP26, corporations are using “net zero” to block effective climate policy and greenwash their image while maintaining business-as-usual. Alongside Corporate AccountabilityFriends of the Earth International and Global Forest Coalition, CEO has looked into the “net zero” conning and COP26 greenwashing of six major corporate players, but they’re not alone.

In June 2021, more than 70 climate justice groups around the world launched a report, “The Big Con”. This report built on previous reports and analysis of “net zero” and revealed how Big Polluters across various economic sectors are advancing a “net zero” agenda to delay climate action, deceive the public, and deny the need for real, urgent, and meaningful action. This fact file builds on “The Big Con” by providing more detail on the “net zero” agendas of six major corporate players. These corporate actors include COP26 sponsors, Big Oil and Gas majors, and key influencers in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as in other “net zero” related initiatives such as the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets (TSVCM) and the Race to Zero.

Read the 2 page summary here

Read the more in-depth factfile here

Published by Corporate Europe Observatory, 28 October 2021

 




The ‘other’ COP: Biodiversity COP 15 – a virtual conference that achieved virtually nothing?

 

While COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow is the focus of attention across the world, it’s also necessary to realise that there are other important aspects of the ecological crisis needing urgent action.  The first part of UN’s COP15 on Biodiversity took place online in October.  Protection of Biodiversity needs to be an important aspect of our environmental action in Scotland.   Sean Thompson of Red Green Labour has posted a report on the COP15 on Biodiversity that ecosocialist.scot is reproducing with kind permission.  

 

The preparations for COP 26 have understandably attracted increasing public and media attention in the run-up to the conference in November. Unfortunately this has tended to overshadow the equally vital COP 15 conference which took place on 11 – 15 October.

The conference, which to be pedantic comprised the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the tenth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 10), and the fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 4), had already been postponed three times because of the Covid 19 pandemic and was finally reconfigured as a two part affair, the first virtual and the second, an actual face-to-face meeting, scheduled for April/May next year in Kunming, China.

Originally signed by 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and later ratified by a further 45, significantly not including the United States, the Convention is designed to protect diversity of plant and animal species and ensure natural resources are used sustainably.

It also aims to achieve ‘fair and equitable sharing’ of benefits from natural genetic material, used in everything from medicines to new crop species. In practice that means making sure indigenous communities and countries home to biological riches benefit from their use.

Global targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss have been set before, in both 2002 and 2010, but were largely missed by virtually every country. According to Georgina Chandler of RSPB, a number of countries, including Canada, the European Union, Costa Rica, Colombia and Britain are pushing for greater ambition on nature protection and have the aspiration that the summit  will set both long-term goals for 2050 and shorter-term targets for 2030 and, crucially, push for those to be enshrined in national policies.

However, in the event, most of the virtual meeting was taken up with procedural matters, with the secretariat noting “with concern that a number of Parties have not paid their contributions to the core budgets … for 2020 and prior years, including Parties that have never paid their contributions”. At the end of the conference, the Kunming Declaration was adopted. This was little more than a statement of good intentions, setting general ambitions for biodiversity protection, but not addressing questions about implementation or further commitments from governments.

Even so, there were some tentative signs of progress. The Declaration did at least note the growing support from countries for ‘30×30’, the aspiration to protect at least 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by 2030. At least 20 governments taking part in the meeting stressed the critical importance of the 30×30 goal, making it the most highlighted target by parties in the meeting. Among them was India, which has recently joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, a group of more than 70 countries pushing for the inclusion of 30×30 in the final biodiversity treaty. Significantly, although the USA is not party to the convention, Joe Biden has recently committed to protect at least 30% of his country’s land and coastal waters by 2030, as part of the international “30×30” campaign.

In addition, the host of the conference, China, announced a couple of positive, if comparatively modest, initiatives on the sidelines of the event; $230 million to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support biodiversity protection in developing countries, and the creation of new national parks in China covering an area of 230,000 square kilometres.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The virtual Part One of COP 15 did little more than set the scene for Part two in Kunming next spring. Between now and 25 April, the 195 countries that are signed up to the Convention will have negotiate the targets for the global biodiversity framework that governments will aim to meet by the end of the decade. The draft text of the framework includes proposals to reduce pesticide use by two-thirds and eliminate plastic pollution by the end of the decade as well as the 30×30 target. Whether those goals end up in the final agreement – and whether they are acted on – remains to be seen.

Originally published on Red Green Labour.

Protection of Scotland’s rich natural wildlife and biodiversity in the midst of the ecological crisis is an important aspect of ecosocialist campaigning

Photo by Gary Ellis on Unsplash

 




Exponential Growth on a Finite Planet

Science is telling us that we have less than 10 years in which to hold the global average surface temperature below 1.5degC, writes Alan Thornett.  After which dangerous and irreversible feedback processes will start to take control.

Those of us who inhabit planet Earth today face an existential problem. Our own species, homo sapiens (modern humans), are trashing the planet at an ever increasing and more destructive rate. We are also the first generation to comprehend the full depth of this crisis, and we could be the last with a the chance to do anything about it. The ability of the planet to sustain human life could be gone within decades, and we could face major social breakdown by mid-century. Or as Jem Bendall, an XR supporter, puts it in his essay Deep Adaptation we are facing a “near-term collapse of society with serious ramifications for future of (the planet’s) inhabitants”.

Temperature records, however, continue to be broken with frightening regularity. Floods, droughts and wild fires are more intense and more frequent every year. The artic sea ice will soon be gone, and parts of Antarctica are warming 5 times faster than the rest of the planet. Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are destabilising – the melting of which would raise the sea level by up to 20 metres, which would obliterate swathes of the most densely populated parts of the globe. The planets permafrost regions are now melting 50 per cent faster than previously thought – with the potential to release vast quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The planets biodiversity, also essential to human life on the planet, is collapsing in front of our eyes.

Economic growth

The most dangerous (and intractable) aspect of the ecological crisis is endless exponential economic growth – which is central the prevailing economic paradigm, and  which is driving the planet to catastrophe in just a few decades. As George Monbiot has said recently, as far as I know for the first time: ‘Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe’ – and he is absolutely right.

This has been a long-term blind-spot for the left. After WW2 the whole world – on both sides of the iron curtain – emerged fully signed up to growth and productivism – including all sections of the left. In the USSR Stakhanovism was dominant despite the environmental measures taken by the Bolsheviks in the early years of the revolution. Western Marxism – mainstream Marxism in the Global North – was now devoid of any detectable ecological legacy from classical Marxism. It was as John Bellamy Foster has put it: ‘in denial of the dialectic of nature’.

In the car industry – where I worked in the 1960s and 70s – there were strong trade unions, but growth and productivism was rife and unchallenged, including by the left. Environmental issues were dismissed as a middleclass diversion from the ‘real’ struggles around wages, working conditions.

In the 1980s The Alternative Economic Strategy, the bible of the Bennite left (inside and outside of the Labour Party), was fully signed up. It started with the following statement: “The essential basis for any alternative economic strategy must be a policy for planned economic expansion”. The ecology of the planet is not mentioned anywhere in its 45 pages.

There has been some change since then, pushed by the degrowth movement, but degrowth is far from universally accepted. (The degrowth movement emerged in Barcelona in 1987 and became strong in France where collective called Research and Degrowth was founded in Paris n 2008 which held conferences every few years with attendances of three or four thousand.)

Johnathan Neale, for example, in his recent book Fight the Fire, is openly opposed to challenging growth, arguing that we have to defeat poverty first – though he does not rule out doing so longer-term. The problem with this is the damage being done now and the danger that there may be no ‘long-term’ available to us.

The damage done by productivism in the 20th century, however, is only matched by the scale of the problem itself.

The scale of the problem

The clearest exponent of degrowth, in my view, is Giorgos Kallis, a Greek Professor of economics at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology in Barcelona, particularly his 2018 book ‘degrowth’. He points out, for example, that with an exponential growth rate of 3 per cent a year – which has prevailed globally for the past 60 years – the global economy doubles every 24 years. It is four times bigger within 48 years, eight times bigger within 72 years, and so on. The idea that an economy can grow to infinity, he says, is “absurd.”

The faster we produce and consume goods, he argues, the more we transform and damage the environment. “There is no way to have our cake and eat it if we are to avoid destroying the planet’s life support systems. The global economy will have to slow down. We should extract less and produce less, and we should do it differently. To prosper without growth we have to establish a radically different economic system and way of living.”

Jason Hickel (an XR supporter) takes the same view in his 2020 book Less is More –how degrowth will save the World. As the GDP grows, he says “the global economy churns through more energy resources and waste each year, to the point where it is dramatically overshooting what scientists have defined as safe planetary boundaries – with devastating consequences for the living world”.

The unavoidable conclusion from this is that with today’s growth rate, what-ever else we do to avoid the destruction of the planet – and there are myriad things we have to do – will eventually be swept aside by it.

Rising Population

A major component of global GDP is the rising human population, although not always identified as such.

Many on the radical left avoid (or even object to) discussing it. Others deny that it is happening, often quoting the falling (global) birth rate. Whilst this is true the death rate is falling as well, and the population, in absolute terms, continues to rise by 80m a year: which means it doubles every 24 years. The UN expects it to reach 9 billion by 2050 and just under 11 billion by 2100. It may then peak, but it would be too late to make any difference.

This increase compounded by rapid urbanisation. There are now 34 mega cities in the world, exceeding 10m people with Tokyo as the biggest with 37 million people. There are three others in excess of 20m – Shanghai with 25m and Chongqing and Beijing with 22m. China is currently planning a super-city with a population of 40 million in the Pearl River Delta.

One recent major study that does identify population as a component of GDP was The Dasgupta Review (The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review). Which was commissioned by the UK government published in February of this year. Although government sponsored it went seriously off message, arguing, rightly in my view, that economic growth and population growth are indivisible – that you can’t, in the end, contain economic growth without containing population growth.

It points to three parallel components of GDP: “population size; per capita GDP, the efficiency with which we convert the biosphere’s goods and services into GDP, and the extent to which the biosphere is transformed by global waste disposal”. These factors, it insists, “are not independent of one another, and are, in any case, the outcome of our own choices.”

After an embarrassing public launch with Boris Johnson, David Attenborough, and many others praising it to the skies, the Review was banished to the very long grass.

Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey, says the following on populations in his best-selling bookProsperity Without Growth published in 2009:

“A world in which things simply go on as usual is already inconceivable. But what about a world in which an estimated 9 billion people [the UN projection by 2050] all achieve the level of affluence expected in the OECD nations? Such an economy would need to be 15 times the size of today’s economy (75 times what it was in 1950) by 2050, and 40 times bigger than today’s economy (200 times bigger than 1950) by the end of the century. What on earth does such an economy look like? What does it run on? Does it really offer a credible vision for a shared and lasting prosperity?“

Any attempt to reduce population growth, however, must be based entirely on the empowerment of women to control their own lives and their own fertility through full access to health services, education and employment, and must reject any and all form of coercive control.

Giorgos Kallis supports this approach, including opposition to population control.

The ‘anthropogenic techno-mass’

Another major indicator of human impact is the concept of the ‘anthropogenic techno-mass’(all human made stuff). It includes all roads, factories, houses, vehicles, railways, shipping, aviation, shopping malls, fishing vessels, printing paper, plastic, computers, smartphones and all the other infrastructure of today’s daily life. The world’s plastic alone, for example, now weighs twice as much as all marine and terrestrial animals, and buildings now outweigh all trees and shrubs.

This concept was first advanced in 2000 by the Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F Stoermer, a biologist from the University of Michigan. Their work was and followed up in 2016 by a paper entitled ‘Scale and Diversity of the Physical Technosphere: A Geological Perspective’, published in the Anthropogenic Review.

Last year Israeli scientists published a further study of the Anthropogenic techno-mass in the journal Nature entitled Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass.

It was timed it to coincide with the point at which the Anthropogenic techno-mass – which now weighs in at a gigantic 1.1 trillion tonnes – has become equal to the total natural global bio-mass – all flora and fauna.

They also point out that creation of human techno-mass has accelerated over the past 120 years and now doubles every 20 years. It has gone from 3 percent of the world’s biomass in 1900 to parity with it today.

These findings also consistent with the idea of the Anthropocene, the decision of scientists to rename the current planetary epoch (the Holocene or interglacial period) as the epoch of the Anthropocene – or the epoch of human beings.

As far as I can tell, however, the radical, or indeed Marxist left, have yest to show any interest in it.

The Limits to Growth Report

Debate on growth is not new, of course. In 1972 it was the subject of TheLimits to GrowthReport published by the Club of Rome and written, principally, by Donella and Dennis Meadows from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It sold 12 million copies, was translated into 37 languages, and remains the top-selling environmental title of all time. It was highly influential – along with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring 10 years earlier – in stimulating the emergence of the modern environmental movement that was taking place at the time.

The central message of the Report was that it is impossible to have exponential growth in a finite system like the Earth without its systems sooner or later collapsing. Its conclusion was that “if 1970 rates of economic growth, resource use and pollution continued unchanged, then modern civilisation would face environmental and economic collapse sometime in the mid-twenty-first century:” which has turned out to be a remarkable accurate prediction.

It was heavily attacked by the establishment, but the left was deeply divided. The Austrian philosopher and ecologist André Gorz defended the Report in his 1980 book Ecology as Politics. In the end he said: “Physical growth has physical limits, and any attempt to push them back (by recycling and purification) only pushes the problem around.”

In 2009 the legacy of the Report was strongly defended by Tim Jackson – an ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey – in his bookProsperity Without Growth. The Limits to Growth Report, he says, ‘with all the advantage of hindsight’, has turned out to be a ‘remarkably accurate’ analysis.

Today, he says: “questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists, and revolutionaries… But question it we must. The idea of a non-growing economy may be an anathema to an economist. But the idea of a continually growing economy is anathema to an ecologist. No subsystem of a finite system can grow indefinitely, in physical terms. Economists have to be able to answer the question of how a continually growing economic system can fit within a finite ecological system.

Jackson says the following on population: “A world in which things go on as usual is already inconceivable. But what about a world in which an estimated 9 billion people all achieve the level of affluence expected in the OECD nations? Such an economy would need to be 15 times the size of today’s economy (75 times what it was in 1950) by 2050, and 40 times bigger than today’s economy (200 times bigger than 1950) by the end of the century. What on earth does such an economy look like? What does it run on? Does it really offer a credible vision for a shared and lasting prosperity? …”

Naomi Klein puts it this way in This Changes Everything: ‘steady exponential material growth with no limits on resource consumption and population is the dominant conceptual model used by today’s decision makers.” It is, however, total nonsense. Economic growth, along with population growth, is one of the main drivers of global warming and environmental destruction, and it cannot continue at its current rate without disastrous results.

Even Al Gore in his 2013 book The Future points out that:

The rapid growth of human civilisation – in the number of people, the power of technology, the size of the global economy – is colliding with approaching limits to the supply of key natural resources on which millions of lives depend, including topsoil and freshwater. It is also seriously damaging to the integrity of crucial planetary ecological systems. Yet ‘growth’ in the peculiar and self-defeating way we define it, continues to be the principal and overriding objective of almost all the global economic policies and the business plans of almost all corporations.

High growth rates, including that of population, were and are highly popular with ruling elites, of course, who see in expanding markets, higher profits, workers for factories and services, and soldiers for the battlefields.

The case for degrowth

Giorgos Kallis concludes his book as follows: “This book has presented the case for a radical social transformation that leads to a significant reduction in societies throughput. I have argued that degrowth is necessary because if growth continues at pace, we will cross planetary boundaries with unforeseen and in all certainty very undesirable consequences. Degrowth is not only ecologically necessary but also socially desirable. The pursuit of perpetual growth is a major obstacle to the achievement of a more equal society that lives in creative balance with the environment. Growth is fuelled by exploitation and cost-shifting. A sharing sociality cannot, and should not, be one that constantly expands, constantly creates new frontiers that only a few can access… If this is right then the future will be by necessity one of lower throughput – the question is will it be by design or disaster?”

He is right. The planet cannot survive the 20th century model of the throwaway society, particularly in the Global North. Vast amounts of commodities are churned out, driven by the advertising industry, that go from factory to landfill in very short periods of time.

The fashion industry (for example) produces 150 billion garments a year, enough to provide twenty new articles of clothing for every person on the planet. Eighty per cent of all clothing, irrespective of the level of use, including baby clothes that are discarded very quickly, goes into landfill. Every year, consumers in the UK buy 2 million tonnes of clothes, of which more than half – 1.2 million tonnes – ends up in landfill. Religious and other popular festivals, like Christmas, result in the production of vast quantities of stuff that is used very little or even remains entirely unused before reaching a landfill site.

Alongside the clothing industry we have plastic waste. A survey by Greenpeace found that single-use plastic bottles weighing more than 2 million tonnes are sold every year; another study has shown that that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish in the sea.

What kind of new society?

This issue came up in the discussion, and it is very important.

First, the ecological crisis (in my view) cannot be reduced to the capitalist system, nor the  solution reduced to its overthrow – hugely destructive as it is. The environmental crisis is first and foremost anthropogenic and major anthropological damage was inflicted on the ecosphere of the planet long before the arrival of capitalism – and the struggle (hopefully) will continue long after it is gone – depending on the nature of its removal and the alternative that replaces it. The deforestation of Britain, for example, took place in the Neolithic period.

20th century models as to what a post capitalist society would look like have little to offer. The depth of the crisis today redefines the socialist (i.e. ecosocialist) project. It is no longer a struggle ‘simply’ to replace capitalism with an economically and socially just society. Today we have to go further. A society that (for example) rejects growth from the outset and is capable of constructing a none-exploitative relationship between human beings and the natural world that is sustainable for the long term for both ourselves and the millions of other species with which we share the planet.

This is only achievable if it is pursued and advocated a conscious objective during the revolutionary struggle itself. This is what makes the strategic issues so important today. It is also what makes an ecosocialist world view indispensable: which criticises both the capitalist ‘market ecology’ and productivist ‘socialism’ – which ignores the Earth’s limits. This involves a shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria, and an emphasis on use-value instead of exchange-value.

Can such changes be contained within the capitalist system? No. Growth based economies collapse without growth. We therefore have to fight for such changes, in the here and now, whilst capitalism still exists as part of a longer term project to replace capitalism with an ecosocialist society. We have just 10 years in which to reach zero carbon, after the revolution will be too late. Socialism can’t be built on a dead planet.

Our task, therefore, is to force the elites to make major structural changes, in the here and now, whilst capitalism still exists – including the complete decarbonisation of the global economy and its replacement by renewable energy.

Reforms are not necessarily reformist. The most effective road to revolutionary change is via the struggle for partial and transitional demands. The struggle for such demands generates both self-organisation and ecological consciousness and can take the struggle to a higher and more radical stage. In any case, if we are unable to build the kind of movement capable of forcing capitalism to make big changes, how are we going to build a movement capable of expropriating it by revolutionary means?

William Morris

Few have critiqued growth more effectively, or indeed set out the principles of a future sustainable society, than William Morris – Britain’s first ecosocialist.

In his lecture ‘Makeshift’, for example, delivered in Manchester in 1894 he said the following:

“My friends, a very great many people are employed in producing mere nuisances, like barbed wire, 100 ton guns, sky signs and advertising boards for the disfigurement of the green fields along the railways and so forth. But apart from these nuisances, how many more are employed in making market wares for rich people which are of no use whatever except to enable the said rich to `spend their money’ as ’tis called; and again how many more in producing wretched makeshifts for the working classes because they are so poor that they can afford nothing better?”

In his lecture Useful Work Versus Useless Toil delivered in London the same year, he added:

“Next there is the mass of people employed in making articles of folly and luxury, the demand for which comes from the rich non-producing classes and which most people would not dream of wanting. These things are not wealth but waste. Wealth is what Nature gives us: sunlight, fresh air, the unspoiled earth, food, clothing and necessary housing; the storing and dissemination of knowledge, the means of communication between humans and works of art created when humans are most aspiring and thoughtful – all the things which serve free people.”

We can’t go back to the medieval village of course but there are a lot of lesions for us in what Morris had to say.

Action demands

  • A crash programme to decarbonise the economy with a socially just transition to renewable energy. A big reduction in working hours to protect jobs whilst restricting the size of the economy.
  • Abolish the internal combustion engine. Electrify road transport, including cars, with a big reduction on the number of cars. Severely restrict SUVs.  End all road building schemes. End airport expansion. Expand the rail network, no to highspeed rail. Free public transport.
  • A massive transfer of wealth to the poorest countries to improve their living standards during a green transition. Cancel the third-world debt.
  • End the throwaway society and built-in obsolescence.  Retrofit all homes and buildings, and enforce zero-carbon standards in all new builds.
  • Abolish industrialised agriculture, end deforestation, and cut meat consumption. For food sovereignty, reclaim the commons.
  • Tax the polluters: put a heavy tax on carbon emissions, Tax the rich in order to end poverty and reinvest in public services and welfare.
  • End public investment in carbon based and polluting industries, for green new deals with investment in green jobs.
  • For a completely new relationship with nature. A national nature service including new national parks and strategic rewilding.
  • A Universal basic income and universal basic services to protect the standard of living, health and welfare, during the transition.

Recommended further reading

Giorgos Kallis: degrowth, 2018, published by agenda publishing.

Tim Jackson: Prosperity without growth – Economics for a Finite Planet, published in 2009, by Earthscan.

Bill McKibben: Deep Economy, published in 2007 by Holt.

Paper: Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass – Nature, October 2020.

The Dasgupta Review. ‘The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review’ published by the UK Treasury in February 2021.  https://redgreenlabour.org/2021/04/24/a-radical-departure-the-dasgupta-review/

My review of Dasgupta – A Radical Departure – the Dasgupta Review. https://redgreenlabour.org/2021/04/24/a-radical-departure-the-dasgupta-review/

William Morris News From Nowhere.

This article, writes Alan Thornett, is from the rough notes I submitted as background for my introduction at the ACR’s [Anti Capitalist Resistance] Critical University on the environmental crisis 2 October 2021 in the workshop on growth. It also responds to some of the things raised in the very good discussion – in particular the shape of a future ecosocialist society.

10 October 2021

Reprinted from Anti Capitalist Resistance https://anticapitalistresistance.org/exponential-growth-on-a-finite-planet/

Alan Thornett is a member of the Fourth International and author of several books published by Resistance Books, including ‘Facing the Apocalypse: Arguments for Ecosocialism’ (2019) .  During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a carworker and well known trade union activist, detailed in ‘Militant Years’.