COP 28- what is at stake?

COP28 (along with planet Earth) is faced with “an absolutely gobsmackingly bananas increase in the global temperature”

COP28 – the annual UN global summit on global warming  – is taking place from November 30th until December 12 – under the auspices of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was launched in 1992 to protect the planet against “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, which now takes place annually. It is the 28th UN climate change summit since 1992, and will take place in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

COP28, along with other recent such summits faces a deadly, and indeed existential, contradiction between the relentless acceleration of global warming ­ i.e. of the average global surface temperature of the planet – and the inability of the COP process to bring it under control, or even hold it to a maximum increase of 1.5°C in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It became clear in August that 2023 would be of a different order of magnitude in terms of temperature when July turned out to be the world’s hottest month ever recorded.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres  – the most radicle the UN has had on climate change – responded rightly by declaring that this meant that “the era of global warming had ended, and the era of global boiling has arrived”. It meant, he said, that: “Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. It is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels), and avoid the very worst of climate change, he said, but only with dramatic, immediate climate action.”

The September figure, however, was a whole lot worse. It was a staggering 0.5°C above the previous such record. The Guardian’s environmental editor Damian Carrington quoted climate scientist Zeke Hausfather who had tweeted that: “This month was, in my professional opinion as a climate scientist – absolutely gobsmackingly bananas. It beat the prior monthly temperature record by over 0.5°C, and was around 1.8°C warmer than preindustrial levels.” He noted that datasets from European and Japanese scientists confirmed the leap.

It’s worth noting that the difference in the average global temperature between now and the depths of the last ice age when these islands were under a kilometre of ice is around 5.0°C.

In mid-November Guterres went further warning that. “Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3C temperature rise. This is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity. Renewables have never been cheaper or more accessible. We know it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.”

He added: “Leaders must drastically up their game, now, with record ambition, record action, and record emissions reductions. No more greenwashing. No more foot-dragging.”

The UK’s sellout

One member state that has not upped their game – scandalously – is the UK under Sunak’s Tory government – which has gone in exactly the opposite direction. In order to exploit a reactionary backlash from car drivers against Labour in a recent byelection Sunak has delayed the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 will deprioritise the transition to electric vehicles. He has also announced that a ban on the sale of fossil-fuel boilers from 2035 would be watered down and extra exemptions introduced.

Most significantly he has issued a new generation of oil and gas licences for the North Sea and given the go-ahead for a new oil and gas field. It is a monumental stab in the back for the whole COP decarbonisation process.

Sunak insists (ludicrously) that none of this will affect the ability of Britain can still reach his 2050 net zero target. The UN has strongly protested.

The venue

The venue of this COP is a major problem of course. Few countries could be less suitable for such a summit than the UEA. It is not only the 7th biggest oil producer in the world at 3,250,000 barrels a day. It also holds the 7th largest proven reserves of natural gas in the world at over 215 trillion cubic feet. It is also yet another host nation, following Sharm El-Sheikh, with an appalling history of human rights abuses and an economy based on fossil fuel exports, and the president of the COP will be Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber who is the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the UAE, and managing director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

As a result of this, many campaigners will not travel to Dubai in person but will mount their protests at home or via the global day of action which has already been called for the last day of the summit which is Decembe12th. The problem has been compounded, however, by the astonishing revelation that the UEA has been using COP meetings to sell off oil and gas on the side. Guterres has denounced it as a serious breach of the standards of conduct expected of a COP president.

It would be a mistake, however, to allow the venue problem to dominate our response. It is difficult for the UN to exclude a member state from the presidency when they are seeking to take their 193member states together towards net zero and when hosting a COP often has a positive effect of the host nation in terms of its own record.

The primary role of a COP summit in any case in pushing the member states to meet their commitment takes place between COP meeting rather than at them when the die has often been cast, also to plan actions and interventions for the following year. In the end the COP process has to be bigger than this since it is dealing with a global existential emergence with a short time line for it conclusion.

The COP conferences, however, urgently need democratising in order to give the climate movement a lot more space and to severely restrict corporate lobbying the access to it given to the petrochemical industry.

The aim of the climate movement should be to maximise mobilisations around every COP summit and where it is not possible at the venue it should be done at the international level. This is important both in order to mobilise the movement and also because it is the best opportunity we have to put demands on the global elites at an international level.

Meanwhile Al Jaber, COP president on behalf of the UAE, has told the Guardian in an exclusive interview on the eve of the conference that he thought that the world could agree a “robust roadmap” of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 that would meet scientific advice.

We shall see.

Key challenges in Dubai

The principal responsibility of each COP is to conduct a global stocktake of the carbon reduction targets—or “Nationally Determined Contributions”— to which each member state is pledged as a part of the so-called “ratcheting up process” adopted at COP21 in Paris in 2015. This requires each member state to set its own carbon reduction targets and then review and enhance them annually at implementation conferences such as COP27 and now COP28.

In this case every member state must meet the commitments it made at COP27 in in Sharm El-Sheikh and adopt new ones set at a stricter standard – which must be backed by a credible plan for implementation. The stocktake that took place last year at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh revealed a disastrous situation, and this could be even worse.

The loss and damage fund

The other massive issue that will rear it head again – and rightly so – is the matter of a so-called “loss and damage fund”.

This fund was agreed in principal in Sharm El-Sheikh after a long and heated debate. It would provide a mechanism by which the rich countries, that are most responsible for climate change, would be required to pay into a fund that could mitigate the impact of climate change on the poor countries, who are the least responsible for climate change, and help them with a just transition to renewable energy. There was no agreement, however, as to how much money should be paid into it, who should pay it, or on what basis. The UNs International Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) was , therefore, asked to prepare a recommendation, particularly on the size of the fund for the COP28 in Dubai.

The creation of such a fund had been blocked by the rich countries for over 30 years and was only forced onto the agenda this year after heavy pressure from the poor (or developing) countries themselves. Prior to COP27 Guterres had argued strongly for such an agreement, warning that unless there is what he called an “historic pact” between the rich and poor countries on this issue, the planet could already be doomed. In other words without a serious loss and damage fund to provide a socially and economic transition the UN will eventually, and inevitably, fail.

This issue has been given a substantial  boost  on the eve of the summit when 70 international figures led by Gordon Brown, and including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have sent a letter to the COP calling for the massive revenues of oil-producing states to be subject to a $25bn levy to help pay for the impact of climate disasters on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Brown told the Guardian: “The deadlock on climate finance has to be broken if Cop28 is to succeed. After more than a decade of broken promises, a $25bn oil and gas levy paid by the petrol states and proposed by the UAE as chair of Cop would kickstart finance for mitigation [reduction of greenhouse gas emissions] and adaptation in the global south”.

Such a levy, he said, would shave off only a small fraction of the bonanza that oil-producing countries have made in recent years, but it would help to fill the “loss and damage” to poor countries afflicted by the impacts of the climate crisis.

The role of the UN

The state of the climate struggle today can be seen from the following harsh realities:

  • the science remains irrefutable (though often understated by the scientific community)
  • the time available to reach net zero is rapidly running out
  • the limitations of the COP process become ever more apparent
  • Anthropogenic global warming is accelerating at an unprecedented rate and dangerous tipping points are fast approaching – some have already arrived.
  • The COP process has to be made to work because there is no alternative.

It is a pivotal moment for the UN since faced with such contradictions its entire carbon reduction project is falling apart leaving the global climate to spin out of control and cause more tipping points to trigger – which would be catastrophic for both the UN and the planet.

Many on the radical left argue that this failure was and is inevitable because the UN it is a capitalist institution, and as such is dedicated to the preservation of the fossil industry and prepared to use as much “greenwash” as necessary in order to do so and it is time for the left (however defined) to go it alone. There have been numerous proposals in recent years for the left to denounce the COP process as a road block and withdraw from it.

This would be a big mistake. The UN is, of course, a capitalist institution. It is comprised of 193 capitalist countries: how could it be otherwise. To its great credit, however, it recognised the danger of anthropogenic climate change as early as 1992 when the radical left still regarded the environment as a middle class diversion. Since then the COP process it established has been a battleground between the majority who recognise the problem and are prepared to decarbonise at least to some extent, and those who simply defend their own self-interest or who reject the concept of anthropogenic global warming on ideological grounds – i.e. the climate change deniers.

In the event the UN – along with its subdivisions such as the IPCC – were not only successful in defeating the climate deniers – despite the massive backing they received from the fossil fuel producers – but in winning the scientific community over to the climate struggle, without which we would be nowhere today. It has also been instrumental, along with the intensification of the climate crisis its self – in transforming global awareness as to the dangers of climate change.

Today was are facing an existential climate emergency, which only the UN, or something with a comparable global reach and authority can successfully confront.

This is important since although the struggle against climate change must include individual responsibility, in the end it is only governmental action—and ultimately governments that are prepared to go on a war footing to do so—that can make the structural changes necessary to stop global warming in the few years that science is giving us to do it.

The role of the radical left

To the extent that the radical left in particular had or has a strategic approach by which to global warming and climate change it is the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, though how clearly this has been thought through is not always clear. To be relevant to global warming, however, it would have to happen within this decade since nothing can be built on a dead planet.

The actual task we are faced with today, therefore, is not whether global capitalism can be abolished within 10 years, but whether it can be forced to take action to halt global warming

as a part of a struggle for its eventual overturn and its replacement by an ecosocialism. If we are unable to build the kind of movement capable of forcing major change under capitalism, how are we going to build a movement capable of overturning it. It is what I would call a transitional approach.

It is not true – as some on the left imply – that capitalism cannot be forced to make major changes that are contrary to the logic of its existence. In fact it was already making concessions to this when it agreed under extreme pressure to support a maximum global temperature increase of 1.5°C in Paris and when it agreed to end the use of fossil fuels in Glasgow.

Capitalism would also be prepared, in my view – given the existential implications – involved to carry though decarbonisation its self rather than see societal collapse, since to do so would meet with massive resistance. It would do so completely in its self-interest and with extreme  brutality.  We cannot assume, in any case, that  global warming will be halted incrementally – or indeed peacefully –  before runaway climate chaos along with societal and ecological break downs and if so ultra-right and fascist forces will be waiting in the wings.

Mass movements will emerge spontaneously under such conditions, problem however, will be which class interests do they represent. Whether they are led by progressive forces (including the left) ultra-right populists with a reactionary agenda, that are already flexing their muscles around environmental issues.

A major task of the radical left today – as well as being involved in every aspect of the struggle –implies conscious preparation for such an eventuality, which could already happen at any time.

Meanwhile, the most effective way to cut carbon emissions quickly and democratically is by making fossil fuels much more expensive than renewable energy, by means that are socially just, economically redistributive, and capable of commanding popular support – and in the two or three decades that remain to us.

The UN COP process remains a crucial forum in the struggle for such demands remains. It is the best forum through which the global climate movement can place demands on the global elites and the forum around which we can build the kind of mass movement that can force them to take effective action.

Key carbon reduction issues

  • The global average surface temperature to below a 5°C increase
  • Demand net zero by 2030
  • All new fossil fuel investment must be stopped
  • The polluters must be made to pay
  • Global biodiversity must be defended
  • There must be a rapid transition to renewables: including solar, on-shore and off-shore wind, tidal and hydro carried out on a ‘war footing’. (In UK Labour must maintain its commitment to £28 billion a year on renewables)
  • The 2030 deadline for selling fossil fuel cars must be maintained
  • SUVs must be banned other than in specialised circumstances
  • Adequate production facilities for EV batteries must be established
  • There must be a major extension of public transport and fewer cars
  • The national grid must be upgraded

There must be a massive programme of home (and building) insolation. All new homes must meet strict environmental standards

  • LTNs and 15 minute cities must be introduced to cut carbon emission and clean up the air we breathe
  • Decarbonise agriculture, ban deforestation, a big reduction in meat production and consumption. End the ploughing of fields.
  • Stop the pollution of land and sea and rivers
  • Protect wetlands
  • Far better recycling and the detoxification of waste disposal
  • No to nuclear energy

29 November 2023

Republished from Red-Green Labour:

#NowWeRise – 9 Dec Day of Action on Climate Justice 12.30pm Scottish Parliament Edinburgh

From the Climate Justice Coalition:

Temperatures are rising. Corporate profits are rising. Now we’re rising.

The hottest summer on record. Politicians backtracking on climate commitments. Continued corporate profiteering fuelling the climate and cost of living crises. It’s time for us to take action.

As world leaders gather for the UN’s climate negotiations at COP28, a climate summit presided over by an oil executive, we’re coming together on 9 December to demand climate justice.

COP28 Day of Action for Scotland

Start: Saturday, December 09, 202312:30 PM

Outside Scottish Parliament Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

Host Contact Info:

Temperatures and waters are rising.
Injustices are rising.
We are rising!

At a time when the UK Government is rolling back on climate and nature policies, and the Scottish Government has delayed its vital new climate plan (which sets out the steps to achieve legally set targets), it’s more important than ever for us to come together to show people in Scotland want the urgent and fair climate action that they’ve been demanding for decades.

Join us at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 9th December to send a strong message to decision makers that we are united for action, to tackle the climate and nature crises, secure sustainable jobs, a fairer, greener, healthier society for everyone in Scotland and justice for those impacted by the climate crisis.

There will be inspiring speakers, the opportunity to send a message to the Scottish party leaders with your wishes for action on climate and nature in 2024, kids activities, and more!


In 2021 over 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow to tell world leaders at the COP26 climate talks they wanted action on the climate and nature emergencies.

Since then, despite record breaking temperatures and increasingly devastating climate impacts, we have seen a lack of progress on action to reduce emissions, protect nature, or make the biggest polluters pay for the damage they are causing.

Temperature and Waters are Rising

2023 will be the hottest year on record. As the world heats up, extreme weather events on every continent – from floods in Brechin to wildfires in Greece – are causing mass devastation, loss of life and livelihoods in communities around the world.
The evidence is right in front of our eyes: our climate is breaking down. And, if we’re to have any hope of a liveable planet and tackling the climate crisis, we must deliver a just transition and dramatically and immediately reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Injustices are Rising

The cost of living crisis and climate crisis are driven by our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, and by the excessive emissions of the richest people. The climate crisis disproportionately affects ordinary people and communities in the global south, while those most responsible profit. In 2022, the five biggest oil and gas companies made record profits of over £150 billion. As corporations make billions, we struggle to make ends meet. Energy prices in Britain are still double what they were two years ago, soaring above wages and benefit levels and many thousands will be cold in their homes this winter.

Now We Rise!

People in Scotland from all walks of life are coming together to say we know the solutions, and we want our leaders to take robust and urgent action to implement these. We can replace the destructive fossil fuel economy with a real alternative. We can take advantage of cheap renewable energy, insulate homes, reduce energy waste and implement accessible and affordable public transport. We can create an economy that meets the needs of communities, creates secure and sustainable jobs and places the wellbeing of both people and nature at its centre.

We will stand with communities in the Global South who are suffering from the climate crisis which they did not create, and which does the greatest damage to countries already burdened by unjust debt. Rich nations must provide urgent climate finance and grants for loss and damage.

At a time when the UK Government is rolling back on climate and nature policies, and the Scottish Government will soon be publishing its new climate plan, it’s more important than ever for us to come together to show people in Scotland want action.

Join us at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 9th December  to send a strong message to decision makers that we are united for action, to tackle the climate and nature crises, secure sustainable jobs, a fairer, greener, healthier society for everyone in Scotland and justice for those impacted by the climate crisis.

For other actions taking place across the UK check this interactive action map by the Climate Justice Coalition.


Ukrainian Letter of Solidarity with Palestinian people

The following letter of solidarity has been published by the Ukrainian journal ‘Commons’.  

We, Ukrainian researchers, artists, political and labour activists, members of civil society stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine who for 75 years have been subjected and resisted Israeli military occupation, separation, settler colonial violenceethnic cleansing, land dispossession and apartheid. We write this letter as people to people. The dominant discourse on the governmental level and even among solidarity groups that support the struggles of Ukrainians and Palestinians often creates separation. With this letter we reject these divisions, and affirm our solidarity with everyone who is oppressed and struggling for freedom.

As activists committed to freedom, human rights, democracy and social justice, and while fully acknowledging power differentials, we firmly condemn attacks on civilian populations – be they Israelis attacked by Hamas or Palestinians attacked by the Israeli occupation forces and armed settler gangs. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. Yet this is no justification for the collective punishment of Palestinian people, identifying all residents of Gaza with Hamas and the indiscriminate use of the term “terrorism” applied to the whole Palestinian resistance. Nor is this a justification of continuation of the ongoing occupation. Echoing multiple UN resolutions, we know that there will be no lasting peace without justice for the Palestinian people.

On October 7 we witnessed Hamas’ violence against the civilians in Israel, an event that is now singled out by many to demonize and dehumanize Palestinian resistance altogether. Hamas, a reactionary islamist organization, needs to be seen in a wider historical context and decades of Israel encroaching on Palestinian land, long before this organization came to exist in the late 1980s. During the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were brutally displaced from their homes, with entire villages massacred and destroyed. Since its creation Israel has never stopped pursuing its colonial expansion. The Palestinians were forced to exile, fragmented and administered under different regimes. Some of them are Israeli citizens affected by structural discrimination and racism. Those living in the occupied West Bank are subjected to apartheid under decades of Israel’s military control. The people of the Gaza Strip have suffered from the blockade imposed by Israel since 2006, which restricted movement of people and goods, resulting in growing poverty and deprivation.

Since the 7th of October and at the time of writing the death toll in the Gaza Strip is more than 8,500 peopleWomen and children have made up more than 62 percent of the fatalities, while more than 21,048 people have been injured. In recent days, Israel has bombed schools, residential areas, Greek Orthodox Church and several hospitals. Israel has also cut all water, electricity, and fuel supply in the Gaza Strip. There is a severe shortage of food and medicine, causing a total collapse of a healthcare system.

Most of the Western and Israeli media justifies these deaths as mere collateral damage to fighting Hamas but is silent when it comes to Palestinian civilians targeted and killed in the Occupied West Bank. Since the beginning of 2023 alone, and before October 7, the death toll on the Palestinian side had already reached 227. Since the 7 of October, 121 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the occupied West Bank. More than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are currently detained in Israeli prisons. Lasting peace and justice are only possible with the end of the ongoing occupation. Palestinians have the right to self-determination and resistance against Israeli’s occupation, just like Ukrainians have the right to resist Russian invasion.

Our solidarity comes from a place of anger at the injustice, and a place of deep pain of knowing the devastating impacts of occupation, shelling of civil infrastructure, and humanitarian blockade from experiences in our homeland. Parts of Ukraine have been occupied since 2014, and the international community failed to stop Russian aggression then, ignoring the imperial and colonial nature of the armed violence, which consequently escalated on the 24th of February 2022. Civilians in Ukraine are shelled daily, in their homes, in hospitals, on bus stops, in queues for bread. As a result of the Russian occupation, thousands of people in Ukraine live without access to water, electricity or heating, and it is the most vulnerable groups that are mostly affected by the destruction of critical infrastructure. In the months of the siege and heavy bombardment of Mariupol there was no humanitarian corridor. Watching the Israeli targeting the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the Israeli humanitarian blockade and occupation of land resonates especially painfully with us. From this place of pain of experience and solidarity, we call on our fellow Ukrainians globally and all the people to raise their voices in support of the Palestinian people and condemn the ongoing  Israeli mass ethnic cleansing.

We reject the Ukrainian government statements that express unconditional support for Israel’s military actions, and we consider the calls to avoid civilian casualties by Ukraine’s MFA belated and insufficient. This position is a retreat from the support of Palestinian rights and condemnation of the Israeli occupation, which Ukraine has followed for decades, including voting in the UN.  Aware of the pragmatic geopolitical reasoning behind Ukraine’s decision to echo Western allies, on whom we are dependent for our survival, we see the current support of Israel and dismissing Palestinian right to self-determination as contradictory to Ukraine’s own commitment to human rights and fight for our land and freedom. We as Ukrainians should stand in solidarity not with the oppressors, but with those who experience and resist the oppression.

We strongly object to equating of Western military aid to Ukraine and Israel by some politicians. Ukraine doesn’t occupy the territories of other people, instead, it fights against the Russian occupation, and therefore international assistance serves a just cause and the protection of international law. Israel has occupied and annexed Palestinian and Syrian territories, and Western aid to it confirms an unjust order and demonstrates double standards in relation to international law.

We oppose the new wave of Islamophobia, such as the brutal murder of a Palestinian American 6-year old and assault on his family in Illinois, USA, and the equating of any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. At the same time, we also oppose holding all Jewish people all over the world accountable for the politics of the state of Israel and we condemn anti-Semitic violence, such as the mob attack on the airplane in Daghestan, Russia. We also reject the revival of the “war on terror” rhetoric used by the US and EU to justify war crimes and violations of international law that have undermined the international security system, caused countless deaths, and has been borrowed by other states, including Russia for the war in Chechnya and China for the Uyghur genocide. Now Israel is using it to carry out ethnic cleansing.

Call to Action

  • We urge the implementation of the call to ceasefire, put forward by the UN General Assembly resolution.
  • We call on the Israeli government to immediately stop attacks on civilians, and provide humanitarian aid; we insist on an immediate and indefinite lifting of siege on Gaza and an urgent relief operation to restore civilian infrastructure. We also call on the Israeli government to put an end to the occupation and recognise the right of Palestinian displaced people to return to their lands.
  • We call on the Ukrainian government to condemn the use of state sanctioned terror and humanitarian blockade against the Gazan civilian population and reaffirm the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. We also call on the Ukrainian government to condemn deliberate assaults on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
  • We call on the international media to stop pitting Palestinians and Ukrainians against each other, where hierarchies of suffering perpetuate racist rhetoric and dehumanize those under attack.

We have witnessed the world uniting in solidarity for the people of Ukraine and we call on everyone to do the same for the people of Palestine.

For a full list of signatories, see the original article on the web

Copies of the new English language edition of ‘Commons’ are available in the UK state for £10 each from Resistance Books, London – – and in Scotland from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign Scotland

Internationalism Beyond the Geopolitics of States and Principled Solidarity in “Complex” Situations: Kurdish and Palestinian Solidarity

The ongoing war in Gaza has overshadowed global awareness of the situation not just in Ukraine but in Kurdistan too.  Under cover of the Gaza invasion by Israel, Turkey’s President Erdogan has used the opportunity to attack the Kurdish liberated region in north and east Syria.  There are complex interrelationships of international solidarity movements that are explored in the following article published in October 2023 from a US-based academic, which raises important issues about internationalism that is framed within the confines of the nation-state. is publishing this article as part of a contribution to discussion on the issue of international solidarity and principled internationalism in Scotland.


By : Ozlem Goner

On 4 October Turkey started yet another series of attacks into the Kurdish-majority region of Rojava (North and East Syria) and destroyed 80% of the civilian infrastructure, including fifty schools and two hospitals. Dozens have died so far, and millions have been left without electricity and water. Turkey’s excuse this time was a bombing undertaken by two members of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK) against the General Security Forces of the Turkish state in Ankara, which injured two security officials. Turkey has long claimed that the People’s Protection Units in Rojava (YPG) is the same organization as the PKK and claimed without proof that the actual attackers have come from this region. As I am writing this, Turkey continues to wipe out the region with its airstrikes and the world once remains silent again.

Two days after the re-escalation of Turkey’s ongoing attacks, the world was shaken by the killing of over a thousand Israeli citizens by Hamas and other organizations that have joined forces with Hamas despite their ideological and political differences from the former. Israel, like Turkey, produced a lot of fake news and used the attacks as an excuse to wipe down the entire Gaza strip, an open-air prison, created in the first place by Israeli settler colonialism. The attacks targeting Israeli citizens are a symptom of ongoing colonial violence, which has left colonized Palestine without any other means of self-defense. Instead of rethinking the context of the Hamas attack, Israel, assisted by Western politicians and the media, embarked on a full-scale genocidal project of further dehumanizing Palestinians through openly racist discourse and calls for torture.


The distancing of segments of Kurdish activists from Palestinian solidarity through a critique of Hamas at this moment is a symptom of a particular form of internationalism that is centered around states, an internationalism that seeks purity through politically correct actions from the colonized without due attention to the ongoing conditions of colonization and oppression.


The first colonial reaction was from Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who ordered a “complete siege on the Gaza Strip.” He said, “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly.” Tzipi Navon, Sara Netanyahu’s advisor, openly advocated torturing Palestinians, saying Israel should “save their tongues for last, so we can enjoy his screams, his ears so he can hear his own screams, and his eyes so he can see us smiling.” As I am writing this, at least 2,383 Palestinians have been killed and 10,814 Palestinians have been injured, according to Palestinian health ministry sources. The world is watching, and while autocratic leaders in the Middle East are instrumentalizing a certain rhetorical support for Palestine, they remain silent not only about the oppressive nature of their own governments against dissidents and minorities, but also about their complicity in Israel’s settler colonialism given their ongoing business ties with Israel.

One such autocratic leader is the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has condemned Israel’s violence against Palestine, and has been playing the peacemaker role promoted even by progressive networks like Democracy Now, which gave extensive coverage of Erdoğan’s speech on Palestine, ignoring completely that the same Erdoğan has been wiping down Rojava at the very same time. Turkey’s hypocrisy, and the fact that some progressive circles have cherished this double-faced “peace-maker,” have frustrated Kurdish activists, some of whom have distanced themselves from Palestinian solidarity at this crucial moment. For example, the progressive all women’s Kurdish news outlet Jinnews published an article with the unfortunate title of “Are peoples confined to choosing either Palestine or Israel?” Although this article and many other Kurdish progressive venues framed their distancing as having to do with Hamas and rightly argued that Palestine is much larger than Hamas, one should not forget that framing this particular context around a critique of Hamas has legitimized ongoing settler colonial violence as it enters a new stage of complete genocidal annihilation.

I suggest that the distancing of segments of Kurdish activists from Palestinian solidarity through a critique of Hamas at this moment is a symptom of a particular form of internationalism that is centered around states, an internationalism that seeks purity through politically correct actions from the colonized without due attention to the ongoing conditions of colonization and oppression. This type of internationalism has been prevalent among many progressive circles. I will focus here on Kurdish solidarity with Palestine, and US progressives’ solidarity with broader Kurdistan, especially with Rojava, which is currently being wiped out by the Turkish state.

Problems with Geopolitical Internationalism

Certain segments of the Kurdish movement have rightly problematized Hamas from a geopolitical angle. Hamas has historically been close to Turkey. Khaled Mashal, former Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, once celebrated Turkey’s settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing in Afrin of North and East Syria, saying “Turkey’s success, especially in Afrin, sets a serious example. Hopefully, we will all be blessed with the victories of the Islamic Ummah in many parts of the world, as in Afrin.” Moreover, around 14,000 people in Rojava died fighting against the Islamic State backed by Turkey, which makes Kurdish populations rightly wary of other religious fundamentalist organizations. Similarly, Hamas is rhetorically, if not materially, supported not only by Turkey but also by the Islamic Regime of Iran, which, like Turkey, has been notoriously oppressive against the Kurdish populations and organizations, as the ongoing Jina uprisings have revealed. Finally, the Turkish state has even placed some Palestinian refugees in the region of Afrin as part of its population exchange campaigns to rid the area of its indigenous Kurdish populations, an act of ethnic cleansing. These realities on the ground create difficult emotions, which result in some segments of the Kurdish political movement distancing themselves from Palestinian solidarity.

I argue that even though it is easy to understand the feelings that lead to this distancing, it is politically damning to base organizational solidarity politics around feelings. Crucially, these are feelings of geopolitical internationalism centered around nation-states, where progressives relate to countries and groups based on how their “own” or “oppressor” (evil) states feel about a given conflict. For example, a dissident from Turkey feels the need to distance themselves from all states and groups that Turkey provides support to. This dynamic is especially prevalent in solidarity politics in the United States. Large segments of progressives in the US approach internationalism as necessitating solidarity with countries and groups the US seemingly opposes, and denying solidarity to countries and groups the US seemingly supports. Even though this stance might have proved useful, especially given historical and ongoing US imperial violence, it is based on a priori geopolitical demarcations, as well as a frequent valorization of other imperial and colonial states and dictators just because they seem to be in opposition to the United States. Although this stance feels like internationalism at first, especially given the violent imperial role of the United States throughout the globe, it actually prevents an analysis of the material realities of oppression and colonization on the ground and hinders the development of potential alliances with oppressed populations and dissident organizations in places where the United States seems to be in support.

As an alternative, internationalism from the ground is based on a material analysis of relations of colonialism and oppression; it advocates for standing in solidarity with the colonized and the oppressed in all contexts and for developing alliances with actual grassroots organizations. If, for instance, one focuses on networks of global capitalism, then one sees that geopolitical demarcations and instrumental uses of solidarity by state actors are often a façade. For example, behind Erdoğan’s rhetoric of solidarity, there are deep and ongoing business and military connections between Turkey and Israel. During the UN General Assembly of September 2023, Erdoğan reported that the two countries plan to raise their trade volume from $9.5 billion to a minimum of $15 billion and even to develop some shared ministries, to increase cooperation in energy, tourism, and technology. Even the Islamic Republic of Iran has historically worked with Israel, purchasing much of the weaponry used during the Iran-Iraq War from a country they otherwise call the “evil.”

Similarly, despite the fact that the United States has worked with Kurdish-majority security forces in North and East Syria to prevent the regrowth of ISIS activity, it has long supported Turkey’s war against Kurdistan with material means such as military aid, sharing of intelligence, and the sale of weapons, including the war planes being used in broader Kurdistan at this moment. And the alliance with Kurdish security in the region cannot even come close to the depth of capitalist networks developed between Turkey and the United States since World War II.  Hence, much of the emotional geopolitical stance, whether by certain dissidents in Turkey and Iran distancing themselves from Palestine, or by progressives in the US distancing themselves from the Kurdish-majority region of North and East Syria, is not based on the actual material relationships between their oppressor states and other regions, countries, and groups.

Once we move beyond geopolitical internationalism and focus instead on material relationships of global capitalism between state actors, as well as on regional relationships of colonialism and oppression, internationalist solidarity with peoples and political organizations on the ground becomes much less “complicated.” This form of internationalism does not operate at the level of states, but from the ground created through solidarity networks with grassroots organizations. To achieve this form of internationalism, we need to be critical of expectations of purity from the oppressed, be it in a liberal sense of victimhood that “condemns” all “violent” action, or in a more progressive sense of political correctness, which demands a purity of political motivations and alliances without an attention to the simple needs of survival.

The Conundrum of Purity and Internationalism from the (Messy) Ground

The first form of purity discourse is a liberal one that expects only “victimhood” from the colonized and the oppressed. Any action of self-defense is easily “condemned,” without an attention to the ongoing structural violence of colonialism and the agency of the oppressed to self-defend, with whatever methods available to them. Even those who are more conscientious of political agency, and aware of the limited availability of means of self-defense, sometimes fall into this liberal trap. From the site of any so-called “violent” action emerges a false discourse of “two sides,” a condemnation of violence from “both sides,” which not only obscures the structural and systematic reality of colonial violence, but also the fact that the colonized have very limited methods of self-defense available to them. In the case of Palestine, it is because the Palestinian opposition does not have a violent military force with airplanes and tanks to defend themselves against Israeli settler colonialism that they resort to actions like the killing of civilians. Somehow, the latter appears to be “more brutal” than decades of settler colonial violence at the hands of a gigantic military force funded by multiple states. This is not a defense of Hamas or its actions, but a call to realize that Hamas and the particular actions it undertakes are a product of Israeli settler colonialism, not vice versa.

Those who are aware of the problems with this false discourse of “two sides,” quickly separate Hamas from the Palestinian people and condemn the former, while showing some nominal solidarity with the latter. Of course, it would be a mistake to reduce Palestinian movements, let alone Palestinian people, to Hamas and its actions. The Israeli state was involved in the creation of Hamas and Israeli and Western media have used such reductionist discourses equating Hamas and Palestine to legitimize Israel’s settler-colonialism in Gaza and the rest of Palestine for decades now. However, one should not forget that many other organizations in Palestine acknowledge the latest action as an act of self-defense, and that a “condemnation” of Hamas in this particular context, as well as analyses based on the so-called “violence by two sides,” legitimizes the genocidal violence Israel uses on Palestine. These depictions feed into a false liberal notion of “two sides” that renders the colonial reality invisible and frames colonial violence as a “conflict.” Although the Palestinian opposition is much larger than Hamas, and support for Hamas is limited among the Palestinian people, these discussions should not be relevant to our solidarity with Palestine against Israeli settler colonialism.

A second form of purity discourse, prevalent among more progressive circles is an expectation of political purity in the alliances formed by the geopolitical framework explained above. For example, in order to be in complete solidarity with Palestine at this moment, some Kurds might expect the Palestinian opposition to avoid alliances with Turkey. Similarly, large segments of progressives in the United States, such as the DSA International, distanced themselves from the revolution in Rojava and have remained mostly silent to Turkey’s ongoing genocide and femicide in the region due to the United States’ tactical military involvement in the region against the Islamic State.

In simplest terms, it is crucial to understand that the politics on the ground is messy given ongoing colonization and the very lack of internationalist solidarity itself. The colonized have a right to self-defend, to survive by whatever means available to them. And when international solidarity is not available to stop the actions of colonizer states, the colonized have a right to procure the means of self-defense from whomever makes it available to them. Those who believe in anti-colonial internationalism need to stand with the colonized and not make blanket condemnations of the pragmatic relationships they need to form for survival.

Moreover, it is not the responsibility of the colonized, but of those groups and organizations in relatively more privileged positions, to look for ways to procure and sustain the means of self-defense that would afford the colonized other options than sitting at the devil’s table. An internationalism from the ground requires that we study the material context deeply to understand the relationship of coloniality and oppression, and that we side with the colonized and the oppressed irrespective of the purity of their actions and the political alliances they form to survive. All the while, we can develop actual internationalist alliances from the ground so that our movements can sustain each other and we can break free of relationships with and dependencies on oppressive states.

Kurds and Palestinians in this particular context have suffered various forms of colonial violence at the hands of Turkey and Israel respectively, and it is our alliance, together with all the other colonized and oppressed populations of the Middle East and beyond, that can bring justice and peace. From learning to self-defend together, to invaluable moments of solidarity, such as Leyla Halid’s visit to Leyla Güven, a hunger-striking Kurdish political activist kept hostage in Turkish colonial prisons, our history is full of lessons in solidarity against the same global system of capitalist and colonialist oppression. At this moment when Rojava and Palestine are going through ethnic cleansing, it is more urgent than ever to find a principled anti-colonial internationalism from the ground.

Ozlem Goner is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the College of Staten Island, and the Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her book entitled Turkish National Identity and its Outsiders: Memories of State Violence in Dersim was published by Routledge in June 2017. She is a steering committee member of the Emergency Committee for Rojava.

Originally published at  Photo author via original article

Fight the Racist Campaign Against Palestine Solidarity by Heckle Editors

Suella Braverman’s smearing of the huge and diverse Palestine solidarity movement as “hate marchers” bringing violence to the streets of cities like London and Edinburgh is not merely, as some have suggested, a provocative preamble to her future Conservative leadership campaign — it is yet another example of a wider turn to authoritarianism in the UK and other European states in order to forcibly suppress democratic and progressive challenges from below.

It is significant and welcome that those organising marches and rallies for Palestine in towns and cities north and south of the border have so far refused to be cowed. They have maintained their determination not only in defiance of the Westminster government and virtually all of the mainstream media, but also frivolous arrests and violent threats from police and far-right networks.

The sheer size of these demonstrations over the past month, across these islands, Europe and the world, has already succeeded in greatly amplifying the voice of the occupied and blockaded Palestinian people and robbing the extremist Israeli government of the moral authority it claims in its military campaign against Gaza. We should recognise this enormous achievement.

Still, it is clear that these massive mobilisations alone will not be enough to stop the bombs falling on Gaza and the tanks rolling in, much as millions taking to the streets just over two decades ago could not stop the criminal Iraq War. This is why large parts of the renewed movement have embraced radical tactics including civil disobedience – as seen in train station occupations, university student walk-outs and trade union boycotts – as well as direct action targeting arms manufacturers and other institutions complicit in Israeli apartheid and genocide. These bold actions are justified and must continue. The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions also remains extremely relevant (even if regularly misrepresented).

That this movement is so large, broad, increasingly militant and willing to break the law to prevent a greater injustice is a powerful combination. This is why there has been such a sharp state response from western governments who have, for 75 years, ranged from sponsors to allies of Israeli settler-colonialism for their own economic and geopolitical advantage. This is another expression of the same anti-democratic impulse which has seen, for example, the criminalisation of the climate justice movement. The blocking of a Scottish independence referendum by the UK Supreme Court is also, in fact, part of this campaign against popular sovereignty.

The suppression of Palestine solidarity, however, has a unique racialised character. Across Europe, ostensibly liberal and right-wing governments alike have smeared millions of Palestine supporters as ‘Islamists’ to justify harsh restrictions on immigration, weaponising citizenship against protesters. The UK is far from an outlier in this regard; a looming threat is a likely expansion of the racist Prevent programme. Building strong community networks to protect our neighbours from all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and antisemitism, will be a crucial challenge in coming months.

Overcoming all of these obstacles necessitates unity and bravery. We saw an extraordinary example of this last week when the Ukrainian left journal Commons published its statement of solidarity with Palestinians, rejecting those – including the Ukrainian government – who have counterposed solidarity between one of these peoples and the other. We will need many more principled initiatives like this, that forge links between all those asserting the power of people against the power of states, to eventually win a democratic, peaceful and free world.]

Originally published by Heckle:

Heckle is an 0nline Scottish publication overseen by a seven-person editorial board elected by members of the Republican Socialist Platform.


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Main photo: Edinburgh Gaza demo 11 November 2023,, other photos and graphics, Heckle and Republican Socialist Platform

In solidarity with people’s struggles against unbridled imperialism, for the liberation of the peoples and saving the environment

Statement by the International Committee of the Fourth International adopted on 25 October 2023

1. The contradictions of global capitalism continue to bring forth brutal wars and occupation. Threatened by economic and political crisis, capitalist governments, bearers of racist, patriarchal and imperial ideologies, construct external and internal enemies, provoking wars and continuing oppression. Such conflicts are part of the global logic of neo-liberal capitalism, the logic of intense economic and political competition, of widening inequalities and of the chaos it brings at every level. The wars we are facing are linked to the global crisis of capitalism and the resulting headlong rush into conflict between rival imperialist powers.

2. Since 24 February 2022, with the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, aiming at the total subjugation of Ukraine, Russian imperialism led by Putin has passed a qualitative milestone in its war against the peoples, against all those who oppose its authoritarian and “Great-Russian” colonial project. Through their resistance, the Ukrainian people succeeded in containing the invasion, but Putin’s war means a prolonged war, bringing death, the destruction of towns and infrastructures, the displacement of populations, ecocide and crimes of all kinds by the invading army.

3. The Israeli state has transformed Gaza into a new and massive ghetto. Since 8 October 2023, using the attacks by Hamas as a pretext, the Israeli state has been raining down fire on the Gaza Strip while totally cutting off the Palestinians living there from outside resources, and increasing violence in the West Bank as well. Israeli colonialism, today led by Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition, has reached a new qualitative stage in its project aimed at annihilating and expelling the Palestinian people from their territory. This project is at the heart of Israeli colonialism, it is a project of extreme violence that is actively supported by the governments of the United States and the European Union.

4. The new assault by the Israeli state on the Palestinian people has called forth protest in large parts of the world.  Western powers and large parts of mainstream media call the new Israeli assault a “war against terrorism” and a response to the attack by Hamas and its allies on 7 October. During this attack, which broke through the physical wall of colonial repression and surprised the army of occupation, Hamas also committed unacceptable murders of civilians. We resolutely reject such crimes as acts that are contrary to our emancipatory project. But unlike those who use “double standards”, we, like the Israeli left, can see how such violence comes from a context of extreme oppression.

5. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Israeli occupation of Palestine are different in many respects, but in both cases the Fourth International is guided by the principle of support for the right to self-determination of peoples. We reject any form of campism that favours one imperialist power over another or that would reduce revolutionary politics to geopolitical calculations. Instead, we base ourselves on solidarity with the peoples and their struggles, even if today the people are led by bourgeois and/or reactionary forces. The ruling classes refuse to recognize the right of peoples to self-determination and attempt to repress any resistance. But this repression is facing determined resistance. We support the struggle of the Ukrainian people and that of the Russian and Belarusian opposition to defeat Putin’s criminal regime and obtain the withdrawal of Russian troops as the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace. Equally, we support the resistance of the Palestinian people and recognize that only the end of Israeli colonialism can bring an end to the violence.

6. Situations of war are developing in different parts of the world where oppressive powers deny the rights of peoples and national minorities. For example, the recent military offensive by the Azerbaijani regime resulted in the expulsion of more than 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. This offensive was carried out in collaboration with Erdogan’s Turkish regime, which continues to wage a war of its own against the Kurds in Turkey and Syria while constantly muzzling any progressive opposition in Turkey. Elsewhere, Kashmir continues to be the victim of colonial oppression by India and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has waged an atrocious war in Yemen over the last few years, with the support of Western arms, French arms in particular.

7. In cynical fashion, the regimes of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and others pretend to be friends of the Palestinian people. They attempt to instrumentalize the global sympathy for the Palestinian cause to legitimize their own repressive regimes while refusing to give real meaningful support to the self-determination of the Palestinian people. Equally hypocritical are the Western governments that mouth noble rhetoric about democracy and self-determination in regard to Ukraine but simultaneously persist in their cooperation with and support for Israeli colonialism, ignoring all its violations of international law. Meanwhile, the Chinese government claims leadership over “the global south” while supporting oppressive regimes such as the murderous dictatorship in Myanmar.

8. US imperialism, still the leading imperialism in the world, has seized on the Russian war against Ukraine as an opportunity to strengthen itself. Part of this is its attempt instrumentalize Ukraine in its inter-imperialist rivalry with Russia. NATO has used the opportunity to enlarge itself and NATO member-states are using the Russian invasion as a pretext for massive increases of their military budgets. We demand the immediate dissolution of NATO and CSTO. Such military blocs of imperialist states are the enemies of social and national emancipation.

9. The French state has waged its own so-called  “war against terrorism” in the African Sahel, a war which has not solved any problems. This French war has provoked an anti-imperialist response among the peoples of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, a response which has been used by military adventurers to seize power through coups d’état that offer no prospect of a progressive alternative. In Sudan, the military putschists are waging a war against their own peoples who are challenging their power.

10. This world of militarism and wars, of the use of weapons banned by international conventions, of the denial of fundamental rights, particularly those of women, and massacres of civilians; this world of refugees pushed around the global and dominant classes refusing to tackle the climate crisis, this world seems to be losing all sense. Sadly, this is not new: previous decades have seen wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Syria and elsewhere. But the situation seems even more difficult today: a catastrophic logic of a “clash of civilizations” is being implemented by both so-called “Western” governments as well as those of Putin and Xi Jiping. This logic provides a stepping stone for the racist and sexist far-right, which is on the rise everywhere. At a time when the climate emergency has us by the throat, precious resources are squandered in wars of aggression and occupation.

11. And yet we are witnessing a massive worldwide aspiration for dignity and the defence of basic rights, for democratic, social and environmental justice, and for protecting the environment. People’s movements against imperialist and colonial domination, feminist movements, movements for LGBTIQ and minority rights, environmental movements, movements for social rights. In the face of current wars, we urgently need to take the offensive again through mass movements. Peace can only be just and lasting if it puts an end to oppression, occupation and militarism. This means rejecting any logic of sharing zones of influence between military blocs, neither NATO nor CSTO! Peace can only be just and lasting if it is anti-imperialist; if it is democratic, respects the rights of all and allocates the means necessary for ecological solutions. What is urgently needed is the mobilization of all energies, intelligence and means on a global scale. We need an ecosocialist transition to satisfy the fundamental needs of people everywhere!

12. In the face of the barbarity of war, we need to mobilize in concrete solidarity from below, with peoples fighting for their rights, in complete independence from governments, global or regional powers and reactionary political forces. We insist on the universality of principles such as the right of self-determination and the right to resist, whether in Ukraine, in Palestine or elsewhere. We support resistance against oligarchs and capitalists wherever they operate and have no illusions in reactionary and right-wing leaderships. We support the fight against the ultra-liberal agenda of the Zelensky government, and against its alignment with US imperialism. We condemn the reactionary world-view of Hamas and reject its criminal tactics. We do not forget how the repression of progressive forces favoured religious fundamentalist forces such as Hamas.

13. Today we must do everything we can to mobilize a massive worldwide movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people, together with their allies in Israel. The Palestinian people are isolated and occupied. They stand alone, with almost no material support from outside. This makes our solidarity all the more necessary. We must prevent the expulsion of people, the “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state and a second “Nakba”, we demand an immediate end to the bombing and blockade in Gaza, a ceasefire, and humanitarian aid. We demand the release of prisoners on all sides. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society and support its call to strengthen the Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions (BDS) movement.

14. Our goal is a political solution that puts an end to colonization and guarantees the right of return of those expelled and equal rights of people of all origins on the land. Mobilizations in solidarity with Palestine are facing major obstacles such as rhetoric aimed at isolating the mobilizations and the forces building them, and in other countries the physical repression of demonstrations and other expressions of solidarity. Despite such repression, the Palestine solidarity movement continues and, by overcoming such obstacles, the movements also fight for democracy in their own countries.

15. We know that Hamas or other religious fundamentalist forces will not be allies in the search for a progressive Palestinian solution. The idea that the Palestinian people can achieve their national emancipation through a military defeat of the Israeli state, a state with overwhelming military superiority, is an illusion. In a Middle Eastern context of a mosaic of peoples and minorities, peace is possible only through the democratic emancipation of all.

The solution to the current worldwide crises can only come through mass international mobilization of the working people against imperialist occupation, for the right of peoples to self-determination, against the restriction of democratic freedoms, and for concrete solidarity, including humanitarian solidarity.

It is the role of the organizations of the workers’ movement and and popular movements to mobilize a broad section of the working class and the oppressed to contribute to these internationalist mobilizations, build concrete links with organizations of the oppressed and change the global balance of power.

End the Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people, ceasefire now!

Russian troops out of Ukraine!

Dissolve NATO and CSTO!

Against all forms of imperialism, international solidarity!


Originally published at

Photo:  Demonstration in Liège (Belgium). © Fourth International

Turkey is trying to bomb Rojava out of existence

Sarah Glynn of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan writes for Bella Caledonia

‘Turkey even announced their intention to commit their latest war crime in advance. On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, declared that all the region’s infrastructure was a legitimate target. According to international law, essential infrastructure is never a legitimate target.’ Sarah Glynn reports for Bella on the unfolding campaign to destroy the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.  

That little click. I check WhatsApp. ‘Just now drone attacks next to my house – was bloody scary’. Only two hours earlier my friend had been sending me photographs of his village near Kobanê. Now Turkey’s latest assault had caught up with him too.

Since Thursday morning, Turkey has accelerated their campaign to destroy the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. This is the region that combines predominantly-Kurdish Rojava and the adjacent majority-Arab lands that Kurdish forces liberated from ISIS. It covers around about 30% of Syria and provides home to some five million people. Thwarted, by the United States and Russia, from carrying out another invasion, Turkey is attempting to destroy the Autonomous Administration by making the life of its people impossible.

Constructing and running a new society is slow and difficult work, especially when your land has been ravaged by ISIS and your neighbours blockade your borders. But destroying a society’s security and means of subsistence is simple. Bomb the power stations and substations so millions are left without electricity and there is no power for hospitals, for water pumps, for bakeries, and for the myriad other things that we take for granted. Bomb the gas bottling plant that everyone relies on for the fuel to cook their food and to heat their homes in the winter. Bomb the oil fields that not only provide vital fuel but are also the main source of revenue to support the services of daily life. Bomb grain silos, just filled with this year’s harvest. Bomb factories to decimate an economy already struggling to get off its feet. Bomb hospitals and homes so people know that nowhere and no one is safe. Turkey is doing all of these things.

Qamishlo residents queue to donate blood for the wounded

A pre-announced war crime

This is illegal, of course, under international law. Targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure is regarded as a war crime. But Turkey has been committing war crimes for a long time without any comeback. International opprobrium depends on who you are and your political leverage, not on what you do. Turkey bombed the region’s vital infrastructure a year ago too, though not as thoroughly as now. Since the beginning of 2021, they have cut the flow of water in the Euphrates, and, since their 2019 invasion, their mercenaries have repeatedly shut down the pumping station that supplies water to Hasaka. They have performed targeted assassinations of key Administration figures, and shelled villages to drive away their inhabitants. They have committed the biggest war crime of all in carrying out unprovoked invasions, and they have empowered and supported groups that have performed the most gratuitous and brutal atrocities.

Turkey even announced their intention to commit their latest war crime in advance. On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, declared that all the region’s infrastructure was a legitimate target. According to international law, essential infrastructure is never a legitimate target.

Covid hospital, Derik

A convenient pretext

So, what was Turkey’s excuse and what was their reason? Two different questions with different answers.

If you were to believe Fidan, this is a legitimate response to the action last Sunday by two members of the PKK, who carried out a suicide attack on the entrance to the police headquarters attached to the Interior Ministry in Ankara, wounding two policemen. Fidan claims, on behalf of the Turkish Government, that the PKK men came through North and East Syria, and that there is no distinction between the PKK and the Peoples Defence Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish forces that are now part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Turkey’s attack is thus presented as pre-emptive defence in the fight against terrorism, for which, as the United States has demonstrated, almost anything is permissible. Fidan actually referred to ‘YPG infrastructure’ as though the armed forces and civilian society were one and the same.

Every step of Fidan’s argument is problematic. The Turkish Government has produced no evidence that the men came through Syria, and their presence there has been denied by both the SDF and the PKK. It is no secret that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is inspired by the ideas of PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and the YPG includes fighters who have previously fought for the PKK – including the man who now commands the SDF – but the YPG and PKK are separate organisations. The YPG operates inside Syria and has never threatened Turkey. Turkey likes to quote article 51 of the UN charter, which describes the right to self-defence. There has been extensive debate over whether this includes pre-emptive action, but even where this is deemed acceptable, customary law demands that for an action to be regarded as self-defence, it must be necessary, without other alternatives, and proportional. Turkey’s pulverisation of North and East Syria does not pass this test, and is very far from proportional.

A useful pretext

It is clear that Turkey has been looking for an excuse for this aggression, and that if the PKK had not attacked, they would have used something else – or even created an incident themselves. Fidan is notorious for having been caught on tape in 2014 (when he was head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation) proposing a missile strike on Turkey to make up a case for war.  A year ago, Turkey justified similar, though less intensive, attacks on North and East Syria by blaming the YPG for a bomb attack in Istanbul that appears to have been linked to militant Islamists – certainly not the YPG or PKK. Turkey’s aggression would still have happened sometime without the PKK attack, and cannot be blamed on the PKK – though some will try and do so, which can only benefit Turkey.

The PKK’s attack has also been used to justify the round-up and detention of around 250 largely-Kurdish activists within Turkey itself, including many members of the pro-Kurdish leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party, the HDP. There is no reason to assume that any of them had anything to do with the attack. This is simply a bigger version of what has been happening every week, when Kurdish activists are detained for absurd and petty reasons under Turkey’s endlessly elastic terrorism act.

Turkey’s war on the Kurds

And what of the real reasons behind Turkey’s violence? The answer to this question begins 100 years ago when ethnic nationalism was made a doctrine of the new Turkish republic. Kurds were expected to turn themselves into Turks and forget about their own culture, which was harshly suppressed, and generations of Turks have been indoctrinated with anti-Kurdish rhetoric. For four decades now, the PKK, led by Abdullah Öcalan, has fought a war against the Turkish state. They succeeded in replacing the Kurds’ internalised oppression with a proud Kurdish consciousness, but not in winning external freedom.  Many times during this period, the PKK has declared a unilateral ceasefire and attempted to negotiate a peace settlement, and sometimes there have been talks, but the Turkish authorities have not proved ready to allow the Kurds a dignified existence. Since the 1990s, there have also been pro-Kurdish political parties in the Turkish parliament, but their MPs and activists face harassment and imprisonment, while successive parties have been banned and closed down. The most recent peace talks took place between 2013 and 2015, when there was a real sense of hope in the air. But President Erdoğan saw that this was winning support for the HDP rather than for himself and his party, and that, at the same time, Kurds across the border were beating back ISIS and strengthening their autonomous control over northern Syria. He repudiated the initial agreement in order to pursue a military ‘solution’ to the Kurdish Question, which he has been doing with increasing vengeance. A century of ethnic nationalism has made Kurd bashing a central plank of Turkish populism, and the hopes raised by the main opposition party for a gentler politics did not even last into the second round of the presidential election. Rallying against the Kurds has become a substitute for addressing Turkey’s severe economic and social problems.

Erdoğan has always viewed the existence of an autonomous region in Kurdish Syria as a threat, and he will not rest until it is eliminated. It has never been a physical threat, but does indeed pose a political threat to the status quo by providing an example of a multicultural feminist democracy inspired by Öcalan’s ideas. While ostensibly supporting the coalition against ISIS, Turkey has given ISIS assistance – not least in enabling the passage of thousands of foreign fighters – in the hope that they will put an end to regional, and especially Kurdish, autonomy. And Turkey has twice invaded the region with the help of brutal Islamist militias, to whom they have given control over the occupied lands. Despite US and Russian negotiated ceasefires, Turkey has not stopped their low-level war of attrition against the Autonomous Administration, and if the US and Russia had not refused to move out of the way, Turkey would have carried out another land invasion.

Russia is in Syria to support the Syrian Government in the civil war. They don’t want to see more land occupied by Turkey, but are happy for Turkey to weaken the Autonomous Administration, which they want to force back under President Assad’s centralised control. America initially intervened in Syria by supporting opposition groups who they hoped would bring about regime change – the same violent groups that are still supported by Turkey. But when these proved unreliable partners, and when ISIS threatened to create a centre of anti-Western violence, the US moved to support the YPG (and women’s YPJ) which was the only force providing effective resistance to ISIS.

America has always supported the Turkish Government against the PKK, but American troops are now also in a military partnership with the SDF (which includes the YPG). Turkey is determined to break that partnership and to persuade America that the YPG and PKK are one and the same, which is another reason for them insisting that the PKK men came from Syria.

However, that US-SDF partnership is limited to the fight against ISIS, which still retains many sleeper cells. America will not help the SDF defend themselves against Turkey, which is a NATO ‘ally’. Nor will they allow them the anti-aircraft weapons they need to defend themselves, even though the insecurity created by Turkey’s attacks is a gift to ISIS recruiters.

Last week, for the first time, the US brought down a Turkish drone. Of course, that particular drone was seen as threatening an American base, and the incident was followed by top-level phone diplomacy between the US and Turkey. This sent a message that the US was not going to move out of the way, as Turkey had demanded, but all Turkey’s other drones and military aircraft were left free to destroy the life and lives of the people of North and East Syria. There have been protests against lack of action by the US, which is supposed to be a guarantor of Turkey’s ceasefire.

Neo-Ottoman dreams

Erdoğan feels no need to hide his plans. Shortly before Turkey’s 2019 invasion, he held up a map of Syria at the United Nations General Assembly that showed a 30km deep strip all along the Turkish border, over which Turkey demanded control.  This strip included the main Kurdish areas as well as some of Syria’s most fertile land. Erdoğan called it a ‘safe zone’, claiming it was necessary to prevent the YPG from attacking across the border. In fact, the YPG has never shown any intention of attacking Turkey, and the areas Turkey captured in 2019 have become some of the most dangerous places on earth. Kurds and other minorities have learnt to flee rather than try and survive under Turkish occupation. In a deliberate policy of demographic change, they have been replaced by families of Islamist militias and by refugees from other parts of Syria forcibly deported from Turkey.

When Turkey’s modern borders were agreed in the Treaty of Lausanne, 100 years ago this year, the Turkish delegation based their negotiations on a document entitled the National Pact, drawn up in 1919-20, which claimed for Turkey all those areas with an ‘Ottoman Moslem majority’. This included the predominantly Kurdish regions that the treaty subsequently awarded to Iraq and Syria. There was no separate Kurdish delegation at the Lausanne negotiations, and it was only after the Turkish republic was founded that its leaders made horribly clear that this was solely a Turkish project and not a joint Turkish-Kurdish one. For Erdoğan, the National Pact is still on the table, and his irredentist dreams for the ‘Turkish Century’ also inform his desire to control the belt of land south of the Turkish border.

Electricity station, Qamishlo

A future in ruins

After three days of bombardment with drones and warplanes, accompanied by intense shelling of border areas, the devastation Turkey has caused is cataclysmic. Places that have been working hard to recover from the damage caused by ISIS have seen all their hard work destroyed and more. Rebuilding will be difficult and slow, and always under the shadow of a possible repeat attack. The damage to the Suwayda gas plant alone has been estimated at over $50 million, and essential parts are difficult to get under boycott.

There have been at least seventeen people killed and many others wounded, and the psychological toll of these never-ending attacks is impossible to measure.

The determination and resistance that defeated ISIS remains strong, but if the administration is prevented from being able to meet people’s basic needs, dissatisfaction may grow among those less committed to their democratic and feminist project, especially in more tribal areas such as Deir ez-Zor. This is, of course, part of Turkey’s plan.

When I spoke to my friend in Kobanê on Sunday morning all was quiet. Unlike in Qamishlo, they still had power, though only in late afternoon and evening as water levels have become so low that the turbines can’t function fully. People in Kobanê have become used to drone attacks. Their biggest fear is another invasion and being displaced again, as at the time of ISIS. No one can start new projects: they can’t even plan for the next day. There is a sense that the future is out of their hands, and only God will protect them.

As I finish writing this on Sunday night, Turkey’s bombardment continues along the whole border region, and calls are going out from the hospitals for people to donate blood for the wounded.

Sarah Glynn

Published on 9 October 2023 and republished from Bella Caledonia:

Main image: Kobane Friday 6 October 2023

Originally published by Bella Caledonia, a Scottish-based online magazine combining political and cultural commentary.  You can support Bella Caledonia and Scottish independent media by donating here:

On Hamas’s October Counter-Offensive

Gilbert Achcar

The counter-offensive launched by Hamas against Israel on 7 October 2023, a day after the 50th anniversary of another Arab surprise attack on Israel—the October 1973 War, is a much more spectacular feat than the latter. Whereas fifty years ago, the two Arab states of Egypt and Syria launched a conventional war to attempt to recover the territories that Israel had seized from them six years earlier in the June 1967 War, the new counter-offensive launched by Hamas evokes the boldness of the biblical David in his fight against the giant Goliath. Combining rudimentary air, sea, and land means—the equivalent of David’s sling—Hamas’s fighters executed an amazing and highly daring offensive all along the border zone between the Gaza strip and the Israeli state.

In the same way as Israel’s arrogant self-confidence in the face of its Arab neighbours was shattered in 1973, the security and impunity that it has been taking for granted in dealing with the Palestinian people and combatting Palestinian guerrillas have been severely and irreversibly impaired. From that angle, Hamas’s October counter-offensive is to the Israeli population and state a powerful reminder of their vulnerability and of the fact that there can be no security without peace and no peace without justice.

Whatever one may think of Hamas’s decision to launch such a massive operation against the Israeli state, thus inevitably unleashing the Israeli government’s massive murderous retaliation and inciting it to attempt to wipe off Hamas and its allies from the Gaza Strip at a huge cost for civilians, the fact remains that this counter-offensive has already and undoubtedly dealt a heavy blow to the unbearable haughtiness of the Israeli racist far-right government and their belief that Israel could ever reach a “normal” state of coexistence with its regional environment while persecuting the Palestinian people and inflicting upon them a protracted Nakba of territorial dispossession, ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

No less unbearable is the precipitation with which Western governments (and a Ukrainian government that ought to know better about the legitimate fight against foreign occupation) have expressed their solidarity with Israel, very much in contrast with their muted reactions to Israel’s brutal onslaughts on the Palestinian population. The Israeli flag was projected on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on the evening of 7 October in a contemptible display of fawning over the state of Israel, the usual hallmark of German misoriented redemption-seeking for Nazi crimes against European Jews by endorsing Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. This becomes even worse at a time when Israel’s government is composed of the whole gamut of Jewish far-right forces, including people whom a prominent Israeli Holocaust historian did not hesitate to aptly describe in Haaretz as neo-Nazis!

No less contemptible are the attempts at “analysing” Hamas’s offensive as an Iranian plot to derail the ongoing US-fostered rapprochement between the Saudi kingdom and the Israeli state. Even if it were true that Tehran wishes to derail that rapprochement instead of using it to enhance its own claim of monopoly over anti-Zionism, a very disputable hypothesis indeed, this denial of Palestinian agency by way of conspiracy theory is the exact equivalent of every oppressive government’s reaction to popular revolt. It postulates that there are no sufficient grounds for the oppressed people to revolt against their oppression and that any such move is necessarily inspired by the invisible hand of some foreign government.

Anyone familiar with what the Palestinian people has been enduring for decades, and aware of the kind of open air prison that the Gaza Strip has become, ever since it was occupied in 1967 and then evacuated by Israeli troops in 2005—an open air prison that is periodically the target of a murderous Israeli “turkey shoot”—can easily understand that the only reason why such quasi-desperate act of bravery as Hamas’s latest operation does not actually happen more frequently is the huge military disproportion between the Palestinian David and the Israeli Goliath. Gaza’s latest counter-offensive brings indeed to mind the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

There can be no doubt that this new chapter will end with a terrible cost for the Palestinians in general, the Gazans in particular, and Hamas specifically—much higher than the cost endured by the Israelis, as has unfailingly been the case in every round of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. And whereas it is not difficult to understand the “enough-is-enough” logic behind Hamas’s counter-offensive, it is much more doubtful that it will help advance the Palestinian cause beyond the blow to Israel’s self-confidence mentioned above. This would have been achieved at a hugely disproportionate cost for the Palestinians.

The very idea that such an operation, however spectacular it was, could achieve “victory” can only stem from the religious type of magical thinking that is characteristic of a fundamentalist movement like Hamas. The distribution by its information service of a video showing the movement’s leadership praying to thank God on the morning of 7 October is a good illustration of this thinking. Unfortunately, no magic can alter the fact of Israel’s massive military superiority: the result of Israel’s new ongoing war against Gaza is certainly going to be devastating.

The 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington dealt the United States’ arrogance a spectacular blow. Eventually, they tremendously enhanced George W. Bush’s popularity and enabled him to launch 18 months later the occupation of Iraq that he ambitioned. Likewise, Hamas’s October counter-offensive has already succeeded in reunifying a previously deeply divided Israeli society and polity, and it will allow Benjamin Netanyahu to implement his wildest plans to inflict massive terror on the Palestinians to precipitate their forced displacement.

On the other hand, if Hamas’s leadership had been betting on Lebanon’s Hezbollah—and Iran behind it—to join the war at a level that would really put Israel in jeopardy, this bet would be very risky indeed. For not only it is far from certain that Hezbollah would take the high risk of massively entering a new war with Israel, but such a situation, if it were to happen, would inevitably bring Israel to resort unrestrainedly to its massive destructive power (which includes nuclear weapons), thus bringing about a catastrophe of historic magnitude.

Against an oppressor that is far superior in military means, the only truly efficient way of struggle for the Palestinian people is by choosing the terrain on which they can circumvent that superiority. The peak in Palestinian’s struggle effectiveness was reached in the year 1988 during the First Intifada, in which the Palestinians deliberately avoided the use of violent means. This led to a deep moral crisis in Israel’s society and polity, including its armed forces, and was a key factor in leading the Israeli Rabin-Peres leadership to negotiate the 1993 Oslo Accords with Yasir Arafat—however flawed these accords were, due to the Palestinian leader’s indulging in wishful thinking.

The Palestinian struggle must rely primarily on mass political action against Israel’s oppression, occupation, and settler-colonial expansion. The new underground armed resistance organised by young Palestinians in Jenin or Nablus can be an efficient adjuvant to the people’s mass movement, provided it is predicated on the latter’s priority and conceived in such a way as to incentivise it. The regional support that the Palestinian people should rely upon is not that of tyrannical governments like that of Iran, but that of the peoples fighting against these oppressive regimes. Herein lies the true potential prospect for Palestinian liberation, which needs to be combined with the emancipation of Israeli society itself from the logic of Zionism that has inexorably produced its polity’s ever-expanding drift to the far right.

Republished from:

About Gilbert Achcar

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon. He is currently Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. His most recent books are The New Cold War: The US, Russia and China – From Kosovo to Ukraine (2023), Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising (2016) and The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (2013). Other books include The Clash of Barbarisms (2nd expanded edition 2006); dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East in Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd edition 2008); and The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). He is a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance in England & Wales.

Degrowth: a remarkable renaissance

There is continuing widespread interest in debate on Degrowth. is keen to encourage this debate.  We published Michael Lowy’s Nine Theses on Ecosocialist Degrowth recently, and below we are republishing two more topical contributions.  The first is an overview of the Degrowth debate from Alan Thornett’s Ecosocialist Discussion site and the second is an introduction to degrowth concepts from the Scotonomics newsletter that was also published by Scottish daily newspaper ‘The National’.

Degrowth: a remarkable renaissance

This article was written for the current edition of the Green Left’s publication Watermelon in advance of the Green Party conference ­ AT

There has been an upsurge of interest in degrowth –a long-discussed strategic alternative to climate chaos ­ and not just from the radical left. It is experiencing a renaissance at the moment, driven by the relentless rise in global temperatures and the resulting climate chaos.

It was the theme of a three-day conference in May entitled ‘Beyond Growth 2023 which filled the main hall of the European Parliament with mostly young and enthusiastic people. It was organised by 20 left-leaning MEPs and it was opened by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

According to the Economist report the young audience ‘whooped and cheered’ when it was proposed that some form of de-growth will be necessary to avoid societal collapse.”

In July, Bill McKibben – the veteran environmental campaigner, founder of, and prolific author – had a major article in the New Yorker strongly advocating degrowth from an historical perspective.

Numerous books supporting degrowth – to varying degrees and stand points – have been also published recently from the left: The Case for Degrowth by Giorgos Kallis et al; Less is More ­ how degrowth will save the world by Jason Hickel; Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism by Kohei Saito; and The Future is Degrowth by Matthias Schmelzer.

A recent book opposing degrowth is Climate Change as Class War, by Matt Huber – from, in my view, an ultra-left and voluntaristic position. He has reviewed himself in the current edition of Jacobin.

Growth is the driving force of the environmental crisis. Over the past 60 years the global economy has grown at an average rate of 3 per cent a year, which is completely unsustainable. John Bellamy Foster has pointed out  that a 3% p.a. growth rate of would grow the world economy by a factor of 250 over the course of this century and the next. Over the same period the global human population has risen from 3.6 billion in 1970 to 8 billion in 2022.

Such growth rates are incompatible with the natural limits of the planet, and will ultimately defeat any attempts to resolve the environmental crisis that fail to deal with it.

An early attempt to analyse this issue was undertaken in 1970 by Donella Meadows and a team of radical young scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was published in 1972 as the Limits to Growth Report

The Meadows Report, as it became known reached the monumental conclusion that: “if the present growth in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continues unchanged”, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime around the middle of the 21st century. The most probable result “will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.”

It sold 12 million copies world-wide, was translated into 37 languages. and remains the top-selling environmental title ever published. It also became the driving force behind the emergence of the ecology and green movement in the 1970s, and the degrowth movement itself.

It was remarkably accurate, ­ as Bill McKibben notes, ­ and it’s conclusion puts us exactly where we are today, facing increasing frequent climate related societal breakdowns that may soon become generalised.

McKibben also notes that Ursula von der Leyen directly referenced to the Meadows Report at her opening speech in Brussels: “Our predecessors”, she had said, “chose to stick to the old shores and not lose sight of them. They did not change their growth paradigm but relied on oil. And the following generations have paid the price.”

The Report, however, was ignored by the socialist left, with a few exceptions. Tony Benn’s Alternative Economic Strategy of the 1980s, for example, made ever-faster economic growth its key demand. No wonder the trade unions and the Labour Party remain dominated by growth productivism today because they have never been challenged by the left.

William Morris – the outstanding environmentalist in the 19th century – had also gone unheeded when he raged against useless and unnecessary production. In his lecture ‘How We Live and How We Might Live’, delivered in December 1884 in Hammersmith [Image above]– he raised the issue of how to live dignified and fulfilling lives without the need for mass produced commodities and consumerism, and what kind of future society could best provide such an approach.

What degrowth offers is a planned reduction of economic activity, within a different economic paradigm, and first and foremost in the rich countries of the Global North. Giorgos Kallis puts it this way in The Case for Degrowth (page viii): “The goal of degrowth is to purposefully slow things down in order to minimise harm to human beings and earth systems”.

Jason Hickel in Less in More (page 29) –– tells us that degrowth is: “a planned reduction of excess energy and resource use in order to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a safe and equitable way”.

The adoption of such an approach will need a mass movement involving everyone who is prepared to fight to save the planet on a progressive basis, including environmental movements, indigenous movements, peasant movements, farmers movement as well as trade unions and progressive political parties. It must demand that the big polluters pay for the damage they have done. This means heavily taxing fossil fuels in order to both cut emissions and to ensure that the polluters fund the transition to renewables as a part of an exit strategy from fossil fuel that redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor, and is capable of commanding popular support. Such an approach must be the cornerstone of ecosocialism and an ecosocialist strategy designed to save the planet from ecological destruction and create a post-capitalist, ecologically sustainable, society for the future.

Alan Thornett, ecosocialist writer and activist, was a leading British trade unionist and car worker in the 60s and 70s
Written by Alan Thornett September 2013.  Republished from  Alan Thornett’s ‘Facing the Apocalypse – Arguments for Ecosocialism’ is published by Resistance Books and available for £15 here.


An introduction to degrowth: What is it and how does it work?

This is the latest edition of the Scotonomics newsletter – click here to receive it free to your inbox every week.

As a global society, we must pursue policies to reduce material consumption and increase our wellbeing. This is the core of degrowth.It is exceptionalism that leads us to think that our economy, which grows by consuming natural resources, can grow forever. There must be a limit. That much is self-evident. However, even for those who agree that there is some future limit, many people think that we are a long way from that.

It is often a shock when you tell people that with an annual growth rate of only 3%, the economy doubles in only 24 years. By 2070, it would be four times bigger than it is today. Can we really look at our ecological problems and seriously picture an economy four times bigger?

2070 might seem too long a timeframe. So, let’s look at 2050. There are approximately 9.7 billion people on the planet. If all of them were to live according to the living standards of a country like Scotland, assuming that 3% growth, our global resource use would be 15 times higher than it is today.

It is the bury-your-head-in-the-sand growth paradigm that is detached from reality.

Growth is not wellbeing

The mistake our society continues to make is to consider growth the same thing as wellbeing. The growth of an economy can increase and reduce wellbeing. Degrowth makes this connection implicit; a degrowth economy is one in which well-being increases.

Ecological economist Herman Daly talked about “economic and uneconomic growth”, and he suggested that it is likely that economies in the global north became “uneconomic” at some point in the 1980s. Herman’s argument focused on the depletion of non-renewable resources, the ecological consequences of overfilling waste sinks and an understanding that not all expenditure is beneficial. Spending £10 billion to deal with an oil spill would increase GDP. But it is hard to argue that it improves wellbeing.

The idea that growth is always good has become what George Monbiot (above) calls a “root metaphor”. So deeply rooted is the idea that growth equals well-being that it frames our understanding and choices without us even being aware. Growth is now more than a simple process; it has become a powerful idea.

According to degrowth scholar Giorgos Kallis: “Growth is not only a material process. It is also a cultural, political and social process. Growth is an idea, produced, imagined and instituted. An idea that growth is natural, necessary and desirable.”

Degrowth challenges that growth is natural, necessary or desirable.

Degrowth is a broad transformative process. It is a decrease in ecological damage and an increase in well-being.

In a degrowth economy, our human society reacts in a co-evolutionary way to its surroundings, in a way familiar to humans for around 99% of the last 100,000 years. In other words, we act more in tune with our environment.

Degrowth is selective and will involve increases in some things and decreases in others, such as less private and more public transport.

In a society guided by degrowth policies, we set limits on harmful activities and move our society to stay within specific and defined boundaries. Our life, not our economy, is placed within the planet’s biophysical boundaries. Once we return to within our current constraints, these boundaries can be seen as fluid, advanced or reduced by managing technology and other factors to create a steady state or “Goldilocks” economy.

Degrowth policies, in general, are highly redistributive. It is degrowth for the global North to allow space for “economic” growth, as defined by Herman Daly, for the global south.

Within global north nations like Scotland, degrowth starts with the wealthiest in society. The actions and lifestyles of the wealthiest degrow before anyone else, and there is a clear rationale for this. In the UK, the top 1% emit 10 times as much carbon yearly as the poorest do in two decades. Where else could you possibly start if you wanted to be effective?

There are no “non-reformest reforms” in a degrowth paradigm. However, a degrowth economy would be familiar enough to today’s economy that we can use today’s economic terms to make sense of a degrowth economy.

The ecological economist Tim Jackson, who describes himself more as a “post-growth” economist, wrote in his book Prosperity Without Growth: “The economy of tomorrow calls on us to revisit and reframe the concepts of productivity, profitability, asset ownership and control over the distribution of social surplus.”

“It calls for a renegotiation of the role of the progressive state.” This would need to happen in a degrowth economy.

The end game for degrowth is a much more balanced society and economy that prioritises planetary well-being. It is a post-capitalist world.

Common among those who support degrowth is the belief that degrowth is inevitable: We deal with the need to drastically reduce throughput by design or by disaster. Degrowth uses the agency we have to solve the problems we have created.

In next week’s article, we will take a closer look at degrowth policies.

Join us at 2.30pm on September 27 to discuss all of the topics we have discussed this month.

Republished from The National.

Join the Scotonomics mailing list here

Picture: ‘How We Might Live’ – from the cover of  How We Might Live: At Home with Jane and William Morris by Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Theses on Ecosocialist Degrowth

Ecosocialist writer and Fourth International activist. Michael Löwy. presents ‘Nine Theses on Ecosocialist Degrowth’ in an issue of the US magazine Monthly Review dedicated to a discussion on this important topic.  If you can afford it please buy this issue (details below).

I. The ecological crisis is already the most important social and political question of the twenty-first century, and will become even more so in the coming months and years. The future of the planet, and thus of humanity, will be decided in the coming decades. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains, if the average global temperature exceeds the pre-industrial period by 1.5°C, there is a risk of setting off an irreversible and catastrophic climate change process. What would be the consequences of this? Just a few examples: the multiplication of megafires destroying most of the forests; the disappearance of rivers and the exhaustion of subterranean water reserves; increasing drought and desertification of land; the melting and dislocation of polar ice and rise in sea level, leading to the flooding of the major cities of human civilization—Hong Kong, Kolkata, Venice, Amsterdam, Shanghai, London, New York, Rio de Janeiro. Some of these events are already taking place: drought is threatening millions of people in Africa and Asia with hunger; increasing summer temperatures have reached unbearable levels in some areas of the planet; forests are burning everywhere over increasingly extended fire seasons; one could multiply the examples. In some sense, the catastrophe has already begun—but it will become much worse in the next few decades, well before 2100. How high can the temperature go? At what temperature will human life on this planet be threatened? No one has an answer to these questions. These are dramatic risks without precedent in human history. One would have to go back to the Pliocene Epoch, millions of years ago, to find climate conditions similar to what could become reality in the future due to climate change.

II. What is responsible for this situation? It is human action, answer the scientists. The answer is correct, but a bit short: human beings have lived on Earth since hundreds of thousands of years ago, but the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere started to accumulate only after the Industrial Revolution and only began to become dangerous to life since 1945. As Marxists, our answer is that the culprit is the capitalist system. The absurd and irrational logic of infinite expansion and accumulation, productivism, and the obsession with the search for profit at any price are responsible for bringing humanity to the brink of the abyss.

The capitalist system’s responsibility for the imminent catastrophe is widely recognized. Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Laudato Si, without uttering the word “capitalism,” spoke out against a structurally perverse system of commercial and property relations based exclusively on the “principle of profit maximization” as responsible both for social injustice and destruction of our common home, nature. A slogan universally chanted the world over in ecological demonstrations is “System Change Not Climate Change!” The attitude shown by the main representatives of this system, advocates of business as usual—billionaires, bankers, so-called experts, oligarchs, and politicians—can be summed up by the phrase attributed to Louis XV: “After me, the deluge.” The complete failure of the dozens of United Nations COP Conferences on Climate Change to take the minimal measures necessary to stop the process illustrate the impossibility of a solution to the crisis within the limits of the prevailing system.

III. Can “green capitalism” be a solution? Capitalist enterprises and governments may be interested in the (profitable) development of “sustainable energies,” but the system has been dependent on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) for the last three centuries, and shows no sign of willingness to give them up. Capitalism cannot exist without growth, expansion, accumulation of capital, commodities, and profits, and this growth cannot go on without an extended use of fossil fuels.

Green capitalist pseudo-solutions such as “carbon markets,” “compensation mechanisms,” and other manipulations of the so-called “sustainable market economy” have proven perfectly useless. While “greening” goes on and on, carbon dioxide emissions are skyrocketing and catastrophe gets closer and closer. There is no solution to the ecological crisis within the framework of capitalism, a system entirely devoted to productivism, consumerism, and the ferocious struggle for market share. Its intrinsically perverse logic inevitably leads to the breakdown of the ecological equilibrium and the destruction of the ecosystems. As Greta Thunberg put it, “it is mathematically impossible to solve the ecological crisis in the framework of the present economic system.”

The Soviet experience, whatever its merits or shortcomings, was also based on the logic of growth, grounded on the same fossil resources as the West. Much of the left during the last century shared the ideology of growth in the name of “developing the productive forces.” A productivist socialism that ignores the ecological crisis is unable to answer the challenges of the twenty-first century.

IV. The degrowth reflection and movement that emerged in the last few decades has made a great contribution to a radical ecology by opposing the myth of an unlimited “growth” on a limited planet. But degrowth in itself is not an alternative economic and social perspective: it does not define what kind of society will replace the present system. Some proponents of degrowth would ignore the issue of capitalism, focusing only on productivism and consumerism, defining the culprit as “The West,” “Enlightenment,” or “Prometheanism.” Others, which represent the left of the antigrowth movement, clearly designate the capitalist system as responsible for the crisis, and acknowledge the impossibility of a “capitalist degrowth.”

In the last few years, there has been a growing coming together of ecosocialism and degrowth: each side has been appropriating the arguments of the other, and the proposal of an “ecosocialist degrowth” has begun to be adopted as a common ground.

V. Ecosocialists have learned much from the degrowth movement. Ecosocialism is therefore increasingly adopting the need of degrowth in the process of transition to a new socialist ecological society. One obvious reason for this is that most renewable energies, such as wind and solar, (a) need raw materials that do not exist an on an unlimited scale and (b) are intermittent, depending on climate conditions (wind, sun). They cannot, therefore, entirely replace fossil energy. A substantial reduction of energy consumption is therefore inevitable. But the issue has a more general character: the production of most goods is based on the extraction of raw materials, many of which (a) are becomingly increasingly limited and/or (b) create serious ecological problems in the process of extraction. All these elements point to the need for degrowth.

Ecosocialist degrowth includes the need for substantial reductions in production and consumption, but does not limit itself to this negative dimension. It includes the positive program of a socialist society, based on democratic planning, self-management, production of use values instead of commodities, gratuity of basic services, and free time for the development of human desires and capacities—a society without exploitation, class domination, patriarchy, and all forms of social exclusion.

VI. Ecosocialist degrowth does not have a purely quantitative conception of degrowth as a reduction in production and consumption. It proposes qualitative distinctions. Some productions—for example, fossil energies, pesticides, nuclear submarines, and advertising—should not be merely reduced, but suppressed. Others, such as private cars, meat, and airplanes, should be substantially reduced. Still others, such as organic food, public means of transport, and carbon neutral housing, should be developed. The issue is not “excessive consumption” in the abstract, but the prevalent mode of consumption, based as it is on conspicuous acquisition, massive waste, mercantile alienation, obsessive accumulation of goods, and the compulsive purchase of pseudo-novelties imposed by “fashion.” One must put an end to the monstrous waste of resources by capitalism based on the production, on a large scale, of useless and harmful products: the armaments industry is a good example, but a great part of the “goods” produced in capitalism, with their inbuilt obsolescence, have no other usefulness but to generate profit for large corporations. A new society would orient production toward the satisfaction of authentic needs, beginning with those which could be described as “biblical”—water, food, clothing, and housing—but including also the basic services: health care, education, transport, and culture.

How to distinguish the authentic from artificial, factitious, and makeshift needs? The last ones are induced by mental manipulation, that is, advertisement. While advertisement is an indispensable dimension of the capitalist market economy, it would have no place in a society transitioning to ecosocialism, where it would be replaced by information on goods and services provided by consumer associations. The criterion for distinguishing an authentic from an artificial need is its persistence after the suppression of advertisements (Coca-Cola!). Of course, old habits of consumption would persist for some time, and nobody has the right to tell the people what their needs are. The change in patterns of consumption is a historical process, as well as an educational challenge.

VII. The main effort in a process of planetary degrowth must be made by the countries of the industrialized North (North America, Europe, and Japan) responsible for the historical accumulation of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution. They are also the areas of the world where the level of consumption, particularly among the privileged classes, is clearly unsustainable and wasteful. The “underdeveloped” countries of the Global South (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) where basic needs are very far from being satisfied will need a process of “development,” including building railroads, water and sewage systems, public transport, and other infrastructures. But there is no reason why this cannot be accomplished through a productive system that is environmentally friendly and based on renewable energies. These countries will need to grow great amounts of food to nourish their hungry populations, but this can be much better achieved—as the peasant movements organized worldwide in the Vía Campesina network have been arguing for years—by a peasant biological agriculture based on family units, cooperatives, or collectivist farms. This would replace the destructive and antisocial methods of industrialized agribusiness, based on the intensive use of pesticides, chemicals, and genetically modified organisms. Presently, the capitalist economy of countries in the Global South is rooted in the production of goods for their privileged classes—cars, airplanes, and luxury goods—and commodities exported to the world market: soya beans, meat, and oil. A process of ecological transition in the South, as argued by ecosocialists, would reduce or suppress this kind of production, and aim instead at food sovereignty and the development of basic services such as health care and education, which need, above all, human labor, rather than more commodities.

VIII. Who could be the subject in the struggle for an ecosocialist degrowth? The workerist/industrialist dogmatism of the previous century is no longer current. The forces now at the forefront of the social-ecological confrontations are youth, women, Indigenous people, and peasants. The resistance of Indigenous communities in Canada, the United States, Latin America, Nigeria, and elsewhere to the capitalist oil fields, pipelines, and gold mines is well documented; it flows from their direct experience of the destructive dynamics of capitalist “progress,” as well as the contradiction between their spirituality and culture and the “spirit of capitalism.”

Women are very present in the Indigenous resistance movement as well as in the formidable youth uprising launched by Thunberg’s call to action—one of the great sources of hope for the future. As the ecofeminists explain, this massive women’s participation in mobilizations comes from the fact that they are the first victims of the system’s damage to the environment.

Unions are beginning here and there to also get involved. This is important, because, in the final analysis, we cannot overcome the system without the active participation of urban and rural workers who make up the majority of the population. The first condition, in each movement, is associating ecological goals (closing coal mines, oil wells, coal-fired power stations, and so on) with guaranteed employment for the workers involved. Ecologically minded unionists have argued that there are millions of “green jobs” that would be created in a process of ecological transition.

IX. Ecosocialist degrowth is at once a project for the future and a strategy for the struggle here and now. There is no question of waiting for the conditions to be “ripe.” It is necessary to provoke a convergence between social and ecological struggles and to fight the most destructive initiatives by powers at the service of capitalist “growth.” Proposals such as the Green New Deal are part of this struggle in their more radical forms, which require effectively renouncing fossil energies—but not in those reforms limited to recycling the system.

Without any illusions on a “clean capitalism,” one must try to buy time, and to impose on the powers that be some elementary measures of degrowth, beginning with a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The efforts to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, a polluting gold mine, and a coal-fired facility are part of the larger resistance movement, called Blockadia by Naomi Klein. Equally significant are local experiences of organic agriculture, cooperative solar energy, and community management of resources.

Such struggles around concrete issues of degrowth are important, not only because partial victories are welcome in themselves, but also because they contribute to raising ecological and socialist consciousness while promoting activity and self-organization from below. These factors are decisive and necessary preconditions for a radical transformation of the world—that is, for a Great Transition to a new society and a new mode of life.

Michael Löwy is emeritus research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. He is the co-author, with Bengi Akbulut, Sabrina Fernandes, and Giorgos Kallis, of the call “For an Ecosocialist Degrowth” in the April 2022 issue of Monthly Review, and author of Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (Haymarket Books, 2015).

Republished from Monthly Review:

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Report from the Fourth International’s Revolutionary Youth Camp

This summer the Fourth International held its annual Revolutionary Youth Camp in France.  As part of the Fourth International, participates in building this camp but also welcomes other individuals and comrades from fellow revolutionary organisations.  This year we invited RS21 – Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century – in Scotland to participate and were delighted they were able to send a representative.  Below is their report from the RS21 website.

This summer, younger comrades met to foster international solidarity across the socialist movement. Becky Brown reports. 

This year the 4th International youth camp was held in Vieure, central France, from 23-29 July. 200 youth from across Europe came together to better understand how their own political landscapes are situated within the context of globalised capitalism and, likewise, in the context of international solidarity. The camp itself was self-organised around an understanding of anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist and LGBTI+ liberatory values, and everyone participated in the maintenance of the camp by sharing security, bar, cleaning, translation and ‘awareness’ team (for dealing with conflicts and concerns) shifts, allowing us to have a taste actually living-out our values and ideas.

The first FI youth camp was held in 1984, making this the 38th camp (accounting for a two-year gap over Covid). It holds the idea that young people should be given the space to test and develop their ideas together, emphasising that youth education in politics should not be based on receiving lectures by old men. Likewise, it doesn’t expect all groups and individuals participating in the camp to hold the exact same politics – it sees a commitment to international solidarity, non-Stalinism and non-reformism as sufficient common ground to build for healthy discussions. I found this to work well, as strategic discussions tended to focus on actual struggles rather than party building or petitioning our respective liberal/conservative states, allowing us to share ideas on how to build on-the-ground momentum and actively engage in solidarity work. Likewise, I found it helpful to hear from experiences of different groups across the camp, some of whom were from small organisations with no party affiliations and others were youth wings of far left political parties or far left party blocks.

Participants were primarily from France, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal and Scotland, as well as some comrades from South American countries who were able to provide key perspectives and experiences from beyond Europe. International solidarity was not simply a form of tokenistic rhetoric. This was nicely exemplified by the organisation of the camp itself, where participation fees were scaled according to the buying power of each country. Want to buy some beer? Then you’ll have to go to the bank to exchange your euros for ‘tou-cramer’ (burn everything!) with a similarly scaled exchange rate.


The programme was centred on a different theme per day, these themes having been elected on by a meeting of delegates in Amsterdam during Easter. This is nicely indicative of the way in which the camp is developed mainly by the participants themselves, both before and during the camp, in a way that consciously aims for openness and internal democracy. These themes were selected as key sites of struggle in the present moment, as we face up to a system of ecocidal global capitalism that has led rise to the most recent onslaught of floods, fires, droughts across the world as well as spiralling cost-of-living crises. Likewise, the present growth of reactionary policies and movements has emphasised how questions of anti-racism, feminism and LGBTI+ liberation must also be placed centrally in the revolutionary movements, in acknowledgment of the central role they play in capitalism’s reproduction and social-reproduction.

Each day began with a session known as an ‘educational’, delivering an in-depth analysis of how each of these themes – eco-socialism, anti-racism, feminism, LGBTI+ liberation, social movements, and party and strategy – is situated within the contemporary landscape. The educationals showed how the Marxist method of analysis could be applied to each topic, foregrounding the question of how ruling classes materially benefit from perpetuating a system that is racist, ecocidal, etc. The camp participants ranged from the ages of 15 to 30 and therefore they encompassed a wide range of experiences and prior exposure to this method of analysis. Considering this, it was useful to keep returning to this material analysis, ensuring that all camp participants were developing their critiques on the shared understanding that, for example, racism is not simply a moral position but that it serves as a useful tool for the benefit of capitalist ruling classes. LGBTI+ oppression was therefore analysed through the framework of the hetero-patriarchal family, using social reproduction theory. It was shown how LGBTI+ identities pose a challenge to the way capitalism has organised the labour force in the public and private spheres, exemplifying how matters of our supposed ‘private life’ and of identities are not divisible from the economic system we live under.

The camp recognised that people have had different experiences regarding how capitalism has intersected with their identities. A key part of the camp organisation was to privilege several ‘closed’ spaces, whereby people who had experiences of (1) being racialised, (2) being LGBTI+, (3) womanhood (from a trans-inclusive perspective) and (4) being transgender, were timetabled discussion periods in spaces reserved only for those who identified as belonging to that group. This gave them the opportunity to focus on strategic questions, for example how to organise as racialised minorities in our organisations, or organising the fightback against transphobia, ensuring that liberatory struggles could be developed and spearheaded by those who are most affected.  The educational on anti-racism emphasised that the FI camps had had women’s and LGBTI+ closed spaces since the 1980s and 90s, and this had not extended this to a racialised peoples until 2017. The camp acknowledged that it had not always recognised the significance of race in revolutionary struggle, and the delegations have never been a good representation of the racial diversity of the countries they supposedly represent.

Unfortunately there was no session timetabled for feedbacking any key ideas developed in the closed spaces, so I do not know what strategic insights came about within most of the closed spaces. In the women’s space, however, participants were keen to hear about the histories of sexual violence within the SWP. Links were drawn to other far-left organisations who have also faced the same problems, and questions emerged surrounding the accountability of organisational structures that have consolidated unhealthy and patriarchal power systems within themselves despite having well-formed critiques when looking outwards.

The themes of accountability and internal democracy emerged in a variety of discussions over the week, somewhat in continuation of these questions surrounding the internal organisation of left groups and the concurrent intersection with identity-based oppression. It seemed that the youth wings of political groups/parties were keen to foreground accountability procedures as a way of fighting against oppressive systems that have marred their groups in the past. It was recognised as worthy of serious consideration and as necessary of consideration as external struggles, something that is not traditionally foregrounded in left wing strategic discussions. The importance of this is painfully clear though from experiences that each delegation brought to the camp. For example, the Swiss party Solidarité recently experienced an elected cohort of older men who broke away and stole significant finances from the Solidarité, following disputes about their refusal to maintain accountable to the party.


Another key part of the camp programme were daily workshops and inter-delegation meetings. Workshops were led by youth participants from each delegation, who would introduce a prominent issue from their national context (strikes, social movements, policy changes etc) and then open this up to the rest of the group for discussion and comparison with correlate issues from their own contexts. Topics included fights against Airbnb; union struggles; resisting Denmark’s deeply racist ‘ghetto-isation’ laws; Frontex and fortress Europe; undocumented migrants and refugee struggles; LGBTI+ struggle; French resistance against pension reform; Switzerland’s compulsory conscription, amongst many others. There were also practical workshops on how to build a tripod, feminist self-defence and building defensive frontlines against security services.

The Scottish delegation led the workshop on the transphobic movement in Britain. Other delegations reported back how useful they had found this workshop, as Britain’s transphobic reactionary movements are further along than the many transphobic movements elsewhere, meaning that key strategic lessons could be developed out of hearing about our experience.

Members of the French delegation delivered a workshop on Soulevement de la Terre and the fight against mega-basins. It gave an overview of why the mega-basins were selected as a target, given that they appear to be less harmful than major fossil fuel infrastructure that is typically targeted by climate groups across Europe. It progressed onto discussing the movement’s strategies and the subsequent police repression. It was clear that mega-basins are both ecologically damaging and part of an extractivist agribusiness economy, making them deeply unpopular with the 95% of local farmers who are outside of the agribusiness economy. This shared opposition allowed a strong alliance to form between the local farmers union and the climate movement, building a resistance movement that numbered 30,000 people. It led to conversations about how these lessons of mobilisation could be applied to our own climate movements and fed into a conversation about the fight in Denmark against the building of a new island near Copenhagen, an unjustifiable vanity project that is going to have major impacts on flooding in the future and yet has no public opposition to currently tap into.

Swiss delegates led a workshop questioning the significance of political parties in developing a revolutionary horizon. The workshop was attended by people from a broad range of views and organisational experiences, from those acting in autonomous groups to members of revolutionary parties sitting within parliamentary left-wing blocks. The participants were keen to discuss the value of parliamentary politics within a bourgeois state, debating if the state’s formal power can be vied for or if it inevitably leads to the co-optation of far-left politics once the parties have been absorbed into the political system. This theme re-emerges over and over again – both in and out the camp-  and was reiterated by the splits recently experienced by several of the parties/organisations present at the camp.

Interdelegation meetings

Interdelegation meetings were an opportunity to meet with another national grouping to learn more about their context, and to draw comparisons or points of disagreement. Other delegations were keen to hear about the current state of the Scottish Independence movement, as well as about the UK climate movement, the parliamentary left and an assessment of the strength of a far-right movement. The rise of the far-right was a theme that emerged across many inter-delegation meetings, giving a visceral impression of the growing threat they are currently posing across Europe.

I came away with a greater sense of how comparable many of the struggles are and it felt good to be faced with the reminder of how our respective states are acting on similar interests in the protection of capital – meaning that providing space for discussions like these can be invaluable for comparing our experiences of fighting back and sharing strategies. In practice, the workshops actually provided a better platform for comparing tactics, as in the workshops the conversations remained focused on a single struggle and therefore allowed more time for them to be fully explored. The inter-delegation meetings were only an hour long, meaning that they were typically more of a Q&A session where individuals from each delegation would ask about areas they were interested in. Few of us knew much about the political landscape of the other countries, so the inter-delegation meetings were a good opportunity to ask someone with similar politics for their perspective on their country’s political situation and the role/strength of organised struggles. It felt important to learn these things, but meant that the inter-delegation meetings’ supposed aim was not necessarily achieved – maybe if the camp was two weeks long rather than one!


In all, the camp was an impressive experience where many ideas were shared, critiqued and developed. Moreover, it was a valuable space where we had the opportunity to live beside one another, sharing our experiences of struggle, resistances, strategies, and to socialise and build friendships across borders. It gave us a taste of what it is like to live with a sense of consciousness – both political and interpersonal consciousness – as we participated in, maintained and led the camp’s programme and logistics, and worked within the camp’s internal democracy to make continuous improvements. The result was festive and liberating which stands in stark contrast to the way neoliberalism infects our normal environments. It really did allow us to live out a form of ‘revolutionary tenderness’, in the words of a previous attendee.

Republished from:

Photo: The Scotland delegation of the Fourth International Youth Camp 2023 (RS21)

Remembering September 11, 1973: The US‑backed Pinochet Coup in Chile

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the US backed coup by Pinochet in Chile. It was one of the heaviest and bloodiest defeats ever suffered by the left and progressive movement in Latin America. There are a number of events being organised in Britain, including in Scotland (full details also below), this year to remember and discuss the Chilean process and coup and links are provided below. (The introductory note is compiled by Dave Kellaway of Anti*Capitalist Resistance in England & Wales.)

The following article is an edited extract of a chapter in a book, Recorded Fragments, by Daniel Bensaid that Resistance Books has translated into English (published in 2020). The book is a transcript of a series of radio interviews Daniel did with the radio station Paris Plurielle in 2008.  He discusses the politics behind a series of key dates in 20th Century history. Daniel Bensaïd was born in Toulouse in 1946. He became a leader of the 1968 student movement and subsequently of one of France’s main far left organizations (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire) and of the Fourth International. He is the author of Marx for our Times, Verso: 2010, Strategies of Resistance, Resistance Books: 2014 and An Impatient Life, Verso: 2015. He died in Paris in 2010.

On 11 September 1973, the Chilean military put a bloody end to the three year reformist experience of the Salvador Allende governments.  Augusto Pinochet  leader of the armed forces initiated a new cycle of bloody repression and brutal economic liberalism that had started  in Bolivia with the 1971 Banzer coup.  He was soon followed by other dictatorships in South America such as the one led by General Videla in Argentina in 1976.

The United States, which intervenes throughout South America,  has no intention of allowing the people in its backyard to raise their heads against its interests.

Perhaps we should begin by recalling that the 11 September coup, in 1973, and not that of 2001 Twin Towers terrorist attack, was first and foremost an emotional shock.  We were transfixed by the news that arrived on the radio from the headquarters of the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, and then by the announcements that gradually came in about the success of the coup d’état. At first we hoped it would not succeed, since another coup d’etat had failed in June three months before, but then we got the news of Allende’s death.

How can such an emotional shock be explained, this had not been our reaction during the bigger bloodbath in 1965 when the Indonesian Communist Party was crushed or more recently with the repression of the Sudanese Communist Party?  I believe it is because there was a very strong identification in Europe and Latin America with what was happening in Chile. There was a feeling that this was indeed a new scenario and a possibility,  practically a laboratory experiment, which was valid for both Europe and Latin America, in different ways.

So, why was it so important for Europe?

Because we had the impression, partly false I would say today, that we finally had a country that was a reflection of our own reality.  Unlike other Latin American countries, there was a strong communist party, there was a socialist party represented or led by Salvador Allende, there was an extreme left of the same generation as ours.  Small groups existed like the MAPU(Unitary Popular Action Movement, a Christian current) and MIR, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left, born in 1964-65 under the impulse  of the Cuban Revolution. There was an identification  with the latter organization, with its militants, with its leaders who were practically of our generation, who had a fairly comparable background. The MIR was formed from two sources: on the one hand inspired by Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution; on the other hand there was a Trotskyist influence, it must be said, through a great historian of Latin America, Luis Vitale. He was one of the founding fathers of the MIR, even if he was removed from it, or left  shortly afterwards. All this in a country where, in the end, Stalinism had never been dominant, including on the left, nor did it have the role that the communist party had in Argentina, for example.

There was a specific factor in Chile, which is one of the difficulties in understanding the situation. The Chilean Socialist Party, even though it called itself socialist, had little to do with European social democracy. It was a party that had been built in the 1930s as a reaction, in opposition to the Stalinisation of the Communist International. So it was a party more to the left of the CP than to the right, so there was a strong sense given to the  idea that Chile could give the example of a scenario where the left came to power through elections. This would then be the beginning of a social process of radicalization leading to, or, let’s say, transitioning towards a radical social revolution at a time when, it should also be remembered, the prestige of the Cuban Revolution in Latin America was, if not intact, then at least still very important.

I believe there are still lessons for us about  what happened in Chile.

Today, I would be more cautious about this reflection of European realities. I think that, seen from a distance, there was a tendency to underestimate the social relations and the reserves of reaction and conservatism that existed in Chilean society. We saw this a lot in the army because, as was said and repeated at the time, the army had been trained by German instructors on the Prussian army model, which was already not very encouraging.  But what’s more, as I’ve seen since then, it’s a country where the Catholic tradition, the conservative Catholic current, is important.

And besides, this was just a starting point.  Allende was elected in September-October 1970, in a presidential election, but only with a relative majority of about 37%. For his nomination to be ratified by the Assembly conditions were set. These conditions included two key aspects: no interference with the army and respect for private property. These were the two limits set from the outset by the dominant classes, by the institutions , for accepting Allende’s investiture.

Nevertheless, it is true that the electoral victory raised people’s hopes and sparked a strengthening of the social movements, which culminated in a major electoral victory in the municipal elections of January 1971. I believe that Popular Unity, the left-wing coalition on which Allende was relying at that time, had on this occasion (and only then) an absolute majority in an election.

This obviously gave greater legitimacy to developing the process.  So we had an electoral victory, a  radicalization, but also a polarization that was initially internal to Chile, which gradually translated into a mobilization of the right, including action on the streets. The landmark date was the lorry drivers’ strike in October 1972. But it should not be thought that it was employee led: it was the employers who organised it.  Chile’s long geographical configuration meant that road transport was strategic.  So there was this truckers’ strike, therefore, supported  by what were called cacerolazos (people banging empty pans) , i.e. protest movements, particularly by middle-class consumers in Santiago. Santiago makes up more than half of the country in terms of population.  It constituted a first attempt at destabilization in the autumn of 1972.

At that point, there was finally a debate on the way forward for the Chilean process, which opened up two possibilities in response to the destabilization of the right.  The latter was also strongly supported by the United States. We know today with the disclosures of the Condor plan how much and for how long the United States had  been involved in the preparation of the coup d’état, through the multinationals but also through American military advisers. So in early 1973, after the warning of the lorry drivers’ strike, there were several options. Either a radicalization of the process, with increased incursions into the private property sector, with radical redistribution measures, wage increases, and so on.  All of which were debated.  Or on the contrary, and this was the thesis that prevailed, put forward by Vukovik, Minister of Economy and Finance, a member of the Communist Party. The government had to reassure the bourgeoisie and the ruling classes by definitively delimiting the area of public property or social property, and by giving additional guarantees to the military.

The second episode of destabilization was much more dramatic, no longer a corporate strike like that of the lorry drivers, but in June 1973 we saw a first attempt, a dry run  for a coup d’état, the so-called tancazo, in which the army, in fact  a tank regiment, took to the streets  but was neutralized.

I believe that this was the crucial moment. For example, it was the moment when the MIR, which was a small organisation of a few thousand very dynamic militants – we must not overestimate its size, but for Chile it was significant – proposed joining the government, but under certain conditions. After the  failure of the first coup d’état, the question arose of forming a government whose centre of gravity would shift to the left, which would take measures to punish or disarm the conspiring military. But what was done was exactly the opposite.

That is to say, between the period of June 1973 and the actual coup d’état of September 11, 1973, there was repression against the movement of soldiers in the barracks, searches to disarm the militants who had accumulated arms in anticipation of resistance to a coup d’état, and then, above all, additional pledges given to the army with the appointment of generals to ministerial posts, including  Augusto Pinochet, the future dictator.

So there was a momentum shift, and Miguel Enriquez, the secretary general of the MIR who was assassinated in October 1974, a year later, wrote a text, in this intermediate period between the dry run and the coup d’état, which was called “When were we the strongest? ». I think he was extremely lucid: until August 1973 there were demonstrations by 700,000 demonstrators in Santiago, supporting Allende and responding to the coup d’état. That was indeed the moment when a counteroffensive by the popular movement was possible .  On the contrary, the response was a shift  to the right of the government alliances and additional pledges given to the military and ruling classes, which in reality meant in the end encouraging the coup d’état.

That is how we were surprised. You referred to the reformism of Salvador Allende but, in the end, compared to our reformists, he was still a giant of the class struggle. If we look at the archive documents today, he  still has to be respected.

In the movement of solidarity with Chile, which was very important in the years that followed, 1973, 1974 and 1975, I would say that we were,  somewhat sectarian about Allende, who was made into someone responsible for the disastor. That does not change the political problem. It implies respect for the individual, but there is still a conundrum: during the first hours of the coup d’état, he still had national radio, it was still possible to call for a general strike, whereas a call was made in the end for  static resistance  in the workplaces, and so on. Perhaps it was not possible. Even an organisation like the MIR, which was supposed to be prepared militarily, was caught off guard by the coup. We see this today in Carmen Castillo’s book, An October Day in Santiago or in his film, Santa Fe Street, 2007. They were caught off guard, perhaps in my opinion because they did not imagine such a brutal and massive coup d’état. They imagined the possibility of a coup d’état, but one that would be, in a way, half-baked that would usher in a new period of virtual civil war, with hotbeds of armed resistance in the countryside. Hence the importance they had given – and this is related to the other aspect of the question – to working among the peasants of the Mapuche minority, particularly in the south of the country.

But the coup d’etat was a real sledgehammer blow. They hadn’t really prepared, or even probably envisaged, a scenario of bringing together:

a) the organs of popular power that did exist,

b) the so-called “industrial belt committees (cordones)” that were more or less developed forms of self-organization, mainly in the suburbs of Santiago ;

c) the “communal commandos” in the countryside ;

d) work in the army, and finally

e) in Valparaíso even an embryo of a popular assembly, a kind of local soviet.

Whatever else can be said, all that existed and suggests what could have been possible – but that would have required the will and the strategy. It was another way to respond to the coup d’état, whether in June or September, with a general strike, the disarmament of the army, something akin to an  insurrection. It was always risky, but you have to weigh it up against the price of the coup d’état in terms first of all of human lives, of the disappeared, of the tortured.  Above all, you have to consider the  price in terms of peoples’ living conditions, when we see what Chile is today, after more than thirty years of Pinochet’s dictatorship. It has been a laboratory for liberal policies. It was an historic defeat. If you look at two neighbouring countries, Chile and Argentina, the social movement in Argentina has quickly recovered its fighting spirit after the years of dictatorship, despite the 30,000 people who disappeared. In Chile, the defeat is clearly of a different scope and duration.

I believe that the coup d’état in Chile was the epilogue of the revolutionary ferment that followed the Cuban Revolution for 10-15 years in Latin America. And as you pointed out in the introduction,  the dates clearly tell the story: three months before the coup d’état in Chile, I think it was June 1973, there was the coup d’état in Uruguay. In 1971 there was the coup d’état in Bolivia.  While the dictatorship had fallen in Argentina, it returned in 1976. But let’s say that symbolically,  the killing of Allende, the disappearance of Enriquez and practically the entire leadership of the MIR, closed the cycle initiated by the Cuban Revolution, the OLAS(Latin American Solidarity Organization, meeting in Havana in 1967) conferences,  and Che’s expedition to Bolivia in 1966.

Republished from Anti*Capitalist Resistance, 29 August 2023:

Forthcoming events in Scotland

Book Launch – “Aye Venceremos – Scotland and Solidarity with Chile in the 1970s – and why it still matters today.

Monday 4 September  @ 18:30  Satinwood Suite, Glasgow City Council, Central Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DU

The new book celebrates acts of Chile solidarity in Scotland in the 1970s, including the action by Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride. It also describes the welcome given to refugees at the time. All this is set against events in Chile before and after the Coup, with eye-witness accounts from some who ended up as political exiles in Scotland. The event is being hosted by City of Glasgow Councillor Roza Salih – herself a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, and a well known campaigner since her school days, for refugee and human rights.

The event will include contributions from Chileans in Scotland, trade unionists and campaigners, as well as the book’s author, Colin Turbett.

For a free ticket via Eventbrite see here >




Monday 4 September – Thursday 21 September
A series of cultural and political events -music, poetry, talks, films and exhibitions to mark the 50th anniversary of the bloody coup d’état of 11 September 1973.

Programme still in development for September 2023 with participation of FABULA ( For A Better Understanding of Latin America )  Full details here:

For further information email







Public event hosted by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)
Saturday 16 September @ 16:00

STUC,  8 Landressy Street, Bridgeton,  GLASGOW, G40 1BP

All welcome! Speakers, music, food and wine available

Please register for the event here >> so that the organisers can best cater for the food and wine!

Building International Solidarity for Ukraine: Three Perspectives

The Russian left wing website Posle (После – ‘After’) recently published three perspectives on Building International Solidarity for Ukraine, from the UK state, from Poland and from the USA, that is republishing below.  You can find about Scottish solidarity with Ukraine from the website of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign Scotland.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Western left split into two camps. Yet, attempts to build a broad solidarity movement with Ukraine have been underway since February 24. International activists talk about their work:

Simon Pirani [UK],  honorary professor, University of Durham

His most recent book on Russia is Communist Dissidents in Early Soviet Russia (2023)

I have always believed that support for people resisting imperialist violence is central to socialism. It was the US war in Vietnam that first moved me to political action, when I was a teenager. Supporting Ukrainian resistance to Russian imperialism is consistent with supporting Vietnamese resistance then, and supporting Palestinian resistance to Israeli apartheid. For me, the difference is that Ukraine is closer, in the sense that I have been travelling there, and to Russia, for the last thirty years. (I worked in both countries as a journalist and doing academic research.)

After the invasion in February last year, the most effective responses from the labour movement and social movements in which I am involved were the direct ones. Some young people from the UK and other European countries travelled to Ukraine to join volunteer units; a much larger number of people organised material aid for front-line areas. Personally I supported those efforts, and played a small part in trying to highlight the situation in the Russian-occupied areas.

In the labour movement, perhaps the clearest voice in support of Ukrainian resistance was that of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). We have no deep mines left in the UK, but the union — which historically was one of the strongest, until its defeat in the big strike over pit closures in 1984-85 — continues to support former miners and their communities. It has a historical connection to Ukraine: links were established in 1990 between the miners union in Durham, in north east England, with the Independent Miners Union of Ukraine, in the first place in Pavlograd, in the western Donbass.

Straight after the invasion, the NUM and other unions sent more than £20,000, and supported trade unionists who drove vehicles full of medical equipment and other supplies to Ukraine, and left them with miners’ union activists there. There have been at least seven deliveries of that kind. Along with the NUM and the train drivers union ASLEF, a strong source of support has been a cross-party group, Senedd Cymru [Welsh parliament] Together for Ukraine. The chief legal officer of Wales, Mick Antoniw, is a labour movement activist of Ukrainian family background, and has travelled several times to deliver vehicles, with fellow parliamentarians and trade union representatives.

Other unions have participated in, or at least declared support for, such solidarity actions, including those representing civil servants, teachers, university staff and health workers: efforts to win them over have been coordinated by the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, which works with the Confederation of Independent Unions of Ukraine (KVPU).

The USC last month also organised a conference, Another Ukraine is Possible, at which labour, feminist and anti-capitalist perspectives on the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine were advanced, in contrast to the neoliberal slant of the government-level talks also held in London. Another initiative, that I have myself been involved in, has been to raise the profile of Solidarity Zone, the group supporting Russians who take direct action against the war, for example by translating and circulating material.

In terms of actual material aid delivered, all these initiatives by labour movement and anti-capitalist movements are smaller than the mountains of support given to Ukrainian people by civil society in a wider sense. Community groups, churches, voluntary associations, charities, and e.g. Ukrainians living in the UK and their friends have not only raised very large sums of money but also taken vehicles and other aid to Ukraine. On the other hand, the UK’s support for Ukrainian refugees, or for Russians fleeing war and repression, has been very limited. While the government, for cynical political reasons, made it easier for Ukrainians to get to the UK than it is for most refugees from other wars, it is still difficult. The number of Ukrainian refugees here is negligible compared to Poland, Germany or other countries in continental Europe.

In my view, in the UK there are two problems that we face, in building a broad Ukraine solidarity campaign. The first is that, for reasons we all understand about inter-imperialist rivalries, the UK government has steadfastly supported Ukraine militarily, e.g. with weapons supplies. This has given the most right-wing UK government in decades the opportunity to pose as lovers of freedom. And this has its effect on society: the media reports Ukraine sympathetically; president Zelensky appears smiling for the cameras with our ministers, who to people here represent austerity and racism. The hypocrisy of the British ruling class, who for so long prevailed over an empire that dripped with blood (and who have spent the last thirty years gearing its financial system to the benefit of Russian kleptocrats), is obvious – especially to migrant communities whose suffering has been shaped by British and other western imperialism.

There is a danger that this hypocrisy can cause resentment and division. People in the UK who face constant pressure from the state for supporting Palestinian rights, or who deal daily with the consequences of the state’s racist migration policies, can not fail to be struck by the state’s “favouritism” towards Ukrainians, or, for another example, political refugees from Hong Kong. Socialists and labour movement activists who support Ukrainian resistance have answered this in the best way possible — by seeking to build alliances between Ukraine’s struggle and others resisting other imperialism. This is a work in progress.

The other issue is that, as in other western countries, there are post-Stalinist tendencies that in practice oppose solidarity with Ukraine. A tiny handful of pro-Putin extremists issue soundbites à la Solovyev or Rogozin. But more numerous groups describe themselves as “anti imperialists”, seeing the Kremlin as the lesser evil and Ukraine as a tool of the western powers, or “pacifists” who issue disingenuous calls for peace talks, without e.g. withdrawal of Russian troops, and repeat Kremlin talking points about NATO being to blame for the war. So in the Labour party, the left minority is divided: John McDonnell (effectively deputy Labour leader when Jeremy Corbyn was leader), has supported “the provision of weapons to Ukrainians to defend themselves”; Corbyn himself is against that.

Just as the sore of the illegitimate, Russian-supported “republics” festered in the body of Ukrainian society, so reactionary forms of ideology that supported them gnawed away at the labour movement across Europe

Looking back, I think that, collectively, those in the labour movement with connections to Russia and Ukraine did far too little after 2014 to explain our case. This socalled “anti-imperialism” was already vocal, with regard both to Ukraine and Syria. Like others, I made individual efforts to oppose it (see e.g. here, herehere and here) but these efforts were inadequate. Just as the sore of the illegitimate, Russian-supported “republics” festered in the body of Ukrainian society, so reactionary forms of ideology that supported them gnawed away at the labour movement across Europe.

Hopefully the very widespread, and very human, feeling among ordinary people in the UK, that Ukrainians deserve solidarity against a brutal, violent onslaught, will serve as the background for a new clarification of what socialist anti-imperialism actually means

One good thing that has happened in the last 18 months is that these issues have come out into the open and been discussed more widely. Hopefully the very widespread, and very human, feeling among ordinary people in the UK, that Ukrainians deserve solidarity against a brutal, violent onslaught, will serve as the background for a new clarification of what socialist anti-imperialism actually means.

Zofia Malisz [Poland],
Razem International Office

Razem is a left party in Poland with six members of parliament and structures at home and abroad. We support the sovereignty of Ukraine as well as the efforts of the Belarusian and Russian people to democratise their countries since our party was formed in 2015 (see “Polityka wschodnia”). After the Russian invasion we launched and co-organised several campaigns, often in cooperation with Sotsialnyi Rukh, to gain support on the European and global left for sending weapons that the Ukrainian people needed to defend themselves.

We co-founded the European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine (ENSU), which is so active today. There we worked within the feminist “right to resist” group. Our co-leader Magdalena Biejat and other female left coalition MPs filed a motion in the Sejm to expedite access to abortion for Ukrainian refugees who had been raped. Unfortunately the right-wing parliamentary majority rejected it. Other initiatives of ENSU also include a visit to Lviv in 2022 with various left parliamentarians. Right after the invasion we gathered members of Nordic and Eastern European left parties in Warsaw and issued a statement in support of Ukraine, condemning the invasion and appealing for sanctions against Russia. Our cooperation on a range of issues including cancelling Ukrainian external debt has made a difference, in the form of several legislative efforts in Europe and the US in favour of supporting the cancellation. This was a result of broad social media campaigns, meetings, press conferences and articles on the topic that we took direct part in, initiated or co-ordinated.

We took part in countless meetings, live and remote in 2022, with the global left, to challenge Russian propaganda regarding the invasion and Ukrainian statehood. We confronted falsehoods embedded on the left, particularly within the Western “peace” movement. We did our best to explain the complexities of our regional situation that many were disappointingly ignorant about or chose to ignore — despite decades-long relationships. As a consequence of such unwillingness to engage with the challenges facing the Eastern European left and to support Ukrainian sovereignty, we decided to leave Progressive International and Diem25 shortly after the invasion.

We do feel the Polish, Ukrainian and Russian opposition left movements have unique contributions to make to the global left. Our traditions and the challenges we face, be it geopolitical or stemming from the transformation, are different, so are our solutions and ways of communication. Much can be learned from us. One of the hardest challenges is the neoliberal ideologisation in our societies. Due to that we see the great risk that rebuilding Ukraine entails — we believe, together with our partners in Ukraine, that it should be rebuilt for the benefit of the people, not foreign corporations or domestic oligarchs, with great focus on social infrastructure and support for workers, women as well as on nurturing bottom up communal organising that grew strong during the war. Our politicians have been communicating this constantly: there can be no sell-out of Ukraine to corporations in exchange for weapons. These days we put most of our efforts for Ukraine into campaigning for socially oriented rebuilding.

We do feel the Polish, Ukrainian and Russian opposition left movements have unique contributions to make to the global left

Razem also wants to offer to millions of Ukrainian refugees in Poland our vision of a safe, environmentally sustainable welfare state for everyone. A vision that we believe we can realise together both in Poland and in Ukraine. We want to show that Ukraine, in order to rebuild itself, needs its workers to return to stable working conditions with expanded labour rights. It needs its veterans to heal and to receive support from a well funded public services sector. Its children need to be able to grow up with the prospect of a planet that is not only livable, but thriving. We need Ukrainian victory for that, as well as a great deal of left cooperation and campaigning together for social Ukraine. We continue paving the way for that with our partners, both within the Central-Eastern European Green-Left Alliance organisation including Ukrainian partners that we have been building (that is launching at the moment). We also work with partners on the Western left who are willing to engage and to develop concrete proposals of rebuilding plans that challenge the liberal plans (e.g. many activists in the UK and some Labour politicians).

There is broad consensus in Poland, as you know, regarding condemning the invasion as well as political and military help for Ukraine. There are no disagreements on that within the left in Poland. We are a political force though that keeps a watchful eye on the government’s attitude and possible emerging far right threats to Ukrainian refugees. We also criticize any attempts to sacrifice human rights, the right to due process etc., regarding whatever issue concerning Russian citizens on Polish soil.

John Reimann and Cheryl Zuur [USA],

co-chairs Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign

Supporting Ukraine is the concrete expression of the number one responsibility for any socialist. That responsibility is international working class solidarity. But that is not just some moral responsibility; it is directly connected to the class struggle at home.

We see Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a decisive step in the general world process of the rise of extreme right wing nationalism, bigotry and counterrevolution. The more Putin succeeds, the more that process advances. We saw that with the Assad/Putin led counterrevolution in Syria which played a big role in the setback of the whole Arab Spring. And the Arab Spring did, in fact, inspire workers and young people around the world. The result of its defeat (for now) has been, among other things, the increase of religious reaction — Islamic fundamentalism in this case.

Here in the United States, Trump used Islamic fundamentalism and Islamophobia as a major tool to get elected in 2016. Once in office, his first major initiative was to, in effect, bar Muslim people from entering the United States. This is an example of how the Putin-led counterrevolution had an effect on politics here in the United States.

Trump supports Putin not only because he served as a money launderer for the Russian oligarchy for many years. His support is also because of political affinity. That is also why extreme right wing politicians, even outright racists and fascists like America First  and individuals like Matt Heimbach, support Putin. If Putin’s imperialist invasion succeeds even in part, it will strengthen these forces and further drive forward global reactionary movements.

Finally, if we as socialists and as working class activists ignore this massive attack on the Ukrainian people, what are we saying to US workers? We would be telling workers “think only of yourselves in the most immediate sense. Think only of your own paycheck. Don’t think about the wider issues that directly affect our lives.” It would be no different from saying that oppression of women, or people of color or LGBTQ people is not a matter for all workers to oppose. It would be impossible to help strengthen the working class with that attitude, never mind to build a truly working class socialist movement.

As a result of this, a small group of us founded the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign shortly after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine started. (In reality, Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine started in 2014!). We base ourselves on several points of unity, including the demand that in order to fight the invaders Ukraine should receive all the weapons it needs and with no strings attached. That means we criticize Biden not because he is sending arms to Ukraine but, on the contrary, because he is too hesitant and putting too many handcuffs on Ukraine, on how it may use these arms. That is an unusual position for socialists to take, but it is not unprecedented. During the Spanish Civil War, US socialists called on the US to send arms to the Spanish republicans who were fighting fascism, and during WWII no socialist in the U.S. would have opposed the US’s sending arms to the Soviet Union to fight the Nazis.

The Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign has a lively presence on social media, including a  Facebook group with over 630 members and almost 2,000 followers on Twitter. Both of these present news and analyses related to the war in Ukraine. We have a linktree with quite a few public resources. We also have regular public Zoom forums on topics such as the environmental aspects of the war in Ukraine, the Iranian revolution, whether Russia is fascist (with Ilya Budraitskis), the present political situation in Ukraine, and coming up a presentation on the Holodomor. Recordings of those forums are available on our youtube channel.

One of the most important discussions we had was a two part series on “fascist ideas on the left”. That was a discussion on how and why the ideas of the far right, including even fascist ideas, have come to permeate the socialist movement. This is vitally important because – we have to admit it – the majority of the socialist movement and the “left” in general supports or at least apologizes and makes excuses for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We explicitly decided to include “Socialist” in our name because we believe it is vital to reclaim socialism from this betrayal.

This betrayal is not accidental. It relates to the generally low political level of the US working class, a working class that has never had its own political party and that has been under attack, both ideologically and practically, for many decades. This ideological attack has been carried out not only by the capitalist class, but also from our very own leaders — every wing of the union leadership — who have also collaborated in helping the capitalists drive down the living conditions of US workers.

So, while the majority of US workers support Ukraine, they do so passively. “It’s not for me (us) to play an active, independent role in politics,” is the attitude.

In addition to our regular forums, the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign has mobilized in the streets where and when we can. We have participated in wider street mobilizations in support of Ukraine, for example a unity march organized by Iranian Americans in San Francisco. We have also mobilized to counter the pro-Putin propaganda of the “left”, such as Code Pink and various “socialists.” We also have done some fundraising for Ukraine, including selling t-shirts we designed, and a member of ours actually carried medical supplies to Ukraine last year. We are currently encouraging unions to pass a resolution we produced calling for full support — including arms — for Ukraine and we also have a petition calling for the IAEA to take over operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (you can sign it here).

We are still a very small group of activists and, сan hardly have a major effect on objective events. What is needed is a renewed uprising of the working class in the United States and globally. We hope to help prepare the way by trying to clarify some of the most vital political issues of the day, many of which revolve around the fascistic imperialist invasion of Ukraine. That and building support for Ukraine to the maximum degree we can.

It is an honor and a privilege to work with and be associated with those brave Ukrainian and Russian comrades (as well as others) who are fighting against the Putin-led counterrevolution. We think that, together with a renewed worker uprising, this sort of collaboration in both the ideological and the practical realms will be the basis for the rebirth of a new, healthy, working class oriented socialist movement.

1 August 2023

First published by Posle editorial collective:

Yes to Life, Yes to Yasuní!

On 20 August, at the same time they elect a new president and a new National Assembly, Ecuadoreans will be voting in one of the most important environmental referendums of modern times. They are being asked if the government should leave the oil beneath the Yasuní national park in the ground, indefinitely.

As Iain Bruce reports, this was one of the key themes of a recent visit by Leonidas Iza, Ecuador’s main Indigenous leader, to Europe to launch the English edition of his book, Uprising: the October Rebellion in Ecuador.

Winning support

In a week of meetings and events in Madrid, Brussels, Paris, London, Oxford, Glasgow and Grangemouth, Leonidas Iza and his co-authors, Andres Tapia and Andres Madrid, won support from MEPs, British MPs, trade unionists, peasants, climate justice activists, academics, migrants and many others, for a Yes vote in Ecuador’s August referendum.

Leonidas Iza and fellow authors meet with Scottish trade unionists including STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham and Unison Scotland Depute Convenor Stephen Smellie in Glasgow during the recent tour to promote “Uprising: the October Rebellion in Ecuador”.

Iza was a central figure in the Indigenous-led uprising of October 2019, triggered by the removal of fuel subsidies and therefore a sharp rise in the cost of living. He was then elected President of CONAIE, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, the most powerful movement of its kind in Latin America. In that role, he led the follow-up national stoppage, or paro, of June last year. That closed down the country for even longer, 17 days in all, and expanded the list of demands. Alongside opposition to a broader range of neo-liberal policies, mandated by the International Monetary Fund, the Indigenous movement and its allies put at the centre of their struggle the need to halt oil drilling and mining on protected, sensitive and Indigenous land. On both occasions, they forced the government to negotiate and won significant concessions, but not enough.

This August’s referendum, which includes the question on stopping oil drilling in three oil fields known as Block 43, in the Yasuni, and another on limiting mining near the capital, Quito, is in effect a continuation of the 2019 and 2022 struggles. It brings together environmental campaigners with the Indigenous communities and other social movements that staged those insurrections, in a National Anti-mining Front. This combination is itself a significant, if tentative, achievement. The relationship of the Indigenous leaders and mass movement that led the insurrections, with the NGO left that has tended to dominate the environmental movement, has sometimes been difficult in recent years.

Biodiversity hotspot

As Iza and his colleagues repeated many times on their European tour, the campaign for Yasuní is not just about saving one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Of course, it is that too. The Yasuni National Park comprises 9,823 sq. kms of rainforest (almost half the size of Wales) in the Ecuadorean Amazon, just 200 kms from Quito and bordering the eastern range of the Andes. Perhaps because it was one of the few places that never froze over during the last ice age, it is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, possibly the most biodiverse. Botanists have recorded 685 species of tree in one hectare of the Yasuni. That is more than in all of the United States and Canada. The same hectare also contains about 100,000 species of insects, again similar to the total number for North America. The Yasuni National Park is also home to Ecuador’s two Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane. The pressure from oil companies operating on the edges of their territory has already resulted in three massacres, putting their survival in jeopardy.

Climate Justice activists at Climate Camp Scotland in Grangemouth send a message of solidarity “Yes to Life, Yes to Yasuni” July 2023

A novel initiative for mitigation

At the same time, the campaign for a Yes in the referendum has a broader international significance, because it revives one of the world’s most original proposals for mitigating climate change. The Yasuni ITT Initiative was launched by the progressive government of Rafael Correa in 2007, during its early, more radical phase. It was based on proposals coming from Indigenous communities in Ecuadorean Amazonia and some environmental NGOs. It proposed leaving in the ground the 20 percent of Ecuador’s oil reserves that had been identified in the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini oil fields, known as ITT or Block 43, most of which lay beneath the Yasuni National Park. In return, the rich countries would pay Ecuador for not exploiting those reserves. US$3.6 billion over 13 years was what the Correa government was asking for, in public and private sector contributions, when it took the Yasuni ITT initiative to the UN General Assembly in 2007, and to COP15 in Copenhagen two years later, where it formed a central plank of the proposals put forward by the ALBA alliance led by Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. That amount was calculated as 50 percent of the money the country would make if it did exploit those reserves. This was emphatically not conceived as compensation or as any kind of offset, nor was the money to be obtained through any sort of carbon market, as Alberto Acosta, Correa’s first energy minister and an architect of the Initiative, repeatedly insisted. The idea was not to leave the oil in the ground beneath the Yasuni National Park in exchange for some northern polluters being allowed to continue their business as usual; on the contrary, the rich countries should pay as part of their responsibility to cut global emissions.

Towards a global just transition

As the ecosocialist theorist, Michael Lowy, suggests in his foreword to the English edition of Iza’s Uprising, the Yasuni ITT Initiative could have been an unparalleled example to other countries – an inspiration for how the global south and the global north, both producers and consumers of fossil fuels, could have engaged together in a just transition away from the carbon economy, in a way that would be fair for communities across the planet.

In the end, President Rafael Correa abandoned the Yasuni Initiative. By 2013, the international pledges amounted to only US$336 million, of which less than 4 percent had actually been delivered. At the same time, the right-leaning and often pro-oil developmentalists in his Citizen Revolution movement had gained ground, bolstering Correa’s own sympathies with the extractive industries – and his impatience with both the Indigenous and environmental movements, which he liked to refer to as “infantile”. Alberto Acosta and others on the radical left in his government had either left or been marginalised. Blaming “the international community” for failing in its response (quite correctly of course), Correa declared the Yasuni Initiative dead, and ordered the state oil company, Petroecuador, to press ahead with drilling. In 2016, oil began to flow from the ITT fields, but in lesser quantities than expected, given the slump in world prices. Nonetheless, Correa’s retreat from the Initiative sealed the already deep breach between his government and the bulk of the Indigenous and environmental movements.

The latter had argued that the oil should be left in the ground, with or without the international financial contribution. Already by 2014, a campaign called Yasunidos, launched by the environmental NGO Accion Ecolologica, had collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum. But the electoral authorities refused to recognise hundreds of thousands of them, and for a number of years the Yasuni question all but disappeared from the political agenda.

The Yasuni returns

It was only in May this year that Ecuador’s Constitutional Court ruled, somewhat unexpectedly, that the call for a referendum was valid. It set the vote to coincide with the snap presidential election on 20 August, called by Ecuador’s right-wing president, Guillermo Lasso, to avoid his own impeachment. Since then, the Yasuni question has burst back into the centre of Ecuador’s political life. In a context that has been changed fundamentally by the two Indigenous-led insurrections of 2019 and 2022, it has unleashed an unprecedented debate on what kind of social and economic development the Ecuadorean people want for their country. It is a debate that cuts through the middle of the electoral options on offer on the same day. It also reveals, once again, the profound contradictions that run through Latin America’s diverse experiences with progressive governments, and their complicated relations with powerful social movements, like the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

For the last decade or more, the left and progressive forces in Ecuador have been riven by a bitter, debilitating division. The supporters of former president Rafael Correa and his Citizen Revolution movement have been ranged against much of the Indigenous and women’s movements (the country’s two most important social movements) and most of the trade unions (much weakened from their high point of the 1980s), as well many environmental NGOs and a number of small far-left groups and currents.

Yasuni, elections and beyond

This split is playing out once again in the presidential election on 20 August. But whether as tragedy or as farce, it may be for the last time. On one side, the favourite to become Ecuador’s next president, possibly in the first round but more likely in a second round in October, is Luisa Gonzalez, the candidate of the Citizen Revolution movement. She has avoided taking a very explicit position on the Yasuni referendum, and her party has said its members will be free to vote as they choose. But like Correa himself, she has left little doubt about her opposition to leaving the oil in the ground. Both insist the country needs the money to build schools and hospitals. Most of the half a dozen candidates vying to represent a discredited right have maintained a similar ambiguity, and used the same arguments.

On the other side, Yaku Perez, who was the candidate of the Indigenous movement’s party, Pachakutik, in the 2021 election and came third, is the only presidential candidate this time to support openly a Yes vote in the Yasuni referendum. He still has the support of the old, right-leaning leadership of Pachakutik and some environmental NGOs, as well as parts of the anti-Correa left and centre-left. But this bloc has lost much of its credibility. In particular, the Pachakutik leaders who engineered his candidacy last time and who led the large group of Pachakutik members in the now-dissolved National Assembly, revealed an extraordinary capacity for opportunism. Putting their virulent anti-Correa stance above loyalty to any particular ideology or policy, they struck a series of deals with Guillermo Lasso’s right-wing government, in exchange for favours and positions. As a result, last April’s national conference of Pachakutik voted them out and elected a new leadership aligned with the positions and priorities of CONAIE itself. They appealed against their removal, and since the National Electoral Council had still not ruled on the dispute, Pachakutik was not allowed to give formal endorsement to any candidates at a national level in this election.

7 August 2023