Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dying is no Excuse for Worklessness - DWP

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was forced by a Freedom of Information request into releasing statistics that show between 2011 and 2014 2,380 people who were declared ‘fit for work’ subsequently died within 14 days of the assessment.

The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) were conducted by the private health company Atos (now replaced by another private health firm, Maximus) for the DWP. The DWP fought tooth and nail to stop the release of this information and are now claiming that there is “no causal effect between the WCA and the deaths” because the figures do not record the cause of death.

Which begs the question why was this information not recorded by the DWP? Presumably, they think it is unimportant that these assessments were clearly wrong, because as far as I can see there are no plans to record this information in the future either.

If the DWP could be bothered they could even find this data now, as the cause of death is recorded officially when death certificates are issued for all deaths in the UK. They have no interest though.

The DWP under the leadership of Ian Duncan Smith has gone out of its way to obscure, massage or straight forward fiddle all kinds of statistics on welfare benefits from not counting Universal Credit claimants in jobless figures to not including claimants who have been sanctioned in the jobless total

Basically, any figures put out by the DWP should be treated with extreme caution, as they are likely to be a pack of lies.

Even so, I’m going to help the DWP out. Below is a list compiled by the Scotland based Black Triangle Campaign which campaigns for disabled people’s rights. This list is only up until October 2014 and only a sample.

Ian Duncan Smith and the DWP should be thoroughly ashamed, but experience suggests they will carry on in the same dishonest and callous fashion as we have come to expect.

Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day.

Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide.

Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.

Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.

Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.

Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.

Carl Payne, 42.   Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.

Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.

Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation.

Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.

John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.

Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.

Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.

Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. In desperation, she took her own life.

David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.

David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.

Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.

Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.

Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.

Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.

Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.

Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.

Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.

Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.

Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.

Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.

Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.

Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.

Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.

Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.

Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.

Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.

Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.

Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.

Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.

David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.

Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.

Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.

Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.

Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.

Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.

Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.

Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.

David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.

Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.

Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.

Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.

Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.

Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.

George Scollen, age unknown. Took his own life after the government closed the Remploy factory he had worked in for 40 years.

Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.

Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.

Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.

Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.

Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.

Annette Francis, 30. A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness, found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.

Ian Jordan, 60. His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian, a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work, caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive. Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.

Janet McCall, 53. Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP, this lady died 5 months after her benefits were stopped.

Stuart Holley, 23. A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.

Graham Shawcross, 63. A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s. Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.

David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.

Chris Smith, 59. Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.

Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the ­Department for Works and Pensions.

Michael Connolly, 60. A Father of one, increasingly worried about finances after his benefits were cut. Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose of prescription medicine on the 30th October – His Birthday.

Jan Mandeville, 52, A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.

Trevor Drakard, 50 years old. A shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.

Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed, who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Chilcot Inquiry – We All Know What Happened in the Lead Up to the Iraq War

As reports in the media suggest that Sir John Chilcot will decline to set a timetable for publishing his report after almost six years, reports also say that the blame for the whole sorry saga will be spread around ministers at the time and members of the security services, as well as former prime minister Tony Blair.

The undue delay in publishing the report appears to be due to those people who have been criticised in it, being allowed to see drafts of the report and issue rebuttals which are then considered for inclusion in the final version of the report. These negotiations will not be made public.

Chilcot is a Whitehall mandarin, and so will couch the language of the report, and any criticism of individuals in mandarin speak. That is, it will say very little in plain English about who was at fault and by thinly spreading around the blame amongst numerous individuals, will water down any censure of, in particular, Blair himself.

There were of course many who aided and abetted Blair in his (successful) attempts to railroad through justification for the invasion of Iraq, with exaggerated and at times completely made up intelligence on Iraq’s chemical weapons capability. Who can forget the infamous ‘dodgy dossier’ that Alistair Campbell, Blair’s chief spin merchant, copied from a student dissertation on the internet?

We have already had investigations and reports into the Iraq war. Lord Hutton, ostensively investigating the death of government chemical weapons scientist David Kelly, also opened the lid on events leading up to the Iraq war. Hutton’s report was a whitewash, but the open inquiry itself displayed the evidence for all to see, and the public made their own minds up, despite Hutton’s perverse verdict. I knew the game was up for Blair’s spin operation when, listening to a football radio phone in show, a caller accused the referee of ‘doing a Hutton’ when the official missed a clear cut penalty in the match.

Then there was Lord Butler’s review of the use of British intelligence in the decision to invade Iraq. Butler is another Whitehall mandarin and even though his review concluded that key intelligence used to justify the war with Iraq had been shown to be unreliable, his careful language did not blame any specific individuals.

Just by reading the newspapers at the time I could tell that it was highly unlikely Iraq possessed chemical weapons (overlooking the fact that we had sold some to them in the 1980s), and even if they did, they wouldn’t be effective as they were too old. And Iraq would be crazy to even try to use such weapons against the might of the US military.

We also had the shifting justification for war as the claims of WMD started to unravel. We were doing it because Iraq was harbouring terrorists, had a bad human rights record, to help the women of Iraq, to bring democracy to the middle east and so it went on. It finally settled on that Saddam Hussein was removed from power, even though regime change had been fiercely denied all along.

The whole episode was a complete disaster for Iraq, and indeed the rest of the region, as we see today with ISIS rampant in Iraq and Syria and the whole region in turmoil with militias fighting for control of different countries, and terrorism there and in the west far worse than it was before this foolish and mendacious affair. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, for what?

Although Blair and US President Bush had their accomplices in prosecuting this illegal war, the buck should stop with them. Perhaps Bush was too stupid to realise, but Blair must have known that the ‘intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam’ as the Downing Street memo stated, but continued to lie to justify the invasion. The blame should be laid where it belongs, with Bush and Blair, anything else is a distortion of the truth. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Labour is only Purging Likely Corbyn Supporters

News that Labour has barred over 3000 new supporters and members from its leadership election process appears to be highly selective. If you look ‘below the line’ on this Labour List post, you can read about at least one example of a Corbyn supporter being barred unfairly.

Further examples can be found here on where a Lambeth blogger who has criticised the Lambeth Labour council has been barred and a piece in The Independent by a new Green party member (and ex Labour member) who has been barred with his wife who joined Labour before even the leadership contest opened. The author Luke Wright admits that his Green party membership is current, although he is intending to let it lapse, but his wife seems to have been barred for being guilty by association with him.

The Labour party are putting huge resources into stopping people vote in the contest who they suspect are planning to vote for the leftish candidate and sometimes on very flimsy evidence. People can appeal the decision, but first have to fork out £45 for full Labour membership (on top of the £3 supporter fee), and of course there is no guarantee that the appeal will be successful.

Contrast this with the case of Stephen Tall, a well known Lib Dem activist who was the editor of the Lib Dem Voice website from 2007 to 2015. He admits in his website post to being an ‘entryist’ and even went onto the BBC 10 o’clock news to flaunt the fact that he has voted for the right wing Blairite candidate Liz Kendall. Has he been purged? I can’t find any announcement by Labour to confirm that he has been, so I can only assume that ‘entryist’ voting for Kendall (or Burnham or Cooper) is OK, but anyone who is even suspected of voting for Corbyn has to be rooted out.

I imagine that this desperate attempt to stop Corbyn winning is doomed to failure, given the astonishing success of his campaign so far, and the Burnham camp have threatened to mount a legal challenge to the result as a back up option. Cooper and Kendall meanwhile have refused to serve in a Corbyn cabinet which is further evidence of a back up plan should Corbyn win, involving sniping from the back benches as a tactic.

Cooper has also tried to rubbish Corbyn’s economic policies, despite 41 economists, including a former Bank of England advisor saying they support them and with the public being unimpressed with Labour’s Tory lite offering only 3 months ago that Cooper wants to re-heat now. And Corbyn’s ideas on foreign policy are perhaps even more controversial (anti-Trident, anti-NATO, pro-Palestinian) to the Labour right than his economic ones, something will have to give if Corbyn wins.

One thing is for sure, Corbyn will need to mobilise the new members/supporters against the parliamentary party if he is to enter the 2020 general election still at the helm of the party and still advocating the same policies.

I think an SDP 1980s style split in Labour is unlikely, though not impossible. The Labour right has learned from the SDP experience, which ended with many SDP people coming back to Blair’s new Labour, so they don’t want to make the same mistake again. They will remain in Labour and wait for an opportunity to get rid of Corbyn as leader, more than likely well before the next general election, but possibly afterwards in the event of another defeat.

All of this is a measure of Labour’s control freakery and anti-democratic nature and if Corbyn is to survive as leader he will urgently need to re-democracise the party. The Labour right has lost the argument, and is increasingly focusing on procedural and negative tactics. Corbyn will know how powerful the Labour machine is and he needs to re-invent the party from the bottom up if his revolution is to really achieve radical change.

Good luck to him, I think he will need it.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

July 2015 Was Warmest Month Ever Recorded For The Globe

Written by Eric Zuesse and first published at Countercurrents

To global-warming-deniers such as the Koch brothers and Exxon/Mobil, the news that was reported on 20 August 2015 must be just a ‘coincidence,' but the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported then that July 2015 was “the all-time highest monthly temperature” in this planet's entire scientifically recorded record, which started in 1880.

Furthermore: "Global oceans record warm for July; January-July 2015 also record warm.”

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for July 2015 was the highest for July in the 136-year period of record, at 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). As July is climatologically the warmest month of the year globally, this monthly global temperature of 16.61°C (61.86°F) was also the highest among all 1627 months in the record that began in January 1880. The July temperature is currently increasing at an average rate of 0.65°C (1.17°F) per century. …

For the oceans, the July global sea surface temperature was 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the highest departure not only for July, but for any month on record. The10 highest monthly departures from average for the oceans have all occurred in the past 16 months (since April 2014).

Back on June 4th, NOAA had reported, in a refereed article published in the leading scientific journal, Science (which is published by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science), that:

an updated global surface temperature analysis ... reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

As is typical for academic scientific articles, this one understated what was actually found. What was actually found is simply inconsistent with the notion of a ‘slowdown' in the increase of global surface temperature.

Here is how the NOAA research-team itself summarized their findings in a press release from NOAA on June 4th, which was titled, Data show no recent slowdown in global warming”:

A new study published online today in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or "hiatus" in the rate of global warming in recent years. …

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, released in stages between September 2013 and November 2014, concluded that the upward global surface temperature trend from 1998­­-2012 was markedly lower than the trend from 1951-2012.

Since the release of the IPCC report, NOAA scientists have made significant improvements in the calculation of trends. …  The calculations also use improved versions of both sea surface temperature and land surface air temperature datasets. One of the most substantial improvements is a correction that accounts for the difference in data collected from buoys and ship-based data.

Science is constantly improving its methods, and, consequently, the accuracy of its observations. These changes in the findings are not the result of errors; they are the result of progress — progress (improvements) in the methodology.

As I had noted on August 20th, headlining "The Latest Science on Global Warming,” the latest findings on global warming are “bleak.” The heat-up of this planet has been consistently under-estimated by scientists; it has consistently turned out to be at the extreme high end of the Bell curve of likelihoods of where we are heading. We are heading into catastrophe faster than has been projected by scientists.

People who deny that global warming even exists are a combination of liars and their suckers, because the scientific evidence on the question is clear and overwhelming. And people who speculate that global warming will be good not bad are insane. Increased desertification, increased hurricanes and flooding downpours washing away topsoil, warmer and more acidic oceans, underwater coastal cities, surging migrations from equatorial regions toward the more-polar regions, record die-offs of existing species of plants and animals, and collapsing agriculture, are not good; they are horrific.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Capitalism vs. Democracy in Europe

By Michael Lowy and published at ecosocialist party website Solidarity US

Let us begin with a quote from an essay on bourgeois democracy in Russia, written in 1906, after the defeat of the first Russian revolution:
“It is highly ridiculous to believe that there is an elective affinity between grand capitalism today, as it is presently imported into Russia, and well established in the United States (…) and ‘democracy’ or ‘liberty’ (in all the possible meanings of the word); the real question should be : how are these things even ‘possible,” on long term, under capitalist domination ?”1

Who is the author of this insightful comment? Lenin, Trotsky, or perhaps the early Russian Marxist Plekhanov? In fact, it is from Max Weber, the well known bourgeois sociologist. Although Weber never developed this insight, he is suggesting here that there is an intrinsic contradiction between capitalism and democracy.

The history of the 20th century seems to confirm this opinion: very often, when the power of the ruling classes seemed to the threatened by the people, democracy was pushed aside as a luxury that one couldn’t afford, and replaced by fascism--Europe in the 1920s and '30s--or military dictatorship: Latin America in the 1960s and '70s. Fortunately enough, this is not the case of Europe today, but we have, particularly during the last decades with the triumph of neoliberalism, a democracy of low intensity, a democracy without social content, which has become an empty shell. Sure enough, we still have elections, but there seems to be only one party, the U.M.P., United Market Party, with two variants which have only limited differences: the right-wing neoliberal version, and the left-center social-liberal one.

The decline of democracy is particularly visible in the oligarchic functioning of the European Union, where the European Parliament has very little influence, while power is firmly in the hands of non-elected bodies, such as the European Commission, or the Central European Bank. According to Giandomenico Majone, Professor at the Europen Institute of Florence, and one of the semi-official theoreticians of the Union, Europe needs “non-majoritarian institutions,” i.e. “public institutions that are, on purpose, not responsible neither towards electors nor elected officials,” the only way to protect us against “the tyranny of the majority.” In such institutions “qualities such as expertise, professional discretion and coherence (…) are much more important than the direct democratic responsibility."2 One could hardly imagine a more blatant apology for the oligarchic and antidemocratic nature of the Union.

With the present economic crisis, democracy has descended to its lowest levels. In an recent editorial, the French Journal Le Figaro wrote that the present situation is an exceptional one, and this explains why democratic procedures cannot be always respected; when normal times return, we can re-establish democratic legitimacy. We have therefore a sort of economic/political “state of exception” in the sense of Carl Schmitt. But who is the sovereign that has the right to proclaim, according to Schmitt, the state of exception?

The Sovereignty of Finance Capital

For some time after 1789 and before the proclamation of the French Republic in 1792, the King had the constitutional right of Veto. Whatever the resolutions of the National Assembly, whatever the desires and aspirations of the French people, the last word belonged to His Majesty. In Europe today, the King is not a Bourbon or Habsburg, the King is Financial Capital. All the present European governments--except the Greek one!--are functionaries of this absolutist, intolerant, and anti-democratic Monarch. Whether right-wing, "extreme-center," or pseudo-leftist; whether conservative, demo-Christian, or social-democratic, they fanatically serve her Majesty's right of Veto.

The absolute and total sovereign today in Europe is, therefore, the global financial market. Financial markets dictate to each country the wages and pensions, cuts in social expenses, privatizations, the rate of unemployment. Some time ago, they directly nominate the heads of government (Papademos in Greece and Mario Monti in Italy), picking so-called “experts” who are faithful servants of the financial markets.

Let us have a closer look at some of these all-powerful “experts.” Where do they come from? Mario Draghi, head of the Central European Bank, is a former manager of Goldman Sachs; Mario Monti, former European Commissioner, is also a former adviser to Goldman Sachs. Monti and Papademos are members of the Trilateral Commission, a very select club of politicians and bankers that discuss what to do next. The President of the European Trilateral is Peter Sutherland, former European Commissioner, and former manager at Goldman Sachs; the vice-president of the Trilateral, Vladimir Dlouhy, former Czech Minister of Economy, is now adviser to Goldman Sachs for Eastern Europe.

In other words, the “experts” in charge of saving Europe from the crisis used to work for one of the banks directly responsible for the sub-prime crisis in the United States. This doesn’t mean that there is a conspiracy to deliver Europe to Goldman Sachs; it only illustrates the oligarchic nature of the “experts” elite ruling the Union.

The governments of Europe are indifferent to public protest, strikes, and mass demonstrations, and don’t care about the opinion or the feelings of the population; they are attentive--extremely attentive–only to the opinion and the feelings of the financial markets, and their employees, the ratings agencies. In the European pseudo-democracy, to consult the people by a referendum is a dangerous heresy--worse, a crime against the Holy Market. The Greek referendum was not only about fundamental economic and social issues, it was also and above all about democracy.

The 61.3 per cent Greek NO was an attempt to challenge the Royal Veto of finance. This could have been a first step towards the transformation of Europe, from capitalist Monarchy into a democratic Republic. But the present European oligarchic institutions have little tolerance for democracy. They immediately punished the Greek people for their insolent attempt to refuse the austericide.

Catastroika is back in Greece with a vengeance, imposing a brutal program of economically recessive, socially injust, and humanly unsustainable measures. The German right-wing fabricated this monster, and forced it on the Greek people with the complicity of Greece false "friends" (Hollande, Renzi, etc).

Finding Scapegoats

While the crisis gets worse and public outrage grows, there is an increasing temptation, for many governments, to distract public attention towards a scapegoat: the immigrants. Thus undocumented foreigners, non-communitarian immigrants, Muslims, and Roma (Gypsies) are being presented as the main threat to the country. This of course opens great opportunities for racist, xenophobic, semi-fascist, or outright fascist parties, which are growing and are already, in several countries, part of the government--a very serious threat to democracy in Europe.

The only hope is the growing aspiration for another Europe, beyond savage competition, brutal austerity policies, and eternal debts to be paid. Another Europe is possible, a democratic, ecological, and social one. But it will not be achieved without a common struggle of the European populations, beyond ethnic borders and the narrow limits of the nation-State.

In other words, our hope for the future is popular indignation, and the social movements, which have been on the rise, particularly among youth and women, in several countries. For the social movements, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the struggle for democracy is a struggle against neoliberalism, and, in the last analysis, against capitalism itself, an inherently antidemocratic system, as Max Weber already pointed out a hundred years ago.

Michael Löwy is a Marxist sociologist and philosopher living in Paris. His most recent book is Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (Haymarket Books, 2015). This article was written for Avghi (Dawn), the daily paper of Syriza.

  1. Max Weber, «Zur Lage der bürgerlichen Demokratie in Russland», Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, Band 22, 1906, Beiheft, p. 353.
  2. Quoted in Perry Anderson, Le Nouveau Vieux Monde, Marseile, Agone, 2011, pp. 154,158.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Corbyn-mania is too little and too late for this Green Lefty

The last time that I voted for Labour was in 1997. It was great to see the Tories routed so thoroughly, although I didn’t expect much from the new Labour government. Even these low expectations were confounded though by the timidity of Labour in government.

I think it must have been by about 1998 when the penny finally dropped for me, that is, Labour weren’t just getting away with as much as they thought they could get away with. The realisation dawned on me that new Labour didn’t actually believe in or want to implement anything like traditional social democrat policies. They believed in the neo-liberal consensus established by the preceding Thatcher/Major Tory government.

I had always voted Labour, my family did, this is what we did at elections, without even thinking about it. My dad was a union shop steward for the engineering union (AUEW as it was then) in the 1960s and 1970s. He was often on strike or lock out and left politics was constantly discussed at home.

Come the 2001 general election, I’d had enough of new Labour and decided to vote for the Socialist Alliance, who had a strong candidate running in my constituency, Louise Christian, the human rights lawyer. I reasoned that if enough people voted SA, Labour would take notice and move back to the left. Louise Christian got about 1100 votes, and the Labour government got even worse.

I did notice that the Green party candidate got twice as many votes as the SA in my constituency and looked into the Greens policies, and was pleasantly surprised to find them similar to old Labour ones. At the time I was beginning to get increasingly concerned by climate change as well, or global warming as it was known then. I decided to throw my lot in with the Greens, around my way at least. I didn’t join the Green party at this stage but resolved to vote for them.

Then the whole Iraq war debacle started which led eventually to me joining the Greens, but I also made the discovery around this time of ecosocialism after reading Joel Kovel’s ‘The Enemy of Nature’ subtitled ‘the end of capitalism or the end of the world?’ I started to work for ecosocialism within the Green party joining Green Left pretty much immediately it was formed and am here to this day.

And so to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership this year. It reminds me a bit of Ed Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership in 2010 although on steroids this time. Against expectations Ed beat his brother with a pitch that moved Labour to the left, but not as much as Corbyn is offering this time. People from the Green party flocked to join Labour thinking it was going back to social democracy, but ultimately what radicalism there was, was watered down and Labour fought the 2015 general election on policies that were only a millimetre or so to the left of the Tories.

I wonder whether Corbyn’s ideas will meet the same fate or whether he will be deposed entirely before 2020? His platform is actually not all that left wing despite the hysteria in the media and from the Labour party establishment. Take a look at the Liberal – SDP Alliance manifesto for the 1983 general election and you can see what I mean.

Jeremy Corbyn himself is a decent, principled man and has been a constant thorn in the side of new Labour over the years. I think the Green party should be supportive of his attempt to drag Labour to the left and hopefully he can be persuaded to support introducing a fairer, proportional voting system, for future elections that should keep the Tories out of power for good.

But my thinking has moved on from 1983, 2003 even, and I am now firmly an ecosocialist which is a word I have not heard Corbyn mention. The fact is, old Labour pro capitalist style politics is out dated and completely inappropriate for the contemporary problems that the country and indeed the world faces. And yes, the Green party is not ecosocialist either, but it is closer to it than even the best case scenario (which is unlikely) that a Corbyn Labour party will advocate. I'm staying put, for now at least.  

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Amnesty International: Protecting The ‘Human Rights’ Of Johns, Pimps And Human Traffickers

After a government raid last year on an illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, a discarded bra lies on the ground outside an informal bar that allegedly employed sex workers. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd / AP)

Written by Chris Hedges and first published at

The decision by Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting, to call for the decriminalization of prostitution is another in a long line of triumphs for heartless neoliberal economics and the grotesque commodification of human beings that defines predatory capitalism.

Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said: “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”

In the sickness of modern culture, the ability to exploit with impunity is distorted into a human right even by a renowned and respected humanitarian organization. That is quite a card trick. We live in a global culture where the wretched of the earth are chattel and where sexual slavery—which is what most prostituted women and girls around the globe endure—is sanctified by market forces. These women and girls are among our most vulnerable. After being crushed by poverty, racism and sexism, they are unable to find other ways to make a sustainable income. They are treated little better than livestock transported to markets for consumption. That a so-called human rights organization parrots vile justifications is emblematic of the depth of our moral degeneration and the triumph of misogyny.

Women and girls who are prostituted should be treated not as criminals but as victims. The criminals are the johns and the pimps and traffickers who profit from the sale of human flesh. Decriminalizing prostitution, which allows these modern slave masters to openly ply their trade, means the exploitation will grow explosively. We must work to create a world where those who are dispossessed of their human rights are not forced into this dilemma. We must not accept a world where poverty destroys the lives of the weak and the vulnerable, including children. Those who profit from prostituting women and girls must be driven out of business.

“In sheer numbers, it is the poor brown women of the world who pay with bruises, humiliation and deaths for this ignorant and hideous decision that has brought Amnesty International so low,” Lee Lakeman, the Canadian feminist, told me by email. “When Amnesty International’s ‘progressive leftists’ blithely refer to ‘free choice to prostitute,’ do they choose to forget prostitution as imperialism? Third world brothel cities, the tourist brothels sprung up where once armies were stationed, man-camps of resource thieves that overrun indigenous communities, UN troops buying sex from women in refugee camps by offering them food? Abandoned migrant addicted kids and women in the ghettos of the world’s cities being bought for the price of a quick hit? Or are they [Amnesty and those who support its decision] imagining this free choice: the women, babes in arms migrating from war zones and environmental deserts who are bought with rides, food, water or with a chance to save a child? Surely they know how indigenous girls are groomed with drugs and alcohol and rides to the city from hopeless homelands. 

But they cannot have missed the inherent racism of prostitution that exoticizes every racial stereotype of woman on the back pages and internet sites of the world. And those of us, women of the global north, who have food and shelter? We fight now for the public life of full citizens. Are we obliged every time we leave our houses to face a barrage of men bloated with entitlement of class and race and sex, who sit scanning as we pass for our price tag? Consciousness is in part knowing who is standing with you. We know Amnesty International sold us out.”

Among those, including women, who have no concept of what being prostituted really means, it has become hip and edgy to talk about the legitimacy of “sex work.” Movies like “Pretty Woman” and the pro-prostitution lobby’s slick portrayals of the “sex industry” bear as much resemblance to the reality of prostitution as “Sands of Iwo Jima” does to war. If you want an honest window into what the prostitution industry is like, read “Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution” by Rachel Moran, who at 15 was prostituted on the streets of Dublin. She endured this nightmare for seven years.

Moran says, based on her experience, that there are three types of men who use prostitutes: those who treat women as if they do not have human emotions; those who are conscious of a woman’s humanity but choose to ignore it; and those who derive sexual pleasure from crushing the humanity of the women they buy.

Our culture, manipulated by sophisticated forms of propaganda, mesmerized by commercially created images that glorify violence and sexual exploitation and consumption, cannot untangle fantasy from reality. Many, maybe most, men have been indoctrinated by pornography. Pornography has taught them that their personal gratification at the expense and degradation of another is a human right. This indoctrination has twisted feminism, which once fought for oppressed women and girls, into an accessory to misogyny. Why would genuine feminists organize or consider taking part in “SlutWalks”? Why is the election of a female president or the appointment of a female CEO an advance when at the same time—often with the collaboration of elite women—social and governmental programs that provide assistance to poor and working women are abolished? The current generation of neoliberal “feminists” cite the empowerment of a tiny, predominantly white female elite as proof of feminist advance. Women and girls who are poor, racialized or part of the working class, like all of the vulnerable in our age of predatory capitalism, are ignored and discarded, along with most of their advocates. This is not an advance for women. It is a profound setback.

“Capitalism and prostitution are the new method of imperialism and colonization,” said Alice Lee, a member of the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, whom I reached in Vancouver. “It is no coincidence that pornography and prostitution use racial stereotypes to sell and exploit women. 

Prostitution is a tool that subjugates women, especially women of color, reinforcing sexism and the global racial hierarchy. The normalization of sexualized racism entrenches the idea that women of color and poor women are dispensable/disposable in all nations. The global north no longer has to occupy our lands. They can occupy our bodies and define our worth. This othering enables them to see us as less than human.”

The world has been turned upside down. Every sentence uttered by the pro-prostitution lobby—that prostitution is about choice, that prostitution is about empowerment, that legalizing prostitution protects women—is a lie. But we are a culture awash in lies, and amid this flood it is hard for many to separate illusion from reality.

Being prostituted is perpetual rape. Being prostituted means your orifices are penetrated a dozen or more times a night by strangers who often insult, maul and beat you. This happens in cars, in alleys, in “massage parlors,” in brothels, in motel rooms. And those who make the real money are not the exploited and the abused but the pimps, traffickers and brothel and massage parlor owners. Being prostituted means vaginal and anal tears, bruises, broken bones, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, and severe psychological damage. And it can mean death. It almost always means early death. Those who must endure this abuse are almost always women of color, many shipped by traffickers from poor countries to relatively affluent countries for the sole purpose of being sexually exploited.

“Rape, wife battering and pornography serve to put women in their place,” Lee said. “That is the function of male violence against women. When women hear and see other women being raped, battered or prostituted, we know this could easily happen to us. Sometimes in the pro-prostitution argument you will hear that prostitution will prevent men from raping ordinary women. But by accepting prostitution we are accepting a class of women being expendable, as if that will prevent men from raping and beating us. Only when all women achieve liberty and autonomy can we be free.”

I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from my years as a war correspondent. I instantly recognized fellow sufferers of PTSD in prostituted women and girls when I interviewed them in refugee and displacement camps in Latin America, Africa and the Balkans. Prostituted women in and near war zones are as commonplace as corpses. Once a culture descends into the sickness of violence, once a culture allows human beings to become racialized objects of exploitation, there is an explosion of rape and prostitution, along with pornography. War, like neoliberal economics, sees only commodities, not sentient beings with the ability to feel pain and joy. And making war on people, as well as the planet, lies at the heart of neoliberal economics.

Prostituting women and girls is a lucrative business. Germany, which legalized prostitution in 2002, is now being called “Europe’s biggest brothel.” It has industrialized sexual exploitation with a terrifying corporate efficiency. Over a million men a day engage in these transactions, sexually exploiting women and girls who come mostly from poor countries in Africa and Eastern Europe. 

These women and girls have been shipped to Germany to satiate the physical desires of the affluent and enrich the pimps and traffickers who control them. The women and girls do not do this because it is a choice. They do this because they are desperate and poor. The German magazine Spiegel published an investigative piece that lays out this abuse in detail, “How Legalized Prostitution Has Failed.”

Amnesty International has, in essence, legitimized the weapon of male objectification and violence in the war against women. This weapon exists apart from the evils of global capitalism. The fight to end male violence against women has to be integral to those of us who also fight global capitalism. We need the liberation of women and girls, including those who are poor and of color. Women cannot join the fight for a better world until male violence and male entitlement are eradicated. Freedom from exploitation, especially for women and girls, will define the success or failure of our struggle. To be an anti-capitalist, to be a member of the authentic left who stands with all of the oppressed, is to embrace radical feminism—not the mock feminism of neoliberalism but the true feminism of Andrea Dworkin. It is to recognize that no assault against capitalism is possible, or morally permissible, unless it is accompanied by an assault against male violence and the exploitation of women and girls.

“Capitalism is not wicked or cruel when the commodity is the whore,” Dworkin wrote. “Profit is not wicked or cruel when the alienated worker is a female piece of meat; corporate bloodsucking is not wicked or cruel when the corporations in question, organized crime syndicates, sell cunt; racism is not wicked or cruel when the black cunt or yellow cunt or red cunt or Hispanic cunt or Jewish cunt has her legs splayed for any man’s pleasure; poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores, cunts. The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.”

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

COP 21: The No Hope Climate Summit

By Alex Scrivener 'The Paris COP is not going to save the world,' writes Scrivener. 'But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do.' (Photo: Daniel Pfund/flickr/cc with overlay)

The following was first written as a briefing paper for the UK-based Global Justice Now and the original can be read and downloaded here.

Climate change is already hitting the world’s poorest people hardest and it needs to be stopped. The responsibility for the climate crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of the rich, whose consumption and greed has driven us to the brink of disaster. This makes it a problem of social and economic justice.

Some groups consider the upcoming Paris climate summit to be the answer. Campaign messages exhorting us to take action over the UN climate summit include ‘24 months to save the world’ and ‘show David Cameron our love’.

Progressive newspapers and blogs carry a similar message of false hope. The Paris summit, a recent Guardian editorial argues, is ‘the world’s last, best chance’ to combat climate change.

The bad news is that the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) won’t work because it will not be dealing with the underlying problem – the unfair economic system that puts the interest of fossil fuel addicted corporations above those of the people.

Climate change will never be solved through negotiations dominated by corporate interests. Many of the same governments that are supposedly fighting climate change in Paris are also pushing corporate trade deals like the EU-US trade deal, TTIP, that will benefit the fracking industry and supporting big agribusiness companies that undermine the ability of farmers to adapt to climate change. As this briefing explains, these same governments use bullying and bribery tactics to ensure that the interests of their corporate friends takes precedence over the fight against climate change.

So we already know that the Paris COP will be a cop-out at best, and actually damaging at worst. Just as in 2009, when the climate summit branded as ‘Hopenhagen’ collapsed into farce, any agreement reached in Paris is destined to be an unambitious fudge.

So instead of being distracted by the false hope of a summit breakthrough, we should concentrate on putting pressure on our politicians to reduce emissions at home and building a broad and diverse movement to change the political context of climate policy. This means fighting trade deals that bestow rights on fossil fuel corporations. It means fighting the politics of austerity that forces us to accept ‘cheap’ coal instead of investing in clean, democratically controlled energy systems. And it also means fighting against the privatisation of energy globally.

Bullying and bribery: how the rich countries get their way

Not all countries have equal clout at the talks. The richest countries are also the biggest polluters and therefore tend to be in a position to dictate the terms of debate. Unlike some low income countries, the industrialised countries can afford to run a PR machine that churns out their message and come to the talks with teams of hundreds of negotiators, diplomats, lawyers and media officers. In addition, rich countries use an array of dirty tricks to ensure they get their way.

Excluding those who disagree

One of the most commonly used of these underhand tactics is exclusion. Although all 196 countries that are parties to the UNFCCC send delegations, not all of them are allowed to be actively involved in the negotiation process.

In practice, the formal procedures are bypassed as rich countries set up parallel informal negotiations with countries that are likely to agree with them, excluding those who are likely to disagree (most often the poor countries). These ‘agreements’ are then presented to everyone else as a ‘take it or leave it’ deal.

These ‘green room’ negotiations happen behind closed doors and most developing country delegations are unaware of them until they finish. This tactic was used to great effect during the catastrophic Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. The Danish delegation drafted what would become the infamously unambitious ‘Copenhagen Accord’ in secret negotiations with just 26 other (mostly rich) countries, all the while denying that such talks were even taking place. The excluded delegations were then given just one hour to read the document which superseded two years of official negotiations.

The same tactic has been used at every subsequent summit, including at Durban in 2011 when the decision was made to delay any meaningful agreement until Paris in 2015. There is no chance that Paris will be any different. In fact, this time the big countries are rigging the deal before the talks have even started to make absolutely certain that no real action is taken. The criminally unambitious bilateral deal between the US and China will mean that the summit is almost certainly destined to fail months before it will open.

Lost in translation

Another more subtle, but nevertheless effective tactic is holding meetings in English without translation. While the formal negotiations offer translation, the backroom side-meeting where most of the real action takes place are often English-only, putting delegations with less strong English language abilities at a disadvantage.

Death by meetings

Another way that rich countries and some of the bigger emerging economies manage to cut out the poorer countries is by choking off the process with parallel meetings. Low income countries can often ill afford to bring more than a handful of delegates to climate conferences, while rich countries often have hundreds of delegates. For example, South Sudan, Serbia and Somalia were all represented by just one delegate each at the last COP in Lima, while the USA had almost 100 delegates. At one point during the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, there were 26 meetings taking place simultaneously.


Secret documents leaked by former CIA agent Edward Snowden have revealed that the US was spying on other delegations at the Copenhagen talks in 2009. At the time, a developing country delegate said that he would only talk in a room where they were sure they weren’t being bugged, commenting that the US delegation ‘seemed to know what our position was before we did.’ It’s highly possible that this sort of eavesdropping by the US and other countries with powerful intelligence services will happen at Paris as well.

Bribery and threats

More powerful countries are in a position to threaten poorer countries with repercussions if they vote the wrong way. But rich country delegations use the carrot as well as the stick in their negotiations. Individual countries can often get picked off by the richer countries, accepting short term sweeteners in exchange for support for an unambitious deal that’s soft on rich countries. This happened on an industrial scale at the Durban summit in 2011, where African countries were offered aid in exchange for concessions in what was dubbed ‘chequebook diplomacy’.

During the Copenhagen summit in 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy did a bilateral deal with Ethiopia to get them to back an unfair EU deal. This was then presented as Africa as a whole agreeing to the European proposal despite the fact that no other African country was closely involved in the deal.

Sometimes bullying and bribery aims at excluding particular individuals from delegations. For example, in 2014, the Philippines’ chief climate negotiator Yeb Saño was dropped from the country’s delegation allegedly after pressure from rich countries to side-line a strong critic of their policies.

Corporate takeover

The COPs have changed a lot since the landmark Kyoto summit in 1997. Back then, it was an argument between using ‘cap and trade’ market based mechanisms to fight climate change or having a greater role for regulation. Now, the center of debate has shifted to a situation where we are stuck talking about failed market-based solutions. At the time, activists derided Kyoto as being insufficient. Now, even a Kyoto-type agreement, with legally binding, meaningful carbon cuts on rich countries, seems almost out of reach. How did things get so bad?

The most important factor in the hobbling of ambition at the UN climate negotiations are the people who don’t have a single delegation officially, but in practice exert undue control on almost everyone there – the corporate sector.

Since the 1990s, big corporations, most notably those in the oil and gas, mining, banking and agricultural sectors, have been lobbying hard. The fossil fuel companies try to shift the conversation away from an end to fossil fuels and towards false solutions such as carbon capture and storage which allow them to continue business as usual.

The financial sector and private sector energy companies are also trying (very successfully) to get a slice of the money earmarked for helping poor countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. This has meant that much climate finance is being channelled through the financial sector. The UK has been instrumental in pushing for the creation of a private sector facility (PSF) as part of the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) which is meant to become the main channel for rich countries to disburse climate finance. While developing countries want the PSF to focus on supporting small green businesses, the UK wants PSF money to be channelled through financial intermediaries (including big private sector banks) to big corporate projects.

At the Warsaw COP in 2013, this corporate takeover reached new heights when the Polish hosts set up a conference for big coal companies right next to the main summit. Activists at the summit were shocked to hear ‘clean coal’ being promoted as a large part of the solution to climate change. And as if to add insult to injury, Poland’s environment minister was sacked halfway through the summit because he was too slow in allowing fracking in the country.

While it’s unlikely that the French will be as brazen in promoting the fossil fuel industry at the Paris summit, the power of the fossil fuel and financial sectors is likely to ensure that big business will receive much of any climate finance promised to the Green Climate Fund at the talks.

Undermining previous agreements

Since the inception of the UNFCCC process more than 20 years ago, a number of key principles have underpinned the negotiation process. The most important of these is the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). This is the recognition that because the rich countries of the global north have historically emitted far more carbon dioxide than southern countries, the burden of carbon cuts should fall primarily on the richer countries. The principle also means that rich countries must compensate southern countries for the fact that they cannot use as much fossil fuel by paying the additional cost of using new renewables technology and by paying the cost of adapting to the effects of climate change.

CBDR is hard-wired into the UNFCCC system by the division of all countries into two groups – annex I (industrialised countries) and annex II (poor countries).
But for many years now, rich countries, especially the USA, have been trying to undermine this system so that southern countries are made to ‘share the burden’ of fighting climate change. This is fundamentally unfair as, for example, on a per person, the USA emits over 44 times more than Bangladesh, a country that could end up being largely underwater as a result of climate change.

For rich countries, Paris is an opportunity to get rid of CBDR and move to a system where poor countries have to sign up to binding targets as well. Rich countries argue that CBDR has become outdated because since the early 1990s developing countries’ emissions have increased. But while Chinese per person emissions have caught up with Europe’s (partly because it produces consumer products for Western markets) no other developing country has per person emissions equivalent to that of countries in Europe and North America. Even India’s per person emissions are just a tenth of those of the USA. So while there is a genuine argument to be had about whether China should take on more responsibility than countries with very low emissions, abandoning the principle of CBDR is dangerous as it is likely to allow the established rich countries to blame southern countries for a problem they largely caused themselves.

So what do we do?

The Paris COP is not going to save the world. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do. By concentrating on piling pressure on our own governments and corporations – the UK is still one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters – we have a better chance of achieving tangible progress towards climate justice.

That’s not to say that we should abandon the summits completely – they are useful places to mobilize civil society and express popular protest against the damaging policies of our governments.

But it is time for activists and campaigners across the world to realise that the system is rigged against us and that progress will only be made if the governments that represent us feel the pressure for change from below.

However, this kind of climate campaigning is unlikely to work in the context of an economic system that is geared towards the interests of a few high-carbon corporations. We need to go beyond seeing the fight against climate change as something we do during big summits or around issues such as airport expansion.

The reality is that the climate battle is going on in parts of government policy that aren’t usually associated with climate change such as tax, trade policy, the privatization of public services and agriculture. If we succeed in fighting corporate control in these areas we will also be destroying the economic system that is feeding climate change, freeing up government to concentrate on the best ways of reducing emissions without having to kowtow to these strong vested interests.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Alex Scrivener is the policy officer at Global Justice Now.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Labour Establishment Plot to Stop Corbyn

As the latest YouGov Labour leadership election poll spreads panic through the Labour party right wing establishment, a picture is emerging on how they intend to fight back against the MP for Islington north. The poll shows Corbyn as having a big lead in all voting constituencies (members, union affiliates and £3 supporters).

Failing Corbyn’s body being found in a side street near Finsbury Park tube station (joke), an attempt will be made to destabilise his leadership and eventually to depose him.

The first tactic was to have a parade of Labour party grandees appealing to members/supporters not to vote for him as his ‘left wing’ policies would be a disaster for the country and make Labour unelectable for a generation. Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Alan Johnson and now Alistair Campbell have all made this point through an eagerly compliant media. Labour right stalwarts working for this media (The Guardian in the main) have also weighed in with a similar message, Polly Toynbee, Martin Kettle, Rafael Behr for example with leader comments in the same vein. To be fair to The Guardian, there has been some balance, from Seamus Milne and Owen Jones principally.

When this tactic didn’t appear to work, a second line of defence had to be established. De-legitimise the ballot. Labour MP Barry Sheerman has called for the ballot to be ‘paused’ because the £3 supporter’s constituency has been infiltrated by the ‘hard left’ and Tories, wishing ill for the Labour party. He is not alone amongst Blairite MPs in seeking to de-legitimise the ballot, who ironically were the most insistent on introducing the ‘supporters’ to make it more like an open US ‘primary’, to reduce the influence of the unions.

This line was also trumpeted by Labour MP and supporter of rival for the leadership candidate Liz Kendall, Simon Danczuk. Danczuk goes even further in concluding that Labour MPs would have every right to depose Corbyn from ‘day one’ of his leadership of Labour. Labour peers may join the rebellion.

With only 47 MPs required to force another contest (presumably after changing the rules for the election) and probably only about 30 Labour MPs supporting Corbyn, this would not be a surprise.

The only problem with this is that Corbyn is ahead (according to the polls) in the Labour members section, so why would they vote differently so soon after electing Corbyn?

There would need to be a campaign of off the record ‘briefing’ against Corbyn by Labour MPs and I’m sure the media will be compliant in this. The tactic is well established when MPs feed information to journalists that is damaging to a political opponent, a slow drip, drip of stories of the ‘chaos’ in Corbyn’s leadership team etc.

No doubt some new Labour supporting business people can be found to tell the media how ‘anti-business’ Labour has become, which will cost jobs etc etc.

On top of this, many Labour MPs will refuse to join Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, leadership rivals Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper have already refused to do so. Corbyn may struggle to find enough MPs willing to cover all of the shadow ministerial positions.

And what if a large majority of MPs refuse to vote for Corbyn’s policies in the House of Commons, abstaining or voting with the Tory government? Corbyn’s own voting record and ‘loyalty’ to previous leaders will give them an excuse to rebel. It is doubtful that constituency parties will be able to force MPs to support Corbyn, if as is predicted there will be hundreds of them.

All of this would put a tremendous strain on Corbyn himself, and it will probably start to show. Stories about his health and age will start to surface in the press further undermining his position.

Once this story has run for a year or so, and presumably with Labour trailing in opinion polls, this is the time they will call for a new leadership contest, under new rules.

The danger would be that Corbyn wins again, but after all the bad news and turmoil in the party, I think he may lose.  

Isn’t democracy beautiful?