Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Rent Control is a Must

Written by Rob Ponsford

We have a housing crisis in this country, it’s an undeniable fact and it’s been that way for the best part of a decade if not arguably longer. But I want to first start by saying that without a doubt the biggest help to weather this crisis is the building of more social housing, however the reality of our housing shortage is such that we simply cannot build enough social housing fast enough for those who need homes today, yesterday, ten years ago.

Which of course brings us to private rented accommodation, the private landlord sector is a minefield to navigate and due to a lack of regulation is filled with poor landlords charging extortionate rents with tenants having a pretty poor standard of living. For many home owners who choose to become landlords they do so because homes are no longer just a place to live but something with an exchange value something to generate income or in a lot of cases a way to provide a pension.

In fact it’s this latter type of landlord I am most familiar with, a friend of mine who does not consider himself well off yet owns two homes rents his second home out. His reasoning when he told me this was because he wanted a pension as he believed the state pension would be gone before he got there and private pensions weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

Now this particular friend has always been a more fiscal conservative type with his own money and despite his belief in not being well off he is in fact well off. I explained that many people might even consider him rich in comparison to themselves. This concerned him a little bit and out interest he asked me what my rent was (Now I should point out I am lucky enough to be in Social Housing even more so that I was one of the last people to receive a Life time tenancy before the coalition did away with them).

Suffice to say he was shocked to discover that there was just over a £200 difference between what I paid a month in rent to what he charged his tenants a month. Of course my friend isn’t alone in the world of Private Landlords who charge quite a world of difference from that of Social Housing.

So with Social Housing not being built at a sufficient rate for the minute the private rented route becomes the only route open to many, and of course a number of those people may very well receive some form or full housing benefit. The Benefit cap that has been brought in, is in part a supposed answer to this issue.

When in reality the solution is rent control, by legislating and making it a legal requirement for private rents to be more in line with social housing costs, private tenants will no longer spending half of their income on rents, those in receipt of housing benefit will no longer require as much benefit and the bill comes down.

Of course what about my landlord friend who sees his second house as a pension, well the obvious solution there would be to fix pensions easier said than done I know. There was a time when homes were a place to live, filled with memories and a person only wanted one now it is seen as a potential gold mine if you have more than one, a place where you can charge someone the earth and they should be grateful for it no matter what the cost. (London being a prime example of unregulated rents and greed)

In this country no one should be without a home that provides a certain level of comfort and a decent standard of living. More Social Housing is undoubtedly part of this solution a big part, but rent control is also a must for those private landlords because there will always be private renters and this two tier system doesn’t work and it has reached its breaking point.

It is time we simply said, it isn’t right and our Government will make sure being a landlord isn’t just an exercise in Greed but one of Moral and Social responsibility towards the people they take as tenants.

Of course Rent Control isn’t the only thing required length of Tenancies is an Issue and Tenancies of only 3 months or 6 months or even 12 months is insecure and in the private sector the tenant is at the whim of the landlord at the end of this period.

That isn’t conductive to a decent standard of living if someone decides to become a landlord then they should also commit to being one for a period that is of course suitable 3 years perhaps with the landlord being required to give plenty of notice 18 months say of a tenancy not being continued.

Of course these are just ideas but they are kinds we need to discuss, and social housing is by no means perfect I would love to see life time tenancy come back, so people new that it wasn’t a worry every couple of years that they had a home to raise a family.

But as I come back to rent control it isn’t just in housing such a control is required, commercial property is also a gold mine for those people who rent out such property. My experience of this comes from another friend who wanted to start a small business, he being a fully qualified mechanic decided that he wanted to open a garage.

Despite the recession and the banks, he wrote such a convincing business plan, and had support from his parents and family that the bank gave him the money. Like any new small business he struggled in the start but started making progress getting past 12 months being a milestone.

He then had the luck of getting a contract with a small fleet of transport vehicles, sadly because he had gone past 12 months of trading his rent rates where doubled through no reason other than 12 months had passed. It crippled him, he had to close his doors and turn down money that would be on his books and being able to grow his business due to nothing more than Greed.

Without a doubt rent control is a must for small to medium business, by charging them a reasonable amount it gives such business opportunity to grow and develop and not be crushed just as they might very well be growing. How much could my friend have possibly contributed to the local economy how many others could have done the same for their local economy?

What price should rent control settle rates on? Well that will depend on the size of the property number of rooms and council banding as this effects Social Housing rent.

But the need for it has never been clearer, we need to address the housing crisis in this country, Social Housing is a big part of this but so is the need to reform the private rented sector.

The private rented sector has become a hot bed of greed, the pursuit of money has become the end all and be all. Private rented sector is of course a business and like all business if you do not legislate then it will run a mock (the example being the minimum wage, if you no longer made this law how many businesses would continue to pay it? A business is there to make money and as much of it as possible it doesn’t care about social and moral responsibility, profit is the end all and be all.)

Legislation is there to make sure that the social and moral responsibility of society is enacted upon business (Minimum wage, unfair dismissal etc) this should be no different for private landlords who think it is acceptable to charge over 50% of someone’s wages that isn’t living its surviving, and sadly more and more aren’t even able to do that.

We want a more equal society, then it’s about time we made those who become Private Landlords realise there tenants are not cash cows to milk and that a home first and foremost is exactly that.

Rob Ponsford is a member of Plymouth Green Party and a Green Left supporter

Monday, 28 September 2015

Trident - Another Day, Another U Turn by Corbyn’s Labour

We have had the ditching of Jeremy Corbyn’s very sensible approach to the Prime Minister’s cynical negotiations on reform of our European Union membership, at the behest of shadow cabinet members. We have been told by the new shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, that he is happy to accept George Osborne’s requirements for a balanced current account financial budget, despite all of the rhetoric from McDonnell about the Chancellor’s failed economic policies.

Now it seems, this year at least, Labour’s policy on the Trident nuclear weapons system will not be debated at the party’s autumn conference, leaving in tact Labour’s support for renewing this massive waste of money, white elephant relic from the cold war. It looks as though Labour MPs votes (together with the Tories) will see Trident renewed.

Where will it all end? I suspect in Labour fighting the next general election on a similar manifesto to what lost them this year’s general election. All of the bold claims of change and radical policies that emanated from the Corbyn campaign team during the Labour leadership election are, one by one, falling by the wayside.

The unspun Corbyn, is actually spinning this latest defeat for the policies he has just been elected on by the party’s membership and supporters, as a victory for his pluralistic approach to party management. Pluralism is one thing, but ditching all the policies you have just been elected on is called selling out.

In the 1987 general election, Labour, under Neil Kinnock’s leadership, campaigned to scrap the UK’s nuclear weapons capability. Labour lost the election, gaining only a little ground on the previous 1983 disastrous result. Labour promptly blamed their nuclear weapons stance for the defeat, and the policy was abandoned.

Skip forward some twenty years to 2007. I was talking to a trade union colleague of mine at the time, who had been selected as a Parliamentary Labour candidate for a winnable seat in south London. He probably would have won too, certainly he thought he would, but Gordon Brown’s infamous bottling of calling the general election thwarted my colleague. 

I suggested to my friend, that the world had changed since 1987, no cold war, no Berlin Wall, no Soviet block. I asked why Labour was so wedded to nuclear weapons? He said he agreed with me, but because of 1987, the Labour party just would not campaign against nuclear weapons ever again.

It is hard to see what the benefit of retaining Trident is, where our enemies are not even nation states predominantly. What use is Trident against ISIS? And when there is all round belt tightening on public expenditure, could the vast amounts spent on Trident not be better spent elsewhere?

Trident is not even a truly ‘independent deterrent’, since the nuclear missiles on these submarines cannot be targeted effectively without guidance systems from US satellites. It is only independent if the US agrees that we should use them.

I know the establishment in this country go into a spasm at even the mention of us ridding ourselves of these weapons, so it would not be an easy fight to get rid of them. So, might I suggest a compromise to Labour?

How about replacing Trident with a cheaper, probably land based or airborne nuclear strike capacity? It would be a damn sight cheaper, and it would be truly independent.

Personally, I’ve always been against the UK having any of these weapons, but we may have to proceed slowly in the direction of scrapping them altogether. Either that, or keep paying through the nose for a system we will never use, just so we can affect a macho pose in world politics.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sustainable Development: Something New or More of The Same?

Written by Charles Eisenstein and first published on his blog here 

Two years ago when he was 14, my son Matthew grew six inches. Last year he only grew two inches, and this year he has only grown half an inch. Should I be worried?

Of course not. At a certain stage of maturity, quantifiable physical growth slows and stops, and a new mode of development takes over.

Imagine that I did not understand that, and fed Matthew growth hormones in a desperate attempt to keep him growing taller. And imagine that this effort was harming his health and depleting my resources. “I have to find a way to make his growth sustainable,” I would say. “Maybe I can use herbal hormones.”

Our civilization is at a similar transition point in the nature of its development. For thousands of years we have grown — in population, in energy consumption, in land under cultivation, in bits of data, in economic output. Today we are beginning to realize that this kind of growth is no longer possible, nor even desirable; that it can be maintained only at greater and greater cost to human beings and the planet.

The time has come to shift to a different kind of development, development that is qualitative rather than quantitative, better and not more. I wish our policy elites would understand this. Case in point: the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) convey real concern and care for the environment. Yet at the same time they are wedded to the ideology of economic growth — more GDP, more industrial infrastructure, roads, ports, etc. — without considering whether other forms of development could better meet their goals of poverty elimination and ecological sustainability.

The way out of poverty for the “least developed countries,” the SDG prescribes, is to develop export industries to raise GDP (targeting 7% growth). Unfortunately, in many countries this strategy has proven to be a recipe for more poverty, not less. The wealth usually ends up in the hands of local elites, the corporations who extract the resources, and the financial institutions that lend the money for the development. How else to make one’s country “attractive to investors” but to guarantee that they will extract more money than they put in? It is no wonder that while global GDP has nearly tripled since 1990, the number of people suffering food insecurity has also risen, and the middle class has stopped growing or even shrank in many countries.

Then there are the environmental consequences. What are these countries going to export, if not timber, mining products, and other natural resources, along with raw labor power? What else could the roads and ports be used for? The SDGs propose more of the same while hoping for a different result – a good definition of insanity.

A closer examination of what economic growth really is will illuminate the point. Economic growth, as conventionally measured, refers only to goods and services exchanged for money. That means that when indigenous peasants or self-sufficient villagers stop growing and sharing their own food, stop building their own houses, stop making their own entertainment, etc., and instead go to work at factories or plantations and pay for all of these things, GDP rises and they are considered better off. 

Their cash incomes may have risen from nearly nothing to five dollars a day, but they are now at the mercy of global markets. When commodity prices plummet (as they are now), when their nation’s currencies fall (as they are now), local prices rise and they are plunged into destitution. This would not happen if they retained some independence from the global commodity economy.

Only if we take the standard development model for granted is economic growth a necessity to alleviate poverty. In a system where all money is created as interest-bearing debt, it is a mathematical certainty that poverty and wealth inequality will increase unless income (the ability to service debt) grows faster than the debt itself. The income of many countries and people is now falling, leaving only one option to make debt payments: austerity. Austerity and (conventional) development are two sides of the same coin. Both are geared to opening a country to export its wealth. The prescriptions of austerity – privatization of public assets, removal of trade barriers, removal of labor protections, deregulation, cutting of pensions and wages – are precisely the same as the neoliberal prescription for economic development. These measures make a country more “attractive to investment.”

So let’s stop taking this system for granted. First, let’s address poverty by encouraging resiliency and independence from global markets, in particular through local food autonomy, local control of resources, decentralized political institutions, and decentralized infrastructure that isn’t predicated on generating foreign exchange. Second, let’s remove the underlying driver of the compulsion to monetize – the national and private debts that have been the prime implements of colonialism since explicit colonialism ended in the 1960s. (The SDGs, laudably, make mention of debt reduction. This needs to happen on a massive scale.) Third, let’s start talking about fundamental reform of our broken, debt-based financial system, which both drives economic growth and requires growth to survive. It throws everyone into competition with everyone else, propelling a “race to the bottom” that cannot end until the entire planet has been converted into product.

Switching from chemical to herbal growth stimulants (“green” or “sustainable” development) isn’t going to solve the problem. If development equals growth, then “sustainable development” is an oxymoron. Poverty and ecocide are baked into the cake. It is time to transition to a world in which wealth no longer means more and more.

Charles Eisenstein is the author of Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Why we have to have a proper debate about THIS Europe

Written by Haroon Said

Henri was the name of my friends exchange student. I was 14 years old. He was my first encounter with “Europe”. Trying to communicate in “Franglais” which had us as at times rolling about in laughter as he explained that it was a sheet he needed and not a shit. It made me realise that Europe was more “non-English” than English and as such more like me. In a way, that initial experience stayed with me and I have always regarded “Europe” as a good thing.

However, the Europe of my youth is not the Europe of today. The Europe of today for me looks like


However, it’s not just the treatment of migrants that makes me question my position on the EU project.

Let’s take the European Parliament. Interest in voting in EP elections has steadily declined from over 70% to just 43%. There are many reasons behind this negative trend but you can sum it in the phrases low trust and low accountability. Caroline Lucas in a recent piece for the Huffington Post wrote:“I'm the first to admit that the EU is far from perfect - indeed my decade in the European Parliament as an MEP confirmed that to me. In recent times it has been locked in the hands of neoliberal national Governments who have attempted to use it to their own ends.”

I fully agree with Caroline but THIS Europe for me has been locked into “neo liberal hands” for decades, not just recently. THIS Europe has been legitimised and created through far reaching acts such as the Single Market Act, linked to the treaty of Amsterdam which have laid the basis for the corporate dominated Europe we have.

Let’s take the European Commission. This is a wholly unelected executive and civil service organisation rolled up into one. This is one of the centres of power in the EU project. It has the power to propose legislation.

Let’s take Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Portugal, Slovakia, all in the Eurozone who have been effectively treated as “financial colonies” through the imposition of “structural reforms” , which we all know means, job losses, more shit work, cuts in public service and the fire sale of public assets.

Let’s take climate change. Here the EU takes first place if you place all global pledges side by side. However, whilst within the EU you will find really excellent actions, these have been locally (at district, city, town or regional) driven. In THIS Europe we have had the appalling Emissions Trading Scheme, which from the outset set out to give the big polluters huge windfall profits. Moreover as we cruise to 40% reductions by 2030, what fails to get mentioned is that we have used phoney/useless offset measures, relocation of dirty production and discounting any CO² contribution arising from the transportation of all the stuff that we like to buy in order to place ourselves in pole position as champions of climate change.

Let’s take NATO and its transformation as a force for keeping peace to one of making war. Which brings me back to the migrants and my questioning of the EU project.

Talking with activists and those working for not for profit organisations in Brussels (where I work) and across the EU there is a growing questioning of the EU project taking place. National and EP elections are sending the same message as more people start to question the EU. We as a party need to also make some reflection.

Our party has always regarded the “European Project” with justified caution. In fact if you revisit our EU policy then you will find the following:

EU301 The present EU structures are fundamentally flawed. Their remoteness has resulted in a lack of accountability which is working against the interests of people and the environment.

EU302 Our aim is to reconstitute the EU as a democratically accountable and controlled European Confederation of Regions, based on Green principles. Its organisation would follow the Green principle of subsidiarity, that decisions are made at the lowest appropriate level, not impose the "harmonisation" of the current EU.

This policy goes back to the 1990’s before we had any MEP’s in the European Parliament. Since 1999, the party has pursued a policy to bring about reform from within. Has this worked? What are the tangible real gains that we can identify that signify some positive and meaningful reform? Can we bring about change from within? If we think we can, then should we also think whether we are in the right grouping inside the parliament? Since we have had MEP’s a new Green and United left group has been created. Podemos and Syriza as well as Scandinavian Green parties can be found in this group. Should we move to this Group?

We also need to review our policy ahead of the referendum because the party I joined five years ago is no longer the same party in that our membership has increased by 500%. We need to engage with our new and wider membership in reviewing this policy.

If you are interested in putting some time and effort into such review then please get in touch.

Haroon Saad Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party h.saad@ludenet.org

A full version of this article can be found on my Facebook page


Haroon Said is member of Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party and a supporter of Green Left

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Feeding the Monster at Home and in Europe - Part 2 Europe

Written by Charles Gate

The EU is on the agenda of this week’s GP conference.

Some on this list will trail through many green websites etc everyday in search of good copy for our various social media activities. Every day I go to the European Green Party and the Greens/EFA web sites. Quite often some of the more innovative stories and projects can be found there but so too can some of the worse. IMO the worse are those on the Greek crisis where upper-mind is that first comes maintaining the unity of the EU with the add-on of debt forgiveness, but the main thrust of the piece is invariably EU unity over and above whatever the consequences are for the ordinary people of Greece.

I have no doubt, that the preservation of the EU at all costs is driven by German Greens and the long shadow of WW2 and the Nazis, but it’s time for the new generations of Germans to get over their grand-parents past (it isn’t the new generations fault and they bare no responsibility for it), just as we Brits of today bare no responsibility for the past horrors of the British Empire and some of those horrors are much more recent than WW2. (It is noticeable that the guilt shared by many modern day Germans still lead to the mistaken defence and support of Israeli atrocities against Palestinians).

The defence of the EU project by German and other European Greens though doesn’t explain why many UK Greens support this failed and miserable project. A project 60 years in the making seems to get worse all the time rather than better. 

At some stage you have to say it has failed and we need to look for a new Europe with a totally different approach and way forward. Most of us anti-EU Greens (but we are not anti-Europe Greens) generally site the dual problems of how, firstly, the EU has treated Greece and other heavily debt laden EU countries (the debt of course all belonging to the 1% but paid for by the 99%) and, secondly, the push by the EU representatives of the 1% for TTIP. I think now we can add a significant third, the treatment of the migrant issue. An issue created by the war actions of Blair and Bush and their followers in the EU and carried on by their successors. 

The greater migrations yet to come, due to climate change, will of course have stemmed from the actions/inactions of the capitalist west. The EU has and will continue to fail to deal with the root causes (us, our western 1%) and will fail more and more to treat migrants in a humane manner. This in itself should be enough for UK Greens to ditch the EU project as a fail, but we get the mantra of, well the EU has given us certain good environmental laws and worker rights which we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

What is this deference to EU bureaucratic law makers? Have a certain section of our Green leadership so little regard for the democratic choices of the British people and the potential in the organised UK working class that we must look to action from bureaucrats in Brussels rather than to our own rather more local actions and activity. 

These Greens prefer a top down Europe it seems. We must be allowed to make our own choices democratically, good or otherwise, and not even have good law imposed from afar, because as we see with Greece and TTIP these bureaucrats (reps of the 1%) can very easily and swiftly make matters worse – the EU parliament is hardly a democratic counter weight and is presently centre right anyway, with a great fear that in future years a more virulent right wing will replace it, invariably due to the EU failure of producing the goods that we would like to see put into place.

As Greens we need to give voice to a New Europe, a Green Europe, free from the grip of EU bureaucrats and the 1%. To that end WE MUST SAY the Europe of the EU has failed, we need to go back to the drawing board and the EU needs to be dismantled. 

Yes this won’t happen overnight but we need to make a start with it. This doesn’t mean we will tell our MEPs to leave the EU, on the contrary I want more UK Green MEPs in the EU as presently formed, but arguing for an end to the present EU (actually forthrightly arguing for a dissolution of the current EU to be replaced by a new organisation based on a democratic run assembly rather than a bureaucratically and council of ministers led EU – I leave the finer details to others – I think most of it is already in our European policy). The point that we must make constantly is that the EU is a failed model for Europe and this is our vision for its replacement. At the moment we are part of the problem and not the solution to Europe’s many major problems. 

Perhaps had we been seen as more anti-EU at the last EU elections we would have returned 10 MEPs instead of the 3 we have after many years of PR elections, which were supposed to have been the gateway to greater Green success. PR doesn’t guarantee anything if you have the wrong message. Greens need to be seen as part of the solution for a new Europe not as an apologetic sop for its current form.

Charles Gate is a member of Calderdale Green Party and a Green Left supporter

Part 1 Home is here

Feeding the Monster at Home and in Europe - Part 1 Home

Written by Charles Gate

It’s conference this weekend and no doubt many discussions will be had on the new landscape produced by the Corbyn victory.

Yes I take the view that we should, as an organisation, welcome the Corbyn victory and hold out the hand of friendship and cooperation. I, though, have no doubt this bright new landscape will soon, if not already, tarnish. I suspect that Corbyn hasn’t captured the Labour Party but the Labour Party has captured him, the next few months will be more revealing.

Our leadership have of course said this will not hinder the growth of the Green Party (GP) or our ideas. In the long term I think they are right but in the short-term they are wrong. Our members are going to Labour, their illusions will of course be shattered but we shouldn’t pretend it is not happening. Our problem is how in the short-term do we deal with this situation? We need to be friendly but give our own independent image a strong boost to counter the flow to a still neoliberal Labour party. Upcoming shortly is the TUC march at the Tory Party conference; this will be an opportune time to reassert the GP as the best fighter against the neoliberal agenda on a national scale. In short we need headlines – the headlines (even the bad ones) are at present going all Corbyn’s way.

The GP needs to reassert we are still here and active on a national scale. We need to lead a major NVDA (Non-violent Direct Action) at Tory conference. Some of you will remember that at this time last year one of our ex-comrades accused the badgers of an infantile protest outside the Tory conference last time round. In my mind the badgers have more spirit and guts and leadership qualities than the entire leadership of the TUC! The badgers, aka a small group of Hunt Saboteurs, and a few Greens, 3 of us from the GL at least, dared to stop outside the main entrance to the Tory conference and shout naughty things, big deal! This time round we need a major NVDA action led by the GP, including our leading members, who should all be willing to get arrested. If there is any violence it will come from the police and the various other arms of state security present, not us Greens.

We can no longer just meekly walk past Tory conference to some Manchester square or park to listen to Corbyn or anyone else, we need a major NVDA and we need to be seen to lead it. It was brilliant when Lucas got arrested for sitting down against fracking and it was equally brilliant when a GP Chair of one of our London parties got arrested last week at the arms fair, we need to replicate that big time at Tory conference. The days of the TUC marching us up the hill only to march us down again should have been over decades ago. The TUC are weak, moribund; the rank and file need to take over the agenda and actions. And the Green Party need to be in there leading by example.

If all I want in Manchester is to watch Corbyn and some GP leader speak, then I can stay at home and catch up with it on RT (Russia Today TV). The action on the streets against Tory destruction of our living standards and environment isn’t going to come from Corbyn, but it should be coming from the GP.

Charles Gate is a member of Calderdale Green Party and a Green Left supporter

Part 2 Europe is here 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Creative self-destruction: the climate crisis and the myth of ‘green’ capitalism

Written by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg and first published at The Conversation

The upcoming Paris climate talks in December this year have been characterised as humanity’s last chance to respond to climate change. Many hope that this time some form of international agreement will be reached, committing the world to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

And yet there are clear signs that the much-touted “solutions” of emissions reduction targets and market mechanisms are insufficient for what is required.

In our new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, we look at reasons why this has come about. We argue that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

Innovating environmental destruction

The disconnect between business and climate action was symbolised by the announcement earlier this year that a significant portion of funding for the Paris meeting comes from major fossil fuel companies and carbon emitters; a situation French climate officials admitted was financially unavoidable.

While perhaps unsurprising, this announcement hints at a deeper problem we now face — the global economic system of corporate capitalism appears incapable of achieving the levels of decarbonisation necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. Humanity is locked into a process of “creative self-destruction”.

Our economies are now reliant upon ever-more ingenious ways of exploiting the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves and consuming the very life-support systems we rely on for our survival. This is evident in the rush by some of the world’s largest companies to embrace deep-water and Arctic oil drilling, tar-sands processing, new mega-coalmines, and the “fracking” of shale and coal-seam gas. These examples highlight both the inventive genius of corporate capitalism, and the blindness of industry and government to the ecological catastrophe they are fashioning.

Incorporating critique

Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction. They achieve this by challenging perceptions of the climate crisis; invariably framing it as a topic of partisan debate rather than a serious social, economic, and political issue to be addressed. But, more importantly, by reinventing the daily ritual of “business as usual” as a perfectly normal and ecologically sound process.

Through the narrative of “green” capitalism, corporations and the market are portrayed as the best means of responding to the climate crisis. In this corporate imaginary, “green” products and services, increased “eco-efficiency”, and the ingenuity and technological mastery of business entrepreneurship will save us from catastrophe.

Lobbying and corporate political activity obstruct more meaningful proposals for emissions reductions.

Moreover, citizens are enrolled as constituents in corporate campaigns, and as consumers and “ecopreneurs” in the quest for “green consumption”. We are the brands we wear, the cars we drive, the products we buy; and we are comforted to find the future portrayed as “safely” in the hands of the market.

The sparkling image of corporate environmentalism and business sustainability promises no conflicts and no trade-offs. Here, it is possible to address climate change while continuing the current global expansion of consumption; there is no contradiction between material affluence and environmental well being.

In proposing that corporate initiatives are enough, such a vision also fits well within neoliberalism - the dominant economic and political system of our time. Alternatives, such as state regulation and mandatory restrictions on fossil fuel use, are viewed as counterproductive and even harmful. It seems there is no alternative to the market.

Echoing Fredric Jameson, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”.

Business as usual

So this is how the environmental destruction built into our economic system is concealed. Dealing with this epic contradiction of capitalism would require material trade-offs that challenge identities and interests.

This is why the alternative to “business as usual” is much harder to imagine and much easier to dismiss as the enemy of social well being – what critics so often characterise as going back to living in caves or a return to the “dark ages”.

Such is the supremacy of our current capitalist imagery that it exacts a powerful grip on our thinking and actions. It is a grip strengthened by the promotion of every new “green” product, a grip tightened through the establishment of sustainability functions in business and government, a grip defended with every “offset” we purchase for a flight to a holiday destination.

Ultimately, the “success” or otherwise of the Paris climate talks appears unlikely to challenge the fundamental dynamics underlying the climate crisis. Dramatic decarbonisation based around limits upon consumption, economic growth, and corporate influence are not open for discussion.

Rather, global elites have framed the response around an accentuation of these trends. Until this changes, the dominance of corporate capitalism will ensure the continued rapid unravelling of our habitable climate.

Monday, 21 September 2015

TUC General Council statement on EU referendum

Congress notes that there will be a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union at some time in the next two years, possibly before the 2016 Congress.

Over the years, Congress has consistently expressed support for a European Union that delivers economic prosperity based on social justice, civil and human rights, equality for all and rights at work. However, two developments in the recent period have called the achievements of the EU into question:

i. The part played by the institutions of the EU in intensifying the crisis in Greece, in demanding the imposition of further neo-liberal measures including extensive privatisation and cuts to welfare and social provisions on that country, and in undermining the policies of its democratically elected government.

ii. The EU’s advocacy of CETA, TTIP and similar agreements designed to advance the interests of transnational capital across Europe, opening up public services to marketisation and privatisation and over-riding the policies of elected governments.

These factors reflect the increasing domination of neo-liberal ideology within the European Union and inevitably prejudice the EU’s historic high standing within the labour movement.  There is a danger that these factors can only be exacerbated by David Cameron’s renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s membership. He has made it clear that these include the possibility of a further dilution or even disappearance of EU wide social protections as they apply in Britain.

These protections have included rights for women, part-time, temporary and agency workers, rights in situations of redundancy and information and consultation, rights for working parents and a range of health and safety rights, including limitations on excessive hours and the creation of a work-life balance. The positive benefits that the EU has delivered for working people are recognised – rights which are essential in any modern economy -  and those rights should be  both promoted and strengthened. Congress strongly rejects the attempts being made by the Prime Minister to use the renegotiation process to undermine workers’ rights, to foster divisions around migration, and to promote a Europe for financial and business elites only.

Congress believes that Conservative attempts to obtain an ‘opt-out’ from EU wide protections for UK workers, seeking to water down rights – especially the Working Time Directive and the Temporary Agency Workers Directive – and to impose a moratorium on future employment rights is wrong and counter-productive. Working people, faced with the prospect of a Europe based on insecurity at work and flexibility on employers’ terms, will have little enthusiasm to vote and be even less likely if they do, to vote to stay in the European Union.

We have also consistently argued that Government attempts to restrict benefits for migrants coming from other parts of Europe would herald an attack on everyone’s in-work benefits – a view justified by reports this summer. Some employers will always try to use new entrants to the labour market – women, young workers or migrants – to drive down wages, and we believe the EU has a positive role to play in preventing this exploitation by providing a floor of EU wide fundamental rights and labour standards, including the right to collective bargaining and the protection and enforcement of national level collective agreements. Congress believes that the only effective and acceptable ways to address concerns about free movement are to provide working people with the security against exploitation and undercutting that strong unions and decent rights at work, robustly enforced, would provide; and to expand access to public services and housing, using EU funding that follows migrants so that they can adapt to population changes.

Since the Government announced its plans for the EU Referendum, the TUC has campaigned and lobbied to expose the Government’s anti-worker rights agenda; to press employers to accept the need for a high level of workers’ rights as the quid pro quo for access to the single market; and to persuade other European Governments to reject the agenda of worse rights for working people, including freedom of movement, that the Prime Minister is more or less openly advocating. We have worked closely with other trade unions across Europe in seeking to ensure that their politicians understand that no concessions will satisfy the Prime Minister’s Eurosceptic backbenchers or UKIP, and that such concessions would also undermine support for the European Union in their own countries.

The European Union is Britain’s biggest trading partner, and millions of jobs in Britain aligned to that trade and could be put at risk if the UK left the EU. But we deplore the way in which European political leaders have put narrow sectional interests and the economics of austerity ahead of solidarity with countries facing economic crises - in particular Greece, but also Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain - as well as refugees like those fleeing oppression and war on Europe’s southern borders. We reject the European Union’s support for liberalisation and deregulation, including in trade deals like CETA with Canada and TTIP with the USA, both of which the TUC opposes, measures undermining collective bargaining in Eastern and Southern Europe and judgements of European courts that undermine negotiated sector level agreements providing minimum labour protections.

The TUC will continue to advocate a positive vision of a people’s Europe and reforms that would promote investment for sustainable growth, decent work with good wages and a greater say for people at work. Investment in public infrastructure like social housing, transport, telecommunications and energy efficiency could create 11 million highly skilled and well-paid jobs across Europe. Europe needs a pay rise and an adequate floor of enforceable minimum wages to protect the most vulnerable.

In the run up to the EU Referendum, we will continue to campaign and lobby against the Government’s attempts to further water down Social Europe.  The government and industry needs to understand that neither the TUC position nor the votes of millions of trade unionists can be taken for granted. Workers will not back or support a Europe that fails to protect and enhance the position of working people, citizens and civil society or one that solely works in the narrow interests of global corporations and finance capital. We hope that the Prime Minister’s efforts to weaken workers’ rights will fail but if they do not, we are issuing a warning to the Prime Minister: you will lose our members votes to stay in the EU by worsening workers’ rights. Once the full results of the renegotiation and timetable for the referendum are known the TUC will take stock of our position. However, both the Prime Minister and CBI should note that should he succeed in further undermining British workers rights pressure to put TUC resources and support in the referendum behind a vote to leave the European Union will intensify dramatically.

From the TUC website

Sunday, 20 September 2015

What Piketty Forgot

Written by Noel Ortega, and first published at Alternatives International Journal

The crisis of capitalism isn’t just about the gap between rich and poor. It’s about the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

By now, it’s no secret that French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality. His exhaustive, improbably popular opus of economic history—the 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century—sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Some have called it the most important study of inequality in over 50 years.

Piketty is hardly the first scholar to tackle the linkage of capitalism with inequality. What sets him apart is his relentlessly empirical approach to the subject and his access to never before used data—tax and estate records—that elegantly demonstrates the growing trends of income and wealth inequality. The database he has compiled spans 300 years in 20 different countries.

Exactingly empirical and deeply multidisciplinary, Capital is an extremely important contribution to the study of economics and inequality over the last few centuries. But because it fails to address the real limits on growth—namely our ecological crisis—it can’t be a roadmap for the next.

Inequality and Growth

One of the main culprits of inequality, according to Piketty (and Marx before him), is that investing large amounts of capital is more lucrative than investing large amounts of labor. Returns on capital can be thought of as the payments that go to a small fraction of the population—the investor class—simply for having capital.

In essence, the investor class makes money from money, without contributing to the “real economy.” Piketty demonstrates that after adjusting for inflation, the average global rate of return on capital has been steady, at about 5 percent for the last 300 years (with a few exceptions, such as the World War II years).

The rate of economic growth, on the other hand, has shown a different trend. Before the Industrial Revolution, and for most of our human history, economic growth was about 0.1 percent per year. But during and after the rapid industrialization of the global north, growth increased to a then-staggering 1.5 percent in Western Europe and the United States. By the 1950s and 1970s, growth rates began to accelerate in the rest of the world. While the United States hovered just below 2 percent, Africa’s growth rates caught up with America’s, while rates in Europe and Asia reached upwards of 4 percent.

But as Marx observed in the 19th century, economic growth did little to reduce inequality. In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, wealth has grown ever more concentrated in the hands of the few, even as the pie has gotten bigger. Piketty developed a simple formula to illustrate how wealth gets concentrated: when the average rate of return on capital (r) is greater than the rate of economic growth (g)—in mathematical terms, when r > g.

Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, according to Piketty, the rate of return on capital exceeded that of growth, and inequality blossomed in the industrialized world. But in the 1950s, this trend began to shift—not because of redistributive economic policies, but rather as a consequence of historical calamities in the preceding decades. During this time, aggressive social, economic, and tax policies were ushered in by devastation and destruction.

With these policies set in place, the recovery efforts after the Second World War accelerated growth, which for the first time in recent history exceeded the rate of return on capital—that is, g > r—creating a middle-class.

A Mistaken Model

This was the period when economists and policymakers developed a fetish for economic growth, thanks in part to Simon Kuznets, an influential Belarusian-American economist.

Looking at data spanning from 1913 to 1948, Kuznets concluded—mistakenly, according to Piketty—that in the aggregate, economic growth automatically reduces income inequality. Kuznets argued that a rising tide of industrialization would at first create greater inequality as populations were left behind, but once they began to adapt to the new economic conditions, they would eventually gain access to more wealth as they became fully integrated in the new economic model—in essence closing the wealth gap.

It turns out, though, that the rich just keep getting richer.

This misinterpretation helped justify a quest for perpetual economic growth and free markets, paving the way for massive industrialization, accelerated climate change, and widespread environmental destruction, while simultaneously neglecting the very issue Kuznets set out to address: reducing income inequality.

In Capital, Piketty rigorously applies Kuznets’ analysis to a larger dataset and debunks the argument for perpetual growth. Instead, Piketty concludes that industrialization without any enforceable progressive taxation has actually created greater inequality.

Piketty thus forces liberal and conservative economists alike to rethink their models of growth. But if growth isn’t the answer, what is?

The Limits of Growth

Piketty prescribes a few remedies. But he does not take into serious consideration the limits to growth. He is a traditional Keynesian in this regard, which may be his biggest flaw.

His main prescription—a “progressive tax on global capital”—assumes that a 2-5-percent global growth rate is sustainable in the long run and, with a redistribution of capital, will reduce inequality.

However, he concedes that a progressive tax on global capital is utopian. So instead, he’ll settle for a “regional or continental tax” as the first step towards a progressive tax on global capital—starting in the European Union.

Piketty’s solutions focus more on taxing egregious levels of wealth concentration than on the systemic conditions that incentivize the desire to accumulate egregious amounts of capital in the first place. He seems to believe that pushing tax rates high enough will deter CEOs from pursuing millionaire salaries, and that this can be done without hindering growth. The first is unlikely, and the second misses the real problem with growth.

Piketty spends about four pages of his 700-page tome talking around the limits to growth, but he fails to adequately address the fact that limitless growth—i.e., consumption—is completely unsustainable on a finite planet. Recent reports from NASA, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment conclude that the planet cannot continue on the same path of economic growth if it is to sustain human life.

What this means is that it doesn’t matter if we implement a progressive tax on capital because our planet will not sustain forever a growth rate of even 1 percent annually. A dead planet will support neither high earners nor tax collectors.

Towards a New Economy

All this leads to a larger conundrum.

On the one hand, we have extreme inequality, where many live on less than $2 a day while others have so much wealth that it would require several lifetimes to spend. On the other hand, we have a climate crisis that has imposed limits to growth, so we can’t grow our way into shared prosperity.

The traditional approach to inequality is to bring down those at the top while raising up those at the bottom. But to what level should we bring people, considering our finite planet?

Do we want everyone to live a mythical American middle-class lifestyle? Where every family of four lives in a two-car-garage home with a TV in every room, and every family member has a smart phone, tablet, and computer? Where they take a vacation to the other side of the globe once a year, and send their children away to a university and buy them a car when they are of age?

Is this the standard of living we want for every person on the planet? Obviously it can’t be—it would require at least five Earths.

Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

At the center of the rapidly growing New Economy Movement are ecological balance, shared prosperity, and real democracy. If we can’t find a way to build all three, then the only economy worth measuring is the number of days we have left.

Thankfully, the New Economy Movement is seriously considering the four-fold systemic crisis—ecological, economic, social, and political—to identify a just transition to the next system. Piketty can show us part of the problem, but he can’t show us how to solve it on his own.

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Labour Party Must Die – So that a New Left can be Born

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born”

So wrote Antonio Gramsci, the Italian socialist, in The Prison Notebooks whilst incarcerated in a fascist jail between 1929 and 1935. This is often referred to as the ‘Gramsci paradox’.

This quote came to my mind watching the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide win of the leadership of the Labour Party.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have taken a sceptical view of Corbyn’s chances of getting away with his stated policy aims. The Labour establishment, in and around Parliament, will just not have it.

First we had the Labour Party grandees, Kinnock, Blair, Mandelson, Straw and Brown (in more coded words) and others denouncing Corbyn’s policies as unelectable, during the leadership election.

When Corbyn won last week, several new Labour heirs refused to serve on the front bench, although it is not clear all of them would have been asked to remain anyway. Umanna, Cooper, Reeves, Hunt, Kendal, Leslie, Reed and Reynolds have all retired to the back benches to lick their wounds and plot against the new leader.

But another group of Labour MPs have decided to try and water down Corbyn’s policies that they do not agree with, under the cover of ‘party unity’. Policies, particularly concerning economic strategy, foreign affairs and defence are in their sights for at the very least trimming.

This tack has already borne fruit, with Corbyn’s potentially Eurosceptic views being headed off and him being forced into a U turn on his declared preference for not ruling out Labour campaigning for an EU exit at the forthcoming referendum, until we see what Cameron’s reforms amount to. He was forced to more or less say that Labour will campaign to stay in the EU, however bad Cameron’s reforms are.

Corbyn’s instincts were correct in my view, and I expect this will not be his only U turn on policies that won him the leadership of the party. The Labour establishment just will not accept that the party has changed over last three months and want to return to the Tory light comfort zone of the last twenty years.

I think that Labour is fundamentally un-reformable and probably always has been. Even in the days before new Labour came along. Labour was a road block to any radical policy agenda, and this when conference had some power. In those days, ironically, it was the unions that stopped proper left wing policies being adopted by the party. Now the unions are at the forefront of pushing for change, but it wasn’t always like that.

The only remote chance that Corbyn has of going into the next general election with anything like a radical policy agenda is to mobilise the new members who have joined to support him. But even then there would be a bloody civil war within Labour, which might result in defeat for Corbyn and his supporters. Imagine hundreds of MPs refusing to vote for Corbyn’s preferred policies? And perhaps joining the Lib Dems or Tories?

Something has happened in British politics in the last few months, a thirst for something different has erupted in the Labour Party, although it is only the latest manifestation of this restlessness for change amongst the public. These political earthquakes have been driven by social movements of one kind or another, and in England and US they have attached themselves to one of the established political parties, but in Europe (including Scotland) to a new or different party. My feeling is that the Europeans have got this right.

I think it was Noam Chomsky who said that the US Democrat Party ‘is the graveyard of progressive movements’ and I think the same goes for the Labour Party too. Radical political change will not be achieved through the Labour Party, it is an obstacle to change.

When Corbyn falls or U turns so much to become an English Tsipras, there is a danger that people will just give up. I hope they don’t but instead realise that Labour is not fit for the purpose of change. Only when Labour is killed off for good will a new left movement in this country arise. I like to think that the Green Party will be part of the new untarnished British left that will replace it.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Was Corbyn’s New Style PMQs a Success?

Jeremy Corbyn’s first appearance as Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Question Time unveiled his approach to these weekly set piece events in Parliament. I watched it live on the BBC TV feed and the first thing I noticed was that it was very different to the normal adversarial point scoring style we have come to expect, and that the public says it dislikes.

These sessions can get very boorish at times, but today passed off in a much more subdued, flat even, type of way. Corbyn read out six questions submitted by Labour Party members or the general public in quite a monotone fashion, and this seemed to disarm the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has obviously decided to play along with the new format, for the time being at least.

It would not have looked good if Cameron poured scorn over questions from the public on matters that are important to them, so in the main the point scoring jibes were dropped. However, the questions were not really specific or tight enough, rather they were open questions which Cameron batted away quite comfortably.

If Corbyn is to use this format more often, then I think his team needs to structure the questions and any follow up questions in a more focussed way than was apparent today. PMQs is an opportunity to hold the Prime Minister and his government to account, and to raise the profile of the Opposition Leader in a way that will catch the news head lines.

This might seem cynical, and is, but much as the public complains about the knock about style of Parliamentary questions sessions, most of them only catch about ten seconds of these events on the evening news bulletins. They will notice the different style that was presented today, but will they conclude that Corbyn will be a better Prime Minister than Cameron? Probably not.

But it was a pretty good start by Corbyn, he came over as thoughtful, polite and sincere in his desire to represent what is of concern to the voters, rather than get into a slanging match with Cameron. Overall, I would say it is worth pursuing this experiment, but tweaking it a bit, to add focus.

Whether this approach will last is open to question though. Ed Miliband, when he became Leader of the Opposition in 2010 tried something similar, as did David Cameron when he first assumed the role in 2005. Both abandoned this style fairly quickly, and we were soon back to business as usual.

Far from a disaster for Corbyn, it went reasonably well and something he can build upon for the future. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Lucas / Corbyn Love Affair Ends Over EU Membership Referendum

I don’t know whether Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, reads this blog, but his strategy for the upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) now appears to be remarkably similar to what I recommended here on this blog ten days ago.

Corbyn’s wait and see what David Cameron’s ‘renegotiations’ bring tactic, is a sensible approach. No one seriously expects Cameron to come back with anything good for the people of the UK, so why should the left hand him a ‘blank cheque’ on the issue?

I count myself as a Europhile, but I’m not prepared to vote to stay in the EU at any price at all, and it will just encourage Cameron to take the left voting to stay in the EU for granted, and to pander to UKIP and the right of the Tory party, when it comes to reforms of our membership. Better that he is wary of left voters choosing the exit option and tilting the balance to Brexit.

For Corbyn this is a risk, he knows Labour MPs are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU (at any cost it seems), and at a time when he is trying to unify the Parliamentary Labour Party behind is leadership (under considerable difficulty), the issue has the potential to cause a serious split in Labour.

I expect, if he decides to follow an EU exit route at the referendum, he will use the same tactic as Harold Wilson did in 1975, under similar pressure from pro and anti EU (or common market) MPs in his cabinet and the wider Parliamentary Party.

Wilson allowed Cabinet Ministers to campaign for their preferred option, whilst he campaigned to remain in. This headed off serious trouble in the party, but Wilson was a master of party management. It remains to be seen if Corbyn can do as good a job of it as ‘old Harold’.

Some trade union leaders seem to be contemplating campaigning for exit if Cameron’s reforms are what we expect them to be. Len McClusky of UNITE, Paul Kenny of the GMB and Dave Prentis of UNISON are all making this point at the TUC conference today.

Meanwhile, where does this leave the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and her desire for staying a ‘better, people’s EU?’ Quoted in the Huffington Post, in a piece entitled ‘We Must Stay In The EU, Regardless Of What Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party Says’ she seems to have given up on getting support for this line from Corbyn. Speaking ahead of the TUC conference, Lucas calls for “progressives to unite in support of the European Union”, in opposition to Corbyn’s stance. ‘Progressive’ is a term I dislike intensely, but I think she means those on the broad left (including the Lib Dems).

She goes on to say ‘All too often it (the EU) has been a vehicle for free-trade. But we won’t change the EU by simply shouting from the sidelines.’ Which leads to the obvious retort, ‘How will you get a ‘progressive EU, by simply shouting from the sidelines?’ We have no part in the negotiations, no say, one way or the other.

Because the fact of the matter is, we will not be voting on whether or not Caroline Lucas’ utopian EU becomes a reality, far from it. Corbyn at least suggests that he will try to work with other European left parties to get some positive changes to the EU, but in the end, the only realistic left position could be to vote to leave.

This may even become a dividing line in the Green Party itself as the liberals favour staying but the socialists favour leaving. The Green Party has always been mildly Eurosceptic, preferring political decisions to be taken at the lowest possible democratic level, unlike the remote EU, it may be time to display this scepticism rather than parrot the uber pro-EU line of the Liberal Democrats.  

All of the old political certainties are falling by the wayside with Corbyn’s election, the Greens should get with the times. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Video - Here’s What a Commons-Based Economy Looks Like

Michel Bauwens, founder of the peer-to-peer foundation, gives a description of the overview of the transformation proposal. The three key responses we see from the world in crisis can be grouped as the movements around Sustainability, Openness and Solidarity, gives the starting blocks, working into the bridges between them, the political structures (both local and global) and the economic enablement required to assist the transition.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Corbyn’s Landslide Win in the Labour Leadership Election is a Mandate for Change

So, Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of the Labour Party, winning almost 60% of the first preference votes in a stunning victory over the right wing establishment in the party. You can see the full results of the ballot for leader and deputy leader on the Labour Party website here.

You will see from these results that Corbyn won easily in each of the three sections eligible to vote, members, affiliated members (union members) and registered supporters. This is significant given the hysteria whipped up around ‘infiltrators’ in the registered supporters section and gives Corbyn a popular mandate for the man himself and more importantly for the policies he advocated during the campaign.

But the really hard work begins now for Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party. As I reported on this blog here there are elements in the party, particularly amongst MPs, that will not be at all happy about this result.  Leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall along with Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Tristram Hunt, Emma Reynolds and Jamie Reed  have all resigned from Labour’s front bench immediately after the ballot result was announced.

They have all attempted to be gracious offering congratulations to Corbyn and saying the party must remain united etc, but the message is clear, they will keep their heads down for a while, and await an opportunity to remove him. This is the only thing they can do for now because it would not look good to ignore a democratic vote of the party, but they will calculate that their moment will come, probably in the not too distant future.

Other Labour MPs will try to ‘moderate’ Corbyn’s policies from within the shadow cabinet, much in the same way that Ed Miliband’s leftish instincts were watered down by his colleagues, although Corbyn may be more resistant than Miliband was.  

Labour’s opinion poll rating will be watched closely, and if it fails to improve, murmurings will begin. The first electoral test for Corbyn’s Labour will be at next year’s London Mayor and Assembly elections (plus local authority elections). Labour does well in London and so if Sadiq Khan fails to win the London mayoralty and they do not control the Assembly, Corbyn will be blamed and the murmurings will get louder. Expect Blairite figures in the party to appear in the media denouncing the ‘lurch to the left’ and the stating the impossibility of winning the 2020 general election, at this stage.

Next will be the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU), where Corbyn appears to be hedging his bets, but Labour is pretty solidly in favour of remaining in the EU, so this issue has the potential to cause splits if Corbyn comes down on the side of leaving.

Ex-Labour leader and Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously observed that ‘a week is a long time in politics’ so four and a half years is an absolute eternity, and much will happen before 2020. As another former (Conservative) Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan when asked what was the most difficult thing about politics, replied ‘events, dear boy, events’.

The Tories and their friends in the media will relentlessly attack Corbyn’s Labour as a danger to the country’s fortunes, everything from defence through foreign policy to economics. Make no mistake about it, Corbyn is in for some rough treatment and he will be under tremendous pressure. I have my doubts whether he will survive until 2020 as Labour leader.

But having said that, I didn’t think he had any chance of becoming Labour leader a couple of months ago, and I was dead wrong there. Perhaps Corbyn will rise to all of the many challenges that will be presented to him, and manage to galvanise his strong support amongst the Labour membership at large to push through his agenda, and it may even be popular with the voters.

Maybe, this is the long overdue turn of the political wheel. It is forty years since Margaret Thatcher was elected as Conservative Party leader on a radical agenda which changed British politics away from the post second world war consensus, to the neo-liberal  political economy we have suffered ever since. Things in politics go in cycles, it could be that Corbyn’s victory today signals a change towards a new era in British politics.

I wish him well.   

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Jill Stein - US Green Party Presidential Candidate 2016

I recently spoke to an American ecosocialist friend who is not a member of the US Green Party, but he assessed Jill Stein as 'to the left of centre in the US Green Party'. He did however qualify this by saying that the US Greens vary hugely in different parts of the country.

Similiar to the England and Wales Greens, but given the vast size of the US, the variation is perhaps even greater. Indeed, the US Greens do not really exist as a national party, except for running in the US presidential election.

Below is her 'Power to the People' manifesto for next year's presidential election.

A Green New Deal:

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

Jobs as a Right:

Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Advance workers rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.

End Poverty:

Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

Health Care as a Right:

Establish an improved “Medicare For All” single-payer public health insurance program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings.

Education as a Right:

Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.

A Just Economy:

Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage. Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve. Reject gentrification as a model of economic development. Support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses. Make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Create democratically run public banks and utilities. Replace corporate trade agreements with fair trade agreements.

Protect Mother Earth:

Lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. End destructive energy extraction: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, and uranium mines. Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe. Protect the rights of future generations.

Freedom and Equality:

End police brutality, mass incarceration and institutional racism within our justice system. Expand women’s rights, protect LGBT people from discrimination, defend indigenous rights and lands, and create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants. Protect the free Internet, replace drug prohibition with harm reduction, and legalize marijuana/hemp.

Justice for All:

Restore our Constitutional rights, terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, end persecution of government and media whistleblowers, close Guantanamo, abolish secret kill lists, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Peace and Human Rights:

Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament.

Empower the People:

Abolish corporate personhood. Protect voters’ rights by establishing a constitutional right to vote.  Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.