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How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

Naomi Klein speaks to The VOAG (Well kind of)Irrigation

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high emitting industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.The VOAG is everywhere

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SF Logo2The Marxist theory of the state:
Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States

From Socialist Fight (British Section, Liaison Committee for the Fourth International) 
The post WWII debate in the Fourth International of the late 1940s and early 1950s on the class character of the ‘Buffer States’ in Eastern Europe was resurrected in 1989-92 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR following the Yanayev coup and Yeltsin’s counter-coup of August 1991. We will see from the struggles we have outlined below that the Stalinist bureaucracies became divided into three camps following the defeat of the Brezhnevites by Gorbachev in 1989; those Gorbechevites on the left who wished to retain the degenerate and deformed workers’ states by opening up the economic plan by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), those in the middle (Yanayev and Deng in China) who sought the restoration of capitalism by slow, planned measures, maintaining the Stalinist bureaucracy as the vehicle of restoration and those on the right like Yeltsin who sought a rapid capitulation to western Imperialism and their own enrichment by plundering the state assets in alliance with western transnational corporations. We can observe at least elements of these three tendencies in most of the counter-revolutionary overturns of 1989-92.

The first debate on the nature of the East European countries behind the ‘iron curtain’ in the FI in the late 1940s eventually resulted in the correct conclusion that they were deformed workers’ states, but much confusion remained. We will look at the position again as it emerged in the debate over the class character of Cuba in the early 1960s and the debate about the class character of Cambodia in the late 1970s following the invasion by Vietnam on 25 December 1978. And of course, as we have mentioned, the debate following the victory of the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism in Eastern European and Asian states in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading

Save Our Fire ServiceSupport The FBU Strike next week

FBU, 23/09/2013
For two years now our Officials have been in consultation with the  Government under its reform of public sector pension bill, the FBU’s aim is to achieve an occupational pension scheme that fits our occupation that is to say that one that the vast majority of firefighters can reasonable expect to work until retirement. However just before Parliament broke up for its summer recess it announced to the FBU that it was going to draw to a head the consultation and gave us a deadline to agree with their proposals or they would impose a worse scheme upon us. The FBU could not agree with the proposals put forward by CLG as primarily they are unworkable, do not fit the occupation and would lead to mass dismissals of firefighters without a pension or a job but also the FBU do not consider that putting ultimatums to our members is a good way of doing business.
There has been many independent reports completed over the two years, some commissioned by the FBU and some by the Government. This evidence has been used in the consultation and not once has it been disputed or discredited as these reports and evidence is without doubt credible and accurate and the  government ministers can not dispute the findings which broadly support the FBU’s case but more importantly prove that the government proposals are unfair, unaffordable, unsustainable and not designed to fit our occupation. The most notable is an independent report done by Dr Williams, commissioned by the  government, paid for by the government, the author was chosen by the government and the terms and reference was detailed by the government, yet the report their report broadly supports the FBU’s case.
The FBU balloted its members to see if they were willing to take Strike action to defend their Pensions, the Ballot return was excellent 78% “Yes” to support industrial action so our members will be called to walk out the doors at 12:00hrs-16:00hrs on the 25th September, this Wednesday.
Many of our Stations/Workplaces will have a picket but some are considering other activities such as leaving the site and walking into their towns to talk to the public, some are considering marching down to their local MP’s offices and discussing the issues with them. So I guess it would be best if comrades from other trade unions or local supporters and activists want to know what might be happening in their local area please contact the local officials who will be happy to advise.The VOAG

Leabank Project Ltd (A Not-For-Profit Ltd Company) Public Meeting.
Stop The Alisa Street Waste Management Development!
February 18, 2012. Truissler Hall Community Centre, Poplar.

The VOAG has been on holiday in East London. And together with a local activist, attended a public meeting “To Consider the proposal of Tower Hamlets Council that land in Ailsa Street be reserved for a waste management facility, to assess the likely consequence of this, and to agree if possible on how best the people of Poplar may respond.”

The 5.8 hectare site comprises of a long strip of land running between the River Lea and the A12. At the north end of the plot lies ACME House and the A12/Glender Street junction. The Southern limit is adjacent to Aberfeldy Street. The site is dissected East-West by Alisa Street and Lochnagar Street, which run parallel to each other and divide the site in to a northern part and a southern part.                                                       Proposed waste facility site
The Northern half of the land is used for a mixture of industrial activities and a small waste transfer station. The Southern half is largely disused land, a former primary school and some warehousing. Within the area lies Bromley High School, a listed building, with two more graded buildings on its boundaries. The site borders the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates.

Tower Hamlets intends to use this space for a waste transfer station to eventually deal with the entire boroughs waste, estimated to be around 300,000 tonnes. The facility will receive the waste from domestic collection lorries and store it until it is carried off by larger vehicles for subsequent treatment or disposal. The plan will mean an extra 200 trucks will travel down the A12 and along the A13. Just south of the location, opposite the Aberfeldy Neighbourhood Centre, on land presently housing a gas works, there is a plan – already approved – to build a primary school, a housing development, and a public park to link up with the Lea River Park.

The Tower Hamlets Local Development framework, which calls for the waste site, says it must be “integrated in to its surroundings”. It “should minimise negative impacts on the environment, transport and amenities and respect the surrounding environment”. It should also “protect heritage assets on the site and surrounding area”; “address noise and air pollution”, “enable ‘activation of the river side”, and “improve walking and cycling access and connections”.

John Baker, the founder and director of Leabank Project, presented the case that the proposal for the waste transfer station made no reference to the planned gas works redevelopment. Neither plan takes account of the impacts one would have on the other. The waste management facility would negatively impact the development planned for the gas works site. He told the meeting that lorries entering and leaving the site would significantly increase traffic congestion and pollution along the A12 and A13. He said that the river side will suffer and access to it would be further restricted. For these reasons he believed the waste facility proposal was incompatible with the council’s own Local Development Framework, and there were better uses for such a river side location.
  




John Baker is also the treasurer and founding director of Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service Ltd, a registered charity which is endorsed by the mayor and funded by the council. Its web site says it aims to “Provide ‘third sector’ organisations with the necessary support, information and services to enable them to pursue or contribute to any charitable purpose.” According to THCVS’ February e-bulletin, their Council funding was overdue and in a recent letter John Baker had asked the mayor for an assurance their funding wasn’t going to be cut.

Previously, in January 2006, John Baker was one of the founding Directors of New Mill Consultants. It was originally set up by Poplar HARCA – a large, not-for-profit, social landlord – as a group of residents to provide the government’s Guide Neighbourhoods Programme. The centrally funded programme is “awarded to social housing groups to “encourage regeneration, empower and include residents in planning decisions and promote a range of environmental and social benefits”. Once the residents group was established it incorporated as a company and operated independently of Poplar HARCA. After six months John Baker resigned.

New Mill founded the Linc Cafe as a drop in and advice centre. Its web site says: “the company provides professional courses and consultancy services to community and residents groups” and has helped to set up residents trusts. Between 2002 and September 05, John Baker was also a director of Poplar HARCA.

John Baker made the case that the riverside should be “recovered and developed with houses, shops and leisure facilities. I don’t even mind luxury flats” he said. “There should be protest and unanimous opposition to the plans”, But he continued: “the campaign must submit viable waste management alternatives. A NIMBY attitude will not be good enough to dissuade the council”. “What we need is more information, research and more residents’ participation”.

“The council has other vacant land available. Houses have been good investments recently in the area, due to environmental improvements and investment from the council and housing associations. If the plans go ahead property prices will fall. Public money spent on regeneration projects will also be wasted” John Baker said, “because the value of the investment will decrease with the property values. Businesses and landlords will also suffer”. “Poplar HARCA, many councillors, and the MP Jim Fitzpatrick have all stated their support for the campaign”.

“Tower Hamlets Council have been working on the proposals for months, yet the idea has never been discussed in public. Their scheme only came to light when it was included in the 212-page Tower Hamlets’ Development Plan Document (DPD) – part of the Local Development Framework – buried on pages 127-9 and 130!. There followed a wholly inadequate, six week consultation period during which most residents were unaware of the plans”.

I counted seventy people, seated in groups of five, around tables. Most were residents from the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates. There were four landowners, and a couple of ‘small businessmen’. Representatives from Poplar HARCA, one of whom was another director of Leabank Project, were also present.There were four councillors present. Three of them were on the board of Poplar HARCA. They all voiced their opposition to the plans. However, Cllr. Shiria Khatun pointed out that: “There was a shortage of alternative land. Transporting the waste out of Tower Hamlets would be costly and not the best environmental solution. There were options that could be looked at for example locating the facility underground or autoclaving the waste instead of moving or incinerating it.”.

Autoclaving, treats the waste by sealing it in tanks and passing high pressured steam through it. The majority of waste is biodegradable which is shredded into strands. There are presently no plants of this kind in the UK, and there is no market for the resultant biomass. Glasgow Council has been advocating large scale autoclaving, but recently distanced itself from the process, opening up its waste disposal contract to tenders with alternatives to autoclaving. Autoclaving is energy intensive, and since there is no market for the resultant biomass it usually ends up in land fill where it degrades to produce methane, a ‘greenhouse gas’.

John Baker, knew almost everyone in the meeting. In a gesture to the landowners, “who have not been allowed to develop or sell ‘their’ land, he said: ”Housing should be developed on the site, I don’t mind luxury flats, we need proper returns for the landowners. The Deputy Mayor, independent Councillor Ohid Ahmed joined in: “We want housing on the site, that’s what the developers want”. John Baker hands petition to Dpt Mayor Ohid Ahmed
The Deputy Mayor giggled nervously and looked bemused as he addressed the audience. He was obviously unprepared to speak to the meeting. He said “the council did not support a waste facility in Poplar”. “After the Fish Island site was decided against as a location for the waste plant, we had to come up with an alternative place to put it – for reporting and central government purposes. – To fulfil our statutory obligations. We have no intention of actually putting it there”. He went on to say that many of the businesses in and around the proposed site were sited on illegally held land. The VOAG found these remarks astounding, but they went completely ignored and unchallenged.

One of the Landowners spoke to the meeting. He was a friend of John Baker. He suggested smaller waste sites spread across the borough as an alternative, which could be used to produce electricity or gas. “I’m not a business man, coming in from outside the borough just to make money.” he said.

Several residents spoke out from the floor. One said:”they’re not thinking of the residents, they just think about themselves.”. Another said:”we must persuade the council” Another resident called the estates “the forgotten estates”. Labour councillor, Rajib Ahmed, also spoke to the meeting. He said that London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) has the power to over-ride Tower Hamlets Council (THC). Cllr. Kosru Uddin, Development Committee member and board member of the (LTGDC) added: “The (LTGDC) is being disbanded in the Autumn. Some of its powers will be transferred to THC, whilst others will go to the newly formed London Mayoral Development Corporation, which will have to approve any plans of THC once the powers have been transferred.

Shiria Khatun, Councillor

Oddly it seemed, John Baker stressed several times that the mayor and the council were not responsible for the decision to build the waste plant. It was “down to an officers job and ‘administration”. John Baker was at great pains not to criticise the council executive especially the mayor. Cllr. Shiria Khatun addressed the meeting. “London Thames Gateway dictates that THC must have a plan for waste management, but it must take into consideration air quality and nature reserves”. She emphasised that it was the mayor and the executive that was responsible, not the “clerks and council officers” as John Baker had said earlier. “You must demand another meeting with the mayor” she urged the meeting. The Labour Councillor went on to suggest Leabank Project organise a lobby of the council and apply to speak to a council meeting.

Cllr. Khatun, together with another councillor was sitting at the same table as the VOAG. At one point she whispered in my ear “why don’t you speak, go on ask John Baker why he doesn’t want top blame the mayor”. Naturally, the VOAG said nothing. The VOAG has never been to a meeting quite like this. Hidden agendas hung like shadows between the lines of everyone that spoke. It has become clear to the VOAG since the meeting, that the reason John Baker is reluctant to criticise the mayor is because the mayor is holding the funding for the Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service which John Baker is a director of.

The VOAG noted that although the councillors, one independent and three Labour, arrived more or less at the same time, they entered the hall separately and sat as far away from each other as possible. There was a tension between the councillors and also between two of the councillors and John Baker. The source of this tension and the issues behind it, are not quite clear to The VOAG – yet.It was all-in-all an intriguing meeting which left open many questions regarding a serious local issue. There were many different concerns and contradicting agendas represented. What did the councillor mean when he said “the council had no intention of putting the waste facility on the site”? Are the councillors seriously opposed to the project? What are the interests of the landowners? How does the close relationship between the various stakeholder organisations and the councillors effect the dynamics of the debate? And lastly; what on earth was the councillor referring to when he said “many of the businesses were sited on illegally held land”. But as you know: The VOAG is always watching!

TUSC, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to challenge for a seat on London Assembly

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), made up of trade union members and socialists, is to stand candidates in the Greater London Election on 3 May to challenge the all-party support for the government’s austerity cuts and pay freeze.

The coalition expects to win support from trade unionists and other voters who are angered by the recent statements of Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, in which they stated that they will not reverse the Government’s cuts and that they support its pay freeze.

A list of candidates will challenge in the ‘top up’ section of the election and if it wins at least 5% of the vote across the whole of London it could win at least one place on the 25-seat Greater London Assembly.

The coalition has already selected prominent London trade union leaders such as Alex Gordon, the national president of the RMT rail and maritime union and Steve Hedley the RMT’s London Transport regional organiser, Ian Leahair, the Fire Brigades Union executive committee member for the capital, Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association and Martin Powell-Davies, who is the London representative on the national committee of the NUT teachers union.

The Labour Party will be concerned that many public sector workers who participated in the 30 November pensions’ strike may be moved to vote for this coalition because of the failure of Labour leaders to support the walk-out.

Labour leaders will also be worried that rank and file union members of Labour affiliated unions could press for their funds to go to a party like TUSC instead of to Labour.

Steve Hedley, whose RMT union was expelled from the Labour Party in 2004 for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, said, “We need candidates who support the ordinary man and woman. TUSC is the only organisation that opposes all cuts, defends pensions and benefits for all working people. Labour just wants a compliant, silent union movement to hand over its money. TUSC will be a voice for all workers and will support trade unions in struggle.”

TUSC national committee member Nick Wrack, who is also a candidate, said, “London is a city of stark contrasts. There is a huge amount of poverty amidst the plenty. Corporate bosses and bankers still get their million pound pay and pension packages while one in six London workers is paid less than the Mayor’s £8.30 per hour living wage. Millions are suffering from the cuts to services and benefits yet last year the city paid out over £4 billion in bonuses. It’s extremely hard even for those on better wages to make ends meet. We believe that there is an opportunity for a party that will speak up for working-class London to make a real break-through and that would begin to change the nature of political debate in Britain today.” TUSC believes it can get a candidate elected if it wins at least 150,000 votes across London.

Candidates selected for the TUSC GLA list so far include (in alphabetical order):
April Ashley, UNISON National Executive Committee

Alex Gordon, RMT President
Steve Hedley, RMT London regional organiser
Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive Committee
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive
Joe Simpson, POA assistant secretary
Jenny Sutton, UCU Chair, London Regional Committee (FE)
Nick Wrack, TUSC national committee member (former chair of Socialist Alliance and Respect)
There will also be candidates from the CWU postal union and the PCS public service workers union.
(All standing in a personal capacity)

The final list is not yet decided. Other candidates are still being considered.
The FBU has 5,500 members in London.
The RMT has over 12,000 members in London Underground alone

 TUSC CONFERENCE: Saturday 28 January 2012,
11:00am – 4:00pm, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY
http://www.tusc.org.uk

ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) Conference

I left the comforting hills of Surrey today, Saturday 7th January, to attend the ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) conference.

I was impressed with the conference. The discussions were sensible; the conference well-organised, and the attendance was around 100 people.  

The conference was devoted to community action and organising issues. There were no theoretical or historical sessions. Several discussions referred to the August riots and to police repression. The conference had some good ideas about how to link the two issues and build connections amongst the youth to promote grass-roots organisation.

One idea was a poster campaign on estates, explaining legal rights under ‘Stop and Search’ laws, followed-up by legal-rights workshops. Also to support existing groups, for example, various local Police Monitoring Groups.

One contribution spoke of those who have been convicted of offences, relating to demonstrations or the August riots, as political prisoners: “Everyone who is charged with offences relating to demonstrations or riots, should be supported throughout their legal process and any subsequent sentence. Support should also be given to those effected by the riots, such as those made homeless”.

The Legal Defense Group added that their organisation provided support to political defendants in court. They appealed for more volunteers, and suggested that everyone who gets arrested and released without charge, or is wrongly accused, or mistreated by the police, should sue the police and donate some of the money to such groups.

It was a good conference, well worth attending.

Meeting on Total Policing @ LSE. With the London Met Police Commissioner
16th January, 6.30 – 8.30

WEB:              http://www.soundthealarm.org.uk
F/B Group: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Alarmists

Even the New York Times’ support for the TNC “Libyan Rebels” is wavering it seems.
Below is a report by C.J. Chivers of the NYT. published July 10th.

Looting and Arson in Qawalish The village of Qawalish sits on the rolling high ground of the mountains of western Libya, a small collection of houses, shops and a mosque astride a single two-lane asphalt road. By the time the fighters opposed to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had chased away pro-Qaddafi forces last week, the battle for this tiny place, all but unknown by outsiders until that day, had provided several scenes that offered insights into how the rebel campaign is being conducted here.

Like those elsewhere in Libya, the fighters here share a sense of common purpose: the belief that their uprising represents a long-awaited chance to topple an ossified, brutal and corrupt regime. But also like that of rebels in the east, their performance on the battlefield is uneven, often unnerving, and at times at odds with the interests of their cause. All of this emerged in the kaleidoscopically mixed picture they presented as they pressed forward last week.

In Qawalish, rebel bungling and crime played out beside pockets of militarily impressive behavior. And then matters turned worse. Ultimately, the contradictory scenes along a single stretch of road underscored a shortage of strong commanders at the front, or at least of commanders who adhered to the pledges of the National Transitional Council, the de facto rebel authority, to respect human rights and the laws of war. And this raised worrisome questions.

Minutes after Qawalish fell last Wednesday, none of the village’s residents remained. They had bolted. There were signs, however, that until the rebels had arrived, at least some villagers had been present. The bazaar was still stocked with fresh vegetables, as if it had been working while the pro-Qaddafi forces held the town. The bakery had loaves of fresh bread. And little in the town appeared to have been disturbed as the town changed hands. Then the storm hit. The rebels began helping themselves to the fuel in Qawalish’s only gas station. Then an armed rebel wheeled about the road on a children’s bicycle he had apparently just taken from a home. A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops, and beginning to sweep through them.

At the time, rebels said they were carefully searching and securing the town. But their behavior soon raised questions, including: Was something besides military necessity taking hold? The next day the questions became more pressing. Houses that had not been burning the previous day were afire, and shops were being aggressively looted by armed men in rebel attire. Every few minutes, a truck would pass by on the road, headed back toward Zintan loaded with what seemed to be stolen goods. Animal feed appeared to be a favorite item to carry off. Several trucks an hour carried away bales of hay and sacks of grain.

The rebels at the checkpoints at the town’s edge did nothing to stop any of this. The town, in short, was being looted by the rebels, and vandalized, and worse. The destruction was not total — five of the town’s scores of houses were on fire. But what would their owners think? And what kind of message was being sent to the people of this town? One eerie aspect of life now in western Libya is the number of villages near the front where no civilians are present, even weeks after falling to rebel hands. This is not exactly a novel sight for a continuing, fluid war. In some cases, the emptiness would seem to be related to infrastructure and scarce supply. Shortages of food and water, a lack of electricity — these are conditions that discourage the return of families who fled.

In other cases, the risks of incoming high-explosive rockets from the Qaddafi forces can keep much of a population away. But support for the rebels is not full-throated and uniform in several mountain towns — the village of El Harabah still flies the green flag of the Qaddafi government, for example. And there is a fair question here, after watching the rebels damage Qawalish and steal its residents’ possessions, about whether suspicions about villagers’ affiliations and tribes have given life to rebel crimes, which in turn have caused civilians to flee. Researchers from Human Rights Watch have been roaming the abandoned villages of the mountains, trying to answer these very questions; their findings could be released as soon as this week.

There are tantalizing clues that factional rivalries are in play — the sort of social kindling that could make the ground war uglier as it nears Tripoli, Libya’s capital, where more people who have enjoyed government patronage have their businesses and homes. One of the buildings being looted in Qawalish late last week bore a scratched-on label in Arabic. “Mashaashia,” it read. This was a tag indicating the presence of a tribe that has enjoyed the support of the Qaddafi government, and that rebels say is in turn the source of many pro-Qaddafi soldiers.

Had the rebels helped themselves to shopkeepers’ goods because they believed they were wrongly aligned? As one house burned inside near the road and rebels openly stole from the town’s few stores, the question by late last week was whether what was happening was the opportunistic looting of an inexperienced quasi-military force, which was suffering the same shortages as everyone else, or something punitive and potentially much worse. Either behavior would be a crime under any notion of modern law, though the first might not set into motion long-term grievances while the second might be taken as an indicator that as this war smolders on, the possibility of unleashing bitterness between tribes and Qaddafi-era political factions grows each day.

By Sunday evening, the rebel license to loot had run almost its full course, and any such distinctions were fast slipping away. All of the shops in the town had been ransacked, several more homes were burned, and the town’s gas station, in fine condition when Qawalish fell, had been vandalized to the point of being dismantled. In building after building, furniture was flipped over, dishes and mirrors shattered, and everything torn apart.

Except for a few rebels roaming the streets in cars and trucks, the town was deserted — a shattered, emptied ghost town decorated with broken glass. Fully sorting out the motivations behind what happened in Qawalish would take more time. Multiple victims and participants in the looting and the arson would have to be found and interviewed separately to gain a credible sense of whether Qawalish’s residents had been targets because of their tribal or other affiliations, or, almost as important, whether the residents believed they had. But for now, none of the villagers could be found. And the rebels were hardly talking. What was obvious and beyond dispute by Sunday was only this: Whatever their motivation, the behavior of rebels in Qawalish, who have been supported by the NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi, was at odds with the NATO mandate to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and at odds with rebel pledges to free and protect the Libyan population.

Moreover, the leadership of the Free Libyan Forces, for all the statements otherwise, appeared to lack the ability or inclination to prevent these crimes. When asked on Sunday about the looting and arson, the former Qaddafi military colonel who commands fighters in the mountains, Mukhtar Farnana, had little to say beyond being careful to insist that any looting was not officially sanctioned. “I haven’t any idea about that,” he said. “We did not give an order or information to do it.”

The problem could be framed another way: that the rebel commanders did not do enough to stop it. In a small town like Qawalish, what happened was, from a military perspective, preventable. A standing post or a few patrols each day to the shops, a checkpoint or two at the town’s edge with fighters checking identification, instructing their colleagues not to steal and stopping cars departing the town with stolen goods — these might have been enough. Instead, the capture of Qawalish has shown that as the war grinds through its fifth month, the rebels, emboldened by NATO support and fired with the certitude that now is their time, risk suspending the distinction between right and wrong.

As the rebels talk of pushing toward Tripoli, they risk embarrassing their backers, losing international support and fueling exactly the kind of war they have insisted they and NATO would prevent. The rebels say they plan to push further through the mountains soon, toward the city of Garyan. Will the villages along the way suffer Qawalish’s fate?

        As The United States declines trade war looms

In the wake of the fractious International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting held October 9-10 in Washington, the descent into global currency and trade war has accelerated, with the United States playing the role of instigator-in-chief.

The US is deliberately encouraging a sell-off of dollars on international currency markets in order to raise the relative exchange rates of its major trade rivals, increasing the effective price of their exports to the US while cheapening US exports to their markets.

While largely responsible for the growing financial disorder, Washington is accusing China, in particular, of jeopardizing global economic recovery by refusing to more quickly raise the exchange rate of its currency, the renminbi (also known as the yuan). By working to drive down the value of the dollar, the US government and the Federal Reserve Board are placing ever greater pressure on the Chinese to revalue, ignoring warnings from Beijing that a rapid rise in its currency will harm its export industries, leading to mass layoffs and social unrest.

The protectionist cheap-dollar policy has an important domestic political function as well. It aims to divert growing public anger over the refusal of the government to provide jobs or serious relief to the unemployed away from the Obama administration and Congress and toward China and “foreigners” more generally. Among its most enthusiastic supporters is the trade union bureaucracy.

The US Commerce Department report Thursday that the US trade deficit widened nearly 9 percent in August, primarily due to a record $28 billion deficit with China, will be used to justify further trade war pressure against China.

The US policy and the growth of international tensions were on full display at the IMF meeting in Washington. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner declared China’s currency to be undervalued and demanded that the IMF take a harder line against surplus countries, such as China, that fail to revalue their currencies and accept a reduction in their exports.

China’s central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, charged that expectations that the US Federal Reserve would pump yet more dollars into the markets through quantitative easing were compounding imbalances and swamping emerging economies with destabilizing capital inflows.

With the representatives of the world’s first- and second-largest economies at loggerheads, the IMF failed to arrive at any agreement on the currency crisis. Washington’s allies such as Germany and Japan indicated support for a revaluation of the renminbi, but they balked at lining up behind a US-led diplomatic offensive against Beijing.

This, in effect, postponed the US-China confrontation until the upcoming G20 summit of leading economies, to be held November 11-12 in Seoul, South Korea.

The ensuing week saw an escalation of Washington’s cheap-dollar policy, as the Federal Reserve Board gave further indications that it plans to resume the electronic equivalent of printing hundreds of billions dollars, so-called “quantitative easing,” perhaps as soon as its next policy-setting meeting November 2-3. While it is doing so in the name of stimulating job creation, the main effect of a renewal of Fed purchases of US Treasury securities will be to increase the supply of virtually free credit to the major US banks and corporations and fuel a further rise in stocks and corporate profits.

Since August, when the Fed took the first steps toward the large-scale resumption of debt purchases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by more than 10 percent despite continuing declines in US payrolls.

In a much-anticipated speech Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke broadly hinted that he favored an early resumption of quantitative easing. Speaking of the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), he said, “Given the Committee’s objectives, there would appear—all things being equal—to be a case for further action.”

Bernanke took the highly unusual step of declaring that the present inflation rate is too low and making clear that the Fed’s policy going forward will be to raise the rate of inflation to around 2 percent by means of monetary stimulus. “Thus, in effect,” he said, “inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate [to maintain price stability and contain unemployment] in the longer run.” [Bernanke’s emphasis].

The call for an inflationary monetary policy is not driven, as Bernanke would have the public believe, by a desire to significantly bring down the jobless rate. The Fed would not declare that inflation is too low unless it was confident that continued high unemployment will enable big business to proceed with its wage-cutting drive and prevent a rebound in wages.

In giving his speech, Bernanke was well aware that simply talking of quantitative easing and a policy of reflation would spark a further sell-off of US dollars. In the event, the renewed decline in the dollar, which began after the IMF meeting, accelerated on Friday.

On a trade-weighted basis, the dollar dropped 0.7 percent to a new low for the year after Bernanke spoke, and the Australian dollar reached parity for the first time since it was freely floated in 1983. The US greenback also fell to parity with the Canadian dollar.

In addition, the dollar fell to a new low against the Swiss franc. Virtually all Asian currencies rose versus the dollar, gold hit a new record high, and other commodities such as silver, copper and corn continued their upward spiral.

The dollar is now at 15-year lows against the yen and nine-month lows against the euro. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a scathing editorial bluntly summing up the currency- and trade-war implications of Bernanke’s speech. It began: “Amid the dollar rout of the 1970s, Treasury Secretary John Connally famously told a group of fretting Europeans that the greenback `is our currency, but your problem.’ If you read between the lines, that’s also more or less what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday as he made the case for further Fed monetary easing.”

The editorial continued: “In a nearly 4,000-word speech, the Fed chief never once mentioned the value of the dollar. He never mentioned exchange rates, despite the turmoil in world currency markets as the dollar has fallen in anticipation of further Fed easing… The chairman’s message is that the Fed is focused entirely on the domestic US economy and will print as many dollars as it takes to reflate it. The rest of the world is on its own and can adjust its policies as various countries see fit. If other currencies soar in relation to the dollar, that’s someone else’s problem.”

Earlier in the week, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf published a column similarly pointing to the unilateralist and nationalist essence of US policy. “In short,” Wolf wrote, “US policymakers will do whatever is required to avoid deflation. Indeed, the Fed will keep going until the US is satisfactorily reflated. What that effort does to the rest of the world is not its concern…

“Instead of cooperation on adjustment of exchange rates and the external account, the US is seeking to impose its will, via the printing press… In the worst of the crisis, leaders hung together. Now, the Fed is about to hang them all separately.”

The Financial Times on Friday gave some indication of growing anger within Europe over US monetary policy, quoting a “senior European policymaker” as calling the Fed’s policy “irresponsible.” The article cited Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying one reason for the exchange rate turmoil “is the stimulating monetary policy of some developed countries, above all the United States, which are trying to solve their structural problems in this way.”

Following Bernanke’s speech on Friday, the Obama administration announced two further moves in its confrontation with China. The Treasury Department delayed the release of its semiannual assessment of the currency policies of major US trade counterparts, saying it would withhold the statement until after next month’s G20 summit in Seoul.

The administration is under pressure from leading Democratic lawmakers, backed by the unions, to declare China a currency manipulator in the currency assessment, an action that could lead to retaliatory duties and tariffs against Chinese imports. The administration, however, has resisted such an overtly hostile move that would, moreover, preempt G20 discussions on the currency issue. It prefers to build a coalition of European and Asian states against China.

At the same time, however, largely to placate protectionist hawks in the Democratic Party, the US trade representative announced that he was launching an investigation into a claim filed by the United Steelworkers union charging China with unfair and illegal subsidies to its green energy industry.
Global impact of US monetary policy

Washington’s cheap-dollar policy increases the pressure on the major surplus countries—China, Germany and Japan—as well as the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America to respond by devaluing their own currencies to offset the trade advantage of rivals with falling currencies, first and foremost the United States.

This is the classic scenario of competitive devaluations and “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s and produced a fracturing of the world market into hostile trade and currency blocs, ultimately leading to World War II.

All of the major powers and rising economic nations solemnly foreswore precisely this course of action at international meetings following the outbreak of the financial crisis in September 2008. It has taken less than two years for this much-touted global coordination to collapse into mutual threats and outright economic warfare.

Germany and Japan, while more than happy to force China to raise its exchange rate and prepared to fire some shots across China’s bow toward that end, are reluctant to fully enlist in Washington’s anti-Chinese crusade since they know that they too are targeted by the Fed’s cheap dollar policy.

Last month, Japan, whose currency has risen by more than 10 percent against the dollar over the past year, retaliated with a massive and unilateral one-day sell-off of yen, and this month the Japanese central bank announced a further lowering of its key interest rate and its own program of quantitative easing, through central bank purchases of $60 billion in Japanese government bonds.

Emerging economies such as South Korea, Thailand, India, Taiwan and Brazil are reeling from the upward pressure on their exchange rates fueled by waves of speculative dollars seeking a higher return through the purchase of government and corporate bonds of these faster-growing countries.

The Institute of International Finance, which lobbies for major banks, estimates that $825 billion will flow into developing countries this year, 42 percent more than in 2009. Investments in debt of emerging economies alone are expected to triple, to $272 billion.

Last month, the Brazilian finance minister warned of the outbreak of a global currency war and earlier this month his government announced the doubling of a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian bonds in an attempt to stem the inrush of capital and the relative rise of the nation’s currency, the real.

This past week, Thailand took similar steps, announcing a 15 percent withholding tax on the interest payments and capital gains earned by foreign investors in Thai bonds, in an attempt to arrest the appreciation of the baht, which has already risen by 10 percent against the dollar this year.

The eruption of currency and trade war is being driven by the general slowdown in economic growth to anemic levels that make impossible any genuine recovery from the deepest slump since the 1930s. Faced either with slumping domestic demand or stagnant foreign markets, or (as in the case of the US) a combination of the two, the major economies are all intent on increasing their sales abroad. As the prospects dim for a revival of economic growth to pre-recession levels, the system of multilateral currency and trade relations dating back to the agreements made at the end of World War II is collapsing. So too are the chances of genuine multilateral coordination.

Ultimately, global coordination of economic policy between the major powers in the post-war period was anchored by the economic supremacy of the United States, embodied in the privileged position of the US dollar as the world trade and reserve currency. This has irretrievably broken down, with the palpable decline in the world economic position of the United States.

The result is a struggle of each against all, combined with a general onslaught in every country against the working class, which is to be made to pay—in the form of wage-cutting and austerity measures—for the breakdown of the global capitalist economic order.

By Barry Grey
18 October 2010
WSWS

 The French NPA’s (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste)
perspectives on Britain

The SUAC- acting locally but thinking globally- looks across the channel to see how the French are responding to the attacks on their living standards and what the French make of the anti-cuts movement in Britain. 

Today, October 12, France will be protesting against austerity measures, pension cuts and the raising of the retirement age with open-ended strikes in public transport – and a one-day strike in schools.  They are protesting against plans to push back the legal retirement age from 60 to 62. The strikes will be followed by street protests on Saturday, October 16.  According to a survey by Le Parisien, 69 per cent of people support the strike. The last demos, on October 2, attracted three million people. The CGT union has also called an open-ended strike in the power sector, calling on workers to carry out power cuts targeting official buildings, but not households.

A short article was published a few days ago on the web site of the French NPA. (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste). It talks about the Con-Dem cuts and the NPA’s hope for a growing resistance here in Britain. 

Great-Britain. Resistance to the Budget Cuts
Saturday 7th October 

A campaign against government policy to make the masses pay the cost of the crisis has been put in place. The Conservative report into public finances will be revealed on 20th October. We can see that cuts of up to 25% will be a veritable massacre of public services, salaries, and conditions of work, the annihilation of which is the remains of union gains and the welfare state.

The government has already announced its targets: public-sector pensions, the right-to-strike, education, health and post, salaries and premiums. VAT was increased, and benefits cut. Committees led by Conservatives (Barnet, Suffolk) plan the extension of privatisation to the majority of services. 

The consequences will be dramatic. Without even including the decrease in salaries and allowances, or the increase in VAT, the Budget Cuts represent a loss of income of 4.9% per person, and even 11.2% for a single-parent family. Proportionally, women will be hardest hit by the cuts. According to a study by the House of Commons, they will bear three-quarters of the burden…

The massive bank deficit of 2008, which was guaranteed by public funds, is now transformed into a public deficit which they are asking us to pay! That which was “their crisis” has now become “our crisis”. The Conservative and Liberal-Democrat government is using the depth of the crisis to frighten people, and persuade them that there is no alternative to massive, immediate cuts, to prevent the collapse of society.

A realization is emerging. The number and size of public meetings against the budget cuts is increasing. There have been strikes on the underground in London, at Astra-Zeneca and Coca-Cola, as well as a large demonstration of fire-fighters.

The absence, since the elections, of any opposition to the cuts from New Labour or the TUC, explains why, until now, the level of resistance had remained quite weak. The executive of the TUC subscribed to this logic when they stated that “the deficit can and must be reduced, but over a longer period”. They even invited the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, to address the TUC congress.

But this congress has just agreed a vigorous campaign against the budget cuts, and to co-ordinate strikes at a local and national level. This constitues an encouragement to unions for local campaigns, and will give confidence to the rank-and-file for strike action.

The magnitude of the crisis demands radical solutions: nationalisations in response to closures of businesses or workplaces, the placing of the banks under democratic control, a limit on the wealth of the rich, a million green jobs to fight climate change. 

We need a united campaign, with a large support base, like that against the Poll Tax in 1990, or Stop the War. The French and Greek strikes and demonstrations can equally well serve us as a reference. 

The new coalition “Resistance Against the Cuts” (CoR) has rallied a large palette of Trade Union officials, left groups, left-personalities such as Tony Benn or Ken Loach. It’s aim is to provide a democratic national co-ordination of local groups and not to end up co-existing alongside already-established groups.

The important deadlines are set. The “Right To Work” campaign has called a demonstration at the Conservative Party Conference on the 3rd October. Demonstrations are planned for the 20th October, when the Comprehensive spending review will be announced.

The national conference of the Coalition of Resistance, the 27th November, will be the time to plan an escalation in power of the campaign. Next year the TUC has organised a national demonstration for the 26th March. It is a distant event, but, from now, in all the communities, and all the workplaces, we must carry the message: we won’t pay for this crisis, involve everyone in the resistance against cuts and privatisations.

So what are the French calling for at home?

Below we have translated communiqués from the main forces on the French left posted on their websites over the last few days. The NPA is calling for an open-ended general strike. The Front De Gauche (Left Front) offers a new electoral project, with plans to codify a ‘governmental programme’ next year. Whilst the Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle) calls for the resistance to be stepped up.

NPA: One solution: Renewable general strike! 
Wednesday 6th October
On the 2nd of October, many new demonstrators marched in more than 200 towns across the country. The contingents were different to those of the 7th and 23rd of September.  Fewer workers from the large industries, and more workers from grades or jobs who cannot strike, or are not unionised, a larger public, and more youth.

More friendly, but just as determined. In fact, it represents a new widening of the mobilisation, representative of the rejection of Sarkozy’s politics by more than 70% of the population. But after this latest success, we must stop here. The government has not decided to retreat under the sole pressure of public opinion manifested in polls and demonstrations. The seventh law in ten years on immigration, the racist proposals of ministers and the agitation on the terrorist threat don’t permit the government to regain any legitimacy. 

We must therefore take a step forward in the demonstrations. There is no other solution to blocking this plan to destroy our pension plans than to stop the economic and social activity of the country. The government not only wants to inflict a defeat us over pensions to symbolise its 5th year in power, but to continue through attacks on social security, schools, free healthcare, what’s left of the 35-hour week, and by new attacks on civil liberties.

Many workers from all regions have understood the desire of the government to attack us on all fronts. This explains why many demonstrations have occurred without waiting for the national days of action. Thus, many thousands of anaesthetists demonstrated on Friday 1st October through the nice quarters of Paris, dockers from several ports are on strike not only for their jobs, but also because for them too, everything is linked to pensions. Hundreds of workers from Ford-Bordeaux disrupted celebrations at the World automobile fair by demonstrating to save their jobs inside the showroom. 

Certainly, workers and the union apparatus remain marked by the defeats and retreats of the last years. The last inter-union statement on the 4th October hides badly the refusal of the principal union federations to engage in confrontation with the government. But in the factories, the offices, the neighbourhoods, the schools, the hospitals… the attacks on conditions of work and living and the racist policies of the government is provoking anger and revolt. 

Everywhere we need to build and amplify the demonstrations, the strikes, walkouts, and stoppages. We must now not merely discuss the open-ended strike, but everywhere win mobilisations to this avenue. Opposing the Media, we must circulate information and make contacts sector by sector, town by town. 

Less than ever the development of the renewable strike must be from national guidelines or local spontaneity. If some firm steps have been taken in this direction (RATP), many other structures seem ready to engage with it (SNCF, Education, CGT Seine-Maritime, Bouches-du-Rhone et Paris, inter-union federations in Paris and many ‘local’ branches, CGT chemical federation, etc). 

The concerted action of unions and convinced militants, sincerely engaged in building the confrontation can change the balance of forces and force the government to retreat. Don’t wait for the 12th October, we won’t stop on the 12th. 

FRONT DE GAUCHE: The Left Front opens a new space. 
Saturday 30th September
The Left Front launched, during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This rentree is placed under a double cross: on one hand, a government policy continuously  antisocial, anti-liberties, xenophobic, which doesn’t hesitate to question even the very foundations of the Republic; on the other hand, important and militant citizen and social mobilisations. Every day that passes delegitimizes further Sarkozy’s headlong rush.  The demonstrations of the rentree – those of the 4th and 7th September – and their support in the country, shows that on the question of liberties and of equality of rights like the social plan, the politics of Sarkozy won’t get through!

The Right in power has plunged into a deep political crisis that reveals their collusion with the financial powers. We must block them from any further destruction of social and democratic rights.

It is this sense which the Left Front intends to give its presence on all the demonstrations and struggles currently under way. It will be on all the movements for unity called across France based on the repeal of the government pensions’ project or in the movements defending the liberties and principles in our constitution with regard to the defence of the rights of man and citizen. We call in particular to join the rallies called by the inter-union federations on 15th and 23rd September.

The fight against Sarkozy also necessitates the construction of a credible Left alternative  to policies entirely devoted to the interests of the MEDEF (French CBI).

This is why, since 2008, the Left Front has proposed another way to the “people of the left” which doesn’t lead to yet another of the accompanying variations of liberalism. It constitutes a dynamic opening which has the capacity to grow.

It is in this spirit that the Left Front reaffirms its wish to “jumpstart” the situation of the Left. It means to assemble in the country a new left majority on the basis of a government programme that ruptures with the dominant logic of a capitalist system and it’s productivist models, of which the current crisis only confirms the necessity of surpassing.

It is in this vision that today, 11th September during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This “workspace” the Left Front intends to throw open nationally as well as locally to political formations which share the objectives and desire to be associated with this new project, but also to all citizens, especially union activists and associations who are involved in the pursuit of a society that denies the upgrading of economic profitability of all human activity, to substitute the values of equality, solidarity and humanism which are the real heritage of the Left in this country.

We will, therefore, put forward a concrete method: We call for the multiplication of local initiatives, permitting the largest number of ordinary people to get involved as possible: local committees of the shared project, initiatives of election and rallying of important local activists, workshops in the neighbourhoods and workplaces.

In the course of this process, we will ensure that we merge the work of elaborating the Left Front, with the demands and requirements of the organisations and actors in the social and citizens’ movements; unionists, organised militants, intellectuals who are at the heart of the resistance to liberal policies.

We also propose the setting up of “Thematic Fronts” rallying the activists of difference sectors (e.g. health, education, art, economy) in order to work out proposals together, which are likely to permit a viable democratic re-appropriation of society’s issues.

More initiatives of public debate, of a national dimension, will also be organised. For now two initiatives have been announced for the coming months:– An initiative on the question of Europe, to propose an alternative which breaks with the logic of the Lisbon Treaty and austerity measures, put in place by the Liberal European governments.

The Standing Liaison Committee of the Left Front will offer soon the forms in which organizations that wish and all citizens who share the approach of the Left Front and its objectives can fully participate.

All follow-up tools necessary to this project will be largely to inform about local and national initiatives to be taken, to publicize the work and contributions to various ensuing exchanges and allow the widest participation. 

Finally a national meeting in 2011 will conclude this process by adopting a program of government that we will be fighting for in the upcoming political events.

 LUTTE OUVRIERE: Everyone on strike on 12th October and onwards. 
Saturday 9th October
Workers’ Struggle calls for a massive turnout in all the strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday 12th October. 

Only a unified movement, each time bigger and more determined, can impose retreats on the government, over pension reforms, but also over all measures of social regression which for years have aggravated the conditions and lives of the popular masses. Only a powerful start from the workers can compel those who govern us in the name of the bosses of big business and bankers, to renounce their attacks on the conditions of the working class. 

LO also calls on the youth to join the struggle, as the issues concern the future of all society. Therefore we must all be in the strikes and demonstrations on 12th October and beyond. It is time to demonstrate that the anger rumbles on, and an explosion threatens.

Many thanks to Workers Power for providing the translations.