Let’s face it. Melting ice has passed point of no return

November 23, 2015

Leaders of many of the world’s states gather in Paris next month for climate talks, having promised in advance that any agreement will fall well short of the 2 degrees target for avoiding dangerous global warming.

An army of politicians, PR people and diplomats are working to create the impression that, nevertheless, something positive is being done. This balloon of

thwaites glacier

The Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica. Photo from NASA web site

hype needs to be popped. The precondition for serious action is honesty about the scale, and difficulty, of the problem, and acknowledgement of how far away we are from a solution.

Rising sea levels is a key part of the problem, and recent research on it – that I attempt to summarise and discuss in this article – helps explain the scale of the problem.  The bottom line is this: while governments’ promises lag further and further behind targets for climate action set out by the Read the rest of this entry »

How neo-liberalism used the “limits to growth”

November 18, 2015

In this interview, SARA HOLIDAY NELSON, a PhD researcher at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, USA, who is studying the politics of environmentalism in the 1970s, discusses first-world-centred and Malthusian approaches and some responses to them

Gabriel Levy. Let’s start with your critique of the “Limits to Growth” arguments.[1] And first – addressing ourselves e.g. to people demonstrating about the lack of action on climate change at the Paris talks – a very basic question: you are not saying, are you, that there are no natural limits, or that they are not important?

Sara Holiday Nelson. Yes, that’s correct. First, it’s not that material limits don’t exist, or are not significant, but what they mean at any given moment is a complicated socially- and politically-determined process. The question of what those limits are, and how they might be shifted – not transcended by some techno futurism, but how a different mode of social organisation or economic production might have different limits – suggests that speaking of ecological limits only makes sense if these are considered relative to any particular kind of social organisation. For instance, the idea of “peak oil” – which itself is a dubious proposition, given the recent transformation of shale and other porous

The Ecuador indigenous people’s uprising, August 2015. Photo from IC Magazine. first published on Expresate Morona Santiago

The Ecuador indigenous people’s uprising, August 2015. Photo from IC Magazine. first published on Expresate Morona Santiago

rocks into “oil” resources through new fracking and drilling technologies) – is only a “limit” to an economic system that depends on cheaply-available fossil fuels. I am therefore against an absolute notion of limits, such as for instance a neo-Malthusian view that equates the scarcity of certain resources with a fundamental limit to human life on Earth. This approach still allows us, I think, to talk about a notion of relative limits at any given historical moment.

Second, I think that the way that the limits discourse has been mobilised in the past has not been politically productive. My view is consistent, I think, with the Read the rest of this entry »

Meaningful art: the Lubyanka police headquarters ablaze

November 12, 2015

Russian political performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who set fire to the doors of the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters this week, has asked a judge to treat him the same way as political prisoners from Crimea.

On Monday Pavlensky poured petrol on the doors of the notorious building on Lubyanka square – used since the 1940s as the offices and detention centre of the KGB, the Stalinist security police – and set light to them. Supporters

Pyotr Pavlensky at the FSB building, 9 November. Photo: varlamov.ru

Pyotr Pavlensky at the FSB building, 9 November. Photo: varlamov.ru

filmed the action. Pavlensky was arrested and charged with “vandalism motivated by ideological hatred” – to which he responded: “It would be strange to have any other attitude to the Lubyanka.”

In the Taganka district court on Wednesday, Pavlensky said that “the so-called ‘Crimean terrorists’” were charged with terrorism offences for setting fire to doors, in cases fabricated by the FSB. “I demand that I be suspected of terrorism. I consider this to be the logic of your system. Until this demand is met, I refuse to participate in all your juridical rituals.” He then declined to answer further questions.

The Crimean prisoners to which Pavlensky referred are anti-fascist activist Aleksandr Kolchenko and film director Oleg Sentsov, political prisoners jailed for their part in protests against the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Kolchenko and Sentsov were in August sentenced to ten and twenty years respectively by a court in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, on fabricated terrorism charges. A third frame-up victim, Gennady Afanasiev, gave Read the rest of this entry »

Eastern Ukraine: bosses tighten the screw, but eventually the screw’s thread will break

November 9, 2015

In this interview, PAVEL LISYANSKY of the Eastern Human Rights Group gives an update on efforts to defend workplace rights in eastern Ukraine, as military conflict continues between the government and Russian-backed separatists. Pavel is a trade union activist and humanitarian rights campaigner in towns near the front line with the separatist-controlled territory, which runs through the industrial areas of Donetsk and Lugansk. The interview was published on 2 November in Russian on Nihilist.li, an anarchist web site based in Kyiv.

Question. [Please update us] on two labour disputes: the hospital in Svetlodarsk that landed in a bureaucratic “black hole”, and the shopping centre in Severodonetsk that is trying to force workers to leave their jobs without severance pay. Is there any news about these two episodes? Are you aware of other instances of labour rights violations in recent months?

Pavel Lisyansky. Regarding the hospital at Svetlodarsk. [After a major battle at Debaltsevo in February, the hospital, on the Ukrainian side of the front line, was cut off from the local government administration, which was

Pavel Lisyansky with protesting workers at the Amstor supermarket in Severodonetsk. Photo from the Nihilist web site.

Pavel Lisyansky with protesting workers at the Amstor supermarket in Severodonetsk. Photo from the Nihilist web site.

on the other side. Despite the urgency of the life-saving work of more than 100 staff, they have not been paid for ten months because local authorities failed to resolve the bureaucratic “black hole” into which the payments had fallen.] The government did not hear the voices of the workers. The salaries have not been paid and hospital funding has not been restored. The problems are the same: winter, cold. But the medical staff do not give up. At a meeting of the trade union committee the members decided to hold protests and organise a walk from the [military – HČ] front line to the regional state administration in Kramatorsk. […]

Regarding Amstor [supermarket – HČ]: the employer has adopted harsher tactics and forbade the use of heating in empty premises. [Managers want to dismiss workers, who are refusing to leave until they receive months’ worth of back pay they are owed, and severance to which they are legally entitled.] People have taken sick leave en masse.  […] I also began to receive phone threats. The situation in this instance is more difficult, because in order to fight against such an unscrupulous employer one must set in motion all sorts of workers’ rights Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine: workers organise at the grass roots

September 28, 2015

PAVEL LISYANSKY, founder of the Eastern Human Rights Group and lawyer for workers in eastern Ukraine, gives his view in this guest post of efforts to strengthen the labour movement at a time of military conflict and attacks on workers’ rights.

In 2015 breaches of Ukrainians’ social, economic and labour rights are becoming sharper and sharper. Politicians from oligarchic clans have started shouting about a social and economic revolution. And really, we have had two political revolutions – the “Orange revolution” [of 2004] and the “revolution of dignity” [of 2014] – but there has been no social and economic revolution.

In Ukraine there is a huge potential for protest, due to the widespread breaches of labour rights. There is a great need for new trade union and working-class organisations. Since Soviet times the trade union movement

Svetlodarsk meeting

Workers’ meeting at Svetlodarsk hospital

has not modernised itself. Trade unions have remained as they were: “distributors of holiday vouchers” and “lobbyists for the employers” in workplace collectives. [Translator’s note. During the Soviet period, up to 1991, workplace trade union organisations functioned as a branch of management, ensuring collaboration with labour discipline. Workers appreciated them only for distributing vouchers for holiday trips and canteen meals, and other minor benefits.]

So far, the grass-roots trade union organisations are not numerous, and can not offer the sort of resistance to the oligarchs that is needed.

And there is an attack on workers’ rights along all fronts: the adoption of a Read the rest of this entry »

Wear the white poppy with pride

September 21, 2015

The UK’s right wing press poured scorn on Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader, after he failed to sing God Save The Queen at a commemoration of
white_poppythe Battle of Britain (1940) on 15 September. But some people liked him for it.

“My mum has become a total Jeremy Corbyn fan after he didn’t sing the national anthem”, said a young colleague I have been working with. “It sounds like your mum has good instincts”, I replied. “I have never sung that song in my life.”

Labour parliamentarians queued up to criticise Corbyn in newspaper interviews. “You have to show respect”, Sadiq Khan MP said, implying – quite falsely – that Corbyn did not. (Corbyn, who presumably didn’t sing Read the rest of this entry »

We’ll turn Shahrokh Zamani’s death into a banner of workers’ solidarity and unity

September 20, 2015

This statement was put out by workers’ organisations in Iran after the suspicious death on 12 September of Shahrokh Zamani, a trade union activist who was in the fifth year of a prison sentence. Iranian friends are asking that it be circulated as widely as possible.

Shahrokh Zamani, a brave and tireless fighter for the Iranian workers movement, has died in Gohar Dasht prison. The news was received by all

Shahrokh Zamani

Shahrokh Zamani. Photo from Iranwire.

with total disbelief and utter shock. In our view, whatever reasons the authorities may give, the responsibility for his death lies completely with those who have imposed conditions of slavery on the workers of Iran and have taken away their rights to organise and struggle for a better life, and with those who Read the rest of this entry »


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