The Paris climate talks and the failure of states

February 25, 2015

The officials in charge of the United Nations climate talks say that no deal will be done in Paris in December to avoid dangerous global warming.

After preparatory negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, this month, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), confirmed that the target set previously, of limiting warming to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, would be missed.

Figueres had already said, in December, after a round of talks in Lima, Peru, that “the sum total of efforts [in Paris]

March in Defence of Mother Earth at the climate talks in Lima, Peru, in December. Source:

March in Defence of Mother Earth at the climate talks in Lima, Peru, in December. Source:

will not be able to put us on the path for two degrees. […] We are not going to get there with the Paris agreement … We will get there over time.” This month she reiterated that the Paris talks would only “set the pathway for an orderly planned transition over time to a low-carbon society”.

The EU climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, claimed that “you can not say it is a failure” if, collectively, the world’s governments abandoned the 2 degrees target, as long as there is “an ongoing process”.

Diplomats at Geneva put together an 86-page document for political leaders to haggle over in December. (It’s downloadable here.) But it’s already clear that:

■ The approach adopted in Kyoto in 1997 – to require countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by particular amounts, within specified timeframes under international law – has been abandoned. Instead, negotiators are reported to be saying, the

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NUM solidarity with besieged Ukrainian miners

January 20, 2015

Trade unions representing mineworkers caught in the crossfire of Ukraine’s ruinous military conflict have appealed for support – and received it – from the National Union of Mineworkers in the UK.

Fighting has intensified in Donetsk this week – a grim reminder of why solidarity matters.

The NUM, which is calling for peaceful resolution of the conflict and for “all interference from outside Ukraine to stop”, welcomed a

Sergei Yunak speaking at the Durham miners gala in July 2014

Sergei Yunak speaking at the Durham miners gala in July 2014

delegation of local union officials from eastern Ukraine to the Durham miners gala in July last year.

The delegates, from the Dnepropetrovsk branch of the Ukraine Coal Industry Trade Union (PRUP), “asked us to help put their point of view across internationally”, Chris Kitchen, NUM national secretary, said.

“Most of their members are employed by DTEK [an energy company controlled by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and the foremost oligarch in Donetsk]. They wanted to know about our experience of dealing with

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Free Leonid Tikhonov!

January 18, 2015

A Russian dockers’ trade union leader is starting a three-and-a-half year jail sentence – which is the port management’s revenge for workers’ action over pay and conditions, his union says.

Leonid Tikhonov, chair of the Dockers Union of Russia at Vostochny Port in the Russian Far East, was

Leonid Tikhonov

Leonid Tikhonov

on 15 December found guilty in court of embezzlement. The union says the charges are baseless and its members have testified that nothing was embezzled.

Port management brought the charges, in breach of correct legal procedure, in June 2012 – right after port workers launched a campaign against low pay and casualisation.

Vostochny Port, a giant container terminal near Nakhodka at the end of the Trans Siberian Railway, is on Russia’s increasingly important trade route to the Far East. Workers making their presence felt there will surely have pushed at a weak spot in capital’s armour.

This article, Why was Leonid Tikhonov actually convicted?, explains the background. It is by the Union Rights Defence Centre, a campaign group that works within the Confederation of Labour of Russia.

On 15 December 2014, Nakhodka City Court handed down a guilty verdict against Leonid Tikhonov, chair of the Dockers’ Union of Russia (DUR) local branch at Vostochny Port joint stock company in the Russian Far East. The trade union leader was

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‘When Process Is More Vital than Outcome’ – Russian political prisoner Alexei Gaskarov

January 6, 2015

ALEXEI GASKAROV, the Russian antifascist and political prisoner, wrote this letter to readers of Zhukovskie Vesti, a local newspaper in the town of Zhukovsky where he lives. Gaskarov was a defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case brought against activists and other participants in the big anti-government demonstrations of 2011-12. (See defence committee site here.) He was transferred out of Butyrka remand prison in Moscow at six o’clock in the morning on 28 December 2014. Gaskarov brought in

"To remember is to fight"

“To remember is to fight”

the New Year while in transit to a medium security prison where he will serve his three-and-half-year sentence (as yet supporters don’t know which prison). In August, Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow sentenced four defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case – Gaskarov, Alexander Margolin, Ilya Gushchin, and Elena Kohtareva – finding them guilty of involvement in rioting and using violence against authorities. The recent decision of the appellate court was adamant: it upheld the lower court’s verdict. In the letter, Gaskarov summed up this difficult year, spent away from loved ones, and speculated on what is happening in Russia:

In December, the Laboratory of Public Sociology (a project based at the Centre for Independent Social Research in Petersburg) published the results of its study of civic movements in the wake of the 2011–2012 protests. The main conclusion was that the critical attitude to the regime had not  Read the rest of this entry »

‘The Desire for Justice Has Not Faded’ – Russian political prisoner Alexei Gaskarov

January 4, 2015

Russian political prisoner and anti-fascist activist ALEXEI GASKAROV looks back in this article at 15 years of anti-fascist activity in Russia, and discusses the Kremlin’s role in eastern Ukraine and the future of Russia’s protest movement.  

Gaskarov was sentenced on 18 August 2014 by the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow – together with Ilya Gushchin, Alexander Margolin, and Elena Kokhtareva – in the so-called second wave of


Alexei Gaskarov. Photo by Evgeny Feldman

the Bolotnaya Square case, brought against participants in the big protest demonstrations of 2011-12 in Moscow. (See defence committee site here.)

It might be helpful to readers – including anti-fascists in other countries who don’t know Russia well – to put some of Gaskarov’s points in context.

He explains how, in 1998-99, he witnessed skinhead gangs appearing on the streets and fascist ideas gaining popularity. That was a time of economic and political instability: in mid 1998 a banking crash caused a four-fold devaluation of the ruble, and, with social and labour protest mounting, several governments came and went in quick succession as the regime of president Boris Yeltsin shuddered. Vladimir Putin was appointed as prime minister Read the rest of this entry »

The spectre of social unrest is haunting Putin’s Russia

December 17, 2014

On Russia’s “Black Tuesday” yesterday (16 December), the Central Bank tried to stop the ruble’s value falling by hiking interest rates. It didn’t work. The bankers and corporations panicked; the ruble kept falling. It has now lost half its value in six months. The main cause is the falling price of oil, on which the Russian economy is heavily dependent.

Now Russian people are likely to pay the price, with inflation, unemployment and falling living standards. More than at any time since president Vladimir Putin became the Moscow elite’s dominant figure 15 years ago, he is likely to face a population troubled by serious economic hardship.

Putin’s government has shown that, to deal with social unrest, it is prepared to use tools ranging from

moscow demo

“Doctors good – government bad”. Socialists on the Moscow demonstration against health service cuts last month. Photo: www,

beatings and jailings (used against the Bolotnaya anti-government marches in Moscow in 2012) to incitement of military conflict that wrecks cities and divides communities (used in response to the protests and overthrow of government in Ukraine).

Here are some points that might contribute to an analysis.

Q. What are the underlying causes of Russia’s economic problem?

A. Russia has become a subordinate player in the world economy, relying overwhelmingly on the export of oil, gas and metals. During the oil boom of 2002-08, numerous plans to diversify the economy away from these export commodities were drawn up, but none were successfully implemented. So Russia emerged from the boom more dependent on these exports than ever. In 2012, the energy sector (oil, gas, coal and power) Read the rest of this entry »

Zhanaozen: the unknown tragedy

December 15, 2014

To commemorate the third anniversary of the Zhanaozen killings of 16 December 2011 – when Kazakh police opened fire on oil workers

Police advancing on demonstrators, Zhanaozen, 16 December 2011

Police advancing on demonstrators, Zhanaozen, 16 December 2011

and their supporters, killing at least 16 and wounding 60 – the film Zhanaozen: the unknown tragedy (directed by Yulia Mazurova) has today been put on line.

English language version here.

Original version in Russian here.

The 30-minute documentary includes film of the police attack that the authorities wanted to hide, interviews with oil workers whose strike was ended by the massacre and scenes from the court in which activists were jailed. The film makers have asked supporters to distribute the link widely. Denis Bilunov, who worked on the film, said: “Thank you for the efforts you have made before. Since March 2013 screenings with public discussions took place in important venues: Helsinki, Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev, Brussels, London, Geneva and Milan.”

For more on Zhanaozen and the Kazakh oil workers, see here.


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