What does “climate emergency” mean? Let’s define that OUTSIDE parliament

May 2, 2019

Strikes by school pupils, and civil disobedience by Extinction Rebellion, pushed the UK’s House of Commons into declaring a “climate emergency” yesterday. The government is so weak and divided that – having said one week ago that it would not make such a declaration – it caved in and lined up behind a motion put by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories’ weakness really is part of this. The prime minister, Theresa May, lost the ability to tell her MPs how to vote on anything, during repeated breakdowns of their traditional

School pupils on strike in Australia. Photo from #climatestrike on twitter

discipline over Brexit. And the “climate emergency” vote took place on the day that she fired her defence secretary Gavin Williamson for breaching security.

And the movements outside parliament made the difference. The Labour MP Faisal Rashid pointed out during the debate: “We are not here because of an international effort co-ordinated by world leaders. […] We are here because a small group of schoolchildren decided to walk out of school to take a stand against climate change, and they have inspired a global movement.” It is “an indictment of our global political leadership”, he argued.

Another reason the “climate emergency” motion passed is that it committed neither the government nor parliament to do a single thing. It could be, and was, supported by many total hypocrites as a way of co-opting and defusing people’s anger.

Anyone who thinks that parliament actually meant what it said, when it voted for Corbyn’s motion, should bear in mind that:

■ Parliament believes it can declare a “climate emergency” while supporting a third runway at Heathrow Airport. That will help ensure a global expansion of aviation, which is Read the rest of this entry »

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Genetics and the peopling of Britain: We are all hybrids

April 26, 2019

Recent advances in the science of human origins refute racist ideology, writes STEVE DRURY in this guest post

We are in the midst of a resurgence of racism, white supremacism and all the other trappings of right-wing populism, together with growing physical threats from some who adhere to those ideologies. This trend depends on a morass of origin myths, pseudoscience, denialism and conspiracy theory – an “intellectual” foundation that actually permeates more widely than merely in overtly far-right fringe groups. Sadly, it is part of the cultural baggage of a majority.

Yet rapid advances in the science of human origins have been providing powerful refutations of all kinds of nonsense and mindless prejudice.

Britain has long been a relatively quiet repository of day-to-day, casual racism and ideas of supremacy that stem from its former possession of colonies, together with the idea of an

Footprints made by the earliest visitors to Britain 850,000 years ago (Picture: Simon Parfitt, British Museum)

island fortress against all comers, benign or malevolent. So how the “British” and their early culture came into existence is an excellent starting point for countering the insidious backwardness of this politics.

Earliest visitors

Evidence for the presence of humans in Britain goes back about a million years. For most of that time, however, any occupation was probably temporary. Stone tools are the most durable signs that early humans paid the British landscape a visit, fossil remains being rare and generally just a few fragments.

The earliest known traces occur in ancient river deposits exposed by wave erosion on the Norfolk coastline. Pear-shaped, double-edged stone tools, known as “bifacial axes” (archaeologists are uncertain about how they may have been used) turn up there from time Read the rest of this entry »


Climate change must be a thing. It’s on prime time TV

April 23, 2019

Key effects of global warming were reported bluntly to millions of TV viewers in the documentary Climate Change: The Facts, on BBC One on Thursday 18 April.

“It may sound frightening”, the super-popular TV naturalist David Attenborough said, introducing the show, “but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic

The Renew Rebels theatre group, performing on Waterloo Bridge on Friday 19 August during the “Extinction Rebellion” protests. Oil (in black) confronts wave power (in blue), wind (in white) and the sun (in orange)

action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”.

The press loved it. “A call to arms”, The Guardian said. Would it “wake up philanthropists, investors and governments to act?” Forbes asked.

I wondered: why now?

The BBC hasn’t exactly rushed to portray global warming accurately. In 2011, two decades after the international climate talks started at Rio, scientists were slamming the BBC for giving air time to climate science deniers. In 2014, a BBC memo told journalists to stop pretending “balance” was needed between climate science and its deniers – but the practice continued, leading to another edict in September last year. By that time, researchers had started refusing to come into BBC studios to debate deniers.

But high-profile BBC journalists still felt compelled to interview anti-science nutters who are paid by the fossil fuel industry to advise Donald Trump. In October last year, when the Read the rest of this entry »


Russia: “network” case lawyers prepare for court battle

March 25, 2019

Lawyers for Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov, two of the defendants in the “network case”, are now preparing for their trial. The defendants in the case are Russian anti-fascists who were arrested – and tortured by security services officers – in St Petersburg and Penza last year. They are accused of a so-called terrorist plot – a prosecution denounced by Russian human rights organisations as a frame-up.

Anti-fascists across Europe, as well as in Russia itself, have been campaigning for the charges to be dropped, and for those responsible for torturing the defendants to be brought to justice.

This is a report of an update on the case provided by Vitaly Cherkasov, lawyer for Viktor Filinkov. It was published on the Russian news web site OVD-info.

On 19 January, Vitaly Cherkasov, legal counsel for Viktor Filinkov, held a press conference on his client’s case in St Petersburg. After being under investigation for 13 months,

Yuly Boyarshinov, in conversation with his lawyer, at a court hearing. Photo: Rupression.ru

Filinkov’s case has now been sent to court, and Cherkasov is free to discuss the evidence. According to Cherkasov, there is no substantial evidence in the case file against his client.

“We are concerned that the court will follow the prosecution’s lead and hold the trial in camera,” said Cherkasov. “Having studied the case file, we didn’t find a single document that would count as a state secret or other secret. We want the trial to be monitored by the public. We believe that with the help of the public and the press, we can convince the court in an open hearing to examine the case objectively.”

Viktor Filinkov was detained at Petersburg Pulkovo airport on 23 January 2018, but he was arrested only on 25 January. Later Filinkov recounted how he was tortured by FSB officers throughout the intervening two days.

“The case file contains my client’s testimony, which were given to the state-appointed lawyer,” Cherkasov stated. “This lawyer did not pay attention to the bodily injuries sustained by Filinkov.”

Initially, Filinkov gave statements that were advantageous to the investigators, but after he appointed Cherkasov as his legal counsel, he stated that he had made false confessions Read the rest of this entry »


Argentina: Theatre Against Dictatorship

March 21, 2019

On Sunday (24 March), Argentina will mark the 43rd anniversary of the 1976 coup d’état with demonstrations and meetings. To mark the occasion, People & Nature is publishing Argentina 1976-1981: Theatre Against Dictatorship – the story of the Workshop of Theatrical Investigation (TiT), a clandestine political theatre group that fought against the military junta that took power that day, as told by Marta Cocco, one of the group’s founders.

The Argentine junta, which overthrew the government of Isabel Peron, was one of the most violent in Latin American history. More than 30,000 people, mostly young opponents of the bloodthirsty regime, were killed in the security forces’ rampage that followed the coup. The resistance to the dictatorship, of which the TiT and many other groups were part, was a link in the chain of humanity’s striving for a world free of exploitation, hierarchy and war, that continues today.

Please read and share this story of resistance.

Members of the TiT, who defied the Argentine junta with theatrical performance

 


Russia normalises torture in case against anti-fascists

February 10, 2019

Re-posted from Red Pepper.

Evidence that anti-fascist activists were tortured by Russian federal security officers is “really disturbing”, president Vladimir Putin told the Kremlin’s own human rights council in December. He promised to “look into it”.

But ten of the young activists in question remain in detention awaiting trial in the “Network” case, charged with organising a terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons. The prosecution’s main evidence comprises statements taken after the accused were tortured with electric shockers, hung upside down, throttled and beaten up for hours on end.

The FSB, Russia’s main security service, claims members of the “Network” were planning to organise bombings during Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections and the football

A demonstration in St Petersburg on 19 January, remembering the murdered anti-fascists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Photo by Elena Lukyanova, Novaya Gazeta

World Cup, that they planned an armed uprising and were “stirring up the masses for further destabilisation of the political situation in the country”. It says that defendants had assigned roles (leaders, communications personnel, sappers and ideological officers), discussed their plans on social media and held minuted meetings about them.

The FSB case includes the fact that all the defendants played airsoft (a team shooting sport with no live ammunition) and that some of them did physical training together.

The ten, mostly supporters of anti-fascist and anarchist groups, were detained in late 2017 and early 2018. In January 2018, one of them, Viktor Filinkov, made a detailed public statement about being tortured; two other defendants, Ilya Shakurskiy and Dmitriy Read the rest of this entry »


Leeds women workers’ story retold

February 7, 2019

I am very pleased to publish today an article about the Leeds clothing workers’ strike of 1970: “You’re not a worker, you’re a pair of hands.” How Leeds women workers struck back, by Liz Leicester. It describes an unofficial strike by almost 30,000 clothing workers who demanded an increase in the hourly pay rate of one shilling (5 pence, worth about 75 pence today, taking into account). The action snowballed as the strikers, mostly women, marched around the city calling on others to join them. They were angry at an agreement signed between their union and the employers’ federation which discriminated against women workers. The article is based on a talk Liz gave in December 2018 in London.

Strikers on the march, 1970. From the Secret Library Leeds blog / Yorkshire Evening Post