Climate strikers in solidarity with the global south

September 20, 2019

Solidarity with people in the global south was the big theme on the school students’ huge, sprawling demonstration against climate change in London today.

The message from the organisers, the UK Student Climate Network, was unequivocal: the damage done by global warming is not only something to be scared of in their own future, but is hitting millions of people in poor countries right now.

The demonstration was more like a rock concert, filling Millbank and spilling into Victoria Tower gardens next to parliament. A breakaway group of 200 or so staged a sit-down protest in Whitehall. The London event was part of a gigantic global protest in which millions participated. (See here and in all the news outlets.)

A constant stream of school students, carrying witty, home-crafted posters, joined in. I saw solidarity delegations of teachers, health workers, civil servants, art workers and plenty of other adult supporters.

Kamran from Global Justice Now told the crowd that the main cause of climate change is “not population, not unethical consumption: it’s the one per cent who loot resources from the global south”.

This exploitation of human beings by each other is “inseparable” from the exploitation of the planet, he added.

Kamran said that while sometimes he feels fearful for the future, he can also imagine a world in which, instead of dystopia, “energy is clean, benefits are evenly distributed and life is good”.

Anna Taylor of UKSCN said she is “sick of living in a system created by white capitalist men who try to satiate their addiction to power and control by exploiting people”.

Speakers from Brazil and Bolivia called for emergency measures to protect the Amazon.

Kieran, of the Wretched of the Earth, urged the crowd to support indigenous peoples battling to defend diversity, and to consider migrant justice and climate justice as one and the same.

“We are living at a time of great danger”, he said. But he asked those present to beware of “urgent Read the rest of this entry »

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XR call for just transition from North Sea oil to renewable energy

September 5, 2019

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Scotland is appealing to North Sea oil workers to support a “just transition” away from oil and towards an energy system based on renewable electricity.

“The current oil and gas workforce can and should be redeployed to replace the fossil fuel that we can no longer afford to produce”, says XR Scotland’s appeal to communities in the north-east of the country that are dependent on oil. “Without a just transition to renewable energy from sun, wind and wave, we are fucked.”

There’s no better way forward for XR than seeking alliances of this kind, in my view. So here’s the whole text of the leaflet. (And if you want to print some off and distribute them yourself, here’s a PDF version.)

Do you think you have skills that could be transferred to the renewables energy industry? YES □ NO □

Do you think that the entirety of the estimated 20 billion barrels of fossil fuel under the North Sea should be produced? YES □ NO □

Do you believe the planet can survive global hydrocarbon reservoirs being drained? YES □ NO □

XR protest. Photo from XR Scotland facebook page

Do you have children and/or grandchildren? YES □ NO □

Did you think last year, that we would be experiencing a massive fire threat to the Amazon and the Arctic regions, and the loss of the Arctic Sea ice? YES □ NO □

Are you interested in getting involved in the campaign for a planned and just transition to the renewables?

contact neil.rothnie@gmail.com. I’ll put you in touch.

Demand a Just Transition to renewable energy

Both the UK oil industry and government seem to think that new licenses should be issued and oil and gas exploration on the North Sea stepped up. The industry estimates that 20 billion barrels of fossil fuel remain under the North Sea. No one in authority seems to think that these reserves should not be fully exploited.

This begs the questions:

► If a policy of business as usual is to be applied to the North Sea, why then should Saudi Arabian, Gulf of Mexico, Venezuelan, Sakhalin [Russia], Nigerian and other hydrocarbon reserves not also be fully exploited?

► What would the effect of producing all the world’s oil and gas be on global warming and climate change?

The Scottish Government seem to be prepared to try and lead us to an independent Scotland based on a carbon economy. According to the First Minister, Scotland’s carbon emissions would increase if oil Read the rest of this entry »


Getting lost on the road to communist utopia

September 3, 2019

A response to Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto by Aaron Bastani (Verso Books, 2019)

Communist utopias are the stuff of life. They have given hope, widened horizons and fired imaginations, from Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done (1863) and William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890) through to Woman On the Edge of Time (1985) by Marge Piercy.

So when my copy of Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto arrived, I had high hopes. They were not all realised.

There were things in Bastani’s book I really liked: his optimism, and his conviction that any communist society – that is, any society free of exploitation and hierarchy – will be based

From the front cover of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (Gollancz edition)

on material abundance. But his ideas about how this might be achieved were unconvincing.

Fully Automated Luxury Communism (FALC), he writes in the concluding chapter, is

a map by which we escape the labyrinth of scarcity and a society built on jobs; the platform from which we can begin to answer the most difficult question of all, of what it means, as [the economist John Maynard] Keynes once put it, to live ‘wisely and agreeably and well’ (p. 243).

Bastani writes that FALC, unlike the world of actually existing neoliberalism,

will not demand constant sacrifices on the altar of profit and growth. Whether it’s ‘paying down the debt for future generations’, as our politicians are so keen to repeat, or growth and rising wages always coming ‘next year’ it’s becoming ever clearer that the good times aren’t coming back. What remains absent, however, is a language able to articulate that which is both accessible and emotionally resonant.

Bastani aspires to provide that language – by identifying political principles for a movement beyond capitalism; by returning abundance to a central place in socialist Read the rest of this entry »


“You shut down our parliament – we shut down the streets”

August 31, 2019

Thousands of people demonstrated today against Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament. On the London demonstration, the slogan that worked best, in my view, was: “You shut down our parliament – we shut down the streets.”

Several hundred people set off from Whitehall, where there was a much larger crowd, and shouted it as they blocked Westminster bridge. There was a similar action on Waterloo Bridge.

That slogan says: power is not something to be quarreled over by government, parliament and the judiciary. It is something that all of us need to fight for. It says: by taking action on

My favourite

the streets, people themselves can impact on this tug-of-war between different branches of the state. It says: democracy is something we all create. It is not something that John Major goes to remind a judge about, so that he can remind Boris Johnson.

Whatever happens next, we need to expand that democracy – on demonstrations, in communities, in workplaces, in our organisations – against the most right-wing government the UK has had for the best part of a century.

Whether or not the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October, this government will continue to claim victims: the thousands of people who have lost their jobs due to Brexit Read the rest of this entry »


Tomorrow’s world, yesterday’s wages

August 31, 2019

Staff at the Science Museum in London went on strike Friday demanding a pay rise, after seven years of pay settlements below the rate of inflation.

The lowest paid staff earn less than the London living wage – while the Museum Director has had 5% a year increases for the past five years, plus an annual bonus of more than £20,000.

“Our pay has decreased by 13% in real terms in the past four years alone”, said the Prospect Union, which represents the workers

“Science Museum Group employees are among the lowest paid in the museum sector.

Unlike other national museums, SMG does not pay the Living Wage Foundation’s rate of £10.55 an hour in London and £9 an hour elsewhere.

“This year, SMG offered a pay increase of 1.5% to more than 75% of its staff – well below the rate of inflation again.”

The Science Museum is one of the great educational establishments of which London can be proud.

It is always full of school pupils – and many of the staff on strike yesterday work as Read the rest of this entry »


Zealots and ditherers

August 15, 2019

The UK government seems hell-bent on crashing out of the European Union without a deal on 31 October. This leap into the unknown carries the threat of economic hardship and disruption, constitutional crisis and the reconfiguration, or even break-up, of the UK.

The political uncertainty since the 2016 Brexit vote, on top of a decade of austerity,

“FcK Boris” demonstration, 24 July 2019. Photo by Steve Eason

is causing most Brits anything from stress to nervous exhaustion. And the next ten weeks are unlikely to be any less worrying.

Can the manic “no deal” crusade be stopped? The short answer seems to be: it’s difficult, but may be possible, provided parliament gets its act together. Suggestions about how that might happen are being made daily by “left” and not-so-left writers who know more about parliamentary procedure than I do.

This article focuses, instead, on what this frenzy tells us about the crisis of the Tory party and the property-owning class it represents. Because, to develop radical politics in the face of this insanity, we need to understand more clearly what generated it.

Our enemies are divided

It’s not the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is driving the “no deal” process, as far as I can see. Rather, he is the enabler of zealots: Dominic Cummings, chief of Read the rest of this entry »


Climate grief, climate anger

June 25, 2019

Young people suffer from climate grief, Daisy Wyatt, 19, told the People’s Assembly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency, in Greenwich, south-east London, on Saturday.

Climate grief is “coming to the realisation that you will not live the life that your parents have lived, or the life that our parents have told you that you will live”, Daisy, a nursery worker and nanny, said.

Of all the points made at this event, in which more than 100 local people took part, this seemed to me one of the most important. The world Daisy’s generation lives in is, in many

School climate strike in London, Friday 21 June. Photo: Guy Smallman

ways, darker and more forbidding than the one we older people grew up in. It is hard, but necessary, to admit this to ourselves.

I am in my early 60s. I have an optimistic outlook, and young grandchildren. I fervently believe that, in their lifetime, people may change the world for the better, in all sorts of ways we can only vaguely imagine now. But in the near term – the next decade or two, when first those of Daisy’s age, and then my grandchildren, will be living their adult lives – things could get very rocky, in a way that they were not when I was growing up.

The effects of climate change – heatwaves such as the recent one in India, for example; Read the rest of this entry »


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