The price of oil, the Kazakh massacre and the City of London

December 19, 2011
Security forces opened fire on protesters at Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, who were demanding better pay and conditions in the country’s oil fields, on Friday 17 December. Eleven people were killed and more than 70 wounded, according to the government. Kazakh opposition media and Russian reporters, working in the face of attempts by the authorities to impose a news blackout, say the number of victims may have been much higher.

In spite of the brutality of the massacre, on 18-19 December the protests spread. There was a big demonstration in nearby Aktau and clashes between police and protesters at Shepte. (See a good report by Reuters here.)

The Zhanaozen massacre is a turning-point in two important ways. First, it is the first mass murder of protesting workers in any of the post-Soviet republics. (There was a larger massacre in Andizhan, Uzbekistan, in 2005, when security forces shot dead of an unknown number of protesters, probably several hundred: the victims there were not strikers but a more heterogenous crowd.) Second, the Zhanaozen massacre amounts to the Kazakh state’s response to workers’ insistent demands that they share some of the wealth produced by the country’s oil boom – which is in turn a result of the relentless search by big international capital for new sources of oil, that is so central to its economy.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Durban deal, and an inhuman gamble

December 14, 2011

After 12 days of wrangling, posturing, wheeling, dealing, cajoling and demonstrating, delegates at the 17th UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa failed to reach agreement by its scheduled close on Friday 9 December, writes STEVE DRURY. It took a further 36 hours of “negotiations” to cobble together a deal: the style of discourse was familiar for this annual UN showcase of the climatically “great and good” – devious and vague.

Following the agreement on wording, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African International Relations Minister and president of the conference, summed up the underpinning hubris of the weary yet self-satisfied negotiators: “No one can walk out of this room and say we don’t care about climate change. … We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come.” The conference agreement had “saved tomorrow, today”, she said.

OK. How? Read the rest of this entry »


Durban talks. They won’t? They can’t?

December 3, 2011

There is a whirlpool sucking at the Kyoto protocol, under which rich nations are supposed to curb their greenhouse gas emissions – and in Durban, South Africa, where the 17th UN Climate Change Conference is in progress, the sound of sucking is getting louder, writes STEVE DRURY in this site’s first guest post.

Before the Durban gathering (28 November to 9 December) had even begun, there were not-entirely-unexpected rumblings that the Kyoto protocol, which expires next year, will be replaced by little or nothing. Read the rest of this entry »