From resisting property developers to making ecosocialist strategy

December 21, 2017

A guest post by GORDON PETERS, a socialist and community activist, who is currently representing StopHDV, a community-based campaign, in its legal challenge to Haringey Council, which wants to hand control of most of its property to HDV, a property development company. Gordon was both a local government chief officer and a long-time trade unionist, and in 2015 stood in the general election for the Green Party. 

How can ecosocialism respond to the operation of power in capitalist accumulation and reproduction? Does ecosocialism help provide answers to struggles taking place in the local state and in sites of contest?

I want to suggest that it does provide such answers – in four broad ways:

1. The refusal strategy

This has a long lineage in class struggles in many different ways, but came to be articulated by the Italian Autonomists. Here I can only draw together some links from very different places in recent

StopHDV protesters in Haringey, north London, Photo from the StopHDV web site

times, which all have as their distinct characteristics a refusal to yield to the capitalist logic and to say no to displacement.

For instance, indigenous struggles in Latin America particularly against mining, deforestation and land grabbing demand an anti-capitalist sustainability, and in Bolivia were enshrined in the Cochabamba Declaration and the Rights of Mother Earth.

The “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, when applied to fossil fuels; the principle of “leave it in the ground”; anti-fracking protests in southern England and in Lancashire and Yorkshire; and campaigns on housing rights against estate demolition – all are increasingly confronting the demands of corporate capital and, in their own sites of struggle, reframing demands in terms of rights to land, community, place to live, clean air and water, and freedoms, which are essentially ecosocialist.

Housing struggles in London are having to resist speculation, and the maximisation of value from Read the rest of this entry »


Technologies that multiply inequalities

December 18, 2017

Review: The Bleeding Edge: why technology turns toxic in an unequal world by Bob Hughes (Oxford: New Internationalist, 2016)

How is it that the internet – a technology with such powerful, democratic potential – hovers over us like a monster that intrudes and spies, interferes in our collective interactions and thought processes, force-feeds us corporate garbage and imposes new work disciplines? What happened?

Bob Hughes, by thinking both about how computers work and how society works, offers compelling insights about these and other questions.

One of Hughes’s riffs on technological themes starts with the Forbes web page about Marc Andreessen, one of the world’s richest men, who in 1994 released the first version online-spying.jpg.size-custom-crop.0x650of the Netscape Navigator browser. Microsoft distributed Netscape with the Windows operating system, making Andreessen an instant multi-millionaire.

When Hughes visited the page, he found 196 words of information about Andreessen (last week, when I looked, there were only 81). Hughes found (and so did I) about another 1000 words of promotional and advertising material.

Behind those words lay a HTML page with 8506 words, or 88,928 characters. The promotional material multiplied the capacity required by the page 88 times – and that was not including the graphics. Including these, the page took about three-quarters of a megabyte of memory.

In the mid 1990s, Netscape Navigator made such advertising displays easy. It allowed web pages to create “cookies” on users’ machines to monitor the information that they enter, and enabled Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: the revolution is alive, but buried under rubble

December 7, 2017

The Syrian revolution is “still there, but it is buried under all this rubble”, the writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh told a London audience on Tuesday.

The situation facing Syrian civil society was formed in layers, Saleh said.

The first layer was the first two years of the revolution (2011-13), when there was an explosion of collective community action against

Protests in Syria on the “day of rage” on 14 October

Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The second layer was the struggle of regional powers including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey who feared the spread of popular rebellion.

The third layer was the intervention in Syria of American and Russian forces in 2014.

The world had stood by when the Assad regime launched a chemical attack on civilians at Ghouta in 2013: after that, Syrians had felt “isolated and betrayed”, Saleh said.

Those who had participated in the revolution were “exhausted”, he continued. A quarter of the population had been displaced, many of whom were now living outside the country.

The regime was being restored, with the support of the international powers, but none of the economic and social problems that caused the 2011 uprising had been solved. Even Syrians who were not opposed to the regime wanted their lives to change for the better, and no such change is likely.

Outside Syria, Saleh said, groups of activists are working in the field of culture, and on human rights issues.

“We are still in struggle. We are not pessimists”, he said.

Saleh was speaking over skype to a meeting on Tuesday organised by the Syrian Society of students at the School of Oriental and Read the rest of this entry »