People and Nature greatest hits of the 2010s

December 23, 2019

I hope, dear readers, you get time for reflection, rejuvenation and relaxation in the midwinter holidays. If you find yourself reaching for your phone for something to read – then, rather than winding yourself up with news of Boris Johnson’s vileness, go a level more thoughtful: look at those People & Nature articles you missed out on first time round. Here is some stuff that has stood the test of time. Thanks for your interest, and see you all (virtually or really) in the 2020s. GL, 23 December 2019.

Climate and ecological emergency

Disaster environmentalism: looking the future in the face (5 December 2019). A critique of Rupert Read, Jem Bendell and other writers linked to Extinction Rebellion

Climate grief, climate anger (25 June 2019). How different global warming looks to young people

What does “climate emergency” mean? Let’s define that OUTSIDE parliament (2 May 2019)

Still bigger mountains of plastic on the way (March 2018). The petrochemicals companies are driving it

Global warming in the Indian context (June 2016). A pamphlet by Indian climate campaigner Nagraj Adve

Let’s face it. Melting ice has passed point of no return (23 November 2015)

The Paris climate talks and the failure of states (February 2015)

Stop tailoring global warming scenarios to make them “politically palatable” (July 2013). An interview with Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research Read the rest of this entry »


Labour defeat: thoughts on democratic socialism

December 23, 2019

To continue discussion on the aftermath of Labour’s election defeat, I am republishing these “thoughts on the strategy of democratic socialism” by Angry Workers of the World, a group of worker militants based in London. This article was published on Saturday on their web site here, and is part of an upcoming book reflecting on six years of working class inquiry and intervention in west London.

“Democratic socialism” is currently the main alternative vision to transforming capitalism, and as such we need to take it seriously, despite our deep disagreement with it. By democratic socialism we mean the idea that by using the two legs of the organised labour movement – the trade unions and a socialist party in government – we can walk step-by-step towards socialism. Socialism is defined as a society dominated by either nationalised or cooperative ownership of the means of production and workers’ representation when it comes to management of these economic units.

The general strategy of democratic socialism can be summarised briefly.

The idea is to campaign for an electoral victory of a socialist party based on an economic programme of partial re-nationalisation of a limited number of key industries, and the creation of a wider sector of “solidarity economy”, formed by cooperative or municipal Read the rest of this entry »


Confronting the agents of capital: a Corbynista’s dilemma

December 19, 2019

Some thoughts on the election from Liverpool Riverside. A guest post by JOHN GRAHAM DAVIES

Listening to Radio 4 on Tuesday morning was a lesson in the gloating ruthlessness of our ruling class. We had just heard a clip of Jeremy Corbyn giving a dignified, measured assessment of his, and our, calamitous loss in the election. Corbyn explained why it was necessary for him to stay on for a short transitional period.

Cut to the studio: a cackling young BBC journalist, with an accent which sounded like it came out of one our more expensive public schools, armed with the obligatory fragment of Latin.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a crowd outside St George's Hall, Liverpool, in 2016

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a crowd outside St George’s Hall, Liverpool, in 2016

“What’s the opposite of mea culpa? Ha ha ha! Not much self-criticism there, is there? Bit of a non mea culpa if you ask me.”

This braying buffoon, like so many of the other highly paid liars at the BBC, lives in so much of a bubble that he seems unaware of how much in contempt most of the British public now hold him. Him and his beloved BBC, that pompous foghorn of the state.

A right-wing Labour member of parliament was sharing the studio and made no attempt to silence the attack, or challenge it.

We all know that the knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn, but they are also aimed at our movement as a whole, and her silence was a reminder of that.

This election result, according to those who hold the wellbeing of our class most dearly to heart – well paid journos; former Labour politicians now earning nice salaries fronting radio Read the rest of this entry »


After the election: standing up to the global rise of nationalism

December 17, 2019

A guest post by MARTIN BEVERIDGE, who was out canvassing in Bedford, and is working on a book about the history of socialist ideas in the UK

I’m still recovering from the shock of the exit polls on Thursday night. The only good news from my end was that Labour hung on to Bedford, where I was canvassing over the previous two weeks, and retained both Luton seats with comfortable majorities.

Now, taking a breath, I think it important to think objectively about where we are now,

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Bedford on the night before the election

before we can figure out what to do next.

Let’s be clear: Johnson and the Tories did not win a resounding mandate. Their vote hardly increased overall. What happened was that Labour lost, big time, and lost most in the areas that Labour badly needed to win.

What caused the slump in Labour votes?

First: in my view, Labour was totally unprepared for the kind of election this was going to be. The journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote that, instead of looking backwards to Thatcher, British politics should be understood in the context of the international rise of right-wing authoritarian governments elected on the basis of nationalism: Modi in India, Orban in Hungary, Trump in the US.

The Tories learned from 2017, and not only carried out a vast undercover social media campaign but also didn’t allow the broadcast media to be as impartial. They carefully Read the rest of this entry »


Nightmare on Downing Street

December 16, 2019

Until I saw the exit poll from the UK general election on Thursday evening, I was holding out hope that there would be a hung parliament, leading either to Boris Johnson squirming again under an opposition majority, or a Labour-led coalition or minority government.

I wasn’t the only one. The polls were narrowing, and millions of people were at least giving the impression of being undecided until the last minute.

It didn’t happen. We suffered a defeat. Here are some thoughts about it.

1. Boris Johnson’s xenophobic populism worked.

Clearly there were many reasons why working-class voters either voted Tory or did not turn out to vote Labour. But equally clearly, amidst the fear and desperation caused by

Demonstrators at Downing Street, Friday 13 December. Photo by Steve Eason

years of austerity policies, falling living standards and unemployment, the Tories’ vilification of outsiders (the continent of Europe, migrants, Muslims, and so on) had some resonance. Let’s not try to pretend otherwise.

“Get Brexit Done” was the latest in a series that includes not only “Take Back Control” but also Donald Trump’s “Lock Her Up” and “Build That Wall”.

Three days before the election, Johnson returned to the heart of his Brexit message, Read the rest of this entry »


Disaster evironmentalism 1: looking the future in the face

December 5, 2019

“Barring a miracle, [a global average temperature rise above pre-industrial levels of] 2 degrees C must inevitably be substantially breached.” Nothing that has happened since the 2015 Paris climate conference has “suggested any reason for doubting that judgement”.

The international climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland, in 2018, which were supposed to follow up on the Paris agreements, “can be seen as achieving no more than an elaborate seating-plan for the sun-deck of the Titanic”.

In 2020, countries are supposed to show how they have met the targets set at Paris, and set tougher targets. “But even if a radical programme of reduced emissions was started at that

One demonstration: two approaches. From the school students’ protest, 29 November, 2019

point, and one that went far beyond the Paris Agreement, it would need to achieve zero emissions by 2040 to stay within the 2 degrees C limit. […]

“Surely the most optimistic assumption we are entitled to make, based on current political agreements and actions across the world is that emissions will continue to rise after 2030, hopefully levelling off later in the century”.

And so “we must assume” that there will be “a global temperature rise associated with carrying on as we are”: that means, by 2100, “at the very least” 3-4 degrees C, and “more likely” 4-5 degrees C.[1]

I agree with all that – with the caveat that those temperatures are consistent with “carrying on as we are”, whereas I believe we have the capacity to do things differently. It is from the Introduction to a new book from the Green House think tank, Facing Up to Climate Reality.[2]

The Introduction argues (i) that “dangerous climate change is now inevitable” and (ii) that “we are going to have to live in a post-growth world”.

This is the starting point of what I call disaster environmentalism, being developed by Rupert Read (one of the Introduction’s three authors), Jem Bendell and other writers associated with Extinction Rebellion (XR).

In a book, This Civilisation is Finished, Read underlines: “there is no ‘safe’ level of warming”; that limiting warming to 2 degrees C, which is now “amost unachievable”, will mean the death of 99% of the world’s coral reefs, and probably the end of ice in the northern hemisphere. It Read the rest of this entry »


Disaster environmentalism 2: roads to a post-growth economy

December 5, 2019

The disaster environmentalists’ hopes for the future rest not only on “deep adaptation”, but on acceptance that we need to live in a “post growth world”. Rupert Read writes:

It is crucial that we resist growthism, the very widespread drive to keep the economy ‘growing’. For (perpetual) growthism is a perpetual obstacle to collective sanity, to facing the reality of [ecological and social] limits. […] And green growthism is merely a subset of growthism.[1] […]

Society can not afford more growth, Read argues; progress towards understanding this is “glacially slow”. And so:

It still seems, tragically, far more likely that growth will end because of collapse than because of informed decision.

Yes and no, in my view. “Economic growth”, as manifested by global capitalism, is completely unsustainable. “Green growth”, or “socialist growth”, are no substitutes. Our challenge to the

Symptom of growth: a traffic jam in the USA

economic system must open the way for a society based on human happiness and fulfilment, values completely at odds with – and distorted and defaced by – the rich-country consumerist ideology that helps to justify ever-expanding material production. But, unlike Read, I believe that the way “growth” ends is still to play for.

In my view (not new, from a socialist), all this means challenging capitalism, along with the state and political structures that protect its interests. On that, the disaster environmentalists are agnostic. They talk up the need for systemic change, but combine this with tame, almost naïve, claims about how to challenge the system.

A really thoughtful article by Richard McNeill Douglas, in a book put together by the disaster environmentalists, poses a crucial question: “Could capitalism survive the transition to a post- Read the rest of this entry »


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