Making decentralised electricity work for all of us

September 30, 2019

Decentralised electricity is on its way in, like it or not. Networks managed by “smart” technology, supplied by renewable sources and other small-scale power stations, can only expand.

Systems centred on ever-larger coal-, gas- or nuclear-fired power stations, completely dominant fifty years ago, will decline in many countries from now on – although they will not go quietly.

Social and labour movements had better take notice. If we don’t make this technological change work for people, energy corporations will make it work for profit.

And those corporations are paying close attention. “The centralised model of power production is dying”, Mark Boillot, a senior vice president of Électricité de France, one of Europe’s largest electricity

In the Akermanbogan estate in Munich, Germany, solar thermal roofs have been linked to a sealed (and landscaped) reservoir that supplies several apartment blocks, cutting heating bills in half. Surpluses are “pooled” within their district heating network. Photo from The Transformation Moment by Alan Simpson

companies, said recently. It will be “replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand”.

Labour Party policy

In the UK, the Labour party conference last week called for a Green New Deal; rapid expansion of renewables generation, and taking the “big six” energy companies into public ownership, would be key elements.

This cuts across current Labour electricity policy, set out in the Bringing Energy Home document published earlier this year: to extend public ownership only to the transmission (high-voltage) and distribution (low-voltage) electricity networks, plus networks that supply gas to homes for cooking and heating. Generation of electricity (power stations, wind farms, and so on), and supply (the marketing of the electricity to users) will stay in private hands.

The conference’s stance, if translated into policy, would potentially be much better suited to making electricity decentralisation work for us all.

In Bringing Energy Home, Labour acknowledged that decentralisation is “inevitable”, but warned: “decentralisation within a liberalised framework risks exacerbating inequalities”. It continued:

Though decentralisation may create some initial space for community-run cooperatives, it risks primarily expanding the private sector and strengthening the dominant market logic, creating the conditions to squeeze out community-owned companies.

Data-focused companies such as Amazon and Google are moving into energy, the document warned, and “a decentralisation process dominated by tech giants will leave both workers and communities disempowered”. This disempowerment is a very real threat, to which co-operatives and other Read the rest of this entry »

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Sport for the people, not for governments and big business!

April 19, 2018

Moscow students call for solidarity

This is a statement from the Moscow State University Student Initiative Group, forwarded by friends in Moscow. Please circulate and re-post it.

Russia will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup – a grandiose event both in terms of tens of thousands of fans from around the world, and for big business and the Russian government.

As is often the case with events of this scale, the organisers do not hear the voices of ordinary people, even if there are thousands of them. This time, it is planned to hold the FIFA Fan Fest in Moscow in

“The World Cup is no reason to humiliate the university”. Photo from the MSU Initiative Group facebook page

an extremely inappropriate place, near Moscow State University (MSU). Students, graduate students, staff and local residents are protesting this decision.

The noise and the security measures will affect badly the educational and research activities and the life of the campus with 6500 inhabitants, 37,000 students and 9000 professors and researchers.

Faculties are to shorten the courses and the exam sessions; researchers are being forced to take holidays. Dormitory residents are either to suffer from the noise or to risk eviction. Citizens are to suffer from a transport collapse caused by the installation of a strict gating system around territory that has always been open to public. The green territory around our University was not designed to host a festival with 25,000 football fans.

After the protests, the zone was moved a little further from the main building. This is a fake response. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


After Grenfell Tower

July 12, 2017

A guest post by CLIFF SLAUGHTER

The number of dead from the Grenfell Tower fire is still unknown. Since the fire, millions of people living in high-rise flats do not know if and when they can be safe.

What is to be done? What can come from the anger of millions of people, especially the victims, and the bitter protests about the fact that it is only ordinary working people who were hit?

One answer came from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster:

The thing about anger and its energy is it has to get directed in the right way. It has to get shaped so it becomes a positive source. And I think that what I find most troubling is those who wish to use that anger to deepen divisions in society.

This gentleman of the cloth is telling the surviving victims, and the rest of us, to direct our anger and Read the rest of this entry »


Collective rage, collective care

June 19, 2017

More on the Grenfell Tower aftermath, from DAVID BERRIE.

When we talk about communities of care and collectivised social reproduction, THIS is what we mean. Me and a few other art therapists, some who live just a stone’s throw from Grenfell Tower, went down to the estate and just provided materials and emotional support. Two hundred teenagers then spontaneously and collectively made this memorial. The care and support they showed each other was so moving. And their anger was furious.

Yesterday’s protest was the most powerful one I’ve ever been a part of. This has woken a collective rage and collective care I’ve never witnessed before.

This is working class power and it is not going away.

Read the rest of this entry »


A feeling of persecution that runs deep

June 19, 2017

AL MIKEY writes about the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire

I wrote this on Friday after I visited North Kensington, and after residents stormed Kensington Town Hall. For those people not able, or who haven’t had time, to go down to the area to help or witness (witness is what I did), I hope it’s useful. Been an emotional few days like so many people in London that feel this.

FRIDAY JUNE 16th. A lot of really raw anger and hurt, it’s hard to convey the emotions. When I got out of the tube, every 10-15 metres there’s random groups discussing what happened, who they knew, latest updates, and audiences gather. The streets had around 300-400 locals there. An ice cream van was giving out free ice creams (compliments from a local estate agent apparently). All along the street were hundreds of photos of people missing (i counted around 60 different people) a lot of children, whole families.

The residents are a real mixture, a lot of Middle Eastern arabs, Muslims, north Africans, but also white working class, a lot of women and children in school uniform. There’s nothing segregated about it. Everyone is out and talking with each other. Must be 100 Read the rest of this entry »


Cities: working out a socialist critique

April 1, 2012

Twenty-first century socialism needs a critique of cities. Why don’t we ask ourselves whether these monsters in which most of us live – at the same time awful and wonderful – will survive in a communist future?

Kibera slum outside Nairobi (population estimated between 170,000 and 1 million)

We might question the assumptions in much twentieth-century socialist thinking that cities are a necessary part of human development … and revive and rethink nineteenth-century communist ideas that envisaged communism breaking down the division between city and countryside.

This article sets out some ideas on this, and aims to put in context a prescient article on this subject written by Amadeo Bordiga, the Italian left communist, in 1952 – which People & Nature publishes here in a new English translation for the first time.

The rise of the city is one of capitalism’s most obvious achievements. In 1800, the urban population was 3% of the world’s total population (27 million people); in 1900, it was 14% (225 million); and in 2000 it was 47% (2.9 billion).  In this decade, the majority of humans – in 2010, 50.5% (3.5 billion) people – are living in urban areas for the first time, according to a recent UN report.[1]

Read the rest of this entry »


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