Battlegrounds of Labour’s Green New Deal

September 30, 2019

The Green New Deal policy passed by the Labour conference at Brighton last week was among the most far-reaching attempts by any big political party to face up to the climate and ecological emergency.

The conference urged a future Labour government to “work towards a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030”, guaranteeing “an increase in good unionised jobs” and ensuring that the cost is “borne by the wealthiest, not the majority”.

It also called for “public ownership of energy, creating an integrated, democratic system”, including “public ownership of the Big Six [electricity generating companies]”.

The resolution (text here) was passed on 24 September by an overwhelming majority, with support from trade unions including Unite and Unison.

A separate resolution supported by the GMB union and urging decarbonisation as fast as possible –

green new deal banner

At the 20 September Climate Strike in London. Photo by Steve Eason

but without the 2030 target – was also passed. That amounts to a “challenge to the Labour party and its grassroots activists to come up with a concrete plan to meet the 2030 target”, the journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan argued.

More than 128 Constituency Labour Parties sent in motions on the Green New Deal – more than on any other topic – after a whirlwind campaign by Labour For A Green New Deal (LGND).

This is an important shift, forced by the upsurge of radical climate protest. No coincidence that it came straight after the school students’ global “climate strike” on 20 September.

The aims of these resolutions will not be achieved without conflict – not only with energy companies, but also with senior Labour politicians and union bosses who talk green but support carbon-heavy policies.

The Labour leadership’s existing energy policy was crafted in part to avoid conflict with these powerful interests. In the electricity sector, it is committed to nationalise networks, but not generation (i.e. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »


“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 »


“You picked a fight with the state, we will grind you into dust”. How a Russian activist was tortured

June 4, 2019

The “network case” – an investigation into alleged terrorism by Russian anarchists and anti-fascists, during which security service officers have repeatedly tortured detainees – has gone to trial. Hearings are taking place in Penza and St Petersburg.

Dmitry Pchelintsev, one of the defendants, gave testimony in court about how he was tortured. An edited translation is published here.

The “network case” investigation began in 2017. Officers of the Federal Security Services (FSB) claim that twelve young men were part of an organisation called “the network” – a “terrorist group” that allegedly planned to “stir up the population in order to destabilise political conditions” in Russia via a series of terrorist attacks. The FSB claims that “the network” had cells operating in cities across Russia and Belarus.

Pchelintsev’s testimony about torture is not the first. Other defendants in the case have repeatedly stated that they were tortured (e.g. here and here) into confessing to charges.

Pchelintsev, 27, lives in Penza in central Russia. He is charged with creating “the network”; illegal possession of weapons; and an attempted arson attack against a local military office.

The article below is the second part of Pchelintsev’s testimony at Povolzhye Regional Military Court in Penza. MediaZona, a Russian web site focused on unjust imprisonment and prisoners’ rights, published an abridged account in Russian. It was translated by openDemocracy and is republished here with thanks to them.

For information on the international solidarity campaign in support of “the network” defendants, see the Rupression site.

Day one: “He stripped the wires and attached them to my toes”

I was arrested on 27 October, 2017. Naturally, I didn’t admit my guilt and refused to testify. My lawyer, who was not planning to represent me in the future, said: “If you get another lawyer, you will testify with him. Take your Article 51 rights [against self-incrimination] with me now.” So, I didn’t admit anything and I wasn’t particularly questioned that day. I was

Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo from his family/Mediazona

brought to a temporary detention centre, and spent one night there, after which I was taken to court. The court chose arrest as a deterrence measure. I was arrested and sent to the city’s Investigative Detention Centre No.1 [SIZO 1].

SIZO 1 has three blocks: an old block, a new block and a block nicknamed “Titanic”. But they put me in the fourth block, which was completely empty. There was not a single person there. This is a two-storey block where no one is held and no one monitors. It stands apart from the rest of the detention centre. I was brought to Cell 5.1, where I dropped my mattress on the floor, and then I was told: “Let’s go.” It was my first time in investigative detention, so I had no idea what was supposed to happen. I thought I probably had to go through some procedures, fingerprinting, perhaps something else. I was told to enter a neighbouring cell, Cell 5.2. I entered, and the door was closed behind me.

This was on 28 October, my first day in investigative detention. In theory, I should have been placed in quarantine, in the “Titanic” block. But I was brought to the Cell 5.2, and left Read the rest of this entry »


Russia: “network” case lawyers prepare for court battle

March 25, 2019

Lawyers for Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov, two of the defendants in the “network case”, are now preparing for their trial. The defendants in the case are Russian anti-fascists who were arrested – and tortured by security services officers – in St Petersburg and Penza last year. They are accused of a so-called terrorist plot – a prosecution denounced by Russian human rights organisations as a frame-up.

Anti-fascists across Europe, as well as in Russia itself, have been campaigning for the charges to be dropped, and for those responsible for torturing the defendants to be brought to justice.

This is a report of an update on the case provided by Vitaly Cherkasov, lawyer for Viktor Filinkov. It was published on the Russian news web site OVD-info.

On 19 January, Vitaly Cherkasov, legal counsel for Viktor Filinkov, held a press conference on his client’s case in St Petersburg. After being under investigation for 13 months,

Yuly Boyarshinov, in conversation with his lawyer, at a court hearing. Photo: Rupression.ru

Filinkov’s case has now been sent to court, and Cherkasov is free to discuss the evidence. According to Cherkasov, there is no substantial evidence in the case file against his client.

“We are concerned that the court will follow the prosecution’s lead and hold the trial in camera,” said Cherkasov. “Having studied the case file, we didn’t find a single document that would count as a state secret or other secret. We want the trial to be monitored by the public. We believe that with the help of the public and the press, we can convince the court in an open hearing to examine the case objectively.”

Viktor Filinkov was detained at Petersburg Pulkovo airport on 23 January 2018, but he was arrested only on 25 January. Later Filinkov recounted how he was tortured by FSB officers throughout the intervening two days.

“The case file contains my client’s testimony, which were given to the state-appointed lawyer,” Cherkasov stated. “This lawyer did not pay attention to the bodily injuries sustained by Filinkov.”

Initially, Filinkov gave statements that were advantageous to the investigators, but after he appointed Cherkasov as his legal counsel, he stated that he had made false confessions Read the rest of this entry »


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