One hundred years ago, on 1 March 1921, sailors at the Kronshtadt naval base took up arms against the Russian Soviet government. In 1917, those sailors were on the front lines of Russia’s two revolutions, which overthrew tsarist autocracy and the capitalist government that succeeded it. Those struggles brought to power the Soviet government, the first in the world claiming to rule on behalf of working people. (The soviets were workers’ councils.) After defeating the counter-revolutionary “Whites” in the civil war of 1919-20, that government’s Bolshevik leaders faced an explosion of protest by the very workers they claimed to speak for, that culminated in the Kronshtadt revolt. The movement demanded not only action against economic inequality, but also the restoration of the soviet democracy and free speech won in 1917. Today People & Nature publishes an article by Simon Pirani, describing the 1921 workers’ movement, its political aspirations, and how the Bolsheviks, by suppressing it, took a decisive step towards authoritarianism. The article builds on research for Pirani’s book, The Russian Revolution in Retreat: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (2008). CONTINUE HERE
By SIMON PIRANI
The UK government has put electric cars at the centre of its disastrous climate strategy, which doesn’t even aim for half the needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
The focus on electric cars – which goes together with a gigantic £27 billion road-building programme – is opposed by researchers of climate science, transport policy, engineering and urban planning. Their advice has in practice been ignored.
The Labour leadership is happy with the electric cars narrative, leaving researchers and campaigners outside parliament to point out that electrification, without an immediate, giant
shift towards public transport, cycling and walking – and away from individually-owned cars – will never come close to decarbonising transport at any meaningful pace.
In the run-up to the international climate talks in Glasgow in November, it is vital that the government’s cynical PR strategy is unmasked.
Support for electric cars was a highlight of the government’s ten-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, announced in November. Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 – that is, after the most vital decade for action on climate has already passed.
The plan includes a promise of about £2.8 billion to subsidise manufacture of, and infrastructure for, electric cars – just over one-tenth of the cost of the £27 billion national road-building Read the rest of this entry »
China’s national and provincial post-Covid recovery packages will put three times as much cash into fossil fuel projects as into renewable energy.
China is “focusing its recovery on high-carbon energy and infrastructure, as it did after
the 2008-09 global financial crisis”, says Carbon Brief, who analysed the spending plans. Dozens of new coal-fired power stations and climate-trashing coal-to-chemicals plants are among the key items.
The plans make a mockery of Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s claim to the United Nations in September to be aiming for “carbon neutrality before 2060”.
This chasm between words and actions makes Xi a “climate arsonist” still more dangerous than Donald Trump, Richard Smith, a US-based China researcher, writes in a recent article. Smith fears that Xi is “abandoning the transition to renewables”.
In a book published last year, China’s Engine of Environmental Collapse, Smith argues that China’s combination of bureaucratic dictatorship and capitalism has exacerbated Read the rest of this entry »
As China’s ruling elite connives with European and American politicians to promote false climate “solutions” via the international talks, its defenders on the “left” claim it is aiming for an “ecological civilisation”.
A common approach is to foreground geopolitics: to present the trade war between the USA and China as part of the battle between capitalism and “socialism” and to sideline the class struggle in China.
The Chinese elite’s role in driving forward unsustainable capitalist expansion, so obscured and downplayed by its defenders on the “left”, is analysed by Richard Smith in his book China’s Engine of Environmental Collapse, which I discussed in a linked post, that you could read first.
In this post I contrast Smith’s approach to that of John Bellamy Foster, a writer on “ecological Marxism” and editor of Monthly Review, and comment on a review of Smith’s book by Andrew Burgin, a UK-based socialist activist. It’s in the form of five questions.
- Does the Chinese elite’s support for renewable electricity generation show that it is leading the way to an “ecological civilisation”?
The Chinese coal-fired boom of the last 20 years has made a substantial contribution to the climate and ecological emergency – and yet prominent “ecosocialists”, without Read the rest of this entry »
“Low carbon?” Its emissions are more than twice the UK economy’s
All of a sudden, hydrogen is (supposedly) a weapon to fight global warming. Governments are bigging it up in their “net zero” plans; oil companies say they are investing in it; union leaders say it will create jobs.
But no-one talks about the really existing hydrogen industry, that each year produces about 70 million tonnes of pure hydrogen, and another 45 million tonnes of hydrogen in other chemical products … and pours 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Yes, you read that right. 830 million tonnes of CO2 per year. 2% of total global total greenhouse gas emissions. Equal to about four-fifths of the emissions from aviation; more than twice the entire UK economy’s emissions. (See Endnote 1 about the numbers.)
Of that 115 million tonnes of hydrogen output, more than 99% is “grey” hydrogen – which means it is extracted from natural gas, coal or oil, and the carbon dioxide left over ends up in the air.
It’s fashionable to talk about “blue” hydrogen (made from fossil fuels, but with the carbon captured and stored, instead of being emitted) and “green” hydrogen (produced by electrolysis of water, using gigantic quantities of electricity). But these techniques are used only in a tiny handful of businesses. “Grey” hydrogen is completely dominant.
Companies and governments are promising to expand “blue” and “green” hydrogen production. They claim it will replace natural gas to heat people’s homes, and petrol for cars, and that it will cut carbon emissions.
But before expanding hydrogen production, what about decarbonising existing output?
That would be a big cut in the world’s carbon emissions. Nearly as big a cut as if aviation stopped. More than twice as big a cut as if the UK went to zero.
It would also mean a big shake-up of some of the world’s most polluting industries – oil refining and petrochemicals production – where the hydrogen is produced and used.
There is little mention of hydrogen’s gigantic carbon footprint in the glossy reports, press releases and “net zero” policies of the companies that produce it. But a report Read the rest of this entry »