Watermelon Spring 2018


watermelon
Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2018

OUR NEIGHBOUR BILL by Patric Cunnane (an extract)

All the time his socialist heart
Insisted workers should share his art

He believed that wealth caused sin
And set to write the story out
How capital would take a rout
In News from Nowhere, Dream of John Ball
He showed how power would take a fall

By the Wandle he created jobs
For human beings, not cogs
 Kelmscott Manor, the Red House
Designed to show
Beauty and utility together go

Marxist realist, friend of Engels
Medieval dreamer, political schemer,
Skillful weaver of art and verse
Our neighbour Bill was all these things

(The full poem is included in Patric's latest collection, The Ghost of Franza Kafka,published by Palewell Press.Copies available from www.palewellpress.co.uk)

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Green Left is an anti-capitalist, ecosocialist group within the Green Party of England & Wales. Membership is open to all GPEW members, (see back page for details). All views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Green Left.



The FUTURE can only be ECOSOCIALISM!
By Roy Sandison

The exploitation and destruction of the planet is absolutely linked to the damage that international capitalism is doing to the lives of ordinary people as well as the planet itself.

The Green Party and green movement is a growing movement. Many people sharing the need to change society have joined our ranks in the Green Party and are taking similar values into other political parties including the SNP, Plaid and Labour Party and linking up with a number of the existing Eco socialists in all three parties.

Our green policies, such as green jobs, anti-austerity and lately opposition to PFI, are really gaining an echo, and rather than being upset or sniffy that our policies have been adopted by other political parties, this  is something we should celebrate as a real step forward and not something to be condemned!

Frankly it verges on ridiculous to be sniping in such a way. WE WANT OUR IDEAS TO BE FIRMLY ON THE AGENDA FOR CHANGE!

IT’S THE SAME PEOPLE!

Those hundreds and thousands of ordinary people who have flooded into political activity in our party are basically the same people who have flooded into the SNP and Labour and we would do ourselves no favours by tribalism and behaving like a green self-absorbed sect.

Yes we know that a shrinking number of Labour MPs and Councillors are Blairties and the Green Party have rightly opposed their policies in parliament and in local Councils BUT it’s clear with the massive surge of new members into Labour that ordinary Green Party members see shared values emerging and linking up in struggle against the Blairites.

“WHY DON`T/DID YOU GO AND JOIN LABOUR THEN?” PETER MURRY PETER ALLEN

PM: “Why don`t you go and join Labour then ?”  I’m sometimes asked when I advocate an Ecosocialist Green Party. My reasons are chiefly that, in spite of inspiring rhetoric from Corbyn & McDonnell, Labour has not made effectively combatting climate change its central organising principle, and its internal contradictions will probably never allow this. Associated with that is a failure to acknowledge that continuing economic growth is a fundamentally flawed long term aim. If I was convinced of real movement on these points I might reluctantly stomach the failure to scrap Trident, or to oppose nuclear power, or airport expansion: but why should I make such important compromises when I can belong to a party whose stance is clear and consistent? Labour on the other hand has spent several decades veering wildly between managerialist social democracy and a more redistributive parliamentary socialism. Its Blairite right has not gone away, although now muted as opportunistic MPs slipstream Corbyn’s success. In local government Labour councils, having been ordered to comply with Tory austerity programs, are supporting ‘regeneration’ schemes, often in co-operation with commercial developers, and selling off local services. I’m not sure if, even with the backing of a huge membership surge, organised via Momentum, Labour’s entrenched corporatists can be removed, and if they could, could Labour become really Ecosocialist?

PA: I agree with much of what you have said and share some of your reservations about Labour. Among my reasons for deciding to join the Labour Party is to contribute to the development of its environmental policies. I want Labour to prioritise ecological as well as social and economic justice and there are signs that this is beginning. We agree that it is imperative that a government is elected to take radical measures to address climate change and other environmental threats. It also needs to be committed to challenging neoliberalism and austerity. We both know that there is no prospect of the Green Party leading such a government. It should however do nothing to hinder its election. The apparent intention to stand against Labour in as many seats as possible is likely to do just that.

Regarding the failings of local councils then of course this is universal across the country, regardless of the political party in charge. It cannot be otherwise given the chronic underfunding by central government, something which should be high on the list of an incoming Labour led government to reverse. The Green led council in Brighton was no exception of course and perhaps its only lasting legacy was the viewing tower on the seafront....sponsored by British Airways ! 

PM: I also would like to contribute to the development of Labour environmental policies. In fact, the existence of the Green Party as an electoral rival helped other parties to accept the reality of climate change, but, they have all so far, been unable or unwilling to translate this into effective action. I don’t doubt the sincerity of Corbyn, McDonnell and other Labour members who recognise the issue and I am glad to work with many of these people in developing and promoting policies to create a low carbon economy. I agree with you that as there is no immediate chance of a Green government, Labour is currently, the most likely political party to work towards this goal in government but for Greens to continue to stand electorally is not necessarily to hinder this. In parliamentary elections in constituencies with large Labour majorities, Greens can exert political pressure on both MP’s and local councils by standing and widening the political horizons of some voters. In marginal seats Greens have the option of negotiating with candidates from Labour with a view to not standing against them. Implicit in all this is the increasingly unlikely idea that governments can or should be formed exclusively by one party, yet Labour seems unwilling to countenance this or to have anything to do with PR.

PA: I agree that the Green Party has helped to move the debate forward on climate change and would go further and say that it played a role in shifting the Labour Party to the left by offering an alternative electoral option to socialists. I question the wisdom of an electoral strategy that says Greens should prioritise standing in seats where they won’t affect the result. The next election is likely to be even more polarised and bitterly fought than the last and in my view progressive voters should be encouraged to vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the Tory one. In most constituencies that candidate will be the Labour one. I agree that political parties, which are themselves broad coalitions, should seek to work with others to achieve common objectives and will promote this approach within the Labour Party, as I know you will within the Green Party. Regarding PR, I think this has growing support within the Labour Party, up to and including John McDonnell.  Labour’s 2017 manifesto supported the idea of a Constitutional Convention, which would “invite recommendations on extending democracy”. Many Labour Party members would support a PR proposal at such a convention, both in the interests of democracy and as the best way of consolidating and increasing the anti-Tory majority that exists in the UK. 





A REVIEW BY LESLEY GRAHAME 

This book made me smile from the title onwards, though it starts more convincingly than it finishes.. Monbiot describes the importance of story to political culture, and how both the neo liberal and Keynesian narratives have failed dangerously. 


Neo-liberalism has delivered the self-hating state, an anti-politics that disenfranchises and leaves little room for the public good, along with obscene levels of inequality and the absence of consent. Keynesianism offers growth with selective enthusiasm and partial measures for a partialsocial justice that relies on growth that's trashing our finite planet. To keep us buying we must be dissatisfied with ourselves, fall for the false identity and aspirations of celebrity, and replace real friends and neighbours with virtual ones.


Neither ‘ism’ offers a plausible solution to the breakdown in the physical, political and social climate. It is time for a new story. Narratives must be named and exposed before being contested. Their present power is that we don't see them as arguable opinions but as unchallengeable assumptions or common sense. Both write the commons out of the story, When the answer is gross domestic product, the right questions have not been asked, such as ‘‘what is the purpose of the economy’?

Both have led to an age of loneliness and misery, caused by competition, isolation and alienation. We are disconnected from ourselves, each other and nature. Yet, we remain hardwired to reach out, connect and help each other. Our altruism, if organised can be our salvation. The antidote to alienation is belonging, with family, friends and communities. The politics of belonging requires a participatory culture,  that demands education for participation, a fair voting system

The global powers that cede to the demands of big money can and must be democratised so they gain our consent and serve the common good - for example the WTO could have a changed role to ensure fair trade - or it could be replaced. To organise this we need to envision such possibilities, and Monbiot is a story-teller. To overcome we need to tell better stories, the power of the better story has much to add to every campaign. I would like to suggest a follow up, perhaps with many authors, sharing best experiences of 'how to', perhaps along the lines of Election Handbook meets Transition narratives.

No doubt the ‘new story’ will be labelled naive, and as a stand-alone solution it might be, but it is a valuable contribution to growing, and increasingly connected movement. Monbiot reminds us how the Bernie Sanders campaign went from 3% to 46% in one campaign, and almost won.  When placed as part of a wider movement, along with say tax justice, anti-racism, land rights, environmental justice, and more, activating the power for good that is in all of us has to be the clearest route and most accessible vehicle  to realising  the common good as the shared, ultimate goal.


Green Left Youth Officer

Barnaby Suttle has drafted the following announcement for Watermelon:

"I would like to thank the Green Left Committee for appointing me to the role of Youth Officer. In this role I intend to build links between the Young Greens and Green Left. I think it is important for the Left to have a strong voice in the wider party and working with the Young Greens will be essential for achieving this in the long term. 

I have been a member of the Green Party of England & Wales since around 2009 and have been involved in campaigning in elections since then, including leading election activities on the campus of the University of Sussex as President of its Green Party Society in the 2011 Local Elections."



DEMOCRACY AND REACTION IN LATIN AMERICA
 David Raby
In recent decades Latin America has led in forging alternatives to the global capitalist, imperialist and ecocidal system. New initiatives in grassroots democracy such as participatory budgeting in Brazil; the indigenous communalism of the Zapatistas in Mexico; Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela; Evo Morales in Bolivia with the concept of rights for Mother Earth (Pachamama); the citizens’ revolution under Rafael Correa in Ecuador which closed the US base at Manta and took the issue of debt exploitation by “vulture funds” to the United Nations; the ALBA* alliance based on fair trade, social justice and environmental sustainability; and the continued resistance of socialist Cuba, These and other Latin American movements of liberation have provided inspiration worldwide.

All of this is now under threat, obviously from Trump’s crude aggression, but before him, a related global right-wing offensive. The key objective of this is Venezuela because of its central role under Chávez (and now Maduro) in promoting a practical economic, social and ultimately political and military alternative, independent of Washington and extending across the region with ALBA and related initiatives.

Also Cuba is always a target for Washington, and Trump reversed the limited improvement in US-Cuba relations that occurred under Obama. But the deep roots of the Cuban revolution and its excellent relations with countries around the world mean Cuba is less of a priority for destabilisation than Venezuela or other countries with progressive governments.

In this context a crucial focus of attention is Brazil. Although due to the strength of the Brazilian industrial and landed elite, the PT (Workers’ Party) governments of Lula (2002-10) and Dilma (2010-16) had not been able to take such radical measures as Venezuela or Bolivia, they did achieve real progress towards social justice and regional independence. It was therefore a major setback, when in August 2016, Dilma was impeached in what amounted to a coup organised by a corrupt Congress and judiciary. The coup president, Michel Temer, whose popularity ratings fluctuate between 2 and 6 %, appointed a cabinet composed of rich white men, reversed all of the PT’s social programmes and opened up the country’s vast resources to global capital on an unprecedented scale. Now, with elections due later this year and Lula the popular favourite to win with a new and more advanced programme, the regime has taken the coup a stage further by arresting Lula and gaoling him for 12 years.

A much smaller country, Honduras, was also the scene of an anti-democratic coup, blatantly manipulated from Washington. Already back in 2009 the progressive president Manuel Zelaya – who led Honduras into the ALBA alliance – had been overthrown in a coup backed by the US and by Hillary Clinton. In the 2017 elections the popular candidate Salvador Nasralla was ahead in the vote count when the count was suddenly suspended for several hours, and when it resumed the right-wing candidate was declared winner. There have been massive popular protests.

Colombia, is significant in a different way, suffering from over 50 years of repressive elite governments and internal conflict. President Juan Manuel Santos, now approaching the end of his second four-year term, made a point of seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict. An agreement was signed last year with the FARC rebels, and talks with the ELN (the second largest rebel group) also seemed to be progressing. Congressional and presidential elections are coming up, and a variety of progressive parties and groups are fielding candidates. But the regime has signally failed to fulfil its side of the peace agreement with the FARC or to curb right-wing paramilitary death squads which continue to murder peaceful social activists. The peace process is in crisis and Colombia continues to act as a US ally threatening neighbouring Venezuela.

To counter this bleak picture, the key ALBA countries of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia are still standing. It is doubtful how much longer the Brazilian regime can resist popular pressure, and there are prospects for progressive election victories in Mexico and Paraguay. Popular resistance, centred in indigenous, black and workers’ movements, is growing. We in Britain have a strong record of solidarity with Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and with Latin American popular struggles, and the Green Party should participate actively in these solidarity movements.

*ALBA is the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, an initiative of Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. It promotes regional integration with fair trade (not free trade), social justice and environmental sustainability; members include Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and some of the small anglophone Caribbean countries, and it also promotes association between popular organisations throughout the region.”
         




Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) rally on  10/12/ 2017

The International Ecosocialist Network  Delegation to Catalunya

Lucy Early
Green Left  International Spokesperson

To President Mariano Rajoy’s chagrin Catalunya’s election results on 21st December 2017 called by the Spanish government reinstated the majority position for independence in the Catalan parliament. Junts per Catalunya (JxC) Together for Catalonia (the party of Carles Puigdemont, who fled into exile as leader of the parliament following the banned referendum) won 34 seats; Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya
 the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) won 32; and the green, anti-capitalist Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) won four. The three secessionist parties forming Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition won a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament compared to the largest single unionist Ciudadanos with 37 seats, leading Puigdemont to declare the results a vindication for the ‘Catalan republic’.  Podem en Commun, (allied to the anti-austerity Spanish party Podemos) and advocating the right of the Catalan people to self-determination, scored 8 seats.

It was a show of defiance following Spain’s show of force over the referendum that led to pictures of beaten civilians being sent around the world, as they attempted to decide their regional future at the ballot box on October 1st 2017.  It was particularly striking given that after this Rajoy triggered Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which suspended hard won rights to regional autonomy, summarily arrested democratically elected politicians some of whom are still detained, and forced others into exile.  The speedy electoral process in the wake of what have been deemed to be human rights violations by the UN, appeared to be almost an afterthought to this, conjuring spectres of the civil war and the brutal repression during the Franco era. The directive failed to cow the electorate and the elected into submission and has restored the Spanish government’s dilemma on how to proceed given a clear mandate by Catalans to have greater freedom in the political and economic sphere.

Two weeks before the vote I accompanied supporters from the newly formed International Ecosocialist Network on a delegation to Barcelona as Green Left International spokesperson.  Partying went on as usual that weekend It was hard to know what to make of it given the stakes: Barcelona is fairly evenly split on independence from Spain, the surrounding country districts more committed to secession. Yet over the meetings that we attended it became that this apparently relaxed atmosphere was underpinned by a resolve to demonstrate a model of democratic engagement omitted in the dominant media narratives. 

This crisis has forced a re-evaluation not only of Spain as progressive state, but of the EU which has authorised its actions irrespective of the abuses, citing the Spanish constitution. The economic fallout of austerity following the crash of 2010 afflicted Spain disproportionately, and its centralised taxation system reverberated in the more affluent, industrial Catalunya.  Corruption scandals in Rajoy’s Partido Popular but also in the Catalan parliament played their part: Its leader for 23 years Jordi Pujol  put away a tidy sum after years in office.  The impetus for independence gained traction within a more egalitarian tradition and paved the way for a coalition whose king maker became CUP who pressed for the referendum.

The CUP rally that we attended on 10th December 2017 was orderly but ardent as eight of their suspended politicians reaffirmed their commitment to principles of feminism, socialism, and ecological sustainability to the sizeable crowd of thousands. We met CUP at their HQ the following day.






Photo by Romayne Phoenix

A New Model for Europe
CUP operate a policy of dialogue with like-minded anti-capitalist groups and we were able to speak to their international relations spokesperson: What they are seeking, she told us, is real change and the first step is the Catalan republic. Building a republic would enable them to build it from the bottom up. There is no blueprint, and they are learning by doing. A municipal model seeks change at a local level and is not just about getting members into parliament or local councillors elected. Elected officials have one term which addresses both the problem of corruption and the narcissistic pull of office.  Instead there is a dynamic, horizontal model focussed on processes with local assemblies as participatory forums (weekly); the next stage is a territorial assembly (monthly), and finally the general assembly (yearly) with decision making based on consensus flowing upward from the local assemblies.  It is a model which builds democratic resilience and involves and informs the electorate, removing the need for dependence on a few individuals.

Our next meeting was with the small Intersindical trade union, like CUP, they find that the point of reference for the European left is Podemos.‘Nationalism’ is understandably viewed with suspicion, however secessionism is not ‘nation state’ nationalism or even cultural or colonial nationalism as manifested in some of Europe’s more troubled movements. The preferred term is independencia. Catalunya’s position near border between France and Spain gives it its unique cultural heritage and language which it shares with the Occitanie, reaching up to Toulouse.  It is an inclusive society which has absorbed migrants.

What both groups noted is that what they are not looking for from the European left is organisations seeking to tell Catalunya what its strategy should be. The guiding principle of the diverse groups we met is the right of the Catalan people to choose.  As one member of the historic Esquerra Republicana put it in a town square where all the parties set out stalls side by side before the elections:  ‘We are a peaceful movement and we are showing Europe the democratic way forward, even in the face of violence and court repression’. 

an ecosocialist perspective
by Malcolm Bailey


Andromeda, our closest galactic neighbour            [photo: Peter J. Garbett]
         
It’s shocking that in the twenty-first century the anti-science brigade are on the march. The reason is clear. Scientific research conducted across many earth-system science disciplines is our most powerful instrument exposing the threats and damage to the environment and social justice due to capitalism. Capitalism is the enemy of nature.  The anti-science policies and rhetoric of Trump are no surprise, and have provoked strong opposition among American scientists.


Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, has met widespread condemnation. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) accuses Trump of methodically diminishing the influence of independent science in the federal government. The Department of the Interior has halted the work of committees that advise on scientific matters. Trump has signed resolutions against science-based air, drinking water, and workplace protections. Officials have apparently been banned from using the terms ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’. UCS calls this a ‘war on science’.


Science is not politics, but it is crucial that our politics are informed by science. All Green Party policies are evidence-based and consistent with the science. Our policies against global warming due to human activities are rooted in overwhelming scientific evidence. Applied science can be a scourge or boon for humankind. It’s not long since the purpose of applied science was believed to be about ‘conquering’ nature, a sort of quasi-colonialist vision, leading to human supremacy over all life on earth.


Science and technology should not be seen by Greens and the Left as an intrinsic threat to ecosystems. Ecosocialism identifies capitalism as the enemy of nature (1), bringing together social justice and the environment crisis as linked and interacting concerns. We must recognise the fundamental importance of this linkage based on analysis which is underpinned by a scientific, evidence-based approach.


Ian Angus (2) has argued that we need to unite the latest scientific findings with an ecological Marxist analysis in a socio-ecological account of the origins, nature, and direction of the crisis. A partial view of the science, without recognising and exploring the fundamental causes of the crisis, ie the capitalist economic system, is biased and not evidence-based.
Population is still blamed for the environmental crisis. It is an important issue, but the fundamental cause of the crisis is the capitalist economic system, dependent on ceaseless growth. Angus (2) cites Barry Commoner’s view that trying to fix the environment by reducing population is like trying to repair a leaky ship by throwing passengers overboard, instead of asking if there isn’t something radically wrong with the ship. 

The risk of ‘accidental’ nuclear war, causing a nuclear winter to rival the impact of climate change, continues to grow. The 2018 Doomsday Clock statement by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has advanced the clock to two minutes to midnight. The closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, even at the height of the Cold War. The nuclear rhetoric of Trump, the situation on the Korean peninsula, military exercises along NATO borders, and nuclear weapons developments all increase the threat yet Tegmark (3) says these never become election issues and tend to get largely ignored.

 He has also discussed the risk of a major extinction event caused by an asteroid hitting the Earth. It’s not a question of ‘if’, but ’when’. Science and technology could warn against and avert such a catastrophe, given sufficient time and resources. Last year scientists discovered a new elongated asteroid in the solar system. It’s the first known interstellar asteroid, originating in a planetary system around another star in our Milky Way galaxy.

It is deeply disturbing that in 2018 we need to ask ’what about the science?’ I remember C.P. Snow’s lecture in 1959 on ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.’  Not only does the gulf between science and the humanities still exist, it is being deepened by the captains of capitalism.


References

(1)        Joel Kovel:  The Enemy of Nature, Zed Books, 2007

(2)        Ian Angus:  A Redder Shade of Green. Monthly Review Press, 2017

(3)        Max Tegmark: Our Mathematical Universe, Penguin Books, 2015


A New Lucas Plan – The Way Forward for Ecosocialism? by Dave King


 (The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Lucas Plan working group).



Following on from the highly successful conference on the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan, a network of trade unionists and ecosocialists are working together to develop a new Lucas Plan for the 21st century. We have created working groups on the four themes of the conference: conversion of arms industries to socially useful production, Just Transition/climate jobs, automation/robotics and bottom-up economic planning. But what have the ideas of workers in the 1970s got to do with our current situation?

Socially useful production

The Lucas Aerospace Alternative Corporate Plan, devised by workers at the company, was launched in 1976 and became famous worldwide, sparking an international movement for socially useful production. Facing the threat of unemployment caused by new technology and recession, the workers collected 150 ideas from the shop floor for alternative products that could be produced by the company, instead of relying on military work.  As a fundamental exercise in workers’ control, it was resisted by Lucas management, but has left a rich legacy of ideas that are highly relevant today.

40 years on, neoliberalism has deepened the structural problems of industrial capitalism, leading to environmental crises, resource wars, the displacement of millions of people, economic crises, including the threat of massive job losses due to automation, and now the resulting right wing populism. The world clearly needs something better, an ecosocialist transition to sustainability based on social justice that provides people with decent livelihoods.

Such a transition requires nothing less than a new system of production and consumption, because it is the production of goods and services that is at the interface between people and nature.  The power of industrial capitalism is that it is a techno-social regime, in which the design of technology is directed by and reinforces the values and interests of the owners of capital. An ecosocialist future must also redesign technology as well as society.

This is where the Lucas Aerospace workers’ idea of socially useful production is critical, and can serve as a corrective to both neoliberal and orthodox socialist industrial high technology visions of the future. The idea of socially useful production is obviously at work in the demands for arms conversion and Just Transition/climate jobs. But the Lucas workers went further than the traditional socialist idea of production for human need rather than profit: their notion of socially useful production was also based upon a fundamental critique of industrial technological methods of production.

In order to understand this, it is necessary to delve below the surface of conventional accounts of the Lucas Plan. Like many other workers in the 1970s the workers at Lucas Aerospace were facing a wave of introduction of new computer driven machinery, which threatened to deskill their work and so reduce their bargaining power, and in some cases to eliminate their jobs. This process of capital-intensification of production is a structural dynamic of industrial capitalism, which is continuing in the current ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Since the early 1900s, it has gone by the name of Taylorism after Frederick Taylor, whose system of ‘Scientific Management’ was described by management guru Peter Drucker as ‘the greatest contribution of America to the world.  Taylor summed up his system in the phrase “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first".

In contrast to some present day authors, who seem to believe the industrial capitalist mythology that automation will lead to a leisure utopia, the Lucas Aerospace workers remained grounded in the traditional analyses of radical workers – that automation is the workers’ enemy. As highly skilled workers, they knew that the underlying dynamic of industrialism is the extraction of workers’ knowledge and know-how and its embodiment of in machines, as a means of increasing production efficiency and reducing dependency upon labour. It is this process, together with the application of scientific knowledge to enable the harnessing of natural energy sources, that has produced capitalism as we know it.

The Lucas workers’ response was fundamental. They insisted that socially useful production must be based upon what they called ‘human-centred technology’ that placed the utilisation and preservation of human skills at the centre of production. Of their 3 key criteria for socially useful production, one was that it must be based upon labour-intensive methods.

An ecosocialist future

Thus, the great value of the Lucas Plan is that it is a holistic techno-social programme, in which socialist values shape both technology and the society we want.  It showed what working class people could do and represented technology design by working class people for the common good. In place of the Taylorist/industrial capitalist enshrining of system efficiency as the highest value in technology design, it put human needs and human values first. In this, it is far better than either current orthodox socialist visions of automated post-work utopias, or the mainstream environmentalist focus on technological efficiency for waste and resource use reduction and as the key means of environmental protection.  Both of these approaches lack the understanding of technology design as inherently political and perpetuate the industrial capitalist fetish of system efficiency as the driver of ‘progress’. 

Together with its methodology of bottom-up economic planning, the Lucas Plan’s bottom-up technology design thus represents an integrated socialist approach to economic democracy, and a paradigm for an ecosocialist transition. The Lucas Aerospace workers were not merely inventing new technology; they were inventing a new production system and so a new world.  In short, their approach tells us that the main technology that the world needs now is people and their skills. A society based on human skills, community solidarity and production for genuine social need is far more resilient and sustainable than one based on fragile industrial megasystems (including information technologies), which demand ever more energy and resources. 

The New Lucas Plan working group is developing these ideas and aims to develop local, regional and national policies (e.g. industrial strategy) through bottom-up democratic processes. You are invited to join us in this work.

Contact info@breakingtheframe.org.uk for more information, or visit lucasplan.org.uk.




The housing fiasco and case studies in Derbyshire. 

Background
Local worthy shire district councils, mainly Tory, are being forced by Government to deliver the House Builders’ Federation’s model. They are approving hundreds of thousands of houses on greenbelt and greenfield land. Then adding the value to their landbanks and not building them all.

Some ministers and civil servants have recognised that the use of greenfield first, for buyers who are not in need first, has gone too far. The mildly progressive Housing White Paper may come to the House later this year. It talks about making a decades-long policy, “brownfield first”, work. This looks likely to be via a review of the National Planning Policy Framework.

The statistics that all professionals, some civil servants and politicians, are aware of, are clear from the following table. 


The shortfall of say 100,000 houses a year rests in the almost total collapse of social housebuilding. The best three decades are from the 50s to the 70s, during which time there was, on average, a fair share between social and private housing sectors. Note that in the 50s the national bank balance would have been far worse than it is now. Real austerity, not ideological austerity.

Derbyshire Dales
Meanwhile, the new Local Plan for the Derbyshire Dales demonstrates the damaging consequences of the existing regime. Every possible effort has been made by the council’s hierarchy to allocate 6500 houses mainly on green fields to the open market sharks as follows. The plan:-
·         Ignores a reduction in the demand assessment (OAN)
·         Rejects a model approved elsewhere to reduce delivery because half the planning area is in the National Park
·         Fails to apply a Government policy that encourages a community led Garden Village
These points were made to the Council, then to the Inspector, then to the Council again, then to PINs as feedback. Rejected 100% at all stages.

Amber Valley
Amber Valley refused permission for 400 houses near the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall. The Inspector amazingly took on the Council, Historic England, the NT, CPRE and a well-funded local group, Kedleston Voice (KV) - he allowed the appeal !  KV led a challenge in the High Court and won. (It is, however, under Appeal.)

Know your enemy
It’s estimated that the budget for 400 houses at say £400k per house is £160m. It’s said that the budget is commonly split in 3 parts – 1. land purchase; 2. build; 3. profit minus expenses. The expenses are mainly professional services – planners, lawyers to the top level, archaeologists and judges and many others. KV were able to risk the costs: the action group at Matlock is not.
The Tory Government is proud of its record.

Campaign points    
1.     Greens should make a shout wherever they can, to expose the housing fiasco and get a progressive government in place to put it right.
2.    Monitor the progress of the Housing White Paper
3.    Note that the main remedy is Derelict Land Grant or its successor, to mend derelict land to be fit for locally needed housing.

© John Youatt February 2018



GREEN PARTY CAMPAIGNS (or does it?????)
by Martin Francis
A feature of Green Party conferences used to be the campaigns stall where members could pick up placards on a range of issues, well-designed posters, and A5 flyers that explained policies. Alas, both the stall and resources are no more.

The party’s shortage of funds to pay for designing and printing is blamed for the lack of a campaigns budget and subsequent dearth of materials but another reason is surely the recent emphasis on elections at the expense of on-going campaigns on issues such as the NHS, austerity, education, housing, nuclear power, fracking and climate change.

Like puppies at Christmas, our policies are not just for elections but also for the continuing work of the Green Party nationally and locally.  We need material explaining our perspective to be given out on demonstrations, at local and national meetings and on street stalls.

Despite best efforts to organise a Green Party presence at the NHS demonstration on February 3rd it was rather embarrassing to have no specific Green Party placards to display and no leaflets explaining Green Party health policy to give out to the thousands on the march. Jonathan Bartley had to ask on Facebook whether anyone was available to video his speech at the end of March rally. Not good for a national party.

Campaigns material not only educates politically but serves as a way of recruiting new members and supporters. If we are not to lose more members to the Corbynite Labour Party we need accessible publicity material that conveys the quality of our policies to the public.

Some may argue that producing quantities of paper publicity is against our environmental principles and that on-line campaigning has replaced such material.  Unfortunately keyboard activism though effective for specific short-term objectives often does not have the depth required to fully explore policy, while the party website is pretty heavy reading. Leaflets can fill the gap between the two options and bridge the digital divide.

I am a member of the increasingly successful Palestine Solidarity Campaign. If the PSC has a stall at Conference you will see that they have a collection of Fact Sheets that explain different aspects of the Palestinian issue.  At conferences, meetings and street stalls the public are eager to take them away to find out more about the issue and they also contribute to a knowledgeable member and supporter base.

We would benefit from something similar and would be rewarded by comments such as: ‘Thanks, I’ll take it away and read it’ ,  ‘Can I take some more to give out at college? ’, ‘My dad will be interested in this’ and ’  ‘Can I take some for my union branch?’ ‘

Can the party afford to properly fund campaigns, or rather, can it afford not to?





ON THE SUBJECT OF MEMBERS “TAKING BACK CONTROL “OR HOW TO TACKLE OUR DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT. BY NICOLE HAYDOCK
 Convenor of the Reform Conference Voting Working Group

At the heart of the on-going battle of ideas within the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) between the ecology wing and the more eco-social democratic or eco-socialist wing of the party sits one very large elephant: our democratic deficit.
Ever since 1985 when the Green Party was created, green activists have gathered round to make decisions on policies, organisational matters and the election of members on a number of committees at our annual conferences. Those key events in the life of our Party also give conference participants a great opportunity to network, socialise, acquire new campaigning skills and learn from each other’s experiences.


Attendance at conference is open all members. We can register online, or just turn up on the day. We pay our registration fee according to our self-declared level of income and get our voting cards with a copy of motions.

Whilst a hard core of  activists who have mastered the occult art of posting  a topic for discussion on the members’ site and followed that up with the drafting, submitting, amending and prioritising of their motions – now done  exclusively  online -  the vast majority of our  members are simply not involved in this process.  Perhaps this is because most are not interested, or that nothing much can be done about it. I beg to differ. If the vast majority of our members do not appear to be motivated to take a more active role in the decision-making business of the party, it is because they are not required or encouraged to.   Furthermore, our convoluted Constitution and instruments of governance do not help.  As a result - through nobody’s fault - local party members are left out of the loop when it comes to the GPEW’s political, organisational and financial decisions.

The GPEW adopted its first Constitution 33 years ago.  It has been frequently amended since, except for the make-up and role of our “Supreme Body”, ie. Conference. This is a bizarre situation. For a 21st century political party, it is untenable and one that does great disservice to the Green Party.
It is also possibly the reason why local parties, regions and even whole nations, (e.g. Wales), are feeling disenfranchised from political decisions made about the direction of the GPEW and control over human and financial resources.

It does not have to be that way. Members can and should take back control.  How efficiently and confidently the Holistic Review Commission will deliver on its mandate to consult widely with members at all levels over the next couple of months matters enormously. The fundamental and “radical “ reforms the Commission has been mandated to submit at Autumn 2018 Conference will be critical. 

Meanwhile, by approving the A motion entitled  “Solutions towards a radical reform in the way the Green Party of England and Wales makes its decisions “ from the Reform Conference  Voting Working Group, at this conference, you will give the opportunity to all our members to make a choice between retaining the status quo, or moving forward to explore further a number of practical solutions  whereby ideas, policies and power would come from the grass roots and decisions would be made by the majority.  - So, I ask you to please support this motion.








Funny Money by  John Andrews

No single factor is as important to our economy, yet is so poorly understood, as money. It's important for everyone involved in the struggle for environmental, social, and economic reform to obtain a proper grasp on this subject. There are a number of misconceptions which need to be cleared up.
Take the common misunderstanding about who actually controls our monetary system. Many might think that something so important must be controlled by government. But our money is mostly controlled by the private banking system - especially the large privately-owned US banks which control the US government and dominate the global economy.
Another misconception is that our money has some measureable finite quantity. Some imagine that government finances are similar to household finances - that you can't spend money you don't have, unless you get a loan - which takes us to more misconception, that the money banks lend out is money they actually possess, in the form of other people's savings, say.
Visible money, such as banknotes and coins, account for just 3% of money in circulation. Most money, around 97% of it, exists only in cyber-space. It has no material form whatsoever. Furthermore, whenever a bank approves a loan, it creates that money simply typing numbers into a computer. The bank can obtains legal title to a car or the house, in exchange for this. That is how most brand new money is created - not by governments. No transfer of physical money takes place, from the bank's savings, say. Brand new money is created instead. When the loan is repaid, the bank destroys the cyber-money it created, thus controlling the quantity of total money in circulation.
Most governments obtain money in a similar way. Although much of our government's annual spending is derived through taxes of one kind or another, it also usually borrows a certain quantity each year too - from the private banking system. Most of this money also has no material substance, and also exists mostly in cyber-space. And just like everyone else with a bank loan, interest has to be paid to the banks. Current interest charges to our government, which taxpayers must find, are around a billion pounds a week.
The private banking system has, over time, created this situation which serves it extremely well. But it doesn't have to be like this. Governments can create and manage their own interest-free money, and have done so in the past. If our government produced its own money it could instantly save itself a billion pounds a week in interest charges alone.
The surreal nature of money doesn't end here. On the one hand it could be the easiest thing in the world for any government to produce its own currency to pay for public services without using the private banking system. But on the other hand, there's no way the private banking system would take such an insurrection lying down. The private banking system has engineered this situation for itself exactly, and it will not easily let go of the awesome political power over governments that this gives.
A cornerstone of the Labour Party's recent election manifesto was the creation of a public investment bank, and for many years the Green Party has had a similar policy. This seemingly innocuous move has the potential for a revolutionary reform that could break the grip the private banking system has on government.
The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a public bank. It's the only one of its kind in the US, and is used as an exemplar model by the Public Banking Institute, an American pressure group trying to bring about banking reform. The BND is effectively a government department, run by public servants, to serve the people of North Dakota. North Dakota survived the fallout from the global economic disaster of 2008 better than anywhere else in the US, largely thanks to its public bank.
It's impossible to exaggerate the importance of bank reform, and it’s a subject which every Green activist should thoroughly learn. Every single election campaign we fight struggles to overcome just one key question. We frequently hear people say, "Your policies are great, but how could you possibly pay for them?" The standard answer, in every election campaign is: "We're going to raise taxes." Of course there needs to be massive reform of our taxation system - but far, far more important is reform of our banking system. People may believe government lies about the "austerity" that's ruining our country, and fail to understand that government fiscal policy is a political choice, not an economic necessity.
The Greens already have very good policies on banking reform, so we don't need to invent them. But we have to make sure more activists properly understand them, and their huge potential for reform. If we had a state-owned public bank, capable of producing and managing its own interest-free money, together with a fair taxation system, just about the entire Green Agenda could be financed indefinitely. The Labour Party has grasped the significance of this, and actively promoted a public investment bank in their last election campaign. The Greens need to wake up and release the full potential of our own long-standing, but dormant policies for banking reform.

Further relevant reading:
1. Green Party "Policies for a Sustainable Society"; Monetary Policy EC660 - 679
2. "Where does money come from?" - by The New Economics Foundation
3. "Money" - by JK Galbraith
4. "Web of Debt" - by Ellen Brown
5. The Public Banking Institute (http://www.publicbankinginstitute.org/)







By Adrian Cruden
“We cannot tackle climate change unless we address the system that has caused it,"
 John McDonnell, in Another World Is Possible - A Manifesto for 21st Century Socialism in 2007.


Yet for all Labour's post-election exuberance, its programme remains inherently social democratic rather than socialist, their economic plans fully anchored in 1940s style Keynesianism, with continued growth at their heart. It may be a welcome shift in emphasis from New Labour, but it is avowedly not a Manifesto for 21st Century Socialism, nor indeed for 21st Century Survival. For, with the climate emergency threatening to overtake us and deep scarcity looming across a range of vital resources, traditional economics are no longer fit for purpose.

In contrast to the Corbynistas, for the Greens, the General Election was a bitter-sweet outcome: our decision to stand down in upwards of 35 constituencies may have made sufficient of a difference to deprive the Tories of their outright majority, but equally the party saw its vote halve from its 2015 record and we failed to advance on our solitary MP, the Co-Leader, Caroline Lucas.
Yet it is worth bearing in mind that this was still our second best-ever General Election performance, both in terms of our national aggregate poll and votes-by-seat. It was not the existential disaster some have suggested, especially given the tactical “loan” of many Green votes to Labour.

Under the circumstances, some degree of reflection has been both to be expected and very necessary. Time, some have suggested, to return to our verdant roots and focus on being an ecological party. Several initiatives at autumn conference sought to turn us to focus on this but

fortunately, these were voted down - the Greens were not, after all, so ready to stop highlighting our twin commitment to social justice alongside tackling environmental sustainability.
Yet by itself, this reaffirmation of the twin pillars of our values is far from enough to give the Greens' continued resonance and purpose in the political arena. The ecologists are right to argue that the party needs to highlight our differences with the Labour Party. The need to campaign on climate change is daily more evidently critical - but far, far beyond raising the threat of global warming, the party needs to focus on what is central to defeating it: economics and ownership.

The cruel fact is this - Labour's social democracy will fail. Sooner or later, in a world of systemic collapse, it will not be enough. As we face a world slipping week by week further towards climate chaos, the challenge to the Greens is whether we can fashion a clear, radical and egalitarian economics - one founded on a steady-state economy that brings nearly all resources into common ownership, that embraces the bounty that new technology can bring in freeing people from labour and that stewards our limited resources fairly and sustainably. To do this, we need to address how to remove the market system from large swathes of economic activity and so reduce waste and inequity. We need to develop a clear narrative of how localised economies can work for the benefit of all.

Then we need to show how these things would work, day by day. In a Green society, how would you get a house, or an education? What sort of jobs would exist and what would your working conditions be like? How would you travel about and would it still cost anything? What would you be able to do with the free time gained from a shorter working week? What new possibilities might open up post-capitalism, post-scarcity, post-rat race?

And with the imbalance of wealth, nationally and globally, at historically obscene and environmentally unsustainable levels, yes, Greens need to take on the rich because, as a class, the rich and their corporate tools are not the friends of humanity nor of our planet. They never were, they are not now and, no matter how much charity a few of them dole out, they never will be.


But beyond them, beyond their fetish for accumulation and alienation, the rest of us, the vast, overwhelming majority of homo sapiens can transform our world and share it equitably.


Of all the parties capable of producing a first blueprint of that new world, perhaps only Greens have the space to dream it into being, to fashion it into something real, meaningful and genuinely transformative. Many good policies are already in place from citizens' income to a maximum wage to employee ownership - but they have to be joined up and given a compelling narrative, a true vision of tomorrow. 

It must be one we are open to sharing with other radicals on the left - and one of these parties, for the foreseeable future by far and away the largest, will be Labour, or at least part of Labour.

Unencumbered by the Establishment weights affixed to McDonnell and Corbyn, we can be the forge to generate the ideas for deep, radical cultural change. Through this we can then finally unleash, in the words of the ecosocialist Murray Bookchin, "the basic sense of decency, sympathy and mutual aid (which) lies at the core of human behaviour."
Until then, we need to keep calm – and keep Left

Ecosocialism joins together social justice – putting people
before profit – with the realisation that our lives and our
society depend on our environment.”


      People from a variety of Green and/or Left political organisations and traditions have formed an Ecosocialist Network to include people from various political parties or none. Green Left, a left tendency within the Green Party of England and Wales decided to support this step.

     We share the view that there is a political opening for Ecosocialists to get organised, and indeed an urgent need to make this happen. We welcome all those who can contribute to building the network, including those involved in local groups and our Green friends who have joined Labour to support Corbyn.

To join our ESNet mailing list, please contact: yrrumuk@googlemail.com

FREE Membership of GPTU is open to any current members of GPEW, this includes retired members of TU’s, students, unemployed people and those in employment where TU membership is forbidden or made very difficult by the employer.

In the latter category there are many who work in the ‘GIG ECONOMY’ where employers construct what amounts to the fiction that their employees are self-employed, thus avoiding the expense of such things as sick pay and holiday pay. The chairman of the Commons work and pensions select committee, Frank Field, said the figures showed gig work was now “the single biggest force in the British economy undermining the national living wage”.
(see: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/07/death-dpd-courier-don-lane-tragedy-business-secretary )

The Trade Union Congress (TUC,) took an historic step in September 2017 when it unanimously passed a Climate Change Motion but some Trades Unionists feel this is only the first step. “We recognise that the motion on Climate Change passed at last year's TUC makes progress towards the resolution passed at UCU Congress in 2017. However, we regret that there is no mention of opposition to fracking or airport expansion.” This is part of a call to strengthen the TUC motion (see full text at https://greentulondon.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/strengthen-tuc-climate-change-motion.html)

FUTURE EVENTS

March 10 THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE TRADE UNION GROUP CONFERENCE “Jobs and Climate: Planning for a future which doesn't cost the earth “ (details at https://www.cacctu.org.uk/jobs_and_climate)


MAY DAY London Tuesday May 1st 2018 assemble clerkenwell green 12.00 march to Trafalgar square for rally
LEVELLERS DAY, 20th May Burford, Oxfordshire
 TOLPUDDLE MARTYRS' FESTIVAL. Friday 20th-Sunday 22nd July 2018.



BIRDWATCHING
Wetlands are not what they once were
When beside lagoon or lake
The only sound was the wind sighing
And the calls of crane and crake
Where rails could rail
And waders could wade
Only harried by marsh harriers
Now meres that were swam on
By phalaropes
Or angled by fishing herons
Are gazed at by men with telescopes
And women with high powered lenses
And there is no corner of bog or creek
Where camouflage can blend in
So egrets egress
And bitterns get bitter
Because they’re sick of being peered at
By crowds of prying twitchers.
The Green Party Trade Union Group
The Green Party Trade Union Group is part of the Green Party of England & Wales, FREE Membership of GPTU is open to any current members of GPEW. Contact secretary@gptu.greenparty.org.uk. or join at the GPTU conference stall.
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13 comments:

Editor said...

Its good to see the debate over whether or not ecosocialists can better advance their ideas in the Labour Party is still taking place, and is able to be conducted civilly on common ground.
Speaking as someone who has already crossed the Rubycon I could say "Come in, the water's lovely".
It's not, of course, but the Labour Party now IS a site of serious ideological discussion- it is the key place in Britain where a fight for ideas is taking place right now.
The dangers and difficulties are many. It can be bloody hard work- even in a small (sub-400 members) provicial Labour Party like mine. But the prize- a government committed to a serious radical agenda with a strong ecological strand- is definitely worth fighting for.
For those comrades who are already in the Labour Party, or working closely with its activists, Red-Green Labour now exists to try to pull together an ecosocialist wing.
redgreenlabour.org

Rob M said...

Dunno why my comment above gives my name as "Editor"!!!

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