Monday 17 June 2024

GKN Florence: Crunch time for the most important struggle in Europe - this is the moment to give your support

 



GKN Florence: Crunch time for the most important struggle in Europe - this is the moment to give your support

It's crunch time for the longest permanent factory assembly by workers in Italian history - and the most visionary struggle anywhere in Europe for a worker led transition away from fossil fuels.Watch the video to see why it's so important, get inspired - and then do what you can to help them win

GKN Workers start hunger strike for a worker led transition


Click here to watch full video (22 min 19 sec)

Click here to watch 7 min version on Facebook

Click here to watch 7 min version on Instagram

Click here to watch 2 min version on Twitter

On May 18th, workers at the GKN factory in Florence led another stunning demonstration of 10,000 people, calling for public intervention by the Tuscany regional government to hand the factory over to them - and uniting numerous struggles at the same time, from Palestine to deaths at work to trans rights, as they have done throughout their struggle.

Previously a factory producing parts for luxury cars that none of the workers could ever hope to afford, the workers went into permanent assembly in the factory back in July 2021 and stopped it from closing. Now they have come up with a reindustrialization plan to produce solar panels and cargo bikes - under workers' control, and for the benefit of the community rather than for profit.

But as the permanent assembly approaches an incredible three years, the workers haven't been paid for five months - and are seriously struggling. Public intervention to hand the factory over to the workers is now very urgent. On top of starting an encampment inspired by students' action over Palestine, three of the workers are now on hunger strike until their demands are met.

So this is the time to stand up and support them. If they manage to win, it can act as a shining example to show the path to a better world - not just in Italy, but everywhere - and as you'll see in the full version of the video, the GKN struggle is now also the spearhead of the fight against fascism in Italy.

The next four weeks are absolutely crucial in deciding the outcome, so please do what you can ...

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1) Spread the word of what the workers are trying to achieve by sharing this video, and following them on social media; website insorgiamo.org, Facebook coordinamentogknfirenze, Instagram @collettivofabbricagkn.

2) Donate to the popular share issue to raise 1,000,000 euros and become part of the assembly that will run the factory - nearly 800,000 euros raised so far. IMPORTANT: THE CLOSING DATE IS JUNE 30 ... 

People have been asking how they can contribute to this as individuals, or if they can't afford £500; fortunately the Climate Justice Coalition have set up a crowdfunder in the UK so that you can pay what you can afford, and still be involved in the assembly.

You can pledge money in the UK at 
https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-gkn-autoworkers-just-transition-struggleor in other countries go to insorgiamo.org/100x10-000

3) Order a cargo bike for a donation. The cargo bikes are now in production - get one for your group, give the workers feedback on its functioning and promote the campaign at the same time. Get more info, and order a bike, at 
https://insorgiamo.org/cargo-bike/

4) Keep 12 July free, when the third anniversary of the occupation will be celebrated in Florence - and an organised international presence is planned from all over Europe. There are already people interested in going from the UK, and Reel News will definitely be going; if you're interested too, contact us at info@reelnews.co.uk so we can give GKN workers an idea of numbers coming nearer the time - obviously people physically coming to support them will give them a huge lift at such a difficult time.

5) Organise a screening of the video to build support - we can send you a high quality version for free if you're up for doing that. Reel News will be premiering the film at Glastonbury (more details below).

It's crunch time for the longest permanent factory assembly by workers in Italian history - and the most visionary struggle anywhere in Europe for a worker led transition away from fossil fuels.Watch the video to see why it's so important, get inspired - and then do what you can to help them win

GKN Workers start hunger strike for a worker led transition


Click here to watch full video (22 min 19 sec)

Click here to watch 7 min version on Facebook

Click here to watch 7 min version on Instagram

Click here to watch 2 min version on Twitter

On May 18th, workers at the GKN factory in Florence led another stunning demonstration of 10,000 people, calling for public intervention by the Tuscany regional government to hand the factory over to them - and uniting numerous struggles at the same time, from Palestine to deaths at work to trans rights, as they have done throughout their struggle.

Previously a factory producing parts for luxury cars that none of the workers could ever hope to afford, the workers went into permanent assembly in the factory back in July 2021 and stopped it from closing. Now they have come up with a reindustrialization plan to produce solar panels and cargo bikes - under workers' control, and for the benefit of the community rather than for profit.

But as the permanent assembly approaches an incredible three years, the workers haven't been paid for five months - and are seriously struggling. Public intervention to hand the factory over to the workers is now very urgent. On top of starting an encampment inspired by students' action over Palestine, three of the workers are now on hunger strike until their demands are met.

So this is the time to stand up and support them. If they manage to win, it can act as a shining example to show the path to a better world - not just in Italy, but everywhere - and as you'll see in the full version of the video, the GKN struggle is now also the spearhead of the fight against fascism in Italy.

The next four weeks are absolutely crucial in deciding the outcome, so please do what you can ...

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1) Spread the word of what the workers are trying to achieve by sharing this video, and following them on social media; website insorgiamo.org, Facebook coordinamentogknfirenze, Instagram @collettivofabbricagkn.

2) Donate to the popular share issue to raise 1,000,000 euros and become part of the assembly that will run the factory - nearly 800,000 euros raised so far. IMPORTANT: THE CLOSING DATE IS JUNE 30 ... 

People have been asking how they can contribute to this as individuals, or if they can't afford £500; fortunately the Climate Justice Coalition have set up a crowdfunder in the UK so that you can pay what you can afford, and still be involved in the assembly.

You can pledge money in the UK at 
https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-gkn-autoworkers-just-transition-struggleor in other countries go to insorgiamo.org/100x10-000

3) Order a cargo bike for a donation. The cargo bikes are now in production - get one for your group, give the workers feedback on its functioning and promote the campaign at the same time. Get more info, and order a bike, at 
https://insorgiamo.org/cargo-bike/

4) Keep 12 July free, when the third anniversary of the occupation will be celebrated in Florence - and an organised international presence is planned from all over Europe. There are already people interested in going from the UK, and Reel News will definitely be going; if you're interested too, contact us at info@reelnews.co.uk so we can give GKN workers an idea of numbers coming nearer the time - obviously people physically coming to support them will give them a huge lift at such a difficult time.

5) Organise a screening of the video to build support - we can send you a high quality version for free if you're up for doing that. Reel News will be premiering the film at Glastonbury (more details below).

Wednesday 12 June 2024

The GREEN PARTY manifesto is live!

 The GREEN PARTY manifesto is live! https://greenparty.org.uk/manifesto






Monday 6 May 2024

WATERMELON Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2024

  WATERMELON

Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2024

APOCALYPSE WHEN? 

English Local Election Results

a  commentary compiled by P.Murry

Many media commentators are presenting the results of the local elections that took place in parts of England in May 2024 as a Labour landslide foreshadowing another such in a forthcoming general election or what Owen Jones has called an ‘electoral apocalypse’ for the Tories.

Keir Starmer’s take on the results was that ‘the country wants change’; But some are sceptical that Labour can deliver.

 ‘The massive electoral shift from Cons to Labour won’t make much difference in practice, both parties having neoliberal values, belief in market dominance, […] Prospects of  a  Starmer-led govt after a General Election will not put this right, nor reduce defence spending, arms export, subsidies to Fossil  Fuels, airport expansion, private ownership of energy, water, rail, rural buses, lack of social housing, creeping privatisation of NHS,  industrial farming etc. ‘

Not everyone may share every one of these forebodings about what a Labour gov’t may or may not do, but there are indications that many voters, whilst anti-tory, do not totally support the Starmerite Labour project. Green and Lib-dem and independent votes have increased, and Labour has lost control of a few councils.

Tories might have a hard time being triumphalist, but the Greens don’t, talking of ‘an incredible set of results’, ‘exciting breakthroughs’ and ‘massive expansions in Green groups across the country’.

And some such as Owen Jones characterise this as a ‘massive warning’ to Labour, possibly foretelling a change away from a predominantly two-party template for English politics. However, the First Past The Post electoral system still militates against this, so is a prediction that these are the first signs of a move away from a two-party system premature? As one Green activist commented on a local result ‘At this rate of progress we will have over 50% of the vote in AD 2544’.

The horrors of the Gaza War and the complicity of Labour and Tories in these may have sparked some anti-Labour dissidence as have the anti-Corbynista purges by Labour of its own activists, but will these factors have a lasting impact?

A final factor worth mentioning is the Green Party strategy, approved at the autumn 2023 conference of standing candidates in as many constituencies as possible, does this put the GPEW, at odds with a wider trend towards anti-tory tactical voting which may have contributed to Sadiq Khan’s increased London Mayoral majority? And did this policy affect the Mayoral result in the north east where Jamie Driscoll was narrowly defeated by mainstream Labour?

References

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHX-N3m6oSQ

remarks by a GL member

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glR7cs4aUuw

Daniella Radice, Local Elections Manager gp election email 5/5/24



GREEN LEFT OPEN MEETINGS; Videos

POPULATION, MIGRATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

https://youtu.be/tc78vSMo3Zs

22/4/2024 Speakers: Nicole Haydock: Ecosocialist Feminist, member of Green Left Peter Allen: Green Party International Committee https://petergreenleft0703.blogspot.com/2023/10/review-of-nomad-century-by-gaia-vince.html Joseph Healy: Anti-capitalist Resistance

Written contribution by Alan Thornett: author of ‘Facing the Apocalypse: Arguments for Ecosocialism’ read by Jay Ginn

DEATH BY 1,000 CUTS: THE DEMISE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

https://youtu.be/Rh6lFoo3GNM

Green Left open meeting, February 13 2024 Speakers Chris Jarvis, Green Party Councillor, Oxford City Council, Steve Williams Green Party Councillor, Waverley Borough Council Ria Patel Green Party Councillor, Croydon Council Rob Walker. Former Labour Councillor and Cabinet member in Kirklees. Currently politically unattached but supportive of Transform and Greens.

‘ISRAEL, PALESTINE, GAZA: WHAT SHOULD GREENS BE SAYING’ 

' https://youtu.be/3aMsGPaHLQk

SPEAKERS Annie Neligan (Greens for Palestine) Carne Ross (Green Party Global Solidarity Spokesperson) Alexi Dimond (Sheffield Green Party Councillor) Peter Allen (Green Left) Chair: Danny McNamara (Green Left)

HOW TO COMBAT THE CUMBRIA COALMINE AND OTHER RETROGRADE ENERGY PROJECTS 

https://youtu.be/_cj5F5_hnGI

SPEAKERS Ellen Robottom, Tina Rothery, Allan Todd

WHAT DOES A SOCIALIST GREEN NEW DEAL OFFER CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS? 

 https://youtu.be/wKTf7Fiz054

SPEAKERS Mark Douglas: Green Left, Feminist Green New Deal (presented by Jay Ginn) Tahir Latif: Greener Jobs Alliance

possible future topics

Disability and socialism

Agriculture: food production vs conservation and rewilding

New Municipalism’ in the 21st century/ participatory budgeting, democracy and citizens’ assembly

GPEW NATO and defence policies 

 Nuclear power

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Greens must go the co-operative way

Nicole Haydock:  North Wales Green Party



Manchester is where Robert Owen (1771- 1858) the first British Utopian Socialist  founded the Co-operative Movement.  Owen believed that if a community shared everything and made communal decisions democratically,  they could create a utopia.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others

Formed in 1844, the modern movement can be traced back to the Rochdale Pioneers in their effort against poverty and the promotion of equality.

To this day, Robert Owen and the Rochdale Pioneers’ legacy remain a strong one in the city.  With 5 City Mayors, Greater Manchester Andy Burnham is an active member of the incorporated Co-operative Party. The Co-op Party affiliated to the Labour Party in 1927. The Welsh Labour Party is also  a co-operative company limited.

In legal terms, The Green Party of England and Wales is akin to a cycling club or a residents’ association. It has no legal rights. In practice, it means that it cannot start legal action to defend itself – although legal action can and have been taken against the party as evidenced recently.  It also cannot borrow money, nor can it hold properties or enter into contracts in its name. Worse still, all legal and financial responsibilities lie with individual elected members of the Executive.

Set up 11 years ago by a Conference motion, the “Governance Review Working Group” failed to deliver in its mandate to reform the party,  as did the ambitious but time constrained Holistic Review Commission of 2017.

Relaunched in 2021 by the Green Party Regional Council (GPRC) as the “Party Structure Working Group”, the adoption of the principle of incorporation was finally delivered at the Spring Conference of 2023.

Article 1.v) of the constitution now reads: “ The legal form of the Green Party shall be a company limited by guarantee (from the Commencement Date of that company )“ 

However, with no mandate and no specification as to which model the party would be incorporated and 4 related motions submitted by GPRC for the Autumn 2023 Conference having failed to make it though the priority ballot, the party remains dangerously unincorporated and showing signs of an increasing level of dysfunctionality.

Going back to their “Incorporation Scoping Paper” ( 2015) from Bates, Wells Braithwaite which explored all options as requested by the Green Party Executive, their solicitors explained : “ If  a commitment to co-operative principles is important to the GPEW and its membership, then GPEW should proceed with option C ( the co-op co. ltd model ) as there is considerable overlap with the co-operative principles and the GPEW’s philosophy and approach to party members representation”.

So, how would a co-operative company limited make a difference to the way the party operates ? As opposed to the deeply confusing existing structure acknowledged by over 400 hundred members who took part in GPRC’s Party Structures consultation held in the winter of 2021, this model of incorporation would have a simple two tiers structure. Company limited by guarantee ( that is not for profit ) have directors and “ company law members”.

At present, local parties and regional parties – as well as the Young Greens - are not incorporated and  not even legally part of the national party, as evidenced in Judge Hellman’s recent ruling in the civil court case Shaharar Ali v the GPEW.  

“Company law members” can either be (a) individual party members, (b) local parties or (c) regional parties. If some local parties or regional parties wished to retain their autonomy and therefore not be incorporated, they could do so. But they would not benefit from the GPEW’s limited liability status, nor would they enjoy the rights of members as company members by law.

A new Memorandum and Articles of Association would need to be drafted and approved by a ballot of members in order to become our new instrument of governance.

You will find the link to the Co-op party rule book here : https://party.coop/wp-content/blogs.dir/5/files/2022/02/Co-operative-Party-Rule-Book-amended-December-2021.pdf?mc_cid=ca09cc183d&mc_eid=UNIQID

 

If you wish to learn more the co-operative company limited model of incorporation  and support my motion , please visit  https://spaces.greenparty.org.uk/s/2024-autumn-conference-agenda-forum/ and scroll down to 4th February 2024.


Motion

Title

The Green Party to register as a co-operative company limited by guarantee

Synopsis

The principle of incorporation has been approved by Conference. The next stage is to adopt new Articles of Memorandum of Association to complete the process. Both the Co-op Party affiliated to the Labour Party and the Welsh Labour Party are co-operative companies limited by guarantee.

Motion

Conference calls on GPEX to urgently seek to employ legal professionals to assist volunteers from a dedicated “Co-operative model Working Group” in the drafting of a new Memorandum and Articles of Association based on the values of the co-operative movement. This document to be submitted for consideration by the Co-operatives UK and the Financial Conduct Authority * before July 2025.

Once those submissions have received provisional approval from both bodies, the proposal for the Memorandum and Articles of Association to be put to a ballot of all members of the GPEW for ratification as per paragraph 21 of the Constitution - Revision of the Constitution ii)


HALF-EARTH SOCIALISM

A plan to save the future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

PUBLISHED BY VERSO 2022, Hardback, 15pounds, 226pp.

Authors: Troy Vettese and Drew Prendergrass

REVIEW by MARK DOUGLAS, GREEN LEFT, HACKNEY.

Eco-Socialism is a growing political movement. More and more Socialists are moving towards it. Of course, there are far more socialists in Britain than active Greens, maybe the ration of 5 to 1. But there is a long way to go.

We all agree that capitalism is an unsustainable system. We need to transform this view into a mass movement internationally.

 Half- Earth Socialism is a really interesting read, with many insights. It's written by smart social scientists based in the US and central Europe. Half Earth references the great US scientist Edmund Wilson who has argued for half the Earth to become wilderness-a haven of bio-diversity and stabilizer of the carbon cycle. It's a fantastic concept in attempting to deal with ever deepening climate crisis. Can we really imagine humanity 'giving up' half the Earth land and sea ...and all those resources?

The books main attack is on Prometheanism. 'Marx has a reputation as a Promenthean, that is, he is seen as a thinker who believes that total control of nature is necessary for human freedom'(p32). They argue that Marxism has been fundamentally flawed by this human exaggeration of power. The illusion of humanities domination of the natural world is the ultimate hubris.

The first chapter is spent quoting the growth of science and technology from the 17th to the 20th century and views of thinkers like Locke, Hegel, Malthus, Marx and Trotsky. 'Prometheanism is so ingrained in Marxist thought that it must be confronted, refuted and extirpated so that Socialism can be made fit for an age of environmental catastrophe'.

The second large chapter, ‘A New Republic’, addresses the challenges to the climate crisis. 'The utopian tradition...lies in the capacity to link food, land, ecology and politics in a single analytical framework-an approach sorely lacking now' (p60). There are three false solutions: BECCS, (Bio-Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration), expanded nuclear power and Half-Earth Colonialism. These are technical 'remedies' to the climate crunch and they are demolished very well. There are dozens of technical fixes being promoted, like those of Bill Gates or National Geographic, all of which fail to address the guilt of capital.

The goals of Half-Earth socialism are simple enough: prevent the Sixth Extinction, practice 'natural geo-engineering' to drawn down carbon through re-wilding ecosystems...and create a fully renewable energy system.'

 The last challenge is the factory farming system, which they argue must be demolished. A major cause of greenhouse gases and pollution means that humanity needs to transition to a vegan lifestyle. Well that's a pretty serious goal. We must plan for a transition to an organic, low carbon, vegan agriculture, probably with quotas. With mass reforestation there will be limits on wasteful, conventional farming.

 So in summary the plan is for:

1. Rewilding the Earth (50%)

2. 100% Renewable energy (cuts in high consumption)

3. Global veganism to conserve energy and land use

4. World wide Socialist planning to equitably manage production along with mass democracy.

They argue that the Left (and the Green movement?) must combine and concentrate all efforts on these goals with a strong vision to motivate the mass of people to strive for them.

The book is weak on politics or strategy, barely mentioning any current political events or trends so lacks a political focus, but the message is clear. The paperback edition has not arrived.

My best book on Eco-Socialism is ‘Fight the Fire' by Jonathan Neale, a long time activist and member of the Campaign against Climate Change, based at Housmans shop, London.



‘Optimism of the Will’: Ecosocialist Dreamin’ by Allan Todd

Traditional Iroquois attitudes on the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world were based on this philosophy: ‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’  Such a worldview is one still shared by many other Native American nations, and by other indigenous groups around the world.

However, the latest statistics on the ever-worsening Climate and Ecological Crises make it painfully clear that today’s generations - never mind “the next seven generations” - aren’t being considered by the fossil fuel giants, the other big capitalist corporations, or the governments that facilitate their Earth-destroying ‘business-as-usual’ projects.  In January, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year since records began, with EVERY DAY being 1.5C hotter than pre-industrial tempertures. While the Global Tipping Points Report for 2023 warned about the increasing risks of “irreversible change” as regards both climate change and nature loss, with 5 of the Earth’s major tipping systems already near to crossing irreversible tipping points, thus posing “threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity.”  

The importance of being Gramsci

‘Optimism of the will’ is the second element of a political approach the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci advocated during the 1920s and ‘30s. As early as March 1924, he warned that ‘the thick, dark cloud of pessimism… oppressing the most able and responsible militants… may in fact be the greatest danger we face at present.’

There was certainly plenty to be pessimistic about in 1924; by then, there were multiple crises of capitalism: post-war austerity and its mass poverty, and the rise of fascism. Many saw these crises as the ‘monsters’ of a capitalist world-order that was disintegrating, but from which a new and better world was struggling - with considerable difficulty - to emerge. Gramsci described it thus: ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’  

For Gramsci, things soon became even worse: in November 1926, he was arrested and imprisoned, remaining a prisoner until his death in 1937. Meanwhile, the threats posed by capitalism’s ‘monsters’ and ‘morbid symptoms’ increased: the ‘Great Depression’, Hitler’s coming to power in Germany, and increasing signs of an approaching new world war. Nonetheless, he maintained that ‘optimism of the will’. In December 1929, he wrote: ‘I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will…Whatever the situation, I imagine the worst that could happen in order to summon up all my reserves and will power to overcome every obstacle.’ Today, there are still ‘monsters’ - those Gramsci wrote about (including the spread of ‘creeping’ fascism around the globe), and the new existential crises of climate change, ecological destruction, pandemics, and several nasty imperialistic wars. To many, it seems as though today’s ‘world is dying’ too.

 Dreaming is revolutionary!

The need to free humanity from capitalism’s ‘morbid symptoms’, to create another - and better - world is becoming increasingly clear. This urgent need was underlined by the historian Eric Hobsbawm:‘If humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on that basis, we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness.’  More recently, Neil Faulkner put it thus: ‘We believe that the old order is doomed and we must build a new one based on democracy, internationalism, ecosocialism, solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, and the total transformation of society to serve human need not private greed.’  

By far the best hope for replacing today’s ‘old order’ with a new one lies with ecosocialism. Many consider ‘dreaming’ of a better world is impractical and unrevolutionary. Yet such dreaming is very much ‘in the spirit of Marx’  - and is based firmly on the possibilities seen in present-day realities. As early as the 1960s, Che Guevara argued - against his ‘orthodox’ communist critics - that his dreams of the possibilities for global emancipation were not divorced from the existing material circumstances and conditions of the time. Che believed ‘revolutionary hope [is] necessary for revolutionary politics and practice.’  

Such hoping and dreaming is similar to what the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch termed ‘Real Possible’ hope, which ‘begins with the seed in which what is coming is inherent.’   Lenin, too, stressed the importance of dreaming a concrete vision of a better future: revolutionaries ‘should dream!’ - even if those dreamsmay run ahead of the natural march of events.’ For him, ‘If there is some connection between dreams and life then all is well.’ Thus, as Ernest Mandel argued: ‘hopes and dreams are… categories of revolutionary Realpolitk.’  

Despite today’s multiple crises - and the depth of those crises - there is more than a glimmer of hope. Because, as well as globalising its economic reach and imposing its addictive fixation on perpetual growth in GDP and profits, capitalism has also created a vast global army of the dispossessed and exploited, and an international environmental movement, which between them - using Marx’s term - have the potential to be the ‘grave-diggers’ of this hugely exploitative and ecologically-destructive system.  As Marx observed: humanity tends to set itself ‘only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.’  And the solution that has by far the best potential for solving those multiple crises is… ecosocialism.  

For those still struggling with maintaining hope, perhaps these words, from the late and great Seamus Heaney, will help tip the balance the right way:

‘History says, Don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.’

 ================================================

Allan Todd is Acting Organiser for Transform Cumbria, a member of ACR’s Council and of Left Unity’s National Council, and an ecosocialist/environmental and anti-fascist activist. He is the author of Revolutions 1789-1917;Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary; Ecosocialism Not Extinction; and Che Guevara: The Romantic Revolutionary (out May 2024)

P.E.Dant notes https://adamtooze.com/2020/08/28/pessimism-of-the-intellect-optimism-of-the-will-the-line-so-often-attributed-to-gramsci-was-taken-from-romain-rolland




Crisis in Children's Social Care is a national issue

Watermelon editor Peter Murry has invited me to submit another piece for the Green Party of England & Wales (GPEW) Spring Conference edition, even though I decided to hang up my GPEW membership at my 69th birthday in October 2022 after 17 years membership. (I felt excluded by what I experienced as website inaccessibility, while online voting figures for internal elections seemed to indicate that I was not alone in feeling so excluded.)
My main political activity since has been letter writing to Morning Star and Hereford Times (HT); and while my own parliamentary constituency is Hereford & South Herefordshire and the local GPEW ‘target to win’ constituency is North Herefordshire, HT covers both constituencies.
I submit below a copy-and-paste of my latest letters submission to HT, where I am regarded as “a long-time and valued contributor” according to the HT editor, while detractors of my online published letters talk of ‘Wheatley’s Weekly Whinge’

The local and the national

From my observations of HT ‘talking point’ pieces by North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin over at least the past year, there seems to be a checklist or ‘tick box’ list along the lines of ‘get as many attacks in on the Green Party as possible, even if it’s treading old ground’. That would help to explain his lack of an ‘off-switch’ regarding references to Herefordshire’s failed children’s services [under a 2019-2023 Independent-Green coalition].

Toni Fagan has already written HT letters:
“Herefordshire’s families have not suffered in isolation. Polly Curtis’ book Behind Closed Doors explains that the UK removes ‘more children from their parents than any time since records began, more than other western countries. Mothers are punished. Fathers are ignored. Social workers are burning out. Poverty is invisible. Children are failed.’”(1)
I was already aware of that scenario through email from London-based ‘Support Not Separation’ (SNS). SNS say, "Separating children from their birth families, especially their mother or other primary carer, causes serious long lasting harm. When considering the welfare of the child under the Children Act 1989, avoiding the trauma of separation must be a primary concern. Institutional care and adoption must be treated as a last resort. Social services, CAFCASS and family courts must implement the law according to this central but often ignored principle. Poverty and/or poor housing must not be used as evidence of ‘neglect’ or ‘future harm’ to children when what is needed are support and resources."(2). And so I think it will help if I add the subtitle of the Polly Curtis book: ‘Why We Break Up Families and How to Mend Them’. A quoted review on the book cover says of the author: “One of Britain’s best journalists writing about social justice provides a damning indictment of a dysfunctional society.”(3)


I close by stating that when Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, Children, Schools and Families in 2013 he said that the problem with modern social work graduates is that they have been force-fed a load of left-wing dogma about the impact of poverty; he said that social workers should instead focus on promoting the concept of ‘agency’ or family self-empowerment.(4) By contrast, I note that Graeme Andrew Logan was put up for adoption almost as soon as he was born, and was adopted at four months old to join the Gove family. Yes, I’m writing about Michael Gove who is now the ‘Levelling Up’ Secretary.(5)

ALAN WHEATLEY


Notes
1    
https://www.herefordtimes.com/news/24121220.candidate-perfect-mp-herefordshire/
2    
https://supportnotseparation.blog/about/
3    
https://transparencyproject.org.uk/behind-closed-doors-why-we-break-up-families-and-how-to-mend-them-by-polly-curtis-a-book-review/   
4    
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10442309/Michael-Gove-many-social-workers-not-up-to-the-job.html
5    
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Gove




EXTRACTS FROM ‘Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: An Eco-Socialist Perspective' by Pritam Singh (The full article  is at Capitalism Nature Socialism. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10455752.2023.2282135)

An Unusual Text

Beautiful” is an unusual book. It is not a standard academic text that has an overall and structured plan with each chapter fitting neatly as an elaboration of different aspects of the plan. It is a collection of papers previously published and texts of lectures delivered at different events. The collection covers the time span between 1961 and 1972. The book title conveys the unifying theme behind these papers and lectures. The beauty and significance of the book is that despite being a collection of papers and lectures and not a structured single text, it does convey a running theme, with different degrees of affinity of each chapter to the title of the book. The subtitle, “A Study of Economics as if People Mattered,” clearly indicates the author’s direction of thought in the book. As opposed to the traditional economics where “things” or “commodities” dominate theorising, policy, and practice, Schumacher’s study aims to centralise the human beings and social relations that make up the economy of “things.”

Two Streams of Orthodox Economics

There are two streams of economic orthodoxy that Schumacher critiqued. And while they were and are opposed to each other in their comparative view of the rationality of economic systems, they also share a common vision: the vision of big-ism or gigantism. Schumacher identified this trend towards support for “vastness” in economic theory and practice in both market-based systems as well as centrally-planned economies:

The focus of Schumacher’s attack was on profit-based economic system, and to the extent he criticised the centrally-planned economic system, which he equated with public ownership or socialism, it was concerning the idea shared by most socialists of his time that progress in a socialist economy was synonymous with economic growth.

It is necessary here to emphasise that the planning-oriented/Stalinist stream should not be equated with the entirety of the socialist or Marxist Left, because there are serious criticisms of the planning-oriented/Stalinist stream from some currents in the socialist or Marxist Left.

Schumacher’s Critique of Orthodox Economics

Schumacher criticised both streams of orthodox economics, though he concentrated his attack on the market economy stream. His critique can be viewed through four interconnected lines of argument: 1. Infinite economic growth is not possible due to ecological limits; 2. Economic growth through increasing GDP does not lead to “prosperity” and improved quality of life for all; 3. Large scale economic activity is not necessarily more innovative and efficient than small scale economic activity; and 4. The unrestrained mechanisation of economic activities leads to dehumanisation and disconnection from nature.

Schumacher’s critique of the central core of orthodox economic visions of economic growth generated by large scale industrialisation has been vindicated by the subsequent patterns of industrialisation and the concomitant decline of agriculture, especially in the developing capitalist economies. Large-scale industrialisation by destroying agriculture in such economies has not led to diffusion of prosperity but to clusters of economic activity resulting in the enrichment of the few and dispossession, unemployment, and underemployment of the many. The co-existence of massive mansions and degrading slums in many metropolitan spaces especially in the newly industrialising countries such as Brazil (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), India (Mumbai), Pakistan (Karachi) and Nigeria (Lagos) illustrate the falsity of agricultural decline and industrial upsurge leading to greater levels of prosperity. Such urban clusters of economic activity created through the operation of external economies of scale result also in spatial inequalities between regions with such clusters and the regions without such clusters. These spatial inequalities manifest through and overlap with further socio-economic inequalities (see Cypher and Dietz Citation2008).

The faith of orthodox economic theory in the possibility of continuous economic growth suffers from a foundational flaw in that it does not acknowledge the ecological limits to economic growth and further, the consequences for growth itself when these limits are crossed. When the ecological limits to economic growth are crossed, the ecological destruction caused by it interacts back on the economy by destroying or polluting economic resources which are necessary for economic growth. Pollution resulting from such ecological destruction causes human (and non-human) harm which adversely affects human capabilities and economically productive activities.

The speed of global heating and the scale of biodiversity loss is now forcing orthodox economic theory to acknowledge the ecological dimensions of economic growth.

A Few Points of Criticism of Schumacher

Schumacher’s emphasis on human aspects of economics, ends up ignoring almost completely the biodiversity loss associated with the economic growth initiated, theorised, and propagated by human beings. Human impact on biodiversity loss is presented today, respectively, through the lenses of the Anthropocene or Capitalocene; and in both approaches, despite their serious differences, the devastating human impact on the diversity of life in the ecosphere is put in the limelight

His admiration for Buddhist economics, justifiable in some ways from an ecological perspective, led him to unjustifiably praise Burma (now Myanmar) as a country pursuing a desirable model of development (p 38). Apart from the political aspect, there is a conceptual error in deducing from an appreciation of the economic dimensions of the teachings of Buddhism to appreciating a country claiming to be following the teachings of Buddhism. A similar kind of error will occur if someone appreciative of the economic and philosophical foundations of Marxism were to praise Stalinist Russia, where the Stalinist regime claimed to be inspired by Marx’s work.

Schumacher’s criticism of industrialisation and its association with gigantism led him to gloss over if not romanticise the character of agrarian work. Undoubtedly, agrarian work being close to nature is different from machine-related industrial work and does possess aspects of enjoyable creativity, but it can be very heavy work and, especially under the conditions created by orthodox economics destruction of rural life and agricultural economies, can involve drudgery and many unpleasant aspects. The global peasant farmers’ organisation, La Via Campesina, has perhaps done the most heavy-lifting in terms of reshaping notions of agrarian work, and changing the theoretical and practical applications of “small is beautiful” in the food system. They have done so by promoting and implementing “food sovereignty,” such that access and control over resources and decision-making, labour processes and trade are returned to producers’ hands, and the alienation of the current agricultural system is reversed to build a non-alienated food system of the future (see Giacomini Citation2018).

Schumacher viewed the social and economic phenomenon of women entering the labour force at the cost of household work very negatively. This was certainly a very socially conservative view of women’s place in society.

Schumacher's views on fossil fuels revealed an anthropocentric flaw in his ecological vision. He viewed fossil fuels positively and his worry was that their excessive use caused by unlimited growth will lead to their exhaustion and thus threatening “civilisation”

A final critical evaluation of Schumacher might not view him as an ecological thinker at all. From the standpoint of contemporary ecological thought, his relative neglect of biodiversity loss marks him out as an anthropocentric thinker. He is seen as standing out more clearly in the company of the heterogeneous critics of technology which was current in the 1950s and 1960s, both in the USA and elsewhere, including people like Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich and, a bit later on, Langdon Winner. It is argued that many of these writers, like Schumacher, had a fundamentally religious motivation, and their critiques of modern technology intersected at various points with ecological ideas. But they are seen as distinct from ecological thought then and even more so now.Footnote11

Conclusion

Schumacher’s articulation of small as beautiful has been a powerful corrective against the gigantism embedded in orthodox economic theory, both bourgeois and Stalinist. The development of ecological socialist thought bringing into the limelight many comparative advantages of small scale highlights the contemporary significance of Schumacher’s contribution. More nuanced criticism, such as that offered here showing the strengths and limitations of Schumacher’s contribution, can pave the way for his contributions to be incorporated into the development of eco-socialist thought and vision that, on one hand, criticises capitalism and the bourgeois economic theory as historically and ethically inappropriate, and, on the other hand, also criticises the Stalinist model of industrialisation as environmentally destructive and socially brutal. Eco-socialist economic theory, by integrating nature centrally into economic analysis, not only makes a theoretical advance over bourgeois and Stalinist economic theorising, it also paves the way for an eco-socialist politics that envisions modes of political organisation to bring about socio-economic change oriented towards ecological sustainability and social justice.