WATERMELON Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2020 Online edition


watermelon
Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2020 Online edition
COP 26: EFFECTIVE ACTION OR ANOTHER COP-OUT?

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UN Climate Change Conference will take place from 9-19 November 2020 in Glasgow. Many organisations that campaign to combat climate change are already preparing their presence and their responses, but perhaps many of the more experienced are doing so with feelings of wariness and weariness.

No COP summit so far has produced effective action on climate change, the number of promises and pledges from governments has grown but so also have the indicators that human caused climate change is happening, possibly even faster than many expected.

Nonetheless optimists hope for a positive outcome: “the climate justice movement has a clear opportunity to break out of the narrow green silo and advance an agenda of system change.” (Thanki and Rehman.2019).

A worldwide upsurge in activism against climate change is taking place. Notably, school students’ strikes and the emergence of Extinction Rebellion (XR) and this has sparked governmental responses ranging from outright denial to fine sounding pledges via declarations of ‘climate emergency’ etc.

In the UK we have a recently elected PM with a fondness for grandiose gestures, so commentators expect COP 26 to be used an opportunity to promote Britain as a ‘climate leader’. Much may be made of the government pledge to remove fossil fueled cars by 2032. If realized, this could be a significant step but many, recall Boris Johnson’s empty promises to build a ‘garden bridge’ and an airport on an artificial island.

Furthermore, as Thanki and Rehman point out, even if a relatively clean, green capitalism could be introduced in advanced industrialised economies, environmentally damaging projects and resource extraction are still happening via agreen colonialism in the Global South.

Inspite of these reservations, climate campaigners and NGO’s worldwide will  be going to Glasgow  This has the  potential to strengthen an international movement to save the planet and express massive opposition to the world leaderships who look unlikely, yet again, to take effective action  because they  cannot really enact the system change which any real solution requires.

Nathan Thanki and Asad Rehman. Red Pepper June 24, 2019


REPORT FROM “Fightback Against The Tories” By William Linegar

On the 1st of March the Young Greens held an event in Manchester themed as a ‘fightback against the Tories’. The room was buzzing first thing in the morning with people bragging about how early they got up to be there (the earliest was 6am). The day started with a welcome speech from YG co-chairs Rosie Rawle and Tom Hazell, who reminded us why we should be angry about five more years under the people who brought us austerity, the Windrush scandal, and the hostile environment more broadly. The need for electoral reform was emphasised, seeing as the Tories won a comfortable 56% of seats with less than 44% of votes.

We then heard an impassioned speech from GPEW deputy leader Amelia Womack who hailed the power and opportunity presented by the YGs, who are well-placed to advertise and campaign on the Green Party’s ‘radical but rational’ ideas in communities up and down the country. Amelia was keen to stress that young people are not merely ‘the future’ but are in fact the present, setting up climate strikes and tackling un-Green policies within universities and councils. She lamented that despite past movements like the Chartists and the suffragettes, we still struggle with a system subsumed by the rich and powerful, and she encouraged us to campaign on Green policies that can improve standards for everyone. This is especially important when the Labour Party are failing to do this themselves, running local councils as administrative functionaries making poor decisions without combatting austerity from Westminster. Amelia also suggested the neoliberal shake-up of universities had left students feeling like customers paying for a service, making them less likely to jeopardise their investment with strikes or political demonstrations. Finally, she told us not to give up, despite frequently feeling like all our energy is spent trying to preserve the freedoms and services we have, rather than building towards bigger and better things in the future.

We then heard from Arran Rangi of Green New Deal UK, who spoke of their aim to be an organising hub, coordinating any and all local groups around the country who in their own way are already creating some small part of the necessary changes in their community. Examples brainstormed by the YGs ranged from energy co-operatives and parents’ associations, to trade union councils and the fruit pickers of east Oxford (which took some explaining). We all agreed that ideas need to have movements built behind them in order to progress from the grassroots to mainstream discourse and finally to the corridors of power, and we heard how a green new deal would promote secure, unionised jobs and global justice of all kinds to combat climate breakdown, neoliberal capitalism, and rampant poverty.

The next speaker was Sam Coates, a former YG co-chair and Oxford councillor, who spoke about austerity at the local level, and about the challenge faced by the poorest in society. He told us that since the Tories came to power, 600,000 more children are in poverty and there have been 120,000 excess deaths attributable to austerity. The cuts, unprecedented in peacetime, have led to failures of healthcare and progress indicators like life expectancy stalling and even reversing. The bogus economics of austerity was highlighted, along with the fallacy of comparing government budgeting to household budgeting. We were encouraged to brainstorm ideas on how austerity can be challenged locally, from calling out financial mismanagement of councils to concepts like ward-based participatory budgeting, and we were reminded that nobody is actively defending austerity anymore. The Tories claim it’s over, although it doesn’t appear to be in practise, but this could represent an important shift away from bellicose defence of austerity. At risk of sounding as tone deaf as Corbyn following December’s election, we may have won the argument.

We then got to hear from the YG executive committee, who told us about the reinstatement of the acclaimed ’30 under 30’ training programme, the successful deployment of Green MEPs to climate strike rallies, the distribution of ‘fresher packs’ to start-up university societies, a successful rapid response press team to issue statements on events of relevance, and the advent of a YG co-chairs’ speech at national GPEW conference for the first time in years which was touted as a huge boost to visibility and credibility among the wider party. The provision of central funding for a part-time YG administrative supporter was similarly hailed as a brilliant development the benefits of which would be immediate and profound. We also heard how the YGs international officer has coordinated LGBTIQA+ events in North Macedonia and stayed in touch with Scottish and Irish sister groups as well as the Federation of Young European Greens despite Brexit. We also heard how in the run-up to the December election, the YGs organised 18 action days in six weeks, equating to 138 days of campaigning.

The day ended with a panel of former, current, and potential YG councillors discussing local organising, trade union links, and how local Green Parties are increasingly important given how many Labour councils are failing to deliver, alienating voters and haemorrhaging support to the Tories, whose dominance of Westminster also makes the parliamentary influence of progressives less impactful. We heard how councils have powers to do more for their residents, in areas like energy generation, transport, and waste services. We also heard how Greens can have real power as a big group, such as in Brighton where they secured budget amendments for insulating council homes and support for car-free zones. The discussion ended with a reminder that Greens need to discuss things they could and would actually do once elected, and a reminder that there is a central GPEW strategy for Green councillors but this needs to be more widely advertised. The final thought was that councils need to be made a platform for struggle, and to make sure there are Green voices shaping that struggle, the YGs have already pencilled in 27 action days leading up to this year’s local elections.



CLIMATE SCIENCE & ECOSOCIALISM- the changing public perception  by Malcolm Bailey

(Photo: Michael Campanella / Getty Images)

Extreme weather patterns, fires across Australia, ocean and air pollution, decimation of the rain forests, plastic waste, melting of polar ice, loss of species diversity and other environmental degradations have recently shocked the public imagination, especially the young. Human caused climate change and global warming now meet growing public understanding and recognition of impending catastrophe.

The public mood is changing. Climate and environmental science is respected, in contrast to distrust of politicians and anger at ‘fake news’. President Trump and anti-science lobbies are seen as mistaken whilst recognition of climate change is founded on evidence from decades of research by scientists. Our confidence in what is happening to the global climate is testimony to the power of scientific methodology.

This positive view of science has spread beyond environmental science. This evidence-based view is of intrinsic benefit.  Public interest in nuclear and particle physics has waned despite the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson discovery, but enthusiasm, excitement and wonder at amazing planetary exploration and merging black holes is growing. Advances in biology and medicine yield new approaches to treating disease.

Inevitably there are areas of disquiet, conspiracy theorists are still active. New 5G networks generate health fears which are not supported by adequate scientific evidence commanding scientific consensus, however, surveillance issues go mostly unchallenged, and AI and robotics concern many. Some still distrust vaccines but the importance of facts, rigorous science and evidence-based policies is widespread and growing.

Applied science and technology can be a scourge or boon for humankind, and it’s important to recognise the difference between them. Scientific theories must be falsifiable, and scientists accept that favoured theories may be wrong. Science is the organised attempt by humankind to discover how things work. Waddington [1] has defined the scientific attitude of mind as an interest in such questions. Science is not neutral. Scientists have a social and ethical responsibility to speak out on human behaviour.

Climate science has moved forward driven and coordinated internationally since 1988 by the work of the United Nations agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The remit of the IPCC is to report on the ‘scientific and technical information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation’ [2].  Thousands of scientists contribute to IPCC reports,

Professor Myles Allen, lead author of the recent IPCC ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C’ has explained [3] what the 12 year scenario means: there is between a 1-in-2 and 2-in-3 chance of keeping global warming below 1.5° C if emissions are reduced to around half their present (2018) level by 2030: ‘Climate change is not so much an emergency as a festering injustice: it means we have to act now, and even if we do, success is not guaranteed’.

The New Scientist [4] comments that ’thanks to the likes of Greta Thunberg, public acceptance of the basic science of climate change, and awareness of the dangers it poses, has, of late, grown hugely across the globe, even in parts that were previously resistant, such as the US ….  the world seems to be waking up to the need for radical action on this and other serious environmental challenges.’

Yet there is failure to act on climate change and progress the Paris Agreement of 2015. There are obstacles and struggles, shown internationally by the tortuous progress of the annual ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) meetings, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which receives the IPCC science reports.

The latest COP25, last December, emphasised the difficulties. The 27,000 delegates conferred for a record two weeks plus, but there was no overall consensus. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, ‘the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis’. Even the latest IPCC science reports were merely ‘noted’ rather than ‘welcomed’ – a feeble response. Greta Thunberg told the plenary session that COP25 ‘seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes’.

The New Scientist [4] states ‘Even when it comes to climate change, undoubtedly the defining issue of the coming decade, there are grounds for cautious optimism that we can pull together to stave off catastrophe’. But where? The present global economic system depends on endless growth. Governments appear to act with a misplaced confidence in the capacity of a greener capitalism to solve the climate and social justice crises. It’s an unconvincing prescription of greenwash, techno-fix and ecomodernism.
Ecosocialism identifies and indicts capitalism as the enemy of nature (5), bringing together social justice and environment crises, linked and interacting. The fundamental significance of this linkage must be recognised, based on analysis underpinned by a scientific, evidence-based approach, forming the foundation of a rational response to the crises. Sometimes the current economic system appears impregnable and permanent, but it has intrinsic stresses which will become ever more tested under the deepening global environmental and social justice crises.

References
1          Waddington, C.H., 1941, The Scientific Attitude, Pelican
2          IPCC, https://www.ipcc.ch/
3          Allen, Myles, 2019, http://theconversation.com/why-protesters-should-be-wary-of-12-      years-to-climate-breakdown-rhetoric-115489
4          New Scientist, 2019    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432615-000
5          Joel Kovel:  The Enemy of Nature, Zed Books, 2007

The Irish General Election – The Green Shoots of a new Ireland?
Dr Joseph Healy (Principal Speaker & International Spokesperson of Left Unity)
The Irish general election result has totally transformed the Irish political landscape but is also likely to change the Anglo-Irish relationship and that between the two parts of Ireland. To understand the impact of Sinn Féin gaining its largest vote in the Republic since 1922 and ending the political duopoly of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, it’s necessary to consider Irish history. The two main parties were the opposing offspring of the Irish Civil War, which was fought over the partition of Ireland in 1921 and cost more Irish lives and caused more bitterness than the preceding Irish War of Independence. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Fine Gael represented the winning Free State and Fianna Fáil the losing anti-Treaty side. Post 1932 both parties recognised the partition of Ireland to varying degrees and proceeded to create the reactionary sectarian partitionist state which had its mirror image in the other sectarian state in the North. The Irish Left remained weak and divided and the new state never had a truly Left government, apart from short periods where the Irish Labour Party failed to moderate the right-wing Fine Gael in a series of coalitions. Any talk of the reunification of Ireland was also ruled out for public discussion by both right-wing parties, this was the case until Brexit.
Sinn Féin, though represented in the Dáil, was not a major force in the political scene in the Republic. Bad election results in 2019 in both the European elections and the local elections meant that the party did not have high expectations in the general election in January. Varadkar was banking on seemingly fending off the danger to Ireland of a closed border and securing apparent economic security However, Brexit and the growing inequality in the Republic have changed things fundamentally. The decline in the power of the Catholic Church in the South and the development of a radical young electorate who voted through the referenda on abortion and equal marriage have created a thirst for change. The huge crises in housing and the Irish health service have created anger. Added to that was the crass decision by the Fine Gael government, backed by Fianna Fáil, to increase the pension age, an issue which Sinn Féin had opposed, meaning that many older voters were also alienated from the right-wing parties. Ireland has the youngest and most highly educated electorate in Western Europe and these people want a progressive Left government. By Sinn Féin and other Left parties also calling for Vote Left and Transfer Left in the complex proportional representation transferable voting system meant that Sinn Féin voters also voted in other Left TDs (MPs) and has meant a strong Left cohort in the new Dáil (Irish parliament).
Where does this leave the issue of reunification? Has Sinn Féin watered down its call for a border poll? This is not the case. Although reunification was not the major issue in the election, the electorate in the South support it. All the opinion polls point towards support for a border poll and the fact that Sinn Féin support a poll within five years means that there is a mandate for this among at least 25% of the Irish electorate. One Sinn Féin MP has interestingly pointed out that Sinn Féin now has the most votes in two thirds of Irish constituencies North and South, echoing the election of 1918, the last election held on an all-Ireland basis.
This result will have a major impact on Anglo-Irish relations and on Brexit negotiations. For a party which has major support in the North of Ireland will be representing both its electorate in the North and South and this will bring the North of Ireland into a much more central role in those negotiations but also will increase pressure on the British government to call a border poll. Furthermore, the EU has stated that any future reunited Irish state will have automatic entry into the EU. Economically and politically many Unionists in the North of Ireland can see that that their future now lies in a new Irish state.
But there are major impediments like the absence of a free health service in the South. Sinn Féin have always made clear that their aim is not to bring the Unionists into the existing Irish Republic but to create a new socialist state with a free health service, a Bill of Rights for the minority community and many other safeguards.
The transformation of the Irish state into a modern progressive socialist European state under a radical government as opposed to a right wing UK state in hock to Trump and driven by reactionary English nationalism, could well be the catalyst to create a new republic based on equality and justice for all. The historic general election of 2020 can be viewed as the first step on that road.
  




FRANCE IS NOW A POLICE STATE  
Sylvain Reivas 



France has had a huge problem with its police, long before the start of the yellow vests movement. The death of Malik Oussekine while in police custody during the mass student protests of 1986 is regularly brought back to light. But there are other famous cases of police murders in contemporary French history. The youths of the suburbs ("cités"), often unemployed and mostly of North African origins, have always been at the receiving end of a relentless police harassment which makes regular sordid headlines and caused three weeks of riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005. In 2017, 4 policemen were trialed for rape, having introduced a baton into the anus of a young black man who they were arresting. The victim will need a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.

Against this backdrop, in March last year, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned what she called the “excessive use of force” by the French police. Since then, more eyes enucleations have occurred, caused by unbridled use of rubber bullets and gas grenade launchers against the yellow vests. Since the beginning of the movement, the police have killed 2 people, blinded 25, and 5 more protesters have lost a hand.
In a normally functioning democracy, the police don't kill, maim or rape the population. But France is no longer a normally functioning democracy. Macron has done something that will be extremely difficult to undo he has let loose a police force that no longer answers to his government. This is the very essence of a police state. Even if orders ever came down from the political spheres to ease off the police ferocity on the streets, the Paris police chief himself is not the sort of man to pass on moderation orders down the chain of command. Hearing him snap at a demonstrator that he "isn't on the same side as [her]", one could be forgiven for forgetting that France is a republic. So, it is no wonder that glee can now be detected in these policemen's demeanour as they give into acts of terror. They revel in their impunity.






Is Another Europe Still Possible?
Peter Murry

Looking back as far as 2019, I sometimes wonder if there really were vast demonstrations in central London, with thousands chanting: “We demand a people’s vote!”. If we’d have got one my guess is that we’d still be in the EU, just. However, we didn’t, and we aren’t and arguably the main political reason for speculating about how and why this happened is to decide what to do now.

In 2019 there were two large organised remainer campaigns. The largest, the People’s Vote, mobilised celebrities, capitalists, anti- capitalists, and politicians from almost every party and organised the large demos. Also, there is smaller more ideologically coherent organisation called ‘Another Europe Is Possible’. (ANEIP). The Green Party of England & Wales supported both.

In the immediate aftermath of the Tory landslide election victory ANEIP held a public meeting on 14 December 2019. It was attended by several hundred and a plan to draft a ‘charter’ was put to the meeting by the ANEIP leadership and agreed. The aim was to outline a strategy conduct an internationalist left opposition in Brexit Britain.

This is still a work in progress and its political future, and possibly that of ANEIP, is not guaranteed; but surely there is a need for something along these lines to be launched and early drafts of the charter may give some indications of what needs to be involved.
It entails aiming to defend the rights, freedoms and protections of the EU and to set out political alternatives to the current EU and some directions in which it could be heading. It specifically aims to defend the right to stay for EU citizens currently in the UK, to preserve existing freedom of movement and to continue to accept refugees. It argues for continuation of the workers’ rights and human rights protections derived from the EU. It also seeks to continue environmental protections, food standards and to continue science and research funding.

As well as a defensive agenda, it is suggested that the charter should commit to combat climate change and to net zero emissions by 2030, with the intention of being in step with the EU doing the same.

This a very brief and sketchy summary of a strategy being discussed in one organisation, it is to be hoped that others will be thinking and working along the same lines, because what is now needed is a renewed project of resistance for an internationalist ecosocialist future for the whole planet.


SELLING OUR SOUL FOR A FEW SCRAPS FROM THE LIB DEMS; Green left statement on the 2019 UK general election. February 2020



The defeat for Labour in the General Election was disappointing, because it happened inspite of Labour supporting countering Climate Change,
The Green Party should welcome the many in the Labour Party and Trade Union movement who now want a green transformation of the economy.
Unfortunately, the Green Party made the mistake of linking up with the discredited Lib Dems over the Brexit issue and, even on this, serious differences emerged over the Lib Dems’ proposal to remain without a referendum. The pact was not based on other shared policies with the Lib Dems.
Many members of the Green Party were surprised that it endorsed Lib Dems in some 20 seats with sitting Labour MPs and candidates near to its policies on austerity, Brexit and the Green New Deal. Why were the Lib Dems allowed to use our good name to fight Labour?
The General Election strategy of the Green Party seemed to be fixated on gaining an extra MP by selling our soul for a few scraps from the Lib Dems; and in the event was of no benefit to Greens
Green Left has asked the Green Party what was the basis for this mistaken strategy? Were its political implications fully thought out?
Green Left believes the task of the GPEW is to encourage debate and discussion with those who share or are beginning to share our perspective on the need to fight climate change and the need for a Green New Deal to transform the economy.



Some reflections on GE2019: A green left minority position  by Chris Glenn

Electoral Pacts
Several positions have been put forward about Green Party general election strategy including:

1.  We should stand in all seats in all circumstances to allow voters the opportunity to cast a vote for us
2.  We should not make electoral pacts with the LibDems
3.  We should be open to electoral pacts with other parties, including the LibDems, in order to maximise Green Party performance and representation

The first position is sometimes associated with the ‘environmental’ wing of the party, some of whom seek to de-emphasise our social justice policies. The second is the official Green Left position. I argued hard against any electoral arrangement with the LibDems, due to their adherence to neoliberalism, when it was first floated at a London GP meeting in mid-2016. I changed my position in response to the political context of the December 2016 Richmond by-election. In the interim period we saw: the Brexit vote; UKIP and fascist support for Zac Goldsmith; and judges accused on the front pages of the right-wing press. In November 2016, during the by election campaign, Trump won the US presidential election.

During GE2019 and within Green Left I have argued, as outlined below, for the third position which both recognises that we are at our weakest in FPTP elections and seeks to maximise the limited influence we have.

"As someone very much on the left of the Green Party, I fully support this tactical move. I have no problem with this move given FPTP. We are not endorsing LibDem policies in any shape or form. Assuming FPTP continues, if Greens gain second places in a small number of seats, this will be important in future elections. Tactically I think this is a very astute move - for me this is not primarily about Remain but how we play the brutal FPTP system which means that even some Green Party members will be voting for Labour in some constituencies where we are standing. Think of all those people we have spoken to over the years who say they agree with us but won’t vote for us because we can’t win. We can now build a significant vote in a small number of constituencies which begins to undercut this argument. I suspect a large majority of members will understand this electoral pact. Let’s not forget that the Green Party remains easily the most radical and left-wing party currently represented in Parliament. We have not compromised our vision and policies. We want that representation to grow further”.

In GE2019 the LibDems stood down in Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN). Labour polled strongly - but those of us who campaigned in DaWN, having seen our vote plummet in 2017, helped to achieve our first ever 2nd place and our highest ever vote and percentage in London, beating the Tories by 51 votes. In DaWN and elsewhere the decline in our 2017 vote can in my view be almost entirely accounted for by the election of a Tory majority government in 2015 and the very understandable attraction of Labour under Corbyn. This is psychologically and practically important for future elections in London where we have historically 'underperformed' in both general and local elections.


Marginal seats

I don't think we should agonise over the size of the Green vote in the 10 seats where the combined Labour and Green vote was more than that of the Tories. Given the many seats we unilaterally stood aside in, the responsibility is with Labour who insist on standing in every seat.

The Green vote is not a homogenous bloc that would automatically vote Labour if we were not standing. In marginal Stroud, I looked at local press and other comment threads where voters gave their views Almost all of those who stated that they had voted Green in EU and local elections were clear they would vote Labour in GE2019. Many mentioned the high regard in which they held our candidate and that they would continue to vote Green in the future. My hypothesis is that most of the Green vote in Stroud and the other 9 seats came from
:
a. those who would otherwise have voted LibDem
b. some Tory Remainers (partly due to our growing base in the constituency)
c. members/supporters who would ONLY vote Green -.

So, if we had NOT stood the Tory majority may have been larger, rather than it now being a Labour-held seat.

Unrealistic expectations

In the 2016 London elections, a local organiser visited Southwark branch and started off their contribution by asking: does everyone agree that we can aim to win 3 to 5 London Assembly seats? I immediately responded that we would do well to hold on to our 2 seats, which is what happened. In 2017 I canvassed in Bristol West - it was very soon apparent to me that although we had a good level of support we would not win. I agree with much of Benali Hamdache's analysis in Bright Green, of the raising of unrealistic hopes, which runs the risk of demoralising our activist members.

Conclusion

Labour will continue to be riven by turmoil and divisions whoever is elected leader because none of the 'factions' (and that is much more nuanced than just the 'left' and the 'right' in their party) will easily or willingly leave.  I continue to believe that the primary way that we influence the political agenda is by building the size and electoral impact of the Green Party



If an Investment Banker Was the Answer, What Was the Question?



Alan Wheatley Speaks Out Against Neoliberal ‘Welfare Reform’

I hope to promote information not mentioned in the e-mail circulars from Green Party of England & Wales Co-leaders. 

Human catastrophe, a dodgy health insurance firm and the investment banker




In August 2017 the UN Disability Chair referred to Neoliberal ‘Welfare Reform’ “’a human catastrophe,’ which was ‘totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in’.”(1)


More recently, one of the UK’s top barristers represented the Department for Work & Pensions at the inquest of Errol Graham whose corpse weighing just 4½ stone was found by bailiffs in the fallout from one of several thousands of Employment & Support Allowance ‘entitlement’ debacles. Thus, the coroner concerned did not call for a public inquiry into such deaths but has since welcomed the public concern since expressed following reportage of the case by John Pring of Disability News Service.(2)

News articles and letters in Hereford Times emboldened a parent so affected regarding Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to write the letters page  Concluding her account of PIP denied her epileptic child despite 24/7 medication demand resulting from severe epilepsy, she asks: “Who are these people responsible for making these decisions and causing such distress? Fortunately, my son has someone to speak up for him, how many don’t?” (3)

I commend the Hereford Times as a platform in which people can ask such questions while the fact that such appalling decisions are repeatedly made helps to demonstrate how undemocratic the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) – formerly the Department for Health & Social Security – has become. 

Mo Stewart, a medically retired RAF medical veteran asked such questions after disability assessors downgraded her disability pension. She then put her research skills to effective use. She discovered that the ‘revolving doors’ between government and ‘global public service delivery sector’ had facilitated a legally disgraced American health insurance firm’s continued role as ‘adviser’ to successive UK governments on ‘welfare reform’ since the 1990s that have since resulted in ‘welfare reform’. That was Unum, who linked with Atos in creating the ‘Logic Integrated Medical Assessment’ check box system by which both Employment & Support Allowance and PIP awards are metricated.(4)

David Freud, a Labour ‘welfare reform guru’ headhunted by Tony Blair (5) and poached by David Cameron as House of Lords  Welfare Reform Minister (6) was an investment banker who, by his own admission, "[knew nothing] about welfare at all when [he] started”(7). Prof. Peter Beresford – a co-founder of Social Work Action Network – wrote in 2013, “Lack of knowledge about state support systems is putting the system at risk.”(8)

“Policy-driven evidence gathering” (9)

David Freud’s ignorance manifested itself in the false perception that assessments of Incapacity Benefit were conducted by the claimant’s own General Practitioner and that the GP thus had a vested interest in keeping the patient and claimant sweet. Thus — while conveniently ignoring the existence of disabled jobseekers with a history of volunteering, he reckoned: "We can pay masses [to the private sector] — I worked out that it is economically rational to spend up to £62,000 on getting the average person on Incapacity Benefit into work."(10)

Such ignorance regarding the circumstances of Incapacity Benefit claimants was previously reflected in a Labour Health Minister’s earlier utterings. In February 2004, Community Care magazine reported:

“The government has apologised after massively overstating the number of obese people claiming benefits. Earlier this month, health minister Lord Warner said that 900,000 claimants of incapacity benefits were obese, prompting headlines in the national media. The Department of Health now says that the actual figure is 900 and that this only relates to people who receive incapacity benefit as a result of obesity. It blamed an ‘administrative error’ for the blunder. It added that the total amount paid to this group a week is £70,965 rather than the £70.9m figure initially used.”(11)

The DWP’s hiring of a top barrister to represent it in the inquest of Errol Graham has earlier parallels in central government’s abuse of taxpayers’ money to embed public ignorance regarding those it wanted perceived as “a burden on the taxpayer.” ‘Targeting Benefit Fraud’ televised adverts and billboards throughout the early 2000s detracted attention from the misery caused by transformations in DWP benefit delivery.

By the tax year 2004/2005 the problem of call-centre overload had grown to the point that welfare rights adviser Neil Bateman reported in Community Care magazine in November 2006 that in 2004/2005, 21 million incoming calls to Jobcentre Plus (JCP) call-centres had resulted in destitution in a number of cases.(12)

Of course, the advent of ‘digital by default’ Universal Credit has compounded such problems enormously to the point of food banks being widespread, but they existed way back in New Labour days and I know because JCP serially miscalculated the level of my part-time earnings as being above the need for Jobseekers Allowance top up.

Conclusion

The current mess ties in with an apparent media blackout of ‘Writing off workfare: for a Green New Deal, not the Flexible New Deal’ that Anne Gray wrote with me in 2008 as Green Party response to New Labour’s ‘work for your benefits’ privatisation of the welfare state.(13) For further Green Party follow-through on what has emerged since, go to the Green Party Policy Pointer on Disability, last amended in 2012.(14)


Notes
  1. https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/uk-faces-un-examination-government-cuts-caused-human-catastrophe/
  2. https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/errol-graham-coroner-pledges-to-press-dwp-on-safeguarding-review/
  3. Hereford Times Letters, Thursday February 13, 2020, p45
  4. https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/disabled-researchers-book-exposes-corporate-demolition-of-welfare-state/
  5. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/1577313/Welfare-is-a-mess-says-adviser-David-Freud.html
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/feb/16/freud-defects-labour-conservatives
  7. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/1577313/Welfare-is-a-mess-says-adviser-David-Freud.html
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2013/jan/30/welfare-literacy-state-support
  9. I am indebted to researcher Paul Treloar for this phrase, which he used at a talk to TUC London & South East Region event in 2008
  10. https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2004/02/25/minister-cuts-the-fat-from-figures/
  11. https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2006/11/16/jobcentre-plus-poor-service-continues/
  12. http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/GPEW_writing_off-workfare_final.doc
  13. https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/dy.html


A Socialist Green New Deal? by Mark Douglas, Hackney Green Left.

Introduction

The original Green New Deal was created by the radical economist Ann Pettifor, Caroline Lucas, Colin Hines and others in 2008. It was sponsored by the New Economics Foundation, a leading British Green think tank. 2008 was also the year of disaster capitalism when financial excess nearly brought the system crashing down. Massive bank bailouts were followed by a decade of austerity and misery.

Labour and the trades unions utterly failed to combat or stop austerity, which led to the Labour failure at the 2019 Election. The Green movement tried to take it up and the most progress was made by the Green group of MEPs in the European Parliament. Only in 2018 did Labour realise the worth of the Green New Deal in tackling both the climate crisis and the effects of austerity by repairing the run-down public services. It’s probably the best legacy of the left turn of Labour since 2016 and the Corbyn experiment that resulted in the most radical Labour Manifesto of 2019 in its history.

Manifestos

Both the Green and Labour manifestos feature the Green New Deal as the core chapters.

‘Its time for Real Change’ is Labour’s 100-page manifesto, leading with a Green Industrial Revolution on Economy, Energy, Transport and Environment. It’s well written but repeats traditional terms of nationalisation, state control, centralism along with nuclear energy and airport expansion cop outs. It is verbose and ambiguous!

 Green Manifesto 2019

The Green Party Manifesto: 'If Not now, When?’ was an 80-page document, starting on page 6 with ‘The Green New Deal– Unleashing a Green Economic and Social Revolution’. ‘A comprehensive ten-year plan ambitious enough to tackle climate and ecological breakdown at the scale and speed set out by science.’

It goes on to advise a £100 billion total investment, which will create millions of new jobs in energy, transport, land, etc in a net zero carbon economy. It continues with detailed chapters on Energy, Housing, Transport, Industry, Food and Farming. It is an impressive manifesto and probably the most radical in Green Party history.

So, both manifestos are very similar and represent the farthest that radical Keynesian economics could go to reform late capitalism. The truth is that a 'radical reform programme’ will just end in green capitalism with most of the promised reforms not evident. Capitalism cannot be ‘adjusted’ to socialism.

 Transitional-Socialist New Deal

It was Blair who said that Labour’s new manifesto was so extreme it was like a 'transitional programme’; there are bold plans to nationalise many sectors of the economy, implement worker-consumer control, create a ‘just transition’ for millions of displaced workers, but it’s still left-reformist and social-democratic.  Most socialists know that reformed capitalism will not ‘save the planet’, but do most Greens know?

The task of Green Left is to devise a programme that makes it clear that a transition to Eco-Socialism is necessary. An example of this is the approach to land in Britain. Neither manifesto deals with the gross inequality of land ownership, control and use. Was it William Morris who stated that land reform was the basis of a new society? Ownership and control of all great land estates be must be divided to create local and regional agricultural worker co-operatives. Another example is Energy. Production and distribution of (renewable) energy must be devolved to regional and district popular control which could only happen by a democratic revolution of worker and people power.

 Both Parties have fudged issues of democracy. Labour, the most conservative social democratic party in Europe, fails to change to proportional representation. Greens have good devolved policies for renewed local government, but Socialists want real worker + consumer control of industry and services at the local level, not just power in local councils.

Universal Basic Services

Universal Basic Services (UBS) for health, energy, welfare, housing, transport, etc. are supported by both parties; this is a key socialist aim, but it would still be under private control in many places. All UBS should be people-controlled at local or regional level. Radical decentralisation is essential.

I invite Green Left members to create a ‘Transitional Socialist Green Deal’ platform which we can campaign for in both the Green and Labour movements. Please put forward your ideas soon to create a new pamphlet from Green Left





 
The older generation and computers – an unresolved challenge of our time  By Erwin Schaefer – 
(West Central London Green Party and Green Seniors Media Officer)



Imagine primitive computers, the size of a room, used exclusively by top companies, universities or government agencies. No internet exists and nobody knows what ‘social media’ is. To call somebody you use a rotary-dial telephone attached to a socket in the You have three or four TV stations, but they shut around midnight. To get your news, you purchase your favourite newspaper in print. To buy anything, you pay by cash or perhaps by cheque. If you are young and love music, you might carry a cassette Walkman around with you. And nobody can contact you if they don’t know where you are.Fast forward a few decades to arrive in a world where computers have become ubiquitous and where their use has changed the world beyond recognition – at least if you’re part of a generation that has known life and work without them.

So, are today’s seniors just relics of a bygone era; who should just adapt to new technology and accept the realities of this Brave New World? That isn’t a fair assessment – there are plenty of people in their 70s and older who have taken enthusiastically to new technology, there are many more who confidently grew into the computer-age during their careers but might be baffled and annoyed by the constant introduction of new apps and ever more communication formats – and then there are those who struggle with basic aspects of the digital age. There might be health reasons or a disability making it difficult for them to use computers unaided, or there might have been a lack of opportunities to gain exposure to computers during their lives, and there might well be an element of apprehension involved as well.

It is a sign of a compassionate society to endeavour to have an inclusive attitude towards its more vulnerable members by assisting those who struggle to achieve a level of digital access. There are still too many occasions where older people are simply excluded from social activities, or even meaningful work experience, because they do not receive the comparatively modest assistance and encouragement to enable them to fully participate fully in society.

We need to ask where digital technology is leading us. There are many useful aspects that we would not want to lose –web links about science, culture, literature and a democratic level of political involvement enabled by digital media. Almost everyone has an email address to communicate. And what about those miniature computers we carry around with us? Calling them a ‘phone’, or even a ‘smart phone’ does not do them justice.

But are we sure we know all the potential consequences of the digitalisation of our lives? Can we be confident with the structures in place that are supposedly safeguarding our digital activities? Can we be assured that our data is not being misused? Have we not had ample evidence recently about manipulative advertising on social media to influence voters’ attitudes? Can we honestly say that this enormous phenomenon called ‘social media’ is automatically a force for the good?

And if attempts to move the entire payment structure onto digital platforms are successful, removing our access to cash at the same time, would we be comfortable with the potential for abusive control of our digital visibility? Similar questions can be asked about any of the other digital information pieces about us, floating around in cyberspace, be they of a medical, professional or political nature.

We have long arrived at a point where questioning our almost total reliance, or perhaps even obsession, with computers and digital media should be part of a civic debate. And I would argue that the life experience of today’s seniors should have a voice. They carry the wisdom of a life without any of that technology; they can tell us how to have a human-to-human relationship not involving screens, keyboards, passwords, apps, facebook or twitter. For the modest assistance needed by some elderly computer users, that generation can more than pay back all of society, if only we start taking them seriously as mature and insightful members of an inclusive society.


THEATRE REVIEW: 
Gabrielle Scawthorn
 in
The Apologists
The Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton
Malcolm Bailey

First performed at London VAULT Festival 2019, The Apologists explores the art of the public apology. It’s refreshing to hear the familiar carefully deceptive words of public faux apologies examined forensically in this production. The one-woman drama by three writers is in three acts; Excuses, Seven - The Sweetest Hour, and New Universe, written respectively by Iskandar Sharazuddin, Cordelia O’Neill and Lucinda Burnett, directed by Jane Moriarty.
‘Excuses’ sees a Secretary of State for Health and Social Care attempting to atone for a racist comment to a doctor. Her formal apology is mechanical, oozing insincerity’, a typical Tory minister busy no doubt privatising anything she can lay her hands on. Gabrielle Scawthorn’s gripping powerful performance is at its most compelling and disturbing in the second act about a travel writer held responsible for a suicide, and the final act dealing with the consequences of rape in an aid organisation. Each act places a woman as the central character.
The Apologists touches on many difficult aspects of the public apology. It’s essential theatre for anyone with concerns about this feature of public life.
 Treason: Rebel Warriors and Internationalist Traitors

Edited by Steve Cushion and Christian Høgsbjerg: An Occasional Publication from The Socialist History Society

Available for £5 + p&p [£1.50 in UK, £5 to Rest of World] – for more details please contact Steve Cushion on s.cushion23[a]gmail.com –


This volume focuses on events which are underplayed and, at worst, suppressed in mainstream history. This is because they involve initiatives by those who are expected to be obedient acting against the wishes of their superiors. For instance, rebellious Polish soldiers in the French army who supported the Haitian slave revolt, rather than suppressing it. Sometimes such “mutinous”, or “treacherous” acts were carried out by groups, as in Haiti or by the St Patrick’s Brigade of Irish-American deserters from the US army who joined the Mexican resistance to a US invasion in 1846-8.

This book also recounts instances of individuals following their consciences and switching sides to join struggles against oppression and/or invasion. British men joining Irish rebels, Germans fighting against the Nazis in internal resistance movements or as partisans opposing invasions. Such “treachery” could involve armed combat or covert espionage; as was the case with the French ‘porteurs des valises’ who smuggled money and propaganda for the FLN Algerian revolt against French colonialism.

The committed socialist historians whose work is collected here, record a tradition of resistance dating back at least to the seventeenth century CE when Levellers, English parliamentarian soldiers, refused to serve in an invasion of Ireland. Reading this work enables discovering an undercurrent often masked by conventional histories that are overly focused on the doings of powerful, often male individuals, in powerful nations and self-congratulatory expositions of ‘western’ industrial societies. At a time when a resurgent right-wing advances ‘culture wars’ as a part of a project to ‘regain control’ it is good to remember that resistance is possible and necessary.                                    P.Murry

Speakers from IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain https://iwgb.org.uk/)  Wilson (Chair of IWGB Cleaners’ Branch), and Jordi (also translating), visited the Green Left meeting on 18 January 2020. Points raised included:
·        IWGB was founded in 2012, currently c. 4000 members. It  had gained victories for its members in employment rights and conditions, visibility and respect as human beings. Many migrant workers, often from Latin America and Eastern Europe had precarious work conditions in the UK

·        Its branches are: Couriers/Logistics Workers, Foster Care Workers, Private Hire Drivers, Security Guards/ Receptionists, Cleaners/Facilities workers, Electrical Workers, Game Workers, Charity Workers, Higher Education Workers, Cycle Instructors

·        Not recognised by TUC, but had good relations and support from many union branches including UCU and Unison branches.

·        It was sometimes difficult to determine who an employer was, often workers were nominally ‘self-employed’ which enabled low wages and high costs for workers (eg buying vehicles, imposing congestion charges on hybrid vehicles).

·         IWGB had secured some victories in cases such as this, these ‘landmark cases’ could have repercussion across entire employment sectors, currently such a case was being organised for Foster Care Workers.

·        Problems of pollution arising from Private Hire vehicles (eg Uber), were acknowledged.


 Views expressed in Watermelon are those of the authors and not necessarily of Green Left








Flick a thumb down, strike flint on steel,
Make flame. Light the dry leaves,
Suck the smoke into lungs.
Tobacco is a treacherous weed,
Which just makes you crave
Ignite, inhale, and repeat   
Until eventually the powering lungs
That once got you up mountains,
won’t even let you reach
The end of the street
Unless you often stop
To wheeze, pant and cough.
And in Brazil or Australia
A thumb Flicks down, strikes flint on steel,
Makes flame, lights the dry leaves,
Burns a forest,
And this whole planet
Sucks the smoke into its lungs.
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.

Visit http://gptu.greenparty.org.uk


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