Away with all your superstitions #247

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain”, John Lennon, died 8.12.1980.

I had the recent privilege of facilitating a small discussion group as part of a People’s Climate Assembly. The focus was on “fossil-fuelled Capitalism and how to end it”, and the ten attendees were self selecting from a range of alternative topic choices they turned-down. To my surprise, not one suggested “system change”, that is, the need to end Capitalism and the Capitalist State machinery.

Instead there were as many answers, that is, political positions, as people in the group – indeed more as the discussion developed. One young man was insistent to the point of proselytising that a very specific (and religious) form of meditation was the single answer – if only everyone in the world would practice this each day we would solve the climate crisis and live in harmony.

Another, perhaps more predictably, offered her vision of a “back to the land” non-material existence, each of us growing our own and sharing without money. We all agreed that money was a problem.

A third, wheelchair-reliant, developed the current prevailing ideas of localism and the need, first, for all to educate themselves out of prejudice and discrimination, before anything could happen. In short, not one thought that challenging and disempowering the Banks, Corporations and their political protagonists inside the State machinery was either essential or necessary.

I was somewhat dumbfounded, the group having just been part of a loud and angry march for climate through our city centre. And I was finally completely silenced by a woman who had remained quiet in the discussions for the best part of an hour, only to speak assertively to conclude that every species had a period of longevity within the conscious designs of Nature and Evolution, and humanity’s time was surely up now, accept it. We’ve had our time. She promptly upped and left.

A recent global study suggested 40% of all peoples believe in witchcraft. A majority, by a mile, believe in god as a higher power of some sort. Evangelical churches represent a small minority despite growing fast.

Conversely, the 2021 UK Census shocked the right-wing nationalists with a statistic that less than 50% of of the population considered ourselves as Christian, with a third claiming no religion. The likes of Farage and his neo-fascist Trumpian mates argue that this is the death of British (meaning White) culture at the hands of their contrived opposition to so-called “racial-mixing” and immigration by non-whites.

Whatever slot you inhabit along the political spectrum, the sense of vulnerability, displacement and threat appears to be increasing. Nevertheless, in terms of human consciousness, I would suggest that an overall decline in religious fervour represents the rise in respect for and adherence to science, evidence, rationalism and facts. Indeed, for human society to change in the ways essential to prevent climate collapse, this appears essential. We have to follow the science that demands the prevention of emissions of human-made global warming gases.

The mix, and at times integration, of politics and religion propagates the influence of an infinity of metaphysical constructions rather than focus upon practical action to protect the physical, material world. The presumption that ideas alone can change reality creates powerful forces that can determine or deny science.

Why do we fall prey to belief-over-reality? Preferred ideology. It should be of no surprise that a commitment to nation state and its ascribed religious order will determine an individual’s world view on all other matters. Trump and Farage may be easily identified as predatory chancers seeking aggrandisement by exploiting the tensions of the time, but their followers truly believe in White Male Western Christian superiority, national imperialist domination and the hierarchy of separate races.

Without routine access to current knowledge and a broad range of analysis, grounded in discourse, we can all get sucked-in to all kinds of out-of-this-world fantasies. We all suffer from Gramsci’s contradictory consciousness – having been born into a conflicted world of competition based upon where you are born, your social class and private wealth, imposed gender identification, national cultural forms and valued abilities, we tend to accept the dominant ideas we are bombarded with from on high, morning, noon and night.

Because humans are gregarious and human survival depends upon cooperation, the base tension inside and between us all is the clash between individual satisfaction and collective survival. The synthesis has to be a compromise between personal and societal needs. So, in practice, we go with the flow that what we are told is right and proper whilst always living with a sense of anomie – what is expected of us is neither fulfilling nor are the outcomes as beneficial as they’re made out to be.

We are asked to believe we are lucky to be free and self-determinant whilst finding it hard if not impossible to meet the bosses’ productivity demands or pay all the bills once we’re back home.

In a Christian country with a predominantly Protestant ethic of individual responsibility and accountability we tend to deny that we are all products of circumstance. Social being determines social consciousness. We are classified and stratified and live within our imposed economic bubble. Self blame for our personal failures to achieve and succeed are a result. And believing in a higher power, whether Christ or the Universe, becomes a source of solace as well as resignation.

Of course, nothing is that simple. It is quite possible to believe in a god and in the material causes of catastrophic climate change. And there is a broad continuum of faith: one may have the absolute conviction that all that happens is by the will of a god; or pursue the construct of the totality being more than the sum of its parts – the entirety of the universe creating a force that directs and determines outside and beyond the singularity of material existence – “it was meant to be”, or “the Universe made it happen…”.

Socialists, materialists engaged in seeking a better human world, should not be “anti-religion” in any combative sense. There is an understanding of the need for an inner solidity in the midst of such outer conflict. Karl Marx was not being disparaging when he wrote of religion being an opiate of the masses…”the heart of a heartless world”. We need hope, even if only in a better after-life. And the “Spirit of Mankind” need not be a reference to anything beyond the material universe but instead the recognition of collective endeavour – humanity is more than the sum of its parts, and has agency.

Were humanity to achieve true suffrage, a self-determination sourced from mutual co-operation, shared production and equitable distribution in collaboration with Nature and the Ecology, individuals probably wouldn’t need religion in order to feel solid. Imagine.

Imagine the current world, where the vast majority need religion in order to cope. We are offered subservience to a greater power in order to accept our place in a scheme-of-things that doesn’t feel right and that we don’t fully understand. We are fed Faith as opposed to Fact, often to feed the power and avarice of others. And where the very apparent failures and corruption of organised religion prevent us from believing, there are alternative opiates on offer: The Flat Earth Society, the anti-science survivalists, the conspiracy theories, a fresh life on Mars…

We need many more People’s Assemblies. On all matters and none. The enemy right now is an alienation that scares and separates each from the other, constructed, deepened and maintained by those who wish power and control over us. In this age beyond Reason we have to assert reason once again. Shout-out the Science, megaphone facts. It is, after all, not thought that changes reality, but action.

Stop Tinkering

I love Monbiot’s informed and erudite assessment – always have. He describes the problems and the challenge superbly well. But, and you knew I’d be raising a but, his answer is more reformism in a time when there’s no chance of reform.
The word he chooses, always not to use is Class. Rather than focus upon a few oligarchs we have to understand that they are part of a class, the mutually supporting grouping of Capitalists much broader than just the oligarchs – probably some 3-4 million in the UK who wield power and have a managerial layer below them tied to their bidding, wielding daily misery upon the majority: bullying in the workplace or Job Centre; lowering wages towards the minimum possible; lengthening the working hours to the maximum possible whilst disrupting domestic routines with call-ins and Rosita changes at the flip of a fancy; raising the rents three times a year and calling-in the boys to evict anyone who questions; triaging health and social services to ration provision to ensure the most sick and elderly are gotten-rid-of asap.
Unless you start and end from the recognition of class war you build a new lie – meet the new democracy, same as the old “democracy’. Let’s be clear, if workers – those who produce wealth in a society – have little or no say over what they produce, how they produce it, why they produce and for who, and then receive only a minority of the value of their labour, there is no democracy. Talk of a new voting system to upgrade Parliament is irrelevant. And mirroring the lie of Parliamentary democracy by trickling-down the same system to the Shires won’t do much either. We are not living in a democracy.
Universal suffrage – a real and equal say in everything that affects your life – is a class issue, always has been. And we are in a class war with the balance of forces strongly in the hands of the ruling class – the Capitalist Class. To speak of reforming the parliamentary system in such circumstances is a non-starter – they’re in charge and they won’t have it (remember Corbyn) except as a chimera, a light on the horizon, a bluff to allow business as usual, a foil.
And there’s the rub. There can be no business as usual. We cannot have, there cannot be, another Chartist movement of millions spending the next decades building a new programme of workers rights inside capitalism, simply because there’s not another 70-100 years in which to win it. We are experiencing the global climate catastrophe and it’s accelerating (and the ruling class is aiding and abetting its chaos).
Fuel prices a killing our social infrastructure now. Electricity blackouts are forecast this winter. In less than 10 years we won’t have PR on our minds, but food scarcity from destroyed harvests and war-impacted supply chains. In the next five years we’ll have militarised borders killing by various means the climate refugees seeking refuge here – with a militarised government and punitive set of social controls required to enforce it all. Already we have political prisoners of conscience (as defined by the UN) incarcerated across the UK for daring to raise the the climate crisis at all, mirrored across the world in the government killings of climate activists.
The official climate conference is to be held, this year and next, in Police States where military authorities decide who can protest and how…and the same laws are in place here to be used as soon as needed – tagging targeted individuals who have been on a protest within the past 5 years in order to arrest and imprison them should they be thought to “intend” to attend another one. That’s now, here, this England.
Talk of PR and long-term campaign of parliamentary reform is stuff and nonsense. It is, in a word, liberalism. You may prefer the word reformism, but look at the history of liberalism in Britain and understand my use of the term – pejoratively of course. You are seeking solutions within the crisis-ridden, corrupt and decaying Capitalist System – there are none. The only hope the Capitalists have of their own survival is to ramp-up as much private wealth as possible to build their sea-walls and bunkers by extracting as much surplus wealth as possible from us – the world working class. Capitalism can only survive so long as the working class accepts the pain and torture of the exploitation, repression and oppression required for the rich few to stay rich.
There is only one solution – revolution. And all that is happening – the deepening of racism and fascism, the militarisation of society, the build-up of armaments and spread of war, the mass famine and forced migration from floods, the deepening health crisis – will ensure people rise-up, fight-back. We are rising-up over-and-over again, everywhere, even if we are lions mostly led by donkeys.
But if any of your efforts, any of them, are to be directed at distracting and diverting that anger and courage into the cul-de-sac of proportional representation then I’m afraid you will be culpable for the weakening of the power on our side. Would you split the strength and collectivity on our side capable of over-throwing the wretched oligarchs and their despicable cling-on politicians, between the falsehoods of reform and the only real chance of survival, socialist revolution for universal distribution of resources based upon need and not profit?
Have you really any belief, George, given your deep scientific understanding of climate science, that a campaign like PR has any chance of doing anything anytime soon enough? I don’t think so. You care. Most of us care – that doesn’t make you special. We share the same world and the same biology.
My conclusion is that this is a call in desperation. You have never embraced revolution. You know the reality of social upheaval as do we all, and would wish for almost anything other the turmoil of class war. But in reality its coming anyway and you’re probably going to get in the way if you don’t join the call for real democracy, workers democracy – unite the strikes, take to the streets, occupy the factories, defend local communities, all power to local workers councils – defy the power of Parliament and the State. It’s time!

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Not Trussed

 

Not Trussed

The Chancellor’s U-Turn is a timely ploy. He still intends to plunder this country’s welfare state and finally destroy our environment. Most of us know this. The working class must rise-up!

 Last Saturday hundreds of thousands of people went onto the streets to protest against the unelected Truss government. 700 of us marched through Plymouth, echoing “Enough is Enough”. 

The mini-budget of a week ago was a full-frontal, in-your-face, “up-yours” statement from a Government committed to taking all the tax money and giving it to the richest 1% of society, whilst cutting health and welfare services, pensions and benefits even further.

The spontaneity of the working class is gorgeous to watch. People came out onto the streets at a moments notice! It was a Poll Tax moment, and I would predict, just the beginning. The cry went out across Britain’s countries – “Tax the Rich!” – and we scared the MPs to their core.

Truss may be modelling herself on Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher, but she would be advised to remember that it was the mass protests of we, the wage-slaves, that forced that class warrior out of office.

Mainstream media have been immediate in their protection of Kwarteng. Apparently putting him “through the ringer” in Monday morning interviews, they repeated his own mantra, that it was the markets and MPs who forced him to think again. Yes, MPs were worried for their votes, but that was because of our protests, not their super-rich financiers. 

The question is, why would the mass media omit talk of workers protests when questioning Kwarteng? The answer, of course, is to because the media exists to do a job for the Tories. After all, more than 80% of newspapers and TV is are owned by super-rich Tories.

In one sense I agree with Kwarteng – the tax cut to the 45% tax-rate was a huge distraction. This U-turn has little fiscal effect but leaves the way clear for the rest of his vast macro-mini-budget. 

The core of the budget was to free-up corporate business, and especially the off-shore zombie corporations who rely upon billions in tax-handouts to survive. The super-rich are going to get more hand-outs at our expense.

Ah, say’s the Press, at least Truss and Kwarteng are spending £120billion on subsidising our fuel bills. But this is a sleight of hand. The reality is our energy bills are doubling or more whilst the oil corporations make record profits to line the pockets of their executives and large shareholders. 

Through this supposed hand-out the money comes to us, only for us then to pay the energy companies. It’s another handout to the rich, cynically manipulated so that we, the impoverished, are the ones who pay the piper. 

The Government knows that had it given the £120billion directly to the corporations there’d have been uproar. By paying it through us they thought it would appear as egalitarian support for “ordinary people”. 

We are not fooled. 

The Enough is Enough protesters are clear – cap the profits, legally challenge the profiteers. We need the taxes we pay for the services, benefits and pensions we need to stay alive. Right now it Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor to give to the rich. We all see this for what it is.

But the budget deregulation plans are even worse. Borne from the far-Right free-market ideology of “Small State”, Truss intends to cut health and welfare even further, despite the past decades destroying any material “welfare principle” in government policy. 

In truth, those pulling Truss’s strings are closer to neo-fascist Italian politicians than Thatcher, having her openly congratulate Giorgia Meloni and Berlusconi. make no mistake, together, they are out to break the working class.

Our social infrastructure is all-but busted. We will see homelessness, unemployment, winter deaths, poverty and environmental destruction all rise over the next year as a result. Unless we continue to rise-up, now.

Saturday proved that the working class are getting tough – enough is indeed enough. 170,000 workers were on strike. Huge numbers more are balloting, including nurses, care workers and teachers. Inflation for working class people, where the price of essentials – fuel, rents, energy, food – is rising far higher than the luxuries of champagne and caviar. 

We estimate inflation for workers is now above 16%, food alone at 11%, and likely to rise further. So any increase in pay or pensions needs to be above 16% for us to be able to stay still. The budget hinted at cuts to Universal Credit and a cap on State pensions. In addition, private pensions have been placed on life-support by the devaluing of the pound, requiring the Bank of England to print £65billion in bonds over-night just to stop pension bankruptcy.

I’m refusing to celebrate the passing of 50-years since I first signed-up as a trade union activist. This country is in a terrible state. The worst in my long lifetime. Media and politicians are trying to hide the fact.

It is no small fact to see that the Tory Government this year have brought-in undemocratic laws against all forms of protest, and are planning more to break strikes and destroy trade unions. At the same time, laws against migration and asylum plan to whip-up racism again to divide-and-rule a desperate and hurting working class. 

This is class war. Overt, open class war, the bosses seeking to suck the very life out of the vast majority of the population. We have no choice but to fight. We have to strike. And everyone who is not striking have to support the strikes in their own interests. If the unions are broken there is no other social force able to defend those in need. 

Visit the picket lines, take cake. But more importantly, donate whatever cash you can to the strike funds. Those on strike do not get paid. Enough is Enough is the current call for mass organisation, calling rallies and protests, ensuring solidarity between everyone who’s demanding social justice. 

There has to be social change to place human need over private profit. For survival we have to kick out this Tory government, and keep kicking! We won’t be Trussed!

Upside Down

The repeated editorial structure of local news over the last week started with the long-standing and terribly tedious weatherman (he presents as a traditional suit-and-tie’d sis male) showing the map of extreme heat that enveloped us. He offered two smiling sentences to explain it, summing-up with it’s unusually hot for this time of year.

The next seven minutes would be offered by a young journalist on the beach celebrating the heatwave and vox-popping towards her climactic sprint with a board into the 4-inch surf. Her interviews were all of joyous sunbathers and ice-cream sellers, with one seller crest-fallen at the lack of surf for the seeking of surf-boards, delivering journalistic balance to reassure that there’s always a downside to the very best that life has to offer. A sunny summer is all we need.

Were this a one-time aberration I wouldn’t be writing, but this is the mainstream and downstream normal narrative about the record-breaking weather. Nothing to worry about. Yet this is likely to be the coldest summer any of us will experience.

No doubt the coming floods and storms this winter will herald a cacophony of joyous fun-lovers seeking to surf the waves pouring down high streets and enjoying a mince pie supplied by the charitable soup kitchen for the suddenly homeless shivering in the hastily transitioned and mattressed local church hall.

The endless denial of the accelerating and deepening global climate catastrophe is only surpassed by the refusal to identify, let alone discuss, the record profits being made by fossil fuel companies and supermarkets at the expense of crisis-levels of inflation and poverty.

Now, those of us who have long campaigned for “system change not climate change” are being almost imperceptibly silenced by those arguing for “system change not poverty”. Yet the two are intrinsically linked.

It is the fossil-fuelled economy that has brought us into the tipping point for climate Armageddon, and the fossil-fuelled economy that has created boundless profits accumulated by an absurdly wealthy and powerful few at the expense of the rest of us – peoples and societies. 

The welcome return of strike action, accompanied by pressure groups clamouring for more “targeted help” for those in fuel poverty (a well used concept now encompassing most of us, to the disconcertion of those charities created to give alms to the poor) is drowning-out the issue of runaway global heating and the extreme weather it is causing.

The only answer to fuel poverty is system change, the only answer to climate catastrophe is precisely the same. Let’s look: when the utilities – petrol, coal, gas, electricity generation, water & sewage, public transport and health services – were run by government bodies under democratic control we could all afford them. Indeed, in my youth many regions didn’t pay at all for water or sewage, it was that cheap and funded through general taxation. 

Even the world-destroying oil giant BP was originally 51% owned by the British Government by way of its imperialist conquest in Iran, as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Of course, government ownership didn’t stop the imperialist rape and pillage that continues transnationally today (nationalisation is no panacea), but even the modicum of democracy allowed for the potential for price controls use of profits. In today’s terms, renationalised oil and gas could ensure fast transition.

Shell oil was originally “Royal Dutch Petroleum” owned by the government of today’s Netherlands…but I digress. The point is we used to have some – not nearly enough – voice over our utilities.

The call for renationalisation is just that. We, the People, used to own all these resources, managed, albeit by government bodies directed by politicians supposedly democratically elected by we, the People. When this is explained to the young they cannot conceive of it. Yet it is in my close memory, and I’m yet to enter the age of infirmity.

The Capitalist Class did everything to gain total control of production. Deregulation. Pro-profit, anti union and anti-environment laws. The small State. Truss’s inheritance.

The neoliberal project, directed by Ridley in the 1970’s (you may wish to look-up the Ridley Report) and puppet-headed by the megalomaniacal Margaret Thatcher in the ‘80’s, forced system-change using the UK as a test-tube laboratory for a version of free-market economics. Because of our trade-union movement’s proud history and capacity at that time, the UK experiment was slower to mature than its counterpart (a similar-but-not-the-same experiment) in the United States, headed by semi-literate charlatan actor, President Ronald Reagan. 

The previous post-war system of economics favoured a “mixed-economy” approach whilst thoroughly embracing the continued accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of the very few.  Sometimes, and somewhat loosely, referred to as Keynsianism, this model placed some limits on how much profit a company could make, using a government-produced legal system that placed caps on proportions of surplus value extracted from wages and prices by the owners of Capital.

Caps on Capital. No excessive profits, ensured by taxing the rich and the corporations. The 95p in the £ tax on the super-rich (sadly the subject of the misguided Beatles song, Taxman) showed that a degree of socialism could live alongside and inside Capitalism to ensure social housing, comprehensive education of quality, a National Health Service immediately available to all regardless of income, cheap and abundant public transport, and very cheap utilities. No fuel poverty.

Marxist revolutionaries always said this couldn’t last, although we always defended every last piece of that social infrastructure to the very end, in the interests of the working class. The general Marxist analysis of how capitalism works – the economic priorities of accumulation of private wealth and maintenance of cheap labour through  global competition – ensures the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. In short, Capitalism can only last for so long as the working class allow it to by more of us working harder for longer for less income and diminishing quality of life.

In the end, the Bosses won. The working class fight was dulled and deceived by the reformism as well as full-blown collaboration at times, of the Labour Party and trade union leadership. True, the neoliberal experiment in Britain was slowed, at times to a full stop, by nothing other than the power of the working class invoking direct action of the most fierce kind. Every branch of utilities took strike action in the 1980’s to stop neoliberal privatisation, and fought hard, much of the fights being illegal occupations and wildcat walkouts.

The Great Miners Strike cost Thatcher’s Government more than all previous strike action put together. The local council workers struck, even in a few cases alongside their elected councillors, to defend municipal socialism that ensured libraries and swimming pools and street cleansing and parks and recreation and adult education and youth clubs and, well, social infrastructure. The DHSS workers took strike action to defend the comparatively decent system of Welfare Benefits, and Ambulance Workers took strike action to defend the national and very well co-ordinated health service.

I will not have it that we didn’t fight for the future generations to come. We fought like lions! True, our history is peppered with false dawns, with shoddy compromises, with careerist turncoats, false leaderships, undercover Tory infiltrators and Police rapists, but at the base, within the rank-and-file of organised labour, in Truth we fought. And lost. 

The Capitalists took all our common wealth, taxing us high and then taking the taxes for themselves in the form of subsidies and incentives and “breaks” – especially the banks, fossil fuel and military industries – a kind of socialism for the rich whilst the 99% pay dear.

The neoliberals, conceived in greed and born in the “50’s” to rage against any common ownership of their potential cash-piles, are now free to be seen as the billionaires they are, brandishing their unaccountable global power plunging billions of human souls into misery. Accumulation of private wealth is their creed, and they appear to be stockpiling record amounts in some misguided idea that they and their kin can survive all climate breakdown or nuclear fallout.

Today’s cry for renationalisation takes on a new but not impossible element. Not only has it happened before (and so can again), but now the demand for levels of emission-reduction and lower energy use if we are to preserve any vestige of decent human society means it has to happen again, and very quickly.~

The strikes by rail workers, train drivers and salaried staff include a political demand for renationalisation of rail transport under democratic control. Climate activists know the same demand for system change is essential. Renationalise under democratic control (for example, a National Climate Service) to :

  • Put an end the private car conceptually and materially, and that means an effective, integrated and affordable public transport system funded by taxation (the more you have, the greater proportion you pay into the common weal);
  • Ensure an integrated Public Health Service to manage the increasing demands, not so much an ageing population being blamed for everything, but the growing ill-health caused by climate changes encouraging viruses, heat-stroke, food shortages and, not least, emotional distress.
  • Fast-track home insulation and the emergency transition from fossil-fuelled heating, lighting and cooking. A new programme of council housing as a template, including enforced compulsory-purchase of private tenancies from bad landlords;
  • Compulsory renationalisation (without compensation) of all fossil-fuel companies with structural links to the UK government (identified primarily by the £10,500,000,000 tax donations they currently receive), with immediate lowering of energy prices and the emergency investment of their resources into renewable energy production;
  • Redistribution of off-shore and on-shore corporate and banking profits for liveable welfare benefits and social services;
  • Workers control of the industries to ensure the people who do and know the work are the ones making the policy and decisions about production and distribution.
  • Oh, and make food, water, housing, education and fuel not-for-profit essential life-provisions for all at all times.

More needs to be done. And we should be on strike for both decent wages and system change to stop global climate catastrophe. The Capitalist bosses are tied to the current system of competitive wealth accumulation for doing things and cannot adapt even if they wanted to, which obviously they don’t.

When I say it is up to us to use our power to change the system, I get the immediate response that we are powerless. Well, the currency as well as the history of strikes disprove that. Then I’m told the great powers are so high-up the pyramid that they’re unreachable. Yet most emperors in human history have been overthrown, and all economic systems perish and are replaced. 

When I say System Change not Climate Change, I mean revolution. Turn the pyramid upside down. Let the producers, the workers, be at the top. The Capitalists own everything yet produce nothing but pain and destruction. They must be overthrown.

War Costs

We are in an historic period of profound distress. It conjures-up images of the 1930’s for me, and we know how that ended. 

Everywhere, people are anxious amongst images and portents of great suffering. 

I’m taking nothing away from the so far more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees suffering severe trauma when I identify the wider global level of angst and nervous depression. Those being bombed in Yemen, tortured in Sudan, corralled in Syria and evicted in Palestine or the at-least 20 million starving to death right now in Afghanistan and southern Madagascar all suffer from fear and pain. Indeed, add to that the two-thirds of humanity going to bed hungry, two-billion without access to clean drinking water, and 3.5 billion experiencing environmental changes requiring migration, and we can recognise reality for what it is.

Added together the world’s human population is descending, as long-predicted, into a barbarous and genocidal maelstrom. 

Such cataclysm is only tempered by comparison with the destruction occurring to the rest of animal and plant life. The 6th Great Extinction, as scientists from all denominations call it. If stared at, with eyes wide open, the 21st Century as denoted by the Western human calendar is making the 20th look relatively benign.

Outside my window at the centre of this parochial military English city, people go about their business much in the same way as those in Kyiv did on the 23rd February. Change doesn’t hit until it hits. I’m sipping strong coffee (soon to be in short supply and triple the price), whilst tapping on my tablet (the wifi soon to be intermittent from supply outages) and musing in a warmish room (soon to be made unaffordable by fuel price hikes).

A few days ago the accursed International Monetary Fund, those who destroyed the economies of most of Africa (and Greece amongst many others) with their debt-economy demands and Structural Adjustment neoliberal privatisations, reflected upon the the economic impact of the war and western sanctions against Russia, saying,

“Price shocks will have an impact worldwide, especially on poor households for whom food and fuel are a higher proportion of expenses. Should the conflict escalate, the economic damage would be all the more devastating. The sanctions on Russia will also have a substantial impact on the global economy and financial markets, with significant spillovers to other countries.”

This is already beginning to take place. Oil prices have reached $130 per barrel, and in the United Kingdom, petrol prices at the pumps have surged past £7 a gallon to their highest levels ever. In France, the price of diesel has gone from €1.65 per litre at the end of last year to €2.20 per litre.

This doesn’t mean people will use less fuel – transport and heating are not luxuries to be discarded during lean times, but essential necessities. Inflation simply means we have to pay more for what we need to maintain employment and sustenance.

Those gambling on the Stock Exchange casinos of the super-rich have ensured the “Wheat futures” rise of 70% this year – Russia and Ukraine together account for one-quarter of all grain exports. In Europe, industrial production is beginning to shut down due to soaring energy prices whilst military emissions are rising exponentially. Oil price rises doesn’t reduce oil use, it just costs more.

In the month of February, UK inflation at the more honest RPI is at 7.9 percent and rising, and in the Eurozone it reached 5.8 percent, the highest level on record since the creation of the single currency in 1997. Inflation is expected to rise sharply in March as the consequences of sanctions reverberate throughout the world economy.

As a UK pensioner I will need to cut the food order and wear two jumpers by April (unless global warming shoots local temperatures to worrying new records), enough to validate my continuous moaning about this inhuman and corrupt class system, but not representing any real hardship compared with the challenges facing young working class families.

The worst hit will be developing countries in Africa and the so-called Middle East. Starvation and famine in this region of the world is already happening. Eighty percent of grain in Egypt is purchased from Russia. Other major importers of Russian grain include Turkey, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Yemen. There will be food riots alongside mass famine.

Altogether, the impact of war on the global working class will be enormous. We are already reeling from more than two years of the COVID pandemic in which some 15 millions have died and living standards have been eroded to the breaking point by inflation caused by pandemic-induced chaos in global supply chains. 

This social trauma is the product of deliberate rejection of necessary public health measures by the world’s governments in the name of “herd immunity,” or the sacrificing of life to profit. And there’s a new variant spreading out of Japan with unknown consequences in this, now war obsessed and pandemic denying world.

Governments are using Ukraine to deflect attention from the pandemic, which is not over and is already beginning to surge again. The war is being used to explain an inflation rate which was already at its highest level in decades before, now rebranded as a “Putin price hike” entirely the fault of Russia, in an attempt to deflect attention from the corruption, greed and incompetence of Prime Minister Johnson and, indeed, most of the western political class. 

There is every danger of a new war hysteria whipped-up by the media moguls on behalf of their peers in the armaments and fossil-fuel industries to obscure the record profits. The stock prices of armaments manufacturers and suppliers such as Babcock, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon have risen sharply in recent weeks. Western oil companies and agribusiness are predicting superprofits from worldwide shortages derived from the removal of their Russian rivals.

Yet, probably their single most focussed drive of this imperialist war propaganda (that’s what it is) is to push back the climate movement and our demand for the end of the fossil-fuelled economy. We were making headway, lets be clear, before and even during the Pandemic. Because of our global protests – Thunberg’s Fridays for Future and the international Extinction Rebellion direct actions – there are few who are unworried by the deepening and visible climate catastrophe, the extreme weather events quite universal, with shocking peaks such as fires-then-floods in Sydney – Sydney! Australia! Who would have thought?

The clamour from the organised far-Right, growing fast throughout the West, is to renew their denial of Climate Change in order to “save” the economy. White-supremacist nationalists such as Nigel Farage are promoting the UK version of a Trumpite “Make Britain Great Again” by ending green energy subsidies and closing the borders, not only from Ukrainians but all the perils of the world “outside”. Having warned of war with Russia (as did the Left, but from the opposite perspective of caring for humanity) he now turns our economic anxiety towards hatred of a foreign enemy, and against “the enemy within”: We, the climate and anti-war protesters. 

Throughout the world, the war in Ukraine is being used as cover to redirect hundreds-of-billions in resources away from health and welfare towards war. The latest spending bill making its way through the United States Congress includes nearly $800 billion for the military, including $15 billion in spending for Ukraine, while omitting $15 billion in pandemic-related funding. The corporate media in Britain is calling for the gutting of the postwar welfare state for the sake of increasing military spending. Most ominously, Germany has rammed through a tripling of their military budget for this year, the largest increase since Adolf Hitler.

Johnson’s Government, claiming to be “defending freedom” in Ukraine, is busy planning greater use of state repression, including injunctions, anti-strike legislation, executive orders and other measures to suppress working class opposition at home. 

It is difficult to judge, at this relatively early stage, the mood and sense of working class people here and abroad. With a situation more analogous with the First World War rather than the Second, it is worth reading-up on the many strikes and protests throughout those 4 ghastly years, despite the capitulation of the trade unions and their political representatives to the “war effort”. 

The immediate challenge is to expose the lie of any supposed “national unity” backing for war. We’ve heard it all before. The working class never benefits from war. We pay for it, always, as an international class, in poverty and death. Amidst economic and climate collapse, I can’t see ordinary working people going gently into that dark night. Protests will continue, essentially.

For climate activists there are traps to be avoided. This is no time to attack workers for daring to drive to work or be employed in fossil fuel industries – target the anger on where the power lies – for example, the corporate executives of Shell and BP enjoying disgusting levels of profit dividends from destruction. And don’t utilise the war sanctions as a method for cutting the use of fossil fuels – war increases global heating emissions far more than any reduction in their use due to price-hikes. And sanctions always hurt the ordinary people more than the oligarchs. Get real! 

It’s time to join the Movements together – No to War, No to Climate Chaos, People Before Profit! The main enemy is at home – Capitalism. 

Climate of War

Whatever strategies climate activists have organised to date, the War exposes much which is often left hidden or unsaid. It is also likely, if not stopped immediately, to elongate towards a constant and expand towards a global conflagration. It should clarify our perspective.

I have had the privilege over the past couple of years of addressing meetings discussing the deepening catastrophe facing humanity and the ecology. At each and every talk I have stressed and repeatedly concluded that global warfare will, necessarily, predate any climate collapse. 

War will also exacerbate and accelerate climate chaos. One feeds the other.

I’m grateful to those who agree with this very obvious and in no way clever assessment. The most casual consideration of human history cannot fail to link the impact of environmental change to human conflict and vice versa. When systems collapse, people move or die, producing either nihilistic competition for the remaining basic resources or system change to adapt and accommodate in a spirit of cooperation.

We are not living in a world of international cooperation. Indeed, the global economic and political system of capitalism requires competition. Locally, one provider competes with another to win our custom and their profits, globally rival imperialisms compete for regional resources and the cheap labour from which to produce private wealth. 

Capitalist competition is killing the Planet. 

The domination of one grouping or “Class” of humans over another is the real struggle constant at the base of human society. Which, in turn, means that not all humans are equally culpable for the destruction of the ecology. We know, for example, that the regions referred to as the Global South have caused little or no emissions responsible for the heating of the ecosphere. 

Within human societies there is a profound inequality of responsibility for either the climate emergency or warfare. The current whipping-up of Russophobia is as misplaced and manipulated as the narratives intent upon blaming all of humanity for climate change.

I am full to overflowing (I cry) with compassion for those experiencing war right now, in Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Mozambique, Tigray, Rohingya, Myanmar, Colombia, Maghreb, Iraq, Libya…so many regions. The degradation of life and human potential is sickening. The degradation of the environment – from the 100% wasteful production of military hardware through to the explosive destruction of thermobaric bombs and nuclear missiles – is dramatically increased in periods of war compared with peacetime.

Right now I cannot side with the territorial ambitions of the Russian ruling class any more than those of the US-controlled NATO. I can only conclude that everywhere, everyone has to assert their right to life and self-determination. Only cooperation and mutuality can assure the right to life.

Survival requires the struggle for emancipation, suffrage and equality. Global Justice. Which in turn requires challenging those who, as individuals or groups, seek to restrict and repress the rights of others for their own gain. And  challenge to those who seek to destroy and exploit Nature for their own gain. 

I am therefore no pacifist. I oppose Imperialist wars and support collective struggles against oppression and exploitation. My comrades in Russia today are being arrested and tortured for daring to challenge Putin’s war. My comrades in Africa, the Americas, India and China are being incarcerated, tortured and killed for daring to challenge oil pipelines and Monsanto pesticides. They have the right to fight back.

The struggle to prevent climate collapse has elements of warfare as a requirement for success. If the oil companies, their billionaire executives and millionaire shareholders, won’t stop extracting this planet-killer, and continue to hire private armies to kill any who protest, then we have to use force to shut them down. 

If the political elites continue to seek power over Planet, such as the Bidens, Kerrys, Putins, Bolsanaros, Xis, Morrisons and Johnsons of this world, then we have to forcefully change the system to stop the destruction they are happy to reek in their own interests.

Protest to Survive.

The IPPC published its second scientific conclusions as part of their 6th Report cycle last week. The frenzy of war ensured it received no attention. It is an amalgam of more than 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers all detailing the very immediate collapse of ecosystems and immediate threat to the very lives of 3,500,000,000 human beings. The destruction of insect life, birds and animals, fish and kelp presents a picture of horror deeper even than war. 

We have passed the Tipping Point and can only mitigate to prevent complete extinction, adapting fast to live systemically differently, limiting all impacts, from now on. 

Little wonder our ruling classes are choosing war, now. The System-changes required to save people and planet require the removal of those who seek to destroy people and planet. Capitalism is a failed system and those who continue to perpetrate it are choosing mutually assured destruction over life itself. 

There are those in the climate movement who perversely welcome the war. They argued this weekend that shutting down the gas pipeline through Ukraine to Germany means less emissions and requires new ways of fuelling society. Europe will have to ration fossil fuels. The “collateral damage” of lives lost is nothing compared with the coming climate cataclysm so “bring it on”, the war can be an opportunity to shut down emissions now, they argue.

To me there is something deeply barbaric as well as impractical about their position. The politics of environment-over-humanity is, and always has been, embedded within environmental movements and is an ideological formation to be challenged and exposed. Indeed, many who espouse being “Beyond Politics” exert a deeply political activism that is anti-human. 

I uphold the ancient political continuum that broadly equates the Left of the spectrum with humanism and mutuality, and the Right with individualism and survival of the fittest. This is not the time or place to examine the deeper philosophical tensions within it.

Fight for Humanity!

There has always been an organised and powerful section within environmental and climate activists sitting on the Right. Those proclaiming Gaia would be better of without humanity, that humans are a destructive virus contaminating an otherwise harmonious Nature, or even that the sooner humanity becomes extinct the better (Nature will return to equilibrium without us), soon disclose a vehement hatred for humanity when pressed. 

Malthusians amongst them, these anti-humans effectively welcome the pain, suffering and death of billions of humans in the name of the Ecology. There is even discussion of the need to save Nature by allowing climate change to destroy all but a few hundred-million humans – “let the humans die!”. The apparent racism of where the billions condemned to death will inevitably be situated is one element of such reactionary if not fascist politics. But the very obvious hypocrisy and contorted thinking they have to go through to maintain this state is eye-watering. 

“Save the Whales” in the name of the sanctity of all life, yet care less for the billions of Krill, octopus, anchovies they eat, all of which have a sentience to one degree or another. Damn humans for eating fish. Feel and express deep love for dolphins at play, but neglect the wars their pods enact one on another. Don’t mention the ferocious attacks seals and Orcas plan against the beleaguered penguins. Territorial wars between lion packs or chimpanzee clans are “natural” for survival, whilst human conflict damns us to being deserving of extinction. The contradictions are absurd.

Humans have always been and should remain part of the Ecology. We are animals, indeed mammals, with the ancestral instincts embedded in the amygdala vying alongside the emotional senses stimulated from our brains’ frontal cortex. We fight and flee, expose and conceal, procreate and share alongside the rest of Nature, and shouldn’t be damned for doing so.

There is a difference between those who look at the war and despair at the human condition, and those who actively condemn humanity for being less than perfect. And, naturally, the vast majority of climate activists care deeply for people as well as planet. Comparatively few if any billionaires give a damn for either, trapped as they are in the system of accumulation for accumulation’s sake.

It is the military industry worldwide that is the highest emitter of global heating gases. For that reason alone the environment movement must target and challenge these profiteers. The pursuance of war is financed and furthered by these industries and their lackey politicians, currently seeking the same weapons to all sides in the wars cited above. And war itself creates more emissions, not less, gas pipeline shutdowns not withstanding. 

Human beings are sentient animals with extraordinarily developed mental and emotional abilities panning a wide spectrum of behaviours and abilities that offer us the opportunity to temper our survival instincts with rational thought and historic perception. I love humanity. We’re amazing. Life is amazing. The World is mesmerising.

Human beings have all the sentience and technology required to Stop the War and rebalance the Ecology in harmony with Nature. Indeed, the two issues go hand-in-hand. We have to fight for humanity to stop imperialist conflicts in order to obtain the necessary global cooperation across our species that is pre-requisite to saving the environment. 

The fact that it will take a revolution to stop war offers us the synthesis of all these contradictions. Fight for People and Planet. Join the Revolution!

Nuclear – the one plant that must be made extinct

As if the latest war isn’t enough, today’s news has deepened an already anxious global sense of uncertainty for the future.

Russian shelling caused fires in the complex of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in the early hours of this morning. Ukrainian authorities reported the fire at a training building to be under control and the reactors not at risk, with normal background radiation recorded. The city in which it sits, Enerhodar, has a population of 53,000.

Russia says the explosion was caused by Ukrainian forces, Ukraine blames the Russian military. In the fog of war it’s never easy to know who or what to believe. But every war breaks all rules, always.

There were 15 nuclear reactor sites operating in Ukraine at the start of Putin’s invasion in February 2022. Russian troops took over the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant early in the invasion, with serious concerns expressed about the management of the fourth reactor there which is still in melt-down following the explosion in 1988. 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear site has 6 reactors and is the largest in Europe, brought on-line in the 1980’s and possibly highly vulnerable as past it’s sell-by date. Thankfully, sensibly, at the point of Russian military take-over, operators had shut down five of its six reactors. Yesterday there was heavy shelling of the nuclear power plant, finally resulting in fire inside the complex. 

This is the closest humanity has approached, at least in the twenty-first century, to nuclear power becoming integral to warfare and a weapon of mass destruction. If a nuclear core is damaged, the explosion will contaminate millions of people with long term health and environmental impacts as experienced in the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima. 

It is not that a reactor has to suffer a direct hit or even be targetted. Damage to the infrastructure for operating a nuclear reactor can cause follow-on catastrophe. Nuclear reactors require electricity to run the pumps that supply coolant to stop the plant over-heating. At Fukushima, the diesel-electric generators were housed beneath the ground in an act of engineering idiocy, and were flooded during the tsunami, stopping the pumps and causing the reactors to overheat and explode. They continue to melt down and emit deadly levels of radiation into the air and across the Pacific Ocean, measurable on the West Coast of of the USA. 

The scale of nuclear catastrophe, often talked-down, is wholly overwhelming when faced.

Ukraine’s power stations are being prepared for war. That means shut downs, where the temperature inside the reactor can lower to a point where a meltdown cannot take place. The reactors still require careful management, and a engineers have to remain in place during and after military bombardment. Soldiers certainly are ill-equipped to run a nuclear site. 

Shut down ends the production of electricity. Shutting down the reactors at Zaporizhzhia has been the single safe action to be taken. The consequence for a country reliant upon nuclear power means millions without electricity and often without water and supplies, the loss of electricity making other utilities unable to function, such as water supplies which require pumping. When fully operational, Zaporizhzhia supplies one-fifth of Ukrainian homes, four million households, with electricity. Well, it used to.

The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism”, a concept central to the analysis by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament that nuclear power should be ended, replaced with renewables. Ukraine has called for a 30km no-war zone around each of the countries nuclear plants – an exclusion zone to stop any military actions or infrastructure. 

The question is asked – what can be done to prevent an almost inevitable nuclear catastrophe in this war? Unpalatable to some politicians in the USA and Europe, the reality is that China holds the greatest influence, as a critic but not outright opponent of Russia, and as the largest trading partner of Ukraine after the European Union. 

We may well be reliant upon China to ensure President Putin restrains his forces from attacking nuclear plants. The creation of large parts of the Ukraine as a dead-zone, its wheat inedible and environment unfit for human habitation, would cause long-term suffering to peoples far away from the country itself. Nuclear fallout and radiation does not recognise humanity’s politically constructed national borders. Wheat scarcity of itself would cause basic food prices to soar worldwide.

But the first and foremost criticism by we, the anti-nuke brigade, long chastised and derided, holds true. War is never surgical nor does it run to plan – ask any general of any side.

The human suffering of so-called “collateral damage”, in other words, civilian casualties – in Afghanistan, Libya or Bosnia & Serbia, each of which a war with NATO involvement, or, for balance, in Georgia at the hands of Russian forces – proved to the world that “precision bombing” and “surgical strikes” are false propaganda to appease the conscience of the outside world. Civil society dies in large numbers.

There can be no suggestion, it follows, that nuclear power plants can be rendered safe during war. Not only can guided missiles fly off-target, but the sites themselves can become targets for territorial control. The aggressor may use a contaminated or demilitarised zone to control a region, or a defender may consider the same option rather than lose – war is war. Indeed, the losing-side may well resort to mutual destruction, or blame their explosions on the other side. 

And that’s where nuclear weapons enter the discussion. Both sides – have no illusions, both East and West – have stated there readiness to use “tactical nuclear weapons”. Both Russia and NATO have, independent of each other, the ability to extinguish all life on earth many times over by use of their nuclear arsenals. Amongst these illegal weapons of mass destruction sit nuclear bombs for use on the battlefield, their explosions limited to a smaller circumference than the inter-continental ballistic missiles (about the size of the Hiroshima bomb).

The great immediate danger is the fallacy, believed by most politicians, that current technology offers the ability to use these battlefield “low-yield” nuclear bombs without initiating outright nuclear war. Should there be a rise in radiation levels, through explosions at nuclear power plants (or extensive use of uranium tipped missiles as in Iraq), the use of a nuclear field-weapon or two may be able to be disguised (at least for a while, until any independent scientist can identify the origin of the unique isotopes). 

Nuclear weapons become a tactical consideration for beleaguered generals.

Of course, as documented by the military themselves, the modern technology that is used to ensure inter-continental nuclear weapons are on constant alert is reliant on the algorithms and automatic triggers similar to those that trigger adverts on your mobile phone applications. One sniff of nuclear use by one side ensures immediate and automated counter by the other – the dynamic of nuclear Armageddon. There is no time to think before action if you want to save “your side”. 

So we are now at the most dangerous point in human and indeed environmental history. 

What is to be done? There is substantial evidence that the core reason politicians have not used nuclear weapons against populations since Nagasaki in 1945 is public opinion. In more than 75 years, the countless wars having seen more bombs dropped than in the first and second world wars combined, with an average of one million humans being killed each year in warfare, nuclear weapons have stayed siloed. Warmongers fear mass opposition and potential uprisings against them should they “go too far” (a moveable scale of acceptable atrocities in itself).

We are all, the vast majority of us, sickened and opposed in mind and heart by the potential of nuclear war. That moral as well as physical horror lies mostly dormant but rumbling inside each of us. But now it is time for the passive objections to end. It is time to shout out loud against nuclear war. The brave activists in Russia are protesting to Stop the War despite painful incarceration and threats to life. They deserve everyone’s support. 

But more, they need to see us, all of us, everywhere, on the streets where we are, shouting-out against this and all imperialist war, and especially, no more nuclear weapons be they nuclear bombs or nuclear power plants. Here at home, the current push by UK government for a new generation of nuclear power plants, including Small Modular Reactors to be housed in and around towns and communities, must be stopped.

Join the protests. 

Everyday Crisis

The COP26, with it’s 515 carbon fuel lobbyists and government lackeys, has published its first draft agreement. It is wet and watered down, weakening commitments to funding first made in 2015.

We all knew the COP26 wouldn’t make the grade, but this level of failure is truly shocking. COP is dead.

And as a result, hundreds of millions will be dead, too. The girth of the Earth between the tropics is experiencing catastrophe. There are at least 50 million people in famine, and hundreds of millions more in precarious conditions of heat, flood, landslides, and water and food shortages. None have been properly represented at the COP Out.

In the industrial North, climate is a concern ”for the future”. Yet we are seeing deepening and accelerating extreme weather events alongside a continued decline in the social infrastructure required for safety and protection.

We are heading, within the next five years, to living a crisis each day caused by climate change.

Last weekend I helped run a march and rally of over a thousand people in my small and poor city of Plymouth. Many attended our people’s Assembly focussed upon discussing ”the Future”. The conclusions were stark, the scale of the changes needed so immense.

But the event added numbers to those now committed to making the change.

It occurred to me that such discussions, about the day-to-day reality of accelerating climate collapse, needed to be understood by everyone. So I wrote to my local tabloid rag:

It is no good pretending. The international climate conference in Glasgow, shorthanded to COP26, is not going to do what’s needed.

Despite the politicians from poorer countries imploring the rich and powerful West to help them, despite Sir David Attenborough and the Princes Charles and William taking a stand, and despite the Big Celebrities of Hollywood and Bollywood sharing their statements, for the Capitalist Class its Business as usual.

And still, when 99% of scientists say we are experiencing (not predicted but happening) climate catastrophe on land and in the oceans, press and politicians join forces to fuel the sceptics and poo poo the science.

Many polls show that the majority of people are very worried about Climate Change. 

The “Greenwash” of lies, misinformation and false-assurances is designed to placate us, but, however powerful they think they are, we’re not fooled.

The day-to-day experience of Climate Change for the working classes of the so-called wealthy West are set for endless crisis. The empty supermarket shelves, transport disruption and fuel-price hikes of the last couple of months are nothing compared with the damage set to be experienced because of global heating. 

The impact of global heating is going to raise sea levels, disrupt the seasons and therefore all food production, and induce extreme weather events from flash floods to wrecking winds and high tides.

Transport disruption will force sudden lay-offs, without pay, of millions of workers at a time as the last-minute production and storage strategies of our industries collapse. Energy outages – meaning power cuts – are predicted by the power companies for the very near future. The addition of fuel poverty will make winter heating too expensive for 10-15 million of us within the next 5-years, increasing the already outrageous numbers dying of hypothermia each winter in our country. 

The floods to our houses, where one-in-five of us live on flood plains, will cause continuous suffering and financial ruin. The rest of us live in some of the worst housing in Europe, with poor insulation and unhealthy damp requiring costly repair and renovation.  

But don’t worry, the insurance companies, mortgage companies and financial institutions have already protected themselves against all liabilities – just look at the cladding scandal after the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Great and the Good implore us to make the changes needed, but what power have we? The scientists focus upon emissions reductions – 8% each year globally from now on if we are to avoid climate collapse. 

However much recycling an individual can achieve has little or no impact given the amount of global heating emissions spewing from factories and offices. The oil and gas companies aren’t going to vote themselves out-of-business.

Just 100 Corporations are responsible for over 80% of all emissions. Many of those are military – arms manufacturing being the most climate damaging single industry of them all. Whatever we do in our personal and family lives, it is Big Business that has to be changed if we are to slow down and stop the catastrophe.

We need a national as well as international governmental body to lay down laws upon the Big Polluters. We need to regulate the emissions towards Zero, not the Greenwashed “Net-Zero”, by 2035 not 2050/60/70/sometime never. 

And for there to be any chance of any of that happening, we have to seize back control. Workers must demand an equal voice over what is produced, why, and how its produced to protect and rebuild the environment and climate. Communities have to take back control from the petit-corruption of ego-centric politicians. The People (we’re overwhelmingly wage-slaves) have to claim back democracy, real democracy, from the Political Class and their fat cat financiers.

The starting point for all this is Protest. We marched through Plymouth City Centre on Saturday.

We have to join together and protest. We have call-out and call upon the business and political leaders to make the changes needed for us all to survive, or get out of our way! We may all have our preferred solution but together we know, we have to protest to survive. 

For me, its System Change not Climate Change. For that we’ll need a revolution!

Tony Staunton

President, Plymouth Trade Union Council

www.plymouthhub4climate.org

You’d Better Think

“You’d better think, (think, think) let you’re mind go, let yourself be free”, to paraphrase Aretha Franklin.

A very few of us handed-out over 1,000 leaflets yesterday, and another thousand the day before that. We were advertising the climate conference COP26 protests next weekend, Here, in Glasgow and Everywhere. We have thousands more yet to distribute using a handful of hands. 

To me its an imperative, simply because, if the protests are small, the passivity will breed further hopelessness. If they’re larger we will have won the argument that things can happen and things can be done to collectively reduce the extremes of the climate catastrophe. 

Handing out leaflets to those who will grab them voluntarily is not a challenging or exhausting job. Some say no or no thanks, and we say thank you in reply. Others are glad we’re here, and many apologise that they won’t be able to attend the protest due to family, work, physical or mental restraints or they simply “don’t do protests”.

But then there are those who oppose. Yesterday whilst half-a-dozen of us gave out fliers, a group of around 40 adults marched around the City Centre with placards declaring both COVID and Climate Change as hoaxes manufactured by a conspiratorial media and political class intent upon limiting our freedoms and declaring a global totalitarian government. 

This is not the Blog with which to unpick the matrix of conceptual, historical, political and philosophical contradictions underlying these libertarian conspiracists. 

They had their own free newspaper with adverts for the next meeting to be addressed by David Ike, a lead article from a health worker declaring she refuses to wear a mask, and other warnings about the NHS as a form of social control. 

I was ready to sell my own party’s paper for a quid, identifying collective protests against oppression and exploitation globally, with pictures from this week’s mass protests against the military coup in Sudan, and build-up to international protests at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow.

In Plymouth’s City Centre, I brandished a banner demanding “Strike for Climate”. Across the square, another man, dressed, were anyone to be fooled by crass caricatures, like an environmentalist at a peace camp, held his hand-made placard declaring the coming “End of Days and ensuing Rapture, standing arm-in-arm with climate deniers. The apparent contradictions were tied tentatively together by the common threads of opposition to Big Government and demand for individual, I would suggest individualistic, freedoms.

So the experience felt to me like Left versus Right, performed on the stage of a public amphitheatre experienced by an unsuspecting public out on the first Saturday after pay-day to “do shopping”. 

Most people wanted to go about their business unhindered by any of us.

Those of the general public who wanted to stop and talk wanted to stop to tell us what they believed, rather than listen to anything we had to say (which is fair enough apart from blocking our ability to hand out leaflets to anyone else). And most of those proselytisers were clear, with evidence, that 1. “They” (meaning governments) have known about climate change for decades and done nothing; 2. The big carbon corporations are beyond our reach and won’t change; and 3. Global heating has gone too far and there’s nothing we can do. One man actually walked off in all seriousness shouting, “we’re doomed”. 

A number of old people said they were old so it didn’t matter to them. One self-professed grandmother said it won’t be an issue until their grandchildren are old so why should she worry… I pointed to the morning floods in Glasgow caused by extreme weather, where a month’s rain fell in Cumbria and the North overnight. It’s now.

I am surprised at the general thinking amongst those who declare themselves in one way or another, “left-leaning”, once confronted with the scientific facts, conclude that “its too late to do anything”. It is difficulty to discern whether this is pessimism or passivity, or how to calculate the proportion of each. 

The threat of climate collapse is so big it makes the individual feel powerless. The demand to “Act Now” to force change is confronting to the point of causing offence. And, as likely, its all very frightening. 

In the Zoom talks I’ve offered around the country, I start by quoting the gay Black civil rights writer and activist, James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I read his book, “The Fire Next Time” in 1967, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. He developed the theme: “People find it difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.”

In a polarised society where confused ideas are being paraded and screamed-out in city centres, its hard to know what to think. The continuous political “line” from mainstream media and politicians adds to the conundrum. It is the “They” who expect us to rely upon them to solve it all. What to do?

To me, Baldwin’s struggle against racist apartheid at the heart of imperial empire, and to demand the legality of homosexuality by the Ultra-Orthodox Christian State, make today’s struggle appear relatively mild and easy. No-one chases us away, attacks us physically, or organises lynch mobs. So why so little activity?

One possibility is a temporary social and political pacification caused by the COVID pandemic and lockdowns over the past 18 months. We have become afraid to congregate and even afraid of each other. Thinking about it, this has been built upon the years of a childhood schooling that demands deference to authority, and the development of micro-management in the workplace that ensures you behave precisely according to your supervisor’s direction and the timed-deadlines of the electronic conveyor belt. 

We are not encouraged to think for ourselves. And actively discouraged from taking action. Lobbying the Climate Emergency Conference being held at the Plymouth Guildhall yesterday, teenage delegates asked we leafleteers outside whether they were “allowed” to go inside – inside a public building, paid for and owned collectively by the tax-payer! They even had written invitations. Have we become wholly acquiescent to authority? Are the conspiracy theorists correct after all?

In every big lie there is a kernel of truth. Otherwise the lie would be easily exposed. The complaints of the conspiracy theorists are gathering strength because of the sensations, the feelings and emotions attached to contemporary life. We’re being done-to, lied-to, coerced and produced and feel a continuous anomie, as an Object for others to manipulate rather than a Subject with a voice and power in a democratic society.

I would conclude that the individualist far-Right will succeed in picking-up on this mix of passivity, alienation and ennui to develop a mass movement for the survival-of-the-fittest – the petit-nationalist white-supremacist closed minds that have led us towards this suicidal path. 

At the moment there appears little to stop them, given the silence of the Left. It is imperative that the collective, human-loving socialist Left get onto the streets and into the workplaces in numbers and start to offer solutions that empower and activate all.

We’ve all had plenty of time to think. It’s now time to act.

System Change not Climate Change.

Climate of Fatigue

For those who believe in Capitalism, “the poor will always be with us”. For socialists, collective society organised for need not profit can eradicate poverty within a single generation. Globally. Even the World Bank makes clear, the wealth is there: if global annual Net Domestic Product was shared equally, every child, woman, and man would have an income of over £35,000 a year. 

I was reminded of this during the obnoxiously self-aggrandising speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequor, Richi Sunak. He offered nothing for those across the UK out-of-work whilst cutting the tax on “fizzy wine” – Champagne. He increased taxes on the poor whilst cutting those for the rich – who already employ accountants to ensure they pay little or nothing. 

More crucially, Sunak announced tax cuts on internal short-haul flights, encouraging more aircraft emissions ahead of the COP26 Conference next week. This, alongside continued plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria and oil field in the North Sea, proves the real approach of this Tory Government towards the Climate Emergency. 

Their cynicism shouldn’t surprise us. The System they manage and benefit from relies upon exploitation of people and planet. The entire and all-encompassing approach of the global capitalist class towards climate change is one of strategising how to accumulate more personal wealth. What can be done, they ask, to utilise the chaos in order to increase profits?

I have been leafleting every day in our City Centre, organising for the local climate protest on 6th November, co-ordinated alongside 50 others in Britain and thousands across the World to call-out the ill-fated and counter-productive COP26 Conference next week.

Despite the crescendo of “Climate” announcements and programmes across all media, overwhelming in their Greenwash of “don’t worry, we, the great and the good, have the solutions and will sort-it-all on your behalf”, there is little evidence heightened consciousness and public concern.

This is “half-term” week when harassed parents are inclined to bring their children into the shopping precinct to buy the essentials, manage the budget by finding early Xmas present bargains, or maybe just get out of the house. The general mood emits collective fatigue.

There are few signs of joy. Groups look harassed and full shopping bags are few and far between. Despite the Chancellor’s exclamations on how well the economy has bounced-back from the COVID pandemic, the whiff of austerity and poverty is everywhere, not least in the eyes of the passers-by.

So asking people to not only care about the Climate and Ecology but act now to protect the planet does not meet with much enthusiasm. This response can be easily misunderstood. Many polls and research papers identify that the great majority of people, home and abroad, are concerned about climate chaos. The extreme weather events, not least the sudden flash-floods killing people across Europe and the United States, offer material evidence of climate change. The climate deniers are now a tiny minority.

Climate politics is nevertheless polarised and entrenched. The nationalists, of which there are many, argue against our leaflets, saying that China and Russia don’t give a damn and, until they do, there’s no point in the UK sacrificing anything towards emissions reductions. Let me be clear, they have a clear ideological argument with an internal logic that offers ardent and dogmatic assertion. 

Our leaflet, formally constructed by the international COP26 Coalition, calls for Global Justice. The racists, of which there are few, immediately and ferociously vocalise the ancient Malthusian tract that there are too many humans and its time for a cull. Rule Britannia and protect our own shores, with all the genocidal white-supremacy at their disposal. 

I would calculate that one-in-ten take the leaflet. Such a straw poll offers a “straw man” to be shied at. At this point I have no indication of how large or small the November protest will be. But the experience of leafleting does offer some observations.

Firstly, there’s no real hostility – the conspiracy theorists from QAnon to David Ike and Piers Corbyn do not own the Zeitgeist. But they’re there. Were the internationalist humanists and environmentalists not organising and seeking to mobilise, the nihilist ideas of conspiracy and Armageddon could take hold.

Then there’s the Establishment, calculating that they should steer clear of feeding the rabble and showing no support for protest or rallying for climate action. The well-heeled amongst the shoppers (yes, you can see by dress, completion and deportment just what level of income they enjoy) frown and offer their well-rehearsed micro-body language of disapproval. Their benefits and status from the current status quo react against any suggestion that societal change is essential for survival. We should keep calm and carry on.

And, as a third observation, wholly unscientific in it’s presumptions, suggests it’s largely younger people who take the leaflets. Not a majority, although most glance sideways in response to the word “climate”, indicative of recognition and worry. Young people on half-term holiday are in the city centre to enjoy the sheer experience of being young, giggling together and laughing, sharing, playing. 

It feels almost abusive to offer them a leaflet suggesting societal breakdown and climate catastrophe, the extinction of most life on earth, including humans. Many, from the most caring (although probably paternalistic) approach to child care, would say we are scaremongering and should shut-up. 

I’m reminded of the many, ghastly, movies and documentaries I’ve watched where children are playing together and families laughing moments before the atomic bomb explodes above them and all turns to light and ash. Of course, climate chaos is not the same apart from heading towards the deadly outcome in comparative slow motion. Indeed, thousands are dying daily right now from the impact of global heating.

My mantra these days is as simple as this: I’m acting on scientific fact. The emotions of the deepening catastrophe, now apparent and fast moving, feel to be dissolving the importance of personal preferences and sensibilities. The facts are even demoting beliefs, although having a preferred goal does make “the doing” easier. We may come to act to stop climate chaos from a huge range of motivations but the point is to act.

The scientists can prove by simple observation the slowing of the Atlantic meridional Overturning Circulation is already affecting seasons and weather North and South. The Arctic melt has altered the northern Jet Stream to bizarre and unpredictable “behaviours” that is causing the flash floods, amongst many other extreme events. The IPCC 6th Report omits reference to the historically unique levels of methane release from permafrost and, more recently, oceans. 

It doesn’t matter what we all choose to believe, the fact is the climate is passing the Tipping Points that will see current conditions pass. 

How we respond to this is, however, down to personal choice. I’m afraid that the self-reassurance if not satisfaction that comes from recycling, turning the thermostat down, seeking the car and walking more will have no discernible impact given the scale of the challenge.

And the facts offered through the contra-activity of the Capitalists and their Chancellors in government gives evidence that the current powers controlling human society and behaviours cannot and will not protect humanity or Nature.

We can only protest to survive, force fundamental change to human systems or face early and soon-to-come extinction. 

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/climate-change-activists-protest-plymouth-6088318