Monday, October 31, 2011

US rushes to shore up Gulf

President Obama’s announcement to bring home America’s remaining troops from Iraq has apparently fulfilled his promise to end the occupation and war. But Washington is busily reorganising its most reactionary allies in the region to fill any power vacuum.

As always, the hawks in the Republican Party are setting the tone and the White House is responding to avoid being seen as soft when it comes to protecting American interests.

A group of 12 Republican Senators have written to the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee saying: “The complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime.”

Together along with their allies in the region, clustered in the ultra-reactionary Gulf Cooperation Council (aka the Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Club), they fear withdrawal will create a power vacuum in the region, crucial for its massive oil deposits and strategic location.

So US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta are building closer bonds between the US and the six most reactionary regimes in the region – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The aim is to encourage “a new ‘security architecture’ for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defence,” the New York Times reports.

The GCC, which is dominated by the pro-Sunni Muslim House of Saud, is currently financing one strand in the Syrian movement to topple Bashar al-Assad. On the other side the GCC sent ground forces to put down the Pearl Square democracy movement in Bahrain, as Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times has noted.

Despite widespread criticism of ferocious repression of unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, Panetta and Clinton announced the multilateral military alliance with the Gulf Council in New York last month. The council is due to meet next month in Riyadh to work on collaboration.

Clinton, who is now seen as the chief behind-the-scenes operator in the NATO operation to back the overthrow of Gaddafi, hopes that US support will reassure its client dictators. “We will have a robust continuing presence in the region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” she said.

The Obama administration’s planned $250 billion cut in defence spending over the next five years is overshadowed by commitments to spend $700bn on nuclear weapons alone over the next decade. A further $92 billion is to be spent on new nuclear warheads and 12 nuclear ballistic submarines, air-launched cruise missiles and bombs.

A major report published by the British American Security Information Council (Basic) warns that a host of other countries will spend vast amounts on the nuclear weapons industry.

Russia is to spend $70 billion on its “strategic nuclear triad”. China, France, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea are stepping up and modernising their nuclear submarines, missiles and other weapons capacities. Pakistan is building several new plutonium reactors.

Meanwhile, both China and the US are piling into one of the world’s most restive and crisis-ridden countries – Pakistan, in an effort to gain supremacy in the area.

A huge disarray and ultimately, as the Afghan debacle show - helplessness - within the US intelligence, politicians and military over their strategies is apparent. The Obama administration is relying on Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) to help end in the war in Afghanistan. Some chance.

Corinna Lotz

A World to Win secretary

Friday, October 28, 2011

Labour backs Tories to criminalise squatting

When 90% of those responding to a consultation on new anti-squatting laws say changes aren’t needed, what does the ConDem government do? Rush through new legislation that makes squatting a criminal offence for the first time, of course.

A new clause tacked on to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill means that anyone found squatting in any residential property would face a year in jail and/or a £5,000 fine.

Even the secretive, unaccountable Association of Chief Police Officers told the Ministry of Justice that the existing law was "broadly in the right place. In its evidence to the government, the Metropolitan Police said that “despite some of the claims in sections of the press, the reality is that there are already more than adequate means for removing squatters.”

That puts the police well to the left of Labour, who are poised to back the government’s sleight of hand. According to reports in The Guardian, Labour intends to back the change to “show their support for homeowners”.

All the housing campaigns and advice organisations were dead against any change and the Law Society and Criminal Bar Association were strongly opposed to new trespass laws.

Labour’s support for any new “law-and-order” measure is intended to curry favour with the right-wing media. With Ed Miliband’s party supporting free schools, the sale of council homes, cuts in welfare benefits and refusing to support unions resisting attacks on their pensions, they are in a race to the bottom with the Tories.

Labour MP John McDonnell MP is increasingly a lone voice against what is practically a national coalition in a whole range of policy areas. Describing the new clause as an “appalling attack on the homeless”, he has urged the party’s rank and file to put pressure on Miliband’s team to oppose the clause, more in hope than in expectation one would think.

All the housing charities, Crisis, Thames Reach, Shelter, Homelessness Link, Housing Justice , St Mungo’s and the Squatters Advisory Service argue that squatting is a symptom of the worsening housing crisis and that for many homeless and vulnerable people squatting is the only way of avoiding rough sleeping.

Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive, said: "A year's imprisonment for some of society's most vulnerable and desperate people is draconian and utterly counterproductive. Independent research is clear that 40% of single homeless people have resorted to squatting.”

Recent research for Crisis shows that squatters are among the most vulnerable homeless people and suffer from learning disabilities, mental illness and drug and alcohol problems. Squatters are more likely to suffer from mental illness and drug addiction than other homeless people, according to a new report.

“They squat out of necessity, not choice, in atrocious conditions where they are least likely to be disturbed. These are people that need help, not a year behind bars and a £5,000 fine," said Morphy.

The report also found that 78% of homeless people who squat had approached their council for help and been recognised as homeless but were not entitled to housing as they were not considered a priority.

There are more than 730,000 vacant homes in England alone, according to statistics. Yet most people, whether earning or not, cannot access social housing or afford private rented accommodation, let alone get a mortgage because house prices have gone into orbit.

A social system that cannot provide decent housing for its citizens, that is slashing living standards and driving people into despair to appease the money markets, and is now planning to criminalise those who seek a roof over their heads, simply doesn’t merit support of any kind. And nor does Labour, which endorses these vicious attacks.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Give a warm welcome to the 7 billionth human

The 7-billionth human, who will be born in the next few days, may get a warm welcome from its family, but there are plenty around who see its arrival as a disaster.

Pessimistic environmentalists who see no alternative to capitalism and profit-driven growth, argue that more people equals more consumption equals more climate change and eco-destruction. They share 19th views popularised by the Rev Thomas Malthus.

The truth is more complex. Areas of the world where consumption is highest, for example, are those where the birth rate is medium (the USA and United Kingdom) to low (Germany, Italy, France). If lower consumption were the goal, a forced one-child policy in the United States would do it.

Population growth - where the number of births outstrips the number of deaths - is dependent on each woman replacing herself with a daughter. In China, a chain of events has been put in train by the violent elimination of hundreds of thousands of girls that could, over the longer term, lead to a population collapse. In parts of India it is the same. China is already classified as a low-population growth country, India as “intermediate”.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has set out three future scenarios for growth - low, medium and high. Taking the medium variant as the most likely, they show that by 2100, only the population of high-fertility countries would still be increasing.

The populations of both the low-fertility countries - which include China, Russia, Brazil and the United States – and the intermediate-fertility countries – which include India and the United Kingdom – would be declining at a rate of approximately 0.3% per year. In high-fertility countries, the rate of increase would be 0.5% per year. These are mainly countries in Africa and some parts of Asia.

A small improvement in living standards and social conditions, giving women greater control of their own reproduction, would transform the situation and bring stabilisation quickly. As UNFPA explains: "Small differences in fertility levels sustained over long periods have a major impact on the future population."

The social problems of an ageing population are already being felt across Europe and most acutely in Italy and Germany, where there are simply not enough young people working to generate tax revenue to pay for pensions for the older generation - or even to look after them.

“Young people hold the key to the future, with the potential to transform the global political landscape and to propel economies through their creativity and capacities for innovation,” said UNFPA executive director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. “We should be investing in the health and education of our youth. This would yield enormous returns in economic growth and development for generations to come.”

Of course, the exact opposite is happening. Capitalism in crisis is creating a disaster for the new generation.

There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. More than 75 million of those aged between 15-24 are unemployed, whilst around 250 million aged under 13 are working, often full-time, when they should be in education. A million young people are out of work in Britain, the highest total ever.

“With planning and the right investments in people now — to empower them to make choices that are not only good for themselves, but also for our global commons—our world of 7 billion can have thriving sustainable cities, productive labour forces that fuel economies, and youth populations that contribute to the well-being of their societies," says the UNFPA.

The desire of young people for just such a transformation is driving the global uprising. They see that they cannot look to the existing system to deliver a future. It can only be achieved by eliminating the crisis-ridden capitalist system, replacing it with a society based on respect for life, consumption for need not profit, and protection of the planet's ecology.

Penny Cole

Environment editor

EU leaders delude themselves

Driven to the brink of mental breakdown by the rapidly deepening crisis, European leaders last night agreed on an attempt at self-delusional trickery.

The “voluntary” agreement by banks to take a 50% cut in the money they’re owed by the Greek government – a default in all but name - is a green light to a frenzy of profitable, intense activity by hedge funds.

They will gamble on the likelihood that banks will or will not act on the agreement or, instead, cash in on their Greek debt insurance policies, known as credit default swaps.

A desperately inadequate bail-out package, it is no more likely to be successful than the previous one hammered out only four months ago. That one ran into the sands of slowing economic growth turning into accelerating global contraction.

The new one, also calculated on the false promise of a recovery, relies on an undefined method for turning €250 billion of the remainder of the €440 billion financial stability fund left after handouts to by Ireland, Portugal and Greece into €1 trillion.

It is called “leverage”, but neither of the two methods on offer can deliver what’s needed.

The first, which offers “insurance, or first-loss guarantees, to purchasers of euro zone debt in the primary market” is no more than a delaying tactic intended to draw more suckers into the black hole of global debt.

The second, “a special purpose investment vehicle aimed at attracting investment from China and Brazil” is nowhere near agreement. The best that could be said is that “it will be set up in the coming weeks”. Fat chance.

Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is a reflection at state level of the now toxic debt mountain that drove globalisation. Last night’s deal only reaches the margins of the problem and will deepen the recession.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hedge fund raises spectre of 1933 as 'mobs' gather at bankers' doors

The irresistible force of the global economic and financial crisis is outstripping attempts by Europe’s governments to agree on a plans for tackling the continent’s debt mountain.

Confusion reined as first an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers scheduled for today was cancelled, sending stock markets tumbling around the world. Then European Union political leaders announced they would proceed with their summit. Nobody breathed a sigh of relief.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is staunchly defending German banking interests and the Italian coalition government is crumbling as it struggles with the EU demands for cuts which are needed, allegedly, to keep speculators in the country’s debt at bay. The far right Northern League is opposed to proposals to raise the pension age.

So-called vulture funds have been seen circling over Greece’s assets, which the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and EU insist are put up for sale in exchange for rescue funds in excess of €100bn and rising.

In the shadows lies a real terror of the consequences for the UK and the US should any EU deal unravel the interconnected network of credit default swap insurance that links everything to everything.

If the proposed 60% reduction of Greek government debt owed to private sector banks is made compulsory, and the country still defaults, the insurance clauses will be invoked and no one knows what the consequences will be.

But if the reduction or “haircut” is left as a voluntary option, hedge funds will be able to clean up, stoking the fury of the mounting protests as they learn the scale of profits being made out of the Greek tragedy at the heart of Europe.

Meanwhile, yesterday in the USA, the anti-Wall Street occupation in Oakland, California was forcibly broken up and cleared. According to local reports:

“Yesterday morning at 5am over 500 police in riot gear from cities all over central California brutally attacked the Occupy Oakland encampment at 14th & Broadway. The police attacked the peaceful protest with flash grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets after moving in with armored vehicles. Apparently the media was not allowed in to document this repression, and the police established barricades as far apart as 11th and 17th. Over 70 people were arrested and the camp gear was destroyed and/or stolen by the riot police.”

The protestors are regrouping, but the forces against them are mounting. In an opinion piece in the Financial Times hedge fund owner Ray Dalio turns up the political heat as the capitalist contraction gets seriously under way.

Dalio is owner of Bridgewater, the world’s most successful hedge fund. His operation has grown ever more successful in the last few years, making profit rates of 25% out of the turmoil since 2008. Dalio's analyses are studied by influential people the world over. He writes:

“Mobs are at the doors of bankers and others in the financial system, screaming to politicians to put these people in jail while the vote-seeking politicians are fanning the flames.

“Our character and our political and social systems are now being tested in ways that have typically been tested in past deleveragings. In deleveragings bad economic conditions typically lead to emotional reactions, social and political fragmentation, poor decision-making and increased conflict.

“When this occurs in democracies, the checks and balance system, which is intended to yield the best decisions for the whole, can stand in the way of thoughtful leadership and lead to ineffective ‘mob’ rule. This dynamic can lead to a self-reinforcing downward spiral.”

Dalio warns that the “ineffectiveness of government” creates the “perceived need for someone to gain control of the mess” and says that this was the reason the Nazis were elected to power in Germany in 1933.

These should not be taken as idle musings but as an indication of the nervousness in ruling class circles about the consequences of the catastrophe staring global capitalism in the face.

Under conditions of political and social crisis, the capitalist state has in the past dispensed with its democratic shell to maintain the rule of the corporations. What Dalio is saying is that that could happen again. We ignore his warning at our peril and double our efforts to win the argument for an entirely new political democracy around people’s assemblies in place of the decayed, anti-democratic state we now endure.

Gerry Gold

Economics editor

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The crisis behind the Tory revolt

When more than a quarter of a governing party’s MPs defy instructions and vote against their own prime minister, you sense the political storm clouds are gathering over Westminster

In fact, but for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats coming to David Cameron’s rescue, the government would have been defeated on the motion for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

What last night’s vote confirms is that the Coalition is led by two men who lack the support of their own parties because deputy prime minister Clegg hardly commands total backing either.

Cameron, a one-nation, free-market Tory was defied by a parliamentary party much further to the right who lost their standard bearer when Liam Fox, the disgraced defence secretary, was forced from office.

The right’s disdain for Cameron is so visceral, many wouldn’t care if the government fell and they found themselves a new leader. They may yet get their wish.

An unstable government, which was propelled into office by state officials when last year’s election produced a stalemate, is the reflection in politics of the equally volatile economic and financial crisis that has rocked Europe in particular.

Cameron and his cabinet know that the British economy’s fate is interdependent with what happens in the 17 eurozone countries within the EU. That’s why they resisted the referendum call, even if in their hearts of hearts they may agree with it.

When Greece formally defaults on its unrepayable foreign debt, as it is certain to do, the impact on Europe’s banks will be totally unpredictable. That’s the problem EU leaders are struggling with day after day, without convincing the markets they are getting anywhere.

So far they’ve come up with a fund of about €100 billion to bail out the banks that will be hit by a Greek default. Some observers say that a sum ten times that amount – i.e. €1 trillion – is the minimum required to provide temporary relief because countries like Italy and Spain are next in the firing line.

We should not underestimate the historic nature of the failure of the “European project”. It was designed to avoid a repeat of the two world wars of the 20th century by bringing different nations under one common umbrella.

Economic integration was to be followed by political integration. In this way, economic crisis would be a thing of the past – as would free-for-all market competition. It has not turned out like that.

Since the mid-1990s, changed economic conditions have driven the market into the heart of the EU, which consequently became a regional arm of corporate-driven globalisation. What has emerged is a bureaucratic, often secretive, quite undemocratic EU run in the interests of capital and finance.

The Tory right are not entirely off target in their criticisms of the EU – except their alternative – to raise the Union Jack, batten down the hatches and make sure foreigners get no further than Calais – is hopelessly reactionary. Their opposition to the EU is entirely nationalist, cloaked with fake concerns about democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

Whether it is the EU crypto-state or the British version, real sovereignty actually lies with a network of probably no more than 150 “tightly-knit” corporations, according to complex systems theorists whose ground-breaking study was published recently.

They rule through political and other proxies at national state, European and global levels (the World Trade Organisation, for example). This corporate-state partnership is beyond reform. It is the problem and not part of the solution.

A network of democratically-run People’s Assemblies has to create a sovereign power in its place and institute a new dawn of co-ownership, self-management and mass involvement. It’s the best way to deal with the rising tide of nationalism that last night’s vote expressed.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Monday, October 24, 2011

Arab Spring's first election

“Whatever happens next, I feel like now I exist”, said one man in Tunisia, just after voting. And, indeed, Sunday’s elections in the small country that sparked off the Arab awakening of 2011 have seen an amazing enthusiasm from people, young and old.

Voter turnout exceeded all expectations as over 90% of those who had registered cast their votes. Out of Tunisia’s 10.6 million population, 4.4 have the right to vote. Over the summer 95% of them registered.

A Facebook campaign “Je me suis inscrit – Je vote” was enthusiastically supported and circular red bumper stickers with the motto “ana qayyadtu" – the same message in Arabic – are still decorating walls and cars.

For Tunisians this is an historic moment as the election for a constituent assembly is their first chance to voice their political desires since the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, last January. The new assembly has the task of designing a new political system and how the state will relate to its citizens.

The Tunisian political revolution was sparked by the self-immolation of a young fruit seller in the poor south of the country. Mohammed Bouazizi’s sacrifice became the signal for Tunisians to rise up against their oppressive rulers in a revolution which captured the imagination of millions of young Arabs, notably in Egypt where the dictator Mubarak was ousted within weeks.

The movement soon spread from North Africa to Spain and countless other countries which have seen democracy movements rise up.

The prejudice that Arab countries are incapable of embracing a wide range of views and holding truly democratic elections is being well and truly squashed by the seemingly endless and amazingly patient queues outside polling stations around the country.

They have voted for 11,000 candidates from nearly 100 parties for a 217 member constituent assembly in 33 districts of the country in a day which, according to thousands of international and local observers, saw few if any infringements of electoral procedures.

Dr Amor Boubakri, professor of law at the university of Sousse and a member of the Electoral Observatory , said he believed Tunisians have, have succeeded in making the Arab Spring's first election a resounding success.

Boubakri, who was interviewed by Al Jazeera, is confident that election will be a democratic transition, highlighting pluralism, power-sharing, organised opposition and gender inclusiveness as never before.

It is undoubtedly a new phenomenon, “something happening for the first time in Arab culture, as linguist and historian, Hammadi Sammoud has noted. “It is a rite of passage from accepting the things were decided for us to participating. We are creating ourselves.”

Huge problems beset the country, which has 700,000 out of work, a zero growth rate and near-junk status of its bond ratings. There is also a deep north-south divide. The northern coast benefits from tourism, cosmopolitanism and fertile land, while the south – where Bouazizi lived, remains dogged by poverty and under-development.

The people of the south and centre of the country are seen as a silent majority who have hitherto seen themselves as excluded from the entire political system.

Of the political parties, it is likely that al-Nahda (Renaissance), the moderate Turkish-style Islamic party will pick up voters in the coastal cities. But this will be countered by support for the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties and the Progressive Democratic Party.

The large number of political parties and diversity of views is an expression of Tunisia’s unique culture which has seen a synthesis of Ottoman, Arab and Islamic heritages with European influences.

The election is now re-shaping the relations of the citizens with the state. Tunisians know they are being closely watched by their neighbours in Morocco and Libya and more widely around the world. The huge enthusiasm shows a clear desire to take forward the democratic gains of the Tunisia’s January revolution into the social improvements that still elude ordinary people.

Corinna Lotz

A World to Win secretary

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spare us the hypocrisy over Gaddafi

The brutal and sorry end of the Gaddafi era in Libya has brought the expected, sickening outpouring of faked concern in Washington, London and Paris for building democracy in that country and a rewriting of history to suit Nato. Spare us the hypocrisy.

Nato has now bombed the National Transitional Council (NTC) into power. Even yesterday, although Gaddafi was reduced to a handful of supporters in Sirte, French warplanes attacked isolated vehicles trying to flee the area, in clear breach of the UN resolution limited to “protecting civilians”.

The strategic aim was not just access to oil, which Western powers have always had, but to corral the uprising against Gaddafi’s dictatorship and to gain a new foothold in the region in the wake of the Egyptian revolution.

The lynch-mob manner of Gaddafi’s death after his capture, the plans for a secret burial, show that the NTC regime has a great deal to hide, that it scorns any rule of law and has no intentions of ruling in a democratic way.

Gaddafi’s attempt at holding on to power after the uprising began in Benghazi, and the undoubted corruption of his extended family, coupled with authoritarian rule in recent decades, led to his downfall.

But for the West to crow about the end of a dictatorship stretching back to when he came to power in 1969 is nonsense. In the early period, oil revenue was directed towards education, healthcare and housing. Per capita income rose seven fold to one of the highest in Africa.

His regime became a target for the West because of his support for liberation struggles by Palestinians, Irish republicans and Saharan Africans. Tripoli was bombed by the US in 1986, killing one of his children. Gaddafi fought hard to implement the ideals of Pan-Arabism championed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt.

With his concept of Jamahiriya – “state of the masses” or “republic of the masses”, he sought to foster a direct democracy in which the people would rule through local councils and communes.

Political and economic pressure on Libya increased after the downing of the Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie in December 1988 for which Libya was framed. Libya’s political and economic isolation produced a reactionary political turn.

The 1990s saw increased inequalities and loss of political freedom for ordinary Libyans. A nepotistic dynastic elite grew up in which the rich enjoyed freedoms denied to ordinary Libyans. Rights for opponents became non-existent, with political prisoners being shot down at the Abu Salim jail in 1996.

The sight of Gaddafi making deals over oil and immigration with oil-hungry authoritarians like Blair and Italian leader Berlusconi was particularly shocking. Gaddafi almost certainly became clinically depressed at the failure of his political aims and fell into the arms of world leaders who endorsed him until the uprising earlier this year.

If Gaddafi deserved his summary execution, as some say, where does that leave war criminals like Blair and Bush, whose 2003 invasion of Iraq was unlawful and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, and Obama, whose administration uses drones to kill people illegally in Pakistan, and other Nato leaders, including Cameron, who conduct a murderous war in Afghanistan?

TNC leaders are not exactly the rabid pro-Western alliance Nato dreamt would emerge, containing discredited regime defectors, monarchists, militant Islamists and not a few opportunists. That's the new government of Libya. The people are going to have to overthrow them if they are to achieve any benefit from their revolution.

Now the struggle for democratic and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa merges with a global crisis of capitalism. The new Arab revolution has only just started and it will have to go beyond fair and free elections to find solutions to the pressing problems of soaring food prices, mass unemployment, poverty and inequality.

A World to Win editors

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Police provocateurs are par for the course

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Police has cancelled publication of a report into undercover operations initiated when spies in environmental campaigns, including Mark Kennedy, were exposed. No doubt they were planning the usual 'one rogue operation gone wrong' cover up.

But another operations has just come to light. Officer Jim Boyling, working undercover in Reclaim the Streets as Jim Sutton, was allowed to use his cover name in court. Police, prosecutors and others must have known. Lying about your name under oath? That's definitely against the law.

The convictions of twenty environmental campaigners were recently overturned in light of the Mark Kennedy revelations; lots of Reclaim the Streeters will be on the phone to their lawyers today.

The reality is that state does not hesitate to use violence, undercover agents, bugging, provocations, and other ruthless and illegal methods to enforce the rule of the few over the many and to selectively defend the laws of private property and state power as and when it chooses.

And the ongoing police-bailiff operation to evict travellers at the Dale Farm site in Essex also reveals the twisting of the law, the use of informers combined with brute force against anyone who resists the inhuman activities of bailiffs who are “only doing their job”.

Police say they came armed with tasers because intelligence from within the camp told them there were weapons hidden there. Of course there were no weapons, but who on the inside supplied police that provocative piece of disinformation?

No one could fail to feel a chill at the statement by Essex County leader Tony Ball. Ball, who could easily serve as Minister of Truth in the coalition, when he stated: "I hope that there are no repeats of yesterday's scenes of premeditated violence and disorder from the protestors on the site, and that we can get on with the job of upholding the law, and clearing the site in a safe, professional and dignified way." Yes, professional beatings, “dignified” taserings, and illegal upholdings of some laws.

Police came armed with tasers, which they used, it isn't clear yet how often but more than once. They beat people. There have been at least two serious head injuries. They smashed in the sides of people's vans, making them unusable, and the electricity has been cut off on a freezing cold night. Generator fuel ran out in the early hours of this morning. Helicopters circle continuously. Now the Bailiffs have moved in behind police.

As traveller Mary Sheridan said: "The only premeditated violence has come from the police - they knew exactly what they were doing when they started beating and tazering people. This is not how a community should be treated by its own Council. It’s illegal for us to travel, but illegal for us to settle down here. We’re getting hit by the police but we’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Another Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy said: "The way in which the police are acting has shocked and outraged everyone here. We hope the world is watching.” We are, Kathleen: from Cairo, to New York, to London, to Madrid to Athens, we are watching and learning.

As the occupation outside St Paul’s, Dale Farm, the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson and the anti-cuts protests have all shown – a key role of police operations has been to instigate violence, not prevent it and, secretly, to set others up for arrest.

Mass action is needed to abolish the laws that enforce the rights of private property and profit over all other human and social rights, including the right to travel and to have a place to stay. Organised in a network of People's Assemblies across the globe, we will develop a democratic framework of rights and rule of law. This will involve a Charter of Rights under a new constitution.

Penny Cole

Environment editor

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rating agencies tighten the screw

Moody’s has joined other credit rating agencies in downgrading its assessments for France and Spain when it comes to repaying loans. What logic is unfolding here?

The full name of the credit rating agency – Moody’s Investors Service – says it all. The analysis these agencies make and the actions they take are intended to assist those with money to magnify the value of their investments.

Over the last few months, as the crisis has deepened, the significance of Moody’s and the small number of other similar agencies has grown and grown.

In many ways they provide the information needed to allow the operation of the free market, advising investors on the credit-worthiness of borrowers, and helping borrowers to improve their attractiveness to lenders.

Informed investors profit from crisis, as they speculate against future market prices for shares and bonds.

Moody’s cut in Spain’s rating and its warning to France measures the deterioration in conditions in those countries as the recession exposes the weakness of the banks.

The downgraded ratings don’t just measure, however. They have a dual role. They are intended as a direct intimidation to those countries’ governments (and to all the others who are next in firing line).

Unless you take action to ensure that you overcome your difficulties in making these payments, the increased cost of borrowing more will make life impossibly difficult. It’s the classic money lenders’ threat.

The objective conditions that provide evidence for the downgrade are slowing growth, and accelerating recession leading to falling tax revenues which, in turn, make it more and more difficult for governments to make the interest payments due on the money they’ve borrowed.

So the rating cut also translates into a more severe assault on the lives of the people who live in the countries affected. The news about Spain and France came just as trades unions in Greece prepared for a 48 hour strike supported by the burgeoning network of new organisations that have formed to fight the impact of the mounting attacks on living standards.

For governments subservient to the capitalist economy, like the ‘socialist’ Pasok in Greece, cuts are not optional.

For the millions of people whose wages and pensions are melting away, whose jobs are being destroyed, health, education and social support systems being swept from under their feet, fighting the cuts is not optional either.

What resolution can there be to these opposite interests?

Strikes, protests, demonstrations, occupations are all now everyday events. Last Saturday’s occupation of towns and cities throughout the world is an important part of the answer to Moody’s symbolic measure of the power of capital.

But only a part. The regulation of finance demanded by many protestors is not an option for capital either.

This is an epochal moment providing both the necessity and opportunity to replace the rule of capital.

Those who claim to the know, like Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, are warning that “time is running out” for the global capitalist economy and that even dealing with Greece and the eurozone crisis will not provide the “solution”.

He is right there. The capitalist system has plunged into an irreversible crisis in which the only answer for the ruling classes is to punish the overwhelming majority through an unprecedented assault on living standards, services, job and right.

In all the temporary and permanent occupations of towns and cities, the question to be raised is not how to better manage capitalist society but how to achieve the democratic ownership and control of the banks, the factories, the mines and the supermarkets.

Gerry Gold

Economics editor

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting from A to B

A key discussion taking place within the global occupation movement is what kind of “demands” (if any) should be made and who they should be addressed to (if anyone). This conundrum gets to the heart of the matter.

Many drawn to the continuing actions on Wall Street and in the City of London, and to massive rallies in Madrid and other countries, have been driven to the streets precisely by the serial failure of existing political channels.

The self-evident convergence between the state, mainstream political parties, corporate and financial power has angered increasing numbers of people. What limited democracy there was has been sold to the highest bidder.

Banks form an orderly queue for state bail-outs, energy suppliers let prices rip, public services like health and education are turned into commodities, corporate lobbyists have direct access to ministers, pensions are reduced and employment rights undermined.

On the other side, the mounting grievances of ordinary people about their jobs, housing, incomes, education, health and human rights are ignored. This is the price we have to pay, we are told, for the economic crisis.

The crisis is, naturally, presented as an act of God, something beyond human control. This is deliberate mystification. It is intended to obscure the fact that the disaster is the product of an unstable, unsustainable, capitalist system of production for profit, fuelled by mountains of debt.

So as no one in authority is listening, the occupations and marches for real democracy are presented with an apparent contradiction. There is no point making “demands” of the existing powers, yet a statement of aims and aspirations is absolutely vital to garner support and build the movement.

The initial statement from the St Paul’s occupation in London reflects the dilemma. The starting point – “the current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust” – is dead right. The system – political, economic and financial – is the problem, not the solution.

The focus is, or should be, entirely on changing the system and not appealing to existing power and governments to do what they can’t/won’t do. However, point 5 about appealing to regulators to regulate properly and part of point 8 about urging governments to stop oppressing people, tends towards a reform of a status quo which is well passed its use-by date.

Of course, incorporating system change into a set of demands wouldn’t by itself resolve the apparent impasse (although it would be a step forward). If we are to avoid placing demands on existing powers, we should try and suggest an alternative. One way forward is through People’s Assemblies as a transition to a new, real democracy (see details about an open event this Saturday, the 22nd).

Our new flyer says: “Occupations run by assemblies are test beds, showing what people can do when they are independent and liberated. A network of People’s Assemblies can widen this to the whole of society, giving it a concrete form that can appeal to all those under attack from capitalism.

“Assemblies can facilitate a transition to a democratic society based on co-operation and self-determination instead of profit and corporate power. They will disprove in action the lie that there is no alternative to the capitalist system and the states/local government bodies that serve it.”

In the end, it has to be about getting from A to B, transcending capitalism as a social system, replacing alienating, oppressive, undemocratic power structures with new democratic forms. Millions of people now see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. On October 15, their anger produced the first global day of action in the history of the world. Let’s take it on from there.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

Monday, October 17, 2011

System is 'unsustainable', says Occupy LSX

“This is what democracy looks like,” says the first statement agreed by the mass assembly of 500 held yesterday outside St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.

Indeed, the camp in the heart of London’s financial district has become the site of a mass discussion about the way forward in the global struggle for democracy against corporate and financial power as well as the political system itself.

The London occupation began as one of thousands held around the world on October 15, including huge rallies and demonstrations in Madrid, Rome, across the United States, Israel and Palestine.

Inspired by the Wall Street occupation, a large green banner at St Paul’s pronounced “We are the 99%” and on Sunday a new banner appeared, saying “Capitalism is Crisis”. The tent village in front of the cathedral is now drawing into its third day, despite increasingly cold weather.

Young people from around Britain have joined with seasoned campaigners from across the world to go beyond one-off protests to assert an alternative to established political channels which they feel do not represent them. “They have cut off all our avenues for protest,” as one participant said.

The assembly on the cathedral steps collectively agreed on an initial nine point statement which emphasises the unsustainability of the current system and demands “structural change towards authentic global equality”.

A call for the setting up of People' Assemblies throughout the country, and directly for the aim of a new “constitutional settlement so that people were in control” put by democracy campaigner Mark Barrett was warmly received.

Saturday’s rally of around 2,500 was entirely peaceful as the occupiers tried to enter Paternoster Square where the stock exchange is located. Hundreds of police, including Forward Intelligence Teams and helicopters circling above, cordoned off access to the square.

In the event, the tree-shaded area in front of St Paul’s Cathedral has provided a dramatic and safe setting, thanks to the intervention of Canon Giles Fraser who appeared outside the church after a police cordon tried to force demonstrators away and told the police they were not needed.

The camp is now well-organised with neat streets of individual tents, many with handmade placards pinned on them. They are backed up by mobile toilets, a food station with piles of bananas, water bottles, donated tins, plus information, media, medical areas and even a “Starbooks” library tent.

Teams are responsible for cleanliness. The occupiers and passers are entertained by live music. Groups meet in circles to debate what the aims of the occupation are and how to achieve them.

Organisers include Facebook groups Occupy LSX, 15O Unite for Global Change, Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, Take the Square and it is supported by Spanish Real Democracy Now campaigners, People’s Assembly Network, UK Uncut, A World to Win, Right to Work campaign and People’s Assembly London.

A flyer issued by United for #global democracy demands “global governance by the people, for the people, inspired by our sisters and brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, New York, Palestine-Israel, Spain and Greece” and called for regime change.

The #OccupyLSX’s initial statement calls for support for the 30 November strike and student action on 9 November, but the trade unions, who are in the Coalition government’s firing line have been noticeable only by their total absence.

Going outside and beyond the existing political parties and trade unions to assert an independent democratic movement – and connecting it with the anti-dictatorship movements of the Arab Spring – is a huge step in the right direction.

Let the jaded cynics and dogmatists carp as they like. History is leaving them behind. As one demonstrator said: “We are going through a great awakening: everyone is waking up and discovering the true power of humanity. We don’t need to be treated like this any more - we are moving into a new age – and we want our futures back.”

How to achieve this aim is central to the event this Saturday, People’s Assemblies to People’s Power. Everyone is welcome to join in the dialogue at Passing Clouds Collective.

Corinna Lotz

A World to Win secretary

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 15 global voice of the people day

The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Finance ministers in grey suits in Paris trying desperately to save the system while ordinary people in nearly 900 cites in 78 countries take to the streets tomorrow to demand change.

Ministers from the G20 leading capitalist economies, gathered in the forlorn hope of finding solutions to the global debt crisis, represent the vested, narrow class interests of bankers and corporations, the minority that hold a grip on power.

Those driven on to the streets by the economic and political consequences of the crisis represent the potential and possibility of an alternative, different, progressive, democratic future.

Designating tomorrow as a global day of action was inspired by the revolutionary uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries, the democracy struggles in Spain and the mass movement in Greece against draconian budget cuts. As the call-out for tomorrow says:

On October 15th people from all over the world will take to the streets and squares. From America to Asia, from Africa to Europe, people are rising up to claim their rights and demand a true democracy. Now it is time for all of us to join in a global non violent protest. The ruling powers work for the benefit of just a few, ignoring the will of the vast majority and the human and environmental price we all have to pay. This intolerable situation must end.

The movement’s momentum has been boosted by the inspiring Occupy Wall Street movement that has rocked the American political establishment, notably the wimpish Democrats. New York’s trade unions have given practical support and the occupy campaign has spread like wildfire throughout the country.

In Britain, there is visible and growing support for the initiative to occupy the space adjacent to the London stock exchange near St Paul’s at noon tomorrow, along with other protests throughout Britain.

These global actions create the opportunity for an open debate on solutions, about how a minority’s hold on the levers of power has brought us to the edge of a social catastrophe and, more importantly, what are the ways forward.

Many sincerely believe that the power of the people can be harnessed with enough energy to compel government and big business to change and henceforth protect and defend the interests of the majority.

That viewpoint, however, is at odds with the nature of the beast we face. As the M15 democracy movement in Spain has noted, the state, political parties and corporate interests have fused together in new ways to defend the capitalist status quo.

There is a democratic façade to this process – but a façade is all it is. As a result, the present political system is the problem, is a barrier to future human progress. While it remains in place, it intends to go on inflicting grievous bodily harm on young and old, putting them out of work, cutting services and pensions, letting energy prices rip.

The crisis-ridden system will grow more and more authoritarian and warlike, destroying basic rights and liberties and threatening international conflict over resources and trade.

In other words, in A World to Win’s view, the social system is beyond reform and needs rebuilding in new, creative, democratic ways that make the rule of profit and capitalism history.

People’s Assemblies have come to the fore in struggles in many countries and can become a transition to a democratic future. On Saturday, October 22, we are hosting the event People’s Assemblies to People’s Power at the Passing Clouds Collective in east London. There’ll be music, poetry and subversive debate. Put the date in your diary.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Menace of deep water Shetland oil project

Environmental organisations have joined forces to plead with environment secretary Chris Huhne not to give BP the chance to repeat the oil giant’s disastrous mistakes, by allowing expansion in deep water west of Shetland, in the sea area known as North Uist.

The oil-leaking corporate giant BP has just got permission from the UK for a £4.5bn expansion of drilling in the Clair field west of Shetland. But the North Uist project is in far deeper water.

And we know all about BP and risky drilling. The US government has just served them, and their partners, formal notice of 15 safety violations leading up to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year that could mean fines of up to £45m. You win some, you lose some - that's the oil business.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Greenpeace, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Friends of the Earth have warned that a spill in North Uist would ruin one of the UK's most environmentally sensitive areas.

The Deepwater Horizon well was 1,500 feet down - the North Uist wells could be 4,000 feet. The company's “safety plan” for North Uist admits any leak could be the biggest ever, pouring 75,000 barrels into the North Sea for 140 days. That is more than double the rate during Deepwater Horizon disaster.

But BP says we should not worry because whilst legally they must model the worst-case scenario “the reality is the chances of a spill are very unlikely”. That surely has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

"It would be utterly reckless for Chris Huhne to approve this plan as if the Deepwater Horizon disaster never happened," said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK.

"Instead of chasing the last drops of oil from one of our country's most sensitive and important natural environments, ministers should be developing a comprehensive plan to get us off the oil hook."

But that is not going to happen. Prime Minister David Cameron was cock-a-hoop about the Clair development, because, he claims, it will provide a “massive boost for jobs and growth”. Growth at any price is the Coalition's holy grail, as the economy stagnates and unemployment soars.

Development west of Shetland will bring almost £10 billion of new project investment by BP and its partners into the UK continental shelf over the next five years - and of course massive profits. The claim is that there will be 3,000 new jobs building platforms and 3,000 operational jobs from Clair alone.

By permitting high-risk projects like North Uist, the “free money” pumped into the UK economy since the oil started flowing in the 1980s, can be dragged out a bit longer.

The fact is that capitalist governments will permit any kind of growth, because the plans and projects of the corporations are the only economic plans they have. The Coalition has a destructive deficit reduction plan for the public sector, but absolutely no positive plans for the future of the economy.

Even in the face of a crisis in the biosphere that threatens the chain of life (including human beings) energy planning, if you can dignify it with that term, will be left in the hands of corporate cowboys.

The only way to protect the environment is to remove this unelected power from determining the future of energy production and instead take all energy resources into common ownership, to use them carefully, safely and with an entirely different set of priorities than raw profit.

Penny Cole

Environment editor

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

End the rule of the 1% as economy implodes

The force of the global economic implosion, which has seen unemployment skyrocket to a 17-year high in the UK, overwhelmed its first eurozone government last night. It is unlikely to be the last.

The Slovakian parliament voted to reject a stronger European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) and hence a second rescue package for Greece. This was despite immense political pressure from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, as well as the US administration

They all warned of the systemic nature of the worsening crisis and the direst of consequences for the world capitalist economy should Greece be allowed to fail. As a result of the vote, the coalition government of Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova fell after a small party in her ruling coalition refused to back the plans

The EFSF is the capitalist powers’ main weapon in dealing with the debt crisis that threatens the European common currency, the region's banks and the global financial system. But eurozone rules require all of the 17 member states to ratify the new plan and Slovakia was the last to vote after all the others had given their agreement.

Now the international lending agencies, responsible for holding the crumbling system together, have to stitch together a new interpretation of the rules allowing the package to be put into operation, whilst they wait to see if a more compliant government will emerge in Slovakia.

Just a few short weeks remain before the Greek government will run out of money and cease to be able to pay wages or pensions for the public sector employees who make up one fifth of the country’s workforce. But the price of the new, wholly inadequate deal would see further tax rises, jobs destroyed, wages cut and – to the banks’ horror – a write-down of the money they are owed by the Greek government by as much as 50%.

As those in the race to contain or deflect the impact of the deepening crisis struggle with its European expression, insolvency practitioners in the United States and elsewhere are gearing up for a busy time ahead.

Bankrupt book chain Borders, for instance, recently closed its doors after failing to find a buyer. Moody's credit rating agency says the number of troubled companies rose for the third month in a row in September, an ominous sign similar to the third quarter of 2007 when the economy slid into recession and the ensuing crash engulfed the world.

And in another blow for the New Green Dealers who are promoting an eco- friendly growth-oriented capitalist solution to climate change, recent failures included renewable energy companies Evergreen Solar and Solyndra. The latter collapsed in a politically-charged bankruptcy after taking a $535 million loan from the US federal government.

This time around China cannot come to the aid of the ailing system. As is now becoming clear, its huge injection of spending on infrastructure developments to ward off the impact of the global crisis on its domestic economy, has taken its toll internally.

A Reuters special report on China noted: “Local governments had amassed 10.7 trillion yuan in debt at the end of 2010. The government expects 2.5 to 3 trillion yuan of that will turn sour, while Standard and Chartered reckons as much as 8 to 9 trillion yuan will not be repaid – or about $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion. In other words, the potential debt defaults could be even larger than the $700 billion U.S. bail-out programme during the 2008 crisis.”

Be warned. Any and every attempt at shoring up the defences of the capitalist system will involve an unimaginable, intolerable assault on the lives of billions of people. Almost a million young people are on the dole in Britain already, according to today’s figures.

Saturday’s global occupation of city and town squares should become the focus for shaping a new social, economic and democratic political system founded upon the satisfaction of human needs. The 1% cannot be allowed to continue their rule over the 99%.

Gerry Gold

Economics editor

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Out of work? Cameron has just the job for you

As the dole queue lengthens and living standards fall faster than at any time since the 1930s, you’ll be pleased to know that there is work there for all who want it in a planned new government agency.

The Stop The Anonymous Suspect Immigrant Agency (Stasia) is looking for staff to put into practice the policy announced by prime minister Cameron yesterday when he called on people to “shop” those they suspected might not be entitled to live in Britain.

Applicants should preferably be white British and able to answer questions like who won last year’s X-Factor and who are the judges in this year’s competition. Guidelines for spotting an illegal immigrant are being prepared, but are likely to include people who:

  • are not fair-skinned and who have fuzzy hair (especially on the face)
  • are heard speaking in a non-European foreign language or with a strong accent
  • decline to go down the pub for a drink after work/refuse to buy a round when it’s their turn
  • show no interest in the fortune of England sporting teams (especially at cricket)
  • do not go for walks in the countryside and/or stay at home a lot
  • are spotted sending money abroad to relatives
  • work very long hours and perhaps have two or three low-paid jobs
  • live in cramped houses or even sheds in people’s back gardens in Southall
  • visit a hospital or GP without proving their entitlement
  • do not own a car or drive without insurance (a lot of white people do this as well, which is a challenge)
  • are unable to say when the Romans conquered Britain, what the Wars of the Roses were and whether the Magna Carta includes the right to a jury trial.

Payment per illegal immigrant shopped is being considered as a way of measuring performance of Stasia staff. Demand for the 10,000 jobs available with Stasia is likely to be heavy because of plummeting living standards.

A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that falling incomes will lead to the sharpest drop for middle-income families since the 1970s and will push 600,000 more children into poverty. By 2013 there will be 3.1 million children in poverty in the UK, according to the IFS projections. Some 17% of UK children were already living in absolute poverty in 2009-10.

There will also be 2.5m working-age parents and four million working-age adults without children in absolute poverty by 2013, says the report. Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Ministers seem to be in denial that, under current policies, their legacy threatens to be the worst poverty record of any government for a generation. They risk damaging childhoods and children's life chances, as well as our national economic wellbeing from wasted potential and social costs spiral. It would be a catastrophic failure in public policy and political leadership."

For some, albeit a small minority, the crisis simply passes them by. We are talking of chief executives, directors, hedge fund managers, speculators and other assorted masters of the universe. Their role, among others, is to minimise tax payments and maximise shareholder returns.

A new report by ActionAid reveals that of the 100 biggest corporations listed on the London Stock Exchange, 98 use tax havens. Of their more than 34,000 subsidiary companies, joint ventures and associates, nearly one in four is located in a tax haven. The biggest tax haven user overall is the advertising company WPP, which has 611 tax haven companies!

Now, setting up a hot-line to shop a capitalist tax avoider/bankster/speculator/polluter/anti-union employer… Dream on!

Paul Feldman

Communications editor