Monday, 28 April 2008

Individual versus social solutions to global warming

Terry Townsend
Green Left Weekly, 26 April 2008

The following is an abridged version of a talk given by Terry Townsend at the recent Climate Change — Social Change Conference in Sydney. Townsend is a long-term member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective and the managing editor of Links online journal (

There is, by now, virtually unanimous agreement among scientists and activists, and increasingly among millions of ordinary people, about the seriousness of climate change and the time frame we have to make fundamental changes to address it.

The main “solutions” being offered by the capitalist class, its politicians and the corporate-dominated mass media — and endorsed by some key peak environmental organisations — are consciously designed to shift the responsibility for, and the major costs of, addressing global warming away from the most polluting corporations. The measures they advocate ensure the basic structure and mechanisms of Western capitalist economies are preserved. They are also designed to delay the necessary political, economic and social changes for as long as possible, and to keep them to the minimum that are compatible (in their assessment) with both the survival of capitalist society and the amelioration of the worst of climate change.

One of the establishment’s favoured — and ultimately counterproductive —”solutions” is the push for all individuals to voluntarily consume a little less, and “buy green” whenever they can. The answer to global warming, the argument goes, is for all of “us” — consumers, workers, residents, pensioners — to voluntarily change our wasteful behaviour.

Despite its benign aura of commonsense advice, this is a massive ideological campaign to drive home to “us” that it is ordinary working people who are ultimately to blame for climate change, and that it is “us” who must pay for its solution. It is part of the ruling class’ overall offensive to shift the blame and cost of addressing global warming away from itself and its intrinsically environmentally destructive economic and social system.

As Mike Tidwell aptly noted in the usually system-friendly Grist ezine on November 15, “every time an activist or politician hectors the public to voluntarily reach for a new [fluro] bulb or spend extra on a Prius, Exxon Mobil heaves a big sigh of relief” because it diverts people’s attention from what is really necessary to address the crisis, and from who is really responsible.

Another radical commentator, George Marshall, has described this ideological offensive as “death [by] a thousand tips”. He is referring to the literally tens of thousands of newspaper articles and web pages that, after having outlined the severe crisis we face and the sharply diminishing time society has to respond, direct the reader to a snappy, upbeat sidebar or list entitled “10 easy tips to save the planet” or some variation thereof. The same sort of lists have been the core of government-sponsored campaigns across the globe, including Australia.

Standard items include “change your light globes”, “turn off unnecessary lights”, “don’t leave your appliances on stand-by”, “adjust your thermostats”, recycle, compost, drive a fuel-efficient car, or drive less. Yet extremely rarely do these helpful hints mention political action, let alone make concrete demands on governments or business. On the odd occasion they do, it is vague and tokenistic.

Of course, there is a place for action by individuals, and it should not be discouraged. It does make sense in terms of saving energy and water, reducing waste and saving money. Educating and facilitating such behaviour on a mass scale is a significant part of what is needed to halt global warming. But such suggestions should not be counterposed to, or used to drown out calls for, the urgent need for mass political action to force the necessary cuts to emissions demanded by the science. And they should not be cynically presented, as they are by the corporate media and capitalist politicians, as the way to save the planet.

In Britain, the government spent £22 million on a “Do your bit” campaign and had to admit that it produced no measurable change in personal habits. A poll in 2007 indicated that this campaign had miseducated people, with more than 40% saying that recycling household waste — which would result in a relatively small reduction of emissions — was the most important thing they could do. Only 10% nominated the far more effective regular use of public transport.

That £22 million would have been better spent organising a movement to demand an end to the massive and wasteful packaging and advertising industries, or to demand the mass expansion of public transport.

In Ireland, faced with greenhouse gas emissions that have increased 25% since 1990, the government’s response was to launch a multimillion euro “the power of one” campaign in 2006, which provides — yes, you guessed it — “10 top tips” to “make a difference”. Among the revolutionary actions suggested were: don’t overfill your kettle, but fill your dishwasher before use, and unplug your mobile phone charger.

As Marshall quips, all “that sounds much nicer than curtailing road building or industrial growth. They are not called ‘easy tips’ for nothing”.

On October 15, the UN Environment Program organised a “Blog Action Day” in which some 15,000 blog sites offered more “tips” to web surfers, from the inevitable changing light globes to one of’s “tiny actions [that] can save the world”: quit your job requiring a long commute and start up a home-based business! Copyblogger’s not alone in making “tips” that are simply beyond the means of most debt-strapped working people in these days of widespread “mortgage stress” and rising interest rates. Common “tips” include buying more expensive hybrid cars and building architect-designed “carbon neutral” houses.

All such campaigns are premised on blaming working people for global warming, which ignores the source of the problem: the relentless drive for profits and the complete disregard for humanity and the planet, both key features of capitalism.

However well-intentioned, appeals to people to change their individual habits bring trivial results when measured against the problem, and if not coupled to the much more urgent task of politically mobilising to demand serious government action to immediately reduce and rapidly halt greenhouse gas emissions, it derails mass concern about global warming from taking a political road.

It also sells the damaging lie that “clean”, “green”, “natural” and “organic” commodities are the answer, when they are fundamentally no better for the planet than any other over-produced commodities under capitalism. It plays into the hands of the mega-financed “greenwashing” of an unsustainable economic system by corporations and governments.

If anything sums up this sort of operation, it was the massively publicised “Earth Hour” on March 29. The brainchild in 2007 of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Fairfax newspapers and the Leo Burnett advertising agency, Earth Hour declares on its website: “Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.” But you will search in vain for any demands for political action, just boilerplate “tips”. It states: “Earth Hour is the highlight of a major campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to take the simple steps needed to cut their emissions on an ongoing basis. It is about simple changes that will collectively make a difference — from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.”

There was more of the same in the 40-page, full-colour Earth Hour Magazine that was distributed “free” (free, that is, if you don’t consider the small forest and who knows how many tonnes of CO2 that were expended in its production and distribution) with the approximate 211,000 copies of the Sydney Morning Herald on March 17. Only one article, by Tim Flannery, made any serious attempt to point out the vested interests that need to be tackled and raised the issues of inadequate public transport, stopping new coal plants and setting adequate emission-reduction targets by 2050.

But his contribution was buried under an avalanche of yet more regurgitated “tips”, feel-good stories and gumph such as this: “Many governments and communities have already made big changes to reduce emissions. The use of solar and wind power is on the increase. Other renewable energy sources are being investigated. Millions of dollars are being spent exploring ways to bury carbon dioxide or to produce cleaner coal. But more needs to be done and politicians need to be brave enough to make tough decisions. If those politicians know that a couple of million people in their homeland have joined Earth Hour, they can be confident that the people will support the hard decisions and will applaud leaders who have the will to act.”

Don’t expect Fairfax to support “hard decisions” that impact on the big end of town, though. “Hard decisions” is code for making us pay higher bills.

The supplement was festooned with full-page ads by electricity suppliers such as EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy — the ones that hawk all that coal power — car companies such as Toyota, Fiat and Hyundai, and even Cascade beer (100% carbon offset beer!).

Corporate and government “greenwashing” was the central goal of the pre-hour hullabaloo. For all the talk of millions of Australians taking part, almost the sole yardstick of the night’s success was on corporate office blocks and huge neon advertising signs in the CBD switching off. The participation of major publicly owned landmarks is really what made the impact. Which begs the question, why aren’t all these lights and signs switched off every night?

Fossil fuel giant AGL loaned the giant WWF-logoed hot air balloon, which sailed over several capital cities beforehand, producing an estimated 378 kilograms of CO2 an hour. That’s the same AGL that is a shareholder in Victoria’s largest brown coal mine. Richard Branson gave his grin of approval, ever keen to “offset” the impact of his fleet of 38 747s. BP — the world’s third largest global energy company — also promised to turn off all its “non-essential lighting”. Let’s not mention that BP was named one of the “ten worst corporations” in both 2001 and 2005 based on its environmental and human rights records. Or that it is busy trying to mine the ultra-polluting tar sands oil in Canada.

McDonald’s turned off it golden arches for an hour nationally! So the millions of tonnes of useless packaging produced by this lot, not to mention the clearing of Amazonian rainforest for beef for Maccas, is forgiven. Not surprisingly, Channel Nine’s support did not extend to urging people to switch of the tellie or to refusing to air the ads of CO2 polluters. Behind the scenes, advertising industry magazine Campaign Brief in league with the SMH offered an incentive to copywriters who “demonstrate the most effective and/or inspirational way to leverage Earth Hour 2008" — two return trips to Cannes in France!

And last but certainly not least, the eco-friendly Department of Defence signed up to participate in Earth Hour. Federal Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced: “Defence takes its obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions seriously and will have over 1330 buildings across Australia participating in Earth Hour”, according to the March 29 online Brisbane Times. The minister of war also reported that the department had launched the Combat Climate Change initiative (clever pun) to provide information and “tips” to defence staff in the “workplace” and home to reduce energy use. Here’s a “tip” Joel: get all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and end all support for those wars for US imperialist control of energy sources.

In the end, despite the hype and PR, the Earth Hour results were hardly impressive. In the hour, electricity consumption across whole of Sydney and the Illawarra dropped just 2-3%, while in the CBD it was just over 8%. Nationwide figures put the drop at 3.6%. Based on a survey of 3000, WWF claimed 59% of Sydneysiders took part — a figure that doesn’t gel with the marginal power drop, if simply turning off lights is the way forward.

Anyway, it seems that the WWF and Fairfax were not going to let their advertisers down and were going to declare the night a success whatever the result. The online Fairfax-owned Brisbane Times reported that “Brisbane made history this evening with the city’s first official Earth Hour going off without a hitch. Kellie Caught, of Earth Hour organiser World Wildlife Fund, said she was thrilled with the response”. Only problem was, this was published on March 28, 26 hours before Earth Hour had even taken place!

The last word on Earth Hour should go to Jimmy Yan, a member of the Glen Waverley Secondary College Eco-Committee, whose excellent critique was carried on the committee’s blog: “Earth Hour rests on the assumption that the environmental movement can make any real progress without looking at the deeper social and political institutions and systems within our society that cause our environmental problems, one of them being a system that seeks to accumulate as much profit as possible for the sake of more accumulation and more competition irrespective of the human, environmental and social cost. Our environmental problems become another commodity that is bought and sold on the market … Ultimately, events like Earth Hour … rest on the idea that we can trust and work with those responsible for environmental destruction without holding them accountable for their crimes and the assumption that ordinary people are too stupid and naive to go beyond just turning off their lights for one hour.”

We have to convince millions of people and build a mass movement for emission-reductions that genuinely address the real problem. For Australia, that’s at least 90% by 2030 — not Labor’s anaemic 60% by 2050. Such a movement must demand that governments impose far-reaching measures that force giant industrial polluters to rapidly and massively slash their emissions, at the risk of massive fines. And if they refuse, they should be nationalised and run in the interests of workers and consumers.

All public subsidies and tax concessions for the giant fossil fuel industries and resource corporations — which amount to billions of dollars — should be redirected to research the development of publicly owned renewable energy sources. We could help ordinary people implement individual actions, by supplying free or at a massive subsidy to all households solar water heaters and water tanks. There should be a massive reorganisation of society to move away from private-car-based transportation to free and frequent mass public transport, and we should redesign our cities to put people’s homes close to work and shops.

We need to think about ways of linking these wider demands with our more immediate campaigns. For example as we fight to stop the Tasmanian pulp mill, oppose power privatisation, end coal and uranium mining, and to stop the building of new freeways and toll roads, we have to also convince people that the workings of capitalism itself is both responsible for the crisis and also the main obstacle to its solution.

Through struggles for immediate and broader demands, masses of people can come to understand that the source of the problem lies with capitalism itself.

Many in the environment movement argue that with the right mix of taxes, incentives and regulations, everybody could be a winner. Big business would have cheaper, more efficient production techniques, and therefore be more profitable, and consumers would have more environment-friendly products and energy sources.

In a rational society, such innovations would lower the overall environmental impact of production. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a rational society. Any energy and money savings made through efficiency are used to make and sell more commodities.

It is becoming abundantly clear that the Earth cannot sustain this system’s plundering and poisoning without humanity sooner or later experiencing a complete ecological catastrophe.

To have any chance of preventing this, within the 10-30 year window that we have in relation to global warming, humanity must take conscious, rational control of its interactions with the planet and its ecological processes, in ways that capitalism is inherently incapable of doing.

Socialist Party - "Greens: Open letter to Solidarity"

With good reason - given our advocacy of greater left unity in Australia - the wombats tend to keep a close eye on the (often small) far-left groups that are around, and what moves they make in the right (or wrong) direction.

The latest such example is the open letter (republished below) from the Socialist Party (a small, Melbourne-based organisation with the curious honour of having Australia's only elected socialist - Yarra councillor Steve Jolly) to the group now known as Solidarity (formed after the reunification of 3 of Australia's 4 IST groups - Solidarity, the International Socialist Organisation, and Socialist Action Group).

There is nothing new about the SP's approach (the wombats have covered it - and related news -before - here, here, here, and here - and Socialist Alliance has written similar letters), but it provides a good example of what's wrong with Solidarity's (and Socialist Alternative's for that matter) approach. In place of building a dignified and potentially quite robust socialist space on the left of Australian politics, both groups substitute riding on the coat-tails of the Greens (to be fair to SAlt, they are so dismissive of electoral politics as to be almost anarchoid, and the "coat-tails" reference probably doesn't explain their approach at all).

Of course, the SP might have more weight to their arguments if they were part of a larger left, that wasn't focused to such an excessive degree on Yarra and Jolly's re-election. The Socialist Alliance and Socialist Party collaborated to a very limited, but fruitful, degree in the elections last year. Although this was not much more than keeping off each other's "turf", it oughtto be a hint to the SP that they can, and should, think strongly about greater left collaboration.

The wombats rather doubt that CWI/ IST collaboration in Australia is going to take place anytime soon without a rather large unity project in-between, and the only one of those with any legs at the moment is the Socialist Alliance.

The original of this letter can be found here.


Dear Solidarity comrades,
During last years federal election campaign the Socialist Party challenged the Australian section of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), then called the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), to a debate around the topic of ‘How should socialists relate to the Greens?’

The ISO declined to debate us and proceeded to support the Greens in the election. Their support was not limited to cheer leading from the columns of their newspaper but included handing out ‘how to vote’ cards for the Greens in the seat of Melbourne where SP stood a candidate!

Since then the ISO has merged with Solidarity and the Socialist Action Group and has been renamed Solidarity. From all reports Solidarity is now the official section of the IST in Australia.

We understand that both the Socialist Action Group and Solidarity also supported the Greens in the 2007 federal election campaign and that part of the political foundation of the merger that took place was ongoing support for the Greens in elections.

It was somewhat surprising then for us when we read the following article in the paper of Solidarity’s sister organisation in Britain called Socialist Worker. The article actually echoes many of the points that we made to the ISO during last years election campaign. Read it for yourself.

Can the Greens be a radical alternative to the mainstream?
By Anindya Bhattacharyya
Taken from the online version of Socialist Worker issue 2097 dated 19 April 2008

Many people are frustrated with the three mainstream political parties and would like to see a left wing alternative to their pro-business agenda. The Green Party is widely touted as an organisation that could fill this role.

It is certainly true that the Green Party includes many individual activists on the left. The Green MEP Caroline Lucas, for instance, has played a solid role in the anti-war movement.

Yet despite this, the Greens do not present themselves as a left wing party, nor do they as an organisation play any kind of systematic role in left wing movements against war, racism and neoliberalism.

This distancing is quite deliberate. “If we positioned ourselves as explicitly left it would be dangerous, with no guarantee of success,” says Chris Rose, the Green Party’s national election agent.

And however “left” they may appear on paper, in power the Greens can act very differently. Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London assembly, strongly backed Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Sian Berry, the Green candidate for London mayor, echoes the mainstream parties in calling for more police officers (albeit of the “community” variety).

In Leeds the Greens even went into coalition with the Tories and the Liberal Democrats on the city’s council for two years.

This was justified by Chris Rose as follows: “We say none of the mainstream parties are worth anything. So, if the situation demands it, it doesn’t really matter which one we work with, just what the outcome is.”

Elsewhere in Europe, where Green parties are more established, their record is similarly chequered. In France the Green Party lined up with the establishment in supporting the neoliberal European Union constitution.

In Germany, Green MPs have given unstinting support to the war in Afghanistan – despite a party congress decision to oppose German troops being sent to join Nato forces there.

The tendency of Green parties to drift to the right and their penchant for remaining aloof from mass movements have a common foundation.

They reflect the fact that the Greens are essentially a middle class party with some left wing opinions, rather than being a political organisation rooted in the working class.
This means that while Greens may hold “progressive” views on many issues, they have little to say about the class struggle between the majority of people who work for a living and the minority that rules the world.

It means that the Greens look to individualist solutions to issues such as climate change and world poverty, such as adopting a “green lifestyle” or promoting “ethical consumerism”.

Ultimately it means that while individual Greens can play a left wing role on certain issues, the party as a whole will never become a serious working class alternative to the pro-business parties.

They cannot connect with the swathes of ordinary people who are hit by low pay, poor housing and cuts to public services – and who want to fight back.

That radical political alternative must be built from below, by activists who campaign in trade unions and the mass movements against privatisation and war – and who look to the power of workers to transform society.

Read the article online here

The question we would have for the Solidarity comrades is if you are in fact maintaining your electoral support for the Greens what is the difference between the Greens in Britain and the Greens in Australia? Are they so different that a different approach to them is required? Is the situation in Britain so vastly different to that in Australia?

You told us last year that “Unfortunately, we found some of your characterisations of the Greens as sectarian and wrong”. Does this mean the characterisations that your British comrades have of the Greens are also sectarian and wrong?

You said “We support the Greens because they represent a very important layer of people that firmly rejects the Labor Party’s political sell-outs. Most Greens supporters reject Labor’s capitulation to neo-liberalism and support the kind of social democratic policies that were once expected from the Labor Party. But you don’t seem to have recognised this significant point.” It seems your British comrades have also failed ‘to recognise this significant point’!

The truth is that, leaving aside our difference with the British IST over tactics in the upcoming elections, we think the analysis put by the British IST comrades in relation to the Greens is far more in tune with reality than the oppurtunistic position that you have put here in Australia.

If we are wrong and you have in fact changed your position we would welcome that shift. But if you are in fact planning on supporting the Greens in the upcoming council elections in Victoria we would like to renew our challenge for you to debate us on the question of ‘How should socialists relate to the Greens’.

It is not the case that the socialist vote in these council elections will be negligible. In fact we will be defending our position on Yarra Council. We would be interested to know if the comrades from Solidarity will be supporting fellow socialists or if they will again be campaigning against us in support (as your British comrades put it) of the middle class Greens? We look forward to your reply.


Anthony Main
On behalf of the Socialist Party

Matt McCarten: Anzac Day - we're comfortable with this historic illusion

Sunday April 27, 2008

By Matt McCarten, NZHerald

On Friday, New Zealand saluted our Gallipoli war dead who were butchered in their tens of thousands because of the incompetent British upper-class twits who led them.

As we know, the cream of our country's youth went off to join the other colonials of the British Empire to the killing fields in feudal Europe. I know it's unpatriotic and bad manners these days to mention, but many of these young volunteer soldiers were the same ones who, two years earlier, had saddled up their horses and rode into our cities to smash a general strike of workers.

Our then-conservative Government gave thousands of these young horsemen carte blanche to ride into town using hand-made batons to club workers into submission and smash the strike. After they won, these young farmers proudly nicknamed themselves "Massey's Cossacks" after our Prime Minister at the time.

The Russian Tsar was also using his Cossacks to put down his people, and we obviously wanted to emulate that practice. No doubt some of our boys would have been disappointed they weren't allowed to use guns and swords on the people like their Russian counterparts.

A little over a decade earlier Britain used thousands of armed volunteer forces from our farming communities as prison camp guards in South Africa. The Boers were fighting for independence. Our role was essentially restricted to burning down settlements, rounding up the women and children and locking them in concentration camps. The cunning plan was that if we wiped out all the towns and incarcerated the civilian population, the independence movement would collapse through lack of support. After many thousands of women and children died in these camps of starvation and disease, the resistance did, indeed, capitulate.

Today, we call these tactics ethnic cleansing and genocide but at the time it was seen as an enormously successful strategy. In fact, our local bourgeoisie were so proud of our role in suppressing the Boers they erected monuments in every New Zealand town. They are still there.

We don't want to be remembered for that sordid criminal affair on behalf of the British King and empire. But it makes it easier to understand why we went rushing off when the Great War was announced. So off our boys went to join the butchery in Europe. We were merged with the Aussies into the same Army corps as, I suppose, we all sounded the same to the English "toffs" who led us.

In those days, all colonial armies were led by white Englishmen. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) was on the same level as "coloured" troops, such as those from India. Enviably, we got the non-performing officers the British regiments didn't want.

The real story of Gallipoli was the shock realisation by our soldiers that our masters treated us as cannon fodder. The bravery of our soldiers couldn't hide this fact. We were supposed to take a few weeks to put "Little Johnny Turk" to flight and take control of his country. Unfortunately, we underestimated the bravery and courage of their farm boys.

They had home advantage, of course. People fight harder when their country is being invaded. Most of our troops didn't even know where they were, let alone what they were fighting for. On top of that, the Turk officers were better than ours.

Even when one of the few senior New Zealand officers, Colonel Malone, did reach the Gallipoli summit, the British sent no reinforcements. Instead, they bombed our troops, killing Malone and most of his soldiers. To cover their incompetence, they blamed Malone. Even the most loyal Anglophile realised we were mugs but it took a few years to sink in. After all, once we were pulled off the mountain we went off to Europe to participate in the bloodbath there.

When we scratch our heads at today's fanatical suicide bombers, it isn't too far from what young men were doing fewer than 100 years ago. They knew they were going to die but went to their death in their millions, willingly.

It was either for the German Kaiser or the British King, depending on where you were born. God was apparently on both sides.

Anzac Day truly should be an occasion where we affirm there is no place for war and political violence in our world. But, deep down, we know it's all a sham.

We "honour" our war dead who voluntarily went to invade Gallipoli and kill Turkish peasants on behalf of our British masters. Do we honour the Turkish youth whom we slaughtered while they were defending their country? Do we honour the hundreds of Kiwis imprisoned who opposed the Great War? Of course not. We feel comfortable with historic illusion.

Of course, we want to honour the deaths of young, naive men sent to their doom by cynical world rulers a century ago. But if we really wanted to honour them we would oppose our soldiers occupying parts of the Middle East on behalf of a new empire.

The only thing that's changed is that instead of being pawns of a British Empire and a half-witted King, we are now playthings for an American Empire and a dim-witted Republican President.

The Conspiracy to Divide Bolivia Must Be Denounced

Via BoliviaRising

The process of changes in favor of the Bolivian majority is at risk of being brutally restrained. The rise to power of an Indigenous president with unprecedented support in that country and his programs of popular benefits and recovery of the natural resources have had to face the conspiracies of the oligarchy and United States interference from the very beginning.

In recent days the increase in conspiracy has reached its climax. The subversive and unconstitutional actions of the oligarchic groups to try to divide the Bolivian nation reflect the racist and elitist minds of these sectors and constitute a very dangerous precedent not only for the country’s integrity, but for other countries in our region.

History shows with ample eloquence, the terrible consequences that the divisionary and separatist processes supported and induced by foreign interests have had for humanity.

Faced with this situation the signers below would like to express their support for the government of Evo Morales Ayma, for his policies for change and for the sovereign constituent process of the Bolivian people. At the same time we reject the so-called Santa Cruz Autonomy Statute due to its unconstitutionality and the attempt against the unity of a nation of our America.

Initial signatories (to sign on visit

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina); Rigoberta Menchú (Guatemala); Noam Chomsky (EEUU); Oscar Niemeyer (Brasil); Eduardo Galeano (Uruguay); Ignacio Ramonet (España/Francia); Elena Poniatowska (México); Frei Betto (Brasil); Gianni Vattimo (Italia); Adolfo Sánchez Vázquéz (España/México); Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua); Armand Mattelart (Bélgica); Ramsey Clark (EEUU); Manu Chao (Francia/España); Franz Hinkelammert (Alemania/Costa Rica); Francois Houtart (Bélgica); Alfonso Sastre (España); Paul Leduc (México); Fernando Pino Solanas (Argentina); Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba); Howard Zinn (EEUU); Keith Ellis (Canadá); Jorge Enrique Adoum (Ecuador); Belén Gopegui (España); Jesusa Rodríguez (México); Stella Calloni (Argentina); Joao Pedro Stedile (Brasil); Eric Toussaint (Bélgica); Rafael Cancel Miranda (Puerto Rico); Richard Gott (Reino Unido); Miguel D'Escoto (Nicaragua); Silvio Rodríguez (Cuba); Carmen Bohórquez (Venezuela); Víctor Heredia (Argentina); Blanca Chancosa (Ecuador); Thiago de Mello (Brasil); Juan Mari Bras (Puerto Rico); Hildebrando Pérez (Perú); Pascual Serrano (España); Fernando Rendón (Colombia); Víctor Víctor (República Dominicana); Luisa Vicioso (Rep. Dominicana); Cecilia Todd (Venezuela); Alex Cox (Reino Unido); Danny Rivera (Puerto Rico); Isaac Rosa (España); Jean Marie Binoche (Francia); Ramón Chao (España/Francia); Pablo Guayasamín (Ecuador); Andrés Sorel (España); Ariel Dorfman (Chile); Carlo Frabetti (Italia/España); Carlos Fazio (México); Manuel Cabieses (Chile); Carlos Fernández Liria (España); Cintio Vitier (Cuba); Héctor Díaz-Polanco (Rep. Dominicana/México); Javier Couso Permuy (España); Jaime Caycedo (Colombia); Fernando Martínez Heredia (Cuba); Isabel Parra (Chile); James Cockcroft (EEUU); Fina García Marruz (Cuba); Fernando Morais (Brasil); Juan Madrid (España); Pablo Marcano García (Puerto Rico); Graziella Pogolotti (Cuba); Piero Gleijeses (Italia/EEUU); Raúl Pérez Torres (Ecuador); Miguel Barnet (Cuba); Roberto Diaz Castillo (Guatemala); Nancy Morejón (Cuba); Salim Lamrani (Francia); Santiago Alba Rico (España); Saul Landau (EEUU); Stefania Mosca (Venezuela); Víctor Flores Olea (México); Wim Dierckxsens (Costa Rica); Wozniak (Polonia); Eric Nepomuceno (Brasil); Aldo Díaz Lacayo (Nicaragua); Alfredo Vera (Ecuador); Angel Augier (Cuba); Antonio Elías (Uruguay); Beverly Keene (Argentina/EEUU); Constantino Bértolo (España); Michel Collon (Bélgica); Juan Carlos Camaño (Argentina); César López (Cuba); Emir Sader (Brasil); Fernando Buen Abad Domínguez (México); Eduardo Torres-Cuevas (Cuba); Gennaro Carotenuto (Italia); Gilberto Maringoni (Brasil);Gloria la Riva (EEUU); Hernando Calvo Ospina (Colombia); Higinio Polo (España); Iván Padilla (Venezuela); Jaime Sarusky (Cuba); James Early (EEUU); Jorge Beinstein (Argentina); Jorge Sanjinés (Bolivia); José Steinsleger (Argentina/México); Julio César Monge (El Salvador); Lasse Söderberg (Suecia); José Hugo Moldiz Mercado (Bolivia); José Pertierra (Cuba/EEUU); Luciano Vasapollo (Italia); Luis Bilbao (Argentina); Manuel Talens (España); Marcos Roitman (Chile): Marlon Santi (Ecuador); Matías Bosch (Rep. Dominicana); Michele Mattelart (Francia); Montserrat Ponsa Tarres (España); Néstor Kohan (Argentina); Pablo Armando Fernández (Cuba); Roberto Montoya (Argentina/España); Sergio Trabucco (Chile); Medea Benjamín (EEUU); Reynaldo González (Cuba); Roberto Sánchez Ramos (España); Setsuko Ono (Japón/EEUU); Vicente Battista (Argentina); Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche (Puerto Rico); Winston Orrillo Ledesma (Perú); Alberto Lecci (Argentina); Alejandro Moreano (Ecuador); Alessandra Riccio (Italia); Alicia Jrapko (EEUU); Ana Esther Ceceña (México); Angel Juarez Almendros (España); Antoine Chao (Francia); Ángeles Maestro (España); Antón Arrufat (Cuba); Aram Aharonian (Uruguay); Claudia Camba (Argentina); Carilda Oliver Labra (Cuba); Claudia Korol (Argentina); Daniel Lorenzi (Italia); David Acera (España); Faride Zeran (Chile); Diosdado Toledano (España); Félix Julio Alfonso López (Cuba); Francisco (Pancho) Villa (Chile); Irene Amador (Colombia); Francisco de Oraa (Cuba); Jane Franklin (EEUU); Humberto Arenal (Cuba); Juan Brom (México); Lisette Nicole Adoum (Suiza); Jorge Ibarra (Cuba); Luciano Alzaga (Argentina); Marilia Guimaraes (Brasil); José Ignacio López Vigil (Cuba); Manuel de la Rica (España); Maximilien Arvelaiz (Venezuela); Leonardo Acosta (Cuba); Miguel Mirra (Argentina); Milagros Rivera Rérez (Puerto Rico); Oscar-René Vargas (Nicaragua); Osvaldo León (Ecuador); Paulo Nakatani (Brasil); Pepe Viñoles (Uruguay); Red Ronnie (Italia); Rolando Rodríguez (Cuba); Sara Rosemberg (Argentina); Vicente Romano (España); Sergio Ortiz (Argentina); Yamandú Acosta (Uruguay); Antonio Cuesta (España); Antonio Gaztambide (Puerto Rico); Coriún Aharonian (Uruguay); Rosa Miriam Elizalde (Cuba); Daniel del Solar (EEUU); Ángel Guerra (Cuba); Edgar Páez (Venezuela); Eva Golinger (EEUU); Guillermo C. Cohen-DeGovia (México); Estrella Rey (Cuba); Hiram Guadalupe Pérez (Puerto Rico); Humberto Mata (Venezuela); Isabel Monal (Cuba); Jhonny Jiménez (Ecuador); Joseba Macías (País Vasco); Juan Carlos Monedero (España); Julio Pomar (México); René Vázquez Díaz (Cuba); Liliana Játiva (Ecuador); Daniel das Neves (Argentina); Luis Hernández Navarro (México); María del Carmen Barcia (Cuba); Mertxe Aizpurua (País Vasco); Andrés Gómez (Cuba/EEUU); Nayar López (México); Ramon Franquesa (España); Zoyla Lapique (Cuba); Margarita Zapata (México); Miguel Urbano (Portugal); Javier Corcuera (Perú); Alicia Hermida (España); Jaime Losada (España); Alejandro Torres (Puerto Rico); Juan Antonio Hormigón (España); Lidia Fagale (Argentina); Brian Becker (EEUU); Héctor Sosa (Argentina); Ana María Larrea (Ecuador); Ana Villareal (Argentina); Beatriz Chisleanschi (Argentina); Carlos A. Lozano Guillén (Colombia); Judith Rabinovich (Argentina);

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Climate crisis—urgent action needed now!

Statement initiated by participants in the Climate Change|Social Change conference, Sydney, Australia, April 11-13, 2008

The following statement was started by the participants in the Climate Change|Social Change conference. Anyone who agrees with it is welcome to add their signature, and an updated list of signatories will be issued on a regular basis.

It is being distributed to environmental, trade union, Indigenous, migrant, religious and community organisations to help build the movement against global warming

To add your name, send an email to

  1. The latest climate science shows that the global warming crisis is already here

    The evidence about global warming is more alarming than ever. It is likely that critical “tipping points” once believed to lie in the future have already been passed (see Climate Change and Trace Gases, by James Hansen et al, 2007, available at

    • Arctic ice loss reached 20% by extent over the past two years as against 7% a decade over the period between 1979 and 2005; the volume of Arctic summer ice is estimated to have fallen by 80% over the last 40 years; glacier movement in Greenland is speeding up, producing massive “ice quakes”; in Antarctica the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf and the recent splitting of the Wilkins ice shelf raises the spectre of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet (and sea levels rising 5 metres).
    • The feedback sources of global warming are accelerating, with declining reflection of solar radiation, falling carbon absorption capacity of soils, forests and oceans and increased forest fires and methane release from Siberian tundra permafrost. By 2006 global annual human CO2 emissions were 9.9 gigatonnes of carbon, with only 4 gigatonnes being absorbed by the Earth’s “carbon sinks”. Some scientists project this figure to fall to 2.7 gigatonnes of carbon a year by 2030.
    • As a result, according to James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science, “the Earth is gaining more heat than it is losing: currently 0.5 to 1 watts per square metre. This planetary imbalance is sufficient to melt ice corresponding to a 1 metre of sea level rise per decade, if the extra energy were used entirely for that purpose—and the energy imbalance could double if emissions keep growing.”
  1. A 2º maximum average increase in world temperature probably won’t stop destructive climate change

    A 2º increase in average global atmospheric temperature above pre-industrial levels has been widely accepted (for example, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as the maximum allowable if uncontrollable global warming is to be avoided. The chance of a 2º increase has been rated at between 38% (IPCC) and 78% (Hadley Centre) if greenhouse gas concentrations reach 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). But these have already reached 459ppm CO2e, producing a 0.8º increase and “locking in” another 0.6º. Clearly, an upper limit of 450ppm is too high, risking further destructive climate feedbacks.

  1. We need a greenhouse gas reduction target that fits the global warming crisis

    Existing broadly accepted targets for greenhouse gas reduction (GGR) are therefore far too little far too late. In particular, the commonly accepted GGR target of 60% by 2050 compared to 2000 (advanced by the Stern Review, European Union and the Australian Labor Party) would allow greenhouse gas concentrations to grow to 550ppm CO2e, making a 3º average temperature increase a 50:50 chance and risking even more extreme increases—with catastrophic consequences for billions of human beings and entire ecosystems. This frightening reality dictates an approach of stopping greenhouse gas concentration increases as soon as possible, with the goal of reducing them to a long term safe and sustainable level (around 300-325ppm CO2, roughly corresponding to a 0.5º increase from pre-industrial levels).

  1. Despite the urgency of the crisis, solutions are possible

    Despite the enormity of the global warming threat the carbon-reducing technologies, industrial processes and forms of economic and social organisation that can reverse it already exist or can be created. Many needed policies (e.g., rapid energy demand reduction and application of sustainable energy technologies) are already being introduced, albeit on an extremely inadequate and under-resourced scale. The central challenge is to speed up the replacement of carbon-intensive infrastructure and forms of economic and social organisation, setting in place the measures supporting climate sustainability at a pace that meets the timetable for the greenhouse gas emission cuts the Earth needs.

  1. Vested interests stand in the way of climate sustainability and have to be confronted

    Reaching this goal involves more than a debate about climate science and government climate policy. It is also, even primarily, a struggle against those forces with a vested interest in keeping the transition to sustainability within a framework that doesn’t risk the profitability of carbon-intensive investments. Also, while the global rate of investment in renewable and sustainable technologies is increasing rapidly from a low base, it still falls far short of that needed to produce the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by climate science.

  1. Existing climate change policy is falling behind the challenge

    Likewise, the presently preferred lead policies against global warming—carbon trading schemes and “feed-in” tariffs—have not speeded up the uptake of sustainable technologies to the pace needed. Even the most advanced Mandated Renewable Energy Targets envisaged by mainstream environmental organisations would see 60-70% of energy still being produced by carbon-intensive technologies (coal and oil) in 2020. In those states and regions where such policies done most to increase energy efficiency and stimulate private investment in sustainable technologies (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, California) energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are at best falling very slowly. At the international level the Kyoto Protocol failed and the Bali round threatens to repeat that failure on a larger scale.

  1. The real road to climate sustainability has five basic elements

    There can be no real shift to climate sustainability without five core elements—properly resourced public agencies to drive the sustainability effort, an international framework where the First World pays the vast bulk of the price of reversing global warming, an end to rampant consumerism, vastly strengthened campaigns for climate sustainability, and building a powerful political alliance for climate sustainability with social justice. These imperatives are explained in the next five sections.

  1. We need properly funded public agencies to oversee the sustainability transition

    Climate sustainability will never be achieved if basically entrusted to the profit motive and the market. At the core of any successful transition will be a public agency or agencies entrusted with guaranteeing that adequate targets are met. Without going into detail—which will vary widely by country and region and require ongoing elaboration to meet local conditions—the main tasks of any public agency overseeing the transition to climate sustainability will be to:

    1. Drive the implantation of energy saving and efficiency programs, including mandatory and enforceable minimum standards for domestic and commercial buildings;
    2. Oversee programs to convert existing building stock to zero-carbon status;
    3. Implement a plan to introduce renewable energy technologies at all levels, simultaneously phasing out fossil fuel fired power generation;
    4. Foster research, development and the application of sustainable technologies and processes, with a view to achieving their mass application as rapidly as possible;
    5. Oversee the upgrading and spread of rail networks to provide the capacity to shift long-distance freight movement from road and air to rail;
    6. Oversee the conversion of the car industry to non-polluting forms of propulsion;
    7. Foster the growth of a new model of agriculture and forestry which includes the advances of methods like permaculture and aims to retain and increase the carbon-absorption capacity of the land biosphere;
    8. Oversee the closure of polluting industries and the full retraining on full pay and conditions of the workers affected; and
    9. Promote social instead of private ways of meetings basic human needs in housing, domestic work, child and aged care, transport etc.
  1. We need international solidarity in the fight against global warming

    The advanced industrial nations, whose own growth continues to depend on access on favourable terms to Third World resources, have been responsible for 76% of emissions since the beginning of industrialisation. Powers like the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia cannot now demand that those economies that are presently at earlier points on the path of industrialisation (or still locked in underdevelopment) pay the price for decarbonising the structures of production for which they are overwhelmingly responsible.

    Accepting the cost burden of overseeing the transition to climate sustainability in developing countries involves the creation of a global sustainability fund overwhelmingly funded by the advanced industrial powers. Resources presently wasted on military spending could, if switched into such a fund, finance a rapid global switch to renewable energy sources.

  1. We need a struggle against consumerism

    The struggle for sustainability is also a struggle against the consumerist, individualist life-style of “developed” industrial society and a search for a human-centred and community based social existence. Solidarity with the struggles of Indigenous peoples whose environments have been stolen and most ravaged by “development” and the study of their values will teach a lot about what sustainability and care for ecosystems really mean.

    In particular, attention to these values will be an important element in countering the mass lifestyles promoted by the vested interests of the corporations—with their ever higher levels of consumption, built-in obsolescence and throw away culture.

  1. We need the broadest possible alliance for social justice and climate sustainability

    The bedrock of the transition to climate sustainability lies in developing the alliance between the environmental and climate change movement and working people, young people, the unemployed and welfare recipients, and their union and community organisations. Such an alliance can only develop on the basis that the costs of the transition to climate sustainability are funded from reduced wasteful spending in government budgets (for example, on military hardware and subsidies to polluting industries) or through taxes borne by those who bear greatest responsibility for the climate crisis and those who can most afford to pay. Whatever the mechanisms used to reduce the use of carbon-intensive products and processes and to harvest the income to help fund the replacement of carbon-intensive infrastructure, the burden must fall primarily on the corporate world and the rich. The history of eco-taxation has already seen too many failed attempts at making ordinary consumers pay, leading to working-class and popular alienation from the environment movement, and providing dangerous openings for right-wing anti-environmental demagogues. If those opposed to radical action for climate sustainability succeed in turning the mass of working people against the global warming struggle there simply will not be a sustainability transition—the majority (especially the poorest and most oppressed) will see the fight against global warming as an attack on their living standards, social gains and rights, reproducing on a massive and debilitating scale the split between forest preservation movements and timber workers in places like Tasmania, the US and Canada.

    The struggle for climate sustainability will also be weakened if it separates itself from other struggles for social justice and equality. By supporting all those campaigning for their rights the climate sustainability struggle will strengthen its own cause.

    12. We must build all campaigns for climate sustainability

    The emergence of movements that give powerful and sustained organisation to the profound community concern about global warming will be the key driver of the climate transition. The Climate Change|Social Change conference commits to helping build the movement for climate sustainability in Australia and elsewhere.

    The signatories to this statement come from a wide range of backgrounds—climate activism, scientific climate research, Green, socialist, Indigenous, feminist and many more. We do not agree on all the issues in play in the great, complex debate about how to confront and defeat global warming, but we do agree on the basic approach outlined in this statement. We understand that ongoing involvement in the struggle for climate sustainability will give us the best chance of further developing policy against global warming and resolving present differences.

    We are also committed to further developing the discussion that has taken place at this conference, and will form an email network to this end. We urge everyone committed to the vital cause of reversing global warming—even if they do not agree with the analysis and proposals presented here— to join it and use it to develop our collective understanding and effort to confront humanity’s most vital challenge.

Signatories (at May 4, 2008)
The signatories have signed in a personal capacity. Titles are for identification purposes only
John Bellamy Foster Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon. US. Editor, Monthly Review
Patrick Bond Director, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies, South Africa
Roberto Pérez Rivero Environmental Education and Biodiversity Conservation Program Director, Antonio Núñez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Cuba
Ian Angus Editor, Climate and Capitalism online journal, Canada
Merrill Singer Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut, US
Mark T Madsen Professor of Radiology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, US
Alan L Maki Director of Organising, Midwest Casino Workers Organising Council, Member, State Central Committee, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (Democratic Party), USA
Pat Eatock Secretary, National Aboriginal Alliance, Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Australia
Sam Watson Deputy Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland, Australia
Cam Walker Campaigns coordinator, Friends of the Earth Australia
Damien Lawson Climate change coordinator, Friends of the Earth Australia
Jim Green National nuclear campaigner, Friends of the Earth Australia
Robyn Francis Permaculture educator, Erda Permaculture , Nimbin, NSW, Australia
Genevieve Kelly Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia
Stuart Rosewarne Co-editor, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism and Australian Journal of Political Economy, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Tim Anderson Senior Lecturer, department of Political Economy, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Ian McGregor Lecturer , School of Management, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Hans Baer Lecturer, School of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alex Miller Professor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, UK
Adrian Whitehead Beyond Zero Emissions, Zero Emissions Network, Australia
Terry Townsend Editor, Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Australia
Dick Nichols National Coordinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia
Grant Morgan Chair, Residents Action Movement, Auckland, New Zealand
John Rice Co-ordinator, Adelaide Eco-socialist Network, South Australia
Kamala Emanuel National Environment Coordinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia
Graham Brown Retired coal miner, Cessnock, NSW, Australia
Renfrey Clarke Climate change analyst, Green Left Weekly, Australia
Ben Courtice Climate change group, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Victoria, Australia
Simon Cunich Climate change activist, Resistance, Newcastle, Australia
Melanie Barnes Students Against the Pulp Mill, Tasmania, Australia
Dave Holmes Manager, Resistance Books, writer on environmental issues, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Zane Alcorn Climate activist, Resistance, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Emma Murphy Co-editor, Green Left Weekly, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Stuart Munckton Co-editor, Green Left Weekly, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Peter Boyle National Secretary, Democratic Socialist Perspective (Affiliate of the Socialist Alliance, Australia)
Jim McIlroy National President, Democratic Socialist Perspective (Affiliate of the Socialist Alliance, Australia)
Lisa Macdonald National Coordinator, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, Australia
Pip Hinman Anti-war coo-dinator, Socialist Alliance, Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Lauren Carroll Harris Organiser, Resistance, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Bruce Cohen Worcester State College, Massachusetts, USA
Margaret Dutton California, USA
Beth Brenneman. California , USA
Richard Stiles, Lithgow, NSW, Australia
Kellie Gee Melbourne , Victoria, Australia
Peter Lach-Newinsky Australia
Del Weston Perth, WA, Australia
Leigh Hughes Canberra, ACT, Australia
Richa Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Carlos Dews artist, writer, and restaurateur, Erongarícuaro, Michoacán, México
David Schwartzman Biogeochemist, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA
Belinda Selke Blackheath, NSW
Larry Lambert Palm Springs, California, USA
Duroyan Fertl State Convenor, NSW Socialist Alliance, Australia
Jenefer Ellingston Washington, DC, USA
Sara Moss Socialist Alliance, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Bernard Hornfeck New Zealand
Alicia Madrid Winnipeg, Canada
Shelly Dahl Community Action Against Homophobia, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Cecilia Jensen Sydney, NSW, Australia
Susanne Shaw Port Alice, British Columbia, Canada
Chris Lambert Willunga South Australia, Australia
Shangrila Joshi Wynn Doctoral student and Graduate Teaching Fellow, Environmental Studies and Geography, University of Oregon, USA
Rev. Walter Stark Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Rev. Charles Lord Caney Fork Headwaters Association, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Donald B. Clark Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ, Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, USA
Jamie McEvoy student, Utah State University, Utah, USA
Annolies Truman Co-convenor East/Hills Branch of Socialist Alliance, Perth, Australia
Mel Hughes Resistance member, Adelaide, South Australia
Jase Short Middle Tennessee Students for a Democratic Society, Tennessee, USA
Christine Gleeson Mt Druitt, NSW, Australia
Becky Clausen University of Oregon, USA
Brett Clarke North Carolina State University
Natasha Moore Indigenous rights activist, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Sharyn Munro writer, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Gareth Johnston Director, Corporate Risk UK and Australia, Climate Risk Pty Limited
Ben Leeman Publisher, New Community Quarterly, Australia
Rebecca Smith New York, USA
Mike Thomson UK

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Correa - My Hands are Clean and Bloodless, Something Uribe Can’t Say

Further on that Correa interview - the wombats have decided to repost it here in full, as it deserves as broad as audience as possible:


Via Machetera

"My Hands are Clean and Bloodless, Something Uribe Can’t Say" - Interview with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador

Gorka Castillo - Público
Translation: Machetera

In an interview with Público, the Ecuadoran head of state accuses the Colombian government of lying, and its president, Álvaro Uribe, of links with paramilitaries.

Ecuador’s president doesn’t mince words. Over an hour’s interview he analyzed the Latin American political situation and didn’t hide the wound opened by Colombia that will take some time to heal.

The British writer Richard Gott considers Colombia to be the main element in the region’s instability. Do you share his view?

This is nothing new, rather something that goes way back. Colombia is the only country that has paramilitaries, guerrillas, drug traffickers, extensive coca cultivation and extensive zones of the country uncontrolled by the state. Paramilitarism and narco-politics doesn’t exist in Ecuador. Nor do we cultivate coca. Those are exclusively Colombian terms. I say this regretfully because [the Colombians] are our brothers, but Colombia today is the focus of the greatest instability that exists in Latin America and this hurts all of us.

Do you wish to say that the Colombian government’s image in Latin America is not a good one?

Uribe’s government is completely discredited. We’ve already pointed out his lies; now no-one believes him.

In Europe it’s not seen that way.

It’s true that in the European Union as much as the United States, the backing of his lies by some powerful media has harmed us and for that reason, very soon, I will undertake a tour of Europe to let people know about Ecuador and show that we are a decent government and a peaceful land. What’s problematic is on the other side of the border. We’re victims of the Colombian conflict. We’re not perpetrators nor are we accomplices.

You give the impression that a media war has been launched.

It’s not that I’m giving that impression, it’s that it’s a fact. We know with whom we are dealing; with a militaristic country, with a president who has an imperfect past, with enormous support from foreign intelligence agencies and with an impressive propaganda machine. We have faith that the truth and justice will prevail. We’ve already achieved that in Latin America, where Colombia has been soundly defeated politically, diplomatically and informationally.

What drives Colombia to accuse its neighboring countries of collaboration with the FARC?

Uribe’s militaristic policies began when he became president. First in contradicting the strategy of his predecessor, Andrés Pastrana, who came to embrace Manuel Marulanda. But in came Uribe with the hard line and he wanted us all to do the same. He’s like the little emperor who follows his boss’s dictates. It’s obvious that his political and economic power is based on the struggle against the FARC. Peace is not convenient for Uribe because fighting guerrillas gives the Colombian electorate a secure feeling. What is troubling is that this conflict is spilling over the borders.

But before the bombing on March 1, relations between the two countries was ruled by respect.

Uribe has always shown a lack of respect toward Ecuador. So much so that our territory continues to be fumigated with glyphosate and to the point of frequently violating our airspace with their planes. Anyway, as to the March 1 bombing, there’s a question that still remains unanswered.


They had Raúl Reyes’ group under their control when they could still be found on Colombian soil. Why did they wait until they passed over to Ecuador to kill them?


Was it by any chance done in order to involve Ecuador in a conflict that is not theirs? Was it not a matter of intimidation? Could it have been to force us to participate in Plan Colombia? What Uribe didn’t count on was our response, nor the condemnation he received from the countries in the OAS. The plan failed because we didn’t fall for it.

During the meeting of the Rio Group in Santo Domingo, you showed your hands to Uribe and told him to take a good look at them because they are clean and without blood. What were you referring to?

Uribe has tried to involve us, not only my government, but also the Armed Forces, as supporters of the FARC. Later he alleged that my presidential campaign had been financed by the guerrillas. It’s disgraceful. Where does this gentleman get off, after having violating every international law, accusing us of support for guerrilla groups whose actions we’ve said a thousand times we reject; it’s insulting. That’s why I told him to look at my hands. Just to highlight the contradiction with Uribe’s position, which has been so scandalously related to drug trafficking. His warmongering policy is not going to end the conflict, instead it will exacerbate it and he’s going to leave thousands dead as a result. My hands are clean and bloodless. That’s something Uribe cannot say.

However they continue to claim that you were aware of the FARC’s activities in your territory. They say that you were warned as many as 16 times of guerrilla bases in your territory, and were ignored. Is it true?

This is an unbelievable infamy. All my orders are on record. It’s all so coarse and ridiculous that we’ve decided it’s not worth answering. It’s just that we don’t know why he does it. Just when relations improve with him, something strange happens and you get stabbed in the back. Something in his head’s not working right.

How is it possible that this climate of tension has been reached if at the end of the Rio Group meeting, you managed to shake hands?

That’s Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Something’s wrong. His behavior is terribly psychotic.

Is it true that Reyes had contacted the French in order to negotiate the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt, when he was bombed?

Uribe doesn’t want peace, nor does he want hostages released, because Betancourt is a potential presidential candidate. It’s true that we’d known that contact would be made in a neutral third country in order to liberate them later on Ecuadoran soil. President Chávez also asked me if we could receive hostages in our territory because a transfer over the Colombian-Venezuelan border had become very dangerous. We were in the middle of that process. Those movements toward liberation of the hostages that the guerrillas entrusted to Reyes were precisely the reason Reyes was destroyed.

Ecuador has just denounced Colombia before the Hague Tribunal for illegal spraying on its territory.

The verdict will still take many years but we hope that a stiff sentence will be handed down to force Bogotá to suspend the aerial glyphosate spraying they’ve been doing since 2006. These fumigations have caused Ecuadoran farmers on the border to leave their homes, lose their crops, their income, and have caused serious illnesses, even death. However, do you know what the Colombian government’s reaction has been up until today? It’s to say that our demand that the spraying cease coincides with the FARC’s pleas. It’s shameful.

The crisis has revealed huge cracks in the Ecuadoran intelligence system that have caused military leadership to be relieved of its duties. What reforms should it undertake?

Something serious is going on with our intelligence services. We still don’t have all the firm data but we can say that we have been infiltrated by the CIA and this agency works for Colombia.

There are some who criticize you for being naive in having waited so long to change the military leadership, with its loyalties to the prior regime.

They’re probably right. And also for having trusted Bogotá. You might say that we underestimated the threat of external attack once things had been resolved with Perú and we had good relations with Colombia. But we underestimated the fact that Uribe was there.


Is it true that Ecuador draws its line with the FARC and not with Colombia?

We have a jungle border with 13 posts. Colombia only has two, when the guerrilla conflict is theirs. Why? Because it hopes that we will put them to death. Despite this, we have 11,000 men deployed which costs the state coffers around $100 million annually. Last year 13 soldiers died in a war that is not ours and on top of that we have to swallow the insolence of Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Bogotá has around 170,000 square kilometers where its army cannot go. Against this situation, I repeat that we don’t limit ourselves with Colombia, we limit ourselves with the FARC.


What has been the response of the Socialist government to the political crisis?

It’s been a little ambiguous. I am very appreciative of the Socialist government and of President Zapatero, but his statement was extremely vague, trying to please both sides when we were the ones attacked. The explanation that we were given was that he was in the final stretch of his electoral campaign. We understand that but we expect something more of the Spanish government. God willing, the hundred odd transnational businesses operating in Colombia are not being pressured, because in this kind of affair the principles and convictions that we share with President Zapatero are more important. We agree that international law should always prevail.


Are you willing to be a mediator with the FARC to achieve a humanitarian exchange?

I’ve said this a thousand times to President Álvaro Uribe: the Colombian people can count on Ecuador to resolve this civil war that’s been bleeding it dry for so many decades. That’s what we were trying to do before the attack. However, they don’t want to resolve it. The campaign against Ecuador from Bogotá shows that. We don’t reject the theory that they want to destabilize us for not following Washington’s policies. Neither do we rule out that it may be a strategy to put a puppet government in Quito that would accept Plan Colombia and permit the Manta airbase to continue operating beyond 2009, when the contract expires.


Are you thinking of eliminating the concessions for resource extraction by large companies?

The new Constitution that is now being debated in the Constituent Assembly is part of a new legal framework for this issue. We will change the law made by those indescribable bureaucrats at the World Bank, that was such a disaster. It managed to grant more than 4,000 concessions, of which 70% never even managed to start any operation whatsoever. The contracts will be renegotiated. A very short time ago we met with Repsol. The interest is mutual. As long as the workers and the environment are respected and the state is paid the taxes it is owed, there will not be problems and the projects will be profitable. The oil belongs to the state, and we want the contracts to be signed for services rendered.


What measures are being directed toward immigrants so that they do not feel so uprooted?

On reaching the presidency, our government created an immigration ministry. We are in the process of strengthening our embassies and consulates, especially in Spain, because we believe that Ecuadoran migration is already the country’s fifth region. We have just adopted a provision of $9 million for Plan Return (a program of tax exemption so that those who return to the country may do so with their goods and housing subsidies). We are also creating a Migrant’s Bank. At the political level I will say that there are six immigrant representatives in the Constituent Assembly for the first time in its history.

Ecuador's Correa according to BoRev

The wombats have nicked this post mercilessly from the website of the sharpest, shirtiest and (sometimes) silliest analysis of Latin America and its currently successful attempt to shove US foreign policy into a running blender - We don't apologise for the fact that we nicked it either, as we think it should be read. If you don't like it, go and read the original, which has better pictures. Actually, go and read it anyway...


Keeping Up With Hunky McHotsalot
Happy Earth Day everybody! Can you name the country that manages to pack Pacific coastline, the Andes, the Amazon and “the Galapagos” into just over 100,000 square miles, and whose president happens to have two perfect Earth-like globes that come together to form his ass? Of course we are talking about Ecuador, and while we could talk about Rafael Correa any day of the year, we will especially talk about him on Earth Day for some reason! He’s been busy:

First! Correa has been promising since his campaign to boot the Americans from Ecuador when Manta airbase lease expires next year. Manta was the last U.S. base in South America (excluding “the nation of Colombia” of course) and U.S. Southern Command is cutely pretending to “respect Ecuador's decision” until his plane goes down mysteriously over Panama or something.

Next! Raf fires his Defense Minister when it turns out that his own intelligence services have been spying on the Ecuadorian Congress—perhaps at the behest of the C.I.A.?. The replacement is, awesomely, “a journalist and poet” tasked with “mak[ing]the relationship between the military and civil society more transparent.” Sounds great!

Then! The New York Times exposes the extent of the infiltration of Ecuadorian intelligence agencies, who had been engaging in domestic spying and reporting their findings, not to their own chain of command, but to “Colombian forces and their American military advisers.”

And Finally! Rafael gives the awesome-ist interview of his career to the Spanish newspaper Publico. The gloves are now, officially, finally, forever, off. He calls Uribe a liar, the head of a “completely discredited” government, “the little emperor who follows his boss’s dictates,”
and “terribly psychotic,” and then he really lays into him. Seriously, don’t miss it. Spanish speakers can watch the video. For the rest of you, Machetera’s got the full English language transcript.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Protest Iemma’s power sell-off outside NSW ALP conference

Dick Nichols

9.30 am, May 3, Darling Harbour—be there against Iemma’s power sell-off!

It’s time to apply our pressure against theirs. All the forces in favour of the electricity privatisation proposed by NSW premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa have been heavying the delegates to the NSW ALP conference as well as NSW Labor MPs.

Within the ALP the pressure comes from the very top, beginning with Kevin Rudd, energy and resources minister Martin Ferguson and parliamentary secretary and ex-ACTU leader Greg Combet (note to Greg: whatever happened to NSW electricity workers’ rights at work?) All have come out in favour of electricity privatisation.

Within the state government the ministers belonging to the “left” faction (like Ian Macdonald, Linda Burney and John Watkin) also support the sell-off, to the point that Iemma tried to have the “left” component of the 16 parliamentary delegates to the state conference made up of cabinet ministers only!

· Click here to watch a slideshow of the case against NSW electricity privatisation

Along with the sticks come the carrots. Iemma is presently working out a new stick-carrot mix for the NSW cabinet. According to the internet gossip sheet Crikey “his advisers believe that he can gain critical backing [for privatisation] within the parliamentary party by rewarding factional hacks with seats at the Cabinet table.”

One obvious ploy would be to give a cabinet position to an MP from the Hunter region, which threatens being as devastated by the sale of the coal-based power industry as the Latrobe Valley was in Victoria. (The only Hunter MP presently in cabinet is hated treasurer Costa).

To date, despite the massive public opposition, only a minority (17 to date) of Labor MPs have come out against Iemma’s electricity sell-off. The spineless majority of the ALP’s “representatives of the people”—petrified at the thought of their parliamentary careers being destroyed by Iemma’s wrath—invoke the fictional rule of ALP parliamentary caucus solidarity to explain their strange silence on the issue.

The only answer to all this filthy pressure coming from the NSW business elite via Iemma, Costa and their “left” cabinet ministers is to strengthen the campaign against the sell-off.

Our most immediate job is to get as many people as possible to the May 3 rally outside the NSW ALP conference at Darling Harbour. The bigger this rally, the stronger the anger with Iemma and Costa that it expresses, the greater the chance of wavering delegates and MPs getting the point that they will have no future if seen to support the sell-off.

The decision of Unions NSW to ask the Sydney May Day committee to shift the city’s traditional Sunday march to Saturday and have it finish outside the ALP conference is a good step towards building the rally.

Over the years May Day in Sydney has become a symbolic stroll through the streets: having it support the May 3 rally against electricity privatisation restores relevance to May Day itself and says that the working class and union movement history it celebrates lives on around the critical issues of the day.

The Socialist Alliance NSW Trade Union Committee will be doing everything it can to build the May 3 protest. It calls on all Socialist Alliance members and our fellow unionists to be there.

Let’s all shake Darling Harbour with a mighty roar of rejection of Iemma and Costa’s power sell-off!

Dick Nichols is the National Coordinator of the Socialist Alliance