Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Arabic-language statement from Socialist Alliance (Australia) condemns Israel's Gaza massacre

Socialist Alliance on Israel's Gaza massacre in Arabic, December 29, 2008.English version below.

Socialist Alliance: End ties with the racist Israeli state!

December 29, 2008

Socialist Alliance (Australia) statement

Israel’s killing must stop! Stand up for the people of Gaza! End ties with the racist Israeli state!

The Socialist Alliance condemns the Israeli massacre in the Gaza strip, which has left at least 280 people dead and 800 more injured. We call on the Rudd government to also condemn this slaughter and to break Australian economic, diplomatic, military and cultural ties with the Israeli apartheid state.

While Israel claimed that it targeted “terrorists”, the 100 bombs were mostly aimed at police stations in the middle of densely populated civilian areas. The attack, which was carefully planned at least several days in advance, also took place at the same time as children were going home from school, leaving many dead or injured.

The massacre comes on the back of two years of blockade imposed by Israel in an attempt to topple the democratically elected Hamas government. Many Gazans have already died due to lack of basic medical treatment, food, clean water and electricity.

The killing looks set to continue with large numbers of Israeli armored vehicles massing on the border of Gaza. Israel has called up 6500 reservists and has announced that it will call up more over the next few days.

If the massacres are to stop international public opinion needs to let Israel know that its actions are unacceptable. In particular, Israel’s traditional supporters , who have clearly sanctioned this bloody operation, must be forced to withdraw their support.

The Australian people need to stand up for the people of Gaza by making the Rudd government end its support for Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Socialist Alliance urges its members and supporters to join all emergency protests that are being organised around the country against this latest crime of the Israeli state.

People before profits, planet before profits

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Dr Mohammed Haneef and the anti-terrorist laws




Finally, what was obvious to most –even without an inquiry- has been confirmed.

The unholy alliance of the Howard government, Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland Police, DPP, Immigration Department, and even ASIO, gave us another clear example of the real reasons for the “anti-terrorism” laws.

They fabricated a terrorist in Australia for cynical political purposes and to justify the existence of these laws.

The case against Mohamed Haneef case have been quashed by the Clarke’s inquiry, who confirmed that all the “evidence” in this case were lies, half truths and flawed interpretation. All justified with the usual clichés of the corrupt “none told me” and “everything we did was to defend Australia”.

As with the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the “terrorist doctor” in Australia never existed.

The paradox is, with the destruction of Dr Haneef life, what little credibility of Keelty and the AFP, John Howard, Kevin Andrews, Philip Ruddock and all others involved in the case had, was also destroyed.

Raul Bassi, from the Canterbury Bankstown Peace Group (CBPG), said: “This disaster only could happen under the draconian antiterrorist laws brought by the former Howard government with the support of the ALP. This explains also, why the Rudd government fell short of supporting a proper inquiry into this case. Justifying the former government actions, defending Keelty and the AFP despite of obvious wrongdoings and finally, failing to offer Dr Haneef an apology and the compensation he clearly deserves”.

“What credibility”, Bassi added, “exist then in the other supposed terrorist cases? What was the real role of this alliance in the kidnap, rendition and incarceration in Guantanamo Bay of Mamdouh Habib? What was their role in the David Hicks ordeal? How can we be sure that the Goulburn 9 case is not based in the same pack of lies and mistakes?

The only way to stops another Haneef case is getting rid of these laws and review all the trials under these laws, past and present. If there is any reason to charge the convicted or the still accused, do it under the common law.

On this matter, the CBPG is promoting a national petition to be presented to the Senate Review Committee next year, demanding the repeal of these laws. The CBPG is calling also, for a judicial inquiry on the Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks cases, to know definitely the true role of the former government and the “intelligence” organizations in their ordeals.

For more information contact Raul Bassi at 0403037376.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Victorian Sustainability Convergence, Feb 14 2009

First announcement: Sustainable Living Foundation, Friends of the Earth, & Greenleap Institute present

The 2009 sustainability convergence -
'Breakthrough: from recession to sustainability'

As we face a looming financial crisis, what are the threats and opportunities to social and environmental movements?

How do we break the 'business as usual' model? How do we 'bail out' the planet? This convergence seeks to bring together people from across Melbourne to start to develop a pathway through the recession to a sustainable economy. What would this look like and how we would we get there? What about livelihood and good work, what about community resilience? What about our place in the world? How do we respond effectively to the looming crisis of climate change? And what does this mean for the social and environmental movements in the short term?

This one day forum will look at the opportunities and threats connected to the economic downturn – political, financial, cultural. We will look at hope and fear (and how we can speak in frames not of opposition but of hope and determination) , sketch out pathways to a better future, and how we could get to a safe climate economy in 10 years.

We will also consider how we could make Melbourne a sustainable city – one that is compact, people friendly, based on public transport, renewable energy, biodiversity and food production

There will be a session for workshops – you are welcome to send proposals in before the conference or nominate speakers for the plenary sessions

Saturday 14 February

9am – 5pm

inner north (venue TBC)

cost: Low income - $15/ Waged - $25
(no one excluded through lack of funds)

further information: Cam at FoE: cam.walker@foe.

This is the third sustainability convergence – details on the first two can be found here: http://www.sustaina bilityconvergenc

And in early 2009 we will have details up on this event on this website

Monday, 22 December 2008

A Financial Katrina - Remarks by David Harvey

If you're not in Greece, and need something to do this Christmas, you could do worse than check out David Harvey's website, which now includes his entire series of lessons on Volume One of Marx's Capital, both as video and downloadable audio.

As well as that great resource, he has also been putting up the audio from a number of his talks on the financial crisis, the latest of which can be found below.

[Of course, if you ARE in Greece, and are reading this instead of making new Molotov cocktails, you should be ashamed of yourself. Really...]


A Financial Katrina
Remarks by Professor David Harvey
From “The Disruption: Left Interpretations of the Financial Crisis” Panel Discussion
Organized by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, the Center for Humanities and the Brecht Forum
City University of New York Graduate Center
October 29, 2008
26 minutes 33 seconds

Listen now:

Or download MP3 file (24.4 MB)

(To download on a PC right-click on the above file and click ‘Save as’ or ‘Download to’. On a Mac Control-click instead of right-click.)


(Slides 1-5 referenced beginning at 6 minutes 30 seconds. Slide 6 referenced at 10 minutes 10 seconds.)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

A Wombat Christmas Message...

... courtesy of Alistair Hulett (currently touring Oz and NZ with David Rovics)...

... the great Billy Bragg...

... and the Manic Street Preachers...

Videos and Photos from Greece

The videos and photographs below are from Monthly Review, which has compiled a good swag of resources on the insurgency.


Greece: the struggle continues

by Panos Garganas (Socialist Worker, December 15, 2008)

The anger that exploded in Greece following the police killing of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos is still raging.

Workers’ strikes, student occupations, walkouts by school students, mass demonstrations and clashes with the police are intensifying the pressure on the right wing New Democracy government.

The shooting of Alexandros on Saturday 6 December has become a focus for all the discontent in Greek society – over job cuts, low wages and lack of opportunities.

Instead of dying down, as the government had hoped, the revolt has instead taken on a more organised form.

Teachers struck on Tuesday of last week over the killing, as Alexandros’s funeral took place. Thousands of school students also demonstrated.

A general strike of workers over the government’s austerity budget plans shook the country the following day.

Trade union leaders cancelled a march that was to take place in the centre of Athens and held a rally instead. But the Anti-Capitalist Left coalition went ahead with the march.

And it was massive – with several thousand joining it. The march reinforced the feeling that it is possible to act and to demonstrate – and that we will not let the police teargas us off the streets.

Many students refused to go to school the next day. They marched to the local police stations and attacked them.

When the police fought back, local people intervened on the side of the students to help chase the police away.

A coordinating meeting of university students has called for a day of action and national demonstration on Thursday of this week. It also urged the unions to call a new strike.

Hospital workers are already planning to strike on that day against cuts and privatisation, and the teachers’ union is also expected to join the action.

The Greek TUC has called a demonstration outside parliament for Friday of this week, as that is the day of the budget debate.

The following day there will be an anti-racist demonstration against recent attacks on Pakistani immigrants.

While things may calm down over the Christmas period as schools and universities are closed, there are signs that the movement will re-emerge in the new year.

There is already a day of action planned for 12 January, when teachers will commemorate a colleague killed by right wing thugs during a wave of industrial action in 1991. The day will also now be used to remember Alexandros.

The revolt has intensified the government’s crisis. Its support is plummeting, with polls showing it trailing the centre left Pasok by 5 to 7 percent.

But the parliamentary left is in disarray. The Anti-Capitalist Left has argued that the riots should turn into an organised movement that could then overthrow the government.

The first part of this has happened. Now many people are pushing for the second part to take place.

There is a massive feeling in society that the government must go. So there is a big opportunity for the radical left—and we are trying our best to grasp it.

The solidarity protests across the world have shown us that we are not alone. People around the world should continue to stand with the uprising in Greece.

Indonesian police napalm village!

On Thursday (18/12/08), two helicopters flew in circle and used napalm, the kind used by the US troops in Vietnam, against farmers' settlement in Dusun Solok Bongkal, Beringin Village, Sub-District Pinggir, Bengkalis, Riau. In seconds, about 700 citizens' houses were burnt down, along with the farming lands, productive tools, and furniture that could not be saved by their owners. Furthermore, about a thousand thugs and five hundreds armed police personnel were deployed to evict the citizens. Police opened fire not only to scare the citizens, but also aimed at them, so that two citizens were shot. Ironically, a toddler named Fitri (2 y.o.) was so frightened that she fell into a well and died. During the incident, about 200 citizens were arrested and detained at Mandau Police station, and about 400 more are hiding in the forest of Kampung Dalam, while surrounded by hundreds of police and thugs who hunt them like outlaws. Apparently, the Indonesian Police cooperation with the US military results in the former's use of napalm in a scorched earth against people's houses.

This inhuman and brutal act was carried out by the state apparatus, that is the The Police of the Republic of Indonesia, whose shoelaces were bought by money from the people. In the meantime, the police and a thousand of thugs evicted citizens without carrying any court's order, only an order (obviously with bribes) by a company, PT Arara Abadi. How can police serve the Law, if they easily ignore the Law to please big businesses?

According to the permit given by the government, PT Arara Abadi only holds management right, instead of ownership right, of the forest in the location. But in the development, PT Arara Abadi claimed ownership of the land, while the government turned a blind eye; therefore the affiliate of Sinar Mas Group has tried to evict the citizens many times, including sending thugs to do it. In reality, the five thousand hectares of land is under the settlers' customary/indigenous right (tanah ulayat), which historically has been recorded in formal documents; the majority of citizens own the proves of ownership of that land.

It is an unwritten law in this country that the government will always serve big businesses, and its apparatus (the Police and the Court) will be the protector aka uniformed thugs of their corporations. Similar incidents have happened for a long period of time in almost the entire country, but there has been no will by the parliament (DPR) or any other institution to investigate them.

With the incident in Bengkalis, Riau, we affirm that anti-thug campaign being promoted by the new Police Chief is simply a lie. It is impossible to eradicate thuggery (premanisme) if it is so closely attached to the existing police institution. Police's slogan "the protector, nurturer, at the service of the society" has been translated into a number of acts of violences against the civilians. The people do not see the Police as their protector but instead the enemy that violate their political and democratic rights, as well as their right to live.

Therefore, the National Executives of the National Students' League for Democracy (EN-LMND) declared

1. To condemn the Indonesian Police (POLRI) that have committed acts of violence through the use of napalm to burn down settlements, shot and arrested hundreds of Bongkal Suluk citizens. We demand that the Police Chief shows his consistency in fighting thuggery and improves the image of the Indonesian Police by dismissing, bringing to court and imposing severe punishment to all his personnel involved in the incident;

2. To demand the national Police Chief to dismiss Riau Regional Police Chief and bring Alex Mandalika - Riau Police Reskrim - to the Human Rights Court for leading the act of violence.

3. Freeze PT Arara Abadi activities by cancelling its business permit, and arresting and bringing to court the company's management; Revoke the Ministry of Forestry Decision Letter (SK no.743/Kpts-II/1996)

4. Return the entire land that belongs to Suluk Bongkal Citizens' customary rights; rehabilitate their houses and provide compensation to all losses of their productive tools and farming lands.

5. Release without any condition 200 detained activists and citizens;

6. Demand that the National Human Right Commission (Komnas HAM) conducted field investigation on the gross violation of Human Rights carried out by the Police and PT Arara Abadi;

Democracy and welfare, now!

Jakarta, 19 December 2008

Form Students' Council, Fight for Genuine Democracy

Lalu Hilman Afriandi

Agus Priyanto
Secretary General

** Please Send your protest letter to:

- Alex Mandalika ( Dir Reksrim Polda Riau )
by text message/SMS
+62 812 - 6201 -962.

- Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri
Chief of National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan
Fax: +62 21 720 7277
Tel: +62 21 721 8012

- Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310

- Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38, 345 2685, 345 7782
Tel: + 62 21 3845627 ext 1003
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227
Tel: +62 21 3925230


Jln. Tebet Dalam IIG No. 1, Jakarta Selatan, 12820.Indonesia.
Phone/Fax: +62-21-8354513. Email:

Arara Abadi attacks Mandi angin village, July 2008

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

John Bellamy Foster: The great financial crisis: causes and consequences

A public lecture given on November 3, 2008 by John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review and co-author (with Fred Magdoff) of The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, which is due to be published by Monthly Review Press in January 2009. See also ``Financial implosion and stagnation: Back to the real economy'' , by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff (the first part of which is reproduced after the video).

Financial Implosion and Stagnation
Back To The Real Economy
John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff
Monthly Review, December 2008
But, you may ask, won’t the powers that be step into the breach again and abort the crisis before it gets a chance to run its course? Yes, certainly. That, by now, is standard operating procedure, and it cannot be excluded that it will succeed in the same ambiguous sense that it did after the 1987 stock market crash. If so, we will have the whole process to go through again on a more elevated and more precarious level. But sooner or later, next time or further down the road, it will not succeed… We will then be in a new situation as unprecedented as the conditions from which it will have emerged.
—Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy (1988) 1

“The first rule of central banking,” economist James K. Galbraith wrote recently, is that “when the ship starts to sink, central bankers must bail like hell.”2 In response to a financial crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve and other central banks, backed by their treasury departments, have been “bailing like hell” for more than a year. Beginning in July 2007 when the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds that had speculated heavily in mortgage-backed securities signaled the onset of a major credit crunch, the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Treasury Department have pulled out all the stops as finance has imploded. They have flooded the financial sector with hundreds of billions of dollars and have promised to pour in trillions more if necessary—operating on a scale and with an array of tools that is unprecedented.

In an act of high drama, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson appeared before Congress on the evening of September 18, 2008, during which the stunned lawmakers were told, in the words of Senator Christopher Dodd, “that we’re literally days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.” This was immediately followed by Paulson’s presentation of an emergency plan for a $700 billion bailout of the financial structure, in which government funds would be used to buy up virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities (referred to as “toxic waste”) held by financial institutions. 3

The outburst of grassroots anger and dissent, following the Treasury secretary’s proposal, led to an unexpected revolt in the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted down the bailout plan. Nevertheless, within a few days Paulson’s original plan (with some additions intended to provide political cover for representatives changing their votes) made its way through Congress. However, once the bailout plan passed financial panic spread globally with stocks plummeting in every part of the world—as traders grasped the seriousness of the crisis. The Federal Reserve responded by literally deluging the economy with money, issuing a statement that it was ready to be the buyer of last resort for the entire commercial paper market (short-term debt issued by corporations), potentially to the tune of $1.3 trillion.

Yet, despite the attempt to pour money into the system to effect the resumption of the most basic operations of credit, the economy found itself in liquidity trap territory, resulting in a hoarding of cash and a cessation of inter-bank loans as too risky for the banks compared to just holding money. A liquidity trap threatens when nominal interest rates fall close to zero. The usual monetary tool of lowering interest rates loses its effectiveness because of the inability to push interest rates below zero. In this situation the economy is beset by a sharp increase in what Keynes called the “propensity to hoard” cash or cash-like assets such as Treasury securities.

Fear for the future given what was happening in the deepening crisis meant that banks and other market participants sought the safety of cash, so whatever the Fed pumped in failed to stimulate lending. The drive to liquidity, partly reflected in purchases of Treasuries, pushed the interest rate on Treasuries down to a fraction of 1 percent, i.e., deeper into liquidity trap territory. 4

Facing what Business Week called a “financial ice age,” as lending ceased, the financial authorities in the United States and Britain, followed by the G-7 powers as a whole, announced that they would buy ownership shares in the major banks, in order to inject capital directly, recapitalizing the banks—a kind of partial nationalization. Meanwhile, they expanded deposit insurance. In the United States the government offered to guarantee $1.5 trillion in new senior debt issued by banks. “All told,” as the New York Times stated on October 15, 2008, only a month after the Lehman Brothers collapse that set off the banking crisis, “the potential cost to the government of the latest bailout package comes to $2.25 trillion, triple the size of the original $700 billion rescue package, which centered on buying distressed assets from banks.”5 But only a few days later the same paper ratcheted up its estimates of the potential costs of the bailouts overall, declaring: “In theory, the funds committed for everything from the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and those of Wall Street firm Bear Stearns and the insurer American International Group, to the financial rescue package approved by Congress, to providing guarantees to backstop selected financial markets [such as commercial paper] is a very big number indeed: an estimated $5.1 trillion.”6

Despite all of this, the financial implosion has continued to widen and deepen, while sharp contractions in the “real economy” are everywhere to be seen. The major U.S. automakers are experiencing serious economic shortfalls, even after Washington agreed in September 2008 to provide the industry with $25 billion in low interest loans. Single-family home construction has fallen to a twenty-six-year low. Consumption is expected to experience record declines. Jobs are rapidly vanishing. 7 Given the severity of the financial and economic shock, there are now widespread fears among those at the center of corporate power that the financial implosion, even if stabilized enough to permit the orderly unwinding and settlement of the multiple insolvencies, will lead to a deep and lasting stagnation, such as hit Japan in the 1990s, or even a new Great Depression. 8

The financial crisis, as the above suggests, was initially understood as a lack of money or liquidity (the degree to which assets can be traded quickly and readily converted into cash with relatively stable prices). The idea was that this liquidity problem could be solved by pouring more money into financial markets and by lowering interest rates. However, there are a lot of dollars out in the financial world—more now than before—the problem is that those who own the dollars are not willing to lend them to those who may not be able to pay them back, and that’s just about everyone who needs the dollars these days. This then is better seen as a solvency crisis in which the balance sheet capital of the U.S. and UK financial institutions—and many others in their sphere of influence—has been wiped out by the declining value of the loans (and securitized loans) they own, their assets.

As an accounting matter, most major U.S. banks by mid-October were insolvent, resulting in a rash of fire-sale mergers, including JPMorgan Chase’s purchase of Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, Bank of America’s absorption of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, and Wells Fargo’s acquiring of Wachovia. All of this is creating a more monopolistic banking sector with government support. 9 The direct injection of government capital into the banks in the form of the purchase of shares, together with bank consolidations, will at most buy the necessary time in which the vast mass of questionable loans can be liquidated in orderly fashion, restoring solvency but at a far lower rate of economic activity—that of a serious recession or depression.

In this worsening crisis, no sooner is one hole patched than a number of others appear. The full extent of the loss in value of securitized mortgage, consumer and corporate debts, and the various instruments that attempted to combine such debts with forms of insurance against their default (such as the “synthetic collateralized debt obligations,” which have credit-debt swaps “packaged in” with the CDOs), is still unknown. Key categories of such financial instruments have been revalued recently down to 10 to 20 percent in the course of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the take-over of Merrill Lynch. 10 As sharp cuts in the value of such assets are applied across the board, the equity base of financial institutions vanishes along with trust in their solvency. Hence, banks are now doing what John Maynard Keynes said they would in such circumstances: hoarding cash. 11 Underlying all of this is the deteriorating economic condition of households at the base of the economy, impaired by decades of frozen real wages and growing consumer debt.

Read the rest of this article (with graphs) here

The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

Call for signatures

The following Declaration was prepared by a committee elected for this purpose at the Paris Ecosocialist Conference of 2007 (Ian Angus, Joel Kovel, Michael Löwy), with the help of Danielle Follett. It will be distributed at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, in January 2009.

To add your name to the list of signatories who support the analysis and political perspectives set forth in this statement, email your name and country of residence to

The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration

“The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change,
and the disease is the capitalist development model.”
— Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007

Humanity’s Choice

Humanity today faces a stark choice: ecosocialism or barbarism.

We need no more proof of the barbarity of capitalism, the parasitical system that exploits humanity and nature alike. Its sole motor is the imperative toward profit and thus the need for constant growth. It wastefully creates unnecessary products, squandering the environment’s limited resources and returning to it only toxins and pollutants. Under capitalism, the only measure of success is how much more is sold every day, every week, every year – involving the creation of vast quantities of products that are directly harmful to both humans and nature, commodities that cannot be produced without spreading disease, destroying the forests that produce the oxygen we breathe, demolishing ecosystems, and treating our water, air and soil like sewers for the disposal of industrial waste.

Capitalism’s need for growth exists on every level, from the individual enterprise to the system as a whole. The insatiable hunger of corporations is facilitated by imperialist expansion in search of ever greater access to natural resources, cheap labor and new markets. Capitalism has always been ecologically destructive, but in our lifetimes these assaults on the earth have accelerated. Quantitative change is giving way to qualitative transformation, bringing the world to a tipping point, to the edge of disaster. A growing body of scientific research has identified many ways in which small temperature increases could trigger irreversible, runaway effects – such as rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet or the release of methane buried in permafrost and beneath the ocean – that would make catastrophic climate change inevitable.

Left unchecked, global warming will have devastating effects on human, animal and plant life. Crop yields will drop drastically, leading to famine on a broad scale. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by droughts in some areas and by rising ocean levels in others. Chaotic, unpredictable weather will become the norm. Air, water and soil will be poisoned. Epidemics of malaria, cholera and even deadlier diseases will hit the poorest and most vulnerable members of every society.

The impact of the ecological crisis is felt most severely by those whose lives have already been ravaged by imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and indigenous peoples everywhere are especially vulnerable. Environmental destruction and climate change constitute an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.

Ecological devastation, resulting from the insatiable need to increase profits, is not an accidental feature of capitalism: it is built into the system’s DNA and cannot be reformed away. Profit-oriented production only considers a short-term horizon in its investment decisions, and cannot take into account the long-term health and stability of the environment. Infinite economic expansion is incompatible with finite and fragile ecosystems, but the capitalist economic system cannot tolerate limits on growth; its constant need to expand will subvert any limits that might be imposed in the name of “sustainable development.” Thus the inherently unstable capitalist system cannot regulate its own activity, much less overcome the crises caused by its chaotic and parasitical growth, because to do so would require setting limits upon accumulation – an unacceptable option for a system predicated upon the rule: Grow or Die!

If capitalism remains the dominant social order, the best we can expect is unbearable climate conditions, an intensification of social crises and the spread of the most barbaric forms of class rule, as the imperialist powers fight among themselves and with the global south for continued control of the world’s diminishing resources.

At worst, human life may not survive.

Capitalist Strategies for Change

There is no lack of proposed strategies for contending with ecological ruin, including the crisis of global warming looming as a result of the reckless increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The great majority of these strategies share one common feature: they are devised by and on behalf of the dominant global system, capitalism.

It is no surprise that the dominant global system which is responsible for the ecological crisis also sets the terms of the debate about this crisis, for capital commands the means of production of knowledge, as much as that of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Accordingly, its politicians, bureaucrats, economists and professors send forth an endless stream of proposals, all variations on the theme that the world’s ecological damage can be repaired without disruption of market mechanisms and of the system of accumulation that commands the world economy.

But a person cannot serve two masters – the integrity of the earth and the profitability of capitalism. One must be abandoned, and history leaves little question about the allegiances of the vast majority of policy-makers. There is every reason, therefore, to radically doubt the capacity of established measures to check the slide to ecological catastrophe.

And indeed, beyond a cosmetic veneer, the reforms over the past thirty-five years have been a monstrous failure. Isolated improvements do of course occur, but they are inevitably overwhelmed and swept away by the ruthless expansion of the system and the chaotic character of its production.

One example demonstrates the failure: in the first four years of the 21st Century, global carbon emissions were nearly three times as great per annum as those of the decade of the 1990s, despite the appearance of the Kyoto Protocols in 1997.

Kyoto employs two devices: the “Cap and Trade” system of trading pollution credits to achieve certain reductions in emissions, and projects in the global south – the so-called “Clean Development Mechanisms” – to offset emissions in the highly industrialized nations. These instruments all rely upon market mechanisms, which means, first of all, that atmospheric carbon dioxide becomes a commodity under the control of the same interests that created global warming. Polluters are not compelled to reduce their carbon emissions, but allowed to use their power over money to control the carbon market for their own ends, which include the devastating exploration for yet more carbon-based fuels. Nor is there a limit to the amount of emission credits which can be issued by compliant governments.

Since verification and evaluation of results are impossible, the Kyoto regime is not only incapable of controlling emissions, it also provides ample opportunities for evasion and fraud of all kinds. As even the Wall Street Journal put it in March, 2007, emissions trading "would make money for some very large corporations, but don’t believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming."

The Bali climate meetings in 2007 opened the way for even greater abuses in the period ahead. Bali avoided any mention of the goals for drastic carbon reduction put forth by the best climate science (90% by 2050); it abandoned the peoples of the global south to the mercy of capital by giving jurisdiction over the process to the World Bank; and made offsetting of carbon pollution even easier.

In order to affirm and sustain our human future, a revolutionary transformation is needed, where all particular struggles take part in a greater struggle against capital itself. This larger struggle cannot remain merely negative and anti-capitalist. It must announce and build a different kind of society, and this is ecosocialism.

The Ecosocialist Alternative

The ecosocialist movement aims to stop and to reverse the disastrous process of global warming in particular and of capitalist ecocide in general, and to construct a radical and practical alternative to the capitalist system. Ecosocialism is grounded in a transformed economy founded on the non-monetary values of social justice and ecological balance. It criticizes both capitalist “market ecology” and productivist socialism, which ignored the earth’s equilibrium and limits. It redefines the path and goal of socialism within an ecological and democratic framework.

Ecosocialism involves a revolutionary social transformation, which will imply the limitation of growth and the transformation of needs by a profound shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria, an emphasis on use-value instead of exchange-value.

These aims require both democratic decision-making in the economic sphere, enabling society to collectively define its goals of investment and production, and the collectivization of the means of production. Only collective decision-making and ownership of production can offer the longer-term perspective that is necessary for the balance and sustainability of our social and natural systems.

The rejection of productivism and the shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria involve rethinking the nature and goals of production and economic activity in general. Essential creative, non-productive and reproductive human activities, such as householding, child-rearing, care, child and adult education, and the arts, will be key values in an ecosocialist economy.

Clean air and water and fertile soil, as well as universal access to chemical-free food and renewable, non-polluting energy sources, are basic human and natural rights defended by ecosocialism. Far from being “despotic,” collective policy-making on the local, regional, national and international levels amounts to society’s exercise of communal freedom and responsibility. This freedom of decision constitutes a liberation from the alienating economic “laws” of the growth-oriented capitalist system.

To avoid global warming and other dangers threatening human and ecological survival, entire sectors of industry and agriculture must be suppressed, reduced, or restructured and others must be developed, while providing full employment for all. Such a radical transformation is impossible without collective control of the means of production and democratic planning of production and exchange. Democratic decisions on investment and technological development must replace control by capitalist enterprises, investors and banks, in order to serve the long-term horizon of society’s and nature’s common good.

The most oppressed elements of human society, the poor and indigenous peoples, must take full part in the ecosocialist revolution, in order to revitalize ecologically sustainable traditions and give voice to those whom the capitalist system cannot hear. Because the peoples of the global south and the poor in general are the first victims of capitalist destruction, their struggles and demands will help define the contours of the ecologically and economically sustainable society in creation. Similarly, gender equality is integral to ecosocialism, and women’s movements have been among the most active and vocal opponents of capitalist oppression. Other potential agents of ecosocialist revolutionary change exist in all societies.

Such a process cannot begin without a revolutionary transformation of social and political structures based on the active support, by the majority of the population, of an ecosocialist program. The struggle of labour – workers, farmers, the landless and the unemployed – for social justice is inseparable from the struggle for environmental justice. Capitalism, socially and ecologically exploitative and polluting, is the enemy of nature and of labour alike.

Ecosocialism proposes radical transformations in:

  1. the energy system, by replacing carbon-based fuels and biofuels with clean sources of power under community control: wind, geothermal, wave, and above all, solar power.

  2. the transportation system, by drastically reducing the use of private trucks and cars, replacing them with free and efficient public transportation;

  3. present patterns of production, consumption, and building, which are based on waste, inbuilt obsolescence, competition and pollution, by producing only sustainable and recyclable goods and developing green architecture;

  4. food production and distribution, by defending local food sovereignty as far as this is possible, eliminating polluting industrial agribusinesses, creating sustainable agro-ecosystems and working actively to renew soil fertility.

To theorize and to work toward realizing the goal of green socialism does not mean that we should not also fight for concrete and urgent reforms right now. Without any illusions about “clean capitalism,” we must work to impose on the powers that be – governments, corporations, international institutions – some elementary but essential immediate changes:

  • drastic and enforceable reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases,

  • development of clean energy sources,

  • provision of an extensive free public transportation system,

  • progressive replacement of trucks by trains,

  • creation of pollution clean-up programs,

  • elimination of nuclear energy, and war spending.

These and similar demands are at the heart of the agenda of the Global Justice movement and the World Social Forums, which have promoted, since Seattle in 1999, the convergence of social and environmental movements in a common struggle against the capitalist system.

Environmental devastation will not be stopped in conference rooms and treaty negotiations: only mass action can make a difference. Urban and rural workers, peoples of the global south and indigenous peoples everywhere are at the forefront of this struggle against environmental and social injustice, fighting exploitative and polluting multinationals, poisonous and disenfranchising agribusinesses, invasive genetically modified seeds, biofuels that only aggravate the current food crisis. We must further these social-environmental movements and build solidarity between anticapitalist ecological mobilizations in the North and the South.

This Ecosocialist Declaration is a call to action. The entrenched ruling classes are powerful, yet the capitalist system reveals itself every day more financially and ideologically bankrupt, unable to overcome the economic, ecological, social, food and other crises it engenders. And the forces of radical opposition are alive and vital. On all levels, local, regional and international, we are fighting to create an alternative system based in social and ecological justice.

(To add your name to the list of signatories, email your name and country of residence to

We, the undersigned, endorse the analysis and political perspectives outlined in the Belem Ecosocialist Declaration, and support the establishment and building of an Ecosocialist International Network.

  • Ian Angus, Canada

  • José Bazin, Canada (Québec)

  • Craig Brozefsky, USA

  • Joaquín Bustelo, USA

  • Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh, Ireland

  • Phil Cournoyer, Canada

  • Danielle Follett, France

  • Cy Gonick, Canada

  • Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] U.S.A.

  • Joel Kovel, USA

  • Mark A. Lause, USA

  • Richard Levins, USA

  • Kevin Lewis, USA

  • Michael Löwy, France

  • Dan Murray, Canada

  • Terry Townsend, Australia

  • Bernadette L. Wagner, Canada

  • Derek Wall, England

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Greece: Left prospects in the post-PASOK era

By Michalis Spourdalakis

In the last few years, the political alignments in the European Union (EU) countries have changed drastically. In the 1990s, social-democratic parties and centre-left political forces were dominant. Under the banners of “progressive governance” or “modernisation” these parties ruled numerous countries and dominated the political scene on the continent.

Today, it is no secret that after long years in government, these political forces, what some like to call the “governmental left” are, to say the least, in retreat. It is indeed no secret that social democracy is in deep crisis: the recent congress of the French Socialists proved that this party is going through a period of self-questioning over the issue of its leadership, but also that it had nothing new to offer or, as a conservative daily commented, it appears as if “it does not think any more”.

In Germany the situation is even worse as the social-democratic party, the SPD, is displaying an unprecedented obsession over the personalities of its leadership. In the UK, George Brown and his Labour Party resemble more and more John Major’s Conservatives just before their devastating defeat in 1997. In Italy, after its defeat by the right-wing Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi, the Democratic Party has turned into a real Babel, which has completely paralysed its capacity to oppose the government’s often reactionary policies.

This trend, with the possible exemption of Spain under the prime ministership of Jose Zapatero of the Socialist Party, is clear and the conclusion rather obvious. The “third way” of the “governmental left” has led to a turn to the right. The rejection of the so-called European Constitution in the French and the Dutch referendums in 2005, and even the recent Irish rejection of the latest version of the new neoliberal EU Constitutional Treaty (Lisbon Treaty), did not slow down the deepening of social-democratic crisis. In fact, the gap created by the decay of the reformist left has brought to the fore the need to resist right-wing policies and hegemony. This has energised once dormant attempts to mobilise the radical left and has generated initiatives towards the mobilisation of those political forces on the left that do not subscribe to the conformism of “new social democracy”. Die Linke in Germany and the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) in Portugal seem to be the most prominent and successful examples of the rising new left forces on the European scene.

Situation in Greece

The situation in Greece is no exception to this pattern. In fact, as recent developments have shown, the “Greek case” could provide a good example for the direction of the left and leftists where the local social democratic, centre-left, or labour parties are incapable of resisting right wing aggression and have definitely abandoned any intention of or even promise for the structural transformation of the society.

Indeed, PASOK (the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement) dominated the Greek political scene for 11 consecutive years, most of it under the banner of aggressive “modernisation”. It was then followed by two consecutive victories of the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party. But today, with its modest but hopeful performance in last year’s election (5%), the radical independent left, under the name the Coalition of Radical Left -- SYRIZA, is expected to at least double its electoral support in the next election. The sudden explosion of the influence of the left in Greece becomes even a greater surprise when one considers that the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) commands 8 per cent of the popular vote. What has happened? Under what conditions is the radical left in Greece about to make a major breakthrough? Before we look at these questions, let us briefly turn to the developments of the Greek left after the fall of the Junta (1974).

Charting the Greek left

1974 was the turning point not only for the Greek left but also for the overall politics of the country. After some three decades of a restricted democratic regime and a seven-year dictatorship, a genuine transition to democracy was inaugurated. This gave the left, in both its social-democratic and communist form, a chance to develop freely. Thus, on the one hand, Greece had the creation of the Pan-hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and, on the other, the legalisation of the parties of communist origin and orientation.

PASOK’s “socialism”, a mixture of populist radicalism and Keynesian reformism, was far from a class-based politics, without at the same time excluding those who subscribed to the latter. In the context of the post-dictatorship radical environment, PASOK, thanks also to its charismatic leader Andreas Papandreou, gave the impression that it was not only further to the left than its European counterparts but even more radical than the country’s communists. In the 1980s, PASOK came to power and were nothing more than a typical example of mainstream social democracy at the time. This reformism was enough, however, to co-opt a large segment of the traditional left’s social base. After a short interlude away from government, PASOK regained power in 1993, but the new PASOK –- especially after 1996, under the leadership of K. Simitis, a firm proponent of modernisation –- bore no resemblance to its radical foundation. The new PASOK, which dominated the country’s politics until its defeat in 2004, was very close to the politics of Tony Blair’s New Labour and in tune with the new governmentalist European social democracy.

On the other side of the left spectrum, the KKE, even after the collapse of the regimes of Soviet-inspired communism, is a typical party of the Third International tradition. It is the heir to the ``glorious party'' that led the resistance during the Second World War and was defeated during the civil war that followed. During the Junta years it underwent a major crisis and split into the KKE and the KKE-Interior (1968). The former dominated communist politics and the latter developed as a Eurocommunist party. In 1988, the two parties of the communist left and a number of other independent socialists formed Synaspismos (the Coalition of the Left and Progress -– SYN). Three years later the KKE left SYN, which in effect led to another split of the KKE since almost half of is central committee and thousands of its members remained in SYN. The KKE maintains a strong stand against the EU and its discourse is often simplistic and anthropomorphic. To the KKE, all other parties, including SYN, are the same since they all promote capitalism and reproduce the system, which provides it with the excuse to rule out any possibility for co-operation and legitimises its segregationist strategy, even in the trade union movement. At the same time, as the problems of the economy and in the Balkans mounted, the KKE’s anti-imperialist stand often gets sidetracked into populist xenophobia and nationalism.\


In 2000, at the height of PASOK’s modernising project, a number of small leftist extra-parliamentary organisations, groups and networks as well as a number of independent activists formed the Coalition of Radical Left -- SYRIZA. The coalition was an initiative of SYN, which was struggling to meet the threshold of 3 per cent required to enter the parliament. As could have been expected, SYN became the backbone of SYRIZA. In 2004, a former member of KKE and a European MEP (member of the European Parliament) for many years, Alekos Alavanos, took over the leadership of SYN and crafted a strategy to strengthen SYRIZA. SYRIZA would have to become the unifying agency of the entire left –- a presence so strong that it would no longer feel squeezed between the PASOK’s conformist governmentalism and KKE dogmatism. Support for this project had to come from the labour and social movements that the new leadership actively tried to strengthen by forming ties with them. The strategy was founded on the principle of “empowering the powerless”. It evolved through giving increased opportunities for positions to the party’s young members, something rather unusual for the communist origin left.

The much criticised choice of Alexis Tsipras, then a 32-year-old engineer, to stand as the party’s candidate for mayor in Athens in the fall of 2006 municipal elections is a very good example of SYN’s new spirit. The success of this initiative (Tsipras won an unprecedented 10.5 per cent of the popular vote) strengthened and stabilised the party’s new strategy. However, the real political impact of this strategy was demonstrated during the 2006-7 mobilisation of students against the constitutional amendment that would allow the establishment of universities by the private sector. SYN was pivotal in changing public opinion to such an extent that PASOK was forced to change its position on the issue, a development that annulled the Government’s efforts on the issue.

More importantly, SYN’s strategy on this and other issues seems to be breaking away from instrumentalism vis-à-vis the power structure, as was traditionally denoted by the strategy and the tactics of the left. This was an instrumentalism that revealed a formalistic perception of political power expressed either when the left-wing movements and parties are completely preoccupied with their presence in public office; or when they separate their mobilisation initiatives from the societal base through the functioning of the state institutions. By mid-2007, it was becoming clear that SYN, along with its front organisation SYRIZA, was much more confident about the outcome of the upcoming elections.

The result of the 2007 September election was not a surprise. SYRIZA won 5 per cent of the popular vote and 14 seats in the 300-seat parliament, and the KKE an impressive 8.1 per cent and 22 seats. PASOK experienced its second consecutive defeat by a further loss of 2.5 percentage points and started to display signs of fatigue and a political inability to mobilise effectively. The slim parliamentary majority (by only two seats) of New Democracy and the entrance of an ultra-right party into the parliament, in combination with the leadership crisis of PASOK, elevated SYRIZA to the prime opposition force to the government. In February 2008, SYN held its fifth congress, where Tsipras was elected as party leader. He thus replaced Alavanos, who remains however the leader of the SYRIZA. Since the election, SYRIZA has displayed a steady increase in its popularity. In fact for more than half a year, all the public opinion polls show that the party has more than doubled its popular support.

Conditions ripe for hope on the left

Clearly the developments noted above cannot be taken as proof of a turn of Greek society to the left. This is not simply due to the pessimism of left intellectuals. It is because the turning of a society to the left is a rather complicated process that cannot simply be detected through conjunctural electoral gains. It has more to do with the change in the balance of social powers and radical changes in the society’s values to such an extent that realistically result in the building of counter hegemonic structures.

However, although it is obvious that the dynamic of SYRIZA on the Greek political scene does not prove we are witnessing a general turn of the society leftwards, at the same time it is more than clear that the Greek left has drawn upon certain important social developments that characterise advanced capitalist societies. These developments have created a conducive environment for the Greek radical left to make a major breakthrough and to reshape the balance of power in the country. This will be so as long as its leadership and its political organisations continue to see these as new openings, and insist on capitalising on them in a creative fashion as they have done in the last couple of years.

This is not the place to elaborate extensively on the overall developments that have facilitated the prospects of the Greek left wing making advances a realistic and even short-term goal. However it is worth highlighting three wider European developments.

First, the impact of various applications of the strategy of neoliberalism for the restructuring capitalism in the last three decades has radically shaken the long lasting belief that the young generations could realistically hope to have a better and more prosperous life than their parents. The years of security and of improved real incomes seems to belong to the past. Even Eurobureaucrats and the political elites openly admit that the maximum the EU countries can hope for is to introduce policies in order to manage the social issues in a way that there are not going to result in major social shake-ups. The debate on “flexicurity” across Europe is a good case in point.

Second, the frequent alternation in power between right-wing, conservative or Christian-democratic and reformist social-democratic parties in power in the European countries has generated a political cynicism that has forced large numbers of citizens to seek their political representation elsewhere. The mobilisations around the European Social Forum and other campaigns and movements, which were not so much part of the political tradition of Europe as they were part of the tradition in North America, are good examples.

Third, the combination of the above two developments, along with the liberating effect of the collapse of the “actually existing socialism” and the end of the “Cold War” has widened the audience for the radical left.

In addition to this situation, which seems to be more or less common to most EU countries, the Greek case displays several additional traits that have had a positive impact on the left’s recent positive dynamic.

Opposition to `reforms'

First, for the last five years, the right-wing government has introduced a number of what it calls “reforms” that have generated tremendous social reactions. These “reforms” are justified as necessary in order to deal with PASOK’s governmental errors. But they have resulted in policies whose origin and philosophy can in fact easily be attributed to the PASOK modernisers. This strategy is part of the government’s tactics of “blaming everything on PASOK”. Along with PASOK’s internal rivalries over its leadership, the parliamentary scene gives wide space for SYRIZA’s intention to express social discontent -– it is a realistic and viable project. Indeed, SYRIZA was the only political force to challenge the government’s incomes policies and bring to the fore the issue of what it calls the “700 Euro generation” (the ``G700'' generation of young Greeks between ages 25 and 35 who make 700 euro a month and are overworked, underpaid, debt ridden and insecure) to play a key role to hamper the government plans to privatise universities and to mobilise against the reforms in country’s pension plans system. On all these issues, SYRIZA’s political action was innovative. It adopted a fresh discourse which, although remaining within its overall strategy for the unity of country’s left, managed to demarcate itself from PASOK without at the same time sliding into the alienating simplistic logic of KKE that wants to equate PASOK with the ND.

Second, although part of PASOK’s defeat can be attributed to widespread phenomena of corruption during its terms in government, it did not take long for the ND government to elevate corruption and the mismanagement of public funds to a real art. This phenomenon further contributed to an extensive disenchantment with the two government parties of the country or with what it called “system of bipartism”. As this disenchantment has also been expressed in anti-party, anti-collectivist and apolitical attitudes, SYRIZA’s effective opposition strategy has managed at least to stop this trend from spreading.

Third, EU policies have, in the last few years, become more and more reactionary. The great alliance in the early 1990s formed around the axis between the French socialists and the German Christian democracy, which managed to somehow to protect the EU from Thatcherism, has long collapsed. Instead the phenomena of complete submission of the EU’s policies to finance capital and the market are far too frequent. The latest decision of the Council of Ministers to extend maximum working hours to 60-65 per week, the complete deregulation/privatisation of the energy sector, the increase in interest rates, which contributes to the phenomena of recession and the recent policies on immigration that intend to “fortify” the EU against the invasion of immigrants -– all highlight the political direction of the EU.

SYRIZA once again has been the only political force in the country that can legitimately challenge these policies. As PASOK and ND offer their unconditional support to the EU initiatives and KKE has always been a dogmatic Eurosceptic, SYRIZA, with its pro-EU background can now convincingly challenge these policies and promote a well-grounded vision of a socialist EU along with the parties that participate in the Party of the European Left.

Finally, another very positive factor contributing to the advancement of the radical left is the fact that neither PASOK nor ND and even less so KKE have renewed their political personnel. This phenomenon has contributed to the anti-political and anti-party sentiment of the population. At the same time the fresh and young leadership -– both in style and in age -– of SYRIZA creates an obvious comparative advantage. This point may sound rather superficial, however, in the age of electronic media, such phenomena cannot be considered insignificant.

Challenges ahead

The above presentation of all the positive elements in the socio-political environment of the Greek radical left, may have led the reader to picture the future in rather rosy hues. One should not rush to conclusions. There are still a number of serious dangers and challenges in the future prospects and the dynamics of SYRIZA and the Greek left in general.

The major dangers for the building of a new Greek left derive from an over-anticipation of the rapid success of its strategy. This may lead its often young and/or inexperienced leadership, and even its membership, to strengthen its understanding of politics as a public relations project. It would not be so difficult for something like this to happen under the present conditions of “media-driven politics”. This, in turn, may shrink its ambitious strategy to focusing on success at the polls. Winning elections is part of the project but an obsession with elections can lead to a paralysing and short-sighted electoralism.

Furthermore, the international and domestic social and political dynamics have generated so many pressing contradictions that they have made SYRIZA’s opposition and mobilisation efforts an easy affair. This ease may result in the creation of an anti-neoliberal but not anti-capitalist political party. Such a development could lead to the absurdity of a “left-wing party without socialism”. Signs of the latter can already be seen in Die Linke in Germany and they may spread to its Greek counterpart, given their close collaboration within the Party of the European Left.

In addition to these dangers, the Greek left is faced with a number of other important challenges. Key among them is how to transform its political, electoral advances into social gains. How, in other words, can it convincingly demonstrate that the problems faced today are structural by-products of the system and not simply side-effects that can be treated through some kind of reforms? To put it crudely: how can it prove that reformism is probably the most illusionary idea of our times?

All these dangers and challenges can be confronted if SYRIZA manages to put forward a comprehensive plan for party building that can capitalise on the experience both of its origin and of the new social movements. It needs to be an organisation that would respect our society’s social division of labour between parties and other movements and capitalise on the new technology of political mobilisation. This social project, in addition to everything else, is about an organisation, a political party. For, it is our organised collectivity that is not only the cornerstone of our current struggles, but also a small-scale model of the society of tomorrow about which we dream.

[Michalis Spourdalakis teaches political science at the University of Athens, Greece. This article first appeared in the October-December, 2008, edition of Relay, magazine of the Socialist Project (Canada), and has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. It was written before the latest youth uprising throughout Greece.]

Rudd’s White Paper shows we’re still not serious about climate change

Socialist Alliance Media Release, Dec 15, 2008
The Rudd Government’s emissions reduction target of 5 -15 % by 2020 and its decisions to accept a target of 450 ppm CO2e (parts per million, carbon dioxide equivalent) and to give free permits to the worst industrial polluters, are appalling and disgraceful. It must be roundly condemned by the 80% of Australians who realise that immediate and emergency action is essential if we are to save our environment for future generations.

Global warming poses the gravest threat to human existence since remote prehistory. Unless science, industry and political forces work together successfully to combat climate change within the next few years, warming processes already occurring are likely to become impossible to stop. If climate change is not stopped, most plant and animal species will become extinct and advanced civilisation will perish.

If it were to be adopted globally, Australia's 5-15% reductions and 450ppm targets would ensure that the planet passed tipping points for large sea-level rises, temperatures rises of more than 2 degrees and ocean acidification that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu. It would also be an economic and humanitarian disaster for hundreds of millions of people without proper food, water or shelter.

If high per-capita emission nations like Australia commit to very modest reduction targets by 2020, the developing world will reasonably argue that their emissions can continue to increase. Australia's position is likely to undermine all the small gains that have been made internationally. At the recent climate talks in Poznan, 49 of the least developed countries advocated a target of 350 ppm, knowing that their countries will be devastated by any higher target.

A target of 450ppm is not even a firm +2°C target, as statistically there is a 78% chance of exceeding 2°. The Socialist Alliance says that GHG emissions must peak by no later than 2015, then fall by at least 5% annually, to achieve a target of 300-325 ppm CO2 and have any chance of stopping the most severe impact of climate change.

The laws of science aren't interested in political compromises and steering "a balanced course". Climate targets must be set according to the scientific imperatives, and putting them through political filters can only imperil the planet.

Socialist Alliance also opposes the government’s reliance on carbon trading as a key tool for reducing carbon emissions. Market mechanisms—which subject emission reduction measures to the short-term pressures of the marketplace—are unsuited in principle to the complex, unquantifiable requirements of preserving the environment.

In the absence of leadership by government, the task of forcing the changes needed to preserve nature and humanity falls to citizens organising, protesting and mobilising independently of the conventional political process. Lobbying politicians with the facts of climate change is necessary, and may at times score successes. But reliable impacts can only be made by demonstrating that large numbers of people are alarmed by climate change, and that they expect governments to act decisively.

Socialist Alliance will continue to campaign for the Government to set stronger and realistic targets next year.

Media contact David White (National Environment Coordinator) 0403 871 082

Email Web