Published on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 15:38
CLIMATE: DISASTER IS ON ITS WAY!
The earth's climate is changing quickly, much faster than experts thought.
There is no doubt what is causing this: the warming of the atmosphere as a result of emissions by greenhouse gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.
The Earth has warmed by 0.8°C degrees over the last two centuries. This is sufficient to cause a rise in sea levels by almost two metres in the centuries to come. Nobody can stop it. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to move, millions of hectares of land for growing food will be lost, urban areas will need to be evacuated. The peoples of the South, who are the least responsible, will be the most affected.
Governments have ignored the warnings. Twenty-three years after the Rio Summit, annual emissions of global greenhouse gases are rising twice as fast as in the 1990s. Despite the economic crisis!
At this rate, the warming at the end of the century would not be 2°C but 6°C. This will lead to terrible disasters, which are totally unimaginable.
COP 21: Dust in the eyes of the people, gifts to the bosses
The urgency is intense because the measures we need to take have been put off for decades.
The “developed” countries must begin immediately to reduce emissions by at least 10% per year and completely eliminate them by 2050. The major emerging countries must quickly follow. Other countries still have a margin, but it is quickly being reduced.
If nothing changes, the quantity of oil, coal and natural gas that can still be burned without exceeding 2°C of global warming will be exhausted by 2030.
The 21st United Nations conference on the climate (COP21) will be held in Paris in December 2015. The political leaders are trying to hoodwink us by saying that, this time, they will conclude an “ambitious” agreement.
It is true that they might conclude an agreement to save face. But what is certain is that this agreement will be totally inadequate environmentally and very socially unfair.
Its content is determined in advance by the commitments of the major polluters: United States, European Union, China, Japan, Australia, and Canada. On this basis, the warming of the Earth will be at least 3.6 to 4°C by the end of the century.
These commitments were negotiated with the industrial and financial lobbies and are tailored to their interests. The multinationals are rubbing their hands at the prospect of new markets opening up: carbon markets, “green” technologies, forest compensation, capture-sequestration, adaptation to the effects of global warming and so on.
But a warming of 4°C means an increase in sea level of 10 metres in the long term as well as the more immediate impact: accelerated decline of biodiversity; more storms, cyclones, droughts, floods, heat waves; reduction of agricultural productivity and so on.
Saving capitalism or the climate?
The truth has been established for decades. The IPCC is an inter-governmental body; national governments are supposed to be committed to the main lines of its reports. Technical solutions exist, the financial means also. So why do governments not take the necessary steps? Why do they recommend false or dangerous “solutions” such as shale gas, agro-fuels, nuclear energy, geo-engineering and so on?
The answer is simple: because the governments are at the service of the multinationals and banks who are waging a war of competition for maximum profit, a war which prompts firms to produce still more (and therefore consume more resources), and more than 80% of the energy they use comes from coal, oil and natural gas.
To save the climate: 1) 4/5ths of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain underground; 2) the energy system based on these fossil sources (and on nuclear power) must be destroyed as quickly as possible, without compensation; 3) production which is harmful, unnecessary or based on planned obsolescence must be abandoned, in order to reduce the consumption of energy and other resources; 4) the despotic and unequal productivist/consumerist system must be replaced by a renewable system, one that is efficient, decentralized, social and democratic.
It is possible to stop the climate catastrophe while guaranteeing a dignified life for all. On one condition: taking anti-capitalist measures. Governments prefer to destroy the planet, endangering the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people, workers, peasants, women and young people who are already victims of climate change, and threaten humanity with barbaric chaos while the arms dealers profit.
Capital considers nature and work as its property. There is no choice between climate emergency and social justice; it is one and the same struggle. Let us mobilize. Beyond the COP21, affirm our rights, develop our struggles, let us build our common actions, and build a planetary mass movement.
All to action, together on all fronts
The fossil multinationals need to extend their grip. Let’s stop them. Mobilize against the infrastructure projects which are at their service: the new airports, new pipelines, new motorways, and the new madness of shale gas. Denounce the tax and other benefits offered to maritime, air and road transport companies.
The “developed” powers which are mainly responsible for global warming then turn their backs on the refugees created by the crises that their policy of domination and aggravated arming cause. Reject the walls and camps of fortress Europe, demand that climate migrants be given the right of asylum.
Agribusiness and the timber industry are responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Mobilize against GMOS, support local organic smallholder agriculture and food sovereignty. Build networks and associations of producers-consumers. Support the rights of indigenous peoples to their resources and the struggles of women who produce 80% of the food in the countries of the South.
We are witnessing a biodiversity catastrophe. The sixth extinction as it is known: the biggest extinction of species since the demise of the dinosaurs. Between 40 and 50 percent of all species on the planet could be extinct by the mid-century. A quarter of all mammal species are currently at risk of extinction against a background (natural) extinction rate of just one every 700 years. Organise to protect biodiversity.
The right of everyone to a decent standard of housing, to clean water, to transport, to heating and light, is good for the climate and for employment. Organise to ensure that water, transport and the insulation and renovation of housing are provided in the public sector, under the control of producers and workers, and that all are free at the point of use.
The productivist and consumerist madness in furniture, textiles, electronics, packaging etc. have contributed much to global warming. Reject products which are disposable, have planned obsolescence, are non-repairable or non-recyclable. Organize to support the workers of these sectors, particularly in countries where wages are low.
Workers should not bear the costs of the transition. Workers occupied in wasteful, harmful, polluting, industries should mobilize for collective conversion without loss of salary, to socially useful and environmentally responsible functions.
The right to free time is good for the climate, for health and for employment. Let’s mobilize for everyone to work less and less flexibly by the reduction of working time, without loss of salary, with compensatory recruitment and reduction of rhythms of work.
The fossil multinationals and the banks are blocking the transition. Demand the disinvestment of these sectors. Expel the private sector from energy and finance, without indemnities or buyouts. This is the indispensable condition to enable the community has to organize the transition quickly and rationally. Energy is a gift of nature, it must belong to nobody. Let us mobilize for a public energy service, decentralized, under the control of workers and users.
Ecosocialism or barbarism
The climate crisis gives a great topicality to the alternative “socialism or barbarism”. A true revolution is necessary. We must change everything! Not only to distribute in an egalitarian manner the fruit of our work, but also to decide what we produce and how we produce – free from hype and waste- and call into question the roles that patriarchal capitalism gives men and women.
In short, it is a shift of civilization, of transition to a new society, eco-socialist, eco-feminist, based on solidarity and respect for the environment. A society where the major management decisions, the priorities of production and consumption will no longer be taken by a handful of exploiters, bureaucrats or pseudo-experts, guided by profit but by all. This change will come not through elections, but through our struggles. All together, we can impose it, if we want to!
Bureau of the Fourth International
21st of September 2015
Published on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:26
For the second time in a year Greeks went to general elections to elect a new parliament. Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, won the elections. But this does not at all mean that Greece has emerged out of its crisis. Indeed, Greek left politics is also facing a turning point.
The Background to the Elections:
In the elections of January 2015, Syriza, constantly called a far left or radical left party, won 149 seats out of 300. Though it had won the election by promising to oppose the exploitation by banks, it swiftly took the path of compromises. After first not opposing directly the issue of debt repayment, in early July, the Tsipras government organised a referendum. Unexpectedly for them, there was a mass outpouring, and 61 per cent of the people taking part (6,161,140 of them, or 62.5 per cent of the total voters) voted a resounding OXI (No), i.e., they rejected the demands made by the Troika or European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF. In working class areas and among youth in some cases the No reached up to 90 per cent. But viewing parliament as the main terrain of struggle, Tsipras followed up this tremendous victory, not with mass mobilisations but renewed negotiations, where German imperialism bullied Greece, and compromise turned into supine surrender. The aggressive terms imposed by the Third Memorandum were indeed worse than what had been rejected. The question that naturally came up was, whether such surrender was without any alternative.
From 2012, Syriza had been insisting that it was opposed to debt repayment, for the socialisation of banks, and for the restoration of the minimum wages. This was why in 2012 they rejected any collaboration with any bourgeois party. And this seeming commitment to principle was why in January 2015 they got the first position in the elections, with 36.3% votes (2,245, 978). So the surrender for obvious reasons generated cracks in the party. In the Central Committee, initially 109 of the 201 members condemned the Troika’s impositions. 37 Syriza MPs voted against Tsipras’ proposals in parliament. The proposals passed with the support of right wing parties. But it was evident that Tsipras could no longer run a government in the current parliament. So he decided to go in for elections while his popularity lasted.
After the election proposal came, leftists in Syriza tried to quickly regroup and form an alternative party. 24 MPs including Panagiotis Lafazanis, formerly a minister in Tsipras’ cabinet, resigned and formed Popular Unity, a new party that proclaimed that it wanted to go back to Syriza’s original principles. The question came up, whether this would split the left vote and enable the right wing to forge ahead. Seemingly, it is Tsipras and the left that have won, but we need to understand what lies behind this victory.
The election of 20 September 2015 will occupy a special place in the Greek constitutional and electoral history. The Greek law makes voting mandatory, so though harsh punitive measures have usually not been imposed, polling tends to be high. This time, some 1.6 million of those who voted in the referendum were absent. Even taking the January polls as the bench mark, some 8,00,000 fewer people voted. The turnout was short of 56 per cent. So over 44 percent registered their protest by not voting. The moral legitimacy of the elections are thus certainly called into question, though after twice rejecting the mandate he had been given, Tsipras is hardly likely to be bothered by moral questions.
Syriza has obtained 35.5% of the votes, or 1,925,904, substantially down from the 2,245,978. Their sears also went down by four to 145. At this point we need to issue a reminder that the Greek electoral law is loaded towards the top party, which gets a bonus of 50 seats. So the 145 implies 95 won, and 50 bonus. The biggest warning is, despite the decline in votes, the Fascist Golden Dawn’s voters turned up – it secured only 9000 votes less than in January, so in terms of its percentage the figure went up. The party in fact obtained one seat more than last time. The KKE (Communist Party) clung to its percentage and seats. New Democracy, the party getting second place, obtained 27.8% votes and lost one seat. ANEL, the bourgeois partner of Tsipras last time and possibly also this time, lost both votes and seats, getting 10, which however will allow Tsipras to form a government now that the Left of his own party is absent. But the coalition will of course not be very strong.
Tsipras has two advantages. First, the departure of principled leftists from the party enables him to position himself as the best bet for the Greek and the European rulers. Secondly, the main bourgeois opposition party finds itself solidly trounced. But there are plenty of difficulties. Over the past two months, Syriza leaders have indirectly admitted that the bureaucracy has consistently carried on non-cooperation with them. Secondly, it is evident that the bulk of left voters have still voted Syriza. Those who did not vote Syriza mostly chose to stay away rather than vote Popular Unity. With 155,142 votes, it was unable to cross the 3% mark, which gives parties seats in Parliament.
The Interests of Euro-Capital:
The biggest winner in this election is European capital. Had Tsipras lost the elections, he might have done a “left” turn and posed at least parliamentary opposition to debt repayment. But was this surrender inevitable? Advocates of Tsipras, like Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, are insisting that this was indeed the case. That is not the reality. After the results of the referendum came out, the Greek Rightwing was in utter disarray. What was necessary was a political battle. What was the demand of the day was the postponing of debt repayment, or even raising the slogan of not repaying the debt and urging people to come out on the streets behind this demand.
But Tsipras is not the sole problem here. There is also a problem with the leftists who have left to form Popular Unity. The slogan of rebuilding the original and uncorrupted Syriza is still a slogan to build a party whose centre of gravity will be in the parliament. That Popular Unity did not cross the 3% bump and enter parliament is being blamed in certain quarters on Antarsiya and the EEK who formed a bloc and got some 46,000 votes (0.85%) – which showed that their votes increased in percentage and in absolute numbers despite the decline in the total number of voters. Had this been added, the left might have got at least 9 seats.
But the reply to this had been given even before the elections by the OKDE (Organisation of Greek Internationalist Communists, Section of the Fourth International and a constituent of Antarsiya). In the statement issued by them on 3 September, they argued that in the first place, Popular Unity had clearly expressed the position that they were fighting to register protests, not for power. Under the circumstances, calling upon people to vote for Popular Unity meant accepting their programmatic positions, which were at variance with Antarsiya. Antarsiya did not see Syriza as a revolutionary party, so rebuilding a “pure” Syriza was not part of Antarsiya’s agenda. For them, Syriza was a bloc of reformists with revolutionaries in which the reformists dominated and whose orientation was the parliament.
Secondly, formed as a result of elections being declared, Popular Unity had an electoralist appearance. OKDE argued that its main task was to build mass movements. Moreover, OKDE argued that PU had till recently been in the Cabinet, had shown great respect to bureaucrats, so the centrality of parliament meant or them not waging extra parliamentary struggles hard enough.
If battles are waged, keeping opposition to austerity at the centre, te mass movement perspective and the parliamentary perspectives can start coming together. Greek leftists have the same problem as others in countries where democracy of whatever value exists – how to develop a revolutionary strategy incorporating democracy. Failure to do so will mean shuttling between parliamentarism and mass movements that ignore the parliamentary institutions.
The crisis of Greece is yet to be over. One dimension of this is the set of demands presented by the Troika. The European leaders have insisted that Tsipras must waste no more time, but must start “reforms”. In other words, he must use his parliamentary majority to implement the agreements. These include a promise to ensure primary surplus of 3.5% of the GDP from 2018. In that case funds in the hands of people must go down even mote, because neither will taxes be raised on the rich, nor will the economic crimes be checked.
To this is added the immigrant issue. Many impoverished people travel to Europe in the hope of a better life. On the streets of Greece one has watched huge numbers of Bsngladeshis, Pakistanis, and yes, Indians. Not only do they try to find a living for themselves, but they have to work terribly hard to remit money home. So Greece is full of people who do not have proper papers and are therefore “illegal”. These people work for 12, even 14 hours a day. And the rightists do two things, simultaneously. They abuse the Greek workers, who demand an 8 hour working day and minimum wages, as lazy. And at the same time they spread aggressive nationalist hatred against the immigrants and refugees. If the Tsipras Government had anything positive to its credit, that was the relatively humane behaviour it meted out to such people. But now it is under pressure to halt that.
In search of an Alternative Left?
Adding the votes of all the left groups, blocs and parties outside Syriza does not carry much political significance. The Communist Party had allied with rightists to defeat the Right Social Democratic PASOK. But it will ally with no left party, believing it has a divine mandate for an eventual majority. Popular Unity will have to decide whether it will make leaving the Euro, bank nationalisation, and sutained struggles against European and Greek capitalists central to its tasks. The difference with Antarsiya seems to be, not just a greater stress on parliament, which might be necessary, but a bit of hesitation about making the exit from the Euro central to its campaigns, though midway though the election process it did call for that. For substantial sections of the Greek left, it is like the Eagles song Hotel California:
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.
That Syriza retreated politically but still won the elections has a significance going beyond Greece. Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain’s Podemos, stated bluntly that in this game of chess they could not ask for more. As long as the class struggle remains a parliamentary game of chess, this will indeed be “realism”.