Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Paris COP21: They prepare us "an agreement to burn the planet"

Paris COP21: They prepare us "an agreement to burn the planet""The COP will strengthen climate crime processes"

Interview. Bolivian activist Pablo Solon participated alongside Evo Morales to the latter's accession to the presidency. He was a member of the Bolivian government and Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations. Executive Director 2012-2015 Focus on the global south, think tank based in Bangkok, it is always invested in the struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples in the declaration of the International Mother Earth, and participated in the Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba in 2010 to COP15 in Copenhagen, COP16 in Cancun and COP17 in Durban.

Pablo Solon Solon now heads the foundation he created in tribute to his father, the muralist Walter Solon, including foundation involved in climate, cultural and social struggles in Bolivia.

As part of a tour of meetings in Europe around the climate issue, intervened in Paris Tuesday, October 27 and agreed to answer our questions.

Why did you distance yourself Evo Morales that you were a very close?

Pablo Solon - Our political break is consecutive to the decisions of his government that I reject. First the will to build a road through the Tipnis National Park, one of 22 parks in Bolivia. This would have led not only to destroy the forest road, altering its ecosystem and automatically recreating cultures and habitat in preserved areas, but, again, no information or consultation of indigenous peoples concerned had been made. It was a regal decision in the context of a strategy under the influence of private economic groups.

Then I am committed against the large dam projects, expensive and destructive of nature.Bolivia is a country with a sunshine in the highlands: they could develop solar energy, replacing both dams and deforestation.

Today I fight for the goal of zero deforestation by 2020, for the development of a solar energy produced by the consumers themselves - not for panels fields in the hands of private - and for social participation all communities, including indigenous peoples.

Deforestation is a major problem in Latin America?

Yes, not only deforestation destroyed primary forest (160 000 ha per year in Bolivia), robs indigenous peoples, mainly to plant corn for export, but, again, the burning and burial are responsible for 24% CO emissions 2.

Deforestation is one of my disagreement with the current government that develops a development strategy based on "growth" does not respect the rights of peoples and under influence of multinationals.

How do you analyzes the sequence of successive COP and their inability to act really?

To summarize the process, we can say that there was in 1992 the first UN climate convention, UNFCCC, the first stage of an international will to understand and fight against climate deterioration. Then there were two agreements: Kyoto, covering the period 2000-2012 and Cancun, covering the period 2013-2020. And there will be Paris for the period 2021-2030 ...

Each of these agreements is a weaker version of the above. Kyoto committed the States that had signed (which did not include in particular the United States and Canada).Cancun was a failure because to limit temperature growth below 2 ° C, the agreement provided to limit the emissions of CO 2 to reach 44 gigatonnes and 35 GT in 2030. In reality the emissions reached 53 GT 2013, and will reach 56 in 2020 and 60 GT GT in 2030! There must have been in 2014 a "picking  year", when the trend reversed, but in reality, the growth in emissions continues.

Paris is even worse: the announced agreement is even lower, it will not impose any commitment to the signatories and the United States have already indicated that they will not propose the ratification of the convention. The reason for the predicted failure is simple: at first, the negotiators came from environmental movements, but now they come from the business, multinationals. It is an agreement for burning the planet!

The draft agreement as it was announced does not refer to the limitation of fossil fuels.Yet it is the latter that in Bolivia are responsible for 60% of CO emissions 2, and 24% of the CO 2 is due to deforestation that also produces a lot of methane.

This agreement actually opens the door to say to all the carbon capture experiences and geoengineering. It is an agreement that is good from the point of view of companies.

What he expected about the Southern States and funding?

Previous agreements had planned to release $ 100 billion by 2020 to support Southern countries and allow them to avoid the pathways in the North. But since Copenhagen in 2009, the richest countries have not paid the money and try to mobilize private funding.

With a few exceptions like the endangered island states, states South themselves do not make efforts. They consider that they are not responsible for the situation, awaiting potential funding to act, and are in the very process of "growth" imposed by big business which they have linked their destiny.

The COP will strengthen climate crime process, legalize crime against the climate, against climate migrants against indigenous peoples in rural and island countries.

How do we react?

During the COP, there will be large gatherings, but it is feared that they are diverted and recovered by the French Government and the participating States to the COP in their favor.

An international tribunal of rights of nature will meet Friday, December 4 to judge the crime against nature and biodiversity  [1]. And after December 12 we will develop local strategies to tackle climate crime.

We will have to lead by example, developing local and concrete actions, such as those that have already proven themselves in Bolivia when people managed to oust the Suez group in water management by blocking the streets. Everyone must take his share.

Interview by the National Commission NPA ecology


* "An agreement to burn the planet." Published in the L'Hebdo Anticapitaliste - 310 (05.11.2015).https://npa2009.org/


[1] From 9 pm at the House of steelworkers, 94 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris 11 th.

The Denial of Minimum Wage should be a Cognizable Offence


11 October by Sushovan Dhar

phgaillard2001 /Flickr cc

Fulltime trade unionist of the Progressive Plantation Workers’ Union and Executive Council Member of one of India’s youngest national trade union federations, the New Trade Union Initiative, Sushovan Dhar spoke to Ceylon Today about trade unions and workers rights.

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Umesh Moramudali

? : What are the challenges facing trade unions?
A: In India, at this point of time, the biggest challenge is that there has been a wholesale casualization and informalization of labour. This is there if one looks at the big, organized sectors. If one takes the estimated size of the entire workforce, over 93.5 per cent are in the informal sector. This is huge. Out of the remaining 6.5 per cent in the formal sector, around 60 per cent are contract workers or casual workers. Casual workers means that one does the same work but is employed at the wage of 25 per cent or 30 per cent of a regular worker for doing the same thing but with no job security and much less benefits and are contractual up to three months, six months or one year. Only 1per cent of the labour force has a certain degree of job security, employment guarantees and employee benefits which are due to any worker. In the contract labour system, how one regularizes employment is a big challenge.

Traditionally, the unions have never paid much emphasis on the huge bulk of and number of informal sector workers. This is a big workforce. Therefore, the challenge is that one has to have minimum wages, social security measures and provident funds and health benefits including hospitalization covered.
The third challenge is that in the specific case of the plantation sector where the workers are indentured to the formal sector, the workers are treated worse than the informal sector workers. They do not get minimum wages and there is absolutely no social security coverage which the employers must provide in spite of there being certain rules in the plantation labour acts. In many sectors, workers are notionally in the formal sector but are treated worse than the informal sector.
There is also of course a severe, serial attack on the right to association and the right to unionization. A number of reforms must take place. We should have a successful general strike on a national scale all over the island. The demands of the strikers should be that the type of reforms the government is trying to do will actually in reality attempt to get the workers out of any formal, legal coverage, legal security or legal guarantee. The government is trying to play around with the acts governing factories and contract labour. After a brief phase of growth, growth has now hit a stumbling block, and is though not in a crisis, getting hit. When growth is getting hit, the employers will always try to keep their profits intact by putting every cost including social costs on the workers. These are the largest challenges to the trade union movement in the region at this point in and of time.

? : What has happened to trade unions in Sri Lanka?
A: The trade union movement of Sri Lanka has a long tradition. There were very powerful trade unions in the country led by people like Philip Gunawardena and Bala Tampoe. What has happened is that a number of factors taken together, the defeat of the left and the strikes of the 1980s, and following the war, the cultivated growth of a kind of chauvinism on ethnic lines, have weakened the working class very much. In fact, the workers were taught to think of themselves as either being Tamils or the Sinhalese instead of all being workers working for workers demands. This is the impact we see in the degrading living conditions here. In fact in a certain point of time in the 1970s, Sri Lanka was much ahead of the other South Asian countries in terms of the human development index with a number of aspects taken together including health, education and the female’s status in the society. Yet, after this, wholly damaging conditions have wreaked havoc.

? : What do you think of legislating the minimum wage for both the public and private sectors?
A: Legislation of course is the way out. In one of the judgments given in 1991/1992, Workmen Employed under IT Shramik Sena vs the Management of Raptakos Brett and Company Limited, the Supreme Court of India said the minimum wage is the wage or earnings needed for subsistence beneath which the humanity cannot be allowed to sink as human beings would not be able to survive. For example, minimum wages should be included in the Constitution as it is a question of human rights. Below the minimum wages, humans cannot survive. The minimum wage is the non-negotiable minimum. One cannot lead a decent human life beneath that. One asks for the minimum wage when in fact the Indian Supreme Court in one of its judgments said whoever that is not paying a minimum wage is not employing workers but bonded labourers. Thus, any violation of the minimum wage must be seen in this light.
We have steps – minimum wages, living wages and fair wages. The goal is to go towards fair wages. These are basic, minimum living conditions, so there has to be legislation and enforceability as well. The employers go to courts and obtain an injunction, or either there is such an inefficient system of monitoring, complaint mechanisms and redressing and there are no minimum wage inspectors and these are not followed up.
The enforceability of minimum wage is a major issue. The denial of minimum wage should be a cognizable offence. Otherwise, one cannot deal with this. The government of Sri Lanka must be progressive about minimum wages and must make it a law and make it compulsory.

A minimum wage of Sri Lankan Rs 10,000 would barely cover the cost of living. The money they are offering is a pittance. If one looks at the current basic minimum living conditions in Colombo for a family of four, the minimum wage earner of a family of four should be taking in at least Sri Lankan Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. It is otherwise a very serious question of how it is very difficult for workers families to manage with Rs 10,000, in the absence of any social security benefits. Minimum wage is of course necessary, and must be harmonized with the number of rules and international norms on how to calculate the minimum wage. Any of the calculations of minimum wage do not come to Rs 10,000, as this amount is much less than the minimum wage.
Minimum wage demands can be met through minimum wage components. Minimum wage is not the wage one has to pay in cash. The state should rather make a component of a non-cash component in the sense that one has a good quality, free public education system, free public health system and free food, including thereby the right to food and other different programmes and the provision of free shelter, build houses for the workers, do social housing as practised in Europe and many other parts of the world and subsidize on transport. All these things count. These components will actually take out a lot of the cash components. This will also ensure that the minimum wage that one is giving will be properly utilized by the workers and that workers will not spend it on drinks or any other purpose other than looking after the upkeep of the whole family in a proper, decent fashion.

? : What are the issues with the plantations in the estate sector?
A: The plantation labour acts and corresponding laws are quite outdated, the enforceability is a problem and the mechanisms are problematic. For example, in the Plantations Labour Act of 1951 of India which provides for the housing, school buses, playgrounds and the social functions and the water connections, the fine and penalty for non-compliance is Indian Rs 400 (just over Sri Lankan Rs 800) while for a small tinkering the estate owners and the employers can actually pay Indian Rs 40,000. In a number of cases the fine or penalty imposed on owners for non-compliance is much less than the penalty on trade union workers. A similar condition prevails in Sri Lanka as well and owners take advantage of this. We need a strong law and strong mechanism. We need to fundamentally change labour relationships and plantations. The modern world cannot survive with this type of labour practice.

? : What should be done with regard to the workers and the labourers?
A : Number one is that there must be policies. Crises may come and go, but there has to be policies to create funds and to have funds for the workers so that their upkeep and benefits are not hampered. Human lives have to roll on in spite of good or bad markets. This cannot be reduced to the level of penury.
Sri Lanka has a big export market that has not gone through a collapse of demand. There may be temporary problems but in tea, the exports are growing.
Guaranteed price is called the minimum support price in India. In tea too one can think of the production and the ways and means to when in the lean season one can have the banks help out the owners at such a point of time if the production is affected.
The level of workers’ well-being must be taken care of. One can create various trusts and insurances to take care of these things. These things are possible.

? : What should the state and the government do?
A : Firstly, different workers’ rights have to be guaranteed.
They can have different acts. Secondly, it is the enforceability of the rights. If one has a right, the question is how one enforces it. The employers who do not comply go scot-free. This has to end. This has to be changed.
Especially without ensuring this our dreams of looking towards a decent society will remain an illusion. Without ensuring and instituting basic workers rights and their enforceability, our dreams of seeing a just society would be an illusion.

Source : Ceylontoday

Police Violence on Workers Rally in Indonesia

Indonesia – LBH Jakarta: Activists Assaulted by Police at Labor Rally

Saturday 31 October 2015by Jakarta Globe

Jakarta. The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) has criticized the police for allegedly beating up two of its activists during a labor rally at the State Palace on Friday.

The two, Tigor Gempita Hutapea and Obed Sakti Luitnan, were reportedly accompanying the protesters when police started to violently disperse the crowd after the time allotted for the rally had run out.

Organizers had been given permission to protest at the State Palace in Central Jakarta until 6 p.m., but apparently laborers were still present by 8 p.m., prompting the police action.

According to LBH Jakarta, Tigor and Obed then grabbed their cellphones to snap pictures and when some police officers noticed that, they immediately hit both activists and dragged them the ground and into a police vehicle, where the alleged assault continued.

The two activists suffered injuries to the head, face and stomach.

Police also arrested 23 laborers at the rally, according to LBH Jakarta, who reportedly were beaten as well.

"Police [officers] have to respect human rights and are not allowed to use violence [in circumstances like Friday’s rally],” Alghiffari Aqsa, LBH Jakarta’s director, said on Friday. “What they [the police] have done is completely against the law and legal steps must follow,” he added.

Tigor and Obed on Saturday were still being detained by the Jakarta Police for questioning, along with the 23 protesters.

LBH Jakarta has urged the Jakarta Police chief, Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian, to release all 25 and investigate the officers involved in disbanding the rally at the State Palace.

But the police chief said the laborers were to blame for the violence.

“It is such a shame that the protest had to end up that way,“Tito said.”Had the protesters respected the law, this would not have happened. They should have obeyed [the law].”

Nearly 1,500 police officers were deployed for Friday’s rally, which attracted some 10,000 protesters calling for a higher minimum wage.



Portugal After the Defeat of the Right wing Government


What will happen after this weekend’s agreement between the Socialists, the Left Bloc and the Communists?

Tuesday 10 November 2015, by Francisco Louçã

On Tuesday 10 November, the rightwing government in Portugal was defeated by a vote of 123 against, 107 for. [1] The Socialist Party has concluded an agreement with the Communist Party and the Left Bloc that would make it possible for the Socialist Party to form a government if the President invites them to do so. Françisco Louçã, former national spokesperson of the Left Bloc explains what is at stake.

Over the weekend, the Socialists and the Communists signed an agreement. Since the Left Bloc and the Socialists had already done likewise, there is, right now, a parliamentary majority to defeat the briefest government in the history of Portuguese democracy, bringing an end to the Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas saga. The outcome is fundamental as much as it is historical: after the horror of austerity, a new page is being turned.

Over the previous weeks, I have been quite critical of the time it took to close a deal and of its lack of audacity, because two separate agreements – even if they are basically the same – and three motions for rejection to take down the government mean a choice was made not to come up with a strong statement. But now that an agreement has been reached and it is public, it’s time to focus on its contents and durability, which I shall discuss from the only point of view that matters (to me): how to answer to the social crises exacerbated by the torment of austerity.

I will start with the agreement’s contents.

The three conditions mentioned by Catarina in her television debate with Costa were, even before the electoral campaign, the starting point for this weekend’s agreement: the SP must drop the reduction of the Single Social Tax paid by the employers, as well as the Single Social Tax for workers whose pensions have been cut; forget the so-called “conciliatory lay-offs” and unfreeze pensions. Faced with electoral results, which left the right wing with no majority, the SP accepted these conditions. And there were plenty of socialists sighting in relief, for they did not support those three ideas put forward by their own party.

But the agreements that have now been made public go further than that — much further than that, actually. They did come up with an emergency response embodying emergency measures, but did go the extra mile, inasmuch as some of them could become longstanding alternative answers to austerity if there is a will to do so.

The agreements stipulate the end of privatisations — there will be no more privatisations. They also cancel the recent processes of handing the urban public transports of Lisbon and Oporto to private companies. They protect water as an essential public asset.

As for labor incomes, which affects millions of workers, public sector wages will be fully restored (in 2016), while wages in the private sector will benefit (those over 600€ due to a reduction in the surcharge, which will be abolished in 2017; the ones bellow 600€ because of a decrease in social security contributions, with no future impact on pensions nor the sustainability of the social security). Four public holidays will be restored. Bearing in mind that losing them meant workers that to work more hours for the same wages, all workers will be positively affected — all 4,5 million of them.

All pensioners will be better-off (pensions bellow 600€ will be unfrozen and shall see a small recuperation, while those above 600€ will no longer have to pay the IRS surcharge), and that means two million people will be better-off. In contrast, the right wing had vowed to go ahead with a 4000 thousand euros cut in Social Security (1600 millions by freezing pensions, plus 2400 in 600 million a year in benefit cuts, as promised to Brussels). The difference is abyssal.

New fiscal rules will apply: IRS progressivity is restored with more tax brackets; the familiar quotient, beneficial for wealthier families, is replaced by an IRS deduction per child; there is a limit clause for rises in Municipal Property Tax (it cannot exceed 75€ per year) and Corporate Income Tax reductions will come to a halt; the deadline to report company losses will be reduced to five years, instead of the twelve, and new rules will curb fiscal benefits from dividends. Finally, VAT in restaurants will return to 13%.

To fight poverty, the minimum wage will rise to 557€ on January 1st, 2017, and to 600€ by the end of the mandate. Poor families will be entitled to reduced electricity fares. Such measures will benefit one million people.

Measures shall be adopted to make sure false autonomous workers are provided with proper contracts; collective bargaining shall be reinstated; the special mobility regime for public workers, which lead to lay-offs, will be cancelled.

Attachment orders on people’s homes due to public liabilities will no longer be allowed. Mortgage debts will from now on be settled whenever there is dation in payment (that is, the bank keeps the house), if there is no alternative in terms of new deadlines and interest rates.

The list of measures on health and education includes reducing NHS user charges and a textbook exchange mechanism.

The Socialist Party withdrew its electoral law proposal, which included single member constituencies (the “first to pass the post” system used in the UK).

Finally, a parliamentary cooperation proceedings have been agreed, with multiple meetings between the parties, and including setting up committees on external debt sustainability and the future of social security. These committees shall write trimestral reports.

What is thus achieved is stability in people’s lives, relief for pension holders, wage recovery, jobs protection and more fiscal justice. On the other hand, such an increase on aggregate demand will cause an immediate positive economic reaction.

What is then missing?

The agreements lack structural solutions for investment and on how to manage and improve both external and income accounts. Only debt restructuring will enable it; otherwise, there will be no leeway to resist external pressures and launch employment. It will take investment and promoting the productive capacity, and the State will have to play a strategic pivotal role in reacting to the protracted recession we have been dealing with.

Besides, we cannot yet foresee what the conditions imposed by Brussels, Berlin or the ECB will be, but we know they won’t be favourable. We must keep in mind the statement issued by the European Commission only two days after the elections, which demanded new measures on social security — the subject will remain a matter of dispute. And we must also keep in mind how rating agencies have been threatening the Portuguese Republic. Lastly, the Novo Banco issue [the bank that was created after the bankruptcy of BES and that the government has been trying to sell, unsuccessfully] will blow up before the summer, bringing about wither important losses to the budget balance, demands for recapitalisation or a new bank resolution process, which must be carried out in accordance with technical demands that protect the public welfare and cut down on external debt.

These are the problems that will be knocking on our doorstep over the next months and years. The new majority is quite aware of it, because there is a safeguard clause guaranteeing that no budgetary unforeseen event or situation will lead to higher taxes on labor or lower wages and pensions. The time has surely come to start devising the answers to such unforeseen events and situations, because they will be here before the new Budget.

Source: Esquerda.net.


[1The Guardian“Portuguese MPs force minority government to quit over austerity ”.


From International Viewpoint.

Francisco Louçã is an economist and a Left Bloc member of the Portuguese parliament. He was the candidate of the Left Bloc in the presidential election of January 2005 (where he won 5.3% of the votes).

Migrations and Rural Workers – In solidarity with migrants

Migrations and Rural Workers – In solidarity with migrants

Monday 14 September 2015by Via Campesina (Europe)


The European Coordination Via Campesina in solidarity with migrants

Brussels, 14th September 2015

In view of the humanitarian crisis that we are living in Europe, the peasants of La Via Campesina Europe want to show their sincere solidarity with all refugees who were and who are forced to leave their villages and their countries. We show our solidarity especially with Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Kurds, those coming from all different regions of Africa dying by the hundreds on their way to Europe.

We would like to denounce the current cruel European migration policies, as well as all measures put in place to prevent or to complicate the free access to Europe.

Even though the media rarely talk about it, we want to call the reasons that force refugees to flee their countries to mind. We have to tackle the problem at its roots in order to end the aggressions and to change the living conditions these people suffer from in their home countries.

Finally, we want to remind that once more civil society as well as peasants have reacted faster and much better than most of our governments. With our commitment and solidarity we aim to build a Europe where human beings are more important than neo-liberal economic interests.

Spokespersons on this issue:

Unai Aranguren, ECVC Coordination Committee

Paula Gioia, ECVC Coordination Committee

The Red Green Alliance in Denmark Changes Perspectives

Danish RGA changes perspective

 Michael Voss

The RGA defines its task as building a new Left in opposition to Social Democracy and to the right wing. The focus will no longer be appeals to or demands towards Social Democracy, but rather building our own political and organisational alternative and taking on responsibility for building social movements.

For the socialist left in Denmark the relationship to Social Democracy has always been the crux of political tactics. This focus has taken different forms. Some parts of the left worked for an alliance with the social democratic leadership. Other parts of the left expected some improvements from a social democratic government, compared to governments of the traditional right wing parties. Then again others made it a priority to reveal the class treason of the social democrats.

The Fourth International organisation in Denmark tried to implement a united front approach, based on the understanding and definition of Social Democracy as a reformist workers party or a bourgeois workers party.

All these variants of a socialist left approach to the historic big party of the labour movement have been present in Enhedslisten/Red Green Alliance.

Young illusions

In addition to the traditional currents of the socialist left, also known in the rest of Europe, a special current developed in the Red Green Alliance during the 10 years of right-wing government from 2001 to 2011. A layer of young activists came out of the autonomous movement, the different student organisations, the anti-racism movement, the pro-refugee movement, the anti-cuts protests and other anti-government manifestations.

They experienced alliances with social democratic youth leaders, social democratic union leaders and on a few occasions support from social democratic MPs in opposing the right-wing government of that period. They were of a generation that did not study the history of the labour movement and experiences, strategies and tactics of the revolutionary movement very much. Out of this came a romantic view of previous Social Democratic governments and some illusions in what a new Social Democratic government would do or could be convinced to do.

This generation of RGA-members had an important position in the party in the period preceding the 2011 elections: in the National Leadership, in the – at that time – small parliamentary group, among the party staff in Parliament and in the group of candidates for the 2011 elections.

Hope for change

The focus on Social Democracy and on the importance of a change of government was not without foundation. Though based on an overall neoliberal approach to economic analysis, financial politics, social welfare politics and labour market politics, Social Democracy did actually propose some pro-worker and pro-welfare reforms in their election campaign of 2011.

Illusions in the outcome of a change of government were shared by an important part of the Social Democratic electorate. For the first time in many years union activists campaigned actively for a new government.

This situation inside and outside our party defined the RGA election campaign. The RGA challenged Social Democracy to carry out the best of their own election promises and to use a governmental change to make a real political change. In my view that was a necessary tactic, but already during the election campaign it was obvious that the young generation of the leadership did not only see it as a tactic, but really expected a government that would cooperate with the Red Green Alliance in implementing some progressive reforms – or at least put a halt to neoliberal austerity.


To the voters of Social Democracy, of Socialist People’s Party and a to a big extent of the Red Green Alliance the hard core neoliberal political practice of the new government came as a huge disappointment (See previous articles, most recently “A defeat for austerity policies but no left wing victory”, June 2015).

This was equally true for the generation of young RGA MPs and party employees. For example, when the government broke off negotiations with the RGA on a tax reform and instead made a parliamentary deal with the traditional right wing parties, the very popular public spokesperson of the RGA, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, went on national TV in a fit of anger and said that the government “is pissing on their voters” and that from now on no deals on financial politics would be made with the RGA without an exact financial compensation for the negative effects of the tax reform and of other deals with the right wing.

Nevertheless the MP-group - with the support of the majority of the National Leadership - continued the rhetorical narrative of calling “our friends in Social Democracy” to order. They fixed most of their political proposals within the confines of “restoring the welfare society that we have built for decades”. And they agreed to support the national budget of the government once more.

Cracks in this approach did appear, though, from the MP-group itself and coming out of the debates in the party. When elections were called in June 2015, it was obvious that running a campaign on the idea of positive change if the Social Democratic prime minister were re-elected would not be possible. Consequently, the RGA election campaign focused very much on RGA-politics, less on the issue of government. Still, very reasonably, the aim of avoiding the right-wing candidate for prime minister was an important part of the RGA campaign, but this was said in the framework of “things getting even worse” and “minimising the chances of RGA-influence”.

No common project

When the RGA met in September for its first annual convention after the elections, a much stronger underlying change in attitude towards Social Democracy surfaced. The outgoing National Leadership – almost unanimously – proposed a brief text called “The Left of the Future – tasks for the RGA”.

The text said:

“The story about the Helle Thorning-Schmidt government, the election campaign of Social Democracy plus the post-election statements of the new leader of Social Democracy (HTS resigned just after the elections, and Mette Frederiksen took over - MV) have made it clear that the RGA has no project in common with Social Democracy. On the contrary the economic policy and the migrant/refugee policy of Social Democracy are much closer to the right wing than to us.”

The text then stated the need to rebuilt the Left and said:

“In this task we cannot rely on Social Democracy as a co-player. The Left must strengthen itself and develop by itself in opposition to both the right wing and to Social Democracy. Our main task cannot be attempts to make small correction to the defeated and mistaken political perspective of Social Democracy. We are the Left in our own right with our own perspective and our own course.”

The text took notice of the fact that the RGA now is the biggest party to the left of Social Democracy and concluded that it is the duty of the RGA to lead the work of rebuilding the Left.

This overall perspective was divided into seven roughly sketched tasks. Among these was the need for the RGA to take responsibility for building protests, mobilisation and organisations – not just supporting initiatives of others or demanding that other “leaderships” take action.

The text concluded in a call to other groups and individuals to join in the debate about a new Left in Denmark.

No blueprint – no guarantees

With only one vote against and a small number of abstentions the text was accepted by the convention.

Of course this does not change the RGA overnight – for many reasons. The text itself is not a blueprint for a new party project, but it indicates a new direction and some of the steps necessary to move that way.

RGA members and groups of members have made this overall conclusion on the basis of different analyses and experiences. Some have tried to move the party in that direction before. Some base the new approach on an analysis of the long-term development of Social Democracy. Others support the new perspective as an immediate reaction to their disappointment with the SD-led government.

A sober evaluation must include the fact that it is not relevant right now to appeal to Social Democracy or even make alliances with the party – whatever your political perspective is. A traditional right wing majority in Parliament supports the present government, and Social Democracy is only one of several opposition parties with no power at all. When we get closer to the next elections, and the issue of a new government is posed once more, old habits can easily surface again.

Membership democracy defended

Among other issues at the convention was a new plan for building the party. Part of this were several proposals that diminished membership influence, for example National Leadership election every two years instead of every year and choosing parliamentary candidates every two years instead every year. Another proposal weakened minority rights when choosing National Leadership.

These proposals were backed by the majority of the outgoing National Leadership, but they were all clearly defeated at the convention.


Michael Voss

Michael Voss is a member of the leadership of the Red-Green Alliance and a member of the SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party, Danish section of the Fourth International). As a representative of the SAP, he participated in the negotiations that led to the establishment of the RGA. From 1995 to 2006, he worked as a journalist and press officer for the parliamentary group of the RGA.

From International Viewpoint

Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change


Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change

Friday 25 September 2015, by Ben Hayes and Nick Buxton


A security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them.

As images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are replayed around the world, they are still as shocking as they were ten years ago. Many of us watched in disbelief as we saw how the world’s richest and most powerful state seemed unable, then unwilling, to rescue its own citizens – sending in trigger-happy troops who shot at the hurricane’s victims instead. Coming so soon after the Iraq war, the hapless Bush administration appeared unable to respond to any crisis without resort to the military. As the waters receded, America’s deep-seated racism and inequality was laid bare for the whole world to see.

Could it happen again today? To an important extent, the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has become a textbook example of ‘how-not-do-it’ for crisis managers around the world. Embarrassed by their failure, the US government carried out a significant reorganisation of the maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When Hurricane Sandy caused carnage in 2012, their response – while still wanting in places – was more widely praised.

But the structural inequality and institutional racism that underpinned the Bush administration’s response is still there, a fact that President Obama noted on his visit to New Orleans this week. Moreover, the already bloated military and security complex that reflected these power relations has expanded enormously since Katrina – and is now using the spectre of climate change to grab yet more public resources.

Two years after Katrina, in 2007, the Pentagon released its first major report on climate change, warning in no uncertain terms of an “age of consequences” in which, amongst other things, “altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.” This was followed up a year later by an EU security report that talked of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that “threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone.” It warned that this would lead to “political and security risks that directly affect European interests”. Over the next few years, the national security strategies of the countries across the global north would be rewritten to offer the same self-interested and dystopian vision.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis and the so-called Arab Spring, the dystopian thinking of powerful elites has had to face up to increasingly ‘complex emergencies’ as the reliance of modern societies on global supply lines, industrial food production, transnational infrastructure and high-tech communications have exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, by ensuring that disaster in one place now reverberates far beyond the initial point of contact. Climate change, the narrative goes, will add more fuel to the fire.

Former UK Government Chief Scientist John Beddington has already warned of a potential “perfect storm” of converging food, water and energy crises by 2030, which could see states struggle to control delivery of basic goods and services. Doomsday scenarios are very much the order of the day. For some commentators, this is little more than ‘collapse porn’, a malign and apathy-producing catastrophism that fails to take into account the capacity of modern societies to adapt and become more resilient.

However, in one sense, the accuracy of the predictions doesn’t really matter. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina we only have to look at how the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s doorstep and in its borderlands is unfolding. In Calais, we see a humanitarian emergency being treated as a security issue as the British government has pledged £22 million pounds on fences, police and dogs to keep out refugees fleeing war and torture. Both Hungary and Bulgaria announced this week that they were deploying troops, so-called “border hunters”, to prevent refugees entering the country from the former Yugoslavia.

Further afield in Brazil, there were reports this summer of authorities mobilising troops to defend water infrastructure amid an ongoing drought in the megacity of São Paulo. Absent credible plans to conserve water and tackle some of the root causes of water scarcity such as deforestation, journalists reported that approximately 70 soldiers were involved in exercises to prepare the utility for an uprising, with 30 men with machine guns stationed in the facility’s canteen.

And we can already see how the national security planners are factoring protests against inequality and social injustice into the new crisis management paradigms: by trying to predict complex emergencies and social unrest. Today, the UK’s National Risk Register, for example, lists “public disorder” and “disruptive industrial action” as among the most severe and likely security threats facing the country. Crucially, by casting these issues as security threats rather than social justice issues, a very different medicine is proscribed. Moreover, the authorities have greatly increased their powers to deal with these so-called ‘threats’. Staying with the UK, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 permits ministers to introduce "emergency regulations" without recourse to parliament and "give directions or orders" of virtually unlimited scope, including the destruction of property, prohibiting assemblies, banning travel and outlawing "other specified activities". Again, this is the shape of emergency planning the world over.

Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, announced "expanded business opportunities" arising from "security concerns and their possible consequences," due to the "effects of climate change" in the form of "storms, droughts, and floods". The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow.

The implications of a militarised and profit-making approach to climate adaptation and crisis-management are very disturbing – and need to be taken more seriously by anyone concerned with environmental justice, civil liberties and democracy.

Ultimately, a security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them. Worldwide the increased focus on food security is already driving increased land grabbing. The diversion of resources into military spending and strategies is preventing much needed investment in crisis-prevention and tackling the root causes of human insecurity. Given that climate change will impact disproportionately on the poorest, a militarisation of our response merely compounds a fundamental injustice – that those least responsible for climate change will be most affected.

In this sense, Hurricane Katrina was a watershed moment and a warning to us all as it laid bare the way in which democratic states would become more preoccupied with the threat posed by their own citizens – instead of taking the bold steps needed to protect current and future populations. Transformed by 9/11, it is this vision of ‘Homeland Security’ that is shaping future responses to emergency – and transforming climate change from a social justice issue to a national security one. We the people have to combine our actions to end worsening climate change with a transformation of the institutions that seek to respond to its impacts.

August 28 Open Democracy