Thursday, May 31, 2012

Climate change window closing fast

The chance to prevent runaway climate change is slipping away. Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high in 2011 and there is nothing to suggest the trajectory will change this year or in the foreseeable future

A 6.1% increase in CO2 emissions in countries outside the economies within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was only marginally offset by a 0.6% reduction inside the major economies,  according to estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The rise was driven by Chinese coal burning power stations which created a 9.3% increase, or 720 million tonnes more CO2 released into the atmosphere and by increased industrialisation in India where emissions rose by 8.7%. That makes India the fourth largest emitter behind China, the United States, and the European Union, overtaking Russia.

CO2 emissions in the United States fell by 1.7% due to a switch from coal to natural gas, an exceptionally mild winter, the recession alongside higher oil prices and fewer car journeys. The Obama government's rush to create new coal-fired power stations, to facilitate cheaper-than-oil energy generation, could quickly reverse that, however.

In the EU too there was a reduction of 1.9%, due to a cut in industrial production and a relatively warm winter. However, the EU is also set to turn this small reduction back by giving up on renewables and “rebranding” gas produced by fracking as “green fuel”. This is in spite of research showing that taking the production and burning process as a whole, fracking emits as much harmful greenhouse gas as coal, including large quantities of very harmful methane.

Per capita CO2 emissions in China and India still remain just 63% and 15% of the average within the advanced capitalist economies. The argument runs that, to achieve so-called climate justice, they must be allowed to increase emissions until they reach average levels.

Per capita increases do not, however, translate into higher energy use for the poorest people, who continue to struggle with light and heat. They represent rather the transfer of emissions from the consumer economies of the West to the manufacturing base in the East. The poorest in Asia and Africa will be the greatest sufferers from the impacts of climate change, as the elites in those countries grow richer.

However it is achieved, the science shows that to limit global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels (a scenario that will itself bring dramatic changes to world climate) emissions must peak in 2017. IEA Chief Economist Faith Birol said the 2011 data provides “further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close".
China had made significant progress in slowing the rate of its increase, but this was not neither sufficient nor a quick enough reduction.

Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35%) and natural gas (20%).Therefore the way to achieve a rapid reduction is to cut use of ALL these fossil fuels, not only the most harmful. This could be achieved by a massive energy efficiency and energy saving programme, and by switching to renewables.  

There is no political will on the part of any governments to take the measures needed to achieve peak emissions in 2017. The drive to industrialise and ferocious competition in world markets, makes it impossible for them to co-operate to achieve it. A transformation in politics and democracy so that decisions are made on behalf of people and planet as a whole, rather than in the interests of “growth” and profits, is absolutely necessary. Without it, runaway climate change become unstoppable.  

Penny Cole
Environment editor

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Signals at red as wrecking crew take over

Trying to find an image that conveys the gravity of the global economic crisis is proving a real challenge. Since its far from being a natural disaster, like the earthquakes currently shaking Nothern Italy, transport analogies might help.

Consider a 17-carriage eurozone high-speed train crashing into a wall of concrete. The front coaches – Ireland, Greece, Spain – have already been crushed, whilst Italy and Portugal are just now rearing up into the sky.

Many of those on the following coaches are only dimly aware of the problem and their governments are driving blind, donkeys chasing tthe elusive recovery carrot, always just out of reach.

If we stretch the transport analogy, we might say that there are two, much longer trains: the United States and the European Union. They are meeting head-on on a cheaply-made, shoddily built and fragile Chinese bridge now disintegrating under the shock.

The highly volatile fuel that brought the trains together in a paroxysm of mutually-assured destruction was a dangerous mixture of coal, oil, gas – and most explosive of all - credit and debt, with the Chinese buying US debt like there was no tomorrow, to keep the whole global system of production and consumption in business.

As of yesterday, however, as part of measures to reverse the return to slowdown and slump the Chinese announced that, for the first time, they’ll bypass the dollar, scrapping the US currency as the intermediary exchange currency. From Friday, they’ll deal directly with Japan, their biggest trading partner, exchanging yuan for yen. The implications are far-reaching, especially for the US which is the world’s most indebted nation.

Or, perhaps to give a more urgent flavour we could use a nuclear analogy, as in the uncontrollable meltdown of the Spanish economy. Yesterday alone saw the EU turn down Spain’s plan to save the failed Bankia, which reported the biggest loss in the country’s banking history; the departure of the central bank governor; retail sales slumping by 9.8% in April; the cost of borrowing soaring to levels likely to trigger the need for a bail-out. 

We’ve all been made familiar with the internal, country-by-country-by-regional comparative accounts of falling, or slowing GDP, soaring levels of unemployment, declining house prices, unassailably essential reductions in supposedly oversized public sectors; all explained by specific national characteristics, mistakes, like the alleged laziness of the Greeks (whose working day just happens to be much longer than the average German).

But dig a little deeper, and you begin to realise, as many do, that the debt disease is systemic, something to do with the flow of almost worthless currency around the arteries and veins of the entire global economy. If only we could fix the money problem – that private interests have taken over the issue of “money” (actually credit, to be more precise), swamping “our democracy”, some say we’d be able to return to a kind of normality. 

Ah but, say others, it’s all down to human greed, human nature. Not us, of course, we’re the altruists, the good guys. It’s them, they’ve succumbed to it. They’ve got the world in their greasy palms. (In the 1930s, they, the bad-guy banksters of the day were called, made equal to “World Jewry”, with dire consequences).

No, it just won’t do. These are all partial, one-sided, half-assed “explanations” for something more fundamentally wrong. And that is the breakdown of the social, economic and political relationships that came to dominate as a result of post-1945 measures generated to satisfy the internal dynamic of the system, aka capitalism.

This depends on, and is defined by privately-owned, profit-seeking capital invested in factories, offices, networks, and the right, or rather necessity to use some of it to employ wage and salary earners as the source of its most necessary expansion. Otherwise known as “growth”.

It’s the system stupid. Let’s build a new, different one, using the best bits of the old one to plan the sustainable production of goods and services to satisfy need. Before they wreck it all.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roma made scapegoats for the crisis

As unemployment rises and austerity measures bite, the scapegoating of minorities is growing across Europe. High up in the firing line are, as always, members of Europe’s 12 million-strong gypsy and Roma communities.

Small surprise then that a new report commissioned by Oxfam outlines the scale of discrimination levelled against the Roma community in Glasgow.

Having left their native countries in eastern Europe where they face rising levels of violence, sometimes aided and abetted by local politicians, Roma and gypsies from eastern Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania have settled legally in Scotland, many of them in Glasgow’s Southside.

But Scotland’s Roma have discovered their reception is sometimes worse than the conditions they left behind. A whistleblower at the Laurieston Jobcentre Plus (JCP),  who has chosen to remain anonymous, was shocked at the levels of prejudice that prevailed.

Staff routinely referred to Roma people as “gypos, scum, beggars, suicide bombers and paedos”, she told the report’s author. They were blatantly discriminated against and not provided with benefits to which they were legally entitled.

Using evidence provided by more than 60 families about the treatment by the job centre staff, the authors say that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) often treated claims by Roma as fraudulent. Sometimes it held on to passports and birth certificates for several years. The authors found that more than half of all Roma-related benefits decisions were subject to unreasonable delays. The result was that some one in five claimants faced homelessness.

The Govanhill report’s findings bears out the harsh truth about the treatment of Roma throughout western Europe which are detailed in a major new survey carried out by the European Union and the United Nations. The researchers found that:

  • only 15% of young Roma adults surveyed had completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with more than 70% of the majority population living nearby
  • on average, less than 30% of Roma surveyed were in paid employment
  • about 45% of the Roma surveyed lived in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower or bath, or electricity on average
  • about 40% of Roma surveyed lived in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food.

And their situation is worse than that of their neighbours regarding jobs, education, housing and health. All in all, "the results present a grim picture of the situation of the Roma surveyed," the report said.

Disadvantages for Roma were apparent across all 11 countries included in the surveys, which polled more than 22,000 households. "That is precisely what we find most shocking. We would have expected to find significant differences, but from the responses of the Roma people themselves and their neighbours, we see few differences,” Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos of the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights said.

Earlier this month, Roma were forced out of a Belgrade settlement by masked attackers who shouted: "Serbia for Serbs! Roma out of Serbia!". Blatant persecution against travelling people has seen the French government defy European law by forcibly deporting Roma back to Bulgaria and Romania.

In Italy, leaders of the Northern League have encouraged attacks while city authorities bulldozed a gypsy camp outside Rome. Meanwhile, in Essex, Basildon council is defying the EU’s commissioner for Human Rights with a new round of evictions.

History is full of ugly examples of how in times of economic crisis, high unemployment and political bankruptcy, racism is the name of the game. We urgently need to develop alternative economic and political solutions to dislodge the 1% who exploit society as a whole and target those at the bottom of the scale seeking safe havens from racism and discrimination.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Monday, May 28, 2012

EU-IMF blackmail aimed at Ireland and Greece

The principle of self-determination of nations may, to some, appear irrelevant in the context of the eurozone crisis. The 17 countries signed up to the single currency are all, on the face of it, independent states free to determine their own destiny.

Dig deeper and it’s another story, however. Take the examples of Greece and Ireland, two of the so-called “periphery” eurozone states.

They may be at opposite ends of Europe but they share one thing in common – a clear and present threat to their right to determine their own future.

Irish voters have been told in no uncertain terms to vote “yes” in Thursday’s referendum on whether the country should back the new European Union fiscal union treaty that imposes strict spending controls on member states.

Yesterday, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny went on television to warn voters that a rejection of the new treaty would bring “uncertainty at a time Ireland definitely doesn’t need it”. He attacked the No side for “its politics of negativity, of defeat, of opportunism and of fantasy economics”.

This was a bit rich coming from a political class that helped drive the Irish economy and financial system into the ground in a rampant demonstration of the self-same fantasy economics.

Jim Stewart, senior lecturer in finance at Trinity College, Dublin, points out in the Social Europe Journal, says the fiscal treaty can be added “to the list of flawed policy making that has helped turn an economic crisis … into a national catastrophe.”

If the Yes vote succeeds, the treaty will be incorporated into the Irish constitution and gives other signatories the right to bring a case against Ireland in the event of non-compliance. “It is the same thinking that initially set penal interest rates on Ireland’s borrowing under the EU/IMF Programme.”

In practice, the long struggle for Irish independence is fundamentally weakened by a form of EU blackmail imposed by Germany, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And this is the case in Greece too.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, has now added insult to injury with a fresh attack on the Greek people who are seen as thankless for daring to hold a general election on the bail-out terms imposed on the country in exchange for loans.

Lagarde said Greeks had to take responsibility for their fate, adding that deprived children in Africa needed more help than people in Greece. "I think they (the Greeks) should help themselves collectively ... by all paying their tax." That’s a bit difficult when one in five is out of work – rising to 50% amongst young people – and the economy is in free-fall as a result of the EU-IMF imposed austerity measures.

Just as in Ireland, ruling class politicians are passing on the threat if voters next month repeat their support for parties like Syriza that want to renegotiate the bail-out conditions. Antonis Samaras of New Democracy said a vote against the loan terms would leave Greece with “no food, no drugs, no fuel. It will have to live with permanent power cuts".

What Samaras is saying in effect is that there is no point in next month’s elections which follow the recent stalemate. You can vote against austerity but in the end, the EU-IMF will have their way. You can vote against the fiscal treaty in Ireland, but ultimately there’s no choice, according to prime minister Kenny.

The struggle for self-determination clearly needs renewing and not just in Greece and Ireland. Working people throughout the capitalist EU will have to create their own popular, democratic independence, working together across Europe on a new revolutionary and equal basis.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Friday, May 25, 2012

Giving Please Release Me a new meaning

This weekend some 125 million viewers will be settling in for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Baku, Azerbaijan.  It’s the best way to get away from it all as this madly kitsch event seems to be in a fairyland of its own.

But in brief moment of political reality, opposition activists demonstrated today against the regime outside the Azeri Public Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, the host broadcaster for the Eurovision Song Contest. As they demanded the release of political prisoners, their protest was quickly disrupted by police who bundled some 35 campaigners into vans and buses.

The host country’s ruling mafia has sought desperately to repress controversy.  And the BBC’s choice of safe-as-houses old favourite Engelbert Humperdinck as the British entry seemed to bolster the non-controversial atmosphere. But some a number of incidents have reflected political tensions around the world:

  •     Spain’s entry Pastora Soler was asked to throw her performance because if she won Spain would have to host next year’s edition. She has told Spanish radio that:  "I think it is not the moment, neither for Spain nor for Spanish public to win Eurovision. If we won, I think it would be impossible to stage the next edition because it costs so much money.
  •      Ukraine’s entry Gaitana was attacked by the racist Freedom Party as not representing her country. Gaitana has a Congolese father and Ukrainian mother. Freedom Party leader Yuri Syrotyuk made the racist comment that "the vision of Ukraine as a country located somewhere in remote Africa will take root." The singer, who sees herself as a product of the fusion of two cultures said: "I'm so ashamed of this unpleasant incident, because Ukraine is a democratic country, where kind and hospitable people live.”
  •    Armenia, considered the host nation’s arch-enemy is not competing because it fears for the safety of its contestants. The Armenian Eurovision act was censored on Azeri television last time around. Any Azerbaijani citizen who voted for them found that their mobile numbers became part of a criminal investigation as they were hauled in for questioning by Interior Ministry police.

But the most serious controversy over this year’s competition is whether it can used by Azerbaijan’s ruling family, the Aliyev’s, to provide credibility for their tyrannical misrule and plunder. The corrupt dynasty has been in power for some 43 years, President Ilhan Aliyev being appointed by his father Heydar as the sole presidential candidate in 2003. The Aliyev family has used the country’s extraordinary oil wealth – it produces some 100m barrels of oil per day – to live in vast luxury while most of the country’s citizens live in squalor.
BBC Panorama journalist Paul Kenyon visited Azerbaijan on a tourist visa. Although under constant surveillance, his excellent film, Eurovision's Dirty Secret, anyone who stands up against it, such as opposition leader Ali Karimli, and journalists Emin Husynov and Khadija Ishamilova
Kenyon’s film is a shocking account of a regime which seeks to eliminate even the semblance of resistance and spares nothing in persecuting any opponent. One singer, Jamal, was beaten, held for 10 days in prison where he was tortured merely for swear words. He was that if he did not leave the country before the Eurovision competition, he would be re-arrested. A video blogger who held a mock press conference wearing a donkey outfit was arrested and held for 17 months in jail.
When Paul Kenyon confronted Engelbert Humperdinck inside the BBC’s studio offering him a t-shirt depicting a prisoner with the words “Please release me”, The singer’s minders tried to spirit him away, saying he had a plane to catch.
Meanwhile critics of the Aliyev government receive little or no support from the West because the US and Israel want Azerbaijan’s support against Iran and for their occupation in Afghanistan. So the Eurovision show must go on, however many journalists, bloggers and singers are locked up in Azeri jails.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stop land grabbing!

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched at the G8 summit, is yet another business-driven initiative that will fail to tackle hunger or support food producers in Africa.

As a group of African civil society organisations and small farmers' groups said, it is neither new nor is it an alliance: "Donors have been taking steps to enable private sector investment in agriculture for decades, yet there are still a billion hungry people in the world.  If the private sector is to play a productive role, there needs to be strong evidence that these kinds of partnerships can actually deliver for small-scale producers."

They point out that the last international initiative, the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, ends in December but so far the G8 countries have met only between a fifth and a half of their commitments to new funding.

This new proposal focuses on developing financial instruments and large-scale infrastructure and research projects. It is all about making agriculture a major GDP contributor, rather than a sustainable and reliable means of food production.

A $3 billion corporate investment initiative, far from improving food security, will actually undermine the small to medium sized farmers who are the key to making local food markets function effectively. It will speed up the transfer of food out of the global south into already well stocked markets, and from rural areas and smaller village or town markets, into Africa's burgeoning cities.

Where it speaks of a "fast track for investment in infrastructure projects", that means initiatives such as a $2bn industrial fertiliser manufacturing plant, to be built by Yara International, plus regional fertiliser distribution hubs. It will be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Pushing reliance on expensive artificial fertilisers will serve to undermine sustainable farming methods and this is particularly disastrous in areas where soil is already quite marginal. The new plant will probably be in Ethiopia; Yara already has plants in Egypt and Libya.

Also part of this new/old deal are "additional private investment" funds that are said to be the key to "increasing the range of financing options and innovative risk mitigation tools" available to small and medium-sized "agribusinesses". In other words, loans with strings attached that will pull more farmers into the treadmill of growing what the world, or at least regional rather than local, market needs in order to cover repayments. Expensive 'risk mitigation' insurance sounds like another round of mis-selling but this time on a global scale - the cost of insuring against drought, crop failure and civil disruption is always going to be beyond the pocket of small producers and the cover they can afford will be useless.

As part of the deal, 60 global companies have signed a "Private Sector Declaration of Support for African Agricultural Development". When you see the names on the list, it doesn't fill you with confidence. They include Cargill, Monsanto, Unilever, Kraft, Hershey, Mars, Pepsi, Du Pont and Diageo.

The programme is designed to align with the programme agreed by African leaders to 'drive effective country-led plans and policies for food security and nutrition', but it is this alignment that poses one of the biggest threats to small farmers. The commitment of African governments is to development through profit-driven growth (the only model on offer at present) and broadly speaking they see the application of external investment as the way forward. The role of the African Union is given great prominence in publicity about the New Alliance, but in reality the AU's pronouncements are a sustainable smokescreen behind which individual governments are going down the land-grabbing route.

That is why new voluntary guidelines adopted at the United Nations in the same week as the G8 will do nothing to prevent the expanding global takeover of African land, and the brutal eviction of subsistence and small farmers. As a report published by Via Campesina says the current land grab resembles the old colonialism, but is different because it is being carried out not by imperial powers but by global corporations and countries operating as global corporations through their sovereign wealth funds. Governments are facilitating the takeover of land by foreign powers and corporations, signing leases and effectively clearing their own people off commons and traditional ownership tenures.

The grandly titled Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests are not going to be of any interest to global traders who are shifting their money out of shares and into land and food production, as wheat prices soar again this year. As the Via Campesina report says: "Land ownership currently yields more than the three large investment groups of gold, the stock market and property business. It appears that in the case of land investments, the largest part of the wealth is distributed directly to capital. Therefore it is more a matter of theft than investment."

Penny Cole
Environment editor

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

“Double meltdown” warning for Europe

Today the leaders of the 27 countries that make up the European Union meet in Brussels. Their desperate aim is to keep the debt crisis in Europe from spiralling out of control and ‘promote jobs and growth’.

On Tuesday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the 17 countries that use the euro risk falling into a "severe recession." It called on governments and Europe's central bank to act quickly to keep the slowdown from dragging down the global economy.

After three years of pushing for ‘austerity’ to reduce debts accumulated by governments as they shored up the bankrupt banks, cuts in public expenditure have wrecked services, driven unemployment levels beyond anything seen in the 1930s, and triggered a political revolt – certainly in Greece. In a sharply polarised Greece polls indicate that the left-wing coalition Syriza is likely to win the election being held on June 17.

The French elections brought a new government committed to abandoning austerity in favour of growth, which is also the International Monetary Fund’s perspective. So the long-term pact between Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is broken. 

The financial columns are full of doomsday scenarios assessing the consequences if an anti-austerity government results from a second election in Greece on June 17th and defaults on its debts.

But the impact would be small compared to the spectre of a ‘double meltdown’ which could see the simultaneous departure of Greece from the eurozone and a Spanish banking implosion, warned former IMF economist, now hedge fund manager, Stephen Jen, after credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the entire Spanish banking sector.

Stephane Deo, an economist at UBS, says the slow-motion collapse of Spanish banks from toxic real estate loans could suddenly turn into a fast-moving bank run, as depositors accelerate the withdrawal of their deposits.

In the UK, the insults in the Coalition’s camp are flying back and forth between a previously unknown advisor - venture capitalist, Adrian Beecroft, and Business Secretary Vince Cable. Beecroft’s proposals to enable growth would remove protections for workers - allowing employers to sack them virtually at will. Cable says the idea is ‘bonkers’ because Britain’s workers are already amongst the least protected. Beecroft says Cable is a socialist.

But this renewed assault on workers’ rights and living standards throughout the world is the real meaning of all the talk of ‘restructuring’ and ‘rebalancing’.   

Today, as the discussion in Brussels reaches fever pitch the main idea is for Europe to move to a stronger, more mutual common defence by issuing ‘eurobonds’, in which the European Central Bank would raise loans from investors to be used wherever they might be needed. Eurobonds would protect weaker countries, like Spain and Italy, for example by insulating them from the impossibly high interest rates they now face when they raise money on bond markets.

But, also today, in a direct challenge to a more united Europe, Germany’s federal government is strengthening its national interest, holding an auction for some new bonds, borrowing money from investors in the way that governments do.  Only there’s something new about this auction. The relative strength of the German economy is so attractive to investors desperate for a safe haven, that the Germans have set the interest rate they’ll be paying at zero – 0%.

The IMF is also pushing the Bank of England to reduce its base rate below the half per cent it has been at for more than three years.

So, at its moment of sharpening crisis, the capitalist system has arrived at a new contradiction: competing to save the for-profit system means issuing credit at a not-for-profit 0%.  And with inflation above zero, investors will be inverting the essence of finance - paying to lend money.

The declining value of money reflects and can only accelerate the contraction in the real economy, bringing a global slump into view. The system is definitely broken. How to bring into being a needs-based, co-operatively run economy based on people’s assemblies is the issue of the day.

Gerry Gold
Economics Editor

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A big “no” to academy status

Teachers from Downhills Primary School, in Haringay, north London are on strike today against plans by the government to force them to become an Academy. They oppose the new status which would place them under the control of a private sponsor and pull them out of the local authority family of schools. The strike follows a unanimous vote by the NUT teachers to take action against education secretary of state Michael Gove. New legislation gives him the power to transform so-called “failing schools” into academies. In effect they are being privatised.
At Downhills school teachers, parents and pupils are mounting an effective resistance. They are demanding a statement from the local authority that it will retain Downhills as a community school and that it has a robust plan to achieve this. Parents are organising a picnic in the local park this afternoon with children’s author Michael Rosen giving a reading.
Many are questioning the motives behind the Government’s policy of actively encouraging (and forcing) schools in England and Wales to adopt academy status in what amounts to an attack on the existing state school system. There is no evidence that pupils’ achievements or results improve in academies. In fact there are plenty of case of failing academies.
Academy status means that a school is taken out of the control of local education authorities and funded directly by central government. This means that the culture of co-operation between schools is replaced by one of competition. Academies have to be sponsored, usually by an organisation or business (such as the Harris Federation or Ark Schools). The aim is to take over former comprehensive and community schools. They can then run them as a business, albeit with charity status. Faith organisations can also sponsor schools.
Crucially, they get extra money, and a lot of it. In effect, headteachers and parents are being bribed to transform their schools into academies. Former headteacher Peter Downes - also a Cambridgeshire county councillor and vice-president of the Liberal-Democrat Education Association - has calculated that the government is spending around £1bn on special grants to academies in existence and to schools likely to convert in the next year. This, Downes states, is nearly £600m more than the actual extra costs of converting to academy status. “It is impossible to justify spending this amount of money on a minority of schools, predominantly the most favoured”, he writes in the Anti-Academies Alliance journal
Gove’s claim that academies benefit from “greater freedoms to innovate and raise standards” is a cover for a damaging transformation of education for the benefit of various business and political networks which includes a schools market, as in the health service.
The advantage of these new type of privately-sponsored schools is that they have the right to vary national pay and conditions negotiated by the unions. Teachers and support staff will have to make contracts with an academy trust. The unions will be weakened, while staff are liable to have to work a longer day with fewer holidays. Only last week Gove floated the idea of each school in the country fixing the pay and conditions of its staff.
The damaging effects of marketisation are revealed in the sale of poor food at academy schools. Some 90 per cent of the 1,800 academy schools are currently selling unhealthy foods that are banned in state schools. Each school is making between £3,000 and £15,000 profit in this way.
There is little to divide Labour from the Coalition on education, as on everything else. Efforts by both New Labour and the Condems to improve pre-school facilities have failed to achieve results. The class divide in education in Britain remains one of the worst in the developed world. It truly is time to free education from the profit motive.
Peter Arkell
A World to Win

Monday, May 21, 2012

John Carlos is the real Olympic spirit

As the Olympic flame makes its way around the country amidst scenes of celebration and excitement, it is an appropriate moment to welcome to Britain one of the two African-American athletes who gave the black power salute from the winners’ podium at the 1968 Olympics.

John Carlos, speaking tonight (Monday 21st May) in London at a meeting organised by Unite Against Fascism, and Tommy Smith reached an agreement before their 200 metre event to defy the authorities if they made it to the podium.

Smith won gold and Carlos a bronze medal. During the awards ceremony, each man raised a fist clad in a black glove while the American national anthem was played.

This revolutionary gesture was made in order to highlight the continuing oppression and racism endemic in the USA. For this stand they were victimised and vilified for years after their return.

They also wanted to make people aware of the degree of inequality generally and the struggles of ordinary working people trying to make a decent living in the richest country in the world. Of course, the racism that Carlos and Smith courageously drew the shocked spectators’ attention to, has still not been eradicated.

(The role of silver medallist Australian Peter Norman, has often been overlooked. Rather than being the unwitting innocent in the affair he has tended to be represented as, in fact supported their action and stood in solidarity with them. He opposed his country's White Australia policy.)

It is fitting that the corrupt Olympic movement and the increasingly overblown Games are finding numerous critics and drawing protests. From the dubious ethics of the main sponsors, Dow Chemicals among them, to the decidedly environmentally unfriendly, people have been speaking out and camping out to highlight the high handed behaviour of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

These actions included a last ditch attempt to prevent the building of a basketball facility over Leyton Marsh, now probably doomed to failure after eviction of the campers last month. That is apart from the £175 million being spent on staging the Security Olympics, complete with guided missiles, troops, warships and fighter planes. London will soon be a city under siege from the military-police complex.

The fact that the tradition of the Games and of the torch relay itself is meant apparently to demonstrate the coming together of the people of the world in a spirit of unity, peace and friendship, must have felt like a slap in the face to the Greek people when they handed the flame to London last week.

They are more or less being told to shape up, shut up and if they can't accept their orders to continue their downward slide into destitution, to get out of the eurozone altogether lest they contaminate the rest of us. No friendship or unity for them!

As well as intense commercialism the Games also frankly represent a poisonous nationalism and it is to the credit of Carlos that he has said as much in a recent interview to the BBC. Future international sporting fixtures should rid themselves of the politics of nationalism by abandoning national anthems in favour of, say, the Olympic anthem, he believes.

He has said also that the medallists should accept their medals at an individual rather than a national level - it would be the prowess of the athletes themselves that would be recognised and applauded, not their countries. That of course was how the ancient Games were organised.

The elimination of rampant nationalism and of politics, substituting in their stead some form of friendly rivalry, would surely not be beyond our capabilities to organise. A return to if not the “Austerity Olympics” of the post-war Games of 1948, then creating an event that people could genuinely be proud of.

While London 2012, on the other hand, is being faced a mixture of dread, cynicism and unreflective flag-waving. It will be a bloated spectacle, more than slightly totalitarian event, which combined with the other huge spectacle of the Queen's Jubilee, will render us totally passive recipients of summer of massive distraction. A terrific present, surely, for our beleaguered rulers!

Fiona Harrington

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook riches show how obscene the system is

As people wander the towns and cities of Greece and Spain today looking for work, food and simply the means of survival, in California a company that makes no profits at all will sell its shares for over $100 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg and the other people behind Facebook will be richer beyond their wildest dreams, billionaires many times over, by close of business as the corporation goes from a private enterprise to a public one by selling shares on the stock exchange.

While the Greek Olympic Committee humiliatingly had to find sponsorship from a German car firm to stage the torch handover yesterday because the country is bankrupt, Zuckerberg are his friends are laughing all the way to the bank.

The contrasts between Facebook and the rest of us don’t just border on the obscene – they are way beyond that. In the United States itself, the real unemployment rate is said by experts to be closer to 14% than the 8% cited by official figures. Hundreds of thousands are homeless and many millions below the poverty line.

The Facebook “flotation” is also another prime example of fantasy finance, the same stuff that drove the debt-laden boom of the first years of the century and eventually helped to bring the global economy down.

Millions of small investors, drawn by the prospect of easy money are, however, likely to get their fingers burnt as the major financiers move in.

With the global economy on a knife-edge the unreality persists. Still the bankers are paid in telephone numbers (on top of their bonuses) while 25% are out of work in Spain and the Greek standard of living has fallen off a cliff as a result of austerity demanded in exchanged for loans.

The eurozone crisis is intractable. It’s not a matter of if but when Greece either leaves or is ousted from the single currency. Fresh elections next month seem certain to propel the left-wing Syriza into government. Its leaders have pledged to renegotiate the bail-out terms with the EU and European Central Bank but stay in the euro. They can dream on.

As in Spain, where 16 banks were downgraded overnight, people in Greece are beginning to take their money out of the banks just in case they wake up one Monday and find their euros have been replaced by the New Drachma or the New Peseta at much lower values.

Judging by the near hysteria from prime minister Cameron in London, the impending break-up of the euro will precipitate an economic slump as well as a banking crash that according to the BBC’s Robert Peston was only narrowly avoided at the end of last year.

Martin Wolf, the Financial Times’ leading analyst, confirms this. He wrote last night: “These perils are not of concern to the eurozone alone. Taken as a whole, this is the world’s second-largest economy, with the largest banking system. The risk that a bigger eurozone upheaval would cause a global crisis is real. As frightening is the likelihood that eurozone crises would become permanent features of the world economy.”

There is no future for the majority along this road. The capitalist system is actually broken and beyond repair. There is no choice but to think along the lines of reconstructing the economy along lines of co-operation, mutuality and not-for-profit, democratically-owned enterprises.

That would involve cancelling all sovereign debt. Bond markets that are presently holding countries to ransom would be shut down, along with the stock markets. Investment bank speculation would become a thing of the past. All the expertise in the financial industry would be put towards creating new, equitable monetary arrangements between countries.

This scenario undoubtedly seems a long way to most people. But with the crisis reaching a tipping point, these are the sorts of considerations we will have to apply ourselves too in the near future.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Historic showdown builds in Europe

Two of surely the most delusional people on the planet strolled down the red carpet in Berlin last night, talking about growth and keeping Greece among the eurozone countries. No chance on the first, and close to zero on the second.

Francois Hollande, the newly-elected French president, took more notice of the lightning strike on his plane from Paris to meet Germany’s chancellor Merkel than the real state of the economy.

Greece is close to financial collapse, with people taking their euros out of the country, leading to fears of a run on the country’s banks. With fresh elections due in June, the country is without a government after electoral deadlock.

Even if Greece had a government, there is no way the European Union/International Monetary Fund would meet demands, expressed by voters, for a renegotiation of the draconian bail-out terms. So much for “democracy”.

Europe is in trouble – serious trouble, with the debt contagion claiming Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal to name just some of the victims in recession. There are serious doubts whether the euro could survive a Greek exit from the single currency, as seems likely now.

But what about the so-called emerging countries? In China, looked to by many as the saviour of the capitalist economy,  a measure of money supply and a leading indicator of economic growth six months ahead has  contracted since November. They are shrinking faster that at any time during the 2008-2009 global meltdown, and faster than in Spain right now

State investment in railways has fallen 44%, with an accelerating decline over recent months. Highway construction has dropped 2.7%. "The data shows extreme weakness in the Chinese economy," said Alistair Thornton from IHS Global Insight in Beijing. Yes indeed it does: eight of the ten largest shipbuilders in the country have not received a single new order this year. "A wave of closures in the shipbuilding industry has yet to begin. A hurricane is approaching," said one official. 

Housing sales slumped 25% in the first quarter, and this has fed into a drastic fall in new building, which employs 10% of the Chinese work-force directly, and a further 20% indirectly. Land sales provide 70% of tax revenue to local authorities and 30% to the central government. Or at least they did.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, international business editor of the Telegraph, isn’t known for understatement, but his stark collection of data should make everybody’s eyes widen in alarm. “Something odd is now happening,” he says. “The People's Bank said new loans fell from $160bn (£99.5bn) in March to $108bn in April. Non-conventional lending seized up altogether. Types of credit including ‘trust lending’ fell by 96pc, and ‘bankers' acceptance bills’ by 90pc. This is astonishing data,” says Ambrose, and you have to agree.

India? Its industrial output fell 3.5% in March. Brazil’s growth has slowed too, with car sales down 15%  and industrial production contracting in March. The bad loans of its banks have reached 10.3%, higher than after Lehman crashed, taking the global financial system down with it.

Evans-Pritchard and his co-thinkers including Willem Buiter, and Ebrahim Rahbari of Citigroup, still call for miracles in the shape of a new globally co-ordinated collective effort by central banks to pump more fountains of cash into the financial system in the faint hope of staving off a world slump. 

Merkel holds the ring in Europe right now, and she’s got no intention of returning to Weimar-style inflation. So it’s austerity and “restructuring” all round, whatever Hollande may have promised the French people who elected him.

The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, the last time there was a Europe-wide revolt against the old order. With Merkel’s party losing heavily in weekend elections, a new showdown is building between the working people of Europe and a political class that is helpless, hopeless and committed to a capitalist economy and financial system beyond repair. In their manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote, the “proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win”. That remains the case today.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Phone hacking saga to run and run

The charging of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with phone hacking at the News of the World can only add to the growing sense of political crisis in Britain.

Prime minister Cameron, a close friend of Brooks and her husband Charlie, must have hoped that the hacking saga would be brought to a close by the Leveson inquiry, which is due to report later this year.

But with serious charges levelled against Brooks, her husband and four other former News International employees over the alleged concealment of evidence, a lengthy trial will figure in the second half of this government’s scheduled life.

Cameron, who used to sign text messages to Brooks “LOL” (intended, apparently, to mean lots of love rather than “laugh out loud”), is due to give evidence before Leveson in the next few weeks.

So is culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is fighting for his political life following accusations that his office guided News International as Rupert Murdoch’s corporation sought to buy up remaining shares in the  broadcaster BSkyB.

Their evidence is bound to throw up even more questions about the close relationship between Murdoch’s empire and successive government. Brooks, for example, also regarded the former New Labour prime minister Blair as a friend.

Yesterday, Alastair Campbell, who was Blair’s press secretary, had to explain why Labour changed its policy on media ownership before the 1997 election. He naturally denied it was anything to do with Murdoch’s influence (although the magnate had switched support to Labour from the Tories).

But the 2003 Communications Act was welcomed by Murdoch. It  represented New Labour thinking about globalisation, markets and ownership. It allowed cross-media ownership – newspapers owning TV stations – and opened up the market to non-British companies.

“Ownership rules must reflect the reality of a global marketplace,” the then culture secretary Tessa Jowell told MPs. Many of the media specific rules in force that prohibited particular accumulations of broadcast licences, or combinations of press and broadcasting interests were abolished. Media concentration was primarily to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

What is clear in all this is that governments have gone down on bended knees to powerful corporate interests – especially newspaper owners and bankers – and basically saw nothing wrong with doing so. We can only guess why police investigations into phone hacking got nowhere under New Labour.

Labour knighted seven bankers and even had people like RBS chief Fred Goodwin leading government task forces on credit unions (!). Regulation was so “light-touch” as to be non-existent. When the crisis broke in 2008, everyone seemed mightily surprised. Ordinary people, of course, are paying the price for all this, which is the way it is under a corporatocracy.

The ConDem coalition was cobbled together not so much in the “national interest”, as Cameron and Clegg insist, but in the interests of the financial markets and big business. Its growing instability is the result of a resistance to its policies and a general hatred of its public school persona.

The phone hacking scandal has claimed scalps at the highest level of the Metropolitan Police, led to the closure of a newspaper and many arrests. With the Tory right on the rampage and looking for a new leader, who knows where it will all end?

Paul Feldman
Communications editor                           

Monday, May 14, 2012

Iran targets trade unionists as defiance grows

On May Day, in Sanandaj, Kordestan Province, north-west Iran, scores of workers — men and women — gathered and chanted, “We are workers; we are hungry.” Security forces quickly arrived and dispersed the crowd. At least eight workers were arrested, their fate unknown.

While trade unionists around the world gathered and marched on the streets, in Iran workers were denied permits to hold rallies in public in cities across the country on May 1. In Tehran, workers had to gather in a gymnasium.

The pathological fear of the reactionary, authoritarian Iranian regime of independent trade unionism is nowhere more viciously demonstrated than in the treatment of Reza Shahabi, the treasurer of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.

He has been detained in Evin Prison in Tehran, since June 2010 and given a six-year jail sentence on vague charges. He is in poor health after numerous hunger strikes and it is doubtful whether he is receiving all necessary medical treatment.

Reza Shahabi has also been fined 70 million rial ($5,700) and banned from all trade union activities for five years. According to his lawyer, the prosecution is seeking to bring a fresh charge of “enmity against God” for alleged contact with the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), a banned opposition group.

The Tehran bus union was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Workers resumed the union's activities in 2004, although it is not legally recognised. In December 2005, police arrested 12 of the union’s leaders at their homes. Other members were arrested on 25 December 2005 after they went on strike to call for the release of their colleagues. Hundreds more were arrested during a further strike.

The deputy head of the union, Ebrahim Madadi, was released from Evin Prison only last month after completing a three-and-a-half-year sentence for his alleged activities “against national security”.

Amnesty International believes that Reza Shahabi has been convicted solely for his peaceful trade union work, and has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. The Trades Union Congress in Britain is backing an international campaign for his release.

Other trade unionists have been arrested or harassed recently in Iran. On or about 24 April 2012, trade unionist Zabihollah Bagheri was arrested on his way out of the Moharakeh Steel Plant in Esfahan, central Iran, by three plain-clothed officials. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Members of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company (HTSCC) union, which is also not recognised by the government, have come under attack. Rasoul Bodaghi, a member of the Tehran Teachers’ Trade Association, arrested in September 2009, is serving six years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding against national security”.  

The background to the repression is a deteriorating economy. Sanctions have taken their toll but the moves to end subsidies on fuel and food that began last year have led to soaring inflation and mounting anger on the streets.

Earlier this month, an Iranian parliamentary committee rejected the second phase of the subsidy “reform” programme which requires massive cuts in public spending (sounds familiar).

Prices have spiralled since the subsidies were first reduced, causing serious financial problems for millions of people across the country. The price of petrol has risen three-fold and the cost of gas has soared by 500%. The value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has declined steeply, the employment rate is about 15% and inflation is running at nearly 20%, with food price inflation exceeding 50%.  

Activists inside Iran believe a long, hot summer of resistance is on the cards as resistance mounts across the country.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Friday, May 11, 2012

'Global May' on the launch pad

A year after the Arab Spring found its echo in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where a massive people’s assembly took control of the famous square, a new “Global May” is scheduled for an international launch tomorrow.

In Madrid, Barcelona and other cities in Spain, the demand for “real democracy now” found a response from hundreds of thousands of people angry with a political system that identified with financial and corporate interests.

The slogan “don’t vote for them”, directed against the major political parties, expressed a contempt for a sham democracy that had degenerated in its brief, 35-year existence since the end of fascism.

Simultaneous new occupations and assemblies are planned tomorrow in dozens of countries in a bid to stimulate the movement that took off last autumn, which saw camps created on Wall Street, outside St Paul’s cathedral and in hundreds of cities worldwide.

An attempt to give the May 12 movement some direction has resulted in an extensive
statement drawn up collaboratively by people’s assemblies and other networks over some months.
Acknowledged as a “hard and long process, full of compromises”, the statement, to its merit, is offered to “people’s assemblies around the world for discussions, revisions and endorsements”.

A clear concession made to reach consensus is that while the statement identifies the system in general as a problem, it refrains from using the term “capitalism” once in 2,000 words. This weakens its analysis, which tends to rely on moral terms like “greed” for explanations. Nor is there regard in the statement for the global economic crisis that is driving politics everywhere. Nevertheless, the statement is right when it declares:
We are living in a world controlled by forces incapable of giving freedom and dignity to the world’s population (if, indeed, they ever were). A world where we are told ‘there is no alternative’ to the loss of rights achieved through the long, hard struggles of our ancestors…. We condemn the current distribution of economic resources whereby only a tiny minority escape poverty and insecurity. Whereby future generations are condemned to a poisoned legacy thanks to the environmental crimes of the rich and powerful. ‘Democratic’ political systems, where they exist, have been emptied of meaning, put to the service of those few interested in increasing the power of corporations and financial institutions, regardless of the fate of the planet and its inhabitants.
Nor can one disagree with the statement when it says that “the economy must be put to the service of people’s welfare, and to support and serve the environment, not private profit” or that to achieve these objectives, people “must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies”.

The statement’s insistence that the movement does not “make demands on governments, corporations or members of parliament, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt” is commendable. But this is somewhat undermined by a series of demands about taxation, regulation and the reduction of military spending “to a minimum”.

These contradictions undoubtedly reflect debate and discussion about where a movement that includes people’s assemblies, democracy campaigns and occupations, is heading.

Some favour a sustained period of direct actions, and other forms of militancy that are essentially protests about aspects of the status quo. They imply that the existing political and economic system (aka capitalism) can be made to yield and change its ways. There is absolutely no evidence of this happening now or in the future.

Others acknowledge that the system itself is the problem and are willing to discuss how a transition is made from A to whatever B might look like. Ultimately, it’s the age-old question of reform or revolution. That, you can be sure, will loom large over all the actions that we will see from tomorrow.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pensions strike challenges austerity

The third major one-day strike in six months in defence of public sector pensions has received tremendous support from trade unionists around Britain. Over 400,000 civil servants, lecturers, health staff and prison officers have joined the action.

They have mounted picket lines at court buildings, job centres, museums, galleries and universities and organised rallies in major towns and cities. Prison staff in England are banned from striking but have defied the law to hold protests.

But with the ConDem government dismissive of the strike and refusing to reopen negotiations, the question is how can public sector workers win their struggle?

Lecturers are already paying far higher contributions unilaterally imposed by employers after negotiations stalled. Legislation announced yesterday will enshrine in law changes that mean working longer, paying more and getting less on retirement.

Major unions like Unison and the GMB have signalled a massive retreat since they joined the November 30 strikes. Together with the Trades Union Congress, these unions have weakened the united front displayed last winter.

As a result, there is a kind of stalemate or stand-off between those who want to continue the struggle and the government. Unions like the civil servants PCS won’t sign away their members’ interests; and the government won’t reopen negotiations.

This deadlock expresses exactly the real state of affairs and not only when it comes to pensions.

On the one side, is a government (with the support of Labour), insisting that public sector pensions are “unaffordable” a) because people are living longer b) there is a massive deficit to pay off.

While on the other side, millions of working people reject the government and all of its austerity policies, and have made this clear by voting for and taking part in mass strikes.

As Mark Serwotka of the PCS civil servants’ union says, it is wrong for the government to make workers pay the price for a financial crisis they did not create. “Ministers are making unpopular, unnecessary and unfair cuts to the livelihoods of public servants to pay off a deficit caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector, and for more than 12 months have refused to negotiate on the key issues of paying more and working longer for a worse pension.”

But “fairness” has little to do with it, unfortunately. Austerity is an attempt to rescue a floundering economy by cutting living standards as well as the national debt that has soared since the recession kicked in.

The coalition is desperate to appease the financial markets first and foremost at our expense. And they have no intention of changing course, despite the drubbing they got at last week’s local elections.

In one way or another, this is the story right round Europe. There is no give or compromise in the situation, however militant the strikes and protests. Elections in themselves bring no relief, as the experience in Greece shows.

Governments that have fallen as a result of the capitalist crisis have been replaced by others dedicated to carrying on with austerity. Who could doubt that Labour, were it in office, would not be carrying out similar policies to the ConDems?

Yet the state’s grip on affairs is not as tight as it seems. In London, thousands of police are taking to the streets over job cuts and reduced pensions which may have weakened their loyalties, if only for the moment.

The turmoil at the highest levels of the state and politics can only intensify as the global economic crisis deteriorates. These institutions increasingly lack legitimacy and clearly have no plausible policies.

An open challenge to their power and the status quo is without question a credible opportunity. That would also create the conditions for ensuring that all workers have decent pensions. 

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

'Going for growth' will bring new attacks

If Europe’s voters think “austerity” is bad for their health, it’s nothing compared to what some of the advocates of “growth” have in mind as the next stage of the crisis unfolds.

People like Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, know all too well that providing trillions of euros in cheap loans to banks has not led to increased lending.

The eurozone is firmly in recession so plan B is on the agenda. As far as Draghi is concerned, the aim is “structural reforms” like “labour-market flexibility” and increased competitiveness through speed up and lower wages.

In other words, living standards have to be driven down faster and further for there to be any chance of the eurozone coming out of recession.

What Draghi’s plan confirms is that the crisis has entered a new, more dangerous phase - economically and politically. The deadlock is absolutely clear in Greece.

The rejection of the draconian EU-IMF bail-out terms in the Greek election cannot be satisfied by any political deals amongst the minority left parties. Demands by Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party to tear up the deal cannot be met because the global capitalist economy is imploding.

Some like to say that “austerity isn’t working” and should be abandoned in favour of growth. The Guardian’s Seamus Milne remarks: “Cutting jobs and pay while increasing taxes isn't reducing borrowing and debt, let alone leading to economic recovery. It's deepening recession, increasing debt and destroying jobs and squeezing living standards across the eurozone – in countries such as Spain and Greece, catastrophically – as well as in Britain.”

This is stating the blindingly obvious but ignores a salient fact. Forced to contract by its own logic, capitalism is beyond the control of any political initiative that leaves the system intact.

The reality is “going for growth” just means moving to the next stage of a brutal contraction that will see workers sacked, factories closed, shutting down unprofitable production, driving up rates of exploitation.

New measures by the Con Dem coalition in the Queen’s speech like reducing public sector pensions and making it easier to sack workers, are part of this process.

The scale of what has to come if the current system is to survive is too terrible to contemplate. Attention must now turn to the means by which a new system can be created.

The interdependence of politics and economics rules out talk of a new direction for the economic system without a new political arrangement that removes the power of global corporations to dictate to governments.

Seismic shifts in electoral results in Europe follow on from mass movements in North Africa and the Middle East which have toppled regimes that ruled throughout the latter part of the twentieth century.

With unemployment soaring, anger cannot be contained and will explode on the streets  throughout Europe in the coming months.     

Replacing a bankrupt for-profit system with new forms of common ownership can only be carried out by new political formations, not co-existing with the world of capitalist corporations and global financial institutions, but challenging and replacing them.  

People’s assemblies, where everyone participates in the decision-making, can take the place of a five-yearly cycle of voting for representatives who immediately become subjects of capital.

A global network of people’s assemblies can establish democratic control over the financial and productive resources of the world, protecting them against the threat of destruction, turning them to the satisfaction of need. 

We should not ignore the other message from Greece, where an openly fascist party won 20 seats in parliament. People’s assemblies have to become the future shape of democracy because the old political order is crumbling but does not intend to go quietly.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor