Monday, October 19, 2009

Kingsnorth verdict a 'tipping point' in climate struggle

On September 10 a British jury acquitted six Greenpeace protesters who were on trial for trying to shut down a coal-fired power station on the grounds that they were trying to stop global warming.

Last year, the protesters climbed the chimneystack of the Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, to paint "Gordon, bin it" (as in, "bin coal") on the side, but were arrested before they could complete the task. They were charged with causing criminal damage equivalent to around $80,000 – the costs cleaning the 200 metre stack.

However, in a majority verdict, the jury in Maidstone Crown Court found that the protesters had a "lawful excuse" for their acts, because they were trying to protect property that would be damaged by climate change, including parts of Kent at risk from sea level rise, parts of Greenland, the Pacific island of Tuvalu, coastal areas of Bangladesh and the city of New Orleans.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Germany: Left makes big gains in poll

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was returned to power in the September 27 federal elections. But the vote was marked by a record low voter turnout and a significantly increased vote for the far-left party, Die Linke ("The Left"). 

The election was a clear success for the CDU. Merkel's preferred coalition partners - the free-market fundamentalist Free Democratic Party (FDP) - increased its support by 4.8 points to an all-time high of 14.6%. 

This was enough to form a CDU-FDP government.

The FDP will replace the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) as coalition partners in the government of Europe's largest economy.

The SPD's support collapsed by more 6 million votes. It dropped a huge 11.2% to only 23% – the SPD's worst result since World War II. An SPD leader said on election night: "We have been bombed back into the Weimar Republic."

However, although the result has been widely labelled a shift to the right, the actual outcome doesn't bear this out. The total vote for the centre-right parties rose by only 3.4%, while the vote for the far-right neo-Nazi NPD dropped to just over 1%. 

The vote for Die Linke was 11.9% - a 3.2% increase on the 2005 result by the joint electoral ticket of two left-wing groups that was the forerunner to Die Linke. Formed in 2007, Die Linke is Germany's newest party and stands for pro-people, anti-corporate policies. 

Die Linke is also the only party that opposed the occupation of Afghanistan and has committed to withdrawing all German troops.

Ecuador: Indigenous, government clash over mining

On September 30, violent clashes between indigenous protestors and police in Ecuador left at least one protester dead, and nine protesters and 40 police injured, the October 1 Latin American Herald Tribune said.
The protests are the first big test for Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa, first elected in 2006 on the platform of a "citizen's revolution" promising to build a "21st century socialism" in the small Andean country.

The protests were called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) — the umbrella confederation representing Ecuador's indigenous population. About 35% of Ecuador's population is indigenous.

On the same day, Ecuador's main teachers union, the UNE, and students also protested against proposed educational reforms.

CONAIE and many environmental organisations are opposed to a new mining law they believe will cause environmental destruction and may result in water privatisation.

They also believe the law violates Ecuador's new constitution, which, among many other progressive additions, guarantees access to water and grants specific rights to the environment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

German Left Party makes election gains

Before the recent elections in the German states of Thuringia, Saarland and Saxony it seemed likely that Christian Democrat (CDU) German Chancellor Angela Merkel would return to power comfortably this year, probably in coalition with the free-market fundamentalists of the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

On August 30, however, German voters went to the polls in the three states and for local elections in North Rhine Westphalia. The result — an unmistakable swing to the left — has blown prospects for the September 27 German federal elections wide open. Both big parties — the centre-right CDU and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) — received heavy blows.

In national opinion polls, the SPD (a junior partner in a federal "grand coalition" government with the CDU) has slumped to a historic low of 22%. On August 30, its vote continued to decline. The SPD polled only 10.4% in Saxony, and 18.5% in Thuringia.

However, the biggest loser was the ruling CDU. Its vote dropped by more than 13 points in both Thuringia and Saarland — the worst results since 1949. It will probably lose government in both states.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ecuador's Correa launches new term, promises change

On August 3, Ecuador celebrated a milestone when left-wing President Rafael Correa was sworn in for a second term — the first president to serve a second term since democracy was restored 30 years ago. 

The same week, Ecuador celebrated 200 years since it first declared independence from Spain - the first such declaration in Latin America - and Correa assumed the rotating presidency of the new Union of South American Nations, whose capital is in Quito.

Correa - a left-wing economist and former finance minister - was elected in 2006, promising to overhaul Ecuadorian society through a socialist "citizens' revolution" that would reduce poverty and strengthen democratic institutions.

Once elected, he initiated a popular re-write of the constitution, securing re-election in April this year on the platform of building "21st century socialism", despite media opposition and the impact of the financial crisis on Ecuador's weak economy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Colombia, Ecuador dispute deepens

The frosty relations between Colombia and Ecuador got even frostier on July 6 when Colombian officials and lawyers accused members of Ecuador's government of working for left-wing Colombian guerrillas. 

The accusations arose after a video was released featuring Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander Jorge Briceno (who goes by the alias "Mono Jojoy") claiming the guerrillas gave financial support to the 2006 election campaign of Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa.

Colombia's prosecutor-general, Mario Iguaran, claimed that a former security minister in Correa's government, Gustavo Larrea, and former Correa adviser Jose Chauvin were "emissaries" for the FARC. 

Ecuadorian officials said the video is doctored. Correa called the footage a "sham" and demanded the FARC clarify whether they had funded his campaign in any way.

Correa has appointed a commission to investigate the claims and the origin of the video, which he claimed was part of a right-wing campaign "to destabilise the region's progressive governments". 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

50 años de la Revolución Cubana

Aporrea, Miércoles, 22/07/2009
El 1 de enero de 2009, la pequeña Isla de Cuba celebró el 50º aniversario de una revolución que logró derrotar a la brutal dictadura que la dominaba para comenzar a establecer en su largo y a menudo complicado camino hacia el socialismo.
En todo el mundo, los medios de comunicación masiva han combinado informes con distorsiones y mentiras sobre el tema de la democracia enla isla, focalizando la revolución en el más claro de sus símbolos: su líder histórico, Fidel Castro y el icónico ejército guerrillero que marchó a la Habana en la primer semana de 1959, precisamente con Castro y el revolucionario de origen argentino, Ernesto Che Guevara a la cabeza.
En el mejor de los casos, esta visión nos presenta sólo una imagen parcial sobre la Revolución Cubana ya que pasa por alto los cientos de miles de personas que en el movimiento urbano clandestino se opusieron al asesino dictador apoyado por los Estados Unidos, Fulgencio Batisa quien fue derrocado por la revolución en combates callejeros, movilizaciones obreras que pararon la producción hasta llegar a la organización de huelgas generales como la organizada el 2 de Enero de 1959, misma que finalmente puso al régimen de rodillas.
El mismo punto de vista sobre Cuba también hace caso omiso de la lucha de los trabajadores y otros sectores populares que, después de huir Batista, transformó la lucha contra la dictadura en una revolución que derrocó a una clase política cuya corrupción y régimen autocrático ponían en peligro las aspiraciones del pueblo cubano por democracia y justicia social. Una Revolución Socialista iniciaba a unos pasos de la mayor potencia capitalista de la tierra.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ecuador's Correa vows to deepen the "citizens' revolution"

On May 24, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa marked national independence day ceremonies with a promise to "radicalise and deepen" the "citizens' revolution" his government is seeking to lead.
Correa was joined the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, which rises above the capital Quito, by Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The event celebrated the 187th anniversary of the Battle of Pinchincha, when Ecuador won its independence from Spanish rule.

Speaking one month after becoming the first Ecuadorian president to win re-election in 30 years, Correa said Ecuadorians were celebrating "two liberating births". One was from Spanish rule, and the other through his April 26 election victory on a platform of pro-people economic development.

Correa said the Ecuadorian people had chosen a "profound, rapid and peaceful revolution". He promised to "deepen and radicalise" the process of change, "now, not tomorrow".

"We will not change course", Correa said.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ecuador: Correa says re-election 'a vote for socialism'

Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa was re-elected on April 27 in the small Andean nation.
Correa, a 46-year old radical economist and self-described socialist, won 52% of the vote, 24 points ahead of his nearest rival. He became the first candidate to win in the first round of a presidential poll since Ecuador emerged from dictatorship in 1979.
Former president Lucio Gutierrez — overthrown by mass protests in 2005 against his right-wing policies and corruption — won only 28% of the vote. Ecuador's richest man — banana magnate Alvaro Noboa —got 11%.
In National Assembly elections, held simultaneously, Correa's party Allianza Pais ("Country Alliance") appears to have won a majority 64 of 124 seats. Other left-wing parties —including the Movement for Popular Democracy and the indigenous party Pachakutik — won a further 15 seats.
"This revolution is on the march and nobody and nothing can stop us", Correa said. "At last power is in the hands of its legitimate owners, the Ecuadorian people and above all the poorest of our people."

Friday, March 13, 2009

A materialist critique of pseudo-science

Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present
By John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark & Richard York
Monthly Review Press, 2008
240 pages, $33.95

In recent decades a form of militant creationism — masquerading as science under the name of “Intelligent Design” — has gone on the offensive, promoting the teaching of biblical creationism in schools, and carrying out a broader self-described “wedge strategy”, aimed at transforming the place and nature of science in society.

Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present, is almost overdue in this respect. It traces the rise of the “design” phenomenon, and its relationship to conservative, right-wing politics, and places it in the context of a 2500-year-long debate between materialism and creationism that lies at the heart of Western civilisation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ecuador: Correa expels US official

As Ecuadorians prepare for their first general elections under the progressive new constitution adopted in a referendum last year, tensions with the United States continue to rise with the government expelling a key US diplomat.

In his February 7 weekly radio program, Ecuador's left-wing president Rafael Correa officially expelled the US official Armando Astorga, accusing him of bribery, suspending aid worth US$340,000 and meddling in police affairs.

"Mr Astorga, keep your dirty money, we don't need it. We have dignity in this country", Correa said. "We're not going to let anyone treat us as if we were a colony here."

Astorga, who has left the country, is accused of taking computers and sensitive anti-drug police information with him.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Germany: SPD stumbles as "super election year" begins

Germany began a "super election year" on January 18 when the west German state of Hesse went to the polls for the second time in twelve months.
The new elections became necessary after months of negotiations to form a coalition government collapsed late last year, when parliamentary members of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) rebelled against a plan to form government with the assistance of the left-wing party Die Linke.

Under pressure from SPD hardliners, party-leader Andrea Ypsilanti had promised not to deal with Die Linke, a fusion of the Party for Democratic Socialism (the successor to the former East German ruling party) with a left-wing split from the SPD in 2005.

However, when neither major party – the SPD, nor the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) – was able to form government after the 2008 poll, Ypsilanti back-flipped on her promise, securing an agreement with the Greens and Die Linke, but lost support in her own party.

When attempts to form government fell through, the Hesse parliament dissolved itself on November 19, forcing new elections.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fifty years of the Cuban Revolution

On January 1, 2009, the small island nation of Cuba celebrated the 50th anniversary of a revolution that overthrew a brutal dictatorship and set Cuba on its long and often complicated road towards socialism.

Worldwide, the media reports combined standard distortions and lies on the question of democracy on the island with a focus on the revolution's most obvious symbols: its historical leader Fidel Castro, and the iconic guerrilla army that marched into Havana in the first week of 1959 with Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara at its head.

At best, this view presents only a partial picture of the Cuban Revolution. It overlooks the hundreds of thousands in the urban underground movement who opposed the murderous US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista who was brought down by the revolution — fighting street-battles, conducting industrial sabotage, and organising general strikes, such as the strike on January 2, 1959, that brought the regime to its knees.

The same view of Cuba also ignores the struggle of workers and other popular sectors that, after Batista fled, transformed the anti-dictatorship struggle into a revolution that overthrew an entire political class — whose corruption and autocracy threatened to betray the Cuban people's aspirations for democracy and social justice. A socialist revolution was begun on the doorstep of the greatest capitalist power on earth.

The survival of the Cuban Revolution for half a century in the face of endless aggression from the most powerful nation on Earth only 90 miles away is an outstanding feat in itself, but the reality of the Cuban Revolution and its achievements deserves much deeper, and fairer, treatment that it gets in the Western media.