The conclusions to be drawn from the Glasgow-hosted twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties UN climate summit (COP26) that closed on November 13 should be clear for climate campaigners. They are certainly not new.
Once again representatives of the world’s most powerful capitalist nation states – and the formally ‘non-market economies’ in World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms also present – were unable to overcome their competing economic and political interests to avert the prospect of future catastrophic climate change.
Nicholas Stern, author of the authoritative 2006 UK government commissioned report, at the time famously called climate change the result of “the greatest market failure the world has seen” – a failure, in other words, of capitalism. Nothing that transpired in Glasgow contradicts that now well-established assessment.
JUDY BEISHON reviews a detailed account of how claims of anti-Semitism were used as cover by Labour’s pro-capitalist right-wing to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, which spotlights the campaign against the left-wing former MP Chris Williamson.
Labour, the anti-Semitism crisis, and the destroying of an MP
By Lee Garratt
Published by Thinkwell Books, 2021, £11-99
The removal of Chris Williamson and Jeremy Corbyn from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), and Rebecca Long-Bailey from the front bench, was in each case based on accusations of anti-Semitism, or on comments on accusations of anti-Semitism. There was no actual evidence of anti-Semitism in their cases and they all made clear that it should have no place in the labour movement. However, that issue had become a battering ram of the Labour Party right wing against the Corbyn-led left and its prime method for removing certain individuals from positions of influence.
Lee Garratt’s book documents well the deliberate smearing of those prominent Labour lefts and many others – such as former MP and London mayor Ken Livingstone – who were targeted on similar grounds.
Pablo Iglesias, one of the founders of Podemos and its most prominent representative, announced his resignation from politics earlier this year – the tenth anniversary of the movement of the indignados which gave birth to the new party. ROSS SAUNDERS looks back at the formation of Podemos, its development, and the mistakes of its leaders which have put its future in jeopardy.
Ten years ago the revolt of the indignados (the ‘outraged’) erupted in Spain as a protest against brutal austerity. The government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the misnamed Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), loyal to the interests of the capitalists who backed him, demanded that ordinary working class people pay the bill for the economic crisis which convulsed the Spanish state and the rest of the world in 2007-08.
While Spanish banks received huge no-strings-attached bailouts, Zapatero held wages down and savagely cut back public services, pensions and welfare. Jobs were slaughtered and new attacks were launched on trade union rights in order to obstruct the efforts of workers to fight back.
The USSR was officially dissolved thirty years ago in 1991. CLARE DOYLE, who was working in Russia at the time on behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), looks back at an historic moment.
On 25 December1991 a sombre Mikhail Gorbachev appeared on television screens across eleven time zones announcing that the vast federation known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was dissolved. Long before this date, it had been unravelling and the fate of Gorbachev, its president and the secretary of the ruling ‘Communist’ Party, had been sealed.
This Christmas speech marked the end of the ‘Soviet Union’; it was by no means ‘the end of history’, as one infamous political scientist – Francis Fukuyama – argued, maintaining there was now no alternative to capitalism. And yet today the idea of socialism is becoming more and more popular amongst young people and ever more urgent in the fight against the destruction of the world’s people and resources.
From Socialism Today No.79, November 2003
“Those on the left who have pinned their hopes on founding a new socialist party”, wrote the veteran Labour left-winger Tony Benn on the eve of Labour’s Bournemouth conference, “should note that the Socialist Alliance candidate only received 366 votes in Brent East and Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) was only able to get 111 votes, which does not promise well for that strategy”. (Morning Star, 26 September 2003)
“When the leaders speak of peace”, wrote the German socialist artist Bertolt Brecht while living in exile in 1937, “the people know that war is coming”. Brecht’s pithy epigram, from his German War Primer poem, should be kept firmly in mind as the representatives of the countries that agreed the 1992 Rio Earth Summit United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change gather this November in Glasgow for the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the convention (COP26).
Almost half of the atmosphere’s extra, human-made carbon dioxide has been put there under the watch of these representatives in the period since, almost thirty years ago now, they solemnly signed the Rio convention to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate”.
Emerging from the Covid pandemic and following a decade of austerity, the capitalist class is once again determined to force the working class to pay the price for economic instability and crisis. But their success is not a foregone conclusion – that depends on whether there is a struggle.
In an attempt to stave that off, and particularly to prevent struggle finding a political expression, when Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015 the Blairite right-wing embarked on a ferocious campaign. These representatives of capitalist interests in the Labour Party had spent years transforming it into a party safe for big business, and were not about to allow the door to open to the possibility of it becoming a vehicle through which workers could challenge the profit system.
Now with Corbynism defeated within the Labour Party framework the new battleground is in the biggest public sector trade union, with 1.3 million members, UNISON.
The consultation on the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) launched by the Tory government in 2016 was not the starting gun for the ‘culture wars’ – but it did create a battlefield. The Tories faced a Labour opposition led by Jeremy Corbyn. They hoped making it easier for trans and non-binary people to self-identify would be a cheap way to cut across some of the hatred felt, especially among young people, for their nasty austerity party. Five years on, as we warned, the Tories admit they have no intention of improving the GRA. The battlefield, however, is still active.
Those pushing themselves to the front of the so-called debate arising from the GRA reform consultation falsely present women’s rights and the rights of trans and non-binary people as conflicting rights. They are not. All women and trans and non-binary people suffer in different and related ways because of the way capitalist society is organised and structured.
For nearly 30 years, capitalist politicians have talked about tackling global warming – since discussions held in the run-up to the Earth summit of 1992. But, as BEN ROBINSON shows in an article first published just before the 2015 Paris climate summit in Socialism Today No.194, they have done little to deal with this threat, bound as they are to the profit-driven system they represent.
The United Nations climate change conference in Paris is the latest in a series of talks that has gone on for 23 years. They have thoroughly demonstrated how bankrupt capitalism is, in the face of the coming climate catastrophe it has created. The rate at which pollutants are spilled out has continued to grow, virtually unabated by the discussions held by diplomats around the world.