Thursday, 24 December 2009

Sights & sounds of climate justice protest in Wellington

by Grant Brookes  

The collapse of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, aimed at reaching a binding deal on greenhouse gas emissions, has dismayed people around the world. But it has also made it clearer that we can't rely on business leaders and politicians to solve the problem. The finger pointing has already begun, as political leaders from different countries blame each other for the failure to reach a deal.  

Conflict, rather than cooperation, was built into the talks from the start. The framework for negotiations was all about market mechanisms like emissions trading schemes, where businesses, nations and trading blocs try to secure competitive advantages over their rivals. Even if a deal had been reached at Copenhagen, it would not have been enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Emissions trading schemes – proposed by the National-led government and supported in principle by all the other parties in parliament except ACT, and by "Big Green" organisations like Greenpeace – simply allow corporations to pay for the right to cook the planet to death. Emissions trading schemes won't stop climate change and are unjust, shifting costs away from business and onto grassroots people and developing nations.  

This was the message of 150 people who took to the streets in Wellington on the morning of Monday, December 21. The protesters included a group of "Radical Cheerleaders" and a samba band. They took aim at the root causes of climate change, disrupting business at the NZX stock exchange and scaling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade building to unveil a banner, and were met by a group of counter-demonstrators claiming to belong to "Capitalism Represents Acceptable Policy" (C.R.A.P.). 

The protest came at the culmination of the first Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa in Upper Hutt, where 200 people came together for five days of sustainable living, education, direct action and movement building. Climate Camps (there have been at least 19 worldwide this year) seek to address the real causes of climate change and build a people's movement that can stop it. "

After the inevitable failure of yet another UN climate summit, it should now be clearer than ever that the only people we can count on to stop runanaway climate change are ourselves", said Climate Camp participant Claire Dann. 

  "Just like the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, the UN climate talks are part of the problem, not the solution", added Gary Cranston. "Both put profit before people, both are infested with polluter friendly loopholes and as a result, neither are capable of achieving climate justice.  

"Trading carbon credits is used to give people the impression that something is being done about climate change, when it actually isn't.

"Ordinary people have the power to stop the government and big business from throwing away our future for continued profit. We invite everybody in Aotearoa to come and join the global movement for climate justice that will address the climate crisis".

Turn up the sound and click on the slideshow below. This is what the movement looks like, and sounds like.


For more info, visit

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Latest UNITY Journal - Bad Banks: What are the alternatives?

CONTENTS 5 A "public option" against the banks DAPHNE LAWLESS, editor of UNITY 11 Targeting capitalism's exploitation of labour and nature GRANT MORGAN, Socialist Worker (NZ) 15 The "collapse" of global capitalism GRANT MORGAN 18 Target Bad Banks and you target neo-liberalism VAUGHAN GUNSON, Socialist Worker (NZ) 22 Market volatility and profitability crisis GRANT MORGAN 25 An end to private banks SUE BRADFORD, former Green Party MP 32 Bank and tax systems due for overhaul RUSSEL NORMAN MP, Green Party leader 33 Inquiry shows need for govt to act FINSEC 34 Aussie tax-dodging robber banks MURRAY HORTON, Campaign against Foreign Control of Aotearoa 35 Protecting New Zealand jobs through bank guarantee schemes FINSEC 39 Is it "Kiwi" to be anti-union? VAUGHAN GUNSON interviews Andrew Campbell 41 CTU conference 2009: can unions build an alternative? GRANT BROOKES, Socialist Worker (NZ) 45 What's a "fractional reserve"? DAPHNE LAWLESS 47 Banks, money and thin air ADAM BUICK, Socialist Party of Great Britain 50 Socialist Worker Appeal 55 Ron Paul: a right-wing alternative? PETER De WAAL, Socialist Worker (NZ) 60 Why community currencies? DEIDRE KENT, Living Economies 63 Financial Transactions Tax: making Wall Street pay DEAN BAKER, Center for Economic and Policy Research 65 Our alternative to market madness CHRIS HARMAN, Socialist Workers Party (Britain) 70 Is nationalization socialism? YEN CHU, No-one Is Illegal (Canada) 74 Venezuela closes banks BRONWEN BEECHEY, Socialist Worker (NZ) 78 Latin America's economic rebels MARK WEISBROT, Center for Economic and Policy Research 81 Feedback: letters from David Frazer, Peter de Waal, Pat O'Dea and David Colyer To purchase a copy of this issue ($5 plus postage) contact Len, email, or phone (09)634 3984. To subscribe to UNITY Journal ($25 for four issues a year) contact Grant, Send a cheque made out to 'UNITY' to Box 13-685, Auckland, NZ, along with your postal details.

Société Générale Predicts Global Economic Collapse In Two Years Time

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard 22 December 2009 from Société Générale has advised clients to be ready for a possible "global economic collapse" over the next two years, mapping a strategy of defensive investments to avoid wealth destruction. In a report entitled "Worst-case debt scenario", the bank's asset team said state rescue packages over the last year have merely transferred private liabilities onto sagging sovereign shoulders, creating a fresh set of problems. Overall debt is still far too high in almost all rich economies as a share of GDP (350pc in the US), whether public or private. It must be reduced by the hard slog of "deleveraging", for years. "As yet, nobody can say with any certainty whether we have in fact escaped the prospect of a global economic collapse," said the 68-page report, headed by asset chief Daniel Fermon. It is an exploration of the dangers, not a forecast. Under the French bank's "Bear Case" scenario (the gloomiest of three possible outcomes), the dollar would slide further and global equities would retest the March lows. Property prices would tumble again. Oil would fall back to $50 in 2010. Governments have already shot their fiscal bolts. Even without fresh spending, public debt would explode within two years to 105pc of GDP in the UK, 125pc in the US and the eurozone, and 270pc in Japan. Worldwide state debt would reach $45 trillion, up two-and-a-half times in a decade. (UK figures look low because debt started from a low base. Mr Ferman said the UK would converge with Europe at 130pc of GDP by 2015 under the bear case). The underlying debt burden is greater than it was after the Second World War, when nominal levels looked similar. Ageing populations will make it harder to erode debt through growth. "High public debt looks entirely unsustainable in the long run. We have almost reached a point of no return for government debt," it said. Inflating debt away might be seen by some governments as a lesser of evils. If so, gold would go "up, and up, and up" as the only safe haven from fiat paper money. Private debt is also crippling. Even if the US savings rate stabilises at 7pc, and all of it is used to pay down debt, it will still take nine years for households to reduce debt/income ratios to the safe levels of the 1980s. The bank said the current crisis displays "compelling similarities" with Japan during its Lost Decade (or two), with a big difference: Japan was able to stay afloat by exporting into a robust global economy and by letting the yen fall. It is not possible for half the world to pursue this strategy at the same time. SocGen advises bears to sell the dollar and to "short" cyclical equities such as technology, auto, and travel to avoid being caught in the "inherent deflationary spiral". Emerging markets would not be spared. Paradoxically, they are more leveraged to the US growth than Wall Street itself. Farm commodities would hold up well, led by sugar. Mr Fermon said junk bonds would lose 31pc of their value in 2010 alone. However, sovereign bonds would "generate turbo-charged returns" mimicking the secular slide in yields seen in Japan as the slump ground on. At one point Japan's 10-year yield dropped to 0.40pc. The Fed would hold down yields by purchasing more bonds. The European Central Bank would do less, for political reasons. SocGen's case for buying sovereign bonds is controversial. A number of funds doubt whether the Japan scenario will be repeated, not least because Tokyo itself may be on the cusp of a debt compound crisis. Mr Fermon said his report had electrified clients on both sides of the Atlantic. "Everybody wants to know what the impact will be. A lot of hedge funds and bankers are worried," he said.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Hugo Chávez writes on 'The battle of Copenhagen'

by Hugo Chávez Frías
Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Links - International Journal of Socialist Renewal.
20 December 2009

Copenhagen was the scene of a historic battle in the framework of the 15th Conference of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP15). Better said, in the beautiful, snowy capital of Denmark, a battle began that did not end on Friday, December 18, 2009. I reiterate: Copenhagen was only the beginning of a decisive battle for the salvation of the planet. It was a battle in the realm of ideas and in praxis.

Brazilian Leonardo Boff, a great liberation theologian and one of the most authoritative voices on environmental issues, in a key article, entitled What is at stake in Copenhagen?, wrote these words full of insight and courage: What can we expect from Copenhagen? At least this simple confession: We cannot continue like this. And a simple proposition: Let’s change course.

And for that reason, precisely, we went to Copenhagen to battle for a change of course on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), and moreover, in defence of the cause of humanity and to speak, with President Evo Morales, in defence of the rights of Pachamama, of Mother Earth.

Evo, who together with yours truly, had the responsibility to be a spokesperson for the Bolivarian Alliance, wisely said: What this debate is about, is whether we are going to live or we are going to die.

All eyes of the world were concentrated on Copenhagen: the 15th Conference on Climate Change allowed us to gauge the fibre we are made of, where hope lies and what can we do to establish what the Liberator Simón Bolívar defined as the equilibrium of the universe, an equilibrium that can never be achieved within the capitalist world system.


Before our arrival in Copenhagen, the African bloc, backed by the Group of 77, denounced that rich countries were ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, that is, the only existing international instrument to fight global warming, the only thing that penalises the industrialised states and protects the developing countries.

It is necessary to recognise that the battle had already begun in the streets of Copenhagen, with the youth at the forefront protesting and proposing: I could see and feel, since my arrival in the Danish capital on December 16, the historic power of another world that for the youth is not only possible but absolutely necessary.


In Copenhagen, from the beginning, the cards were on the table for all to see. On the one hand, the cards of brutal meanness and stupidity of capitalism which did not budge in defence of its logic: the logic of capital, which leaves only death and destruction in its wake at an increasingly rapid pace.

On the other hand, the cards of the peoples demanding human dignity, the salvation of the planet and for a radical change, not of the climate, but of a world system that has brought us to the brink of unprecedented ecological and social catastrophe.

On one side, the victors of a mercantile and utilitarian civilisation, that is, the “civilised ones” who for a long time now have forgotten about human beings, and opted blindly for increasingly insatiable desires.

On the other hand, the “barbarians” who remain committed in believing and in fighting for radically changing the logic, that you can maximise human welfare, minimising environmental and ecological impacts. Those who sustain the impossibility of defending human rights, as raised by the comrade Evo Morales, if we don’t also defend the rights of Mother Earth, those who act with determination to leave a planet and future for our descendants.

I will not tire of repeating to the four winds: the only possible and viable alternative is socialism. I said it in each of my speeches to all the world representatives gathered in Copenhagen, the world's most important event in the last two hundred years: there is no other way if we want to stop this heartless and debased competition that promises only total annihilation.

Why are the “civilised ones” so afraid of a project that aspires to build shared happiness? They are afraid, let’s be honest, because shared happiness does not generate profit. Hence the crystal clarity of that great slogan of the Copenhagen street protest that today speaks for millions: “If the climate was a bank, they would have saved it already.”

The “civilised ones” do not take the necessary measures, simply because of this, it would oblige them to reverse their voracious pattern of life, marked by selfish comfort and that does not touch their cold hearts, which palpitate only to the beat of money.

That’s why the [US] Empire arrived late on December 18, to offer crumbs via blackmail, and through this, wash away the guilt marked on its face. In front of this strategy of buying support, you could hear throughout Denmark the clear and courageous voice of Vandana Shiva, the Indian thinker saying a great truth: “I think it is time for US to stop seeing itself as a donor and begin to recognise itself as polluter: a polluter must pay compensation for damages and must it pay its ecological debt. It is not charity. This is justice.”

I must say: in Copenhagen the Obama illusion was definitively destroyed. He was confirmed in his position as head of the empire and winner of the Nobel War Prize. The enigma of the two Obamas has been resolved.

Friday the 18th came to an end without a democratically agreed accord: Obama mounted the platform separately, in a further violation of UN procedures, for which we feel obliged to challenge any decision that does not respect for the validity of the Protocol Kyoto. To respect and enhance Kyoto is our motto.

An accord was not possible in Copenhagen due to the lack of political will of the rich countries: the powerful of this world, the hyper-developed, they do not want to change their patterns of production and consumption which are as senseless as suicide. “The world can go to hell if it dares to threaten my privilege and my lifestyle”, is what they appear to be saying with their conduct: that is the hard truth that they do not want to hear from those who act under the historical and categorical imperative to change course.

Copenhagen is not the end, I repeat, but a beginning: the doors have been opened for a universal debate on how to save the planet, life on the planet. The battle continues.


We commemorated the 179th anniversary of the physical disappearance of our Liberator Simón Bolívar in an act of deep revolutionary content; I refer to the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance with social movements in Denmark on December 17. There I felt, once again that Bolivar is not only a banner of Venezuela and Our America, but is increasingly a universal leader.

It is his living and combative legacy, now embodied in the Bolivarian Alliance, which is becoming a world heritage, that we took to Copenhagen to do battle for the Patria Grande, which is at the same time, to do battle for the sake of humanity .

In reality and in truth: Bolivar lives! In Copenhagen it was confirmed that his legacy is more alive than ever. And now he will overcome. Now we shall overcome!

’Tis the Season

‘Christmas will not be privatised’, writes award winning author China Miéville in this short story, first published in the December 2004 British Socialist Review magazine.

Call me childish, but I love all the nonsense - the snow, the trees, the tinsel, the turkey. I love presents. I love carols and cheesy songs. I just love Christmas™.

That’s why I was so excited. And not just for me, but for Annie. Aylsa, her mum, said she didn’t see the big deal and why was I a sentimentalist, but I knew Annie couldn’t wait. She might have been 14, but when it came to this I was sure she was still a little girl, dreaming of stockings by the chimney. Whenever it’s my turn to take Annie - me and Aylsa have alternated since the divorce - I do my best on the 25th.

I admit Aylsa made me feel bad. I was dreading Annie’s disappointment. So I can hardly tell you how delighted I was when I found out that for the first time ever I was going to be able to make a proper celebration of it.

Visions of a people-centred economy

These are the notes for a talk given by UNITYblog editor David on the subject of ‘Transitioning to a human-centred economy in Aotearoa’ at the Marxism Alive conference in Auckland, 27 June 2009. New Zealand is the world’s biggest exporter of dairy products, not because we produce more dairy products than any other country, but because unlike other countries, we produce much, much more than is used here. We are all now becoming increasingly aware of the environmental costs of producing all this “surplus” dairy produce for export: the pollution of our waterways, the drying up of streams, the greenhouse gas emissions from the belching cows. So why do we do it? Why keep producing so much more than we need if the costs are so high? Why the continuing push for even more dairy farms? Obviously the answer is that the dairy farmers and their investors want to make more money. We have a profit-centred economy, not an ecology-centred economy.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Evo Morales - 'We cannot end global warming without ending capitalism'

17 December 2009 from Democracy Now! Bolivia's President Evo Morales joins us in Copenhagen to talk about the UN climate talks, capitalism, climate debt and much more. “Policies of unlimited industrialisation are what destroys the environment”, Morales said. “And that irrational industrialisation is capitalism.” AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. It’s Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the Bella Center [in Copenhagen]. It’s just one day before the COP15 UN climate summit comes to a close. The summit has been described as the biggest gathering on climate change in history. And now, ten days after it started, are the talks on the brink of collapse? The dispute between rich and poor countries, between the global North and global South, on key issues, including greenhouse gas emissions and climate debt, remain unresolved. World leaders from more than 110 countries have begun arriving at the summit and are delivering their addresses to the main plenary as we speak. As for civil society, the only thing worse than the endless lines of thousands of people trying to get into the Bella Center are no lines, because civil society has largely been locked out. Well, just before we went to air today, I interviewed Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month. On Wednesday, Evo Morales called on world leaders to hold temperature increases over the next century to just one degree Celsius, the most ambitious proposal so far by any head of state. Morales also called on the United States and other wealthy nations to pay an ecological debt to Bolivia and other developing nations. AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, welcome to Democracy Now! PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Thank you very much for the invitation. AMY GOODMAN: You spoke yesterday here at the Bella Center and said we cannot end global warming without ending capitalism. What did you mean? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism—and I’m speaking about irrational development—policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialization is capitalism. So as long as we don’t review or revise those policies, it’s impossible to attend to humanity and life. AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment. AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, what are you calling here—for here at the UN climate summit? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Defence of the rights of Mother Earth. The earth is our life. Nature is our home, our house. Happily, the United Nations have declared a Mother Earth Day. If the mother is recognised as Mother Earth, it’s something that can’t be sold, it’s something that can’t be—it can’t be violated, something sacred. This is nature. This is planet Earth. And that’s why I’ve come here, to defend the rights of Mother Earth, to defend the rights to life, to defend humanity and saving Mother Earth. AMY GOODMAN: What does climate debt mean, President Morales? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: After the destruction of Mother Earth, it’s important to recognize the rights of Mother Earth. And the best way to recognise this is by paying a climate debt. Second, it’s important to recognise the damages that have been done and attend to the people who have been affected by climate change, people who will lose their island homes, for example, people who will remain without water. AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said today, “We can’t look back; we have to look forward.” PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Looking forward means that we have to review everything that capitalism has done. These are things that cannot just be solved with money. We have to resolve problems of life and humanity. And that’s the problem that planet earth faces today. And this means ending capitalism. AMY GOODMAN: The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also said today that US$100 billion would be promised if a deal were arrived at, not just by the United States, per year, but in a public-private partnership with a number of countries around the world, but only if a deal is arrived at. She would not say what the US would contribute to this. What do you say about the US spending on the issue of global warming versus—well, you talked yesterday about war. PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: The best thing would be that all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America. This money would be better directed to attending to the damages that were created by the United States. And, of course, this isn’t just $100 billion; this is probably trillions and trillions of dollars. How are we going to spend money to kill and not save lives? We have to spend money to save lives, not to kill. These are our differences with capitalism. AMY GOODMAN: You called the war in Afghanistan terrorist. Are you saying President Obama is a terrorist? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: People who send their troops to kill outside their country, that’s terror. There’s not only civil—terrorists dressed as civilians; they can also be dressed in military uniforms. Worse still if they’re financed with the money from the peoples, from taxes. Of course, every country has the right to defend itself, just as every country can defend itself. But invading another country with uniformed people, that’s state terrorism. Moreover, to establish military bases in Latin America with the objective of political control, and where their military base is an empire, that’s not respect for democracy. There is no peace, social peace. There is no development for those countries nor integration in those regions. This is what we’ve lived in South America and Latin America. AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to President Obama at these climate talks? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: After listening to his speech at the heads of state Summit of the Americas, we were very hopeful that he would be an ally in addressing poverty. Now I’m not so hopeful. Rather, we’re disappointed. If something has changed in the United States, it’s the color of the president. So I’ve been called upon, through administrative resolutions, to close unions, or to eliminate unions, when I’m doing exactly the opposite. In the report that was done regarding access to trade preferences under the ATPDEA program, it was charged that the Bolivian government has been involved in suppressing unions, when, in fact, quite the contrary, the government’s been very active in providing infrastructure and support to unions through improving the centres where unions meet, etc. Even President Bush did not make any observations about the new clauses in the constitution of Bolivia, whereas under the new administration there have been observations and comments made about the new constitution that’s been drafted, in particular in relation to the management of the gas and oil sectors. This is a clear involvement in Bolivian internal affairs by the Obama administration. At the end of the day, it seems that they’re asking us to change the constitution. This is something that not even Bush did. If we just look at this, this makes Obama seem—look worse than Bush. And the documents are there. AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to leave. My last question is: you’ve called for a climate tribunal; what do you mean? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Those who do damage to planet Earth and those who do damage need to be judged. Those who do not fulfill the terms of the Kyoto Protocol should also be judged. And for those ends, we have to organise a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations. AMY GOODMAN: And one degree Celsius? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: That’s our proposal. AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it could be achieved? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: Yes. Yes, otherwise it would be a lack of commitment to humanity. AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there will be a deal that comes out of Copenhagen? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: I doubt it. We’re developing other proposals for my intervention. AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s catastrophic that there’s no deal? PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: No, it’s a waste of time. And if the leaders of countries cannot arrive in an agreement, why don’t the peoples then decide together? AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there. I thank you very much, President Morales. AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking to us here in Copenhagen. This is Democracy Now!, It’s Climate Countdown. You can go to our website at to read the transcript of what President Morales had to say and also to see or hear the video podcast.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Climate protests, capitalism and the working class movement

by Barry Kade
from Climate and Capitalism
8 December 2009

The working class movement will only be rebuilt as part of a new political response to the failures of neo-liberal capitalism – a response that includes addressing climate change and ecology

Considering normally climate demos only attract a few thousand, last Saturday’s protest in London and elsewhere of 50,000 was massive. This is because:

A) the capitalists and their governments look especially incapable of addressing the issue at the moment, around the Copenhagen summit which seems doomed, even from a ‘bourgeois climate politics’ perspective; and

B) the ideological right are fighting back with a massive campaign of denial and conspiracist wingnuttery thats gaining ground. In this situation people are more motivated to take to the streets, hence we get 50,000 rather than the usual 5,000.

But what next?

So far we have had a strategy of protest … i.e we started with the idea of making climate change an issue, ‘raising awareness’. protesting to ‘make the politicians listen’, to make them ‘do something’. But then the capitalists started to ‘do something’ – carbon trading, biofuels, nuclear power, etc. It’s now clear to many that there is no capitalist solution.

Therefore we also have a strategy of transition – a practical grassroots and locally oriented movement trying to make the ‘transition to a low carbon economy.’ This is inevitably attempted in a petite bourgeois way, through allotments, local trading schemes, etc. There is also the ‘climate justice’ movement with its more systematic anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist critique – although this at the moment remains confined to the ‘activist milieu’.

What about the workers?

And we have only just started to develop a programatic response from the working class movement – so now we have the trades union demand for millions of new green jobs, the TUC’s ‘just transition’ project etc. Of course the problem here is the existing weakness of the working class movement, (especially in the UK) after our decades of defeat and retreat.

The solution? I don’t think the working class movement will be rebuilt on a purely syndicalist or economistic basis. Workers fight when they see their resistance forming part of a wider political picture – when they have some form of coherent political perspective en masse (however flawed and contradictory that perspective may be). The collapse of left reformism/stalinism/social democracy in the face of neo-liberal globalisation has weakened grassroots working class resistance.

Thus the working class movement will only be rebuilt as part of a new political response to the failures of neo-liberal capitalism – a response that includes addressing climate change and ecology. When socialism re-emerges as a mass project it will be shaped by these questions. The emergence of environmental consciousness is one of the distinctive features of our epoch. That’s why the next socialism might be an ecosocialism.

Barry Kade is a former member of the British Socialist Workers Party, who says he is “currently experimenting with being a socialist in the ranks of the Green Party.” This article was published on December 8 in his blog, BarryKade.

A Green New Deal - dead end or pathway beyond capitalism?

from LINKS – International Journal of Socialist Renewal [Originally published in Turbulence, 8 December 2009] A Green New Deal is on everybody’s lips at the moment. US President Barack Obama has endorsed a very general version of it, the United Nations are keen, as are numerous Green parties around the world. In the words of the Green New Deal Group, an influential grouping of heterodox economists, Greens and debt-relief campaigners, such a ‘deal’ promises to solve the ‘triple crunch’ of energy, climate and economic crises. Frieder Otto Wolf, an eco-socialist and early member of the German Green Party, argues that the challenge for the global movements is to hijack the Green New Deal, rather than reject it. Tadzio Mueller, an editor of Turbulence and involved in the Climate Justice Action network, begs to differ. He looks instead to an emerging movement for ‘climate justice’. Turbulence sat the two of them down for a chat, and kicked off the debate by suggesting that a Green New Deal might actually offer a weak-looking global left a great opportunity. The conversation is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. Tadzio Mueller: Before we start looking at the crisis of the (global) left, and whether or not a Green New Deal[1] might be an opportunity for its rejuvenation, I think there is a more important question to be answered first. Namely: to what extent is such a project a great opportunity for the rejuvenation of global capitalism? Profit rates (with the possible exception of those of bailed-out banks) are at rock bottom. And there is currently nothing – no sector (like cars), no technology (like IT), no process (like ‘globalisation’) – that is promising to push them back up again in the near future. Capital, in other words, is in crisis, and, as Nicolas Stern, author of a report on the costs and opportunities of climate change for the British government, argues, it needs ‘a good driver of growth to come out of this period, and it is not just a simple matter of pumping up demand’.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Naughty banks need more than a slap on the wrist

by Matt McCarten from NZ Herald 13 December 2009 The Australian banks last week had their Prime Minister scolding them to take a hard look at themselves. That's because they snuck through an interest rate rise after their Reserve Bank raised its rates. Westpac was the worst with a 45-point hike, even though the Reserve Bank raised the rate by only 25 points. Westpac rubbed salt into its customers' wounds by sending them an email comparing the bank's profit-gouging decision to a situation when a tropical storm hits a banana plantation. Apparently, such an occurrence would increase the price of a banana smoothie. Of course, the comparison was dishonest and patronising. A bank's unethical profiteering that puts people in a situation of not being able to pay their mortgage is outrageous enough. But comparing it with paying more for a banana smoothie has caused a furore in Australia. Westpac won't want that public relations disaster following it over here, given it has announced it is making over its New Zealand brand to show how much it cares about us. The other Australian banks (ANZ, ASB, BNZ and National) have followed with a charm offensive, too. There are lots of soothing words about how they want to get closer to New Zealanders by opening more branch offices and offering more intimate services. It's a bit hard to understand their strategy, given they recently sacked hundreds of Kiwi bank tellers and shipped their work offshore to call-centre factories. It seems only yesterday we were being told local bank branch closures would save us money. Despite those rather inconvenient truths, the public relations campaign to win our goodwill is well under way. Recently, BNZ proudly promoted its public spirit credentials by closing its doors for a day and paying its employees to do community work for the day. I'm not trying to piss on the parade, but the day after, I was in a BNZ bank and the staff were running ragged. One of them dryly noted that BNZ got good publicity, but it also meant the workers had to fit five days' work into four days that week. One of the BNZ's main competitors, the ASB Bank, is now rebranded as the "caring bank". It also claims to have been a "Kiwi bank since 1847". I doubt the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is aware of the new change of ownership. It seems that the new initiatives to win our favour are twofold. Despite the widespread political opposition and scepticism to setting up a publicly owned community, Kiwibank has gone from strength to strength as many New Zealanders have swapped their bank accounts over. Nationalism and sovereignty are strong emotions. The second reason is the public mood is going dog on them. There's been too much news about interest fixing, exorbitant fees and the outrageous tax evasion cases now before the courts. That's on top of the increasing numbers of ordinary New Zealanders losing their homes as the banks start foreclosing on them. Vaughan Gunson from the Bad Bank campaign claims the Australian bank owners are terrified that the public sentiments will lead to politicians on both sides of the Tasman following their American colleagues and regulating the industry to curb its excessive profiteering. Gunson blames the banks for causing the financial crisis that almost collapsed the global economy. The Bad Bank supporters picketed a bank in downtown Auckland on Friday as part of their campaign to force the Government to hold a formal inquiry into the role of banks in this country. Westpac ran a stupid banana campaign, says Gunson, but the whole world banking system has gone bananas. One slip on a skin and we're all gone. The Government's siding with the Australian bank owners in not holding an inquiry makes me nervous.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"It's the whole banking system which is bananas", say Bad Banks campaigners

Bad Banks media release 10 December 2009 Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has given a very public serve to Westpac for an email the bank sent to mortgage customers featuring a cartoon video about selling bananas to justify a hike in its mortgage rates. (See Westpac goes bananas -,,26462786-3122,00.html) "This is just another example of the silly tricks that the Big Four Australian-owned banks (ANZ National, BNZ, Westpac and ASB) are pulling to try and "win over" the public", says Vaughan Gunson, Bad Banks campaign spokesperson. In New Zealand, BNZ closed the doors of its branches and instructed staff to do community work for a day. And ASB Bank has been pushing an advertising campaign which tries to paint a picture of a "caring bank" that serves us. "ASB have made the ridiculous claim that they've been a "Kiwi bank since 1847", when in fact they're fully owned by Commonwealth Bank of Australia", says Gunson. "The banks are trying to "suck up" because they know there's a bad public mood against them, as a result of their interest gouging, fee charging, and tax dodging", says Gunson. "Many New Zealand homeowners are experiencing mortgage stress, thanks to the banks." "What the Aussie banks are worried about is that the public mood against them will put pressure on governments on both sides of the Tasman to put in place tough regulations that curb their power and rein in their profits", says Gunson. The Bad Banks campaign is doing its bit to keep the pressure on the banks. Tomorrow (Friday) at 12noon we're going to be outside ASB's Queen Street branch (cnr Wellesley St) with placards and a new leaflet exposing ASB. "Our aim is to promote a nationwide and popular debate on the banks and their role in the economy", says Gunson. "It goes way beyond a few bad banks, we think the whole banking system is bananas." "The financial implosion that almost brought down the global economy last year, and which is continuing to wreck havoc on the lives of grassroots people, shows that we need to urgently bring the banks under control", says Gunson. There is momentum building even amongst the global financial elite for more regulation and control to be imposed on the banks. (See Ex-Fed chief Paul Volcker's 'telling' words on derivatives industry - To contribute to the national debate that we must have in New Zealand about the banking system, Bad Banks offers these suggestions for transforming the power relationship between banks and the people: 1. Immediate government intervention to stop banks turfing "mum and dad" homeowners out of their homes because of a job loss or income cut. 2. The establishment of a government regulatory body to oversee the renegotiation of mortgages based on realistic market values and the ability of the homeowner to pay. 3. Turn Kiwibank into a proper "public service" bank offering first-home buyers a 3% interest state loan. 4. Zero-fee banking offered to people on modest incomes. Facilitated by expanding the role of Kiwibank and forced regulation of all banks operating in New Zealand. 5. Introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) that would net the banks and other financial speculators. A decisive step in shifting the tax burden off low and middle income people and onto the mega-rich. 6. All bank loans to big business over a fixed amount to be approved by a government regulatory body that acts to protect the environment and communities. Such a measure is essential to preventing powerful global banking interests from sabotaging the necessary emergency mobilisation against climate change. 7. A full public inquiry which looks at every aspect of banking operations in New Zealand, with public meetings held throughout the country, so that grassroots people can tell their stories. Contact: Vaughan Gunson Bad Banks media spokesperson (09)433 8897 021-0415 082

Bad Banks exposure of ASB's "Kiwi bank" claim - 12noon, Friday 11 December

Bad Banks media release 7 December 2009 Bad Banks campaigners will be outside ASB Bank on Queen Street (cnr Wellesley St), Auckland, this Friday to expose ASB's claim that it's a "Kiwi bank". "ASB ain't no Kiwi bank," says Vaughan Gunson, Bad Banks media spokesperson. "They're 100% owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, one of the bigger banks in the world. They're misleading the New Zealand public, to say the least." "We find their recent advertising campaign hard to stomach, and I'm sure many people feel the same," says Gunson, "because ASB and the other Aussie-owned banks (ANZ National, BNZ, and Westpac) aren't serving our interests at all. Their only goal is to make as much money as possible for bank bosses and corporate shareholders." "The Aussie-owned banks have been making exorbitant profits for years from high interest rates on mortgages and credit cards, as well as imposing high fees and late penalties. They've been hurting grassroots New Zealanders," says Gunson. "And now with the recession and people struggling to pay the bills, the banks are out to protect their own equity position by forcing mortgagee sales in record numbers," says Gunson. On top of these injustices, ASB is refusing to pay an unpaid tax bill of $285 million. "Rather than big-budget advertising campaigns designed to mislead us, ASB bosses should just pay up the tax they owe," says Gunson. "It's obvious that ASB and the other big banks are trying to suck up to us. Why? Because they're worried that the bad public mood against them will result in the government being forced to curb banking power and rein in their profits. Which is exactly what the Bad Banks campaign wants to see, " says Gunson. "We've started a long term campaign to build pressure on the banks, which we hope will result in tougher regulations being placed on the banking and finance industries. Most people would say it can't happen too soon," says Gunson. Bad Banks campaigners recently nominated ASB Bank for the 2009 Roger Award, given annually to the "Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand" (see Backgrounder #2 below). "It was difficult to choose which bank to nominate for The Roger Award, because in the eyes of most New Zealanders all banks are bad," says Gunson. "But what tipped the balance in favour of ASB, was the fact that ASB bosses have been very hostile to the bank workers union, Finsec." "Today, ASB is the only big bank which is not unionised. Which begs the question: is it "Kiwi" to be anti-union?" asks Gunson. Bad Banks campaigners will be carrying placards, making some noise, and handing out leaflets to the public outside the Queen Street branch of ASB Bank at 12noon, this Friday, 11 December. Media are invited to attend to get more comment, plus photos/footage. The cartoon image attached to this media release is by ex-NZ Herald cartoonist, KLARC. It is freely available for reproduction on websites or in print publications. For more comment, contact: Vaughan Gunson Bad Banks media spokesperson (09)433 8897 021-0415 082 ________________________________________ Backgrounder #1 The Bad Banks campaign has been initiated by Socialist Worker-New Zealand. We believe the banks in New Zealand and globally have grown to exercise enormous and dangerous power over the economy. The big banks and their government backers are driving forward economic policies that threaten people and planet. There are a range of measures needed to stop the banks, from tough government regulations to establishing proper public banks which provide credit as a service rather than to make a profit. The Bad Banks campaign also advocates measures like a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) to net the banks and other financial speculators whose profits from wheeling and dealing goes largely untaxed. Such a tax would allow New Zealand to move towards a fairer tax system which shifts the tax burden off low and middle income people and onto the big wealthy corporates. For more information on the Bad Banks campaign go to Backgrounder #2 These were the 10 reasons given by Bad Banks campaigners for why ASB deserved to receive the 2009 Roger Award: 1. Interest gouging grassroots Kiwi homeowners. Mortgage holders know it. Even the Reserve Bank in 2009 came out and said that the banks, including ASB, were keeping their interest rates too high. High interest rates on large mortgages put modest income earners under considerable financial stress in 2009, as many were affected by job losses, income cuts, and general financial insecurity. (See 2. Foreclosing on people's homes. 2009 saw record numbers of mortgagee sales, as banks moved to protect their own equity position by turfing increasing numbers of "mum and dad" mortgage holders out of their homes. Hundreds of homeowners were foreclosed in Auckland, ASB's home turf. (See 3. Continuing to make massive profits at the expense of grassroots people. The recession of 2008/09 did not prevent ASB making a big profit, $238 million for the first six months of the financial year. Such a high profit in a recession points to the power the bank has to shift the burden of economic hard times on to ordinary New Zealanders. (See 4. Mega-scale tax dodging. It came to public attention in 2009 the full extent of tax dodging by the Big Four Aussie-owned banks, over $2 billion. The IRD is after $285 million from ASB for unpaid tax between 2001 and 2004. Having been caught, ASB bosses are still refusing to pay up, and will likely use teams of expensive lawyers to drag the process through the courts, costing the IRD and the Crown millions. (See 5. Failing to face up to public scrutiny. Nobody from ASB Bank fronted up to the parliamentary inquiry into the operations of the banks organised by the Green, Labour and Progressive parties in 2009. While this inquiry had no teeth, because it was not supported by the National government, this disregard for the New Zealand public showed how arrogant and conceited is the position of the Aussie-owned banks. (See 6. Union busting. The ASB Bank has determinedly used anti-union practices to stop Finsec Union from organising bank workers. To inquire more about ASB's union busting you could contact Finsec Union directly, phone 04 385 7723, email 7. Imposing a wage freeze on workers. All ASB Bank employees earning over $50,000 have been informed this year that they will be subject to a wage freeze. This will affect 3,500 of the bank's 4,700 staff nationwide. The low bar compares unfavourably with that being used by ASB's parent company in Australia, Commonwealth Bank, where the wage freeze is for staff earning over $100,000. (See 8. Deceiving New Zealanders by claiming to be a "Kiwi Bank". ASB advertisements in October 2009 used the phrase "we've been a KIWI BANK since 1847", when in fact ASB is almost entirely Aussie owned. The phrase cynically seeks to convey the impression that the ASB Bank operates in the interests of New Zealanders, when its corporate practices plainly tell another story. (See 9. Cutting funding to community groups. Just when many community organisations needed it most, to deal with the human fallout of the recession, ASB Bank, through its ASB Charitable Trust, froze grants for six months in 2009. This is despite continuing to make big profits. (See 10. Using the media to frame public debate in a way that's advantageous to banks. Any search of news websites like NZ Herald or Stuff for "ASB" reveals just how often spokespeople for the bank are in the media. The bank produced a constant stream of statements and commentary on economic indicators, which are clearly designed to frame media debate on economic issues in a way that's favorable to banking operations. For more information on CAFCA (Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa) and The Roger Award go to (Note that ASB was not one of The Roger Award finalists recently announced by CAFCA).

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Marxist accounts of the current crisis

by Joseph Choonara from International Socialism Journal Issue: 123 Just as medical science progresses through pathology, Marxist political economy develops through the analysis of the actual crises of capitalism. It is therefore no surprise that the current paroxysm has sparked both a revival of interest in Marxism1 and a flurry of responses by prominent Marxists. My focus here should not be taken to indicate that non-Marxist accounts are unworthy of engagement. A number of mainstream economists have been forced, whether enthusiastically or reluctantly, to grapple with the realities of the system.2 But the crisis has also revealed the paucity of what passes for academic economic theory, captured in an astonishing admission by Willem Buiter, a London School of Economics professor and a former member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee:
The typical graduate macroeconomics and monetary economics training received at Anglo-American universities during the past 30 years or so may have set back by decades serious investigations of aggregate economic behaviour and economic policy-relevant understanding. It was a privately and socially costly waste of time and other resources. Most mainstream macroeconomic theoretical innovations since the 1970s…have turned out to be self-referential, inward-looking distractions at best. Research tended to be motivated by the internal logic, intellectual sunk capital and aesthetic puzzles of established research programmes, rather than by a powerful desire to understand how the economy works—let alone how the economy works during times of stress and financial instability. So the economics profession was caught unprepared when the crisis struck.3
The record of Marxists has been better. Nonetheless, their approaches to the crisis are far from homogenous, have often been developed in isolation from each other and diverge on several points. Here I consider widely accessible accounts that have appeared in English over the past few months, appraising their strengths and weaknesses relative to each other and to the tradition associated with this journal.4 The “real” and the financial All Marxist accounts of the current crisis have been forced to recognise its financial dimension. The crisis has been marked by the near collapse of the banking system in several countries and began with the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble in the US. One of the first Marxist accounts to draw attention to subprime was produced by Robin Blackburn, who wrote on this subject as early as spring 2007, a few months before the real panic began:
In recent months “subprime” defaults have jumped. A Lehman Brothers analyst warns that some $225 billion worth of subprime loans will be in default by the end of 2007 but others say the figure will be nearer $300 billion. The “equity tranch” [the riskiest slice of the repackaged debt] is now dubbed “toxic waste” by the insiders and analysts are waiting to see which bodies float to the surface… The default crunch will not only cause great unhappiness to the victims who stand to lose their homes—it hurts the housing market and increases the chances of a downturn.5
Back then the term subprime barely warranted a mention in most newspapers. The Financial Times was more attentive than most, carrying an article entitled “Subprime Sickness”, which argued:
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the [subprime] fallout can largely be confined to the sector… Even the fact that so many Wall Street banks were heavily involved in the subprime sector…need not be a cause for alarm. The exposure for any bank should be small. Typically they did not hold on to such mortgages, but packaged them up and sold them on in securitisation…securitisation is doing what it is intended to do—spreading the risk.6
Unlike the Financial Times, Blackburn was “ahead of the curve” because he had focused in the preceding years on developing a detailed analysis of the fragilities of the global financial system.7However, it was possible to see the outlines of a potential crisis from a different starting point. International Socialism published a remarkably prophetic article in summer 2007, which, by coincidence, came out just in time for the onset of the credit crunch. This saw the growth of finance originating in the decline of profit rates during the post-war boom and the failure to sufficiently restore them from the low levels they had reached by the 1980s. This led to a scramble for alternative outlets for profits:
Low levels of past profitability do not stop capitalists imagining that there are miraculous profits to be made in the future and in sucking surplus value from all over the world to be ploughed into projects aimed at obtaining them. Many of these are purely speculative gambles in unproductive spheres, as with bubbles in real estate, commodities markets, share prices and so on… Against such a background, corporate profits will be being puffed up until they lose touch with reality, and things will seem to be going very well until overnight it is discovered they are going very badly.8
These two different accounts illustrate a dividing line in Marxist analyses of the current crisis. Some emphasise the internal logic of “financialisation” and tend to see the financial crisis as impinging upon the “real” economy from the outside; others, while recognising the importance of the financial dimension, emphasise the underlying problems in the “real” economy that drove the expansion of finance and paved the way for the crisis. The distinction between the “real” and the financial has to be qualified in two ways. First, the growth of finance has, in part, been driven by traditional corporations based in the “real” economy. For instance, by 2003, 42 percent of General Electric’s profits were generated by its financial wing, GE Capital.9 Second, and more fundamentally, for Marxists the financial system is not simply something grafted onto a pure, non-financial capitalism. Whenever money ceases to function simply as money, when it also functions as capital, it opens up the possibility of credit and financial speculation.10 As David Harvey has recently argued, “There is a more dialectical relationship between what you might call the ‘real’ and ‘financial’ sides of the economy”.11 The real questions at stake are whether financial growth is driven by processes autonomous from the non-financial areas of the economy; whether the current crisis is a new type of crisis or is rooted in tendencies Marx identified, even if the crisis is deferred and given unique characteristics by the growth of finance;12 and whether the dynamic of the system has been fundamentally changed by a process of “financialisation”. I will begin by considering those accounts that emphasise the transformation of capitalism through finance over the recent period.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Copenhagen: Seattle Grows Up

By Naomi Klein
From: The Nation

The other day I received a pre-publication copy of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. It’s set to come out ten years after a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the spark that ignited a global anticorporate movement.

The book is a fascinating account of what really happened in Seattle, but when I spoke to David Solnit, the direct-action guru who helped engineer the shutdown, I found him less interested in reminiscing about 1999 than in talking about the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen and the “climate justice” actions he is helping to organize across the United States on November 30. “This is definitely a Seattle-type moment,” Solnit told me. “People are ready to throw down.”

There is certainly a Seattle quality to the Copenhagen mobilization: the huge range of groups that will be there; the diverse tactics that will be on display; and the developing-country governments ready to bring activist demands into the summit. But Copenhagen is not merely a Seattle do-over. It feels, instead, as though the progressive tectonic plates are shifting, creating a movement that builds on the strengths of an earlier era but also learns from its mistakes.

The big criticism of the movement the media insisted on calling “anti-globalization” was always that it had a laundry list of grievances and few concrete alternatives. The movement converging on Copenhagen, in contrast, is about a single issue – climate change – but it weaves a coherent narrative about its cause, and its cures, that incorporates virtually every issue on the planet. In this narrative, our climate is changing not simply because of particular polluting practices but because of the underlying logic of capitalism, which values short-term profit and perpetual growth above all else. Our governments would have us believe that the same logic can now be harnessed to solve the climate crisis – by creating a tradable commodity called “carbon” and by transforming forests and farmland into “sinks” that will supposedly offset our runaway emissions.

Climate-justice activists in Copenhagen will argue that, far from solving the climate crisis, carbon-trading represents an unprecedented privatization of the atmosphere, and that offsets and sinks threaten to become a resource grab of colonial proportions. Not only will these “market-based solutions” fail to solve the climate crisis, but this failure will dramatically deepen poverty and inequality, because the poorest and most vulnerable people are the primary victims of climate change – as well as the primary guinea pigs for these emissions-trading schemes.

But activists in Copenhagen won’t simply say no to all this. They will aggressively advance solutions that simultaneously reduce emissions and narrow inequality. Unlike at previous summits, where alternatives seemed like an afterthought, in Copenhagen the alternatives will take center stage. For instance, the direct-action coalition Climate Justice Action has called on activists to storm the conference center on December 16. Many will do this as part of the “bike bloc,” riding together on an as yet unrevealed “irresistible new machine of resistance” made up of hundreds of old bicycles. The goal of the action is not to shut down the summit, Seattle-style, but to open it up, transforming it into “a space to talk about our agenda, an agenda from below, an agenda of climate justice, of real solutions against their false ones.... This day will be ours.”

Some of the solutions on offer from the activist camp are the same ones the global justice movement has been championing for years: local, sustainable agriculture; smaller, decentralized power projects; respect for indigenous land rights; leaving fossil fuels in the ground; loosening protections on green technology; and paying for these transformations by taxing financial transactions and cancelling foreign debts. Some solutions are new, like the mounting demand that rich countries pay “climate debt” reparations to the poor. These are tall orders, but we have all just seen the kind of resources our governments can marshal when it comes to saving the elites. As one pre-Copenhagen slogan puts it: “If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved” – not abandoned to the brutality of the market.

In addition to the coherent narrative and the focus on alternatives, there are plenty of other changes too: a more thoughtful approach to direct action, one that recognizes the urgency to do more than just talk but is determined not to play into the tired scripts of cops-versus-protesters. “Our action is one of civil disobedience,” say the organizers of the December 16 action. “We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way – but we will not respond with violence if the police to escalate the situation.” (That said, there is no way the two week summit will not include a few running battles between cops and kids in black; this is Europe, after all.)

A decade ago, in an op-ed in the New York Times published after Seattle was shut down, I wrote that a new movement advocating a radically different form of globalization “just had its coming-out party.” What will be the significance of Copenhagen? I put that question to John Jordan, whose prediction of what eventually happened in Seattle I quoted in my book No Logo. He replied: “If Seattle was the movement of movements’ coming-out party, then maybe Copenhagen will be a celebration of our coming of age.”

He cautions, however, that growing up doesn’t mean playing it safe, eschewing civil disobedience in favor of staid meetings. “I hope we have grown up to become much more disobedient,” Jordan said, “because life on this world of ours may well be terminated because of too many acts of obedience.”

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Historic decision to form socialist Fifth International

A meeting of 55 left organisations from 31 countries, held in Caracas on 19-21 November 2009, passed a resolution to convene a global left conference in Venezuela next April that will form an international socialist coalition (to be known as the "Fifth International").

Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, called for the creation of "the Fifth Socialist International as a new organisation that fits the time and the challenge in which we live, and that can become an instrument of unification and coordination of the struggle of peoples to save this planet”.

President Chavez addresses conference of left parties.

Australian socialist Federico Fuentes, a conference participant, reports:

Chavez said it would be a new body without manuals and impositions, where differences were welcome. He criticised the practices of the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which imposed its dogmas such as “socialism in one country” on its satellite parties internationally...

Chavez said the new international should reject the failed projects of “real socialism” and social democracy. It should embody the spirit and heritage left to humanity by the founders of the first four internationals. It should also incorporate the ideas of past Latin American revolutionaries.

It has to be an international to confront imperialism, and defeat capitalism, said Chavez. He said it was necessary to work together to create a manifesto to spell out the content of “socialism of the 21st century”.

Chavez gave a swift and sharp response to a delegate’s interjection that there already exist organisations for left coordination. There exist many spaces for discussion, said Chavez, but none for concrete action. “We have wasted a lot of time, we continue to waste time, looking for excuses to justify our inactivity”, said Chavez. “I consider such behaviour to be a betrayal of the hope of our peoples.” The unity of left parties is needed, “but [of] parties that are truly left”.

Appearing below are eyewitness reports from Fuentes and his fellow socialist from Australia, Kiraz Janicke, along with a conference declaration titled "The Caracas Commitment" and a supportive analysis from a Fourth International activist in the French New Anti-Capitalist Party.

Decisions of Socialist Worker-New Zealand

On 29 November 2009 the central committee of Socialist Worker-New Zealand unanimously decided:

● The Caracas decision to move towards forming a Fifth International is of "world historic importance". Such a Fifth International will "boost the legitimacy and organisation of socialism around the world" at a time when global capitalism in terminal decay threatens the existence of humanity through climate change, mass poverty and imperial conflicts.

● Consequently, Socialist Worker-New Zealand will do all we can to support the April 2010 global left meeting to form a Fifth International.

● Socialist Worker-New Zealand is looking to send two delegates to the April conference. We are launching an appeal to raise funds for their return air fares to Caracas. You can support our appeal by making an electronic payment to Socialist Worker's bank account 115350-0685890-11 or posting a cheque (marked "Socialist Worker") to PO Box 13-685, Auckland.

● Socialist Worker-New Zealand will be talking with other socialists in New Zealand about the April 2010 global left conference. Our aim is to cooperate with all those who, like us, support the formation of a Fifth International.

● Socialist Worker-New Zealand will be urging socialists in other lands, including the International Socialist Tendency to which we are affiliated, to likewise back the formation of a Fifth International.


Grant Morgan
International secretary
Socialist Worker-New Zealand
PO Box 13-685
New Zealand
+64 9 634 4432 (10am-10pm NZT)

See also Labour Party Pakistan endorses Fifth Socialist International process.

Chavez calls for new international organisation of left parties

Chavez with Kiraz Janicke.
by Kiraz Janicke, Caracas from 23 November 2009 Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called for the formation of a “Fifth International” of left parties and social movements to confront the challenge posed by the global crisis of capitalism. The president made the announcement during an international conference of more than 50 left organisations from 31 countries held in Caracas over November 19-21. “I assume responsibility before the world. I think it is time to convene the Fifth International, and I dare to make the call, which I think is a necessity. I dare to request that we create my proposal,” Chavez said.

Hugo Chavez calls for international socialist unity

by Federico Fuentes, Caracas from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal 27 November 2009 Addressing delegates at the International Encounter of Left Parties held in Caracas, November 19-21, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said that with the capitalist crisis and threat of war risking the future of humanity, “the people are clamoring” for greater unity of those willing to fight for socialism. Chavez used his November 20 speech to the conference, which involved delegates from 55 left groups from 31 countries, to call for a new international socialist organisation to unite left groups and social movements: “The time has come for us to organise the Fifth International.”

Fourth International leader on Chavez’s call for a new international

by François Sabado
an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party in France.

26 November 2009

During an international meeting of left parties held in Caracas from 19-21 November, 2009, Venezuelas President Hugo Chavez launched a call for a Fifth Socialist International, which, according to him, should bring together left parties and social movements. According to Chavez, who is also president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the Fifth International must be “an instrument for the unification and the articulation of the struggle of the peoples to save this planet”. In a world political situation marked by a total crisis of the capitalist system, this is a fact important enough to be underlined.

‘The Caracas Commitment’

Declaration from World Meeting of Left Parties, November 19-21, Caracas, Venezuela 21 November 2009 Political parties and organizations from Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania commemorate and celebrate the unity and solidarity that brought us together in Caracas, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and from this libertarian city we would like to express our revolutionary rebelliousness. We are glad of and committed to the proud presence of the forces of change in a special moment of history. Likewise, we are proud to reaffirm our conviction to definitively sow, grow and win Socialism of the 21st century. In this regard, we want to sign the Commitment of Caracas as a revolutionary guide for the challenges ahead of us. We have gathered with the aim of unifying criteria and giving concrete answers that allow us to defend our sovereignty, our social victories, and the freedom of our peoples in the face of the generalized crisis of the world capitalist system and the new threats spreading over our region and the whole world with the establishment and strengthening of military bases in the sister republics of Colombia, Panama, Aruba, Curacao, the Dutch Antilles, as well as the aggression against Ecuadorian territory, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. We consider that the world capitalist system is going through one of its most severe crises, which has shaken its very foundations and brought with it consequences that jeopardize the survival of humanity. Likewise, capitalism and the logic of capital, destroys the environment and biodiversity, bringing with it consequences of climate change, global warming and the destruction of life. One of the epicentres of the capitalist crisis is in the economic domain; this highlights the limitations of unbridled free markets ruled by private monopolies. In this situation, some governments have been asked to intervene to prevent the collapse of vital economic sectors, for instance, through the implementation of bailouts to bank institutions that amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. Said governments have been asked to stimulate their economies by increasing public expenditure in order to mitigate the recession and the private sector decline, which evidences the end of the supposedly irrefutable “truth” of neo-liberalism that of non-intervention of the State in economic affairs. In this regard, it is very timely to promote an in-depth discussion on the economic crisis, the role of the State and the construction of a new financial architecture. In summary, the capitalist crisis cannot be reduced simply to a financial crisis; it is a structural crisis of capital which combines the economic crisis, with an ecological crisis, a food crisis, and an energy crisis, which together represents a mortal threat to humanity and mother earth. Faced with this crisis, left-wing movements and parties see the defence of nature and the construction of an ecologically sustainable society as a fundamental axis of our struggle for a better world. In recent years, progressive and left-wing movements of the Latin American region have accumulated forces, and stimulated transformations, throwing up leaders that today hold important government spaces. This has represented an important blow to the empire because the peoples have rebelled against the domination that has been imposed on them, and have left behind their fear to express their values and principles, showing the empire that we will not allow any more interference in our internal affairs, and that we are willing to defend our sovereignty. This meeting is held at a historic time, characterized by a new imperialistic offensive against the peoples and governments of the region and of the world, a pretension supported by the oligarchies and ultraconservative right-wing, with the objective of recovering spaces lost as a consequence of the advancement of revolutionary process of liberation developing in Latin America. These are expressed through the creation of regional organizations such as ALBA, UNASUR, PETROCARIBE, Banco del Sur, the Sao Paulo Forum, COPPPAL, among others; where the main principles inspiring these processes are those of solidarity, complementarity, social priority over economic advantage, respect for self-determination of the peoples in open opposition to the policies of imperial domination. For these reasons, the right-wing forces in partnership with the empire have launched an offensive to combat the advance and development of the peoples’ struggles, especially those against the overexploitation of human beings, racist discrimination, cultural oppression, in defence of natural resources, of the land and territory from the perspective of the left and progressive movements and of world transformation. We reflect on the fact that these events have led the U.S administration to set strategies to undermine, torpedo and destabilize the advancement of these processes of change and recuperation of sovereignty. To this end, the US has implemented policies expressed through an ideological and media offensive that aim to discredit the revolutionary and progressive governments of the region, labelling them as totalitarian governments, violators of human rights, with links to drug-trafficking operations, and terrorism; and also questioning the legitimacy of their origin. This is the reason for the relentless fury with which all the empire’s means of propaganda and its agents inside our own countries continuously attack the experiences in Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Paraguay, as with its maintenance of the blockade against revolutionary and independent Cuba. Part of the strategy activated by the U.S. Empire is evidenced by the coup in Honduras, as well as in other destabilizing initiatives in Central America, attempting to impose the oligarchic interests that have already left hundreds of victims, while a disgusting wave of cynicism tries to cover up the dictatorship imposed by the U.S. administration with a false veil of democracy. Along with this, it is developing a military offensive with the idea of maintaining political and military hegemony in the region, for which it is promoting new geopolitical allies, generating destabilization and disturbing peace in the region and globally through military intimidation, with the help of its allies in the internal oligarchies, who are shown to be complicit in the actions taken by the empire, giving away their sovereignty, and opening spaces for the empire’s actions. We consider that this new offensive is specifically expressed through two important events that took place this year in the continent: The coup in Honduras, and the installation of military bases in Colombia and Panama, as well as the strengthening of the already existing ones in our region. The coup in Honduras is nothing but a display of hypocrisy by the empire, a way to intimidate the rest of the governments in the region. It is a test-laboratory that aims to set a precedent that can be applied as a new coup model and a way to encourage the right to plot against the transformational and independent processes. We denounce the military agreement between the Colombian government and the United States administration strengthens the U.S.’s military strategy, whose contents are expressed in the so-called “White Book”. This confirms that the development of the agreement will guarantee a projection of continental and intercontinental military power, the strengthening of transportation capability and air mobility to guarantee the improvement of its action capability, in order to provide the right conditions to have access to energy sources. It also consolidates its political partnership with the regional oligarchy for the control of Colombian territory and its projection in the Andes and in the rest of South America. All this scaffolding and consolidation of military architecture entails a serious threat for peace in the region and the world. The installation of military bases in the region and their interrelation with the different bases spread throughout the world is not only confined to the military sphere, but rather forms part of the establishment of a general policy of domination and expansion directed by the U.S. These bases constitute strategic points to dominate all the countries in Central and Latin America and the rest of the world. The treaty for the installation of military bases in Colombia is preceded by Plan Colombia, which was already an example of U.S. interference in the affairs of Colombia and the region using the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism as an excuse. However, it has been shown that drug trafficking levels have increased in Colombia; therefore, the plan is no longer justified given that no favourable results have been obtained since its implementation, that would justify a new treaty with the U.S. Today, the global strategy headed by the U.S. concerning drug trafficking is a complete failure. Its results are summarised by a rapid processes of accumulation of illegal capital, increased consumption of drugs and exacerbation of criminality, whose victims are the peoples of Latin America, especially the Colombian people. This strategy should be revisited and modified, and should be oriented towards a different logic that focuses on drug consumption as a public health issue. In Colombia, drug trafficking has assumed the form of paramilitarism, and turned into a political project the scope of which and persons responsible should be investigated so that the truth is known, so that justice prevails and the terror of the civilian population ceases. We, the peoples of the world, declare that we will not give up the spaces we have managed to conquer after years of struggle and resistance; and we commit ourselves to regain those which have been taken from us. Therefore, we need to defend the processes of change and the unfolding revolutions since they are based on sovereign decisions made by the peoples.
1. MOBILIZATION AND CONDEMNATION OF U.S. MILITARY BASES 1.1. To organize global protests against the U.S. military bases from December 12th to 17th, 2009. Various leftwing parties and social movements will promote forums, concerts, protest marches and any other creative activity within the context of this event.
1.2. To establish a global mobilization front for the political denouncement of the U.S. military bases. This group will be made up by social leaders, left-wing parties, lawmakers, artists, among others, who will visit different countries with the aim of raising awareness in forums, press conferences and news and above all in gatherings with each country’s peoples.
1.3. To organize students, young people, workers and women in order to establish a common agenda of vigilance and to denounce against the military bases throughout the world.
1.4. To organize a global legal forum to challenge the installation of the U.S. military bases. This forum is conceived as a space for the condemnation of illegalities committed against the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples and the imposition of a hegemonic imperialist model.
1.5. To organise a global trial against paramilitarism in Colombia bringing testimonies and evidence to international bodies of justice.
1.6. To promote a global trial against George Bush for crimes against humanity, as the person principally responsible for the genocide against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.
1.7. To promote a campaign for the creation of constitutional and legal provisions in all of our countries against the installation of military bases and deployment of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
1.8. To promote, from the different social organizations and movements of the countries present in this meeting, a political solution for the Colombian conflict.
1.9. To organise solidarity with the Colombian people against the imperial aggression that the military bases entail in Colombian territory.
2. INSTALLATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF A PLATFORM OF JOINT ACTION BY LEFT-WING PARTIES OF THE WORLD 2.1. To establish a space of articulation of progressive and left-wing organizations and parties that allows for coordinating policies against the aggression towards the peoples, the condemnation of the aggressions against governments elected democratically, the installation of military bases, the violation of sovereignty and against xenophobia, the defence of immigrants’ rights, peace, and the environment, and peasant, labour, indigenous and afro-descendent movements.
2.2. To set up a Temporary Executive Secretariat (TES) that allows for the coordination of a common working agenda, policy making, and follow-up on the agreements reached within the framework of this international encounter. Said Secretariat undertakes to inform about relevant events in the world, and to define specific action plans: statements, declarations, condemnations, mobilizations, observations and other issues that may be decided.
2.3. To set up an agenda of permanent ideological debate on the fundamental aspects of the process of construction of socialism.
2.4. To prepare common working agendas with participation from Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
2.5. To organize solidarity of the people’s of the world with the Bolivarian revolution and President Hugo Chávez, in response to the constant imperial attacks.
2.6. To commemorate the centenary of Clara Zetkin’s proposal to celebrate March 8th as the International Day of Women. The parties undertake to celebrate this day insofar as possible.
2.7. To summon a meeting to be held in Caracas in April 2010 in commemoration of the bicentenary of our Latin American and Caribbean independences.
3. ORGANIZATION OF A WORLD MOVEMENT OF MILITANTS FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE 3.1. To promote the establishment of peace bases, by peace supporters, who will coordinate actions and denouncements against interventionism and war sponsored by imperialism through activities such as: forums, cultural events, and debates to promote the ethical behaviour of anti-violence, full participation in social life, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, acknowledgement of the cultural identities of our peoples and strengthening the framework of integration. This space seeks to raise awareness among all citizens in rejection of all forms of domination, internal or external intervention, and to reinforce the culture of peace. To struggle relentlessly for a world with no nuclear weapons, no weapons of mass destruction, no military bases, no foreign interference, and no economic blockades, as our peoples need peace and are absolutely entitled to attain development. Promote the American continent as a territory of peace, home to the construction of a free and sovereign world.
3.2. To organize a Peace Parliament as a political space to exchange common endeavours among the world’s progressive and left-wing parliamentarians, and to know the historical, economic, legal, political and environmental aspects key for the defence of peace. Hereby we recommend holding the first meeting in February 2010.
4. ARTILLERY OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION TO EMANCIPATE REVOLUTIONARY CONSCIOUSNESS 4.1. To discuss a public communication policy at an inter-regional level that aims to improve the media battle, and to convey the values of socialism among the peoples.
4.2. To promote the creation and consolidation of alternative and community communication media to break the media siege, promote an International Alternative Left-wing Media Coordination Office that creates links to provide for improved information exchange among our countries, in which Telesur and Radiosur can be spearheads for this action.
4.3. To create a website of all of the progressive and left-wing parties and movements in the world as a means to ensure permanent exchange and the development of an emancipating and alternative communication.
4.4. To promote a movement of artists, writers and filmmakers to promote and develop festivals of small, short and full-length films that reflects the advancement and the struggle of peoples in revolution.
4.5. To hold a meeting or international forum of alternative left-wing media.
5. MOBILIZE ALL POPULAR ORGANIZATIONS IN UNRESTRICTED SUPPORT FOR THE PEOPLE OF HONDURAS 5.1. To promote an international trial against the coup plotters in Honduras before the International Criminal Court for the abuses and crimes committed.
5.2. Refuse to recognize the illegal electoral process they aim to carry out in Honduras.
5.3. To carry out a world vigil on Election Day in Honduras in order to protest against the intention to legitimize the coup, coordinated by the permanent committee that emerges from this encounter.
5.4. To coordinate the actions of left-wing parties worldwide to curb the imperialist pretensions of using the coup in Honduras as a strategy against the Latin American and Caribbean progressive processes and governments.
5.5. To unite with the people of Honduras through a global solidarity movement for people’s resistance and for the pursuit of democratic and participatory paths that allow for the establishment of progressive governments committed to common welfare and social justice.
5.6. To undertake actions geared towards denouncing before multilateral bodies, and within the framework of international law, the abduction of José Manuel Zelaya, legitimate President of Honduras, that facilitated the rupture of constitutional order in Honduras. It is necessary to determine responsibility among those who participated directly in this crime, and even among those who allowed his aircraft to go in and out Costa Rica without trying to detain the kidnappers of the Honduran president.
6. SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD 6.1. The Left-wing Parties of the International Meeting of Caracas agree to demand the immediate liberation of the five Cuban heroes unfairly imprisoned in American jails. They are authentic anti-terrorist fighters that caused no harm to U.S. national security, whose work was oriented towards preventing the terrorist attacks prepared by the terrorist counterrevolution against Cuba. The Five Heroes were subject to a biased judicial process, condemned by broad sectors of humanity, and stigmatized by a conspiracy of silence by the mainstream media. Given the impossibility of winning justice via judicial means, we call upon all political left-wing parties of the world to increase actions for their immediate liberation. We call on President Obama to utilize his executive power and set these Five Heroes of Humanity free.
6.2. The International Meeting of Left-wing Parties resolutely demands the immediate and unconditional cessation of the criminal U.S. blockade that harmed the Cuban people so badly over the last fifty years. The blockade should come to an end right now in order to fulfil the will of the 187 countries that recently declared themselves against this act of genocide during the UN General Assembly.
6.3. To unite with the people of Haiti in the struggle for the return of President Jean Bertrand Aristide to his country.
6.4. We propose to study the possibility to grant a residence in Venezuela to Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was kidnapped and overthrown as Haiti’s president by U.S. imperialism.
6.5. We express the need to declare a permanent alert aimed at preventing any type of breach of the constitutional order that may hinder the process of democratic change underway in Paraguay.
6.6. We denounce the neoliberal privatizing advance in Mexico expressly in the case of the Electric Energy state-owned company, a heritage of the people, which aims through the massive firing of 45 000 workers to intimidate the union force, “Luz y Fuerza”, which constitutes another offensive of the Empire in Central and North America.
6.7. To declare our solidarity with the peoples of the world that have suffered and are still suffering imperial aggressions, especially, the 50 year-long genocidal blockade against Cuba; the threat against the people of Paraguay; the slaughter of the Palestinian people; the illegal occupation of part of the territory of the Republic of Western Sahara and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan which today is expanding into Pakistan; the illegal sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe and the constant threat against Iran, among others.