Thursday, 29 April 2010

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

April 27, 2010

This Declaration was adopted by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in Bolivia. The Bolivian government has submitted it to the United Nations for consideration.


We, the peoples and nations of Earth:

considering that we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny;

gratefully acknowledging that Mother Earth is the source of life, nourishment and learning and provides everything we need to live well;

recognizing that the capitalist system and all forms of depredation, exploitation, abuse and contamination have caused great destruction, degradation and disruption of Mother Earth, putting life as we know it today at risk through phenomena such as climate change;

convinced that in an interdependent living community it is not possible to recognize the rights of only human beings without causing an imbalance within Mother Earth;

affirming that to guarantee human rights it is necessary to recognize and defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings in her and that there are existing cultures, practices and laws that do so;

conscious of the urgency of taking decisive, collective action to transform structures and systems that cause climate change and other threats to Mother Earth;

proclaim this Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, and call on the General Assembly of the United Nation to adopt it, as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations of the world, and to the end that every individual and institution takes responsibility for promoting through teaching, education, and consciousness raising, respect for the rights recognized in this Declaration and ensure through prompt and progressive measures and mechanisms, national and international, their universal and effective recognition and observance among all peoples and States in the world.

Article 1. Mother Earth 

(1) Mother Earth is a living being.

(2) Mother Earth is a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.

(3) Each being is defined by its relationships as an integral part of Mother Earth.

(4) The inherent rights of Mother Earth are inalienable in that they arise from the same source as existence.

(5) Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as may be made between organic and inorganic beings, species, origin, use to human beings, or any other status.

(6) Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.

(7) The rights of each being are limited by the rights of other beings and any conflict between their rights must be resolved in a way that maintains the integrity, balance and health of Mother Earth.

Article 2. Inherent Rights of Mother Earth

(1) Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights:

(a) the right to life and to exist;

(b) the right to be respected;

(c) the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions;

(d) the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being;

(e) the right to water as a source of life;

(f) the right to clean air;

(g) the right to integral health;

(h) the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste;

(i) the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning;

(j) the right to full and prompt restoration the violation of the rights recognized in this Declaration caused by human activities;

(2) Each being has the right to a place and to play its role in Mother Earth for her harmonious functioning.

(3) Every being has the right to wellbeing and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by human beings.

Article 3. Obligations of human beings to Mother Earth

(1) Every human being is responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth.

(2) Human beings, all States, and all public and private institutions must:

(a) act in accordance with the rights and obligations recognized in this Declaration;

(b) recognize and promote the full implementation and enforcement of the rights and obligations recognized in this Declaration;

(c) promote and participate in learning, analysis, interpretation and communication about how to live in harmony with Mother Earth in accordance with this Declaration;

(d) ensure that the pursuit of human wellbeing contributes to the wellbeing of Mother Earth, now and in the future;

(e) establish and apply effective norms and laws for the defence, protection and conservation of the rights of Mother Earth;

(f) respect, protect, conserve and where necessary, restore the integrity, of the vital ecological cycles, processes and balances of Mother Earth;

(g) guarantee that the damages caused by human violations of the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration are rectified and that those responsible are held accountable for restoring the integrity and health of Mother Earth;

(h) empower human beings and institutions to defend the rights of Mother Earth and of all beings;

(i) establish precautionary and restrictive measures to prevent human activities from causing species extinction, the destruction of ecosystems or the disruption of ecological cycles;

(j) guarantee peace and eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;

(k) promote and support practices of respect for Mother Earth and all beings, in accordance with their own cultures, traditions and customs;

(l) promote economic systems that are in harmony with Mother Earth and in accordance with the rights recognized in this Declaration.

Article 4. Definitions 

(1) The term “being” includes ecosystems, natural communities, species and all other natural entities which exist as part of Mother Earth.

(2) Nothing in this Declaration restricts the recognition of other inherent rights of all beings or specified beings.

The Cochabamba Protocol: People’s Agreement on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

April 26, 2010

Final Declaration of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger.

If global warming increases by more than 2 degrees Celsius, a situation that the “Copenhagen Accord” could lead to, there is a 50% probability that the damages caused to our Mother Earth will be completely irreversible. Between 20% and 30% of species would be in danger of disappearing. Large extensions of forest would be affected, droughts and floods would affect different regions of the planet, deserts would expand, and the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas would worsen. Many island states would disappear, and Africa would suffer an increase in temperature of more than 3 degrees Celsius. Likewise, the production of food would diminish in the world, causing catastrophic impact on the survival of inhabitants from vast regions in the planet, and the number of people in the world suffering from hunger would increase dramatically, a figure that already exceeds 1.02 billion people.

The corporations and governments of the so-called “developed” countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.

Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration: “Mother Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her”

 “The aggression towards Mother Earth and the repeated assaults and violations against our soils, air, forests, rivers, lakes, biodiversity, and the cosmos are assaults against us.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration adopted at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Translation by Ben Powless, who was co-chair of the Indigenous People’s Working Group.

We, the Indigenous Peoples, nations and organizations from all over the world, gathered at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, from April 19th to 22nd, 2010 in Tiquipaya, Cochabamba, Bolivia, after extensive discussions, express the following:

We Indigenous Peoples are sons and daughters of Mother Earth, or “Pachamama” in Quechua. Mother Earth is a living being in the universe that concentrates energy and life, while giving shelter and life to all without asking anything in return, she is the past, present and future; this is our relationship with Mother Earth. We have lived in coexistence with her for thousands of years, with our wisdom and cosmic spirituality linked to nature. However, the economic models promoted and forced by industrialized countries that promote exploitation and wealth accumulation have radically transformed our relationship with Mother Earth. We must assert that climate change is one of the consequences of this irrational logic of life that we must change.

Australian socialist: Some Initial Reflections on the Summit in Cochabamba

Ben Courtice is a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance who attended the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. He posted this article on April 25 on his blog, Blind Carbon Copy. This version is copied from Climate & Capitalism

by Ben Courtice
April 24, 2010

This is just a first reflection on the monumental World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth which just finished in Cochabamba. I will post more on particular aspects of the summit soon.

The event was huge, with at least 20 000 (I’ve heard over 30 000) attending at the university Univalle in Tiquipaya, a municipality on the northwest edge of Cochabamba. There was a huge attendance from Bolivians, who are very much engaged in the political process of their country, and generally very supportive of their charismatic President Evo Morales. Delegations came, many in their traditional costume (which they still wear every day), from indigenous tribal people in the Amazon, from the Aymara and Quechua peoples of the Andes, from a plethora of unions, peasant and indigenous associations and NGOs, from all of what is called the “plurinational state of Bolivia.”

There were also big delegations from pretty much all the countries of Latin America. There was a fair scattering of North Americans, a few from Central America, and a pretty sparse representation from the rest of the world. Europe, Asia and Africa were under-represented partly because any flights going through Europe were cancelled after the volcanic eruption in Iceland. It was a clearly left gathering: the conservative NGO and aid milieu were keeping a low profile if they were there.

The summit had 17 working groups to write a document each for adoption by the summit. Topics of these ranged from the somewhat esoteric “shared vision” to concrete discussions such as on forests, and on a world referendum on climate action proposed by the Bolivian government.

In many ways the summit was driven by the radical agenda of the Latin American socialist governments – Bolivia of course, and Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador. The discourse from the Bolivians, in particular, was largely based on an indigenous philosophy of vivir bien – living well – in harmony with Pachamama – mother earth.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Offensive images?

A picture of Lenin in a party hat cropped from the first of these images accompanied last week’s post Happy Birthday Lenin, which announced UNITYblog’s up-coming discussion on Leninism in the 21st Century. A lively debate has already begun.

One contributor, Don Franks objected to the image of Lenin, seeing it as symbolic of UNITYblog’s supposed rejection of Leninism.

He writes:

“What is the point of that? Political images are not chosen randomly. To me it looks like you are putting some previously fun childish thing [Leninism] aside before getting on with the grown up business of the day.”

As I have said in the comments on this post, I chose the image because, “Making fun of an authority figure can open up space for critical discussion, which is my intention. I feel that this picture may help cut through the unhelpful duality of Lenin as a idol beyond question or a dictatorial hate-figure. I want to promote debate on Lenin’s legacy, from a wide range of Leftist perspectives.”

So for those who have not seen them before, here are the two “Communist Party” images. My only objection to them is that they include Stalin and Mao.

Meanwhile I have sent an open invitation to join the discussion on Leninism in the 21st Century to just about every Lefty on my email list and all members of the UNITYblog Facebook group. I'll be posting it here in a day or two.

UNITYblog editor

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Something missing from GST debate: a Robin Hood Tax

BAD BANKS media release 
25 April 2010 

"There’s something missing from the current debate about GST, and that’s a tax alternative, one that targets the banks and financial speculators," says Vaughan Gunson, Bad Banks spokesperson.

"Instead of making food and other basics more expensive for grassroots people, New Zealand needs to introduce a Financial Transaction Tax, or Robin Hood Tax as it’s been named by a popular British campaign," says Gunson.

"A small percentage tax on financial transactions would net billions annually from the big banks and financial speculators, who shift enormous amounts of money around everyday," says Gunson. "We could then remove GST from our food and begin to phase out this horrible regressive tax altogether. This is the circuit breaker that the GST debate needs." 

"Following the global financial implosion, and the role played by the banks and financial speculators, the time is right to introduce a tax which hits the most hated global purveyors of greed and exploitation. Yet the government is heading in the other direction, wanting to give tax breaks to these parasites, while hitting us with a GST increase," says Gunson.

Prime minister John Key wants to reward international financial speculators with tax breaks and other incentives, as part of his dream of turning New Zealand into a financial hub. The plan rests on enticing global investors to New Zealand with the promise of tax breaks. A recent IRD report entitled ‘Allowing a zero per cent tax rate for non-residents investing in a PIE [portfolio investment entity]’ reveals what's being considered. Under this proposal, overseas investors would be allowed to operate in this country and not pay New Zealand tax on their international investments.

"John Key would say that removing GST from food is too complicated - yet it’s not too difficult to change the tax laws to gift more profits to international fat cats?" asks Gunson. "Whose side are you on Mr Key? Hardworking grassroots people or the financial parasites?"

The Bad Banks campaign has drafted a letter to the prime minister on behalf of the grassroots people of New Zealand. It reads:

Dear Mr Key,

Why are you wanting to raise GST? Food and everything else will be more expensive. It's already hard to make ends meet. Why don't you tax the banks and other fat cats that have been ripping us off? We want justice Mr Key, make them pay.

Grassroots people of NZ

With the letter the Bad Banks campaign is raising three "common sense" measures to curb banking power and protect grassroots people, which includes introducing a Robin Hood Tax. They are:

1. Stop forced mortgagee sales
Regulatory muscle used to stop banks turfing people out of their homes. A government body to oversee the re-negotiation of mortgages based on current market values and ability of the homeowner to pay.

2. Turn Kiwibank into a proper public bank
Offering 3% interest loans to first home buyers, zero-fee banking for people on modest incomes, and low interest loans to local bodies for sustainable eco-projects in the public good.

3. Introduce a Robin Hood Tax (also known as a Financial Transaction Tax)
A small percentage tax on financial transactions would net billions of dollars from banks and global financial speculators. GST could be phased out.

"We’re inviting people to sign-on electronically to our letter to prime minister John Key via the Bad Banks website (or go directly to We think a clear message needs to be sent to the government and John Key that it's the banks and other financial fats cats who must be made to pay," says Gunson.

The cartoon by KLARC accompanying this media release is available to be reproduced in print and web publications. For a bigger resolution image contact Vaughan at the email below.

For more comment, contact

Vaughan Gunson
Bad Banks spokesperson
(09)433 8897
021-0415 082

KLARC: "No more GST on food"

We need out-of-parliament campaign in support of Rahui Katene’s bill

by Pat O'Dea

In his post on Red Alert, entitled Spot the Irony, Labour MP Trevor Mallard argues why his party will stand with National and ACT and not support Rahui Katene's bill to remove GST from healthy food.

Trevor Mallard justifies his position by attacking the Maori Party, who because they are in a confidence and supply agreement with National will themselves have to stand with National and ACT two weeks later to raise GST to 15%.

The real irony here, however, is that the Labour Party has basically endorsed the GST increase by admitting that on becoming the government they would probably not repeal it.

Though we may not agree with the Maori Party voting to raise GST, the Labour Party is doubly damned, because as well as refusing to commit to reversing the GST hike, they also oppose removing GST from food, even at the new higher rate. No amount of sophistry and finger pointing by Mallard (or anyone else) can disguise this fact.

Labour Party strategists must know that traditional Labour voters (Maori and Pakeha) will be uncomfortable with this diehard stand in support of GST. So what are Labour's Strategies for getting around this?

Labour has two strategies. Firstly, Goff has said a Labour administration would (instead of lowering GST) consider raising income taxes for people earning over $70 thousand (see But this is just a smokescreen to disguise the fact that the Labour will do just about anything to keep Roger Douglas's GST tax whole and intact.

Goff and the other closet Rogergnomes, know with the certainty of instinct, that any loosening of the GST vice will deligitimise the whole regressive Rogergnomics flat tax regime. If it means having to raise the top and middle tax income tax thresholds so that he can avoid having to tamper with GST, Goff will promise to do that instead.

Labour's other strategy will likely be to ignore and down play Rahui Katene's bill as much as possible. Hoping to avoid any public scrutiny of Labour's own defence of GST.

This is where a public campaign is vital. If rallies and other protest action can be built outside of parliament in support of this bill, then Labour will be exposed as the enemies of flaxroots folk that they accuse the Maori Party of being.

Democracy Now! videos interviews from Climate Change Conference

Democracy Now! has heaps of coverage of the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, in both video and transcripts.

Below are a few of the videos, with links to the transcripts.

From Melting Glaciers to Structural Adjustment: Maude Barlow on the Need for Water Justice

Transcript here at Democracy Now! webpage.

Mesa 18: Dissident Groups Host Alternative Meeting Outside World Peoples’ Climate Summit

Transcript here at Democracy Now! webpage.


Bolivia Climate Conference Moves to Establish Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

Transcript here at Democracy Now! webpage.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

20,000 at Bolivia climate conference

 Delegates at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and The Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia (Pic: Kris Krüg)

By Suzie Wylie and Jonathan Neale
in Cochabamba, Bolivia
From Socialist Worker UK

Some 20,000 people gathered for a “people’s conference on climate change” in Cochabamba, Bolivia, this week.

The event is historic. The leaders of the world’s major powers decided that they would do nothing about climate change at the UN’s climate talks in Copenhagen last December.

Many environmentalists were enraged. The same leaders who were prepared to bail out the banks were not prepared to save the planet.

There was a danger that the climate movement would collapse in demoralisation.

But Evo Morales, the left wing president of Bolivia, called a global conference of the social movements to continue the fight against climate change.

Canadian youth activist reports from Cochabamba

Kimia Ghomeshi from the Canadian youth climate movement reports back from Cochabamba:

I am now about half way through the 3 day peoples conference and feel a great sense of empowerment and sadness all at once.  I feel a deep sadness for our civilization that is so incapable of living in harmony with one another and with mother earth.  The developing world are to this day paying the price for colonialism in the form of neoliberal and capitalistic practices that are destroying their air, land, water and food – destroying their way of life.  I feel a deep sadness that capital accumulation has taken precedence over human life so that developed countries like Canada can continue to develop, exploit and consume.

But I also feel incredibly empowered because what I am seeing before me, here in Cochabamba, is a truly global resistance.  A resistance to the world’s greatest polluters– polluters who refuse to accept their responsibility for causing this global catastrophe.   And this movement is building, becoming more tactful, more united, more committed, with a common vision: Systems change, not climate change. 

Read Ghomeshi’s full report here:

Hat tip

Friday, 23 April 2010

Voices from the first day of the Bolivian Climate Change Conference

Report by Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley
Democracy Now

As the peoples’ climate change talks here move into their third day, thousands of participants from across Latin America and around the world are streaming into this small Bolivian town to discuss how to slow the impact of global warming. Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley file this report on Tuesday’s opening ceremony.

Click link below to read Rush Transcript

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Happy birthday Lenin

April 22 was the birthday of Russian Marxist Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin.

Lenin was the founder of the Bolsheviks (later the Communist Party) and became president of USSR as a result of the 1917 October Revolution. The success of the Bolsheviks in founding the world’s first socialist government won wide support for Lenin’s ideas on how a socialist party should be organised.

But as an advocate of the overthrow of the social and economic order, Lenin was always going to be a hate figure for defenders of capitalism. Today the mainstream view (shared by many on the Left) is that Lenin was a dictator who, if not quite as bad as Stalin, certainly paved the way for him.

As for Lenin’s idea on party organisation, these are often seen as a blueprint for dictatorship, both within the party and in any country unfortunate enough to fall under Communist control.

Lenin’s fans – including UNITYblog – hold a different view. We remember that Lenin argued that “democracy is indispensable to socialism”, that he wanted “every cook” to help govern the new socialist state. That the Russian Revolution failed to achieve this goal, we argue, was because of many factors beyond Lenin and the Bolshivik’s control.

What about Lenin’s theory of party organisation?

The fundamental point was that revolutionary socialists / Marxists should form their own parties, independent from the “reformists” who rejected the idea of revolution, believing instead that the problems of capitalism could be solved through gradual reform.

Abandoning Leninism?

In the Western countries, a number of the most most well-known Leninist groups appear to be abandoning Lenin’s principle of an exclusively revolutionary organisation.

Broad Left parties such as Denmark’s Red Green Alliance, Portugal’s Left Blog and German’s Left Party include revolutionary and non-revolutionary groups and individuals.

In France the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR – one of the world’s biggest Trotskyist groups) dissolved itself in order to establish the broader New Anti-Capitalist Party.

Over in Australia, the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) has also dissolved itself into the Socialist Alliance, which includes revolutionary and non-revolutionary socialists.

Here in Aotearoa, Socialist Worker is one of several socialist groups who traditionally identify as “Leninist”. But we are also advocates of a broad left strategy and hope to see the formation of a “new workers party” or “broad left party” that includes not only reformist socialists, but also opponents of neo-liberal economics who are not socialists at all.

This raises some big questions about Leninism and its relevance today:

Have the former members of the LCR and the DSP have abandoned Leninism? Does it matter?

What is the role of revolutionaries and Marxists within these broader reformists (or not explicitly revolutionary) parties?

Was Lenin wrong to advocate organisational separation of Marxists from other socialists? Or was this idea right at the time, but not now?

Over the next month or so UNITYblog will examine the problems of Leninism in the 21st Century.

We will start by posting several international articles from Marxists in the Leninist tradition who have taken a new look at Leninism, before sharing the views of leftists (both Leninist and not) from Aotearoa and elsewhere.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The CTU’s Alternative Economic Strategy – a way forward for workers?

Bill Rosenberg [pictured], author of the Council of Trade Unions proposed
 Alternative Economic Strategy, will be speaking on the reasons the 
Strategy was written, what it says and its potential as an 
organising and campaigning tool for the union movement.

Also speaking will be Socialist Worker National Chair, Vaughan
Gunson, who will discuss whether the Alternative Economic Strategy 
can be the basis of a broad left campaign against neo-liberalism.

A Socialist Worker Forum

Tuesday April 27, 7pm
at the Socialist Centre
86 Princes Street, Onehunga

For more information, or to organise a lift to the venue, phone Len
: 634 3984.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Grassroots action needed to save the Earth

Socialist Worker-New Zealand statement to the 'World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth' in Bolivia (19-22 April 2010).

19 April 2010

Socialist Worker-New Zealand agrees with the statement made by Bolivian President Evo Morales in his invitation to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth that “climate change is a product of the capitalist system”.

The pursuit of growth and profit is hard-wired into capitalism. Corporations and politicians wedded to capitalism cannot bring about the urgent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions we need to avert catastrophic climate change.

Therefore the transition to societies living in harmony with nature requires fundamental system change. The way we use resources, the way we produce things, the way we live has to change. This is the challenge that climate change, peak oil and other looming global crises place on the shoulders of all of us living today. Yet too many of our leaders are shirking their responsibilities, not only to those they claim to represent, but to future generations.

The pollution trading schemes and other market “solutions” promoted by the global elites will give even more profits and power to the very corporations that are the greatest source of pollution. Around the world grassroots people will carry the costs, as the price of fuel, power and other goods go through the roof. “Business as usual” will, as usual, leave the rich richer and the rest of us worse off.

System collapse

Because capitalism exists within a complex totality of social, political and environmental factors, it cannot escape the destruction it is wrecking on the planet. Socialist Worker-NZ believes that for the first time in capitalism’s 500-year history a perfect storm is beginning to engulf the world system.

The main elements are crises of profitability, ecology, resources, imperialism and legitimacy. Their concentration and intensification look set to trigger world system collapse within a historically short time period. (See: “Beware! The end is nigh”: Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for decent future,

To survive the chaos of world system collapse, the Earth’s citizens must act collectively to build a decent future. We need concrete strategies for the world’s grassroots people to take up and use.

World Referendum

In this spirit, Socialist Worker-NZ welcomes the proposal for a World Referendum on Climate Change, which, (according to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change blog will ask five “Yes or No” questions of the people of the Earth:

1) Do you agree with reestablishing harmony with nature while recognizing the rights of the Mother Earth?

2) Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that represents capitalist system?

3) Do you agree that developing countries reduce and reabsorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions for temperature not to rise more than 1 degree Celsius?

4) Do you agree with transferring all that is spent in wars and for allocating a budget bigger than used for defense to climate change?

5) Do you agree with a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth?

An international campaign in support of such a referendum would establish stronger global links between environmental organisations, indigenous people, trade unions, social justice campaigners and other peoples’ organisations. A  World Referendum, like the World People’s Conference itself, could be another important step towards the mass grassroots action necessary to put humanity on a path to sustainability, justice, equity and peace.

Socialist Worker-New Zealand sends our solidarity and best wishes to the conference attendees and look forward to the outcomes of your collective discussions.

In solidarity,
Socialist Worker-New Zealand

World People’s Conference on Climate Change starts today

From Without Your Walls

At least 15,000 people from 126 countries are expected to attend the World People’s Conference on Climate Change which has been called by Bolivia as a response to the failure of the recent COP15 climate change negotiations.

As one of the few countries that openly criticised the negotiations in Copenhagen and has refused to sign the Copenhagen Accord, Bolivia has invited governments, organisations and people to take part in finding real solutions to fight climate change.

Auckland event, 3rd May: 
New Zealander Sandy Gauntlett of Global Forests Coalition and the international Climate Justice Now! network will be speaking on what happened at the conference on his return to New Zealand. 
For more details and to confirm your attendance [via facebook] click here.

The objectives of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth are:

1)    To analyze the structural and systemic causes that drive climate change and to propose radical measures to ensure the well-being of all humanity in harmony with nature

2)    To discuss and agree on the project of a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights

3)    To agree on proposals for new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and projects for a COP Decision under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change that will guide future actions in those countries that are engaged with life during climate change negotiations and in all United Nations scenarios, related to: Climate debt, Climate change migrants-refugees, Emission reductions, Adaptation, Technology transfer, Finance, Forest and Climate Change, Shared Vision, Indigenous, Peoples, and others. These are split into 17 working groups, which will form basis of the final document of the conference.

4)    To work on the organization of the World People’s Referendum on Climate Change

5)    To analyze and develop an action plan to advance the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal

6)    To define strategies for  action and mobilization to defend life from Climate Change and to defend the Rights of Mother Earth.

Keep updated and participate:

You can follow what’s going on the following this blog, this blog and social network sites

Watch the conference live

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Asia-Pacific Socialists Show Solidarity with Thailand’s Red Shirts

Regional Joint Statement by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), the Working People Association (PRP) of Indonesia, the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) of Indonesia, Turn Left Thailand, the Socialist Alliance of Australia

Thailand: Resolve the Crisis through Democracy, Not Crackdown
10 April 2010

We are deeply concerned over the current situation in Thailand where military-backed Prime Minister Ahbisit Vejjajiva has declared a state of emergency and started a bloody crackdown amidst escalating protests calling for fresh election.

The situation is worrying as the Thai government closes down all opposition media and gives sweeping new powers to the security forces to prepare for a violent crackdown on the Red Shirt protesters.  Thai troops are using excessive force including tanks and live ammunition, against pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or more well-known as the Red Shirts has re-launched massive protests against the military-installed unelected Ahbisit government since last March.  This pro-democracy movement comprised of rural and urban poor, who stand up against the military-back oligarchic rule.

The current crisis unfolded in September 2006, when the military staged a coup against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, scrapped the 1997 popular Constitution and replaced it with a military-sanctioned constitution.  The royalist Yellow Shirts started to organize fascistic demonstrations when the pro-Thaksin party won in the 2007 election.  The current Ahbisit government was installed by the military after the fascistic mobilizations by the Yellow Shirts and a coup by the court.

The government, the army and the Yellow Shirts are afraid to face real democratic elections, as they know that they would lose since the majority of the poor support the Red Shirts.  Ahbisit and the ruling elite are refusing to call for elections and are trying to buy time and even preparing for a violent crackdown.  It is becoming clear that Ahbisit and the old elite are bringing the country towards a fascist dictatorship.

Thailand has entered a new phase of class war.  The old ruling elite with the backing of the military are using all means to scrap democracy in Thailand.  The pro-democracy Red Shirts comprised of the majority of the working class, peasantry and poor have shown their real popularity and mobilizing strength which has definitely shaken the royalists and the military.  With the broadening of the masses’ support for the Red Shirts, it could be a new and important step in the struggle of the ordinary people in Thailand for the restoration of democracy and social justice.
We call for:

    •    The immediate resignation of the military-installed Ahbisit government and the holding of fresh democratic elections.

    •    A halt to all forms of violent crackdown against Red Shirt protesters.  Respect the right of the people to organize, to protest and to strike.

    •    A halt to the suppression of democratic rights and clampdown on the media.

    •    The Thai government to not resort to any military coup.

The current crisis in Thailand only can be resolved through genuine democracy and people’s power.
 We extend our support and solidarity to all workers, peasants and poor in Thailand who struggle against the anti-democratic government and for the restoration of real democracy.

Contact: International Bureau, Socialist Party of Malaysia / Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
Address: No.22A, Lorong Vivekananda, 50470 Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA.
Tel: +60-3-22747791, (mobile) +60-19-5669518
Fax: +60-3-87374772
Email: (headquarters)
(international bureau)
Web site:

See also:

Thai Royalist Tyrants Use Violence to Cling to Power
by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Thailand: Time for Fresh Elections
by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Mobilisation for the climate and anti-capitalist strategy

The following article dealing with capitalism’s climate crisis was presented at the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International, held in Belgium in February 2010.
It raises similar issues and comes to striking similar to Socialist Worker NZ’s annalysis of the probability of capitalist collapse, as outlined in Grant Morgan’s essay ‘Beware! The end is nigh!’ Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future.

By Daniel Tanuro

Three billion human beings lack the essentials of life. The satisfaction of their needs requires increased production of material goods. Therefore increased consumption of energy. Today, 80 per cent of this energy is of fossil origin, and consequently a source of greenhouse gases which are unbalancing the climatic system.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Public meetings in Christchurch and Wellington:

Guest speaker 
Grant Morgan
Socialist Worker international secretary (Auckland)

7.30pm Tuesday April 27
WEA 59 Gloucheter Street,
(opposite art gallery) Christchurch

7.30pm on Thursday 29 April,
upstairs at Newtown Community Centre,
(Corner Rintoul & Colombo St)

Contact: Grant Brookes | 021 053 2973


For the first time in capitalism’s 500-year history a perfect storm is beginning to engulf the world system. 

The main elements are system-level crises of profitability, ecology, resources, imperialism and legitimacy. Their concentration and intensification look set to trigger world system collapse within a historically short time period.

Humanity will face a life-and-death struggle as we confront economic chaos, global warming, resource scarcity and imperial breakdown.

Can we survive the chaos, conflict and carnage of looming collapse? Can Earth’s citizens collectively built a decent future in the face of elite counteractions? Yes, says Grant Morgan. 

He resurrects Marx’s analysis of social change to explain the growing intersection of system-level crises which will collapse global capitalism as surely as previous civilisations were brought down by their own perfect storms.

“At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production,” said Marx. “Then begins an era of social revolution.”

An era of social revolution will be triggered by the perfect storm appearing over capitalism’s horizon as it collapses the economic, ecological and imperial foundations of the world system. The need to unite or die will call forth a Global Uniting of the mass of humanity which ushers in a society of solidarity.

Grant will be drawing on, and developing, his 20,000 word essay ‘Beware! The end is nigh!’ Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future.

This essay takes up the entire contents of the 100-page March 2010 issue of UNITY journal.  It can also be read here at UNITYblog.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

As Glaciers Melt, Bolivia Fights for the Good Life

by Jessica Camille Aguirre
Yes Magazine

Bolivia is watching its glaciers melt, early casualties of a changing climate. As communities struggle to adapt and the government tries to pioneer an alternative way forward, rural Bolivians believe the answer lies not in consumerist striving to live better, but in learning to live well.

Don Alivio Aruquipa [pictured right] is smiling as he gestures around his community. Behind him, groups of yelping children kick a soccer ball around a sloping green plaza. Every so often, the ball goes flying off the mesa into a plot of cultivated land below, and the children send someone to go retrieve it.

Looming over the verdant square that stretches among squat square buildings is Illimani, a blue, breathtaking colossus of craggy rock and snow.

On the other side of the mountain sits La Paz, the burgeoning capital city of Bolivia. But here, in the village of Khapi, the hush of remote tranquility is interrupted only by children’s cries.

Alivio, stocky and affable, is one of Khapi's community leaders. He turns somber as he explains how yellow water is beginning to come down from Illimani. The animals don’t like it, he says; they get sick or they refuse to drink. The water flowing down from the mountain has also become unpredictable, he adds. It has become impossible to know when to plant the crops.

Khapi is a village of 40 families in the western part of the Bolivian altiplano; its residents rely on agriculture to survive. It is the closest community to Illimani (the name for both the mountain and the glacier atop it, which provides water not only to Khapi but also to La Paz). For as long as anyone who lives here can remember, the community has relied on water from the glacier to drink, wash, cook, and cultivate food. But now Illimani is disappearing.

Friday, 9 April 2010

'We've already moved public opinion' – NZEI organiser

UNITYblog spoke with Peter Hughes (left in photo above), an NZEI field officer (union organiser) who travelled on the Bus Tour, about the union’s campaign against national standards.

How did the tour go?

“The Bus Tour kicked off on the first day of term. Hundreds of schools have been visited. We’ve aimed to do four or five a day. The initial meetings spurred demand for a whole lot more.

“We found that those who were concerned to start with have become very concerned, and are trying to find strategies for engaging with communities. It’s already moved public opinion.”

What do you think about teachers boycotting national standards, an idea mentioned by NZEI president Frances Nelson at the rally at parliament on March 31?

“Technically, a boycott is industrial action, which is illegal under the Employment Relations Act. But it won’t be illegal after July 1, when our collective agreement expires. Some teachers want to link our pay claim to the campaign against national standards. There’s a concern that national standards will lead to ‘performance pay’, where teachers are paid more or less according to their school’s test results.”

The government has threatened to sack elected school boards and replace them with commissioners if they refuse to implement national standards. Can they do it?

“It’s a numbers game. If even 200 schools refuse to do it, the government won’t be able to carry out its threats. There won’t be enough commissioners! But it must be done collectively. Individual boards and principals can be picked off.”

What’s the potential for this campaign to feed into more general grassroots resistance to the National government?

“I was in the union office this morning. The members who came in to support the campaign were talking about the government’s plans to mine the National Parks. The issues are crossing over.

“Right now, the public petition calling for a trial of national standards before they’re introduced is extremely important. We’ve got over 21,000 signatures now. We need tens of thousands more.”

(For more on the fight against the government's national standards, click here)

‘National Standards’ in primary schools – first big defeat for the government?

by Grant Brookes
The growing campaign against “national standards" hit parliament on March 31, when around 200 teachers handed over signed Appeals to the government from nearly half the school communities in New Zealand. The Appeals call on the government not to implement the standards without trialling them first.
It was the culmination of the nine week Bus Tour organised by the NZEI primary teachers union. The Tour had visited schools and held hundreds of community meetings from Kaitaia to Bluff.
Labour and Green Party MPs lined up on parliament steps to greet the noisy teachers. Some Labour MPs had even spent time on the campaign bus to show their support. A wide array of trade unionists – from the Nurses Organisation to the Maritime Union, from the Finsec bank workers union to the National Distribution Union – joined the teachers' rally.
The protest reflected the scale and breadth of the movement that’s building around this issue. A UMR poll in February found that two thirds of people, and 71 percent of those with primary school age children, support NZEI’s call.
Their campaign has the potential to deliver the union movement’s first comprehensive defeat of the government and tip the balance back in favour of all grassroots people.
Yet just a week earlier, Labour education spokesperson Trevor Mallard told a Wellington campaign meeting, “I think in the end, we’ll end up with something that looks like some kind of compromise.
“NZEI is pushing hard for a trial... But public reporting is almost inevitable now.”
Put simply, "national standards" are like exams for primary school kids – in reading, writing and 'rithmetic – with the results published in the media.
The government touts them as the solution for low educational achievement by a minority of school children, mainly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But as NZEI has explained very well, these are the kids who'll be worst off under a national standards regime. "Not all children come to school equal", says the union. A child may have strengths in many areas, but not in literacy and numeracy – which are the only subjects to be tested. Labelling them as failures because they can't do these tests will damage their motivation to learn.
The exam results will also be used – officially or unofficially – to rank schools. Richer, more mobile families will gravitate even more to the "elite" schools. The rest of us will be left with struggling, underfunded schools.
The pressure on teachers to get good test results will inevitably force some to neglect a child's broader needs for learning and development. And the pressure will be passed on to the kids, too. It will no longer be OK for them to progress at their own rate.
Not surprisingly, with so much riding on the results, similar schemes overseas have seen widespread cheating and are now being abandoned.
The government has been unable to counter these arguments from the union. But national standards aren't really about helping poor achievers, anyway. The real reason for introducing national standards is to control teachers.
Teachers are a difficult group for the government to manage. Not only are they highly unionised, well educated professionals, who work with a degree of autonomy in the classroom, their immediate bosses (principals) are former classroom teachers and union members, too.
Above the principals are the boards of trustees. Managers and businesspeople tend to dominate on school boards. Even so, board members are elected from the school community, and in lower and mid-decile schools the boards, too, have ties to the working class.
The government wants tighter control over teachers in order to dictate what is taught to the next generation of workers. It's no coincidence that national standards are focusing only on literacy and numeracy, and not on skills like critical thinking or developing self-esteem and a sense of self-worth (part of the current health curriculum). National standards are about serving the interests of employers by creating a productive, obedient workforce.
The most insidious aspect of all is the effect that "national standards" will have on the ethos of cooperation and on working class values like solidarity which are nurtured in many primary schools.
The tests will pit children against their peers from a very young age, in competition for the good grades. Each school will likewise be in competition with all other schools for places higher up the public league table.
NZEI president Frances Nelson told the rally at parliament, "Huge concern exists over whether this is politically driven, rather than being a policy in the best interests of children and their learning."
National standards, ultimately, are about corroding cooperation and nurturing the anti-human, competitive values underpinning capitalism.
But as Frances Nelson said, "As professionals, we have both a right and an obligation to challenge an educational policy that has no evidence that it will work".
“We did meet with minister Anne Tolley just a little while ago. We gave her a list of all of the schools that have signed up to trial the standards.
A cheer went up when she added, “We also indicated there are a number of schools who weren’t interested in trialling the standards at all, because they intend to boycott.”
With this level of industrial strength and community support, there's no need to heed Trevor Mallard's suggestion to settle for "some kind of compromise" that leaves National's agenda largely intact.
Teachers have comprehensively beaten the National government before, through a community-backed campaign of industrial action. In 1991, National introduced a policy of "bulk funding" for schools. It aimed to divide and weaken teachers by breaking up their national collective agreement, and to make schools more reliant on fundraising and less on government money.
For the next seven years, primary and secondary teachers took action, including nationwide strikes and dozens of wildcat strikes. Foreshadowing today's talk of boycotts, both primary and secondary teachers boycotted the introduction of the government's new curriculum. Many of these actions were in defiance of National's anti-union laws.
When National was finally voted out, eight years later, there were still only 17 percent of schools signed up to bulk funding. The policy was dropped. Teachers held onto their national collective - the only major group to do so. This later aided other unionists to regain national agreements for themselves.
Building up to a huge campaign of boycotts against national standards is what's needed now. Primary teachers are due to enter bargaining for their collective employment agreement soon, making industrial action over both pay and national standards a possibility.
But to have the confidence to win, teachers will need strong public support. The next phase of the campaign will focus on the public petition, 21,000 signatures and growing. Download it here and get collecting!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Water: ‘When Federated Farmers asks, the Government listens’

by Pat O’Dea

Wondering what is behind the sacking of the Canterbury Regional Council over the control of Canterbury’s water resources? When Federated Farmers ask, the Government listens.

New Zealand’s biggest business pressure group put out their wish list in early February. Since then the Government has been ticking the boxes one by one.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bolivia creates a new opportunity for climate talks that failed at Copenhagen

Bolivia’s UN ambassador Pablo Solon-Romero during a press conference.
Photograph: Paulo Filgueiras/UN Photo

By Pablo Solón Romero

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate conference, those who defended the widely condemned outcome tended to talk about it as a “step in the right direction”. This was always a tendentious argument, given that tackling climate change cannot be addressed by half measures. We can’t make compromises with nature.

Bolivia, however, believed that Copenhagen marked a backwards step, undoing the work built on since the climate talks in Kyoto. That is why, against strong pressure from industrialised countries, we and other developing nations refused to sign the Copenhagen Accord and why we are hosting an international meeting on climate change in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from April 19 to 22, 2010. In the words of the Tuvalu negotiator, we were not prepared to “betray our people for 30 pieces of silver”.

Monday, 5 April 2010

GST off healthy food: a broad campaign is the right thing to do

by Vaughan Gunson

Gordon Campbell, editor of the online magazine Werewolf, has written an invaluable article, Do the Right Thing, that completely knocks the stuffing out of all the arguments against taking GST off food.

Campbell’s well researched and timely article draws on the Australian experience – where there's no GST on basic food – to destroy the chimerical argument that it’s too hard to exempt food from GST. In Australia, current computer technology makes the exemption process easy.

In December last year, the Australian Taxation Office released a computer package that makes it quite simple for a lot of businesses to manage the food exemptions. The same technology could be adapted for New Zealand. The supposed difficulty has been one of the main excuses used by defenders of across-the-board GST, including the leadership of both National and Labour. But there are options available which would overcome any major inconvenience for retailers.

Campbell also highlights the results of a research project released in March this year by the Wellington School of Medicine, which confirmed that price decisively determined people’s food choices at the supermarket. Despite education on healthy foods, when it came to loading up the trolley, people went for the cheaper options, even if they were less healthy. From the study, the conclusion of Professor Tony Blakely is that price intervention works in encouraging people to choose healthier food. The research gives support to Maori Party MP Rahui Katene’s private members' bill to remove GST from healthy food.

As Campbell correctly points out, what makes GST on food an immediate issue is the government’s plan to increase GST to 15% and lower income tax. That shift, Campbell says, “will leave more money in the pockets of the relatively well off, and place a heavier burden on workers on low incomes, and on beneficiaries. That’s because those on benefits and the working poor have less discretionary income, and spend a higher proportion of their income on basics, such as food.” The poor will be worse off from the proposed tax changes, while the rich will get the benefits.

And this is the crux of the debate, it’s not about degrees of difficultly or “tax anomalies”, it’s about where you stand on tax justice for grassroots people. As Campbell asks: “why not do something so easy, so readily manageable by business, so justifiable on grounds of social justice, and so likely to deliver practical health benefits to the community?”

The answer for the National government – and the Labour leadership also, who are refusing so far to budge – is that removing GST from food would undermine a central pillar of neo-liberalism. GST is a regressive tax that has strong support within corporate, banking and government circles.

Removing GST from food would be a decisive step towards shifting the tax burden off grassroots people. At the same time it would de-legitimise the tax in the eyes of many people.

We know the call to remove GST off food is popular. In 2008, a small group of activists from RAM-Residents Action Movement collected nearly 30,000 signatures in a matter of months. Opinion polls and everyday conversations point to continued opposition to our food being taxed.

With food prices rising dramatically, and many global experts predicting further sharp increases in 2010, the cost of food for grassroots people will be major issue, which will bubble into the media and become a political issue. We can expect any re-launch of the GST off food campaign to be met with widespread support.

Rahui Katene's private member's bill to remove GST from healthy food will have the best chance of getting the support it needs from MPs – particularly Labour MPs – if there's a high profile campaign outside of parliament. That campaign could include a number of organisations and groups working together.

In 2008, RAM's GST-off-food campaign received support from the Maori Party, Grey Power and individual trade unions. Today, a number of other groups outside of parliament, like the Alliance, Child Poverty Action, Socialist Aotearoa, Global Peace and Justice Auckland, the Workers Party, and the NZ Council of Trade Unions, have positions which are critical of GST. This common ground would suggest there’s potential for a broad coalition in support of removing GST from healthy food. A broad coalition, if achieved, would provide the necessary capacity to mount a serious campaign in support of Rahui Katene's private members' bill.

Campaigning for GST off healthy food would require any coalition to raise tax alternatives to address the prospective government revenue loss. A frontrunner would have to be a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) or Robin Hood Tax, as it's been recently named by a popular campaign in Britain.

A Robin Hood Tax targets the banks and the mega-wealthy. Following the global financial implosion, and the role played by the banks and other financial speculators, the time is right to popularise a tax which hits the most hated global purveyors of greed and exploitation. There's already support among a number of grassroots organisations for a Financial Transaction Tax, many of the same ones that oppose GST. So the potential for cooperation exists.

Initiating a broad campaign to remove GST from healthy food would be an important step towards achieving tax justice for grassroots New Zealanders. In recent months there’s been significant cooperation around Unite’s $15ph minimum wage petition, which has been encouraging. A campaign to remove GST from healthy food would deliver similar tangible benefits to grassroots people and also mount a political challenge to neo-liberalism, especially if combined with advocacy of a Robin Hood Tax that targets the banks and other financial speculators. It’s time to do the right thing and join together in a broad campaign that could spark a wider grassroots political resurgence.

It’s interesting that in the comments to Gordon Campbell’s article, two people who support removing GST from food ask very similar questions. Duncan Graham asks: “[W]here’s the political will to push this proposal?... When are we going to get a party with the energy to really run with an issue, particularly one with such widespread benefits?”

And Liz asks: “When are we going to get a viable opposition party that will push for things like this, strongly and loudly?” Something else for us to think about.

Vaughan Gunson is the national chair of Socialist Worker-New Zealand and the campaign manager for Bad Banks. To contact Vaughan email svpl(at) or ph/txt 021-0415 082.

See also Hey, Labour MPs, why not support GST off food?