Tuesday 11 January 2000

Avatar – Anti-imperialism in 3-D

There is much more to Avatar than the spectacular special effects, says Nagesh Rao
from US Socialist Worker
7 January, 2010

AVATAR IS a visually stunning marvel of film technology, as many reviewers will tell you, but what really stands out in James Cameron's newest film is its unabashed critique of corporate greed and its inspiring tale of solidarity and resistance against occupation.

Set on a distant planet called Pandora, Avatar re-enacts the genocide of indigenous populations by colonial capitalism, and links this history to the rapacious resource wars of our own times. The film is not a moralistic wringing of hands that relies on "white-guilt fantasies" as some commentators have claimed; rather, it is an uncompromising defense of the principle of self-determination and the right to resist exploitation and plunder.

Listing some of Cameron's blockbuster films The Abyss, Aliens, the Terminator films and The Titanic – is enough to remind us that we are dealing with a master of visual effects technology. Fans of his earlier work won't be disappointed with Avatar's special effects – the 3-D version in particular is a breathtaking experience. As the New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis writes:

This isn't the 3-D of the 1950s or even contemporary films, those flicks that try to give you a virtual poke in the eye with flying spears. Rather, Mr. Cameron uses 3-D to amplify the immersive experience of spectacle cinema...After a few minutes the novelty of people and objects hovering above the row in front of you wears off, and you tend not to notice the 3-D, which speaks to the subtlety of its use...

Similarly, we find ourselves dazzled by the brilliantly rendered planet of Pandora, replete with bioluminescent flora and fauna, ethereal floating mountains and touch-me-nots that look like giant seashells. All of this, no doubt, represents advances in special effects not seen since the Wachowski brothers invented "Bullet Time" for The Matrix, and Peter Jackson brought Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings. Only the most jaded and cynical of moviegoers would deny Cameron's accomplishments in this area.

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HOWEVER, FOR all the gushing praise that Cameron has received from critics for the film's technological accomplishments, reviewers have been less enthusiastic about Avatar's political message. Some of them seem to be so dazzled by the spectacle that they don't even notice its ideological significance.

In the New York Times, Ross Douthat dismisses it as a "long apologia for pantheism--a faith that equates God with Nature." Similarly, while Dargis' review acknowledges the film's "anti-corporate message," she seems unmoved by its uncompromising anti-imperialist message.

On the other hand, left-wing critics have panned the film's politics for its director's "banal and conformist outlook" (David Walsh's review at wsws.org) and as "a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people" (Annalee Newitz's much-circulated post for the sci-fi Web site io9.com).

Let's concede a couple of points at the outset. James Cameron isn't Gillo Pontecorvo, and Avatar is no Battle of Algiers. It's a popular science fiction thriller, and a damn good one at that. It thus conforms to some of the conventions of the genre, employing stock characters like the mercenary Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), and predictable plotlines such as the romance that ensures a happy ending.

No doubt the dialogue is, at times, contrived and clichéd, and the film could have used a better script. Nevertheless, its narrative arc is compelling, and the transformation of its central character, disabled marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is convincing.

Jake is your archetypal warrior hero, except for his disability (he is paralyzed from the waist down), which draws sneers from the other marines (one refers to him as "meals on wheels"). When we first encounter him, he is awakened from a state of hibernation in the gravity-free environment of a spaceship. Here, as the characters hover and float around, we fail to notice Jake's paralysis.

When we see him in his wheelchair for the first time, his comrades taunt him, and we see, through his eyes and from his perspective, the mammoth scale of the war machines and armaments being deployed by the mercenary forces on Pandora.

His disability, in other words, isn't incidental. It's central to his character, because his disability marks him out as an underdog among the top dogs, so to speak. His disability sets him apart as someone who might not necessarily conform to all that he sees around him. Moreover, as the plot unfolds, we learn that his colonel is trying to hold him hostage to his disability, promising him the use of his legs in return for acting as the colonel's stooge.

Early in the film, we learn that Jake cannot afford the medical care he needs to be able to walk again, and that although he isn't looking forward to the mission on Pandora, he can do little else, given the state of the economy.

White man though he is, Jake Sully is nevertheless himself a victim of oppression. And crucially, Jake's liberation is contingent upon his identification with the natives of Pandora, the Na'vi, a tribe of 12-feet tall, blue-skinned humanoids with prehensile tails.

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IN THIS sense, Avatar can't simply be dismissed as a "white man's guilt" narrative, as Annalee Newitz does in her post on the sci-fi Web site io9.com. Newitz rightly points out that the trope of the white man who "goes native" is an old one, which has its origins in European colonial ideology.

Sure enough, as Newitz points out, in contemporary Western culture in general and Hollywood in particular, the fantasy of "going native" often ends with the white man not only assimilating into the "native" culture, but emerging as their leader in their quest for salvation or liberation from some oppressive force or circumstance. Think here of films as diverse as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Last Samurai and City of God.

Certainly, Jake feels conflicted and guilty about what his comrades are about to do to the Na'vi and to Pandora. And certainly, this is at least partially a result of his falling in love with Nyteri (Zoe Saldana), the female Na'vi warrior. And yes, Jake's avatar emerges as the leader of the Na'vi in their struggle against the human plunderers. But surely this in itself is insufficient grounds to condemn the film as just so much unreconstructed Orientalism.

By plugging into the avatar, Jake's consciousness is quite literally embodied in the "other"; in this sense, he comes closer to genuine empathy with the Na'vi than can be realistically conceived (hence the term "science fiction"). If we grant this central premise of the film, then it seems to me somewhat churlish to suggest that Jake Sully is nothing but a 21st century T.E. Lawrence or Indiana Jones.

Furthermore, Jake's Na'vi self initially rebels against the human incursion into Pandora as an act of self-preservation. He attacks the giant bulldozers that arrive on the scene while he is asleep (and back in his human incarnation) with a desperation that the audience can identify with, as they seem intent on mowing down everything in their path, including Jake and Nyteri.

It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the bulldozers destroying the Na'vi forests are like the Israeli bulldozers in occupied Palestine, and that Jake's defiance of them is like the courageous stance of activists like Rachel Corrie.

By slow degrees, Jake comes to identify with the "other" and their way of life. Once he becomes fully aware of the mercenary calculations of the corporation that will stop at nothing in its bid to extract the precious "unobtanium," Jake switches sides, as do the team of scientists led by the strong-willed Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). To suggest that this act is little more than a demonstration of "white man's guilt" is, I think, to render meaningless the idea of solidarity.

Jake's speech rallying the Na'vi, and calling on them to reach out to the other tribes reminded me of Tecumseh and of later anti-colonial revolutionaries who rallied diverse colonized peoples against their common oppressors. The conclusion of the film, which shows the chastened humans being escorted back to their waiting spaceship, just as surely harkens back to the images of the withdrawal of the defeated American forces from Vietnam.

In the context of the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is cultural dynamite. And in the context of Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize lecture on "just war," Jake Sully's wry admission is timely: "I was a soldier who tried to bring peace, but sooner or later everyone has to wake up."

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ANOTHER ELEMENT of the film's anti-imperialism that critics seem to have missed is its subtle criticism of the negative historical role played by anthropologists and other social scientists working for colonial powers. Grace and her team of scientists are employed by the same corporate entity that has hired Col. Quaritch and his trigger-happy mercenaries.

In this respect, the scientists in the film are like those employed by the U.S. Army's "Human Terrain System," whose stated purpose is to "improve the military's ability to understand the highly complex local socio-cultural environment in the areas where they are deployed."

But Grace is no military lackey, and her team's meticulous attention to the scientific project, as well as their moral and ethical sensibilities drive them to oppose Col. Quaritch and their corporate sponsor, in the form of Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). The film's insistence that the aims of social science can't be reconciled with those of imperialism stands in stark contrast to the complicity of academics currently involved in the Human Terrain System program.

Like most sci-fi films, Avatar offers a withering critique of the world that we live in. But unlike most recent sci-fi films, it is filled with a utopianism that we haven't seen in a while. Is this a nostalgic longing for lost innocence? By presenting the Na'vi and their way of life as akin to indigenous cultures destroyed by colonialism, does the film run the risk of grasping at an irrecoverable past?

Perhaps here too Avatar offers more than at first meets the eye. There is something undeniably futuristic about Pandora itself, where flora and fauna alike are interconnected as if part of one gigantic neural network. The network of energy that binds everything on Pandora is ultimately responsible for Jake's resurrection as his Na'vi avatar.

The process that transfers his consciousness from his human body to his Na'vi body seems to involve millions of tendrils that resemble tiny optical fibers. Interestingly enough, this postmodern, high-tech aesthetic stands in stark contrast to the decidedly modernist, industrial design of the humans' arms and armaments, which recalls the gritty and clunky aesthetic of Battlestar Galactica.

Such utopianism in our time might seem unjustified, if not incongruous, but it is certainly a breath of fresh air. There are those who will squirm at the film's obvious references to our contemporary reality (as when the campaign against the Na'vi is referred to as "shock and awe"), and those who will wince at its sometimes clumsy dialogue.

But there's no denying that millions of moviegoers around the world are flocking to a film that unflinchingly indicts imperialism and corporate greed, defends the right of the oppressed to fight back, and holds open the potential for solidarity between people on opposite sides of a conflict not of their choosing.

Sunday 2 January 2000

Fifth International?!

By Michael Albert 

Znet January 21, 2010 
 To be a contender, “21st Century Socialist” vision needs elaboration, advocacy, and program. To improve focus and increase power, worldwide anti-capitalist organizations, projects, and movements need shared coherence and mutual solidarity. To fulfill these needs, Venezuela’s President Chavez recently announced to widespread support and also some critical response that a gathering in Caracas this April would establish a new International. But what might this new International look like? What might it accomplish? How might people, such as those reading this essay, and particularly people in grassroots movements around the world, relate to it? Not Our Predecessor’s International Suppose a new International is an excellent venue for debate but has no practical component, or, worse, is a gathering place for big egos who mostly preen at long, aimless meetings. Or suppose a new International intelligently addresses programs and ideas, but is a vehicle for a small group to issue instructions from above. Or suppose a new International’s focus, structure, or operational procedures are conceptually rooted in past flawed macho, racist, authoritarian or otherwise oppressive practices. Even if it grew large, such a new International, built with the intellectual bricks, social mortar, programmatic inclinations, and personal habits and ideas of the old world, would not likely help us attain a new world. Liberation will not stand well on old foundations. We must plant the seeds of the future, as best we can, in our present endeavors. Most politically sophisticated people of today’s movements would not sign up with an old-style International. Even considering the relatively few eager souls who would sign up, most would not remain inspired for long. Predictably, support would not grow strong enough to win major change. We can’t win a new world without attaining wide and deep support, and we can’t attract wide and deep support offering structures and methods embodying the core ills of the past. Thus, lesson one, already familiar to most: If a new International marches to the beat of past drumming, no matter what its members might want, and no matter how courageously its members might seek their worthy dreams, the support they gain will be too limited and their efforts will be too compromised by past destructive residues to generate desirable 21st century outcomes. The Focus of a New International Issue Focus The “subject matter” of a new international should and will inevitably address all concerns which go into and are part of developing and sustaining a liberated society and world but there is no reason to think all sensible and caring people would or should agree about all such matters. Much will have to be worked out in practice. Much will differ from country to country. Maybe there is a best position - but we don’t yet know it. Maybe most people think they know a best position, but a few people differ, and perhaps the few will prove right later. This indicates that regarding unity we ought to settle only on a minimalist but profoundly important set of principles and commitments that would characterize a new International. What minimal commitments would a new International need to adopt to do its job well. Those who agree with essential inviolable commitments, could join. Those who don’t agree with them, might want to join, but couldn’t. Few would doubt that a new International should be centrally concerned with economics, gender and kinship, culture and community, politics, international relations, and ecology. Further, however, there is no need for, and we have learned in recent decades there is also no point trying to elevate any one of these focuses above the rest. They are all centrally important and powerfully entwined. Thus, it should be the case that a group in a new International might in some country, or at some time, or for some purpose, be primarily focused on one or another of these focuses, but to be part of the new International it would also have to acknowledge that their priority was just one among many, and that other priorities should inform their work as well as be informed by their work. Surely, at least these six areas of struggle must be elevated by any organization trying to create a new world because: (a) all these six central domains will critically affect the character of a new world, (b) each of these six domains is capable of manifesting influences that would subvert efforts to reach a new world, and (c) the constituencies most involved in and affects by each of these six domains would be intensely alienated if their prime concerns were relegated to secondary importance. But what minimalist political focus and commitment might a new International have regarding each of theses six broad areas of concern? What would it initially need to universally agree about each area to gain the wherewithal to really change that area and legitimately appeal to and empower constituencies most concerned about that area? Some possibilities for general agreement are that: economic production, consumption, and allocation should be classless - which of course includes equitable access for all to quality and accessible education, health care and the requisites of health like food, water, and sanitation, housing, meaningful and dignified work, and the instruments and conditions of personal fulfillment

gender/kinship, sexual, and family relations should not privilege by age, sexual preference, or gender any one group above others - which of course includes ending all forms of oppression of women, providing daycare, recreation, health care, etc.

culture and community relations among races, ethnic groups, religions, and other cultural communities should protect the rights and identity of each community up to equally respecting those of all other communities as well - which of course includes an end to racist, ethnocentric, and otherwise bigoted structures as well as securing the prosperity and rights of indigenous people

political decision making, adjudication of disputes and implementation of shared programs should deliver people’s power in ways that do not elevate any one sector or constituency to power above others - which of course includes participation and justice for all 

international trade, communication, and other interactions should attain and protect peace and justice while dismantling all vestiges of colonialism and imperialism - which of course includes canceling the debt of nations of the global south and reconstructing international norms and relations to move toward an equitable and just community of equally endowed nations

ecological choices should not only be sustainable, but should care for the environment in accord with our highest aspirations for ourselves and our world - which of course includes climate justice and energy renovation Is there room for difference and debate in what exactly each of the above points means, much less about more specific details? Of course there is. But having room for debate is good in an International that means to be a massive bloc of diverse projects each of which retain their own history and agenda. The International becomes the greatest sum of all its parts. It embodies differences as a source of strength. It avoids the temptation to become just a coalition attached only to universally agreed but least common denominator claims, or to homogenize all views into one narrow pattern. Underlying Values What about underlying values? Surely a new International would elevate solidarity as part of its ethos. An International is, after all, about aligning worldwide movements and projects into mutual aid and collective benefit. A new International should also certainly elevate diversity as a core value, both due to the obvious ecological necessity of doing so, and due to the observation that in any undertaking minority views can become majority, or what is thought to be crazy today can lead to what is brilliant tomorrow. A new International will no doubt also adopt equity as one of its core values, even if it retains contradictory “certainties” about just what constitutes equity. More, over time, presumably members will reach increased clarity about just what equity entails and requires. One possibility is, for example, that it means every person who can work gets a share of income based on his or her duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, but not based on property, or power, or even output, while those who can’t work get special needs addressed and, beyond that, average income. Peace with justice and ecological sustainability and wisdom would surely also be guiding values. Serious movements would have no problems with that. Finally a new International will of course have to have an attitude about decisions, participation, and power. At a minimum a new International would presumably commit to the value called “democracy.” For myself, however, I would hope it would reach further to a more inspiring conception of “people’s power,” or “participatory democracy,” or “self management.” And that it will seriously assess the kinds of structural changes and innovations essential to ensure informed, confident, participation by all citizens in political, economic, and social life - perhaps also including, for example, changes in the way labor is divided and carried out, the way education is conceived and implemented, and of course the way preferences are debated, explored, resolved, and implemented. Perhaps that will prove possible, too! At any rate, given its place and time of origin, suppose a new International adopts a name like Participatory Socialist International (PSI), where “participatory” connotes that it isn’t our forebears’ International, but is really new. Suppose also that it commits to prioritizing at least economics, gender, race, power, peace, and ecology, and commits to solidarity, diversity, equity, peace with justice, ecological wisdom, and people’s power or self management. These commitments would certainly go a long way toward providing a new foundation for a new International. But what about all the many clashing views that various members would hold beyond the minimal views they would universally share? How might different positions exist in a new International in mutual respect? How might they engage in mutual careful and creative consideration? Currents in a New International How can a new International be true to its core commitments, yet also a vehicle for constant growth and development? How can a new International prioritize shared core views, yet also practice diversity and prioritize innovation? One possibility is to include and celebrate “currents” that serve as vehicles for contending views. There might be a current composed of various member organizations, projects, and/or movements who share a particular contested economic goal (such as participatory economics or market socialism, etc.), or a certain contested strategic orientation (such as electoralism or nonviolence, etc.). The International’s various currents would not be seen as a weakness undermining unity but as a strength warding off sectarianism and guaranteeing constant growth. The respectfully contending positions would all be part of the International, together interactively exploring their disagreements in hopes of reaching new insights. To establish a congenial, productive context, currents would take for granted that the intentions of other currents were good, that differences were about substance and not motive, and that they were subject to substantive debate which would be a serious part of the whole project. The International would thus welcome different currents affording each ample visibility and means to engage with all others to try to advance new insights bearing on policy and program. Currents would not have hidden agendas or think everyone else is a fool because only their own views have merit. Rather, currents would take for granted that even ideas they think odd, strange, or counterproductive, might prove useful in time, so that all views held inside the International should be respected and substantively explored without defensiveness and without doubting the motives of other International members. In short, in this formulation, as long as any particular current accepted the basic tenets of the International and operated in accord with its norms and methods, respectful dissent would be considered a strength preventing knee-jerk agreement and constantly pushing the envelope of beliefs toward new insights. In debates about policy and program, for example, currents would always be heard. Minority positions would, to the extent possible, be given space not only to argue, but if they don’t prevail, to continue developing their views and trying to establish their merit or to discover their inadequacies. The idea of a political or programmatic line that everyone follows would be foreign to the culture and process of this type new International. Members and Decisions in a New International What permits one to be in the new International? Well, the International would presumably include movements, parties, organizations, and even projects - but a strong possibility is that individuals would not join as at-large members, belonging instead only by way of their group affiliations. What kind of group could belong? I would think any group that convinced some agreed percentage - let’s say, hypothetically, 75% - of the existing membership that it sincerely accepted the defining norms of the International could belong. This could be political parties, movements, organizations, or even projects - so, for example, it could be the PSUV from Venezuela, or the Landless Workers Movement (MST) from Brazil, or the Rosa Luxembourg foundation from Germany, or even media organizations like ZCom, say, from the U.S. Members, employees, staff, etc., of each new International member organization would in turn gain membership in the International by virtue of their collective organizational membership. Individuals who want to be members of the International, therefore, but who have no member group that they belong too, would have to hook up with one. An at-large membership wouldn’t exist, at least in this conception. The benefit of this approach would be that the legitimacy of a person as a member need not be assessed by the international - but only by the member organization of the international that the person is part of. There would be no “paper” members and no mass of unattached and therefore essentially unknown members. What kinds of decisions might an International make? Every member group would have its own agenda for its own separate operations which would be inviolable. At the same time, each member group would presumably be strongly urged to make its own operations consistent with the norm, practices, and shared programmatic agendas of the International. There would be solidarity among member organizations, but, regarding their separate operations, there would also be autonomy. The International would have shared program, policies, norms, and rules to continually decide on, as well as having to decide on gatherings to hold, campaigns to support or undertake, and perhaps much else. How might such decisions be made? Membership groups would have wildly different sizes, no doubt - so in the future there could be a group with a handful of members in the International, and another group with thousands, or even millions of members. But since the International’s decisions would not bind those groups other than regarding the collective International agenda, a good way to arrive at decisions might be serious discussion and exploration, followed by polls of the whole International membership to see peoples’ leanings, followed by refinements of proposals to seek even greater support and to allow dissidents from minority viewpoints to make their case, culminating in final votes of the membership seeking to convey self managing participatory influence to all parties. The little group with five participants could have at most their five votes unless they were more heavily affected by some decision than others were. A big group with ten thousand or a million participants could have at most that number of votes - again, unless they were more affected by some choice - but member votes would not be delivered in bulk, by group, but rather one by one, each being counted individually. Online, this is no longer a technically daunting matter. Are there other possibilities? Of course. This is just one hypothetical, but desirable, possibility. Possible Program in a New International What might a new International do? A new International might call for international events and days of dissent. It might support campaigns for existing struggles by member organizations. It might support member organizations against repression. It might undertake widespread debates and campaigns to advance understanding and mutual knowledge. More ambitiously, an International might also decide on campaigns and projects of its own, financed via its membership. It might settle, for example, on a massive international focus on immigration, on ending a war, on shortening the work week all over the planet, and/or on averting climatic catastrophe. There might then be materials to prepare, education to convey, activist campaigns to carry out, boycotts to initiate and sustain, support for local efforts to engender, and even efforts to provide material aid and participants for events occurring across borders. All such general programs, would be up to member organizations to decide how to relate to, yet there would be considerable collective momentum for each member organization to participate and contribute as best it can. Thus, program decided by the International would either be about the International’s own actions or would be very strong advisories to members, or perhaps calls to them and to the broader world - not legally binding, so to speak, but powerful and effective nonetheless. Finally, regarding program, clearly one reason to have an International is to help organizations, movements, and projects escape single issue loneliness by becoming part of a larger process encompassing diverse focuses and united by agreements on various major shared endeavors. Dream, or Reality? The above is one possible rough picture. It isn’t complete and it isn’t unique. It could adapt, bend, mature, enlarge, or be refined in all manner of ways, whether before April in preparation, or after April, as an International develops. Is it only a dream that worldwide parties, movements, organizations, and projects could operate with intellectual and programmatic respect and mutual aid, with deep diversity and sharp focus, with strong solidarity and equally strong autonomy, with profound coherence and commitment and also with material and social equity and overarching self management? Yes, today this is a dream, or a wish, or a hope. But tomorrow, and literally, this April, it could become a reality. Wouldn’t that be a huge and historic step forward? NOTE: Please post any comments on the short version back on the main UNITYblog page. Thanks.

Tamil refugees holding out for justice

By Jay Fletcher Green Left Weekly After four months, the conditions on a cargo vessel at Port Merak holding more than 240 Tamil refugees have become increasingly squalid. The refugees’ boat had been travelling towards Australia when the Australian government requested Indonesia intercept it. Almost half of those onboard are United Nations recognised refugees and all are fleeing persecution by the Sri Lankan government. Stuck at Merak, the refugees won’t leave the boat due to Indonesia’s poor treatment of asylum seekers. But Australia won’t help them either. Sara Nathan, a Tamil activist living in Sydney, and Pamela Curr, from Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, along with Canadian activist Jessica Chandrashekar, visited Indonesia over January 25-29 to try to alleviate the dire situation. They were visiting the area near the boat when they were approached by undercover police. All three were held by police and questioned by immigration for 17 hours without charge. They had their passports withheld for three days before finally being deported. Prevented from speaking to the media while in Indonesia, Nathan and Curr were escorted by Indonesian immigration on the plane back to Sydney, where they arrived on January 29. Nathan told Green Left Weekly they were trying to negotiate conditions for the Tamil refugees, who are still holding out on the boat. “We were there to try and get some assurances, that [the Tamils] wanted before they would leave the boat. They didn't want to be held behind bars; they wanted their human rights not to be violated. “They don't want their information to be given to Sri Lankan government officials, which has happened when others have disembarked. They don't want to be deported back to Sri Lanka. “And they want a timeframe for resettlement ... they need reassurance. That’s why we were there.” Nathan told GLW Indonesian officials said Australia’s full-time “ambassador on people smuggling issues”, Peter Woolcott, had postponed two visits to Indonesia. She believed it was to avoid the crisis in Merak. Nathan, Curr and Chandrashekar — who were visiting Indonesia independent of the “special envoy” — were critical of Indonesia’s treatment of the refugees. Nathan said: “There were police roaming around since my plane touched down” — and police had confiscated immigration forms previously handed to the Tamils. “It is clear they are annoyed that Australia wants to keep pretending it is Indonesia's problem.” Woolcott eventually visited Jakarta for two days, ABC Online said on February 4. His visit will no doubt be focused on ensuring Indonesia’s ongoing cooperation in targeting asylum seekers with hopes of coming to Australia. The January 24 Sydney Morning Herald said Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natalegawa had repeated the call for the Australian government to take responsibility for the refugees. “We are the ones now principally addressing this issue but we have to bring on board Australia's engagement again.” However, since Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd requested the boat’s interception by the Indonesian navy in October, Australia has insisted it “is a matter for the Indonesian government to resolve”. But Australia provides funding and resources for the “matter” of dealing with asylum seekers in Indonesia. The Australian government doesn't want refugees to travel to Australia, where they are entitled to asylum, and instead pressures Indonesia to “cooperate” with its border control policies. Unlike Australia, Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations refugee convention. The Rudd government has, in effect, outsourced refugee detention. Last year it contributed $1 million to Indonesia's detention centres, to refurbish some and to build more. The Tamils in Merak fear Indonesian detention and Sri Lankan persecution — with good reason. Eight refugees left the boat in November. All were taken into Indonesian detention. One man, 25-year-old Gunasekaram Sujendran, travelled back to Sri Lanka and was arrested in Colombo. Others were recently subject to interrogation by Sri Lankan navy officers while in Indonesian detention. More aid and supplies are needed on the boat as well, Nathan said. The conditions have become appalling. “We asked for things like a change in diet”, she said. “They are getting diarrhea. “Can we have a special diet for the pregnant woman? And a special diet for the children — the youngest is now one year old, but they don’t even get milk. “One hundred people had a fungal infection, and we had to ask whether we could give them anti-fungal cream, it's so basic! “And also some clothes, some tents, some portable loos to put by the boat. So they could have some kind of comfort and some kind of sanitation.” There are more cases of disease and sickness every day. One man died in December after vomiting blood for days. Another suffers with a shrapnel injury to his leg, which he has carried from Sri Lanka, and needs emergency surgery. Nathan said a woman who is eight months’ pregnant does not fit into the clothes she first boarded the boat in, but has not been provided with anything more. But supplies purchased by the three women were all confiscated by immigration. Nathan said these are the basic things the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) should be providing, but aren’t. The IOM receives $12 million from Australia to carry out assistance for asylum seekers in Indonesia. “I'd like to know what they're spending their money on”, she said. It has failed to provide any kind of humanitarian assistance to the Merak refugees. “They basically work for the government. “The IOM chief kept asking me ‘why won’t they get off the boat?’ But the IOM’s responsibility is not to get them off the boat, that’s not their job.” The Tamils are refusing to disembark because they fear detention, deportation or years of hopeless waiting. Nathan said these fears were well founded. “We’ve got contacts, good international networks and we did have people from the embassy helping us. And this is how we were treated. This is what we went through. “Can you imagine what refugees with no country backing them, no international support, or access to help from friends and family must be feeling? “Who is going to protect them?”

Histories of the four Internationals

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez [right] has called for the formation of a Fifth International to unite socialists around the world. The previous internationals were places of debate and action, established to strengthen the international socialist movement. Dan Swain of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has writen a breif history of each one, arguing that we “can learn an enormous amount by studying them”.
The First International was forged in struggle In the first of a new series Dan Swain looks at how socialists have organised for change globally. On 28 September 1864, delegations of workers from different countries met in London to form the International Working Men’s Association. This was later known as the First International. It was an historic moment uniting working people in a genuinely international organisation. Uprisings in Poland against the Russian empire provided the spark for its formation. British workers issued a call to workers in Paris to deliver joint solidarity. A delegation from France travelled to London. By the time the first meeting was convened large numbers of Polish, German and Italian workers were also present. Battle of Węgrów, Poland 1863 The first few years of the international saw some impressive successes. It won solidarity from British workers for a strike of bronze workers in Paris, which went on to victory. It was also crucial to defeating attempts by bosses to use scab labour to break the London tailors’ strike in 1866 and the Geneva building workers’ strike in 1868. Arguments for international solidarity had a strong resonance with workers across Europe. In 1869 mine owners in Belgium unleashed an attack on working conditions. Workers and their families rose up and were met with vicious repression. Belgian troops killed or wounded many workers. The First International organised solidarity meetings and provided legal representation for the arrested miners. They were acquitted, increasing support for the International. It was a place of intense debates. [Karl] Marx and his supporters were not the only voices. Anarchists, represented mainly by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon from France and the Russian Mikhail Bakunin were one strand.
Karl Marx Mikhail Bakunin Utopian Socialism was another. Utopians saw the route to socialism through enlightenment and education. Robert Owen, one of its key proponents, had established co-operatives and ideal working communities to show how work and society could be organised differently. Marx argued that while these were good examples, they would not lead to socialism—building isolated communities could never be enough. “To conquer political power has... become the great duty of the working classes”, he said in his first address to the International. Many of Marx’s most important political arguments were made in debates with these trends. The International’s biggest challenge was the Paris Commune in 1871. War had broken out between France and Prussia. The defeat of France led to the collapse of the government and the declaration of a new republic. In Paris workers rose up and declared their own government under the Commune. Marx offered his full support, and his analysis of it is among his most important writings. His The Civil War in France offers a powerful defence of the Commune and a stark description how far the ruling class would go to crush a revolution. The Paris Commune, 1871 These events saw socialism condemned internationally, and Marx was labelled the “Red Doctor” by the press. There was debate within the International itself. Faced with a revolutionary moment, the divisions in the International became increasingly important. Anarchists and [Marxist] socialists drew very different conclusions. The English trade unions left the International because of its support for the Commune and the British representatives resigned from its general council. They argued that change should come through parliament and trade union activity. With the loss of the British section the divisions between Marx and the anarchists became more intractable. It led to the eventual dissolution of the International in 1872. While the International had brought together workers across Europe, the division between reformists and revolutionaries was too much. It remains a crucial question in debates about building international organisations in the future. The Second International: From class war to imperialist slaughter In the second part of our series Dan Swain looks at the rise and fall of the Second International. Last week I explored how divisions over the question of revolution led to the break up of the First International. The same problem was also of decisive importance to the fate of the next attempt to unite socialists across borders. The Socialist International, known as the Second International, was established in 1889. It brought together socialist groups from across the world, the most successful being the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). These organisations were generally well rooted in the working class. They spoke of the need for revolution, and were involved in organising unions and contesting elections. The SPD participated in every aspect of workers’ lives, even organising socialist choirs and socialist gyms. It is because of calls by the Second International that we celebrate International Workers Day on May Day, and International Women’s Day on 8 March. May Day was launched as part of an international campaign for an eight-hour working day. Workers across Europe stopped work and demonstrated on 1 May 1890. Governments were forced to recognise the day as a national holiday. As capitalism underwent a period of stability at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the parties of the Second International were able to gain legal recognition and win some major reforms. As a result, many began to draw the conclusion that capitalism could be reformed to benefit the working class. While most of these people still called themselves Marxists, and paid lip service to the idea of revolution, they began to move away from it in practice. Karl Kautsky, a leading intellectual in the SPD, was a key figure in this debate. Formally he supported revolution against a section of the party who wanted to abandon it. Karl Kautsky However, while denouncing them at party conferences, he also accommodated to them, allowing them to set the agenda. This meant the left was isolated. The leading Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin called for the reformists to be expelled from the International. He argued that having two different currents in the same organisation could only paralyse it. Revolutionaries and reformists should, and must, work together, but they need to organise separately, he said. The tensions in the International began to reveal themselves in an argument about colonialism, as the great powers grabbed parts of the world. Some delegates to the International’s 1907 congress defended aspects of colonialism, saying that it could be a force for good. Lenin proposed an alternative, opposing all colonialism. This was passed, but the vote was very close. Even worse was the debate over war. All agreed that socialists should oppose war, which resulted from the competitive nature of capitalism. But there were disagreements over how to do this. Many argued for mass strikes and uprisings, but some of the German delegates were concerned about this affecting their legal status. A compromise was reached. This said that if war broke out, it was the duty of socialists “to intervene for its speedy termination and to strive with all their power to utilise the economic and political crisis created by the war to rouse the masses and thereby hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule”. But this did not happen when the First World War broke out in 1914. The majority of SPD MPs in the German parliament, including Kautsky, voted for war. Most of the other Second International parties followed suit, voting to support their country’s war effort. This was a terrible betrayal. Lenin refused to believe the news at first, presuming the newspaper story was a forgery. Failure to oppose the war ripped apart the International. It left many confused and demoralised. However, those who did break with it and opposed the war would go on to form the backbone of a genuinely revolutionary international movement. As Leon Trotsky wrote in 1914, “The Second International did not live in vain. It carried out enormous cultural work, the likes of which the world has never seen: the education and rallying of an oppressed class. “The proletariat does not have to begin all over again… The period now concluded bequeathed it a rich arsenal of ideas.” The Third International: Revolutionary hope crushed by Stalinism Dan Swain continues our series with a look at the third attempt to unite workers across borders. Poster for the Third International When the parties of the Second International voted to support the First World War many socialists were left uncertain about what to do next. From the carnage of the war, however, came a beacon of hope that inspired millions across the world. A revolution in Russia put workers in control in October 1917. The Bolshevik Party argued for forming a workers’ state by placing power in the hands of the soviets – councils of workers based in the factories and communities. The Bolsheviks had opposed the war. After the revolution they ended Russia’s involvement. Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin had argued that revolutionaries and reformists should organise separately. The success of the revolution had proved how important this was. It inspired the creation of Communist Parties across Europe. Trotsky, Lenin and Kamenev in 1919 In 1919 these organisations were formally united in the Communist International, known as the Third International. It was formed in a period of huge social upheaval. There were mass strikes all over Europe. Soviets similar to those in Russia were formed in Berlin, Vienna and Budapest. Socialists in Russia knew that if the revolution did not spread to other countries it would be defeated. Germany, which had the largest working class in Europe, was the most important country. Lenin declared in 1918 that, “It is an absolute truth that without a German revolution we are doomed.” German sailors revolt ended World War One and sparked the German revolution. Their placard reads: “Soldiers warship Prince Regent Luitpold. Long live the Socialist Republic” However, the Communist Party in Germany was a new and relatively small one. It had only recently broken from the Social Democratic Party. Revolution was a real possibility in Germany between 1919 and 1923. But the leaders of the Communist Party made a series of tactical mistakes that led to their defeat. They squandered the trust of workers through irresponsible uprisings that were doomed to defeat. As a result of this they were too timid to take a lead at other times. The defeat of the German Revolution led to Russia becoming increasingly isolated. Lenin’s death in 1924, and the enormous damage done to Russia by civil war, created the conditions in which a growing bureaucracy could concentrate their power. Joseph Stalin, who headed the bureaucracy, asserted that it was possible to construct “socialism in one country”. This was the complete opposite of what Lenin had argued. Joseph Stalin The International increasingly became a tool of Russia. Communist Parties around the world were instructed to respond to every whim from Moscow. This led to bizarre twists in strategy. First, members of the International were told not to work with social democrats at all. Instead they were denounced as “social fascists”. This was utterly disastrous. The left was divided when unity was needed against the Nazis. Then suddenly the International switched, and Communists were ordered to seek alliances with anyone and everyone. This “Popular Front” tactic even led to Communists participating in governments in Europe and breaking strikes. As the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky put it, the International had become a “submissive apparatus in the service of Soviet foreign policy, ready at any time for any zigzag whatever”. Against this, Trotsky argued consistently for the idea of the united front. This had been a strategy put forward at the Third International’s 1922 congress. It argued that the Communist Parties must seek to work with social democratic parties in an effort to influence the majority of workers. The policy adopted in 1922 argued that the role of the International “is not to establish small communist sects aiming to influence the working masses purely through agitation and propaganda, but to participate directly in the struggle of the working masses”. The Third International brought together millions of workers under a banner committed to the need for world revolution. It inspired millions to fight for a better world. It educated generations of activists and militants, and played a key role in many struggles. The early struggles of the International still hold many important lessons for us today. However, its fate was too closely tied to that of Russia. Stalin misled the workers organised in the International as did their own national leaderships, who too often meekly obeyed every command. Also of interest, from the the British Socialist Worker newspaper: The Communist International – a major nine part series How a workers’ uprising ended the First World War The Fourth International: Keeping the flame alive Our series concludes by looking at Trotsky and the Fourth International. Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian revolution, opposed Joseph Stalin’s increasing stranglehold on the Soviet Union and the Third International. Leon Trotsky As a result he was exiled from Russia. In 1938 he gathered together a small number of his supporters to form the Fourth International. The contrast between the founding congresses of the other internationals and the fourth was stark. There were only 21 delegates representing 11 organisations. The largest was the US section, with only 2,500 members. This was not the mass organisation that the previous internationals had been. Nonetheless Trotsky believed that the extraordinary world situation demanded a new formation. The Great Depression was feeding the rise of fascism, while Stalinism prevented workers fighting back successfully. The Fourth International argued that capitalism was entering a terminal crisis. It was no longer possible to fight for reforms within capitalism. The choice was either revolution or fascist dictatorship. The old Communist parties had been turned into tools of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia, and were now opposed to revolution. It was necessary to form new revolutionary organisations, however weak they might start out. Trotsky was assassinated by a Stalinist agent two years later. Unfortunately, the remaining leadership of the Fourth International stuck to this perspective even when circumstances changed. Far from collapsing following the war, capitalism went through a period of sustained growth and prosperity. Under these conditions reformist and Communist parties grew rapidly. They were able to win many reforms. Trotsky had also predicted that the war would lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. Instead, the Soviet Union’s influence expanded and Stalin consolidated his position. Yet in 1946 James Cannon, a leading figure in the Fourth International, announced that Trotsky was still right, “only we disagree with some people who carelessly think the war is over”. This was an extraordinary denial of reality in an attempt to stick to all of Trotsky’s words! The Fourth International debated the nature of the Soviet Union and the replica regimes it established across Eastern Europe in the late 1940s. Its position became that the Soviet Union was a “degenerated workers’ state”. The theory was of a genuine socialist revolution that had developed defects. The East European satellites were however “deformed workers’ states”, defective from birth. This created a huge problem. Karl Marx had argued that socialism must be brought about by the working class themselves. But the regimes in Eastern Europe had been instituted by Stalin’s armies, not by the workers of those countries. To argue that they were in any sense workers’ states abandoned a key principle of Marxism. These were “workers’ states” that the workers had never had any say in. Against this, the Palestinian Marxist Tony Cliff, a founder of the SWP, argued that the Soviet Union and its mirror images in Eastern Europe were state capitalist regimes, in which the workers had no control. The revolutionary upheavals that began in May 1968 created an opportunity for Trotsky’s ideas to gain influence and for organisations that looked to his legacy to grow. But by this time the “official” Fourth International was split into warring factions, and Cliff had left to form the International Socialists, the predecessor of the SWP. Unfortunately, dogmatic adherence to Trotsky’s 30-year old ideas helped many squander these opportunities. The logic of the “deformed workers’ state” argument was that socialism could be brought about by forces other than the working class, for example students, peasants or guerrilla armies. Some parts of the Fourth International did stay closer to the real Marxist tradition. Whatever the later difficulties of some his followers, Trotsky’s break from the rotten politics of Stalin’s Third International kept the flame of revolutionary internationalism alive. It is this tradition that we should gain inspiration from today.

Should Climate Activists Support Limits on Immigration?

by Ian Angus and Simon Butler January 24, 2010 From Climate and Capitalism
Ian Angus Simon Butler
Immigrants to the developed world have frequently been blamed for unemployment, crime and other social ills. Attempts to reduce or block immigration have been justified as necessary measures to protect “our way of life” from alien influences. Today, some environmentalists go farther, arguing that sharp cuts in immigration are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. However sincere and well-meaning such activists may be, their arguments are wrong and dangerous, and should be rejected by the climate emergency movement. Lifeboat ethics and anti-immigrant bigots “Environmental” arguments for reducing immigration aren’t new. In a 1974 article, “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor,” US biologist Garrett Hardin argued that “a nation’s land has a limited capacity to support a population and as the current energy crisis has shown us, in some ways we have already exceeded the carrying capacity of our land.” Immigration, he said, was “speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries.”[1] Elsewhere he wrote: “Overpopulation can be avoided only if borders are secure; otherwise poor and overpopulated nations will export their excess to richer and less populated nations.”[2] Hardin’s ideas have been very influential in the development of the right-wing, anti-immigration movement in the US and elsewhere. In 1979, he helped to found the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant lobbying group that has been named a “hate organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[3] In addition to the usual array of anti-immigrant arguments FAIR has made a particular point of linking concerns about the environment with opposition to immigration. Virginia Abernethy, a Hardin collaborator who calls herself an “ethnic separatist,” argues that the ability to migrate to rich countries gives people in poor countries an incentive to have bigger families. “The U.S. would help, not harm, by encouraging an appreciation of limits sooner rather than later. A relatively-closed U.S. border would create most vividly an image of limits and be an incentive to restrict family size.”[4] Shifting gears In the past, the “environmental” anti-immigration argument was: immigrants should be kept out because their way of life is a threat to our environment. That argument is still made by anti-immigrant groups and some conservationists. Recently, as concern about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming increased, the anti-immigrant argument has taken on a new form. Now the argument is: immigrants should be kept out because our way of life is a threat to the world’s environment. That’s the argument made in a recent briefing from the US Centre for Immigration Studies, a “think tank” founded by FAIR: it says that immigration worsens CO2 emissions “because it transfers population from lower-polluting parts of the world to the United States, which is a higher polluting country.” CIS calculated that the “average immigrant” to the US contributed four times more CO2 than in their country of origin.[5] Otis Graham, a founder of FAIR, made the same argument in his 2004 book Unguarded Gates: “Most immigrants … move from poor societies to richer ones, intending to do what they almost always succeed in doing, take on a higher standard of living that carries a larger ecological footprint. This being the case, the logic of the relationship is straightforward. Population growth in both poor and wealthy societies, but especially in the latter, intensifies environmental problems. Where immigration shifts population numbers to wealthier societies, it does not leave global environmental damage the same, but intensifies global as well as local environmental degradation.”[6] A recent FAIR report claims that increased population is the primary cause of the huge increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions between 1973 and 2007 – and that the population increase was caused by immigration. “The United States will not be able to achieve any meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions without serious economic and social consequences for American citizens unless immigration is sharply curtailed.”[7] The racist British National Party, which likes to call itself the “true green party” because it opposes immigration, also uses this argument. BNP leader Nick Griffin recently told the European parliament that climate change isn’t real – but that hasn’t stopped him saying immigrants will make it worse. He told author Steven Faris that by accepting immigrants from the third world, “We’re massively increasing their impact of carbon release into the world’s atmosphere. There’s no doubt about it, the western way of life is not sustainable. So what on Earth is the point of turning more people into westerners?”[8] (It is significant that none of these supposed defenders of the environment take their argument to its logical conclusion: if immigration to the North is bad for the climate then emigration to poor countries with low emissions must be good and should be encouraged.) Greens versus immigration For anti-immigration bigots, concern for the environment is just a ploy – they’ll say anything to justify keeping immigrants out. It’s an example of what author and feminist activist Betsy Hartmann has called “the greening of hate — blaming environmental degradation on poor populations of color.”[9] But it is particularly disturbing to witness the promotion of similar arguments in the mainstream media, and by environmental activists whose political views are otherwise hostile to those of FAIR and the BNP. For example, Ross Gittins, economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, said in 2008 that cutting Australia’s immigration was “one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce the growth in our emissions” because “it’s a safe bet they’d be emitting more in prosperous Australia than they were before.”[10] Australian renewable energy expert Mark Diesendorf has urged the Australian Greens to call for immigration restrictions because Australia is such a big polluter. “Australia is world’s biggest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases. So every additional Australian has a bigger impact than anywhere else.”[11] Even the highly respected U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben has written that, “the immigration-limiters … have a reasonable point,” because “If you’re worried about shredding the global environment, the prospect of twice as many world-champion super-consumer Americans has got to worry you.”[12] Noted environmentalist and journalist Tim Flannery made a similar argument during a debate on immigration policy broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in September 2009: “Growing Australia’s population has a much greater impact than growing the population of a poor country. We are the heaviest carbon users in the world, about 23 tonnes per capita, so people that come to this country from anywhere on the planet will result almost certainly in an increase carbon emissions ….” As these examples show, “green” arguments against immigration are no longer the exclusive property of anti-immigrant bigots. They are increasingly heard within the climate movement, and so require strong answers from climate activists. Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Cure The view that stopping immigration to wealthy countries is a good way to fight global warming rests on a the simplistic idea that because immigrants come from countries with low per capita emissions to countries with high per capita emissions they supposedly increase total emissions simply by moving. This argument is false on its face. To calculate “per capita emissions,” we simply divide a country’s total greenhouse gas emissions by its total population. This provides a useful baseline for comparing countries of different sizes – but it tells us nothing at all about the emissions that can actually be attributed to individuals. In fact, most emissions are caused by industrial and other processes over which individuals have no control. In Canada, for example, no change in the number of immigrants will have any effect on the oil extraction industry at the Alberta Tar Sands, described by George Monbiot as “the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.”[13] Reducing immigration to the United States will have no effect whatsoever on the massive military spending – up 50% in the past decade – which ensures that the Pentagon is the world’s biggest consumer of oil.[14] To put that in context: a study published in March 2008 found that the CO2 emissions caused directly by the Iraq war until then were equivalent to putting 25 million more cars on the road in the U.S.[15] Closing Australia’s borders would have had no effect on the climate denial policies of the previous Liberal Party government, or on the current Labor government’s determination to continue Australia’s role as “the world’s largest ‘coal mule.’”[16] As US immigrant rights campaigner Patricia Huang has pointed out, “the relationship between population growth and environmental destruction is shaped by how we use our resources, not by the number of people who use them.”[17] Labeling migrants as a climate change problem is not only unjust, but it obscures the real challenges the climate movement faces. The decisive question we must address is who makes decisions about resource use in society. In capitalist society, the big financial institutions, multinational corporations and fossil-fuel companies wield this power with devastating results for the planet’s ecosystems – and governments do their bidding. Focusing on immigration diverts attention from the real social and economic causes of global warming, and makes it more difficult to solve them. This approach mistakenly links the trends of population and ecological harm, and so misdiagnoses the root causes of the current environmental crisis. It leaves social change out of the equation or consigns it to the far future. It downplays or ignores the fact that immigration would have a very different impact in the zero-emissions economy we need to fight for. A pessimistic outlook As we’ve seen, the argument that reducing immigration will protect the environment originated with right-wing, anti-immigrant bigots. Our major concern, however, is that virtually identical arguments have been adopted by progressive activists and writers who are sincerely concerned about global warming. Despite their sincerity, their arguments betray regrettable pessimism about our common ability to build a climate emergency movement that is powerful enough to win the anti-emissions fight. As Larry Lohmann of Cornerhouse writes, the anti-immigration argument “relies on the premise that changing Northern lifestyles is a lower priority, or less achievable, than preventing others from sharing them.”[18] In fact, including “close the borders” as an anti-emissions demand tends to make their pessimistic outlook self-confirming, by making it more difficult to build a mass movement. Not only does targeting immigration divert attention from the social causes of global warming, but it divides us from our allies, while strengthening our enemies. Sadly, some groups that favor immigration control seem oblivious to the danger of lending credibility to bigots and racists who view immigrants as a threat to “our” way of life. For example, last year the Australian Conservation Foundation praised Labor MP Kelvin Thompson, and Sustainable Population Australia named him to its “Population Role of Honour” when he called for immigration cuts to deal with climate change. Both ignored the fact that just 10 days earlier Thomson had revealed his real motives by calling for immigration cuts “to minimize the risk that people who do not respect Australia’s laws and legal system will enter this country.”[19] The anti-immigration response to climate change raises a huge wall between the climate movement and the most oppressed working people in the imperialist countries. How can we possibly win migrants and refugees to the climate movement while simultaneously accusing them of responsibility for rising emissions and asking the government to bar them and their families from entering the country? What’s more, it undermines efforts to work with the growing and important climate justice movement in the Third World, where global warming is now producing its first and most devastating effects. How can we expect to be taken seriously as allies, if we tell those movements that migrants are not welcome in our countries? The Climate Justice and Migration Working Group, an international coalition of human rights and immigrant rights groups, estimates that between 25 and 50 million people have already been displaced by environmental change, and that could rise to 150 million by 2050. It calls for recognition of the right of human mobility across borders as an essential response to the climate change threat.[20] The climate justice movement in the rich countries has a particular responsibility to support this demand – but blaming immigrants in general for global warming will make it more difficult to win public support for climate refugees. Despite the good intentions of its green advocates, support for immigration controls strengthens the most regressive forces in our societies and weakens our ability to stop climate change. It gives conservative governments and reactionary politicians an easy-out, allowing them to pose as friends of the environment by restricting immigration, while doing nothing to reduce real emissions. It hands a weapon to climate change deniers, allowing them to portray the climate movement as hostile to the legitimate aspirations of the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. People are not pollution. Inserting immigration into the climate change debate divides the environmental movement along race, class and gender lines, at a time when the broadest possible unity is essential. It is a dangerous diversion from the real issues, one the movement cannot afford and should not support. Ian Angus is editor of Climate and Capitalism and co-editor of Socialist Voice. Simon Butler is a member of Australia’s Socialist Alliance and a staff writer for Green Left Weekly. See also: ‘Population Justice’ — The Wrong Way to Go The combination of population reduction and women’s rights was already 
like oil and water. Adding CO2 reductions to the mix only makes things 
worse. ________________________________________ [1] Garrett Hardin. “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor.” [2] “Garrett Hardin Quotations.” l [3] Southern Poverty Law Center. “New SPLC Report: Nation’s Most Prominent Anti-Immigration Group has History of Hate, Extremism.” [4] Virginia Abernethy. “The Demographic Transition Revisited: Lessons for Foreign Aid and U.S. Immigration Policy.” [5] Leon Kolankiewicz & Steven Camarota. “Immigration to the United States and World-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Centre for Immigration Studies, August 2008. http://www.cis.org/GreenhouseGasEmissions. [6] Otis L. Graham Jr. Unguarded Gates A History of America’s Immigration Crisis. Rowman & Littlefield. Lanham·MD. 2004. p. 140. [7] FAIR. “Immigration, Energy and the Environment.” [8] Fred Pearce. “How can Nick Griffin’s racist policies belong to the only ‘true green party’?” Guardian, December 10, 2009. . [9] Betsy Hartmann. “Conserving Racism: The Greening of Hate at Home and Abroad.” [10] Ross Gittins. “An inconvenient truth about rising immigration.” Sydney Morning Herald, March 3, 2008. [11] Mark Diesendorf. “Why Environmentalists must address Population as well as Technology and Consumption.” Powerpoint presentation to a meeting organised by the NSW Greens, June 2008. [12] Bill Mckibben. “Does it make sense for environmentalists to want to limit immigration?” [13] George Monbiot. “The Urgent Threat to World Peace is … Canada.” December 1, 2009. [14] Sara Flounders. “Pentagon’s Role in Global Catastrophe: Add Climate Havoc to War Crimes.” December 19, 2009. [15] Ian Angus. “Global Warming and the Iraq War.” [16] Guy Pearce. “Quarry Vision: coal, climate change and the end of the resources boom.” Quarterly Essay, March 2009. . [17] Patricia Huang. “10 Reasons to Rethink the Immigration-Overpopulation Connection.” DiffernTakes, Spring 2009. . [18] Larry Lohmann. “Re-imagining the Population Debate.” Corner House Briefing 28, March 2003. [19]Emily Bourke. “Migrants may pose terrorist threat.” ABC News, August 7, 2009. Australian Conservation Foundation. “Population boom will bust environment and quality of life.” September 22, 2009. Sustainable Population Australia. “Kelvin Thomson Joins Population Roll Of Honour.” [20] “Climate Justice and Migration: Position Statement.”