Category Archives: environment

Rossport: Protest brutally suppressed. Again.

From The Socialist

More than 150 protesters from the Mayo area and around the country gathered at Shell’s gas refinery at Bellanaboy on Friday 12 October. They were met with a massive and brutal Garda presence, backed up by the Public Order Unit.

Some fencing that Shell has laid down in preparation for the building of the unsafe onshore pipeline was ripped up and given back to Shell, marked “return to sender”. However, unfortunately, the large presence of Gardai meant that there was an insufficient number of protestors to seriously impede Shell’s work for the day. They made a conscious policy of attempting to break people’s thumbs, pulling people’s hair and even throwing one protestor’s shoe in the river.

The Socialist spoke to Dominic Hewson, a member of UL Socialist Youth who was attending his first protest in Rossport about his experiences at the protest:

“I thought the protest was quite encouraging, especially the local participation, it was a lot more than I’d expected. I thought the excessive force used by the Gardai was far out of context with what was necessary. It didn’t seem that they were there to mediate or to enforce the law, instead they were there as a private Shell force.”

Meanwhile, with Eamon Ryan in position as Minister for Energy, the giveaway of gas and resources off the Irish coast continues. The Department of Energy’s own analysis suggests there could be $600 billion worth of crude oil or gas off the west coast. Yet despite this, Ryan is proposing to continue the giveaway to private companies like Shell and Statoil.

The next day of action at Bellanaboy is scheduled for Friday 9 November. Buses will be traveling from around the country. To book your place, contact Paul on 086 1688050.

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Shell to Sea – Rossport Solidarity Camp evicted

by Paul Murphy

After over eighteen months as an important base for activists supporting the local community in opposing Shell, the Rossport Solidarity Camp has been ordered to dismantle by 1 January.

The bitter irony of their eviction is that the judge ruled that the camp should be dismantled because it didn’t have planning permission and had the potential to damage a special area of conservation. This while Shell builds a huge gas refinery that will pump pollution out of tall chimneys just down the road and a high pressure gas pipeline that has the potential to explode!

 The difference is clear – the state has consistently backed up Shell, giving it €51 billion of our gas for free, while ordering and defending Garda brutality against peaceful protestors. This eviction is undoubtedly encouraged by Shell who have been surveying the estuary that runs right alongside the camp in preparation for laying the controversial pipeline.

Although Shell and the state now seem to think that they can deal the final blows to the campaign, the mass sitdown protest at the gates of the refinery on 14 September offers an opportunity to prove them wrong. A good turnout locally and nationally would demonstrate the continuing support for the campaign. Achieving even a relatively minor success, like causing serious disruption to Shell’s work for the day, will be crucial in helping to re-energise the campaign.

Report from the SY Resistance Festival 2007

By Conor Payne, Dublin Socialist Youth

On the 21 and 28 July, Socialist Youth hosted “Resistance”, a series of forums for young people around the South to discuss and debate socialist ideas.

The events were held in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. These were very successful with around 150 mostly young people attending overall. All the forums began with a debate. In Dublin and Cork, Socialist Youth members debated the Greens on the subject of how the environmental crisis can be solved. Challenged on their decision to enter government with Fianna Fail and the PDs, the Greens argued that there was no other way to ensure action was taken on urgent environmental issues, such as global warming.

Socialist Youth pointed out the link between global warming and the profit system that puts the interests of the fossil fuel industries and big business in general above the interests of people and the environment. To really fight against environmental crisis, we need to challenge this system and that can‘t be done in government with pro-big business parties.

The Greens claimed to agree with us on other issues such as privatisation, the use of Shannon Airport by the US military and Rossport! Yet they have sold out on all of this issues in government.
In Limerick and Galway, we debated the Young PDs, who argued that the free market was the solution to and not the cause of problems such as poverty, war and environmental crisis and argued the case for “socially responsible capitalism”.

Socialist Youth argued that from Irish Ferries’ attacks on workers’ wages and conditions to war for oil being fought in Iraq, capitalism is never socially responsible and always puts the lust for profit above all other concerns.

All four events included a discussion on the life of Che Guevara and the struggle for socialism in Latin America. Resistance was a great success with many young people indicating they wanted to join Socialist Youth.

Quotes

Michelle Dempsey – Student Nurse

“The event was great as it talked about things that matter like workers’ rights, anti-sectarianism and cuts in the NHS.”

James Higgins – Student

“I thought the event was really interesting. It was good to see someone addressing the topic of climate change. With a lot of people at attending it made for some important discussion.”

Gemma Foster, 19, young worker from Dublin

“The discussion on young workers’ rights was of big interest to me. This is because I’ve been in a situation of not getting my rights at work and getting ripped off and it was great to see that someone was fighting for young workers. I was also interested in the issue of the environmental crisis.

“I liked that in the young workers’ rights discussion if you asked a question you got really good answers on how you can fight to get your rights in the workplace.

“I was working for a big supermarket chain that’s obviously really profitable. The pay was ridiculous – €3.75 an hour for under 18’s. You had to work overtime and it was unpaid overtime. The manager used bullying tactics to intimidate us, threatening to give us a bad reference for example.”

Marta, 19, Bolivia

“I find it incredibly interesting to come across a socialist movement in Ireland and Europe in general. This movement is a reflection that we live in a world with problems. Society is still developing. Socialism is the best way to direct it.

“In Bolivia our government is supposed to be socialist. They have good intentions but our biggest problem is still with the multinationals and it’s a big struggle that’s still happening.

“It’s amazing that Socialist Youth is concerned with the problems all around the world and knows about Bolivia and Latin America as well as fighting on the issues here in this country.”

What do you think of the Socialist Youth “Resistance” event in Dublin?

“The Resistance event to me was a very proactive, educating event to raise awareness concerning Important and undeniable aspects of the effects that the capitalist system has on the world such as the environment, workers rights, Latin America. In my opinion, it was a great event, it allowed the youth to be involved in the greater discussion concerning their country and beyond.”

Mira, 21, Palestine

How did you become active in Palestine?

“Living in a country torn by occupation like Palestine, it’s inevitable that you become an activist and fight against the oppression faced by your people in any way you can. I have been an activist for about five years now – becoming a social-political activist has been one of the most enlightening experiences in my life, it has taught me a lot and has motivated me to continue the struggle towards freedom alongside the oppressed of the world.”

Can you describe the conditions facing Palestinians living in the occupied territories?

“The Palestinian population living in the occupied territories suffer day to day human rights abuses, especially in terms of the lack of freedom of movement (there are about 420 military checkpoints in the West Bank). The people of Palestine are terrorised on a daily basis by the Israeli occupation, we suffer from lack of freedom of speech, education, resistance and most of all a free, safe life.

“But on the other hand, the Palestinian people are, on a daily basis, fighting against occupation despite all of the obstacles that we face, that are nowadays increasing. We are fighting for our freedom, because at the end of the day, the Palestinian people are not terrorists and they are not victims -, they are survivors.”

Report from the Belfast ‘Resist’ event

By Emily Frazer, Belfast Socialist Youth

Socialist Youth’s ‘Resist’ event in Belfast attracted over 35 people throughout the day to hear debate and discussion on socialist ideas.

A debate entitled “How can we stop environmental destruction?” with the Green Party was an important discussion on the best way to solve the ongoing crisis over our environment.

A discussion on the 40th Anniversary of Che Guevara’s death and why you should be a socialist today had the biggest audience. There were speakers on young workers’ rights, women’s rights, the struggle internationally and who are Socialist Youth. There was a lively discussion on many issues from the 11+ exam to attacks on the future of our health system.

In the evening the film showing of Chavez: Inside the Coup brought up the important example of Latin America in struggle and the threats it now faces.

Climate change: Socialist international planning needed

From The Socialist (England & Wales)

Organised to raise awareness of climate change, Live Earth is a series of concerts with an estimated worldwide audience of 2 billion people, taking place over seven continents on 7 July.

Among the backers is the multi-millionaire businessman and environmental spokesperson, the former US vice-president, Al Gore. Gore appeared in the Academy Award winning 2006 documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, about the threat of rapid climate change on the environment.

However, this event is unlikely to get to grips with the real causes and solutions to rapid climate change. In particular, how can large corporate sponsors and rich businessmen like Gore seriously challenge the very capitalist system of production that is responsible for destroying the world’s environment?

Undoubtedly at these events the public will be asked to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ while the big burners of fossil fuels – manufacturing, energy and transport industries will be asked to clean up their act in line with the weak and flawed Kyoto treaty to which the two biggest polluters – the US and China – are not obligated.

In February 2007 the UN-sponsored committee of scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report arguing that stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases would ‘only’ cost between 0.2% and 3% of global GDP by 2030. US officials immediately claimed that such a target would lead to a global recession.

And there’s the rub. Capitalism means that the interests of the owners and shareholders in transport, energy and wider industry – who do not want any reduction in their profits – come first.

The market

Just two weeks after New Labour issued its draft Climate Change Bill in March, which talked about cutting greenhouse gases, new figures showed how big privately-owned power stations in the UK by switching fuel in 2006 from dearer gas to cheaper coal had contributed to a 1.15% rise in CO2 output.

Under capitalism it’s ‘the market’ which is expected to deliver cuts in emissions. Any capitalist party will only do so at the expense of workers’ jobs in ‘dirty industries’, or by bigger taxes on ordinary people’s energy and transport.

Socialists, on the other hand, will fight climate change with a programme of rational planning of resources, based on public ownership and public good – not private profit – and by the international action of millions of ordinary people seeking to build a planet with a sustainable, socialist future.

The G8 means war, poverty and environmental destruction

 

Socialist Youth leaflet – Available as PDF here.

G8 Hypocrisy

G8AID: Of the $60 billion that was pledged for third world countries at the recent G8 summit only $3billion was new money pledged – These are the same leaders that spend $1 trillion annually on the arms trade.

ENVIRONMENT: Despite the continuing destruction of our environment, the G8 said that they would only ‘consider’ reducing carbon emissions.

FAIR TRADE: African goods still face enormous tariffs when they try to export goods to places like Europe and America.

WAR ON IRAQ: Bush and Blair have spent billions on the war in Iraq that has resulted in the death of over 650,000 Iraqis and has forced millions to flee their homes.

G8 and capitalism mean:

GLOBAL INEQUALITY: 1 billion people worldwide have no access to clean water while the super rich buy designer deodorants worth $30,000 a pop!

AIDS EPIDEMIC: In some parts of Africa one third of young adults will die of the aids epidemic, major pharmaceutical companies have blocked the production of cheap generic drugs to combat aids which would reduce their cost from $10,000 to $150.

“FREE TRADE”: In 2003 $4 billion was given to 28,000 big US cotton farmers – This is more than the GDP of the African country Burkino Faso which has 2 million cotton farmers

ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION: The G8 leaders have failed to achieve the limited targets for cuts in carbon emissions set out by the Kyoto Treaty. One scientist has claimed it would take the equivalent of 30 Kyotos to deal with global warming!

Kevin Carter, a white South African photographer, won a Pulitzer Prize for this photo of a vulture stalking a sudanese baby during the famine. No one knows what happened the child as Carter left the place as soon as the photo was taken. Three months later, Carter committed suicide. Is any more evidence needed as to the brutal reality of capitalism?

Kevin Carter, a white South African photographer, won a Pulitzer Prize for this photo of a vulture stalking a sudanese baby during the famine. No one knows what happened the child as Carter left the place as soon as the photo was taken. Three months later, Carter committed suicide. Is any more evidence needed as to the brutal reality of capitalism?

The G8 is a club made up of the most powerful capitalist countries worldwide. Under the pressure of ordinary working and young people its leaders were forced two years ago to give commitments to resolve the desperate poverty facing Africa. 250,000 marched in Edinburgh under the slogan ‘Make Poverty History’.

However, the above facts speak for themselves. Even Bob Geldof and Bono were forced to describe the recent G8 summit in Rostock in Germany as a ‘total farce’. They have no intention of resolving the desperate problems of poverty and environmental destruction faced by the majority of the world’s population. The 80,000 people who came to protest against the G8 this time did so to oppose not only their policies but their lies and broken promises as well.

Why won’t the G8 ‘make poverty history’?

Today the top 500 companies gloablly control 70-80% of world trade. These are privately owned and controlled by those who enrich themselves with vast profits at the expense of the needs workers and poor people internationally. This capitalist system leads to war, horrific poverty and is threatening the very existence of humanity itself. G8 leaders like Bush, Blair and Putin are only interested in helping these companies exploit the resources of the‘third world’ as opposed to helping the people who live there. It is this reason and not simply because of a lack of‘political will’(as Bono and Geldof would have us believe) that explains the inaction of the G8 on issues like third world debt, fair trade and aid.

What is the socialist alternative to the capitalist profit system?

Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party participated in the recent protests against the recent G8 summit in Rostock. We reject the that idea celebrities like Bono and Geldof have put forward in the past that the G8 can be used as a force for good.

Workers and young people should be organised internationally in a movement that can oppose the attacks on their living standards and fight for a democratic socialist society. Such a society would bring into democratic public ownership and control the 500 companies that control the world economy.

On this basis it would be possible to prioritise the needs of people and end global inequality through democratic socialist planning of the economy. If you agree with our ideas then join Socialist Youth today.

Britain: Brown’s political coronation – new face, same agenda

From The Socialist (England & Wales)

London has become a tax haven for the world’s billionaires. One British hedge fund manager put it clearly: “I think the super-rich want to have two homes, one in New York and one in London, but if they’re based in New York, they would pay a lot more tax than here.”

Gordon Brown - by SuzThe thousand richest people in Britain own half the country’s liquid assets. In the last five years of New Labour government they have seen their wealth increase by 79%, to an average of £70 million per head (excluding first and second homes!).

Meanwhile twelve million people live below the poverty line. Public services are being decimated.

Average mortgage payments have increased by £1,500 in the last year, while food prices increased by at least 6%. The government is demanding public-sector workers accept effective pay cuts.

No wonder Britain’s workers have the longest working hours in Europe, struggling to make ends meet while a few at the top drown in an orgy of unimaginable excess.

This is Britain under Blair. Add in the nightmarish occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and it is no wonder that New Labour were humiliated in this year’s elections and only 22% of the population believe Blair did ‘a good job’.

Millions of workers will greet his departure this week with relief.

Brown, however, will be more of the same. He has spent the last six weeks emphasising the continuity between himself and Blair; promising to increase ‘reform’ (read destruction) of public services.

As chancellor he has been directly responsible both for attacks on public sector pay and the tax-free bonanza being enjoyed by the super-rich.

Brown has also used his pre-coronation period to pose as being even tougher on ‘terror’ than Blair.

He has not, however, indicated any change in Britain’s imperialist foreign policy, which is responsible for making Britain a target.

His proposal to increase the length of time individuals can be held without charge beyond the current, already draconian, 28 days will not effectively combat terrorism, but it will further undermine democratic rights.

Undermining democratic rights

Just as was the case with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (legislation that was supposed to thwart the IRA), the vast majority arrested will be innocent. Under the PTA only 1% of those arrested were convicted of any crime.

Brown’s ‘coronation’ campaign, designed to show that he can out-Blair Blair, has had some effect.

Despite Tory attempts to portray him as a closet socialist, voters on average now consider him to be only minutely ‘left of the centre-ground’ – the ‘centre-ground’ being the standard anti-working class, pro-big business, pro-privatisation policies being pursued by all the establishment parties.

However, Blair is seen as being considerably to the right of ‘centre’.

Despite Brown’s efforts to prove otherwise, there are working-class voters hoping that Brown will act in their interests, or at least slow the pace of New Labour’s attacks. It is this that has led to the small ‘Brown bounce’, which has increased New Labour’s miserable rating by about 3%. Experience of Brown as prime minister will destroy these desperate hopes.

If a feeling rapidly develops that ‘nothing has changed’ a Brown government could quickly face an explosion of all the accumulated discontent of the working class, in the form of industrial action, which the trade union leaders would be powerless to hold back.

One factor in how rapidly events will develop is the timing of the next world economic crisis, which would be likely to hit Britain, now a giant casino for the world’s hedge fund gamblers, particularly hard. Even if the economy continues to grow for a couple more years, and it takes a bit longer for the paint to completely flake off Brown’s ‘respray’ of New Labour, he will still face an increased willingness of the working class to struggle.

New workers’ party

A foretaste of this may come within days, delivered by the postal workers, if their union, the CWU, goes ahead with a strike to defend pay and conditions.

As Brown and Cameron fight a battle to be the best representative of big business, the need for a mass party that stands up for the working class is overwhelming. Some activists continue to hope that New Labour can be ‘reclaimed’ by the working class.

Yet this is shown again to be utopian by Brown’s coronation. He was nominated by 313 of 355 MPs, with left MP John McDonnell unable to win enough parliamentary support even to get on the ballot paper.

Instead a contest is taking place for the virtually powerless position of deputy leader. Even if a left-wing candidate was elected they would be unable to do more than whisper in Brown’s ear.

However, there is no possibility of this happening. All six deputy leadership candidates nominated Brown for leader, revealing that, far from representing workers’ interests, their priorities lie first and foremost with furthering their own careers.

In the hope of winning ordinary trade unionists’ backing, some have made attacks on the obscene wealth at the top of British society.

However, even Jon Cruddas MP, who has gone furthest – stating the obvious truth that New Labour has ignored the working class and lost five million voters as a result – was quick to deny that he supported any concrete increase in taxation of the rich.

Since 1997 more than £100 million of trade union members’ money has been paid to New Labour. The majority of national trade union leaders continue to argue that this is to influence New Labour. This will be just as utopian under Brown as it was under Blair.

The majority of even those MPs directly sponsored by trade unions have voted against the most minimal of the trade unions’ demands.

A majority of them even opposed, for example, the introduction of a Trade Union Freedom Bill which would repeal some of the worst aspects of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, fighting for the breaking of the link between the trade unions and New Labour, and the establishment of a new mass party of the working class, will be crucial under Brown’s reign.

Wealth gap widens

The wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has more than trebled under Brown’s stewardship. They had an income between them of £360 billion in 2006, which was £59 billion more than the previous year, an increase of 20%.

Britain’s 54 billionaires last year paid only £14.7 million tax – just 0.1% of their incomes! The poorest fifth of the population pay nearly 10% of their income in direct taxes, and another 28% in indirect taxation.

Corporation tax on companies since 1997 has been cut from 33p to 28p.

Warmonger

Being known as ‘Mr Prudent’ hasn’t stopped Gordon Brown wasting £76 billion of public funds on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile programme.

He has also dug deep (£7.4 billion up to April 2007) to finance the bloody wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Privatisation

Brown has made it absolutely clear he will continue with Blair’s privatising policies.

He will accelerate ‘reform’ in the NHS, and has earmarked another £50 million worth of public assets for privatisation.

£5 billion annually is currently handed over to private contractors, for treatment centres, GP services, etc.

Attacks on public sector

Many public-sector workers are raging at Brown’s 2% wage limit, effectively a pay cut. Other battles are looming, such as against Royal Mail plans to axe 40,000 jobs and close a further 2,500 post offices.

200,000 civil servants were forced to take strike action on 1 May against huge job cuts, privatisation and pay cuts. Brown has spear-headed the attacks on the civil service. In 2004 he announced the axing of 104,000 civil service jobs.

Public sector occupational pensions have been attacked. Many face having to work longer, pay more in contributions and receive smaller pensions.

Pensions

In 1997 Brown gave big business the green light to cut workers’ occupational pension schemes. Companies also took massive ‘pension holidays’ – they stopped paying employers’ contributions – saving them £4,000 a worker every year.

A top UK company director can retire at 60 on a final-salary pension of £3 million. Whereas a majority of UK workers face retirement at 65 or later on inadequate pensions; a single person’s state pension is a paltry £84.25 a week.

Brown’s own pension will more than double when he becomes prime minister, to £123,000 a year.