#bartonmoss Anti-Fracking camp forced Cameron’s council bribe, peanuts for residents, is tidal power a better way?

ImageI went on a march on Sunday (along with around 1,000 others at the very least – the BBC apparently had the cheek to say 100-200 then, but said “hundreds” yesterday) to the anti-fracking camp at Barton Moss (in Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) where drilling for shale gas (known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” for short) is taking place by the company iGas.

Fracking was top of the news agenda yesterday on most if not all TV news programmes in the UK – and was also featured heavily on RT (Russia Today, Freeview 85). This was partly due to direct action by protesters that day (including getting on top of a tanker and holding up traffic) and the high policing costs that could make it uneconomic, and partly due to UK prime minister David Cameron doubling the bribe to councils from 50% of the business rates to 100% (giving back with one hand a bit of what he has taken with the other as part of the austerity agenda), clearly scared about the unpopularity of fracking, which should be massive in urban areas as long as campaigners put across effective arguments. The benefits to residents however are tiny – £100,000 may be a lot per person if there are just a few farmers nearby, but it is ridiculous to expect city-dwellers to accept a minuscule share of that money, plus the 1% of revenues if shale gas is found (compared with 10% in some countries overseas), even if there is just a small chance their tapwater will be undrinkable like in Dimock in the USA as covered up until revealed in a Huffington Post article, or even get skin lesions from showering in water contaminated by fracking: “The first person in Dimock to discover that there were problems with the water was Norma Fiorentino, whose water well exploded. And it took a little while and, for a certain period of time, some of the residents were still showering in the water and drinking the water and were experiencing a lot of the health impacts and dizziness and skin lesions. And, of course, the long-term effects aren’t known. But, over time, they started to realize that the water is not safe to use.” Some other problems are listed in an article I co-wrote for an issue of Revolutionary Platform News: Number 6: “mini-earthquakes, subsidence and noise for those who live nearby (hence reduced house prices), heavy use of water, radioactive contamination, carcinogenic chemicals”. If councils accept the bribe, expect a lot of the councillors to lose their seats in the local elections in May!

It is the point mentioned above about putting across effective arguments that I am particularly concerned about – arguing for tidal power (sometimes called “tidal energy”) and putting serious amounts of research and development (R&D) into that technology (at last taking place from 2012 in Scotland but with an investment of a mere £30 million according to this article, the same amount as the French company Total is investing into just one Lincolnshire drilling project according to the Independent due to fracking being banned in France and the lucrative profits – part of the solution to solving environmental problems is revolutionary change involving overthrowing the leaders of such companies without compensating rich shareholders and running them democratically by ordinary people). I fully agree with arguments about moving away from fossil fuels (including shale gas obtained from fracking) and opposing nuclear fission, and instead investing in renewable forms of energy. Unfortunately, however, the renewables suggested by speakers at the protest on Sunday limited suggestions to using wind turbines (which don’t work when there’s no wind or even too much wind and they produce little power compared with their cost) and solar panels (which aren’t particularly efficient either in the UK).

Furthermore, there is a shortage of rare earth metals used for both technologies (wind turbines and solar panels) as revealed in a November 2013 Yale University report  by Nicola James entitled A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is Hindering Green Technologies:

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2014: Economic & social chaos? A general strike in Britain at last? Prospects for Left Unity

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2013 was quite a good year for the left, particularly in Britain. I will summarise by listing items from my blog about some of the things that happened last year:

  • Margaret Thatcher died – giving me inspiration for this blog! I just happened to have written a song for my band Fruity Frank & the Frisky Freaks called The New Poll Tax (based on the mass campaign of non-payment that defeated the poll tax and played a large part in removing her from power), which we recorded two versions of a few days before Thatcher died, and my first post on the blog was The demise of Maggie Thatcher and my song: The New Poll Tax. The “new poll tax” refers to council tax payments by those on benefits, which can be up to 30% of the full value (and are set at 25% in Rochdale where I lived at the time).
  • There was some progress towards a general strike, against austerity (cuts) and perhaps to bring the ConDem (Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition) government down. I took part in (and spoke at) a meeting in Liverpool organised by Merseyside TUC (Trades Union Council) which unanimously decided to put forward a motion at the North West (of England) TUC Annual General Meeting (AGM) calling on the national TUC to call a general strike, preferably on International Workers’ Day (1 May, popularly called May Day although the “May Day” public holiday is always on a Monday in the UK). The motion also called for international coordination (i.e. strikes elsewhere in the world) on the same day. I created a Facebook page: Launch an international general strike on 1 May against the 1% and also modified the lyrics of a song called “The Stars Look Down” from Billy Elliot (the musical) about the miners’ strike, to refer to present day and call for a general strike and demonstrations on 1 May. I sang it with a very good female singer (a singing teacher) and put it on the internet with a video including clips of protests and strikes (etc.) on YouTube (which includes a call from Anonymous for similar action on the same day) – see The Stars Look Down – join the 1 May global MayDay general strike! As it happened, at the NW TUC AGM, a deal was struck whereby an amendment to massively water down the motion, removing any calls on the national TUC and suggestions for a particular date on bureaucratic grounds. Nevertheless, the North West became the first region of the UK in which the TUC officially had a position of support for a general strike. I handed out a newsletter before and at the (national) TUC conference (Trades Union Congress) in Bournemouth: Lobby TUC for serious coordinated strike action, fracking, Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity, Tory conference demo – a motion on it was passed unanimously but, predictably I suppose, bureaucrats in the various unions affected by attacks by the ConDems have totally failed (so far) to coordinate action. [I would like to think that my activities influenced the general strike in Greece (but there had been many before) and demonstrations by workers in Iran (but there is little internet access there) on 1 May…]
  • The campaign against perhaps the ConDems’ most vicious measure – the bedroom tax – has been strong in 2013. I helped by providing some Non-payment advice (on leaflets and my blog – with a record 560 views of a blog post on a single day). My other achievement (not to ignore the parts played by many thousands of other protesters across the country on the issue) was to appear on the BBC TV programme Question Time – playing a part in Labour leader Ed Miliband saying Labour will abolish the bedroom tax the day after I question his deputy Harriet Harman on it (if they come to power at the next election). It had been forecast, including in the Sunday People, that Miliband would make that announcement, but perhaps I brought it forward a few days from the party conference.
  • Revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden (particularly in the Guardian and New York Times) about spying by the US National Security Agency with its PRISM software (and similar activities by GCHQ in Britain) and a huge database containing information about virtually everyone in the world who has been on-line (including contents of emails, Facebook interactions and Google searches) plus details of phone calls, which ultimately provides the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms processing this data without need for human intervention and eliminating the possibility of further potential whistleblowers. I know that this is possible based on my expert knowledge of AI (I was the main designer and sole developer of an AI/simulation language called SDML) but such world fascism (as John Pilger has also called it) has hopefully now been averted by the Snowden revelations and the response to them. My posts The purpose of PRISM – stopping worldwide socialist revolution forever with Orwellian 1984-style society and #copsoffcampus demos against police clampdown on student protests – infiltration, PRISM & possible UK police state provide my analysis.
  • My role (perhaps) in alleged rapist Martin Smith’s resignation from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Some will see the self-destruction of what has been (and just about still is) the largest party to the left of Labour, excluding the Greens, largely stemming from the rape allegations against their former national secretary Martin Smith (aka Comrade Delta) as positive, others negative. Make your own mind up (free will is the best antidote to such “Leninist” organisations’ propaganda and something that Marxist philosophy doesn’t seem compatible with). The fact that there is another organisation that is far better (Left Unity) and already involves some who split from the SWP in March (the International Socialist Movement) is a good sign.
  • The debate between Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman, with Brand arguing for revolution and there being no point in voting when there’s no real choice, on Newsnight went viral on YouTube (with over 9.5 million views), and there were a large number of Facebook shares (102,000) of his New Statesman article too for the edition he was guest editor of. I wrote a blog entry Russell Brand v Jeremy Paxman on “revolution” plus bureaucratic centralism of the SWP (but not the Socialist Party) which went off at a tangent explaining why the latter has a more healthy internal regime than the SWP based on my eight-and-a-half years in it (including when it was called the Militant Tendency and Militant Labour). I didn’t argue that “democratic centralism”, as practiced by the Socialist Party/Militant was ideal though, and I am pleased to say it has not been adopted as a way of operating by Left Unity.
  • Left Unity started with a call for a new party to the left of Labour by socialist film director Ken Loach in March, although I didn’t get involved initially (I waited until I saw a meeting in Manchester advertised although there was a big one I missed). My position has been consistent, in wanting a broad socialist party but with a revolutionary “platform” bringing together people who want a “sudden thorough” change of society, as I put it, rather than gradual reforms (which wouldn’t actually lead to socialism anyway). I therefore issued a Call for a Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity. I didn’t get sufficient support for an official platform (of 10 members), perhaps due to sabotage by my email providers, and found that the Socialist Platform was basically revolutionary anyway, so dropped my own platform in favour of it. Under pressure from the Socialist Platform (which in the meantime had virtually self-destructed due to ultra-left amendments from the tiny CPGB), the strongest platform called the Left Party Platform (LPP) put forward a much improved statement of aims compared with its initial wishy-washy statement. I therefore proposed amendments to the improved statement, one of which (on improving the paragraph on trade unions to mention strike action, including mass/general strikes) as a means to winning individual disputes and changing society (with improvements suggested by other Manchester Left Unity members in also mentioning occupations and solidarity) was submitted, and (despite only having 2 minutes to speak on it and another amendment) I got it passed at Left Unity’s founding conference on 30 November. See Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP. Another branch (Camden, which actually is Ken Loach’s branch, potentially undermining claims that he is steering the party in a reformist direction) getting another amendment to the LPP passed committing the party to ending capitalism – Socialist Platform main instigator Nick Wrack’s main objection to the LPP’s revised statement of aims and something I asked others to take up after failing to persuade Manchester members. Consequently, Left Unity is truly broad and reflects both revolutionary and reformist views and members will hopefully continue to put both kinds of views forward, on the website and forum (and in a publication once we decide to produce one). I also put forward a motion to keep Left Unity as the name of the party, suggesting much more than the main rival Left Party that there is an aim to unite the far left and bring many of the “57 varieties” (which should actually be 150 according to Facing Reality but is based on an old advert for Heinz soups) together rather than be just another socialist party/organisation. Another Manchester member, Ali Treacher, spoke on that motion and it won by 98 votes after transfers.

By far my most popular blog entry towards the end of 2013 was Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards? with “End of Britain” being heavily advertised by the (allegedly) most popular stock market investors’ magazine MoneyWeek and my blog entry being in the top 10 of Google searches for it. MoneyWeek predicted inevitable economic and social chaos in Britain, and the UK going “bankrupt” if inflation reached about 5%. The issue of whether British capitalism is very healthy (as reformists who claim Britain is “the seventh richest country in the world” argue) or in dire straits (as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert argue in The Keiser Report, on RT and YouTube, hence them shifting their TV programme from the USA to London) is probably the most important debate socialists can have to determine strategy. The former banker Frances Coppola, who “debunked” the MoneyWeek video/letter has started debating with me on the above-mentioned entry on my blog, after I demolished the arguments of Martin Odoni, a follower of the US “unorthodox post-Keynesian economist” Warren Mosler, so I am directing those particularly interested in that debate there (especially if you wish to comment on my views on the subject). But let me just leave you now with the following thoughts:

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Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP

[EDIT 1/12/13: The founding conference of Left Unity, on 30 November 2013, has just taken place. I will shortly write a report of it on this blog, including mentioning that one of the two amendments proposed by me (and included below) on considerably strengthening the paragraph on trade unions, by mentioning striking (including mass/general strikes), occupations and solidarity, was passed. My proposal on keeping Left Unity as the party name (proposed by another member of my branch) was also passed, which could prove important in encouraging people of autonomous/anarchist views (preferably non-violent as most of them are) due to such people disliking the word “party”. Most of the comments below the article were from a debate I had with Felicity Dowling of the Left Party Platform (and a former member of the Liverpool 47 surcharged councillors and one of the Militant Tendency “entrists” within Labour before Militant’s “open turns” in Scotland and then England and Wales). There is also a reply to my article by John Penney, to which I have posted a reply having just seen it after the conference. The conference is over but debates go on…]

[EDIT 8/12/13: I have now added a comment below containing details of a report by Pete McLaren from Rugby (of the Independent Socialist Network and Socialist Platform) plus two responses from me – being more upbeat about the fact that the conference decided to adopt a combination of revolutionary and reformist politics, which was basically my aim with the amendments below (one of which was passed), and that forthcoming economic crises will provide great opportunities for revolution.]

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Steve Wallis of Manchester Central Left Unity proposed changes to the Left Party Platform submission for the aims section at the founding conference, which, after discussion, were submitted as two separate amendments to those aims for debate at the conference. The justification for those amendments above the amendments are Steve’s personal views.

One of the problems of the debate between platforms is that it has, at times, become polarised between those who favour an electoral road to achieving socialism (with some such people accused, rightly or wrongly, of being content with positive reforms to capitalism) and those who favour a socialist revolution. The Left Party Platform (LPP) is in favour of a broad socialist party encompassing both (but some members particularly favour elections and others hide some of their politics to accommodate them), whereas the Socialist Platform (SP) is much more openly revolutionary.

Most revolutionary socialists, including myself, also agree with standing in elections, but think it impossible or highly unlikely for socialism to be achieved solely by electoral means. We should also welcome participation from those with autonomous/anarchist views, such as many in the AntiCapitalist Initiative, although I have used the phrase “(preferably peaceful) socialist revolution” in the second amendment below. We should not encourage the participation of people who encourage violence for the sake of it, as counterposed to defending themselves if attacked by the forces of the state – which the LPP’s Kate Hudson (general secretary of CND) informed us at the foreign affairs commission at the policy conference in Manchester is consistent with CND’s position on violence.

Discussions around the formation of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-capitalist Party) in France included people of an autonomous/anarchist persuasion, and although they didn’t participate eventually, we should welcome members of the AntiCapitalist Initiative into LU (especially because they are involved in merger talks with two organisations that are more keen – the International Socialist Network and Socialist Resistance). I have therefore included a paragraph in the second amendment below saying that those just interested in extra-parliamentary activity rather than helping with election campaigns (or vice versa) would be welcome.

The extremely undemocratic (misnamed) first-past-the-post electoral system, which would have only been slightly improved if the Alternative Vote proposal (that only the Liberal Democrats campaigned for and which was an awful compromise from the much more proportional single transferable vote system that they advocate) had been passed, makes it extremely unlikely that socialists can make as much headway as socialist parties/coalitions on the continent, particularly Syriza in Greece. The ConDems have also passed legislation for fixed term parliaments of five years – without LU playing a key role in massive extra-parliamentary action forcing a capitalist government to resign, or otherwise forcing them from office by a general strike leading to “dual power”, we would be betraying the masses who look to us to provide a lead.

If there is suddenly another massive economic crisis, on the scale of the 2007-8 credit crunch or worse, which some financial experts predict, such as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert in The Keiser Report, viewable on RT (Russia Today) or YouTube, or the MoneyWeek magazine’s video/letter entitled “The End of Britain” (nothing to do with Scottish independence!), it would be vital for socialists to respond by leading a revolutionary movement – if not, the far right will have a field day. Waiting for another general election is not an option!

It should also be emphasised that the massive gains in support Syriza achieved, which led to it almost becoming the largest party in the Greek parliament in 2012, could not have been achieved without the mass movements of ordinary working and lower middle class people, including strike waves, demonstrations and particularly general strikes – in which members of Syriza played important roles.

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Obituary and song remembering Gayle O’Donovan of Green Left and secretary of Manchester Green Party

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My new band Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks has recorded a new version of my song “Donovan’s Doorway”, which I have uploaded to the SoundCloud website (click here to play/download it) in memory of the tragic death of Gayle O’Donovan.

I include below the description, which is a sort of obituary:

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