Iran: Our enemy’s enemy can still be our enemy.

This is my second blog piece in an effort to lay out the basis for an independent Green internationalism. This time it’s prompted by an Owen Jones piece about a looming war between the US and Iran[1].

Owen Jones once again glides across all complications and caveats and questions of international solidarity to present an unflinching defence of the Jeremy. To avoid misunderstanding I’ll start by saying I am opposed to military attacks by the US or UK on Iran.

Now, let’s work through some of Owens glides.

“It happened in Iraq, it happened in Libya too”. This is not the first time Jones has ignored the very significant differences between the US led war on Iraq and the NATO intervention, based on a UN security council resolution, in Libya in 2011. In Libya there was an uprising. In Iraq there was none. In Libya there were civilians and rebels on the ground being bombed by a disintegrating fascist dictatorship. In Iraq there were not. In Libya the final defeat of Gaddafi was brought about by Libyans themselves. In Libya is wasn’t a handful of uppity puppet exiles who provided cover for intervention to stop the bombing, it was those fighting, without planes or anti-aircraft weapons, to overthrow a dictatorship who shouted loud and clear for a ‘no fly zone’ and never asked for boots on the ground (and indeed, never received them). This was not ‘regime change’ intervention. So the rights and wrongs of each situation were entirely different. Human rights watch estimates 72 civilians died as a result of the intervention in Libya. All this is well documented. [2]

For Jones, Corbyn is entirely trustworthy in his call for evidence and for ‘de-escalation and peace’, because, as Owen put’s it ‘War looms’. Tell that to the Syrians. Iran has funded and trained the militias, which, together with Russian air power, saved the Assad regime from defeat at the hands of the Syrian uprising [3] War is not looming, it is happening. Jones concedes this in Yemen, but doesn’t mention Syria. Iran has blood on its hands in both countries (and, no, that isn’t a defence of Saudi Arabia. Get a grip). Corbyn’s calls for evidence have a history of avoiding the issue. He did the same thing in the face of overwhelming proof that Assad has used chemical weapons. Once the evidence became entirely clear there was no follow up; no condemnation or calls for action. Just more bland calls for peace and de-escalation. Imagine if you will a situation where the US bombed Venezuela (it won’t). Would Corbyn ask for more evidence, and then call for ‘de-escalation? And of course, Corbyn spent many years as a paid commentator on Press TV, a state owned Iranian station. [4]

There is no mention in the article of the nature of the Iranian regime. Over the last couple of years there have remarkable scenes of brave protesters taking on the Iranian regime – a regime which, let’s remember, routinely hangs gay men and women who are victims of sexual violence.[5] [6] Yet Owens’ piece makes no mention of the atrocities of the regime, or of the need to look for ways to provide solidarity with those opposing it. And we know that Corbyn has a history of defending it.

The point here is not to provide an excuse for accepting the case for war against Iran by the US or UK. The point is to start from facing up to the reality that my enemy’s enemy can still be my enemy. It is this simple fact that Corbyn struggles with. It is this inability to provide solidarity to those facing supposedly ‘anti-imperialist’ dictatorships that leads to the horror of the British left tolerating the likes of George Galloway, or the Morning Star[7] declaring the fall of Free Aleppo to Assads’ forces as a ‘liberation’. [8] Saying this loud and clear does not undermine our ability to oppose US or UK warmongering. It actually strengthens it. Because it means we are not taking sides with one brutal regime against another, but rather we are standing with those who fight oppression, wherever it comes from.

There is then another discussion to be had about how we can properly support those fighting for their rights. There does need to be an honest discussion about what practical help can be offered. This must include some hard thinking about the legitimacy and possibility of humanitarian intervention. But so far that debate has failed to happen on the left because the ‘anti-imperialist’ voices simply shout ‘Iraq!’.

As a member of the Green Party of England and Wales, I would like to see us get to grips with this, and to stop allowing others to define the debate on peace and solidarity for us.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/19/us-war-iran-looms-justified-iraq

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_military_intervention_in_Libya

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_involvement_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War#2019

 

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-iran-protests-why-overlook-human-rights-issues-regime-press-tv-a8138696.html

[5] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/iran-gay-men-executed-hanging_n_1515207?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZWNvc2lhLm9yZy8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACMt1XgLBPucRMOPTmBGTS_Mr23Tstb_01RxRFDcWl6gIJ4-hGwXFhIZgCohZxWWG2JD1T51ZjKVfZvLBwRHWu4G5ZrQuMDrkvcpCwa12EmF76DUZpfSTM1XICCaVipgvl0Tk-pcKMSwbwsoCpOdIbJ_rKu87HJmoXC7yHLdIWcL

[6] https://iran-hrm.com/index.php/2018/12/28/iran-hangs-young-woman-another-victim-of-sexual-violence/

[7] https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/media/2016/12/no-aleppo-not-being-liberated-despite-what-morning-star-says

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Aleppo_(2012%E2%80%932016)

Shropshire Council has just voted to declare a Climate Emergency. The devil will be in the detail.

What just happened?

Today, Thursday 16th May 2019, was somewhat epic when you think about it. Apart from one flat-earther, who didn’t have the courage of his convictions when it came to the vote, everyone who spoke at the Shropshire Council meeting favoured declaring an emergency, and then everyone voted for it. In a council with an overwhelming Tory majority.

How did we get here?

Votes of thanks have to go to Extinction Rebellion, both nationally and locally, for shifting the debate. Greta, too, is owed a huge thank you. So is David Attenborough (Richard? not so much: someone will need to let one of the LibDems know the difference). The scientists who finally got a hearing at the IPCC also need to be thanked, even if their timetable is hugely risky. The technologists who have developed the means for the world to get to Carbon Zero have to be thanked too: let’s be honest; so long as it felt impossible, it was very hard to stare reality in the face.20190516_091332

Then we have to thank those who have doggedly fought on this issue for years. Because this movement has not sprung up from nowhere; it’s been gestating and developing its arguments for years. And here I must pay tribute to the political party that I only joined about 4 years ago, and even then, mainly because of their ‘Social Justice’ agenda – the Green Party. For years they have been saying this is an emergency, but they – we – have also been saying; look, saving the planet (by which we really mean humanity) is both necessary, and good for us; it actually addresses fuel poverty, social isolation, mental health, inequality….

What actually happened today?

Firstly, Extinction Rebellion did ourselves proud. The numbers, the banners, the mood, the singing… Adam’s radio spot and speech to the Council… even persuading those of us (me included) who were sceptical about following up December’s climate change motion so soon.

Secondly, we had a mishmash of motions, partly the result of somewhat inept email exchanges between various councillors and myself that – between you and me –  did not reflect well on claims that this all needs to be ‘above party politics’.

Motion number 1 from the Labour Party called for carbon zero by 2030. But people who are late to the party don’t always know the songs, so it took the Green Councillor (ok… me) to jump in and explain why being ahead of the IPCC 2050 deadline matters. (Briefly: that deadline is itself too weak; it’s for the whole world, and many poorer regions legitimately complain that they will struggle more than the wealthy countries who pumped out most of the CO2 since the industrial revolution; so wealthy countries need to get ahead of the curve; the public sector needs to lead in the wealthy countries; right now in the UK local government needs to lead the public sector, both because – it turns out – it is a fairly vibrant form of democracy and so can be influenced quickly, and because the government is… distracted.) But Motion 1 was defeated by the Tories because they are keen to be realistic and don’t want to disrupt their growth agenda. Actually several Tories supported it.

Then came the Tory motion, as amended by the LibDems, which didn’t have a target date but did move us forward on some accountability issues, and did declare an emergency. I put an amendment to this. Again I really have no choice but to blow the trumpet of my party: we have done our homework – see our ‘Shropshire Green New Deal 1.0.’ SGNDSo I could propose some specifics on what needs to be done between now and December, and then on to this time next year,  especially on planning policy. Don’t yawn – this is important: if we continue to build homes and workplaces that spew greenhouse gases either we are not going to get to carbon zero, or we are going to look very silly retrofitting nearly-new buildings. Those who were paying attention could see the sense of this. The administration said, ‘hold your horses; this sort of detail needs careful consideration’. They won the day, but only just, with several Tories again breaking ranks to vote for my amendment alongside everyone else. Once that was out of the way there was a fag end of a discussion on the main motion, which was duly passed unanimously.

But does this really mean anything?

Yes, I think it does. The shifts from denial to grudging acceptance and from acceptance to urgency are really happening – at different rates amongst different groups of people. The shift to action is being developed – not least by some dedicated council workers in Shropshire. I have been told that for years, and right up until last December, you had to whisper ‘climate change’ if you didn’t want to be regarded as a bit weird. That has changed, and some staff are really on it. Then there are enough councillors who get it, across all parties, for this to shift the mood on some of the committees. There is now a steep learning curve to be climbed, whereby councillors can start talking confidently about heat exchange and AECG building standards and waste management. But the sands have shifted and are continuing to shift. And those leading the way are not always the people you’d expect.

But what about the North West ‘Relief’ Road?

At the same time, there are enormous blind spots all over the place. The biggest by far is the continued support by both Labour and the Tories – but no longer the LibDems – for the North West Relief Road. This will create major disruption to ecology, require huge amounts of CO2 spewing concrete production and present a colossal financial risk. The case for it entirely relies on the disastrous continuation of car-dominant private transport. Yes, cars will be electric eventually, and will still be a vital part of the mix, but they will still clog up streets and burn up energy needed elsewhere, and car-is-king policies mean they will hog the space and resources needed by walkers, cyclists and public transport users, making the ‘modal shift’ to other forms of transport so much harder.

There are plenty of other harmful policies still being pursued: cuts to bus services; the unnecessary extent of new homes building on the edges of towns, hungry for yet more infrastructure; cuts to the ‘rights of way’ team who could be leading on developing walking routes…

So what’s the ‘balance sheet’?

2019 needs to be remembered as the year Shropshire (and everywhere else) turned the corner. We can’t say that yet. But there are people across the campaigns, in council offices and on the council itself who are, to varying degrees, trying to make this happen. Between us there will continue to be disagreements and frictions, but with enough good will and effort it’s just possible that we will look back and be proud; not just of the effort but of the achievements.

Climate Emergency: what can Shropshire do?

Image result for ipcc climate change report

Scientists have given us less than 12 years to slash greenhouse gases worldwide in order to have a chance of preventing runaway climate breakdown that will bring civilisation to its knees. Some people still scoff at this, but they are, to be blunt, wrong.

At the time of writing we have a UK government and parliament paralysed by Brexit. But out in the country there has been a wave of councils, big and small, declaring climate emergencies and setting targets for zero CO2 emissions by 2030. Shrewsbury has joined this. Shropshire has set up a ‘Task and Finish’ group of councillors to look at how the county authority can do its bit. Alongside this we have seen a growing movement of ‘climate strikes’ in schools and colleges, with young people demanding action now. So what steps need to follow in our county?

Energy production

The biggest issue for the world is energy production. Yet we now know how to harness wind, solar and other sources of energy more cheaply than old and dirty sources like oil, gas and coal. What can be done locally? Well, it turns out Shropshire has the potential to produce enough energy from clean sources for up to 1/5th of the West Midlands needs.

We need new strategies and planning policies to encourage and facilitate renewable energy production. This includes a rethink on wind power, where there is a need to have sites identified in the Local Plan if they are likely to succeed at planning. No such sites were in the recent Preferred Sites consultation. Are there any in the pipe line that can be brought forward?

Development sites can be required to produce a proportion of there own energy. The technology is straightforward, and getting better all the time, from photo voltaic with batteries, to ground source heat pumps and beyond.

Ground source heat pump for flats
From House Builder and Property Developer

 

Energy use, new build and ‘retrofitting’

We don’t just need to produce clean energy, we also need to reduce energy use if we are to reach the targets. Again, we now how to do this. Homes and workplaces can be built that produce no greenhouse gas emissions over all, and this is also means virtually zero energy bills. At the moment it costs about 8% more to build ‘clean’, and this will come down the more we insist on builders using this technology.

We need planning policy that insists on ‘Zero Carbon’ building from now on. Despite fears to the contrary, there is no block on planning policy requiring energy efficient standards above building regulations (page 10). The Chancellor’s Spring Statement included a ‘future homes standard’ to mandate an end to fossil fuel heating systems in new homes from 2025. Individual schemes in Shropshire and neighbouring authorities are coming on stream that reach very high standards, but the county will get left behind if the current local plan review does not make this a requirement.

We also have to ‘retrofit’ older buildings to reduce their energy use – and their bills.

Here, individuals and successful businesses can take a lead.

retrofit
From GreenSpec.co.uk

Retrofitting can be expensive, but this money is recovered through massive savings on bills. Councils should encourage those in our community who can to do this now by providing information and guidance, and encouraging firms that can carry out the work to a high standard. This then helps to build the skills and workforce locally that makes it easier and cheaper for the councils, housing associations, private landlords and small businesses to also make this investment.

Ironbridge Power Station site

This should be an iconic development for the 21st Century, showcasing the best of what can be done. Does Shropshire want to be outdone by Rugeley?

Transport

Transport is  now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Whilst vehicles have got more efficient over the years, the miles covered have increased and so there has been no overall fall in greenhouse gases. Transport needs to be clean and the vehicle miles need to be cut.

Councils should be investing in clean vehicles for their own fleets and those of its major contractors. Veolia has trialled electric vehicles, so these should become a requirement as soon as feasible.

Image result for electric waste vehicles

Public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure needs to be developed – plenty has been written on this elsewhere.

Planning policy should require developments to include covered secure bicycle parking; dedicated car free routes on and off site; high quality public transport information (‘live’ bus time information at key points in a development for example) and electric charging points, whether active (i.e. with a charging post) or passive (i.e. infrastructure under ‘plates’ ready for charging points). In rural areas where bus routes remain unsustainable developers could be required to establish shared electric vehicle clubs or other schemes to enable sustainable transport.

The provision of infrastructure for electric vehicles is developing rapidly in cities but it will remain poor in rural areas and small towns without encouragement and persuasion. Think of Shropshire’s experience with broadband. But there are schemes. As well as Highways England investing in charging points on main routes there are schemes to help appropriate businesses such as restaurants, hotels and sports clubs establish charging points. pub car park EVAnd there is a need to follow through on commitments to do the same on the council’s own sites.

Staff transport plans also need development. A sustainable transport allowance could replace free parking, with the added benefit of freeing up some land.

 

Natural Shropshire

As the authority for a rural county Shropshire Council needs to give a lead in transforming agriculture. Looking after wildlife means that wildlife helps to look after us –  by absorbing back some of the greenhouse gases and regenerating the biodiversity that underpins sustainable lives for all species. Sadly, wildlife is in as much of a crisis as the climate, with huge falls in the number of insects needed to pollinate crops. Fields are almost empty of worms which act to break up the soil. The councils could call farmers and land users together and provide advice, incentives and policies that steer them towards clean farming and growing.

Shrewsbury – known as the Town of Flowers, could be a national leader in Planting for the Planet.

A Climate Emergency Hub?

Recently a shop in Shrewsbury was used as a centre for promoting and consulting on the Big Town Plan. Related imageShropshire owns plenty of empty shop units in the towns shopping centres. How about having a dedicated centre for addressing the climate emergency? This could include public and private partners providing education, information, advice and guidance on:

  • The scale of the emergency that faces us: independent, well presented information.
  • What the councils are doing: news on policies, investments and adaptations.
  • How to retrofit your home: information and marketing opportunities for appropriate building firms.
  • The Business Environment Network supported by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
  • How to keep your home warm and your bills down: information and advice from the Marches Energy Agency.
  • Community Campaigns (Friends of the Earth and other campaigners)
  • Learning about the climate and biodiversity (space for activities or displays from the University Centre, College or Schools)
  • Coffee! (bring in or buy your Shrewsbury Cup, filled by a neighbouring coffee shop).

Our Future

What would our county look like if we did all this? Would it look poorer? Would it be a return to the stone age? Of course not. We’d have warm homes that are cheap to run. We’d have towns and villages with less pollution that are more pleasant to move around. We’d have healthier children used to walking and cycling. We’d have a countryside renewed with the plants, birds and insects that we need to sustain life. And we’d have a much, much more secure future.

Loughros Beg Bay

A rough recording of a tune I wrote peering across this bay in Ireland one Sunday morning. A few notes came straight from some Irish Gospel playing on the radio. The rest I take full blame for.

The recording was done as part of a MOOC – a ‘massive open online course’ – devised by Berkeley College of Music to learn the basics of working with a Digital Audio Workstation.

What will they think of next.

 

Loughros Beg Bay

For a Soft Brexit vs Remain Peoples Vote

This is a draft for a speech to an Open Britain meeting, where I have been invited to put a Green Part viewpoint…. 

No point speculating…

There is a great big black hole which I would like to avoid, and that is the black hole of speculation. We could spend all night speculating over the outcome of three battles.

Firstly, one between the UK and the EU negotiators: will either side find a way to a deal of any sort in time?

Secondly, the one within the Tory Party: will any deal be acceptable to a sufficient number of Tory MPs to get through (we already know that a No Deal Brexit will never be accepted by a majority of the House of Commons, so this outcome can only happen by catastrophic accident)

Thirdly, the one within the Labour Party: Will Corbyn, the Blairites and the Northern Leave MPs find a way to shape a Labour Brexit and Peoples Vote policy? What will that look like? Will a new party result from the battle?

Where will we end up is hugely affected by these three battles but we can’t do a hell of a lot about them unless we can mobilise civil society with our own agenda, so let’s talk about that instead.

The Big Picture

Before finally getting to that though, let’s also recognise the context in which this is all happening.

First; the climate crisis is on us. If the world doesn’t literally get it’s act together very soon the consequences will be catastrophic.

Next; the forces of anti-democratic nationalism, from the US and from Russia, are on the move. Whether through encouraging and funding the far right, whether through unleashing war and the subsequent refugee crisis in Syria, or whether through infecting us all with fake news and social media manipulation, none of us are immune.

Finally, the structural problems that led to the 2008 crash haven’t gone away: we continue to face a potential further crash triggered by financialization and speculative investment driven by massively unequal wealth distribution – in which the wealthy don’t actually invest in much that is useful because the rest of us can’t afford to buy it anyway, so they invest in our debts instead.

In the face of all this, what’s the point of the EU?

Shared Values Europe

The EU clearly means different things to different people. Firstly, there’s what you could call the ‘Shared values’ Europe. People who say things like this are often derided by Brexiters of both left and right varieties as the cosmopolitan liberal elite. But easy travel, the opportunity to live and work in the rest of Europe and the availability of cheap Polish delicacies in Lidl…. these are valued across society. Yes, it is true that making the most of these opportunities is not available to all; but that is not about taking away the opportunity, it is about providing properly rewarding and rewarded work and adequate support when work is not possible, so we can all enjoy what Europe can offer us culturally, through travel and through work opportunities.

But beyond that, there is a deeply held social democratic/liberal consensus across most of Europe that is undoubtedly fraying, but which is both of value in and of itself, and which is providing resistance to the populist tide. This aspect of Europe should not be disregarded.

There is a battle raging over these values, with the far-right Sweden Democrats becoming their country’s third largest party, with far right parties sharing government power in Austria and Italy, and with anti-immigrant, and frankly anti-democratic parties running Poland and Hungary. But it’s not all one way, and, it’s crucial to note, this is not really between countries, but within them. Despite much of the anti-European rhetoric from, and actions of Poland’s Law and Justice party the overwhelming majority of Poles want to stay in the EU. You may well have heard about more than 11,000 marching with the far right in Chemnitz in Germany, some giving Nazi salutes, but then 65,000 turned up to an anti-racist event within days. I don’t think progressively minded people in the UK should step away from these struggles. We should be in there, arguing our corner.

Economic Europe

The aspect of the European project  we are hearing most about is the economic: the Europe for economic growth and competitiveness. Here I suspect many Greens, myself included, struggled when we first thought about how to respond to the referendum. Because it is true that the treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon embedded a ‘neoliberal’ approach to economics, originally pushed – let’s remember – by a UK government led by Thatcher, along with plenty of supporters in Germany. Its treaties do seek to constrain social democratic economic measures and did lead to punishment beatings for Greece, with even the IMF wincing at the way the ECB and the commission were treating the country. (But remember that the rules for the Eurozone, of which Greece is a member, defined by the Maastricht Treaty, do not apply to the UK.) The growth-is-king model has to be questioned, because as long as GDP is the driver, rather than living well and sustainably, both inequality and unfairness, and planetary scale environmental degradation and disaster will continue to threaten.

For these reasons Greens are associated with organisations such as ‘Another Europe is Possible’: we want new treaties that reverse some of the free-market pro-corporation anti-public spending stimulus aspects of the EU. This is not a forlorn hope by the way, but it does need a revival of the social democratic and green movements across Europe. Again, there is no need for despair. Portugal, which holds the presidency, wants to reform Europe to provide more space for the sorts of social democratic Keynesian measures favoured by left and green parties across the continent, starting in the Eurozone with measures to ‘level up’ in specific areas. Progressive politics continues to feature strongly across the continent. Often it’s the discredited centre that is losing out the most.

For greens, our economies need a complete redesign, so they are embedded appropriately within society and within the constraints of the natural world and so that the wealth and goods and services are distributed equitably. We recognise that this isn’t something that will happen without a redistribution of power, and in turn, that won’t happen without civil society finding its voice and its feet and its fighting strength. I am convinced that in a Britain which has turned its back on Europe our ability to move in this direction will be weakened – maybe not for ever – but certainly the current trajectory represented by any form of Hard Brexit suggests a future of more Trump style xenophobic battles where we look for enemies within and without.

Whether we are in it or not, the EU is an economic superpower, and across the Atlantic is another one. To pretend that we can exist in this world with any sort of effective, sustainable and properly distributive economic relationship with these powers purely on our terms is crazy. So which lot should we align with? And wouldn’t it be better to also have some influence?

Socially Just and Green Europe

For many the EU is about tackling issues of social justice and the environment that can no longer be effectively tackled by single countries. They see this as core to the European project. It is self-evidently true that being in a large single market with political structures makes it possible to redesign regulation for the benefit of workers, small firms, consumers, people who want to breath fresh air, drink clean water and eat healthy food. Has the EU delivered in this area? Partially. It can do much more. What we do know is that many of the rights that we value, we hold due to European law.

Here I need to say something about freedom of movement, because it is an issue where we and the SNP stand out from the rest. For us the right to live, love and work across Europe needs defending alongside any other, both for the people of Europe and for the people of the UK. Of course, exploitative contracts for migrant workers need to be resisted, and of course effective services that can deliver to those in need must be available. But that is no excuse for taking away rights. This is about strengthening workers rights, not weakening them. It is remarkable to me that there are people on the left who favour giving up this right. Being in the Single Market should mean we can all continue to enjoy freedom of movement.

Of course playing a role in strengthening the protections across borders – whether to do with free movement, other workers rights,  or measures to combat climate breakdown, suggests staying in the EU too.

So where do we go from here?

I began by saying how hopeless it is to speculate on the political developments in the Tory Party or the EU leadership. But whatever happens we have some solid ground both for pushing for a continuing useful partnership with the EU and for ensuring that whatever is done it is done democratically.

Paul Mason talks about the leave voters take on this in a useful way. He doesn’t accept the idea that the vote has a ‘half-life’ – that it is decaying and that those who voted Leave will just drift across to Remain. Instead he suggests that they have watched politicians desperately seeking the mythical Promised Land Brexit, hoping that this will materialise. But now this is reaching a crisis point and for many it’s beginning to look like promised land might not exist, and anyway the wrong people have been holding the map. So they need to be offered something in its place; a new form of salvation. That requires an offer that is not back to the same old… it needs to be about a new relationship that is more democratic, less bureaucratic, and tackles unseen power. Does a hard Brexit offer that? Of course not. Does a soft-Brexit offer that? Maybe. It would need to include guarantees that will allow a UK government to take social democratic and green measures free from legal challenge – something of course that would actually be easier to contest if we were still a rule maker, not just a rule taker, but we shouldn’t rule out a useful Soft Brexit just yet, because to do so would be to ignore the referendum. Does staying in offer this hope? Maybe, if we approach reforming the EU with some serious intent. So let’s get to that stage and decide. Let’s find out what the best arrangement for ordinary people could be outside the EU, and then let’s compare that to what staying in would look like.  And then, let’s decide will a new People’s Vote.

This is a much better way to frame this, it seems to me, than simply to push a ‘you were wrong, we were right’ position. This could indeed push some leave voters to abandon any hope of being listened to and leave them in the hands of the extreme right.

Of course, getting to this stage takes us right back to the speculation I’ve been desperately trying to avoid. A Tory crisis triggering a snap general election is one route: whoever then forms a government will need to have committed, in advance, to – yes – continuing the negotiations to respect the referendum vote, but also saying, once we’ve got an outcome – and not a looney tunes crash-and-burn Brexit – we will come back to the people to decide.

So there is a job of work to do; to convince those who can sway this – politicians, commentators, voters, – that the final choice has to be between the best deal we can get – for all the people, not just for the hedge-fund investors – and then it needs to be presented, alongside the option to remain in the EU as full members, with an intention to reform and to deepen the democracy, for a People’s Vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corbyn, Russia, Syria and the Green Party

As a member of the Green Party I am putting together these notes because I need to clarify my thoughts over Corbyn, Russia and Syria and work out why, to quote Dylan, there is so much confusion.

Last weekend my home town of Shrewsbury saw an impressive coming together of some local people with new locals – Syrian refugee families – to protest against the continued slaughter in Eastern Ghouta, being perpetrated by the Russian air force and Syrian army and to demand that something is done. Then, less than a week later, I find myself arguing on social media with some (only some) of the same people about whether Putin is actually a real threat or, as some are implying, the Salisbury poisoning is all a trick by the British ‘deep state’.

Or, to ask a related question – as Caroline Lucas puts it: ‘One: Britain has a long history of foreign policy errors, some of which have had catastrophic consequences. Two: The Russian Government is vicious, authoritarian and downright dangerous, and it was almost certainly responsible for the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury. What I can’t work out is why so few people seem able to hold both of these opinions at once.”

Caroline Lucas on Salisbury http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/russia-jeremy-corbyn_uk_5aa46df6e4b07047bec712d4

‘… because Iraq’, is beginning to sound like ‘…because her emails’*

For Corbyn & co. everything is about Iraq.

The Iraq war was launched based on a lie. I expect we can all agree on that.

Then the Arab Spring happened. This was not western inspired ‘regime change’; this was genuine local mass popular uprisings against dictatorships. In Tunisia the protests succeeded in kicking out a dictatorship relatively quickly and bloodlessly. But elsewhere the dictators fought back with everything they had: Gaddafi used his airforce against rebel areas; after initial victories in Egypt the army carried out a coup against a newly elected president.

But some argue that there was a western assault to get regime change and that the resulting chaos is the West’s fault. (Sometimes they also go for the idea that all the revolts are led by dangerous Islamists, which you’d think was contradictory to this. I’m not going to get in to this, other than to say; if you want a revolution is your own image you are going to have to wait a very, very long time.) The clear implication in the case of Libya -the spectre of which was raised in Corbyn’s Guardian article this week – is that it would have been better if Gaddafi had been left in peace (sic) to crush the uprising. I remember sitting in a pub and coming to realise that Libya was NOT Iraq. That enforcing a no-fly-zone on a brutal regime at the request of the people rebelling was IN NO WAY the same as invading a country. The subsequent civil war and emergence of ISIS in Libya – which occurred a couple of years later – was not a forgone conclusion and was more a product of failed support and engagement after Gaddafi had fallen.

Shadi Hamid – writer on US and Middle East https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/04/12/everyone-says-the-libya-intervention-was-a-failure-theyre-wrong/

News of Libyans celebrating 7 years since the fall of Gaddafi https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/2/17/libyans-mark-seven-years-since-uprising-that-toppled-gaddafi

Then came Syria. Exactly 7 years ago peaceful protests began. They were met with brutal force. But soon elements of the Syrian Army turned their backs on Assad and joined the uprising. For 3 years the uprising went from strength to strength.

Short video celebrating 7 years of resistance to Assad https://www.facebook.com/TheSyriaCampaign/videos/1698947650197241/

But by 2015 Assad had the upper the hand. Three things gave him this; Russian military support; Iranian military support and the refusal of the rest of the world to do anything after he attacked his own people with chemical weapons. (I do wish Lucas had a least mentioned Russia’s role in Syria in her latest article.)

‘Hands Off Syria’ = we prefer Assad to popular uprising

Meanwhile in the UK the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ made placards that said, ‘Hands off Syria’. At the same time they turned away actual Syrian refugees and rebels from their platforms. It was at this time that Caroline Lucas rightly distanced herself from the Stop the War Coalition leadership.

Peter Tatchell on the Stop the War Coalition http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-stop-the-war-coalition-the-west-than-fighting-for-syrians-russia-assad-a7461316.html

We now have to add in to the mix the frightening breakdown in our ability to tell truth from lies. In to this situation the far right in the US and the propaganda machine in Russia feed lie after lie after lie. One of the biggest was that the White Helmets –  the Syria Civil Defence organisation that continues to save lives in rebel areas – were making up videos and acting as US stooges. This is as big a fallacy as climate change denial and ‘Truther’ myths about Obama. The other huge lie was that Assad didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people. Corbyn helped to peddle that one: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/syria-chemical-weapons-evidence-926/

Guardian investigative piece on White Helmets https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/18/syria-white-helmets-conspiracy-theories

Trying to answer Lucas’s question

So what is going on with the left?

Firstly, there is an out of date view that sees the world as divided in to camps, with one camp good and the other bad. The old notion that American Imperialism is the greatest evil in the world overrides everything else. This means that just because Gaddafi, or Assad, or Chavez, or Castro, use anti-imperialist words they are in the camp of the good. And so every example of oppression is dismissed or excused, and every act of resistance is taken to be CIA organised or inspired. (Just in case of doubt, nothing stated here is a defence of American imperialism.)

This thinking is trapped in ‘geopolitics’ rather than people politics. So the power play of states overrides the actual experience of people. They can justify ‘anti-imperialist’ dictatorships whilst declaring anything that comes out of western states as necessarily wrong or evil.

It could have been different.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, a different recent history. One where Corbyn and the left had consistently stood by Arab Spring uprisings against repressive regimes from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt to Syria and, beyond the Arab world to Iran. Let’s imagine that they had unequivocally condemned Assad’s chemical attacks and Russia & Iran’s support for Assad which actually stopped a people’s victory. Let’s imagine they said – ‘a humanitarian foreign policy means doing all we can to stop chemical attacks on populations’. Imagine the world of western progressive politics coming together to provide real solidarity with those in the Middle East against oppression and then having the right to point to the hypocrisy of their own states. Imagine a progressive movement that laughed in the face of RT claims to be an ‘alternative’ to the ‘Mainstream Media’ because we could recognise a propaganda outfit when we saw one.

Clear green water

I get that Caroline Lucas feels the need to tread carefully around all this. But I believe there is a necessary job of work to do: to define our internationalism and solidarity politics as unequivocally in opposition to this Bolshevik/Stalinist legacy infecting much of the left.

 

* this is a reference to Trump supporters endless references to Hillary Clinton’s email server, as a way of drowning out any criticism of Trump