Category: Movements

Solutions to capitalist crisis- Richard Wolff

The American economist Richard Wolff brings Marxist ideas to life with clarity, simplicity and most importantly humour. He studied economics at some of the top universities in the US. He explains in his “occupy our future”talk how in all these years of studying economics the idea of questioning the capitalist system itself was unthinkable. He compares the taboo of not talking about the system to the way sex used to be taboo, concluding that we are better off now that we can talk about it.

Wolff praises the occupy movement, explaining that it has made a big impact on the way people think. The idea of the 99% and the 1% is now something that is being acknowledged. Although they may just be stating the obvious, it is one of those things that have gone unquestioned for many years. By exposing the inherent inequality that is generated by capitalism, we can begin to question the system itself and whether it is really the best that humanity can do it the 21st century.

In times of crisis, economists like Richard Wolff have found a new popularity among many who were previously hostile to his ideas. He now gets so many calls that he has to pick and choose where to speak and who to meet as it would be physically impossible to accept every invitation. According to Wolff the great depression of the 1930s (which was far worse than the current crisis) would not have been overcome if it wasn’t for the strength of the trade unions, socialist and communist ideas of the time. However he does not argue for another kind of new deal as such a deal is easily undone when the organisation of production remains unchanged.

The solution is in fact democracy. But democracy in the work place. It is almost absurd that many of us spend most of our lives in these places but we have very little control over what we produce, how we produce it and what happens to the money that doesn’t form a part of our wage packet.

Syria through a Lens

An interesting and moving documentary. The documentary shows a number of short films and interviews of the Syrian filmmaker Bassel Shehadeh; who has unfortunnately been murdered by the Syrian government.
Interviews with Chompsky and other US activists discussing non-violence. A glimpse of the spirit of the Syrian revolution with clips of protesters singing (with translation). Bassel also gives an interview to “democracy now” about the situation in Homs where he is calling from.

Syrian left wing opposition

Even some on the left have fallen for the Assad propaganda and conspiracy theories circulating the web. Give me evidence that Al-qaeda are running the show. If the CIA are  funding the FSA then where is the evidence? Yesterday both the pro and anti Assad mainstream media critised the resistance for cutting off a media centre. Its clear that none of these multi-million media outlets are on the side of the poor and oppressed. Somehow the action against the media station was portrayed as an action against freedom of speech. I wish these Journalists with their cozy offices and comfy lives would put themselves in the position of those currently fighting a class war in Syria. I immediately viewed the attack as a victory for the revolution. In a country where a war of words is being used to divide the population in an attempt to stir up sectarian conflict in a country that is home to Sunnis, Shi’ats, Alawites, Kurds, Christians, as well as a significant number of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. Another report yesterday in Russia Today and the BBC shows rebels wearing Christian religious clothing and holding up a cross in a manner that suggests they are mocking Christians. It was a picture with two or three men who looked like they were having a laugh more than anything else. All of a sudden any action carried out by a Syrian is being used to criticise the movement. A video I came across yesterday on twitter suggests the opposite. A video of a group from the Free Syrian Army who are Christians and are making it clear that the revolution is not against Christians.

The revolutionary movement is now calling for the fall of the regime and does not yet have a fixed ideology. They are caught up in the current struggle more than anything else. However the Local coordination committees (LCC) have outlined their vision as one that demands human rights with any international interferance.

Furthermore this movement is clearly one of the poor who have suffered the worst effects of what the Syrian Marxist scholar Salama Kalieh calls Syria a “Rentier” system where the ruling Alawite families are running a Mafia style capitalism. Over the last ten years the gap between the rich and the poor increased as Neo-Liberal reforms were introduced. Salama explains in his interview that the socialists and communists were part of the uprising from day one. According to Salama Kaileh the crisis of the left is just as evident in Syria as it is in the western world; the communist party do not really understand communism and continue to remain loyal to the regime but that does not mean that all the party members have followed this stance; many of them have joined the revolution. Salama Kaileh is the kind of voice that the Syrian people need in this crucial time of struggle, please sign the petition to call for his release from Syrian prision.

Resistance continues in Syria (June 29 2012)

Anti-government protests continue to wave their green, white ,black flags in Syria. According to the Local coordinating committees (LCC) the government opposition only gets bigger as the death toll increases. The Syrian people are brave and they are able to protest freely not because they are free from government oppression but because they have the Free Syria Army to protect them. They are also highly organised and able to trick the regime by organising fake protests and by carrying out other actions while the demonstrations continue so that the security forces are distracted by other activities. While Internet and telecommunications are often cut off and monitored, activists are organising themselves through the use of satellite phones and using traditional meeting places like mosques where they “name” the demonstration. The Syrian people will win as we are seeing more soldiers desert and join the FSA, who continue to support the peoples revolution. Say “No to intervention” and say “Yes to solidarity”.

Eco village Britain

On June 6th 2009 Kew Bridge Eco village was created. A small group began by camping on derelict land by the bridge which had been bought to build expensive apartments. It was a space where low impact living, self sufficiency and egalitarian community living could be practised. The camp was set up by using mostly recycled materials that were found or donated. Growing food was a crucial part of the philosophy and the remainder of the campers diets were supplemented by skipping of supermarket bins and donations. The group quickly grew and developed, they managed to maintain the eco village for over a year until they were forcefully removed by private security, after the court had ordered an eviction notice on behalf of the housing corporation.

However the legacy of KB still remains in the hearts and minds of many in the original group as well as those who were inspired by this new kind of activism and went on to get involved in similar projects. In the months leading up to the eviction “grow your own village” meetings were set up for those interested in setting up similar projects on unused green spaces across the UK. The initial meetings inspired similar camps in Bristol, Hull and Hounslow in west London. Some of the Kew Bridge residents went on to be key members in what was “democracy village” across from the houses of parliament.

The Grow your own village  page is now dedicated to the memory of kew bridge eco village has now been renamed “grow your own village” and provides information for those interested in low impact community living. There is also video footage of a Kew Bridge eco village tour and interviews with some of the residents.

Although the battle over land continues with the court verdicts predictably siding with private business interests over environmental and social justice, one group have managed to avoid this vicious cycle. Syon Lane community allotment was set up by an agreement between a member of Hounslow community gardens and the private owner of the sight who liked the idea of a group of people looking after the land that he was not using. They signed a legal contract for 3 years and it is now being used for local allotments. It also gives those involved a space to set up workshops and meetings.

Diggers2012 have been at Runnymede since 9th June 2012. The site was once a campus of Brunel University. Following the sale of the land to private owners it has been neglected and largely disused for the past five years. It is now being put to good use. Well done to all the dedicated diggers and dreamers.