John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Another green world

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Green politics mean many things to many people. Environmentalism is generally associated with the left mostly. The kind of action necessary to create stable, sustainable civilisation involves at least curtailing the capitalist prerogative of competitive accumulation. But as anti-capitalism can pull in a number of directions, so can environmentalism. There is Deep Ecology, which is Malthusian and anti-industrial. There was even an Eco-fascist strand. Max Karl Schwarz was a senior Nazi party member who welcomed the destruction of the ‘Jewish’ city.

There is of course Eco-Socialism. It is perhaps a too-apologetic term. Environmentalism and socialism are not two disparate forms of politics that need yoking together. The Green movement, judged on its own terms, is not such a fantastic success, no more than any other movement. Socialists should incorporate environmental concerns without incorporating utopianism. The biggest difficulty for Green politics is agency.

Linking environmental concerns to working class agency of course starts with issues around the quality and cost of living, the first will be driven down and the second up as the legacy of climate change accumulates. Flood defence is one issue - Britain is generally low-lying. Most urban areas are based around rivers and estuaries. Electricity generation is another. Why, in a country like Britain, with long hours of sunlight, consistent wind (Britain has 40% of Europe’s wind energy but only generates 10% of wind-powered electricity) and three tidal rivers, do we not have cheap, clean and plentiful energy? Environmental concerns permeate issues such as transport, housing and food. It is still difficult to found a meaningful environmentalist practice though. Global climate change is an even bigger challenge than capitalist austerity.

The below is not by any means a manifesto, but a start of a discussion. These points are not meant to win votes, nor are they ‘realistically’ costed (for one thing cost/price/value etc are estimates of labour – what is realistic is what people make real). They are not ideas for lobbying a government authority and they are not a party programme. They are meant as demands and as a means to get people active.

Housing:

There should be an urgent house building programme, linked firstly to available brownfield sites and secondly to a plan for redistributing work around the country. All building materials should be locally sourced where possible. Key workers and workers in existing nearby workplaces should be given high priority, helping to reduce the need and length of commuting, reducing emissions and costs.

New houses should be owned by an elected local government commissioner and administered by tenants and residents associations. Rent control should be applied to the entire local housing market.

All houses, new and old, should to be properly insulated, supplied with solar panels and fitted for grey water recycling where appropriate to help make them more energy efficient.

Legal recognition should be given to properly organised groups of squatters with credit offered to recover abandoned buildings. Any private owners of residential or commercial property that do not make good use of their property will have it confiscated after 3 months.

Controlled flooding should be carried out in vulnerable areas with appropriate compensation to farmers and landowners. The new land should be used either for recreation or as a wildlife reserve.

Transport:

All newly built sites should incorporate public transport links appropriate to the particular site.

The centre of all towns and cities with populations over 100,000 (or whatever appropriate figure) are to be pedestrianised, with vehicle access given only to residents and business access. These reduce both emissions and lower accident numbers, combined with the reduction in commuting (see above) will lower also particulate levels, leading to a decrease in asthma, bronchitis and other lung diseases.

Food:

Brownfield sites not converted into new housing or parkland should be turned into city farms, all city farms should be twinned with local primary and secondary schools. All local shops and supermarkets should be sourced primarily by local farms, with incentives given to farmers to use organic rather than artificial inputs, natural rather than artificial pesticides.

There should be a ban on further out of town shopping development.