Today’s Struggle – Still “Brassed Off”!

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Danny’s Inspirational Speech from Brassed Off 1996 gives us pause for thought, and inspiration to fight.

People Matter, not things…… how does it feel when people have lost the will to live, because of governments?

What’s happening now? Homelessness, poverty, hunger and desperation faces so many, directly because of this current government policies.
While Debt the Ripper stalks Europe, inspiration is needed to fight this class war. Collectively, we can oppose it, the strength of many so greater than suffering alone.

We seek no more internal divisions of the Left, and working class people. The People’s Assembly is uniting the opposition against the Coalition government.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’.

We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

Read the draft statement in full

See The Empire of Things, in memory of Margaret Thatcher

Economics by Other Means: War, Poverty, and Conflict Minerals in Africa

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With support from Moscow, Washington, and the former imperial capitals no longer assured, armed groups in Africa now compete for riches in diamond mines, gold pits, oil wells, and rare earth deposits.

by Kwei Quartey, previously published here by Common Dreams

Image: Natasha Mayers / Flickr

Throughout the postcolonial period, internecine warfare—along with the poverty and underdevelopment that attend it—has been endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. The images are depressingly familiar: government forces fighting against armed rebel militias; terrorized, starving refugees fleeing for their lives; villages burned to the ground; women raped and men tortured.

Conflict seems to radiate from the continent’s heart. A 2001 Institute of Development Studies (IDS) report listed 28 sub-Saharan African countries that have been embroiled in some form of warfare since 1980, including Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan along with many others. Many have suffered fatalities in the hundreds of thousands along with the maiming and traumatization of countless victims.

And then there is the broader toll. “Armed conflict,” observes the IDS report, “is arguably now the single most important determinant of poverty in Africa,” although the linkages between conflict and poverty remain poorly documented and inadequately understood.

The authors suggest that the continent’s often overlapping conflicts have arisen in various ways out of the “profound legitimacy crises” of post-colonial African governments, with the fracturing of weak states and the emergence of warfare as a means of accumulating power and wealth driving an endless cycle of violence. And with the drop in foreign assistance to many governments and rebel groups resulting from the end of the Cold War, belligerents have become more dependent upon private sources of support to sustain their military and political activities.

With largesse from Moscow, Washington, and the former imperial capitals no longer assured, armed groups now search for riches within their own borders—in diamond mines, gold pits, oil wells, and rare earth deposits. The struggle for control of these resources has become a source of endless strife.

Markets and Mayhem

In a 2001 study called The Political Ecology of War: Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts, researcher Philippe Le Billon analyzed the role of natural resources in armed conflict, both their scarcity and abundance. “The availability in nature of any resource is…not in itself a predictive indicator of conflict,” he wrote. “Rather, the desires sparked by this availability as well as people’s needs (or greed), and the practices shaping the political economy of any resource can prove conflictual, with violence becoming the decisive means of arbitration.” In other words, resource deposits themselves are not good predictors of conflict, but in an unstable political environment, resource markets can be.

Diamonds—an extremely valuable, if useless, commodity—were once marketed in the affluent West as “a girl’s best friend.” At the same time, they also became the best friends of the warring parties that brought havoc to Angola and Sierra Leone.

In the latter conflict, rebel-turned-Liberian-President Charles Taylor supplied weapons to the Rebel United Front (RUF)—an armed group in neighboring Sierra Leone that was notorious for terrorizing the population by hacking off limbs of civilians—in exchange for so-called blood diamonds. Beginning in 1991, the civil war lasted 10 years. As early as 1994, more than 50,000 people had been killed and about half the country’s 4.5 million people displaced. Even now, in peacetime, the effects of the strife still linger. The reconstruction needs are overwhelming, and the notorious and cruel amputations carried out by the RUF have irrevocably damaged a major segment of the workforce, not to mention setting in place a heavy economic national burden of medical care for these amputees.

The diamond trade has fueled violence farther down Africa’s Atlantic coast as well. In the Angolan civil war that raged from 1974 to 2001, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) sold diamonds valued at $3.72 billion to finance its war with the government. It continued to do so in spite of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1176 banning the purchase of Angolan blood diamonds.

But few cases can compare to the ongoing war in the DRC, an immense country with enormous natural resources that has been embroiled in what has been called Africa’s world war. Since fighting began in the 1990s, millions of people have died in the war’s overlapping and interlocking conflicts.

In early November 2013, the militia group M23 surrendered after its defeat by the DRC army. Despite the general jubilation greeting this news, critics have warned that if no effort is made to address the root sources of violence in the eastern Congo—which include simmering ethnic tensions and a lucrative minerals trade—some other rebel group could easily arise in M23’s stead.

In the DRC, the mineral that has up until recently fueled the war is called coltan, short for columbite-tantalite, from which tantalum is extracted. The tantalum capacitor is a stable and reliable component in smartphones, DVD players, laptops, hearing aids, and other devices. This has led critics of the mineral trade to lampoon smartphones as “blood phones,” a designation particularly aimed at the iPhone, although Apple is by no means the only guilty party. However, there are some indications that miners have switched to digging for gold, which has become much more profitable than the other so-called conflict minerals: tin, tungsten, and tantalum, known as the “three Ts.”

International markets for conflict commodities have often roped former colonial powers into resource wars directly. A case in point is Nigeria, where the entrenched hand of the British played a conniving role during the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. Charismatic Colonel Odumewu Ojukwu led the attempted secession of southeastern Nigeria, which was to be called Biafra. If successful, the breakaway would have cut the oil production of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in half. The military government in Lagos, headed by General Yakubu Gowon, was not the only one panicked over the potential loss of all that crude oil. So were the British, who went on to aid Gowon with a steady supply of weapons. Abetting Gowon’s food blockade of Biafra, the British contributed to the starvation of Biafrans.

Images of skeletal, pot-bellied children shocked the world, but the position of the British was clear: “The sole immediate British interest in Nigeria,” wrote Commonwealth Minister George Thomas in August 1967, “is that the Nigerian economy should be brought back to a condition in which our substantial trade and investment in the country can be further developed, and particularly so we can regain access to important oil installations.

While Britain supported Nigeria, France and other countries covertly supplied weapons to Biafra. Did oil cause the Nigerian civil war? No. But was it an important contributing factor? Certainly.

Economics by Other Means

In the triangle of war, poverty, and conflict minerals, it is the latter that often garners the most attention among socially conscious observers.

However, as much as the minerals may be in the thick of the conflict, they aren’t necessarily the immediate cause of these wars. Rather, complex social and political factors in the region, many but not all of them colonial legacies, create an environment ripe for the outbreak of wars in which the valuable minerals become a funding source for the combatants. Some of these factors include social inequality and ethnic rivalries (Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda and the DRC); peacetime kleptocracy (Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone); a lack of employment opportunities for young men; disillusionment with government; weak democratic institutions; and poverty itself.

We tend to watch these civil and cross-border wars in sub-Saharan Africa and pronounce them irrational—“Why don’t these crazy people put their energies and resources into development rather than fighting with each other?” we wonder.

But with remarkable clarity, David Keen, in the book Greed & Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Warsmakes the point that labels such as “ethnic hatred,” “mindless violence,” and “chaos” are applied chiefly by people who assume that the goal of any war should be victory. However, as Keen notes, sometimes the image of war serves as a smokescreen for the emergence of a wartime political economy from which rebels and even governments may be benefitting. Small wonder the warring factions may show little interest in negotiating a settlement. War for them is not just a continuation of politics by other means; it may be a continuation of economics by other means.

There is some reason for hope—sub-Saharan African countries like Ghana and Botswana continue to strengthen their democratic institutions while capitalizing on resource boons—but millions of Africans remain caught at the dangerous intersection of poverty, war, and resources. Averting one path alone will not suffice to reduce the hazard, but escaping all paths at once is a difficult feat to execute.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

 

Restoring Balance to the Economy #Enoughness

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A balanced economy should be a system designed to ensure everyone has enough – no need for excess and greed. “Enoughness” is about restoring balance to an economy which has become unbalanced and skewed.

How we see the world determines how we act. Western thought sees us at war with each other over resources. Indigenous philosophy, we are all related as individuals in balance with nature. Watch ENOUGHNESS:

Resorting Balance to the Economy and learn more at http://www.FirstPeoples.org. Please share on Facebook and Twitter using #ENOUGHNESS.

Action to Target NPower over Fuel Poverty Deaths

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Direct action groups to target NPower over fuel poverty deaths

UK-UnCut, DPAC UK, Fuel Poverty Action

Over a thousand people will take action against Npower and other Big Six energy companies on day that Winter Death statistics are released. Anti-austerity groups including Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Greater London Pensioners Association reveal Npower as key target (Npower Supply and Trading Offices, 60 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8HP).
Further protests to take place in Oxford, Lewes, and Bristol

Acting together under the banner of ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ direct action groups will hold ‘an outrageous, creative and inclusive’ protest at the London office of the German energy giant Npower on Tuesday November 26th midday.

1, 2, 3. Meeting at 11.30am at Royal Exchange by Bank tube station, hundreds will march on Npower to protest against winter deaths, price hikes and their devastation on the planet. Simultaneously, Oxford-based protesters will target British Gas at their new Oxford HQ . So far over 1000 people have pledged to take part in the protests so far.

At least 7,200 people died last year in the UK due to cold homes.

Npower is the UK’s most complained about energy company. It received 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers between April and June – double that of its nearest rival EDF as well as increasing its prices higher than any of the other Big Six this year (9.3% electricity and 11.1% for Gas) (4), (5) The company has also defended seeking a 5% profit margin which is widely regarded as excessive (6) Npower have also paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite reporting a 34% profit rise of £413million last winter due to price hikes as an estimated 300,000 people were pushed into fuel poverty.  

7,8, 9. Sarah Price of UK Uncut said: ‘The Big Six are an example of incredible corporate greed. Huge profits are extracted from the public whilst they suffer at the hands of austerity. David Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires are only too happy to stuff the pockets of big business while ordinary people are left out in the cold. The combined wealth of cabinet ministers is £70 million and they will never feel the pain of those who can’t afford their energy bills this winter. People must be put before profit, and with creative direct action, we will stand with the elderly, the poor and vulnerable to fight for OUR power. Fuel Poverty must end.’

Joseph Murphy of Disabled People Against Cuts said, ‘Another harsh winter will mean more disabled people will find themselves isolated in their homes, unable to heat them, or cook properly. Many don’t make it through. Politicians and energy firms talk about ‘measures’ and ‘support’, which are only available to a very few. The energy firms continue to sit in government departments writing energy policy, in buildings where the heating is paid for by the very people who will die of cold this winter. This is a disgrace. We ask all disabled people to take action, and to show this government, and these companies, that we wont take this and will fightback’.

  1. Fight Big Six FaceBook Group –  www.facebook.com/events/1415841395313806
  2. Fight Big Six FaceBook groups –  facebook.com/events/364663353679232 (does not include those who have pledged to come but do not use social media)
  3. Last year there were 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales. According to the World Health Organisation around 30% of excess winter deaths can be attributed to cold indoor temperatures – which based on current figures means around 7,200 people died last year due to cold housing in the winter months. (WHO:  Environmental Burden of Disease  Associated with Inadequate Housing )
  4. Metro.co.ukN-Power most complained about, of the Big Six energy companies
  5. Mirror.co.uk – N Power Complaints spike before anger at price-hike
  6. Telegraph: NPower defends profits
  7. Metro.co.uk/2013/10/21 N-Power-Boss tells customers,” Use less to lower bills
  8. Telegraph: Npower chief refuses to give up bonus
  9. Guardian: NPower reveals 11.3% surge in UK Gas Revenues
  10. Telegraph: “Put up or shut up!” over cartel claims, says NPower Boss
  11. Fuel Poverty Action: N Power is target! 
  12. UK UnCut: – Fuel Poverty Action
  13. DPAC.uk.net  -Fuel Poverty
  14. Dorset-Eye