Translated into English by Susanne Schuster
Press release 19 July, 2016
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG)
In early June the organisers of the MONSANTO tribunal wrote an open letter to the BAYER corporation. In it the Indian activist Dr Vandana Shiva and the German Green Party politician Renate Künast, amongst others, posed some questions about the planned acquisition of the US agro-corporation MONSANTO. But they received only scanty answers from the global player. The corporation does not say if it will be liable for all of the damages and contamination caused by MONSANTO. Neither does it want to talk about any special bonuses for management if the bid is successful. Instead it keeps repeating the same old phrase like a broken record that the primary aim of the deal was to find better solutions for feeding the world. BAYER’s promise is: “Together we will be able to develop new solutions for agriculture even faster”. Toni Michelmann of the COALITION AGAINST BAYER DANGERS has rejected this as pure rhetoric: “There is a massive lack of innovation in the agricultural sector. The acquisition of MONSANTO enables BAYER to continue raking in billions in guaranteed profits due to its monopoly position.”
In this context Michelmann points to a recent study by the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) according to which mergers and acquisitions paralyse research. The study focussed on transactions in the pharmaceutical industry and found that R&D budgets were shrinking by about 20 percent. Moreover, the researchers found that competitors were also affected; due to the diminishing pressure to innovate less money was invested in their laboratories, leading to a less dynamic sector on the whole.
Michelmann does not even believe in any good intentions on BAYER’s part: “Just a glance at BAYER’s and MONSANTO’s product range shows that the two agribusinesses are hardly interested in feeding humanity. Their main products soy and maize are mainly grown as animal feed for the global meat industry.”
Besides, the vast acreage needed for these crops increasingly displaces the land under cultivation for absolutely essential staple foods which is illustrated by the current situation in Brazil, according to Michelmann. There the price for beans, the main food of the poorest of the poor, has dramatically increased because there is hardly any land left on which to grow them. The cash crops produced for the global market have displaced the pulses. As a solution to the “bean crisis” the Brazilian government now considers importing them from China.
Thus, the agri-giants are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Vandana Shiva put it like this on the fringe of a press conference co-organised by the COALITION AGAINST BAYER DANGERS: “Companies like BAYER and MONSANTO pose an increasing danger for biodiversity and soil fertility which is a threat for humanity and the whole planet.”
With the merger this threat will be many times greater. The EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager has announced that she will closely scrutinise the BAYER MONSANTO merger with a close look at the effects on prices, biodiversity and innovation, but the COALITION AGAINST BAYER DANGERS does not expect much from it. Board member Axel Köhler-Schnura stated that “there is not much that BAYER has to fear from the EU apart from a few conditions”. That’s why he advocates stricter measures: “For years BAYER, MONSANTO, Dow etc. have been playing a cynical game of monopoly, gambling with the food supply of humanity, the only aim being to increase the profit for their shareholders. This shows that the corporations are not meeting their responsibilities. That’s why we demand to put them under public control by citizens.”
By Susanne Schuster
In January 2015 the organisation formerly known as World Development Movement (WDM) officially relaunched under the new name Global Justice Now. This occasion was celebrated with an exciting event featuring discussions, music, films and an exhibition on 21 February in London.
When WDM was founded more than 40 years ago, development was a positive concept; it stood for the right of communities to develop according to their own needs, but over time it was hijacked by corporate interests and came to be seen as something imposed to serve outside interests. In contrast, Justice is a term that immediately resonates with workers and social movements around the world. The central reason for the name change described in the conference programme is this: “If we want to really change the way our societies work, we need to challenge the powerful and organise ordinary people to take back our world. Today's event is a contribution to making that happen.” The event took place at Rich Mix in the East End of London, a location where great workers' struggles for a better life have taken place.
The first session I attended was titled “Kobanê: the frontline of the struggle for real democracy?” I had heard a bit about the radical democratic project happening in Rojava, the Kurdish region in northern Syria, so I was eager to find out more. Memed Aksoy and Zeynep Kurban, the two speakers from the Kurdish community in London, provided a useful overview of the historical, economic, social and political context as well as the concrete steps being taken to build the democratic structures in the midst of war, oppression and an embargo. The ideological leader of the Rojava revolution is Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed struggle against the Turkish state for 40 years. Öcalan has been imprisoned for 16 years, but there is a petition to free him and lift the ban on PKK. With the beginning of his imprisonment Öcalan realised that he had to develop an alternative to the vicious cycle of violence and retribution. His vision is an anti-capitalist economic system based on democratic self-rule and empowerment of women. The role of women in the struggle against Islamic State (IS) is significant: an estimated 35 percent - around 15,000 fighters - are women, organised in the Women's Defence Units (YPJ). But contrary to the impression in the mainstream media, this development didn't fall from the sky; women have been at the forefront since the beginning of the Kurdish movement.
The democratic structures in Rojava are being constructed since 2011. Everyone in the three cantons that make up Rojava was consulted to draw up a Charter of the Social Contract based on the principles of democratic autonomy. Key elements are religious and ethnic non-discrimination, gender equality and social and ecological aims. Women's rights are protected, which is unique in the Middle East and indispensable in tackling the problem of girls being married before majority. The charter is one of the most progressive and democratic worldwide and the Kurds say it could be a solution and model not just for the Middle East, but the whole world. But for this progressive project to succeed it needs massive international support and solidarity. Memed invited everyone to visit Rojava and see for themselves. The US anthropologist David Graeber said that he felt ten years younger when he went there.
Next it was “Make it public: turning the tide on privatisation” with Maria Kanellopoulou, Save Greek Water, Satoko Kishimoto, Transnational Institute and Gail Cartmail, TUC general council. Maria reported on the successful campaign to stop water privatisation in Greece. The Troika (European Central Bank, IMF and European Commission) tried to force water privatisation onto Greece, but a vigorous citizens' campaign building up a robust case against privatisation – without money but plenty of human resources and a large skills base – led to 70% of Greeks opposing these plans. Two factors in the campaign were crucial: a referendum in Thessaloniki with 98% of citizens voting against water privatisation and a court judgement about water essentially being a public good. The commitment by ordinary people seems even more impressive considering the dire situation they are in. Satoko Kishimoto is the co-ordinator of the Water Justice Project at TNI, she talked about the reversal of water privatisation, which is often called re-municipalisation. Worldwide there are at least 180 cases in the last 15 years where water was taken back into public ownership. The main motivations were: no savings, underinvestment, higher charges and no transparency. One of those cases is Paris – ironically the headquarters of two of the most powerful water corporations in the world: Suez and Veolia. The new public service company Eau de Paris took over operations when the contracts with the two companies expired. This has led to lower prices and full transparency. The governing council includes worker and civil society representatives and a Citizen Observatory was set up to promote citizen engagement. During my stay in Paris in August 2014 to attend the Attac Summer University for Social Movements I filled up my bottle with good quality water from the free public taps near the metro and at the university. In another high profile case in Berlin, the remunicipalisation proved very expensive for tax payers due to the share buy back. Even in places with more limited democratic space privatisation is reversed. For example, in Jakarta, Indonesia there has been a 10 year local struggle and the decision to remunicipalise is expected to happen this month. Gail Cartmail described how she, born in the 1950s, had a good life growing up with publicly run schools, transport, council housing, the public health service NHS and reminded us that the welfare state in the UK was built when the economic situation was much worse than today. She asked the EU negotiator three times whether TTIP will be viable without the sell off of public services, but never received an answer. Of course, it won't be. Maria commented that the challenge was to crack the neoliberal consensus between media, state and justice and to question the meaning of key words such as stability. We must imagine public services run in a more decentralised way and institutionalise their public character. Satoko added that privatisation was also about grabbing the intellect. Again, we had to fight for real democracy.
After lunch I watched the Spanish documentary Sí se puede about the citizens' movement for the right to housing. The film follows PAH Barcelona over 7 days portraying their activities and campaigns. PAH is the abbreviation for Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for Victims of Mortgages); it was created in 2009 in Barcelona as a response to the unprecedented wave of foreclosures and forced evictions and there are now 200 sections in Spain. Before the crisis of 2007/8 Spain had one of the largest housebuilding programmes in Europe which led to shameless speculation and high property prices in relation to salary. At the same time, renting was fiscally and materially discouraged. People were sold the idea that owning a home was the sensible thing to do. However, it turned out to be a fraud: In the wake of “austerity” ordinary workers' wages were slashed and once people had used up their savings, many of them fell behind with mortgage repayments. Spain now has one of the highest rate of repossessions in Europe (as well as the highest number of empty homes), causing untold misery and leading to high suicide rates. The reason the situation is so extremely bad is due to the abusive mortgage law: “In Spain homeowners are liable for 40% of the valuation of the house, plus interests and judicial costs, even once their house has been foreclosed. This leaves evicted families with huge life-long debts. In a country with 27 percent unemployment rate, the consequences of this law are dramatic.” The key to PAH's campaign is to empower people to take control of their negotiations with the bank, with the practical and emotional support as well as the public power of PAH behind them. PAH stopped over a 1000 evictions and provided housing to over 1000 people. Its demands for a change to the housing laws enjoy overwhelming public support, but the government so far opposes these demands.
As part of the launch conference Global Justice Now commissioned an exhibition of Mexican street art. ¡Democracia Real Ya!, meaning 'real democracy now', was created by Rosario Martínez Llaguno and Roberto Vega Jiménez, members of the art collective Lapiztola Stencil. Lapiztola was formed as a response to violent oppression by the state authorities to the teachers' strikes in Oaxaca in 2006. Political street art and murals have a long history in Mexico; during my travels there in 2001 and 2004 I was lucky enough to see some of the works of the great muralists.
At the closing plenary at the Amnesty Centre Luciana Ghiotto stressed the importance of including trade issues in social movements. There are now more than 3000 free trade or bilateral trade agreements in existence in the world, but corporations are still pushing for more profit as they cannot abide any limits. On the upside, the free trade agenda is increasingly being questioned. For example, Ecuador has done an audit of all trade agreements and the results are due in March/April. Samia Nkrumah, representative of Food Sovereignty Ghana and leader of the Convention People's Party, is also the daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana. She acknowledged the great inspiration her father is; he laid out a plan for economic development that her party wants to pick up again to continue the unfinished business of independence. The number one priority is the increase in domestic production with the inclusion of women and youth in a participatory democracy. She insisted that “Africa must be free of economic exploitation.” Maria Kanellopoulou stated that “economy kills”, illustrating the humanitarian catastrophe in Greece with shocking statistics, while at the same time the wealthy got richer by 56%. The political landscape in Greece has completely changed, and the country is now facing the historical task of reinstalling democracy. Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, was unequivocal in his stance against TTIP. He found it ludicrous how undemocratic this trade deal is. It contained absolutely no social and environmental aspects and leading UK politicians are unable to grasp why so many ordinary people think that this is a problem. More progressive agreements such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) show that it is indeed possible to include social and environmental aims in trade policy. Jeremy concluded very bluntly by stating that we have a choice between a nasty society and solidarity and progress. Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, related our struggle to the history of the East End of London and emphasised that democracy is not possible among obscene levels of wealth and inequality. Resistance must start in the heads. Another world is not just possible, but necessary. The three priorities for this year are the fight against TTIP, the campaign against climate change and solidarity with Syriza.
I left the closing plenary feeling energised and very alive and with much to reflect upon. We have more than enough evidence to show why we urgently need to abolish capitalism and develop an alternative society. The old world of the nihilistic, destructive, cynical hunt for ever greater profit is consigned to the dustbin of history. We imagine and create the world we want, a world founded on humanity, peace, emancipation, participation and radical democracy. In short: a good life for all!
A roundup of the day is available on the Global Justice Now blog and recordings of some of the sessions will be posted on the website and Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of weeks.
Author: Coordination against Bayer Dangers
Translated by Susanne Schuster
On 3 December 1984 around 30 tons of the chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC) exploded in a pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide, forming a gas cloud over the adjacent slums. The „night of the massacre“ alone cost 8,000 lives. The disaster is still claiming victims, because the site has never been cleaned up. Anabel Schnura completed a three months internship at a clinic in Bhopal and described the local situation.
Where exactly did you work?
Anabel Schnura: In Bhopal, at the “Sambhavna Trust Clinic” where the victims of Union Carbide are treated. In addition to caring for local people it is also fighting to bring those responsible to justice.
Is the clinic only for the Bhopal victims?
Yes, 29,000 victims are registered there.
Are new ones still being registered?
Yes, because the toxins have accumulated in the genes and contaminated the groundwater. Today it is the following generations with the problems: mainly respiratory illnesses, lung disease, but also cases of cancer and blindness.
What did your work consist of?
We worked together with the Health Workers. They go into the surrounding communities and slums to educate those residents who are unable to come to the clinic. One of the things they warn them about is not to drink the water, visualising what could happen if they do: skin rashes and other symptoms.
There have never been attempts to decontaminate the soil and clean up the whole site?
No, it looks exactly the same as the night of the disaster 30 years ago. Nothing has been cleaned up, it is still cluttered with chloroform bottles, directly next to the slums. Last May there were elections and no one was allowed to enter the site, because people are still discussing what should happen with it.
And Union Carbide has done nothing either?
The corporation made small compensation payments, but did not take any real action. In 2001 Union Carbide was sold. Now it is owned by Dow Chemical and they are saying “It's got nothing to do with us.” That is why the chemicals are still seeping into the groundwater, causing contamination. The people are drinking it, because hardly anyone has water tanks. The use it for washing themselves, washing their food, everything.
Then it is a neverending story...
Yes, during the night and the immediate aftermath about 20,000 people died, and the number affected has now risen to 100,000. In 2007 two scientists have carried out a study to test the extent of the contamination of the soil and groundwater. We continued this with a simple copper wire test to see whether something is contaminated or not, although it does not show the extent of it. It is clear that the area directly around the site is contaminated, but now we should test to what extent the contaminated area has increased.
Then why are residents not relocated to another area at the least, if the site cannot be cleaned up?
Bhopal has 1.8 million inhabitants. With so many people living in such a small area, they cannot be resettled just like that. Bhopal is separated by lakes into an old town and a new town. The explosion happened in the old town, where the slums are. The people living there cannot afford to move away. The people from the other side, however, claim that it is none of their business. The dare not go to the side where the explosion happened because of higher crime rates and poverty, while on their side everything is built new and made to look nice.
Is the factory really right in the middle?
Yes, we lived 500 metres as the crow flies from the old factory site and we also visited it. It is just a big ruin surrounded by a fence full of holes. In the immediate vicinity of the fence people live in tin shacks. They also grow vegetables there, which are then of course also contaminated. Many people are very ignorant. We met an older man who lived on the other side of Bhopal, but was interested in politics and knew the history of Bhopal. But everyday he still swam in the contaminated lake, whereas we said: “Oh my god, we would never do that!” At some level all of them try to ignore it a bit and and catch fish in there. Once we ate the fish and went to see a doctor who gave us a proper telling off for eating that fish!
Are there no political parties pledging to take action if they come to power?
Well, some do, but they are very small. The wife of the clinic's director is in AAP, the “Party of the Ordinary People”, which is campaigning for a clean up of the site.
When a political party in Bhopal claims it finally wants something to be done about this, one would think that people will vote for them.
The people in the slums are very uneducated, while the educated people on the other side are turning a blind eye and say: “It is none of our business, we live here where it is safe.” And then Modi comes along and tells the peasants: “I will bring you electricity and water.” And they believe it. He is on TV, he is everywhere and he has great posters. Why should I vote for this little woman with a broom in her hand claiming to fight for our rights, when someone from the other side with money is claiming to bring us electricity and water.
Will the 30th anniversary bring any changes to the situation?
The clinic is planing another major campaign, in the hope that something will happen at long last. But no one knows if anything will change. It will not least depend on to what extent the authorities will allow any political actions.
Five years ago on the occasion of the 25th anniversary the Bhopal Initiative staged a major tour. Its stations included the Bayer factory in Leverkusen, Germany and Union Carbide's former production site in Institute, USA which was at the time Bhopal's sister factory. An explosion in 2008 nearly led to a similar catastrophe.
Yes, they have done several tours already, one of them through the USA.
Photo series on the website of The Bhopal Medical Appeal:
Donations to the Sambhavna Clinic:
Author: Werner Rügemer, Junge Welt
Translated by Susanne Schuster and Madeleine Evans, Edited by John Catalinotto
The TTIP, TTP and TiSA are instruments developed by the USA to achieve economic and military domination of the world. With ALBA, CELAC and the BRICS alliance, several countries are trying to fight this.
EU Trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht, has characterised the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as follows: “We are working on a geopolitically relevant agreement”. Geopolitics in this context signifies the enforced annexation of resources and territories outside one's own sphere of influence. The inevitable conflict with powers opposed to this strategy may be accompanied by military action. The concept of “free trade” was developed in the course of so-called “Manchester Capitalism” during the 19th century in Great Britain. Tariffs on raw materials vital to the production of goods, which had to be imported into the country, were lowered in Great Britain to enable domestic companies to produce their goods more cheaply. At the same time states that were less developed in terms of their industry and economies were required to lift their tariffs, thus allowing British products freer access to their markets. The military seizure of other countries rich in resources, which were turned into colonies, opened new markets in new territories. The market access for products from the predominant capitalist state at that time was guaranteed by the British war fleet. This gave rise to a virtual British monopoly, particularly in the colonies, for producers and merchants, for example in textiles. With this model of “free trade,” the state that has the greater economic, political and military power is “freer” than other states and has the clear advantage. This concept of free trade was to be overturned at the end of WW2. The establishment of the International Trade Organisation (ITO) introduced the new principle of a large number of states having equal power and access to trade. At the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, along with the important clarification of the new world monetary order, the ITO was conceived of as an institution of the UN. The UN-enshrined principles of human rights and international law formed the basis of this, as well as anti-dumping regulations (in relation to raw materials) and the generation of employment.
GATT and the Marshall Plan
But the US government blocked the ITO and championed a new free trade organisation – the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). With this initiative the US not only shut out the competitive social system of the Soviet Union but also China and some African states, which in the aftermath of WW2 were fighting for their independence from colonialism. The GATT was inaugurated on January 1, 1948 with a membership of 23 countries – namely the Western WW2 victors, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some colonial states dependent on the USA and on their European colonial masters, such as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Taiwan, Cuba and Lebanon. The example of Cuba illustrates perfectly how free trade US-style has nothing to do with democracy or national self-determination. Instead it confirms the dominance of various forms of authoritarian regimes, rightist forces, involves deployment of the military and secret services. In 1948 GATT was forcibly “introduced” into Cuba by the USA with the active collaboration of its own Mafia and corporations aided by the Cuban dictator [Fulgencio Batista]. Following the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1961 the new government under Fidel Castro renationalized Cuban property. As a consequence the US government introduced a trade embargo. At the same time U.S. strategy aimed at the military overthrow of the new Castro government and the CIA attempted numerous times to assassinate Castro. To this day the US has a toehold on the island through its naval base at Guantánamo. In the meantime Cuba has become a member of the GATT successor, the WTO, but the US refuses to lift the trade embargo. The European Union supports the U.S. in this. The Marshall Plan was introduced by the US President Harry S. Truman in 1948. It aimed at forming a free trade zone to address the “world threat posed by Communism”. The plan basically assisted the re-building of industry and infrastructure in Western Europe, which had been destroyed during WW2. In essence the plan served to stimulate US industry by means of US credits. During the war US industry had experienced an unprecedented rise, but in the war’s aftermath was pushing for compensation for lost business. Washington viewed Western Europe as a free trade zone and demanded a “tariff union”, the removal of customs duties, a “payment union”, i.e. a common currency as well as a “single market”. Western Europe was to be made compatible with US regulations. Actual direct financial help under the Marshall Plan was therefore far less significant than the additional sales and investments that it allowed US corporations to make in Western Europe.1 The free trade criteria were adopted only partially during the short period of operation of the Marshall Plan (1948-1952) by the Western European powers and the European Economic Community (EEC) founded in 1957, though they have had a lasting influence on the European Union until today. Assistance under the Marshall Plan was only offered to capitalist states and even then only if they could demonstrate they had a US-style democracy. This gave rise to the broadest possible anti-communist “purging” of party-systems, trade unions, institutions and administrations. For example, Greece only received assistance under the plan after the US and British military eradicated the anti-fascist movement and put the monarchist elite back in power.
The economic arm of NATO
The geopolitical aims of the TTIP are exactly the same. Nothing less than world domination is at stake. The German government responded to a question by the left party Die Linke thus: “A transatlantic trade deal opens the door for the two biggest trade areas, Europe and the USA, to set a blueprint for the whole world. The power of the treaty to establish standards can act as a lever to determine the political direction of economic globalisation.” While EU representatives are rather coy about the military dimension, those in Washington are more explicit. When negotiations began, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described TTIP as “Economic NATO”. This term was also used by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the then General Secretary of NATO. The connection arises from the fact that the USA as well as those EU member states pushing TTIP are also NATO members. NATO is not only a military alliance; it also has a civilian and economic branch. The civilian branch, which reaches far into the parliamentary system of the member states, includes ministerial meetings and various working groups. According to paragraph 2 of the NATO treaty the members promote “economic cooperation”. To this end member countries maintain a special “Economic Committee”. The foundation of NATO and the Marshall Plan were agreed around the same time and with the same aim: the consolidation and expansion of Western, US-led capitalism. At the same time as the TTIP the United States initiated another equally important agreement: the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 South American and Asian states, including Chile, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam and Japan. Moreover, there is the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which is being pushed by the “Coalition of Service Industries” and negotiated with the 50 states making up the two agreements TTIP and TiSA. On the one hand these three treaties should strengthen Western capitalism as a power bloc, on the other hand they are directed against the resource-rich and rising economies, particularly against China and Russia. Free trade proponents treat these states not only as competitors, but as enemies. When the first post socialist government of Russia under the corrupt president Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) relinquished the collapsed Soviet Union's state owned enterprises to domestic oligarchs and Western investors, Russia was seen as a friend of the West, open for free trade and showered with loans. Under Yeltsin's successor Vladimir Putin, who imposes limits on the oligarchs and uses resources to benefit the national economy, Russia is treated as an enemy. To get access to the country once again, NATO has accepted most of the former socialist states as members – in the wake of the “Eastern enlargement of the EU” – thus encircling Russia with military and secret services. This policy is driven by the USA, which at the same time is arming the Pacific region against China. Washington is provoking China militarily using its vassal Japan. In Hong Kong U.S.-financed NGOs back a protest movement that demands „democracy“. But democracy is exactly what the USA wants to limit by means of TTIP, TPP and TiSA. According to the current concept being negotiated, free trade means not only the political, and if necessary military, protection of politically well connected global private property. It also aims to weaken or destroy democratic governments that are oriented towards national self-determination, not to mention socialist and communist parties as well as trade unions. Free trade since GATT means collaborating with undemocratic political forces and building a power structure, controlled by investors, which either sits outside of parliamentary democracy or forces it into submission. The Western free trade model now also entails the US claim to leadership, with relative privileges for important vassals and accomplices like the EU and Germany. However, these privileges are never completely assured.
Ukraine – an example of US hegemony
This is becoming apparent in Ukraine. With the inclusion of former socialist states the European Union has rapidly advanced its enlargement toward the East. Along with NATO's expansion in Eastern Europe, the EU wanted to include the Ukraine in its free trade zone. At the same time the USA had been preparing a regime change via its secret services, media agencies and the Open Ukraine Foundation, whose chairman is Arseniy Yatsenyuk. His foundation is sponsored by NATO, the Renaissance Foundation of US multi billionaire George Soros, the Polish government, the private equity fund Horizon Capital and the Swedish bank Swedbank. NATO brought in its contacts in the media. Soros' foundation had previously prepared the “Orange Revolution” with Julia Tymoshenko. Like a swarm of locusts, Horizon Capital is gobbling up medium sized enterprises in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia. Swedbank got a foothold after the fall of socialism in the Baltic states and is planning to expand in Eastern Europe. The oligarch Victor Pinchuk is another sponsor of Yatsenyuk's foundation. The US foundation National Endowment for Democracy (NED) also contributed to opening up Ukraine, for example with scholarships and building up media organisations. The boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko – who was hyped by the German Adenauer foundation (which is close to the conservative party CDU) and the German corporate media as the future Ukrainian president – was useful for mobilising certain foot soldiers on Maidan Square, but did not stand a chance in the power game. The US State Department took over the enthronement of Yatsenyuk, assisted by various nationalistic and right-wing extremist forces, in competition with the EU – as the assistant US Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland, made drastically clear with her comment “Fuck the EU”. In Ukraine, free trade and military strategy form a close, if contradictory connection. While the German government under chancellor Merkel and others in the EU grumbled that an expression like “Fuck the EU” was “unacceptable”, they subserviently accepted the method and result of the putsch. They put up with the damage for German and other European companies and the loss of jobs – which actually runs counter to the aims of free trade. The otherwise rather assertive German corporations bowed to the overarching US strategy to encircle Russia militarily and ultimately, if need be, integrate it into Western capitalism by means of war.
The Beijing Consensus
Western crisis capitalism is stagnating economically. At the same time the unelected elites are enriching themselves brazenly, while the elected ones allow themselves to be blackmailed by the “markets” und are regularly entangled with them in political corruption. The less “democracy”, “transparency” and the “free market” are practiced, the more they are evoked as values. For decades the populations’ support for this system has been dwindling. The International Trade Organisation (ITO) was an attempt after WW2 to organise free trade between equal partners and without wars. This is used as a model today by the BRICS and ALBA states. They could develop a fundamentally different type of capitalism and mixed economy, because they have gone through a revolution or a vital political change supported by the majority of the population. Their development principles differ from those of Western capitalism. Firstly: While the USA has agreements to operate 860 military bases in 93 countries with the number of bases increasing in Eastern Europe and Asia, Russia is the only BRICS country with more than 25 military bases in former Soviet republics and one longstanding base in Syria. No other BRICS or ALBA state has such military facilities. Secondly: China is setting up joint ventures around the world and is pushing for barter deals (for example machines for oil), instead of repatriating profits from loans and investments as quickly as possible or imposing adjustment standards. Thirdly, there are no conditions attached to bilateral agreements. Since China is leading this practice, this is being termed the Beijing Consensus, as an alternative to the Washington Consensus. The BRICS states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have been building up their collaboration since 2009. They have higher growth rates – including labour incomes – than the capitalist West and lower national debt. In 2014 they set up their own currency and finance structure, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the currency fund Contingent Reserve Arrangement, capitalised initially with US$ 100 billion, as alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2001 the then Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez proposed the foundation of the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA)”. The members are Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and four small Caribbean states. Six Latin American states have observer status and contacts exist with China, Russia and Iran. Again, in ALBA there are no provisions for military enforcement of its organisational aims. Like China, ALBA uses the barter principle as far as possible: exchanging goods and services instead of the financialisation of trade, for example exchanging oil for goods. The ALBA states no longer submit to the investment dispute arbitration procedure of the World Bank in Washington; they have also set up their own development bank and their own currency, the SUCRE. This dynamic is being continued with the foundation of the “Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC)” in 2011. Prompted by the US sponsored coup in Honduras in 2009 all the states of the Americas newly came together – with the exclusion of the USA and Canada. Hence the Washington based Organisation of American States (OAS) founded in 1948 has become irrelevant. The Eurasian Economic Union, agreed to in 2014 between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, is built on similar principles. Its predecessor has existed for ten years in the form of a customs union and economic community and is to become a free trade zone. Negotiations are ongoing with several candidate countries, e.g., Uzbekistan. Armenia will join the community on January 1, 2015. A multipolar world has emerged in the face of the blind arrogance of Western capitalism. Especially its fundamentalist leading power in “God’s own Country”, but also the EU refuses to acknowledge this fact. The future of humanity will be co-determined by which of the two visions of a globalising economy and international relations prevails.
1 Already in the first year US investments were eight times higher than Marshall Plan aid. Contrary to myths being bandied about until today, this was recognised by some early on. Cf. J. Schopp (d. i. Josef Schleifstein): What is the Marshall Plan? Dortmund 1948, P. 33. Republished by: www.zeitschrift-marxistische-erneuerung.de/article/452.was-ist-der-marshall-plan.html 
2 Bundestagsdrucksache 18/432, P. 3
3 Cf. Werner Rügemer: Jazenjuk made in USA, in: Ossietzky, Heft 9/2104
4 Ronald Thoden/Sabine Schiffer: Ukraine im Visier. Frankfurt am Main 2014, P. 314
Last week I did an interview on Radio Free Brighton with Davy Jones, the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, abbreviated TTIP. It's 30 minutes long and summarises what TTIP is and why it threatens to undermine our hard fought for environmental, social, consumer and labour standards in Europe.
This week Davy Jones talks to Susanne Schuster about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership proposal, what it means and what the consequences are likely to be if it gets accepted. The European Union and the USA are in talks for the TTIP. The expressed intention is to establish a transatlantic free trade area TAFTA between the countries of the EU and the US. Susanne works with the World Development Movement who strongly oppose TTIP and see it as prioritising corporations and their investors over the health of people, the environment and the economy. More information at www.stopTTIP.net,
Usage of toxic pesticides continues to increase / “high meat consumption contributes to pesticide poisoning”
Translation into English by Susanne Schuster
Bayer CropScience has launched a new soy product range. The corporation has started selling glyphosate and glufosinate resistant GMO soy seed under the brand name Credenz. Other varieties which have added resistance against so called HPPD herbicides are to follow at a later date.
Dirk Zimmermann of Greenpeace criticised the launch, saying “after the failure of glyphosate tolerant plants BAYER is now ramping up pesticide production. Having joined the arms race of global GM soy cultivation, the corporation has outed itself as an irresponsible war profiteer. The introduction of further GMO plants with a host of new herbicide resistances has unmasked the whole concept as a one way street serving only as a vehicle to sell more and more toxic agrochemicals.”
Forests, fallow land and small-scale farms in South America have been displaced by massive soy plantations. The crop is not used to feed the local population but instead is largely exported to Europe and the USA, due to the huge demand by the meat industry. On the other hand, production of staple foods is being undermined by the soy boom.
Philipp Mimkes of the Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG) said: “High meat consumption is causing major ecological and health damage in South America. We demand a conversion to ecological farming, even if this leads to a decrease in meat production. Toxic herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate must be banned!”. Glyphosate and glufosinate are sold in combination with genetically modified seed, particularly soy and maize. Since the seed market is controlled by just a handful of corporations, many farmers are only able to buy GMO seed.
Glyphosate (“Roundup”), developed by Monsanto, is the top-selling agrotoxin worldwide. As the patent has expired, the active ingredient is now also sold by Bayer and other companies. Glyphosate is suspected of causing birth defects, damaging the DNA and promoting diseases including Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer.
Glufosinate is even more toxic. A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluation states that the substance poses a high risk to mammals. Glufosinate is classified as reprotoxic, with laboratory experiments causing premature birth, intra-uterine death and abortions in rats. That is why the substance must be withdrawn from sale in the EU by 2017 at the latest. This has not prevented BAYER from announcing in May 2013 that it would build a huge new glufosinate factory in the USA. In this way the corporation seeks to close the gap caused by the increasing inefficacy of glyphosate against weeds.
GM crops do not solve the hunger problem, contrary to the claims repeatedly made by lobbyists. About 80 percent of GM crops are used as animal feed. GM crops are neither drought-resistant nor more high-yielding. Their cultivation on ever larger areas is pushing back the production of food crops, making it more difficult to feed local populations.
With a global market share of 20 % BAYER is the second largest pesticide manufacturer. The corporation's products are responsible for a significant proportion of pesticide poisoning worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 20 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur annually, of which up to 200,000 cases end in death.
How a new transatlantic trade deal threatens our food standards, the environment, public services and democracy itself.
By Susanne Schuster
Since July 2013 the European Union and the USA have been in talks for the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, abbreviated TTIP. The expressed intention is to establish a Transatlantic Free Trade Area, TAFTA, between the countries of the EU and the United States – which will create the largest and most powerful trading bloc on earth.
TTIP will give huge new powers to transnational corporations. It threatens to undermine public control of services like the NHS and education, to erode environmental and food safety protection, to encourage controversial technologies like GM and fracking, and to give big business sweeping new powers to write and challenge law.
If this legislation comes into force the rights of investors will take precedence over the protection of our health, the environment and social rights. The rights of corporations will have higher priority than the sovereignty of states.
The proponents of TTIP claim that this trade deal will lead to massive job creation and economic growth. However, this promise is not even supported by the EU Commission's own figures. A similar agreement between the USA and Mexico (NAFTA) led to a net loss of 1 million jobs and declining wages in both countries.
TTIP is driven by the interests of big business which is desperate for new markets and profit growth in a time of saturated and depressed markets. The negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and are dominated heavily by corporate lobbyists. One of the most shocking aspects is a provision that would allow corporations to sue governments for loss of future profits, which is already happening under a number of existing trade deals around the world.
Some of the greatest divergences in the trade relations between the EU and the US are found in the area of consumer and food safety and environmental protection, and the small farmers movement GRAIN has looked at what is at stake for EU citizens in terms of food safety. The EU currently bans beef and pork treated with growth hormones or growth promoters and chlorine washed chickens. The EU also requires labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and has many bans in place on the cultivation of GM plants. The US wants these bans removed. The US also wants the EU to refrain from banning chemicals like Bisphenol A that act as endocrine disruptors. A striking fact emerging from this report is the much higher rate of food poisoning and E.coli contamination in the US.
A report by Friends of the Earth Europe illustrates how TTIP will undermine any efforts to build healthier, more equitable and sustainable food systems, including initiatives both in the EU and US that promote healthier, more sustainable school meals.
A fundamental pillar of EU policy is the precautionary principle, which is threatened by TTIP; it requires that caution is exercised before any substance is approved, if it is unclear what harm it may cause. This doesn't apply in the US: The government has to provide scientific evidence that a substance is harmful, before any caution or restriction is applied.
All of this raises many questions for those trying to live a sustainable lifestyle and follow a healthy and balanced diet, and who are concerned about where the food on our plates is coming from and how it was raised. How will TTIP affect our choices when it comes to buying equitably traded, nutritious and uncontaminated food?
Fortunately, citizens' groups all over the EU are campaigning vigorously against TTIP and promoting alternatives such as food sovereignty. The forthcoming EU elections on 22 May offer an opportunity to vote for candidates opposing this trade deal. Also, on 12 July a day of action against TTIP will take place all over the UK, coordinated by a coalition of groups including the World Development Movement.
One thing is for sure: TTIP is a bad deal for citizens in every respect.
Recommended further reading on TTIP:
WDM – Briefing on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
TTIP-TAFTA – The Sellout of our Democracy
Corporate Europe Observatory
Originally published on Sussex Green Living Blog
In November2013 I took part in an online action by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to lobby MPs to support Early Day Motion 503 ARMS SALES TO AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES.
Below is my correspondence with Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown Simon Kirby. There was so much bullshit in his reply that I had to counter that. Note his extremely curt reply. I leave you to savour these words and draw your own conclusions.
From: KIRBY, Simon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 2013-11-19 11:25 GMT+00:00
Subject: RE: Please support EDM 503 on arms sales
To: Susanne Schuster
Thank you for your email and below comments.
I will be sure to keep this in mind.
Simon Kirby MP
Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven.
Parliamentary Private Secretary to Rt Hon Hugh Robertson MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
From: Susanne Schuster
Sent: 19 November 2013 10:01
To: KIRBY, Simon
Subject: Re: Please support EDM 503 on arms sales
Thanks for taking the time to reply to me. Unfortunately the actual facts directly contradict the UK government's professed concern for human rights. According to Campaign against the Arms Trade the following countries either attended or were invited to DSEI in London this September, many of which have an appalling human rights record.
“Countries of Concern”
Israel and the OPTs*
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
*Occupied Palestinian Territories
The truth is that the capitalist class of the UK is so heavily invested in the lucrative arms trade that it has no interest in regulating it, although it has to be seen to make some concessions to human rights concerns. The UK government has to maintain the fiction that it is interested in promoting peace, but its actions speak a different language.
The real solution would be to use the valuable skills of the workers in the arms industry and convert them to civilian production of goods and services badly needed here in the UK. This would provide sustainable and meaningful jobs and make a real contribution to world peace.
Just imagine what the world could look like...
On 19 November 2013 09:32, KIRBY, Simon <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you for contacting me about UK arms sales.
I fully appreciate why there is so much concern about the global arms trade. I can assure you the Government takes our arms export responsibilities very seriously, and operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.
Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account the precise nature of the equipment and the identity and track record of the recipient. The Government has consistently said it does not, and will not, issue licences where it judges that the proposed export would provoke or prolong internal conflicts, or where there is a clear risk it might be used to facilitate internal repression or be used aggressively against another country. I have always fully supported this stance.
The Government carries out a stringent process of scrutiny and approval before inviting foreign governments to a major UK defence exhibition like the Defence and Security International Exhibition in London. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations undertaken in the process, and consideration is given to how invitations will impact on bilateral engagement including on issues like human rights. The Government also reviews invitations in cases where the situation in any one country changes significantly prior to an exhibition.
A commercial relationship does not prevent us from speaking frankly to governments about issues of concern, such as human rights. Our close political and security relationships can help enhance our scope to positively influence governments helping to promote democratic reform and raise human rights standards in places such as China and the Gulf states.
Earlier this year, the Government secured the establishment for the first ever International Arms Trade Treaty to control exports of conventional arms. It will require governments to block transfers of weapons that pose unacceptable risks and to take strong steps to prevent weapons being diverted into illegal markets. I am sure you will join me in welcoming this first legally-binding, truly global commitment.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Simon Kirby MP
Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven.
Parliamentary Private Secretary to Rt Hon Hugh Robertson MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
From: Susanne Schuster [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 18 November 2013 16:19
To: KIRBY, Simon
Subject: Please support EDM 503 on arms sales
Dear Simon Kirby, I write to ask you to consider signing EDM 503 on arms sales to authoritarian regimes.
I'm concerned that the UK government spends public money pushing arms sales, often to authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers.
I'm worried that is prioritising weapons sales over human rights.
David Cameron has just returned from the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka, where he rightly criticised Sri Lanka's appalling record on human rights and called for a war crimes investigation. But then he went on to Dubai where he said nothing about the UAE's appalling record on human rights - because this time he was on a mission to persuade its authoritarian rulers to buy BAE's fighter jets.
Parliament's Committes on Arms Export Controls has also raised concerns about the government's billions of pounds worth of arms sales to human rights abusing states, noting an "inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time."
Please help put human rights first by supporting EDM 503 and asking the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, to stop using public money to promote arms sales.
By Susanne Schuster
You must have heard of the latest attempt to create a free trade area between the EU and the USA, haven't you? The topic has hardly been covered in the mainstream media and European citizens have been told almost nothing about the explosive content of this planned free trade agreement. However, digging a bit deeper in the alternative media to find out what is really at stake sparks an almighty rage. If our parliamentary representatives took their task seriously and possessed a spark of integrity then all their alarm bells should ring. Because this “free trade agreement” constitutes a frontal attack on our democracy, or rather, what is left of it.
In July of this year the official negotiations for the so called “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, abbreviated TTIP, were started. The expressed intention is to have signed an agreement by the end of 2014 to establish a Transatlantic Free Trade Area, TAFTA, between the USA and the EU.
The official propaganda states that this treaty is about harmonising standards – with large corporations and investors determining what these standards should be. In plain language harmonising standards means a race to the lowest standards, so that US corporations will be able to sell their GMO rubbish, chlorinated chickens, hormone pigs and cattle on the EU market. If these standards are not complied with, states are threatened with sanctions for an unlimited period of time or gigantic compensation claims. More on that below.
Above all, the “free trade agreement” is about the removal of any remaining so called “trade barriers” (tariffs between the USA and EU have largely been abolished); that is, such tiresome things for big business such as labour rights, health & safety and social legislation, food and product safety standards, environmental and climate protection measures, financial market regulation. In short: all those things that make the lives of ordinary working people bearable.
The negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, so that common folk won't notice what is really at stake. On the other hand 600 official “consultants” from large corporations have privileged access to the negotiations to bring in their ideas.
Lori Wallach states: “There is a simple reason for this secrecy. Such a treaty would oblige national governments including local administrations to adapt their current and future domestic policies to a comprehensive system of rules. This treaty would codify legislative requirements negotiated at a diplomatic level, which at the request of the corporations would apply to many non trade related areas, such as the safety and labelling of foods, the maximum values for chemical and toxic contamination, the health system and the pricing of medicines, the right to internet privacy, energy supply and cultural 'services', patents and copyrights, use of land and resources, the rights and employment opportunities of immigrants, public procurement and many other things.”1
Arguably the most outrageous aspect of this treaty is that corporations can sue the living daylights out of states and authorities that have breached the rules, through an arbitration court dominated by a small clique of corporate lawyers. The corporations can sue states and authorities for compensation payments if the courts find that “expected future profits” are reduced because of certain measures such as environmental regulations and social rights. Under US free trade treaties more than $ 400 million of taxpayers' money has already been paid in compensation to corporations that went to court over bans of toxic substances, licensing rules, laws on water protection and forest use and other “anti investment” rules.2 For example, under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Area) the Canadian government was sued by the manufacturer of a cancer causing additive in fuel for $ 250 million in “lost business opportunities and interference with trade” because it had banned the additive. Fearing that it would lose the case, the Canadian government lifted the ban, declared the additive as “safe” and paid the manufacturer $ 10 million compensation.3
It is therefore clear that if this legislation comes into force the rights of investors will take precedence over the protection of our health, the environment and social rights. The rights of corporations will have higher priority than the sovereignty of states. In other words: the last scraps of democracy will be abolished.
Michael Parenti has summarised it perfectly in relation to existing treaties: “But let it be repeated: what also is overthrown is the right to have such laws. This is the most important point of all and the one most frequently overlooked by persons from across the political spectrum. Under the free trade accords, corporate investment rights have been upraised to imperial supremacy, able to take precedent over all other rights, including the right to a clean, livable environment, the right to affordable public services, and the right to any morsel of political-economic democracy. Under the banner of 'free trade,' corporate property rights are elevated above all democratic rights.”4
What for? The establishment of the transatlantic free trade area is justified by the tired, old and unfounded mantra of economic growth and job creation as well as wealth for all. However, the projected economic gain is negligible. Based on the – optimistic and probably made up out of thin air – estimates of the EU commission, the average EU household would have an extra 500 euro annually, or 42 euro per month5, which I bet will be eaten up by the rising cost of living in no time at all. It's a joke!
There are completely different interests behind the treaty. The markets for many products and services in the private sector are saturated. For example, the US market for GMO soy and corn is almost exhausted for Monsanto. How on earth should permenent profit growth be generated to satisfy the expected return on investment by greedy shareholders? By new markets, of course, and by selling more stuff. Capital is constantly forced to create new spheres of investment, until it has penetrated all corners of the world and turned them into a commodity. For the vast majority of the world's population and the environment this would be a disaster of gigantic dimensions. We can only stop this development if we become totally conscious of this looming catastrophe and resist with determination and vigour. We have to value any – still remaining – public space and public goods and services, and defend them tooth and nail. We need some serious action, so let's fight and protest.
1 Lori Wallach, TAFTA – die große Unterwerfung, Le Monde Diplomatique, 8.1.2013 http://www.monde-diplomatique.de/pm/2013/11/08/a0003.text
2 Lori Wallach, TAFTA – die große Unterwerfung, Le Monde Diplomatique, 8.1.2013 http://www.monde-diplomatique.de/pm/2013/11/08/a0003.text
3 Michael Parenti, The Face of Imperialism, Paradigm 2011, S. 64
4 ibid. P. 71
5 Silvia Liebrich, Es geht um mehr als nur Zölle, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.11.2013 http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/freihandelsabkommen-zwischen-usa-und-eu-es-geht-um-mehr-als-nur-zoelle-1.1815472
By Susanne Schuster
Recently I had the opportunity to complete an introductory course on permaculture at a very low price. I have been interested in this topic as such for a while, but didn't know all that much about it in actuality. Here I would like to introduce the ethics and principles of permaculture. I will also show inspiring permaculture projects from Jordan, Zimbabwe and Eritrea in a series of articles. These models show how even extremely salty, damaged soils can be regenerated with relatively simple, locally available resources.
Permaculture is combined from the terms Permanent Agriculture. There are many different definitions of permaculture. Essentially it is a practical system for living sustainably and regenerating the earth and our communties. It is based on observing principles and patterns in nature. Rather than seeing living systems as disconnected parts, permaculture helps us to see them as a whole and to maximise the relationship between things, while also working within an ethical framework. Permaculture empowers people worldwide to develop dynamic, resilient systems and projects that work with nature, rather than against it.
Permaculture is based on three ethical core values:
These are some of the most important principles of permaculture:
Another essential element is zoning, with the zones being drawn according to how much human attention is required.
Ultimately these principles are ancient and most of us can grasp them intuitively; however, the industrial and mechanistic way of production and perception of the environment has largely displaced them, with the corresponding catastrophic consequences. They are diametrically opposed to the profit driven capitalist economy, to which human and environmental needs must be subordinated absolutely. With permaculture the world's population can be fed sustainably and hunger and poverty can be fought successfully, as shown be the example below. In contrast the hightech solutions of Monsanto, Bayer and all the other agroindustry giants are never about feeding the world; their aim is rather to fill the pockets of their shareholders.
Greening the desert in Jordan
With their permaculture project in Jordan the Australian permaculturist Geoff Lawton and his Jordanian wife Nadia Lawton show how the desert can be greened. More than 92 percent of Jordan is desert land and that percentage is growing. It has one of the lowest levels of water availability in the world. The usage of renewable water resources is 120 percent, thus it is foreseeable that these water resources will soon be exhausted. The industrial, chemically laden agriculture uses 70 percent of the water like everywhere in the world. Regenerating the soil is therefore a matter of survival.
With Geoff Lawton's first project in 2001 a 10 acre site was regenerated, in the driest area on earth, 400m below sea level, with heavily damaged and salty soil. A total of 1.5km of swales were created where every single drop of rainwater was harvested that fell on the land. The swales were laid in contours and then covered with a thick layer of mulch. On the upper side of the swales hardy, nitrogen fixing desert trees were planted and on the lower side different fruit trees. Initially people laughed at Lawton and his team because the trenches were not running in straight lines but in contours. But then incredible things happened: Within four months the fig trees carried fruit, which should be impossible in this area. It turned out that the salt levels of the soil were falling, using only 20 percent of the amount of water normally used for washing through the salt and beneath the layer of mulch so much humidity was being created that even mushrooms grew. (The people there had never seen mushrooms, because there had never been this much humidity in living memory.) The soil came alive with insects and small animals. The funghi net was putting off a waxy substance that repelled the salt and the decomposition process is locking the salt up.
As the funding of the project ran out after three years, it finished and was left to itself. When Lawton came back after eight years in 2009, much had been badly managed, but the fundamental design of the permaculture system was still intact - proof of its resilience.
Geoff Lawton said: “All the problems of the world can be solved in a garden.” But many people didn't know that and were therefore insecure.
Now Lawton is working on a second “Greening the Desert” project right next to the first site, but with long term own funding to ensure the correct management. Since then many practical projects have been initiated and the permaculture techniques have been passed on from farmer to farmer and country to country. This new permaculture project enjoys broad support by the people and even by the Jordanian government. People must have realised how essential a radical change is.
During a drought in 2008 the olive harvest in the whole of Jordan failed – except in the permaculture village Bayoudah. The trees survived due to mulching and composting.
These images show the thriving green oasis created with the “Greening the Desert” project in one of the most extreme climate zones in the world. If only a fraction of the money spent on the barbarous wars in the pursuit for oil and other commodities fuelling the insatiable capitalist machine were spent on such projects, how much livable environment and human happiness could be achieved?
This ca. 30 minute video documents the first and second Greening the Desert project by Geoff and Nadia Lawton. Highly recommended! Greening the Desert II: Greening the Middle East on Vimeo or in 4 parts on Youtube.
Further information on Permaculture:
The Permaculture Research Institute
The Permaculture Association
By Catherine Rowe and Susanne Schuster
For those of us campaigning for real food democracy and sovereignty the arrival in the UK in early September of Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, lead researcher on the world's longest study into the effect of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), was a welcome development. Amidst a background of increasing EU governmental support for GM food including erroneous claims from UK Minister for Environment Owen Paterson that "While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind” a week long series of talks organised by GM Health Risks Week from September 2nd - 8th gave us a chance to hear direct what his team's study actually uncovered. Unfortunately Professor Séralini was taken to hospital after his presentation to an All Parliamentary Group on Wednesday the 4th but that evening the speakers’ panel at the University College of London stepped up to the plate and offered us an insight into the backlash that went viral immediately after his findings were published last year.
Monsanto's own original 90 day study into the effects of GM NK603 Corn on rats was published back in 2004 after a wide grass roots campaign across Europe to prevent genetically modified food being sold in the EU. Rats which were fed GM corn plus Roundup (the Monsanto herbicide with its active chemical ingredient Glyphosate which is used with wheat, corn, soya, and canola genetically engineered to be resistant to Glyphosate; many farmers claim this has resulted in Glyphosate-tolerant 'Super Weeds' in their fields) showed signs of liver and kidney toxicity. These biological differences with the comparative non-GM fed rats were described as 'non-harmful' by the European Food Safety Authority, an unprecedented step that contradicted their own safety standards. Around this time Monsanto and other big agri-business had already begun saturating US food markets with their GM seeds to the extent that in North America over 80% of food now contains GMOs. It appeared GMOs were being given the green light for European markets despite the much fought for moratorium.
It was against this backdrop of increasing corporate domination that Professor Séralini and his team decided to replicate Monsanto's trial but this time extending the study to complete a rat’s full life cycle of 2 years. An indication of what he was up against became apparent very quickly: to obtain Monsanto's original test data he had to take them to court. His study found the original signs of liver and kidney toxicity actually escalated in both male and female rats after the initial 90 days. There was also an unexpected increase in tumours, especially mammary tumours in female rats fed both NK603 corn and Roundup. Within hours of Professor Séralini's study being published online the counter attack was immediate. Critics lambasted the study as unscientific even though it replicated Monsanto's original test variables. They argued the test sample of ten rats was too small for a carcinogenic study despite the test actually being for toxicity (Séralini stated he did not expect the tumours). They also claimed he had chosen a breed of rat with cancerous tendencies. Séralini has refuted all of these claims and many more in an article published on his website (see http://gmoseralini.org/category/critics-answered/).
However, many of these claims are still being repeated by the government agencies ostensibly responsible for guarding the safety of our food (see the UK's Food Safety Agency closing comments in this article written by John Vidal published in the Guardian on Thursday 4th September www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/05/gm-food-cancers-fsa).
Interestingly, since Professor Séralini's study was published the EU and French Government have commissioned their own studies. The EFSA quietly validated his study variables despite publicly joining the critics in making what are now standard counter claims. This begs the question who is actually protecting us from Genetically Modified Food?
One of the speakers on the panel Claire Robinson, a researcher with Earth Open Source and editor at GMWatch, explained the extent to which many of Séralini's critics (both academic and business) had links to the GM industry and how corrupted the legislative framework has become. The GMO moratorium is under serious threat by the corporate lobby and the precautionary principles which should be applied to all potential food risks have been largely abandoned. And as is so often the case just simply follow the money.
Lisa Stokke and Paul Murphy, co-founders of Food Democracy Now, a US movement that recently fought legislative battles in the USA for compulsory labelling of GM food, reminded us to resist GMOs as rigorously as we can. They love the fact that in Europe we still have labelling!
What we suspect was extremely useful for many of us was the presentation given by Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at King's College London, who stepped in for Professor Séralini to explain the science behind GMOs.
To summarise what this and many other studies (and there have been many smaller independent studies of GMOs down the years - see GMWatch for links) have found: the GMO transformation process is highly mutagenic. The random insertion of a foreign gene into a host DNA/genome (for example to make the GM NK603 corn tolerant of Glyphosate herbicide or a GM Cotton inserted with a pesticide to protect it from boll worm) results in numerous spontaneous changes where genetic material is created in completely novel combinations. This is leading to myriad potential health-risks. At a bare minimum lifelong feeding studies need to be implemented for all GMO foods and the potential risks of high exposure to pesticides and herbicides need the same rigorous research.
Even if advocates of GMOs erroneously insist it reduces the use of pesticides and herbicides the environmental crisis means it is impossible to continue even with a watered down industrial farming system. And as many of us within the Food Sovereignty Movement know if we are to move towards a truly sustainable food future we need to embrace agro-ecological methods of farming that work with nature not against. We need to know exactly what we are eating and we need democratic not corporate control to achieve this. Food for thought indeed!
By Susanne Schuster
It was the third time that on 31 August 2013 Court Lodge Farm in East Sussex, UK hosted a fundraiser for the Free West Papua Campaign – with building a ground oven and musical performances. This is primarily thanks to the commitment of Clare Harding, who grew up on the farm. Her parents run an organically certified dairy farm and produce delicious pouring yoghurt. Some years ago Clare travelled in Papua New Guinea and also visited the Indonesian occupied West Papua, where she made contact with a few freedom fighters, which can be risky. Since then she has been committed to this campaign. The background is the desire of West Papuans to lead a free and self-determined life and that means freedom from Indonesia.
Until the early 19th century New Guinea was a unified island. To this day many of its inhabitants live as hunter-gatherers or practice subsistence farming. They are extremely intelligent, possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna of their environment and they are unbelievably resourceful and musical. Then the British and Dutch came on their colonial raids and took possession of the island: The Western half West Papua was occupied by the Dutch and the Eastern half Papua New Guinea by the British. In 1961 West Papua became independent, but just a few months later Indonesia invaded and claimed it as Indonesian territory. In 1969 a vote was held under the auspices of the UN, the so called “Act of Free Choice”, but it was a farce: About 1000 tribal leaders were forced at gunpoint to vote for integration with Indonesia. Until now about 400,000 West Papuans have been killed by Indonesian forces. Human rights violations, violence, torture, murders and displacement are a daily occurrence. Under a transmigration programme thousands of Indonesians from other parts have been resettled in West Papua and they get the best jobs. What is happening there can be described as a silent genocide, forgotten by the world.
The reason for it: West Papua is home to enormous reserves of gold, oil and copper, and their extraction is extremely lucrative for a tiny Indonesian elite and the collaborating corporations like US company Freeport. But the decisive factor for the US and its cronies being totally unmoved by the forgotten war against West Papua is the fact that Indonesia is already perfectly integrated into the capitalist world order – a neoliberal poster boy, paradise for investors, hell for the masses. Therefore there is no necessity for a “humanitarian intervention”. The US secret services saw to that when they overthrew the democratically elected government of president Sukarno in 1965 and installed into power the dictator Suharto as their puppet. In the bloodbath that followed at least half a million Indonesians, probably even more than one million, were killed. Andre Vltchek even speaks of 2 to 3 million dead.
The ground oven
When I arrived on the farm the West Papuans had already dug a considerable pit for the ground oven and in a big camp fire the stones were being heated. Benny Wenda, the tribal leader and founder of the Free West Papua Campaign, and his family and friends had already spent several days preparing: collecting leaves and herbs, making gripping tongs from thick tree branches, which we used to transport the hot stones from the camp fire to the ground oven, and they had specially bought some banana leaves. First the pit was lined with a row of hot stones, then a layer of leaves was put on top, followed by roots and tubers such as swede, potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, pumpkin as well as corn cobs, followed by more layers of leaves, kale, cabbage, marrow, beetroot and further on top big cuts of pork (the pig had been fattened on the farm and slaughtered in the morning), two rabbits and in between layers of herbs, leaves and hot stones. When the pile of meat and vegetables formed a nice little mound everything was closed with a hessian (in West Papua banana leaves are used for that) and weighed down with some pieces of wood. After a good two hours of cooking time our dinner from the ground oven was ready. The food was delicious and we ate a lot of it. Although no salt had been added it all was full of flavour and tasty. Please watch this short video of the making of the ground oven.
Benny Wenda and the West Papua Campaign
Later on Benny Wenda spoke about the plans of the Free West Papua campaign to buy a piece of land in Papua New Guinea where many West Papuan refugees live. They are not recognised as refugees by Papua New Guinea – due to Indonesian pressure – but only as border crossers and therefore receive no support. On the land infrastructure and opportunities are to be created for West Papuans to grow vegetables, go to school, and receive training or study, thus creating perspectives for the future. The purchase price is 80.000 Pounds Sterling.
Benny also told us about his own fate. When he was two years old, his village was bombed by the Indonesian military, whereby many members of his family were killed. He was forced to flee into the jungle where he lived for five years. In his youth he was chosen as a leader by the elders of his tribe because of his nature. Due to his growing influence in West Papua he was arrested by the Indonesian authorities and placed on trial for a long sentence. During the trial he spent several weeks with arms and legs in chains in isolation and survived several attempts on his life. Through a remarkable string of events he could finally escape. He was smuggled through the jungle to Papua New Guinea where he was reunited with his wife Maria and young daughter Koteka in a refugee camp. Supporters then helped him flee to England where he applied for political asylum. In his new home Oxford he founded the Free West Papua campaign, which now also has offices in Holland and Australia. I was very impressed with how objectively Benny told his story, without any trace of bitterness. But he also said: Even when we might seem cheerful on the outside, we always cry inside. Then he sang a few freedom songs with the Lani Singers. His twelve year old daughter Koteka also sang a song composed by herself that really touched the heart. We were also treated to some very beautiful songs by Liz Ikamba and Beccy Elder.
What can you do?
10/6/2013 0 Comments
By Susanne Schuster
Despite all the rhetoric on boosting renewable energies and CO2 emissions reductions targets in the context of the so called energy transition, fossil fuels are currently experiencing a massive boom. German industry, including energy corporations such as E.ON and RWE and companies like Bayer, still imports large amounts of cheap coal – in fact 80% of its requirements – from abroad, with Colombia being an important supplier. The north Colombian province of La Guajira has one of the largest open cast mines in the world: the 69,000 hectare mine El Cerrejón founded in 1976.
The multinational corporations Xtrata (taken over by the commodities trader Glencore in May 2013), BHP Billiton and Anglo American, all of whom are listed on the London stock exchange, each own one third of the mine. Almost all of the coal mined at El Cerrejón is exported to rich industrial nations, while the local population often struggles with power cuts. Currently 32 million tons of coal are exported mainly to Europe and North America, with a view to increasing this to 40 million tons.
The area where the mine is located is populated by the indigenous Wayuu people, Colombians with African ancestry, local peasants and other indigenous groups. Before the multinationals arrived, these peoples lived well through fishing, rearing animals, hunting and growing crops. But due to the constant expansion of the mine about 60,000 people have been displaced, often violently. Whole villages were destroyed or just wiped off the map under the diggers. The village Manantial was the first to be destroyed in 1986; the communities of Roche, Chancleta, Tamaquitos, Tabaco, Palmarito, El Descanso, Caracoli, Zarahita, Patilla are just a few among many to have followed its fate.
Moreover, the mine has led to massive environmental pollution and serious health problems. Many animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, including many important herbs and plants used in traditional rituals. A grave problem of the mine is the coal dust, mainly caused by the daily explosions, killing off plants and leading to respiratory illnesses such as silicosis and eczema in humans. Furthermore, the waste from the mine is contaminating the scant water sources and rivers in the desert region. All of this has led to 64% of the local population living in poverty today. Plans by the mining companies to expand the mine further would require the rerouting of 26km of the most important river in the province of La Guajira, to enable access to the coal deposits underneath. But after vehement protest of the local population, for whom the Rio Ranchería represents the only accessible water source, these plans have been put on ice. However, there are plans to expand the mine in other ways, meaning there is a risk of new displacements.
The mining of coal and its negative consequences for humans and nature have already led to intense protests and resistance in Colombia and other countries, with a huge variety of actions. In February and March 2013 the union Sintracarbon staged a five week long strike whose demands included a wage rise as well as better environmental and health standards and rights for the workers of sub-contractors. The strike ended on March 8th with significant progress for the workers’ rights. At the protests the rail track for the coal transport was blockaded amongst other things. The resistance movement is no longer limited to the affected mining region and has now spread to the big cities of Colombia, Germany and the UK. For example, during a national day of action in Colombia more than 10,000 citizens went on demonstrations in 20 different towns.
In London regular protests take place on the occasion of the AGMs of the mining corporations registered at the stock exchange there. They are co-organised by the London Mining Network and among the attendees travelling to London are for example representatives of FECODEMIGUA (Federation of Communities displaced by mining in La Guajira). London Mining Network is a coalition of human rights, environment and development organisations working to expose the role of the mining corporations registered in London, their financiers and the UK government in mining projects such as El Cerrejón. The City of London plays a special role since almost all of the biggest and many smaller mining companies in the world are listed in London; London is the biggest financial centre for the mineral industry and the metal trade and this is where the most important lobbyists of this industry are located. The German movement Gegenstrom 13 is directed against the coal-fired power station Moorburg and against the planned importation of coal from Colombia; recently it staged a protest action at Hamburg harbour.
Colombian trade unionists and activists often receive death threats – Colombia is the country with highest number of murders of union representatives in the world. The government responded to the growing resistance with increasing militarisation by sending 5,000 additional troops to La Guajira to protect the coal industry and to intimidate the population. But the people are not deterred by this because what is at stake is their survival and dignity.
To give but a brief overview of the protests, struggles and resistance in the northeast of Colombia Gegenstrom 13 has put together a small illustration highlighting just the events during a six week long period in July/August 2012. Another map gives an overview of the coal extraction, including the categories “direct deaths from coal mining”, “armed security of mines: military, paramilitary, security guards” and “attacks and assassinations by the guerrilla”. The dotted line refers to the map above.
The situation in Colombia – and around the world – is depressing. But we should also not lose sight of the positive developments. In October 2012 the peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia –People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the Colombian government were officially launched. There seems to reasonable hope for a genuine peace, which is what the majority of the Colombian people desperately want.
According to Gegenstrom 13 the first substantial paragraph with “preamble status” of the remarkably progressive, jointly adopted paper consequently says: “The construction of peace is a point of the society in conjunction that requires the participation of all, without distinction; The respect of the human rights in all of the confines of the national territory is an end of the State that should be promoted; The economic development with social justice and in harmony with the environment, is a guarantee of peace and progress.” Read the complete text here.
It is up to us to ensure that the energy transition will not remain a meagre promise and that fossil fuels will soon be consigned to the past. We must educate the public about what is really going on and exert massive pressure on the corporations and governments with noisy and colourful actions, and hit them where it hurts them most – in the pocket.
More information and resistance:
By Susanne Schuster
In the course of the last year several initiatives addressing global hunger and food security were launched. It is very touching to see how concerned our leaders are with hunger and poverty. At the Camp David G8 summit in May 2012 president Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which aims to achieve global food security based on a partnership between the G8, a number of African governments, transnational corporations and some domestic African companies. The emphasis is on growing domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture with the support of institutions like the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN World Food Programme and the FAO amongst others. The investments are supposed to be regulated by voluntary guidelines.
The UK government organised the first Hunger Summit in the summer of 2012 to coincide with the Olympic Games and a second Hunger Summit is being held in London on 8 June on the occasion of the G8 summit hosted by the UK government in Northern Ireland on 17 and 18 June 2013. The UK Prime Minister Cameron claims he wants to solve malnutrition in children through high-tech enriched foods.
Then in January 2013 a new campaign IF on hunger and food security has launched in the UK, run by a group of more than 200 development and other organisations including well known charities such as Oxfam, Action Aid and Christian Aid. This campaign is running also in the context of the G8 summit. The IF campaign is centred on four big issues: aid, tax, land and transparency.
It doesn’t take much to find that behind all the nice words and PR spin it’s business as usual – capital accumulation forever.
None of these three initiatives challenge the systems of power, control and property rights at the heart of the global food system. Indeed, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Hunger Summit work in tandem with the most powerful agribusiness corporations on the planet like Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are not in business to solve hunger and poverty but to maximise profits for their shareholders, that’s their legal duty. Everything else is propaganda. When there is talk of more private investment and growth in Africa it really means that they want a bigger share of the African cake for the benefit of their shareholders. Ordinary Africans will just get the crumbs.
None of these campaigns have involved any of the grassroots movements such as La Via Campesina, the international peasant organisation representing 200 million farmers in 70 countries, who have already developed a framework to deal with the global food crisis – food sovereignty. Food sovereignty means not only having enough food but having control over food production and distribution in order to produce culturally adequate, nutritious food for one’s own needs as a priority. It is based on self-sufficient methods that do not rely on expensive inputs that would tie farmers into a cycle of dependency and debt to those corporations, which has for example already driven a quarter of a million cotton farmers in India to suicide.
Mamadou Cissokho said on behalf of farmers who are members of 15 organizations in Africa in a letter to the president of the African Union: “I would simply like to recall that food security and sovereignty are the basis of our general development, as all of the African governments underline. It is a strategic challenge. This is why we must build our food policy on our own resources as is done in the other regions of the world. The G8 and the G20 can in no way be considered the appropriate fora for decisions of this nature.”
World Development Movement Director Deborah Doane criticised that while the demands of the IF campaign are welcomed, it “will not be challenging the power and impact of the financial system on food prices, nor is it grounded in the principles of food sovereignty.” Intense criticism also comes from War on Want Director John Hilary, who stated that the political causes of poverty and hunger have not been addressed. Even more damning, War on Want exposed how David Cameron has been abusing the IF campaign to promote himself as a leading crusader for social justice at a time when the UK government’s actions are causing unprecedented hardship at home and fuelling poverty in Africa. “The IF campaign is promoting a wholly false image of the G8 as committed to resolving the scandal of global hunger, rather than (in reality) being responsible for perpetuating it.”
There are abundant studies and data that prove that small-scale farming using agro-ecological methods is more productive per hectare than industrial agro-operations; it also provides greater biodiversity, healthy soil, clean water and air, essential for our health and happiness. About 80 % of food in Africa is produced by peasant farmers. They are the ones who know the problems and they know the solutions. We must fight against these patronising top-down false solutions in solidarity with farmers around the world.
Sign-on statement: stop UK aid giveaway to multinationals
Africa civil society statement on the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
Translation by Susanne Schuster
BAYER ad images from 1912 reappeared
In the spring of 1912 the company BAYER started an advertising campaign for heroin in Spanish newspapers. Several of the ad images have now been found again. The corporation launched the “well tolerated cough remedy” in 1898 together with the pain relief Aspirin.
The rediscovered adverts are interesting for several reasons: already very soon after the market launch doctors pointed out the addictive potential of the new remedy. This was discussed extensively among experts while the advertising campaign was running in 1912. Nevertheless BAYER commissioned adverts showing mainly children and recommending the intake of heroin even when symptoms were fairly undramatic such as irritation (irritación) or cough (tos).
In 1900 BAYER had started an unprecedented advertising campaign. Around the world adverts praised the remedy to the skies. There was hardly a disease where the new “magic bullet” was not recommended: multiple sclerosis, asthma, stomach cancer, epilepsy, schizophrenia and many others. Heroin was claimed to be effective even with intestinal colic in babies. Also, for the first time thousands of free samples were sent to doctors.
When critics questioned the safety of the jack-of-all-trades the then BAYER executive director Carl Duisberg adamantly ordered that his subordinates should “silence” the troublemakers. “We cannot tolerate claims around the world that we were carelessly pushing medicines that were not carefully tested,” said the later chief executive of BAYER. The commercial success of Heroin and Aspirin laid the foundation for the rise of the former paint factory BAYER to a global corporation.
Jan Pehrke, board member of Coalition Against Bayer Dangers (CBG), said: “The heroin campaign shows how far back the tradition goes of multinational drug corporations selling dangerous remedies against better judgement and despite urgent warnings only to make a profit.”
By Susanne Schuster
On the weekend of 8-9 October 2011 the Rebellious Media Conference (RMC) took place in London, UK. The conference was initiated by Peace News as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations and organised by a coalition of radical media groups: Peace News, Ceasefire, the National Union of Journalists, Red Pepper, Undercurrents and visionOntv. The aims of the conference were “to strengthen radical media (both digital and paper-based), improve activists’ access to both radical and mainstream media (including around the internet)”. The debates revolved around what has gone wrong in the past and what are the current gaps in radical media, but they also provided a vision of what is possible and inspiration and ideas of how to make it happen. The conference has its own interactive website at live.rebelliousmediaconference.org, “a unique resource for all participants to create their own networks and further their projects”. It will also feature videos of some of the sessions.
I went home with much to reflect upon myself. I learned new skills and had some good conversations. One of them was with the journalist Patrick Chalmers, a Brit who has lived in France for the last 6 years. He used to work for Reuters and told me his story of how his politics got ahead of his job until he eventually took voluntary redundancy. He organises regular documentary film screenings in his local area of France, where people bring food and discuss politics. He is publishing a book titled Fraudcastnews about democracy and journalism, and it can be downloaded for free under a Creative Commons Licence from his blog http://fraudcastnews.wordpress.com/.
The Rebel Griot wrote a critical reflection of the Rebellious Media Conference and the fact that questions about Libya were absent from most of the conference. He asks what the role of radical media is “during the demonization phase” of a planned ‘humanitarian intervention’, how even a number of commentators and journalists who are considered left-wing progressives, including Chomsky, either stayed silent or joined in the beating of the war drums. I would have liked to ask a question about Libya myself but didn’t get an opportunity. These are questions that radical media really must take to heart and look for honest answers.
Noam Chomsky was the keynote speaker at the RMC. He is well-known as a forceful critic of US foreign policy and a key figure in exposing the propaganda role of the mainstream media. He was introduced by his former student and long-time colleague and friend, Michael Albert. In Chomsky’s talk he often mentioned radical priorities. The key for any organisation or individual involved in social change is always being conscious of radical priorities. On the whole Chomsky was optimistic about the Occupy Wall Street movement and it was interesting to hear his critique its weaknesses. Their demands are very mainstream and the more radical demands are couched in a couple of sentences at the end. And these radical demands are far removed from reality. What is missing is the link, the bridge to how they can be implemented. The danger is that activists get exhausted and frustrated and some may end up saying ‘I will just become a stock broker now’. Moreover, there are a number of missing words in the contents of the Occupy Wall Street website, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, war, women, factory, industry, participation or budget. He was very clear that any lasting social change needs to have mass support and will require a long and hard effort. It requires building structures that will be the foundations of long-term change. Activists also need to understand how the world works. Corporations are legally required to put profit maximisation above everything else and would break the law if they were to put the environment first; and they have been buying elections for 100 years. In spite of Chomsky’s caution, Michael Albert encouraged the conference participants to join the world wide occupations on 15 October. He thought that this could be a historic moment.
Michael Albert and Noam Chomsky spoke about their experiences with the radical workers movements and workers cooperatives. The General Motors debacle is a case in point. Chomsky said the GM factories could have been handed over to its skilled workers and refitted to build high-speed railways for the USA, something that is sorely lacking and for which there are very good reasons. Instead GM was bailed out and with some minor changes the old management continued and it was business as usual. Ironically at the same time US president Obama was in Spain discussing contracts to build high-speed rail for the USA. These kinds of decisions are part of a bitter and savage class war led by the employer class against the working class.
War and the Media
During the lunch break I and my two friends from Brighton who were also at the RMC went to Trafalgar Square where an anti-war rally took place on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Among the speakers we heard were veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, leading figure in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Bruce Kent, director of War on Want John Hillary and journalist John Pilger. John Pilger was on the panel together with Mark Curtis and Greg Philo for the session on War and the Media. This session explored how wars are reported in the mainstream media and what role journalists play. The focus of this was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), because BBC News is a trusted source of news worldwide. Mark Curtis spent a lot of time in The National Archives researching declassified UK government documents for his book Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (2010). He criticised that a lot of journalists do not bother with this kind of research. Greg Philo, director of the Glasgow Media Group, is the co-author of a study on the media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. He reported how BBC journalists told him of the intense pressure they are under to limit their criticism of Israel, fearful of any phone calls from the Israeli embassy. Mark Curtis said that mainstream media such as the BBC has a major role to play in spreading disinformation and deception. John Pilger explained that it happens mainly because the media says it reports wars but in reality it promotes wars. In so called ‘free societies’ media is not independent, it is an extension of government and power, thus it defends the interests of the elite by beating the drums of war and legitimising it. This is done by leaving things out, i.e. censorship by omission. Pilger said that at this very moment in time the Libyan city of Sirte was being bombed around the clock by NATO using fragmentation bombs and hellfire missiles, but people had virtually no sense of what this city was going through. The media provides no understanding of the sheer scale of suffering of civilians. The implication is that by not doing their job, i.e. exposing the lies and deceptions, journalists have blood on their hands. During the question and answer session a member of the audience asked if there was ever a case of humanitarian intervention such as with Zimbabwe, and John Pilger clearly stated that military intervention was only justifiable when a country was attacked. A video of an interview with John Pilger can be watched here.
Crossing the Language Barrier: Activist Translation
On Sunday morning I ran a small participatory workshop about what tools and resources exist for radical media projects to facilitate translation from and into English. It was a great opportunity for me to share my experience and knowledge of nearly three years as a cyber activist with Tlaxcala. Most of the participants in the workshop expressed an interest in getting involved in translating for radical media projects, so it was very useful for them to meet other likeminded people and to find out what projects there are. I produced a resource document which can be downloaded from the interactive website. I asked the participants if they would like to translate some of the conference documentation and I am hoping that we will get at least a few of the videos subtitled into other languages.
Block the Bridge, Block the Bill
During the Sunday lunch break I and a couple of friends made our way to Westminster Bridge just by the Houses of Parliament to join the UK Uncut protest “Block the Bridge, Block the Bill” to save the National Health Service (NHS). The bill in question is the Health and Social Care Bill which went through the House of Commons and is now being debated in the House of Lords. The government’s planned NHS Bill will open up the entire health service in England and Wales to competition. Private health care providers will be allowed to provide medical services at a profit. It will change the face of the NHS forever. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is hell bent on pushing this bill through, despite the fact that publicly owned health care is more efficient. In the US 16% of GDP is spent on its private health care system – to which 50 million US citizens have no access as they are without health insurance – compared with 8.7% of the UK’s GDP on the publicly owned NHS, which tops satisfaction and access polls in the industrialised world. Noam Chomsky commented on how grossly inefficient the US health care system is. This is hardly surprising if shareholders demand dividend payouts instead of the money being reinvested in frontline healthcare.
The organisers of RMC arranged some crash space for any participants who requested it. We stayed at Guiseppe Conlon House in North London, a house run by London Catholic Worker offering hospitality to 23 destitute refugees who are at various stages of their asylum claims and who have no recourse to public funds. I am writing about it because I think it is such a worthwhile project and I feel enriched by knowing about it. The London CW is part of the radical pacifist Catholic worker movement started in 1933 in the USA. The Catholic Workers engage actively in non-violent protest and they support the solidarity campaign for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Bradley Manning. These people live and breathe Jesus’ radical message of love and solidarity, which is a million miles from the corrupt and wealthy church hierarchy that itself has caused so much suffering.
Translation by Susanne Schuster
29th September 2011 sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of the former Bayer chief executive / Responsible for use of poison gas and forced labour / Coalition demands renaming of streets and removal of honorary citizenship
This Thursday sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of Carl Duisberg, who was chief executive of Bayer AG for many years and intellectual father of IG Farben. The chemist carried significant responsibility for the global rise of the company. During World War I he advocated the use of poison gas, supported the deportation of Belgian forced labourers and demanded the annexation of large areas in Eastern Europe. The pinnacle of Duisberg’s lifetime achievements was the merger of companies within the German chemical industry to create the conglomerate IG Farben.
Jan Pehrke from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers says: “Carl Duisberg literally walked over dead bodies for profit. Due to his responsibility for the use of poison gas, the exploitation of forced labourers and the close cooperation with the Nazi regime, the former Bayer chief executive is not suitable as a role model for future generations!". The Coalition demands the renaming of schools (e.g. Duisberg´s former high school in Wuppertal), streets (e.g. in Bonn, Krefeld, Dortmund and Leverkusen), as well as charitable Carl Duisberg centres. In a letter to the Mayor of Leverkusen, Reinhard Buchhorn, the network is furthermore asking for the removal of Duisberg´s honorary citizenship of Leverkusen.
Already at the end of the 19th century Carl Duisberg marketed heroin ruthlessly, as a supposedly harmless cough remedy. Back then Bayer promoted its 'wonder drugs' Aspirin and Heroin worldwide. When a scientist decried the addictive potential of heroin, Duisberg – he was at that point executive director at Bayer – remarked that one had to “silence the opponents”. Although the addictive dangers became obvious quickly, the corporation continued selling it profitably for many decades.
Carl Duisberg’s role in the exploitation of forced labourers during World War I is also of historic significance. In the autumn of 1916, Duisberg bemoaned the lack of workers and demanded the use of forced labourers with the claim "Open the large human pool of Belgium". The Interior Ministry of the German Reich picked up the proposal of the industry and arranged the deportation of 60,000 Belgians, which led to worldwide protests. The deportation is regarded as the predecessor of the much bigger slave labour programme implemented during World War II.
At the same time, Carl Duisberg developed - together with Fritz Haber - poison gases such as "Gruenkreuz” (phosgene) and “Mustard gas”, tested them on the front for the first time and pushed for their use – knowingly in breach of The Hague Land Warfare Convention. In Leverkusen Duisberg set up a school specifically for chemical warfare. Towards the end of the war Duisberg and Haber were on extradition lists by the allied forces and they feared prosecution as war criminals.
Carl Duisberg’s greatest success was the foundation of IG Farben in 1925, where he was appointed head of the supervisory board. Duisberg had organized the merger of companies within the German chemical industry to form the largest European corporation at the time over many decades.
Duisberg’s stance towards the Weimar Republic was hostile. He organized industry donations to conservative and nationalistic parties, including to the Nazis, from 1930 onwards. In 1931 Duisberg demanded: “The German people constantly cries out for a Führer who will liberate it from its unbearable situation. If a man comes along now who has proved to have no inhibitions, we must follow him unconditionally." In the same year Duisberg demanded, in a speech before the Chamber of Commerce in Dusseldorf, the creation of a European economic area under German domination.
In return for the millions in donations, the Nazis guaranteed to buy synthetic fuel and rubber from IG Farben. From then onwards no other corporation collaborated so closely with the Third Reich. Carl Duisberg crowed on the occasion of his retirement: "I am looking forward to my retirement under our Führer Adolf Hitler." Hitler in return offered his condolences on Duisberg's death in 1935: "With him the German chemical industry has lost one of its first pioneers and a successful leader, and the German industry one of its great organisers. His name will live on honorably in Germany.”
Jan Pehrke from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers concludes: “Carl Duisberg was a convinced nationalist, a man characterized by patriarchal imperiousness and a fierce enemy of trade unions. One can only describe Duisberg as a ‘criminal genius’, who subjugated morals to profits throughout his life." Since the 1980s the Coalition has been concerned with the history of Bayer and, amongst others, published the book “Von Anilin bis Zwangsarbeit – Die Geschichte der IG Farben“ (From Aniline to Forced Labour – The History of IG Farben).
Author: Jutta Ditfurth. Translation into English by Susanne Schuster
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the president of the Green parliamentary group in the European Parliament, loves military interventions, as long as they satisfy imperial interests. His demand to impose a no-fly zone over Libya is only the first step. It would not be the first war which he would like others to fight for him; to this end he has been downplaying Nazi fascism for years: In 1993 he shouted at the Green party conference that war had to be waged against Yugoslavia because the Bosnian Muslims were a “part of European culture" and were "people with our same blood" [i] In 1994 he seriously likened the situation in besieged Goražde with the Warsaw ghetto.
Currently he is abusing the memory of the Spanish civil war, the crushing of the social revolution by the fascists, to justify a war against Libya: “… I know that every historical comparison is a bit silly, but still - 36 in Spain, we allowed the Germans, with Franco, to massacre the Republicans; it was horrendous, but the French, the English did nothing back then. I think that our generation should behave differently in this respect.”[ii] The war – a generational question?
Why this war? Why not one against Morocco, for example, where an absolutist monarchy exploits the population, has occupied the neighbouring state Western Sahara with military power since 1975 and orders the incarceration and murder of dissidents? Of course, I am not proposing such a war, I am just testing the logic of the Green agitator. The Sahrawi resistance movement, the Polisario, gave up their partisan warfare in 1991, because the UN promised a vote with the chance of independence for Western Sahara. Since then the Sahrawis have been betrayed by the UN and the EU; Morocco's cooperation with the EU is excellent: Together they plunder the resources of Western Sahara, African migrants on their way to Europe are caught and held captive in camps.
What is the deal with Libya? Who is the “opposition“ that Cohn-Bendit – as he argued almost hysterically on German public TV station ZDF – wants to supply arms to and for whose benefit does he want Libya to be bombarded?
Muammar Al-Ghaddafi was a good friend of the capitalist states. He accepted “structural adjustment” imposed by the IMF and supplied oil. Ben Ali, Mubarak and Ghaddafi were not just friends with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, as Cohn-Bendit's polemics would have it now. I remember Otto Schily's* visit in Ghaddafi's tent. And the Green foreign secretary Josef Fischer paid jolly visits to Hosni Mubark over many years. A critical analysis finds that the situation in Libya is different from the one in Tunisia or in Egypt. There are fewer young unemployed and trade unionists rising up. The hero of the Libyan “rebels” in the country's east is King Idris, ousted in 1969, of all people, who had the same intimate ties to the US government as the Shah of Persia. Neither in Tunisia nor in Egypt were there any royalist flags at the anti Mubarak protests.
Is it a coincidence that the most productive oil fields are located in the Eastern part of Libya? Precisely where the chosen "rebels" who are supposed to profit from a military intervention live? Two representatives of the Libyan "opposition" persuaded the EU and Cohn-Bendit of the necessity of war. But there are approximately 140 "tribes" in Libya about whom the EU also knows very little.
Why am I reminded of the Taliban who grew with help from the USA? Why am I reminded of the revolting, unforgivable comparison between Kosovo and Auschwitz, which the Green foreign secretary Josef Fischer used to justify NATO's war against Yugoslavia? And why did the USA claim that the Iraq had chemical weapons plants, which never existed? These are questions which must be answered by crazed Green parliamentarians, rather then getting others to fight a war for them.
The best way to help an emancipatory opposition movement in Libya, if there is one, is to try and prevent a military intervention, amongst other things, and to strengthen what must grow from a grassroots level. An abbreviated version of this article appears in today’s edition of TAZ
* Otto Schily is a Green turned Social-Democrat who was Minister of Interior in the Schröder government [Tlaxcala's note]
[i] Quoted according to: Mathias Geis: »Immun gegen Mitleiden«, in: die tageszeitung on 11.10.1993
[ii] Daniel Cohn-Bendit interviewed by Theo Koll, ZDF Spezial »Blutiger Machtkampf in Libyen«, on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsk6QsiI9X4, posted on 24.2.2011 [3:00-3:22 mins]
Author: Einar Schlereth. Translation: Susanne Schuster.
What can be justifiably said about this book is that it fills an enormous gap, not just an historic one but also amongst its readership, proof of which is the fact that a second edition followed very quickly. The Egyptian professor Karam Khella, an academic based in Germany, even speaks of a renaissance of the Qarmatians by referring to the volume of Kamahl Ramahi and Detlev Quintern, which was published in the new millennium.1
The book is also a blow to those ‘scholarly’ debates whose subject is the inherent impossibility of Islam being able to reform itself, let alone find democratic solutions.
I was astonished by the similarities that I found with the Qarmatians. Here and there one could find obscure references to an uprising of the blacks, a republic of equals, who were referred to as Qarmatians, in an area which is now Iraq. Anyone who wanted to know more only encountered ever more obscure references. Peter Priskil deserves credit for having smashed this Gordian knot of fabrications and pipe dreams and for having penetrated to the core of the story, a task which took many years to complete.
Why? Well, the story is so egregious, so unthinkable, so outrageous that the winners – who as we know always write history – did a very thorough job by obliterating and destroying all traces and sources. They were so thorough that it took sleuth-like ingenuity to separate the wheat from the chaff. Only there was no wheat and barely a few kernels of grain that Peter Priskil managed to unearth using psycho-historical and socio-psychological tools. The rest he had to achieve with the aid of association – his thorough knowledge of comparable movements came in very handy here – and an equally thorough knowledge of the reactionary waffle which is always employed as a smokescreen and as a cloak of invisibility around explosive facts which are dangerous to those in power.
Peter Priskil travels far back into the prehistory of the movement of the Qarmatians. He briefly describes the rapid rise of Islam to a world religion, its relatively short golden age and period of degeneration that had already begun to set in during the 9th century and the disintegration of the large empire due to dynastic as well as religious disputes. It began with the major Sunni / Shia split and continued with countless heresies and sects springing up – just like in Christendom. Most of the small heretical movements could be suppressed quickly with brute force. But at the rate at which the central power in Baghdad, that is, the caliph, became weaker, some heretical movements got stronger. They included the Ismailiya, which was similar to a ‘protestant’ movement and which in turn grew out of the Gnosis and the Mutazila, another opposition movement in Islam which was founded already in the 8th century. The Ismailiya was opposed to the dogma and the religious dictates of Islam, but it was forced to operate in secret for a long time before it could go public “with a practical programme for an uprising”. It was “the heresy of the oppressed and exploited”, the slaves and peasants, the disenfranchised artisans, as well as parts of the critical intelligentsia.
It did not take long for the central power to respond by means of fire and sword, as always. And, as always under great external pressure, division, betrayal and compromise flourished. The biggest separation involved a group for whom religious criticism did not go far enough and which took the next logical step into secularity. This group called itself the Qarmatians (also transliterated Carmathians, Qarmathians, Karmathians), after its first great agitator, Hamdan Qarmat. They were hunted not only by the orthodoxy, which almost always coincided with the caliph, but also by the remaining Ismailiya, who subsequently killed two significant agitators of the Qarmatians in Iraq.
However, both groups were pushed out of the core territory of the caliph, modern Iraq and Syria, after heavy fighting. In the end, the Ismailiya fled to North Africa and eventually founded the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. The Qarmatians retreated in a more or less orderly fashion to Bahrain where the Qarmatians’ most able agitator, Abu Said, had already founded the first Qarmatian state in 899, in other words, the first secular state in world history. Religion and state were separated. The leaders and many followers were secular, but religion was not banned (Persians, Jews, Christians and Muslims also lived in Bahrain). Everyone could choose any faith, according to their tastes.
It would take 1000 years for something like this to happen again, with the success of the October revolution in Russia, leaving aside the brief interlude of the great French Revolution. At that time, and also in the following 1000 years, it was unheard of. And it is touching how united Islam and Christendom were in demonising this ‘sect’, their preferred description of the Qarmatians.
That was not the end of it. As a reaction to Baghdad’s frequent attacks and provocations, Abu Tahir went with an army to Mecca in 930, captured the city, broke the black stone from the Kaaba and slayed countless pilgrims. It was “an event that echoed in the ears of contemporaries like an apocalyptic peal of thunder, plunging them into a state of numbness and bewilderment, of disgust and horror,” as Peter Priskil writes. He compares it with the Sacco di Roma by Charles V, who thereby established the primacy of state power over the church.
But the Qarmatian state went even further. It was a state of equals under a collective leadership, with common ownership of land, one single tax (the tithe), state owned mills where the grain was milled for free, interest free loans for foreign craftsmen for the foundation of enterprises, and the rule of law. These are a few details that emerged from Peter Priskil’s research. Full details about the management of the state and the economy remain obscure due to the lack of sources.
The Qarmatians had one flaw though: they used slaves to work on their plantations. These black slaves rose up shortly before the foundation of the Qarmatian state and fought against the caliph for 15 years, a heroic story that easily compares to that of Spartacus and even outmatches it. Their fall was equally tragic.
Perhaps the Qarmatians only continued using the blacks as slaves because they suffered under them, but that is just a hypothesis on my part.
Hamdan Qarmat had sent agitators far and wide – to Syria, Persia, Daiman on the Kaspian Sea, North Africa, Oman and Yemen. In Yemen, the Qarmatians would briefly seize power before losing it again. Before the foundation of his state, Qarmat was killed during a raid by the caliph. His successor was the very able Abu Said in Bahrain, who shored up the political system internally and externally. He was assassinated by one of the caliph’s men. Abu Tahir, his youngest son took over the reins, developing exceptional skills as a commander. “He governed from from 924 to 944, a period marked by the consolidation and the forceful development of the revolutionary Qarmatian state, which took the offensive and pushed the caliphate to the edge of the abyss,” as Peter Priskil observed. He incorporated southern Iraq including Basra, an old Qarmatian stronghold, and Oman into the Qarmatian state. And he forced the caliph to pay taxes for the pilgrimage to Mecca. But at the young age of 38, he died from smallpox. This meant an end to the golden age of the Qarmatian state after just 45 years. The state existed for another 130 years, in a rather sad state of affairs.
Under the increasing attacks of the caliph, who in the end even sided with the hated Fatimid ruler and even participated in subversive activities, infiltration of saboteurs and betrayal, this grandiose experiment disintegrated more and more, until its final downfall in 1070. But they left a legacy causing irritation and disquiet for 800 years: a publication titled “The three fraudsters of the world: Moses, Christ and Mohammed.” Peter Priskil added a brief compendium at the end of the book about this. It is a thorough reckoning with religion, which was pursued, prosecuted and burnt, but which surfaced time and again through convoluted channels in copies, compilations and quotes, surviving until the modern age and holding significance even during the Enlightenment.
Peter Priskil managed to present a haunting portrait of nearly 400 pages, in a pleasantly vivid, clear language, though at times he indulges in superfluous phrases.
However, I would like to mention two points which in my view are out of place in such a well researched volume, even if they are two subordinate clauses.
For example, on page 8 it states: “Most certainly not ‘Hindu fascism’!” This was a set phrase from US imperialist propaganda. Whatever crimes the Muslims may have committed in the past, it is a fact that since the existence of the ‘biggest democracy in the world’ India has never been a democracy, and neither has the USA or Israel. The Muslims were second class citizens from the start. A terrible genocidal war is being waged against the Adivasi and the Dalit while the Kashmiris are brutally oppressed. I recommend the reading of two publications: ‘The resistible rise of Hindu fascism’ by Arundhati Roy and ‘India’s War on People’ by Gautam Navlakha and Arundhati Roy. What is also strange in this context are the very close ties being established by US imperialism with the BJP party and the current governing Congress party.
The second point is related to the sentence on page 11, “that Mesopotamia and later Iran became the setting of the first major split of Islam (not a coincidence). Both were … the cradle of civilisation.” Here Peter Priskil has fallen prey to a nasty Christian, clerical, Eurocentric campaign being carried out for 150 years with increasing zeal.
From Herodot to Champollion-Figeac (1839) the whole world took it as obvious fact that civilisation, science and culture began in Egypt, that this was the cradle of civilisation, and that the Egyptians were black.
Then Champollion’s brother, and later his son (and later other people as well), began to change, omit, delete and falsify what the brother and father had written, in step with the full development of colonialism, because “what is not allowed to be cannot be”, i.e., that blacks have created the foundations of our culture. And so bit by bit the cradle was moved further northeast, closer to the cradle of the baby Jesus, where at least Semites lived and not blacks.
It was only the definitive work of the Senegalese historian and anthropologist Cheikh Anta Diop “The African Origin of Civilization” that set the record straight. At the archaeology conference organised by UNESCO in Cairo in 1974, he received recognition and applause for this work from the vast majority of participants. And Basil Davidson, the great old man of African history, honoured the late Diop in his 10 part series ‘Africa’.
Of course, these considerations do not diminish in the slightest the value of this excellent work.
Is it not a lovely thought though that our culture came from Africa, our democracy came from the Native Indians (that is, the Iroquois Confederacy, with whom the leaders in Washington held secret talks to find out how this thing called democracy works, while the Germans have copied their constitution from the US one), and our enlightenment from the Arabs? But, of course, we - the white Christians - are creation’s crowning glory.
1 - Ramahi, Kamal / Quintern, Detlev (2006): Qarmaṭen und Ihwān aṣ-ṣafā’. Gerechtigkeitsbewegungen unter den Abbasiden und die universalistische Geschichtstheorie [Justice movements among the Abbasids and the universalist theory of history], Theorie und Praxis Verlag, Hamburg.
* The book has been published by Ahriman Verlag. 410 pages, RRP 24.80 Euros. More information can be found here: http://www.ahriman.com/buecher/karmaten.htm
Source: Die Karmaten von Peter Priskil - Buchrezension http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=2957
17/3/2010 0 Comments
Author: Moshe Zuckermann. Translation into English by Susanne Schuster.
German political foundations lead a curious double life. On the one hand they consider themselves independent, yet they are aware of their fraternal bonds with the party who initially brought them into being, and now they exist "close to the party" which basically means nothing else but unconditional loyalty to the party. There is nothing wrong with that. Political entities need agencies to be effective in all areas where politics are spreading, that is, everywhere. It is therefore not surprising that those foundations would never think of organising an event or debating a topic that substantially contradicts the hegemonic direction of their party; their room for manoeuvre is limited and constrained by the intent and reason of the party in a pre-existing implicit agreement. Structurally nothing can change that and ultimately it does not need to.
Nevertheless, it is interesting what names the political foundations use to decorate themselves with. For comprehensible reasons the most important foundations have appropriated the names of historical, cultural and political personalities and heroes who embody the ethos and charter of values of these foundations (and their party). But the name says it all and is therefore also in part its intellectual and political programme. Thus it seems appropriate that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chose Konrad Adenauer and the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) Friedrich Naumann as patrons for their foundations. Whether Friedrich Ebert would have found himself in agreement with the now deeply unsocial Social Democratic Party (SPD) is anyone's guess. And Heinrich Böll too would hardly have been happy with the actions of the Green Party since they became part of the SPD/Green coalition government, considering with whom he showed solidarity during his life. But it appears downright insidiousness when the foundation of “The Left” thinks it can still carry the name Rosa Luxemburg.
Rosa Luxemburg's name stands (at least in the sphere of a genuine left ethos and moral) for something that cannot be done away with just like that by the "necessities" of realpolitik. Rosa Luxemburg's life, achievements and death symbolise unwavering humanism, rigorous resistance against the cheering on of wars and aggression, absolute insistence on the adherence of Marx's postulates of emancipation, consistent fight against enslavement of spirit and conscience and an endless capacity for compassion, a natural readiness to perceive the pain and suffering of human beings and animals. Being a member of an institution that carries Rosa Luxemburg's name does not mean wanting to be like her, but what it does mean is showing a modicum of regard to that which would become a guiding idea and point of orientation by the use of her name; indeed, this means being able and ready to expose ordinary thinking and fossilised consensus if this is required, even if it does not necessarily appear to be expedient.
Regardless of what Norman Finkelstein wanted to speak about in Germany last month [February 2010], it was clear from the beginning that his statements would be hotly debated, even before their actual content was made available for scrutiny. That is how it is when someone well known and provocative says something unpleasant which has already been registered in preconsciousness but which the self refuses to admit. Norman Finkelstein is not a dark horse: he has reported on the "Holocaust industry", of "anti-Semitism as a political weapon". That's a bit much for sensitive German souls who neither want their honestly meant "redress" discredited, nor their fetish "Israel", chosen as the dumping ground for their guilt-laden sensitivities, dissected. In terms of psychological economy it is more opportune, but above all it is ideologically more worthwhile to apostrophise Finkelstein from the outset as (Jewish) "anti-Semite" and "revisionist historian", which then makes the required debate about his statements superfluous. The carefree presumptuousness with which non-Jewish Germans defame Jews as "anti-Semites" when they throw doubt on their own shaky identity derived from "Jews" and "Israel" is curious indeed.
Escape into Unconsciousness
What happened? Rolf Verleger summed it up as follows: The German "lobby group for the Israeli hit-and-smash nationalism" is very afraid of the truth that Normal Finkelstein was meant to expound and discuss. "Thus a campaign was launched. Finkelstein, a man proud of the Jewish traditions bequeathed to him by his parents, was defamed as "anti-Semite" and "revisionist historian", and thus made out to be in league with the Nazis. The Jewish Community of Berlin, look-alike Jewish groups in the party "The Left" (working committees under the name of 'Shalom') and a Jewish working committee in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) called for a demonstration against Finkelstein. The Protestant church did not want to poison its relations with these groups for no good reason. The same held for the Heinrich Böll Foundation associated with the Green Party, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation associated with "The Left", also. All of them withdrew their offers to help organise the event. It was not enough that Finkelstein himself is a Jew and that we - the "Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East" - were co-organisers." A new forum for Finkelstein's talk was found in the "Junge Welt Ladengalerie" in Berlin. But this is a relatively small room, and Finkelstein's assessment of the situation was that the battle around his person would overshadow his real political concern, and cancelled his visit to Germany.
Rolf Verleger interprets this success of the "lobby", which has brought the church, the Greens and The Left in Berlin "into line again", as a "Pyrrhic victory". He thinks that it will bring counter-force into the arena and even suspects that there is already some "grumbling" going on at the Rosa Luxemburg foundation. Such optimism is laudable, as a political person one should after all open new or maintain existing perspectives. However, the accuracy of Verleger's assessment is doubtful. To justify these doubts, particularly with regard to the recent machinations in the realms of "The Left", two characteristic statements of relevant protagonists should be considered first of all. The chairman of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Heinz Vietze, and the director, Florian Weis, explained the official cancellation of the venue to Finkelstein thus: "We think that a debate on the Goldstone Report is urgently needed. However, when we arranged a venue for this project in December 2009 we underestimated the political explosiveness of Norman Finkelstein's lecture. We sincerely regret this. Unfortunately, our request to provide for a counterpart to Normal Finkelstein on the podium on 26 February 2010 has been rejected by the organisers. Our educational mission, however, postulates controversial and pluralistic debate amongst other things. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is currently preparing its own series of events to facilitate a factual and balanced debate on the conflict in the Middle East."
Making excuses is not a very respectable means to compensate for a lack of action and ethos, but they should at least have reasonable credibility and, if possible, be intelligent. What sort of political competence does it show when leading members of the political foundation of “The Left” think they ought to admit having "underestimated the political explosiveness of Norman Finkelstein's lecture" on the issue of the Goldstone Report? What could they not have known from the outset? Who Finkelstein is? The content of the Goldstone Report? What is to be expected from an analysis of this report by Finkelstein? And finally the "request to provide for a counterpart to Norman Finkelstein on the podium". Why did they think they had to do that? Does the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation always ensure that it has a counterpart with controversial topics or is it actually the case that Finkelstein himself is the counterpart of the current orientation of the party and foundation and that a counterpart was needed to counter that counterpart as soon as public uneasiness set in and they practically crumbled in the face of their own courage? In the statement it was claimed that the conflict should be debated in a "factual and balanced" manner. Do people seriously think that they are balanced in the actually existing arena of powers in the current German discourse on the conflict in the Middle East if they counter Finkelstein, who was ostracised even before the lecture, with a "counterpart" dragged along from the hegemonic consensus? And how "factual" can one be when the topic of the Goldstone Report is not conceived of initially as the result of that which characterises the unbalanced nature of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly in the use of force? As far as those kinds of realities are concerned, the left once knew how to debunk "balance" as euphemistic ideology.
"... successfully prevented"
“The Left” not only has a foundation concerned with balanced campaigning, but also a new confident and forward-looking generation being nurtured by the party. Within the last few years the national working committee Shalom (BAK Shalom) has been forming within the Youth Association of the Party "Left Youth"; its raison d'être appears to be articulating an enormous degree of solidarity with Israel in the German public sphere that might seem almost weird to Israelis. So much waving of Israeli flags in Israeli everyday life is only done, if at all, by the enthused nationalistic right. Besides, there are probably plenty of Jewish Israelis who might react with some neurotic suspicion to a borrowed and appropriated "Jewish" identity of Germans; there is embarrassment when Germans are excessively crazy about "all things Jewish". Associations arise.
Of course, the BAK Shalom could not restrain itself when it was about saving Israel from Finkelstein (in Germany). It is no coincidence that the main article on the BAK Shalom homepage on this topic carries a title saturated with victorious euphoria: "Norman Finkelstein successfully prevented". What they managed to do "successfully" cannot be described as anything else but a smear campaign against Finkelstein, something which the BAK Shalom has obviously been specialising in during the brief time of its existence and which the national spokesperson of the working committee has justified with these words amongst others: "Finkelstein is internationally popular with anti-Semites simply due to the fact that he describes himself as a Jew and as the son of Holocaust survivors his credibility and the absolute truth is evidenced." After fierce protests against his statement, Krüger made the following announcement: "A minor comment on this article. The paragraph "Finkelstein is internationally popular with anti-Semites simply due to the fact that he describes himself as a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors his credibility and the absolute truth is evidenced" has been changed into "Finkelstein is internationally popular with anti-Semites because simply due to the fact that he is a Jew and as the son of Holocaust survivors his credibility and the absolute truth is evidenced". There was some irritation with the first version because it could have been misconstrued too. Of course, there is no intention at all to take away from the fact that Finkelstein is a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors. The updated version now expresses clearly what we mean."
Isn't it nice that they do not want to take away from the fact that Norman Finkelstein is a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors? Not to mention that when these people are really generous then their courtesy will know no bounds and they will even uphold such facts. Whether or not Krüger's admission can be trusted remains to be seen. At times it seems that he and his ilk would dearly love to "take away" the Judaism of those Jews who do not fit into their ideological landscape, but above all that which appears to them like a desirable cultural good: that they are children of Holocaust survivors. Let it be known to Krüger once and for all: being a descendent of Shoah survivors is a very small pleasure in terms of life story, and in particular German institutions (indeed, those professing to belong to the left) should be very wary of playing their insidious rhetorical juggling games with this "fact". If Benjamin Krüger thinks he ought to fight anti-Semitism, he should first of all provide a basic intellectual explanation of this term; he should avoid it in particular to throw Israel, Judaism and Zionism, hence anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and critiques of Israel all into one German pot to cook up into an opportunistic stew and use for demagogical purposes, depending on the situation; but above all he should ensure that he stops attesting Jews their Judaism and the children of Shoah survivors their life tragedy in a rude German manner. There are unsavoury aspects which cannot be made allowances for, even with a young ideologue.
As far as Finkelstein himself is concerned, he has probably got no influence over who he is appropriated by and for which purposes. And who could wield that influence? Really only those that call themselves balanced, who practice the balance of views so rigorously that with so much equilibrium of opinions anything can go as "neutral" (but only to then notice that it is ultimately impossible to escape appropriation). Finkelstein, who is often attacked for his honesty, explains his concern as follows: "The moral challenge resulting for Germans could not be greater. On the one hand it consists in living up to the responsibility which arises from the crimes of the 'Third Reich' against the Jewish people, and on the other hand it means not letting this terrible legacy deny them the right to denounce the crimes of the present only because they are committed by a state which defines itself as Jewish. To face this challenge is in truth the most dignified way of remembering the Holocaust.
Whether Israel is a Jewish state, a state of the Jews, an ethnic democracy hegemonically dominated by Jews and further similar definitions is a subject of lengthy and intensive debates in Israel itself, as is well known. Orthodox Jews deny the state its Jewishness. Parts of the settler movement deny the state its Zionism (that is, their vision of it). Arabs living in Israel demand a "state of all its citizens". Sometimes even the possibility of Israel-Palestine as a binational state is mentioned, a possibility which appears structurally inevitable, and a few other alternatives which all show that that which is generally pictured as "Israel" is much more complex for many of the stakeholders than those German debaters impregnated with all sorts of sensitivities might imagine from afar. Norman Finkelstein is avowedly not a Zionist, which is a completely legitimate Jewish position. That may disturb or even enrage Israelis as well as non-Israelis, non-Jews showing solidarity with Israel and non-Jewish "Zionists". That is also comprehensible when such annoyances are to be understood absolutely. But what makes an allegedly leftist political foundation withdraw Finkelstein from the agreed platform for the articulation of his positions? What is it about when the Youth Association of a Left Party (which is how it calls itself) joyously boasts to have "successfully prevented" Norman Finkelstein (from speaking)?
Metamorphosis of the Left
The reason seems to be primarily that “The Left”, which grew out of the Party of the Democratic Socialism (PDS), is obviously keen to lose its status as a marginal force in Germany as a whole, to be able to command a majority, to be electable by a consensus, in short, to move to the political centre. This is not easy because it has to throw off much of what is attributed to and held against them by the (West) German consensus as old baggage. The parting with Socialism is one of the easiest things: If nothing can be achieved socially in a capitalism which is raging more than ever, there is plenty of reason to pay lip service to a Socialism which is not going to happen anyway, depending on how opportune it appears to be in power-political and discursive terms. It is then a secondary issue whether they still want Socialism or whether they want to be seen as reformed pro-capitalists.
But the real acid test in the German odyssey to arrive in the national consensus is the publicly acceptable answer of the new million dollar question: one's stance on Israel, Jews, Zionism, anti-Semitism and so on and so forth. Gregor Gysi's lecture at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state Israel in the spring of 2008 already indicated the ideological strategy of the initially subtly looming change in attitude; he indicated (motivated by realpolitik) that it was time for a new orientation. Former anti-Zionists with a loyalty to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) therefore have a hard time, they think they ought to "make up" for the "sin of their youth" with an even more steadfast love of Zionism and solidarity with Israel. Many former West German leftists are currently reshaping their firmly anti-Israeli past by insisting that it is unfair holding it against them since they have been disabused in the meantime, hence they have progressed to busy hunters of anti-Semites and active campaigners against anti-Zionism and anything on the left that does not profess unreserved solidarity with Israel (and which is thus “anti-Semitic”). While people should indeed be allowed to change, we should always be suspicious of those who have turned in an overly carefree manner from once-staunch opponents of Zionism and Israel into fetish-obsessed lovers and admirers of Israel; the radicalness of their transformation says a lot, it thus raised the suspicion that both now and then it was the same resentments that prompted them to stay and act on both sides of the ideological fence. The political reliability of persons who are led mainly by their own narcissistic sensitivities when it comes to the confrontation with the collective history of their people, which is ostensibly guided by responsibility, is an entirely different question.
Source: Von Stiftungen und Anstiftern - Zur aktuellen Kontroverse um Norman G. Finkelsteinhttp://www.jungewelt.de/2010/03-02/022.php
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