21 Theses for the People’s Ecology in the Twenty-first Century

Statement coming out of the Social Ecology Gathering in Lyon earlier in the year. English translation published by Janet Biehl, collaborator and author of biography of Murray Bookchin.

21 Theses for the People’s Ecology in the Twenty-first Century

by the Social Ecology Cooperative (Paris)

The “21 Theses,” dated July 2014 and published in November 2015, marked the birth of the Social Ecology Cooperative in Paris. In May 2016 I had the opportunity to ask Patrick Farbiaz, one of its founders, what the cooperative meant by social ecology. He explained that it views ecology through the eyes of the poor in the global South. It advances an “ecology of liberation” inspired by the “theology of liberation,” a formulation of Christian doctrine seen through the eyes of the poor, especially in Latin America. This form of political ecology has strong overtones with the environmental justice movement that emerged in the United States in the 1970s, which sought to organize those most affected by environmental disasters—the poor, ethnic minorities, women—and with the more recent climate justice movement. These “21 Theses” advance the concept of a people’s ecology (écologie populaire), advanced by movement of the “popular classes,” those dispossessed by capitalist modernity on a global scale.

The affinities with Bookchin’s social ecology are clear, notably the social origins of the ecological crises; the distinction between environmentalism (inherently reformist) and ecology (which in political terms is socially revolutionary); the orientation toward the downtrodden; the concern for localization; and the bitter opposition to green capitalism.

logo-c3a9cologie-socialeThe three founding members of the Cooperative Ecologie Sociale have been associated with the various evolving French Green parties (Les Verts, Ecology Europe, Ecology Europe-Les Verts, or EELV) since the early 1990s. Francine Bavay was elected in 2004 to the regional council for Ile-de-France and became second vice president in charge of social development, the social economy, and solidarity, health, and disability. She has since quit elective office and now organizes around local currency. Patrick Farbiaz works in the office of Noël Mamère, a deputy in the French National Assembly. Serge Coronado, an EELV officeholder, represents French nationals in Latin America and the Caribbean in the assembly.

I am publishing its English translation here out of respect for the cooperative’s effort to bring social ecology into the twenty-first century by casting it in global terms and for its emphasis on environmental justice. For more information about the cooperative, to see its other documents, and to consult the original French for this one, see its website at Ecolgiesociale.org.

21 Theses for the People’s Ecology in the Twenty-first Century

The People’s Ecology is the political response of ecologists who refuse to resign themselves to the domination, exploitation, and alienation of the capitalist system. It renovates ecological thinking by proposing a new narrative of ecology based on a vision of the history of ecology and humanity outside the mainstream. Far from being an abstract model, it offers a concrete alternative in the face of the environmental crisis that threatens humanity. Building the people’s ecology will recast the ecology project by conjoining the historic force of the poor with the defense of the planet and the commons.

This manifesto starts with the simple idea that there are two ecologies, one from above and one from below. The from-above ecology advocates developing an economy based on green growth. It seeks to be, in effect, the spare tire in the globalized capitalist system. The other ecology is the from-below struggle of the popular classes for survival, and for meeting their needs in terms of access to ecological resources. Between these two ecologies, the gap is widening every day, and it is necessary to choose. And considering the shock that is coming, the alternative must be a political ecology.

1) The global crisis that we are experiencing is multidimensional: it is financial, economic, social, cultural, identitarian—and ecological. This last feature is the radically new element that is driving the world toward an existential choice: the barbarism engendered by market fundamentalism or a politics of civilization in the lands of “living well.” The capitalist system, engaged in a logic of destruction, cannot be reformed, even if the green economy is making a final attempt to salvage a solution to its crisis. The “civilizing mission of capitalism,” based on the development of productive forces and defended by liberal thinkers as well as by socialists, has led to disruptions of major balances in the earth system that are poised to render human life impossible.

Capitalism is incompatible with respect for natural limits. The ever more rapid destruction of ecosystems, the disruption of the climate, chemical pollution and diseases it causes, the rapid decline of biodiversity, the degradation of soil, the destruction of the rainforests, global social apartheid produced by the brutal development of inequality, and the rise of identitarian and religious violence are the main symptoms. These crises stem from the mode of production that became dominant over two centuries —capitalism—and the resulting patterns of consumption and mobility. This ecologically and socially unsustainable mode of development is leading the biosphere to collapse.

2) The only force that has anticipated this crisis is political ecology. Political ecology has several currents, but alone among all political families, ecology considers it necessary to change the model of development by reducing our ecological footprint, by defending the ecosystems of the planet against predators, and by protecting the commons while meeting fundamental social needs. Ecology founded on the principles of autonomy, responsibility, and equilibrium calls for embracing universal values of protecting the land and human and non-human rights. The ecology movement became political in the 1980s in Europe and in other wealthy countries when the defense of daily culture converged with the question of the survival of the human species and the inclusion of specific methods of implementing democracy. It was organized by the Green parties, whose social base corresponded to the post-1968 student generation that had grown up during the affluent postwar decades. This social base can be referred to as the middle class, which has high cultural capital at its disposal and lives in the urban centers of large cities; it has configured political ecology in its own image and functions in its own interests. It advocates a politics of greening that sets standards from above and that regards adaptation to capitalism by means of a green economy as the horizon of political ecology.

3) Another ecology, issuing from the historical force of the poor, the ecology from below, arose in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This plebeian ecology, emerging from the large majority of the planet, animates everywhere struggles for the survival of humanity and of biodiversity. Native to the social periphery, it mobilizes millions of women and men against the financial and industrial oligarchy that is destroying the planet and threatening the survival of humanity and the conditions for life among the dispossessed throughout the world: against the destruction of forests, against large dams, against the extraction of oil and mineral resources, and for the survival of their languages and their cultural diversity, against industrial disasters, against environmental racism. … The ecology from below currently has not been translated into a formal politics. When it appears within the green parties, it is most often a minority.

It is expressed in organized social movements (MST in Brazil, Via Campesina, indigenous movements) and in the popular uprisings (the Water War in Bolivia, riots in China, anti-dam movements in India). It is still seeking its references, but already it has become indispensable, especially during such major meetings of political ecology as RIO + 20 or when tens of thousands of ecologists demonstrate against the green economy and its consequences and express through the Climate Justice network the requirements of social ecological movements … Gradually, the people’s ecology is spreading in Western countries, in peasant communities fighting industrial agriculture and the chemical industry, in popular neighborhoods where pollution is invisibly concentrated, and diseases related to the environment, the consumption of junk food and the resulting obesity. Faced with the accumulating social and ecological injustices, a new political ecology is both necessary and possible.

4) These two poles of political ecology have their roots in an earlier story that has been divided since its inception. Since the nineteenth century, a gap has widened between the scientific ecology from above, formed into large part by colonial science, hygienism, conservationism, and social Darwinism. Driven by the positivist ideology and the religion of unlimited progress, ecology from above influenced the first ecologists, often naturalists and environmentalists, in the twentieth century. On the other side, ecology from below is an ecology of transformation, of the people’s ecology, emerging from the struggles of workers, peasants, and anticolonial peoples for survival. Struggles for survival are foundational to the people’s ecology. The popular classes will defend not only their material conditions of life but also their natural environment, as capitalist modernity destroys their civilization.

Capital has destroyed the conditions of life and work of communities of peasants and artisans in the name of Progress, Science, and Reason. In this sense the Right as well as the Left have achieved a historic compromise based on liberal individualism. If we want to stop this process, the first task of the people’s ecology is to decolonize the collective imaginary of the left and of ecology in fighting this religion of Progress and Scientism, which is the basis of middle-class domination over the popular classes. The Terra Nova Foundation calls leftists unconcerned about the future “bobos,” since they have de facto abandoned the popular classes in favor of abstention or the National Front; in so doing, they are following the logic of socialism and scientific ecology in despising the socialism of their origins, of workers, indigenous peoples, and peasant movements, claiming they are now archaic. The decolonization of the imaginary thus contributes to the rediscovery of the values and history of the disinherited, who are the exact opposite of the market society based on profit and competition exacerbated among individuals: they represent consociation, concern for others, the common ownership of land, the gift, mutual aid, cooperation, and civility.

Patrick Farbiaz and Francine Bavay of the Cooperative Ecologie-Sociale in Paris

5) The people’s ecology was born in the nineteenth-century ecology of workers’ associationism, agrarian populism, Luddism, civil disobedience, and libertarian geography. Workers’ associationism is the taproot of the social and solidaristic economy; Luddism is the root of the critique of industrialism and mechanization; agrarian populism emerged from struggles and wars of rural communities to defend their lifeways and existence against the development of another relation to earth and to commodification; civil disobedience originated in methods of noncooperation in struggles used from Thoreau to Gandhi and passing through the Landless of Brazil; the libertarian geography of Reclus and Kropotkin, countering sociobiology, developed the concept of mutual aid and cooperation.

The official history of ecology recounts its emergence as a passing of the baton from scientific ecologists to environmentalist and naturalist movements with bourgeois sensibilities toward nature. After 1968, a set of currents, born in the 1970s, from a cultural and generational movement nourished by various influences (feminism, Third World, pacifism and nonviolence, libertarian, socialist self-management) came together and gave birth to political ecology and the green parties. This story is false because it deliberately omits the ecology of the poor, which in the 19th and 20th centuries never ceased to fight capitalist modernity and the damage wrought by Progress.

6) The people’s ecology, from its premises, is a rupture with the capitalist system with its limitless exploitation of resources, globalized trade, and capital accumulation. Four key types of globalization underlie the ecological crisis.

The first globalization was the triangular Atlantic trade system, based on human slavery, which resulted in the destruction of indigenous peoples and put in place extractivism, the grabbing of natural resources and raw materials.

The second globalization, based on coal and steam energy, generated wage labor, forced labor, and productivism, that is, the religion of production based on the profits reaped by colonial empires. Meanwhile enclosures put an end to the common ownership of land and transformed millions of peasants into extensions of machines. The destruction of the peasant community coincided with the birth of the industrial proletariat.

The third globalization, generated by oil exploitation, was that of Fordism and electricity, of consumerism and alienation.

The fourth globalization, using nuclear power, peak oil and renewable energy, is contemporary with the planned obsolescence of products and of humanity itself. This era will lead either to barbarism and chaos or to a humanist Renaissance based on global citizenship and empathy. The current globalization threatens the very existence of humanity.

Reading these four globalizations through an ecological prism shows that capitalist modernity has always been based on the exploitation of the working classes and the destruction of their ecosystems. Those who are dominated have never ceased to contest the domination of human and of nature, as evidenced by Indian resistance, runaway slaves, slave revolts, riots and peasant wars, struggles for the rights and the health of workers, and nowadays the resistance to extractivism, huge dams, deforestation, and large unnecessary projects.

What Is the People’s Ecology?

7) The people’s ecology is neither mainstream nor neutral. Ecology is intimately involved with social relations and confrontations from local to global. It places at the center of its thinking the conflict between the popular classes and the political and economic oligarchy, for the simple reason that all parts of humanity do not experience the ecological crisis in the same way. Inequalities in income, power, and cultural fluency, which lie at the root of ecological crises, ensure that some of us lack the capacity to protect ourselves from its effects. The aim of the people’s ecology is to eradicate social inequalities, starting by decommodifying water, air, earth and in general all public goods (health, education, culture).

The financialization of the world is the highest stage of the fetishism of commodities, where the only standard is King Money and the level of material wealth is the index of calculating happiness. The people’s ecology, against the dictatorship of the economic, has taken sides, and its preference for the poor finds strength in defending the living conditions of the poor, the disinherited, the dispossessed, the outcasts, and the unseen, to better fight ecological disaster. The crisis in climate, energy, and ecology will not be resolved within the mainstream but in the confrontation between the forces of the global economy and the people who are directly threatened by the crisis.

8) The people’s ecology is a political and ideological current of the Green and international ecology movements. It radically distinguishes itself from other tendencies:

Environmentalism. This tendency reduces political ecology to nothing more than protection of the environment. But political ecology is a comprehensive and systemic approach to the relations among people, society, and nature. An environmentalism that only defends wildlife limits itself to one aspect of ecology and becomes NIMBY-type corporatism when it enters the political field.

Deep ecology. This form of antihumanism emerged from conservationism, which has always excluded human beings from the ecosystem. Founded by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, this school of thought is based on biocentrism, which reduces to antihumanism. Although the people’s ecology criticizes anthropocentrism, it is not to be confused with an ecology that sets human beings outside nature

Liberal ecology, sustainable development, green economics, and in general all those who want to place ecology in the service of greening capitalism. Liberal ecology, which reveres efficiency, is based on the commodification of ecology. It believes that Nature has a price and that its economy can be regulated to preserve Nature for future generations. Supporting a historic compromise with the capitalist system, which it considers invincible, and develops suitable mechanisms like carbon markets ….

The people’s ecology. Pursuing the ecology of transformation, this radical ecology includes supporters of de-growth, social ecology, and eco-socialism. The ecology of transformation believes that capitalism cannot be reformed, and it sets about creating the conditions for overcoming it, through social practices, concrete struggles, and the elaboration of a political project that takes recourse neither to the laws of the market nor to the state as the supreme savior.

9) The people’s ecology is not eco-socialism. It is not a copy-and-paste of the theses of scientific socialism and ecology. It is not a successor of productivist socialism but exists as an alternative to it. So-called “scientific” socialism is based on belief that the development of productive forces desired and supported by the bourgeoisie has created the conditions for its own overthrow by the very class it helped form, the modern industrial proletariat.

This concept was reinforced by the ideology of Progress, the deification of science and technology, the development of technology at all costs regardless of its consequences, the disproportionate importance given to the role of the nation-state, and the negation of community identities. But capitalism went on to destroy peasant communities, the lifeways of artisans and tradespeople, and it enlisted millions of workers in an industrial army with no reference beyond the industrial and productivist revolution itself. In the colonies, it attacked ancestral civilizations based on the lands of the people it claimed to assimilate and civilize. . . .

The critique of technology is another difference between eco-socialism and the people’s ecology. Marxism believes that technology is a neutral instrument that can and must be put at the service of the working class, that technology is a decisive factor for social transformation and progress. By contrast, the people’s ecology considers that technology is becoming ever more autonomous and is endangering the earth and humankind. Nonetheless, eco-socialism is the intellectual tendency closest to the people’s ecology. The overlaps are numerous, and they can work together as part of the same international network.

10) The people’s ecology is not the same as de-growth. Even if the principles of de-growth are applied to the entire world system, the people’s ecology still finds it necessary to guarantee food, education, and health for the popular classes. Fair cultivation in these areas requires a model of eco-development based on social and ecological justice. In the South, in the poorest countries, but also in emerging and Western countries, this can translate into a policy of reparation (such as compensation for financial or ecological debt). The popular classes who have been excluded from the system may then get a boost through the growth of consumption and production in some areas. If decline in the ecological footprint is to be an absolute rule, it must not come at the expense of the popular classes. De-growth cannot mean recession. On the contrary, it must replace the quantitative growth of capitalism and its logic of accumulation with the logic of qualitative growth, which implies significant quantitative de-growth primarily in the dominant capitalist countries.

11) The people’s ecology is an ecology of liberation. It is an ecology of the poor in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Its founding figures are Chico Mendes, Vandana Shiva, and Ken Saro-Wiwa. It holds that the connections between Mother Earth and the poor prohibit the commodification of water, air, and earth. By liberating themselves, the poor liberate all of humanity and preserve the planet and all its components. The ecology of liberation has as a foundational principle that the earth is not to be owned.

The ecology of liberation is an ecology of survival. It demands access to rights as defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to housing, health, and food.

The ecology of liberation has a spiritual dimension characterized by a rapprochement between Christian liberation theology and the idea of Mother Earth that is found in the peasant communities in the Andean highlands and elsewhere.

12) The people’s ecology is an ecology of environmental justice. This movement, born in the United States in the 1980s, struggles against ecological racism. The ecological crisis does not have the same impact in poor neighborhoods as it does in wealthier ones. Environmental inequalities merge with social and ethnic inequalities to structure a territorial and ethnic-social discrimination. The people’s ecology is anti-discriminatory. In this sense it has a very strong relationship with the social ecology theorized by the libertarian ecological activist Murray Bookchin.

13) The people’s ecology is an ecology of the commons. The commons originated as an achievement of the farming community especially in the fight against “enclosures,” and it is at stake in social and ecological struggles today. Whether it opposes the patenting of life, land grabs, the appropriation of cyberspace, the privatization of culture, or control over natural resources and raw materials, the struggle for the commons is basic to the new ecological struggle of the peoples. The commons is reclaiming common goods, collective intelligence, and ancestral skills such as practical information that resists privatization.

14) The people’s ecology is a transnational and alter-globalizing ecology. It rests on organized social forces such as the peasant movement (La Via Campesina), movements against deforestation and large dams, the movement for Climate Justice, the movement against the imposition of useless large projects, the movements of indigenous peoples for survival, the movement for free software, and eco-unionism. It participates in the alter-globalization movement at social forums.

15) The people’s ecology has affinities with eco-unionism. Workers’ struggles against against social and environmental injustices are part of the people’s ecology. Struggles for occupational health against asbestos, lead poisoning, and toxic products are an essential dimension. The people’s ecology, like eco-unionism, advocates self-management. It advocates the direct management of companies on a federalist and decentralized model but also user-citizen control over production and the environment.

16) The people’s ecology is eco-feminist. The patriarchal capitalist system has oppressed and exploited women as it has land. Eco-feminism holds that protecting of the integrity of life in all its forms against patriarchal domination is a unified fight. Industrialism has turned not only nature but the female body into merchandise. The domination of nature by humans is intrinsically linked to the domination of women by men. Humans cannot establish a new relation with nature without changing human relationships between women and men. Eco-feminism advocates principles such as reciprocity, mutual aid, solidarity, sharing, trust, care for others, respect for the individual, and responsibility with respect to all ecosystems.

17) The people’s ecology is cosmopolitan. The preservation of human diversity is an essential element in the struggle for the defense of the planet. Six thousand peoples compose the planet, and the preservation of their languages, cultures, and identities is a key feature of the ecological struggle. Financial globalization tries to standardize culture by imposing a standardized language and cultural production. The war of civilizations advocated by the American neoconservatives in the 1990s gave rise to a globalized racism against people who reject the new world order. There is no national ecology. The people’s ecology is borderless and fights for global citizenship. Cosmopolitanism is the humanism of the twenty-first century.

The Strategy of the People’s Ecology

18) The people’s ecology fights for the creation of a new historic bloc: the coalition for the commons. The struggle cannot depend on the cultured urban middle classes but must bring together those who represent the modern proletariat: intellectual workers, the precariat, parts of the industrial working class, petty officials, and peasant-workers. The people’s ecology’s allies in this new historical bloc are all the movements that fight for access to rights for everyone and for ecological democracy. This bloc is a coalition for the commons, among those who are fighting for physical common goods (water, earth, air) and so for the survival of humanity and those who fight for intangible common goods (information, culture, cyberspace) against the new enclosures. This bloc is a numerical majority. The great mass of working people share this desire for a revolution for the commons and for access.

19) The people’s ecology seeks an ecological transition based on an alternative model of development that takes into account human needs and the limitations of the planet. It rethinks the social utility of production, ways of consuming, the purpose of our products, and how they are produced. It advocates the relocalization of economic activity and the conversion of useless or predatory activities, and the redistribution of wealth and work. In the fight against productivist agriculture, it highlights agro-ecology and respects the peasantry’s ancestral knowledge. The transitional program includes:

– an energy and industrial policy with a notable tightening of energy conservation, an end to nuclear power, the nonexploitation of unconventional sources of fossil fuels, and the use of local renewable energy

– the relocalization of the economy to avoid forced displacements and to restore control and fair resource sharing at the local level. It supports an informal popular economy and a new post-capitalist economy solidarity economy. . . .

To develop society’s resilience to the ecological crisis, we must collectively prepare to anticipate the impact of peak oil and climate change on energy. … [We must develop] global, continental, national, and regional public policies enabling democratic ecological planning; support struggles for the recovery of natural resources, common goods, and food sovereignty; and construct spaces for economic cooperation by developing a plural economy encompassing the private sector, a social and solidaristic economy, and public services. …

20) The people’s ecology rejects the professionalization of politics and its separation from struggles for social and ecological emancipation. The popular classes do not need specialists in politics. They want to decide on the conditions of their lives, their work, and their environment from local to global. Politics is everyone’s business. It is strong where social and environmental movements exist and express their force for transformation. It is weak where they do not. The people’s ecology cannot be absorbed into a party, although it can become a component of various movements, parties, or fronts. The people’s ecology is based on popular initiatives, self-managed struggles, the construction of democracy from below, and communal relations. So it returns to the origins of utopian and libertarian socialism, which initially wanted a collective, dynamic, and solidaristic response to liberal individualism, to the destruction of trades and rural communities, the dispossession of the popular classes by the industrial revolution, and their enslavement to the capitalist system.

The people’s ecology finds the Charter of Amiens [of 1906] to be outdated. The formal separation between labor unions, associations, and parties was imposed by the industrial revolution. Similarly, the centralized organization of political parties dates to that time. Today social change movements must co-develop a political project and set it in motion. Doing politics differently presupposes practicing democracy thoroughly, abandoning internal competition for paid positions in favor of cooperation. However, faced with this historic task, the people’s ecology movement cannot develop without a forum for political and theoretical elaboration, a capability to combine social forces engaged in the struggle, and the ability to articulate general perspectives and offer them as public policy. The movement that assumes this role must reject the outdated organizational pattern of a vanguard, with a program developed in isolation as a pre-determined model. It must therefore organize itself as an autonomous tendency within the ecology movement.

Our attempt to construct a political cooperative . . . was an advance over the party form, which has become obsolete in the 21st century. The separation between those who are said to be competent and those who are not, between political actors and union militants, belongs to the politics of the industrial revolution, where the popular classes were reduced to carrying out tasks. In fact, for the collective intelligence of the entire party and the society, it substituted the domination of one small group that imposed itself vertically on the rest. The conditions for that type of organization have collapsed. Inventing a party form suitable for the age of the network, of horizontality, is the task of the people’s ecology.

21) The people’s ecology supports the construction of communal democracy. The people’s ecology cannot build an alternative on the basis of elections alone. Without deep involvement of the population at all levels, democracy cannot exist today; otherwise it becomes a de facto census. The oligarchy has a stranglehold on the media, advertising, and polling, and it organizes democratic debate on its own terms. Citizens who want to reclaim politics must do it from the bottom, starting by federating transitional initiatives made by local communities engaging in social transformation and adopting values of the people’s ecology: autonomy, equality, dignity, and mutual aid.

Political ecology seeks not to take power but to change society from below while simultaneously using the path of institutions, protest, and social experimentation. This strategy implies the exercise of power issuing from below, controlled by citizens mobilized in line with the federalist and self-management movement. It continues today in the social movements that want to liberate spaces rather than frontally attack state power. It does not exclude the question of the state from its thinking, but it considers that the transition will give rise to a system of self-government where citizens establish their own power in municipalities, regions, and companies. The political organization must help implement these self-government practices and without replacing them.

Communal democracy presupposes the construction of a federative republic at all levels. The federalist principle will not be applicable to the European continent or to the world system if it does not apply at the national, regional, and local levels.

Regarding political alliances, the people’s ecology holds that the participation of majority coalitions for social transformation is the way for ecologists to become the cultural and political majority, but in countries where social liberalism has destroyed the basis for social democracy, leading to antisocial and anti ecological policies, participation in social liberal governments marginalizes political ecology and makes it an agent for green capitalism. We must participate in the construction of a social and ecological opposition, strengthening the presence of ecologists in all local, regional and European elections where autonomy can be built, and negotiate majority contracts in parliament, but refuse to participate in social-liberal governments that are the most effective instruments of capitalist modernity.

Written (in French) July 2014; issued November 9, 2015. Translated into English by Janet Biehl.

Five ways to practise anti-racist solidarity in Brexit Britain – Statement by Wretched of the Earth Collective

The media have predictably ignored the implications of the Brexit vote. Instead of looking at the increase in racist attacks and the morale boost given to the militant extreme right, they instead focus on non-issues of party leaders (in UK and in EU), and speculation about investors’ dictats. The wretched of the earth collective instead offer this guide on how to counter the militancy of the right and practice anti-racist solidarity. Apprpriate at this particular moment, but also good advice for the rest of the time and in all countries. Shared from the New Internationalist.

 

30.06.16-nigel-farage-brexit-590x393.jpg [Related Image]
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage poses during a media launch for an EU referendum poster in London. The poster was widely criticized as promoting xenophobia during the campaign. © REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A lot of people on the Left have woken up to the uncomfortable reality that racism exists in Britain. So what can you do about it? asks the Wretched of the Earth collective.

In the days since the Brexit vote was announced, it seems Britain’s white liberal Left have suddenly become aware of an uncomfortable truth for the first time: racism. And most notably, its prevalence. From shouts of ‘solidarity to my friends who feel less safe in Britain overnight’ to ‘so it seems it’s now okay to openly be racist on the streets’, many are presenting this well-established phenomenon as a genuinely new discovery.

So where have they been in the last few years when racism – both from the state and on the streets – has increased in Britain? From the introduction of prevent duty across educational institutions to ‘Go home’ vans targeting black and brown communities; from the rise of the English Defence League and Britain First to the vastly disproportionate use of police stop-and-search powers in black communities; from the increasing use of immigration detention centres across the country to the growth in violent islamophobic attacks – and even brutal murders – on our streets… Let’s be honest: has there ever been a time when black and brown people have been safe in this country? It is clear that violent racism and xenophobia have increased since the referendum result was announced. Various police forces up and down the country are investigating numerous reports and MPs are raising questions in the House of Commons. It’s only a matter of time before reports galore are thrown our way outlining this increase in attacks.

RELATED: Stop Brexit-fuelled racism and campaign lies by Vanessa Baird

White people seem to think that there is a small, fringe group of racists in Britain, but the reality is much more uncomfortable and implicates a large part of the white population in more and less direct ways. There are different forms of racism, from microaggressions in the workplace, to violence on the streets, to government policy targeted directly at black and brown bodies, all of which contribute to a racist society. We can, however, change this together, starting by undertaking acts of allyship with those experiencing the current spike in this country’s long history of racist scapegoating. Get informed on where racism and xenophobia come from and learn how to dispel the numerous myths regularly doled out by the mainstream media. Listen to people when they open up about their experiences of racism and xenophobia and don’t be dismissive of people’s feelings and fears. Saying things like ‘it wasn’t about race or nationality’, or ‘you’re being overly sensitive’, or ‘it’s a class issue, not a race issue’, only reinforces your privileged position by denying the very real feelings and experiences that others have to face.

RELATED: Busting the myth that ‘economic migrants are a drain on rich world economies’ by Dinyar Godrej

Moving on from awareness to action, here are some practical things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing increased discrimination, hate and violence in post-Brexit Britain:

  1. Call out racism in your workplace, your family or on the street. See a colleague facing discrimination? Ask them how you can best support them and do it. Racist uncle spewing a load of nonsense at the dinner table? Make sure you know what’s what and call him out on it or even call him in. Witness racism on the bus? Intervene. If someone is in distress on the street, it only takes one person to stand up and say something for others to follow. Acknowledging and calling out racism on social media is great, but calling it out in person is even more important.
  2. Visibilize solidarity. Whether through ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs in your window, or by brandalizing a bus advert, we can all take steps to use the spaces we share to make anti-racism explicit. We know that messages of hate in headlines or graffiti all contribute to feelings of insecurity and fear in communities of colour. Messages that challenge these manifestations of hate are a simple way to offer a reminder that there are allies in every community in this country willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with those most affected, to challenge racism in all its forms. They are a simple reminder that we are not alone.
  3. Intervene in a Stop and Search. Black people are 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people in Britain. When those getting searched don’t know their rights, police have been known to abuse the system beyond its inherent racism. Print a copy of this document which outlines your rights under stop-and-search powers and keep it handy, in a purse or wallet. Get familiar with it. If you see a person of colour being stopped and searched, you can pass it on to them and be there to explain it, if they ask. If the person being searched consents, you can also legally film the police on your phone, to help hold them accountable. A watchful eye can be a powerful form of solidarity.
  4. Call an airline to challenge a deportation flight. When a deportation is underway, the incredible folks at Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) will shout about it as loud as they can and get as many people as possible to bombard the phone lines of complicit airlines to stop them doing the state’s dirty work. Airlines are waking up to the fact that it simply isn’t worth the hassle to support the government with deportations. Constant pressure on them can lead to a halt in airlines helping with deportations altogether, and can help keep individual people and families from being forced out of the country in the meantime. Sign up to updates from MFJ and follow them on social media to keep an eye out for callouts. (And when you’re ready to go a step further, join an MFJ action outside of a detention centre.)
  5. Help stop immigration raids in your community. Keep an eye on the @AntiRaids Twitter feed. Form a local group. Put up posters in your area explaining what rights people have if they are approached by immigration officers. Physically get in the way of the van. There are many possible steps, but most of them are based on forming a small local group that can be contacted when support is needed, as well as helping inform others of their rights. This is a practical, direct form of action that can prevent racially targeted arrests and deportations, and for which a bit of white (and other forms of) privilege can be incredibly influential on the officers carrying out the raids. Here is all you need to get started.

We’ve named a few of the things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing racism and toward dismantling white supremacy in this country, but they are only starting points. Don’t wait around for something to happen to speak up. In whatever places and groups you find yourself in, be vocal about who is welcome here and what attitudes aren’t. Silence is violence and allyship is not something to be done in secret. Together, our voices and actions can overcome the chorus of hate.

Wretched of The Earth is a collective of over a dozen grassroots Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups, individuals and allies acting in solidarity with oppressed communities in the Global South and Indigenous North. Twitter: @WretchedOTEarth Facebook: wotearth Email: wote@riseup.net

International call for struggle and solidarity with Puerto Rico

A call for solidarity with Puerto Rico against the US-imposed debt regime from Junta Contra la Junta. No to colonialism, no to imperliasm, and especially no to the Oversight Board – the US committee that manages the colony. Translated by and shared from the Entitle blog.

“We are asking the international community and the Puerto Ricans of the diaspora to show solidarity with the situation that our country is now experiencing” 

Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States since 1898, currently faces an economic-financial and socio-political crisis with an economy that has contracted for 10 years, record-level outmigration and unemployment, and a massive debt of more than $70 billion, representing almost 70% of the county’s gross domestic product (GDP). Some have called it the “Greece of the Caribbean” and others have spoken of a potential humanitarian crisis.

The crisis is in important ways self-inflicted, thanks to decades of ill-conceived economic policies, as well as high levels of corruption. Yet it is undeniable that the colonial situation –expressed in US policies such as the mandatory use of the US naval fleet (the most expensive in the world) for imports to Puerto Rico, costing hundreds of millions annually; the triple-exempt tax status of Puerto Rico government bonds; the prohibition of any type of protection of local small businesses against large US corporations; and the inability to design foreign policies (including trade policy)– has also played an important role. The same can be said of the parasitic behaviour of the corporate financial sector which benefited from these policies. Any solution that does not address these issues, is therefore bound to fail.

PR1

In addition, there are strong arguments for not paying this debt in full. First and foremost, we need to recognize the social and ecological debt the United States has with Puerto Rico: from the US military bases that stole Puerto Rican land and water and, in cases like Vieques, created huge socio-economic and ecological devastation, to the economic returns and ecological damages generated by US corporations which have historically exploited Puerto Rican workers and land. Indeed, for decades, US corporations have operated from Puerto Rico without paying any taxes, repatriating more than $30 US billion annually.

Moreover, if, as the US Supreme Court recently confirmed, Puerto Rico’s legislative powers  emanate from the authority of the US Congress, then, the logical conclusion is that the debt incurred by the Puerto Rican government is actually owed by the US government which is the true authority. Another argument is that the vulture funds which have capitalised on the debt, bought it for a fraction of the amount they now seek to reap, with full knowledge of the dire economic situation and the risks faced in these investments. Finally, nearly half of the debt could be illegal, strengthening long-standing calls for a full audit of the debt before continued payment.

As a supposed ‘solution’ to this debt crisis, the US House of Representatives has passed a proposed law, cynically called PROMESA (promise, in spanish), designed by the Wall Street vultures precisely to guarantee that Puerto Rico pay this debt. The bill, which is supported by President Obama and by Hillary Clinton and is expected to be approved in the Senate, would lower the minimum wage in Puerto Rico for workers under 25 years of age, and would create a seven-member unelected board (to be appointed by the US Congress and the President).

This board will have powers to make all decisions about the Puerto Rican budget, make changes to the Puerto Rican public retirement system, sell Puerto Rican public properties, and approve in fast-track processes -over existing laws and the Puerto Rico constitution- any projects they deem priority for generating revenue. Amongst the projects that could be approved in such a fashion are a waste incinerator plant, which has faced strong opposition from local communities and environmental organisations, and a ‘super tube’ to transport natural gas across the island. The proposal contains no guarantee for a debt restructuring or bankruptcy process.

Besides laying bare the colonial status of Puerto Rico, PROMESA is a clear attempt to intensify the processes of dispossession of Puerto Rico’s resources and turn the island into an exclusive paradise for the super-rich. It also represents an imminent threat to the well-being and the lives of all Puerto Ricans. Various civil society organisations have begun organizing to mobilise against this project, while at the same time denouncing this colonial condition and demanding an end to it.

Cartoon of famed revolutionary nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos with the infamous Uncle Sam. Source: Acción Nacional Boricua Facebook page

One of these organisations, Junte contra la Junta has put out the following international call that seeks support in this struggle, which we reproduce below in English. The call is also available in Spanish,  Français,  Euskera,  Türkçe,  Português,  ქართული,  Кöрди.


International Call to Struggle and Solidarity against the Imposition of the Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A) in Puerto Rico

We invite the international community and the Puerto Rican diaspora to join us in solidarity in our country’s present situation. Let’s remember that Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898. Ever since the invasion up to our present time, the United States and the colonial government of Puerto Rico have imposed a series of laws for economic and political gain (Foraker Act in 1900, Jones Act in 1917, Gag Law in 1947, Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act in 1953, Public Law 7 in 2009) which have disrupted the social, economic, and political reality of the oldest colony in the American continent.

They have submerged us in a desperate economic crisis, with the intent of continuing to steal our resources while the living conditions of our people continue to rapidly deteriorate, thus exacerbating the precariousness of healthcare and education, rising costs of living, rampant unemployment, and rising criminality rates. A massive emigration has reached unimaginable levels, while there is no stopping the delivery of our country to big interests for their businesses and vacations. Currently, Puerto Rico has become the Greece of the Caribbean, with a debt higher than 73 billion dollars owed to Wall Street’s financial capital. The Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A), born out of H.R. 5278, pretends to bleed out the country for the benefit of the creditors (vultures). With the imposition of said board, true to the style of soft coups perpetrated by U.S. imperialism, the following would be established.

Protest banner against the Fiscal Oversight (Control) Board at the recent Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, June 12/2016. Source: juntecontralajunta Facebook page

The Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A) in 12 points:

  1. The seven members who would compose the board would be chosen directly and solely by the Federal Government. Only one of the members would have to reside or own a business in Puerto Rico. Not even Puerto Rico’s Governor or the local Legislature would have any power within the board or over the decisions that the board could make.
  2. The board would last a minimum of 4 years. There is no yearly limit established.
  3. The board would control the entire budget and laws of the country.
  4. It could render ineffective, at any moment, any laws already approved.
  5. It could sell assets (goods, properties, buildings, and public corporations, among others).
  6. It would decide which laws would pass and which wouldn’t, using criteria based on financial impact, even if it means a deterioration of the lives, health, and social resources of the people.
  7. It would have the power to freeze job vacancies as well as toreduce and fire personnel.
  8. The board rejects laws and measures related to overtime pay.
  9. It would submit the population aged 20-25 to economic exploitation through the imposition of a minimum wage of $4.25 per hour.
  10. It would eliminate the right to strike.
  11. It would not include economic incentives. It would not bring equality in Medicare and other federal funds. It would NOT protect retirement.
  12. It would protect exclusively the economic interests of the creditors (vultures).

We call on the Puerto Rican diaspora in every corner of the world, social movements, and internationalist political organizations to show solidarity and organize against the Oversight Board. How? Visit https://juntecontralajunta.wordpress.com and stay up to date. Find information and agitation tools. Organize your neighborhood and your community, doing teach-ins and information sessions, distributing newsletters, protesting and marching against the Oversight Board. ¡Let’s build a Resistance!

No to the Oversight Board! No to colonialism! No to imperialism!

Contacts:

 Junte contra la Junta (Puerto Rico)

https://juntecontralajunta.wordpress.com

lageteantesqueladeuda@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/juntecontralajunta/

twitter: JunteContraLaJunta @NoALaJunta

Comité Boricua en la Diaspora – ComBo– (New York, USA)

facebook.com/comiteboricua

comiteboricua@gmail.com

decolonizepr@gmail.com (Chicago, USA)

 

 

Orlando means fightback – There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Statement of solidarity with LGBTQ+ community after Orlando homophobic attack, but equally strongly anti the racist Islamaphobic agenda. Shared from anarkismo.net

There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

featured image

Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.


Orlando means fightback
There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.

We wish to draw special attention to the fact that the Pulse nightclub was hosting a Latino night with a trans performer headlining. We must be aware of the disproportionately high number of attacks that are carried out on a regular basis against queer and trans people of colour and we must fight to end this violence. Racism and queerphobia came together over the weekend to form a devastating result and these are two traits of the attack that we cannot allow to be erased from this.

We further warn against the Islamophobic backlash that has already begun in the wake of these attacks. We reject the use of the hurt that our community is experiencing at present in order to justify Islamophobia. There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia; our liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all oppressed groups and that includes our muslim siblings, in particular our queer muslim siblings.

While the media and US authorities have branded this an act of terrorism we feel it is of high importance to state that this act of terrorism was also a hate crime. Already attempts have been made to erase the identities of the victims of this attack, the usual ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬ crusade has begun. The right wing media wishes to ignore the homophobic nature of this attack in order to continue their scaremongering of muslims. This is incredibly insulting and does a disgusting disservice to those who have been murdered primarily for their sexuality.

Just like Stonewall, Orlando means fight back. While many advances have been made and homophobia isn’t as common or as acceptable as what it has been in recent years we still have a long way to go; the road we take cannot be one of assimilation, whereby we have queer acceptance in a straight society – we must dismantle the straight society.

We must dismantle the society that made it possible for someone to harbour such views about us and to carry those views into such a tragic action. Greater hate crime legislation will not do this, all it will do is cover up the cracks of a society that is already deeply broken by the violence of neo-liberalism.

While we have made many advances, for too long has our focus been on marriage; something that will not prevent trans youth from being murdered, queer homelessness, and closer to home the DUP putting in place a conscience clause to effectively exclude us from civic society. When our right to live is cruelly taken away at the whim of a homophobic gunman we are starkly reminded of how much of a fight we have left. This serves as a rallying call against the violence of a society that is killing us, we must make it known that these queers bash back. No matter how bigoted a person is we will continue to survive, we will continue to resist, we will continue to live.

We call for an end to violence – state-sponsored, homophobic, racist, sexist, capitalist, imperalist violence. This can only occur through revolutionary methods; through overthrowing the society we currently live in.

For now, we must take care of each other because that’s what a community does. We must mourn and organise.

WSM, 13 June 2016

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY ACTION-WEEK: OVER THE FORTRESS from 30th of May to 05th of June

A call for Europe-wide action in response to the militarization an imprisonment of refugees in greece, particularly the forced eviction of the Idomeni camp. Join actions, organise new ones, spread the call. Shared from Indymedia Linksunten.

– Call for action below – On Tuesday, 24.05.16, parallel to the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, the eviction of Idomeni camp officially began. In many ways, a forceful eviction began weeks ago. Idomeni has long been subject of structural violence from both police and state policies, which have slowly but continuously dismantled the camps aid-structures.

In the last few days, fresh water supply was cut, electronic music blasted every night, toilets were locked, and trash was not removed. Doctors, media and volunteers were denied access to the camp, slowly taking away the most basic needs. The distribution of food, dry clothes, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and medical care was systematically blocked.

 

As of Tuesday, police have forced people by threatening to increase violence to move to the military camps. But so far, media has portrayed the eviction as peaceful, stating that people are leaving voluntarily to military facilities, totally disregarding the aforementioned facts.

 

However, to represent those at Idomeni as passively accepting the closure of the Balkan route, does not capture the whole picture; compared to overcrowded military camps, Idomeni has remained the least horrible option.

 

Military camps have been set up in a lackluster and rushed manner, without sufficient infrastructure to cover basic needs, nor the right to move freely in and out of these facilities. Although some camps appear better equipped than others, conditions are widely insufficient.

 

Scarcely any of these camps have internet access, thereby denying people their right to apply for the asylum or relocation procedure. Food is often inedible and the majority of these camps do not supply baby food or family support. In many cases, the locations chosen are completely isolated, making social integration impossible, and creating a dependence on the poorly supplied structures within the camps. Warm water is only provided in very few camps. The intentional governmental restraint of any information adds up psychological stress to a constant boredom created by a solitary environment.

 

Let us not forget some of the underlying motives for the eviction of Idomeni camp.

 

Since the closing of the Balkan route, Idomeni has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom of movement on the borders of Europe. It has unveiled the incompetence of EU powers and the failure of EU policies, which far from solving the EU-political crisis, in turn created a bottleneck, leaving thousands stranded on Europe’s locked borders.

 

By using media to further perpetuate xenophobic and racist structures and fear of terrorism within the western world, Europe has legitimized closing its borders. Europe exploits the situation to further obtain cheap labor forces in a regulated manner, to sustain and maximize their wealth and security.

 

As we speak, Idomeni’s forceful eviction has already been implemented and will soon disappear from the frontlines of newspapers. People will nevertheless be kept in indefinite detention that could result in years of waiting in military facilities for Europe to act on their behalf. But most probably the waiting will end in deportation.

 

Military camps have been portrayed as the next step and “only solution” for those caught up between borders and legal abandonment. They are meant to be “safe places” for people attempting to access the discriminative relocation program or apply for the only choice available for many, asylum in Greece.

 

But in fact people are shunned into militarized camps to decentralize the problem away from the borders and spreading it throughout Greece. This hides the topic away from the public eye and consequently minimizes the pressure on EU policies to take responsibility. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

Is this not tarnishing a reaction to the self-interested and exploitative EU immigration policies?

 

CALL FOR ACTION

 

This coming week, between the 30.05-05.06, we will once again raise our voices and show our outrage against the structural oppression denying freedom of movement, enforced by Europe and its allies.

 

This is a call for international solidarity and outrage under the slogan #overthefortress, as otherwise this political and humanitarian crisis will vanish from the public discourse, and thousands will be forgotten. The idea of having any real future has been traded for visa deals and a booming ‘Refugee’ industrial complex. Lets take the responsibility we have and bring people’s hopeless situation caused by structural repression out of the shadows back in to the public perception to burn it into the ignorant mind of European society.

 

With decentralized and creative actions we want to condemn Fortress Europe’s racist policies and formulate an accusation. Raise your individual voice and show solidarity in protest and action.

 

Greetings, Idomeni

Press release from Greenpeace NL on leaking the TTIP docs

A great coup by Greenpeace, vindicating what the Stop TTIP campaign has been saying all along. My only fear now is that the establishment media with their love of balanced journalism surpress the main issue and  turn this into, well is this deal bad for Europe or is it actually good. Renewed pressure is needed to get the message out that the fact that it was negotiated in secret makes it democratically illegitimate and the whole thing needs to be scrapped. Here is the press release from Greenpeace Netherlands, posted originally at greenpeace.org. Share far and wide and join in your nearest Stop TTIP campaign if you haven’t already.

Greenpeace Netherlands releases TTIP documents

Press release – 2 May, 2016

Amsterdam, 2 May 2016 – http://www.ttip-leaks.org Today Greenpeace Netherlands releases secret documents of the EU-US TTIP negotiations. On http://www.ttip-leaks.org the documents will be made available for everyone to read, because democracy needs transparency.

“These documents make clear the scale and scope of the trade citizens of the United States and the European Union are being asked to make in pursuit of corporate profits. It is time for the negotiations to stop, and the debate to begin.

Should we be able to act when we have reasonable grounds to believe our health and wellbeing is at risk, or must we wait until the damage is done?

Were our governments serious in Paris when they said they would do what was necessary to protect the planet, and keep climate change under 1.5 degrees?

Environmental protection should not be seen as a barrier to trade, but as a safeguard for our health, and the health of future generations.

We call on citizens, civil society, politicians and businesses to engage in this debate openly and without fear. We call on the negotiators to release the latest, complete text to facilitate that discussion, and we ask that the negotiations be stopped until these questions, and many more have been answered. Until we can fully engage in a debate about the standards we and our planet need and want” – Sylvia Borren, Executive Director Greenpeace Netherlands.

Which documents are we releasing?

The documents that Greenpeace Netherlands has released comprise about half of the draft text as of April 2016, prior to the start of the 13th round of TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US (New York, 25-29 April 2016). As far as we know the final document will consist of 25 to 30 chapters and many extensive annexes. The EU Commission published an overview stating that they have now 17 consolidated texts. This means the documents released by Greenpeace Netherlands encompass 3/4 of the existing consolidated texts.[1]

Consolidated texts are those where the EU and US positions on issues are shown side by side. This step in the negotiation process allows us to see the areas where the EU and US are close to agreement, and where compromises and concessions would still need to be made. Of the documents released by Greenpeace Netherlands, in total 248 pages, 13 chapters offer for the first time the position of the US.

How have the documents been handled?

The documents we received had clearly been treated to make it possible to identify individual copies. Prior to release they have been retyped and identifying features removed. We have not altered content of the documents and have preserved the layout. For this reason we are not offering access to the original documents.

How do you know the documents are genuine?

After receiving the documents both Greenpeace Netherlands and Rechercheverbund NDR, WDR und Süddeutsche Zeitung, a renowned German investigative research partnership have analysed them and compared them to existing documents. The Rechercheverbund, which consists of different German media outlets, has covered, amongst other big stories, the Snowden leaks and the recent Volkswagen emissions scandals.

What are the first conclusions from the documents?

From an environmental and consumer protection point of view four aspects are of serious concern.

Long standing environmental protections appear to be dropped

None of the chapters we have seen reference the General Exceptions rule. This nearly 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), allows nations to regulate trade “to protect human, animal and plant life or health” or for “the conservation of exhaustible natural resources” [2]. The omission of this regulation suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.

Climate protection will be harder under TTIP

The Paris Climate Agreement makes one point clear: We must keep temperature increase under 1.5 degrees to avoid a climate crisis with effects on billions of people worldwide. Trade should not be excluded from climate action. But nothing indicating climate protection can be found in the obtained texts. Even worse, the scope for mitigation measures is limited by provisions of the chapters on Regulatory Cooperation or Market Access for Industrial Goods. [3] As an example these proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2 intensive fuels such as oil from Tar Sands.

The end of the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle, enshrined in the EU Treaty[4], is not mentioned in the chapter on Regulatory Cooperation, nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters. On the other hand the US demand for a ‘risk based’ approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters. This approach undermines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals.

Opening the door for corporate takeover

While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants. Opportunities to participate in decision making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision making process.

While civil society has had little access to the negotiations, there are many instances where the papers show that industry has been granted a privileged voice in important decisions. [5] The leaked documents indicate that the EU has not been open about the high degree of industry influence. The EU’s recent public report [6] has only one minor mention of industry input, whereas the leaked documents repeatedly talk about the need for further consultations with industry and explicitly mention how industry input has been collected.

END

Notes

[1] The documents we are releasing are

[chapter 1.1.] National Treatment and Market Access for Goods

This chapter addresses trade in goods between EU and US.

[chapter 1.2.] Agriculture

This chapter deals with trade in agricultural products and illustrates EU-US disagreements on matters such as genetically modified organisms.

[chapter 1.3.] Cross-Border Trade in Services

This chapter addresses trade in the service industry sector.

[chapter 1.4] Electronic Communications

This chapter addresses Internet and telecommunications issues.

[chapter 1.5.] Government Procurement

This chapter deals with purchases by government entities within the EU and US.

[chapter 1.6.] Annex Government Procurement

The annex of the previous chapter, with additional information about a US-proposed chapter on anti-corruption.

[chapter 1.7.] Customs and Trade and Facilitation

This chapter addresses differences among various customs regulations.

[chapter 1.8.] EU – US revised tariff offers

These are the respective positions regarding tariffs.

[chapter 2.1.] Regulatory Cooperation

In this controversial chapter EU and US aim for joint regulations on products and services, for example for food and cosmetics safety.

[chapter 2.2.] Technical Barriers to Trade

This chapter addresses differences between EU-US regulations and the ways in which they affect trade.

[chapter 2.3.] Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

This chapter deals with the protection of plant and animal health.

[chapter 3.1.] Competition

This chapter deals with competition between parties.

[chapter 3.2.] Small and Medium-sized Enterprise

This chapter addresses enterprises smaller than multi-national corporations.

[chapter 3.3.] State-owned Enterprise

This chapter addresses nationalised enterprises.

[chapter 4.] Dispute Settlement

This chapter deals with resolving disagreements between the EU and the US.

[chapter 5.] Tactical State of Play

Not intended for public viewing, this document describes EU-US disagreements and shows how much private industry influences the TTIP negotiations.

[2] Most of the WTO’s agreements were the outcome of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. Some, including GATT 1994, were revisions of texts that previously existed.

[3] Nothing in the relevant Articles 10 (Import and Export Restrictions) and 12 (Import and Export Licensing) of the Chapter on National Treatment and Market Access for Goods shows that necessary trade related measures to protect the climate would be allowed as a trade restriction under GATT Article XX (see footnote 1).

[4] “The precautionary principle is detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU). It aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=URISERV%3Al32042

[5] e.g. “While the US showed an interest, it hastened to point out that it would need to consult with its industry regarding some of the products” – Chapter ‘Tactical State of Play’, paragraph 1.1, Agriculture.

[6] ‘The Twelfth Round of Negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)’ http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/march/tradoc_154391.pdf

Contacts:

Dutch media please contact Greenpeace Netherlands, +31 (0)6 21 29 68 95, persvoorlichting@greenpeace.nl

Brussels media please contact Greenpeace EU press desk, +32 (0)2 274 1911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

International media please contact Greenpeace International press desk (24 hours), +31 (0)20 718 2470, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org

Open letters from Palenstinian refugees

Two open letters from a 22-year old and 86 year old Palestinians who have lived all or most of their lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon but have no citizenship there. Currently on a speaking tour in the US, these two letters were hand delivered to 11 US congress members.

Thanks to DissidentVoice for bringing these to attention.

April 25, 2016
Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I know that you asked John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to report to you about gross human rights violations committed by Israel.  My entire life is the result of such violations, so I would like to report to you about it.

I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as were my parents and some of my grandparents.  My family and the families of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine were expelled in 1948, a crime that continues until today.  This expulsion has a name.  You call it ethnic cleansing or genocide.  We call it al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I was born in Lebanon, but I do not have Lebanese citizenship because I am not Lebanese, and Israel does not let me return to my home in Palestine.  I am stateless and have no citizenship in any country.  No one defends my rights. Without citizenship, it is very difficult to travel, even to neighboring Arab countries. It is even more difficult to work, because we are considered foreigners and do not have the rights of Lebanese.

I am currently on a speaking tour of the US and Canada with 86-year-old Nakba survivor Mariam Fathalla.  We were invited by a US human rights organization to tell our story in more than 30 cities over two months.  We have met many kind and sympathetic Americans during this time, but we are very disappointed in US and Canadian policy.  Your country is supporting criminal behavior towards Palestinians.

We have also met many Palestinians who are living good lives in America.  We do not enjoy the same privileges in Lebanon. But living good lives in other countries is not a solution for us. We are Palestinians, and however much our rights are respected or abused in other countries, we demand our right to return to our homes in Palestine, as guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter and other international law.

If you respect human rights, you have to enable all Palestinians to return to their homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom and dignity. I am 22 years old, but when I am 86 like Mariam, I hope to be living in my home in Palestine. If not, I will return with another 22-year-old Palestinian to remind Americans of unkept promises and the support of your country for human rights violations.

Amena Ashkar
Resident of Bourj el-Barajneh Refugee Camp
Beirut, Lebanon

April 25, 2016

Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I hope you care whether US policy supports human rights violations. I want to tell you about such violations, because they happened to me.

On May 14, 1948, the “birthday” of “Israel”, my village of al-Zeeb in northern Palestine was invaded by heavily armed Zionist troops, and all of the inhabitants were expelled. I was 18 years old. After some of my unarmed neighbors were massacred by the invaders, I and my husband and our families fled to Lebanon along with the rest of the town. By the end of the year, our 4,000-year-old community had been leveled to the ground.

[title] [name], this is a gross human rights violation known as ethnic cleansing or genocide. More than half the Arab Palestinians in Palestine were killed or expelled and more than half of the cities, towns and villages of Palestine were made to disappear, a crime that we Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I have lived for the last 68 years in a refugee camp in south Lebanon called Ein el-Helweh, waiting to return to my home in al-Zeeb, as US and international law requires.  During that time Israel has invaded south Lebanon multiple times and even bombed our crowded refugee camp, killing lots of unarmed civilians, including children. Al-Nakba did not end in 1948, and it continues today.

Some good American people invited me to come to the US to tell our story to the US and Canadian people.  I have seen your beautiful country, and I have met many Palestinians who have made the US and Canada their second homes.  Our situation in Lebanon is not as good. We are stateless and have few rights.  But we are not seeking another country.  We have a home and a country, and we want to return to it, and this is our right.

[title] [name], US support is enabling Israel to continue its violation of our rights. We want only to return to our homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom.  I want to see my beloved town of al-Zeeb again and to watch my children and grandchildren continue our family there. What is the US policy about this?  What can you do to help us?

Mariam Fathalla
Resident of Ein el-Helweh Refugee Camp
Sidon, Lebanon