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Archive for 'Empire'

A last stand for the Davos ‘gods’?

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
1st February 2016


Davos

After yet another Elysian gathering of corporate executives, politicians and celebrities in the Swiss mountains, the Davos elite appear more disconnected from the socio-economic realities facing humanity than ever before, and increasingly deluded about the role they can play in creating a sustainable future.


Although the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) mission statement claims that it is “committed to improving the state of the world”, it’s clear that the influence the ‘Davos class’ has exerted over global policy decisions has been overwhelmingly detrimental – especially over the past decade as mounting financial, environmental and social crises have converged to create a highly precarious world situation.

For a number of years in the run-up to the annual event, Oxfam has released widely-reported research with hard-hitting statistics that highlight the obscene levels of inequality that many of those attending Davos are both responsible for and benefit from. Predictably, the extreme concentration of wealth has reached a new high: a single coachload of 62 billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population – a number that has steadily fallen from 388 billionaires in 2010. Earlier than previously predicted, the richest 1% (which include many delegates at Davos) own as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, while the financial value of the remaining 99% has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010 – a staggering drop of 41%.

Despite the WEF’s questionable commitment to improving the state of the world (not to mention last year’s contrived motto of ‘sharing and caring’), the issue of inequality was noticeably pushed down the agenda at this year’s gathering, even as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen apace. Instead, the official theme at Davos 2016 was “mastering the fourth industrial revolution”, with its promise of abundant new business opportunities and robotic automation that is more likely to further entrench corporate power than address global inequalities.

A survey conducted by PricewaterhousCoopers (PwC) especially for this year’s Alpine retreat reveals that climate change is also of relatively minor concern for global business leaders, even though 2015 was officially the hottest year on record and saw a spate of extreme weather events around the world. In a clear indication of the gulf that exists between corporate priorities and pressing ecological and social imperatives, the primary concern among the 1,400 CEOs interviewed by PwC was the impact of excessive government regulation – despite the widely accepted need for more effective government intervention in order to safeguard the environment and prevent further financial crises.

Subverting democracy

Nothing illustrates the entrenched neoliberal mind-set of business gurus and policymakers at Davos more clearly than their obsession with deregulation and ‘techno-fixes’ in the face of a global crisis that ultimately necessitates tighter controls on corporate activity, alongside a far-reaching moral rather than technological revolution. But the grand designs of the corporate elite don’t end there: a new and completely undemocratic model of global governance is being furtively established by the Davos class in a bid to clear away the ‘red-tape’ of public oversight.

As exposed in the Transnational Institute’s State of Power 2016 report, the WEF’s Global Redesign Initiative seeks to advance a purely corporate vision of governance in which decision-making processes between elected governments are marginalised in favour of those made by unaccountable stakeholders, such as transnational corporations and influential philanthropists – regardless of the impact this would have on democracy.

Drawing on the report, Nick Buxton writes: “There is considerable evidence that past WEFs have stimulated free trade agreements such as NAFTA [and] helped rein in regulation of Wall Street in the aftermath of the financial crisis”. He goes on to warn us not to be complacent about the significance and impact of exclusive meetings of elites such as those that take place each year in the Swiss Alps, as “we are increasingly entering a world where gatherings such as Davos are not laughable billionaire playgrounds, but rather the future of global governance. It is nothing less than a silent global coup d’etat”.

Nonetheless, the corporate strategy of undermining democracy and maximising income (for the few) seems increasingly unsustainable in light of the escalating social unrest and environmental degradation that this approach propagates. It’s becoming increasingly clear to a broad swath of progressives and activists that precious little time remains to dramatically reform the way we organise society so that governments, economic systems and businesses are primarily geared towards securing basic human needs and safeguarding Planet Earth.

In the end, the covert political deals fostered at exclusive conferences such as the WEF could amount to little more than a last stand by the Davos ‘gods’ to shore-up their political influence and maximise their earning potential during an uncertain period of economic turmoil and political instability. Whether their strategy succeeds largely depends on how effectively concerned citizens mobilise to confront an unsustainable, unjust and increasingly undemocratic status quo in the months ahead.

Those attending Davos should take note: millions of people are already demanding a fairer sharing of wealth and democratic power in countries across the world, and there is every indication that this trend is on an upward trajectory. The possibility of finally mounting an effective challenge to the power and influence of a dwindling minority of disconnected elites has never been more within our reach.

Image credit: Ash Carter, Flickr creative commons

– See more at: http://www.sharing.org/information-centre/blogs/last-stand-davos-gods#sthash.lbdFMjL6.dpuf

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Empire, Guest Post, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Derek Wall’s Economics After Capitalism

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Stacco Troncoso
25th December 2015


Economics after capitalism

Republished from Bright-Green.org, gives us an overview of Derek Wall’s Economics After Capitalism.


The commons works best by consensus and, unlike capitalism, does not depend on constant growth. It provides shared access to important resources so that human needs can be met with potential equity. Anti-capitalist globalisation could be labelled positively as the movement for the commons…. Capitalism seeks to extend commodification; the anti-capitalist movement resists by conserving the commons.

In his book Economics After Capitalism: A Guide to the Ruins and a Road to the Future (Pluto Press, 2015), Derek Wall (International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales) discusses various critiques of capitalism, and examines how we can create practical alternatives to capitalism and build a ‘democratic economy and a future free of rampant climate change, financial chaos, and the ravages of elite rule’.

Here, we outline the main arguments of his book:

As long as capitalism has existed, in whichever form, there have been a great many voices of dissent, movements and thinkers crying out and struggling against what they have seen as an unjust, exploitative and destructive system.

Indeed, as Derek Wall argues in Economics After Capitalism, such ‘anti-capitalist sentiments pre-date capitalism as an advanced industrial or post-industrial system based on profit and investment’.

Thus, Jesus threw the moneylenders out of the temple and the Buddha spoke out against attachment to materialistic possessions, peasants revolted against the enclosure of land, Karl Marx developed an analysis of capitalism as an exploitative system but key to the progression of human society, green movements have challenged the basis of capitalism on consumerism and economic growth, the Zapatista uprising in Mexico fought against the suffering created through free trade, and the Occupy protests have challenged an economic system in which the top 1% of the world’s population now have as much wealth as the bottom 99%.

Following an outline of the ideas contained within his book, Wall begins with those he terms ‘anti-capitalist capitalists’, those economists who have criticised neo-liberalism, globalisation, and the economics of austerity, whilst still maintaining the need for capitalism, albeit in a fairer and more stable form. However, such arguments, Wall contends, ‘act as a vaccine against the virus of anti-capitalist protest’ — particularly those more radical voices who ‘suggest that markets are innately undemocratic, that indefinite economic growth is ecologically unsustainable and that the market-based system is tyrannical because it reduces human life to a narrow pursuit of quantitative advantage’.

The remaining chapters of his book focus, for the most part, on those who have been more critical of capitalism, for a variety of reasons. In these chapters are found the ideas of an array of writers and theorists, including those who criticise capitalism through the lens of corporate power or the workings of global finance; those who focus on the drive for unsustainable economic growth or the cheapening of human existence as ‘all needs in a capitalist society are transformed into the needs for commodities’; those who turn their eyes to the symbiotic relationship between capitalism and imperialism or the gendered oppression inherent in capitalism.

But amid all of this discussion of capitalist as an exploitative and oppressive system, Wall provides a ray of hope through glimpses of an alternative, not only some of the solutions proposed by different thinkers and movements, but various movements that have actually put anti-capitalist ideas into practice. These range from anarchists during the Spanish Civil War building local economies based on anarchist principles and reorganising factory production through workers’ control; to local currencies throughout the world encouraging local economic activity as an alternative to capitalist globalisation; to organised networks of unemployed people in Argentina who self-organise their own economies.

Returning in his final chapter to the question laid out at the outset of the book (‘How can we create practical alternatives to capitalism that work to put food on the table, providing long-term material well-being not only for a minority but a whole planet?’), Wall sketches some thoughts on what he sees as the best alternative to capitalist economics–a system in which the commons takes centre stage. Drawing upon the works of both Karl Marx and Eleanor Ostrom in emphasising the importance of the commons, Wall argues that ‘the anti-capitalist slogan above all others should be “Defend, extend, and deepen the commons”‘:

The commons works best by consensus and, unlike capitalism, does not depend on constant growth. It provides shared access to important resources so that human needs can be met with potential equity. Anti-capitalist globalisation could be labelled positively as the movement for the commons…. Capitalism seeks to extend commodification; the anti-capitalist movement resists by conserving the commons.

This embrace of the commons encompasses a range of struggles and movements: from squatting in unused buildings, to the digital commons of such projects as Wikipedia; from the right of workers to buy up the companies that employ them to renewable community energy. In addition to such examples of struggles for the commons, Wall identifies various other practical examples of anti-capitalist economic proposals, from a basic income scheme to wealth taxes, which will help promote a transition to a different kind of economy.

However, Wall warns us that under capitalism, ‘all alternatives tend to get corrupted, destroyed, or used to strengthen the system’. Both political parties and mass media are dominated by neo-liberalism, the rich and the powerful act together to preserve their privilege. Wall argues for the need for ‘tenacity, flexibility, and persistently burrowing away’ in the face of this power of capitalism, and warns of two failed alternative strategies: ‘to say that we have a basically fair, but flawed system’ or ‘to say that no change is possible until everything changes’. The capitalist system must be utterly transformed, but this is a process that needs to begin now.

The final paragraph of the book is worth citing at length, setting out what needs to be done:

The political struggles to win power to create change and take on the powerful need to be discussed in detail. From class composition to political parties, there are many questions that need researching. The question of ideology, our imagined relationship to real world conditions, is also vitally important to discuss. There are many more books to write, but material political practice is of greater necessity. Let’s continue the intellectual task of understanding capitalism and alternatives to capitalism in necessary detail. Let’s challenge the 0.001%, who currently run the world, and let’s grow a new system. The future of capitalism is inequality, instability, ecocide and, even where it seems to work, it’s a system, invented by humans, that uses (and abuses) us as tools. We can do better. A democratic and ecologically sustainable future is necessary and possible, but we will have to fight for it. Let’s build it now.

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Posted in Activism, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, P2P Books, P2P Development, Politics | No Comments »

After the Paris attacks: affirming our common humanity through a global call for sharing

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
5th December 2015


Pray for Paris

The terrorist attacks in Paris compels us to acknowledge the deeper causes of the resentment that gave rise to ISIS, and to unite behind a far-reaching demand for sharing the world’s resources.


A week after the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris, the Western world is still coming to terms with the horrific violence that was perpetrated on large numbers of innocent civilians. Understandably, there is much fear among the people of Europe and other Western states that further atrocities will be committed in the near future – not least within the United States in light of the Obama administration’s air war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014. Endless news reports and articles continue to debate how the community of nations should further respond to this urgent threat of Islamic extremism. But what should be the collective response of ordinary people of goodwill in the face of these atrocities, and how can we truly affirm our common humanity in the immediate time ahead?

While France and other Western states clamour for a “pitiless” war against terrorism, only the relatively few progressive voices are calling for an alternative to increased military intervention. Among these anti-war and peace activists, one of the most radical propositions comes from Rabbi Michael Lerner who advocates for an entirely new approach to “homeland security” – one that firmly integrates the principle of sharing into world affairs through a “strategy of generosity” and massive redistribution of resources led by the popular will of America.

In his latest editorial for Tikkun Magazine, Rabbi Lerner reiterates the need for us to embrace a new worldview that understands “our mutual interdependence and oneness”. This calls for an informed understanding that militaristic solutions can never bring lasting peace and security, and that you can’t simply bomb an extremist ideology out of existence. It also means acknowledging the deeper causes of the resentment that gave rise to ISIS, which would include the past 14 years of failed Western interventions across the Middle East and north Africa – where close to 300,000 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions forced from their homes.

More than this, however, it means acknowledging the unequal distribution of global wealth and resulting extremes of poverty that inevitably fuels resentment against the West. Rabbi Lerner cites the official UN estimates that up to 9,000 children under five die each day from preventable poverty-related causes, while at least 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Such is the “structural violence” that everyone in advanced industrial societies is morally implicated in, caused in large part by the unjust structural arrangements of the global economy that benefit big corporations and a privileged minority of the world population, at the expense of the majority of the Global South.

Embracing this broader awareness of our divided world does not remotely vindicate the reactionary force of ISIS and similar groups, who represent a level of murderous brutality unparalleled in the twenty-first century. But the horror witnessed in Paris calls on us to reflect anew on the “cumulative effects of a world lacking generosity of spirit and generosity of action”, which – as Rabbi Lerner articulates – “plays an important role in shaping the psychological underpinning that leads people to act out in various ways, of which ISIS is only one manifestation”. Now more than ever, we are called upon to shift our sympathies and solidarity from solely “We are all France”, to “We are the whole world”.

So what can we do to translate our global empathy with the suffering of humanity as a whole into practical, constructive action? First of all, we can follow Rabbi Lerner’s instruction to play a role in resisting the dominant discourse that pushes for increased military interventions on the basis of fear and revenge, and we can try and convince others to adopt this “new consciousness”. This may compel us to support the campaigns and activism of the many progressive groups who oppose an escalation of the destructive bombing in Syria and Iraq, which will only intensify the chaos and suffering in these war-torn regions, leading to an even greater influx of refugees to Europe and increased bitterness against the West. The many alternative options for curtailing the threat of ISIS remain largely outside of mainstream public debate, such as an international arms embargo or the empowerment of the United Nations in negotiating real political and diplomatic solutions.

But if we wholly embrace the emerging new consciousness that Rabbi Lerner speaks of, then we may also see the necessity of uniting behind a demand for sharing global resources rather than “simply focusing on resisting the policies of the right”. In a newsletter accompanying the Tikkun editorial, Rabbi Lerner questions whether the events in Paris represent a wake-up call to help us see that the only real response is to build a massive, peaceful social movement that can “take back our country and our world”. He writes:

“Perhaps this moment is a call to action – not to create a false sense of safety or security or to turn more inward – for ordinary people to rise-up and lead because our leaders are failing us. They continue to promote and use the same strategies of violence, weapons and war to try to bomb the world to peace and impose global capitalism around the globe. And yet we know this strategy and approach has not worked for thousands of years and it will not work now.

… It is time for a sea change and it is we, the people, who are the only ones who can create it.

… We will not be safe until everyone on the planet is safe. Until all lives are valued. Until everyone has the resources they need to live peacefully, securely, eat healthy food, have drinking water, education, functioning communities, healthcare, etc. We need to stand-up in a loving, compassionate, powerful and nonviolent collective way and demand that our leaders do what is needed to build a safer world for ourselves and everyone else on the planet and to make it clear that more weapons and more violence is not the path.

… [We need to] mobilize people to take to the streets in massive nonviolent civil disobedience demanding that those who support continued wars and those who support weapons industries either withdraw their support or we will vote them out of office. To demand that we move from a homeland security policy of power over, domination and submission to a strategy of generosity and kindness. To demand that our leaders are actually beholden to the people they represent, not the wealthiest individuals and corporations. To demand that corporations be socially and environmentally responsible.

This is a crucial moment in history. Let’s capitalize on it ourselves rather than leave it to the warmongers to do so because we know what will happen if they do. With a massive movement, we can turn to the light and away from the darkness but to do so will require each and every one of us to get out of our offices, our houses, our schools, our communities and even our comfort zones and take to the streets.

What do you say?”

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, P2P Collaboration, P2P Movements, P2P Subjectivity, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Chris Hedges on the need for civil disobedience

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
1st December 2015


pipelinephoto_590

Hard hitting commentary from Chris Hedges on the futility of appealing to corporate-bought regulatory agencies and bodies. You can read the full piece at Truthdig.com.


But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

It was 6:30 in the morning and George Packard, dressed in a dark suit, a purple clerical bib and a clerical collar, was at church. Or, rather, at what has become church for the retired Episcopal bishop, activist and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Packard stood with 20 other protesters on a chilly morning Nov. 9 to block two roads leading to the staging area for Texas-based Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project. After an hour, he and eight other protesters were arrested by New York state police.

Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

“This is the renewed presence of the church, people of spirit wandering around in the darkness trying to find each other,” Packard said to me before he was taken into custody by police during the Montrose protest. He stood holding one corner of a large banner reading, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” “When you find a cause that has spine, importance and potency you find the truth of the Scripture. You find it inside your gut. There is an ache in the culture.” Gesturing toward his fellow demonstrators, he added: “These are a few of the people who are speaking to it. This is what the church used to be. It used to be standing in conscience.”

The high-pressure, 42-inch-diameter pipeline, slated to run within 100 feet of critical structures of the Indian Point nuclear power plant and 400 feet of an elementary school, under major power lines, across a fault line, and below the Hudson River, would expose residents along the route to toxic emissions from compressor stations, along with the threat of ruptures, leakages and explosions. If an explosion caused a meltdown at Indian Point it would jeopardize the more than 21 million people living in and around New York City and the Hudson Valley. Pipelines are prone to leaks, breaks and explosions and are poorly monitored. On average in 2014, there was an accident involving a gas transmission pipeline every three days.

The gas in the AIM pipeline, bound for foreign export, will not be available to local communities along the route or provide many jobs to local residents (workers in pickup trucks blocked by the protesters at Montrose often had Texas or Oklahoma license plates). Residents, as is common along pipeline routes, have found themselves powerless to prevent the state from seizing their property under eminent domain and turning it over to the industry.

The protesters were from a local organization called Resist AIM. They had spent more than two years attending hearings and meetings with elected representatives and county and state officials, as well as reaching out to regulatory agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). But these officials and agencies, cowed or controlled by corporate power, ignored their pleas. The oil and gas industry controls FERC, the federal agency in charge of issuing pipeline permits, by placing members from the industry on the board. FERC has denied only one pipeline request in the last decade. The agency is a corporate front posing as a regulatory agency; most of its budget comes from permitting fees paid by the oil and gas industry. It rubber-stamps requests so the fossil fuel industry can transport fracked gas or shale oil in a series of pipelines from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other areas in the Marcellus Shale region to export terminals on the East Coast. The New York AIM pipeline, which replaces a smaller pipeline, is part of this vast infrastructure project.

“Front-line communities start out by being obedient and attempting to influence legislation and regulation,” said activist Susan Rubin, who is part of Resist AIM. “They put a lot of time and energy into their two-minute talk with FERC thinking that will make a difference. We wasted about a year and a half going to these regulatory meetings and writing letters. We did not understand that FERC is a rogue agency run by gas and oil insiders.”

“It is a hard conversation to have with people, even explaining how broken FERC is, that being nice to our congresswoman is not going to fix it,” she said. “We have to turn up the heat. We have to get loud. But we live in a culture of obedience. When I was arrested in front of the White House in 2011 it caused a shift in me. I realized signing a petition would not work. I realized I needed to be in this for the long run. There would be no short victories. I do little happy dances for a few hours and then I get back to work because I have kids. This is what I have to do.”

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, P2P Action Items, P2P Ecology, Politics | No Comments »

Ten billion reasons to demand system change

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
30th November 2015


With the release of a refreshingly pessimistic science-based documentary that connects human development with the global ecological crisis, there is even more reason for concerned citizens to take to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand a radical shift in government priorities.


Has the international community left it too late to prevent runaway climate change and widespread ecological degradation? Does the typical citizen and career politician have the inclination to accept the severity of the ‘planetary emergency’, let alone make the lifestyle changes and policy decisions needed to address it? And can the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris really signal an end to the unregulated dumping of carbon emissions, or mark a shift away from the business-as-usual approach to economic development?

These are among the many troubling questions that emerge when watching a new documentary written and presented by one of the world’s foremost scientists, Professor Stephen Emmott. The film –  Ten Billion –  draws on a bewildering array of statistics to paint a grim picture of humanity’s future prospects on Planet Earth. As the title suggests, the narrative emphasises the overwhelmingly destructive impact that human ‘progress’ is having on the natural world, especially as the global population heads towards the ten billion mark at the end of this century. Given the ongoing failure to reduce population growth and curb ever-increasing levels of consumption, Professor Emmott argues that governments appear to be completely incapable of adopting a more sustainable socio-economic model, even in the face of an impending ecological catastrophe.

Notwithstanding its bleak message, this is a powerful and compelling documentary that can help raise much-needed awareness about the environmental dimensions of the planet’s interconnected crises. It’s therefore a film that (like many others) should be compulsory viewing at this critical juncture in human evolution. While the style of the documentary is reminiscent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the Professor’s presentation takes the form of a theatrical performance rather than a public lecture, and the director Peter Webber has made full use of cinematic special effects and graphical illustrations to add context and a genuine sense of drama to the final cut.

There is much in the film to commend, including the way that a wide range of complex and interrelated issues are considered through the lens of humanity’s endless appetite for material consumption. However, many environmentalists will (rightly) be perturbed by Professor Emmott’s brief but notable statement in support of nuclear energy as the only pragmatic short-term solution to the energy crisis. Others might berate him for suggesting that the fear of reaching ‘peak oil’ is unfounded: he makes the undeniable point that new and plentiful reserves of oil are being discovered regularly, and that there is little sign that oil companies will want to shift away from fossil fuel production in the foreseeable future.

A broader concern is that the film lacks a robust political analysis of the structural injustice and unequal power relations that are the true cause of our environmental and social ills. For example, central to any discussion about ecological overshoot must be the recognition that the richest 20% of the world’s population are responsible for 80% of all consumption. But there is little emphasis on how unfettered consumerism in industrialised countries poses the real ecological threat, and not population growth in the Global South. Nor is there any mention of the role that neoliberal capitalism or the ceaseless pursuit of economic growth and corporate profit plays in maintaining a highly unsustainable global economic system. And despite framing the crisis as a ‘planetary emergency’ only fleeting attention is paid to the reality of world poverty and life-threatening deprivation, which is a substantial oversight given that 4.2 billion people are struggling to survive on less than $5 a day and 17 million people die needlessly every year – mainly in developing countries.

As well as failing to explore these critical systemic issues, Professor Emmott offers no guidance for those who (having been moved by his presentation) might want to get actively involved in an environmental cause, and he purposefully avoids presenting a vision of how the ecological crisis should be addressed. On the contrary, he scorns the argument often put forward by so-called ‘rational optimists’ that we can “technologise” our way out of these problems; he dispels the notion that politicians and UN conferences are capable of implementing the policy changes that are now so urgent; and he suggests it is unlikely that the general public will ever be willing or able to change their consumption habits.

With no vision of hope or tangible solution offered at any point in his presentation, the audience is left somewhat bereft by the end of the documentary. Indeed, nothing sums up the film’s essential message better than the melodramatic remark that Professor Emmott uses to conclude his sweeping analysis: “I think we are f****d!”. Although this depressing assertion is perhaps appropriate in the context of a theatrical performance, many will find it unnecessarily negative, disempowering and hyperbolic – especially at a time when the majority of people have no appetite for ‘system change’, or are disinclined to demand such change having convinced themselves that ‘there is no alternative’ to their present way of life.

When pressed during the Q&A session after a preview screening of the film in London, Professor Emmott conceded that he didn’t understand why more people – especially young people – are not protesting relentlessly in the streets to demand radical reform. On this note, the Professor’s personal views are in line with those of Share The World’s Resources (STWR), who have consistently called for ordinary citizens to unite through widespread, continual and peaceful protests for sound environmental stewardship and an end to the iniquity of poverty in a world of plenty.

In light of the scale of the crises that Ten Billion brings to life, it is safe to assume that mass public protest is now the only option left to the many millions of people who yearn for a more just and sustainable future. As STWR’s Mohammed Mesbahi argues, “The real question we should ask ourselves is not why our governments are failing to save the world, but why are we failing to compel them to take appropriate action as our elected representatives?” With government leaders preparing to meet for the concluding round of UN climate talks in Paris, let’s hope that this uncompromising documentary does ultimately encourage more people to take to the streets in unprecedented numbers – even if it is out of sheer exasperation with a perilously outdated model of human development and economic progress.

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Video, Guest Post, P2P Action Items, P2P Ecology, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

TPP and TTIP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU

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Stacco Troncoso
23rd November 2015


TPPix

Reposted from Citizen Action Monitor, TPP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU.


Why aren’t Canada’s political, social, labour and environmental NGOs jumping all over this initiative?

Margaret Flowers“You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.”Margaret Flowers

On a related note, The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based NGO has, since 1995, been doing magnificent work with communities to establish Community Rights – such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability. They have worked at the local municipal level to establish Community Rights. Communities that have established Community Rights ordinances have faced legal challenges from corporate and states. In response, CELDF has recently begun building on grassroots organizing to drive change to the state level, bringing together communities from across states to build State Community Rights Networks. For more information, visit the CELDF website by clicking on the about linked name.

Returning to TPP-Free Zones, so far no Canadian communities appear on the world map of TPP-Free Zones. To access this map, click on the following linked title. The repost below includes a link to this map as well as all the other details and links to affiliated information sources.

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Communities Reject Rigged Trade, Create TPP/TTIP-Free Zones by Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance, October 4, 2015

Note: You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.

As negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) inch toward completion, resistance to it and the other rigged corporate international treaties, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA), is escalating.

A powerful form of resistance is underway in communities across the United States and the European Union – people are passing resolutions opposing these ‘trade agreements,’ which are actually international treaties that should not be allowed to fast track through Congress, to create TPP and TTIP-free zones.

In the European Union, activists are working to pass 10,000 such resolutions. In collaboration with the public service union, Unison, Global Justice Now, is providing helpful materials. Global Justice Now reports:

“It’s not just the UK. In Austria, Germany, France and Belgium there are significant numbers of TTIP Free Zones being declared by local authorities. When EU and US negotiators in Brussels leave their meetings they immediately walk out into the Brussels municipality which is itself a TTIP Free Zone.

There are 39 ‘no TTIP’ councils in Spain and a good covering in Northern Italy. This is a Europe-wide movement of local resistance to the corporate power grab that TTIP represents.”

During the fight to stop Congress from passing Fast Track legislation that will be used to rush these agreements through Congress, cities from Seattle, WA to Madison, WI to New York, NY passed resolutions against Fast Track. Labor played a big part in making these successful. Now, new resolutions are underway in more cities with the goal of 100.

On October 8, a resolution will be voted upon in Miami, FL, potentially making it a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone before the next round of TTIP negotiations there. Click here for details.

Organizing a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone is a great way to raise awareness of the ways that these secret rigged corporate deals will directly impact our communities. From the prohibition of “Buy America” practices to the new powers for corporations to sue over public health and safety laws that interfere with their profits to the outsourcing of jobs, lowering of wages, reduction of food safety and raising the costs of health care, the TPP and TTIP place corporate profits over protection of people and the planet.

Here is more information on how to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone from the Alliance for Democracy:

“If you, our un-elected representatives, create this corporate-driven monstrosity and then go to Congress for a rubber stamp, WE WILL NOT OBEY.”

Which cities have gone TPP/TTIP/TiSA Free?

This map shows which US cities and counties have passed TPP Free Zone ordinances or resolutions against Fast Track, TPP or other pending trade pacts like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

It is time to make our municipalities “TPP Free Zones,” following in the footsteps of the successful resistance to an earlier trade agreement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was defeated in 1998 thanks to a global grassroots campaign.

What is a TPP-Free Zone?

AfD Co-Chair Ruth Caplan explains how local organizing for “TPP-Free Zone” laws can help defeat this so-called “free trade” agreement while supporting global civil society movements for economic and environmental justice and local democracy.

Educate for action: Our Fall 2012 issue of Justice Rising focused on international resistance to corporate global trade agreements, including the TPP. To read it online, click here. If you’d like to a copy, contact us at afd, The Alliance for Democracy or call 781-894-1179.

There’s more information, videos and resources on our TPP page.

Questions? Ideas? Resources? We’d like to hear from you. Contact the Alliance for Democracy office at afd (at) thealliancefordemocracy (dot) org, or 781-894-1179.


Lead image by Backbone Campaign

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Movement, P2P Rights, Politics | No Comments »

50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
15th November 2015


By Thomas Greco

The problem is all inside your head, I told the Greeks
The answer is easy, you need only stop the leaks
The power is yours to claim the freedom that you seek
There must be fifty ways to leave the Euro
          (Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

Following the resounding “NO” vote by the Greek people on the bailout conditions in the July referendum, the negotiations between the Greek government and “the institutions” resumed with the expectation that a better deal for Greece would ensue. The outcome was quite the contrary. Greek negotiators ended up agreeing to a bailout deal that was far more onerous than the one the voters had rejected. Why?

The harsh reality is that the Greek government is insolvent. Having been lured into the debt-trap and the shared euro currency by western oligarchs using a combination of measures, including outright fraud, Greece was forced to accept the onerous conditions attached to the first two bailouts. Now it has been bludgeoned into accepting a third. The weapon of choice is the euro currency itself which is being wielded by the European Central Bank (ECB). By throttling the flow of euro currency into the country, the ECB last summer created near chaos in the Greek economy. This, and the threat of even more severe punishment in the future, was enough to bring the Greek government to heel.

With sovereign debt up around 180% of GDP, there is no way that the Greek government will ever be able to grow its way out of the current mess. The draconian measures demanded by the creditor institutions will just make it worse. Even the IMF has acknowledged (with apparent reluctance) that some debt relief is necessary for the Greek economy to recover. The new agreement forces the Greek government to yield even more sovereignty and to open its economy and its people more fully to exploitation by corporate interests and transnational banking institutions.

While the Greek government may be insolvent, the nation of Greece is not poor, at least not yet. But many of the conditions being imposed on the Greek government and the Greek economy will change all that. These include the demands for privatization of public assets, as well as the debt repayments and increasing tax burdens that are doing great harm to family-run businesses and mid-level enterprise that form the backbone of the Greek economy.

The fact is that Greece is blessed with many riches and the vultures from the west would dearly love get their hands on all of them. All the negotiations, past and present, have been about pressuring the Greek government to help them do it. Investigative reporter Greg Palast, with Michael Nevradakis, in a recent article spotlighted a fundamental root of the current problem saying that, “… the euro itself ..is the virus responsible for Greece’s economic ills,” and “The imposition of the euro had one true goal: To end the European welfare state.” So it isn’t Greece alone that has been a target. Palast and Nevradakis continue, pointing out that, “Each Eurozone nation, unable to control neither the value of its own currency, nor its own budget, nor its own fiscal policy, could only compete for business by slashing regulations and taxes.”

But the roots of the problem go even deeper than the euro currency. The present eurozone crisis is but one current example of the elite agenda that was kicked into high gear during the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s and became codified in the “Washington Consensus.” Using international trade agreements and institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank as their instruments, “the powers of financial capitalism” have been able to easily invade one country after another with toxic loans, enabling them to wield increasing power as they loot the commons and convert all manner of publicly owned assets to private corporate profit centers. Professor Carroll Quigley, mentor to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, revealed almost 50 years ago that “…the powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. ”

Fortunately, in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, money and banking are at long last again becoming common topics for political debate. People are waking up to the fact that those who control money control economics, politics, and virtually everything else. Yet we have all been duped into allowing the money power to be turned over to unelected and often unknown persons. The result has been the subversion of democratic government, increasing disparities in incomes and wealth, and economic hardship and impoverishment of the masses.

Greece is now the pivot point of a struggle that has been ongoing for a long time. People around the world must now decide whether we will create a “new world order” based on democratic government by and for the people, or allow ourselves to be herded into a neo-feudal society dominated by the few at the top of the international banking and corporate pyramid.

In the wake of his re-election victory on September 20, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to argue that Greece’s economy cannot recover from its deep depression unless the burden of servicing its debt is eased. As things stand at this moment, it seems the best the Greek government can do is to negotiate a stretching out its debt repayment schedule. That may buy a bit more time, but will not be enough to cure the “disease.”

Despite all the fear mongering and predictions about the dire consequences that might result from Greece’s exit from the eurozone (Grexit), the choice is clear for the Greek government, either it will continue to surrender its people and its economy to be raped and plundered, or it will declare its independence, withdraw from the eurozone, and do what needs to be done to rebuild its economy on its own terms. How might that be done?

Now that we recognize what the elite agenda is and the true nature of the political currencies that are being used to beat governments and peoples into submission, it is clear that we must find ways to (1) disencumber ourselves of obligations that have been fraudulently imposed on us, (2) reduce our dependence on systems and structures that cheat and disempower us, and (3) build functional alternatives that serve the common good. Here are the steps that will eventually need to be taken by Greece and others that find themselves in a similar predicament.

Continue to read the full article on Common Dreams – http://commondreams.org/views/2015/11/06/50-ways-leave-euro-greece-and-global-crisis

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Posted in Empire, P2P Money, Politics | 1 Comment »

Essay of the Day: the Concept of a Transnational Capitalist Class

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
15th October 2015


* Essay: THE TRANSFORMATION OF CONTEMPORARY CAPITALISM AND THE CONCEPT OF A TRANSNATIONAL CAPITALIST CLASS: A CRITICAL REVIEW IN NEO-POULANTZIAN PERSPECTIVE. By Joachim Hirsch and Jens Wissel.

From the abstract:

“In the last 40 years, various authors have argued that a new transnational capitalist class (TCC) has emerged, which operates across the borders of national states. The approaches in question are debated widely in the social sciences, not only because of their theoretical assumptions and the empir- ical evidence provided, but also because international power relations are changing, not least in the context of the current crisis. The main claim of the authors in question appears to be validated by the advancing interna- tionalization of capital relations and by the internationalization of the state. It appears that these processes have gained traction with the neoliberal trans- formation of capitalism.

If this claim is true, it follows that there are far-reaching changes to state structures, the international state system, and the trajectory of social conflicts and struggles. Alterations in class relations are specifically important because they lead to new configurations of relations of forces1 and power apparatuses, and, in a second step, to new arrangements of domination and regulation.

The aim of this article is to review the approaches in question critically. We assume that existing theories of transnational class formation are charac- terized by significant weaknesses, both in terms of basic class and state theoretical assumptions and in terms of accounting for the role of state apparatuses in class formation…. “

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Volkswagen Scandal Confirms the Dangers of Proprietary Code

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
28th September 2015


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There is one notable aspect to the Volkswagen emission-cheating scandal that few commentators have mentioned:  It would not have happened if the software for the pollution-control equipment had been open source.

Volkswagen knew it could defraud consumers and deceive regulators precisely because its software was closed, proprietary and legally protected from outside scrutiny. Hardly anyone could readily check to see if the software was performing as claimed.

Sure, dogged investigators could laboriously compare actual car emissions to emissions in artificial regulatory tests. That’s essentially what broke open the Volkswagen scandal. But that is an expensive and problematic way to identify cheaters.

The larger question is why should a piece of software that has enormous public health and environmental implications be utterly impenetrable in the first place?  A locked box invites lawless, unaccountable and sloppy corporate behavior. It assures that hardly anyone can see what’s going on. Volkswagen exploited the cover of darkness for all that it could.

This lesson was driven home when columnist Jim Dwyer of the New York Times hailed free software attorney Eben Moglen – the former general counsel for the Free Software Foundation and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center – as “a prophet.”  Dwyer quoted Moglen:

Intelligent public policy, as we all have learned since the earth twentieth century, is to require elevators to be inspectable, and to require manufacturers of elevators to build them so they can be inspected.  If Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat, because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them.

But since the code is proprietary, automakers know that they have plenty of room to cheat.  Not only is the code inscrutable, automakers realize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only enough funding to test 10-15 percent of new vehicles. That means “self-certification” is the primary means of enforcement: an utter joke.

Worse, inquisitive consumers can’t even check the software themselves. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is a crime to breach the encryption of copyrighted software and look into its source code.  Wired magazine reported that last year, a number of open source advocates tried to make it legal to scrutinize copyrighted software for “good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing and fixing malfunctions, security flaws or vulnerabilities.”  But of course, the politically powerful auto industry squashed the idea, claiming that open access to the code would pose “serious threats to safety and security.”

The Volkswagen scandal shows that the real, larger threat to security comes from proprietary code controlled by large corporations, not from its open release. Why should we rely upon politically compromised, budget-starved government agencies to enforce the law against corporations who can use technological lockboxes to mask their deceits?  (The Volkswagen scam had been going on for years.)  Why not look to a supremely effective, transparent and virtually free form of enforcement – mandatory open source code?

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, some brilliant minds made the same point about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s oversight of banks and financial institutions.  Why not require the disclosure of key financial statistics so that inquisitive minds could use open data analytics to spot dangerous trends in financial markets with greater speed and ferocity than the SEC?

Volkswagen has shown why open code would make automobiles safer and more environmentally benign.  Why not open code, Moglen asks, for airplanes, medical devices, anti-lock brakes and throttle controls in automobiles? Open source is our best protection against criminal hacking and corporate fraudsters alike.

Memo to government regulators everywhere:  Want to improve public safety and environmental compliance at a fraction of current costs and before the harm happens? Require open source code on critical technologies.

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Economy and Business, Empire, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Ecology, P2P Legal Dev., Politics | No Comments »

How to hack the mainstream discourse on ending poverty

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
27th September 2015


The Rules team have initiated an ambitious campaign to ‘hack’ the official logic of the Sustainable Development Goals, in which they highlight the true reality of poverty and point the way towards real solutions for a fair and sustainable world.


In less than three weeks’ time, the world’s heads of state will gather at the United Nations in New York to officially adopt the post-2015 development agenda, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A massive publicity machine will soon move into gear to promote the good news of this global plan of action, which on the surface appears truly laudable in its quest to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet”. But is the high-minded and progressive rhetoric everything it’s cracked up to be, or is there more to this ‘feel good story’ of progress than meets the eye?

According to the campaign group The Rules, there’s so much wrong with the SDG process that its 17 goals and 169 targets are not only misleading and inadequate, but even dangerous. They argue that while the SDGs represent a significant step forward by aspiring to completely eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, the new agenda fails to provide an answer for how to realise its objectives within the means of our shared planet. While the overarching goals themselves have always been attainable, there is a delusion at the heart of the SDG process that suggests we can achieve them without challenging dominant economic interests and radically overhauling the status quo.

Hence the danger that hides behind the noble intentions: by playing along with the star-studded narrative that subtly tells us ‘the world is getting better and there is nothing wrong with business-as-usual’, we risk locking in the global development agenda “for the next fifteen years around a failed economic model that requires urgent and deep structural changes”.

The bigger questions                          

For these reasons, The Rules team have initiated an ambitious campaign to ‘hack’ the official logic of the SDGs and reframe the narrative on eradicating global poverty. Rather than buying into the mainstream story that we can “end poverty and hunger everywhere” by 2030 within the defunct economic paradigm of endless growth and debt-fuelled consumption, they have proposed a contending set of questions that encourage engaged citizens to see how the SDGs cannot possibly succeed within the existing political context.

As Joe Brewer explains in his piece on Hacking the SDG Discourse, these three basic questions can help us to acknowledge the root causes of poverty and environmental harm, thereby focusing on the bigger picture issues of power and politics that also point towards the real solutions to our civilisational crisis. Anyone can use these scripts to contradict the ‘feel good story’ of progress and reframe the fundamental issues. In so doing, we can also become more hopeful and empowered if we are asking the same questions, reaching similar conclusions and embracing a shared vision of a better world. To quote one of The Rules’ maxims: “To fix a problem, you first have to know why it exists”.

Click on the links above each question to see the short video animations that neatly summarise each one. See also the infographics further below that succinctly illustrate some of the key points of analysis and highlight the true reality of poverty and hunger, which sharply contradicts the received wisdom of global development. You can also sign The Rules’ open letter to the United Nations that declares how the SDGs are not in fact representing the best interest of the world’s majority – “those that are currently exploited and oppressed within the current economic and political order”.

How Is Poverty Created? #PovertyIsCreated
“Where do poverty and inequality come from? What is the detailed history of past actions and policies that contributed to their rapid ascent in the modern era? When were these patterns accelerated and by whom?”

Who’s Developing Who? #WhosDevelopingWho
“The story of development is often assumed or unstated. What is the role of colonialism in the early stages of Western development? How did the geographic distribution of wealth inequality come into being? What are the functional roles of foreign aid, trade agreements, debt service, and tax evasion in the process of development? And most importantly, who gains and who loses along the way?”

Why Is Growth The Only Answer? #WhyGrowth
“The mantra that “growth is good” has been repeated so often that it has the feel of common sense. Yet we know that GDP rises every time a bomb drops or disaster strikes. Growth, as defined up till now, is more nuanced and complex than this mantra would have us believe. Why must the sole measure of progress be growth (measured in monetary terms)? Who benefits from this story? What alternative stories might be told?”




Further resources:

The story of poverty – The Rules

How To Feel Good About Global Poverty, by Martin Kirk, Fact Co.Exist

Hacking the SDG Discourse: A Narrative Strategy for Changing the Story of Global Development, by Joe Brewer, Medium.com

Who Framed Global Development? Language Analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals, by Joe Brewer, SlideShare

Three Ways Humans Create Poverty, by Jason Hickel, Joe Brewer, and Martin Kirk, Fact Co.Exist

SDGs and the Problem with Saving the World, by Jason Hickel, Jacobin

– See more at: http://www.sharing.org/information-centre/blogs/how-hack-mainstream-discourse-ending-poverty#sthash.Upii7zpH.dpuf

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Ethical Economy, Open Calls, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Ecology, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy | 2 Comments »

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