Welcome to Adelaide FoE Notes

We’ve decided to launch a fortnightly newsletter to keep you up to date with FoE campaigns, interesting environmental news and reviews. You’re receiving this as a member, supporter or subscriber to Adelaide FoE, or as an activist interested in our campaigns. If you don’t want to receive future FoE Notes, just click on unsubscribe below.

Each issue will feature three or four items, sometimes on a common theme. Each item will have a link to more information online.

The theme for this issue is Democracy and Corporations.

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The Democracy Project

This book by activist, anarchist and author David Graeber (Debt: the first 5,000 years) is not just an insider view of Occupy Wall Street, but also a discussion on the nature of power and democrary.

He was there at the first gathering, where with support from friends from the Global Justice movement, he helped stop the protest being hijacked by the hierarchical WWP, who just wanted a march and list of demands. The OWS focus on a horizontal organisation, building the sort of activities we’d like to see, refusing to play the traditional protest games or issue a list of demands to the existing power structure are all important indicators of a deeper analysis of current power structures and the possibilities for change.

Here’s lots of interesting insider detail about what happened with the OWS movement which was not reported by mainstream media, coupled with an incisive and readable analysis of alternative political action.

The Chapter How change happens includes useful tips on consensus, dealing with police, and creating alternatives, complete with examples from Zuccotti Park and elsewhere.

An interesting analysis, compulsive reading. Highly recommended.

(Penguin, 2014)…

Klein’s Call to Arms

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 12.16.14 pmNaomi Klein’s latest book This Changes Everything is subtitled Capitalism vs The Climate. She looks at what’s been achieved in climate activism, and the progress of global trade talks, and suggests that any chance of a gradualist approach is gone, squandered over the last few decades:

“Put a little more simply: for more than two decades, we kicked the can down the road. During that time, we also expanded the road from a two-lane carbon-spewing highway to a six-lane superhighway. That feat was accomplished in large part thanks to the radical and aggressive vision that called for the creation of a single global economy based on the rules of free market fundamentalism, the very rules incubated in the right-wing think tanks now at the forefront of climate change denial. There is a certain irony at work: it is the success of their own revolution that makes revolutionary levels of transformation to the market system now our best hope of avoiding climate chaos.”

(p114, the chapter entitled “Coddling conservatives”)

The attempt not to scare the consumers is misguided:

“ As for pitching climate action as a way to protect America’s

high-consumerist “way of life”—that is either dishonest or delusional

because a way of life based on the promise of infinite growth cannot be

protected, least of all exported to every corner of the globe.” (p119)

Klein clearly recognizes that the rise of global capitalism and the growth of trade has

risen with the growth in emissions, and suggests that a radical response must also tackle inequality and reclaim the global commons.

“there is a direct relationship between breaking fossilized free market

rules and making swift progress on climate change. Which is why, if we

are to collectively meet the enormous challenges of this crisis, a

robust social movement will need to demand (and create) political

leadership that is not only committed to making polluters pay for a

climate-ready public sphere, but willing to revive two lost arts:

long-term public planning, and saying no to powerful corporations.”

( p234, in a chapter titled “Public and paid For”)

This is a well argued, well-researched polemic arguing that we need to grasp the opportunity to demand what’s needed.… Read more >>

Controlling Corporations

George Monbiot published an article on dealing with corporate power in early december in the Guardian, titled There Is An Alternative (a reference to the claim by PM Thatcher that “there is no alternative”).

Monbiot notes “[corporate power] is the corrupting influence that prevents parties from connecting with the public, distorts spending and tax decisions and limits the scope of democracy. It helps to explain the otherwise inexplicable: the creeping privatisation of health and education, hated by almost all voters; the private finance initiative, which has left public services with unpayable debts; the replacement of the civil service with companies distinguished only by their incompetence; the failure to re-regulate the banks and to collect tax; the war on the natural world; the scrapping of the safeguards that protect us from exploitation; above all the severe limitation of political choice in a nation crying out for alternatives.”

He suggests various measures:

  • A sound political funding system would be based on membership fees.
  • All lobbying should be transparent.
  • Any company supplying public services would be subject to freedom of information laws

In the case of secretly negotiated trade treaties, he notes “We should democratise the undemocratic institutions of global governance: we should demand a set of global fair trade rules, to which multinational companies would be subject, losing their licence to trade if they break them.”

 …

We the people

Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer who did some deep thinking on the internet ansd copyright reform, has been lookiing deeply at the problem of corruption in democracies. Though he is focussed on the US system, we can see similar problems in election financing in Australia: consider the recent problems with fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, who were trying their best to not declare political contributions by big corporations.

Perhaps we need to campaign for public funding of all candidates in elections here? Or at the very least, uniform, effective disclosure of election funding across state and commonwealth elections?