News Review Archive

30th August, 2002



Europhile funds threatened as British trade union leader hits out at "euro propaganda"

Derek Simpson, newly elected leader of "Amicus" (one of the UK’s biggest unions, believe it or not) will ballot members on their views on the euro and has pledged an immediate audit into how much money is given to the euro lobby.

Mr. Simpson, who was narrowly elected in front of a Blairite placeman,  argues that the members of his union were being kept in the dark about a whole range of important EU-related matters whilst being fed europhile propaganda. Speaking on the BBC radio programme The World at One, Simpson said his union would not be joining in the government's attempt to persuade the British people to abandon the pound, because "There’s not much point spending money on something that, first of all, members didn't know about, secondly didn’t agree with, and money that could be better spent on things that relate to benefits directly for the members”.

He went on to condemn the undemocratic nature of the single currency, saying that "if you ask people, would you hand across your economic future to an unelected body over which you have little if any democratic control, a lot of people would think that more important than the issues that are more headline stuff”.

Nick Clarke asked whether, if the ballot found members opposed, he might fund the no campaign. Mr Simpson replied, “My view is until our members have really clarified their position on whether they are going to be for or against it, it might be prudent for the union to consider that it shouldn't be spending money on either campaign”.

An Amicus spokesperson later revealed to the Times that the union was the biggest single financier of the pro-euro group Britain in Europe (BiE), with support exceeding £100,000.

Environmentalists propose change of course for Earth Summit

Friends of the Earth has published a series o proposals for the reorientation of the world economy away from neoliberalism and the subordination of all questions to that of trade. A spokesperson for FoE said that "most governments seem to subscribe to the idea that “free trade” is more important than the environment and sustainability, both of which have been pushed firmly onto the back seat."

The new text, proposed by Friends of the Earth as an alternative to proposals on "Implementation" and "Globalisation" under discussion at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, argues for a "sustainable development" based on the "the equitable and sustainable use of limited resources, on economic diversity, decision-making as close to teh affected people as possible, the reining in of corporate power, and stronger international environmental institutions.

Commenting on the proposals, Friends of the Earth International Chair Ricardo Navarro said “The neo-liberal economic policies being foisted on the world, primarily by rich Northern Governments and the international institutions they dominate, are failing people and the planet.

Inequality is increasing and poverty in many countries is getting worse. Forests, minerals and fossil fuels are being exploited at an ever increasing and utterly unsustainable rate. Democracy is being eroded as economic power is concentrated in fewer hands. Environmental standards, biodiversity and cultural diversity are all under threat."

As for the Earth Summit, Mr Navarro said, "If Governments are to get serious at these talks, now is the time to do it. Friends of the Earth’s new negotiating text could be the basis for new and progressive negotiations. Governments should abandon their current positions and start discussing the principles and issues that really matter.”

Comment: Poisoned Chalice

The United States Agency for International Development recently chartered a ship - The Liberty Star – to deliver thirty six thousand tons of grain to an estimated 13 million starving people Southern Africa. The Malawian government accepted the donation, and Zimbabwe has just allowed the grain to be imported, as long as it is milled. Mozambique, however, will not let it cross its soil, and Zambia has decided that it wants nothing to do with it. Why? Because the US cannot guarantee that the grain is not genetically modified.

This looks like morbid folly, like a dangerous game played with the lives of starving people for political gain. This is precisely true. The US government has been playing this game for well over a decade; the famine in Southern Africa provides merely the latest instalment.

An example: ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1995, the US has been exporting unlabelled GM crops to Mexico. Last year, the Mexican Ministry of the Environment found that farmers' traditional maize in two remote Mexican states, Oaxaca and Puebla, had been contaminated with DNA from GM corn. Mexico is the world centre of maize genetic diversity, and home to maize varieties developed by farmers for millennia. Africa contains vital sources of genetic diversity for breeding locally adapted varieties -GM seed puts this at risk.

The covert US introduction of GM food into Africa is pernicious, for three reasons. First, there is mounting evidence that GM crops may be unsafe. Researchers working for the British Food Standards Agency discovered last month that, despite cast-iron guarantees from the food industry, the DNA from GM crops is capable of finding its way into the human gut. Without independent research, the unfettered marketing of this food turns every consumer into a guinea pig. Because of the reasonable suspicion this engenders, the US can't find a market for GM grain in the EU or Japan. The solution: dump it onto the starving in the Third World, thus subsidizing US corporate agriculture, and prying open markets for GM food.

Thanks to Food First for this editorial. Read more at http://www.foodfirst.org/

and more on the debate at http://www.OrganicConsumers.org/

In Brief

Stop the War Coalition and CND’s Don't Attack Iraq petition is now online  here

Stop the War Paul Rogers of Bradford University writes a weekly essay for the “Open Democracy” website. A couple of weeks ago his theme was the imminent war against Iraq. He describes in detail how it thinks it will go, the new weapons to be used and the effects on the civilian population. Thanks to Jim Addington for drawing it to our attention. Go to  this website

Coming: A Rerun of the 1930s? "This meeting of the WSF (World Social Forum) International Council is taking place against a background of what is shaping up as the worst crisis of global capitalism since the Great Depression seventy years ago. Charting our direction for the future is greatly dependent on understanding the nature and dynamics of this crisis.  Two methodological principles guide this discussion. First, never underestimate the resiliency of capitalism. Second, never underestimate its vulnerability to crisis. Having said this let me venture that we are entering a crisis that is an intersection of four crises." Read the rest of Waldon Bello's recent speech in Bangkok - on the ccapitalism's crises of legitimacy, overproduction, liberal democracy and overextension - at the website of the Transnational Institute, here

“Just as with the Roman Senate, the Congress of the United States is becoming an elite club of pathetic assenters and global elitists. Once the domain of great orators and dissenters like Cato and Cicero, the Roman Senate was eventually subsumed by the Roman Army when the Emperor took on dictatorial powers. The Roman Senate could say nothing as the Roman dictatorship annexed Macedonia, Spain, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa. By the time Emperors Tiberius and Septimius Severus took power, the Senate, which had grown to an elite club of 600, was a rubber stamp body that had no choice but to go along with the military's continued usurpation of power.” Read the rest of “Wither Congress, Wither America? Crushing Congressional Dissent: The Fall of Hilliard, Barr and McKinney” by Wayne Madsen in Counterpunch here

The US trade union confederation the AFL-CIO is hosting an online Labor Day Festival from now until September 21. The festival includes a chance to meet "working class family heroes", vote for your least favourite "corporate zero" and plug into various actions whilst brushing up on the movement's history, playing on-line games, listening to music - everything (apart from beer, which no-one has yet discovered how to transmit via the internet) you'd expect to find at a real festival. Go here

Postmark Prague has a new edition out which includes articles on the Czech Communists and the floods, this month's Slovak elections, the Prague NATO summit in Nov., and much more.  Readers can obtain a free sample copy of the September issue, from PP, PO Box 42, 182 00 Prague 8, Czech Republic or mail postmarkprague@cmail.cz for more information.  

What next? A new edition of this British Marxist discussion journal is now out. Go here

War Times’ is hot off the press this week. The US antiwar paper’s fifth issue reflects on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  See our progressive press list or go here to find out more.

Inside the Maelstrom, the leading article and other selected articles of the latest The Other Israel – the voice of the Israeli movement against the occupation - are now available here