Monday, 29 November 2010

Leave those kids alone!

There's something quite delicious about an NUS president apologising for 'spineless dithering'. It's not like it was in my day of course. I was at university a decade ago, when NUS presidents declined even to call demonstrations. And when I was involved in an occupation at UCL, the student union executive rushed to condemn us, while the university management quickly got an injunction and called the baliffs to drag us out.

So what's changed? In the case of UCL, there is one big difference, in that they're occupying the Jeremy Bentham Room, a strategically unimportant space which the management can live with. We occupied the finance corridor, which was an administrative hub. This is not necessarily a criticism. After all, we were aiming to be part of a wave of occupations against fees around the country, but we were not really in there for long enough for something like that to happen. We certainly didn't have time to get comedians to come down and do a turn for us.

But fundamentally, the whole political atmosphere is different too. Increases in fees are part of a wholesale attack on our public services. The NUS, having had a much bigger response to its demonstration than they were expecting, was put on the back foot, and lost the leadership of the movement. The fact that it launched a ludicrous attack on those who occupied Millbank Tower didn't help. The wave of university occupations, and the school student walkouts were in part inspired by the more militant action at Millbank – had that not happened, even with the huge turnout to the demo, I suspect we would not be seeing a real movement developing.

Moreover, it is a movement which has a real element of spontaneity to it. Although every left-wing group with anything resembling a youth wing is scurrying to claim some part of it, the school student walkouts in particular have been led by nobody, and without wishing to overplay it, have at least something to do with the leaderless organising potential of Facebook.

In this situation, it can be tempting for those of us with organising experience to get excited by the spontaneity, but then step in with lessons, proposals of national school students organisations and so on. This is the wrong approach. No, perhaps 16 year olds don't have a strategic understanding of the best way to defeat capitalism. But letting them make their own mistakes, and at the same time get a sense of their own autonomy in a world where choices amount to which model of mobile phone you have, will make a more long-lasting impression.

Instead we should get excited by the spontaneity, and go organise in our own workplaces and communities. There's a palpable sense of excitement about the student revolt which goes far beyond the organised left - we're not the only ones being inspired. We should offer our solidarity to students and school students of course, especially those of us who are teachers and lecturers, but as far as interfering goes, I say leave those kids alone!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Now to fight the cuts

My editorial from the forthcoming June/July issue of Red Pepper:

Back in April, Vince Cable said of public spending cuts: ‘Cutting too soon and pushing the economy back into recession will make the deficit worse, as tax receipts fall and benefit payments rise. The Conservatives’ so-called efficiency savings are particularly dangerous. They have no clue where or how these “efficiencies” will be made, making it likely they will be nothing more than a smokescreen for job cuts.’ Now he is part of a government forging ahead with £6 billion of cuts this year.

But public spending cuts are not just unwise policy, as Cable was right to point out; they are deeply unjust too. At the heart of the financial crisis that triggered the increase in the public spending deficit was an economy fuelled by consumer debt. This debt was due in part to the defeat of the trade union bargaining power that had maintained workers’ level of consumption throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Corporations wanted to both pay workers less in real terms, but also have them consume more in order to sustain growth and profits. Credit was the only way to square this particular circle, and of course offering credit was itself highly profitable.

With this critique missing from the public discourse across Europe (perhaps with the exception of Greece), governments from Latvia to Portugal are making ordinary people pay for a crisis of capitalism, with the firm hand of the International Monetary
Fund or the credit ratings agencies (see page 54) at their backs. This would have been the UK’s fate whoever had won the election, but with the Conservatives in control we don’t even get the anaesthetic with the amputation.

An imminent emergency budget will soon act as a statement of intent. By the autumn, a comprehensive spending review will undoubtedly demand an attack on public sector pay and pension provision, as well as ‘efficiency savings’ across the board. How deep these cuts are, and how much they are diluted and offset by increases in taxation, depends largely on the level of popular pressure between now and then.

We have a matter of months, therefore, to create an unprecedented movement against public spending cuts. It must be a movement like we have never seen before, rooted in local workplaces and communities, but with national trade unions supporting local initiatives to stop the cuts. Thanks to ‘efficiency savings’ introduced by Labour since its 2007 spending review, scores of campaigns to stop the closure of daycare centres, care homes, libraries, hospital wards, university departments (see page 29) and schools already exist up and down the country.

These campaigns, and the many more that will have to spring up, will need to have ways to relate to each other, to learn from each other and to take strategic action together. Alongside the organising, we will also need to win the arguments. The consensus amongst the main parties during the election has created a sense of inevitability about public spending cuts. No matter how hard any particular campaign fights, without an alternative narrative making the case that cuts are both unjust and unnecessary, the left will remain isolated.

Such a movement can also learn from initiatives such as Climate Camp that have captured the public imagination with creative and radical tactics. This doesn’t mean that every threatened hospital ward needs to see patients locking on to their hospital beds, but rather that a movement is stronger with a diversity of tactics, and that direct action and the reclamation of public space can help create a dynamic movement alongside marches, rallies, sit-ins and strike action.

Red Pepper aims to assist with the process of organising, networking and developing an alternative narrative, both in future issues and via our website. We will also continue to argue, as we have in the past, for a pluralist movement. A progressive coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrats and smaller parties to keep out the Tories may never really have been on the cards, but a ‘rainbow alliance’ is now needed to fight the cuts. This could and should include those on the Lib Dems’ left who are unhappy with Clegg’s ‘orange book’ alliance with the Tories (see page 12).

It is also a moment for the Greens to take the responsibility of their higher public profile seriously. Caroline Lucas (see page 11) has a brilliant record here, but for the Greens, having an MP elected on a platform of opposing the cuts puts the onus on them to be leading actors in the non-parliamentary sphere too.

Most importantly, though, a critique of capitalism must take root in the struggles to defend our public services. Despite anger at the bankers, our unjust economic system got off lightly when the financial crisis hit. Stopping the cuts is first and foremost about defending the poorest and most vulnerable. But if that struggle mobilises people in a new and more powerful way, we might just be able to halt and even reverse the backward shuffle the left has been doing for the past 30 years.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Reclaiming our food system

Editorial from my first issue of Red Pepper as the main editor

It is surely one of the most damning indictments of global capitalism that one sixth of the world’s population is chronically malnourished. Yet merely to use this statistic as propaganda against the current system is not only to ignore a pressing problem but to do a disservice to the myriad struggles over our food system taking place around the world.

The globalisation of agriculture over the past 30 years has placed ever more of our food system into the hands of multinational corporations. But it has also called into being an increasingly co-ordinated movement of small producers trying to reclaim democratic control of that system.

Most obviously organised through La Via Campesina (‘the peasant way’), this millions-strong movement has managed not only to campaign at the international level against the likes of the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Agriculture, but to formulate a radical alternative in the form of ‘food sovereignty’.

Defined as the ‘the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems’, food sovereignty is a political demand for land reform, the rolling back of corporate control and the protection of natural resources. It is also a vision of ‘agroecological’ production, using modern sustainable techniques to work with nature, and of prioritising local markets over exports.

The 20th-century left tended to see the solutions to feeding the world as large scale and equated democratic control with the state. The realities of the 21st century demand a different approach, albeit one that doesn’t rule out state intervention. In Venezuela, the Chavéz government has embraced food sovereignty and mobilised its resources towards empowering small producers. By extending low-interest credit and buying produce for distribution through its network of subsidised supermarkets, while encouraging co-operatively run farms and food-processing factories, it has sought to secure the livelihoods of producers and affordable access to food for consumers at the same time.

Climate change demands that we localise our food systems in the global North too, but progressives can tie themselves up in knots when trying to marry this with the South’s current dependence on food exports. Food sovereignty could go some way towards squaring this circle, bolstering local and regional trade and ending the South’s subordinate role in the global food economy.

Yet reclaiming the food system is not just an imperative for the global South. Supermarket dominance continues to squash local communities, and the price squeeze they impose on producers makes sustainable farming unviable. Queen’s Market in east London is recognised as a multicultural community hub. It has fought off an Asda but is still under threat from property developers. Defending existing local alternatives such as this is among our first tasks.

Building new sustainable and ethical alternatives is also vital. Initiatives such as Growing Communities (page 13 in our October/November issue) are trying to make organic, locally sourced food an everyday reality in one of London’s poorest boroughs. The model of consumer co-operatives that has taken off in some US cities could start to provide a means by which ethical sourcing and affordability can co-exist. And the popularity of allotments, once a staple of working class life, is a sign that people are starting to reconnect with what they eat in a more meaningful way.

These initiatives and others can start to return a level of autonomy and democracy to our food system, but we should be careful not just to content ourselves with an ethical subculture serving only the concerned citizen with money and time. As Kath Dalmeny argues (page 10 in our October/November issue), we can and should demand government support for these initiatives to make them mainstream.

However, another of the themes of this issue of Red Pepper points the way to an interesting and complementary possibility: worker involvement in a green transition. It is more than 30 years since the workers at Lucas Aerospace presented their alternative plan for the company, but as Hilary Wainwright points out (page 24 in our October/November), while some of the political conditions are now very different, the example of Lucas can perhaps inspire some creative red-green thinking today.

Whether it is in the global food system via food sovereignty, or in industrial production, by insisting on putting the people involved at the centre of the solutions, we can ensure that producers’ creativity and intelligence are used to build a sustainable world. Effectively this means building forms of economic democracy.

By building into the Green New Deal, with its reliance on traditional forms of state intervention, new demands for economic democracy, we can provide a real challenge to the hold of corporate power and chart a path beyond, towards a post-capitalist future.

You can subscribe to Red Pepper online (or buy individual issues, or become a supporting subscriber using the same page).

Thursday, 20 August 2009


So the normal idea with Red Pepper's Booktopia feature is to get someone at least a bit famous and at least a bit left wing to choose eight of their favourite books. I only fulfill one of those conditions, but got to do it anyway as someone else fell through at the last minute. I guess there was some rationale since its a sort of introduction to me as I take on being one of the editors. Anyway, various people have said they enjoyed reading it, so I thought I'd post it here too.

And remember, please subscribe to Red Pepper. Its a great magazine, but walks a fraying tightrope above the pit of financial collapse... or something.

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
New Directions 1958
Ferlinghetti’s San Francisco bookshop, City Lights, is my favourite bookshop in the world. Ferlinghetti was one of the major figures of beat culture and later associated with left libertarian politics and opposition to the gentrification of San Francisco. Some of his poems in A Coney Island of the Mind also have a political edge, though this is no didactic tract. Rather it gathers together fragments of America's post-war reality and presents them in critical juxtaposition. Some pieces are written to accompany jazz and in rhythm seem to anticipate Gil-Scott Heron’s later proto hip-hop.

Live Working, Die Fighting by Paul Mason
Vintage 2008
Paul Mason really brings to life the history of workers' struggle as he examines different episodes of it, from the 1871 Paris Commune to the experience of the Jewish workers' Bund organisation in Poland. Alongside this, Mason draws parallels with 21st century struggles in the global south, allowing him not only to present a fascinating historical narrative, but to draw out of it key dilemmas which have informed the alternative strategies pursued by different parts of the international workers movement over time.

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Zone Books edition 1995
Many theoretical tracts lose relevance as history overtakes their insights, but in many ways this one seems more relevant today than when it was written in the 60s. Less self-indulgent than other situationist writing, its not an easy read, but some of its insights into mass consumer society are crucial.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Virago 2001
I’ve yet to come across anyone who’s read this book and didn’t like it. Definitely Atwood’s best novel, it utilises both a common theme of hers, that of people trapped by their circumstances, and her talent for verisimilitude. The result is a book that does what truly great novels can – engross you so thoroughly that you use every spare moment to carry on reading.

The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes
Thames and Hudson second edition 1991
This is the classic account of modernism in visual art in the 20th Century and should be read in conjunction with regular trips to the Tate Modern. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually managed to get through all of the copious text, interesting though it is, but the book is worth owning just for the colour prints. From impressionism to expressionism, dada to pop art, the historical context of artistic movements shines through, helping not just to explain art through history, but history through art too.

The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge
New York Review of Books new edition 2004
Though Serge was essentially an anarchist, when he arrived in Russia in 1919 he joined the Bolshevik party to support the revolution. His ended up exiled to Siberia for his opposition to Stalinism, eventually escaping the country but to great personal cost. This novel, set in 1930s Europe stands out as an illumination the Soviet dictatorship and its foreign policy as great as Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.

Detroit, I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin
St Martin’s Press 1975
US history is full of exciting revolutionary moments you never hear about, and 1968-72 in Detroit was one of them. This is the definitive account of revolutionary unionism amongst the mainly black workforce in Detroit’s massive car industry. Far more than the ‘counterculture’ which was at least partly absorbed into neoliberal consumer culture, this was a movement which really scared the US establishment and which, along with the rest of the radical black liberation movement had to be definitively defeated.

Christopher and His Kind by Christopher Isherwood
University of Minnesota Press edition 2001
Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin is well known, not least because it eventually became the basis for the film Cabaret. Yet the ‘Christopher’ character is that novel is only loosely based on Isherwood. By 1976 the gay liberation movement had happened and Isherwood felt able to write this properly autobiographical account of his life between 1929 and 1939, covering not just his time in Berlin but his subsequent journey around pre-war Europe and attempts to rescue his German lover Heinz from the Nazis. It’s a fascinating and intimate account.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Back to the future

I went to see the Tate Modern's futurism exhibition at the weekend. Despite taking quite an interest in modern art, I was actually fairly ignorant about futurism, and what I thought I knew turned out to not be quite right.

Futurism was related to, and had some similar concerns as cubism. How to depict the age of light, speed and machines? An Italian invention, futurism rejected the veneration of the old, the fusty museums that covered Italy, and sentimentalism. Instead they gloried in the speeding train, the electric street lamp, but also nationalism and war. Marinetti, who wrote the futurist manifesto (and what is an art movement without a manifesto?) was also a thoroughly nasty misogynist.

Now if that all sounds a bit fascist, you might be surprised to learn that the early futurists were more interested in the anarchist riot than the fascist state, although in a thoroughly macho way of course. But beyond the political posturing, both what the futurists depicted and how they depicted it were revolutionary at the time and are still compelling today.

Futurism proper only lasted about 5 years, ending with the onset of the First World War. The Italian futurists agitated for Italy to end its neutrality and enter the war, yet those futurists who actually encountered the war for real quickly reassessed their views. CRW Nevinson, the only English futurist drove an ambulance during the war and soon rejected his pro-war positions. Perhaps fittingly, it's his picture of an exploding shell which ends this exhibition.

The exhibition doesn't deal with fascism at all, which took up the futurist aesthetic which suited it very well. But since that was the only bit I already knew, it was good to find it wasn't nearly the whole story. I'll finish with an extract from a futurist statement called Vital English Art, published by Marinetti and Nevinson. In the section titled 'Against' they write:
2. The pessimistic, sceptical and narrow views of the English public, who stupidly adore the pretty-pretty, the commonplace, the soft, the sweet, and mediocre, the sickly revivals of medievalism, the Garden Cities with their curfews and artificial battlements, the may-pole Morris dances, Æstheticism, Oscar Wilde, the Pre-Raphaelites, Neo-primitives and Paris.
If they'd been writing a century later, they may well have added ITV costume dramas to the list...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Save the Children turns Tory

Yesterday the Tories released their green paper on international development. It was pretty horrendous - a mix of ideological free market nonsense and silly gimmicks. The gimmicks included the suggestion that the public might vote for their favourite international development projects and only these would get money. Luckily this sounds like one of those stupid suggestions that we won't hear about again.

The support for trade liberalisation and privatisation is corporate welfare dressed up as development policy, but no more than you would expect from the Tories. More of a departure, and arguably therefore more worrying is the idea of 'aid vouchers' and assisted places at private schools - in other words, shifting aid money directly to private businesses.

The cherry on the top of the cake, by the way, was the Tory assertion that capitalism is Britain's gift to the world. As Nick Dearden of the Jubilee Debt Campaign commented "Given the problems which the unregulated global economy has recently subjected the world to, many countries might prefer to be removed from the Christmas list."

Most self-respecting development charities condemned the aid vouchers as a very bad idea, and many also rejected the other free market nonsense. Not so Save the Children, who hosted the launch of the Green Paper at their offices, and whose chief executive wrote a friendly comment piece in the Times yesterday in support of David Cameron's ring-fencing aid spending. The aim was clearly to position Save the Children as the Tories' international development charity, just as Oxfam was Labour's.

Not surprising, perhaps, given how much of Save the Children's budget comes from government, and will therefore be dependent on Tory favour if (when?) they win the next election. But problematic nonetheless, not least because its a pattern replicated across the NGO sector, albeit less obviously and less successfully. Despite being generally progressive in some way, the talk in charity-world has been for a good while that the 'smart money' is on 'engaging' with the Tories now.

Yet despite the fact that this has been going on, the Tories still come out with awful right-wing guff like this Green Paper. And they'll do it in government too. We need to be building a movement against them, not a dialogue with them - that way we might be able to replicate what's happened in France, where some of the most agregious of Sarkosy's policies have been headed off my social mobilisation. But there's no chance of that happening if NGOs avoid public criticism of the Tories, let alone giving 'development cover' to their anti-development policies as Save the Children are.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Are BNP voters racist? And other important questions

So in the end, the BNP got not just one but two seats in the European parliament. They are, of course, Nazi scum, and their election is a big problem. The resources and acceptability (respectability is not really the right word) this will give them risks establishing them on the political scene in the kind of long-term way that the Front National is in France (thankfully the FN dropped half their seats, down to three, but that's still three seats in a bad year for them). What's more, their victory will surely give confident to party members, and in the areas where they are strong, lead to an increase in what's politely called 'community tension', but which is more acurately known as racism.

The most pressing question, though, is what should the left do? Mainstream politicians of all stripes were keen to stress as the results came in last night that they didn't think BNP voters were racist, just that they were expressing a protest vote. I can see why you might want to avoid labelling nearly 1 million people as racists, but I think that without confronting this head on, we risk burying our heads in the sand. BNP voters are at least somewhat racist.

I should clarify that. I'm not saying that they are irreconcilably racist (although some of them will be). I'm not saying that their racism is very well thought out (although for some of them it will be). But quite frankly, given the choice of hard right 'protest vote' parties (UKIP, English Democrats), its clear that the BNP have built a base on the basis of racism. For instance, in the Yorkshire and Humber region, where the BNP won their first seat, their vote was actually slightly down on 2004 (from 126,538 to 120,139) - it was only the collapse of the Labour vote which gave them a seat.

Of course in one sense, the vote is a protest against the mainstream, but one which is sustained rather than one-off. In the absence of any kind of left alternative, its hardly a surprise either. With communities torn asunder by 30 years of neoliberalism, and a tabloid press obsessed with immigration, the conclusions people are likely to draw once the BNP move in are depressingly obvious.

The main left responses to the threat of the BNP are both beginning to show their shortcomings. Unite Against Fascism was formed a few years ago by bringing together the Anti-Nazi League and the National Assembly Against Racism with trade union backing. The result somwhow ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Although Love Music, Hate Racism has had some success in energising youth anti-fascism, with no Nazi marches to confront on the streets there is no clear direction for those who are mobilised.

Searchlight meanwhile, with its Hope not Hate formula, has been succesful in some places and not in others. It recognised, correctly I think, that shouting 'Nazi' doesn't necessarily work. The problem is that the 'hope' part of its formula is largely illusory.

In both approaches, that weakness of any organised political left that can pose an alternative to the politics of hate is a key stumbling block. While the Labour party is in no small part to blame for this, it is not the only one. This is not to say that there has to be one left organisation that can fulfill this role, but there has to be something in every area, and ideally there would be collaboration.

Which brings me to the Green party campaign in the North West. I heard several condemnations of the 'vote Green to stop the BNP' message that the Greens were putting out, though it must be said that all were from partisans of other parties. But with only 5,000 more votes, the Greens would have denied Nick Griffin a seat. Their strategy was a correct one, and built as it was on trying to form a left, anti-racist alliance across the region, it suggests a small degree of hope for the future.

Respect took a constructive approach, backing the Green campaign, and I hope the Greens will reciprocate in the future - it would be extraordinary now if they stood against Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham Sparkbrook. Hopefully bridges can also be built with the Socialist Party and indeed any bit of the active Labour left that still exists.

When it comes to electoral politics, pragmatism and a sense of reality are even more important than normal. We need an electoral left, even if it isn't the be-all and end-all, so we better get our act together.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The perils of cycling

And which driver is not tempted, merely by the power of his engine, to wipe out the vermin of the street, pedestrians, children and cyclists?
- Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia

I recently became a cyclist, in the sense that I bought a bike and now ride it to work. Work is six miles from home, so in the last week I've cycled at least 60 miles, which I reckon is pretty good going, and certainly makes me feel healthier. Truth be told though, while I don't miss the stale warm air of the tube, or the crush when trying to get on the southbound Northern line at Kings Cross, or closed stations necessitating annoying detours, I've actually swapped one set of frustrations for another.

Even though there are some great, quiet routes through some bits of London, and even bits of genuine cycle path (ie those not just hastily painted on the side of the road that finish in less-than-useful places) to help you avoid death traps like the Elephant and Castle roundabout, you can't avoid busy roads sometimes. And here one encounters the intimidating rumble of heavy goods vehicles. Buses aren't great either, but to be fair, most bus drivers are very considerate to cyclists, even if their fumes and and sheer size are not what you want to encounter on your journey to work.

But with the advantage of being able to cycle in bus lanes you can often seem reasonably safe, even on a busy road. Unless its full of potholes that is. Some roads in London have terrible surfaces, a combination of regularly being dug up and multiple manhole covers. The latter can be particularly frustrating when they litter those painted-on cycle lanes - with heavy traffic to your right, its difficult to cycle round them, and the worst threaten to knock you off course and into an accident. Farringdon Road is a particular danger for this, as its often necessary to keep up a reasonable speed to avoid getting in the way of other vehicles.

The Green Party, wherever it gets a local council seat, is keen on pushing 20mph speed limits. This would definitely make for safer roads, though on the road I live on, getting people to stick to 30mph would be a start. Slower cars will encourage cycling and make London safer for cyclists. But what we also need are decent road surfaces, so cyclists can travel on equal terms with drivers.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Long live the Freedom and Solidarity Party!

Perhaps its because of frustration at there not being a political party in the UK that accords well enough with my views, but I've always had a certain fascination with the details of political landscapes in other countries. Its great news that the Left-Green Movement in Iceland has just won 21% in the general election there, giving it a major role in a coalition government with the Social Democrats. But one country isn't nearly so much fun as the whole of Europe, with its myriad of different parties.

Enter the EU Profiler (thanks Jim!), an online tool to help you decide who to vote for in the European elections. No great surprise or interest that it tells me I should vote Green on June 4. But if I switch from 'national parties' to 'parties in Europe', I discover that my closest matched party is the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) in Turkey. The ÖDP is a libertarian socialist party with 1 MP and no prospect of getting any MEPs, because of course, Turkey is not a member of the EU. So while its strange that EU Profiler decided to include it, I'm glad it did - I've found a political home and will send fraternal greetings immediately!

My other very close matches include the Communist Refoundation (Italy), Left Alliance (Finland), the Left Bloc (Portugal) and the Swiss Greens. Also within the rather arbitrary circle around my position can be found Holland's Party for the Animals (no animal welfare questions were included incidentally) and the Galician Nationalist Bloc (from the Spanish state, in case you were wondering where Galicia was). Just outside my circle sits France's newly-formed New Anti-Capitalist Party, an organisation I would have thought I had plenty in common with, but apparently EU Profiler knows better...

But no matter. I have my political home. I shall be setting up the North London branch of the Freedom and Solidarity Party shortly.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Brown New Deal

It's rare, these days, for a bank to be condemning the government rather than the other way around, but that's what a new report by HSBC does. It reveals that despite promises to "lead the world in building the low carbon society with a low carbon economy", Gordon Brown's actual investment in anything resembling a 'Green New Deal' is tiny compared to other rich countries. China, whose emissions are regularly referred to as an excuse for not tackling our own, is devoting 110 times as much money to environmental investment. Brown loves to jump on any bandwagon that rolls by, but just like with Make Poverty History, it seems he's not actually serious about the Green New Deal.

The HSBC report points out that by investing in green energy, the government could create more jobs than with conventional financial stimuli, as well as cutting emissions and solving energy supply issues. All well and good. But when the principles of the Green New Deal were originally brought together last year, they included proposals such as a windfall tax on energy super-profits. Although campaigning was done around this issue, it doesn't seem to have made its way so strongly into mix when the Green New Deal is talked about in the mainstream. There is a danger that HSBC, Brown or anyone could cherry-pick the corporate-friendly policies, calling what they've done a Green New Deal, but losing the vital essence of the proposal; to fundamentally challenge the neoliberal model that got us in the mess in the first place.

I think its important to remember, though, that its possible to both critique and push further any Green New Deal -style proposals. We should use the momentum created by the fact that mainstream alternatives to free market dogma are starting to be implemented to demand proposals which contain more social justice and a more sustainable basis on which to run our economy. That means more co-operatives and credit unions, more local food production and sustainable transport systems, not just investment in hi-tech green energy projects which are most suitable for multinational corporations, thereby confirming their place in our future.