Given that some of the things which the conference edition of Watermelon covered have now been superseded by events within the party. The updated post conference version is below - some if it is the same as the version distributed at conference, and some of it covers events at conference or since.
Spring Conference Watermelon, now online.
This online edition of Watermelon has been slightly edited
from that distributed at conference.
THE GREEN Party’s deputy leader Will Duckworth has called for stronger links between politicians, the general public and unions to fight workplace injustice.
Mr Duckworth spoke out after attending a demonstration against a series of forced redundancies at Halesowen College, which is close to his home and the area he represents as a Dudley Metropolitan Councillor.
‘Governments in the last 30 years have been working hard to try to destroy unions, and the result is that it’s now too easy for management to bully individual employees, who don’t have the protection they need and deserve. Standing up for workers’ rights is vital, especially during times of economic downturn when increasingly desperate employers look for ways – some of them unfair – to reduce outgoings including wages and sick pay.
Mr Duckworth joined union members and members of the public to protest against the dismissal of four Mathematics lecturers from the College. He was one of more than 12,000 people who signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of the lecturers.
College management argues that the lecturers have been ‘underperforming’ but many, including union leaders, college students and the lecturers themselves, fear that financial pressures and the lecturers’ union membership may have played a part in the decision.
They also expressed concern about the way the redundancy process has been handled by the College.
Mr Duckworth said:
"We’re very concerned that the proper disciplinary processes haven’t been followed: if the College was unhappy with the lecturers’ performance, it should have issued them with notices to improve before taking this very strong action."
He added that he hoped to build stronger links between the Green Party and trades unions.
"My attendance at the demonstration was to show support for workers who I believe may have been treated very shoddily. It was also to help to build links between the Green Party and trades unions, so we can work together in future to combat and prevent such injustices."
The Green Left editorial team are proud to announce the birth of a new paper 'The Eco-Socialist'. It will be ready for distribution at the anti-austerity march in London on Oct 20.
We hope to contribute to the building of the wider eco-socialist movement and invite dialogue with interested individuals or groups who would like to get involved in the project.
The paper has been funded by many generous donations from Green Left members and beyond. 3000 copies will be freely available for Saturday's march.
You can pick up papers from our stall at temple tube from 10am or from volunteers who will be distributing them on the day.
If you would like to know more, get involved or help on the day you can contact us using the form on this website, via this email email@example.com, or phone Doug 07938 373 117, Martin 07969602007 or Romayne 07985 053 907.
A FUTURE THAT WORKS FOR OUR WORLD
Derek Wall (Morning Star)
On Saturday trade unionists and progressives will be marching for A Future That Works - and many Greens will be joining them.
Some voices in the media suggest that climate change was an issue for the good times. That now we're faced with an economic crisis environmentalism and alternative energy are unaffordable distractions.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Climate change is with us. The science is irrefutable.
Bertolt Brecht, when driven out of Germany by the nazis, wrote an allegory about the madness engulfing Europe.
"They were sawing the branches on which they were sitting, and they shouted to each other how one could saw faster. And when with a crash they fell down those watching them shook their heads - and kept on sawing."
How well those words describe the collective political response to climate change.
Every day the evidence mounts of potential catastrophe yet the silence from governments, the media and policy-makers is deafening.
Rising food prices are clear evidence of an unstable climate that is damaging crops.
The melting Arctic ice is another sign of that instability. The oil companies aren't bothered - less ice makes it easier for them to extract fossil fuels from northern seas.
The ostrich position of pretending nothing is happening is a passionately defended orthodoxy of the political right.
In the US it would have been impossible for anyone to win the Republican candidacy for president while accepting the evidence of climate change.
Science has long been heresy for Republicans, of course - just look at their take on evolution. But denial is also a feature of British politics.
At last week's conference the Conservative Party celebrated new policies that will accelerate climate change.
Fracking - a highly dangerous process that pollutes water and makes earth tremors more likely - is to be given a tax break by George Osborne.
I wonder whether the money cut from subsidies for solar insulation will directly fund tax cuts for more fossil fuel extraction?
The government has also signalled a programme of road-building, which combined with endless above-inflation rail fares leads to a society which emits more.
Wind farms are seen as instruments of Satan. Conservative-controlled Wiltshire County Council has announced restrictions which campaigners say will stop any new turbines going up across its territory.
It's as if a suicide lobby is in charge. Policies that accelerate danger to the entire human species are planned, put in place and celebrated.
To point out that we're sawing through the branches we're sitting on is seen as impolite or extreme. To note that we're celebrating policies to speed the process is unacceptable.
Why? Because climate change is no accident.
It's a direct result of the economic and social system that governs the planet - capitalism.
And to criticise capitalism or point to an alternative is simply "utopian" or extreme.
Capitalism can only survive by continued accumulation, extracting resources as quickly as possible and turning them into commodities that can be bought and sold.
Such "extractivism" is the raison d'etre of our society. As Marx observed: "Accumulate, accumulate is Moses and the prophets." Question the secular religion of capitalism and you face exile.
We need a transition from a system of organised waste to one of sustainable prosperity.
We could use less energy without discomfort with the right kind of planning.
From funding affordable public transport to insulating millions of homes or making goods that last longer, there are ways of living better without wrecking the future.
Yet the solutions to climate change that are being introduced are largely non-solutions.
Global agreements at conferences such as Rio, Durban and Kyoto are based on carbon-trading.
This is a market solution which leads to a carbon market, eco-bond trading and even climate-change derivatives.
It has provided businesses for banks but it hasn't reduced emissions. Corporations can buy their way out of effective action. Recently the European Union's emissions trading scheme has virtually collapsed.
Real solutions involve keeping fossil fuels in the ground and a transition to an economy fuelled by renewables.
But the discovery and extraction of oil is still seen as cause for celebration. Moves away from fossil fuels are marginalised and derided.
In Ecuador the government has launched the Yasuni project, a scheme to raise money to fund an alternative to extracting oil from a rainforest national park.
Ecuador's a member of the progressive Latin American Alba bloc of nations. Despite the fact that many of them, such as Bolivia and Venezuela, are economically dependent on fossil-fuel extraction they are the loudest voices internationally calling for real change and a sustainable and socially just economy.
Money needs to be used to fund alternatives to extracting oil. Solutions based on bringing a halt to extraction are always condemned as unrealistic, but they're the only way to stop sawing away at that branch.
Business as usual is rapidly becoming impossible. But simply halting extraction could leave all of us in trouble since we're so dependent on fossil fuels.
We need a just transition, with workplace conversion to create alternatives to the polluting industries.
The present approach, doing little or nothing, leaves future generations with an impossible bill to pick up.
The logic is just the same as with the banking crisis. Here too, short-term thinking and a system based on greed led to disaster in 2008, yet the debts created are being forced on the poorest in the form of austerity cuts.
Do nothing or accelerate the damage until it's too late - then make the rest of us pay for the mistakes of the rich and powerful.
It's an approach that must be challenged across the board.
To tackle both austerity and climate change we need to create an alternative economic logic. There's no contradiction between opposing cuts and protecting the environment. We all need a future that works.
That's why this Saturday October 20 I'll be marching with the Climate Bloc on the TUC demonstration. As the Climate Bloc says: "The climate crisis and the economic crisis have the same root causes in an economy rigged in favour of the richest 1 per cent."
We'll be backing the TUC campaign for a million "green" jobs and from defending indigenous peoples fighting climate change to workers fighting for an alternative to climate chaos we'll be marching for it.
We're meeting at 11am at St Paul's. Please join us.
Green Left/Green Party at Oct 20
Please try and assist us in making the maximum impact for the Green Party.
We need volunteers to distribute the new Green Party anti-cuts leaflet made by Howard Thorp (Green Party campaigns coordinator) and the new tabloid 'The Ecosocialist'
If you are attending with a union or local anti-cuts group you can pick up the papers/leaflets at our stall at temple tube from 10am and distribute them among your groups or among the demo at large.
For further details:
Call Doug on 07938 373 117 or Howard on 07765 040 416 to help on the day
VIVA CHAVEZ! A VENEZUELAN ELECTION REPORT FROM CHAVEZ'S HOMETOWN
James Bargent (Toward Freedom)
The impromptu motorcade set off as soon as news of Hugo Chavez’s crushing election victory on Sunday, October 7th reached the town of Sabaneta, Venezuela, the president’s hometown. Hundreds of motorbikes seating two, three even four people, scores of pickup trucks packed beyond capacity and cars with men, women and children hanging from the windows began lapping the town, accompanied by flags, banners and a barrage of horns and cries of “Viva Chavez!”
Chavez’s victory meant more to his supporters in Sabaneta than a fourth electoral triumph and six more years of the Bolivarian revolution. Sabaneta is where it all began. Sabaneta is Chavez’s town.
A small town of 40,000 people in the state of Barinas in western Venezuela, Sabaneta today bears little resemblance to the ramshackle huts and grinding poverty familiar to Hugo Chavez from his childhood. When he staged a campaign rally in the town the week before the election, he mixed his usual thumping campaign rhetoric with reminiscing about his past, pointing out how the town had changed. “I salute my dear town. I salute this nest of my life,” he told the crowd.
According to its residents, the town’s well-swept streets, lined with businesses and cars and motorbikes, also bears little resemblance to the dirt roads and open sewers of Sabaneta 14 years ago, when Chavez first swept to power on the back of an unprecedented wave of popular support.
Earlier in the day, voting had been a relaxed affair, free of the tension that has surrounded this polarized election. Throughout the day, the shuffling queues were attended by red shirted officials in polling stations guarded by heavily armed but bored soldiers.
Support for Chavez was open and vocal among the crowds. Supporters of his opponent, Henrique Capriles, were less forthcoming. “It’s a secret ballot, isn’t it?” huffed one stall owner when asked which way he voted. His interagator smiled knowingly.
Chavez’s hometown supporters were unwavering in their backing of the president. “He’s the only president who cares about the poor,” said Taco Cauro, gesticulating towards the corner of the plaza where he used to have to pump water.
“Like [Simon] Bolivar said, man’s most important necessities are morale and light,” said Aida Perez, who grew up one of 12 children in a wooden shack. “This government is giving us morale by making Venezuela a country that is respected in the world - it is now an independent country - and light because now we have schools and universities.”
“He’s just too good,” was the simple explanation of Yovianna Catañera, a young mother who moved to Sabaneta as a child when her family left their home in the north in search of work.
“[When] my mother came here the money didn’t stretch far enough to buy food,” she said. “Now my children, say to me ‘I don’t want to eat this, I want to eat such a thing.’
However, while Sabaneta and the state of Barinas is a Chavez stronghold, even here Capriles managed to garner significant support. “Capriles is more prepared, he is more of a leader,” said Franc, a small business owner who did not want to give his last name. Franc estimated support for Capriles in Sabaneta to be reaching 50%, a claim that was met with laughter and derision from nearby Chavistas, who he dismissed with the wave of an arm.
Sunday’s vote was the first time Franc has voted against Chavez. He said while Chavez brought in welcome reforms at the start of his presidency be believes his rule is tainted with creeping authoritarianism, alliances with unsavory foreign governments and, most of all, rampant corruption and nepotism. “Now, the only ones who have the right to sit at the table are his family,” he said.
The issue of corruption was acknowledged by Chavez’s supporters but most dismissed it as an inevitable part of politics anywhere in the world. “It’s not Chavez’s fault that some people disgraced themselves,” said Perez. “But the majority of people around Chavez are good men, honest men, patriotic men, men of the people.
Others were not so forgiving. “He needs to get rid of the rats that are around him,” said one man, who did not give his name.
Among the Chavez supporters, views on Capriles were varied. “Capriles is the candidate of the oligarchy, of capitalism, of the bourgeoisie, and we reject him completely,” said Aider Perez, echoing the fiery rhetoric Chavez has employed throughout his campaign.
“If Capriles won – which is not going to happen – the benefits that the president has given to the people are going to be eliminated, because they are not going to let the people carry on advancing,” he added.
Taco Cauro was more philosophical. “Everyone has the right to choose to want to be president, we are a completely democratic country,” he said. “If there is no opposition here there is no democracy, there has to be an opposition and they have to be against [the government].”
For others, who Capriles is and what he stands for did not matter; only that he was standing against Chavez. “There has to be an opposition,” said Yovianna Catañera. “But I don’t really know him.”
The voting process in Venezuela has come under scrutiny from much of the Western media. For people in Sabaneta, though, it was a source of intense pride. “In Venezuela we have a true democratic process, it is the best in the world,” said one polling official, who said he was not allowed to give his name.
Although his job was to ensure a fair election, he left little doubt as to where his loyalties lay. He accused the opposition of wanting to sabotage the vote by any means possible, including cutting off the electricity, and placed the blame with Miami based Venezuelan ex-pats.
Speculation that Chavez and his supporters would refuse to relinquish power if the president faced defeat was dismissed – even by his opponents. “They will have to accept the result, it’s a democracy here,” said Franc. However, he accused government officials of using threats to guarantee the vote. “There are people here that have to vote for Chavez – if they don’t they’ll throw them out of their jobs,” he said.
For his supporters, the claims Chavez would not accept defeat are another example of media demonization of Chavez. “We are a democratic people here – this is the message that I want to send to the world, that us Venezuelans are participative and democratic,” said Perez. “It is not like they say in the international press – that Chavez is a dictator.”
Instead, Perez was concerned that Capriles would not accept the legitimacy of the vote. “What worries us is that he won’t recognize the result – if that happens the people are going to go to the streets to defend President Chavez’s victory.”
Perez also shot a warning to the U.S. government not to interfere following Chavez’s victory. “I want to give this message to the U.S. government,” he said. “Forget it because the people of América have woken up. Forget it because if we have to defend our sovereignty and independence with our lives we are going to do it.”
“The US is not going to put a foot in Venezuela again,” he added. “It would be a mistake to try and intervene because we are ready ... we are ready for a war.”
After the polls closed, small crowds began to congregate in Sabaneta’s Plaza Bolivar. There was no room for doubt among them. “The euphoria and the adrenaline is invading our bodies,” said Angel Gallado, who was passing around a jug of bright yellow brew with friends. “We feel like winners, the Venezuelan people have just won.”
“Chavez is the people and the people are Chavez,” he added. “Chavez doesn’t win, the people win ... We don’t see him as an angel, we see him as our brother, as our friend.”
By the time his optimism was confirmed, he had been joined in the plaza by a whooping throng. “No one can take Chavez from us – only God” shouted one man. “He will reign for 5,000 years,” laughed another.
“The youth is with Chavez,” cried a group in red Chavista Youth T-shirts. “We love him so much.”
For Aida Perez and Sabaneta’s other Chavistas there was never any real doubt over whether the town’s most famous son would win once again. “Capriles is not going to win because in this country there are more poor people than rich people,” he said before the results, “because that is how they treated us, that is how they left us – in misery; the Republic was left in misery, sweat and tears.”
Whatever legacy Chavez leaves Venezuela when his rule finally comes to an end, in Sabaneta, at least, he will not be remembered for misery, sweat or tears. Most of those out on the streets on Sunday night used a different word: pride.
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AFFIRM BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION
The hills of Caracas emptied into a thousand trickles of red tshirts, hats and horns on Wednesday of last week for the culmination of Chavez's presidential campaign. In La Vega and other barrios, community-run jeeps lined the streets to take passengers to the final event before Sunday's national elections, the vehicles donated to the local consejos comunales as part of the government's program to enable transportation to the hardest to reach parts of the city. Driven and managed by local community members, they descended caravan style, flying red flags, weaving their way to the center of the city.
Downtown, people slipped through traffic on motorcycles or arrived by foot to gather in sections of the city, forming unity blocks to march together. One such section was the Alianza Popular Revolucionario (APR), a national network of popular movements. They gathered beneath red and black flags at the feet of a statute of Ezekiel Zamora, and included members of the community media network ANMCLA, two campesino fronts, Movimiento Frente Campesinos Bolivar and Zamora, the workers front of SURCOS, and Sexo General Diversa, a woman and LGBTQ advocacy group. Together, they represent a diverse fellowship of political and social activists, united in their desire for poder popular, or people power.
Members of the APR support Chavez because he has given them the space and resources to have a national impact. The premise of Venezuela's participatory democracy is the construction of popular power, or political structures that focus power on local councils and social movements. There have been countless victories for popular movements over the past decade, a recent one being the new workers rights law guaranteeing a six-month maternity leave for mothers, followed by leave for either the mother or the father, depending on the family's circumstances.
The Chavez presidency has also had positive effects in terms of national attention for popular movements within the alliance. In the past two years, groups like Sexo Genero Diverso, have had a profound influence on the consciousness of the Venezuelan people. While their success is due to their own massive education efforts utilizing art, propaganda, street campaigns, and open discussions, the support they've had through the structures of popular power under Chavez has enabled their widespread success.
On a national level, popular power has had a profound effect on community development in Venezuela. By localizing money in the lands of the consejo comunales, and investing resources in the management skills of people in the communities through training and project grants, the revolution is focusing on enabling its population to be self-sufficient. This, coupled with free healthcare, education, and significant support for culture and arts, is why thousands of independent-minded Venezuelans support another term for Chavez.
Throughout the first half of the morning, people filled up the three main boulevards that stretch the length of the city, and stayed until nightfall. A slogan of choice was, “Are we here because we're required to be? NO!” in reference to claims that Chavez only has the support of people he somehow forces or bribes to come. While members of the APR are the first to acknowledge that the revolution must continue to deepen its practice, and that there are always things that can be done differently, they came out in force to acknowledge the revolution´s current accomplishments, and affirm their desire for another six years of popular power.
VENEZUELA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS - A BRIEFING
(Venezuela Solidarity Campaign)
Venezuelans go to the polls this Sunday (7 October) to elect their president. In total there are seven candidates from president. However the main choice is between the incumbent Hugo Chavez, backed by a coalition of progressive and left aligned parties and social movements, and Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor with strong ties to the country's elite and backed by a number of right-wing parties, who have formed a unity coalition known as the M.U.D.
VENEZUELA’S ELECTIONS – CERTIFIED AS FREE AND FAIR
This will be Venezuela's 15th set of national elections since Hugo Chavez was elected President in 1999. That is more sets of elections than took place in the 40 years prior to Hugo Chávez becoming President.It is also one of the highest number of elections held in any country in the world in that time. All have been declared free and fair including by international bodies such as the EU and Organisation of American States (OAS).In September 2012 former US President Jimmy Carter said “the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world” and that Hugo Chavez has always won “fairly and squarely”.Of the previous Presidential election, held in 2006, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza recently said: “we had no objection. It was fair” and that Venezuela “has a strong electoral system that is technically very good.”The Report of the EU Observer Mission to the 2006 Venezuelan presidential election stated that it was overall conducted “in respect of national laws and international standards,” with “a high turnout, and peaceful atmosphere”.This scrutiny of Venezuela’s election processes will continue at the coming Presidential election with 200 international witnesses, including from the Union of South American Nations (representing all 12 South American countries which vary significantly in their political composition, from Ecuador to Brazil to Colombia).
Venezuela’s elections are overseen by the National Electoral Council, an independent branch of state similar to the UK Electoral Commission. The trust in this institution has been so great that earlier this year Venezuela's main right-wing opposition coalition, the M.U.D, organised for it to conduct its Presidential primaries. The M.U.D Executive Secretary described the CNE's role in this selection as "an excellent indication of the democratic institutions in the country". Previously in July 2011, the right-wing party Voluntad Popular held internal elections with support from the CNE in which Leopoldo López was chosen as National Coordinator. López – who is currently the campaign manager for Presidential candidate Henry Capriles Rodonski - expressed his appreciation for the CNE’s role.
HIGH LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION
As a result of the CNE’s efforts to register people and to make voting easier, Venezuela has had unprecedented rates of voter turnout in recent years. Three quarters of voters went to the polls in the 2006 presidential elections and a record 66% voted in the 2010 Parliamentary elections. Record numbers are now registered to vote – up from 11 million in 1998 to 19 million today. Over 96% of Venezuelans are now registered to vote, whereas as many as 20% of the electorate were left off the list in the past. Access to polling stations is also greater than ever before, with there number increasing from 8,000 to 14,000 in the past decade. This has tackled a past problem whereby ballot boxes were often not accessible to those in the poorest areas, where most of the population lives.
A SECURE AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS
Venezuela uses some of the most secure and advanced voting technology for its elections. Venezuela’s electronic voting system is 100% auditable with 17 audits carried out and involving all the political parties at each stage. On the day of voting, the electronic voting machines are activated only when a fingerprint that corresponds to the voter’s ID number in the database is registered. This system prevents fraudulent behaviour such as double voting and identity theft. There is also a clear separation in the voting between the systems that identifies the voter and another where the voter casts their ballot. Additionally, the machines print a paper receipt that can be checked by the individual voter and allows for a full manual count to be made if any results are contested. A manual count of more than half of the votes automatically takes place to ensure that the results tally. In August 2012, Jennifer McCoy, director at the prestigious Carter Centre, described Venezuela's electronic voting system as “the most comprehensive that...I've seen in the world”. Of the post-electoral audits she said it had “never had any significant discrepancy between the paper receipts and the electronic votes.”  The Venezuelan public had an opportunity to scrutinise the election procedures in nationwide test-run on 2 September that reviewed the electoral machinery and technology. About 1.8 million voters, around 10% of the electorate, participated in this test with the Executive Secretary of the right-wing opposition M.U.D coalition confirming that that voting in Venezuela is secret and secure.
POLLS SHOW STRONG LEAD FOR CHAVEZ
Polls indicate a clear win for Hugo Chávez as the most likely outcome. The average of the 18 polls conducted in September gave Hugo Chavez a 12% lead. Many polls also show president approval rates of over 60%. In August 2012, the Japanese finance organisation, Nomura Holding published a client analysis stating that Hugo Chavez has a “large lead” against Henrique Capriles Radonski which they found “unlikely to be closed ...before the October 7 election”. Likewise a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report earlier this year described “President Chavez's commanding lead in the polls and high level of electoral support”. This poll lead is undoubtedly linked to Venezuela’s expanding economy, which is growing at 6% per year, as well as new social policies which address the ongoing needs of Venezuela’s poor majority. For example in the past year alone 250,000 new social houses have been built, state pensions made available for all and the minimum wage increased by 30%. These follow the policies that have successfully delivered free healthcare and education for all,slashing poverty rates in recent years.
RIGHT-WING COALITION TO REJECT RESULTS IF THEY LOSE ELECTION?
In light of the aforementioned substantial poll leads for Hugo Chávez, there are growing fears that sections of the right-wing coalition are preparing to reject the results should Venezuelans choose to re-elect President Chavez in October. For example, Ricardo Haussmann, a key Capriles economic adviser, recently said his campaign will employ 200,000 people at the polling stations so that they can declare their own results to the world before the official announcement is made by Venezuela's independent National Electoral Council (CNE). The intention is clear: to discredit the official results and claim fraud. As Eleazar Diza Rangel, editor of Venezuela's main national newspaper Ultimas Noticias – which is broadly sympathetic to the anti-Chávez opposition - recently explained the purpose of attempts "to claim fraud at the coming presidential elections of 7 October [would be] in order not to recognise the people's will". A smear campaign against the independent National Electoral Council (CNE) also appears underway. For example, on August 21, head of the opposition campaign Leopold Lopez announced that the opposition would take action against alleged “risks” that he claimed the state poses to the votes. But even whilst making the claim of “bias” Lopez admitted that "In all the processes that have been done in the past there has not been a single indication that there is no guarantee that the vote is secret". Others in the Venezuelan opposition are not supporting the tactic of preparing to cry fraud and smearing the CNE. For example Enrique Marquez MP, vice-President of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo, said on 5 September that Venezuela’s voting system " offers no danger to the confidentiality of the vote."
UNDERMINING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE
Rejecting the legitimate election results in the face of a Hugo Chavez victory would be totally consistent with how sections of the Venezuelan right have previously resorted to undemocratic means. Most well known is the short-lived coup against the democratically-elected Chavez government in 2002 which abolished democracy altogether until it was overturned by popular demonstrations. In 2003, they unleashed a 64-day oil industry lock-out that saw GDP collapse by a third with the declared aim of ousting President Chavez. They then claimed fraud at the 2004 recall referendum on whether Hugo Chávez would continue as President, which he won 58% to 42%. The opposition promised to provide evidence but eight years on they are yet to do so. Then faced with certain defeat, they decided to boycott the 2005 parliamentary elections at the last minute, seeking to undermine the results, a move opposed by the Organisation of American States. Since then opposition has sought to use the democratic process to remove Hugo Chavez. In doing so it has accepted the National Electoral Council (CNE) results that saw its presidential candidate Henry Capriles Radonski elected as a state governor, Hugo Chávez's proposed constitutional changes narrowly defeated in a referendum in 2007 and dozens of governors, mayors and MPs from parties of the right elected. But faced with Hugo Chávez winning another six year term, some in the opposition seem set on resorting to the old ways of ignoring the will of the people.
As is normal in any democracy there is an open and vibrant election process underway with both main candidates regularly organising rallies, visiting towns, doing interviews and daily press conferences. Whatever views are held of the Chávez-led government, its democratic mandate is without doubt. There is certainly no evidence from previous elections of fraud or manipulation. Jimmy Carter has described Venezuela’s electoral system as amongst the “best in the world.” Any doubt about the impartiality of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) in overseeing free elections is easily dismissed by the fact that right-wing coalition have recently asked for it to oversee their own internal selections. It is not serious for it to endorse the CNE as a legitimate electoral authority in February and denounce it in October. The truth is that any opposition attempt to cry fraud is really about covering up its own political unpopularity as the polls show. Any such manoeuvres to undermine the real outcome need to be widely condemned. It is the right of the Venezuelan people to freely determine who their next president is. Their will must be upheld and respected
 Spanish language interview: http://america.infobae.com/notas/57123-Centro-Carter-hara-solo-un-seguimiento-informal-de-los-comicios-venezolanos English transcript: http://venezuela-us.org/2012/08/29/carter-center-affirms-venezuelan-elections-are-historically-fair/
 VSC study see http://tinyurl.com/septpolls
 Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577408422884796042.html
SUCCESS IN QUEBEC SPEAKS TO POWER OF MASS MOVEMENTS
Usually it takes social movements years, even decades, to significantly affect public policy. The movement unleashed by Québec students last spring has had a much quicker impact.
Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois' government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.
After rescinding the Charest government's special bill that criminalized student demonstrations, they abolished the tuition increase that universities had already begun charging (many students have received a rebate). The Parti Québecois also eliminated a highly regressive two hundred dollar per person health tax and have moved to shut down a controversial nuclear power plant. In another decision prioritizing the environment and people’s health, they placed a long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracking and eliminated subsidies for asbestos mining, which prompted the federal Conservative government to announce it would no longer block the Rotterdam Convention from listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic product.
In addition to these reforms, the PQ appears to be re-evaluating the $3 billion Turcot Interchange highway expansion that the Montréal city council has criticized and the Plan Nord resource extraction initiative, which has been criticized by environmental, socialist and indigenous groups. Even though the PQ has a history of backing free 'trade' agreements the Marois government looks set to obstruct the Harper Conservatives' negotiations around the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe, which would further entrench corporate rights. Marois may even embarrass Harper at the upcoming Francophonie summit by supporting African countries in their call for a permanent UN Security Council seat.
To pay for abolishing the health tax and tuition freeze the government announced a tax increase for those making over $130,000 and another higher tax bracket for those making over $250,000. Additionally, the government announced that it will increase certain corporate taxes and reduce capital gains tax exemptions, which allow those who make their money from investing to pay lower tax rates than those who make their money from working.
Not surprisingly the corporate media is up in arms about these developments. Right-wing commentators are complaining that Marois' ministerial appointees are too ecologically minded and not sufficiently concerned about business interests. They are particularly angry about the tax increases.
To a large extent these reforms by the PQ government, which had drifted to the right in recent years, are the fruit of the last eight months of protests. But don't expect the dominant media to credit all those unnamed individuals who demonstrated, put their body on the line or risked their entire school semester to defend socially progressive ideals. To do so might spur further activism.
But that’s exactly what is needed. The grassroots movements that have developed need to continue pushing for a more equitable and ecologically sustainable society. The minority PQ government is especially vulnerable to popular protests as it looks to capture the broadly progressive electorate and squeeze out Québec Solidaire, the left-wing party that has two members in the National Assembly. At the same time the PQ is facing a backlash from right-wing commentators and corporate lobbyists who are most powerful when the streets are quietest.
For those in Québec, recent gains should inspire further mobilizations. For those outside, the PQ’s reforms are a reminder that determined grassroots movements can create a political climate in which governments place environmental concerns and social rights over the interests of corporations and the wealthy.
GREEN LEFT FRINGE PACKS YHA
Jay Blackwood (Bristol Green Left)
Around fifty people packed out the meeting room at Bristol YHA for a Green Party fringe meeting organised by Green Left. The wide-ranging discussion was led by Howard Thorp (newly elected Green Party Campaigns Organiser), Derek Wall (newly elected International Co-ordinator) and Will Duckworth (newly elected Green Party Deputy Leader). The meeting was chaired by Romayne Phoenix, who stood in the recent leadership election. Although Romayne eventually lost out to Natalie Bennett, her joint campaign with Will nonetheless did much to raise the profile of Green Left within the party, and this was reflected in the generally upbeat tone of the discussion.
Howard led off with an introduction stressing the cataclysmic nature of the current capitalist crisis, a theme that was developed by the other speakers and by those who raised points and questions from the floor. How we address the crisis – how we answer people’s questions and tackle their concerns, how we strive to provide an alternative vision of society based on socialism and sustainability – was the key issue under examination.
The meeting stressed the devastating impact of current social and environmental developments, from crushing austerity measures to the recent revelations about the accelerating melt rate of polar ice. But the day’s striking success on the conference floor – the passing of a resolution on economic democracy which has been described as the Green Party’s ‘Clause 4 moment’ – ensured that recognition of the seriousness of the current situation was tempered with a degree of genuine optimism about our ability to carry the struggle forward effectively.
Attendance at the fringe meeting, which had to be organised independently of the party apparatus, provides another reason for cautious optimism. Green Left continues to grow and to draw people towards its vision of a grass-roots, eco-socialist alternative to the purely electoral focus that has characterised the Green Party up until now.