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southern africa / environment / opinion / analysis Friday December 07, 2018 19:20 byShawn Hattingh

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world. But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – the major polluters in South Africa are the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations (including state corporations), continuing an economy based on cheap black labour, mining and externalising costs. State-backed”empowerment” firms — for Afrikaners from 1948, and blacks from 1994 — are deeply involved.

South Africa’s polluting giants: it’s about profits and class

Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world:
· In 2015 alone, South Africa emitted 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)
· As such, South Africa as a country is a major contributor to global warming – although it is not quite in the league of China, the USA and India
· Air pollution in some parts of South Africa, such as the Mpumalanga Highveld, is so bad that millions of people suffer from diseases caused by air pollution, including skin rashes, heart disease, asthma and lung cancer
· In fact, it is estimated tha between 2 200 and 2 700 people in South Africa die prematurely every year as a result of being exposed to high levels of air pollution
· But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – not all people contribute equally to air pollution
· When pollution is looked at in conjunction with class, it becomes very clear who the major polluters in South Africa are; and it is not the working class

The polluting class

· The reality is that the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions – including CO2 emissions – in South Africa
· The biggest 80 companies operating in South Africa account for over 60% of all air pollution

Two of the biggest polluters amongst these companies are [state-owned] Eskom and [privatised] Sasol

· Sasol’s Secunda plant, which is a coal-to-fuel plant, is the largest single emitter of CO2 in the world. Sasol as a group emits over 60 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

Eskom, however, is by far the biggest polluter in the country
· 90% of the electricity Eskom generates comes from coal and in particular lowgrade coal that creates heavy pollution when burned
· Eskom emits well over 200 million metric tons of CO2 a year
· Over 77% of the electricity generated by Eskom through low-grade coal is used by mining, commerce, manufacturing and agricultural enterprises – with less than 20% being consumed by domestic/residential users

But it is not just CO2 that is emitted by the likes of Sasol and Eskom –other poisonous gasses, including sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and mercury are pumped out by these companies

Profits and pollution

· Under capitalism and the market system major polluters like Eskom and Sasol externalise the costs of pollution by dumping it into the air
· Therefore, because they don’t have to pay for the pollution they make, Eskom and Sasol’s profits are subsidised and the costs of pollution – including bad health – are externalised onto people
· Having the ability to dump pollution and externalise any costs also means that companies like Sasol and Eskom don’t have any incentive to use cleaner energy
· So it pays companies to pollute and pollution and profits are very directly connected

Pollution and the structure of the South African economy

· The major defining features of South African capitalism, and what has made manufacturing and especially mining traditionally so profitable, are cheap labour and extremely cheap electricity
· Colonialism and apartheid were tied to capitalism and, through oppression and racism, a black working class was created as a source of very cheap labour, and hence high profit, for capitalists (the tiny group of people that own the means of production) in South Africa

But cheap electricity also played a huge role in ensuring the profitability of South African capitalism
· In fact, the state nationalised private electricity companies – such as the Victoria Falls Power Company – in 1948 in order to provide giant companies, including Anglo American, with the cheapest electricity in the world
· To do so Eskom has used low-grade coal, often supplied to it by the very companies receiving cheap and even subsidised electricity, such as Anglo American, because it was the cheapest way to produce electricity
· Thus capitalism in South Africa and the use of low-grade heavily polluting coal to generate the cheapest possible electricity have been and are tied together

If air pollution is to be addressed in South Africa, therefore, the structure of the economy will also have to be changed, as it is the structure of capitalism in the country that drives the use of cheap low-grade coal – and hence massive air pollution – by companies like Sasol, Eskom and ArcelorMittal

Empowerment has a long dirty history

· Eskom has not only used low-grade polluting coal as its main source of electricity to benefit giant companies at the expense of the working class and its health; it also gas also has a long history of promoting aspirant sections of the ruling class through ‘empowerment’ and their link to low-grade coal

During apartheid, Eskom was used as a means of Afrikaner economic empowerment
· Most of the low-grade coal mines were owned by Afrikaner capitalists –English capital already had a monopoly over mines with better quality coal
· To assist these Afrikaner capitalists Eskom focused on building power stations that generated electricity through burning low-grade and heavily polluting coal. It favoured purchasing this low quality coal from operations, such as Gencor, owned by Afrikaner capitalists

Today and since 1994, Eskom now plays a key role in elite black economic empowerment
· Most black economic empowerment companies in the coal industry – like Afrikaner empowerment companies in the past – are concentrated around low-grade coal mines
· Eskom today supports these initiatives through purchasing low-grade coal from corporations with shares owned by a black elite, including Patrice Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa
· Thus the focus on low-grade coal by Eskom is also linked to a history of furthering the profits and class interests of an elite with political connections to the state

As with apartheid, it is the working class that pays the consequences

mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / opinion / analysis Friday December 07, 2018 14:03 byKhaled Aboud

As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria.

As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria. The relationship is gaining strength of late. Ilham Ehmed, co-chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council spared no words of praise to describe the relationship between Saudi Arabia, and the SDF and the de facto state-in-the-making in north eastern Syria:

“Saudi Arabia is a brother country of Syria and important to Muslims. The SDF is ready to cooperate with countries seeking to end the conflict in Syria and to impose stability by building a democratic Syria away from all sectarian and national projects.” (

In the curious SDF worldview, Saudi Arabia, a country run by an unelected despot monarchy, where flogging and public executions are an everyday affair, where women are pretty much banned from public life, which handsomely has funded jihadists in Syria for seven years, and which has an appalling human rights record in every single respect, is trying to build a democratic Syria! The butchers of Yemen are now a force for stability!

Of course, we can’t take Ehmed words at face value. It all goes down to money. You never bite the hand that feeds you. Saudi Arabia, after realizing that the Free Syrian Army would never defeat the Syrian Army and depose Assad, shifted, together with the USA, to support for the Kurdish-led SDF as a mechanism to have a say in the ongoing Syrian crisis and weaken the Arab nationalist regime of Assad, a thorn in the side to the growing religious conservatism which has swept the region. They have funded the SDF, together with another “beacon of democracy” in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, with over U$150 millions ( Progressives and libertarians should not remain silent at these developments, as what once could have been a revolutionary force degenerates into a callous pragmatism.

Strange alliances have happened in the course of the Syrian conflict. The Israel-Saudi Arabia- USA- SDF alliance has been possible because of Iran is a common enemy. The US also wants to prevent further involvement of Russia in the region, which could undermine their own weakened hegemony ( All of the above mentioned countries will support the Kurdish cause because the partition of Syria will weaken Assad and the Hezbolah-Iran axis. And the Kurdish are ready to use this contradiction to their advantage. But to what extent they are being used? Have they started to change their approach? They started demanding a very radical revolution in social, political, gender and environmental terms. Now their best allies are those who deny climate change and do the most to stop any action to save our planet (the US) and petro-monarchies that are structurally misogynist (UAE and Saudi Arabia). How can you commit seriously, in such a scenario, to any real programme of change, particularly on women and on the environment? Unavoidably, the Kurdish practice will eventually come back to narrow nationalism, totally divorced from its discourse as no real revolution will be tolerated by the USA imperialism and by the Saudis. They already started to create the abyss between the revolutionary PKK and the SDF/YPG: the USA put a price on the heads of top PKK commanders and the SDF/YPG are shamefully silent.

The model upon which they seek to build an independent Syria looks, to may Kurdish commentators, just like Israel:

“The Kurds must pressure western allies to develop a policy that takes a clear stance on the Kurds as Israel has so effectively done. Israel has successfully secured a guaranteed pro-Israel policy and stance from the US and major European powers that have yet to disappoint.” (

Israel, at its time, also built its apartheid state while talking about advanced democracy, women’s rights and even of semi-libertarian experiences such as the kibbutzim. But no self-management, no libertarian project can be built on top of the dispossession of the natives and no freedom can be the by-product of colonialism. Unfortunately, the Kurdish project, after covering itself with a multi-cultural lens is becoming increasingly sectarian: clashes have been reported –and they have been violently suppressed by the SDF/YPG- with Christians in Qamishli, and the Arabs in all the territories they are occupying well beyond their own natural areas of influence, are extremely unhappy with what they described as an occupation.

With the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the Kurdish demonstrated that, without US airpower, they are a weak and incompetent fighting force. It also demonstrated that the practical limits of the Kuridsh project are set by the USA: they left Afrin fall like a house of cards because it was no priority to their imperial master. The SDF/YPG difficulties fighting ISIS in Hajin contrasts with the speed by which they seized the oil fields in Deir ez Zor, which was priority for the USA. Unsurprisingly, they are now calling for the USA to establish a permanent military presence in the region ( This presence will have great geostrategic importance in shaping the new Middle East project designed by Bush Jr. and will be paid by the USA plunder of Syrian oil. From a libertarian guerrilla force willing to build a new world, they are turning into a US proxy army with a pragmatic approach in their quest to build a new nation-state in the Middle East.

The gap between Kurdish theory and practice has turned into an unbridgeable abyss. Their rhetorical cry for freedom, autonomy and independence is contrasted by their alliance with imperialism and with the most backward monarchies in the world. That they see themselves into the Israeli mirror –a racist, supremacist and militaristic enclave State- should be enough to send shivers down the spine of progressives.

It is clear, at this stage, that what started as a promising revolution has degenerated. From freedom fighters, the Kurdish have turned into the USA proxy army. While all the world look with horror at Saudi Arabia and their genocidal war in Yemen and the barbaric mutilation and murder of journalist Kashoggi, the silence of the Kurdish speaks louder than words. How can you talk about women’s freedom when your allies, best friends, the forces of stability, are among the worst misogynists in the world and you are silent, completely silent, about their crimes at a time that even conservatives like Macron in France criticise their crimes in Yemen and the horrific Kashoggi affair? A truly revolutionary force would be allying with the Saudi women fighting for change and equality, not with the Prince and the King! How can you talk about autonomy when you are absolutely dependent on the USA and indeed you are calling for a permanent occupation of the region where you claim sovereignty? What type of self-determination comes out of the cannon of a foreign imperialist super-power? These are questions that progressives around the world should legitimately ask to the Kurdish liberation movement –solidarity should not obscure critical thinking. What’s more, our solidarity has been with a libertarian project which was represented at one point by the Kurdish, but we should be no slaves to their terrible decisions and become uncritical accessories to justify the construction of their own sectarian state.

We live in strange times, indeed.

ireland / britain / anarchist movement / news report Thursday December 06, 2018 16:02 bySam

We learned at lunchtime today of the tragic news that Alan MacSimóin has died. It was sudden and hit us hard. Alan was a social historian, political activist, trade unionist and great supporter of the Come Here To Me! project from day one.

Alan first became interested in politics in the late 1960s as a young teenager. He said back in 2011:

I remember it as a time of optimism, modern ideas were challenging the conservative ones, the civil rights movement had brought out tens of thousands across the North, the Vietnamese were beating the mightiest military power on earth, the women’s movement was winning very real reforms.. Big change seemed possible.

While a secondary school student at Newpark Comprehensive School in South Dublin, Alan joined the youth wing of Official Sinn Féin. He recalls that the Special Branch visited his home and school in attempt to intimidate him as was common back then. Alan was centrally involved in the ‘Irish Union of School Students’ in the 1970s which at its height had 7,000 paid up members.

7-year-old Alan and a friend, both members of the William Thompson Republican Club, published a political magazine entitled ‘Red Rag‘ in 1975. Shortly later Alan resigned from the Official Republican Movement “because of its decision to regard the Soviet Bloc countries as “actually existing socialism” and to describe the 1956 Hungarian uprising as fascist.”

Alan became interested in libertarian socialist/anarchist politics and remained committed to these ideals until the day he died. In the 1970s, he was active with the anti-Nuclear movement and the Murrays Defence Committee.

A still from a television documentary showed Alan at a counter-demonstration in the face of a large anti-Traveller march in Tallaght, 1982.

He helped form the Dublin Anarchist Group (1978) and later the Anarchist Workers Alliance.

In 1984, Alan was a founding member of the anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement and for the next 26 years was involved in countless campaigns around trade union rights, migrant solidarity, anti-racism, anti-apartheid, anti-war and anti-Bin charges.

In the early 1990s, he acted as spokesperson for the Dublin Abortion Information Service and was active with the campaign for divorce in the 1995 referendum.

A life-long historian, Alan was involved with SIPTU’s Dublin District Committee in its 1913 and 1916 commemorations and was a founding member of the Stoneybatter & Smihfield People’s History Project. Launching the website in 2011, this pet project of his was an amazing resource of Irish anarchist material from the 1880s until today.

In the last couple of years, Alan was heavily active with the ‘Stoneybatter Against the Water Tax’ and the Dublin Central branch of the ‘Together For Yes’ victorious campaign.

Alan was a political mentor and strong supporter of Come Here To Me! since we launched in 2009. He will be truly missed. A giant of a man, he managed to retain close friends from all strands of left-wing politics in Ireland.

ireland / britain / anarchist movement / feature Thursday December 06, 2018 15:50 byWSM
featured image
Eddie Conlon (left) and Alan (right) at Dunnes Stores strike picket against Apartheid in South Africa, 1984.

The WSM are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alan MacSimóin, one of our founder members, a friend, and a key central figure in building the anarchist movement in Ireland for over four decades. Alan had not been a member of WSM for some years but remained politically active right to the end. His last Facebook post on November 29th was supporting the locked out bricklayers at Mary’s Mansions. Alan will be sorely missed by all in the WSM and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

See also:

"Alan MacSimóin (1957-2018) – Dublin Historian and Political Activist" Sam
"Alan MacSimóin (1957-2018): a pioneer of anarchism in Ireland" José Antonio Gutiérrez D. [Castellano]

eastern asia / culture / opinion / analysis Thursday December 06, 2018 11:47 byLAMA

This is a short review of the movie [English title] 'Shoplifters'. It is a film that examines aspects of the underbelly of contemporary Japanese society.

In Japan working hard and consuming are powerful ideals. ‘Shoplifters’ (‘Shoplifting Family’ is the original title) is an award winning movie that attacks the foundations of such thinking in the framework of a subtle and moving family portrait.

The opening scene introduces us to Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his fresh faced pre-teen son Shota (Jyo Kairi) as two of the titular thieves about to steal from a store. A weaker movie would apply conversation, voiceover or explanatory captions at this point. Here we have the highly capable Director Hirokazu Kore-eda who knows film is fundamentally a visual medium. We can see from the gestures and body language alone that this is something the two are habituated to. The other understated aspect of this is the choice of products they glom, indicating character motivation. They aren’t taking high priced fancy stuff, but food to survive. Though later we see there’s also a degree of self-delusion and half-baked justification for some of their choices. The biggest being the kidnapping of a four year old girl Juri (Sasaki Miyu) they happen upon on the way home. We hear her parents having a major domestic dispute. This makes it evident the girl isn’t wanted and since Osamu and his family aren’t asking for a ransom, it can’t really be kidnapping, can it?!

How many of us would act that way? Not many, but Kore-eda pulls off a masterful technique of showing events entirely from the hermetically sealed perspective of the shoplifters themselves. Somehow we are pulled into understanding their view, since there are no other major characters throughout the movie. Yes it’s a bit manipulative but it works and isn’t the same as excusing it, since he mitigates this by showing morally grey areas throughout. For example, Osamu is callously exploited as a day labourer on a building site. He is injured and of course receives no compensation. While recuperating he justifies the theft of expensive fishing rods by saying selling them will cover expenses for the month while he is recovering. You could argue that in the circumstances there is some justification for this. Though it comes at the price of involving their newest charge in the theft in a small but crucial moment, thus inducting a true innocent into their way of approaching the world. Later he and Shota are seen fishing with the rods. They haven’t been sold after all. This isn’t really ‘Feed a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish etc’. It is more symbolic of the short term rationale a long-term thief uses to excuse his actions.

In addition to the pater familias and son, we are introduced to his tough wife Nobuyo (Ando Sakura). There is also the sly Grandmother (Kiki Kirin) who exploits the emotions of distant relatives to extort money to supplement her pension. It may not be right in some ways, but she is an old woman doing what she needs to in a system where welfare barely covers basics. Rounding off the group is sister Aki (Matsuoka Mayu) who performs behind a mirror at a sex show. She fumbles for a real connection with another human being but is cheated by circumstances, an example of the way the director emblematically holds a mirror up to society itself.

It is clear none of the characters are working in a way that mainstream society would condone. Nevertheless, Kore-eda shows through tightly focused interactions that these people have feelings and are making choices that may not always be noble, but are definitely human. They lie and steal but also show solidarity. They feel joy in simple things such as fireworks and going to the beach, they laugh, love (both emotionally and physically), eat and die. Most significantly of all, as the closely observed contact between the characters plays out, we are forced to address the hypocrisy of a society that talks about the importance of ‘family’ yet allows the sort of physical abuse and neglect Juri receives. In contrast, the supposed misfits look after her and each other. It’s a society that can sometimes provide materially as long as you play by the rules, go to school and sell yourself to the corporation, but has lost its heart.

Towards the end of the movie some of the oddities of the familial situation Osamu and associates have woven, are unravelled. Grace notes and allusions earlier in the story are teased out and amplified. Just when we think we understand the situation Kore-eda has shown us, he takes the story to another level. The details of this are best left for a viewing rather than being spoilt. It is enough to say that the denouemont is well worth it, with the acting of Ando being a particular strength.

Kore-eda has crafted a beautifully realised indictment of contemporary society as it operates in an advanced capitalist economy. The acting is superbly naturalistic, the camera work spare and all the more effective for that, the actions of the characters are muddled and grey as in real life and the movie doesn’t look for easy answers. Best of all, it pays re-watching to be fully appreciated. Steal a view today.

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