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DRACONIAN New Rail Industry Policy WORSENS Supply Chain Crisis, CRUSHES Workers

Wars, Inflation, and Strikes: A Summer of Discontent in Europe?

By Josefina L. Martínez - Left Voice, July 12, 2022

Strikes over wage increases or working conditions are occurring in response to high inflation, aggravated by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. These labor actions show a change in the mood of the European working class.

Are we heading toward a summer of discontent in Europe? Can we foresee a hot autumn on the Continent? It would be hasty to make such statements, but new strike activity is beginning to unfold among sectors of several countries’ working class. Inflation reached 8.8 percent as a European average in May (with higher rates in countries like the UK and Spain). After years of inflation below 1.5 percent, this is a significant change that is causing a fall in the population’s purchasing power, especially among the working class. Many analysts are already talking about the possibility of stagflation: a combination of recession and inflation.

This is in addition to the political instability of several governments and a widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional parties. The latter was expressed in France in the last elections, with high abstention and the growth of Marine Le Pen’s far-right party and of the center-left coalition grouped around Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly and now faces a five-year period of great political uncertainty. Another government in crisis is that of the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down.

In this context, recent weeks have seen strikes taking place in key sectors, including transport, steel, ports, and public services, as well as in more precarious sectors. Although there are differences among these countries, the strikes are opening a breach in the climate of “national unity” that governments tried to impose a few months ago, when the war in Ukraine began. In this article we review some of these labor conflicts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Portugal's Climate Justice Movement Takes on Oil and Gas Company Galp

By Leonor Canadas - Common Dreams, July 3, 2022

Amidst the threat of nuclear war posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which explicitly exposed Europe's dependence on oil and gas from Russia, one could expect that the smart solution would be to get away from fossil fuels and make massive investments in renewable infrastructure and production.

The war should have accelerated the transition to an economy moved fully by renewable energies. Yet, quite the contrary has happened. The European Commission proposes that investments in fossil, gas, and nuclear power are labeled "sustainable investments," understanding them as "transitional" energy sources.

At the same time, European countries, in order to condemn Russia, are looking for fossil fuels elsewhere, shifting dependence to other countries, where gas and oil exploitation perpetuate colonial exploitation or support authoritarian regimes. Shifting from one authoritarian regime to another is not the solution, and neither is shifting from one kind of fossil fuel to another by using gas as a "transitional" energy source, nor by going back to coal.

In Europe's westernmost country, Portugal, the government sees this war and crisis as an opportunity, claiming that it "has the unique conditions to be a supply platform for Europe," talking about how the Port in Sines could be an entry point to supply Germany with the gas it needs. Particularly, gas from the USA and Nigeria could arrive in Sines and then be transported to other places in Europe. This would require the expansion of the LNG terminal in Sines and the construction of new gas pipelines in Portugal and Spain, to overcome the Pirenees. This is obviously a megalomaniacal plan, which doesn't mean it will not get the green light.

Fossil infrastructure is exactly why we are trapped in this crisis, and why capitalism will never be able to avoid climate collapse. If we take climate science seriously, no project that leads to an emissions increase could go forward. We need to cut 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 2010 emissions levels. Consequently, there can be absolutely no option on the table when it comes to new fossil projects and infrastructure. On the contrary, we need plans for just and fast transitions and the shutdown of existing infrastructure. That is not the plan in Portugal, in the EU or in the richest countries in the world, by a long stretch.

The UK Government's Nuclear Scam

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

A Child Shall Lead Them: to Heat Pumps for Europe

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 2022

While the Russian military continues to devastate Ukraine and the US sends billions for military aid to Ukraine, European countries continue to support the Russian war effort by purchasing Russian oil and gas. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies reap a bonanza on shortages that are impoverishing American consumers at the gasoline pump. And even as climate catastrophe is causing still more devastating heatwaves, droughts, and floods those companies are planning to expand fossil fuel production to exploit the Ukraine crisis still more.

Why not starve the Russian war machine by a crash program to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy? Among those asking that question is Lillian Fortuna, an 11-year-old activist who started this petition to President Joe Biden:

Dear President Biden:

Right now your administration is taking advice from big fossil fuel companies regarding what to do about Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas. These companies want to increase production of natural gas here and ship it to Europe as a replacement for Russian gas, which, surprise, happens to be enormously profitable for them. Sadly, your administration has granted more drilling leases than the Trump administration just as data has emerged showing the industry was undercounting its methane emissions by 70%. It is really surprising that you are choosing this solution instead of using this moment as an opportunity to help Europe switch to ever-cleaner electricity, which is what will really undercut Putin’s power. Environmentalist Bill McKibben has an amazing plan to do just that.

We are writing to ask you to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.

To read and sign the full petition: https://www.change.org/p/joseph-r-biden-stop-putin-by-sending-heat-pumps-to-europe

To read Bill McKibben’s “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom”: https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/heat-pumps-for-peace-and-freedom?s=r

Appalachia Does Not Need More Fossil Fuel Greed

By Emily Satterwhite - DeSmog, May 31, 2022

A fossil fuel executive recently told Fortune, “Appalachia is the elephant in the room,” referring to the claim that demand for natural gas is rising, while supply in Appalachia and the United States is falling. Such corporate executives would like to see expansion of production in order to bail out their dying industry.

And Fortune’s interviewee is right. Appalachia is the elephant in the room. We need to talk more about the role of Appalachia in the country’s energy system. But what he gets wrong is that the future does not entail further dependence on fossil fuels. The future that Appalachia can and will lead is in renewable energy.

For over a century, this region has powered the country’s growth with our natural resources, including coal, gas, and oil. However, our communities have not seen the prosperity and health the fossil fuel industry continues to promise. Instead, we are suffering the impacts of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and a boom-and-bust industry. It’s time to stop waiting for these corporations to fulfill their promises because, frankly, fossil fuels will never help the people of Appalachia. The only thing we can count on the industry to do is pollute, profit, and extract. 

Fossil fuel executives and their allies are using the devastating war in Ukraine to promote their industry in order to stuff their pockets with our hard-earned money, and the federal government has chosen to take their side. The liquified natural gas (LNG) industry is “unleashing” buildout to rake in global profits, leaving everyday Americans to pick up the increasing tab. I find myself asking: Is the federal government the people’s government, as they say they are? Or are they working for fossil fuel executives?

The people know that we must shift course to a renewable future that will bring our communities the jobs, health, prosperity, and safety we deserve. There are four reasons to do so: economic stability, cost savings, reliable jobs, and community health. 

The oil and gas industry is notoriously volatile. Prices rise abruptly, hurting consumers while executives continue to make a hefty profit. Renewable energy on the other hand, has proven to be much more stable in terms of price. At the end of April, renewables met nearly 100 percent of California’s demand for the first time, followed by 103 percent the following week.

Goodbye Russian Gas, Hello Rapid Decarbonisation

By Simon Pirani - Open Democracy, May 20, 2022

We must cut Russian fossil fuel imports and change our energy use, to combat both the cost of living crisis and the global climate crisis.

Three months into the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, European politicians and officials are working out plans to reduce fossil fuel imports from Russia to zero.

This week, the European Commission published a plan to end Russian gas imports by 2027. Climate campaign groups say it can be done much sooner.

This is a historic turning point. Gas imports from Russia started in the 1960s and came to symbolise not only a flourishing trading relationship with Europe, but also a geopolitical partnership that survived the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

How strong is the case for Europe’s labour movement and civil society to support sanctions against the Russian economy, and specifically against Russian fossil fuels? Which sanctions could be effective? And could an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports give a push to decarbonisation and the fight to prevent dangerous global warming?

Manifesto of Resistance Committee

By collective - Resistance Committee, May 20, 2022

What does Putin’s regime and imperialism bring with them? We saw it in the grim example of Donbass and Crimea. We saw it in the bloody suppression of the peoples of Belarus and Kazakhstan, the destruction of protest movements in Russia, bombardment of Syrian cities. It appeared to be not enough for Putin. On February 24, 2022 he started full-scale war against Ukraine. Today the epicenter of the resistance against enslavement is here. The struggle of Ukrainians gives hope for liberation to everyone oppressed by Putinism.

For centuries the territory of modern Ukraine has lain on the frontier of the interests of imperial ambition and aggression. People of free spirit have flocked here away from the despotism. Among those people were cossacks and opryshki insurgents. Heroic makhnovists fought here for the freedom of the people against all rulers.

Today’s war in Ukraine is the continuation of the struggle for peoples’ freedom from all authoritarianism. Residents of Ukraine as well as people from many other countries fight together for the liberties and rights which were gained by the ages of popular struggle and the effort of revolutionaries. And even though today the Ukrainian state is on stage, the resistance against the invasion is being waged by the mass popular movement.

Bankers Are Driving the Wheat Price Explosion, Not the War in Ukraine

By Matteo Tiratelli - Red Green Labour, May 19, 2022

In late March, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that the war in Ukraine risked unleashing a “hurricane of global hunger”. With climate change-induced droughts in east Africa and intense heatwaves in India, they feared that a war in Europe’s most fertile and productive region could compound the situation and lead to food shortages on an unprecedented scale. The UN’s concerns were made terrifyingly concrete earlier this month, when the World Food Programme estimated that “44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation”.

The problem is, this narrative – that war and climate change are leading to mass starvation – is wrong.

The recent news cycle has been driven by the explosion in the price of wheat, which has gone from $7.58 per bushel at the start of the year to nearly $12 a few months later. But the prices of basic commodities are extremely volatile. And these spikes have little to do with the amount of food going around, or how much people are eating. Instead, they are driven by financial speculation.

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