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A TIME TO BUILD




There is really no need to list what makes these times so grim, so unbearable. Yet it might be worthwhile to point up a key point in all the horrible mess – the fundamental and increasingly blatant disregard for international humanitarian law as a tentative project to codify our mutual responsibilities across the globe. We have long known that the “rule- based” rhetoric of the Western powers was at best partial and at worst utterly cynical, but that characteristic is now on open display as rarely before. The US, closely supported by the UK’s government and official parliamentary opposition, is currently defending an indefensible client state by pretending that an ongoing atrocity is not an atrocity. Further, while what is happening in Palestine is increasingly and horribly visible, the Ukraine war is dragging on relatively out of sight, with both protagonists determined not to undertake any true calculation of the costs. The refusal to tally and make public the death toll, let alone the lasting trauma and destruction of infra-structure and environment needs to be challenged and undermined. What is the price and who is paying it?


The brutal cynicism of the Israeli oppression is increasingly in plain sight and has resulted in worldwide protest, as well as against that state’s compliant allies and spineless national politicians. There is hope too that this wave of protest and resistance will grow stronger, especially given the younger generation’s grasp of the situation.


Greta Thunberg has put it brilliantly:


Advocating for climate justice fundamentally comes from a place of caring about people and their human rights. That means speaking up when people suffer, are forced to flee their homes or are killed – regardless of the cause. It is the same reason why we have always held strikes in solidarity with marginalised groups – including those in Sápmi, Kurdistan, Ukraine and many other places – and their struggles for justice against imperialism and oppression. Our solidarity with Palestine is no different, and we refuse to let the public focus shift away from the horrifying human suffering that Palestinians are currently facing.”


That youthful energy, vision and commitment was also evident in December as the states that are party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) met at the UN in New York. Young people are at the heart of the global movement for nuclear abolition. The Treaty has now been signed by close to half the world’s states and is growing in credibility, and changing the discourse around nuclear weapons and, critically, exposing the suicidal irrationality of the concept of “deterrence”. As a model for how to achieve global change the TPNW is attracting the attention of climate campaigners, as George Monbiot explains, in the context of COP 28:


The professor of environmental politics Anthony Burke suggests an approach modelled on the 2017 treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the 1997 anti-personnel mine ban convention and the 2008 convention on cluster munitions. In these cases, states and citizens’ groups frustrated with a lack of progress began building treaties without the participation of the powerful nations – the US in particular – that sought to resist them. They developed enough momentum not only to push the treaties through the UN general assembly, but also to establish new diplomatic norms that made defiance of the treaties much harder to justify, even for nations that refuse to ratify them.”


Leaving aside predictions in the form of either optimism or pessimism there is real hope for a future, and plenty of work to hand for organisation, coalition building and peaceful direct action.


Adrienne Rich was right:


My heart is moved by all I cannot save.

So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those

who age after age, perversely,

With no extraordinary power,

reconstitute the world.


(from “Natural Sources”)


A version of this article first appeared in the Scottish Socialist Voice






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