Mar 2011 31

Aspecks was in attendance this weekend as the TUC organised March for the Alternative took place in London on Saturday 26 March 2011. The number of people protesting against the Government’s cuts was somewhere between 350,000 and 700,000 depending on who you believe, but the turnout was certainly higher than expected. Indeed, the carnival like atmosphere contained a real fruit salad of people, with greater variety in demographic than we at Aspecks have ever seen at a comparable event, as families, students, pensioners, trade unionists, environmental movements, the Green Party, the Labour Party, nurses, teachers and other public sector workers and general members of the public demonstrated peacefully together. This march was the biggest public demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003 and the diversity and humour at work in many of the signs and placards people carried reflected a real unity and expressed their collective frustrations and determination. You can see a quite a few of the signs in the footage we filmed below as well some scenes of the infamous “black bloc” walking peacefully down Piccadilly.

Now obviously there has been a tendency amongst some sections of the media to focus on the few hundred protesters who participated in more direct action than just marching and chanting (after all as Dan Hodges in the New Statesman points out – what are we marching to?), but are we really suggesting that such acts are not reflections of the real anger that is felt by many people? After all the minor damage caused will cost little to repair in comparison with the amount of money that some of the companies targeted (such as Fortnam & Mason, owned by Whittington Investments) manage to save each year through tax evasion. Indeed, even the Treasury admits that tax evasion costs about £40 billion per year to the UK economy which is significantly more than the £80 million worth of Government cuts happening this year even before you consider the fact that different sources (including the World Bank) put the tax evasion figure at somewhere more like £70 billion.

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Mar 2011 16

The call for democracy is one of the common recurring themes evident in protests that stretch f rom Morocco in North West Africa to Iran in the Middle East.  Similarly common is the brutal and violent suppression of peaceful protestors; which is a daily occurrence in Libya and has been most recently evident in Bahrain where six people have been confirmed dead after police opened fire on protesters. Another recurring theme is the reluctance of many leaders to relinquish power.  In Yemen President Ali Abdulla Saleh has refused to stand down until the end of his term in 2013 despite his citizens taking to the streets for the past month calling for his removal. President Saleh showed his willingness to use force to guarantee his position when 140 protestors were injured in the Western City of Hudeida today.

In Saudi Arabia, widespread protests on the capital Riyadh had been arranged for last Friday, however these failed to materialise after a massive show of force from the Saudi police. At the start of March, the Iranian police used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds calling for the release of two opposition leaders. Whilst, in Oman despite concessions made by Sultan Qaboos bin Said after the deadly protests in February, calls for economic and political reforms continue, with a group of private security guards today blocking the country’s main airport in their bid to receive a higher wage.

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Feb 2011 18

The FOKN Bois spent some time in Hungary last summer whilst on tour and collaborated with Irie Maffia Sound System(another powerful music collective who specialise in reggae, hip hop, funk and cumbia amongst other genres) to make a song called “We are the Future” which you can listen to HERE. (unfortunately embedding of the tune has been disabled)

(UPDATE – you can now download the song at the link provided and the album will be available on on all digital outlets NOW)

We find the song particularly invigorating not only because of the beats and how fresh they are but also because of the visions a bright future for Africa presented by both M3nsa and Wanlov in their verses and how they mesh with the things we are concerned about as aspecks. In the song, they speak of a ‘new world’ with Africa partaking at the forefront of global prosperity and no longer the continent that people seek to flee from in search of greener pastures.

Specifically – M3nsa makes reference to the oil find in Ghana and the wealth that it will bring (with no mention of pollution and irresponsible corporations implying that if they exist oil companies will be held to high standards of corporate social responsibility etc because we don’t want exploitation in our future). Not one to rest on laurels, he also suggests harnessing SOLAR energy on the continent *which we have discussed here before in detail* and further sustainable energy from biogas “developed by a village man from Abetifi“.  [read more..]
Uneven Global Cotton Fields…
Nov 2010 16

This video highlights the reason why we believe in Fair Trade.

You can download the Fairtrade Foundation report “The Great Cotton Stitch-Up” here.

Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “This report reveals one of the greatest trade injustices of our time. Ten million farmers are locked into poverty while trade distorting subsidies are paid out by the EU and the US. It is incredible that EU cotton subsidies are worth more per pound than what cotton trades for on global markets. This is why we are calling on the EU to eliminate its cotton trade distorting subsidies and to include this urgently needed measure in the new Common Agricultural Policy reform process launching this week. In Mali, we’re working with one co-operative of 8,000 members who have been able to earn 50% more by producing and selling organic Fairtrade cotton. As a result, 95% of their children are enrolled in school compared with a national average of 43%. This is what a small uplift in farmers’ income can achieve. It is time to end the Great Cotton Stitch-up.”

On corporate social responsibility
Oct 2010 27

A blog post entitled Companies are not charities for The Economist magazine’s Schumpeter Blog endorses the opinion of one South African academic who believes that less developed countries cannot afford to hold multinational corporations to as high a standard of social responsibility as they would be subject to in the their richer home countries.

“Ann Bernstein, the head of a South African think-tank called the Centre for Development and Enterprise, thinks that advocates of corporate social responsibility (CSR) tend to miss this point. In her new book, “The Case for Business in Developing Economies”, she stresses the ways companies benefit society simply by going about their normal business. In a free and competitive market, firms profit by selling goods or services to willing customers. To stay in business, they must offer lower prices or higher quality than their competitors. Those that fail disappear. Those that succeed spread prosperity. Shareholders receive dividends. Employees earn wages. Suppliers win contracts. Ordinary people gain access to luxuries that would have made Cecil Rhodes gasp, such as television, air-conditioning and antibiotics. (emphasis added)

These are not new arguments, but Ms Bernstein makes them fresh by writing from an African perspective. Citizens of rich countries often fret about the occasional harm that corporations do, yet take for granted the prosperity they create. People in developing countries do not have that luxury...” (emphasis added)

She is effectively saying that people in poorer countries cannot afford to hold the large multinational corporations who go there primarily for their cheaper wage labour and raw material endowment, to the same standards of social responsibility that they are subject to at home because they are poor. There are a number of things that are wrong with this position in my view. [read more..]

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