There's never been a better time to be an internationalist

Reading the Observer recently (14/10/2012) brought my thinking back to the nature of political struggle and the party structures that we have in the nation state.

Lester Brown, an environmental analyst and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington had an article in the paper. He has a new book out - Full Planet, Empty Plates – in which he predicts “…ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food.”

On one level, we can see this already reflected in price hikes on basic staples like rice, wheat and other cereal crops. Brown, however, focuses on the geopolitical fall-out.

"Food is the new oil and land is the new gold," he says. "We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves."

"The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself.”

We know that millions of people have been killed in wars to control oil supplies. We have been thinking out loud for years about land grabs for the control of water supplies. Is it really such a great leap of imagination to consider ‘interventions’ and regime change to secure the best paddy fields? Palestinian farmers have seen their best land grabbed for years – and not just to house Israeli settlers. Land grabs are far more strategic than that.

Having been involved in the politics of national liberation as well as socialism, I spent many years inside a party based in Ireland, albeit not without international connections and solidarity with other national liberation struggles. For all sorts of reasons, localised, regional or national party political structures matter.

Do I believe that having national political parties matter as much in the current political dispensation?

I have given this a lot of thought in recent years. Yes, it is true that there is unfinished business here in Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement offers one framework in which republicans and others can pursue a strategy of national unification and deliver social change. There is plenty of argument as to whether these objectives can be successfully delivered. That’s another article.

Progressive people have been elected to chambers, assemblies and parliaments to try and force the pace of change. But national governments are ignored when it comes to international capitalism. Don’t take my word for it, just observe how the dictates of capital are articulated by the IMF/ECB and others and implemented by parties of the centre left and/or various shades of right.

We are compartmentalised into our geographical blocs in term of struggles. The fight against the redistribution of wealth to the wealthy is fought at the local level, while the enemy operates on the global – or at least the continental level.

We have tried joining together in ideological blocs at European level – within those parliamentary structures, but these are remote structures, distant and aloof from ordinary activists.

In Greece we have seen progressive socialist parties put aside sectarian differences to join battle against a common enemy. The issues are far too big to be left to any individual grouping, however ideologically sound or strategically brilliant.

All activists on the progressive left need to consider the widest possible contact on an international basis – and this should be encouraged and facilitated by political party leaderships. I am afraid that party self-interest is an irrelevance given the challenges facing us.

Nationalism is going to be encouraged – for all the wrong reasons. Oil, water and food are mere commodities to the capitalist. They will only secure these commodities by ensuring that we – the ordinary folk – are pitted against each other. There has never been a better time to be an internationalist in outlook.

It must be time for (at the very least) a pan-European progressive left front – wider than a collection of political parties. Individuals, community organisations, unions and all advocates of progressive political change need to feel that they belong to a large group fighting against a common, deadly enemy.

‘Maybe it’s because…’ by Vincent Wood is available as an eBook from, and all Amazon sites internationally.


Image top: BillRhodesPhoto