Privatization and the Theft of the Commons

Catastroika

by Aris Chatzistefanou and Katerina Kitidi

Film Review

Catastroika is a Greek documentary on neoliberalism, with a specific focus on the privatization of publicly owned resources. Although it makes no mention of historian Richard Linebaugh, its depiction of the neoliberal privatization movement provides an elegant illustration of the ongoing theft of the Commons (see Stop Thief: the Theft of the Commons).

After a brief overview of the University of Chicago economists (championed by Milton Friedman) who first put neoliberal theory into practice during the Pinochet dictatorship, the documentary tracks the wholesale privatization of Russia’s state owned industries after the 1993 coup by Boris Yeltsin, in which he illegally ordered dissolution of the Russian parliament (see The Rise of Putin and the Fall of the Oligarchs).

The fire sale of state assets to oligarchs and western bankers would virtually destroy the Russian economy, throwing millions of people into extreme poverty and reducing average life expectancy by ten years.

The Privatization of East Germany

With German reunification in 1990, East Germany would be the third major target for massive privatization. According to German economists interviewed in the film, the process amounted to an “acquisition” of East Germany by West German bankers. The West German government set up an agency called Treuhand to buy up state owned East German businesses at the rate of ten to fifteen a day – a total of 8,500 businesses in four years. The process, undertaken with virtually no oversight, predictably resulted in massive chaos and fraud. Many well-performing East Germany companies were dissolved for the simple reason they competed with West German businesses. Three million (out of 4.5 million) East German workers lost their jobs, which East Germany’s GDP shrank by 30%.

Using Debt to Compel Compliance

With the gradual demise of the world’s dictatorships during the 1990s, debt, rather than brute force, became the main mechanism to compel people to give up their publicly funded assets. At present, most of the focus is on Greece.

Current EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker holds up Treuhand (which incurred a 250 million euro debt German taxpayers are still paying off) as a model for the Greek Asset Development Fund. The latter has been steadily selling off (at bargain basement prices) Greek railroads and municipal power and water systems.

The Dismal Track Record of Privatized Utilities

The filmmakers end the film by highlighting the disastrous outcome of Britain’s decision to privatize its railroads in 1993, the city of Paris decision to privatize its water service in the 1980s (it’s recently been re-municipalized due to massive public unrest – like privatized water systems in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina) and California’s experiment with electricity deregulation in the 1990s (leading to the Enron scandal).*


*The Enron scandal involved massive securities fraud and a deliberate conspiracy by power companies to withhold power to drive up electricity prices.

Obama’s Setback in Beijing

itsourfuture

 

Did China Just Scupper the TPPA?

The Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a secret free trade treaty Obama is negotiating with eleven other Asian Pacific countries (US, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Chile, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei). The President had hoped to seal the deal at the recent Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing. Instead all 21 Pacific Rim countries have agreed to develop a roadmap for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) treaty. The FTAAP would include China and Russia, whereas the TPPA excludes them.

China Deliberately Excluded

The TPPA is viewed as a centerpiece of Obama’s “strategic rebalancing” towards Asia. Also known as the “Asian pivot,” Obama’s intention is to counter China’s growing economic strength by isolating them economically and militarily.

The US has required the twelve countries participating in TPPA negotiations to sign a secrecy clause. Only corporations (i.e. the 600 corporations that helped write it) are allowed to see the text of the treaty. Not even Congress is permitted access. If Wikileaks hadn’t leaked large sections of the draft agreement, we wouldn’t even know it existed.

Is TPPA Really a Trade Treaty?

Scheduled to coincide with the APEC summit, November 8 was an International Day of Action against the TPPA, with major protests in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and the US. From the sections which have been leaked, it seems the TPPA isn’t a trade treaty at all. It’s really an investor protection treaty, granting corporations the right to sue countries for laws that potentially hurt their ability to make a profit. These lawsuits, involving hundreds of millions of dollars, would be heard by secret tribunals run by corporate lawyers. There would be no right of appeal.

In other words, the intent of the TPPA is to allow corporations to overturn the environmental, labor and healthy and safety laws and regulations of member countries. There’s even a special “transparency” clause inserted by the pharmaceutical industry that would allow them to challenge formularies (in the US this would include Medicaid and the VA) that promote cheaper generic medications.

If finalized, the TPPA would also allow oil and gas companies to overturn fracking bans, Monsanto to overturn GMO labeling laws, investment banks to overturn banking regulations and the telecommunications industry to overturn Net Neutrality laws.

Why the Secrecy?

It’s pretty obvious why Obama is trying to negotiate the TPPA in secret. Prior investor protection treaties (e.g. the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement) have gone down in flames thanks to massive public lashback, both in the US and in treaty partner countries.

Congress isn’t too happy, either, about being denied access to the draft TPPA treaty. In November 2013 Congress voted down Obama’s request for “fast track” authority on the TPPA. Fast track, otherwise known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to accept the final TPPA deal or reject it. No debate would be allowed on specific provisions.

There are rumors Obama plans to reintroduce TPPA fast track authority before Christmas, hoping for a better outcome with a new, pro-business Republican congress.

The POTUS also had hopes of ramming through an agreement on the TPPA treaty in Beijing, at a side meeting in the US embassy. It appears he did try and failed, as Pepe Escobar describes in a recent RT article Lame Duck Out of the Silk Trade Caravan.

The Effect on Australia and New Zealand

A trade deal that excludes China, their major trading partner, makes absolutely no sense for Australia and New Zealand. Kiwi and Aussie environmental and labor activists are also deeply concerned about signing an international agreement that allows multinational corporations to sue their governments in a secret corporate tribunal. They’ve worked damned hard to win laws and regulations guaranteeing minimal environmental, labor and health safety standards. If the TPPA goes through, these could all be wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

China Aims to Suppress US Influence in Asia

In an interview with Chinese media, Obama denies he was trying to isolate China by pressuring Asian Pacific countries to sign a secret trade deal that excludes them. Yet it’s pretty obvious to all concerned that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.

It’s also pretty clear that Chinese president Xi Jinping outmaneuvered him. In addition to getting all 21 APEC nations to sign onto an FTAAP feasibility study, China signed other trade deals geared towards reducing US dominance in the region.

On Monday the Chinese and Malaysian central banks signed a deal to establish a yuan clearing bank (to facilitate energy and other trade deals in local currencies rather than US dollars).

Russia and China signed a  similar deal to conduct oil trades in rubles and yuan, rather than US dollars. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the new agreement will significantly reduce US influence over world energy markets.
Back in October,

Back in October, China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank a rival to the US-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

 

photo credit: rawEarth via photopin cc

Also published in Veterans Today

The Ideology of Revolution

Trapped: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom

Adam Curtis

BBC (2007)

Film Review

Part 3 We Will Force You to be Free

Part 3 is about the philosophy of revolution, as articulated by the Algerian psychiatrist Frantz Fanon (author of Wretched of the Earth and Black Faces, White Masks). Fanon, who studied in Paris, was strongly influenced by French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre, who viewed economic equality as essential to personal freedom, believed true freedom was only possible through the overthrow of bourgeois society via violent revolution. Fanon was convinced that the western elites got into people’s heads and turned them into zombies devoid of the ability to think critically or act altruistically for the collective welfare of the community. He also believed that the mere act of organized violence freed people from their competitive individualistic conditioning.

Fanon’s ideas had major influence over numerous third world revolutionaries, including Che Guevara in the 1952 Cuban revolution, Pol Pot in the 1975 Cambodian revolution and Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Pol Pot believed the only way to rid society of bourgeois self-interest was to kill the entire bourgeoisie – all 3 million of them.

Positive and Negative Liberty

The documentary goes on to discuss the work of British political philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997). Berlin believed only two types of freedom, which he called positive and negative liberty, were possible. He labeled Fanon’s type of freedom “positive liberty,” as it involved a new elite forcing the masses to adopt a new way of thinking through violence. In contrast, “negative liberty,” allowed individuals to do whatever they want so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of anyone else.

Curtis contends that both types of so-called liberty involve violence and coercion. As examples, he offers the “shock therapy” the US corporate elite carried out in Russia in 1992 and in Iraq in 2003. While on the surface, both instances of “shock therapy” looks like pure exploitation by US banks and corporations, both were examples of the neoconservative doctrine of spreading “democracy” via armed force.

Shock Therapy in Russia

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, US vulture capitalists invaded Russia and pressured the new regime to abandon its centrally controlled economy virtually overnight. All subsidies for food, energy and other basic necessities were discontinued and most of Russia’s state owned industries were privatized. Millions of Russians lost their jobs and were plunged into abject poverty, as Russian oligarchs and American venture capitalists stripped the newly privatized industries of their wealth. Face with the loss of government subsidies, ordinary Russians lined up on the street and traded everything they owned for food.

In 1993, with the economy on the verge of collapse, Boris Yeltsin dissolved Parliament and launched a military coup to install himself as absolute ruler. He had to borrow money from the oligarchs to run his government, for which he handed over the remaining state-owned industries.

By 1998, the oligarchs and their American investors had bled Russia dry and the currency collapsed. Yeltsin was forced to resign and the Russian people elected Putin as president. The latter moved quickly to strip the oligarchs of their wealth and jailed them or forced them into exile. The vast majority of the Russian people adored him. They didn’t care if they lost basic freedoms (e.g. of speech, the press and assembly) because it was a better alternative than starvation.

Shock Therapy in Iraq

The Americans applied similar shock therapy during their occupation of Iraq, privatizing all the state owned industries (selling them for a pittance to US investors) and writing a new constitution that allowed foreign companies to expatriate 100% of their profits tax free.

In Iraq, the brutal US occupation would enhance the rise of a radical Islamist movement violently opposed to both western colonization and exploitation and the selfish, hedonistic and morally bankrupt lifestyle that seemed to be the driving force behind US foreign policy.

The US and Britain, in turn, responded to the threat of Islamic terrorism by severely restricting the freedom of their own citizens.

Both Fanon and Berlin Were Wrong

The two conclusions Curtis draws is that 1) both the so-called positive and negative liberty Berlin describes lead to violence and coercion and 2) Berlin was wrong in claiming that all attempts to change the world for better lead to tyranny.

My own perspective is that both Fanon and Berlin are wrong. As educated members of the upper middle class, they both made the mistake of assuming that the working class thinks the same way they do, i.e. that the working class is afflicted to the same extent as the middle class by individualism and competitive self interest.

Both failed to appreciate or understand that working class people share a distinct culture with its own values, language and world view. In fact, the issue of working class culture received little attention in academic circles prior to the 1970s.* Basic to this culture are the loyalty and group allegiance based on shared hardship.

Both are deeply ingrained values stemming from early childhood experience, which makes them difficult to reverse with mass media messaging, no matter how pervasive it is.

This is certainly my experience in working with blue collar families for 33+ years. It’s also born out by working class patterns of charitable giving.**


* Some of the better known authors on working class culture include Lillian Breslow Rubin (Worlds of Pain), Richard Sennett (Hidden Injuries of Class), Jake Ryan and Charles Sackrey (Strangers in Paradise: Academics from the Working Class), and Alfred Lubrano (Limbo: Blue Collar Roots and White Collar Dreams).

**Studies of working class charitable giving:

 

Free link to Part 3: The Trap 3 We_Will_Force_You_To_Be_Free_BBC/

Giving Capitalism a Feminine Face

lagarde

Historically the IMF and World Bank, like the WTO, have been characterized by “faceless” leadership. Prior to the mid-nineties, only a handful of liberal intellectuals knew these powerful international institutions existed. Even after the 1999 Battle of Seattle effectively launched the antiglobalization movement, the leaders of these august institutions remained anonymous. When the IMF issued warnings against countries with excessive public spending, they originated from the agency itself, rather than IMF officials.

Prior to his June 2011 arrest for alleged sexual assault, no one outside of France had heard of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who ran the IMF between 2007 and 2011.

The Historic Role of the IMF

The IMF was founded at the end of World War II at Bretton Woods. The British delegation, led by economist Maynard Keynes, wanted the IMF to be a cooperative fund member states could draw on to maintain economic activity and employment through the periodic economic crises that are characteristic of capitalist economies. The US delegation saw the IMF as more of a bank serving the needs of private lenders by ensuring borrowing states repaid their debts on time (see IMF History).

The US prevailed, and IMF loans came to be known as “structural adjustment” loans because they forced borrowing governments to adjust the structure of their economic activity. In most cases, this involved extreme austerity measures favorable to multinational corporations seeking access to cheap resources and labor markets. Such measures included privatizing publicly owned assets (airlines, telecoms, railroads, health systems, etc); liberalizing trade and financial markets; increasing incentives (corporate and individual tax cuts and waivers of environmental/labor regulations) for foreign investment; and supporting commercial export crops at the expense of food production.

Developing countries that blindly followed these policies, especially in South America and Africa, found their countries mired in debt and huge social inequalities. Russia was one of the most extreme cases: its economy shrank by 55% before President Vladimir Putin set the country on an alternative path to recovery.

Repackaging the IMF’s Image

Given the historic anonymity of the IMF leadership, you have to wonder about all the publicity being lavished on Christine Lagarde, the current IMF managing director. Although global economics is a low priority in the US media, she receives near daily attention in the British and international media. At sixty, Lagarde is still a strikingly attractive woman. Presumably, however, there is some political agenda behind the decision to promote this “rock star of the economic world,” as several media outlets have branded her

Lagarde’s Mission

Besides her carefully cultivated public persona, Lagarde is also unique in her willingness to lay out the IMF’s economic and political agenda. The policies she advocates include

  • Stronger economic growth (allegedly to promote global re-employment)
  • Deeper “integration” of European economies (translation: creation of a centralized fiscal body capable of making budgetary decisions for the entire Eurozone)
  • Improved “fiscal consolidation” for the US and Japan (translation: less deficit spending)
  • More domestic consumption and less reliance on foreign investment and exports in emerging economies (especially China)
  • A stronger firewall against debt contagion (translation: no bailouts) around weaker Eurozone nations like Greece, Italy and Spain
  • “Structural reform” (translation: anti-union legislation and reduced public spending) to improve the “competitiveness” of the industrial north.

Rebranding Structural Adjustment

Lagarde gives double messages about structural adjustment and austerity cuts. After warning that budget cuts lead to “recessionary tendencies,” she states that some countries (which, like Greece, are on the verge of economic collapse) need to cut their public budgets immediately. She feels others can stretch their cuts out over time.

Among specific “structural reforms” Lagarde favors are pension reform, with an optimal retirement age of 67, “wage restraint” (i.e. abandoning the expectation that wages will keep pace with inflation), and social service reforms in which “recipients of social assistance are expected to improve their situation.”*

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse

LaGarde isn’t without her critics. Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson refers to her appointment as “the fox guarding the henhouse.” Johnson, like former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, has been highly critical of the extreme concentration of financial power and it threat it poses to the global economy. This is the subject of Johnson’s recent book, Thirteen Bankers.

His criticism.of Lagarde centers mainly around her proposal to solve the Eurozone crisis by issuing additional loans to the debt-ridden “peripheral” countries (Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium). He maintains all these countries are looking at a default scenario, no matter how much money she throws at them. He accuses her of allowing EU leaders to use the IMF to conceal flaws in the Eurozone structure from voters.

*A questionable objective in countries with double digit unemployment

photo credit: Adam Tinworth via photopin cc

Facebook’s Billionaire Tax Refugee

depardieu

French actor Gerard Depardieu

In January, Forbes reported that Facebook’s billionaire co-founder Eduardo Severin had renounced his U.S. citizenship to move to Singapore, where the top tax rate is 20%. The article about millionaires and billionaires fleeing high western tax rates was triggered by French actor Gerard Depardieu’s renunciation of his French citizenship to move to Russia. He chose Russia based on its top tax rate of 13% on individuals and 20% on corporations (except for the oil and gas industry – see below). France had just enacted a 75% tax on millionaires to pay off the 1.7 trillion euros it owes to international banksters. Socialist president Francois Hollande sees taxing the rich as a better alternative than laying off public servants and cutting health care, education, and pensions like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Forbes clearly disagrees. Predictably the article represents the traditional neo-classical economic viewpoint – slashing public services is always a better alternative than increasing taxes on the rich. They also leave out the most important part of the story – namely why income taxes in Singapore and Russia are so low.

The real reason income is taxed at a low rate in Singapore and Russia is because both countries have adopted a modified Land Value Tax (LVT). An LVT is a tax on unimproved land, resources and the cultural commons (e.g. public airwaves). It was journalist Henry George who first proposed replacing taxes on income and capital with a single LVT in his 1879 international bestseller Progress and Poverty. See Progress and Poverty: the Suppressed Economics Classic.

Singapore’s Economic Miracle

Singapore, a flourishing city-state of 5.3 million people, faced massive unemployment and a major housing crisis when it first gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965. Its leaders immediately launched a modernization program funded by an LVT. Although Singapore no longer relies on a single tax, income taxes still remains extremely low with corporate rates between 8.5 and 17%.

Thanks to the LVT, Singapore recovered much more rapidly than western countries from the 2008 economic collapse. In 2011 a 12% increase in GDP enabled them to pay a dividend to all adult citizens of approximately $269 each (total $1.22 billion).

How Putin Saved Russia’s Moribund Economy

Russia’s LVT, introduced by President Vladimir Putin as part of a 2001 tax reform package, falls more heavily on mineral (e.g. oil and gas) extraction than unimproved land. Taxes on oil and gas revenues amount to approximately 45% of net sales (compared to 12 percent in the construction industry and 16.5 percent in the telecommunications industry). Property owners pay a tax ranging from 0.1 – 0.3% on land value (and a comparable rate on state-owned land that they lease).

Experience with LVT in other countries

Hong Kong (1985) – thanks to LVT, enjoys low taxes, low inflation, high investment and high salaries. Often voted the world’s best city for business and the freest for residents. According to Bloomberg’s they, too, paid a $700 dividend to all adult residents in 2011. Unfortunately since rejoining China, Hong Kong has been gradually replacing land and resource taxes with income tax. This has resulted in a return of land speculation and increasing income inequality. The Hong Kong real estate holdings of China’s multimillionaire president Xi Jinping are valued at more than $24.1 million.

Taiwan (1949) – following the Communist takeover of mainline China, Chinese nationalists under General Chiang Kai-shek fled to Formosa (Taiwan), a brutally poor feudal island controlled by a handful of rich farmers. Chiang Kai-Sheck, a follower of Sun Yat-Sen, the first Chinese president and  a great admirer of Henry George, introduced a LVT. When plantation owners found themselves paying as much in taxes as they were collection in rent, they sold off their excess land to peasant farmers. Taiwan went on to set world records with growth rates of 10% per annum.

Denmark (1957) – the small Georgist Justice Party won seats in parliament and a role in the ruling coalition. A year later, inflation had gone from 5% to under 1%; bank interest dropped from 6.25% to 5%. By 1960, 100,000 unemployed (out of a population of 5 million) had found jobs and received the highest average pay increase in Danish history. In the 1960s, a media backlash funded by wealthy bankers and corporations caused the Justice Party to lose its seats. Land taxes were decreased and income tax and sales tax (currently at 25%) drastically increased. Inflation quickly rose to 5% and by 1964 reached 8%. Land prices began to sky-rocket, increasing 19-fold from 1960 to 1981 increasing 19-fold.

Estonia (1990s).- enacted a 2% LVT following the break-up of the Soviet Union. It was much easier to collect than the income taxes enacted by other former Soviet republics, more successful than trying to collect from others, succeeding over 95% of the time. It’s largely the LVT that has enabled Estonia to become the electric car capitol of the world. In addition to installing 165 electric vehicle fast-charging stations country-wide, it provides a 50% subsidy for residents who purchase electric vehicles.

Other jurisdictions that opted for LVT:

  • Ethiopia 1990s
  • Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAR – resource-based LVT on oil and gas exports
  • Baja California (Mexico) 1990s
  • British Columbia (1912) – resource-based LVT on forestry
  • Vermont 1978
  • Kansas City 1930s
  • Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh and Scranton in 1975 and 18 other cities following suit in the 1990s. Housing costs and crime in both Pittsburgh and Scranton have trended the lowest in the US, despite the collapse of the steel industry. Both avoided the 2000-2007 real estate bubble and 2008 collapse. Foreclosure rates in Pittsburgh remain the lowest in the country.

Single tax colonies founded by Henry George’s American followers:

  • Free Acres (New Jersey) 1910
  • Arden (Delaware) 1900
  • Fairhope (Alabama) 1894

 

photo credit: igorjan via photopin cc

Let Them Go, Mr Putin

putin

When it suits their purposes, Russia seems to have the same propensity as the US to thumb their nose at international law. Two weeks ago, Putin acquired immense international stature and prestige by halting the imminent threat of US missile strikes in Syria. Now he seems to have squandered it all by illegally seizing a Greenpeace vessel in international waters.

On September 18, Russian FSB agents illegally boarded the Arctic Sunrise (by rappelling down from a helicopter) and seized, at gunpoint, the boat and all its occupants. The Greenpeace ship was in Arctic waters to protest hazardous oil drilling by the Russian company Gazprom. Earlier in the week two activists had boarded the Gazprom drill platform rig and were arrested and held without charge. However at the time the Greenpeace vessel was illegally boarded, it was in international waters. Seizing a civilian ship in international waters is piracy.

The Russian government reports the boat and activists (including two New Zealanders) are being towed to Murmansk, the nearest port. Ironically it’s the Russians accusing Greenpeace of piracy instead of the other way around. On Saturday, Russian Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov told journalists that Greenpeace had “acted too radically” and compared its protest to “Somalian-style piracy.”

“One of the Most Reckless Oil Companies on Earth.”

According to a Greenpeace Media Briefing, Gazprom, the first oil company to commence Arctic drilling, is “one of the most reckless oil companies on earth.” Greenpeace forced them to halt drilling operations a year ago after taking them to court for having an expired oil spill response (OSR) plan. Their new OSR plan isn’t available to the public. Only a summary is available on their website. The full version of Gazprom’s OSR plan can only be viewed in the company’s offices under strict restrictions. Even so, the summary raises a number of serious concerns:

  • It relies on conventional clean-up measures that don’t work in ice or icy water. For example the booms they refer to can only be used during ice-free periods (only four months of the year in the Prirazlomnaya oil field).
  •   Much of the response equipment and personnel are based 1000 km away in Murmansk, which zmeans it would take Gazprom at least three days to mount an accident response.
  • The summary plans for a worse case scenario of a 10,000 ton (73,000 barrel) spill. The Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Gazprom confirmed in 2011 that it doesn’t have the financial resources to mount a satisfactory response to a major well blow-out. BP is currently facing a bill for the Deepwater Horizon disaster of $42 billion – which could be increased to $90 billion if the court awards maximum penalties.
  • Respected mainstream environmental groups (Pew Environment Group and US Geological Survey) are on record that it’s virtually impossible, using existing technology, to clean up spilled oil in sea ice.
  • There are major concerns about Gazprom’s safety record – in December 2011, 53 people died when the Kolskaya jack-up rig capsized during towing.
  • As a country, Russia has an appalling oil spill record. Each year, an estimated 5 million tons of oil leak from cracked wellheads, pipes, and other equipment (six times the amount spilled in the Deepwater Horizon disaster).
  • There are serious concerns about the safety of the Prirazlomnaya platform in harsh Polar conditions:
  1.  According to an industry whistleblower, the Prirazlomnaya platform was “cobbled together” from rusting pieces of old rigs to meet a 2012 deadline, when new environmental legislation took effect banning this type of drilling rig.
  2. Thus far Gazprom has refused to make public any of the platform’s safety documentation or its environmental impact assessment.

The Prirazlomnoye oil field is surrounded by national parks and wildlife sanctuaries like Nenetsky and Vaygach that are home to protected and endangered species such as the Atlantic walrus. Indigenous Peoples who rely on the Pechora Sea for fishing and hunting would also be profoundly affected by a Gazprom oil spill.

Please Sign Petition

Kiwis are asked to write to the Russian embassy in Wellington: Send a letter

Non-Kiwis should sign the petition at Release Greenpeace Activists demanding that Russia immediately release all 27 Greenpeace activists.

photo credit: World Economic Forum via photopin cc

Reprinted from Dissident Voice