Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Editorial: Standing with the people

The European project we need is one that supports the people against a mega-pipeline, writes Emma Hughes

April 1, 2014
3 min read


Emma Hughes is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective. She also works as a campaigner with environmental justice organisation Platform.


  share     tweet  

An array of international oil companies, European politicians and financiers have big plans for the municipality of Melendugno in southern Italy. They want the Euro‑Caspian mega-pipeline, a huge piece of gas infrastructure that will run 4,500 kilometres from the Caspian Sea, to break land in the coastal region.

Such a pipeline would industrialise large sections of the countryside and harm the key economic activities in the region: olive farming and tourism. Work in Melendugno is seasonal; at times people hardly stop but in other months they have significant amounts of spare time. This has enabled the community to mount an impressive resistance to the pipeline. They have rejected the project at the municipality level and 40 experts from the region have produced an 80‑page environmental impact assessment detailing its many problems.

The imposition of this piece of fossil fuel infrastructure has ignited the community – they are planning for the whole municipality to go fossil fuel free. They intend to install wind turbines and solar panels on houses.

Meanwhile in London, thousands of kilometres away, Xavier Rolet, London Stock Exchange CEO, has been welcoming delegates to the Caspian Corridor Conference promoting the pipeline. The people who are most directly affected by the scheme weren’t present. They are not invited to the key conversations; most of the time they don’t even know where and when they take place.

The pipeline has recently been adopted as a European Commission energy project of common interest, meaning it is likely to get EU money and be subject to slim-lined regulations. No one from the Commission has spoken to the community at Melendugno. Up in the ether, obscured by the corporate fog, the region’s future is being decided.

The neoliberal artifice of the EU is almost entirely cut off from the people it is supposed to represent. It has become part of a separate sphere of global financial elites. Crucial areas of public life have been removed from democratic control.

Whether we want to reform the EU, burn it down or build it anew, we need to think about what it would mean to create a democratic Europe. With elections to the European parliament, the EU’s only vaguely democratic institution, taking place in May, we hope our new dedicated website at europe.redpepper.org.uk will provide a space to help build an alternative, genuinely democratic Europe.

Two elements that will be crucial are a defence of migrants, given the surge in reactionary nationalism we are likely to see over the course of the election, and a break up of the financial interests that lie at the heart of the European project. That is why the Blockupy movement is so exciting, with its dual tactics of decentralised pan-European actions and a larger co-ordinated action to coincide with the opening of the European Central Bank’s new offices in the autumn.

Tony Benn was constantly reminding us that we must take responsibility for democracy ourselves. Whatever we demand of future institutions, they must put us back in control of the basic elements of our lives.

The people of Melendugno are not putting their energy into the sterility of EU directives. They are planning, as a community, to take control of their own energy provision, ousting the oil companies and freeing themselves of large bills. The kind of European project we need is one that stands in solidarity with them, not with the business elites.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Emma Hughes is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective. She also works as a campaigner with environmental justice organisation Platform.


Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase