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Europe

France's municipal elections: New shoots in the rubble?

By Dick Nichols

April 20, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- After the first round of the French municipal elections (March 23, see here for coverage in Green Left Weekly), the media mainstream obsessed about the rise in support for the xenophobic and racist National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen. The only other stories found worthy of comment were the collapse in support for the ruling Socialist Party (PS) of president François Hollande and the surge in the abstention rate—to a record 36.5%. (This endnote[1] explains the French two-round voting system as applied to municipal elections.)

According to the Le Monde analysis of that vote, the PS would face losing 90 towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants at the second round (March 30). The FN had a chance of winning between ten and 15 of these.

Hope in Bosnia-Herzegovina revolt; Graphic new doco on wave of people's power

Documentary: Bosnia and Herzegovina in Spring, March 2014.

By Charles Reeve

April 2, 2014 -- Brooklyn Rail -- The perspective of yet one more nationalist clash at the gates of Europe, in Ukraine, doesn’t seem to displease the world’s masters and those who write for them.

Things are going differently, at least until now, with the revolt gripping Bosnia-Herzegovina. This movement began in the first week of February with workers’ demonstrations against the consequences of privatisation and an increase in unemployment. These demonstrations took place in Mostar and especially in Tuzla, an industrial city with a long tradition of struggle dating from the “socialist” era. Tuzla was also one of the rare places where the nationalist madness had little following, even in the worst moments of the war of the 1990s.

Sweden: How the welfare state was stolen

[For more on Sweden, click HERE.]

By Adam Bott

April 2014 -- Red Pepper, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- For a hundred years, ABF-Huset on Sveavägen has been the headquarters of the workers’ education movement, a pillar of Sweden’s "study-circle social democracy". Every day and all evening the classrooms and lecture halls are filled with adult education classes, theatre and music performances, as well as political discussions.

Tonight’s public meeting is standing room only. The mood is cheerful, earnest, disciplined and, dare I say it, rather churchly. Fittingly, we begin with songs: first a hymn tune with the refrain "Everything is for sale", then a jazzier number that goes "Got any money? (Then you can buy a place in the queue)". Next there’s a short dystopian pantomime set in a hospital waiting room: the man with the private plan goes straight upstairs while the lady on the public option has to wait in line. The sheepish uninsured fellow with the broken leg is shown a price list, then the door.

Ukraine: Government risks whirlwind to halt protests in east

Demonstrators opposed to Ukraine government policies, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 6, 2014

Demonstrators opposed to the Ukraine government in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 6, 2014.

By Roger Annis

April 15, 2014 -- A Socialist in Canada, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Moves by the Ukraine government to crack down on protests against its rule in the east of the country appear to have quickly faltered and backfired. Protest actions are widening.

Greater unity, optimism as Italian left backs Alexis Tsipras

By Roberto Musacchio, translated from Italian by Veronika Peterseil

April 10, 2014 -- Transform! Network -- The project is called “The Different Europe with Alexis Tsipras”. It name is written on a red background. Predictions indicate it could surpass, maybe even easily, the 4% electoral threshold in the coming European elections

In 2009 this threshold prevented both leftist lists, the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista/Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà/Left Ecology Freedom (SEL), both of which received only a little more than 3%, from entering the European Parliament. This new project, however, is not a mere electoral coalition set up to clear this hurdle. In its foundation and structure it is, in fact, something very different.

Discussion: Are Russia and China imperialist powers?

"Probably the most important Russian monopoly is Gazprom, the world’s largest gas company, which by 2008 had about 400,000 employees. The company is reported to control over 93% of Russia’s natural gas production and about a quarter of the world’s known gas reserves."

By Chris Slee

April 7, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Russia and China both play an important role in world politics. This includes involvement in armed conflicts distant from their borders. Russia for example supplies arms to the Syrian government. Both Russia and China supplied arms to the Sri Lankan government during its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who were fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. (The LTTE was defeated in 2009.)

In some cases, Russia and China intervene on the same side as the Western imperialist powers. This was the case in Sri Lanka, where the US, Britain, Israel and other Western powers also aided the Sri Lankan government in its brutal war against the LTTE, which was in fact a war against the Tamil people.

Greece: Open war against the majority in favour of the rich

Police attack protesting Greek shipyard workers in 2012.

By Afrodity Giannakis, Thessaloniki

April 7, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- New austerity measures were passed by the Greek parliament, albeit by a narrow majority, on March 30. The bill contained just three articles, which seem to give the final blow to remaining workers’ and pension rights, the country’s economy and public ownership of land and services.

Legislation usually passes by a narrow majority in Greece. In the current parliament, this majority has been mostly ensured by a change in the electoral law before the last election, according to which the winning political party gets a bonus of 50 extra parliamentary seats. As a result, New Democracy, the major party in the governing coalition, has a number of MPs quite disproportionate to the vote it got.

Boris Kagarlitsky: Crimea annexes Russia

Russian president Vladimir Putin signs law completing Crimea annexation.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published a range of views from the left on developments in Ukraine and Crimea HERE.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, Moscow, translated by Renfrey Clarke for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

March 24, 2014 – editorial, Rabkor (Worker Correspondent) -- No, that’s not a mistake. On March 18, Crimea annexed Russia. There were no insidious schemes or imperial ambitions involved. There was, however, a spontaneously developing situation, together with the usual, everyday willingness of the Crimean bosses, who saw a unique chance in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

Ukraine: Hypocrisy abounds as outside powers interfere

By Tony Iltis

March 30, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- The United Nations General Assembly voted on March 27 ― with 100 votes for, 11 against and 58 abstentions ― to not recognise the results of the March 16 referendum in Crimea. In the poll, most voted for the territory to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

The resolution was put by Ukraine and sponsored by the United States, the European Union and other Western powers, including Australia.

There are certainly questions about the conditions in which the referendum was held ― and of electoral fraud. But the resolution specifically upheld the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine, thereby condemning the unilateral separation of Crimea from Ukraine regardless of the circumstance of the vote.

The resolution’s sponsors have portrayed the events in Crimea since the February 21 overthrow of the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovich as a Russian invasion, a viewpoint not questioned in the Western corporate media.

Russia and its allies have, for their part, portrayed the events as an act of self-determination.

Spain: Left unity elusive in European poll pre-selections

"Before the crisis: Vote for your rights. United Left, your voice in Europe."

By Dick Nichols

March 26, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As the May 25 European elections approach, a question that concerns left and progressive people in the Spanish state is just how many left alternatives will end up running against the “parties of government”—the ruling conservative People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Tuzla -- the unknown workers' capital of Europe

Hundreds participate in the democratic plenums.

By Olivier Besancenot

March 19, 2014 -- International Viewpoint -- Why does Bosnia-Herzegovina inspire so little interest and curiosity in the media and the political class when, on the contrary, Ukraine is front-page news? Is it because of its non-membership in the European Union? Is it because its name evokes the war that, 20 years ago, claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women -- more than 200,000 dead and 600,000 exiles -- in the face of virtual indifference in the West as to what was happening one and a half hours by plane from Paris? Or because it often wakes up to the call of the muezzin?

Yet in recent weeks, this country has also risen in revolt. The people have rebelled against social injustice and poverty and expressed loud and clear their desire for change.

Slovenia: Founding congress of the Initiative for Democratic Socialism

By Anej Korsika

March 19, 2014 -- Links Internaional Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On March 8, the Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS) had its founding congress and officially transformed itself into a political party. In the invitation to the congress we have written that in the last 20 years all political parties in Slovenia have been representatives of one and the same fraction, the fraction of capital. We have emphasised that it is high time Slovenia gets a proper socialist party that openly and consciously represents a socialist alternative to both the crisis in Slovenia as well as the crisis in European Union.

Ukraine: Outside powers exploiting ethnic nationalisms

For more on Ukraine, click HERE.

By Tony Iltis

March 22, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced legislation on March 18 accepting the formerly Ukrainian Republic of Crimea and City of Sevastopol into the Russian Federation. The legislation was passed by the Russian Duma (parliament) on March 20.

Crimea and Sevastopol had voted in a March 16 referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This was the culmination of a process that began after the February 21 overthrow of unpopular Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich by protesters in the capital Kiev.

Crimea is 60% Russian-identifying and 84% Russian-speaking, and was not historically part of Ukraine. Sevastopol is the home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Yet this dramatic change in Europe’s borders was not on the agenda before the fall of Yanukovich less than a month earlier.

The Ukrainian government responded with predictable outrage and threats to what it regards as a blatant annexation of its territory. But Ukrainian forces in Crimea ― those who have remained loyal to the new Kiev regime ― have been powerless to stop pro-Russian forces taking over their bases and naval ships.

Discussion: Murray Smith on what Russia is doing in Ukraine

Russian troops in Crimea.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published a range of views from the left on developments in Ukraine and Crimea HERE.

By Murray Smith, translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Dick Nichols

March 11, 2014 -- Déi Lénk (The Left), Luxembourg -- So, the Crimean parliament has voted to reunify with Russia. The notorious referendum, initially set for May 25, then brought forward to March 30, will finally take place on March 16 and “will serve to confirm” the decision of parliament. Clearly, they are already on their way to joining Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Over there, you never hold an electoral consultation without having decided the result beforehand.

We must grasp the enormity of what has just happened. For the first time since 1945, a country has annexed by armed force part of the territory of another country. Up until now we have had armed interventions, bombings, even wars in the Balkans. But never this. And for the time being, nothing indicates that it will remain an isolated case.

Scotland: Tariq Ali on independence

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On March 14, 2014, renowned Marxist author Tariq Ali presented, as part of Edinburgh University Sociology Department's Independence Lectures series, "Dismantling the British State: Strategy, Tactics and Ideology". It was held in association with Pluto Press and Wordpower Books.

Ukraine: Positions of the European left

See also "France: Parti de Gauche leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Ukraine". For more on Ukraine, click HERE.

March 21, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A number of European left parties have released statements on the developments in Ukraine, Crimea and the region. Unless otherwise stated, they have been translated by Dick Nichols, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly correspondent in Europe. There are statements from Déi Lénk (The Left), Luxemburg; Sortu, the radical left Basque Country party; the Communist Party of France; the Communist Party of Spain; and Gregor Gysi, chair of Germany's Die Linke (The Left). More will be added as they come to hand.

Britain: People's Assembly conference a step forward in anti-austerity struggle

By Dave Kellaway

March 17, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Bob Crow’s family sent a message of solidarity to the People’s Assembly conference on March 15. They recognised that he was fully supportive of this movement. A truly nationwide movement if you listened to the accents and checked the delegate lists of those attending yesterday. A broad movement with over a dozen major unions affiliated. A movement that is not a top-down coalition, as some of its ultraleft critics have suggested, but one that is embedded in over 80 local groups. More than 660 people registered and there were around 500 in attendance. As someone remarked to me, you could tell it was a broad mobilisation because you did not recognise many people.

The Emmanuel Centre with its biblical exhortations beautifully marked out on the walls was full with activists actually fighting for some of those good intentions in a 21st century where hundreds of thousands have to go to food banks each week.

Discussion: What stand for socialists on events in Crimea and Ukraine?

Crimeans vote in the referendum on the region's political future.

Click HERE for more on Ukraine.

By Roger Annis

March 18, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Two distinct views on the left have emerged to describe the political upheaval that has shaken Ukraine and Crimea in recent months. On February 21, the government of President Victor Yanukovych was overthrown and replaced by a pro-western government in which extreme rightists have a prominent place.

One view describes the political intervention of the US and other NATO countries in favour of regime change as playing a decisive role. So much so that the mass protests against the Yanukovych government are denied any popular and social legitimacy. Russia’s role in events is viewed uncritically.

An Irish republican perspective on Tony Benn

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in conversation with Tony Benn.

Introductory comment by Stuart Munckton

March 17, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following article provides an Irish republican perspective on Tony Benn. In some ways Ireland is a great prism through which to view Benn, his contradictions and his political development and radicalisation.

I read a book recently featuring essays by a range of British left and labour movement on Ireland and its struggle for self-determination that came out in 1985 -- the height of the troubles.

Benn's essay was fascinating because he was a cabinet minister when the then-Labour government sent in British troops to occupy Ireland's north. Benn, at the time, did not oppose it and said he knew very little of the situation. He said no one in the Labour government actually knew the first thing about Ireland and just did what they were told. He said he tried to get a debate started about it at one point, but was shot down.

Madrid’s Basque stance absurd and untenable

For more on the Basque Country, click HERE. For more on politics in Spain, click HERE.

By Emma Clancy

March 10. 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- The Spanish government’s response to the move by armed Basque pro-independence organisation Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA) to put its weapons beyond use has clearly demonstrated it favours continuing conflict over peace.

On February 21, ETA released a video showing two of its members meeting with representatives of the International Verification Commission. The IVC were inspecting weapons that had been put beyond operational use.

IVC spokesperson Ram Manikkalingam said that day: “The commission is confident that this step is significant and credible.” ETA published a statement on March 1 declaring it had begun the process of putting its entire arsenal beyond use.

The Amsterdam-based IVC is not recognised by the Spanish government. Consisting of six high-profile international experts in conflict resolution, it formed in 2011 to monitor and verify ETA’s permanent ceasefire. Its members have worked on conflict resolution in Sri Lanka, Iraq and Ireland.

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