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Europe

(Updated May 8) Greece: Austerity parties smashed, radical left makes big gains

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is calling on the non-PASOK left to unite to form government and abolish austerity policies.

By Yiorgos Vassalos

May 7, 2012 -- Ypsilo's Weblog -- The parties that have ruled the country since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 -- New Democracy (Nea Dimokratia) and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) -- have collapsed in the May 6 parliamentary elections. In all elections since 1974 (except 1990-91) one of these two parties was able to gain a clear majority in the parliament and form governement, jointly scoring from 70% to 90% of the vote. On May 6, their combined vote was 33%.

New Democracy has fallen from 33% in 2009  to 19%, and from 2.3 million votes to 1.2 million. PASOK has fallen from 44% to 13%, from 3 million votes to 800,000.

LAOS, the extreme right party that also supported the eurozone loan agreements and the anti-social memorandums, fell from 5.6% to 2.9% and from 386,000 to 182,000.

Greece: ANTARSYA statement on the parliamentary elections to be held on May 6

ANTARSYA, Front of the Greek Anti-Capitalist Left, is a united front of left-wing groups. It is separate from SYRIZA . There are a number of political differences between SYRIZA and ANTARSYA — including on whether to demand immediate withdrawal from the European Union.

The following was ANTARSYA’s position statement before the May 6, 2012, election. In the election ANTARSYA won 75,000 votes or 1.5% — which was not enough to  have one of its representatives enter parliament to use it as a platform. The text and notes were first published in English on the website of the Kasama Project.

* * *

Can Asia save global capitalism?

Protesters rally, coinciding with the 45th annual meeting of the board of governors of the Asian Development Bank. May 2, 2012, in Manila, Philippines.

By Reihana Mohideen

May 4, 2012 -- Socialist Feminist, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission of the author -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has just held its annual board meeting in Manila, accompanied by much publicity and fanfare about "sustainable and socially inclusive development". A key framework document presented is entitled How Can Asia Respond to Global Economic Crisis and Transformation. The paper was prepared by a team of ADB technocrats and other leading gurus of neoliberal economic dogma, such as Jeffrey Sachs. There are some key underlying themes that ran through the document, reflected in the major conference sessions:

France: Sarkozy facing defeat as polarised electorate leans left

Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

By Dick Nichols

April 30, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- The results of April 22 first round of the presidential elections in France directed a powerful spotlight on a society polarised by  economic crisis and the austerity regime of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP)  government.

As in the 2002 presidential poll, candidates to the left of the Socialist Party (SP), including Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV), won more than 15% of the vote, while the xenophobic National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen registered its highest vote ever—17.9% (up 7.5% from the 2007 presidential poll).

However, unlike the 2002 contest, this far-left vote did not come at the expense of the SP (which in 2002 was beaten into third place by the FN). This time the SP’s François Hollande took first place, with 28.6% of the vote (up 2.8% from 2007).

France: Front de Gauche's Jean-Luc Melenchon shakes up presidential poll

On March 18, the 141st anniversary of the Paris Commune, organisers were expecting 20,000 to 30,000 to show up for a march and rally to “seize the Bastille” in Paris. Up to 120,000 took part.

By Dick Nichols

April 16, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- There’s no election quite like a French presidential contest. It is a six-month-long race in which nearly every political stable usually has a runner and where the handicapping system is less rigged against “outsiders” than in many other countries.

It puts a premium on personality: a candidate who strikes voters as fresh, sincere and “not a politician” has a chance to win more support than in other elections.

Over the years the system has allowed far-left candidates to make their mark. Blunt and passionate working-class battler Arlette Laguiller of Workers Struggle (LO) was a regular star between 1974 and 2002, when she scored 1.6 million votes (5.7%).

At the 2007 poll, the fresh face was the Revolutionary Communist League’s (LCR) Olivier Besancenot. A young postal worker, he increased the 1.2 million votes he received in 2002 to 1.5 million (4.1%). For a while, Besancenot was rated France’s most popular politician.

Britain: `Now is the time to seize the opportunity' of George Galloway's win in Bradford

[For more discussion around George Galloway's re-election and the left's response, click HERE.]

By Andrew Burgin

April 4, 2012 -- Socialist Unity -- The victory of the Respect Party in the Bradford West by-election opens up politics in Britain in a way not seen for many decades. The scale of the victory was remarkable. George Galloway’s vote surpassed that of all the three main parties added together. This was a new development and entirely unpredicted even by those close to the campaign itself.

When a young campaigner working for Respect in Bradford rang her mother a few days before the vote and told her that she felt there was a real chance that George would win, her mother, a seasoned political activist herself, thought her daughter had lost all political direction. The truth is that nobody saw this juggernaut coming not least the left itself.

And because it is a new and unexpected development it demands that we re-examine long-held and well-established understandings of political life and draw the necessary tactical and strategic conclusions.

Spain: Huge general strike could mark turning of tide

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

April 1, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Since the global economic crisis broke out in 2008, the many-sided protest movement against neoliberal austerity has yet to gain enough strength to force any real retreats from governments doing the bidding of capitalism’s ruling elites.

But the March 29 general strike against the new labour law in Spain — hugely supported and backed by often vast demonstrations in 111 cities and towns — could well point to a turning of the tide.

It lifted social resistance in Europe to a new height and gave millions of people a glimpse of how they might finally make the country’s corrupt and arrogant powers-that-be pay for their crisis.

The right-wing media screamed “flop”, but the behaviour of the finance markets told the real story: on strike day the Madrid stock exchange lost nearly 1% (its eighth straight day of losses) and the premium on Spanish public debt rose further over the Italian debt premium that only recently exceeded it.

Post-socialism, the European Union and a new left in the Balkans: Welcome to the desert of transition!

Protesters rally during anti-government protest in Zagreb, Croatia, March 2011. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP.

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal urges its readers to consider taking out a subscription to Monthly Review, where this article first appeared.]

By Srećko Horvat and Igor Štiks

Denmark: Anti-racist protest outnumbers 'all-Europe' racist/fascist gathering

By Ron Ridenour, Copenhagen

April 1, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Ruling authorities confront the continuing crisis of capitalism by 1) aiding the very firms that bankrupt the general economy by transferring workers’ taxes to the capitalist class, 2) decreasing the welfare state, throwing huge numbers out of jobs and onto the streets and 3) increasing state repression against those who resist, and by allowing the growth of racist and fascist civilian groups.

State repression is used most clearly against the peaceful Arab Spring protesters; the use of police force in US cities where Occupy Wall Street has taken root; against the workers’ resistance and the indignados in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France …; against students struggling for democracy and against gays in Chile.

In Denmark, some unionists, traditional left organisations and young anti-racists remind us how German Nazis and Italian fascists used the race card against Jews to divide and conquer the world. These groups and individuals see history repeating itself in much of Europe with anti-Islamism and are determined to check its growth.

Austerity in Europe: Susan George on the rise of neoliberal and undemocratic Europe

Susan George interviewed for the Transnational Institute (TNI). Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.

March 1, 2012

What is the continuity you see between the Maastricht Treaty, through the Lisbon Agenda and the Lisbon Treaty, to the "six pack" and now this new fiscal treaty?

The Maastricht Treaty was a treaty that presented two completely arbitrary figures: 3 per cent budget deficit with regard to the GNP and 60 per cent for the debt.  Why not 4 per cent or 2 per cent? Why not 55 or 65 per cent? Nobody knows. They came out of the sky, those numbers, doubtless from the Bundesbank. But they have become sort of religious symbols, the holy numbers of Maastricht. That was the first effort to get government policy under control, but countries did not respect that, including Germany

Appeal for solidarity with the people of Greece

February 13, 2012 -- Coalition of Resistance -- The people of Greece face an unprecedented economic and political crisis. They are being driven to poverty and mass unemployment by the demands of the so-called Troika – the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund, which has imposed Lucas Papademos, former vice-president of the ECB, as prime minister.

Hospitals in Greece are running out of basic medicines, nearly half of all young people are unemployed, workers in some sectors have not been paid for months, and many are forced to resort to soup kitchens or scavenge from rubbish dumps.

Now the Troika demands a cut of 23% to the minimum wage, the sacking of tens of thousands of public sector workers and the decimation of pensions which have already lost nearly 50% of their value. International capital is asset stripping an entire country and ripping apart its social fabric.

Romania: Mass protests then and now

Protesters shout as a background banner reads "Freedom, Early Elections" during an anti-government rally in Bucharest, January 24, 2012.

By Rupen Savoulian

February 15, 2012 -- Antipodean Athiest, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Back in 1989, Romania was gripped by mass protests, led by miners, against the corrupt and authoritarian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. The protests in Romania were part of the generalised "Velvet Revolution" against the dictatorial, bureaucratised, deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe.

Crisis, revolt and the left in Europe

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following presentation is a slightly edited and updated version of a talk given on January 20, 2012, to the eighth national conference of the Australian Socialist Alliance, held in Sydney. The slides mentioned refer to the PowerPoint presentation above, which accompanied the talk. Dick Nichols works in the European office of the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly, based in Barcelona.

* * *

By Dick Nichols

Slide 1

Thank you, comrades, for the invitation to speak—what a pleasure it is to see old faces, and new ones, too! The class struggle may be more advanced in Europe, but I sorely miss what we have created in the Socialist Alliance, as should become clear later in this talk.

My aim is to sketch the present phase of the class struggle in Europe, assess the gains of our side along with the challenges it faces, and hopefully help us all think about what this might mean for Socialist Alliance and the socialist movement in Australia. But the opinions expressed are my own, of course, not the Socialist Alliance’s: so feel free to disagree vigorously!

Mike Marqusee on Occupy in 2012: 'Mass action has returned'

Occupy the London Stock Exchange.

By Mike Marqusee

January 23, 2012 -- Red Pepper (February-March 2012) via Mikemarqusee.com -- 2011 has been hailed in the media as a year of “protest” in the abstract, but it’s been more challenging and concrete than that. In defiance of received political wisdom, mass action in the streets returned with undeniable impact. Contests over space and the public domain became vehicles for the assertion of radical alternatives, which thereby forced their way into a discussion long restricted to a narrow consensus.

In Europe and North America, this democratic insurgency sought to free democracy itself from the straitjacket imposed by neoliberalism, which has deepened the historic tendency of capitalism to confine “politics” to the non-economic realm. Raising the banner of the 99%, the Occupy movement (with associated developments) broke through 30 years of neoliberal ideological hegemony to make the system itself – and the interests that drive it – the subject of debate. As a result, perceptions of the possible have been redefined. Horizons broadened. We do not have to be slaves of the financial sector, sacrificial victims to appease angry fiscal gods. Whatever else, this systemic challenge means the struggles of the coming years will be fought out on different terrain.

Demands

Greece: Independent left MP – ‘The rulers are scared'

Sofia Sakorafa interviewed by the Greek journal Marxist Thought, translated by Christos Kefalis and Afrodity Giannakis for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

January 18, 2012 -- At the October 26, 2011, European summit it was agreed to slash Greece’s debt on the condition that a new, draconian austerity package and “memorandum”be carried out by the Greek government. After the agreement and a mass wave of protests on October 28, a referendum was announced by Prime Minister George Papandreou, only to be revoked a few days later. There then followed an endless series of negotiations, which led to the formation of a new coalition government headed by Loukas Papadimos. The new government was backed by right-wing capitalist party New Democracy, Papandreou’s social-democratic Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and LAOS, the ultra-right party.

Global revolt of 2011: Not the time to make peace with the system

By the Partido Lakas ng Masa’s (Party of the Labouring Masses, Philippines) international affairs department

[The following educational report is being discussed in PLM branches across the Philippines.]

January 5, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – In 2011 we experienced revolutionary upheavals and mass upsurges that have further deepened the crisis of global capitalism. The impact has been the deepening of the political crisis of the international capitalist system and the weakening of its ideological hold and legitimacy. The inequalities of the “American Dream”, for instance, are now almost household knowledge: that the top 1% get more than 20% of the national income. Perhaps the most telling figure is that one-tenth of the top 1% – around 400 families – earn as much as the bottom 120 million people.

Spanish election: Right wins, but will face bolder resistance

The 1.68 million-strong vote for United Left was not just the result of the general disaffection with the major parties, but also of a decision to connect its campaign with the protest movement.

By Dick Nichols

November 29, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- On election night, November 20, it all went as the polls had forecast: the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government was massacred, with its lowest vote in 34 years; the right-wing Popular Party got an absolute majority; and left and left-nationalist forces emerged stronger, led by the United Left (IU) and Amaiur, the Basque left-nationalist coalition (results here).

Can China save the world from economic crisis?

By Jean Sanuk

November 15, 2011 -- Asia Left Observer -- While North America and Europe were hard hit, China has resisted the international crisis of 2008 thanks to a rescue plan which combined huge public spending, a low interest rate and consumption subsidies. China’s growth rate reached 9% in 2009 and 10.4% in 2010, dragging in its wake Asia and Latin America out of the crisis. It has also managed to maintain unemployment to a sustainable level. China even overtook Japan, in 2010, as the second-largest economy in the world in terms of GDP and it is closing the gap with the US. On the whole, China’s rise seems unaffected by the subprime crisis. A closer look shows that real problems lie ahead.

Boris Kagarlitsky: Políticas económicas después de la muerte del neoliberalismo

Boris Kagarlitsky.

[In English at http://www.links.org.au/node/2593.]

Por Boris Kagarlitsky, traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

El sistema económico internacional que se perfiló después del colapso de la Unión Soviética todavía no está muerto, pero está moribundo. Lo vemos todos los días, no solo en informes sobre la crisis sino también en otras noticias de todo el mundo que cuentan la misma historia: el sistema no funciona.

La verdad es que el sistema nunca ha funcionado para los pobres y las clases trabajadoras. No se diseñó con ese propósito, no importa lo que nos digan todo el tiempo sus propagandistas y diversos intelectuales corruptos. El sistema funcionó para las elites: generó una tremenda redistribución de la riqueza y del poder a favor de los que ya eran ricos y poderosos. Aunque las elites no tienen suficiente coraje para admitirlo, hay que transformar el sistema.

Europe: Old racist poison in new bottles

Marine Le Pen, daughter of the racist founder of the National Front in France, Jean Marie Le Pen (right).

By Rupen Savoulian

November 14, 2011 -- Antipodean Atheist, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- With Europe engulfed in an economic crisis that threatens to bring down the eurozone, and possibly shrink the European Union itself, it is noteworthy to see that some people are doing well out of this crisis – very well in fact. The capitalist system is lurching from crisis to crisis, and while the political left and socialist parties have experienced some growth from the widespread disaffection with the imploding capitalist system, it is the extreme right that is also benefiting from the generalised economic malaise.

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