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Eastern Europe

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.

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.

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.

Boris Kagarlitsky: ‘Polite intervention’ and the Ukrainian uprising

Unarmed Ukrainian troops march on the Belbek airfield in Crimea to retake it from soldiers under Russian command. After a shouting match, the Ukrainians withdrew and some members of both sides played soccer together.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, Moscow; translated by Renfrey Clarke

March 4, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Why, do you suppose, war has not yet broken out between Russia and Ukraine? The answer is very simple: no one plans to go to war, and no one can. Kiev for practical purposes does not have an army, while the government that has appeared in Kiev has no control over half of Ukraine, and cannot even exercise particular control over its own supporters. If the Ukrainian authorities make any serious attempt to mobilise their forces, this will merely provoke new protests. Even rumours of such a possibility have been enough to provoke anti-government demonstrations in Odessa.

Against infantile realpolitik: Richard Seymour on some left reactions to Ukraine

Click HERE for more on Ukraine.

By Richard Seymour

March 5, 2014 -- Lenin's Tomb, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- The enemy of your enemy might still be your enemy. Because, complexity. Because, nuance. Because, concrete analysis of concrete situations. How much do I really need to underline this?

I raise the point because the tendency to try to distil the situation in Ukraine into one or at most two relatively simple contradictions is apparent in abundance. Lindsey German's article for Stop the War Coalition (UK) is a classic instance of this. It attempts a "clarification" of the political stakes, largely by way of clearing away complicating clutter and allowing people to see the interests of US imperialism and its allies at work. But in so doing, German's article resorts to utter nonsense and embarrassingly crude reductions.

Ukraine: 'If the left movements don’t unite, only the far right will benefit from social anger'

Volodymyr Ishchenko.

Click HERE for more on Ukraine.

Volodymyr Ishchenko, deputy director of the Center for Society Research in Kiev, interviewed by Maxime Benatouil

March 4, 2014 -- Transform! Network

Maxime Benatouil: What root causes explain such large parts of the population joining the protests, on Maidan Square and elsewhere?

Volodymyr Ishchenko: First, let me tell you that the protests weren’t exclusively initiated by the students. It is a quite widespread misperception. The first protests were launched by various groups: journalists, civic activists, and students. All these groups share a common European dream, a very deep-rooted idea that Europe has the solution to Ukraine’s problems. To them, it means: more democracy, more justice, less corruption and a better welfare. This is a very old idea, well-anchored in Eastern European societies. Ever since the 19th century, there has been a will to catch up with Western Europe. Many Ukrainians still think that way.

L'Humanite on Ukraine: 'The true fuel of the uprising'

Click HERE for more on Ukraine

From L’Humanité (French Communist Party daily newspaper).

By Vadim Kamenka, translated (March 4) by Gene Zbikowski

Fenruary 24, 2014 -- Kiev (Ukraine), from our special correspondent. While a majority of Ukrainians back the movement that led on February 22 to the deposition of president Yanukovich, social distress was at the centre of political discontent. This is what bore the aspiration for change which is on everyone’s lips.

Barricades by the dozen, the ground black with soot, the pavement torn up, buildings burnt to the ground – the stigmata of the clashes are still visible on Maidan square, the epicentre for the past three months of the uprising against President Viktor Yanukovych. People came by the tens of thousands on February 23 to place red flowers and to remember the dead (60 since February 18). “We will see it through to the end”, Vassili, 42 years old, promises.

Ukraine: The left and the movement to overthrow Yanukovich: two interviews

Mass protest in Maidan Square.

March 2, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is publishing excerpts from two recent interviews (published mid-February) with members of the revolutionary left in Ukraine that shed light on the nature of the movement that overthrew the Viktor Yanukovich regime, and the attitude of the small Ukrainian left towards it.

The first is with Denis from a Kiev branch of a revolutionary syndicalist group, the Autonomous Workers Union; it is reposted from Pratele Komunizace. The second is with Ilya Budraitskis, a Moscow-based socialist in Kiev; it first appeared in Marx21.de (translated by RS21). Click on the links for the full interviews.

Boris Kagarlitsky on Ukraine: ‘A quadrille of monsters’ and ‘Smashing the feed trough’

Protesters occupy Independence Square, December 2013.

March 2, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- These two commentaries were written in January and February 2014 – before the fall of the Viktor Yanukovich regime and subsequent events -- and have only just been translated into English. They are published at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal as they offer insights into the thinking of an important part of the revolutionary left in Russia.

For more on Ukraine, click HERE.

A quadrille of monsters

Ukraine: Behind the political earthquake and the far-right threat

A dense crowd of protesters fill the streets beyond a barricade in Kiev. Photo by Christiaan Triebert.

By Sean Larson and Alan Maass

February 24, 2014 -- Socialist Worker (USA) -- Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovich, has been driven from power after the mass protest movement that has occupied Kiev's Maidan (Independence Square) since November survived a deadly crackdown the previous week. In a matter of days, the country's corrupt and autocratic regime was overwhelmed.

The parliamentary opposition to Yanukovich--dominated by centre-right and even far-right parties, backed by the European Union (EU) and US government--is moving quickly to establish its authority, ahead of new elections planned for May. Its goal is to head off any further action from below that might undermine their claim to speak for the uprising--and that might target the country's elite beyond Yanukovich and his ruling party.

Political uprising shakes Ukraine to its foundation (updated March 2)

"In the coming days and weeks there will be a wave of political analysis on the left that will frame the overthrow of the regime of Yanukovych as a pro-imperialist scheme being swallowed by a gullible population. The strong presence of extreme right-wing forces among those protesting the regime will be presented as proof positive. This will resemble the many simplistic analyses describing the course of the 'Arab Spring', particularly in Syria."

By Roger Annis

February 24, 2014 -- A Socialist in Canada, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- It is the aftermath in the Ukraine of the remarkable popular uprising Ukraine uprising that has torn down the authoritarian regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. The parliament that supported him has voted to remove him from power and has appointed a temporary replacement. Now it has issued a warrant for his arrest.

Ukraine: Regime fall followed by fresh chaos

Police clash with Maidan protesters, January 19, 2014.

By Tony Iltis

March 1, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- After failing to violently crush mass protests in Kiev’s Independence Square, which have been raging since November 21, the regime of Viktor Yanukovich collapsed on February 22.

The protests began in opposition to Yanukovich’s decision to back out of a Free Trade Agreement and Association Agreement with the European Union. But in the face of police brutality, the protests evolved into a general expression of anti-regime discontent. The movement was initially known as Euromaidan (“Eurosquare”) but later just Maidan, reflecting this evolution.

The movement also has an anti-Russian character, fuelled by the likelihood that in place of the proposed agreements with EU, Yanukovich was planning to take Ukraine into a Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

On February 27, parliament elected a new government of opposition politicians and defectors from Yanukovich’s party. Before the parliamentary vote, acting-president Oleksandr Turchynov presented the new government, headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in the square on February 26. They received a hostile reception.

Bosnia’s magnificent uprising: Heralding a new era of class politics?

Mass protest in Tuzla, February 7, 2014.

By Michael Karadjis

February 13, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Beginning on February 5, mass protests led by workers and retrenched former workers in the privatised factories, along with students and other citizens, have rocked most major industrial cities in Bosnia, notably Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, Bihac and Mostar.

Czech Republic: Elections likely to intensify crisis

Parties elected -- Red: Communist; Orange: ČSSD; Blue: ANO 2011; Purple: TOP 09.

By Jirí Málek

October 29, 2013 -- Transform! -- After a government crisis in summer, early elections were called in the Czech Republic. October 25-26 were the D days. The campaign was relatively short and the program documents were of little interest to the majority.

The campaign was more about persons and political marketing. Polls were showing positive results for the left, but the last two weeks revealed that the situation would be much more complicated and without a clear majority of the left.

Results

Parties elected to parliament:
CSSD (Social democrats): 20.5%, 50 seats (down six)
ANO 2011 (a new political formation): 18.7%, 47 seats
KSCM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia): 14.9%, 33 seats (up seven)
TOP 09 (until now the ruling right-wing party): 12.0%, 26 seats (down 15)
ODS (until now a dominant right-wing, ruling party): 7.7%, 16 seats (down 37)
USVIT (a new political formation): 6.9%, 14 seats
KDU-CSL (Christian democrats): 6.8%, 14 seats

Michael Lebowitz: Some explanations of the fall of ‘real socialism’

By Michael Lebowitz

September 13, 2013 -- The Bullet, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. This essay is from a talk given to the Centre for Political Emancipation in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 6, 2013. It can also be seen above and on YouTube. -- Why did "real socialism" and, in particular the Soviet Union, fall? Let me note a few explanations that have been offered. With respect to the Soviet Union, one very interesting explanation that has been suggested is that it's all the fault of Mikhail Gorbachev. And not simply the errors of Gorbachev but the treachery. Those who offer this explanation rely in particular upon a document which is sometimes described as his confession. This document begins as follows:

Latvia: Left bloc gets 59% in municipal elections

June 9, 2013 -- Webguerrillero [es] -- The Saskaņas Centrs, a coalition of left-wing parties, has won 59% of popular vote in the municipal elections held in this Eastern European country. The coalition, whose name means "Harmony Center" is formed by the social-democratic party "Harmony" and the Socialist Party of Latvia (heir of the Communist Party, which was declared illegal in 1994).

The coalition belongs to the all-European Union (EU) political bloc European United Left-Nordic Green Left, which includes the major communist-leaning coalitions and parties, such as Greek SYRIZA, Cypriot AKEL, German Die Linke, French Left Front, Spanish United Left and Irish Sinn Féin, among others.

While the EU and the International Monetary Fund insist that Latvia is an example of the "success" of the draconian policies of "austerity for the poor, huge profits for the rich" that they sponsor and dictate all around, the reality is that Latvia has been ravaged by such policies (see the funny video above).

Bulgaria: Free Jock Palfreeman! Australian activist wrongly imprisoned

Jock Palfreeman interviewed by Tony Iltis, Sofia

May 17, 2013 -- Green Left Weekly -- “I’m in Villawood!”, Jock Palfreeman exclaimed, with the cheerful exuberance he displayed throughout an interview conducted through glass and wire-mesh partitions in the gloomy surroundings of the visiting room of Sofia central prison.

He told Green Left Weekly that it was the plight of refugees illegally detained in Sydney's Villawood detention centre by the Australian government that first radicalised him. His first protest, as a high school student in Sydney, was a blockade of the offices of Villawood’s then operator Australasian Correctional Management on May Day in 2002.

A year later he organised students at his school to attend the “Books Not Bombs” student walkouts to protest against the war on Iraq.

It was because of his seeming inability to ignore injustice that he is now serving a 20-year sentence in Bulgaria.

Slovenia: Manifesto of the Initiative for Democratic Socialism

[The following document is the program of Slovenia's Initiative for Democratic Socialism. It is posted for the information of readers of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Thanks to Michael Lebowitz for making it available. It is also posted at http://www.demokraticni-socializem.si/.]

The ideological dominance of capitalism as the only feasible mode of production is coming to an end. In the second half of the 1970s, when rapid and stable economic growth came to a halt in the "developed" world, the forces of capital intensified their attack on workers’ rights that has not ceased to this day. The foundation on which the ideological domination of capitalism was based had started to wither away, and the advocates of capitalism increasingly justified its existence by turning to the mere fact of its existence.

Hungary's crackdown on the left

By Gyula Thurmer

March 27, 2013 -- Morning Star -- Hungary is in crisis. Almost 500,000 people are officially registered as unemployed -- just over 11 per cent of the workforce. About the same number of young people are working in other EU countries, notably Britain, Austria and Germany, because they could not find a job at home. Even so, the rate of youth unemployment (under the age of 25) in Hungary stands at more than 28 per cent.

The Fidesz (Civic Union) government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban is well aware of these facts, while proclaiming the "Hungarian miracle". The reality is that many ordinary people are worse off than they have ever been.

The real winners under this capitalist government are those who earn more than 900,000 forints (£2500) net a month. The rest are on or below the average net salary of 157,000 forints (£434), which is absolutely nothing considering that prices in Budapest are similar to those in Vienna.

The pro-capitalist forces in Hungary know very well that only the Hungarian Communist Workers Party (HCWP) proposes a real alternative to mass unemployment, poverty and the colonial occupation of Hungary by multinational companies.

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