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By Dick Nichols
May 5, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, an earlier and shorter version of this article first appeared in Green Left Weekly — It has taken only nine months for relations between the near-bankrupt Greek state and its creditors — the “Quartet” of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — to lurch to the brink of crisis.
These relations are covered by the third bailout memorandum between Greece and the European Commission, which the SYRIZA-led government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras felt forced to swallow last July 12, despite the Greek people rejecting an earlier version by over 60% in the July 5, 2015 referendum. The memorandum commits the ESM to provide the country with €86 billion in exchange for a tightly policed Greek government continuing to implement a package of “reforms” requiring pension cuts, tax increases, privatisations and labour market deregulation.
March 13, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from SpectreZine -- Early in February Australian Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal correspondent Dick Nichols, who reports from Catalonia, was interviewed by the Dutch Socialist Party monthly Spanning. Spanning of course published it in Dutch. Below is an edited version of the original interview published on March 1.
Catalogna: il premier si suicida per consentire la formazione di un governo a favore dell’indipendenza
19 gennaio 2016 – Il 9 gennaio il titolo di prima pagina di La Vanguardia, il quotidiano filo-sistema della Catalogna, diceva: “Insieme Per Il Sì e CUP esauriscono le opzioni di accordo: il fallimento dei negoziati apre la via alle elezioni il 6 marzo”.
I dialoghi all’interno della maggioranza filo-indipendenza del parlamento catalano – composta dalla convenzionale coalizione Insieme Per Il Sì e dall’anticapitalista Candidature Popolari Unite – Appello Costituente (CUP-CC) – erano alla fine crollati dopo più di tre mesi di incontri. Questa maggioranza era emersa dalle elezioni “plebiscitarie” catalane del 27 settembre, convocate come sostituto del referendum in stile scozzese che è sempre stato respinto dai maggiori partiti spagnoli, il Partito Popolare (PP) al governo e il Partito Socialista Spagnolo dei Lavoratori (PSOE).
Nonostante l’intervento all’ultimo minuto delle tre organizzazioni di massa del nazionalismo catalano – il Congresso Nazionale Catalano (ANC), l’Associazione delle Municipalità per l’Indipendenza (AMI) e il movimento per la cultura catalana Omnium Cultural – il CUP-CC continuava a rifiutarsi di accettare il premier pro tempore Artur Mas come capo del primo governo filo-indipendenza della Catalogna.
Artur Mas announced he would be stepping down from the role of premier of Catalonia on January 9 in order to help pave the way for the formation of the region's first pro-independence government
By Dick Nichols
January 14, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On January 9, the front-page headline of La Vanguardia, Catalonia's establishment daily read: “Together For Yes and the CUP exhaust options for agreement — failure of negotiations opens the way for elections on March 6.”
Talks within the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament — composed of the mainstream Together For Yes coalition and the anti-capitalist People's Unity Candidacies-Constituent Call (CUP-CC) — had finally collapsed after over three months of meetings. This majority had emerged from Catalonia's September 27 “plebiscitary” elections, called as a substitute for the Scottish-style referendum that has always been refused by Spain's major parties, the ruling People's Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).
Despite the last-minute intervention of the three mass organisations of Catalan nationalism — the Catalan National Congress (ANC), the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI) and the movement for Catalan culture Omnium Cultural—the CUP-CC was still refusing to accept acting premier Artur Mas as head of Catalonia's first pro-independence government.
Trade union demonstration outside Portugal's parliament on November 10. Read more on Portugal.
People wave pro-independence flags as they gather outside the Parliament of Catalonia in Barcelona. Read more on Portugal.
Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho (front) and Deputy minister Paulo Portas leave a press meeting after talks with Socialist party (PS) leader Antonio Costa in Lisbon, October 13. Read more about Portugal.
By Dick Nichols
The incoming government of Portugal will most probably prove to be the briefest in modern Portuguese history.
It is headed by conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Pedro Passos Coelho, whom Portuguese president Cavaco Silva appointed on October 22 to repeat as prime minister. Passos Coelho has already overseen the application of the 2011 “bail-out” memorandum applied to Portugal by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund). The PSD will again be joined by the neoliberal Democratic and Social Centre-People's Party (CDS-PP), with whom it ran in the October 4 legislative election as the Portugal Ahead coalition.
Antonio Baños (pictured) was the lead candidate for the left-nationalist People's Unity Candidacies—Constituent Call (CUP) in the September 27 Catalan elections. Read more about the Catalan struggle here.
Antonio Baños, journalist and author of The Catalan Rebellion, was the lead candidate for the anti-capitalist left nationalist People's Unity Candidacies—Constituent Call (CUP) in the September 27 Catalan elections. The CUP scored a major success at the poll, increasing it presence from three seats to ten in the 135-seat Catalan parliament (for further analysis, see here).
Presently involved in negotiations with the the winning pro-independence ticket Together For Yes, Baños outlines the CUP's view of the present stage of the Catalan independence process. For Baños, the new road to independence is too complex to be reduced to the debate over whether Catalan premier Artur Mas should continue in that role—opposed by the CUP--and therefore prefers that negotiations with Together For Yes and other organisations and groups focus on how to start disobeying the laws of the Spanish state and the decisions of its Constitutional Court, and on how to shield Catalan institutions from attacks from Spain.
Baños insists: "If we've come this far, this can't go wrong.”
Left Bloc activists. Read more about Portugal here.
By Dick Nichols
Will Portugal finally see the end of austerity as administered for four years by the right-wing coalition of the Social-Democratic Party (PSD) and Democratic and Social Centre—People's Party (CDS-PP)?
In the country's October 4 elections this governing alliance, running for the first time as a single ticket called Portugal Ahead (except on the Azores), won the elections, but with only 38.4 % of the vote (down from 50.4% at the 2011 national election). Of the 5.4 million Portuguese who voted, 739,000 turned their back on the outgoing government, leaving it with only 107 seats in the 230-seat parliament (down 25).
As a result, the PSD-CSD alliance, which boasted during the election campaign of being the most reliable tool of the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), could even lose government.
More than 1.4 million people marched to support Catalan independence on September 11. The September 27 elections were seen as a de facto referendum on independence, in which pro-independence parties won a majority of seats but not the popular vote.
By Dick Nichols
Who won the September 27 elections for the Catalan parliament, called as a substitute for the Scottish-style independence referendum that the People's Party (PP) government of the Spanish state has always refused to allow? It depends whom you ask.
On the night most of the commentators on Madrid-based TV and radio called the result as a defeat for the pro-independence camp: its two tickets—the mainstream nationalist Together for Yes and the anti-capitalist People's Unity Candidacies (CUP)--had won only 47.74% of the vote against 52.26% for "the rest".
Read more on Greece.
By Dick Nichols
SYRIZA pulled off a remarkable victory at the September 20 Greek election. Although burdened by its acceptance of the draconian third memorandum of Greece's creditors and eight months of rule in the midst of recession, closed banks and capital controls, SYRIZA's vote fell by only 0.88% and its parliamentary seats by just four.
On September 20 SYRIZA won 35,46% and 145 seats: at the January 25 election it won 36.34% and 149 seats. Its lead over the main opposition party, the conservative New Democracy, fell by only 1.17%, from 8.53% in January to 7.36% today.
While the ND vote increased marginally, from 27.81% to 28.1%, it actually lost a seat, passing from 76 to 75.
In January, SYRIZA was the leading party in 42 of Greece's 56 constituencies, and ND in 14: after this election the numbers are exactly the same, with SYRIZA overtaking ND as leading party in three regional constituencies, while ND replaced SYRIZA as leading party in another three.