With the events of January 25th, a shot rang out across Europe, which would reverberate across the world. The election of the first radical left government in decades, which threatened to challenge the rule of austerity in the European Union.
Maybe it was the sound of Bella Ciao, the song of Italian partisans, playing at the victory rallies. Or perhaps it was the sheer elation of the mass of people who believed that they had delivered the first blow against neoliberalism in the fight for Europe. In any case, the international left could not but help getting caught up in the mood of victory, the mood of triumph.
Once again, the forces of the Marxist left in Greece had begun to wage war, and we were to have the honour of aiding them in their battle through whichever means possible. Holding out under international pressure from austerity hawks in the Troika for the first few weeks, it appeared SYRIZA’s leadership was ready to take the fight to the enemy.
Liberalism produced some of the greatest political advances of our age. As socialists we often obscure this, but civil and political rights combined with representative democracy make for one of the most potent and liberating achievements of the period following the French revolution. Yet what cripples liberalism as an emancipatory force is its own contradictions, the four main of which I wish to outline in this essay. Continue reading →
Our political and economic system is in crisis. There is a crisis of affordable housing, of decent jobs, of cuts to public services and cuts to social welfare provisions. There is a crisis of democracy which shows itself at every level from the impotence of local democracy through the county councils right up to the technocratic structure of the EU and the impenetrability of the ECB to any form of democratic input. There is a debt crisis of the states of Europe, precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008 which has seen enormous amounts of public funds diverted to paying private investors; investors who had gambled spectacularly found their losses covered by the public.
The water charges campaign in Ireland saw the first major evidence of a backlash to this state of affairs. People began resisting the imposition of a new charge, which was indicative of the spate of increases in taxation to the general public while public services were simultaneously being cut. However, despite the mass mobilisations and many climb-downs by politicians in direct response to this militancy, we still face momentous challenges in finding a way out of our crisis. Continue reading →
Manolis Glezos, Greek anti-fascist folk hero and MEP for Syriza, one of the most vocal critics of “austerity”.
The imminent victory of Syriza over the concerted efforts of European politicians and Greek media moguls — the former cutting off the country’s financial sources as punishment for it voting incorrectly, in the language of Wolfgang Schäuble, the latter spreading fear and confusion throughout the land to perpetuate their own private interests — reveals that the idea of Europe is not dead, principally a Europe of the people, not of the wealthy and privileged. Moreover, it offers a glimmering of hope that the left does not die with those who heard Marcuse’s lectures live and in person!
‘Let’s think of it as a game… If ever one of us finds himself in danger of death, let him think of the other so intensely that he warns him wherever he may be … Right?’ says the narrator’s friend in Nicos Kazantzakis’s Zorba The Greek. And, indeed, perhaps Italy, Spain and Portugal will think of Greece, now that its population has revolted against the dictates of the bankers, the intelligentsia and the bureaucrats. Indeed, the next step lies with the European institutions. The IMF has already changed its tune accordingly, and Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, today also displayed an astounding about face. Continue reading →
“Secret diplomacy shall not be tolerated for a single moment during the negotiations. Our flyers and our radio service will keep all the nations informed of every proposition we make, and of the answers they elicit from Germany. We shall be sitting in a glass house, as it were, and the German soldiers, through thousands of newspapers in German, which we shall distribute to them, will be informed of every step we take and of every German answer.” (Leon Trotsky – November 1917)
In 1917 the Bolsheviks shook the world, as John Reed would say. The new “people’s commissar of foreign affairs” Leon Trotsky, in turn shook the foreign ministries of the world by releasing a batch of secret treaties, which showed how the leading powers had agreed to partition Europe after the war. Something long suspected by the Bolsheviks, but which remained secret up until that time. Continue reading →
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I was present at the Brixton Recreation Center earlier tonight, where vote counting was going — and continues to go — on. Workers there are paid a standard rate that is independent of how long they spend counting votes, and this sets up obvious moral hazard dilemmas: the quicker and sloppier, the sooner they can cut the check and catch some Zzz’s. Not that this is the only problem with Britain’s monstrous electoral endeavors. As it has not switched to any form of electronic voting — belonging to a shrinking segment of the first world not to adopt some measure of technological progress in governing — the process is long-winded, tedious and drone-like: in short, it’s manual, as you can see from the short video below that was cut off by my cell phone battery dying:
John Ross, leader of the National Party of Cherokees, who felt that ceding another foot of land to the United States would spell the end of the Cherokee Nation.
Israel is often and repeatedly compared with South Africa, and a quick search on the Internet and in newspapers of the debate on the Occupied Territories, on UN Security Council resolutions condemning and calling and end to the occupation, and on the effectiveness and limitations of BDS tactics will turn up copious references to and comparisons of Israel/Palestine with South Africa. The comparisons are worth making, and it is easy to see the image of Bantustans superimposed on the ever-shrinking West Bank and on ever-brutalized Gaza. While the comparisons are worth making, a less contemporary precedent exists with much more foreboding and potentially damaging implications for the future of Israel/Palestine: namely, the experience of the pre-bellum settler colonialists of the United States with respect to the American Indian and the present settler colonialists of Israel.
It will be our argument going forward that the prospects of Palestine turning into a weak and impotent set of reservations within an economically dominant Israel, much as the ”Indian Nations” have become over the last 200 years, is not irrelevant, and that while it’s been discussed and commented on in the past, the comparison begs further discussion and analysis, both analytically and tactically, if it is to be avoided. Indeed, if we are to assess effective strategies to end the occupation and achieve a lasting peace in the region, the lessons of the American Indian can serve as a very lively and rich context in which to place the discussion and debate of Israeli occupation and Apartheid, perhaps moreso than the example of South Africa.
After the electoral victory of SYRIZA in Greece, the attention of the European left has justly focused on its enormous difficulties in tackling a very unfavourable international conjuncture, as well as the very promising opportunities it opens up. It’s undeniable the room to manoeuvre for the European left has expanded, although setbacks in Greece may become setbacks across the whole Union. It is because of this that the most repeated slogans from the ruling right wing party (PP) as well as the social democrats in opposition (PSOE) is that Spain is not Greece.
Imagery from the Greek military junta (1967-1974), whose “Golden Dawn” offspring and its ties to the police and military apparatus remains a threat to Greek democracy today. Will Syriza deal with this threat, or will “forgetting” continue?
Lyndon Johnson observed that Greece was “the Vietnam of the 1940s.”
He was referring, of course, to the “civil war” – i.e: the suppression of the Left- that followed the German occupation- the time when the Aegean became an archipelago of torture camps. A
recent study places at c. 100,000 the number who survived or died in
those Anglo-American supported prisons.
After the bitter struggle ended in 1952, the only permissible account of and only account of the Resistance was provided by the winners. Anthropologist Nena Panougia recalls that in 1964 or 1965, when she was a little girl, a man in oldfashioned clothes, “whose seriousness fell on me like a weight,” came to the door and said to her mother “I am selling books, madam.” He looked at me and said again, “’Buy one, please, for your daughter.’” Her mother bought a
four volume set of a history of the Resistance. Continue reading →
A new era was inaugurated with the financial collapse of 2008. The former optimism of near permanent economic growth which would yield benefits to the vast majority in society was dealt a serious blow. While the vast bulk of benefits have gone to the few at the top, the financial catastrophe and the ensuing austerity regimes have made it clear that things are going to be worse for the majority. Essentially, the class basis of our society has been made very apparent.
Despite this clarifying event, there has been very little organised response. Awareness of the problem does not necessarily lead to a solution being adopted.
The reason for this is not that there are no alternatives, but that there is no movement to win them. The problem, then, is an organisational problem. Alternatives require an organised movement with a clear vision of what it wants in order to obtain them. Continue reading →
I recently had a discussion with Q, a member and founder of Marxist Center and the Communist Platform, a political lobbying organization in the Netherlands that seeks to inject a more traditional class-oriented slant into the national political discourse, with particular emphasis on agitation within the Dutch Socialist Party, the third largest constellation inside the Dutch Parliament. We discussed his work trying to change the terms of discourse within the SP and the Dutch left in general. A transcript is available below.
The idea that society is divided into two major groups under capitalism: Working class (or proletarian) and Capitalist class (or bourgeoisie) has been out of favour for quite a while.
There are many more common interpretations of what the import groups in society are. If asked most people would come up with a whole host of important classes:professionals, middle class, skilled workers, public/private sector etc.
There have also been many attempts to talk about social class which see it as a continuum. This idea that social class is simply where everyone has varying social power and so no firm divisions should be drawn. This sort of continuum hypothesis of social strata is given renewed vigour with the substantial and important work of Piketty1 who looks at the effect of wealth on society empirically over long time scales.
However, there are good reasons to avoid being too hasty, and removing class analysis from the picture. For a start, Marx’s two class model can give us tremendous insights into empirical data. However, perhaps more importantly, if it is true, it sheds enormous light on what we should do about inequality and a host of other economic problems which are present in capitalism. Continue reading →
Much loathed and admired within the leftist community, autonomists represent a small but mixed bunch. With their focus on the daily, small-scale class struggle, their squats and auto-reduction, and their sometimes incomprehensible jargon they elicit both fascination and contempt from other marxists. Yet it is easy to let our view of them be dominated by theoretical considerations alone, thereby ignoring how their ideology and composition molds them to be excellent journalists, offering key lessons for re-igniting a working-class media to counter hegemony. Continue reading →
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Irish Republican Movement evolved from a conventional nationalist project with a strategic emphasis – if not obsession – with militarism to an explicitly socialist project which placed a premium on mass politics.
That evolution was not uncontested and, under the pressure of state reaction to a militant civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland in 1969, the move to abandon abstentionism, and an adroit intervention by the Southern government to bolster the old school nationalists within the movement, the IRA and Sinn Féin split into two camps: Officials and Provisionals.
Seán Garland’s article from the May 1971 edition of Official Sinn Féin’s newspaper, The United Irishman, is part of the working out of a theoretical perspective of what ultimately would become The Workers’ Party. Written in the context of a serious ratcheting up of the violence in Northern Ireland, which would have had a massive emotional pull on the movement’s activists, the article is part of the process of providing an alternative conception of the way forward, one towards mass, socialist politics.
Although the national question retains a position of importance, the conception of revolution as working class power is notable, as it the distinction between “insurrection” and “revolution”, the necessity for revolutionary organisations, and the need to engage in mass politics and to connect it with the ultimate aim. [J. O’B]
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