Britain welcomed refugee children …. until now

September 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm (children, Europe, Human rights, immigration, Jim D, Middle East, Racism, Syria, Tory scum, tragedy, turkey)

refugees britainMarch 1939: German-Jewish refugee children arrive at Southampton on the US liner Manhattan as part of the Kindertransport programme(Fox Photos/Getty Images)

refugees britainOctober 1950: Latvian refugees arrive in Penzance after escaping from a Baltic port(Fox Photos/Getty Images)

refugees britainNovember 1956: The first of 2,500 Hungarian refugees offered settlement in Britain arrive at Blackbushe airport in Hampshire(Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

refugees britainSeptember 1971: Vietnamese war orphans travel on a coach on their way from London Airport (Heathrow) to the Pestalozzi Children’s Village in Sussex(Central Press/Getty Images)

refugees britainOctober 1978: A group of Vietnamese boat people hold a large banner saying, “Our Gratitude to Elisabeth II and the English people for hospitality to the Vietnamese refugees”(Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

refugees britainApril 1999: Well-wishers wait to greet Kosovar refugees at Leeds Bradford airport(Reuters)

   September 2015: Syrian boy lies dead in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey (Reuters)

David Cameron: “I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees” (see: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/02/david-cameron-migration-crisis-will-not-be-solved-by-uk-taking-in-more-refugees)

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Migrant / refugee crisis: Cameron and Tory xenophobes shame Britain

September 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm (David Cameron, Europe, Germany, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, Jim D, Racism, Tory scum, UKIP)

Embedded image permalink

Above: yesterday’s Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper. The headline accompanying the picture of Cameron translates as “The slackers of Europe – they take far fewer refugees than they could.” First among the slackers, says Bild, is “Great Britain – it has so far taken 114 refugees for every one million residents, one third of the EU average. For comparison, Germany has taken 905 per million population and Hungary 3,322.”

Cameron’s increasingly xenophobic stance, as he seeks to appease the anti-EU Tory right and fend off UKIP, should be a warning to the anti-EU idiot-left: however you may wriggle and squirm, you’re giving “left” cover to some of the most reactionary forces in British politics. The forthcoming referendum is, in reality, going to be a vote on immigration, with the anti-EU forces standing for isolationism, little-Englandism and (in some cases)outright racism.

The principled left should stand for more European integration, not less. The following letter was sent to the Morning Star on 31 July, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) not published:

Dear Morning Star,

It is obvious that the only possibility of resolving the present migration crisis in a fair, humane and rational manner will involve more European co-operation, solidarity and integration.

Migrants should be allocated between EU member states on the basis of a country’s wealth, size and number of those of the same heritage already settled in a given country. This approach would involve abandoning the Dublin accord (which requires refugees to seek asylum in the first EU country they enter) and arranging any resettlement immediately after the application is made, to ensure a family or individual isn’t wrenched away from somewhere they’ve come to regard as home. It would almost certainly have to happen before an application is either approved or rejected, with all the difficulties that entails for cross-border information sharing and language barriers. It would also mean countries that have previously experienced low levels of immigration having to accept more.

As has been shown by both the deal forced on the Greeks and the unsuccessful attempt to establish such an agreement earlier this year, such solidarity is not always forthcoming: more EU integration is the only possible way forward. The main reason the British government would oppose any such arrangement is that it would mean taking in more people. For all the cost to the economy of Operation Stack and policing the tunnel, the Tories put cutting immigration figures and being seen to oppose European integration ahead of seeking a rational and humane solution. The anti-EU left need to take note. 

Jim Denham

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The “left” anti-EU quagmire

August 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm (Europe, Jim D, Racism, stalinism)

Above “left” and right anti-EU campaigns: spot the difference

“Following the accession of eastern European states to the EU, migrant labour has been rapidly moving west while capital and manufacturing jobs are moving east.

“While western European countries have been experiencing a large influx of migrant labour, eastern European states are suffering population falls and an inevitable brain drain, leading to a loss of skilled labour and young people as well as an uncertain future of that classic imperialist outcome — underdevelopment.

“In more developed member states, wages have been under pressure in a process known as “social dumping,” as cheap foreign labour replaces the indigenous workforce and trade union bargaining power is severely weakened” – Brian Denny (of various “left” anti-EU campaigns) in today’s Morning Star

“A large influx of migrant labour” … “social dumping” (a great euphemism, that) … “cheap foreign labour replaces the indigenous workforce…”: and the likes of Denny tell us their campaign is not xenophobic and little-Englandish

Denny’s thoroughly reactionary article is entitled “Get out of this quagmire”: the left needs to get out of  Denny’s filthy borderline-racist quagmire – backed by the Morning Star and the Communist Party – once and for all.

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Calais crisis: EU-wide response needed

July 30, 2015 at 8:42 pm (Anti-Racism, asylum, Europe, France, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, Jim D, Racism)

While the UK gutter press sinks to new lows of vicious nationalism and racism (giving us a taste of what to expect in the EU referendum) …

30 7 15 send in the army

…serious and decent people like the author of Obsolete (a blog that I’d wrongly assumed was EU -sceptic) recognise that the only hope of a fair, rational and reasonably humane response has to be Europe-wide – in other words depends upon the EU operating as a trans-national, federal body:

“The only way to deal with the numbers coming fairly is to distribute them evenly between EU member states on the basis of a country’s wealth, size and number of those already settled of the same heritage, to identify just three possible factors to be taken into consideration. This approach would have some major problems: the resettling would have to be done almost immediately after the application is made, to ensure a family or person isn’t then wrenched away from somewhere they’ve come to call home a second time. It would almost certainly have to happen before an application is either approved or rejected, with all the difficulties that entails for cross-border information sharing and language barriers. It would also mean countries that have previously experienced mainly emigration rather than immigration needing to accept some newcomers. As has been shown by both the deal forced on the Greeks and the abortive attempt to do something similar to this earlier in the year, such solidarity is already in extremely short supply.

“None of these problems ought to be insurmountable. It’s no more fair for Italy and Greece to be the front line in both rescuing and providing for migrants in the immediate aftermath of their reaching Europe than it is for Sweden and Germany to bear by far the most asylum applications (if not in Germany’s case by head of population). The main reason Britain would oppose any such change to the regulations is that despite the Calais situation, we would almost certainly end up taking in more asylum seekers than we do now. For all the wailing, Cobra meetings, cost to the economy of Operation Stack and the closure of the tunnel, it’s seen as preferable to any further increase in the immigration figures … “

Jill Rutter at Left Foot Forward makes much the same point, here … and Daniel Trilling argues much the same in the Guardian, here

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Debating the left’s stance on the EU

July 24, 2015 at 8:10 am (AWL, Europe, Germany, Greece, history, internationalism, left, Marxism, posted by JD)

By Sacha Ismail of Workers Liberty

Eighty people attended the London public meeting on Europe held by the socialist organisation RS21 on 15 July. RS21 should be congratulated for organising the event; the class-struggle left needs much more debate on these issues.

Workers’ Liberty members took part, distributed the call for a “Workers’ Europe” campaign we are supporting, and argued for a left, class-struggle “Yes” campaign in the coming EU referendum. It should be said that two of our comrades were taken to speak and that in general the atmosphere of the meeting was friendly and civilised.

There were four speakers: Dave Renton from RS21; Karolina Partyga from new Polish left organisation Razem; Eva Nanopoulos, who is a Syriza member and Left Unity activist in Cambridge; and an independent socialist, Christina Delistathi. Karolina argued to stay in the EU; Eva strongly implied we should argue to get out; Christina made the case explicitly for “No”; and Dave did not come down on one side or the other, arguing that the most important thing is political independence from the two bourgeois camps.

From the floor RS21 members argued a variety of positions, “Yes”, “No”, “Abstain” and no stance on the referendum vote as such. Probably a majority who spoke were for a “No”.

Rather than describe in detail the discussion at the meeting, we will answer some of the “No” arguments that were raised during it and after it.

The EU is imperialist, even colonialist – look at Greece. By dismembering and weakening it we help its victims.

There is an imperialist, big power bullying dimension to the EU, but it is not a colonial empire. It reflects the fact that capitalism in Europe long ago developed and integrated across national borders. Do we want to reverse that? Even in the case of Greece, the answer is not “national liberation” as such. What colonial empire threatens to “expel” its colony? We should demand the Greek government is not threatened with expulsion from the Eurozone or EU, but allowed to carry out its policies inside them. In any case, breaking up the EU would not lead to an end to big power bullying of weak countries in Europe: it would simply mean it happened within a different, probably even more aggressive, violent and unstable, framework.

The Greek radical left is right to argue for exit.

The only two Greek MPs to vote No in the first parliamentary vote on a Third Memorandum were supporters of the socialist organisation International Workers’ Left (DEA) or its Red Network of anti-capitalists within Syriza – who do not support Grexit as a goal but say “No sacrifice for the Euro” and argue to pursue a class-struggle policy even if the confrontation means being pushed out of the EU. The sections of the Syriza left who positively advocate Grexit are not more radical, simply more wrong – and their MPs did not vote against (that time: they did in the second vote). The problem with Tsipras et al is not that they did not immediately carry out Grexit but that they were unwilling to risk it – they did not prepare the Greek people for a struggle, that they did not want a struggle and that they abandoned attempts to win solidarity across Europe. The policy most appropriate for a struggle and for winning international solidarity is not demanding exit but “No sacrifice for the Euro” and “Make the Greek question a European question” – Syriza policies which eg DEA and the Red Network take seriously but Tsipras does not.

You say you are for freedom of movement, but the EU prevents freedom of movement. Look at what is happening in the Mediterranean.

Anyone who does not condemn “Fortress Europe” and argue for migrants to be welcomed to Europe is not left-wing, and betrays basic human solidarity, to say nothing of the interests of the working class. But a Europe of “independent” national states is unlikely to be more open to or welcoming for migrants. As for British withdrawal from the EU, it would not end Fortress Europe, but simply create a stronger Fortress Britain – not help migrants from Syria or Eritrea, but harm those from Romania and Poland. As an RS21 member put it on 15 July: “You can’t defend and extend rights for all migrants by restricting rights for some of them”. That is what a “No” vote in the referendum would mean.

The EU is not a benign institution. It is about creating wider capitalist markets and a bigger pool of labour to exploit. As socialists we oppose that.

Of course the EU is not a “benign institution”, any more than any capitalist state or federation. Who on the radical left argues it is? Of course we oppose capitalist exploitation – but oppose it in what way? We should oppose it by organising workers for a united struggle against the exploiters, not by objecting to the creation of larger units in which to organise.

The EU is not about the internationalisation of capitalism, it is about creating a regional bloc opposed to the rest of the world.

The whole history of capital becoming more internationally integrated is a history of it creating blocs – in the first instance, nation states. When the dozens of petty states in what is now Germany were fused into a united nation, it was done in a reactionary way, by Prussian imperialism – yet Marx and Engels, while denouncing the new regime, explicitly argued that German unification provided a wider, better framework for working-class organisation and struggle. Were they wrong? Why does the same not apply to Europe today? Is what the German Empire did in the world better than what the EU has done to Greece? Of course we oppose the development of EU imperialism – just as Marx and Engels opposed German imperialism – but by fighting the ruling class across Europe, not by seeking to reverse European integration. In addition it is hardly the case that France, Britain, Germany, etc, without the EU would not be imperialist in their relations with the rest of the world as well as each other.

We can perfectly well advocate breaking up the EU but reintegrating Europe once we have socialist states in each country.

Then why did Marx support – certainly not oppose, or try to reverse – the unification of Germany even by Prussia? Why did Trotsky argue that, if German militarism united Europe in World War One, it would be wrong for socialists to argue for a return to separate national states? The reason is that seeking to reverse the international integration of capital means seeking to reverse capitalist development, with all its exploitation and irrationality, yes, but also the new openings and possibilities it creates for workers’ organisation and struggle. It means putting up new barriers to building links with our brothers and sisters across the continent. It means strengthening backward-looking, nationalist political forces. It means weakening the labour movement and the left. That is why breaking up the EU into its constituent parts will take us further away from, not closer to, a united socialist Europe.

Where there is an issue of national self-determination – the democratic right of a people to live free from national oppression – that may trump these kind of considerations. We hope no socialist argues that Britain is nationally oppressed by the EU.

You cite Marx and Trotsky, but quoting scripture doesn’t settle anything.

Marx, or Trotsky, or whoever, might have been wrong at the time. Or they might have been right then, but their argument not apply to the EU now. Simply dismissing reference to their writings as “scripture” is not helpful, however. It lowers the level of discussion. We can and should learn things from the debates our movement had in the past.

There is a tactical case for an abstention or even a Yes vote, given the clearly dominant right-wing, nationalist character of the No drive, but it’s just tactical. In principle, we should vote to get out of the EU.

The character of the push to get out strengthens the case. But why should socialists favour a capitalist Britain separate from Europe to one more integrated into it? What is the “principle” involved?

The EU is a neo-liberal institution. It cannot be reformed.

That sounds very radical, but what does it mean? We need to break down and consider the meaning of terms like “neo-liberal institution”. The United Kingdom state is also a neo-liberal institution! Neither it nor the EU is a vehicle for socialism: only their replacement with new forms of state will make socialism possible. But both can be reformed in the sense of winning changes within them, including some changes to their structure, through struggle.

The EU is far more undemocratic than even the British state. Its structure is designed to be impermeable to popular pressure and make winning left-wing policies impossible.

For class-struggle socialists, the idea that the main barriers to winning reforms are not in the weighty, well-organised ruling class and capitalist state in Britain (France, Germany, etc) but the relatively lightweight bureaucracy of the EU is bizarre. In Britain democracy and workers’ rights have been curbed overwhelmingly by our British rulers, not by the EU. The policies, treaties etc of the EU reflect the fact that its integration accelerated at a time when the working class and left in most European countries are on the retreat and have been for a long time. They reflect the character and policies of its member states. The answer is to regroup, stop the retreat and fight back in each state and internationally, not to convince ourselves that the EU rules mean nothing much is possible. In any case, we can oppose particular EU policies without wanting to reverse European integration or imagining that a Britain outside the EU would provide better conditions for our struggle. As part of that struggle, we need to fight for more democracy – and that is necessary and possible at the local, national and European levels.

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Statement of the Left Network of Syriza

July 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm (Europe, Greece, posted by JD, protest)

This is from the US Socialist Worker (no longer connected with the UK organisation/paper of that name). Note that the Left Network, while rejecting the terms of the bailout, and denouncing Tsipras’s capitulation, does not call for ‘Grexit’ from either the Eurozone or the EU itself.

This is the text of a leaflet, translated by Leandros Fischer, that the Left Network –an alliance of socialists who are a leading voice in SYRIZA’s Left Platform–distributed during demonstrations on July 15, as the parliament meets to vote on Tsipras’ proposals.

Supporters of a "no" vote are mobilizing across Greece

JUST ONE week after the July 5 referendum’s massive “Oxi!” vote, the governmental leadership and Alexis Tsipras have returned from negotiations in Brussels, having agreed to a gigantic Memorandum, socially and fiscally harsher than the two previous ones, and with a much stronger colonial character.

This Memorandum threatens to crush the social majority that lives from its work and has suffered in the five years of extreme austerity policies under the previous two Memorandums, which have eliminated what remains of its gains over many years.

Tsipras and the government have betrayed the Greek people’s shattering “Oxi!” in the referendum by signing an agreement much worse than the Juncker proposal that was rejected in the referendum, at the urging of the government.

With its unprecedented colonial clauses, this Memorandum completes the disastrous task of transforming Greece into a debt colony within the EU. It dishonors the left, since it was agreed to in its name, and by the leadership of a party of the left and a government dominated by this party, which won governmental power based exactly on its historical commitment to abolishing the Memoranda and overthrowing austerity.

This new Memorandum essentially and practically overthrows the government led by SYRIZA: programmatically, but also politically, since it transforms SYRIZA into an austerity government with an increasingly pro-austerity composition (more so after the removal of left-wing cabinet ministers and the potential openings to the austerity camp).

It will have a destructive effect on SYRIZA itself, by blackmailing it to become an apologist for the implementation of austerity policies; to sever its ties to the working-class majority and move against it; to transform itself into a social-liberal party of austerity and authoritarianism.

The new Memorandum strikes a double blow at the left’s system of core values and its moral high ground, by cheating the people who believed its longstanding promise to abolish the Memoranda and topple austerity, but also all the people who contributed to the referendum’s shattering “Oxi!” vote.

It whitewashes the austerity system and the pro-austerity parties by giving them the chance to claim that SYRIZA and the left have delivered a Memorandum worse than their own. It hinders us in the fight against local and international capitalism, making them look all-powerful and capable of crushing and humiliating a left-wing government.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR ALL these reasons, the new Memorandum poses the serious danger of massive disillusionment among the left and the social movements, while also creating a danger that popular discontent will be exploited by the right, the far right and the fascists.

Yet if all these are dangers arising from this agreement, if its first consequences are already visible, nevertheless, the struggle for its overthrow is not in vain. On the contrary, the potential for blocking and overthrowing the new Memorandum, but also lifting the banner of the left, which some, criminally, want to tread upon, are great!

The people of “Oxi!”–this massive popular force, this class-based alliance of workers, the poor and the youth that surfaced in the battle over the referendum–continues to exist. It proves to us that the will to struggle, as well as the anger at their conditions, not only haven’t subsided, but are accumulating at the base of society. The baton of the battle against the new Memorandum can be handed on to new hands! That means the struggle will continue with the same goal as always: abolishing the Memorandums and overthrowing austerity.

And SYRIZA, too–the left-wing SYRIZA, with its radical soul–continues to exist. The government and party moderates rightly consider it to be an obstacle in managing and implementing the new Memorandum, and threaten it with disciplinary measures and expulsions. They call for it to be disciplined to party decisions.

But what counts for the left, above all, is discipline to its program and its political strategy–including abolishing the Memorandums, overthrowing austerity, renouncing the debt and the implementing the basic measures articulated in SYRIZA’s Thessaloniki program–discipline to the inviolable principles and values of the left; and discipline to the collective decisions made to realize both of these.

For SYRIZA, this means discipline to the program of its founding congress, to its pre-election commitments, to the Thessaloniki Program, to the popular mandate of the January 25 elections, and to the mandate of the “Oxi!” vote on July 5.

We are the SYRIZA that abides by all this and that calls for discipline from those who dare to trample on the double popular mandate, and the principles, values and collective decisions of SYRIZA. For the left, discipline does not mean discipline to the arbitrary decisions of the “leader” and the tight circle around him!

Now is the time for this SYRIZA to enter the battle and prevent the disastrous decision to sign a new Memorandum agreement.

Last, but not least in importance, there is also the left beyond SYRIZA of the social movements and the “Oxi!” vote. Whatever the mistakes made and disagreements we have had, we found ourselves in the streets and in struggles in recent years, and we won the battle of the July 5 referendum. In this new cycle of social and political struggles, we must and can stand side by side!

This battle of ours is, at the same time, a battle against demoralization and disappointment–for a new commitment to our part in the mass struggle. Not by way of moralizing and not because it is our “duty,” but on the basis of both reason and imagination, based on the realistic assumption that we can win!

Together, the people of “Oxi!” and the party of “Oxi!” which is SYRIZA–the forces of SYRIZA, but also the forces of the rest of the left, for whom “no” means no and cannot become maybe or, even worse, “yes”–can enter this battle, and win as well!

Translation by Leandros Fischer

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What’s left: social democracy in disarray

July 16, 2015 at 7:27 pm (capitalism, Europe, labour party, left, Marxism, populism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reformism, socialism)

By Alan Johnson

The author has given us permission to republish this article, which first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of World Affairs. Alan welcomes comment, criticism and discussion on the issues raised in the article. As always, when we publish a discussion piece like this, it should not be assumed that everyone associated with Shiraz agrees with it:

_________________________________________________________________________

“I’m frankly a bit fucked off about all this. Like practically everyone else on the Left, I expected to be able to meet the worst crisis of capitalism in generations with more aplomb.” — Richard Seymour, Against Austerity: How We Can Fix the Crisis They Made, 2014

Why has the right, including the populist right, rather than the left, been the main political beneficiary of the anger and bitterness that has roiled Europe since the 2008 financial crash, the eurozone crisis, and the resulting deep recession and brutal austerity? After all, these events surely proved the relevance of the left’s critique of capitalism. The crisis has been so deep and prolonged that a kind of social disintegration has been taking place, at least in the Southern cone, without precedent in postwar Europe. (In Spain, youth unemployment is more than 55 percent.) More: the crisis has been managed largely to the benefit of the already well-off, in a spectacularly brazen fashion. The trillions that were handed over to banks too big to fail are now being gouged out of citizens too weak to resist. (This intensely political class strategy is called “austerity.”) The recovery, such as it is, is benefitting almost exclusively the already affluent, as catalogued in Danny Dorling’s cry of moral outrage, Inequality and the 1%. It is a recovery of McJobs, zero-hour contracts, and food banks. One UK charity alone, the Trussell Trust, has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before.

The left is increasingly marginal to political life in Europe despite the fact that, in the words of Owen Jones, an important voice of the British left, “Living standards are falling, public assets are being flogged to private interests, a tiny minority are being enriched at the expense of society and the hard-won gains of working people—social security, rights in the workplace and so on—are being stripped away.” And the radical parties and movements to the left of the social democratic parties have been faring no better. In the brutally honest assessment of the British Marxist Alex Callinicos, “Nearly seven years after the financial crash began, the radical left has not been weaker for decades.”

But the European left’s inability to forcefully meet the crisis is not due to a failure of individual political leaders, but the fact that it has not developed, in theory or practice, a response to the three great waves of change—economic, socio-cultural, and politico-intellectual—that have crashed over it since the late 1970s.

Social democrats, as Sheri Berman showed in The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century, used to be able to do something that no one else could: bring capitalism, democracy, and social stability into a more or less harmonious relationship. They knew from bitter experience that if markets really were “free” and left to “self-regulate” then society would be devastated; that in addition to degrading the environment, what Marx called the cash-nexus, the reduction of human relations to naked self-interest, would erode communal life and the common good, installing greed and possessive individualism in their place; that merely contractual relations between spectacularly unequal, anxious, and deeply untrusting individuals, acquisitive, philistine, and competitive, would triumph.

But in the 1980s European social democrats lost their nerve, and fell into a suffocating consensus that says there is no alternative to neoliberalism: marketization, deregulation, privatization, financialization, an assault on the bargaining power of labor, regressive tax regimes, cuts to welfare. As “New Labor” architect Peter Mandelson famously put it, social democrats should now be “intensely relaxed” about people getting “filthy rich,” while sneering at the trade union movement, and often their own alarmed working-class supporters, as “dinosaurs” (or “bigots”) for harboring the idea that it was possible to stop the neoliberal globalization and “get off.”

 The fruits of this radical transformation of European social democracy into a political force pursuing a slightly kinder and a slightly gentler neoliberalism—which some dub “social neoliberalism”—have been bitter. At the top of any list would have to be the erosion of the links between the social democratic parties and their working-class base and the “hollowing out” of social democratic parties until they became little more than coteries of leaders, staffers, and wannabe MPs, relating mostly to each other and to media and lobbyists. In a brilliant essay in the London Review of Books last spring, Perry Anderson made a start at a taxonomy of the whole shocking malavita. “In France,” he noted, “the Socialist minister for the budget, plastic surgeon Jérôme Cahuzac, whose brief was to uphold fiscal probity and equity, was discovered to have somewhere between 600,000 and 15 million euros in hidden deposits in Switzerland and Singapore.” The result? When the financial crash occurred, European social democratic parties, in thrall to neoliberalism, were seen as just as guilty as the executants of the neoliberal solution to the crisis (bank bailouts and popular austerity), leading to the overnight electoral meltdown of those parties. In Greece, Pasok plunged to a barely threshold-clearing four percent of the vote, despite having been the country’s dominant party for many decades. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reply to Owen Jones on the EU

July 15, 2015 at 1:15 pm (capitalism, Europe, Germany, Greece, Guardian, internationalism, Jim D, populism, socialism, workers)

Dear Owen,

Despite your relative youth, you are (to judge by your piece in today’s Guardian) representative of an old UK left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — who have for decades been anti-EU but in recent years have kept fairly quite about it for fear of seeming to ally with Ukip and the Tory right. They have suggested, though rarely said openly, that the left should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

The EU leaders’ appalling treatment of Greece, and Tsipras’s capitulation has given a new lease of life to the anti-EU left despite the fact that while in Greece and Southern Europe the EU is a force for neoliberal austerity, in the UK no-one can point to a single attack on the working class that has originated with the EU against the will of a British government: indeed the EU has forced reluctant UK governments to enact limited but real pro-worker legislation.

You seem to think the left can have its cake and eat it: to chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country, but also cover ourselves by suggesting that we are not really anti-European, but only dislike the present neoliberal, capitalist character of the EU.

As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist! As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neoliberal governments could be anything other than neoliberal!

In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

Even the threat of withdrawal that you propose is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (ie: all the neoliberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

That (as I presume you’re aware) is not what the serious anti-EU-ers of left and right really want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too.

What would then happen?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face increased hostility and racism.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

Despite your fantasy of a “populist”, independent left anti-EU movement, in reality nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be vindicated while the left – if not completely ignored – would be seen as complicit

The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neoliberal European Union, but forward, to a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

Comradely,

Jim D

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AWL statement on Greece

July 13, 2015 at 4:54 pm (AWL, Europe, Greece, posted by JD)

This statement was published by Workers Liberty on 9 July – ie before today’s agreement (which can only be described as a capitulation) by Trsipras to the terms of the Troika’s bailout package:

Solidarity with Greece, and with the Greek workers and Left

After the huge vote in Greece against the bailout conditions the European Union leaders are seeking to impose, the left and labour movement internationally, and particularly in the EU, face two tasks.

The first is the strongest possible solidarity with Greece against the banks and against the EU hierarchy. What is happening to Greece is primarily a class, not a national struggle, and we reject the idea that Greek “national independence” from the EU is a desirable or credible solution to the crisis the country faces. Nonetheless, there is a large element of big power, imperialist bullying going on. We should denounce and oppose it as loudly as we can. We demand that, instead of plotting how to push Greece out of the Euro, the EU reopens real negotiations with the Greek government. Of course we also demand the Greek government is allowed to carry out its policies freed from external diktat!

The second is solidarity with Greece’s workers’ organisations and class-struggle left, including the left in Syriza. The reports today (9 July) that the leadership of Syriza is now rushing to make a deal which would involve further brutal austerity – assuming the EU will agree it! – highlights why that, and not just bland “solidarity with Greece”, is necessary. It seems the Syriza leadership may use the “No” vote as a mandate to justify and push through austerity measures. In the fact of that, the question is what the Syriza left will do.

A deal with the lenders is not necessarily unprincipled, in itself. Russia’s revolutionary workers’ government made a very bad deal with German imperialism in 1918 because it did not have a better option. The problem is that the character of the Syriza leadership and government have impelled them to seek a deal regardless of the options and the costs, because they are terrified of ending up outside the Eurozone or EU, and of seriously mobilising the masses.

The options available are indeed harsh. If Greece is pushed out of the Eurozone, its people will still suffer. Out of the Eurozone, attacks against the Syriza government from the EU leaders and the Greek bourgeoisie will intensify. Radical measures – like expropriation of the banks and attacks on the wealth of the shipping industry, the church, etc; a fight for workers’ control; and a purging of the police and military command and the creation of popular militias – would be necessary to prevent social and political collapse.

The choice is between preparing for such measures – many of which are, after all, official Syriza policy – and helpless capitulation one way or another. For sure, staying in the EU at all costs means accepting crushing “memoranda” from the lenders.

The only real way out is to spread the struggle across Europe. That means seriously fighting our own ruling classes and their austerity programs, as well as building the strongest possible solidarity with Greece and the Greek workers.

Socialists internationally need to do what we can to help socialists and organised workers in Greece prepared for a renewed fight, including against the Syriza leadership and government if necessary.

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* Comrade Coatesy takes a somewhat different view, here

* Via Kevin Ovenden, today, in Athens:”The public sector trade union federation in Greece, ADEDY, has called a general strike for Wednesday. The strike against the Third Memorandum will be officially announced tomorrow. But activists throughout the public sector unions have begun organising for the stoppage this afternoon. Activists in other sectors – the private sector, the universities, the school students, etc – are also agitating for whatever action they believe they can get.

“The parliament has to agree the new memorandum by midnight on Wednesday.

“If MPs are to vote tomorrow, then the strike will be brought forward to tomorrow. Militants of the fighting left are pushing for an “active strike” – in the streets with mass demonstrations, not staying at home.”

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Morning Star in thrall to irrelevant KKE as French CP backs Syriza

July 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm (Europe, Greece, posted by JD, reblogged, solidarity, stalinism)

Comrade Coatesy, over at his blog, writes:

French Communists Stand with Syriza; British Communists Snipe from Sidelines.

This morning the excellent l’Humanité (we shall never forget comrades your front line reports from the heroic defenders of Kobane, never!) leads with this headline:

La France doit défendre l’exigence de justice des Grecs !

Alors que le gouvernement renvoie la balle à Alexis Tsipras après un lourd silence de l’Élysée, de nombreuses voix à gauche exigent une intervention forte de la France.

France must defend the Greek demand for justice!

Whilst the government pushes back responsibility onto Alexis Tsiparis, after a deep silence from the Élysée, numerous voices on the left demand a strong intervention from France.

It concludes,

Ce nouvel acte de résistance à l’ordre libéral et à la guerre qui se perpétue sur notre continent, sous d’autres formes, doit amener à reposer les questions des objectifs de la zone euro, de la restructuration des dettes illégitimes et des orientations politiques.

This new act of resistance to the liberal economic order and to the virtual  war which is is waging over our continent, must bring forth a response that questions the objectives of the Euro,the restructuring of illegitimate debts, and (the EU’s…) political goals.

In other words, reform the European Union….

By contrast (Hat-tip: Jim) the Morning Star, paper of the Communist Party of Britain carries this Editorial  on Greece today:

Eurozone Cannot be Reformed.

Tsipras wants to persuade other member states to back his vision of the EU as a bloc based on solidarity and to accept a chunk of his country’s debts being written off and the rest rescheduled.

Why should countries with lower living standards then Greece agree to this?

Will Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, which have already writhed on the austerity rack, paying the price of ruthless loan conditions, support a softer approach for Greece?

It is ironic that, while eurozone states led by Berlin refuse to consider any debt write-off, the IMF is less rigid.

It often engineers creditors’ haircuts in return for new loans and conditions that involve revaluation of national currencies.

Eurozone members are denied this mechanism, with the value of the euro set to the advantage of the more developed states, especially Germany.

Germany’s huge overseas trade surplus, even with China, would normally push up the value of its currency, but eurozone membership precludes this.

When Merkel’s predecessor Helmut Kohl and French president Francois Mitterrand pushed through the single currency in 1992, many economists warned that economic union could only work properly in the context of political union.

This is exemplified by the reality of an undervalued euro favouring the richest members while the poorest are denied the benefit transfers and pooling of financial risk that exist in unified states.

Greece’s Syriza government seeks change, but the lacuna in its argument is that the most powerful member states benefit from current arrangements. Why should they change?

Syriza’s commitment to peddling illusions that the eurozone is reformable and could approve an alternative to austerity does not inspire confidence in Tsipras’s ability to win over his EU “partners.”

Whatever Greeks thought they were voting for, their government’s obsession with wearing the eurozone straitjacket makes attacks on living standards, including pensions, the likely price of Syriza’s negotiations.

We are aware that some members of the CPB are supportive of the views of the sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE  Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas).

The KKE actively abstained in the Sunday  Referendum.

One sympathiser of the CPB has published their reaction, which we suspect lies behind the Morning Star’s comments (21st Century Manifesto),

The governmental majority of SYRIZA-ANEL rejected the proposal of the KKE for the government’s draft agreement to also be placed before the judgment of the Greek people in the referendum together with the issue of abolishing all the anti-people laws that have been passed in recent years and the issue of disengaging from the EU. At the same time, the coalition government explained that the NO in the referendum is interpreted by the government as approval for its own proposed agreement with the EU-IMF-ECB, which inside 47+8 pages also includes harsh antiworker-antipeople measures, worth about 8 billion euros.

In these conditions, the KKE called on the workers to turn their backs on the false dilemma which was being posed in the referendum, using all appropriate means. The forces of the KKE outside the election centres handed out its own ballot paper to the voters which said:

NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE EU-IMF-ECB
NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE GOVERNMENT
DISENGAGEMENT FROM THE EU, WITH THE PEOPLE IN POWER

Of course, it was understood that this ballot paper would be counted as a spoiled ballot, but together with the blank ballot papers and the abstention it constitutes a political current that disputes the choices of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and also of the imperialist organizations, with whom the government is negotiating for the needs of capital in Greece.

So there we have it: Greece should leave the EU –  something many in Merkel’s party, not to mention other right-wingers, would welcome.

Update: British CPB to negotiate unity with Trotskyist  World Socialist Web Site?

The political fraud of Syriza’s referendum on EU austerity in Greece

Since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on European Union (EU) austerity last Saturday, the entire enterprise has been exposed as a political fraud. It is designed to engineer a further capitulation to the EU’s demands, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Meanwhile, on the serious left: Paris demonstration in solidarity with Syriza a few days ago:

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