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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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.


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.


* 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:


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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Greece votes “no”

July 6, 2015 at 8:06 am (class, democracy, elections, Europe, Greece, posted by JD, solidarity, workers)

Adapted (by JD) from an article by Theodora Polenta (at Workers Liberty):

Up to Friday 26 June the Greek government of Syriza-ANEL was very close to reaching an agreement with the eurozone leaders. It looked set to abandon its last “red lines” and accept 90-95% of the conditions for a new bailout, including direct wage and pension reductions and explicitly maintaining the framework of the last five years of Memorandum.

The Greek government had accepted the logic that increased tax revenues would be based on VAT increases and the preservation of the regressive property tax; the principle of zero deficit for the financing of the pension system; the gradual withdrawal of the Pensioners’ Social Solidarity Benefit (EKAS), and the extension of the retirement age to 67.

In the end no deal was reached. On Saturday 27th, after a long cabinet meeting Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum. The eurozone leaders would not even cede enough to make a “honourable compromise’ for the Syriza parliamentary group and Syriza’s rank and file and electoral base.

The only talk of debt restructuring the eurozone leaders would accept was a vague reference to a debate on the Greek debt in the future based upon a framework sketched with Venizelos and Samaras back in 2012.

The drama of the negotiation for the last five months has been largely the refutation of the Syriza leaders’ central illusions, of a return to progressive development achieved through rational negotiations and by exploiting the “internal contradictions” within the creditors’ camp. The government’s negotiating team had the illusion that the eurozone leaders were sure eventually to back down, even at the eleventh hour, and concede a poor but nonetheless manageable political agreement, because they feared the economic cost of a rupture and because of their internal contradictions.

The eurozone ministers, accustomed to the servility of Papandreou, Samaras and Venizelos, thought that Alexis Tsipras was a puppy that barked but would not bite.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mackney of Greece Solidarity denounces Morning Star

July 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm (Europe, Greece, internationalism, posted by JD, sectarianism, stalinism)

Well-respected Labour movement activist Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the UCU and currently secretary of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, has written this sharp letter to the Morning Star which was published in today’s edition:

Image result for morning star logo

I am in Greece, where the people are preparing, more or less on class lines, to vote in the referendum on EU austerity demands next Sunday.

I was appalled to read your editorial mirroring the position of the KKE which voted in parliament not to have a referendum.

After years of reporting which ignores the realities of the new social and political movements in Greece, with regret, I have decided to cancel my daily copy of the Star.

The facts are that the KKE got 5 per cent of the vote in the last election and that Syriza got 36 per cent.

Syriza was clear with the people, who were overwhelmingly pro-EU and pro-euro, that it would try initially to find a solution within the Eurozone, which has involved negotiations which have been transparent.

We have to stand with the Greek people.

As the Greece Solidarity Campaign slogan has it: “In or out of the Eurozone, Greeks will never fight alone.”


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Enemy Intelligence: Bruno Waterfield of ‘The Times’ on the Greek crisis

July 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm (capitalist crisis, Europe, Greece)

We reproduce this, from today’s (London) Times, because it seems to be well-informed, and it’s only otherwise available from behind Murdoch’s pay-wall. We do not know whom the “senior German conservative” is, but it might well be finance minister Wolfgang Schaeubl

‘No new bailout unless Tsipras goes’

Greece will not get a cent in new euro-zone bailout loans while Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoukaris remain in power, because Germany will block any such deal, one of Europe’s most influential politicians has told The Times.

“Today there is the question of do we trust Tsipras and Varoufakis? The answer is clear to all parties, no,” the senior German conservative said.

He also lifted the mild on a European Union attempt to push Mr Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza out of power regardless of the vote on July 5.

If Greece’s prime minister and finance minister remained in office, even after a “yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum, then Athens would stand no chance of a new bailout, he indicated.

Under the rules of the European Stability Mechanism, the euro’s bailout fund, the German parliament, or Bundestag, has a veto or blocking vote over any new programme such as that requested by Greece at the 11th hour.

The senior German conservative said that Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and its Baverian allies the Christian Social Union (CSU) would block any request made while the pair, described as “communists” remained in power.

“In my party the CDU/CSU there would be a lot of colleagues who would vote ‘no’ if Varoufakis and Tsipras are asking. For sure. Because there is simply no trust any more. They say, I am not going to give taxpayers’ money to Greece without a reliable partner,” he said. Referring to Syrezia, he added: “We need a reliable partner who wants to do the job.”

The EU’s plan is to back a “yes” vote strongly by posing it as an in/out question on membership of the euro rather than austerity measures and then, in the event of a victory, to oust Syriza after the expected resignation of Mr Tsipras. “We will do anything to get a ‘yes’. Then we will need a new government, then we have to implement measures” he said.

The politician revealed that the socialist Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, was involved in secret talks, possibly involving Mr Tsipras -m whom he sees as a moderate – to “split the Syriza movement” as a precondition for a new EU bailout, incorporating moderate MPs in Syriza to avoid new elections.

In the event of a “no” vote and Syriza continuing to hold the reigns of power, the German conservative said, “It’s over” and Greece would have to leave the euro after defaulting on ECB loans on July 20. “We will talk about a humanitarian rescue programme but not an additional [bailout],” he said.

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Stiglitz and Guzman on Greece and the crisis in Europe

June 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm (capitalist crisis, Europe, Greece)

From Social Europe:

Joseph Stiglitz

Governments sometimes need to restructure their debts. Otherwise, a country’s economic and political stability may be threatened. But, in the absence of an international rule of law for resolving sovereign defaults, the world pays a higher price than it should for such restructurings. The result is a poorly functioning sovereign-debt market, marked by unnecessary strife and costly delays in addressing problems when they arise.

We are reminded of this time and again. In Argentina, the authorities’ battles with a small number of “investors” (so-called vulture funds) jeopardized an entire debt restructuring agreed to – voluntarily – by an overwhelming majority of the country’s creditors. In Greece, most of the “rescue” funds in the temporary “assistance” programs are allocated for payments to existing creditors, while the country is forced into austerity policies that have contributed mightily to a 25% decline in GDP and have left its population worse off. In Ukraine, the potential political ramifications of sovereign-debt distress are enormous.

So the question of how to manage sovereign-debt restructuring – to reduce debt to levels that are sustainable – is more pressing than ever. The current system puts excessive faith in the “virtues” of markets. Disputes are generally resolved not on the basis of rules that ensure fair resolution, but by bargaining among unequals, with the rich and powerful usually imposing their will on others. The resulting outcomes are generally not only inequitable, but also inefficient.

Those who claim that the system works well frame cases like Argentina as exceptions. Most of the time, they claim, the system does a good job. What they mean, of course, is that weak countries usually knuckle under. But at what cost to their citizens? How well do the restructurings work? Has the country been put on a sustainable debt path? Too often, because the defenders of the status quo do not ask these questions, one debt crisis is followed by another.

Greece’s debt restructuring in 2012 is a case in point. The country played according to the “rules” of financial markets and managed to finalize the restructuring rapidly; but the agreement was a bad one and did not help the economy recover. Three years later, Greece is in desperate need of a new restructuring.

Distressed debtors need a fresh start. Excessive penalties lead to negative-sum games, in which the debtor cannot recover and creditors do not benefit from the larger repayment capacity that recovery would entail.

The absence of a rule of law for debt restructuring delays fresh starts and can lead to chaos. That is why no government leaves it to market forces to restructure domestic debts. All have concluded that “contractual remedies” simply do not suffice. Instead, they enact bankruptcy laws to provide the ground rules for creditor-debtor bargaining, thereby promoting efficiency and fairness.

Sovereign-debt restructurings are even more complicated than domestic bankruptcy, plagued as they are by problems of multiple jurisdictions, implicit as well as explicit claimants, and ill-defined assets upon which claimants can draw. That is why we find the claim by some – including the US Treasury – that there is no need for an international rule of law so incredible.

To be sure, it may not be possible to establish a full international bankruptcy code; but a consensus could be reached on many issues. For example, a new framework should include clauses providing for stays of litigation while the restructuring is being carried out, thus limiting the scope for disruptive behavior by vulture funds.

It should also contain provisions for lending into arrears: lenders willing to provide credit to a country going through a restructuring would receive priority treatment. Such lenders would thus have an incentive to provide fresh resources to countries when they need them the most.

There should be agreement, too, that no country can sign away its basic rights. There can be no voluntary renunciation of sovereign immunity, just as no person can sell himself into slavery. There also should be limits on the extent to which one democratic government can bind its successors.

This is particularly important because of the tendency of financial markets to induce short-sighted politicians to loosen today’s budget constraints, or to lend to flagrantly corrupt governments such as the fallen Yanukovych regime in Ukraine, at the expense of future generations. Such a constraint would improve the functioning of sovereign-debt markets by inducing greater due diligence in lending.

A “soft law” framework containing these features, implemented through an oversight commission that acted as a mediator and supervisor of the restructuring process, could resolve some of today’s inefficiencies and inequities. But, if the framework is to be consensual, its implementation should not be based at an institution that is too closely associated with one side of the market or the other.

This means that regulation of sovereign-debt restructuring cannot be based at the International Monetary Fund, which is too closely affiliated with creditors (and is a creditor itself). To minimize the potential for conflicts of interest, the framework could be implemented by the United Nations, a more representative institution that is taking the lead on the matter, or by a new global institution, as already suggested in the 2009 Stiglitz Report on reforming the international monetary and financial system.

The crisis in Europe is just the latest example of the high costs – for creditors and debtors alike – entailed by the absence of an international rule of law for resolving sovereign-debt crises. Such crises will continue to occur. If globalization is to work for all countries, the rules of sovereign lending must change. The modest reforms we propose are the right place to start.

© Project Syndicate

About Joseph E. Stiglitz and Martin Guzman

Joseph Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in Economics. Martin Guzman is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Economics and Finance at Columbia University Business School.

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Yves Coleman: Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe

April 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm (Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, AWL, conspiracy theories, Europe, fascism, France, Greece, Islam, islamism, israel, populism, posted by JD, Racism, thuggery)

The French revolutionary socialist Yves Coleman (of the group Ni patries, ni frontières), has written a lengthy and detailed piece on anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe. This is one of the most comprehensive and important articles on these closely interconnected subjects to have been published so far this century. It appears in a 12-page pull-out in the present edition of the AWL’s paper Solidarity. Comrade Coatesy has already commented on supplementary article by Coleman that also appears in Solidarity: About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept.  We reproduce Coleman’s main article in full below:

Protest in Greece in memory of a Pakistani immigrant murdered by ‘Golden Dawn’ fascists

Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe

Around 1.1 millions Jews live in the European Union and 19 million Muslims. It’s obviously very difficult to compare the situation of an ethnic/cultural/religious minority living in Europe for centuries with the situation of religious and/or national minorities whose importance has massively grown after the Second World War, and in some cases only during the last 40 years.

Nevertheless, many militants (inspired by left academic researchers) compare anti-Semitism in the 30s to the situation of Muslims in Europe today.

This comparison is flawed1, for many reasons, but it remains a fact that the anti-Islam paranoia which dominates Western media, and the long and complex relations between the Islamic world and Western powers nourish extended racist discrimination and social exclusion against Muslim workers, “alien” or not, living in Europe.

For definitions of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism this text mainly uses those provided by the European Fundamental rights Agency (FRA) with a few additions. Obviously they have not been conceived by so-called “revolutionaries” and do not have a great theoretical significance. They are clearly focused on discrimination: this legalistic and multiculturalist perspective deliberately neglects, or even completely erases, social inequalities, the division of society into classes, and refuses to take into account discriminations if they are not based on ethnic, racial, religious, or gender pecularities.

In addition, if you study in detail, from a historical and anthropological point of view, anti-Semitism and all the issues linked to the cultural, religious, economic and military contacts between Islam and the “Christian West”, contacts which have given birth to today’s anti-Muslim racism in Europe, then the differences between anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism appear so huge that you can no longer engage in any comparison – or only so from a purely demagogic angle. The too famous “competing memories” can lead you to compare the statistical figures of the Armenian, Jewish, Gypsy, Cambodian, Tutsi genocides with the number of victims of the transatlantic slave trade or the number of victims of colonialism; and then you will be inevitably led to establish a dangerous hierarchy between these evils. Or you can even go as far as suggesting that capitalist Europe is preparing a “muslimicide” analogous to Hitler’s Judeocide, as if European Muslims in 2015 are in a similar position to European Jews in the mid 30s …

This article deliberately takes a minimalist focus: the issue of democratic rights for all human beings, whatever are their origins and philosophical or religious beliefs. In this limited frame, the great advantage of the FRA definitions is that they focus on concrete, identifiable, phenomena, which we want to fight and defeat today, even if they don’t cover their more general socio-economic causes.

The polemics which have been launched between social scientists – and by extension between radical left activists – around the content of these two definitions often hide ideological issues (“Zionists” against “anti-Zionists”, secular Republicans against supporters of “multiculturalism”, sectarian atheists against intellectually dishonest believers, partisans of a binational State in Palestine and supporters of two separate states, etc.) and their main effect is to divide and paralyse the militants concerned with an efficient struggle against all forms of racism, here and now.

Anti-Semitism is an ideology based on the conscious, or unconscious, hostility to the “Jews”2 for religious, social, national, racial and/or economic motives. “Jews” may be actually Jewish by religion or culture or not. It does not matter for the anti-Semite; what matters for him is to attribute them negative or even sometimes positive qualities3 in order to discriminate and exclude them.

To this very general definition, one can add that anti-Zionism can sometimes, not always, lead to anti-Semitic conclusions4: when Jews are accused of exaggerating the Holocaust; when they are denied the right to self-determination, granted to all the other peoples living on this planet; when classic anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic clichés are used to characterise Israel or Israelis; when Israeli policy is systematically compared to that of the Nazis; when Jews are considered as a “fifth column”, a “lobby” of “cosmopolitan” people who are only loyal to Israel, etc.

Anti-Muslim racism (“Islamophobia” for the European Union and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) is an ideology which sees Islam as a “monolithic bloc”, sharing “no common values with other cultures”, “inferior to the West and barbaric”, more “sexist” than all the other religions, “supportive of terrorism” and of an agressive politics leading to military conflicts and war.

Anti-Muslim racists justify “discriminatory practices towards Muslims and their exclusion from mainstream society”, practices which they want to enshrine in laws.

To the elements of this FRA definition, one can add that anti-Muslim racism is often mixed to (and fuses with) anti-Asian, anti-African, anti-Arab or anti-Turkish racism, up to the point it’s difficult to distinguish between them.

Today in the Western world, anti-Jew racism and anti-Muslim racism are not, most of the time, religiously motivated. They can mobilise “anti-capitalist” or “anti-imperialist” plot theories which denounce the role of “the Jews”, or present Islam as the main threat to human civilisation today. Anti-Semites and anti-Muslim racists hide their political agenda behind all sorts of radical, leftish or pseudo-humanist reasoning: some pretend they are particularly moved by the sufferings of the Palestinians; others that they only want to defend women’s rights and democracy; some pretend European Muslims should not be blamed for what happens in the Middle East and North Africa, but constantly blame European or American Jews for what happens in Israel; some consider Europeans Muslims should spend all their time condemning Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram or al-Qaeda, but defend any military aggression of Tsahal, any “targeted murders” with their inevitable “collateral damages5”, or find lousy excuses for racist Israeli settlers or Israeli far right politicians. It’s rather easy to unmask these discourses, including in our own ranks, provided we open our eyes and are ready to lose… some “friends” or “comrades”.

Before analysing these phenomenon and their extent today, one has to recall some of the important political changes which started in the mid-1970’s and set the context for anti-Semitism and Muslim racism today. Read the rest of this entry »

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