Catalonia: right to choose, yes! New borders, no!

October 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm (AWL, democracy, elections, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

By Martin Thomas and Tony Holmes (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website); slightly amended by JD to take account of latest developments:

Charles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, has announced his cautious response to the referendum on independence in Catalonia his government called on 1 October.

The Spanish government declared the referendum illegal, and deployed heavy Spanish police force to try to stop it, but it largely went ahead. 92% voted yes, on a 43% turnout. A series of opinion polls carried out by the Catalan government since 2011 has in recent years shown a slight majority against independence, most recently 49%-41% in July this year.

Puigdemont asked the Catalan parliament, where he leads a coalition government, for a mandate to declare Catalonia an independent state. He proposed “suspending the effect” of the independence declaration “for a few weeks” and seeking talks with the Spanish government and exploring international mediation. The Spanish government had warned that it would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid if Puigdemont went for independence. It may still do so, though the immediate call by EU chief Donald Tusk for Madrid to negotiate makes that less likely.

Judging from the failure of the Spanish police to stop the 1 October referendum, such an attempt by Madrid could not go smoothly, and might lead to a low-level civil war between Spanish and Catalan police. The European Union and neighbouring France have said that a Catalonia which declared itself independent could not expect to be admitted to the European Union, implying that it would face a degree of economic blockade, with serious trade barriers surrounding it. It is conceivable that the stand-off could be resolved by the reintroduction of a 2006 law ceding more autonomy to Catalonia, which was approved at the time both by a referendum in Catalonia and by a vote in the Spanish parliament, led at that time by the social-democratic PSOE.

The current People’s Party (conservative) government in Madrid got that law annulled by Spain’s constitutional court in 2010, starting a process towards the current crisis. Democratic principle mandates concessions by Madrid to Catalonia.

The people of Catalonia have the right to a proper referendum on separation, and to be allowed to separate without sabotage or disruption if they vote for separation. It is, however, good that Puigdemont called for negotiations rather than immediate separation. To denounce restraint as a sell-out would be wrong for three reasons.

Firstly, there is no solid evidence of a majority for separation. That 40% of the electorate voted yes on 1 October is not solid evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession” An honest Brexiteer writes …

October 11, 2017 at 11:14 am (Brexit, economics, enemy intelligence, Europe, identity politics, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, privatisation, reblogged, truth)

From Peter North’s blog (9th Oct 2017):

I don’t like this Brexit, but I will live with it

Now that we know there isn’t going to be a deal we can at least narrow down some of the possibilities of what post-Brexit Britain looks like.

In the first year or so we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won’t last. Domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete and we’ll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.

Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.

Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that’s not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.

Since a lot of freight will no longer be able to go through Calais we can expect a lot more use of the port at Hull so we may see an expansion in distribution centres in the North.

All in all we are looking at serious austerity as it will take a few years at least to rebuild our trade relations with third countries. If we go down the path of unilateral trade liberalisation then we will probably find it hard to strike new deals.

Meanwhile, since tax receipts will be way down we can expect major cuts to the forces and a number of Army redundancies. I expect to see RAF capability cut by a third. Soon enough it will become apparent that cuts to defence cannot go further so we can expect another round of cuts to council services. They will probably raise council tax to cope with it.

After years of the left bleating about austerity they are about to find out what it actually means. Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime.

Interesting though will be how rapidly people adapt to it and habits will change, thus so will the culture. I expect cheap consumables from China will stay at low prices and they manage to circumvent the taxes and import controls anyway.

What I do expect to happen is a lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. Basically it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us.

We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s.

The London economy will also change. Initially we will see an exodus back to the regions until rental prices normalise to the new conditions. Anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

This will see a revival of local politics and national politics will become a lot more animated. I expect the Tories will be wiped out and we will have to put up with a Corbyn government for a while, but they will be tasked with making all the major cuts. We’ll soon see how far their “compassion” really goes. Even if Corbs does manage to borrow, it won’t go very far. It won’t plug the hole.

Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. My gut instinct tells me that culturally it will be a vast improvement on the status quo. There will be more reasons to cooperate and more need to congregate. I expect to see a cultural revolution where young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than becoming tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We’ll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations, probably plugging back into Euratom, Erasmus, and a large part of the single market. It will take some time to plug back into the EU aviation market. The EU will be very cautious about what it lets us back in on.

Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other.

I’m of the view that in recent years people have become increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent, inventing psychological problems for themselves in the absence of any real challenges or imperatives to grow as people. I have always primarily thought Brexit would be a reboot on British politics and culture. In a lot of ways it will bring back much of what is missing. A little austerity might very well make us less frivolous.

What I do know is that the banking crisis of 2008 set in motion a series of events whereby much of the corrective potential of it was dissipated with debt and spending, largely to preserve the political order. The disruptive potential of it was barely felt in the UK. Ever since we have stagnated and though the numbers on screen may tell a story of marginal growth, I just don’t see it reflected in the world around me. I still see the regions dying out and London sucking the life and vitality out of every city, including Bristol. It reminds me that the wealth of a city is its people, not its contribution to GDP.

Ahead lies challenging times. It will not be easy. Those who expected things to improve will be disappointed. But then I have a clear conscience in this. I never made any big Brexit promises. I never said there would be sunlit uplands. I did not predict that the government would make this much of a pigs ear of it, or that we would be looking at the WTO option. I expected parliament would step in to prevent that. That it hasn’t tells you a good deal about the state of modern politics.

And so with that in mind, as much as I would have had it go a different way, I think, given the opportunity to vote again I would still vote to leave. Eventually it gets to a point where any change will do. I prefer an uncertain future to the certainty I was looking at.

451 Comments

JD adds: the comments are well worth a gander

This is what Mr North wrote the next day (10 Oct) following the attention his post received in the Graun and elsewhere:

“explaining yesterday’s post which seems to have cause something of a stir. The short version is that I do see quite a lot of potential in Brexit to reboot British politics, not least because a trashed economy would finally settle this stagnant politics of ours. It would be the final big push to wean the British off the state.

“I suspect the reason the post went viral is because it’s probably the first time Grauniad hacks have seen honest Brexit motives out in the open. I see Brexit as taking toys away from spoiled toddlers – and if we can’t stop a hard Brexit then there is still a lot to be said for going the full monty rather than preserving the dismal status quo of retail politics. I can see how it will culturally reinvent Britain.”

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Morning Star letters page: a “total waste of space”

October 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, conspiracy theories, CPB, Europe, Jim D, nationalism, plonker, publications, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

The letters page of the Morning Star is not somewhere I’d normally recommend for either political enlightenment or a good laugh.

But following the super-patriotic Daily Mail of the Left‘s  decision to publish a token anti-Brexit letter last week, various rancid old Stalinists and Little-Britain nationalists have been spluttering with rage. One Mike Magee, for instance, fulminated in hilarious cod-Marxiese against the publication of any such “ignorant and ill-founded” letters from unbelievers (I personally just love the claim that such letters might “confuse” those who are “already unsure of which line is correct”).

As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, I feel it’s a public service to republish Mr Magee’s stern missive, followed by a straight-faced riposte from a splendid husband-and-wife team, who (not for the first time) bring some much-needed sanity and decency to the paper’s letter page.

Don’t add to the EU confusion
MANY readers will want to reply to Alan Yearsley’s letter (M Star October 4) criticising the Star for not giving equal coverage to the Remainers protesting at the Tory conference that Brexit is a monstrosity. I would direct a contrary criticism to the Star.

The paper’s editorial line is based on sound factual evidence as exemplified by left-wing anti-EU campaign Lexit, including now the referendum result, whereas Mr Yearsley and his Remainers simply “believe” (imagine, presume or surmise without credible evidence) we can reform the EU from inside.

 He cites a couple of “benefits” which do not require membership of the capitalist club, and there are many more such examples of collaboration across borders that do not require a corporate state to exist.

 The EU is an oversized homunculus which no amount of reforming surgery can beautify – 45 years inside prove it.
The Star’s editorial line is Marxist even though the rest of its content is directed at a wider left-leaning readership. Marxism is a scientific outlook formed from careful study and analysis of human society throughout history, and our modern day observation and experience of it.

 Neither science nor Marxism relies on human hopes and fancies but on human experience.

 My point is that publishing ignorant and ill-founded letters is not part of the Star’s remit. It only serves to confuse further those who are already unsure of which line is correct.

 An aim of the capitalist media is to obfuscate reality and thereby confuse the mass of the people. It is not the function of our paper to add to that confusion.
MIKE MAGEE Frome

The Star’s letters page is total waste of space
Mike Magee is absolutely right (M Star October 8-9), and Alan Yearsley is quite wrong (M Star October 4) in his criticism of our paper

There is no place in it for ignorant and ill-founded letters, which only serve to confuse.

In fact, discussion of difficult and complicated political questions like Brexit is best avoided altogether.

Our paper’s editorial line is there to be followed. What else is it for?

Come to think of it, do we really need a letters page? It merely provides space for arrogant readers who think they have all the answers to lay down the law to the rest of us.

If we scrap the letters page, that would allow more space for news reports and the all-important Star comment, which tells us what to think and saves us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.

Of course a paper like the one were are suggesting would lose a lot of its present readers, so a very much larger Fighting Fund would be needed. We are sending a small cheque to help.
BETTY AND CHRIS BIRCH London SW6

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Against Spanish nationalism *and* the Catalan independence movement!

October 8, 2017 at 8:04 pm (Andrew Coates, democracy, internationalism, national liberation, nationalism, protest, spain)

Andrew Coates (at Tendance Coatesy) writes:

https://ep02.epimg.net/politica/imagenes/2017/09/08/actualidad/1504872254_629045_1507455934_noticia_fotograma.jpg
The left should not pit one national flag against another.

Against Catalan Nationalism.

The “nation” should have the “right” to self-determination. But who is that “nation” and who has the authority and the “right” to speak for the “nation” and express its will? How can we find out what the “nation” actually wants?”

Rosa Luxemburg. The National Question.

The Catalan referendum has burst on the European scene without, apparent, warning. That this is not in fact true can be seen in an informative article in the Socialist Workers Party journal, International Socialism, which concludes by putting the issue of Catalonia centre stage ( Héctor Sierra Podemos, Catalonia and the workers’ movement in the Spanish state  Issue: 155) That it has been at the heart of Catalan politics for some time is well known; that there is a long history failed negotiation over recognition of the Catalan nation, and, perhaps, more pressing, calls for greater financial and political powers for the Generalitat, failing to recognise the laws that they passed, has become common knowledge in the last week. That the Rajoy government was prepared to act, brutally, on its threats against voting on independence, has stirred deep emotions, far beyond the Iberian Peninsula.

But perhaps a sign of the lack of urgency the issue recently evoked in Spain itself can be seen in the exchange between a leading figure in Podemos, Iñigo Errejón and member of the country’s right-wing government, José María Lassalle on the latter’s Contra el populismo (2017) in El País (9.9.17 and 16.9.17) at the beginning of September.

In this erudite discussion, the Minister of State cites Laclau, Gramsci and Stuart Hall in support of his view that the affective and political “people” has not been broken, and that the “institucionalidad democrática” remains open to the “admirado Errejón”. In Lassalle’s recognition of democratic dysfunctions, alongside a eulogy of European social peace, there is no mention of Catalonia, or of any method of dealing with those his boss considers less “admirable”.

National Popular.

It takes, nevertheless, little imagination to see how many of the ideas circulating in Podemos, of the People, of the National Popular, taken from Laclau, and used, as Lassalle suggests, as a kind of political “cartography”, would become important during the Catalan crisis. Within Podemos the current, Anticapitalistas, “Podemos en Movimiento” (13% at the February 2017 Congress), have long criticised the “populism” of its leadership, which seeks to ‘federate the people” of Spain against the ruling political ‘Casta”. A central charge it that they, both the Errejón tendency (Recuperar la Illusion, bring back the Hope), 34%) and the leader Pablo Iglesias’ grouping, (Podemos para Todas, 51%), have failed to recognise that there are effectively many “peoples” in Spain. (1)

In dialogue with Chantal Mouffe Errejón, has called for a “new democratic national-popular identity”. ”The issue in Spain is whether it’s possible to build a national narrative at the service of subaltern majorities that is also respectful of pluri-nationality and the right to decide.” (2) Translated into the present, this has involved the, entirely reasonable, attempt to open dialogue between the pro-independence forces in the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC) and the central government. What this clearly does not do is encourage people to separate, to form a distinct “us” in Catalonia, aside from the wider struggle for an “emancipatory and radically democratic project” and “popular sovereignty”.

It would be interesting to trace how supporters of Catalan’s own path to “popular sovereignty”, or as it would better be described, ‘sovereigntistism’ the belief that the major political social and economic problems of the day be solved by getting one’s hands on the sovereign powers of a state, could perhaps defend some of the original axioms of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s ‘post-Marxism’. That is, the idea that the working class is not the dominant political subject of emancipatory politics, but only one element in the “plurality of agents” brought together by “relations of equivalence” constituting democratic movements and demands, making up the figure of these Peoples pitted against the Spanish State. Some may radicalise the later Mouffe. That the Catalan partisan collective will has overflowed the boundaries of one state, created its own “relations of exclusion” against the institutions of ‘Madrid’. It would be free to create its own agonistic site where, it can create its own “agonistic democracy”, and let the fight against neo-liberalism begin on a new terrain (3)

Collective Will.

But in fact we now have a free for all for those wishing to build a “collective will” against the said administrative structure. Appealing for international support for their cause some Catalan enthusiasts have not hesitated to describe the Spanish state as ‘fascist’ ‘Francoist’, full of loathing for ‘Madrid’, no doubt hinting that one of George Orwell’s most celebrated books was Homage to Catalonian Independence. Perhaps they trust to at least some of their audience’s ignorance of the Siege of Madrid, which fell some months after Barcelona.

Others, apparently more reasonable, have wheeled out the view that Catalan nationalism is welcoming, “Catalan national feeling is like Scottish in that it is “civic”, non-violent, opening impatiently to the new global world. It’s unlike Scotland – and more “ethnic” – in its passionate emphasis on Catalan language, history and culture.” It will not be source of exclusion, but will find its way back to “intimate” ties with Spain. (Neil Ascherson. Catalans are not alone. Across the world, people yearn to govern themselves .Observer. 24.9.17)

Laclau’s study On Populist Reason (2005) deals with the “nature and logics “ of collective identities. He envisaged the possibility of a People out of a plurality of ‘ethnic identities’, as well as its opposite, “ethno nationalism”. Podemos would not be untrue to this way of thinking to attempt the former. (4)

But those on the left pushing the Catalan separatists have other fish to fry. The SWP argues first and foremost for the dissolution of the Spanish state, as a potential springboard for a wider anti-capitalist struggle.

The damage to the Spanish ruling class that the loss of Catalonia would cause is unimaginable; Catalonia makes a large contribution to the state’s revenues, with 18.8 percent of national GDP. The centrality of national unity to the dominant ideology of the ruling class would also turn the event into a political earthquake. A victory for independence would thus precipitate a crisis of unforeseeable consequences, throwing into chaos not only the PP but Spanish capitalism as a whole.

Socialism can only be achieved internationally, but by opening new prospects for the left in Catalonia and by breaking the consensus imposed by fascism in the transition to democracy, Catalan independence would advance the cause of the entire working class. And, if a triumph of the Catalan left would be a positive development for workers in the rest of the state, what would the consequences of its defeat be?

Héctor Sierra Podemos, Catalonia and the workers’ movement in the Spanish state  Issue: 155

The Fourth Intentional, reproducing an argument familiar to those who have heard the radical Scottish nationalist refrain of the Break up of Britain are vaguer though equally optimistic for the future of the left, and keen for, as they put it, “the democratic rupture throughout the State”.

In a lyrical vein the FI states,

It is more than a mere historical anecdote that the Catalan independence flag is directly inspired by the flag of the Cuban revolutionaries who defeated the Spanish colonial army on the island in the late 19th century, a defeat that would decisively contribute to the ruin of the first Bourbon restoration. The struggle in Catalonia has certainly hurt the second and a republican victory would allow us to imagine a new rise of the popular movement and an update of the anti-capitalist and eco-socialist perspective in Catalonia, the Spanish state and throughout Europe.

Let us support the struggle of the Catalan people

These aspirations are no doubt of comfort to those who, after what El Periodico commentators have repeatedly called a new May 68 – complete with vote – now confront potential economic chaos. Aware of these difficulties the nationalist bourgeois politicians who are running the independence show are divided on their immediate tasks, although the President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, looks determined to press ahead with a declaration of independence. Sacrifices to achieve that end are to be made in the name of a possible, not yet visible, anti-capitalism, or more broadly the eternal right to self-determination or, in their own eyes, for Catalunya. What is more precious than national independence and sovereignty? 

Many will without hesitation support the wish for negotiations with these demands, hard though the first two may be to put into any specific form. We can be sceptical about Iglesias’ efforts to capture the ‘floating signifier’ of the Patria for the projects of Podemos, yet see in their stand some hopes for compromise. Equally, on some things on which no agreement can be reached: one should do more than just oppose Rajoy and his clampdown, one can moblise against it.

No Sleeping with the Enemy!

But nobody has yet to explain convincingly why the world in general, and the left-wingers in particular, should stand behind the cause of a prosperous region of Spain, led by a coalition of right and left, to ‘take control’ in the name of the People. Rosa Luxemburg reminds us that the ‘right’ to declare this a separate entity rests on the political parties who backed the referendum,  Junts pel Sí​, held together a coalition of right and left, while the Podemos inspired grouping Catalunya Sí que es Pot  abstained, and the other opposition parties opposed it. 

This, if carried through, will be an act that immediately divides the Spanish people, gives full rein to populist ressentiment on all sides, and obscures the issues of the different class and political interests behind the pro-independence bloc (not to mention the ingrained corruption of some of its elements). To put it simply, no left worthy of its name enters into systematic long-term coalitions with right wing nationalists. They are, to use a term often cited by Chantal Mouffe, taken from Carl Schmitt, the enemy.  (5)

LibérationVerified account @libe 6h               

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(1) A useful account of Podemos, which underlines that Laclau and Mouffe are far from the only intellectual influences on the party is in Chapter 10 La Gauche du 21e Siècle, Christophe Aguiton. La Découverte. 2017.

(2) Page 148 –9. Podemos in the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón and Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016.

(3) See Agonistics. Chantal Mouffe. Verso 2013.

(4) Page 198. On Populist Reason. Ernesto Laclau Verso. 2005.

(5) For all our sympathy for the Podemos attempt at rational dialogue, the concepts of the People, and the National Popular function in this crisis as signs that confuse debate. See. Debating Catalonia Izquierda Unida MP Alberto Garzón debates the Catalan independence referendum with the CUPs Pau Llonch. This is a concrete example of how ‘left wing populism’ sliding around on the Catalan national issue obscures a left strategy that gives priority to building a left. Which leads us to reject the strategy of ‘people’ versus “oligarchy”, the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ and the Mouffe-Laclau problematic: See: Populisme le grand ressentiment. Éric Fassin. Textuel. 2017.

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Call to the democratic Left on the events in Catalonia

October 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm (Civil liberties, class collaboration, democracy, Europe, Human rights, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

From Open Democracy

A group of social scientists working at various universities and citizens in Spain and abroad

4 October 2017

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

Protesters gather in front of the Spanish National Police headquarters during a general strike in Catalonia (03 October 2017)
Above: Barcelona protest at Guardia Civil and Policia National violence

The appalling scenes of police violence that took place on 1 October in Catalonia along with the most baffling disrespect for democratic procedures and democratic substance that preceded them a month ago in the Catalan Parliament urges us to raise a collective voice.

This voice belongs to the democratic, non-aligned left, a left whose expression we have been longing for. While this voice unequivocally and strongly condemns the authoritarian violence endorsed by the central government, it sternly and democratically resists nationalistic discourse. We refuse to accept this binary as the choice we must face. Pluralism and debate cannot be eliminated in the name of democracy for the following reasons:

1) Europe has gone through enough nationalistic wars and has, we hope, learned enough from the oppression it has variously exerted inside and outside the continent, to be able to resist the appeals of the nationalistic siren calls of the XXI century. Masking the rejection of income redistribution and the neglect of social injustice, as well as the erasure of the diverse origins and languages on Catalan territory, with ethno-nationalist colours will not do.

2) The Catalan independence movement is, mostly, a middle-class movement whose leaders, across all the spectrum of the right-wing led alliance, are far from being oppressed. Their voice is not subaltern and has been loudly heard while neglecting, obliterating and silencing all kinds of dissent including from the left. We should not let their cries prevent other voices.

3) The self-cancellation of democracy – announcing the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence without a majority, as was done today by the leader of the Catalan nationalistic movement – is not only a matter of legality but of downright illegitimacy. No matter how strong a movement is, no matter how loud, as long as it is a minority, it is not a majority. The mocking of democratic procedures is not a game that comes at a small price; it will not do.

We write this because we stand with all those defending civil and political rights, and with subaltern grassroots movements opposed to the advances of neo-liberalism in all its forms. We do not condemn civil disobedience when all democratic possibilities have been exhausted. Nor do we oppose referendums provided that conditions of legitimacy are respected. But we are not prepared to accept this referendum as part of a democratic struggle against oppression.

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

—-

Nathalie Karagiannis, Peter Wagner, Marie Angueira Cebria, Johann Arnason, Caroline Brew, Selene Camargo Correa, Rebeca Carpi Martín, Gerard Delanty, Jean de Munck, Juan Carlos Gavara de Cara, Lola Diaz, Juan Diez Medrano, Luisa Fernandez, Johan Heilbron, Oliver Hochadel, Andreas Kalyvas, Yannis Karagiannis, Dimitris Leontzakos, Manuel Lisandro Castillo, Elia Marzal Yetano, Lourdes Mèndez, U.B. Morgan, Claus Offe, Rommy Morales Olivares, William Outhwaite, Susana Narotzky, Montserrat Pareja Eastaway, Carlos Pérez González, Ana Pérez Pérez, Rosa Pérez Pérez, Rosa María Pérez Pérez, Angelo Pichierri, José Maria Mateo Rello, Ana Maria Rodríguez López, Arturo Rodriguez Morató, Samuel Sadian, Will Shank, Eugenia Siapera, Bo Stråth, Leonor Valencia, Carlos Valera, Daniela Vicherat Mattar, Myrsini Zorba

H/t: Tendance Coatesy

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Against Madrid’s repression; against a middle class Catalan breakaway state

October 1, 2017 at 9:02 am (Andrew Coates, capitulation, class collaboration, democracy, elections, internationalism, nationalism, populism, spain)

By Andrew Coates (at Tendance Coatesy)


Catalan independence supporters oversee polling

(Grupos de activistas pro referéndum toman las escuelas para garantizar su apertura el domingo)

From the Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International (Northite).

Rarely do we agree with this group, but here they say some important truths which most of the English speaking left seems unable to articulate.

We would add that it is astonishing that anybody who claims to be socialist or left, in the case of the Catalan ERC  Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC; IPA:  and the smaller  pro-nationalist ‘radical’ left outside, can justify an alliance of the Catalan nationalist left with a corruption riddled (and much larger) pro-business party, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, PDeCAT), also known as the Catalan Democratic Party (CatalanPartit Demòcrata Català). It was founded in Barcelona on 10 July 2016, as the successor to  the now-defunct Democratic Convergence of Catalonia. Why the name change from its former incarnation, the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya? There is one family name that sums the reasons up, Jordi Pujol, a byword for sleaze and insider backhander, something that marks out modern Catalan nationalism.

The strategy of this alliance, which won 47% of the regional vote in 2015,and 71 out of 135 seats in the devolved parliament, has been to blame ‘Madrid’ – with overtones of the profligate, lazy ‘Southerners’- for all their economic and political problems.

Appararently this is ‘civic nationalism’.

But then there are people who can convince themselves that the SNP is ‘left-wing’.

30 September 2011

Oppose the state crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum!

For working class unity! No to separatism in Spain!

Catalonia is Spain’s richest region, representing a fifth of the country’s GDP. The separatist parties aim to create a new mini-state, through which they can claw back taxes presently paid to central government, while establishing direct relations with the global banks, transnational corporations and the European Union. They hope to transform Catalonia into a low tax, free trade area based on stepped-up exploitation of the working class.
The Catalan nationalists and their pseudo-left backers dress themselves up as progressives. However, nothing fundamental distinguishes Catalan separatism from similar separatist formations across Europe—the Scottish Nationalist Party in the UK, or those of an explicitly right-wing character such as Italy’s Northern League and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang. In all these instances, separatism has emerged in regions enjoying some economic advantage over the rest of the country, which the local bourgeoisie seeks to exploit to its own benefit.

An “independent” Catalan republic, were it established, would be nothing of the sort. It would be even more dependent on the major powers, in Europe and internationally. In alliance with the EU, it would continue the policies the Catalan separatist parties pursued in their alliance with Madrid: brutal austerity, slashing funding for education, health care and other social needs and using police to smash strikes and protests. It would be a dead end for workers.

 

Against capitalist Spain and the creation of a capitalist Catalonia, the ICFI calls for building the United Socialist States of Europe!

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Bombardier ruling exposes stupidity of anti-EU claims of left and right

September 27, 2017 at 10:37 am (Brexit, Canada, capitalism, economics, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, United States, workers)

People work on a C Series aeroplane wing in the Bombardier factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland September 26, 2017
Above: Bombardier workers at the Belfast plant

America’s Department of Commerce has made a preliminary finding that the Canadian company Bombardier had received unfair state subsidies and sold below cost.

It has now imposed a 219.63% countervailing duty on Bombardier’s new commercial jets, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Bombardier, the largest employer in Northern Ireland with a workforce of 4,100, describes the contract as “critical” to its operations.

The US International Trade Commission will now consider the case ahead of a final ruling in February.

The dispute centres on the sale of 125 C-Series airliners, the wings for which are made in Northern Ireland.

Boeing alleges that the subsidies Bombardier receives from the UK and Canadian governments mean it is launching its new C series jets below cost in the US, and so the US trade authorities should impose tariffs.

Boeing had accused its much smaller rival of “price dumping” to win a lucrative contract from the American carrier Delta. The US aerospace giant claimed each jet cost $33m (£25m) to produce, but that Bombardier had sold them for $20m (£15m) each.

Bombardier also disputes claims that support it had received from governments – £75m from the UK and $1bn (£745m) from Quebec was illegal.

Bombardier says Boeing’s position is hypocritical and absurd – hypocritical because Boeing prices its new planes very cheaply at launch, and because Boeing has received huge subsidies from the US government over the years; and absurd because Boeing is claiming to be damaged by Bombardier’s sales even though Boeing does not sell any competing planes of a similar size and has not done so for a decade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now said the Canadian air force will not buy Boeing’s Super Hornet jets from “a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.” Theresa May, in turn, has said she will raise the issue with the famously protectionist Donald Trump when she grovels to him later this week at the UN.

This case provides a classic demonstration of the stupidity of those (on both left and right), who try to make out that the EU is the major obstacle that a British government faces (or would face) if it tried to give state aid to particular industries. Both supporters of Theresa May’s “industrial strategy” and of Jeremy Corbyn’s interventionist industrial policy have suggested that, when the UK leaves the EU, it will have greater freedom to apply state aid. But in a capitalist world, state aid may still come into conflict with new trade deals if one side or the other decides that such government intervention provides a legitimate reason to impose tariffs.

Some sectors of the economy (of which aerospace is just one) have very significant government involvement almost by their nature. In such cases it may be very difficult to treat trade disputes as “purely commercial” matters. As things stand, it will be the US trade authorities that decide on the Boeing-Bombardier dispute.

In any future US-UK trade deal, would we want US and UK courts deciding these matters, or would some joint arbitration body be a better way to adjudicate? This issue places May and the Tory anti-EU fanatics in a very difficult position, given their hostility to the ECJ and (presumably) any other supranational court with national jurisdiction.

Maybe post-Brexit the little-Britainers of left and right will stop complaining about “Brussels” interfering with national governments and start complaining about “Washington”, “Geneva” … and, indeed “the rest of the world”?

  • JD acknowledges the use of information from a piece by Andrew Lilico at City A.M. in the preparation of this post.

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Trump spurs athletes into action

September 25, 2017 at 8:11 am (Asshole, civil rights, Human rights, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, protest, Racism, solidarity, spoofs, Trump, United States)

From the US SocialistWorker.org, September 25, 2017:

On Sunday, players for teams throughout the NFL took a knee during the National Anthem or otherwise showed their disdain for Donald Trump’s bigoted and ignorant remarks about protesting athletes and the game of football. In his column for TheNation.com, Dave Zirin dissects Trump’s comments to reveal just how divisive and narcissistic he is.

Members of the Baltimore Ravens kneel in protest during the National Anthem

Members of the Baltimore Ravens kneel in protest during the National Anthem

IT’S EXHAUSTING to have a president who gets angrier at outspoken Black athletes than at Nazis. It’s exhausting how shameless he is about his bigotry and his toxicity. This is a president who never played football. He never served in the armed forces. He frets over what conclusions we draw from the size of his hands. His skin is thinner than the gossamer wings of a butterfly. He is the epitome of a bullying but frail brand of masculinity. He belongs in a psychological textbook as a case study, not in the White House. Look at Trump’s comments–in their entirety–about the current state of the National Football League, from his speech at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!” You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, “That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

Then, the very week that the autopsy of 27-year-old former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez went public, which found he had stage three Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Trump claimed that the game was too soft. He said:

Today if you hit too hard–15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television–his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.

This is Trump, the violent fantasist who dreams of a physical supremacy he never achieved, and has then spent his life expressing this insecurity and hostility through boardroom bullying and, of course, sexually predatory behavior. He has lived his life in thrall to toxic masculinity, but lacked the ability to prove this “manhood” on the football field, and then dodged the armed forces, never attempting to prove his “manhood” on the battlefield. He has chosen instead to spend a lifetime tearing down the people who have dared stand in his path, and the women who dared to say “no.” Call it irony, call it divine coincidence, but it’s stunning that the day Trump publicly yearns for the time when football fulfilled his vicarious desires of physical domination, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault. It’s so on the nose, a screenwriter would reject the scenario.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BUT TRUMP’S speech wasn’t over. His radar, always firmly attuned to the worst impulses of his audience, turned his attention again back to Black players who protest, and he said:

But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on the television and you see those players taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is, if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.

SOME COULD argue that this is just a case of a divisive autocrat going after obvious targets of racial animus and of a base that doesn’t care if nuclear Armageddon looms, as long as they get their culture war–while Trump’s party gets its tax cuts for billionaires. But whether Trump realizes it or not, there is something else at play. These athletes are doing a lot more than sitting or kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem. They are offering up an alternative model for unity, justice and even manhood. They are showing that what makes an adult is whom you can help, not whom you can cuss, and certainly not whom you can destroy for shameless and divisive political gain. Look at the work that’s been done by Michael Bennett, Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm Jenkins, the Charlottesville scholarships just funded by Chris Long…the list goes on and on of NFL players attempting to use their platform to highlight a different path for healing this country. The anthem protest is just a means to that end, an effort to highlight the gap between the promises that the flag represents and the lived experience of too many people in this country.

This is a model of politics–as well as manhood–that threatens Trump’s entire agenda of poisonous, divisive narcissism. Look at the outpouring of comments by NFL players following Trump’s remarks. None of them have sunk to his level. Instead, they share the tone of Seahawk Richard Sherman who said, “The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!” The cornerback, who is not even 30 years old, is showcasing more adulthood then the 70-year-old president. This is the new reality. And Sherman is absolutely correct. To be silent in the face of this destructive person is to condone his actions. That’s not an option. This president is a child bully, and bullies are emboldened by our silence.

First published at TheNation.com.

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Does the Telegraph think Europe’s security should be a “bargaining chip”?

September 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm (Europe, Jim D, media, nationalism, publications, terror, Tory scum, Torygraph, wankers)

Daily Telegraph front page 23/09/2017 The Telegraph is generally keen on May’s speech, but suggests she may have given away her “strongest bargaining chip” … 

One of the more outrageous, irresponsible and disgraceful elements of May’s “Article 50” letter to the EU in March was the none-too thinly-veiled threat to withdraw security co-operation with Europe in the event of no trade deal being reached:

“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened,” she wrote in the letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.

Wisely, May did not repeat this outrageous threat in her Florence speech yesterday.

But, according to the increasingly shrill and fanatical pro-Bexit Torygraph, there are people who thing she should have.

Torygraph content is now shielded behind a paywall, but we can read the full article (by chief reporter Gordon Rayner), thanks to the Brisbane Times, here. They key passage is this:

There were accusations that Mrs May gave away her strongest bargaining chip – access to Britain’s security and intelligence might – by saying the UK was “unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.”

Now, just re-read that passage. Yes! It says what you thought it said.

My only question is, do the people making these “accusations” include the likes of Torygraph ex-editor and veteran anti-EU fanatic Charles Moore, current editor Chris Evans (no, not the DJ) and the rest of the Torygraph top brass?

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Juan Cole on Trump’s bizarre, stupid and dangerous UN speech

September 20, 2017 at 9:01 am (Asshole, Iran, jerk, nationalism, North Korea, perversity, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Saudi Arabia, Trump, UN, United States, war)

Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, praises Saudis

By (at Informed Comment) Sep. 20, 2017

Trump more or less threatened to wipe out the 25 million people of North Korea in his speech at the UN.

Then he turned to the Middle East, where he again pledged to undermine the Iranian nuclear deal.

In other words, he put forward a plan to turn Iran into North Korea as a geopolitical problem.

The speech was a weird amalgam of white nationalism and Neoconservatism. It abandoned the isolationism of the former and eschewed the idealism of the latter.

Concerning Iran, Trump said:

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.”

I swear, I thought Trump was talking about his own administration there for a second. He’s the one, not Iran, who called Nazis very fine people and blamed Heather Heyer for being run over by one of Trump’s supporters. I have been critical of the Iranian regime’s human rights record, as well, but Trump doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

“Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.”

Hizbullah was formed to get Israel back out of Lebanon. Israel committed a naked act of aggression against little Lebanon in 1982, invading and shelling Beirut indiscriminately. The Israeli army then occupied 10% of Lebanese territory, in the south of the country. The far right Likud party has sticky fingers, and it had no intention of ever leaving. Hizbullah fought a low intensity guerrilla war to get the Israelis to withdraw, which they finally did in 1999. Israel still occupies the Shebaa Farms area that belongs to Lebanon.

The Yemen civil war wasn’t fueled by Iran but by a Saudi air campaign against the government of the north of the country. The Houthis were unwise to make their coup in early 2015 against the interim government, but it was the Saudis who bombed targets from 30,000 feet and with little local knowledge. Iran may have facilitate some training for a handful of Zaydi fighters, but it doesn’t give them very much money. The conflict is indigenous and has its origin in Yemen resentment of Saudi attempts to spread money around and convert people out of Zaydism and into the ultra-rigid Wahhabi form of Islam.

As for Hizbullah backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria, so does Trump’s buddy Vladimir Putin, to whom Trump said Syria should be turned over. In other words, Hizbullah’s position on Syria isn’t much different from that of Trump.

It is very odd that you would blame the survival of the al-Assad regime on Iran alone and not bring up Russia. Russia has spent way more in Syria than Iran and has used its Aerospace Forces for intensive bombing over 2 years, a much bigger military impact than Iran’s. And Trump himself keeps saying Arabs need strongmen to rule them.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.”

Let’s see. In the Joint Plan of Collective Action, Iran gave up:

1. –its planned heavy water reactor at Arak, concreting it in and abandoning it. Heavy water reactors can be used to gather enough fissile material over time so that you might be able to make a nuclear bomb. That pathway is gone.

2. –all but 6000 of its centrifuges, which aren’t enough to enrich enough uranium on a short timetable to make a bomb

3. –its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5%. It needs to be enriched to 95% for a proper bomb, but that is easier if you start part of the way there. That stockpile has been recast in a form such that it cannot be used to make a bomb.

4 — its objections to being intensively monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is now under the most stringent inspection regime in history. (Israel refused inspections and then made several hundred nuclear warheads and so did India and Pakistan and Russia and the US. Trump doesn’t condemn the actual proliferators, only Iran, which does not have a nuke).

Iran basically gave up the deterrent effect of being able to construct a nuclear weapon in time to stop an invasion. The United States has invaded 3 neighbors of Iran, so it isn’t an idle fear.

What did Iran get in return? The GOP Congress tightened sanctions, and has scared off a lot of European investors.

Iran got bupkes.

This deal is not between the US and Iran but between Iran and the UN Security Council plus Germany (representing the EU). The deal has deeply disadvantaged Iran and has not affected the US at all. In fact the US has already reneged on the spirit of it.

If what Trump is saying is that Iran was left with some elements of what is called ‘nuclear latency’– the knowledge of how to make a bomb, then that is correct. But the only way to wipe out Iranian nuclear latency would be to invade it and occupy it and put in a puppet government.

And that is what Israel’s Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin Salman want Trump to do. We have to see if he is so foolish.

Iran is 2.5 times as populous as Iran and 3 times bigger geographically, and the Iraq War did not go well for the US.

“The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them. ”

As or Saudi Arabia being the good guy, give me a break. They were backing anti-minority fanatics like Jaysh al-isalm who wanted to ethnically cleanse all Syrian non-Salafis (i.e. almost everyone). They had recognized the Taliban in the 1990s. They spread around an intolerant form of Islam that forbids Muslims to so much as have a friendly meal with Christians and Jews.

Trump’s remarks were apocalyptically stupid.

——–

Related video:

France 24: “Donald Trump at the UN: The Iran Deal is “an embarrassment to the United States”

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