Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change


Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change

Friday 25 September 2015, by Ben Hayes and Nick Buxton


A security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them.

As images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are replayed around the world, they are still as shocking as they were ten years ago. Many of us watched in disbelief as we saw how the world’s richest and most powerful state seemed unable, then unwilling, to rescue its own citizens – sending in trigger-happy troops who shot at the hurricane’s victims instead. Coming so soon after the Iraq war, the hapless Bush administration appeared unable to respond to any crisis without resort to the military. As the waters receded, America’s deep-seated racism and inequality was laid bare for the whole world to see.

Could it happen again today? To an important extent, the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has become a textbook example of ‘how-not-do-it’ for crisis managers around the world. Embarrassed by their failure, the US government carried out a significant reorganisation of the maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When Hurricane Sandy caused carnage in 2012, their response – while still wanting in places – was more widely praised.

But the structural inequality and institutional racism that underpinned the Bush administration’s response is still there, a fact that President Obama noted on his visit to New Orleans this week. Moreover, the already bloated military and security complex that reflected these power relations has expanded enormously since Katrina – and is now using the spectre of climate change to grab yet more public resources.

Two years after Katrina, in 2007, the Pentagon released its first major report on climate change, warning in no uncertain terms of an “age of consequences” in which, amongst other things, “altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.” This was followed up a year later by an EU security report that talked of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that “threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone.” It warned that this would lead to “political and security risks that directly affect European interests”. Over the next few years, the national security strategies of the countries across the global north would be rewritten to offer the same self-interested and dystopian vision.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis and the so-called Arab Spring, the dystopian thinking of powerful elites has had to face up to increasingly ‘complex emergencies’ as the reliance of modern societies on global supply lines, industrial food production, transnational infrastructure and high-tech communications have exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, by ensuring that disaster in one place now reverberates far beyond the initial point of contact. Climate change, the narrative goes, will add more fuel to the fire.

Former UK Government Chief Scientist John Beddington has already warned of a potential “perfect storm” of converging food, water and energy crises by 2030, which could see states struggle to control delivery of basic goods and services. Doomsday scenarios are very much the order of the day. For some commentators, this is little more than ‘collapse porn’, a malign and apathy-producing catastrophism that fails to take into account the capacity of modern societies to adapt and become more resilient.

However, in one sense, the accuracy of the predictions doesn’t really matter. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina we only have to look at how the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s doorstep and in its borderlands is unfolding. In Calais, we see a humanitarian emergency being treated as a security issue as the British government has pledged £22 million pounds on fences, police and dogs to keep out refugees fleeing war and torture. Both Hungary and Bulgaria announced this week that they were deploying troops, so-called “border hunters”, to prevent refugees entering the country from the former Yugoslavia.

Further afield in Brazil, there were reports this summer of authorities mobilising troops to defend water infrastructure amid an ongoing drought in the megacity of São Paulo. Absent credible plans to conserve water and tackle some of the root causes of water scarcity such as deforestation, journalists reported that approximately 70 soldiers were involved in exercises to prepare the utility for an uprising, with 30 men with machine guns stationed in the facility’s canteen.

And we can already see how the national security planners are factoring protests against inequality and social injustice into the new crisis management paradigms: by trying to predict complex emergencies and social unrest. Today, the UK’s National Risk Register, for example, lists “public disorder” and “disruptive industrial action” as among the most severe and likely security threats facing the country. Crucially, by casting these issues as security threats rather than social justice issues, a very different medicine is proscribed. Moreover, the authorities have greatly increased their powers to deal with these so-called ‘threats’. Staying with the UK, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 permits ministers to introduce "emergency regulations" without recourse to parliament and "give directions or orders" of virtually unlimited scope, including the destruction of property, prohibiting assemblies, banning travel and outlawing "other specified activities". Again, this is the shape of emergency planning the world over.

Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, announced "expanded business opportunities" arising from "security concerns and their possible consequences," due to the "effects of climate change" in the form of "storms, droughts, and floods". The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow.

The implications of a militarised and profit-making approach to climate adaptation and crisis-management are very disturbing – and need to be taken more seriously by anyone concerned with environmental justice, civil liberties and democracy.

Ultimately, a security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them. Worldwide the increased focus on food security is already driving increased land grabbing. The diversion of resources into military spending and strategies is preventing much needed investment in crisis-prevention and tackling the root causes of human insecurity. Given that climate change will impact disproportionately on the poorest, a militarisation of our response merely compounds a fundamental injustice – that those least responsible for climate change will be most affected.

In this sense, Hurricane Katrina was a watershed moment and a warning to us all as it laid bare the way in which democratic states would become more preoccupied with the threat posed by their own citizens – instead of taking the bold steps needed to protect current and future populations. Transformed by 9/11, it is this vision of ‘Homeland Security’ that is shaping future responses to emergency – and transforming climate change from a social justice issue to a national security one. We the people have to combine our actions to end worsening climate change with a transformation of the institutions that seek to respond to its impacts.

August 28 Open Democracy




The earth's climate is changing quickly, much faster than experts thought.


There is no doubt what is causing this: the warming of the atmosphere as a result of emissions by greenhouse gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.


The Earth has warmed by 0.8°C degrees over the last two centuries. This is sufficient to cause a rise in sea levels by almost two metres in the centuries to come. Nobody can stop it. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to move, millions of hectares of land for growing food will be lost, urban areas will need to be evacuated. The peoples of the South, who are the least responsible, will be the most affected.


Governments have ignored the warnings. Twenty-three years after the Rio Summit, annual emissions of global greenhouse gases are rising twice as fast as in the 1990s. Despite the economic crisis! 


At this rate, the warming at the end of the century would not be 2°C but 6°C. This will lead to terrible disasters, which are totally unimaginable.  


COP 21: Dust in the eyes of the people, gifts to the bosses  


The urgency is intense because the measures we need to take have been put off for decades.


The “developed” countries must begin immediately to reduce emissions by at least 10% per year and completely eliminate them by 2050. The major emerging countries must quickly follow. Other countries still have a margin, but it is quickly being reduced.


If nothing changes, the quantity of oil, coal and natural gas that can still be burned without exceeding 2°C of global warming will be exhausted by 2030. 


The 21st United Nations conference on the climate (COP21) will be held in Paris in December 2015. The political leaders are trying to hoodwink us by saying that, this time, they will conclude an “ambitious” agreement. 


It is true that they might conclude an agreement to save face. But what is certain is that this agreement will be totally inadequate environmentally and very socially unfair.

Its content is determined in advance by the commitments of the major polluters: United States, European Union, China, Japan, Australia, and Canada. On this basis, the warming of the Earth will be at least 3.6 to 4°C by the end of the century. 


These commitments were negotiated with the industrial and financial lobbies and are tailored to their interests. The multinationals are rubbing their hands at the prospect of new markets opening up: carbon markets, “green” technologies, forest compensation, capture-sequestration, adaptation to the effects of global warming and so on. 


But a warming of 4°C means an increase in sea level of 10 metres in the long term as well as the more immediate impact: accelerated decline of biodiversity; more storms, cyclones, droughts, floods, heat waves; reduction of agricultural productivity and so on.


Saving capitalism or the climate?


The truth has been established for decades. The IPCC is an inter-governmental body; national governments are supposed to be committed to the main lines of its reports. Technical solutions exist, the financial means also. So why do governments not take the necessary steps? Why do they recommend false or dangerous “solutions” such as shale gas, agro-fuels, nuclear energy, geo-engineering and so on? 


The answer is simple: because the governments are at the service of the multinationals and banks who are waging a war of competition for maximum profit, a war which prompts firms to produce still more (and therefore consume more resources), and more than 80% of the energy they use comes from coal, oil and natural gas.


To save the climate: 1) 4/5ths of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain underground; 2) the energy system based on these fossil sources (and on nuclear power) must be destroyed as quickly as possible, without compensation; 3) production which is harmful, unnecessary or based on planned obsolescence must be abandoned, in order to reduce the consumption of energy and other resources; 4) the despotic and unequal productivist/consumerist system must be replaced by a renewable system, one that is efficient, decentralized, social and democratic.


It is possible to stop the climate catastrophe while guaranteeing a dignified life for all.  On one condition: taking anti-capitalist measures. Governments prefer to destroy the planet, endangering the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people, workers, peasants, women and young people who are already victims of climate change, and threaten humanity with barbaric chaos while the arms dealers profit. 


Capital considers nature and work as its property. There is no choice between climate emergency and social justice; it is one and the same struggle. Let us mobilize. Beyond the COP21, affirm our rights, develop our struggles, let us build our common actions, and build a planetary mass movement. 


All to action, together on all fronts


The fossil multinationals need to extend their grip. Let’s stop them. Mobilize against the infrastructure projects which are at their service: the new airports, new pipelines, new motorways, and the new madness of shale gas. Denounce the tax and other benefits offered to maritime, air and road transport companies. 


The “developed” powers which are mainly responsible for global warming then turn their backs on the refugees created by the crises that their policy of domination and aggravated arming cause. Reject the walls and camps of fortress Europe, demand that climate migrants be given the right of asylum.


Agribusiness and the timber industry are responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Mobilize against GMOS, support local organic smallholder agriculture and food sovereignty. Build networks and associations of producers-consumers. Support the rights of indigenous peoples to their resources and the struggles of women who produce 80% of the food in the countries of the South.


We are witnessing a biodiversity catastrophe. The sixth extinction as it is known: the biggest extinction of species since the demise of the dinosaurs. Between 40 and 50 percent of all species on the planet could be extinct by  the mid-century. A quarter of all mammal species are currently at risk of extinction against a background (natural) extinction rate of just one every 700 years. Organise to protect biodiversity.


The right of everyone to a decent standard of housing, to clean water, to transport, to heating and light, is good for the climate and for employment. Organise to ensure that water, transport and the insulation and renovation of housing are provided in the public sector, under the control of producers and workers, and that all are free at the point of use.


The productivist and consumerist madness in furniture, textiles, electronics, packaging etc. have contributed much to global warming. Reject products which are disposable, have planned obsolescence, are non-repairable or non-recyclable.  Organize to support the workers of these sectors, particularly in countries where wages are low.  


Workers should not bear the costs of the transition. Workers occupied in wasteful, harmful, polluting, industries should mobilize for collective conversion without loss of salary, to socially useful and environmentally responsible functions.  


The right to free time is good for the climate, for health and for employment. Let’s mobilize for everyone to work less and less flexibly by the reduction of working time, without loss of salary, with compensatory recruitment and reduction of rhythms of work.


The fossil multinationals and the banks are blocking the transition. Demand the disinvestment of these sectors. Expel the private sector from energy and finance, without indemnities or buyouts. This is the indispensable condition to enable the community has to organize the transition quickly and rationally. Energy is a gift of nature, it must belong to nobody. Let us mobilize for a public energy service, decentralized, under the control of workers and users. 


Ecosocialism or barbarism


The climate crisis gives a great topicality to the alternative “socialism or barbarism”.  A true revolution is necessary. We must change everything! Not only to distribute in an egalitarian manner the fruit of our work, but also to decide what we produce and how we produce – free from hype and waste- and call into question the roles that patriarchal capitalism gives men and women. 


In short, it is a shift of civilization, of transition to a new society, eco-socialist, eco-feminist, based on solidarity and respect for the environment. A society where the major management decisions, the priorities of production and consumption will no longer be taken by a handful of exploiters, bureaucrats or pseudo-experts, guided by profit but by all. This change will come not through elections, but through our struggles. All together, we can impose it, if we want to!


Bureau of the Fourth International

21st of September 2015




Greek General Elections: The Crisis of Left Politics

Soma Marik

For the second time in a year Greeks went to general elections to elect a new parliament. Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, won the elections. But this does not at all mean that Greece has emerged out of its crisis. Indeed, Greek left politics is also facing a turning point.

The Background to the Elections:

In the elections of January 2015, Syriza, constantly called a far left or radical left party, won 149 seats out of 300. Though it had won the election by promising to oppose the exploitation by banks, it swiftly took the path of compromises. After first not opposing directly the issue of debt repayment, in early July, the Tsipras government organised a referendum. Unexpectedly for them, there was a mass outpouring, and 61 per cent of the people taking part (6,161,140 of them, or 62.5 per cent of the total voters) voted a resounding OXI (No), i.e., they rejected the demands made by the Troika or European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF. In working class areas and among youth in some cases the No reached up to 90 per cent. But viewing parliament as the main terrain of struggle, Tsipras followed up this tremendous victory, not with mass mobilisations but renewed negotiations, where German imperialism bullied Greece, and compromise turned into supine surrender. The aggressive terms imposed by the Third Memorandum were indeed worse than what had been rejected. The question that naturally came up was, whether such surrender was without any alternative.

From 2012, Syriza had been insisting that it was opposed to debt repayment, for the socialisation of banks, and for the restoration of the minimum wages. This was why in 2012 they rejected any collaboration with any bourgeois party. And this seeming commitment to principle was why in January 2015 they got the first position in the elections, with 36.3% votes (2,245, 978). So the surrender for obvious reasons generated cracks in the party. In the Central Committee, initially 109 of the 201 members condemned the Troika’s impositions. 37 Syriza MPs voted against Tsipras’ proposals in parliament. The proposals passed with the support of right wing parties. But it was evident that Tsipras could no longer run a government in the current parliament. So he decided to go in for elections while his popularity lasted.

After the election proposal came, leftists in Syriza tried to quickly regroup and form an alternative party. 24 MPs including Panagiotis Lafazanis, formerly a minister in Tsipras’ cabinet, resigned and formed Popular Unity, a new party that proclaimed that it wanted to go back to Syriza’s original principles. The question came up, whether this would split the left vote and enable the right wing to forge ahead. Seemingly, it is Tsipras and the left that have won, but we need to understand what lies behind this victory.

Election Results:

The election of 20 September 2015 will occupy a special place in the Greek constitutional and electoral history. The Greek law makes voting mandatory, so though harsh punitive measures have usually not been imposed, polling tends to be high. This time, some 1.6 million of those who voted in the referendum were absent. Even taking the January polls as the bench mark, some 8,00,000 fewer people voted. The turnout was short of 56 per cent. So over 44 percent registered their protest by not voting. The moral legitimacy of the elections are thus certainly called into question, though after twice rejecting the mandate he had been given, Tsipras is hardly likely to be bothered by moral questions.

Syriza has obtained 35.5% of the votes, or 1,925,904, substantially down from the 2,245,978. Their sears also went down by four to 145. At this point we need to issue  a reminder that the Greek electoral law is loaded towards the top party, which gets a bonus of 50 seats. So the 145 implies 95 won, and 50 bonus. The biggest warning is, despite the decline in votes, the Fascist Golden Dawn’s voters turned up – it secured only 9000 votes less than in January, so in terms of its percentage the figure went up. The party in fact obtained one seat more than last time. The KKE (Communist Party) clung to its percentage and seats. New Democracy, the party getting second place, obtained 27.8% votes and lost one seat. ANEL, the bourgeois partner of Tsipras last time and possibly also this time, lost both votes and seats, getting 10, which however will allow Tsipras to form a government now that the Left of his own party is absent. But the coalition will of course not be very strong.

Tsipras has two advantages. First, the departure of principled leftists from the party enables him to position himself as the best bet for the Greek and the European rulers. Secondly, the main bourgeois opposition party finds itself solidly trounced. But there are plenty of difficulties. Over the past two  months, Syriza leaders have indirectly admitted that the bureaucracy has consistently carried on non-cooperation with them. Secondly, it is evident that the bulk of left voters have still voted Syriza. Those who did not vote Syriza mostly chose to stay away rather than vote Popular Unity. With 155,142 votes, it was unable to cross the 3% mark, which gives parties seats in Parliament.

The Interests of Euro-Capital:

The biggest winner in this election is European capital.  Had Tsipras lost the elections, he might have done a “left” turn and posed at least parliamentary opposition to debt repayment. But was this surrender inevitable? Advocates of Tsipras, like Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, are insisting that this was indeed the case. That is not the reality. After the results of the referendum came out, the Greek Rightwing was in utter disarray. What was necessary was a political battle. What was the demand of the day was  the postponing of debt repayment, or even raising the slogan of not repaying the debt and urging people to come out on the streets behind this demand.

But Tsipras is not the sole problem here. There is also a problem with the leftists who have left to form Popular Unity. The slogan of rebuilding the original and uncorrupted Syriza is still a slogan to build a party whose centre of gravity will be in the parliament. That Popular Unity did not cross the 3% bump and enter parliament is being blamed in certain quarters on Antarsiya and the EEK who formed a bloc and got some 46,000 votes (0.85%) – which showed that their votes increased in percentage and in absolute numbers despite the decline in the total number of voters. Had this been added, the left might have got at least 9 seats.

But the reply to this had been given even before the elections by the OKDE (Organisation of Greek Internationalist Communists, Section of the Fourth International and a constituent of Antarsiya). In the statement issued by them on 3 September, they argued that in the first place, Popular Unity had clearly expressed the position that they were fighting to register protests, not for power. Under the circumstances, calling upon people to vote for Popular Unity meant accepting their programmatic positions, which were at variance with Antarsiya. Antarsiya did not see Syriza as a revolutionary party, so rebuilding a “pure” Syriza was not part of Antarsiya’s agenda. For them, Syriza was a bloc of reformists with revolutionaries in which the reformists dominated and whose orientation was the parliament.

Secondly, formed as a result of elections being declared, Popular Unity had an electoralist appearance. OKDE argued that its main task was to build mass movements. Moreover, OKDE argued that PU had till recently been in the Cabinet, had shown great respect to bureaucrats, so the centrality of parliament meant or them not waging extra parliamentary struggles hard enough.

If battles are waged, keeping opposition to austerity at the centre, te mass movement perspective and the parliamentary perspectives can start coming together. Greek leftists have the same problem as others in countries where democracy of whatever value exists – how to develop a revolutionary strategy incorporating democracy. Failure to do so will mean shuttling between parliamentarism and mass movements that ignore the parliamentary institutions.

The crisis of Greece is yet to be over. One dimension of this is the set of demands presented by the Troika. The European leaders have insisted that Tsipras must waste no more time, but must start “reforms”. In other words, he must use his parliamentary majority to implement the agreements. These include a promise to ensure primary surplus of 3.5% of the GDP from 2018. In that case funds in the hands of people must go down even mote, because neither will taxes be raised on the rich, nor will the economic crimes be checked.

To this is added the immigrant issue. Many impoverished people travel to Europe in the hope of a better life. On the streets of Greece one has watched huge numbers of Bsngladeshis, Pakistanis, and yes, Indians. Not only do they try to find a living for themselves, but they have to work terribly hard to remit money home. So Greece is full of people who do not have proper papers and are therefore “illegal”. These people work for 12, even 14 hours a day. And the rightists do two things, simultaneously. They abuse the Greek workers, who demand an 8 hour working day and minimum wages, as lazy. And at the same time they spread aggressive nationalist hatred against the immigrants and refugees. If the Tsipras Government had anything positive to its credit, that was the relatively humane behaviour it meted out to such people. But now it is under pressure to halt that.

In search of an Alternative Left?

Adding the votes of all the left groups, blocs and parties outside Syriza does not carry much political significance. The Communist Party had allied with rightists to defeat the Right Social Democratic PASOK. But it will ally with no left party, believing it has a divine mandate for an eventual majority. Popular Unity will have to decide whether it will make leaving the Euro, bank nationalisation, and sutained struggles against European and Greek capitalists central to its tasks. The difference with Antarsiya seems to be, not just a greater stress on parliament, which might be necessary, but a bit of hesitation about making the exit from the Euro central to its campaigns, though midway though the election process it did call for that. For substantial sections of the Greek left, it is like the Eagles song Hotel California:

You can check out any time you like

But you can never leave.

That Syriza retreated politically but still won the elections has a significance going beyond Greece. Pablo Iglesias, leader of  Spain’s Podemos, stated bluntly that in this game of chess they could not ask for more. As long as the class struggle remains a parliamentary game of chess, this will indeed be “realism”.



Radical Socialist Statement on the Struggle Against Private Electricity Suppliers and Illegitimate Tariff Hikes


By the time this statement reaches people, a group of activists united under the banner of the Peoples Movement Against Power Tariff Hike will have entered the fourteenth day of their hunger strike. The network at present is small, and there could well be debates about some of the tactics it has taken. Some remarks in social media tend to show that such debates about purity are taking place.


It is therefore necessary to examine the issue from a clearly socialist point of view. The campaign was initiated due to an action that has been taking place almost every year. The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation announces, with the consent of the Electricity Regulatory Commission, revisions of rates. Not only does it do so almost every year, but it announces rate hikes with retrospective effect. In other word, after people have consumed power and have even paid the bill, as they thought, they are informed later that they must pay more because the rate is being increased from an earlier date. The success of neoliberalism has meant that all major parties, from right to left, have accepted that certain market linked principles cannot be questioned by elected governments. Indeed, they feel that it is the duty of elected governments to support certain particular forces.


The CESC is one of several power suppliers in India owned by private companies. And the logic of private companies is that they must make a profit, not only some profit, but profit at the highest possible rate. So, while the Electricity Act gives governments to override the State Regulatory Commissions in the public interest, the reality is that it does not happen. For many years in West Bengal, for example, the Goenka owned CESC has been imposing and collecting arrears in this way, regardless of whether the CPI(M) led Left Front or the TMC had been in power.


While the people who came together might be a small number, what they have done after a long time, is to challenge the consensus that says, profits first, do not challenge the rights of monopoly capital. In this, their action is similar to other small or medium scale actions. For example we can mention the case of the Asongothito Kshetra Sangrami Sramik Mancha organising a campaign for minimum wages for a whole series of sectors in West Bengal back in 2011, shortly after the TMC government was formed and the bourgeois media were heralding the end of the left. Equally as another example, we can talk of a small Union, the Progressive Plantation Workers Union early this year, opposing the rotten agreement in the tea gardens. None of these show a dramatic shift away from the mainstream left. But they all are straws in the wind, that new forces are beginning to come out and question the neo-liberal consensus.


This is of course not specific to West Bengal, or even to India. There are various developments, all of which show working people seeking alternatives. In some cases they have emerged. In other cases there might have been expectations belied. Such for example was the broad party building exercise in Greece. In other cases, apparently dead organisations have seen revival, as with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party. It would be argued that we are comparing totally different issues. We say, we are pointing to a trend, where some people, everywhere, are beginning to challenge the neoliberal consensus that Margaret Thatcher made famous as TINA (there is no alternative). As of now, the challenges in India are small -- much smaller than some of the European examples we have cited. The mainstream left still dominates the working class, and unlike the trade unions, which have sometimes taken up serious fights, the left parties have a totally spineless attitude. Yet, the fact that in the first half of September, the Left Front also decided to get into the act, shows that while the small forces may not be strong enough to launch and sustain movements where hundreds of thousands of people really join the fight, they are already in a position where they can make masses of people aware, and compel the mainstream left to take periodic actions.


This immediately brings up tactical questions which we from outside a particular campaign cannot address in full, yet which do need discussions. The mainstream left cannot be totally ignored, as long as they exist. The sectarian stance is to simply abuse them and turn one’s back on them. This is good for purity, but this means imposing a limit on how large a movement will eventually be built.

On the other hand, to merge banners is to ensure that the mainstream left will step in, steal the issue, and then make a rotten compromise. There is a need to retain one’s organisational independence, which in turn calls for a political clarification and the raising of one’s banner; while at the same time agreeing to specific, limited, united front actions.

If the demands are such that the action emboldens the masses and lead to further militancy, such united fronts serve toiling people and should be promoted. But there cannot be a unity that leads to the surrender of the banner of revolutionaries and of militant fighters, since given the relation of forces even now, despite its continuous bloodletting, shows a far greater numerical strength of the reformist left. Our goal must be, not just a token show of force or even a token concession. In the field of power, the issues and demands must involve the following:

·   Questioning the logic of periodic hikes altogether

·   Scrapping the retrospective effects of power hike

·   Questioning why private companies must be given such crucial public utilities, especially when they do not even produce but mostly buy and supply the power

·   Demanding the expansion of solar, wind power


Kolkata 19 September, 2015 

Greek Protests and Right wing Sexism


Sexist rampage against resistance to memoranda: The case of the President of the Greek Parliament

Friday 18 September 2015, by Sonia Mitralia

In the paroxysmal crisis that Greece is going through, we are witnessing an unleashing of an extremely violent sexist campaign against women. What is more, this is happening on the main political scene in full public view. We believe that this extreme and violent sexism, that is taking epidemic dimensions, differs significantly from the common day-to-day sexism of a more peaceful recent past, before the current debt crisis.

The former President of the Greek Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, is both an emblematic figure and the main victim of this truly violent campaign. It is clearly no coincidence that the vigour, vulgarity and violence of this campaign have considerably increased since she created the Committee for the Truth on the Greek Public Debt, and since she has become the figurehead of the intransigent opposition to the submission of the Tsipras government to the will of Greece’s creditors.

Taking a closer look, we see that every day for the last seven months, all the declarations made by the President of the Greek parliament are presented as delirious by the mainstream media. Headlines like ’Yesterday’s Delirium from Zoe’, frequently replaced, in big gutter press headlines, by things like, ’Can’t Zoe’s bloke shut her up?’ With the 20 September election campaign in full swing the main private television channels have introduced a daily special “what they say” column in their principal news programme, which shows what the social media are saying about Zoe. It is filled with cartoons, it is often obscene and illustrated with unfairly retouched photos and nasty drawings from doubtful sources.

There is much worse. Even the MPs do not shy from calling the President of the Greek Parliament a “sexually frustrated orang-utan” or appeal to her husband who is a captain in the merchant navy “to quickly come ashore and calm her down”. The President of the Greek Parliament branded a newspaper headline in the parliamentary chamber, that called for her husband to “shut her up”.

We could continue a long list of these verbal and sexist attacks suffered by the President of the Greek Parliament. The case of Zoe Konstantopoulou is important because it is emblematic of a violent sexist offensive by various powers (political, apparatchik, media, mafia ...) against the rebellious women who continue to claim their rights and the rights of the oppressed. [1] From the moment Zoe K. stepped up to become an important figure of the opposition to the Memoranda that have ruined Greece, she was denigrated, vilified, humiliated, slandered ... in short, demonized by those that are on the Troika bandwagon. The attacks against her are so persistent, organized, coordinated and systematic that they can only be perceived as a real strategy of warfare aimed at her political elimination from the public arena.

This is a modern-day witch hunt!

It would be wrong to attribute this “extremely sexist phenomenon” to phallocratic or random individual behavior or anachronistic mentalities, as is claimed by the feminist politics section of the (old) Syriza in a statement entitled “The sexist attacks against Konstantopoulou are anachronistic stereotypes”. This is a modern-day witch hunt!

What does the witch hunt that developed at the dawn of capitalism have in common with the current violent sexist phenomenon, which can easily turn into a contemporary witch hunt? Witch hunts appeared in Europe around the turn of the 16th century, when capitalism made its first appearance. [2] It was characterised by the systematic diabolical presentation of women as witches in a period of crisis, similar to the current debt crisis, in which women take a front line part in revolts and resistance.

Today, as in those times, we are living in a period when production and reproduction relations are being reorganised in a way that is unfavourable to women. Those that have political powers, positions and visibility are totally unaware of this phenomenon.

At the time of the witch hunts women were excluded from the guilds, education and the common lands. They were isolated and locked inside the houses and bedrooms. Today they are run out of the public eye and pressed into the free service of those tasks that the welfare state has abandoned under the pressure of neoliberal austerity policies. The enormous savings made by the state is used to pay the national debt.

It is no coincidence that well known feminine stereotypes such as “A woman’s place is in her home” appeared at the time of witch hunts. Women who were not afraid to publicly say what they thought, who were sure of themselves, were criticised and said to be tiresome aggressive women who brewed trouble and disturbed the public peace. To be a woman involved in public affairs was a crime that deserved to be punished at the stake.

You may well think this is reminiscent of our present day austerity policies and authoritarianism, and you would be right. In today’s Greece of human and social disasters, all those who rush to the defence of the torturers and their inhuman policies (media, political parties, the establishment, corrupt politicians, occult circles of power, employers’ unions and even Mafiosi) play the most diabolical sexist cards to the limit, as never before, to smash the action of women who lead the struggles against austerity policies and the debt system, who defend migrants, refugees, the environment and the many victims of the currently applied barbarous policies.

This is the standard practice for establishing Mafia law, the law of the boss, the law of the pimp, sexual slavery and sex-trafficking. Fear is the tool, violence and torture are the means to wipe out the heart, soul, dignity and self-esteem of women to gain the unconditional control of their bodies to be sacrificed on the altar of maximum profits of the prostitution system.

That said, one can only be critical of the attitude of an institution such as the Tsipras Government’s General Secretariat for gender equality, created to protect all women who are victims of sexist aggression, that remained totally unmoved by the sexist lynching that the President of the Greek Parliament has been subjected to. This negative impression becomes worse when one considers that the victim is a highly visible public figure, a leader of the Syriza party of which the Prime Minister and the General Secretary are also members. This silence is surprising, and edifying, when we learn that the same General Secretary, who is so silent about the sexist attacks on the President of the Greek Parliament, rushed into action to condemn a daily newspaper that made sexist attacks on the Romanian Delia Velculescu, who is the current chief representative of the ’Troika’ that is imposing its dictatorship on Greece.

We have dwelt on this question because it is emblematic of the neoliberal period in which we are living. We think that to effectively defend our rights as a gender a new radical feminist movement must be conceived, that will grow out of the difficult struggles that women must fight against the social realities of this early 21st century, against the debt system and patriarchal fundamentalisms of all kinds. It is high time to create a new feminist movement that casts aside the present feminist trend that only deals with the political aspects of gender identity and refuses to acknowledge the connection between commonplace abuse suffered by women and class struggle as well as other forms of inequality and discrimination.


The sexism that is currently rampant in Greece is a fearsome weapon to divide struggles and to wipe out all forms of resistance. This is not only a women’s struggle, but a struggle that must involve us all, far beyond Greek borders.

Translated by Mike Krolikowski, Christine Pagnoulle.


[1] See Sonia Mitralia’s article on CADTM “Violence against women: a strategic weapon in the hands of the rulers in a time of class war in Greece”.

[2] See the major work by Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Silvia Federici is a theorist and a Marxist feminist activist.

From International Viewpoint

Oppose Power Tariff Hike! Defend the Right to Agitate

Radical Socialist condemns the crackdown and arrest of demonstrators protesting under the banner of “Peoples Movement Against Power Tariff Hike” in West Bengal. The demonstrators were on an indefinite hunger strike for two days starting 5 September in front of the State Electricity Board’s office, before the police’s brutal crackdown. We hold this action by the police as a violation of democratic right to protest.  

The issues to be considered are very simple. Power supply in Kolkata is organized by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, a privately owned concern that has the responsibility for a major public service. The CESC as well as the state owned WBSEB have been allowed to increase power tariffs for all categories by the West Bengal Electricity Regulation Commission’s (WBERC) notice issued in March. The hike in the tariffs would be applicable from 2014-15 and the WBERC has asked the supply companies to collect the arrears from the consumers alongside the revised rates.

There have been repeated power tariff hikes over the years, under numerous pretexts, and these naturally hurt the more economically disadvantaged groups most.

What is even more significant is the increasing intolerance towards any dissent. Police was sent to break up a peaceful form of protest, where people were simply going on hunger strike to draw public attention to and mobilize opinion in favour of their demand for cancellation of tariff hikes. The government through this action has demonstrated categorically that it is not simply opposed to violence by the opposition, as it often fraudulently claims, but in reality, opposed to any viewpoint different from its own, especially viewpoints calling for public action and/or supporting toiling people. This is a move to despotism that has to be resisted.

·         Oppose the use of police on expressions of dissent

·         Reject government moves to use state power to support private capital

·         Withdraw all cases against the accused

Radical Socialist, Kolkata 6.9.2015

Radical Socialist condemns the killing of M.M. Kalburgi

Renowned Kannada scholar, rationalist and epigraphist M.M. Kalburgi, formerly the Vice Chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, was murdered by two assailants on August 30, 2015, in a continuation of vicious attacks on rationalists and intellectuals by the Sangh Parivar and BJP. Dr. Kalburgi, a key organiser of the Dharwad Sahitya Sambramha (Dharward Lit. Fest.), openly spoke up against idol worship and had recently questioned the Lingayat orthodoxy claiming that they were not Hindus. This invited resentment and hostility from RSS and the Hindu right, because the Lingayats are an important voting block for the BJP and have been instrumental in the election of the first BJP government in Karnataka in 2004, with chief minister BS Yeddyurappa being a Lingayat.

The killing of Dr. Kalburgi is far from being an isolated incident. The right wing Hindu forces are bent on creating communal disharmony and hostility based on the perpetuation of Hindu myths and stereotypes. Thus, anyone who seeks to question received religious orthodoxy, especially those of Hinduism, are perceived as threats and are dealt with accordingly. Narendra Dabholkar, who was a prominent anti-superstition and rationalist activist from Pune, was also killed by right wing communal forces in August 2013. Investigation agencies and governments in Maharashtra, both the saffron combine BJP- Shiv Sena and its predecessor, the so-called secular Congress- NCP in Maharashtra have failed to bring the perpetrators to book. Govind Pansare, a veteran CPI leader, intellectual and rationalist, known for his scholarly work on Shivaji, was killed by right wing fanatics in February 2015. Even after the Maharashtra police having in place a Special Investigation Team for probing Govind Pansare murder, the assailants are till date to be brought to book. Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan announced on January 2015 that he is giving up writing after he was attacked by right wing caste Hindu forces. Soon after the tragic murder of Kalburgi, Bajrang Dal has openly cheered his death and threatened to kill Mysore University professor K.S. Bhagwan, who happened to be a close friend of Dr. Kalburgi.

Scholars, activists, and ordinary working class citizens committed to fighting religious fundamentalism should deplore theseacts of intimidating intellectuals and rationalists as cowardly, undemocratic and immoral. We need to realise that this is a broader project of a homogenisation of Indian society, where dissenting voices against majority views, particularly those held by the Hindutva forces, are being muzzled.The ruling party BJP has among its ranks MPs who have demanded that Gita be declared the national book of India. Attack on rationalist should hardly be a surprise when organisers of the Indian Science Congress state that the invention of aeroplane was in the Vedas.

Just as we see in Bangladesh, where one after another rationalist bloggers are being killed by the right wing Muslim fundamentalists, so we see in India a disturbing trend of attack on multiplicity of opinions and pluralism by the Sangh parivar. It is easy to condemn fundamentalists in a different country. Radical Socialist is truly committed to a secular and multicultural India, and thus condemns the killing of M. M. Kalburgi. We have and will continue to fight, on the ground, all those forces in Indian society who are committed to spreading communalism and hatred and stand in the way of rational thought and progress.