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Feminism, Marxism: Marriage or Divorce?

Feminism, Marxism: Marriage or Divorce?

 

— Ann Ferguson

 

Dangerous Liaisons:
The marriages and divorces of Marxism and Feminism
By Cinzia Arruzza
Translated by Marie Lagatta and Dave Kelly
Wales, UK: Merlin Books, 2013; also notebook 55 of the International Institute for Research and Education (www.iire.org), 156 pages paperback.

CINZIA ARRUZZA’S DANGEROUS Liaisons is an ambitious attempt to give a brief history of the interrelation between the 18th to 20th century women’s, labor and left anti-capitalist movements in the UK and Europe, and the theoretical debates in that same period about the interconnection between male and class domination and exploitation.

For those of us who have been left feminist activists from the 1960s forward, it is also a trip down memory lane to see the debates outlined between Marxist-feminist vs. socialist-feminist positions in the materialist feminist camp (as well as those of liberal and radical feminists).

While it makes sense from an activist point of view to try to understand theory in the light of historical political praxis, the book is far better at giving us an insightful history of the turbulent relation between self-defined feminist movements and anti-capitalist labor movements than in providing plausible Marxist-feminist theoretical answers to the question of how to understand power relations between gender and class. A serious shortcoming is the short shrift given to the historical and theoretical importance of institutional racism as a power relation between women, as well as one that cannot be reduced to class in most countries, particularly in the United States with its history of slavery.

In her first two chapters Arruzza provides a brief history of the relation between some 18th to 20th century women’s and workers’ movements. She discusses feminist activists and women’s movements, and how left parties in Europe and the United States as well as the communist governments of the USSR and China dealt with policy questions related to “the woman question,” i.e. women’s liberation.

Arruzza argues that during the first wave of feminism, a split developed between what working-class feminists called bourgeois, or liberal feminism, and class-struggle feminism.

During the first wave women’s movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, Mary Wollstonecraft, Olympe de Gouge, and Emma and Christina Pankhurst were liberal feminists who emphasized access to education and to civil and political rights for women, goals that were priorities for upper- and middle-class women, while ignoring working class demands for living wages, safe working conditions and democratic control over the developing capitalist workplace.

Although the liberal feminist current was important in its demand for basic citizen rights for women, such as the rights to property and divorce, by the end of the 19th century both the British and U.S. mainstream women’s movements focused their efforts on getting women the right to vote.

Radical Feminisms

Arruzza discusses the importance of Clara Zetkin and her work with the German Social Democratic party, not only in getting the party to support the right of voting for women, but also challenging discriminatory laws against women and in favor of eliminating night work. Zetkin was also instrumental in establishing the importance of separate spaces for working women to discuss women’s issues and in moving the Socialist International to establish International Women’s Day in 1910.

Arruzza also gives a good account of the feminist advances of the early phases of the Russian and Chinese Communist revolutions, as well as the setbacks to women’s liberation by Stalinism in the USSR and the combination of agrarian sexual conservatism and cultural patriarchy in the male-led Chinese Communist Party.

The anti-feminist influence of Stalinism on the Third International and therefore on European communist parties cannot be overemphasized. It is depressing to read how, with the aim of strengthening the traditional family, not only the USSR but also the French, Italian and Spanish communist parties supported the outlawing of abortion (that had earlier been permitted in the USSR and France), and divorce (in Italy), encouraged women to leave industrial wage labor to return to unpaid domestic work, and even supported the banning of women soldiers from the formerly integrated army in Republican Spain.

The emphasis on the idea that “The Personal is Political” of autonomous Western second wave feminist movements can be understood in part as a response to this male chauvinist background of traditional and left parties and social movements. Arruzza discusses the internal critique by white feminist activists of sexism within the U.S. Black Power movement, and the development of separatist feminist politics in the United States, France, Italy and the UK.

She points out that on the left in France, three different political tendencies arose that were later to influence feminist movements in Italy and the UK.

The Politics of Difference is characteristic of these first two radical feminist tendencies, the psychoanalytic feminist group (Psych et Po) and the materialist feminist group headed by Monique Wittig and Christine Delphy.

While the Psych et Po group tended to argue that male dominance/patriarchy is deeply embedded in the symbolic structures of most human societies past and present because of both biological/existential and psychological differences, the materialist feminists held that patriarchy is founded in the family economy where men exploit women’s labor, so that it is not capitalism but men who are the “main enemy” (the title of Delphy’s influential essay of 1970).

These groups were opposed by the class struggle feminists within mixed left parties and groups, who tried to work with autonomous feminists to form coalitions around specific issues such as abortion rights and child care facilities while still maintaining that capitalism is the main enemy of the working class.

Exploring the Debates

With these historical chapters Arruzza sets the stage for the theoretical debate about the relation between gender and class. Chapters three and four revisit these debates that occurred in the so-called “second wave” Western feminism of the 1960s through 1980s that divided the autonomous women’s movement into various camps, loosely termed liberal, radical and socialist-feminists. Arruzza concentrates on the bifurcation between those who see class struggle against capitalism as primary and the women’s struggle as occurring within this (e.g. the “wages for housework” feminists); or instead conceived of the struggle against male domination(patriarchy) as a separate struggle (socialist- and lesbian materialist feminists).

In these chapters Arruzza takes a shortcut that needs to be critiqued — that is, she neglects to theorize the social and historical basis of institutional racism as it complicates the relation between gender and class power.

The history of white supremacy as a strategy by Western capitalist imperialists in subjugating the territories of the New World of America and the peoples of Africa is much more fully handled from a Marxist-feminist perspective by Silvia Federici, one of the early “wages for housework” feminists. It is difficult to understand why Arruzza does not include Federici and her account of racism as it connects to the control of women’s reproductive power in the interests of capitalism — although her book is cited in the end section labeled “Further Reading.”

When she turns to theoretical debates in chapter three, Arruzza first takes up the Origins debate between those radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone, who hold that male domination is based on the biological differences between men and women in reproduction, vs. Marxist-feminists (Evelyn Reed, Eleanor Leacock, Stephanie Coontz) who like Engels support some version of the position that patriarchy emerges through a transition from matriarchal to patriarchal kinship relations, which also marks a transition from communal non-class hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural class societies.

Although she seems to favor the latter view, she also warns against the type of economic reductionism that has been used by economic class-first leftists which puts gender domination as secondary to economic class exploitation. This “class without gender” politics is precisely what has allowed sexist hierarchies to continue in the left and labor movements.

On the other hand, the Marxist “wages for housework” feminists and the dual systems socialist-feminists (“gender without class” feminists) who view gender domination as a special kind of economic domination are also critiqued by Arruzza.

She rejects the argument that domestic work is unpaid productive labor that produces surplus value for the capitalists by reproducing labor power, because this labor, not being exchanged in a market, is outside the scope of theories of necessary vs. surplus labor. But those materialist feminists like Christine Delphy (and Heidi Hartmann), who argue that women’s unpaid labor as well as their sexual favors are involved in an exploitative exchange with men in a separate system of patriarchal production of people, are also rejected when they conclude that all women regardless of economic class are in a separate sex-class opposed to men who exploit their domestic and caring labor as well as their sexuality.

Arruzza considers but ultimately finds inadequate those radical psychoanalytic and queer feminist alternatives based either on a French and Italian feminist politics of bodily difference that creates the possibility of revaluing a feminine symbolic imaginary (Irigaray, Kristeva, Muraro) or of performing gender in a queer way so as to undermine the gender binary, and hence heteronormativity, the base for male domination of women’s sexuality (Judith Butler).

Arruzza’s rejection of all these positions leaves us somewhat up in the air as to a better theoretical approach to the intersection of race, class and gender dominations.

Queer Union?

When we turn to the last chapter — titled “A queer union between Marxism and feminism?” — we expect to get an answer. It is clearly Arruzza’s aim to suggest that such a union is possible, yet it is hard to decide whether she has done that in this book.

In this chapter Arruzza discusses Heidi Hartmann’s dual systems theory that capitalism and patriarchy are both semi-autonomous, historically changing systems that influence each other, as well as the debate between Iris Young and Nancy Fraser about whether there is a way to have a unified Marxist analysis of both the political economy and cultural ideology of our present system of capitalist patriarchy.

Arruzza seems critical of Hartmann but only offers the sketchy critique offered by Young of that type of dual systems theory. On the other hand, she is sympathetic toward Fraser’s view that there is a way to see workers’ struggles in capitalism as struggles for redistribution, while women’s, racialized populations and LGBTI struggles are primarily about recognition (as different but equally valuable citizens) and only secondarily about redistribution of material goods.

In my view, the serious political issue left unanswered at the end of the book is how all this theoretical debate has brought us any further toward a unified theory of the intersections of race, class and gender domination that will serve as a base for a coalition of forces against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

I tried to address these interconnections in my tri-systems theory of how these social dominations interconnect (Ferguson 1991). Kimberly Crenshaw as an African-American law professor has also shown (1993) how the rights of women of color are overlooked in the operation of race, class and gender intersectionality in legal cases and social movements dealing with violence against women.

Maybe we are left with the position stated in 1980 by the Black Feminist Combahee River Collective, and also present in the 1970s U.S. autonomous women’s movement socialist-feminist collectives inspired by the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1972): We can’t be free till everyone else is!

The view that domination systems are interlocking psychologically, economically, and politically, and therefore that we need to be allies in fighting all oppressions to challenge the logic of superior and inferior, is also well expressed by Black lesbian-feminist Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider (1984).

Although all our oppressions have somewhat different historical economic and political roots, the fact that they are all present in our contemporary white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchal societies requires a solidarity intersectional analysis and coalitional politics.

Arruzza’s book goes some way toward providing the complicated analysis of each intersection of this power combination. Although she falls short on her analysis of the power relations involved in race and sexuality, her analysis can be supplemented to include this. It thus can be seen as a necessary first step toward the 21st century Marxist-feminist-anti-racist-queer analysis we require for more fruitful coalitions for social justice.

References:

Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1972) “Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women’s Movement”. Online: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/chisocfem.html.

Combahee River Collective (1980) The Combahee River Collective Statement. Online: http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html.

Crenshaw, Kimberly (1993) “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Online: http://socialdifference.columbia.edu/files/socialdiff/projects/Article__Mapping_the_Margins_by_Kimblere_Crenshaw.pdf.

Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation. New York: Autonomedia Press.

Ferguson, Ann (1991) Sexual Democracy: Women, Oppression, and Revolution. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Lorde, Audre (1984) Sister Outsider. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.

March/April 2015, ATC 175

 

 

Declaration of Fourth International on Palestine

 

Monday 2 March 2015, by Fourth International

The following declaration on Palestine was adopted by the International Committee of the Fourth International in Amsterdam on 24 February 2015.

Situation

1) The year 2014 was characterized in Israel and the Palestinian territories by a deepening of the dynamics that had been at work during the two preceding decades. Israel strengthened its hold on Gaza and the West Bank. Jewish settlement continued and sped up. Repression of the Palestinians was uninterrupted, and accompanied by intermittent, targeted, extremely violent military attacks, with a new level reached in the last bloody attack on Gaza in summer 2014. The political and economic strangulation of Palestinian society continued, as did the rightward radicalization of Israeli society and politics.

2) These dynamics had already been manifest before the Oslo accords of 1993-94. The long-term process of expropriation of Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing had been proceeding all along, on a shifting scale and at varying tempos in different conjunctures. But the situation today can only be understood by taking account of the changes made with the introduction of ‘Palestinian autonomy’. This period has seen an end of the direct Israeli military occupation of the main Palestinian population centres. Direct occupation has been replaced by the Palestinian Authority (PA), a Palestinian politico-administrative and repressive apparatus. In the process, the Palestinian refugees outside historic Palestine have been marginalized.

3) The ‘peace process’, and thus the tasks assigned to the PA, were rife with intrinsic contradictions. They were meant to contain Palestinian demands through the distribution of international aid, backed up by repression. But given the lack of any real political advances, the contradictions exploded in September 2000 with the outbreak of the Second Intifada. This revolt manifested the refusal of broad layers of Palestinian society to keep silent in the face of the so-called ‘peace process’ and faced with an unprecedented acceleration of the colonization: in reality a thinly veiled restructuring of the Israeli occupation. The uprising further increased the visibility of the divisions at the PA’s summit between, on the one hand, those who advocated trying to maintain an implausible balance between struggling against the occupation and collaborating with the occupation authorities, and, on the other hand, those who supported unqualified integration into the colonial system.

4) Israel repressed the Intifada by liquidating or arresting thousands of resistance fighters, the majority of whom came from Fatah. This violent repression strengthened the most capitulationist currents of the Palestinian leadership. Yasser Arafat’s death and his replacement by Mahmoud Abbas were the visible expression of the new balance of forces. Since 2005, under the direction of Abbas and his old and new associates, the PA has fully played the role of an auxiliary of the Israeli occupation forces. This has been apparent, notably, in the reorganization of the Palestinian security services under US tutelage. In addition, pushed forward by former high IMF official Salam Fayyad as PA prime minister, the PA sped up and completed the Palestinian economy’s integration into and subjection to the world capitalist system and its chief local representative: Israel. While there are still, within the Palestinian Authority’s apparatus nationalist sectors coming from Fatah hostile to co-management with the occupying power they are more and more marginalized.

5) The victory of Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) in the 2006 legislative elections was a new, albeit deformed, expression of the refusal of the majority of Palestinian society to submit to Western and Israeli orders or to give any political support to the PA’s capitulationist and corrupt leadership. Most Palestinians did not identify the PA leadership with Fatah, however: while the PA’s rulers were defeated in individual constituencies, Fatah as an organization obtained a percentage of the national party list vote that was only slightly lower than Hamas’.

6) Hamas’ victory was followed by its complete seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in reaction to Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan’s attempted putsch, which had the direct or indirect support of the US, Egypt and Israel. But this exposed Hamas to the contradictions of Oslo. There are increasingly visible divisions within Hamas between advocates of resistance to Israel, including armed resistance – and thus of confrontation with the Abbas leadership – and those who support rapprochement with the Abbas leadership (and thus a ‘cold peace’ with Israel).

7) Hamas faces the same problem that Fatah confronted in the first years of Palestinian autonomy: the tension between co-managing structures integrated into the system of occupation and at the same time continuing the struggle against occupation. So far, Hamas has managed to maintain its unity by combining the clientelist management of its mini-state apparatus in Gaza with the direction of the armed struggle (alongside other Palestinian organizations but with far more visibility and on a greater scale than the others), particularly in response to Israeli aggression. This has enabled Hamas to maintain its legitimacy, both among those who have benefited directly from the movement’s institutionalization (by appropriating some of the revenues of the mini-state apparatus) – who support more peaceful relations with Israel – and among those in the most marginalized layers of the population (especially in the refugee camps) who oppose any form of peaceful relations with Israel.

8) This precarious equilibrium also rests on a discourse – the reactionary utopia of an Islamic state in Palestine, whose extent in space and time remains deliberately unspecified – that makes it possible to unite social categories with divergent, even contradictory material interests. Hamas has no monopoly on religious ideology, and this is not the main line of cleavage in Palestinian politics. But religion is central for Hamas, and is manifested in the movement’s projects and practices: the marginalization of women, the substitution of religion for politics, the confusion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, etc. Looking beyond the clear need for inclusive frameworks that allow unity in struggle among different currents of the Palestinian resistance, this underlines the necessity of a political leadership that can provide an alternative to Hamas.

9) The Palestinian left (the PFLP, DFLP and PPP and Mustafa Barghouti’s current) is not capable today of forming the necessary alternative. It is divided between advocates of total (in the case of the PPP) or partial (in the case of the DFLP) integration into the PA and the devotees (in the case of the PFLP) of national unity between Hamas and the Abbas leadership. The left is thus paying the price for its ambiguous attitude towards the ‘peace process’. Unlike the PPP, the DFLP and PFLP formally opposed the Oslo accords. But their leaderships’ insistence on the legitimacy of the PLO led them to mute some of their criticisms. Their failure to undertake the construction of a ‘third force’ left Hamas with the mantle of the only credible opposition, first to Arafat, then to Abbas. In view of this lack of perspectives, many of the left’s cadres and activists gradually reoriented to NGO work. While their work has often been essential, it contributes, as long as it is not linked to the construction of a political alternative, to the depoliticization and NGO-ization of Palestinian society.

10) Meanwhile, the rightward radicalization of Israeli society and politics is continuing. Recent Israeli governments, dominated by racist, anti-democratic, far right forces, have continued and sped up the policies of settlement, repression and ethnic cleansing, directed against the Palestinians not only in the West Bank and (minus the settlements) in the Gaza Strip but also within pre-1967 Israel. The Israeli centre and centre-left have shared responsibility for these developments, either by participating in coalition governments or through their silent complicity in these policies. The ‘peace movement’ is paying the price for its orientation towards the Labour Party. Only small anti-colonialist groups are now really taking on the task of struggling against all the dimensions of Israeli colonialism and of full-fledged solidarity with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they are a small minority in Israeli society today. They face growing repression and harassment from the Israeli state and from far right groups.

11) These developments, taken as a whole, and the shift in the relationship of forces to the Palestinians’ disadvantage, can only be fully understood and analyzed by situating them in their regional and international context. The Israeli state is in fact an integral part, politically and economically, of the world imperialist order. It benefits from open backing or indirect support from virtually all the Western countries. The tensions which exist between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government do not lead to any pressure on Israel; the USA, weakened in the region, cannot enter into open confrontation with their Israeli ally. Even some states that are more critical of Israeli policies, like Brazil, Turkey or even China, are continuing to step up their military and commercial ties with Israel. The recent votes in several European countries recommending recognition of a Palestinian state may express irritation at Israeli violence, arrogance and stubbornness and more and more marked isolation of the state of Israel, but they have not led to any real change in the diplomatic balance of forces. The Arab revolutionary process, which had raised the possibility of a break in the Palestinians’ regional isolation, is going through a period of retreat with the rise of counter-revolution in its different forms, both repressive regimes and Islamic fundamentalism. The process has not been defeated and the region is far from being stabilized and new developments are to be expected, particularly in Syria and Egypt which could have an impact on the Palestinian situation. The revolutionary ebb is currently benefiting the Israeli state, due both to extreme forms of rivalry among the Arab countries and to growing collaboration with Israel by several Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, etc. The Palestinians’ isolation, contrasted with the widespread, strong support enjoyed by Israel, underscores all the more the vital necessity of international solidarity, as the key to changing the relationship of forces.

Tasks

12) For almost three years now, we have been witnessing a tactical shift by the Palestinian leadership led by Abbas: it has decided to appeal directly to the international institutions, thus partially freeing itself from the constraints of the Oslo framework. The PA has thus asked to join the UN and various bodies linked to it, acceded to the International Criminal Court (ICC), tried to make the UN adopt a resolution imposing a calendar for Israeli military withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, etc. The failure of this last attempt shows the limits of the tactical shift. So does the threat of financial sanctions hanging over the PA, mainly by the US and Israel, especially if the PA pursues its appeal to the ICC. This would paralyze the functioning of the Palestinian institutions.

13) The conclusion is nonetheless unavoidable that these initiatives reveal an increased awareness by part of the Palestinian leadership that the ‘peace process’ and bilateral negotiations under US tutelage have led to a dead end. Even so, Abbas and his associates do not for the time being explicitly envisage a formal break with the Oslo accords. Rather, they aim to improve the relationship of forces with Israel. These initiatives also reflect, though in a distorted way, the aspiration of a steadily growing proportion of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories to escape from the cage of a ‘peace process’ that is making the prospect of satisfying the Palestinians’ national rights more remote every day.

14) It is this realization in particular that guided the Palestinians who in July 2005 launched the civil society appeal for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Without taking a position on a long-term solution, they noted the failure of the strategy of negotiations and the unbalanced relationship of forces, and set the goal of isolating the state of Israel politically, economically and diplomatically until such time as the Palestinians’ national rights are achieved. BDS is thus meant to escape from the logic of bilateral negotiations and of an ‘acceptable compromise’. Its aim is to develop mechanisms that will force Israel, which until now has stubbornly refused to speak any other language than the language of force, to change course. It is also a question of breaking with the logic of military confrontation with Israel, a dead end for the Palestinians, and to combine external pressure and the new development of a popular movement within the country.

15) BDS gives the international solidarity movement a key tool to denounce and pressurize not only the state of Israel, but also other states that are complicit in the occupation, as well as the big capitalist multinationals that profit from it by participating directly or indirectly in the economic exploitation of the Palestinian territories. In the last decade, especially in the wake of the massacres in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, BDS has made steady progress on an international scale. It has become a central activity of the solidarity movement and has won some significant victories, mainly in the areas of boycotts and divestment.

16) The Palestinian initiators of the BDS campaign rely on the creativity and tactical sense of the international solidarity movements, so that they take account in each country of the different possible aspects and levels of BDS suitable to specific national and regional realities. In different countries and regions, therefore, different demands can be highlighted, favouring demands which could have a real impact on Irsrael: suspension of the EU-Israel agreement, an immediate end to Egyptian participation in the blockade of Gaza and the opening of the Rafah crossing, an arms embargo, an end to military and economic cooperation with Israel (for example on the extraction of gas in the Mediterranean), the freeing of prisoners – particularly child prisoners etc. The key thing, apart from tactical adaptations, is to reject any concession on the fundamental demands, and to insist that BDS will only stop with the full and entire achievement of Palestinian national rights as a whole, including the rights of Palestinians in the 1967 territories, of the Palestinians in pre-1967 Israel and the Palestinian refugees in exile outside historic Palestine.

17) Through and over and above the BDS campaign we should especially emphasize the reinforcement of contacts, links and partnerships between different social and labour movements – trade unions, peasant movements, the feminist movement, the LGBTI movement, human rights movements, the progressive Christian movements, etc. – with their Palestinian counterparts. These partnerships directly benefit the Palestinians by breaking their isolation, and by enabling solidarity movements to root themselves more deeply in national and regional social and political dynamics, widening their social base and audience. The chaos created by the counter-revolution in the region in the region has strengthened the logic of exodus of Palestinian refugees towards, in particular, Europe: taking into account this new fact should be a preoccupation of the solidarity movement linked with the movements of defence of migrants’ and refugees’ rights. The criminalization of the BDS movement and more largely the solidarity movement among other, and particularly in France, it also a new fact that we should take up in building as broad and unitive mobilizations as possible.

18) We should of course combat any form of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, within the movement in solidarity with the Palestinians, and reject any form of collaboration with extreme right forces. The recent events in Paris and Copenhagen during which Jewish people were deliberately assassinated, underline the need to struggle against all forms of stigmatization on religious or ethnic bases, and the importance of the presence of anti-occupations Jewish movements and networks within the solidarity movement. This implies developing a solidarity movement that is firmly wedded to principles. In imperialist countries, this does not however rule out an inclusive and proactive approach towards people of Arab and/or Muslim culture, who often provide some of the main bases of support for solidarity. On the contrary, solidarity movements should work towards or deepen their collaboration with forces representing these groups, including Muslim movements and grassroots organizations, insofar as unity is possible without abandoning such fundamental principles as the reject of any confessional approach to the Palestinian question and any instrumentalization of solidarity in the service of religion.

19) Finally, it is important to establish and cultivate ties with the forces of the Palestinian left, in all their diversity, without posing any preconditions. This dialogue should focus, on the one hand, on forms of joint work that are possible within the international solidarity movement and, on the other hand, on perspectives for the recomposition of the anti-imperialist left on a regional and international scale and on the contribution that we can make to this process, in particular in defending our revolutionary Marxist point of view. In this connection, the joint meetings and declarations of the revolutionary left organizations of the Arab region provide precious support, even if we may sometimes consider them imperfect and/or insufficiently representative. It is our task to build them, strengthen them and broaden them, while respecting pluralism and allowing for tactical divergences. In the solidarity movement with Palestinians, we should fight against any attempt to counterpose the regional revolutionary process and the Palestinian struggle, in particular in recalling the historical hostility of the regimes in the region to the Palestinians’ demands, and underlining the complementarity between the struggle against the Israel and the struggle against the regimes. The combination between the Palestinian struggle and the other struggles for emancipation should also be particularly highlighted in our educational system, including and particularly in the IIRE schools.

20) In all these struggles and discussions, we will uphold the demands included in the resolution of the FI’s 2010 World Congress: unconditional, immediate and total retreat by the Israeli army from the territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem; the dismantling of all colonies built since 1967; destruction of the separation wall; liberation of the political prisoners held by Israel; immediate and unconditional lifting of the blockade of Gaza – as initial steps towards a political solution based on equal rights. We support the struggle of the Palestinian people in all its forms for the attainment of their rights: the right to self-determination without any external interference; the right of return for the refugees or compensation for those who demand it; equal rights for the Palestinians of 1948. Furthermore, we reaffirm the necessity of the emancipation of the Arab peoples, of the dismantling of the Zionist state, which represents a racist and colonialist project at the service of imperialism, in favour of a political solution in which all the peoples of Palestine (Palestinian and Israeli Jewish) can live together in full equality of rights.

Solidarity with the Greek people!

 

Monday 2 March 2015, by Fourth International

 

This statement was adopted by the International Committee of the Fourth International meeting in Amsterdam on 24 February 2015.

The electoral victory of Syriza and the rout of the parties committed to repecting the demands of the Troika was also a frontal challenge to the European ruling classes and institutions.

For the first time, the regressive social plans imposed for 4 years on the European working classes have been repudiated electorally, bringing to government a party that, despite contradictory statement, waged its campaign mainly around the rejection of these plans. This was in the country in Europe,that has suffered the most violent social attacks imposed by the memorandum of the European Union, the ECB and the IMF,

Consequently, the arrival of this government was a sign of hope for all those, in Europe in particular, who are suffering from these same policies and for the social and political forces who seek to point the way to a fightback against austerity policies.

Just after its election, the Tsipras government announced that it was going to implement a series of measurements that broke with the commitments of former prime minister Samaras.

These declarations immediately ran up against the demands of the European Union and the Troika. On February 4th, the European Central Bank announced that the refinancing of the Greek banks was stopped, because it no longer accepted the bonds of the Greek debt. At the same time there was a massive movement of withdrawals of liquidities in Greece. The pressure on the Tsipras government has been increasing in these recent days, in the meetings of the Eurogroup, that Greece should accept and maintain the framework of the memorandum, pressure supported by all the European governments, of both the right and social democracy. The unanimous and visible desire is to strangle the Greek government by controlling its banking system.

The demands put forward by the Eurogroup demonstrate that the idea of a break with the austerity policies without a confrontation with the European Union is impossible in practice.

Over and above the words, in the first agreements made between the Eurogroup and the government of Tsipras, the government undertakes to reimburse fully and in respect of the deadlines its creditors. This is a retreat on the undertakings given to the Greek people.

A long-term battle is underway. The European institutions are once again displaying their desire to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal policies which lead to the economic and social marginalisation of whole countries. For any force which wants to stand against the dominant choices in economic policy, rupture is an essential condition. The rejection of the memorandums, of the budgetary diktats of the EU, the non-repayment of most of the debt are the key questions of confrontation. It is up to the Greek social and political forces themselves in the framework of a very broad and democratic discussion to choose the methods that seem the most appropriate to carry out such an anti-Troika policy building the best relationship of forces possible within the population in Greece, and addressing the European populations, who are also victims of austerity.

This policy cannot be consolidated without a policy that breaks with all the antisocial attacks imposed on the Greek people in the last four years in wages, health, the right to work and housing. Such an orientation require the taking of anticapitalist measures, of inroads into capitalist property, nationalization of the banks, and certain key sectors of the economy, reorganization of the economy to satisfy elementary social needs. To impose these solutions, social mobilization and workers’ control of their own affairs are essential.

A decisive battle has begun in Greece, but all the peoples of Europe are concerned. The Greek people should not remain isolated. The leaders of the European Union claim to speak in the name of their people in their desire to strangle the Greek people.

We must immediately build a massive movement of solidarity with the Greek people, their political and social labour movement, to build a Europe-wide relationship of forces in the struggle for who imposes their will in Greece, through the mobilisation of the great forces of the worekrs’ movement throughout Europe. The fight to put an end to austerity will be able to develop only through mobilizations of the major forces of the labour movement throughout Europe. We must stop the European Union governments from continuing to impose their diktats, reject any interference, any blackmail. It is for the people to decide their own business. We – with campaign groups, the trade union movement and political organizations throughout Europe – must build a wall of solidarity with the Greek people, against the policies of the troika. This is the task that the militants of our International will take up in the days and the weeks to come.

A travesty of tea and tribals

A travesty of tea and tribals

Sushovan Dhar


No amount of mockery would have been more pronounced than the holding of the Tea and Tribal Festival at Banarhat, in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, under the “auspices” of the Backward Classes Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal. The programme held between February 15-17, 2015 intends to “provide a platform to display tribal talents” said the official invitation. This charade is emblematic of the larger spoof that continues with around two million tea-plantation workers of India.


The venue, Banarhat Tea Garden playground, is located within 15 kilometers of the closed Red Bank, Dharanipur and Surendranagar Tea Estates that have been virtually shut-down since the last 12 years. These non-descript locations sometimes hit headlines when starvation and chronic malnutrition take the lives of the closed tea-garden workers and their family members. The otherwise picturesque Dooars, at the foothills of the Himalayan West Bengal and Bhutan has turned into a veritable valley of death with tea garden workers suffering due to low wages, poor quality rations and inadequate medical facilities. It is a shame and matter of utter disgust that the government, instead of bringing the real culprits to books, decides to organize a festival that makes fun of the dead. And not one or ten, but thousands of deaths due to malnutrition, starvation and undernourishment. Matters that could have otherwise been easily prevented.


According to a survey done on body mass index (BMI) by rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen and five other organisations, in the erstwhile closed Raipur tea garden in the same district “40 per cent of its residents have a BMI lower than 18.5, indicative of being underweight, and 140 people in 539 examined had BMI lower than 14, a sign of malnourishment.” The report points towards the dire living conditions in the closed tea gardens in West Bengal and exposes the sub-human conditions that people are compelled to endure.


Turning a deaf ear to such alarming developments, the Trinamool Government in the state - (in)famous for its ardent mela culture where millions of rupees are disbursed in extravagance –  tries to showcase its “talents” leaving the tribals and the tea-workers in a quandary. Critics say that these melas or fairs are organised to conceal the failures of the government and also dish out money to local beneficiaries and contractors. Besides, these are great public propaganda exercises for a party in a desperate need to repair its tarnished image owing to unfulfilled expectations and widespread corruptions. Though, the multiple scams, including Saradha ponzi scheme, has hit the government so hard that its image seems beyond any repair. The party can only hope to stay in power with the opposition votes squarely shared between the CPI (M) and the BJP, as testified by the recent assembly and parliamentary by-polls in Krishnagunj and Bongaon respectively.


While workers reel under pathetic wages, currently Rupees 90-95/day, the ministers of the government including the one in charge of labour, resort to falsehood about improving the lot of the labourers and the implementation of minimum wages in the sector. This enclave economy has witnessed notorious collusions between the owners and the successive governments reducing the workers to penury, permanently. Even, in the face of a strong and unified resistance from workers, the government takes the mantle of dragging them into dubious wage deals that would see their hard won gains further eroded. Any Lady Macbeth to say- “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”?


In a landmark judgment on Kamani Metals & Alloys Ltd vs Their Workmen, the Supreme Court of India on 24 January 1967 ruled that “a minimum wage which, in any event, must be paid, irrespective of the tent of profits, the financial condition of the establishment or the availability of workmen on lower wages. This minimum wage is independent of the kind of industry and applies to all alike big or small. It sets the lowest limit below which wages cannot be allowed to sink in all humanity.” The government is resolute to connive with the tea-garden owners to violate every word and spirit of this opinion. West Bengal is the only “owner's pride” in the country after the neighbouring Assam government, also notorious for gross violations of workers’ rights, issued necessary notifications towards the implementation of minimum wages, last month. Let us not forget that the health of the tea industry depends a great deal on the health of the workers as this is highly a labour intensive industry.


And the timing could not be better with the industry poised to witness tea prices climbing by 9% to an average of Rupees 200 ($3.2) per kg in 2015 as consumption rises in a recovering economy, according to McLeod Russel India, the world's biggest tea grower. ASSOCHAM, the oldest and a leading apex-body of the trade associations of India, projected the industry to achieve a turnover of Rs. 33,000 crore ($5.4 billion) by this year making plantation owners richer and leaving workers earn the lowest wage of all organized sectors in the country.


Surely, after forcing a black-wage agreement on the workers, the government could only resort to such travesty to woo the plantation workers and the tribals. And, no wonder there is hardly any turnout of lesser mortals to witness such a farce.

 

Tea Gardens Workers Cheated Again

PPWU Press Release

 

Workers Have Been Cheated Once Again!

Reject the Black Agreement! Join hands in the struggle for Minimum Wages!

Progressive Plantation Workers Union(PPWU) expresses its utter disgust at the tripartite agreement on wages in the tea industry signed on 20.2.2015. After over one year of struggle and eight tripartite sittings, it was an anti-climax to find most unions, employers and the State Government once again signing an agreement to provide starvation wages to tea plantation workers.

The agreement yesterday has provided a raise of Rs.37.50 over three years to tea plantation workers in Terai and Doars and Rs.42.50 to workers in Darjeeling. Workers will therefore be paid a miserly amount of Rs. 112 .50 in the first year, Rs.122.50 in the second year and finally Rs. 132.50 in the third year.

By no logic can such an increase be justified. Firstly it comes nowhere near the repeatedly articulated demand by the workers for minimum wages. It is nowhere near their demand for a wage of Rs.322 per day calculated on the basis of well accepted minimum wage norms and Supreme Court orders. Nor does it even make tea plantation workers at par with wages in other sectors. The State Government declared minimum wage for the poorest sector, the agricultural sector, is Rs.206 at present and likely to increase further in the next three years with revisions twice a year to compensate for inflation. The gap between tea industry wages and wages in other sectors is therefore likely to widen further, leading to high absenteeism in the industry.

Wages as low as this are also likely to worsen conditions of poverty and malnutrition amongst tea plantation workers. We are thus likely to continue to get shameful reports of starvation deaths in an industry that is a huge export earner and has a flourishing and ever expanding domestic market.

The meagre wage increase is especially disappointing because there was a much trumpeted effort by all unions to present a united front in the last 6-9 months by the formation of the Joint Forum and by many united actions. This had enthused workers and they had also presented a united front to all employers in all gardens. In an industry that was fragmented by multiple unions, this was a move that was unprecedented and it led to hopes of a decent raise in wages. Here also, the unions have failed their rank and file and have signed an agreement that brings peanuts after all the struggle and efforts to highlight the demand for minimum wages that preceded this agreement. This leads one to wonder whether the major unions and players in this exercise were serious in their efforts at a movement or were just playing a game.

As a face saver, the agreement has also put down in writing that the agreement will remain in force till a State Government formed committee formed on 17.2.2015 puts forward its proposal on minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act 1948. However, no deadline has been given for this committee and it has been asked to submit its report “as early as possible”. The committee of 24 persons has eight Government representatives, eight employer representatives, and three members from ruling party controlled unions. From past experience in the tea sector, we could well say that that the report may not at all be submitted till 2017, if it is ever submitted.

 

The imposition of the agreement reveals that the government's initiatives towards implementing minimum wages in the industry are nothing more than mere tokenism. Instead of forcing this agreement on the workers, they could have stipulated the committee a deadline to submit its recommendations soon. A decent arrearage could have been worked out for the period till the workers receive minimum wages.

 

PPWU reiterates its rejection of the agreement. Our representatives have not signed the same and we affirm that we will continue our struggle for a just and fair wage in the tea sector. We appeal workers to reject this black agreement and join us in the struggle for a minimum wage in this sector. We also demand that the committee set by the government submit its recommendations within three months!

 

 

 

Bajinath Naik                                                             Kiran Kalindi

General Secretary                                                                 President

Syriza: “A grain of sand in the machinery”

Greece

Syriza: “A grain of sand in the machinery”

Thursday 12 February 2015, by Éric Toussaint

Eric Toussaint, analyses Syriza’s first days at the head of the Greek government for Le Courrier. He was interviewed by Benito Perez (of the daily Le Courrier, Geneva. [1]

Eric Toussaint is visibly exhausted at the end of a difficult week. But his mind is clear and his enthusiasm is intact: Syriza’s victory in the Greek legislative election has opened one of those parentheses within which History accelerates and is written as we watch. A political scientist who is experienced in economic matters, founder and spokesman of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM), Toussaint is a key observer of the battle now going on between Greece and its creditors—mainly the governments of Northern Europe. That is evident from the interest that was shown in his presentations Saturday, in Geneva, during a day of discussions on the economy organized by Le Courrier. A former adviser to the government of Ecuador and the president of Paraguay (Fernando Lugo), the Belgian native has also been approached by Syriza. Pending his possible involvement, Eric Toussaint is speaking out freely and observing the Greek experiment with a benevolent but critical eye.

What is your assessment of the first steps taken by the Syriza government in the economic area?

Eric Toussaint: The first measures they’ve taken have been to end a series of policies that were unjust, unpopular and damaging for the country. Very concretely, the government has granted free electricity to the 300,000 households that were without power; returned the legal minimum wage to its former level (751 euros), re-hired 3,500 employees who had been fired; dissolved the entity created by the Troika to manage privatisations; cancelled the sale of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, etc. In short, the government has shown that it will fulfil the mandate entrusted to it by Greece’s people. We can only be pleased with that.

Is the make-up of the government, with the appointment of Yanis Varoufakis to the key post of Finance Minister, in line with that attitude?

Personally, I’m disappointed that all ten of the “super-ministers” are men, even if several women do hold important vice-ministerial positions. On the economic level, while Varoufakis is in the spotlight, the key man is [vice- Prime Minister] Yannis Dragasakis, who belongs to the more moderate wing of Syriza. The government is the result of a very delicate balancing act. For my part, I would like to point to the very important inclusion of Giorgos Katrougalos, who is in charge of administrative reform; he’s the one who just announced the re-hiring of the employees who had been fired. He is a jurist and is one of the originators in 2011, along with ourselves, of the Initiative for a citizen audit of Greece’s debt!

The appointment of Panos Kammenos to Defense and Syriza’s alliance with his right-wing AN.EL party, however, will make it more difficult to keep other campaign promises, including making the Church pay its share and reducing the size of the army, which is a sacred cow...

Yes. Those two concessions are cause for concern. For a year and a half, Alexis Tsipras has made a series of positive statements about the Church, on its role in binding up the social wounds caused by austerity. To the point where he’s forgotten to point out that the Church, which owns large amounts of real estate, needs to contribute more to the public finances.

As for the presence of Kammenos at Defense, that is of course a message to the army that Syriza won’t touch it. However Greece’s military budget, proportionally, is one of the largest in the European Union. And in fact Germany and France, who are the main suppliers to the Greek army, have made certain that the successive governments in Greece have limited their austerity efforts in that area. Having said that, Kammenos has been surrounded by a “safety rail” in the form of the vice-minister, Costas Ysichos, a Greek-Argentine and a former member of the Montoneros guerillas, who is on the left within Syriza.

I would also point out that despite the presence of a party with racist tendencies in its coalition, the government immediately announced that he will grant Greek citizenship to children of migrants who were born or grew up in the country. Of course, it should be voted by the Parliament. That’s important in the context of Greece, since the preceding government had played on xenophobia. That’s Syriza’s way of showing that the alliance with AN.EL is limited to economic issues and that it won’t make migrants pay the price.

On the central issue of the debt, some Syriza members argue for a moratorium on repayments, which would be indexed to growth.

If that’s the case, it means that the Greek position has already evolved, probably due the very strong and very negative reactions of various key personalities in the Eurozone, since the farthest any of them have gone is to suggest the possibility of rescheduling repayments… Suspension of payment and an audit of the debt are among the weapons Syriza has publicly discussed using, but only as a secondary strategy. The Syriza government’s primary strategy is to call for a negotiation and an international conference to discuss all the debts. It also includes putting the debate at the heart of the European institutions, rejecting the Troika (the Central Bank, the IMF, and the EU) as illegitimate.

So the battle lines seem to be drawn. Is that simply posturing in order to raise the stakes, or is any dialogue really impossible?

I tend to lean towards the latter. Syriza proposes two fundamental things: First, maintain budgetary balance—something few European governments can boast of doing—but redistribute the costs differently, lightening the burden on victims of the crisis while increasing it for those who have benefited from it. Second: Negotiate a reduction of the debt. However, for the European leaders, the debt is the instrument used to impose the very neoliberal structural adjustment measures that Syriza has decided to end. Therefore no compromise seems possible. Possibly, if Syriza had said, “We’ll continue following neoliberal model, but you lighten the debt,” the EU might have accepted. But in fact, Europe cannot allow Tsipras to keep his word. He’s probably been told, “Look at Hollande; that’s what he did in your position. So do like he and everyone else have done and get with the program.”…

The important thing that’s happened this week is that Syriza has already dropped a grain of sand into the machinery, and that’s decisive.

Syriza’s weapon: suspend repayments

What weapons do each camp have to use in this inevitable standoff?

The figures illustrate the challenge we face in 2015. Greece must repay 21 billion euros in several payments, with the main deadlines in March and July-August. The agreement between the former government and the Troika was that the Troika would lend Greece the money necessary for meeting the repayments provided that it continue the privatisations and the rest of the austerity plan.

In such a situation, Syriza’s weapon is simple: suspend payment. Then, as I see it, the Greek government should create an audit commission to determine which debts are legitimate and must be repaid. The audit can provide legal arguments to support a suspension of repayment, or possibly a repudiation of illegal debts—that is, debts that were contracted without respecting the internal order of the country or international treaties.

I found an EU regulatory provision adopted in 2013 that requires all countries under structural adjustment to audit their debt in order to explain why it has risen so high and to reveal any possible irregularities. [2]

How can a debt that was contracted voluntarily by a democratic government be illegitimate?

Mainly due to the fact that these loans were granted under unjust terms. Greece was forced to conduct policies that amounted to social counter-reform and which violated certain rights, along with a policy of austerity that has destroyed the economy and made repayment impossible. It can also be demonstrated that the government acted illegally for the benefit of private interests, which would make the transaction null and void. An audit of Greece’s debt is easy to conduct—80% of it is in the hands of the Troika and goes back no farther than 2010.

As you say, the majority of Greece’s debts have been in European public hands since then. Isn’t it unjust to make European taxpayers pay?

The legislatures of these countries agreed to the loans under deceitful pretexts. We were told, “Greece must be saved”; “Help the poor Greek retired people” when in reality the French, German, and Belgian governments had been appealed to by their banks, who were worried that Greece would no longer be able to repay their high-risk, very high-rate loans. Merkel’s and Sarkozy’s goal was to allow their banks to wriggle out without taking any damages, while taking the opportunity to impose anti-labour measures and privatisations. In reality, the goal was not to save the Greek retirees’ pensions, but to reduce them! Consequently, since the operation served to save the creditor banks, the governments should pay the cost of cancelling the debts via a tax on those institutions.

In reality, the amounts at stake are not that significant for the EU. The absence of reaction by the international stock exchanges proves that there is no systemic risk. The current impasse is more an ideological question. For the EU, the risk is of creating the precedent of a country remaining within the Union without applying the neoliberal policies. Scuttling Syriza would be a message sent to the Cypriot, Portuguese, Irish and Spanish voters— in particular the latter, who might be tempted to vote Podemos in a few months.

Concretely, suspending repayment of the debt would mean a halt to the European payments and the explosion of interest rates on the capital markets for Greece. Would the Greek government lack funds?

No. Nothing indicates that the budget would no longer be balanced, and that means that Greece does not need to borrow funds—which in any case would only be used for debt repayments. As for the share of financing Greece has obtained on the financial markets, it’s minimal. And anyway, the rates have already exploded in the past week, even though the suspension hasn’t take place.

What weapons can the EU use to strangle Greece?

The Greek banks are in very bad shape. These banks receive loans from the European Central Bank (ECB) to provide them with cash. I feel that the ECB could block these loans at the risk of seeing the Greek banking system collapse. Faced with that possibility, Greece will have to act quickly, expropriate the owners of the institutions, and turn them into public services. But that would require a radicalisation of Syriza’s program.

Can the Greek government hope for any real international support?

From social movements, yes! Over the past weeks, we’ve seen many movements get involved that had never before called for a vote for a political party! That support, in particular in the major EU countries, can be very significant. If major German trade unions like DGB and Verdi openly support Syriza and tell the SPD-CDU government “Keep your hands off Greece,” that could weigh in the balance. As for the governments, outside the EU, it’s also possible that certain ones would support Greece for opportunistic reasons—I’m thinking of Russia, for example. If Russia were to lend Greece a few billion at very low rates without attaching conditions, that could help. Of course, I would prefer that other governments do it. Ten years ago, Hugo Chávez would have surely taken the initiative. But today Venezuela doesn’t have the financial capacity.

“All that just to regulate capitalism a little?!”

Economists are intensely discussing one question: Is the break being recommended by Syriza possible or not without Greece’s exiting the euro? What is your opinion on that?

Well, we’ll see! Syriza has a very good saying: “No sacrifices for the euro,” because it just isn’t worth it. Syriza will only take the initiative of leaving the Eurozone if it is forced to, because a majority of Greeks are still attached to the single currency. And also, leaving the euro would only be advantageous if nationalisation of the banks and strict oversight of movements of capital were put in place, which explains why the less radical wing of Syriza is reticent. More generally, such a decision would exacerbate the conflict with Europe.

For the government, the advantage would be being able to contract debt with its national bank in a new national currency. Provided, of course, that the population would maintain its trust in this “new drachma.” We could also imagine a redistributive monetary reform, with differentiated exchange rates depending on the size of transactions, in order to provide an advantage to the poorer citizens. That has already been done—for example in Belgium, just after the Second World War—and is also a way of fighting inflation (see text box “Redistributive Monetary Reform”).

On the other hand, devaluating in order to make Greek exports more attractive would put the purchasing power of the Greek people at risk. And it would remain within the same mindset of competitiveness.

The Eurozone countries have no interest in expelling Greece.

No, except perhaps as a kind of political punishment. To teach them what it costs to revolt… But no legal mechanism exists for doing it!

In the current context, the measures the Syriza government is taking are courageous, but they still mostly amount to a return to an earlier situation that was not really very progressive. There has also been a call for a European New Deal. Ultimately, what is Syriza’s political project?

Frankly, I’m asking myself the same question. But given the calendar, we’ll know in the next few months. Up to now, the option was to move back a bit towards a social state. We’re still far from having gone back to the earlier situation! Beyond Syriza, my concern is that the radical Left in Europe no longer seems to see an alternative form of power outside the framework of regulated capitalism. Admittedly, the balance of power is not good, and restoring social rights is already progress. But look at the sacrifices that have been made! Capitalism has shown so clearly where it’s leading us that there is the possibility of a real chance of an emancipatory or socialist project—call it whatever you want—if it puts an end to social injustice, and provided that the population participates directly in the political and economic choices made by the society. I would find it regrettable if all the suffering, all these efforts that have been made, lead to nothing more than a slightly regulated capitalism. Obviously, these transformations need to be brought about with the assent of the population, at a pace that is acceptable to the people. Syriza was elected to restore a degree of social justice, and not to conduct a program of emancipation. But for the population to follow along, you have to be able to present them with a project, an outlook. And that’s where there’s a real lack of reflection and concrete action.

Text box [3] : Redistributive monetary reform

A redistribution of wealth can also be accomplished via an appropriate monetary reform. Without going into detail here, this could be modelled on the monetary reform carried out after the Second World War by the Belgian government, or, in another part of the world and at another point in time, by the Nicaraguan authorities in 1985. It is aimed at taxing the revenues of those who have enriched themselves at the expense of others. The principle is simple: At the time of a currency change, automatic parity between the old and new currency (one former euro in exchange for one new drachma, for example) would be guaranteed only up to a certain ceiling.

Above that ceiling, the excess amounts must be placed in an escrow account and their origin justified and authenticated. In principle, any amount above the ceiling is exchanged at a less favourable rate (for example: two former euros in exchange for one new drachma); should the funds prove to be of criminal origin, they can be seized. Such a monetary reform would allow a share of the wealth to be distributed in a way that is more socially equitable. Another goal of such a reform is to reduce the supply of money in circulation so as to fight inflationary tendencies. In order for it to be effective, strict oversight over movements of capital and foreign exchange operations must be put in place.

Here is an example (of course the rate scales given here can be modified a great deal following a serious study of the distribution of cash savings among households and the adoption of strict criteria):

1€ would be exchanged for 1 new drachma up to 200,000 € 1€ = 0.7 new drachma between 200,000 and 250,000 € 1€ = 0.6 new drachma between 250,000 and 350,000 € 1€ = 0.5 new drachma between 350,000 and 500,000 € 1€ = 0.4 new drachma between 500,000 and 600,000 € 1€ = 0.2 new drachma above 600,000 € 1€ = 0.1 new drachma above one million euros

If a household has 200,000 € in cash, it receives 200,000 new drachmas If it has 250,000 €, it receives 200,000 + 35,000 = 235,000 new drachmas (n.d.) If it has 350,000 €, it receives 200,000 + 35,000 + 60,000 = 295,000 n.d. If it has 500,000 €, it receives 200,000 + 35,000 + 60,000 + 75,000 = 370,000 n.d. If it has 600,000 €, it receives 200,000 + 35,000 + 60,000 + 75,000 + 40,000 = 370,000 n.d. If it has one million €, it receives 415,000 + 80,000 = 495,000 new drachmas If it has two million €, it receives 415,000 + 80,000 + 100,000 = 595,000 n.d.

Translated by Snake Arbusto

CADTM

Footnotes

[1] Source:http://www.lecourrier.ch/127...

[2] See: http://cadtm.org/What-if-SYRIZA-too...

[3] This text box written by Eric Toussaint was added subsequent to the interview published by the daily Le Courrier


From International Viewpoint

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3862

Press Release by the Ashanghit Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Manch (AKSSM)

“Shashak Bodleche, Shahsan Ek-E Acche : The Rulers Have Changed , The System Hasn’t”

 

 “Shashak bodleche, shahsan ek-e acche (the rulers have changed , the system hasn’t)”, said Shri Partha Chatterjee, Deputy Chief Minister of West Bnegal , when he received the delegation of the Ashanghit Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Manch (AKSSM) on 11th February 2015, agreeing with their frustration at the insensitivity of the TMC regime , that had ridden to power in a massive mandate and promises of Paribartan  or change.

 

Members of the AKSSM found themselves confronted by a huge police force of about 700 policemen just when they started their march to Nabanna to meet the Chief Minister on 11th afternoon.  Many of them were reminded eerily of the Singur, Haripur and Nandigram struggles, when similarly large police contingents had been used to subdue protestors by the Left Front regime.

 

Women police and women members of the AKSSM got into scuffles repeatedly when the procession of about 1500 people who had come from South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Kolkata and North 24 Parganas  tried to break through the barricade at a major crossing outside Raja Subodh Mullick Square. The police kept asking for time to contact the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary’s office.

 

The slogan shouting and singing crowd was joined after an hour by another 500 people who marched from Howrah station and then blocked Lenin Sarani , one of the most important roads in Kolkata. The procession from Howrah with people from Paschim Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia had with them a group of dancers and drummers from Bankura. The IPS officer, Shri Devender, leading the police contingent began using his public address system to threaten them with arrest and lathi charge, but found himself flummoxed when they began dancing on the road. After some negotiation he allowed them to join the other part of the procession.

 

An hour of slogan shouting , dancing and singing followed , with the procession declaring it intention of staying there overnight. A play was also performed by some members from South 24 Parganas and Bankura.The police found itself in an awkward situation, as the protestors began to make arrangements to cook their dinner and to stay on the road. With rush hour approaching it became imperative for them to clear the road. After an intervention with AKSSM members directly calling the administration, the Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister agreed to meet a delegation of 5 people.

 

The problems the delegation putt forward before Partha Chatterjee were on the non-implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, especially for biri workers and hosiery workers. Special concern was expressed at the hand in glove relation of Government with the tea industry owners, leading to the Labour Department’s reluctance to declare a minimum wage. Partha Babu took a note of areas where AKSSM reported delayed payment of NREGS wages. In addition, we objected to the trivialisation of the problems of unorganised sector workers by organising “melas” for them , without any serious implementation of social security measures. We also objected to social security cards being issued to non workers. The issue of sexual harassment at the work place of women workers and the absence of complaints committees was also brought to his attention. No selection of beneficiaries for the National Food Security Act has taken place despite two years of the Act being passed, we complained.  And, in the end we complained of police high handedness, which is when he remarked “Shashak bodleche, shahsan ek-e acche (the rulers have changed , the system hasn’t)”.

 

Partha babu forwarded the memorandum to the Chief Minister immediately and promised to organise a meeting with the concerned Ministers after 16thFebruary. We came away after informing him that we looked forward to his keeping his promise and to returning to the city with a longer and more defiant protest in three months if our demands were not met.

 

 

 

 

 

(Somnath Ghosh)                                                                       (Swapan Ganguly)       

    Convenor                                                                                       Convenor

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