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Solidarity with Malaysian Socialists

Solidarity with Malaysian Socialists

 

Radical Socialist, India, condemns the attack on the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) or Socialist Party of Malaysia, launched by the government and ruling party thugs.

The history of Malaysia, in common with many countries of south East Asia, is full of aggressive anti-communism and anti-leftism. The independence of the country was followed by a British assisted monarchy being set up, and the smashing of the Communist Party of Malaysia. The MCP had been waging a war against colonial rule, but the Malayan upper classes were quite happy to adjust with the colonialists. The tin and rubber owners wanted the struggle against the MCP and its armed wing, the MNLA, to be called an emergency since if it was called a war they would not get compensation through insurance for any losses. So Malaysia had a 12 year long “Emergency” (1948-1960). The war was revived and carried on till 1989. In 1957, Malaysia got independence, and Tunku Abdul Rahman became the Prime Minister. He rejected peace talks under any meaningful terms with the MNLA. A series of anti-democratic laws were passed in the name of fighting communism. These included prohibition on criticisms of the monarchy, restrictions on political work by leftwing forces, and a blanket law against attempting to revive the communist ideology.  The rulers finally signed a peace agreement with the MCP in 1989. However, the laws remain in the books.

The PSM is a registered political party, which has been carrying out open political work among the toiling people, and has had some successes, including in getting an MP elected to the parliament.  In recent times, the PSM has been very active in campaigning against the UMNO-BN regime (United Malay's National Organization) which has been in power since independence. In late June 2011 (24-26 June) its members, along with others, were involved in a Free and Fair Election campaign (Bershi-2) and they carried out a countrywide campaign Udahlah-Bersaralah (“It is Enough, Time to Retire”). As part of that, on the 25th, many of the party’s cadres were distributing leaflets in Kepala Batas, Penang.

The police attacked them and arrested thirty of the activists, including 14 women and 2 minors. In all, across the country, some 96 activists connected to this campaign, including the above mentioned thirty, are reported to have been charged with waging war against the Monarch and trying to revive the communist ideology (Sec. 122 of the Penal Code). This charge carries a non-bailable tag, so they have been remanded in custody. According to news received by us, the arrested comrades have been subjected to systematic violation of rights, though, as normal, denied by the police. In particular, women have been subjected to atrocities, including being asked to change their clothes in front of male police.

The PSM and its allies had planned a public rally on July 9. The regime is claiming that it may use the Internal Security Act, since the proposed rally has an ostensible hidden agenda of destabilizing the state.

  • We condemn the attacks on the PSM. We extend our solidarity to the arrested comrades, and demand their release and withdrawal of all charges.
  • We demand strong action against the police for all violence and torture, including especially the sexual harassment of women in custody.
  • We demand the abrogation of anti-democratic laws including Section 122 of the Penal Code and freedom for working people to express their views.
  • We demand democratic and free elections in Malaysia.

Report from Greece

Report from Greece
Andreas Kloke



The general strike and the siege of Parliament in Athens

A few days before June 15 it was announced that  the government had postponed the vote on the "Midterm Program" (the Memorandum No. 2) until June 28. The protesters decided, therefore, to  perform a "dress rehearsal" on June 15 at Syntagma Square, calling for a first attempt to seal off the Parliament.

Early in the morning protesters began to assemble at the three points around the Greek Parliament 
that had been agreed in advance: tens of thousands of them at Syntagma Square, a few hundreds at the "Evangelismos" metro station, and a larger number along the streets close to the "Panathinaikos Stadium." But a large portion of the 12,000 police officers deployed for the day were also mobilized there, to keep the entrance to parliament open from this direction. Although the number of protesters increased steadily 
throughout the morning, in this area the police started making arrests quite early. Due to the massive police presence, the goal that had been set­sealing off the parliament from all sides­could not be realized. As a result of the general strike, demonstrators from three separate political union departments started marching from other locations in the city: the Aris-Field, the National Museum, and Omonia Square. The first contingent was that of the associations of GSEE (General Federation of the Greek Workers) / ADEDY 
(Trade Union Federation of the Civil Servants), the second one that of the rank and file organizations of the radical left within the unions which distinguish themselves from the PASOK bureaucracy, and the third, as usual, that of PAME (Pan-Hellenic Workers’ Front), a formation controlled by KKE (Communist Party of Greece). All three contingents were quitelarge, which was a bit of a surprise since this was the first time in years that the GSEE / ADEDY had been able to mobilize significant numbers. The marches headed for Syntagma Square, the PAME contingent, however, took up a position some distance away and, as always, separate from all the other demonstrators.

In this way Syntagma Square and the streets around it filled with more than one hundred 
thousand people. In all other major cities massive protest marches and actions also took place. It was, perhaps, the largest, but in any case the most important day of protest in recent years. As a report by the Eleftherotypia notes, after 11 o’clock "currents of anger flooded the center of Athens." The actions proceeded completely peacefully on the part of the protesters until about one o’clock. But then, 
according to the same report, "the riot police (MAT), in wonderful collaboration with a few hundred troublemakers, managed to dissolve the largest part of the protest at Syntagma Square for the time being­by violent clashes, riots, and the indiscriminate use of tear gas." It is secondary whether the violent incidents were initiated by entirely misguided black bloc members or by paid police agents. The result is the same in either case. The police had found their pretext for gassing Syntagma Square and driving the protesters away, step by step. The first contingent which disintegrated and disappeared from the scene when the initial explosive sounds were heard, was that of PAME.

The police tactics, however, were not limited only to intimidation and selective­often brutal and indiscriminate­arrests and detentions, which totalled 40 during the day. It was actually impossible to breathe in the area without gas masks. Over the years, tens of thousands of people have been prevented from taking part in demonstrations using such methods. Thus it seemed, as usual, that the tactics of the 
government and police were successful. The evacuation of Syntagma Square appeared to be 
achieved simultaneously when the tents of the permanent occupiers were destroyed. But this time 
things turned out differently. After the first smoke had cleared later in the afternoon the protesters returned by the tens of thousands, cleared the square of the chemical cartridges and the scattered wreckage, and celebrating the recapture with a spontaneously organized concert attended by many famous musicians. Overall, the resistance movement had achieved a symbolic, but psychologically important, victory. Thus it 
became clear that the dispute goes to the next round, until the "Midterm Program" will be voted on June28.

A head of government temporarily confused

June 15 was not a good day for the government or for supporters and advocates of the Memorandum 
policy. The day before, one deputy left the PASOK faction in protest against what the government was doing. The majority of the ruling party now begins to shrink dangerously. Moreover, life has become uncomfortable for the parliamentarians because none of them can appear in public without provoking angry reactions, possibly even physical attacks. It was astonishing to see Prime Minister G. Papandreou suffer some sort of panic attack. Apparently he was under the spell of the protests and the difficult situation in the ranks of the PASOK deputies­not to mention his inevitable realization that the policy of the Memorandum, which he has followed for 18 months, has failed completely. This is true even in the sense of the official targets set at the beginning. Greece is not only being socially and economically ruined (and to a certain degree this has already happened) but the debt problem itself has proven to be unsolvable.

PASOK came to power in the 2009 elections with the slogans "There's plenty of money" and "For a 
green development model." This was exposed, just weeks after the election victory, as a complete 
fraud. In reality, even before the elections, in the summer of 2009, the leaders of the then 
reigning "New Democracy," but also of PASOK, conducted negotiations on modalities of the 
Memorandum, announced in early 2010, with EU leaders and the IMF. The election campaign was 
obviously set up with the goal of bringing PASOK to power. Only the union bureaucrats of PASOK had 
sufficient hold over the labor movement that they might be able to keep the expected reactions and 
strikes in check, channelling them in a safe manner. ND was involved in numerous scandals and 
was discredited in the eyes of the vast majority of the population­even if it was not yet known that during its reign (2004-09), the country had already been thrown into the financial abyss and was, apparently, ruined irretrievably. While it hould be noted that the policy of the previous PASOK governments under Simitis (1996-2004), and especially the open outbreak of the global capitalist crisis of 2007-8, were already causing the situation to deteriorate, there is no doubt that the economic balance of the years of the ND 
government was a literal disaster.

By early in the afternoon of June 15 Papandreou had come to the conclusion that he could not 
continue as in the past and called Samaras, the current chairman of ND. He offered him a coalition government of the two (so far) major parties, with a suitable candidate to be prime minister. This meant that he himself would resign. Samaras immediately accepted this offer. There was no shortage of dramatic pronouncements, calling for a "necessary national consensus," describing the crisis as an "extremely difficult situation in which all responsible democratic forces must stand together," a "time for new 
beginnings that cut across party boundaries," etc. Karatzaferis, the chairman of the extreme 
right-wing LAOS party along with ND-renegade D. Bakoyianni readily expressed similar views. Of 
course, it would be honorable if a head of government would acknowledge the failure of his policy, resign, and call for elections. But the solution proposed by Papandreou was completely incomprehensible. He opted for a coalition government of the two politically bankrupt parties which have not only proven  their inability in practice to lead the country out of the crisis, but have consistently pushed it deeper toward disaster. It is clear, therefore, that such a coalition government can have no positive result for the Greek people, especially since the policy of the Memorandum will continue to be applied in the future.

The political farce came to a temporary halt when Papandreou changed his mind the same evening and 
issued a statement announcing a new cabinet, implemented on June 17 by the swearing in of the 
new ministers. The main result was that former Minister of Finance, G. Papakonstantinou, previously "the most hated man in Greece", was appointed Environment Minister (!) and the former defense minister and former rival of Papandreou for the PASOK party leadership, V. Venizelos, took over the open seat as the minister of Finance. It is not difficult to predict that this government will have a very short term in office. 
Most likely there will be elections this year and they could lead to a coalition government of PASOK and ND. In no case will the current policy change in any significant respect. Olli Rehn, of the EU Commission, has already stated that Greece will receive the next installment of € 12 billion, if the "Midterm Program" is adopted by the parliament in Athens, while Sarkozy and Merkel appear to have agreed to the same terms. 
The real and open question remains: How will the current Greek government, and all future governments, be able to govern contrary to the clear will of the majority of the population . . .

The Left and the social resistance

But the resistance against the policy of the Memorandum, in spite of its recent and promising successes, is also confronted with major problems. Above all, the workers' movement, despite the frequent general strikes, is and remains far too weak and divided to overthrow the policy of the government. That might change in a relatively short time, and the movement to occupy public spaces can make a substantial 
contribution. The biggest stumbling block, however, is the uninspired and weak attitude of the leaderships of the two leftist parties represented in Parliament: KKE and Synaspismos (SYN)/SYRIZA. Although each is hostile to the other ­ a situation for which the KKE leadership bears the primary responsibility ­ both call for 
immediate new elections. In fact, it's no coincidence that the one-hundred-percent legalistic orientation of these two parties, devoted entirely to bourgeois parliamentarism, can be summarized in this demand. It is their strategic perspective to speculate on the possible success in elections and to hope to be able someday to participate in government coalitions that could be presented in some way as "leftist".

The KKE leadership usually conceals its deeply reformist line with left-sounding phrases. Party 
chairman Papariga said on June 16 that elections could cause “cracks in the reactionary and 
bourgeois political system," leading to a "weak government." At the same time she defamed the 
movement of occupying public spaces in the party’s well-known manner, asserting that it was 
"no real movement," because "not just the socially disadvantaged," but also others were 
occupying the squares­e.g. members of NGO's or persons who might collaborate with the PASOK 
leadership by proposing incorrect alternatives that would serve to perpetuate the existing order.

The SYN leadership, on the other hand, considers the movement of occupation as a sort of auxiliary 
force that could fight for the "democratic, social and political rights and the termination of the current policies," thereby playing the role of a "catalyst." The SYN leadership insists, however, that "a response to the movement can be given by forming a new government with a new majority, including the forces of the Left at their core, so that the country may be exempted from the Memorandum." (All quotations are from 
Eleftherotypia, June 17.) In other words, the goal is a future left-wing government, along with some forces that would currently turn away from PASOK and also, ultimately, KKE (which will have to make a political turn under the pressure of developments). All this is presented in the context of parliamentary democracy, at a time when ever wider layers are losing their illusions in bourgeois parliamentarism. This is expressed 
excellently in the decisions of the public meetings of Syntagma square and many other places around Greece.

In reality, it is of crucial importance to use the recovery of the protest movement and the general strike of June 15 in order to broaden and deepen social resistance. A one-day general strike is not enough. In the days before June 28 there should be a call for a longer general strike. The anti-capitalist and revolutionary left and the rank and file alliance of trade unions could play an important role in promoting this task.

The decision of the People's Assembly of Syntagma Square from June 15 aptly states: "We will stay 
in the squares until all those responsible for the current impasse disappear and do not return 
with others representing the same forces: IMF, Memoranda, Troika, governments, banks, and all of 
those who exploit us. The Midterm Program will not pass no matter who is in power. The maneuvers 
of the political system and the government cannot deceive us. We conduct no negotiations. A vote of 
confidence in the government means consent to the Memorandum and the Midterm Program. On the eve of 
the vote of confidence in the government the People's Assembly of Syntagma Square calls upon 
every single individual union, all the local trade union federations and the trade unions GSEE 
and ADEDY, to declare a general strike on the day this vote will take place, to seal off the 
Parliament with all working people and to demand the overthrow of the government. We all have to 
participate on that day with the goal of bringing about their downfall. We call upon all unions to 
strike repeatedly. Every day at Syntagma Square, every evening in the mass meetings, and on 
Sunday, June 19, all must join together. Solidarity with those injured and arrested! We demand their immediate release!"

(Andreas Kloke, Athens, June 19, 2011)

Ailing king, wise soul and the kingdom of Pakistan

Ailing king, wise soul and the kingdom of Pakistan

by Amjad Nazeer


The unpleasant outcomes of our low priorities in the priority areas are already surfacing in terms of poverty, violence, vulnerability and political discountenance. But our policy gurus rarely listen to the outcries of civil society, educationists and health professionals to give social sector its due importance

When it comes to the demands of increasing health and education budget in Pakistan a worn out argument is put forth. Existence precedes excellence. Real and perceptual threats are magnified to serve the purpose. In other words defence priorities are made superior to our growth in science, technology, and social services. Armour and armament is preferred over physical and mental strength to invest in and flourish.Exemplifying the trend, both allocation and expenditure statistics of the two strategic areas are highly discouraging in the previous and the present fiscal year 2011-2012. The paltry increase, that can hardly quash our annual inflation rate, is no more than a deceptive proceed. Given the declining priorities in our health and education sector, we are fast losing our potentials both in body and spirit.

The unpleasant outcomes of our low priorities in the priority areas are already surfacing in terms of poverty, violence, vulnerability and political discountenance. But our policy gurus rarely listen to the outcries of civil society, educationists and health professionals to give social sector its due importance. The fact is, if anything can guarantee our brighter future, better health and progressive education alone can do so – should we really desire any good for the people of Pakistan in future. The way our policy priorities are set forth reminds me of a thousand years old Alf-Lailvi tale. Borrowing the idea, I recreate and alter it here to reflect the pros and cons of present state of affairs:

“Once upon a time, there was a prestigious king in Persia. To his misfortune, he fell victim to leprosy at the prime of his strength and success. Number of incandescent Hakeems, Kahins and Tabeebs tried their wisdom and dexterity but to no gain. Each nuskhsa, every marham and all enchantments tried any man of magic or medicine in the country failed to effect any relief to the king. Despite all necessary efforts, his condition went down the hill every passing day.

One day a wise and well versed Hakeem, living in oblivion so far, visited him from a remote corner of the Kingdom. Imploring his access to the court, he bowed before the king and sought his permission to speak. “Go ahead”, said the King. “O! King of the Kings”, thus uttered the old Hakeem. “I have heard you of having consumed number of herbs and potions to cure the disease but in vain. Should your majesty allow me, I can assure to heal your ailment without any potion to intake or a balm to apply over your body.

”How come? I have tried scores of drafts and prescriptions internal and external without a modicum of success,” replied the hopeless King.

“It is very much possible Sire, only if you follow my instructions precisely the way I describe”, assured the wise Hakeem.

As agreed by the King, the promising Hakeem visited him next day to work out his claim. Amidst the viziers and amirs seated around in the throne, the wise Hakeem provided a hallow mast of Polo to the king with the following advice. Go and play with it in the afternoon as tough as you can until your hands and whole body profusely sweats. The medicine that I have stuffed inside the grip of the mast will absorb into your blood and body from your perspiring hands. Then return to your palace, take a hot bath and retire to bed straight on. When you will wake up next day morning, ‘with the grace of God,’ your leprosy would have no signs on at all.

The King followed the course very exactly, as described by the learned Hakeem. Opening his eyes next day morning, he could not believe his eyes when he saw his leprosy gone as if it was never there. The king was highly pleased and immensely obliged to the wise Hakeem. Showering him with multiple honours, the King gave him a seat next to his own in the court and announced a mushahira of 1000 tilai sikkey each 30 days and the title of Shams-ul-utbaa,Hakeem-ul-Haziq and Tabeeb-e-Shahi. Hearing this all, the Hakeem said, “I am least interested in my personal honours. Should your majesty desires to oblige me, please give this much wealth to the matabs and madarsas that I intend to install in our watan-e-azeez to advance knowledge and medicine”. The King readily agreed to the proposal.

Vying the Hakeem’s prestige and position in the court, an avaricious and jealous Vizier was on the lookout for an opportunity to poison the King’s ears for long. One smoggy evening he finally got the King to listen to his ambitions. “Tabeeb-e-Shahi belongs to the belligerent neighbouring country and is out here on a mission to kill you. O! Kind King, perceive the danger! Wake up, if you are sleeping,” whispered the fiery-eyed Vizier.

“Do you know what you are saying vizier-e-na-aqbat-andesh, asked the King in anger. “Had he intended to take my life, why would he save me when I was already dying from leprosy?” pressed the king furiously dismissing the Vizier’s ill-conceived thoughts. “To win your trust and confidence your majesty, to spy on, and finally capture our territory at the behest of the neighbouring King”. “This is what he has been hired for,” added the ill-motivated Vizier. The honours and honorariums, the gems and jewels and the gold coins that you waste on matabs and madarsas of Tabeeb-e-Shahhi could be put to better use. In there, he does nothing save producing unnecessarily shrewd minds like his own. The same wealth could be allocated to your sipah-e-salar, your faithful sipah-o-lashkar and their askari tarbiatto glorify our land andto make it naqabil-e-taskheer. They can not only protect, will even expand the powers of your takht-o-taj.

To cut the long story short the Vizier finally got the king on his side for constantly filling his ears against the wise Hakeem. A day came when the king believed the plot and ordered the Hakeem’s head to be chopped off in the public. Just before Jalad-e-Shahi was about to axe his head off. The frail Hakeem pleaded to spare him just for one day to say goodbye to his family and his students in mataib-o-madaris he has opened. The King agreed though hesitatingly. The wise Hakeem returned next day to lay down his life at the King’s feet as he had given his words the day before. When Jalad was about to strike a blow, the victim begged for a moment to speak out a secret to the king. “Allow him”, said the king and thus spoke Hakeem-ul-Hikmat while an axe swinging on his head.

“My God prolong your life O! King, listen and follow it carefully, what I say. There are two Big Books placed in my matab near the city gate. One coloured Blue and another Black. Visit that matab tomorrow morning when I shall no more be in your Kingdom. I will urge you first to open the Blue Book and read it from end to end. Then open the one with Black Cover and do the same page by page. Blue Book will reveal you the secret of my wisdom and knowledge, particularly how did I succeed to cure your leprosy. The Black one will disclose the future of your Kingdom and your people”. The moment he uttered his last words, Jalad detached his head from his body in a single blow.

Curious of knowing the secrets the King rushed to the said Matab early morning next day where he went through the ritual very exactly as was advised by Hakeem-e-Haziq, now slain. The first book with a bright Blue Cover was packed with injunctions and descriptions of science, algebra, philosophy, medicine, poetry and literature mostly far from the interest and aptitude of the King. Dismissing its importance, the king swept to the second Large Book. In his curiosity and keenness the King flipped its pages one after the other till he reached the last. To his disappointment and dismay the Book was empty from the very first safha to the last leaf. Outraged, the King justified his decisions in his heart and showered praises for the Vizier who saved him from evil designs of the late Hakeem. Giving him a large bounty and raising the honorarium for sipah-o-lashker even more, he went to bed in peace.

Next day morning, when he woke up he was shocked to see that his leprosy had returned. The overturning-antidote to leprosy dusted in the Black Book from page to page and the poison of ignorance had attacked the King. With his condition worsening very quickly the King died in a couple of weeks. With the death of the King infighting broke out. madarasas and matabs all got closed in chaos. Reason and sensibility retreated that was emerging in the times of the wise Hakeem. The Kingdom turned weaker and weaker ready for any measure of decline and decay in consistence. No neighbouring country now ever needed to threaten its existence and integrity.

With this end, is there a need to supplement the story with any comment? I don’t think there is any”.

Amjad Nazeer did  M.A in Anthropology from Quid-e-Azam University in 1995. He produced several articles and booklets to promote 'peace', 'human rights' and 'democratization' in Pakistan. Presently doing M.A in Human Rights from Roehampton University, London.

Mass Protests in the Spanish State

Massive outrage

Notes on the day of 19J in Barcelona
Josep María Antentas, Esther Vivas

 

The level of outrage has once again exceeded all expectations, taking to the streets en masse, and showing the gap that exists between those who are angry and political institutions. From the 19 May (15M) to the 19 June (19J), forces have come together and unity has been created, not just the local areas (protest camps and neighborhood groups), but broader segments of society who identify with our fierce condemnation of the political class and the financial and banking system which are responsible for this crisis. The slogan "we are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers" summarizes both demands.

The indignad@s (indignants) have unambiguously pointed the finger at those who have buckeld under the pressure of the "markets" and who in demanding that others tighten their belts, have not done so themselves. "We want to see politicians earning pitiful salaries of 1,000 euros a month" was one of the enthusiastically applauded slogans at the rally. This democracy has proved increasingly empty of content for a public prepared to take control over their own lives. One vote every four years is not enough for those who argue that politics must involve the daily exercise of their rights, from day to day and from the bottom up.

The attempt by the authorties to contain the movement, following the action at the Catalan Parliament on 15J, has not been able to cope with the collective social outrage that surpasses even that of the men and women who were in the protest camps. Anyone who believes that the movement is merely a passing phase of youthful activists was wrong. So are those who consider it to be simply a problem of public order. The usual suspects have turned into a multitude. Two years and nine months of crisis weighed heavily. The current movement expresses a deep social malaise that has finally emerged into the open and, as usual, without warning and in new ways. We are not part of a cyclical or passing phenomenon, but instead privy to the first stirrings of a new cycle of political activity, of which 15M and the protest camps acted as a springboard.

Over the last month we have regained confidence in collective action. It has gone from skepticism and resignation to "yes we can". The riots in the Arab world, mass demonstrations in Greece and "will not pay for your crisis" of the Icelandic people have weighed heavily on the collective imagination and have given impetus to a restoring of confidence in the "we", the colective political subject. The "globalization of resistance" of that anti-globalization movement, dating back more than ten years, has been revived again in a very different scenario, marked by the crisis.

After a day of 15J, where the movement was engaged in a battle for legitimacy, 19J was presented as a test for the movement to show its strength in the face of the attacks it has received. It needed to translate into action in the street the popular support that it has awakened. And that is exactly what it has achieved. The 19J has shown the expansion of the movement, its ability to mobilise en masse and its explosive expansion in a very short time. Its growth since the 15M is not only quantitative but also qualitative in terms of the diversification of its social base and its generational composition.

Now what? The challenges of moving to strengthen its roots involve strenthening the grassroots, establishing local assemblies and strengthening stable organisational mechanisms. The movement also needs to try to develop links with the working class, sectors in struggle and militant trade unionists, and to keep up the pressure on the main trade unions, who are puzzled by a change in the social and political landscape that they had not anticipated. It is necessary to achieve concrete victories. The prevention of several evictions, although they may be small and very defensive gains, point the way and bring new energy. More generally, the movement faces the challenge of combining its general character, its critique of the current global economic model and the political class, with the strengthening of concrete struggles against the cuts and policies that seek to transfer the cost of the crisis on to those who can least afford it.

The 19J has marked a turning point that ends the first phase which started with the 15M, and prepares the next phase of a movement that has only just begun.

-Josep María Antentas is a member of the editorial board of the magazine Viento Sur, and a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

-Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

Massive popular uprising in Greece

Massive popular uprising in Greece

Hundreds of thousands of Greek “Outraged” walk out to wage war against their neoliberal persecutors
Yorgos Mitralias

 

Two weeks after it started the Greek movement of ‘outraged’ people has the main squares in all cities overflowing with crowds that shout their anger, and makes the Papandreou government and its local and international supporters tremble. It is now more than just a protest movement or even a massive mobilization against austerity measures. It has turned into a genuine popular uprising that is sweeping over the country. An uprising that makes it know at large its refusal to pay for ‘their crisis’ or ‘their debt’ while vomiting the two big neoliberal parties, if not the whole political world in complete disarray.

How many were there on Syntagma square (Constitution square) in the centre of Athens, just in front of the Parliament building on Sunday 5 June 2011? Difficult to say since one of the characteristic features of such popular gatherings is that there is no key event (speech or concert) and that people come and go. But according to people in charge of the Athens underground, who know how to assess the numbers of passengers, there were at least 250,000 people converging on Syntagma on that memorable night! Actually several hundreds of thousands of people if we add the ‘historic’ gatherings that took place on the main squares of other Greek cities (see map).

At this juncture we should however raise the question: how can such a mass movement that is shaking the Greek government (in which the EU has a particular interest) not be mentioned at all in Western medias? For these first twelve days there was virtually not a word, not an image of those unprecedented crowds shouting their anger against the IMF, the European Commission, the ‘Troika’ (IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank), and against Frau Merkel and the international neoliberal leaders. Nothing. Except occasionally a few lines about ‘hundreds of demonstrators’ in the streets of Athens, after a call by the Greek trade unions. This testifies to a strange predilection for scrawny demos of TU bureaucrats while a few hundred yards further huge crowds were demonstrating late into the night for days and weeks on end.

This is indeed a new form of censorship. A well-organized political censorship motivated by the fear this Greek movement might contaminate the rest of Europe! Confronted as we are with this new weapon used by the Holy Alliance of modern times, we have to respond together both to expose this scandal and to find ways of circumventing such prohibition to inform public opinions, through developing communication among social movements throughout Europe and at once creating and reinforcing our own alternative media…

Going back to the Greek ‘Outraged’, or Aganaktismeni, we have to note that the movement is getting more and more rooted among lower classes against a Greek society that has been shaped by 25 years of an absolute domination of a cynic, nationalist, racist and individualist neoliberal ideology that turned everything into commodities. This is why the resulting image is often contradictory, mixing as it does the best and the worst among ideas and actions! For instance when the same person displays a Greek nationalism verging on racism while waving a Tunisian (or Spanish, Egyptian, Portuguese, Irish, Argentinian) flag to show his internationalist solidarity with those peoples.

Should we therefore conclude that those demonstrators are schizophrenic? Of course not. As there are no miracles, or politically ‘pure’ social uprisings, the movement is becoming gradually more radical while still branded by those 25 years of moral and social disaster. But mind: all its ‘shortcomings’ are subsume into its main feature, namely its radical rejection of the Memorandum, of the Troika, the public debt, the government, austerity, corruption, a fictional parliamentary democracy, the European Commission, in short of the whole system!

It is surely not by chance if for the past two weeks demonstrators shout such phrases as ‘We owe nothing, we sell nothing, we pay nothing’, ‘We do not sell or sell ourselves’, ‘Let them all go, Memorandum, Troika, government and debt’ or ‘We’ll stay until they go’. Such catchwords do unite all demonstrators as indeed all that is related to their refusal to pay for the public debt. [1] This is why the campaign for an audit Commission of the public debt is a great success throughout the country. Its stall in the middle of Syntagma square is constantly besieged by a crowd of people eager to sign the call or to offer their services as voluntary helpers… [2]

While they were first completely disorganized the Syntagma Aganaktismeni have gradually developed an organization that culminates in the popular Assembly held every night at 9 and drawing several hundreds speakers in front of an attentive audience of thousands. Debates are often of really great quality (for instance on the public debt), actually much better than anything that can be seen on the major television channels. This in spite of the surrounding noise (we stand in the middle of a city with 4 million inhabitants), dozens of thousands of people constantly moving, and particularly the very diverse composition of those huge audiences in the midst of a permanent encampment that looks at times like some Tower of Babel.

All the qualities of direct democracy as experimented day after day on Syntagma should not blind us to its weaknesses, its ambiguities or indeed its defects as its initial allergy to anything that might remind of a political party or a trade union or an established collectivity. While it has to be acknowledged that such rejection is a dominant feature among the Aganaktismeni, who tend to reject the political world as a whole, we should note the dramatic development of the Popular Assembly, both in Athens and in Thessaloniki, that shifted from a rejection of trade unions to the invitation that they should come and demonstrate with them on Syntagma.

Obviously, as days went by, the political landscape on Syntagma square clarified, with the popular right and far right located in the higher section, in front of Parliament, and the anarchist and radical left on the square itself, with control on the popular assembly and the permanent encampment. Of course, though the radical left is dominant and tinges with deep red all events and demonstrations on Syntagma, this does not mean that the various components of the right, from populist, to nationalist, to racist and even neonazi, do not further attempt to highjack this massive popular movement. They will endure and it will very much depend on the ability of the movement’s avant-garde to root it properly in neighbourhoods, workplaces and schools while defining clear goals that throw bridges between huge immediate needs and a vindictive outrage against the system.

While fairly different from the similar movement in Spain through its dimensions, its social composition, its radical nature and its political heterogeneity, the movement on Syntagma shares with Tahrir square in Cairo and Puerta del Sol in Madrid the same hatred against the economic and political elite that has grabbed and emptied of any significance bourgeois parliamentary democracy in times of arrogant and inhuman neoliberalism. The movement is stirred by the same non violent democratic and participative urge that is to be found in all popular uprisings in the early 21st century.

Our conclusion can only be provisional: whatever is to come (and the consequences may be cataclysmic), the current Greek movement will have marked a turning point in the history of the country. From now on everything is possible and nothing will ever be the same again.

Athens, 8th of June 2011

* Translated by Christine Pagnoulle (CADTM).

-Yorgos Mitralias is founding member of the Greek Committee Against the Debt, which is affiliated to the international network of CADTM (www.cadtm.org ). See the web site of the Greek Committee : http://www.contra-xreos.gr/

NOTES

[1] See Greece the very symbol of illegitimate debt.

[2] See Why a debt audit in Greece.

ENDLESS WAVE OF BRUTALITY AGAINST WOMEN IN HARIPUR WHAT’S THE WAY OUT…?




ENDLESS WAVE OF BRUTALITY AGAINST WOMEN IN HARIPUR
WHAT’S THE WAY OUT…?

Three consecutive incidents of violence against women in a short span of two weeks in Haripur district is indication of centuries’ old vicious culture of treating woman with contempt and exposing them to harsh punishment for the “mistakes” they are hardly responsible. In all of the three cases male members of the victims’ families emerged as the root cause of the barbaric treatment the poor women faced.
Haripur based civil society organization, SAHARA Development Foundation (SDF), Human Development Organization (HDO), and Rural Development Project (RDP) to the best of their efforts contesting these cases by supporting the victims and their traumatized families, mobilizing media both at national and international levels, extended them help in registration of cases against the perpetrators and affording them facility of free legal assistance.

Husband disfigures spouse to punish for being issueless
Ansar Bibi 35 daughter of Muhammad Afzal of village Choee Khanpur was married to a truck driver Muhammad Riaz about 20 years back when she was barely 15 years old while her spouse was 25 years older than her.
A house, one kenal of land and 10,000 was fixed as her dower at the time of nikah. They enjoyed very good marital relations to start with, but with the passage of time the relations started getting bitter as Riaz behaved with more harshly, used abusive language, thrash her almost every second day without any rhyme or reason. And each quarrel rooted in the taunts of being issueless. She applied all the available methods of treatment, but to no avail. During this period Riaz used every tactic of persuading her for the second marriage that he wanted to solemnize with a woman of a neighboring village with whom he fled the home and got married in Karachi about a year back. Now they have a girl child. After some time when he got back home his behavior got further hostile and after second marriage Riaz, on the instigation of his second wife started a vilifying her on a baseless relation that he often accused her of having illicit relation with one of his first cousins namely Ashiq Hussain. But every time she denied and proved it wrong.
However on the evening of June 17 when Ashiq was again in their home Riaz locked him in a room and started crying that Ashiq and Ansar were caught red handed in indecent condition. As he had already made of plan of getting rid of her he with the help of two cousins namely Sakhawat and Khalid both are the retired army personnel chopped her nose with knife and handed himself and Ashiq over to the police narrating the same fictitious story of catching them from a room. They also deprived her of the gold rings that she was wearing at the time of attack.
“He should have better finished my life rather than exposing me to the trauma of living with the stigma of a woman of bad character”, said Ansar Bibi talking to the officials of local NGOs from the bed of ENT ward of District Headquarter Hospital Haripur.

Handicap girl sexually assaulted by her uncle dies under unexplained circumstances
This second case was reported from the suburban limits of Haripur where a handicapped girl was raped by her uncle (husband of her paternal aunt). The girl died at a private hospital after ten days.
Mahvish Bibi 20, daughter of Muhammad Arif a Rickshaw driver of Muhalla Babu was born as deaf and dumb and due to these complications she was physically frail and abnormal than other three siblings. She was student of 6th grade at the school of special children in Khalabat Township.
One June 8 when her mother Shamim was out of the home in connection with the death of a relative in village Malikyar, leaving behind Mehvish Bibi with her grandfather Taj Muhammad and his son in law Jamil Ahmed son of Faqeer Muhammad of Taxila.
Mehvish was sleeping in a room while her grandfather and the accused were in another room during the day time. Her grandfather left the home for getting milk from a nearby shop when the accused, who was also a bus driver, entered the room of the Mehvish and raped her.
When her mother got back she noticed that the girl was terrified and her shalwar was carrying blood stains and the accused was also missing. The victim narrated her ordeal through sing language who later took her to local police station where the case was registered against the accused and police arrested him. He was now in jail while the medical of the victim confirmed that she was raped.
The traumatized victim, according to her mother stopped taking meals and her condition started getting bad to worst and on 18 June she was admitted at a local hospital with the complaint of severe stomach pain but she died on 19th of June. According to doctors report cardiovascular pulmonary arrest was the cause of the death however her parents did not agree to carry out autopsy of the body.

A 45 year old woman was paraded naked
The third case of violence was occurred in Neelor Bala village of union council Beer. In this village a woman namely Shahnaz Bibi 45 wife of Muhammad Sarwar was stripped and paraded naked in the village alleys on June 7. She was punished for her son’s“offence” who, along with his cousin Rashid, was accused of having illicit relation with a married woman Shumaial w/o Suleman. The woman got pregnant and her husband divorced her on the decision of a jirga headed by a local landlord Bahseer Abbasi. The jirga also reportedly instigated Suleman and his brothers Manzoor, Imran and Arslan for settling scores with the Shahnaz’s family. Four brothers also set on fire the house of Rashid who had already fled the village out of the fear of backlash.
Woman was approached by the officials of SAHARA, HDO and RDP organizations and her statement was recorded before the press and in the court. With active advocacy the victim women was relocated to the official residence of district government where she was provided with police security and three times meals. Alleged rape victim Shumaila was also approached and two police cops were also got deployed at her residence in village Bandi Mughlan for her security.
All the victim women are being given the facility of free legal assistance and the case was likely to come into trial within couple of weeks and the victims would be represented by the legal committee of above three organizations.

We heartedly request Govt. bodies, civil society organizations and media for the collective efforts to support these victims. All of these victims and their families are in need of legal and social protection, financial and livelihood rehabilitation and compensation against their social disgrace.
Together we can pressurize Govt. bodies, judiciary and law enforcing agencies for the fair and unbiased trial which could enable victims and their families in accessing justice and lead culprits towards due punishment; otherwise this wave of brutality against women would remain endless…

M. Rafique
SAHARA Development Foundation
Naseem Town, Sector B
Sawat mill colony
Haripur (KPK) Pakistan

Core vs Periphery in the EU

Core vs Periphery in the EU

Eric Toussaint[1] (CADTM)

 

From 1980 to 2004 joining the European Union was quite popular among large sections of the populations in concerned countries. Portuguese, Greek and Spanish citizens regarded their countries’ participation in the European integration both as a guarantee of democratic stability (indeed all three of them were emerging from a period of dictatorship[2]) and as a real opportunity to improve living conditions (there were significant transfers from richer countries in the EU towards the new members from the Mediterranean region during the first years of their adhesion[3]). Their joining the euro zone during the 2000s was also well received since it went together with increased consumption levels, albeit financed on credit. Something similar occurred among countries of the former Eastern bloc: there too, people saw joining the EU as a guarantee of democratic stability, a perspective of transfers, the possibility to move around within the Union, perhaps even of finding a better paid job in the West, and access to credit to finance consumption. However, very soon, the transferred amounts were drastically reduced and some productive sectors, particularly farming, were badly affected by competition with much more industrialized and competitive West European agrobusiness.

 

The years 2008-2010 marked a turning point in the perception European peoples have of the EU. Many became quite critical, which was largely a result of the European Commission accumulating neoliberal measures while claiming to promote the notorious ‘free and undistorted competition’, to which were added from 2009-2010 the crisis of the euro and the deep impact of the economic crisis.

 

Core and Periphery within the EU

 

The hierarchical relationship at global level with a ‘Core’ consisting of the US, the EU andJapan (the Triad) and a Periphery consisting of so-called ‘developing’ countries is reproduced within the 27 member states of the EU. The Core consists here of the most powerful countries among which Germany and France, but also the UK, Italy and the former Benelux (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg). The Periphery is subjected to decisions made by this hegemonic Core and mainly consists of countries lying to the south and east of the EU, not forgetting Ireland to the West. At the more limited level of the euro zone (16 countries),[4] the same distinction resulted in the acronym PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), that has prompted outragously racist puns.

 

The EU’s refusal to develop genuinely common policies to help new members reduce their economic drawbacks compared with the Core is largely responsible for structural discrepancies that work against the process of European integration.

 

Over the last ten years Germany (as well as the Netherlands and Austria) has developed a neo-mercantilist policy: it has increased its exports particularly within the EU and the euro zone by reducing workers’ wages. In September 2010 in Germany 7.3 million wage earners only had a small part-time job paid 400 (four hundred) euros a month.[5] So its competitiveness has clearly increased compared with its partners, particularly countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, but also Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary (which do not belong to the euro zone). Those other countries had to face a growing trade deficit towards Germany and other countries of the Core. Their current balance-of-payment deficits reflect surpluses in countries of the Core, especially Germany. Such financial deficits, which can be either private or public, have to be compensated for by external contributions: foreign investments or debts, i.e. loans. The current balance deficit can be traced for the most part to private deficits, a majority of which were financed by loans from banks of the Core, for investments were relatively limited (except in the case of Spain) or were neutralized by significant capital outflow in the guise of TNCs taking their profits home. In some Eastern European countries (Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) such profit repatriation (capital outflow) have been definitely more significant than investments (capital inflow).[6]

 

It can thus be argued that the debts to be paid by countries of the Periphery are essentially due to the behaviour of the private sector within the EU. Unable to compete with the Core, companies of the private sectors have contracted debts with banks of the Core but also with internal agents as the economy of these countries is increasingly controled by the financial sector since they joined the euro zone. Consumption boomed in those countries and in some of them (Spain, Ireland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria) a real estate bubble finally burst.

 

Higher and higher interest rates paid by countries of the Periphery for new loans contracted since the crisis started will further drain capital from the Periphery to the Core (to the private financial institutions that buy debt securities issued by countries of the Periphery orgovernments of the Core that are involved in ‘aid plans’ by lending money at 5.2% interest rate in the case of Greece). Germany, France and Austria, for instance, borrow at 2% and lend at 5.2%. This is a highly profitable move. Financial markets demand double or triple interest rates compared with 2007-2008 and the borrowed amounts are impressive. The money lent by countries of the Core to Greece, Ireland or Portugal is paid back to private banks in countries of the Core, and interest rates with these banks are 10% or more. There is indeed a drain on resources from the Periphery to the Core.

 

On the other hand, given the productivity edge of Germany and of other countries of the Periphery, financial drain also occurs through trade exchanges according the mechanism of unequal exchange Marx describes in Das KapitalCapitals invested in foreign trade can yield a higher rate of profit, because, in the first place, there is competition with commodities produced in other countries with inferior production facilities, so that the more advanced country sells its goods above their value even though cheaper than the competing countries. [. . . ] The same may obtain in relation to the country, to which commodities are exported and to that from which commodities are imported; namely, the latter may offer more materialised labour in kind than it receives, and yet thereby receive commodities cheaper than it could produce them.[7]

 

Democratic foundation of another European Union based on solidarity

 

Several provisions in the treaties that preside over the EU, the euro zone and the ECB have to be cancelled. For instance, we must do away with articles 63 and 125 of the Lisbon Treaty that prohibit any move of capitals as well as any aid to a state in difficult circumstances. We should also do away with the Stability and Growth Pact. And replace the current treaties with new ones in the context of a genuinely democratic constituent process so as to achieve a pact of solidarity among peoples that is mindful of both employment and the environment.

We must thoroughly revise the monetary policy as well as the status and practice of the ECB. The inability of the political power to force the ECB to create money is a heavy handicap. When it set the ECB above governments and thus above the peoples, the EU made a disastrous choice: it subjected man to money instead of the other way round.

A Europe based on solidarity and cooperation must allow us to turn away from competition, which draws all standards down. The neoliberal logic has resulted in the crisis and proved a failure. It pushed social indicators down: less social protection, fewer jobs, less public services. The minority that benefited from the crisis did so by tramping on the rights of others. Those who are guilty are rewarded while victims have to pay! We must change this untenable logic, on which all founding texts of the EU are based, with the Stability and Growth Pact in the lead. More than ever, we must strive toward another Europe, based on cooperation among states and solidarity among peoples.

 

This new democratized Europe must strive to establish non negotiable principles. It must uphold and improve social and fiscal justice, make choices that will raise the standard of living of its inhabitants, engage in arms reduction and a radical decrease in military spending (including withdrawing European troops from Afghanistan and leaving NATO), choose sustainable energies so as to avoid nuclear power, and refuse genetically modified organisms (GMO). Furthermore, Europe must resolutely put an end to its "besieged fortress" policy regarding candidates for immigration, so that it can become a partner trusted for its fairness and true solidarity towards the peoples of the South.

 

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle.

 



[1] Éric Toussaint, doctor in political sciences (universities of Liège and Paris VIII), president of CADTM Belgium, member of the President’s Commission for a full audit of Ecuador’s debt (CAIC), member of ATTAC France’s scientific council, author or co-author of several booksDebt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers (Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010, with Damien Millet), Your Money or Your Life!: The Tyranny of Global Finance(Haymarket Press, Chicago, 2005), The World Bank: A Critical Primer (Pluto Press, London, 2007). Most recent book (June 2011): La Dette ou la Vie, Aden-CADTM, 2011 (collection of essays edited by Damien Millet and Eric Toussaint, not yet published in English).

[2] Salazar’s and Caetano’s regimes in Portugal (1933-1974), Franco’s dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975), military junta in Greece (1967-1974).

[3] Belonging to the EU was definitely less popular in rich countries of the north of Europe (UK, Scandinavian countries).

[4] In 1999 the euro zone included eleven countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. They were joined by Greece in 2001, Slovenia in 2007, Cyprus and Malta in 2008, Slovakia in 2009, and Estonia in 2011.

[5] Frédéric Lemaître in Le Monde, 17 May 2011

[6] Ozlem Onaran, “Fiscal Crisis in Europe or a Crisis of Distribution?”, Department of Economics, SOAS

Discussion Paper n°18, 2010.

 

[7] Karl Marx, Vol. III, Part III, Chapter V, Foreign Trade

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-III.pdf

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