Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

GREECE The victory of the "no" announces decisive battles against the Troika

The victory of the "no" announces decisive battles against the Troika

Wednesday 8 July 2015, by Fourth International
The Secretariat of the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International made this statement on 7 July 2015.

The Greek "no" is a resounding slap in the face for the leaders of the Troïka, in the first rank of whom are the political leaders of the European conservative and social-democratic parties.

More than 61 per cent of "no" votes - when for more than a week every conceivable means was used to combat such a vote:

• in Europe, with a direct campaign for the "yes" of all the European leaders, press campaigns by the major international media, blackmail by the ECB;

• in Greece, a campaign by the entire press and the private TV stations, disseminating throughout the week polls predicting a victory of the "yes"; blackmail by employers, putting pressure on their employees to participate in “yes” demonstrations and threatening to sack them if the “no” was victorious; and in parallel the position of the trade union bureaucracy linked to PASOK, against the referendum, backed up by the leadership of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) ...

The result is, however, crystal clear: the "no" was the vote of the workers, the unemployed, the popular neighbourhoods of town and country, the youth; the "yes" was the vote of the most privileged layers of society and the most exclusive neighbourhoods of Athens - it was in a majority only in the over-65 age group.

The European leaders could not, as they had done in 2011, when Papandreou abandoned the referendum, prevent a democratic vote where it was not a question of choosing which party would apply the austerity policies dictated by the banks and big business, but of taking a clear position for or against these policies. This vote is unprecedented in Europe.

Whereas Syriza had won 2.2 million votes in January, the "no" gathered 3.5 million votes, with a turnout one per cent less than in January. Even adding on the voters of ANEL and part of those of the fascist Golden Dawn (which called for a "no" vote), the polarization around Syriza brought more than 600,000 votes, accentuating the crisis of the Greek representatives of the Troïka, New Democracy (ND), PASOK and To Potami. The crises of PASOK and ND were accentuated, symbolized by the resignation of their leaders within a few days of each other. The hope of the Troïka, echoed by all the media, of seeing a “respectable” government take over quickly went up in smoke.

The European leaders have just lost a second round in Greece. Having worn out the traditional parties over five years by an unbearable pressure on the Greek people, they hoped that the arrival of Syriza in January would be a brief interlude of a few weeks before the return of "serious people" to head Greece. After the retreat by Tsipras at the time of the agreement on February 20, they gambled on a quick surrender, and at the end of June, they counted on a victory of the "yes." Merkel and Hollande made the calculation that thanks to the strangulation of the banks, the referendum would bring Tsipras to his knees, forcing him to resign or to submit.

As the third round begins, the reasoning is the same: after the shock of their defeat, the European leaders are bouncing back with their usual arrogance. They say that they "respect" the vote of the Greek people, while announcing that they will not take account of it. They do not intend to change their policies in any way, and for them the cancellation of the debt, or even debt relief, is not a subject to be discussed.

There are voices in the camp of the capitalist leaders in favour of accepting at least a partial abandonment of the debt: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) itself recognizes the absurdity of asking Greece to strangle its economy and increase its debt to reimburse the institutions. The US administration is also concerned that pushing Greece out of the euro zone could create both a crisis of the European Union as a whole and a risk of a geostrategic shift on the borders of Europe.

But Angela Merkel and the European leaders want to impose a political defeat on the Greek people and their government. Agreeing to cancel a 300 billion euro debt is clearly not an economic problem: the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to create and inject 1,100 billion euros into the European economy by the end of 2016 to counter deflation.

It is a political choice, because for them it is out of the question to accept that a people, by its sovereign choice, can refuse to implement the decisions of the European institutions.

The proof has just been given to everyone that the European Union and its institutions are not a neutral space or framework. They are political constructions, organized by the capitalists in order to escape from any popular control in the implementation of their interests. This construction will not be reformed. It is illusory to seek to conduct an alternative policy while accepting the sovereignty of these autocratic institutions.

Therefore, in the coming days, with a new relationship of forces, the alternative for the Greek government will be the same as in the previous weeks: accept an agreement that continues and worsens the attacks against the population or take another road, that of a radical break.

Tsipras was ready for more concessions, but what the Troïka was aiming for was the liquidation of the Syriza experience. Agreement without capitulation became impossible. This is what led Tsipras to organize the referendum and to rally the Greek people against the diktats of the Troïka. The policy of the "international institutions" was overwhelmingly rejected last Sunday. As a result the mandate from the Greek people is unambiguous: it expresses a radical rejection of an agreement that prolongs unemployment, poverty, the dismantling of social rights and public services.

This mandate requires the termination of the payment of the illegitimate and odious debt, a path that, with the nationalization and control of the banking system, gives the Greek people sovereignty over its political, economic and social choices. These are the choices expressed by the Greek left, mainly the left of Syriza and the activists of Antarsya, who contributed to the victory of the “no”.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE),by calling for a spoiled ballot, refused to choose between the "no" to the Troika and the "yes" to the international institutions. This is an unacceptable sectarian policy.

The success of the "no" is obviously presented outside of Greece as a "no to Europe" in order to obscure in the eyes of the people of Europe its political significance: it is a “no” to austerity policies.

Despite this, all over Europe, numerous demonstrations of support to the Greek people have taken place. Those who took to the streets were expressing a simple thing: contrary to what official propaganda seeks to inculcate, the interests of the exploited classes in Europe do not lie behind the governments who run the European Union, but on the side of the Greek people and of Syriza, who are fighting austerity.

Resistance to austerity is possible. The victories of Syriza, like the advances of Podemos in the Spanish state, show the road to take in all the countries of Europe: that of building a political representation of the exploited, against the capitalist diktats.

Throughout the European Union, we must demand the cancellation of the illegitimate debt that is strangling the Greek people and deny all legitimacy to the criminal austerity policies.

The battle has just begun, because what is involved is a clash between the Greek people and, potentially, all the peoples of Europe and the institutions of the Troïka. In this battle, the Greeks who have mobilized against austerity will have need of the unity of all their forces against the aggressiveness of the Troïka and the European leaders. The workers of Europe, who are being hit by the same policies, will have to mobilize alongside the Greek social and political movement in opposition to austerity, alongside the Greek government in all the measures it may take to resist the diktat of the Troïka.

Indian Left – Praful Bidwai: Never afraid to write what he believed in

Indian Left – Praful Bidwai: Never afraid to write what he believed in

25 June 2015

Praful Bidwai passed away in Amsterdam on June 23. He was in the Dutch capital for the annual Transnational Institute Fellows’ Meeting. Bidwai was an outstanding journalist who worked with some of the most reputed papers of his time, but also established a reputation for himself as an independent writer. He was deeply interested in, passionate about, the politics of development. He wrote extensively on nuclear disarmament and climate change and co-authored several books on the subject.

Praful came from a science background, but he was interested in everything. Human rights, communal issues, ecology, but it was nuclear power and its uses that particularly caught his attention.

Praful was an activist for nuclear disarmament for many years. He founded the Coalition of Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in 2000, the year after the release of our book on the question of India’s nuclearisation.

Never afraid to voice what he believed in, Praful once penned an article in the Times of India, criticising the Department of Atomic Energy’s Nuclear Energy Programme.
It was a fiery exposé in which he revealed monetary as well as strategic issues within the programme. This article led to the then Chairman of the DAE attacking Praful for being anti-patriotic. But that was Praful. He was courageous, consistent, and articulate.

Praful was a strong voice of the Left in India, in fact, he had authored a book on the Indian Left which will be published soon. He was incredibly anti-communal and championed civil liberty and secularism. I was lucky enough to collaborate with him on a number of projects, and in 2000, Praful and I were co-awarded the International Peace Bureau’s Sean MacBride Peace Prize.

Praful was a great lover of Indian classical music. He had trained as a vocalist, and thoroughly enjoyed music. A bachelor, Praful once wrote an article clearly explaining why he was against the institution of marriage. But this lack of a “real” family meant that his friends were his family. He had an extraordinarily wide range of friends, and the bonds that he shared with those closest to him were nothing short of familial. His loss is felt very deeply by all of us fortunate enough to have known him.

Achin Vanaik

* The Indian Express. First Published on: June 25, 2015 2:04 am. Updated: June 25, 2015 9:04 am:

No more magical thinking

No more magical thinking

This Changes Everything:

Capitalism vs. the Climate

Every impatient radical familiar enough with the workings of capitalism and its primal role in human suffering longs at some point for others to take the red pill Morpheus offers Neo in The Matrix, which would allow people to see the world as it truly is. We hope for some type of wakeup call that strips away the web of illusions sewn by the moneyed class, corporate media, right-wing think tanks, and liberal defenders of the system. The quickening pace of global warming today strengthens this urge. 

But as a dear comrade recently reminded this author, there are no shortcuts. No provocative stunts, silver bullets, or Hollywood plot devices can mature a movement overnight. But what can accelerate the political development of a movement is the combination of a crisis, political paralysis, and growing struggle that forces movement leaders and thinkers to question theoretical assumptions and failed strategies. Naomi Klein’s new book is that process writ large, as well as a dynamic new tool for socialists inside the environmental movement arguing for a strategic reorientation.

Five years in the making, Klein’s This Changes Everything is a thoroughly researched account of our political moment. She confesses in the opening pages that she denied the severity of the climate crisis for longer than she cares to admit. Readers familiar with her previous books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, know that Klein, though a fierce critic of neoliberalism, is not a revolutionary, or at least not yet. Klein admits that writing This Changes Everything did not begin as a condemnation of capitalism, but the historical record forced that conclusion. This transformation is one of the book’s greatest strengths, one that revolutionaries should use to develop more anticapitalists.

Klein published the book with Simon & Schuster rather than a smaller progressive publisher in order to target a mainstream audience through wider distribution, landing on the New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller list for the last quarter of 2014. Activists have reported unusual interest in book discussions. Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the 21st Century provoked similar interest. In growing numbers, people are clearly beginning to question the system.

The loud blue cover and inclusion of “Capitalism vs. the Planet” in the title are an interesting bellwether. The opening lines on the book jacket reveal a confidence to promote a more radical analysis that a growing movement and terrifying reality have inspired: “Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.”

Revolutionaries eager to see the movement break with its illusions in the system will, on the strength of Klein’s economic analysis, likely be underwhelmed but supportive. Klein raises all the right questions, but her work lacks cohesiveness in its solutions, often simply reflecting the current political sensibilities of the movement. Nevertheless, the quality of Klein’s work as an investigative journalist is unquestionable. 

In compelling detail, she explores a broad range of questions around the climate crisis and weaves them into a highly readable narrative aimed at a liberal audience, urging them to abandon the magical thinking that we can solve the crisis with market-based solutions and more progressive politicians. John Riddell’s excellent review on his “Marxist Essays and Commentary” site, “Naomi Klein: ‘Only mass social movements can save us,’” draws out the book’s most important themes, which is where revolutionaries should begin. 

On closer examination, the Keynesian solutions Klein poses, like “Scandinavian-style Social Democracy,” sometimes contradict her “change the system” message in other parts of the book. Reforms are sometimes suggested as ends in themselves that will collectively turn the tide. At the same time, Klein is sober enough about ideological warfare and a threatened ruling class to know that the Right will not sit idly by. The question then becomes how to defend any victory for our side against the fossil fuel industry and the revolutionary dynamic this produces. 

Klein’s Keynesian critique of capitalism cuts her economic analysis short, leaving readers to fill in the gaps as to why market economies can’t be reigned in. Capitalism’s internal dynamics and growth fetish are never explored in depth. Neoliberalism is explained more as an optional ideology hatched by reactionaries rather than as a systematic response born of crises, stagnation, and the internal logic of capitalism. 

Marx and Engels’s critique of capitalism would be worth a few pages of reflection, but Marx gets only half a sentence mention. Klein points out how capitalism is incapable of changing course quickly enough as it currently operates, but offers only a general call for transcendence that the reader can interpret in multiple ways. Regardless, there is still much to absorb from Klein taking direct aim at the bankrupt corporate strategies of professional environmentalists while highlighting economic dynamics that make the necessary change impossible under the current system. 

Klein begins with the provocative premise that the Right understands the threat of climate change better than centrists, “who are still insisting that the response can be gradual and painless and that we don’t need to go to war with anybody, including the fossil fuel companies.” The Right, Klein claims, realizes that the logical conclusion to an honest assessment of the crisis would lead us to call for:

  • Massive state intervention in the economy
  • The reversal of a successful forty-years’ neoliberal ideological campaign for deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and free trade
  • The potential confiscation of $27 trillion in carbon assets
  • The nationalization and democratization of the energy sector, and 
  • The revival of the Left

This is why the Right has worked so hard to deny the existence of climate change. Klein quotes Heartland president Joseph Bast who bluntly states that “Climate change is the perfect thing [for the Left]. . .. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the Left] wanted to do anyway.” Another Heartland speaker, James Delingpole, articulated what that might mean: “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” 

While such progressive reforms are essential to stop climate change, Klein notes that the Left, progressive organizations, and the labor movement are weak and disorganized, largely as a result of the ruling class’s neoliberal assault on workers and the social movements. Instead of resisting this neoliberal offensive, the liberal establishment has largely joined it. As a result, Klein argues, all warnings about global warming, which became mainstream news after James Hansen’s testimony before Congress in 1988, have gone unheeded. 

Because of this bad timing, the climate crisis is now much worse. Klein is not hopeless, nor should we be. There is still time enough for our side to win substantial reforms, which would then pose the question of revolution, but the time limit for when we must act is partially dictated by physics and biology. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research note that to keep warming within 2ºC, we must reduce emissions by 8–10 percent year after year. “There is still time,” Klein concludes from interviewing these scientists, “but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed.” 

Many shy away from any mention of a timeline or even urgency out of fear of demoralizing the movement or encouraging survivalist politics. But Klein skillfully uses the reality of this timeline to do neither while showing that the urgency to act is blocked on every front by the laws of profitability. Meaningful solutions must look beyond capitalism. This is a profound breakthrough and one of the book’s greatest strengths. Klein, a 350.org board member and close collaborator with Bill McKibben, has now confirmed what the Left has been saying for decades—capitalism has to go. Socialists should use this admission to the fullest extent possible.

As the book progresses several chapters stand out. “Planning and Banning” calls for a “just transition” that must include climate jobs (favoring the hiring of traditionally marginalized peoples) to dismantle polluting infrastructure and adapt to a renewable, low-energy way of life, as well as nationalizing transportation and energy without following models like Brazil’s Petrobras, Norway’s Statoil, or Petro China. New utilities must be decentralized and “run democratically by the communities that use them.” For the movement to win these reforms, it must bring down free-trade regulations that penalize or prohibit local initiatives like fracking bans or job incentives. 

With this just transition also comes the question of state control and the centralization needed to undertake such a colossal shift. As Klein notes, the neoliberal assault on social movements means that, despite tweeting and occupying, “We collectively lack many of the tools that built and sustained the transformative movements of the past.” In an important revision of her previous endorsement of horizontalism, Klein argues for leadership, organization, and a program to stop climate change:

I have, in the past, strongly defended the right of young movements to their amorphous structures—whether that means rejecting identifiable leadership or eschewing programmatic demands. And there is no question that old political habits and structures must be reinvented to reflect new realities, as well as past failures. But I confess the last five years immersed in climate science has left me impatient. As many are coming to realize, the fetish for structurelessness, the rebellion against any kind of institutionalization, is not a luxury today’s transformative movements can afford.

Undertaking a just transition must include not only our collective demands but also a plan for dealing with the state and who will control it. Left unaddressed, we can be sure that both Republicans and Democrats will authorize the use of every state apparatus to repress and silence the movement, just as they did with Occupy.

New organizations must be built to rise to this challenge, because the existing environmental NGOs have sold out the struggle. Klein exposes the fetid practices of Big Green and the failures of green capitalism in sickening detail. The need for cash and legitimacy led nonprofits like the Environmental Defense Fund to essentially abandon its mission in favor of partnerships with Walmart, among others. Groups like the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the Conservation Fund accept money from dozens of fossil fuel companies. 

The worst hypocrisy described in the book recounts how a Texas chapter of the Nature Conservancy accepted land from Mobil where a substantial population of the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken lived. The Nature Conservancy eventually began sinking natural gas wells on the preserve in order to generate cash. When exposed, the Nature Conservancy promised not to build new wells, but extraction continues to this day. Meanwhile, the Attwater’s prairie chickens disappeared from the preserve in 2012.

Klein’s chapters on Blockadia, divestment, and Indigenous rights are both inspiring and alarming. The incidents recounted are familiar to many, but they serve to remind readers of the horrors of extreme extraction and the increase in disasters like BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill or the forty-seven left dead in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic oil train explosion. But the frenzy to get North American carbon to market has engendered movements like Idle No More, countless actions against tar sands pipeline construction, and a campus divestment movement that has spread to 300 campuses and 100 municipal and religious institutions. 

Klein also uncovers the heartbreaking reality that many low-income communities or impoverished nations face. Though despised for the pollution and contamination they bring to nearby land, extractive industries are often the only well-paying jobs around and a rare source of cash for desperate communities.  What is needed in the Global North and the Global South is, “the emergence of positive, practical, and concrete alternatives to dirty development that do not ask people to choose between higher living standards and toxic extraction.”

But how do these new development patterns emerge? Klein’s references to “deregulated capitalism” and the shift in values toward “an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis” show her argument to be essentially that movements must win an ideological battle, driving what in her analysis seems to be a neutral state to reverse the neoliberal excesses of capitalism as it is currently practiced, and enforce stricter regulation, higher taxes, and a more equitable global order. 

Precluding even a brief analysis of how capitalism works and why low or no growth sends the system into disastrous tailspins like the Great Depression or the financial crisis of 2008, keeps the reader from encountering the essential evidence that regulation or visions of a more humane and ecologically sound culture could never right the ship by themselves. The climate crisis has structural roots, based in capitalism’s competitive exploitation of workers’ labor and the natural world for profit. Transforming that will require structural change fought for by workers and the oppressed, like the end of production for profit and the overthrow of existing states with all their laws and social norms that backup the system. In other words, revolution is necessary.

In the final chapter, Klein asks if such a radical transition has ever happened before but then skips over all the revolutionary moments of the twentieth century and highlights instead the Civil Rights Movement, the New Deal, and the abolition of slavery, which forced the Southern aristocracy to forfeit an immense sum derived from human bondage. The comparison to stranded fossil fuels assets is compelling, but Klein readily admits the economic liberation of African Americans remains incomplete. 

Radicals may share this reviewer’s frustration that Klein would be bold enough to call capitalism into question and yet avoid too strong an association with radical theory and history that has much to say about our current dilemma, its root causes, and possible solutions. Her oversight reinforces the fashionable notion that there is little to learn from certain (i.e., Marxist) movements of the past.

In a section titled “The Extractivist Left,” Klein rightly condemns Stalinism and the Soviet Union’s appalling environmental record, along with Mao’s declaration that “man must conquer nature.” She also highlights the mixed environmental record of state socialism in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, countries that despite their progressive record in bettering the lives of the poor and working class have not been able to break free from their dependence on fossil fuel extraction to fund their economies and buffer them against US aggression. Klein notes, regarding the Left and the Soviet Union, “there was always a rich tradition, particularly among anarchists, that considered Stalin’s project an abomination of core social justice principles.” 

This acknowledgement is not strong enough to counter the perception Klein creates, which is that Marxism and the socialist tradition are essentially extractivist. She ignores ecosocialist thought and Marx’s environmental insights in Capital and other works, best summarized in the works of John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett. This mischaracterization suggests that readers need not bother exploring a trove of socialist thought and neglected revolutionary history that would inform a new generation of activists coming of age after four decades of movement decline and theoretical stagnation. 

These unsatisfying details, however, should not keep anyone from reading This Changes Everything. It is a landmark book by an investigative journalist that history might revere equally with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. You cannot help but admire Klein’s courage to publish a book that would ruffle so many feathers. It will also change minds, turning many against the system and encouraging them to act outside the narrowly defined boundaries of Big Green.

Klein’s closing thoughts do not place the environmental movement above all others, but seek common ground with all struggles for justice to unite and “right those festering wrongs at last—the unfinished business of liberation.” The rebellions will come again, but because they are “excruciatingly rare and precious,” we must do more than “denounce the world as it is, and build fleeting pockets of liberated space.” Revolutionaries should use Klein’s invaluable book to ask what we will do in our next “rare and precious” moment.


inally published in International Socialist Review


Executive Summary of the report from the Debt Truth Committee


Executive Summary of the report from the Debt Truth Committee

Wednesday 17 June 2015

This summary of the report by the Debt Truth Committee was published by CADTM on 17 June 2015.

In June 2015 Greece stands at a crossroad of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt. Five years since the economic adjustment programmes began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis. The black box of debt has remained closed, and until now no authority, Greek or international, has sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika regime. The debt, in whose name nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.

There is an immediate need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration. In response, the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt in April 2015, mandating the investigation into the creation and growth of public debt, the way and reasons for which debt was contracted, and the impact that the conditionalities attached to the loans have had on the economy and the population. The Truth Committee has a mandate to raise awareness of issues pertaining to the Greek debt, both domestically and internationally, and to formulate arguments and options concerning the cancellation of the debt.

The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated programme. The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back. The facts presented in this report challenge this argument.

All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika ’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.

It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions. The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.

Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.

This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based. The findings are presented in nine chapters structured as follows:

Chapter 1, Debt before the Troika, analyses the growth of the Greek public debt since the 1980s. It concludes that the increase in debt was not due to excessive public spending, which in fact remained lower than the public spending of other Eurozone countries, but rather due to the payment of extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalization of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself.

Adopting the euro led to a drastic increase of private debt in Greece to which major European private banks as well as the Greek banks were exposed. A growing banking crisis contributed to the Greek sovereign debt crisis. George Papandreou’s government helped to present the elements of a banking crisis as a sovereign debt crisis in 2009 by emphasizing and boosting the public deficit and debt.

Chapter 2, Evolution of Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concludes that the first loan agreement of 2010, aimed primarily to rescue the Greek and other European private banks, and to allow the banks to reduce their exposure to Greek government bonds.

Chapter 3, Greek public debt by creditor in 2015, presents the contentious nature of Greece’s current debt, delineating the loans’ key characteristics, which are further analysed in Chapter 8.

Chapter 4, Debt System Mechanism in Greece reveals the mechanisms devised by the agreements that were implemented since May 2010. They created a substantial amount of new debt to bilateral creditors and the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), whilst generating abusive costs thus deepening the crisis further. The mechanisms disclose how the majority of borrowed funds were transferred directly to financial institutions. Rather than benefitting Greece, they have accelerated the privatization process, through the use of financial instruments.

Chapter 5, Conditionalities against sustainability, presents how the creditors imposed intrusive conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, which led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt. These conditionalities, on which the creditors still insist, have not only contributed to lower GDP as well as higher public borrowing, hence a higher public debt/GDP making Greece’s debt more unsustainable, but also engineered dramatic changes in the society, and caused a humanitarian crisis. The Greek public debt can be considered as totally unsustainable at present.

Chapter 6, Impact of the “bailout programmes” on human rights, concludes that the measures implemented under the “bailout programmes” have directly affected living conditions of the people and violated human rights, which Greece and its partners are obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law. The drastic adjustments, imposed on the Greek economy and society as a whole, have brought about a rapid deterioration of living standards, and remain incompatible with social justice, social cohesion, democracy and human rights.

Chapter 7, Legal issues surrounding the MOU and Loan Agreements, argues there has been a breach of human rights obligations on the part of Greece itself and the lenders, that is the Euro Area (Lender) Member States, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund , who imposed these measures on Greece. All these actors failed to assess the human rights violations as an outcome of the policies they obliged Greece to pursue, and also directly violated the Greek constitution by effectively stripping Greece of most of its sovereign rights. The agreements contain abusive clauses, effectively coercing Greece to surrender significant aspects of its sovereignty. This is imprinted in the choice of the English law as governing law for those agreements, which facilitated the circumvention of the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. Conflicts with human rights and customary obligations, several indications of contracting parties acting in bad faith, which together with the unconscionable character of the agreements, render these agreements invalid.

Chapter 8, Assessment of the Debts as regards illegtimacy, odiousness, illegality, and unsustainability, provides an assessment of the Greek public debt according to the definitions regarding illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable debt adopted by the Committee.

Chapter 8 concludes that the Greek public debt as of June 2015 is unsustainable, since Greece is currently unable to service its debt without seriously impairing its capacity to fulfill its basic human rights obligations. Furthermore, for each creditor, the report provides evidence of indicative cases of illegal, illegitimate and odious debts.

Debt to the IMF should be considered illegal since its concession breached the IMF’s own statutes, and its conditions breached the Greek Constitution, international customary law, and treaties to which Greece is a party. It is also illegitimate, since conditions included policy prescriptions that infringed human rights obligations. Finally, it is odious since the IMF knew that the imposed measures were undemocratic, ineffective, and would lead to serious violations of socio-economic rights.

Debts to the ECB should be considered illegal since the ECB over-stepped its mandate by imposing the application of macroeconomic adjustment programs (e.g. labour market deregulation) via its participation in the Troïka. Debts to the ECB are also illegitimate and odious, since the principal raison d’etre of the Securities Market Programme (SMP) was to serve the interests of the financial institutions, allowing the major European and Greek private banks to dispose of their Greek bonds.

The EFSF engages in cashless loans which should be considered illegal because Article 122(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) was violated, and further they breach several socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Moreover, the EFSF Framework Agreement 2010 and the Master Financial Assistance Agreement of 2012 contain several abusive clauses revealing clear misconduct on the part of the lender. The EFSF also acts against democratic principles, rendering these particular debts illegitimate and odious.

The bilateral loans should be considered illegal since they violate the procedure provided by the Greek constitution. The loans involved clear misconduct by the lenders, and had conditions that contravened law or public policy. Both EU law and international law were breached in order to sideline human rights in the design of the macroeconomic programmes. The bilateral loans are furthermore illegitimate, since they were not used for the benefit of the population, but merely enabled the private creditors of Greece to be bailed out. Finally, the bilateral loans are odious since the lender states and the European Commission knew of potential violations, but in 2010 and 2012 avoided to assess the human rights impacts of the macroeconomic adjustment and fiscal consolidation that were the conditions for the loans.

The debt to private creditors should be considered illegal because private banks conducted themselves irresponsibly before the Troika came into being, failing to observe due diligence, while some private creditors such as hedge funds also acted in bad faith. Parts of the debts to private banks and hedge funds are illegitimate for the same reasons that they are illegal; furthermore, Greek banks were illegitimately recapitalized by tax-payers. Debts to private banks and hedge funds are odious, since major private creditors were aware that these debts were not incurred in the best interests of the population but rather for their own benefit.

The report comes to a close with some practical considerations. Chapter 9, Legal foundations for repudiation and suspension of the Greek sovereign debt, presents the options concerning the cancellation of debt, and especially the conditions under which a sovereign state can exercise the right to unilateral act of repudiation or suspension of the payment of debt under international law.

Several legal arguments permit a State to unilaterally repudiate its illegal, odious, and illegitimate debt. In the Greek case, such a unilateral act may be based on the following arguments: the bad faith of the creditors that pushed Greece to violate national law and international obligations related to human rights; preeminence of human rights over agreements such as those signed by previous governments with creditors or the Troika; coercion; unfair terms flagrantly violating Greek sovereignty and violating the Constitution; and finally, the right recognized in international law for a State to take countermeasures against illegal acts by its creditors , which purposefully damage its fiscal sovereignty, oblige it to assume odious, illegal and illegitimate debt, violate economic self-determination and fundamental human rights. As far as unsustainable debt is concerned, every state is legally entitled to invoke necessity in exceptional situations in order to safeguard those essential interests threatened by a grave and imminent peril. In such a situation, the State may be dispensed from the fulfilment of those international obligations that augment the peril, as is the case with outstanding loan contracts. Finally, states have the right to declare themselves unilaterally insolvent where the servicing of their debt is unsustainable, in which case they commit no wrongful act and hence bear no liability.

People’s dignity is worth more than illegal, illegitimate, odious and unsustainable debt

Having concluded a preliminary investigation, the Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organized by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector.

Making this preliminary report available to the Greek authorities and the Greek people, the Committee considers to have fulfilled the first part of its mission as defined in the decision of the President of Parliament of 4 April 2015. The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.

In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: "As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, in the speech from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War).

Climate Change: Does Anthropocene science blame all humanity?

Climate Change: Does Anthropocene science blame all humanity?
31 May 2015

The charge that Anthropocene scholars blame all of humanity for the actions of a small minority simply doesn’t hold water. Ecosocialists need to be positive contributors to Anthropocene discussions, not critics sniping from the sidelines.

According to Earth System scientists, the Earth has entered a new geological epoch that will be less stable and less hospitable to human life. Because the change is driven by human activity, the proposed name for the new epoch is Anthropocene – from the Greek anthropos, human being.

Recently, some critics have charged that the “Anthropocene narrative” blames humanity as a whole for these changes, ignoring major differences in the nature and extent of environmental change caused by different groups of people. Such concerns are understandable, but overstated – to a considerable degree, they seem to reflect preconceptions about what the Anthropocene concept might mean, rather than serious engagement with the work of the scientists who have defined it.

* * *

It is no secret that some green theorists blame environmental problems on human beings as such. Our species has been labelled a plague, a virus, and a cancer; we’ve been compared to a swarm of locusts, voraciously consuming everything we see; we’re told that people are nature’s enemy, so only radical population reduction can prevent disaster. As Murray Bookchin wrote, Malthusian greens blame environmental crises on “a vague species called humanity – as though people of color were equatable with whites, women with men, the Third World with the First, the poor with the rich, and the exploited with their exploiters.” [1]

Given the strength of “blame people” views among some greens, it not surprising that some writers have reacted with suspicion to an epoch named for the anthropos.

Keiran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity objects that the name identifies the cause of change as “humanity as a whole, rather than the identifiable power structures most responsible for the geological Anthropocene traces.” [2]

Marxist historian Andreas Malm believes that those who use the word Anthropocene are attributing environmental degradation to “humans acting out their innate predispositions … [that] some universal trait of the species must be driving the geological epoch that is its own” – and this “lets capitalism off the hook.” [3]

Australian environmentalist Jeremy Baskin warns that “the Anthropocene label tends to universalize and normalize a small portion of humanity as ‘the human of the Anthropocene’. … Impacts which have been driven by (and largely for the benefit of) a minority are attributed to all of humanity.” [4]

It isn’t surprising that such concerns have been raised, nor is it surprising that critics can find passages that support a people are the problem position: scientists are no more immune to mistaken social views than anyone else.

But what really strikes me is how little support for actual Malthusian policies can be found in scientific literature about the Anthropocene. Population growth is included as one element of the Great Acceleration, which it obviously is, but it isn’t identified as the main problem, nor is population reduction promoted as the sine qua non of any effective response to global change. It’s noteworthy that population is not one of the nine planetary boundaries that Anthropocene scientists have identified as critical for preventing catastrophic change in the new epoch. [5]

There may be some hardcore Malthusians among Anthropocene scholars, but if so, they have not revealed their views in the scientific discussions to date.

In fact, scientists in the forefront of the Anthropocene project have repeatedly rejected any “all humans are to blame” narrative. The critics seem unaware of passages such as these, in the most authoritative book on the Anthropocene, Global Change and the Earth System. [6]

“An emphasis on the population variable can have the effect of blaming the victims (as in high fertility rates among economically marginal households in the tropical world) for consequences such as tropical deforestation and famine-malnutrition. In fact, modern famine and malnutrition are more closely related to issues of food entitlements and endowments than to population growth.” (p. 96)

“Population pressure and poverty have often been cited as the primary causes of tropical deforestation. However, a careful analysis of a large number of case studies across the tropics suggests that a more complex array of drivers including market and policy failures and terms of trade and debt are likely influences on the patterns and trajectories of land-use change in the tropics. As noted in one extensive review of the literature, forests fall because it is profitable to someone or some group.” (p. 102)

“One quarter of the world’s population remains in severe poverty. Inequality has been increasing in many countries and between countries and the interactions between poverty and the environment are of local, regional and global significance.” (p. 140)

“In a world in which the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, both within and between countries, is growing, equity issues are important in any consideration of global environmental management.” (p. 305)

Nor do the critics mention these passages, from a peer-reviewed article that was co-authored by sixteen of the most prominent scientists in Anthropocene studies. [7]

“The post-2000 increase in growth rates of some non-OECD economies (e.g., China and India) is evident, but the OECD countries still accounted for about 75% of the world’s economic activity. On the other hand, the non-OECD countries continue to dominate the trend in population growth. Comparing these two trends demonstrates that consumption in the OECD countries, rather than population growth in the rest of the world, has been the more important driver of change during the Great Acceleration.”

“The world’s wealthy countries account for 80% of the cumulative emissions of CO2 since 1751; cumulative emissions are important for climate given the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere. The world’s poorest countries with a combined population of about 800 million, have contributed less than 1% of the cumulative emissions.”

Despite such clear statements, the they-blame-all-people accusations have continued. But now there is a direct response from scientists associated with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), the global research organization that first defined and named the Anthropocene. Rather than arguing about what was said or not said in past reports and articles, they have taken the high road, by extending their previous work to focus directly on the equity issue.

Their reply addresses what are called the Great Acceleration graphs, first published by the IGBP in 2004. They show twelve socio-economic trends and twelve Earth System trends, from 1750 to 2000. All show gradual growth, then rapid acceleration after 1950. Those iconic graphs have played a critical role in convincing most of the scientists involved that the new geological epoch began in the mid-twentieth century.

Updated versions of those graphs, extending the data to 2010, have now been published in a peer-reviewed journal, The Anthropocene Review. The lead author is Will Steffen, the former director of the IGBP who was lead author of the 2004 report in which the graphs first appeared. [8]

No one will be surprised that the updated graphs show further acceleration of the socio-economic and Earth System trends, and no sign of the “decoupling of emissions from either energy use or economic growth” that ecomodernists and other anti-greens like to promise. Much of the article is devoted to reviewing the indicators – how they are defined, what has changed since the previous study, how the graphs relate to debates about dating the Anthropocene, and so on.

But for our discussion, what stands out is the authors’ thoughtful consideration of the fact that the original graphs displayed global totals, and “did not attempt to deconstruct the socio-economic graphs into countries or groups of countries.” They note that this approach has “prompted some sharp criticism from social scientists and humanities scholars” on the grounds that “strong equity issues are masked by considering global aggregates only.”

True Malthusians would have defended their previous approach: as Simon Butler and I showed in Too Many People?, globally aggregated numbers that conceal significant regional, gender, national and class differences are the bedrock of populationism’s debating arsenal, and partisans will not abandon them. [9]

Instead, Steffen and his associates have accepted the criticism of the graphs as legitimate, and have gone to substantial effort to separate the socio-economic indicators into three groups: the rich OECD countries, the emerging (BRICS) nations, and the rest of the world. In addition to publishing current versions of the original aggregated graphs, they have added ten graphs that display the socio-economic indicators for the three groups of countries separately. (There was insufficient data for the other two indicators.)

In a section headed “Deconstructing the socio-economic trends: The equity issue,” they draw conclusions from the dis-aggregated graphs.

“In 2010 the OECD countries accounted for 74% of global GDP but only 18% of the global population. Insofar as the imprint on the Earth System scales with consumption, most of the human imprint on the Earth System is coming from the OECD world. This points to the profound scale of global inequality, which distorts the distribution of the benefits of the Great Acceleration and confounds efforts to deal with its impacts on the Earth System. …

“The Great Acceleration has, until very recently, been almost entirely driven by a small fraction of the human population, those in developed countries.”

As we’ve seen, similar points have been made in previous reports and articles, but they have now been given much more prominence – moved to center stage, as it were. Steffen and his associates have clearly shown that they understand the importance of including global inequality as a key factor in any discussion of the causes and effects of Earth’s transition to the Great Transition. The claim that Anthropocene scholars in general blame all of humanity for the actions of a small minority simply doesn’t hold water.

Of course, ecosocialists would take the dis-aggregation farther, breaking out inequalities not just between but within countries, stressing the fact that one percent of the population owns half of the world’s wealth and that inequality is growing at unprecedented rates. An ecosocialist analysis of the Great Acceleration will build on the decisive issues of class and power that are shaping the Anthropocene and will ultimately determine humanity’s future.

To be effective, we have to raise that perspective as positive contributors to the Anthropocene discussions, not as critics sniping from the sidelines. Only in that way can we move towards an analysis that combines contemporary Earth System Science with ecological Marxism in the world-saving synthesis that is so desperately needed.

Ian Angus


[1Murray Bookchin. “Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology.” (1987) Anarchy Archives.

[2Kieran Suckling. “Against the Anthropocene.” Immanence, July 2014.

[3Andreas Malm. “The Anthropocene Myth.” Jacobin, March 20, 2015.

[4Jeremy Baskin. The ideology of the Anthropocene? Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, 2014.

[5“Planetary Boundaries 2.0 – new and improved.” Stockholm Resilience Centre, 2015.

[6Will Steffen et al., Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet under Pressure. International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, 2004. A pdf of this important book can be downloaded free.

[7Will Steffen et al. “The Anthropocene: From global change to planetary stewardship.” Ambio, November 2011.

[8Will Steffen et al. “The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” The Anthropocene Review, March 2015. 81-98.

[9Ian Angus and Simon Butler. Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis. Haymarket Books, 2011 (http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Too-Many-People). See in particular chapter 3, “Dissecting those ‘overpopulation’ numbers.”

* Climate and Capitalism. May 31, 2015:

* Ian Angus is editor of the ecosocialist journal Climate and Capitalism, and of the anthology The Global Fight for Climate Justice.


The Forgotten Massacres

The Forgotten Massacres

Fifty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists were slaughtered — all with the support of the US.

Members of the Indonesian Communist Party's youth wing are taken away in 1965, during the violent repression of communists in the country. AP

Members of the Indonesian Communist Party's youth wing are taken away in 1965, during the violent repression of communists in the country. AP

On the morning of September 30, 1965, a small group of army officers and Communist Party of Indonesia(PKI) members attempted a coup against the Indonesian army leadership. Six army generals were killed, but the coup failed and was crushed by surviving army leaders in a few days. Together with other right-wing forces, the army, under the command of Gens. Suharto and Abdul Haris Nasution, retaliated.

Hundreds of thousands of real and suspected communists were massacred, and a new, military-dominated regime under Suharto was installed. Western powers like the US, Britain, and the Netherlands condoned and often actively supported the massacres.

Indonesia’s military junta took control of the media on October 2, using it to spread its own version of the events. In the junta’s version, the killing of the generals was the spark that ignited popular anger against a party that was hated for its violence, its disregard for religion and its lack of patriotism. Supposedly, PKI plans for a violent revolution and elimination of anyone who opposed it were stopped by a wave of spontaneous popular anger against the treacherous communists.

For decades, this version of the mass killings of 1965–66 has been reinforced by state propaganda and parroted by Western experts who saw the “spontaneous” eruption in murderous violence as confirmation of pre-existing racist ideas about fanatical and irrational “orientals.”

Historical research has demolished this version of events. The failed coup was not an initiative of the PKI as a whole, but of a small number of PKI leaders working with sympathetic army officers who wanted to remove several right-wing army leaders — not take state power. The massacre that followed was systematic, organized by right-wing nationalist politicians and militia, religious organizations, and, most of all, the Indonesian army. This coalition for murder received political and material support from Western powers.

Within days of the coup, US and British officials began making plans to exploit the political situation. The coup offered them the chance to crush the PKI, a party that Western officials feared was getting dangerously close to state power.

In the years leading up to the coup, the PKI tried to establish itself as the fiercest anti-imperialist party in the country, mobilizing against the influence of foreign capital, especially of the Dutch and British variety. It supported Indonesian President Sukarno in his demand that the Dutch hand over Irian Jaya (West Papua) to Indonesia and in his campaign against Malaysia, which it denounced as an instrument of British imperialism.

For a time this strategy was successful. In the parliamentary elections of 1955 — the last before Sukarno adopted his authoritarian system of “guided democracy” — the PKI emerged as the country’s fourth largest party with 16.4 percent of the vote. Party membership had grown from less than twenty thousand in 1954 to over 1.5 million. Millions were organized in PKI-allied trade unions and mass organizations of peasants, women, students, and other groups.

It was not just the growth of the PKI that set off alarm bells in the West. In the late 1950s, the US backed right-wing rebellions against Sukarno, but this backfired when the rebels were defeated. American support for his opponents drove Sukarno further away from the Western bloc and damaged US relations with the most powerful force on the Indonesian right: the army.

Meanwhile, the communists’ contribution to the fight against the rebels won them popular sympathy and growing favor from Sukarno. By the early sixties, the PKI was the world largest Communist party outside the Soviet bloc, and Indonesia was the largest non-bloc recipient of Soviet economic and military aid.

After the failure of the regional rebellions, the US adopted a different strategy. With the help of philanthropic foundations like Ford and Rockefeller and institutions like the World Bank, the US restored its relationship with the Indonesian army and the country’s right by providing material assistance and training to Army officers and pro-Western intellectuals.

But the US government’s ability to influence Indonesian state policy ultimately depended on President Sukarno. Sukarno, the historical leader of the Indonesian independence movement, was very popular and essentially ruled by decree. He was not a communist, but he was a fervent anticolonialist who dreamed of a powerful, fully independent Indonesia that would play an important role on the world stage.

Sukarno increasingly clashed with Western powers — especially the UK and US, whom he denounced as neocolonialist. In early 1965, Indonesia withdrew from the United Nations and expelled the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

As a result, Western officials were pessimistic about their ability to manipulate the political landscape in Indonesia. In early 1965, the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia, E. L. C. Schiff, said in a wire to the minister of foreign affairs that the consensus among his colleagues was that Sukarno would remain the country’s leader until his death and that “it is no longer possible to keep Indonesia from slipping into the left.”

The US had also decided by then that Sukarno could not be pressured to abandon the PKI, and in August 1964 decided to overthrow Sukarno. This decision was in accord with the covert plans of British officials to foment civil war or the collapse of Sukarno’s government.

The UK established a “director of political warfare against Indonesia,” based in Singapore, and the CIA proposed expanding its own operations in Indonesia to include “covert liaison with and support for existing anti-Communist groups, black letter operations, media operations, including the possibility of black radio (propaganda radio stations) and political action within existing Indonesian institutions and organizations.”

The expectation was that if Sukarno was removed, a power struggle between the PKI and the army would follow. The (now pro-US) Army leadership was confident about the outcome of this struggle: in a confidential meeting with the Dutch ambassador, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ahmad Yani (one of the generals killed on September 30) said the army was “reliable” and already making preparations for confrontation should the ailing president die.

But as long as Sukarno was protecting the PKI, crushing the communists was impossible. British Assistant Secretary of State Edward Peck suggested “there might be much to be said for encouraging a premature PKI coup during Sukarno’s lifetime.” The failed coup gave Peck what he wanted.

The killing of the generals was a boon for the army’s propaganda campaign against the PKI and, indirectly, against Sukarno. Sukarno’s refusal to condemn or ban the PKI, as the Right demanded following the failed coup, was exploited by the army to discredit him. In the following months, Sukarno was forced to hand more and more power to the army.

The theory that the violence was a sudden eruption of popular anger is belied by its gradual escalation. After the failed coup, the army supported anti-PKI demonstrations with transport and protection, and roughly a week after the death of the generals, mobs ransacked PKI offices as security forces looked on. Houses of PKI members followed.

The killings of (suspected) PKI members and supporters didn’t start until weeks after the September 30 coup attempt: massacres took place in Central Java in late October, then East Java in November, followed by Bali in December. In each instance the arrival of the Special Forces, commanded by Major Gen. Sarwo Edhie, preceded the killings.

Many victims were first arrested by militia groups supported by Edhie’s Special Forces. Prisoners were put into makeshift prison camps in remote locations and were often slain in groups, often by getting shot, stabbed, or having their skulls crushed with rocks and clubs. Much of the killing was done by young militia members of groups like Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organization.

Ernst Utrecht, a left-wing supporter of Sukarno and former parliamentarian, estimates up to fifty thousand Indonesians participated in the massacre. After decades of propaganda and cover up, the number of victims cannot be precisely determined. Most historians assume the number of dead to be somewhere between five hundred thousand and 1 million, though Edhie himself claimed the number was 3 million.

Western powers supported the army in its campaign against the PKI. On October 17, the CIA worried the army might not go “all the way,”settling instead “for action against those directly involved in the murder of the generals and permit[ting] Sukarno to get much of his power back.”

To prevent this the CIA gave lists with the names of five thousand PKI members to the generals and organized the delivery of small arms and money to the army. The US embassy provided its own lists with two thousand names. In a meeting with British officials, Gen. Sukendro requested help for the army to “consolidate its position.” The meeting minutes reported on the “Army’s strategy” against the PKI and how “considerations [were] being made to meet the clamor of the nationalists and the religious elements for arms.”

Other Western powers also aided the massacre: the West German foreign secret service delivered arms and communication equipment worth DM300,000, while Indonesian refugee Osman Jusuf Helmireported that Sweden had signed a contract with Suharto and Nasution “for an emergency purchase of $10,000,000 worth of small arms and ammunition” in December 1965.

Dutch ambassador Schiff reported on October 8 that the army was conducting an “intensive smear campaign” against the PKI, and concluded that the situation was “the best — and maybe last — chance of the army to assert itself politically.”

By the end of October, the US embassy received reports of violence against masses of PKI supporters in East, Central, and West Java. The US ambassador noted that the army was “moving relentlessly to exterminate the PKI.” A month later Schiff reported that “wholekampongs [villages]” had been slaughtered, supposedly as a result of local feuding.

The bloodshed achieved its aim of destroying the Indonesian left. In April 1966, Schiff’s minister of foreign affairs, future NATO Secretary Gen. Joseph Luns, noted “the blow dealt to the Communists (from which they are not likely to recover in the foreseeable future).” In July 1966, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt remarked in a speech in New York that “with 50,000 to 1,000,000 Communist sympathizers knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.”

A few weeks earlier the US State Department had rejoiced that, due to the killing of “up to 300,000 Communists” and another 1.6 million Indonesian Communists renouncing their membership, the number of communists in non-bloc countries had dropped by 42 percent in one year.

The aid Western officials gave the army in late 1965 and early 1966 was a crucial political signal to Indonesia’s new de facto rulers that the US and its allies were willing to support them. This backing was vital for the nascent regime because the Indonesian economy was in crisis, and Western capital remained hesitant to invest in Indonesia after Sukarno’s takeover of British and Dutch companies and calls to expropriate Western capital.

The military exploited the economic crisis to undermine what was left of Sukarno’s authority — British and US companies like Caltex, Goodyear, and US Rubber cut a deal with the army to channel corporate revenues into unnamed bank accounts, robbing the Indonesian state of an important source of foreign currency, further crippling Sukarno.

At the same time, the army was quick to placate its Western supporters. In December, Suharto reassured Western oil companies that the army “would not stand for precipitous moves” against them, and just days after Sukarno officially handed power to Suharto on March 11, 1966, the US mining company Freeport was allowed back into the country to extract the rich mineral resources in Irian Jaya.

A new foreign investment law that granted extremely favorable conditions for outside capital was drafted in close cooperation with the IMF, and starting in 1967 the new regime received $450 million annually from the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI).

The IGGI included the Asian Development Bank, the IMF, the UN Development Program, the World Bank, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States, and was chaired by the Netherlands. The Dutch chairmanship was suggested by US officials who hoped to divert attention from US (and Japanese) involvement in the deal.

Indonesia’s large cities were prioritized as aid recipients to stabilize the political situation. By 1968 the Suharto dictatorship was comfortably established and committed to pro-Western economic policies.

The Indonesian government still refuses to admit the killings were systematic violations of human rights. No one has ever been held accountable for the hundreds of thousands of deaths, and not a single one of the many known mass graves has been fully excavated to give the victims a decent burial. And in April it was announced that Sarwo Edhie would be declared a “national hero” for his deeds.

Above all, the massacres achieved their goal. To this day, the Indonesian left has not recovered.



We condemn the decision taken by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), on May 22, to ‘derecognise’ the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), an independent student body of the institution.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) in New Delhi claims to have received an anonymous complaint about ‘the distribution of controversial posters and pamphlets’ by APSC in the IIT Madras campus. The nature of this allegedly controversial material was simply anti-Modi views. This got the government's hackles up, as it is determined to silence all critical voices, especially voices from outside the spectrum of parliamentary parties, Following this, the HRD ministry wrote to IIT Madras and asked the institution to respond about the above matter. The Dean of Students (DoS) of IIT Madras decided to derecognise the student group even before APSC got a chance to explain their end of the story.

The APSC was created in April 2014 to foster conversation and raise awareness about Ambedkar-Periyar and rampant caste violence in the country. In June 2014, the Dean of Students, Dr. M.S. Sivakumar, directed APSC to change the name of the group; because according to him ‘Ambedkar Periyar’ are politically motivated names, and student organisations should be apolitical and should not have names of individuals. No such decree for right-wing organisations operating under the name of ‘Vivekananda Study Circle.’ Consider this one gem of an example from the Vivekananda Study Circle website: The title of the page is ‘Is Kali Black?’ and has the following quote claimed by them to be from The Gospel of Ramakrishna—“Is Kali, my Divine Mother, of a black complexion? She appears black because She is viewed from a distance; but when intimately known She is no longer so. The sky appears blue at a distance; but look at it close by and you will find that it has no colour. The water of the ocean looks blue at a distance, but when you go near and take it in your hand, you find that it is colourless.” (From http://www.vsc.iitm.ac.in/Home/?p=2969)

India is a society replete with caste violence. Some estimates claim that each week: 13 Dalits are murdered; 5 Dalit homes are burned down; 6 Dalit people are kidnapped or abducted; 21 Dalit women are raped. It is not a coincidence that majority of manual scavengers are from the downtrodden classes. There are systemic and structural issues in Indian society why such violence happens on a regular basis and are under-reported in the mainstream media. It is important that such issues are talked about more, and we stand in solidarity with every initiative that raises awareness about caste violence, Ambedkar and Periyar. The egregious politics of skin colour, as the example cited above suggests, and violence towards the downtrodden caste is prevalent in Indian society. We cannot eradicate caste distinction by not talking about it, by avoiding to name organisations after Ambedkar-Periyar—it is exactly the opposite—we need to confront caste politics head on as a nation, admit the historical injustices meted out to dalits, adivasis and other lower castes, and admit that a lot of it are ongoing.

We understand that this current action by the HRD ministry to pressurise IIT Madras, and the subsequent actions taken by the Dean of Students to be a continuation of the brahminisation project of the hindutva forces in the Indian polity, whose most recent manifestations have been in the spate of ghar-wapsi, church violence and increase in incidents of communal violence across the country. We decry all such efforts by the hindutva forces, the direct involvement of the government in arm twisting anti-brahminical endeavours and condemn IIT Madras, the premiere institution that it is, for the shameful decision to intimidate and muzzle conversation on caste.

We also condemn the failure of the so called liberal oppositions. It is significant that only after two days of hue and cry in the Social Media did the liberal mainstream media report on the issue. For mainstream politics, there are certain shared premises. While the alleged upholders of political liberalism and secularism condemn actions of the Sanghis, they do not desire to challenge the upper caste dominations. We call upon all Marxist and socialist forces to recognise that without a serious attack on the oppression of the lower castes, the unity of the toilers cannot be achieved, and therefore, fighting for the rights of dalits is a vital part of any genuine Marxist politics in India.

Finally, we stress that the ban on the APSC is part of the increasing violation of democratic rights. It is therefore necessary for the APSC and their supporters, as well as for any organisation fighting for democratic rights, to link up this specific struggle (the restoration of the rights of the APSC) with the general struggle for democratic rights.

30 May, 2015