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Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Statement by Ekta on Massacre of Civilians by Maoist Insurgents in Chhattisgarh and State Response


We publish this statement. But as with any statement not issued specifically by Radicval Socialist, the publication does not imply our agreement with all the views expressed herein. In particular, we differ from EKTA's characterisation of the maoists as armed outlaws. It is true that they are armed and it is true that the government has outlawed them. But would one accept, during the period up to 1942, the characterisation of the CPI as "unarmed outlaws"? -- Administrators, R.S.

EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai hereby strongly condemns the lethal attack by the Maoist insurgents yesterday afternoon on a private bus at Chingavaram on the Dantewada-Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh in an overly successful bid to kill a group of traveling armed Special Police Officers (SPOSs) - adivasi youths recruited to battle Maoist insurgency in the state, with the full knowledge that the bus was carrying also a large number of unarmed civilian passengers taking no part in the ongoing armed conflicts
between the insurgents and the state. This is morally utterly repulsive. We also, on this note, strongly disapprove the brutal summary executions of unarmed civilians, including adivasis and other sections of the poor and marginalized, by the Maoists tagging them as “informer”.

At the same time, we also take note of the fact that a large group of SPOs, maybe around 20, elected to travel by a bus full of civilian passengers, plying through an area known to be prone to mine blasts and other forms of armed assaults by the Maoists, despite the fact they are engaged in an open and no holds barred war with the insurgents, killing each other at the first available opportunity. This amounts to virtually holding the civilian passengers as helpless hostage and trying to use them as human shield for their own safety. It is also just unacceptable.

While on this orgy of gory violence, the reflexive cry of Sri Chidambaram in the wake of these tragic murders for more of the same (failed measures), asking for an “expanded mandate” i.e. permission to use air strikes against the insurgents operating in an area with deep forest covers and sheltering for ages large number of adivasi inhabitants is also unacceptably disturbing. So is his vituperative verbal assault on civil society groups committed to uphold democratic values and norms so as to cover up his own dismal performance as the Union Home Minister. The fact that the detailed recommendations made by a body of recognised experts appointed by no less than the Planning Commission of India to tackle Maoist insurgency have gone completely unheeded despite persistent failures of the tried and tested repressive measures deserves close attention.
On this note, we also strongly condemn Odisha government’s armed assaults on unarmed civilian resistors protesting against proposed mega projects by the Posco, and also Tata, Vedanta etc., overriding all ecological, social, and also legal, considerations.
It seems that the state is bent upon sending the message, in unison with the insurgents, that in Indian democracy peaceful protests have no reasonable chance of being heard and the only way out is armed banditry.

At the end, we again appeal to the warring parties to immediately come to the negotiating table and eschew blood spilling violence. Obviously the “democratic” state has a greater responsibility and just cannot afford to emulate a band of armed outlaws.
The sate must also immediately have an authentic and thoughtful relook at the “strategy” being pursued hitherto by it and make serious attempts to initiate inclusive and participatory development to better the lot of the marginalised adivasi populations, in particular - the main constituency of the insurgents, to cut them off from their principal support base.
Mindless armed action will only bring in more and more tragedies it its wake. An internal disturbance fuelled by an overpowering sense of alienation felt by a significant section of the population born out of desperate poverty and cruel oppressions cannot be and must not be tackled the way a war is waged
against a clearly identified uniformed external enemy.

Public Statement on Jagatsingpur by concerned individuals


STOP POLICE ATTACKS ON PEACEFUL PROTESTORS

IN ORISSA

15 May 2010

New Delhi

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the unprovoked firing and arson carried out by the Orissa state police against a dharna of farmers and fisher folk opposed to the proposed POSCO steel project in Jagatsingpur district.

 

As per latest reports, today over 100 people have been injured and many shops and houses in Balitutha village, the site of the dharna, have been set on fire by the policemen.  Around 40 divisions of policemen were involved in the operation, which continues even now as we write this. Hundreds of villagers belonging to the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) have been sitting in a peaceful dharna since 26 January 2010 to express their dissent against the proposed plant.

 

It is also outrageous to note that the atrocities and arson by the police at Balitutha at the moment is being led by the SP of the district while chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar is issuing statements like “We are for peaceful industrialization” to the media. Naveen Patnaik is known for his ruthless manner in which he has dealt with democratic resistances in the past 10 years in the state, in which many innocent people have lost their lives to police firing and other forms of violence perpetrated by the state.

 

Prior to today’s police action, there was already an economic blockage imposed by the state administration of the villages earmarked for land acquisition and where resistance is the strongest. There is a strong fear that any police raid on the villagers to oust them from their land will result in the loss of innocent lives in an area where thousands were already killed when the Orissa Super Cyclone hit the area just a decade ago. Nevertheless, the area is endowed with rich natural resources and has a prosperous economy of its own, and the local communities – as they have expressed it over and over again – do not want to trade their resources, economy, and cultural identities for mere corporate greed.

 

We believe that, to crush peaceful dissent in such a brutal manner can only serve to undermine Indian democracy and push large sections of the Indian population to the point of desperation. At no point, in their struggle for over five years, have the anti-POSCO protestors indulged in any violent activities and have instead set an example to the rest of the country on how to carry out a democratic struggle based solely on the mass support of ordinary men and women.

 

We appeal to all Indian political parties and concerned citizens to oppose the Orissa government’s ill-considered and draconian action against the anti-POSCO protestors and demand the immediate withdrawal of police forces from the area. It is only through peaceful negotiations that a resolution can be found and the common people’s crumbling faith in Indian democracy restored.

Yours sincerely,

 

  1. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, New Delhi
  2. Medha Patkar, NAPM
  3. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
  4. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
  5. B Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM
  6. Praful Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa
  7. Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata
  8. Ashok Chaudhury, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  9. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  10. Sanjay Bosu Mallick, NFFPFW
  11. Madhumita Dutta, Vettiverr Collective, Chennai
  12. Nityanand Jayaraman, Journalist, Chennai
  13. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
  14. Dr Karen Coelho, Academic, Chennai
  15. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University and NAPM, New Delhi
  16. Soumitra Ghosh, NFFPFW – North Bengal Regional Committee, Siliguri, West Bengal
  17. Mamata Dash, Researcher and Activist, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  18. Amit Sengupta, Journalist, New Delhi
  19. Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi
  20. Ravi Hemadri, the Other Media, New Delhi
  21. Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  22. Shalini Gera, Friends of South Asia, Delhi
  23. Shibayan Raha, New Delhi
  24. Madhu Sarin, Researcher and Activist, Chandigarh
  25. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
  26. Saswati Swetlana
  27. Ashish Fernandes, Bangalore
  28. Amar Kanwar, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  29. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
  30. Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
  31. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
  32. Maj Gen (Retd) S G Vombatkere
  33. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  34. Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  35. Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
  36. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  37. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  38. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
  39. K P Sasi, Independent Filmmaker, Bangalore
  40. Anivar Aravnd, Movingrepublic, Bangalore
  41. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
  42. Latha Jishnu, Journalist, New Delhi
  43. Chanda Asani, Academic, Jaipur

...and many more concerned citizens

 

Elections and Political Malpractice in Pakistan


Farooq Tariq

 

An election is taking place in Faisalabad for Punjab Assembly today. There are three more bye elections in other areas of Punjab. All are taking place after the resignations of the members of parliament due to their fake degrees of graduation submitted to Election Commission during the 2008 general election. It took two years before the Supreme Court took up the cases and several of these accused opted to resign instead of fighting their cases.

 

Two of those who resigned are contesting again. A natural division of these two is shared by the two parties of the rich, the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. Ajmal Asif contesting from Faisalabad is from PMLN and Jamshed Dasti from PPP. Both of them are allowed by the courts to contest against. What a mockery of the justice. They resigned from their seats because they had cheated the Election Commission and the people in general. The cheaters are contesting again because at present the condition for the illegibility of a candidate to be a graduate is gone.

 

This is just one aspect of these bye elections. The elections are contested every where with full state sponsorship of the candidates from the respective governing political parties. The rich candidates are violating all the code of conduct that Election Commission has laid down for candidates before the elections.

 

Prime Minister Gilani has addressed public rallies in Vihari and Muzhafar Ghar districts in support of the PPP candidates. He has announced several development schemes for those districts as part of their election strategy. The EC code of conduct prohibits a candidate or a party to announce any development scheme, subscription or donation to an individual or an institute to be announced. The Governor of Punjab, a PPP person announced several such schemes in Faisalabad. An army of provincial ministers both from PPP and PMLN are permanently based in the different constituencies where bye elections are taking place offering the locals for all sort of state benefits once they will vote for their candidate.

 

Both parties have to do this mal practice because they politics have not much to offer to people. State patronization of a particular candidate is very visible in these bye elections.

 

However, it is the general practices of  PPP and PMLN candidates that is making these elections as a farce and pretense. Winning the election at all cost is the only solution to their feudal ego. They are spending money like anything. The EC code of conduct prohibits a candidate not to spend more than 1.5 million Rupees in the case of National Assembly and less than a million Rupees for provincial elections.

I have been several times to Faisalabad to campaign for Labour party Pakistan candidate Mian Abdul Qayum. The money spent by Ajmal Asif, the fake degree holder and a candidate of PMLN is by any mean in billions and not in millions. His massive colour banners, hoardings, posters, stickers, T shirts and other advertising material have no match to the limitation of election expenditure. All of these advertising materials is not according the sizes that have been printed in the code of conduct booklet of the Election Commission.

 

But this is not his main spending. Teams of his supporters who are mainly the textile mill owners are visiting working class areas of constituencies and offering them cash amount of 3000 to 10,000 depending on votes of a family. They have Quran in their hand for an oath to be administered that they will vote for Mian Ajmal.

 

Election Commission of Pakistan has never taken any notice of over expenditure in their whole history. For them this might be a minor election irregularity, there are other massive ones to deal with. By allowing the rich candidate to use capital as the base of the vote, the Election Commission becomes a party in favour of the rich.

 

The workers of the textile factories and power looms have been threatened to loose their job if they vote for LPP candidate.  A capitalist class is acting as a class in this constituency. They know if LPP candidate gets even any reasonable votes, it will start a new era of politics in Pakistan. It seems that there is absolute no shortage of resources for this representative of PMLN for this bye elections.

 

There are over 100 gum men around him when he moves in the constituency. This is total breach of the EC code of conduct. The open exhibition of the arms is a direct threat to the peace of these elections. The gun men arms are itself an act of canvassing on behalf of the candidates of the rich parties.

 

Ajmal Asif , the PMLN candidate is a declared proclaimed offender in a murder and attempt of murder case. He was involved in killing of an industrial worker and injuring several when they tried to form a trade union in 2008. He is nominated by a political party PMLN, that has advocated a rule of law and for an independent judiciary. What a respect for judiciary, as they declare a person proclaimed offender and PMLN nominate him to contest elections on its behalf.

 

The PPP federal government has gone even further than PMLN in these violations of EC code of conduct. In almost every village, they development work to lay down the gas pipe lines has started when the lection schedule was announced. It stoped yesterday on 14 May, ad ay before poling. If you vote for PPP, the pipe line work will be completed, if you do not, the digging of soul will remain the same and dust will be every where, is the hidden message. So is the case of road constructions. It is left uncompleted and will be done if you vote. It is dirtiest game by a party that claims to be “Peoples” party. It is not “Peoples” party but a party of the crooks and schemers for the bosses.

 

The PPP activists are distributing the so-called Benazhir Income Support Scheme farms and bank cheque to poor women. The BISS aims at providing Rupees one thousand a month to the poor of the poor section. But World Bank sponsored scheme is been used every where by PPP as an election incentive.

The PPP elections campaign in Faisalabad is been supported by active participation of Faryal Talpur, sister of presedient Zardari, The governor of Punjab, the minister of natural resources and petroleum, Federal textile minister and several other ministers.

 

The capitalist democracy is been exposed in classical terms as a politics of the few for the few rich. We have been offered an election to choose who will exploit us for the next three years.

 

LPP is contesting against the two governments and not against the candidates of the two political parties. On one side, the LPP activists are sleeping on rough floors after campaigning door to door, and on the other side the supporters of PPP and PMLN are having their best lunches, dinners and rides on the most expensive luxury land crusers and other massive jeeps and cars. The LPP candidate has one car to campaign while the PPP and PMLN candidates have countless transport available both private and government one. The LPP candidate is taking care of all aspect of EC code of conduct, while the two candidates of PPP and PMLN are violating every aspect of that.

 

Whatever the results are today, the working class in Faisalabad industrials suburbs will not be the same. There is growing consciousness that there is Labour candidate in this area. Everyone knows that we are in the field. Over 10,000 workers participated in our election rallies. Countless poems have been written in praise of our election symbol Apple (Seeb). Our candidate Mian Abdul Qayum and comrades of LPP from other areas have campaigned day and night. Labour Qaumi Movement, the labour organization that Mian Qayum heads, has become a household name in Faisalabad.

 

This is not the end of the politics; it is the beginning of our new era. This is the beginning of a working class politics on a platform of working class party. Most of the Left parties and groups have supported us. They have come to campaign for us that include Workers Party of Pakistan and Awami Jamhori Forum in particular. The election results will be announced this evening and hopefully we will not be at the bottom end but among the top four out of 17 candidates.

Bolivarian Venezuela at the crossroads


Nationalization, workers’ control: achievements and limitations (PART 1)


By Eric Toussaint[1]


The economic, social and political situation in Venezuela has changed
a lot since the failure of the constitutional reform in December 2007,
which acted as a warning to the Chávez government.[2] This failure had
the effect however of reviving the debate on the need to have a
socialist perspective. The debate revolves around several key
questions: further nationalization, workers’ control, the place of the
PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), people’s participation,
etc.

On Sunday 15 February 2009, 54.36% of the country’s citizens voted
‘yes’ to the amendment to the Constitution that allows political
representatives to stand for successive mandates without any time
limit.[3] Up to then the Constitution had only allowed two successive
mandates: there had to be a break before the candidate could apply
again.[4] In 2013, at the end of his second mandate, Hugo Chávez will
have the possibility to run again for president. If he is re-elected,
his mandate will end in January 2019. This is why some Chavist
activists are now concerned about what changes may occur by then that
could consolidate the progress achieved since Chávez’s accession to
power.

Nationalization, workers’ control: achievements and limitations

In April 2008, after 15,000 workers at the SIDOR steel plant, part of
the Argentine group Techint, had been on strike for nearly two months,
Hugo Chávez announced that the company was being nationalized. The
workers' main demand was for 9,000 temporary contracts to be converted
into unlimited duration contracts. Given the employer's refusal,
nationalization was the best way for the government to guarantee that
the workers' demand was met -- a decision workers perceived as a great
victory.

SIDOR was founded as a State-owned company during the 1960s, was then
privatized and sold to foreign capital in 1997 under Rafael Caldera's
presidency. The April 2008 re-nationalization takes on particular
significance since this modern and efficient company is a production
tool that Argentinian capital, and Techint in particular, wished to
hold on to.

It should be noted that the Chavist government of the state in which
SIDOR is located had ordered the police to repress the strike as soon
as it started. In addition, the minister of Labour had done nothing to
support workers' demands. As a consequence Hugo Chávez' decision to
nationalize the company and to remove the minister was perceived as a
shift in the workers’ favour. All the more so as, at about the same
time, he announced an increase in interprofessional minimum wages and
public sector salaries as well as the nationalization of the cement
industry, which so far had been in the hands of three TNCs (Lafarge –
France, Holcim – Switzerland, and Cemex – Mexico).

In the following months and during 2009 the government made further
nationalizations in the food industry[5] (which affected both national
capital – Lacteos Los Andes – and the grain TNC Cargill). The
government justified these nationalizations as being essential for
improving the population's food supply. Finally the Bank of Venezuela,
one of the largest private banks in the Santander group (one of the
two leading banking groups in Spain) was also taken over by the State.

All these nationalizations, as well as those that had occurred earlier
(in the electricity sector, telecommunications, the Orinoco oil
fields, etc.), led to generous compensations for the former owners:
Venezuela uses part of its oil revenue to regain control of certain
strategic sectors of the economy. The main objective of such
compensation is to avoid legal penalties for not abiding by bilateral
treaties on investments signed by Venezuela. International law makes
it possible for States to nationalize companies provided they give
reasonable compensation to owners. Venezuela could proceed in a more
radical way if it withdrew its signature from bilateral treaties on
investments, left the ICSID (International Centre for the Settlement
of Investment Disputes, i.e. the World Bank's tribunal on investment
issues), and secured its liquidities and other assets abroad so as to
avoid seizure. This of course would further increase the hostility of
the establishment in industrialized countries and of the TNCs within
the country (all the major transnational oil companies are present in
Venezuela as well as General Motors, Mitsubishi, Daimler-Chrysler,
etc.).

The rather cautious way chosen by the government did not prevent a
company like ExxonMobil from trying to have 12 billion dollars
belonging to PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima) seized by
Dutch and British courts in 2008. This is one good reason for
Venezuela to enter into an alliance with other countries of the South
so as to repudiate bilateral treaties on investments that include
clauses that could be detrimental to the nation's interests, to
withdraw from the ICSID and WTO, and to set up a multilateral body in
the South to settle disputes –  in other words, an ICSID that would be
a Southern alternative to the World Bank’s ICSID, which serves the
interests of large private TNCs.

In 2009, further nationalizations again raised the issue of workers’
control. Left-wing trade unions and workers' collectives are in fact
demanding the implementation of control mechanisms through which
workers can control the boards of nationalized companies. They want in
this way to ensure that the original objectives of such
nationalizations will be adhered to; they also want to prevent bad
management, wastage, embezzlement, corruption, and misuse of company
assets by insisting on the opening of ledgers, transparent commercial
and industrial strategies, and the periodic submission of balance
sheets and accounts. They rightly voice their distrust of many of the
private executives who stayed on after nationalization, but also of
some new executives who look after their personal interests rather
than seek what is good for the community. Achieving and indeed
demanding control increases workers' self-confidence and their
capacity to collectively contribute to a socialistic kind of
management and labour relations on the one hand, and, on the other,
create a counter-weight within companies in the hands of private
capital.

We see instances of workers occupying private companies and demanding
their nationalization. Inevitably the issue of workers’ control will
have to be raised again in the oil industry. It first flared up during
the oil lockout (December 2002 - January 2003), when workers, who
wanted to resume production, had called an oil conference. Later Hugo
Chávez rejected the idea of workers’ control in this key industry
because of its strategic importance, whereas of course it would be a
good reason to go for it. The same applies to the production and
distribution of electricity, which were also nationalized. Workers in
this sector started demanding control in September 2009. Electricity
supply in Venezuela is critical since over 50% of its production[6] is
'lost' or diverted (meaning stolen) during distribution. Losses are
mainly due to the use of old equipment because before they were
nationalized by the Chávez government, certain companies like
Electricidad de Caracas (owned by AES, a U.S.-owned TNC) were almost
systematically deprived of the necessary investments to buy new
machines. On the other hand, large private industrial companies steal
and squander large quantities of energy. There are also unauthorized
electric hook-ups in residential areas but in the case of working
class households, which are not big consumers, such piracy is limited.
Workers in the electricity sector are in the best position to solve
the issue of supply and to fight squandering and bad management by
senior executives – and thus avoid power cuts. These are the arguments
being developed by trade union leaders to demand workers’ control.

Ángel Navas, president of the Electricity Sector Workers’ Federation
(FETRAELEC), told the media during a demonstration by some 3,000
workers in Caracas on 25 September 2009: “We the workers are in touch
with users in the neighbourhoods. We know how we can solve the
crisis... We have to change the bureaucratic structures and the
structures of capitalist management into structures with a socialist
vision. We must change production relations and do away with all this
bureaucracy which is killing the company.”[7]

During the first half of 2009 Hugo Chávez stated at a public meeting
with worker managers that he was favourable to a law on the election
of managers of nationalized companies[8], but nothing has happened
since then to put this commitment into practice.

This struggle for workers’ control of company management is essential.
Its outcome is decisive for the ongoing process in Venezuela.[9]

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle and Judith Harris, in collaboration
with Francesca Denley and Stephanie Jacquemont

Next part:  Debate and contradiction in the PSUV (United Socialist
Party of Venezuela) (Part 2)

_____________________________
__

[1] Eric Toussaint, Doctor in Political Science (University of Liege
and University of Paris VIII), is president of CADTM Belgium
(Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org ). He
is the author of A diagnosis of emerging global crisis and
alternatives, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2009, 139p; Bank of the South. An
Alternative to the IMF-World Bank, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2007; The World
Bank, A Critical Primer, Pluto Press, Between The Lines, David Philip,
London-Toronto-Cape Town 2008; Your Money or Your Life, The Tyranny of
Global Finance, Haymarket, Chicago, 2005.

[2] On 2 December 2007 51% of voters said ‘No’ to Chávez'
constitutional referendum as against 49% voting  ‘Yes’.  This is
Chávez' only electoral setback between 1998 and 2009. See Éric
Toussaint, “The failure of 2 December 2007 can be a powerful lever for
improving the process currently unfolding in Hugo Chávez’ Venezuela”,
December 2007, http://www.cadtm.org/The-failure-of-2-December-2007-can

[3] It should be remembered that article 72 provides for the
possibility of citizens recalling the President of the Republic and
all other elected officials half-way through the term of office.

[4] The campaign depicting Hugo Chávez as a “despot for life” played
on the scandalous nature of unlimited re-election. Yet several
European democracies work in the same way. This is the case in Spain,
Italy and the United Kingdom for the post of Prime Minister, and in
Germany for the post of Chancellor (in all 4 countries, it is the head
of government who really holds the reins of power). In France, up to
the adoption in July 2008 of the constitutional law on the
modernization of institutions, there was no limit on the number of
consecutive mandates. Since then, the number of consecutive mandates
is limited to two.

[5] http://voixdusud.blogspot.com/2009/03/lindustrie-alimentaire-dans-la.html

[6] We should also note, however, a very positive structural feature
in Venezuela: electricity is very largely produced from dams and
rivers. Fossil fuels are only rarely used and there are no nuclear
power plants.

[7] See a very interesting video of the demonstration with interviews
of several TU leaders on the Marea Socialista website:
http://mareasocialista.com/trabajadores-372.html

[8] This was the case on 21 May 2009 during a meeting between Hugo
Chávez and 400 delegates from the steel and aluminium industries held
in the State of Guayana. A meeting to consolidate other commitments
made during this important assembly took place on 21 August 2009 in
the context of the “Plan Guayana socialista”. See Marea socialista,
no.22, p. 3.

[9] To know more about initiatives or position statements on workers’
control in Venezuela, read issues 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the magazine
Marea Socialista, July-August 2009, which discuss the situation at
SIDOR, CorpoElec, Cadafe, cement works, Cafeaca, Alcasa,
Carbonorca…See http://mareasocialista.com/

Tragedy, popular explosion, repression, IMF: Greece into the darkness


Yannis Almpanis (member of the Network for Political and Social Rights)

On May 5 the biggest workers' demonstration since 1976 took place in Athens. All the avenues of the city center were flooded by hundreds of thousands of workers who were protesting against the IMF-EU-Greek government austerity plan. It is impossible to make an accurate calculation of the crowd's number. There are estimations which start from 150.000 and end up to 500.000 people. No matter the exact number of the protesters, there is no doubt that this was an unbelievable show of of the working people's force. At the same time, in tenths of cities all around Greece we had extremely massive mobilizations. You can get an impression of what happened in Athens by watching these videos here . But this was not just a huge demonstration. It was also the angriest decades expression of popular resentment since decades . Thousands of people were not just protesting. The demonstration was turning to areal popular explosion against the IMF plan, against the lies of the authorities, against the assassination of the future of an entire nation. For many hours demonstrators were clashing with the police in front of the parliament. And this time it was not just black block or the radical left. As you can in the video here these demonstrators are not wearing masks and are not organized at all.The police was attacking for many hours tith tear gaz, but they couldn' disperse the demonstration.


And suddenly the crowd got silent. A real tragedy had happened. Three bank employees were killed in the Marfin's bank bulding at Stadiou avenue. A black block group threw petrol bombs to burn the bank branch at the ground floor and the fire got out of control. Although, it was revealed by the bank employees federation that the people were locked in a building with no fire exit, there can be no excuse for those who set the fire. It is a criminal attitude to set fire to a building where there are obviously people.

 

The government and mass media tried to take advantage of the blood and to manipulate public opinion. For once more they tried to play the card of collective responsibility. At the same time, repression reached its highest point. Demonstrators were bitten up by the police and people were arrested without any reason, some for just sitting at a “suspicious cafe”. Watch here the police breaking the windows of a cafe at Exarheia square.

 

Special police also stormed in our Immigrants' space-Social center at 13 Tsamadou str. in  a totally illegal and brutal operation that called to mind the invasion in Diaz school in Genova, special police have bitten and injured our comrades. They also destroyed our offices and took some red flags as “war loot”. I have to note that there was no order for such an operation. The policemen just acted like a gang. A few minutes later special police evacuated without violence an anarchist squat also at Exarheia.

 

On Thursday May 6 there was an new call for mobilization by the trade unions and the Left. Despite the political atmosphere crated by the tragedy, some 25.000 demonstrated peacefully in front of the Parliament. Late at evening the police attacked and dispersed some 1.500 who were still in front of the Parliament, although there was no violent action by the demonstrators.

 

But on Thursday the real news were inside the Parliament. Three socialist parliamentarians refused to vote in favour of the IMF-EU austerity plan. They were immediately kicked out of the socialist parliamentarian group. The plan was finally voted by PASOK (socialists), LAOS (racist extreme right) and Ntora Bacoyanni, the former right wing foreign affairs minister and rival of Antonis Samras for ND (right wing opposition) presidency. Samaras, a populist nationalist politician who decided to vote against the plan, immediately kicked Bacoyanni out of the party. There is no doubt that the political system will not be the same after the implementation of the austerity plan. It seems that Bacoyanni wants to create a new political party that can cooperate both with PASOK and ND to build a government (the model seems to be the German Liberals).

 

As the time goes by, more and more people realize that the IMF-EU-Greek government plan is not only catastrophic for the working people, but  it will also lead the country to an impasse. Public sector employees are losing about 30% of their income. Pensioners (both of public and private sector) are losing as well from 15% to 30% of their income. Young workers will paid with less money (about 580 euros) than the minimum wage (Greek version of CPE) And at the end of the day, in 2014, if everything goes as planned, the debt will be 150% (now it is 115%), and the GNP will be -5% than in 2009. As you well know, reality is always worst than plans (especially of those of IMF). The economy is falling into the deepest recession, at least -4% for this year. It is obvious that with such a low GNP, the whole lot of public debt cannot be paid. Sooner or later, the debt will be renegotiated and some private creditors might lose a part of their profits. This perspective, which is getting more and more clear, is making markets extremely insecure. In two worlds, the working people are already bankrupt and in some time the country will as well go bankrupt.

 

Argentina is in front of us.

 

7/5/10

STATEMENT ON THE WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL


No legislative proposal in India has had such an uncertain fate as the proposal to reserve one third of all the seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies for women. Proposed 14 years back, it is yet to be passed by the Lok Sabha and by half the Assemblies, before it becomes operational. In that sense, it bears an interesting comparison with the Equal Rights Amendment in the USA. Originally proposed by suffragette Alice Paul in 1923, it was approved by the 92nd  US Congress (the US two-chamber central legislature) only in 1972, but failed to be approved by the necessary number of States.
The Indian proposal is however much more limited. It is also an interesting, if sometimes forgotten fact, that this was not part of the agenda of the women’s movements – neither the left party led organizations nor the autonomous feminists raised such a demand. In its origin it came from the Indian National Congress as an electoral move. It was then that the parliamentary left parties took it up. Women activists like the late Geeta Mukherjee of the CPI, and Brinda Karat of the CPI(M), have been vocal about the Bill. The passage of the Bill by the Rajya Sabha earlier in 2010 raised the likelihood that the Bill will be passed by the Parliament. This makes it necessary to look at the long struggle over it, the opposition to it, and ask what could be a revolutionary socialist and feminist response.

In defence of affirmative action:

The first thing to assert is that we support a variety of forms of affirmative action for women, as well as for other specially oppressed social categories. Ruling class domination is always historically specific and related to specific ways in which the ruling class is connected to other dominant groups. Patriarchy is not merely a hangover of “feudalism”, but one of the important oppressive structures in the present, and at the same time one of the ways in which capitalism reinforces its domination. Women constitute half the population of India and in the era of globalization, the double burdens on the toiling women, of the urban and rural working classes, of the peasantry, of the working petty bourgeoisie, have increased significantly.
In such a situation a mere iteration of bourgeois-liberal equality cannot be a revolutionary response. As revolutionary communists, nor are we bound by the so-called constitutional boundaries set by the courts. We campaign aggressively for affirmative action to whatever extent it is necessary. Historically, it was the proletarian women’s movement that campaigned hard for the unconditional enfranchisement of all adult women, leading to the Europe-wide campaigns and the launching of International Working Women’s Day.
At the same time, we make it clear that we do not support the demand for reservation for women based on false considerations. We do not argue that the entry of greater numbers of women will mean greater voices for peace, or that women’s entry in politics will automatically lead to reduction of violence or corruption. For us, the struggle for greater representation of women in parliament is not a literal feminisation of politics, but only a step, which will educate masses of women about political activities, and enable them to also understand that substantive equality will not come about only through formal political rights. As with the struggle for women’s right to vote a hundred years ago, the struggle for women’s representation can become meaningful only if we see in the struggle the possibility of developing women’s political awareness to the point where they see themselves as equal partners in the struggle for socialism.

Is it possible to impose quotas on parties instead?

We do not accept the argument that a better alternative would be to insist that every party must put up a certain percentage of women candidates in elections. This is because, parties which are opposed to increased women’s participation in parliament, as they have shown themselves in practice to be, will put up women candidates in seats they expect to lose.

Women’s lives and conditions of existence and the limited relevance of reservation

The majority of Indian women live under difficult conditions. The Second NGO Shadow Report (2006) on CEDAW shows a considerable decline and in some cases closure of employment opportunities for large numbers of women. Work participation rates for women fell from 444 per thousand in 1993-1994 to 419 in 1999-2000 across rural India, and from 154 per thousand to 139 in urban India in the same period. In most Indian families, women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property. Police records show high incidence of crimes against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that the growth rate of crimes against women would be higher than the population growth rate by 2010. According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas. Forms of violence on women are so extreme that they are murdered for a plethora of reasons, whether because the young wife is too fat, or because she has married out of her caste, thereby ‘dishonouring’ her family. Merely ensuring that one third of the MPs of the Congress, the BJP, the BSP, the Samajwadi Party, or the JD(U), are women, will hardly improve the conditions of those masses of women. Nor are bourgeois parties concerned about the real conditions of women. Sonia Gandhi is silent on atrocities (honour-killing) by khap panchayats in Congress-ruled Haryana; Sushma Swaraj likewise on the attacks on women’s freedom by Sangh outfits.

Moreover, the bourgeois parliamentary system as it works today is tilted so totally in defence of the upper classes, that without major reforms that would virtually transform the class nature of parliament, something impossible without an immense class struggle, neither women nor men of the working class or peasant levels will find much presence in parliament. Contesting a parliamentary seat with serious intent to win it would mean spending tens of lakhs, if not crores of rupees. Women in the bourgeois parties, with small exceptions about whom we will discuss later, will be dependents of the dominant groups. And does one really expect that there would be a big difference if leading bourgeois politicians started grooming, not just their sons and sons-in-law, but also daughters and daughters in law? Only if election costs were borne by the state, if all candidates had equal radio and TV time, and if parties had plenty of women in their own leadership structures could reservations make significant changes.
There are exceptions, like Mayavati in BSP, or Mamata Banerjee in Trinamul Congress, who are women leaders without any male patronage network. But they have clearly placed themselves within the patriarchal mould. One would search in vain for any gender sensitivity in them. Not surprisingly, Mamata Banerjee is one of those who are opposing the Bill in the name of representation for Muslim women, and the TMC abstained during the voting in the Rajya Sabha.

Accordingly, while supporting the struggle for reservations, we warn against seeing in it any easy cure. But we support it, since the historical experience of the twentieth century has clearly been that any attempt at assuming that gender does not matter in the struggle to build socialism is totally wrong. Even if the socialist revolutionary struggle again threw up new soviets or similar institutions, there would be a need to ensure that women are incorporated in adequate numbers in them. 

Is the plea for a quota for Muslim and OBC women legitimate?

It is a matter of fact that there are many groups of people who carry the load of multiple burden, exploitation and marginalization. Different strategies are required for different types of marginalized and exploited. Historically, the issue of seat reservation for Muslims proved a deeply flawed one, contributing to the communalization of the political environment. Independent India did not have separate Muslim seats. And if there are no Muslim seats, there is no call for separate quota only for Muslim women. It is to be noted that currently only 1 per cent of MPs are Muslim women, and that most Muslim women candidates have been independent. The political parties do not put up Muslim women. This suggests that it is indeed a case that special measures need to be taken for such a group. But there does not exist any quota for Muslims or for OBCs, so there cannot be the solution that there should be a quota–within-quota for Muslim women and OBC women. The proposed Bill already has a quota-within-quota for Dalit and Adivasi women. If the bill is turned into law, that would immediately mean 40 SC/ST women, which is much higher than the current Lok Sabha’s 17. Moreover, it is clear that the opponents of the Bill who are raising concerns for OBC and Muslim women are plainly hypocritical. Mulayam Singh Yadav was bluntest when he threatened that if this bill was passed in 15 years parliament would no longer have men. This is not so much a genuine fear, as a rhetorical device aiming to mobilize the support of conservative patriarchal elements, be they from Hindu, Muslim or any other community.

The Left Parties

The Left Parties have of course tried to be much more consistent. Yet even in their cases, inconsistencies, inability to recognize patriarchy and reformism have limited their visions. None of the left parties has adequate women membership, nor an adequate number of women in the leaderships. And barring the occasional woman’s voice – once more, one is reminded of Geeta Mukherjee or of Brinda Karat – the leaders of the left parties are quite complacent about this. Their standard answer is that if people have the requisite abilities then they go to the leaderships. The reality is, ability is defined only for the public sphere, and the totally unequal burden in the private sphere is kept concealed. In addition, even when women break through to the public sphere, left parties too, all too often, adopt patriarchal stereotypes. Women are therefore relegated to the margins. Not surprisingly, the Left, even in West Bengal in 2009, had put up only two women candidates for the 42 seats. Interestingly, for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections of 2010, the Left Front has put up 67 women for 141 seats. This new found gender concern is at least partially an attempt to cash in on the sudden revival of the debate over the Women’s Reservation Bill. Had the left parties been really consistent, over the last 14 years at least, we should have seen a significant rise in women in all their own leadership structures. The Fourth International, on its part, has had such a policy. While admitting the difficulties, it has also registered important progress. The International Committee of the Fourth International, elected by its World Congress of 2010, is over 40 per cent female in composition. Political awareness and conscious organisational effort, rather than any view that the “really meritorious” will come forth, lies behind this progress. This in turn is linked to the question of whether women cadres have autonomy and whether the organisation is trying to build women cadres and leaders with a perspective that links socialist revolution and women’s liberation.

For a revolutionary or a parliamentary bourgeois resolution of the “women’s question”?

From the foregoing, we clearly stand for immediate passage of the bill, but not out of any reformist utopian dream of changing the conditions of the masses of women workers, peasants, dalits, adivasis, through the action of women in the existing parliamentary set up. As long as the rule of capital persists, every reform will ultimately be co-opted by capital to its goals. But it is through the partial struggles, through the struggles for reforms, that women and men, toiling people from all parts of the country and different sectors of the economy, will come to recognize the limits of bourgeois democracy as well as the value of the gains working people have wrested from the bourgeoisie. We are neither reformists who despite any occasional revolutionary rhetoric are committed to seeking the amelioration of the conditions of the toilers within the existing system. Nor are we pseudo-revolutionaries who reject, not bourgeois class dominated parliaments and a bourgeois state that renders democracy ineffective, but who go on to reject democracy as such, in favour of one party rule dressed up as working class dictatorship. The real rule of the working class and its allies has to be far more democratic than bourgeois democracy, but it can be so only by incorporating all the gains made by our own struggles within that bourgeois democracy. We call on revolutionaries to address struggles against special oppression to achieve greater class unity, collective class control over its own destiny, and the struggle to overturn capitalism and build a socialist alternative that can only lead to a society of associated production, where every segment of the oppressed must find their own voices to ensure their own liberation.

Greece and the world capitalist crisis


Savas Michael-Matsas

A Greek tragedy? “All the world’s a stage”

After the October 4, 2009 parliamentary elections in Greece, it was publicly admitted the farce of the “creative accounting of the Greek statistics” and revealed the fiscal tragedy of the country crashed by the twin unsustainable burden of debt and deficit. The impeding catastrophe was described by Giorgos Papakonstantinou, the finance minister of the newly elected Papandreou government, by the metaphor of the legendary “Titanic” sailing in a fatal collision course towards the iceberg.

But is the ship in that metaphor, representing Greece - or, rather, the entire system of globalized capitalism? Or, looking from another vantage point, isn’t Greece just the most visible part of the hidden gigantic iceberg responsible for a generalized shipwreck of capitalism sinking now in an ocean of debts?

The implosion of the US sub-prime mortgage market triggered, in summer 2007, the eruption of an unprecedented world crisis and credit crunch that took dramatic dimensions with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the meltdown of the entire global financial system, and the plunging of the world economy into a global Great Recession. It followed a State intervention in all the main capitalist countries, in 2008-2009, to halt the fall into the abyss. But, in turn, the ballooning of the State deficits and sovereign debts opened a new phase in the deepening crisis. At the end of 2009, Dubai was the first symptom of a globally propagated disease. Shortly it has been followed and superseded coming into the center in the world stage by what it has been called the “Greek tragedy”, the impending default of over-indebted Greece.

Commenting on the case of Greece, board members at large western banks rightly predicted that “after two years of worrying about mortgage and corporate risk, sovereign risk is going to be the big debate for 2010- both for banks, and the wider investment community”.[1]

Sovereign debt was normally considered as risk –free. “It is the touchstone by which other riskier financial assets are priced”, David Roche and Bob McKee write. “A repricing of sovereign debt as dangerous debt would be an earthquake for financial markets. It would blow a hole in the balance sheets of previously safe financial institutions. That would be a new chapter in the credit crisis.”[2] This new chapter is a logical progression in the current world crisis, according to these authors, and it has been already opened. The manifestation of a series of sovereign debt defaults as “black holes” in the space of globalized capitalist relations is threatening the entire system.

Sovereign debt in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has, after 2007, exploded by nearly 70 per cent from 44 per cent of GDP in 2006 to 71 per cent.[3] The critical point for sovereign debt, according to studies by the IMF and by Reinhart and Rogoff, is in the area of 60-90 per cent of GDP. Sovereign debt in the US, the UK, and the Euro-zone has already risen far beyond, and in Japan is more than twice that level.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, has warned that public debt in the advanced economies will rise to about 110 per cent of the GDP in 2014. He called that “a tremendous challenge” and he predicted that “for the next decade or two, cyclical upswings should be used to reduce public debt than finance expenditures or tax cuts”. [4]

The Greek case has to be situated in this global, peculiar and complex framework of a world capitalist bankruptcy. “Greece”, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, writes, “is part of a wider, and historically unfamiliar phenomenon-that of a simultaneous and large disruption to the balance sheet of many industrial countries. Tighten your seat belts.[5]

Warnings for the global implications of a fiscal tragedy not to be limited to Greece nor to Southern Europe are issued by the neo-liberal Niall Ferguson as well, who sees a Greek crisis coming to America itself: “It began in Athens. It is spreading to Lisbon and Madrid. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding will remain confined to the weaker eurozone economies [...] it is a fiscal crisis of the western world.[6]

For the unfolding Greek tragedy “All the world’s a stage”. And all the players, all conflicting social forces, classes, and States are acting and clashing in “this wide and universal theatre[7].

Capitalist globalization in crisis

The danger of a default of a Greek economy representing only 3 per cent of the European GDP never could reach such importance without a danger of a destructive “contagion” not solely to the peripheral countries of the Eurozone but to the hard core of the European Union itself, and even beyond it, affecting all the lenders of Greece, first of all the French, Swiss, and German banks. [8]

The centrality of the “Greek question” would be inconceivable without the high degree of interconnectedness of all parts of the world economy reached by the capitalist globalization of the last three decades, including the contradictory process of European capitalist integration, advanced particularly by the Maastricht Treaty after the demise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the so-called “actually existing Socialism” in Eastern Europe.

Globalization and European economic and monetary unification under capitalist conditions do not abolish unevenness of social economic development in different countries; on the contrary exacerbate it, strengthening all centrifugal forces. With the post 2007 implosion of global finance capital, unbalances and contradictions emerged violently not between an “austere”, “disciplined” Germany accumulating surpluses at the center and a “profligate” peripheral Greece ridden by deficits, debts and corruption, nor solely between the strong European North and the weak Mediterranean South of the arrogantly denigrated “PIGS”                              (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) but in the German-French central axis itself of the Maastricht project and of the European Monetary Union. 20 years after its re-unification, and following an austerity straitjacket imposed for decades to the German workers, thanks to Schröder and Social Democratic bureaucracy, industrial Germany is a major export country, second to China globally, confronted to a declining, des-industrializing as most other European countries, parasitic French capitalism. The specter of a default in a country-member of the Eurozone like Greece threatening a devastating contagion in other EU countries put the first major danger to the existence of the EMU, and a deadly challenge to the entire European imperialist project of integration of the Continent.

Commenting on the rising sharp antagonisms, tensions, and hollow compromises among the major countries of the EU core manifested before, during and after the Summit on March 25, 2010 in relation to a “rescue package”, a bail-out urgently needed to prevent an official declaration of a Greek default, George Soros rightly warned that the EU is “at the brink of disintegration”.[9]

This process has not stopped by the shaky and vague compromise in the March 25, 2010 EU Summit for a “rescue mechanism” including the crucial role of the IMF to avoid a Greek default – a decision which do not halted but exacerbated the crisis raising  the spreads of the Greek State bonds  and the CDS’ to astronomic heights . Even the attempted concretization of that vague “mechanism” by a EU promise of 30 billion euros as aid of last resort at the usurer’s rate of 5 per cent interest, in the tele-conference of the EU finance ministers on April 11, 2010 could not solve the solvency problem of the Greek economy nor to overcome the historic impasse facing the EU. On April 15, the Greek government started the formal procedures to activate the process of a bail-out, which involves new draconian austerity” measures demanded by the IMF[10].

The official call to the US-led IMF to participate in a rescue operation in Europe involving this time not Latvia or Hungary but a serious crisis internal to the Eurozone itself demonstrates not simply the narrow mind of Chancellor Angela Merkel but the impotence of European imperialism to challenge the world hegemony of its transatlantic antagonist, US imperialism, even if the later is in advanced decline and crisis.

The huge obstacle for a bail out of a Eurozone member like Greece reflects the absence of a common fiscal policy, which is possible only through a political unification. The historical verdict is clear: throughout a century, the European ruling classes failed to unify the Continent under their iron heel despite the barbarism of two world wars, a Cold War and more than 50 years of efforts to establish a common economic and monetary space. The historical task of European unification can be fulfilled only by the European working class by revolutionary means in a United Socialist States of Europe.

It is the crisis of finance capital globalization that erupted in 2007, a global crisis having as its center the United States that brought forward all the internal contradictions and weaknesses of European capitalism.

At the same time, it demonstrated the failure of three decades of finance capital global expansion and of the so-called neo-liberal strategy to give a sustainable solution to the tremendous crisis of overproduction of capital produced by the “Thirty Glorious Years” of post war capitalist development in the Keynesian framework of the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement. It is this crisis of capital over-accumulation in the productive sphere, and the law of the falling rate of profit, the “Nemesis” of capital, the driving force both for the expansion of finance capital as well as for its current implosion.[11]

Keynesianism and anti-Keynesian neo-liberalism, the two economic strategies developed by advanced imperialist capitalism to confront its systemic contradictions and historic decline as a mode of production, have failed. The crisis of overproduction of capital prevents a return to the Keynesianism of the post war period because it will intensify the falling rate of profit and it will fuel inflationary pressure. From the other side, the globalization of finance capital and its policy, “neo-liberalism”, led to the worst crisis in the history of capitalism; its uncontrolled continuation of bubble creation will produce more uncontrolled catastrophes of fictitious capital deepening the world depression. This strategic impasse opens a protracted period of convulsions and disruption of all social and international relations where the questions both of imperialist wars and civil wars, all kinds of revolts, social and anti-imperialist revolutions are on the agenda.

The nature of our epoch of capitalist decline as an epoch of transition to world communism comes forward negating all the bourgeois illusions for an “end of communism” prematurely celebrated in 1989-91. The diagnosis and prognosis made by Karl Marx in the Grundrisse and in Capital are historically vindicated. The “universalizing tendency of capital”, developed to its extremes in the epoch of imperialism, particularly in the last decades of finance capital globalization, drives it to its dissolution, “ finally to its violent overthrow[12] and transition to a new mode of production in a classless society : “this[universalizing] tendency- which capital possesses, but which at the same time, since capital is a limited form of production, contradicts it and hence drive it towards dissolution-distinguishes capital from earlier modes of production, and at the same time contains this element, that capital is posited as a  mere point of transition [13].

The current world systemic crisis not solely accelerates all processes of dissolution (mass destruction of surplus capital, mass chronic unemployment and misery); it drives the transition as well beyond capital.

 

The Greek December: a message from the future

Prominent leaders of international capitalist institutions or of leading EU countries, like IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and French President Nicolas Sarkozy rightly characterized the popular revolt led by the youth in Greece in December 2008[14], following the murder by police of a 15 years old schoolboy, as the first political explosion of the current world economic crisis.[15]

The December revolt came indeed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers, the meltdown of the international financial system and the panic produced by it. All the class conscious sections of the capitalists all over the world clearly saw in the events in Greece a message from the near future of world capitalism for social and political upheavals to come.

Comparisons were and still are made between the Greek revolt in December 2008 and the Argentinazo, the mass revolt in Argentina in December 2001 following the default of that Latin-American country. There are obviously similarities between the two popular revolts but more instructive are the differences.

In Argentina, the default preceded the revolt; from the other side, the Greek revolt was the first manifestation of a deep, on-going crisis, which will bring the over0-indebtedcountry in 2009-10 in a dramatic situation of social economic catastrophe and default.

Differences do not stop here. Argentina’s default in 2001, the bankruptcy of a country considered until then as the “success story” of neo-liberalism and “the jewel in the crown” of IMF, was indeed, in a sense, an announcement that the period of finance globalization and neo-liberalism has exhausted its dynamic- a fact that dominates reality after the 2007-2008 meltdown of the world financial system. But Argentina’s default had come at the completion of a full circle and in the opening of a new one.

It was the culmination of an international financial hurricane that started with the crash in Asia in 1997, and spiraled internationally, with Russia’s default in 1998, the Long Term Capital Management collapse, the bursting of the bubble of the US “dot.com” economy and recession in 2000-2001, the Enron debacle, the crises in Turkey and Brazil.

The Argentine default triggered the popular revolt. In Greece, the revolt foreshadowed the default to come.  But the global economic environment has completely and dramatically changed between the two revolts.

Immediately after the Argentinazo, more precisely during the period 2002-2007, a weak world economic recovery followed. The financial maelstrom was contained by means applied also in previous major shocks and crashes during the decades of finance globalization (for ex. after the 1987 international crash). Interest rates everywhere, following the leadership of the US Federal Reserve, were kept extremely low providing cheap access to liquidity lifelines. Finance capital turned massively to all kinds of exotic financial instruments-later to be proved to be “toxic”, explosive mines hidden everywhere in the globalized financial system. Derivatives permitted an extension of credit on a colossal scale as banks could “securitize” their loans.  Combined to this world “bubble” economy, growth of military expenditures linked to the imperialist “war on terror”, particularly the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contributed to a short-lived recovery on a world scale.[16]

The backbone of that weak recovery of the world capitalist economy was the US-China axis. The huge deficits of the strongest and more over-indebted capitalist power in the world were financed thanks to the enormous reserves that the export-led hybrid economy of China accumulates, after its turn to capitalist restoration. It could not be more evocative image of the decline and parasitism of an economy representing the highest point of world capitalist development…

Professor Robert Skidelsky summarizes the web of Sino-American relations as follows: “Instead of having to borrow from the American public to finance its fiscal deficit, the US government could borrow Chinese savings by issuing Treasury bonds that were bought by the Chinese. Therefore federal deficits did not raise the cost of domestic borrowing, which they would have done had the government had to borrow American savings rather than selling debt to China. […] With Chinese savings available, the US government could run a deficit without crowding out private spending. This allowed the Fed to establish a  much lower funds rate- the rate at which banks borrow from the Fed and one another- than it would otherwise have been able to do, helped in this by the downward pressure on prices exerted by the import of cheap Chinese goods produced by cheap Chinese labor. Cheap money, in turn, enabled banks to expand their deposits and their loans to customers more than they could otherwise do. In short, it was via their impact on the financing of the federal deficit that Chinese savings made it possible for the US consumer to go on a spending spree. ” […] Capital over-accumulation in the productive sphere, and the fall of profitability, oriented the spending into speculative activities. Skidelsky continues: “The lack of opportunities for profitable investment determined the pattern of American spending. Americans borrowed not to invest in new machines but to speculate in houses and mergers and acquisitions. The resulting growth in paper wealth triggered a consumption boom. The situation was unsustainable because no new resources were being created with which to pay back either domestic or foreign borrowing[17]. The immense pyramid of paper wealth could not but to collapse, starting from the sub-prime mortgage market in 2007 and leading to the world financial meltdown and recession.

It is this entirely new world situation, recognized even by the capitalists as the worst in the history of their system that produced the Greek December and initiated a qualitatively new period of social conflicts and political explosions not solely in Greece but also in Europe and internationally. There cannot be a return to the status quo ante. The massive State intervention in 2008-2009 was not limited to monetary policies, combining extremely low interest rates with enormous rescue packages, superseding in scale everything experienced in the past, after the 1987 or the 1997 international crashes. The fact that this kind of unprecedented intervention led at the end of 2009 to a non-sustainable gigantic public debt burden all over the capitalist world indicates the inadequacy of the old means to solve the current historical problem of world capitalism.

Greece, thus, is not an exception but a microcosm condensing in a peculiar, original way the main characteristics of the world process.

 

Why Greece?

Greece is considered as the weakest link in the international chain of the EU member states, the weakest even amidst the despised by the European center “PIGS” of the European periphery. The empirical data come to corroborate this observation: the combination of a staggering deficit of 12.7 per cent of the GDP for 2009 and of an enormous public debt of 113 per cent of GDP (about 300 billion euros) to be raised to 120.8 per cent in 2010[18], according to the forecast of Bank of Greece, make Greece more vulnerable than any other country of the European Union.

But empirical comparisons are not sufficient and do not reveal by themselves the structural-historical reasons that made Greece the “privileged” locus of the first political explosion of the current world economic crisis and of an impeding default threatening the entire Eurozone.

The accession to the European  capitalist integration process, and above all the integration ton the European Monetary Union in 1999 produced the appearance, accepted by the global  markets, that Greece made its exit from the ranks of “emerging countries” to join the “advanced economies”, in OECD language. Becoming a pole of attraction of surplus financial capital after the 1997 Asian Crash because of the creditworthiness given by its integration to the Eurozone, the Greek bourgeoisie attempted to realize its old ambition to transform itself into the regional hegemonic power by investing massively and controlling the banking system of the Balkans, and extending its economic influence in this vital geopolitical area, in the soft underbelly of Russia and in the front door of the Middle East.

Ten years after the introduction of the euro, the EMU and the EU are confronted now with their worst crisis and the danger of dissolution while Greece is under the shadow of a State bankruptcy. The centrifugal forces of capitalist integration intensified combined development but the centripetal forces of its historically established inner contradictions deepened uneven development as well. The moment of truth came with the crisis: misleading appearances are shattered when essential contradictions explode.

Greek capitalism was born already old”, as Pantelis Pouliopoulos, the founder of Greek Trotskyism rightly has written.[19] The belated historical development of bourgeois Greece, with absence of a strong industrial base and an over-extended, bureaucratic public sector supervising and giving fiscal and financial support to local capital, determined a debt-led growth of the economy that made it dependent from and extremely sensitive to the flows of foreign capital and of world trends in capitalism, particularly in its imperialist stage.

Foreign loans and inroads by the international financial capital, to which   Greek capital linked its own accumulation and survival, played and still play a determining role in the course of the economic and political history of modern Greece.[20]

In one sense, the history of Greek capitalism is the history of its bankruptcies.  These bankruptcies, in turn, coincide with the crisis moments and Great Depressions in the history of world capitalism: the Great Depression of 1873-1896 led to the State bankruptcy of Greece in 1893; the 1929 Crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s led to the 1932 Greek default; the current crisis at the end of the fist decade of the 21st century put again on the agenda a third State bankruptcy of the country. Each of these bankruptcies is connected with major political upheavals and new chapters in the history of class struggle.

To understand the nature of the debt crisis behind each of these State bankruptcies it is needed to situate it in the proper historical framework as it’s is shaped by social struggle.

The historical background of the current impeding default involves the development of the class struggle, after the betrayed by Stalinism and defeated by imperialism Greek revolution of 1941-49, including, as a major milestone, the fall of the CIA imposed anti-communist military dictatorship of 1967-74 and its implications. The youth uprising in Polytechnic University in Athens in 1973, precipitating a crisis that the military junta could not, finally, survive, was, as a matter of fact, the last battle of the previous civil war putting an end to the post-civil war authoritarian regimes.

The inglorious collapse of the dictatorship in 1974 revealed a vacuum of power, which together with the political radicalization of the people produced the greatest threat to the power of the ruling class from the time of the civil war. To defuse the revolutionary potential, channeling it into a revived bourgeois parliamentary system, it was necessary to introduce political and economic concessions to the workers, peasant, and urban petty bourgeois strata.

At the same years when  the post war Keynesian edifice  was dismantled all over the capitalist world  after the collapse of the Bretton Woods Settlement in 1971( the collapse of the Greek military dictatorship itself was part of the international upheaval and revolutionary tide engulfing the entire planet from the late ’60s to the mid ’70s), in Greece, a reverse process took place:  immediately after the fall of the junta and particularly  after the 1981 ascent to power of the populist PASOK of Andreas Papandreou, were introduced Keynesian type of measures                             (nationalizations, growth of the State sector enterprises, raise of the popular income etc.) in order to check the re-affirmed militancy of the working class and diffuse a potentially revolutionary political crisis.

These measures were taken on the basis of a growing foreign debt. Greece’s over-indebtedness is due not solely to the corruption of its ruling class and of its politicians but also to their deep fear for the post-1974 popular pressures from below.

Greece was not immune to its global environment sinking into a crisis of overproduction of capital. The industrialization period of 1963-1973, due in a great measure to the penetration of multinational companies taking advantage of the absence of trade union activity under the military regime, has been halted and a so-called industrial “investors strike” followed. Industrial investment remained weak. Traditionally competitiveness of Greek products was based on high tariff protection and low relative labor costs.  Both factors were eroded from the mid-seventies; labor costs increased and tariff protection has been phased out after the 1981 entry in the EEC. “Furthermore”, Takis Fotopoulos remarks “the erosion of the Greek comparative advantage in terms of labor costs and the failure of free-market economic restructuring to change the export pattern implied a very weak response of exports to the continuous expansion of imports[21].

The traditional agricultural sector based on small land property, despite the inflow of European subsidies, was drastically shrinking.  The agricultural population dramatically declined from 31 per cent of the active population in 1981 to 13 per cent in 2006.[22]

As the productive tissue of the economy both in industry and agriculture was decomposing, the declining occupation found as a relative way out only to the over-grown services and public sectors. Clientele networks tied to corrupt political personnel of the parliamentary system and a State bureaucracy both intimately connected with foreign and local capital proliferated precipitating the decay of bourgeois parliamentary democracy restored in 1974.

Social inequalities in income distribution supersede by far the EU average, with the 20 per cent of the poorest receiving less than 7 per cent of income, while 20 per cent of the richest receive almost 42 per cent.[23]

From the 1990s chronic unemployment was combined with the introduction of “flexibility” in labor relations, hitting particularly the younger generations. On the eve of the 2008 December youth revolt a quarter of the unemployed was youth, and one in two unemployed youth has a university degree.

Cheap labor by over-exploitation of foreign immigrants working under the most barbaric conditions became the basis for the preparations of Greek capitalism to join the EMU, as Yannis Papantoniou, then finance minister in the neo-liberal PASOK government of Costas Simitis, had cynically boasted.

The structural weaknesses of the Greek capitalist social economic formation, integrated now as a metropolitan knot in the plexus of globalized capitalist relations, were manifesting themselves into a growing deficit to be confronted by increasing foreign lending, and through the growing payments for debt servicing to a vicious circle of accumulation of debt.

Since the 1980s both the public debt and the external debt have increased three times, and according to the Deutsche Bank, the external debt today has reached the 150 per cent of GDP mark.[24]

Finance globalization with the protracted over-extension of credit sustained the growing mountain of public and private debt –until its inescapable implosion after 2007.

 

Wither Greece?

 

From early 2010, a de facto bankrupt Greece has been reduced into an EU protectorate[25] with its fiscal situation and economic policies put under the official “surveillance” of the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The government abdicates national economic sovereignty, and the country is reduced to the same quasi-semi-colonial position that it faced more a hundred years ago, in 1897, when, after the default and a disastrous Greek-Turkish war, an “International Economic Control” (DOE) of the foreign banks was imposed on Greece.

The introduction by the “Socialist” Papandreou government on March 3, 2010 of a misnamed “Stability and Growth Program” of drastic cuts of public social expenditures, wages and pensions, agreed with the EU to accomplish the impossible mission to cut the deficit from near 13 per cent to 3 per cent of GDP. This was solely the prelude of the drama, the entrance to “Wolfgang Schäuble’s torture chamber”, as aptly was called by Gideon Rachman referring to the name of the German finance minister.[26] This austerity program was followed by an anti-popular tax “reform” benefiting only the richest sections as well as money laundering of all kinds of Mafiosi and crooks, a new neo-liberal counter-reform in Education, and at the end of April 2010 by a new legislation smashing all pension rights.

The EU led by Merkel’s –Schäuble’s Germany with the assistance and “technical know how“of the IMF are “turning the screw” on the Greek working class and popular masses. It is an attempt not only to face the danger of  Greece’s State bankruptcy and its implications for the Eurozone but also a barbaric social “experiment” using the Greek people as a guinea pig, a frightening example for the entire European working class.

The call to the IMF ands its active involvement in Greece means further “turnings of the screw”, new draconian cuts to impose the kind of IMF plans already applied, with disastrous results, in Hungary, Latvia and Romania. Dominique Strauss-Kahn prescribed a massive deflation of wages and prices for an indefinite period as a condition to a bail-out.

Apart the enormous social catastrophe and mass sufferings of the people, could this deflationary offensive against the workers provide any real solution to the systemic crisis both of Greece and of the Eurozone?

A Greek bail-out at last but no real solution”, Wolfgang Münchau had remarked[27]. “As a member of a large monetary union Greece can improve its competitiveness only through relative disinflation against the eurozone average, which in effect means through deflation. But as the French economist Jacques Delpla has pointed out, this will invariably produce a debt-deflation dynamic in the Greek private sector of the kind described by the economist Irving Fischer during the 1930s […] the really treacherous aspect about the Greek crisis is that the country’s liquidity position is better than its solvency position. Insolvency is a gradual, invisible process. The negative effects of debt-deflation dynamics have not yet begun, but will become inevitable as the Greek public and private sectors go through a simultaneous debt reduction process”.[28]

The debt-deflation spiral will depress further the economy and depression will increase again the deficit needing to be covered by the accumulation of more debt.

Arguing about the inevitability of a Greek default, Münchau stresses: “It is hard enough to imagine how Greece can get out of a simultaneous debt and competitiveness crisis without falling into some vicious circle- debt deflation, for example or just extreme public hostility that will thwart the government’s reform efforts. But it is impossible, at last for me, to imagine a situation in which Greece can manage to extricate itself from appending catastrophe without some debt restructuring[29].

It is noteworthy in this statement not solely the pessimistic, from a bourgeois standpoint, prediction of a debt-deflation vicious circle but also the fear for an “extreme public hostility”, in other words, an “extreme” workers’ resistance to a barbarism that is more than extreme!

Furthermore, it is not only Greece caught in this vicious circle but the Eurozone as a whole. The danger of contagion remains hovering, first of all, over Portugal (already pressurized by Brussels for a new “fiscal adjustment’), and Spain, the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone with an annual GDP of more than a trillion euros, and whose hypothetical bail-out cannot but explode the entire difficult and unstable compromise, up to now, within the Eurozone, between Germany and France.

Proposals are put forward for a way out for the EU from this vicious circle by the reformist European Left party and Synaspismos in Greece, a asking for a radical restructuring of the Stability Pact, and of the EMU, putting the ECB under the “democratic” (?) control of the European Parliament, asking from the ECB for cheap credit to countries on the brink of default, and form the EU amore re-distributive budget. Apart from revolutionary Marxists, Costas Lapavitsas and his research team have showed the futility of such wishful thinking for a “good euro”, for “a reformed EMU” in a ‘reformed EU’.[30] Leaving aside the tremendous political obstacles, these reforms are also economically utopian as they do not resolve but exacerbate the contradiction between the euro as a simultaneously international and national currency and the fiscal independence of the States-members of the Eurozone with final result the collapse of the EMU itself and the disintegration of the EU; last but not least, these reformist proposals are socially reactionary, misleading the workers’ movement into a blind alley, and tying its fate to the demands of a crumbling imperialist European Union of big capitalists .

It remains as an alternative solution, the exit from the Eurozone and from the EU. Lapavitsas makes the distinction between a “conservative” and a “progressive” exit, with the later necessarily connected with major transformations in the economy and society such as nationalizations of the banks, controls on capital outflows, nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy, a program of industrial revival, public works etc.

The terms of these measures are not clarified, and above all, the transformation of social economic relations seen by Lapavitsas et al. is separated form its central presupposition: a radical overthrow and transformation of existing class power relations in Greece, in Europe and internationally.

The Gordian knot of the debt and of debt servicing indeed has to be cut by class mass action, rejecting strangulation in the hands of the international usurers, of the EU/ECB and of the IMF policemen of finance capital. Exit from Schäuble’s torture chamber is a question of life or death.

A unilateral repudiation of the foreign debt to the international usurers, and a radical break from the EMU and the EU necessitate not solely a change in relations of distribution of social wealth but a radical break from the capitalist production relations, a re-organization of social relations on new, socialist bases; hence they raise the central question of a revolutionary confrontation with bourgeois rule and its State, the struggle for workers’ power,  and furthermore, the impulse to an international dynamics of extension these social revolutionary changes in Europe and world wide.

“Socialism in a single country” proved to be a tragedy that ended without a catharsis, ingloriously, at the hands of capitalist restoration. A repetition in today’s conditions of advanced interconnectedness of all parts of world economy, or reactionary nationalist dreams of autarky in “capitalism in a single country” could be only a short-lived tragicomedy.

The Greek tragedy –tragedy for the people, and a piñata of super-profits for financial predators- has as stage the entire world. The denouement will take place in this universal theater, where the Hubris of capital will be punished. The exit from the capitalist vicious circle of destruction cannot be but an exit from the system, a socialist revolution on an international scale, towards a new world to come, Communism without borders, bosses or bureaucrats. This is not the best alternative; it is the only solution.

 

April 15, 2010

 

 

 



[1] Financial Times, December 21, 2009

 

 

[2] David Roche and Bob McKee “ Watch out for sovereign debt black holes” Financial Times March 31, 2010

[3] Op. cit.

[4] “IMF warns high public debt ‘tremendous’ challenge” Reuters, April 10, 2010.

[5] Mohamed El-Erian, “Why the reek rescue isn’t going to plan”, Financial Times April 7, 2010

[6] Niall Ferguson, “A Greek crisis is coming to America”, Financial Times February 10, 2010.

[7] William Shakespeare, As you Like it, Act 2, Scene 7

[8] Jorge Altamira,  Una piñata que no es sólo griega, En Defensa del Marxismo  No 37, Buenos Aires, 5-3-2010

[9] Gillian Tent and Chris Giles, “Soros warns Europe of disintegration”, Financial Times April 11, 2010

[10] Kerin Hope, “ Athens admits defeat in crisis”, Financial Times April 15, 2010

[11] See George Economakis, Alexis Anastasiadis and Maria Markaki, US economic performance from 1929 to 2008 in terms of the Marxian theory of crises, with some notes on recent financial crisis, Critique (under press).

[12] Marx, Grundrisse-Introduction to the Critique of Political economy, translation M. Nicolaus, Penguin 1973 p. 750

[13] Op. cit p. 540.

[14] See Le Monde, December 13, 2008

[15] See, Savas Michael-Matsas, The Greek Revolt, the World Crisis and Freedom of Expression Critique, vol.38 No 1 February 2010 pp.54-55

[16] Hillel Ticktin, Critique Notes, Critique vol.38,No3, December 2008 p.338

[17] Robert Skidelsky, The World Finance Crisis and the American Mission, The New York review of Books, vol. LVI, No12, July 16-August 12 2009, p.32

[18] David Oakley and Kerin Hope, “Greeks set ECB tone”, Financial Times November 23, 2009

[19] P. Pouliopoulos, Democratic or Socialist Revolution in Greece? [1934, in Greek] Difros 1963.

[20] An overview of the role of foreign capital and foreign loans in Greece from formal independence to World War II is given by the communist leader Nicos Beloyannis                   (executed after the civil war by the bourgeois Plastiras government in 1952 under the orders of US imperialism) in his book written in prison The Foreign Capital in Greece [in Greek, republished by Agra Publications in 2010). Despite the distortions of an interpretative schema imposed by the Stalinized Comintern to the Communist party of Greece in 1934 presenting Greece dominated by a “bourgeois-feudal bloc in power” and facing tasks of an “unfulfilled bourgeois democratic revolution”, Beloyannis goes beyond this arbitrary pseudo- theoretical straightjacket and brings forward some essential features of the Greek bourgeois formation. The debates in the 1920s and 1930s on the nature of Greek society and the strategic tasks of the coming social revolution acquire a new actuality and need a re-working in the light of the current explosive developments.

[21] Takis Fotopoulos, Economic restructuring and the debt problem: the Greek case, International Review of Applied Economies, Vol.6 No 1,1992 see www.inclusivedemocracy.org/fotopoulos/english/bravarious/re...

 

[22] Op.cit.

[23] Takis Fotopoulos, Greece: the implosion of the systemic crisis, Inclusive Democracy vol.5, No 4/vol.6, No 1( Autumn 2009/Winter 2010) in www.inclusive democracy.org/journal/vol5/no5_no4

 

[24] Op.cit. See also Wolfgang Münchau, “Greece can expect no gifts from Brussels”, The Financial Times November 30, 2009

[25] Jorge Altamira, “Grecia convertida en protectorado”, Prensa Obrera February 18, 2010

[26] Gideon Rachman, “Wolfgang Schäuble’s torture chamber”, Gideon Rachman’s Blog/FT.com, March 12, 2010.

[27] Wolfgang Münchau, “A Greek bail-out at last but no real solution”,  Financial Times April 11, 2010

[28] Wolfgang Münchau,  “Greece will default, but not this year”, Financial Times April 4, 2010

[29] Wolfgang Münchau, “A Greek bail-out at last but no real solution” op.cit.

[30] See C. Lapavitsas et al., Eurozone Crisis: Beggar Yourself and Thy neighbour, Studies of Research on Money and Finance (RMF), March 2010, www.researchonmoneyandfinance.org/media/reports/eurocrisis/fullreport.pdf

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