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Populism, Popular-Democratic Fronts and Tim Farron.

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Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!

Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.

It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.

We have written on some of the theories and politics behind this group, Stuart Hall, Thatcherism, and Marxism Today (also published in North Star. June 2013).

One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral  the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.

The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual  popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).

Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian  and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.

Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.

We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.

In a British left-wing  version, advanced by, amongst others,  Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”

This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:

The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.

Wikipedia.

Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.

The Democratic  Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.

We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.

Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’

He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.

Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..

It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.

This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).

The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.

Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.

After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.

* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe.  2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.

 

New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron: Britain Wrong to Bomb Islamic State in Syria.

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Britain could be playing into Isis’s hands by bombing Syria, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.

Reports the Independent.

Tim Farron raised concerns about a revelation that British pilots embedded with other nations’ forces were conducting air strikes on Syria despite MPs voting against action in 2013.

He argued that the suffering caused by such strikes could lead people to support terror groups such as the so-called ‘Islamic State’.

“The decisions you make there are not based on some overall theological sense of what you should do but on what is right,” he said.

“Is it right for us to attack a sovereign country? Is it right for us to overstep a mandate that we have not been given by the electorate or government? Is it right to incite ISIS, or indeed not to incite them – but to play into their hands and be martyrs.”

In response to a freedom of information request from the human rights group Reprive, the Ministry of Defence disclosed that US, French and Canadian armed forces were deploying UK pilots in Syria.

Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve, said the debate about UK action in the Middle East needed to be more “open and honest”.

“It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long,” she said.

Yet more worrying is the fact that the UK seems to have turned over its personnel to the US wholesale, without the slightest idea as to what they are actually doing, and whether it is legal.”

An MoD spokesperson said the so-called Islamic State group was a threat to the UK and clarified the position of the British pilots.

“UK embeds operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command,”

“Isil poses a direct threat to the UK and to countries around the world. The UK is not conducting airstrikes in Syria and the government has made clear it would return to Parliament if it proposed doing so.

“We have a long-standing embed programme with allies but there are currently no pilots taking part in this region. When embedded, UK personnel are effectively operating as foreign troops.”

The Independent’s Defence Correspondent Kim Sengupta explained that the revelation could have undermined trust in the Government.

Many people would be concerned that British air power is being used, without Parliamentary authority (which was promised)  to launch bombs in Syria.

There has, however, been this Twitter reaction,

Tim Farron’s honeymoon period as newly elected Lib Dem leader barely lasted 12 hours after his comments on ISIS and his religious convictions caused a social media backlash.

TheySay.io analysed over 80,000 tweet mentions and 15,000 Tweets relating to Farron over 24 hours and found that whilst social media reaction was initially mostly positive, there was a significant increase of negativity following his BBC Radio 4 interview this morning.

Further analysis indicated that the negativity was due to a variety of topics including but not limited to the current state of the Lib Dems, right wing criticism of his political stance and some bemusement and concern about the influence of his religious convictions.

Below are a selection of random tweets covering some of the points.

As the first “random Tweet” comes from David Aaronovitch one equally doubts if many people care about what the former Communist, present-day pro-military intervention everywhere,  and Murdoch columnist, thinks either.

Farron’s intervention could be put down to a desire to make a stir on the first day of his leadership by appealing to the Liberal Democrats’ ‘anti-war’ past.

But….the  claims about the bombing seem to be true.

To repeat the Independent’s story:

Freedom of information request by human rights group Reprieve reveals UK service personnel acted under auspices of US and other nations within coalition

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

This is clearly wrong – it is active intervention in the Syrian civil war without democratic authorisation – even if it remains the case that not many people will be concerned if Isis fighters are killed.

And it is also the case that any support, called for the Kurds, fighting their genocidal enemies, is to be welcomed.

What the masses of the entire world care about ISIS/Islamic State/Daesh  is this:

Escape from Isis.

We were prepared for harrowing tales of life under Isis, but never expected positive stories to emerge from the horror, says director Edward Watts.

One cold March morning in Iraq, my small team and I looked out across fields of lavender towards the trenches of the Islamic State, the most feared terrorist group in the world, with a sense of hope.

When, weeks earlier, Channel 4 commissioning editor Siobhan Sinnerton offered me the chance to direct a film about the lives of women living under the rule of the Islamic State – the film that became Escape From Isis – we both knew the project would entail insane hours of relentless work amid tales of unimaginable human suffering. And so it proved.

But neither of us could have guessed that here, on the frontline with Isis, we would find a positive twist to the story.

Through hard work and a series of lucky breaks, I got the opportunity to follow an underground network of activists who, unseen by the world, were trying to free women held by Isis militants and used as sex slaves. That morning, we were waiting for a family of 24 to be guided across the frontline to freedom after eight months in the hands of Isis.

The brutality that people endure inside the Islamic State is difficult to comprehend. One woman’s story will always stay with me. At only 21, Aeida was abducted with her two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. The militants beheaded people in front of the children and kept the family in a house where women were used as sex slaves.

During her interview, Aeida had just described witnessing a nine-year-old girl being taken away to be raped when she suffered an extreme traumatic flashback and collapsed, struggling to breathe, her face contorted by the horror she had witnessed.

I was torn between the film-maker in me, who knew I needed to record, and the human being, who did not want to add in any way to her suffering by pointing a camera at it. Even after making 20 documentaries, I still find it a difficult balance to strike.

You do see Aeida collapse in the film, but in the edit, I could not watch the material without shedding tears.

Team bonding

For most of the shoot, there were only four of us: me, our main character Khaleel, driver Hazim and fixer Hassan Ashwor, running around northern Iraq in Hazim’s dad’s old saloon. Having a small team allowed me to sneak into places that were off-limits to bigger units – and build the relationships on which our access depended.

The most essential member of the team was Hassan. He had worked as a translator for the US Marines – good preparation for work in television – and was a true TV soldier. His incredible stamina, translating almost continuously for up to 24 hours, helped me to build trust with the secretive rescue network, who had never before allowed cameras to film them.

The humour of our little team carried us through hell; I remember teasing driver Hazim about his quest for a girlfriend as we drove past blown-up buildings and the craters left by roadside bombs.

That cold morning, two hours passed on the frontline with no sign of the family. I decided to snatch a shot of an Isis observation post on the frontline ahead. We wrestled the tripod to the front of the trench and I fitted a long lens. I had just put my eye to the viewfinder when Hassan nudged me: “They’re coming.”

I swung the camera up to the hills and saw the family of 24, a tiny group of black-clad figures, scrambling towards us and freedom.

Everyone – the soldiers, my team, relatives of the escapees – leapt over the frontline and ran helter-skelter into no man’s land to meet them, heedless of the danger. I filmed the soldiers carrying several of the women the final few hundred yards to safety.

The family had walked for two days to escape. They were too exhausted to take another step and were loaded into trucks and driven away. I flicked off the camera and wiped away the sweat. Hassan grinned at me. “No one has seen anything like that before,” he said.

I’m proud that, thanks to all of our hard work, they now can.

Progressive humanity stands with these brave people fighting the Islamic State genociders.

Greece and the Left, the fight against Austerity continues through the EU, not for a ‘new Britain’.

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Europe’s Left: No Retreat to Nationalist anti-European Politics. 

Alexis Tsipras’s grip on power suffers a blow with 32 of his own MPs rebelling as the Greek parliament votes in favour of new austerity measure against a backdrop of violence on the streets of Athens reports the Telegraph.

There are many things to say about the developing Greek crisis but I am still  struck by the information given in Le Monde on Tuesday about the “Explosive Propositions of Wolfgang Schäuble“.

The German Fiannce Minister, Schäuble, wanted Greece out of the Euro (no doubt to the satisfaction of the ‘left’ critics of Syriza’s leadership ), for a “provisional” period (not enough, would say the ‘left’, the True Finns and Golden Dawn). He also demanded a through-going “depolitisation” of the country;s administration, under close EU supervision (not something the ‘left’ would welcome one suspects).

The details behind this are a lot worse – as presented by Jack Rasmus,

Why Hardliners Prefer Grexit

It is a known fact that Schaubel and the ‘right wing’ of Euro bankers and ministers have wanted to eject Greece from the Euro since 2012. In that prior debt restructuring deal, private bankers and investors were ‘paid off’ and exited the Greek debt by means of loans made by the Troika, which were then imposed on Greece to pay. 2012 was a banker-investor bailout, not a Greece bailout. What was left was debt mostly owed by Greece to the Troika, more than $300 billion. Greece’s small economy of barely $180 billion GDP annually can never pay off that debt. Even if Greece grew at 4% GDP a year, an impossibility given that Europe and even Germany have been growing at barely 1% in recent years, and even if Greece dedicated all its surplus GDP to paying the debt, it would take close to a half century for Greece to pay off all its current debt.

Schaubel and the northern Europe bankers know this. In 2012, in the midst of a second Eurozone recession and financial instability, it was far more risky to the Euro banker system to cut Greece loose. Today they believe, however, that the Eurozone is stronger economically and more stable financially. They believe, given the European Central Bank’s $1.2 trillion QE slush fund, that contagion effects from a Greek exit can be limited. Supporters of this view argue that Greece’s economy is only 1.2% of the larger Eurozone’s.

What they don’t understand, apparently, is that size of GDP is irrelevant to contagion. They forget that the Lehman Brothers bank in 2008 in the US represented a miniscule percent of US GDP, and we know what happened. Quantitative references are meaningless when the crux of financial instability always has to do with unpredictable psychological preferences of investors, who have a strong proclivity to take their money and run after they have made a pile of it—which has been the case since 2009. Investors globally will likely run for cover like lemmings if they believe as a group that the global financial system has turned south financially—given the problems growing in China, with oil prices now falling again, with commodity prices in decline once more, with Japan’s QE a complete failure, and with the US economy clearly slowing and the US central bank moves closer to raising interest rates. Greece may contribute to that psychological ‘tipping point’ as events converge.

But there’s another, perhaps even more profitable reason for hardliners and Euro bankers wanting to push Greece out. And that’s the now apparent failure of Eurozone QE (quantitative easing) policies of the European Central Bank to generate Eurozone stock and asset price appreciation investors have been demanding.

Unlike in the US and UK 2009-2014 QE policies that more than doubled stock prices and investors’ capital gains, the ECB’s QE has not led to a stock boom. Like Japan recently, the Eurozone’s stock boom has quickly dissipated. The perception is that stock stimulus from the Eurozone’s QE, introduced six months ago, is perhaps being held back by the Greek negotiations. Euro bankers and investors increasingly believe that by cutting Greece loose (and limiting the contagion effects with QE and more statements of ‘whatever it takes’ by central banker, Mario Draghi) that Grexit might actually lead to a real surge in Euro stock markets. Thus, throwing Greece away might lead to investors making bigger financial profits. In other words, there’s big money to be made on the private side by pushing Greece out.

So, when we are talking about Syriza’s ‘betrayal’  bear this in mind.

Read it carefully.

Most will rightly, dismiss as stale air, calls for a “true” revolutionary party which will abolish these difficulties, and no doubt make the bankers and Schäuble disappear from the Earth’s surface.

But there are serious people inside Syriza, the Left Platform,  who offered an alternative strategy to Tsparis and who have not accepted the present deal.

One of their leading spokespeople, Stahis Kouvelalkis  has declared of the pro-EU Syriza leadership (this could apply more widely to others on the left – to Tendance Coatesy amongst many others) (Greece: The Struggle Continues ):

So for these people the choice is between two things: either being “European” and accepting the existing framework, which somehow objectively represents a step forward compared the old reality of nation-states, or being “anti-European” which is equated with a falling back into nationalism, a reactionary, regressive move.

This is a weak way in which the European Union is legitimated — it might not be ideal but it’s better than anything else on the table.

I think that in this case we can clearly see what the ideology at work here is. Although you don’t positively sign up to the project and you have serious doubts about the neoliberal orientation and top-down structure of European institutions, nevertheless you move within its coordinates and can’t imagine anything better outside of its framework.

This is the meaning of the kind of denunciations of Grexit as a kind of return to the 1930s or Grexit as a kind of apocalypse. This is the symptom of the leadership’s own entrapment in the ideology of left-Europeanism.

Kouvelakis cites the Greek Marxist political writer Nicos Poulantzas, who wrote and lived in France for most of his career,  to back his anti-EU ideology.

He says that Poulantzas said the following.

Yes, Poulantzas talked about European integration in the first part of his book on social classes in contemporary capitalism, in which he analyzes the processes of internationalization of capital and he clearly considered the European Economic Community an example of an imperialist form of internationalization of European capital within the framework of what he considered the new postwar structural hegemony of the United States.

Poulantzas indeed made this analysis in Les Classes sociales dans le capitalisme aujourd’hui, (1974)

But in L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme (1978) Poulantzas offered an alternative to the domination of capital: a fusion of direct and representative democracy based ont eh workers’ movement and civil society. He famously stated that the state, is a ” « condensation matérielle d’un rapport de force entre les classes et fractions de classe » (a material condensation of relations between classes and fractions of classes).

The European Union is a judicial and economic  framework which is, self-evidently,  linked to these relations of changeable power.

It is not only a cabal of finance ministers, EU Commissioners,  and neo-liberals who can do as they will – if there is a large enough power to stop them.

To change the EU,  to fight neo-liberalism,  requires a different relation of force: based on Europe-wide unity between the popular classes and lefts.

It means a political movement, across borders, with institutional weight.

The European Parliament, without any effective influence on EU decision-making, which is essentially inter-Ministerial and Commission based,  is nevertheless a point where these bonds can, and are, made, through groups like the European Left Party – however weak they may be at present.

To leave the EU is to leave these potential ties of unity.

It is to give up the game at the first sign of difficulty – to follow those, misguided or simply opportunist ‘friends’ of Syriza who now turn on them when they have run into trouble.

It is to set the course for naked domination by the forces of international capital.

Or to put is more simply, no country, nor left, is in a position to  break free of  the IMF’s clutches, not to mention world financial markets.

Those on the Syriza left who proposed a Grexit, the centrepice of their economic plans, have yet to answer the point: would they have either offered a viable package, and how would they have warded off the financial locusts described by Rasmus?

They have yet to give a serious response.

A ‘New Britain’.

The Greek crisis has been a perceived as proof that the ‘pro-European’ left has failed, largely by those who were already convinced that this is so.

Briefly basking in Syriza’s reflected glory they have now returned to their own political projects.

In France, apart from the anti-Euro and ‘Sovereigntist’  Front National, a minority of the Parti de Gauche (45%) voted at their recent conference for this as part of a general “Eurosceptic” line (Libération).  Their leader, JeanLuc Mélenchon, has made frequent nationalist and anti-German remarks during the Greek crisis.

He said a few days ago,

“Pour la troisième fois dans l’histoire de l’Europe, l’obstination d’un gouvernement allemand est en train de détruire l’Europe”

For the third time in the History of Europe, the obstination of the German government is destroying Europe.

There is little doubt the same mood exists across Europe.

In Britain some see the Greek crisis as a sign to join in the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.

This, Owen Jones dreams, would ” focus on building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago.”

Unfortunately this option will appear on no Referendum Ballot paper, when, one assumes the believers in a New Britain will mark their slips in the same way as the ‘populists’ of the far-right,  and hard-line anti-socialist economic liberals.

As Jim Denham rightly says, “The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neoliberal European Union, but forward, to a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.”

In the meantime here are some serious articles by people the Tendance respects (though disagrees with) on Syriza and the present crisis:

Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin: Treating SYRIZA responsibly (Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal)
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, Athens

 

Update: A reminder from UNITE,

Remaining in the EU is essential for manufacturing workers

02 April 2015 By Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary

Two-thirds of manufacturing jobs in the UK are sustained by trade with the rest of the EU.

Between 2009 and 2011 the number of manufacturing jobs in the UK dependent on trade with the EU grew by 15 per cent.

But it is not just the economics that make membership crucial it is also the protection that workers have because of the EU.

Talk of employment directives may seem dry but protecting our members rights at work have come about because we belong to the EU, and because Unite and other trade unions have fought long and hard to achieve them.

Parental leave has been extended to at least four months for each parent no matter what type of employment contract a worker may be on.

Thousands of workers in part time jobs can no longer be treated less favourably  than their counterparts who work full time.

Bosses don’t want anything that might interfere with their right to hire and fire at will so anything that provides protection for temporary agency workers from gross exploitation are hard fought. But we have been able to do it.

One of the major protections for workers is the transfers of undertakings directive a vital piece of legislation that guarantees workers’ rights and obligations in company takeovers and mergers – there was a time when companies could dismiss and automatically sack their entire workforces upon the transfer or sale of a business.

The working time directive protects workers from being forced to more than 48 hours on average and guarantees breaks during and between shits.

And lest we forget – guaranteed paid annual leave, of at least four weeks (28 days a year) – which now thanks to Unite has to be paid at average pay.

There have been massive improvements on equal pay; the right to be consulted on redundancies; to have information about your company and for workers in multinational companies the right to be heard and consulted at European level and improvements on health and safety.

Tory Eurosceptics and Ukip echo the right wing and defeated Tea Party in the United States offering Britain a prospectus of becoming an offshore financial centre – like Hong Kong.  Left to them we will become Europe’s economic and political renegade.

If the Tories and Ukip get their way they will set us on this calamitous course to exit the EU. That’s why manufacturing workers need to vote Labour on 7 May.

In Defence of Syriza and Tsipras.

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German right-wing Tabloid Bild is not happy with the result of the negotiations with Greece.

Tsipras laughs and we pay….

The BBC reports,

Eurozone finance chiefs are gathering in Brussels for a meeting that could decide whether new Greek proposals are sufficient to secure a third bailout and prevent a possible eurozone exit.

Greece’s parliament overnight backed PM Alexis Tsipras’s new package.

But he faced anger from some in his own party for proposing measures that were rejected in a referendum last Sunday.

Greece’s creditors gave an initially positive reaction to the plans but a bailout agreement is far from certain.

The creditors – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – have sent a first joint assessment to the eurozone ministers.

“Under certain conditions, they jointly see the proposals as a basis for negotiation,” an EU official told Reuters.

Greece is asking creditors for €53.5bn ($59.47bn; £38.4bn) to cover Greece’s debts until 2018, but the amount of the new bailout could reach €74bn, as Greece is seeking a restructuring of its massive debt, which it says is unsustainable.

Times of Change adds,

In his speech (to the Greek parliament), Alexis Tsipras defended the painful bailout proposals his leftwing government presented to parliament on Friday, saying they were difficult measures but would help keep Greece in the euro zone.

Arguing that the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts was better on many points than the package rejected by voters in a referendum on Sunday, Tsipras insisted that he had won important concessions on restructuring Greece’s enormous public debt.

“For the first time, we have on the table a substantial discussion for a debt restructuring,” he said in a debate before parliament votes on endorsing the proposals.

He said Greece would meet 6.8 billion euros of payments on maturing bonds held by the European Central Bank due in July and August and said that the capital controls imposed on banks would not force the government to take new fiscal measures.

The French Communist Daily, l’Humanité has a long, rigorous and sympathetic report on this speech and the difficulties facing Greece: here.

Anti-Europe sections of the British left will be interested in the following:

Tsipras said the vote gave him a “strong mandate to complete the negotiations to reach an economically viable and socially fair agreement”.

“The priority now is to have a positive outcome to the negotiations. Everything else in its own time,” he said.

In an ominous sign for the stability of the government, however, 10 deputies on the ruling benches either abstained or voted against the measures and another seven were absent, leaving Tsipras short of the 151 seats needed for a majority of his own.

Prominent leftwingers in the governing Syriza party signalled before the vote that they could not support the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts proposed by Tsipras, following the rejection of similar austerity measures by voters in Sunday’s referendum.

Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, deputy labour minister Dimitris Stratoulis as well as the speaker of parliament, Zoe Constantopoulou, all abstained.

“The government is being totally blackmailed to acquiesce to something which does not reflect what it represents,” Constantopoulou said.

Guardian.

SYRIZA Left Platform Proposes Grexit- Tsipras Urges MP’s to Support Proposals.

Two SYRIZA lawmakers and three members of the political committee, who are part of the Left Platform, a subgroup within SYRIZA, produced a document on Friday that asks for the renegotiation of a deal with the institutions. If a deal without austerity and with sufficient liquidity cannot be reached Greece should exit the Eurozone, the document argues.

Political Committee members Stathis Leoutsakos, Antonis Davanelos, Sophie Papadogiannis and lawmakers Costas Lapavitas and Thanasis Petrakos  further urged the government to sign a transition deal toward a new currency that will allow Greece to do three things.

  • A radical reform of the banking system
  • The complete halt of austerity policies
  • The exit from the Euro and the subsequent a write down of most of Greece’s debt.

“An exit from the eurozone under the current circumstances is a difficult but realistic process that will allow the country to follow a different path, away from that of the unacceptable programs that will emulate the Juncker proposal,” the document reads.

An exit from the Eurozone would generate further benefits according to the proposal. Namely, the restoration of financial liquidity, a sustainable growth program based on private investment, the rebuilding of the internal economy to reduce dependence on imports, an increase in exports, independence from the European Central Bank, its policies and restrictions and finally the utilization of unused resources to create rapid growth so as to protect against the first difficult months following the Grexit.

We have little doubt the SWP which  has close links to an obscure group in Greece opposed to Syriza, not to mention the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star), which backs the Greek Communist Party (KKE), an organisation that envisages a fortress Greece against the EU, and indeed the Brent Soviet, will seize on the Greek government’s decision in order to attack Syriza.

Or as their mates on the WSWS already shout: Syriza’s betrayal of the Greek working class!

The will fight to the last Greek pensioner to defend their factions.

Their answer to Greece’s problems: austerity: oppose it!

Now why didn’t  Tsipras think of that one!

The Weekly Worker said they should not have taken power in the first place: problem solved!

In the meantime we say: back our Greek comrades in their  hour of need.

This is well-worth reading: (from Marxism List):

Commentary from Theo, a Greek FB friend

 
 
This one is for my non-Greek Marxist facebook friends who have been 
posting about my country for the last year or so . . .
I, for example, could have told you what to expect from Synaspismos 
because I lived in Greece for many years. I could also have told you 
about ???, ???, the ???, other Marxist groups, Greek anarchists, etc. -- 
and in great detail.
This is not an "I told you so" because I did not say much and prefer 
boat carpentry to political infighting.
I'm no expert. Why should you care what I think? I don't expect you to now.
I might have enjoyed deriding the ?????? leadership for being parlor 
revolutionaries, political opportunists and milquetoast reformists, 
well, I didn't because (1) they actually got themselves elected 
(something nobody can take away from them) and, accordingly, (2) 
deserved a chance to do their jobs.
A few months ago I was amused to read some comment threads by non-Greek 
leftists which were, more or less, anti-KKE pile-ons. People who were 
not Greek, did not speak Greek, and had never lived in Greece magically 
morphed into expert critics of that country's working class politics. I 
should have liked to ask these just-add-water theoreticians to accompany 
me to Athenian working class neighborhoods or to parts of rural Greece 
where they could explain to the locals their local politics. I'd happily 
volunteer my services as interpreter.
(Incidentally, I'm not KKE, just another garden-variety Marxist with an 
independent streak.)
But ?????? pretty much came to power because ????? went up up in smoke. 
That's what fucking happened. There simply wasn't anybody left with 
mainstream appeal and good party organization.
At least they gave it a whirl.
The Greeks elected them to wheel and deal for Greece, not to leave the 
EU or lead a global insurgency against the neoliberal order.
And that's what they've been trying to do (however little you or I may 
think of their maneuvering).
Did Tsipras call the referendum so as to duck for cover behind the Greek 
people?
Maybe so.
Does that suck?
Sure.
But, honestly, if you were Greek and on the hard left, that's about what 
you'd expect.
And if you are not Greek and not on the hard left, but still familiar 
with even the most of rudimentary Marxist analyses, you surely 
understand that ??????'s appeals to reason in its negotiations would not 
be well received by representatives of an economic system that is 
irrational at its core.
What's interesting to me is how the EU honchos can't seem to tolerate 
even a mildly left wing government like ?????? being successful.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with what, admittedly, is my 
backyard and layman's opinion is unimportant.

“Misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous” – George Galloway as described in Naz Shah’s Maiden Speech.

with 31 comments

Just out: “Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) (Maiden Speech House of Commons)

It is customary to say a few pleasant words about my predecessor—[Laughter.] I have many words, but sadly only a few pleasant ones.

My predecessor was, I am told, a great orator.

The sad truth is that the only words he ever directed towards me were misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous and, to quote him, “only ever had a fleeting relationship with the truth”.

However, it would be most unwise of me not to compliment him on his sensational acting abilities, not forgetting, as demonstrated in “Big Brother”, his taste for red leotards and black hats. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his actions, which united the people of Bradford West. Their patience—and, indeed, mine—certainly paid off when we handed him his P45 on 8 May.

The Spandex Cat has truly left the building.”

Thanks DT.

Ha, Ha Ha!

Good on you Naz!

Is the Morning Star in Cahoots with Irrelevant Greek Communist Party (KKE) as French Communists Back Syriza.?

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French Communists Stand with Syriza; British Communists Snipe from Sidelines.

The morning the excellent l’Humanité (we shall never forget comrades your front line reports from the heroic defenders of Kobane, never!) leads with this headline:

La France doit défendre l’exigence de justice des Grecs !

Alors que le gouvernement renvoie la balle à Alexis Tsipras après un lourd silence de l’Élysée, de nombreuses voix à gauche exigent une intervention forte de la France.

France must defend the Greek demand for justice!

Whilst the government pushes back responsibility onto Alexis Tsiparis, after a deep silence from the Élysée, numerous voices on the left demand a strong intervention from France.

It concludes,

Ce nouvel acte de résistance à l’ordre libéral et à la guerre qui se perpétue sur notre continent, sous d’autres formes, doit amener à reposer les questions des objectifs de la zone euro, de la restructuration des dettes illégitimes et des orientations politiques.

This new act of resistance to the liberal economic order and to the virtual  war which is is waging over our continent, must bring forth a response that questions the objectives of the Euro,the restructuring of illegitimate debts, and (the EU’s…) political goals.

 In other words, reform the European Union….

By contrast (Hat-tip: Jim) the Morning Star, paper of the Communist Party of Britain carries this Editorial  on Greece today.

Eurozone Cannot be Reformed.

Tsipras wants to persuade other member states to back his vision of the EU as a bloc based on solidarity and to accept a chunk of his country’s debts being written off and the rest rescheduled.

Why should countries with lower living standards then Greece agree to this?

Will Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, which have already writhed on the austerity rack, paying the price of ruthless loan conditions, support a softer approach for Greece?

It is ironic that, while eurozone states led by Berlin refuse to consider any debt write-off, the IMF is less rigid.

It often engineers creditors’ haircuts in return for new loans and conditions that involve revaluation of national currencies.

Eurozone members are denied this mechanism, with the value of the euro set to the advantage of the more developed states, especially Germany.

Germany’s huge overseas trade surplus, even with China, would normally push up the value of its currency, but eurozone membership precludes this.

When Merkel’s predecessor Helmut Kohl and French president Francois Mitterrand pushed through the single currency in 1992, many economists warned that economic union could only work properly in the context of political union.

This is exemplified by the reality of an undervalued euro favouring the richest members while the poorest are denied the benefit transfers and pooling of financial risk that exist in unified states.

Greece’s Syriza government seeks change, but the lacuna in its argument is that the most powerful member states benefit from current arrangements. Why should they change?

Syriza’s commitment to peddling illusions that the eurozone is reformable and could approve an alternative to austerity does not inspire confidence in Tsipras’s ability to win over his EU “partners.”

Whatever Greeks thought they were voting for, their government’s obsession with wearing the eurozone straitjacket makes attacks on living standards, including pensions, the likely price of Syriza’s negotiations.

We are aware that some members of the CPB are supportive of the views of the sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE  Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas).

The KKE actively abstained in the Sunday  Referendum.

One sympathiser of the CPB has published their reaction, which we suspect lies behind the Morning Star’s comments (21st Century Manifesto),

The governmental majority of SYRIZA-ANEL rejected the proposal of the KKE for the government’s draft agreement to also be placed before the judgment of the Greek people in the referendum together with the issue of abolishing all the anti-people laws that have been passed in recent years and the issue of disengaging from the EU. At the same time, the coalition government explained that the NO in the referendum is interpreted by the government as approval for its own proposed agreement with the EU-IMF-ECB, which inside 47+8 pages also includes harsh antiworker-antipeople measures, worth about 8 billion euros.

In these conditions, the KKE called on the workers to turn their backs on the false dilemma which was being posed in the referendum, using all appropriate means. The forces of the KKE outside the election centres handed out its own ballot paper to the voters which said:

NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE EU-IMF-ECB
NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE GOVERNMENT
DISENGAGEMENT FROM THE EU, WITH THE PEOPLE IN POWER

Of course, it was understood that this ballot paper would be counted as a spoiled ballot, but together with the blank ballot papers and the abstention it constitutes a political current that disputes the choices of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and also of the imperialist organizations, with whom the government is negotiating for the needs of capital in Greece.

So there we have it: Greece should leave the EU –  something many in Merkel’s party, not to mention other right-wingers, would welcome.

Update: British CPB to negotiate unity with Trotskyist  World Socialist Web Site?

The political fraud of Syriza’s referendum on EU austerity in Greece

Since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on European Union (EU) austerity last Saturday, the entire enterprise has been exposed as a political fraud. It is designed to engineer a further capitulation to the EU’s demands, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Meanwhile on the left:

French left demo in Paris backing Syriza –  a few days ago.

Syria: Air Strikes on the Way? How Should the Left React?

with 6 comments

Two RAF Tornado GR4's

Is ISIS massacre of 30 UK holidaymakers in Tunisia only the beginning?

Comments Paul Rogers on the Stop the War Coalition site.

He notes:

“..the great majority of people in the UK are hardly aware that this is a major war – and that Britain is at the centre of it.”

That,

While one intention was seriously to wreck the Tunisian tourist industry, leading to higher unemployment and more anger and resentment, providing a better environment for recruiting young people to the IS cause, it was probably part of a much wider intention to bring the conflict home to the coalition of countries now engaged in the air war.

This makes for uncomfortable connections, especially as most people in Britain simply do not recognise that the country is part of a large coalition that has been waging a major air offensive on IS forces in Iraq and Syria for almost a year.

He concludes,

One of the grim ironies of the Sousse attack is that the appalling loss of life might alert more people in the UK to the true extent of the war. Equally, IS will no doubt encourage further attacks on the countries at war with it; counterterrorism forces in countries as far afield as the US, Australia, Canada, France and Britain will accordingly be intensifying their work.

It is just possible that the Sousse massacre will turn out to be an isolated attack on British nationals, but it’s very unlikely. The reality is that the war with IS in Iraq and Syria is beginning to extend beyond those countries and the region – even beyond the established battlegrounds ofAfghanistan and Libya. What happened to the holidaymakers in Sousse may only be the beginning of a new phase.

 

If it is a “war” against Daesh we can be sure we know today where the UK government stands.

Consider Syria IS strikes, defence secretary urges MPs

MPs should consider allowing Britain to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria, the defence secretary is to say.

The RAF has been carrying out strikes in Iraq since September but Michael Fallon will say Parliament should look at the case for missions in Syria too.

The UK does not need the backing of MPs to launch raids but Mr Fallon has said the Commons will have the final say.

He will suggest terrorist attacks, such as Friday’s tourist murders in Tunisia, may have been planned by IS in Syria.

Thirty of the 38 tourists killed on the beach in Sousse on 26 June have been confirmed as British. Student Seifeddine Rezgui, 23, said to have had links to IS, was shot dead by police after carrying out the attack.

Prime Minister David Cameron later said IS posed “an existential threat” to the West, and its members in Iraq and Syria were plotting “terrible attacks” on British soil.

The Mirror also notes,

Britain edged closer to bombing Islamic State extremists in Syria after the Defence Secretary said it was “illogical” to attack jihadists in Iraq but not over the border.

Michael Fallon said a new Commons vote would be needed before the RAF carried out air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria.

But he insisted there was no “legal bar” blocking Britain from attacking extremists in either country.

RAF Tornados and drones have been bombing the jihadists in Iraq since last September as part of a US-led alliance.

But Mr Fallon said: “ISIS is organised and directed and administered from Syria and there’s an illogicality about not being able to do it there.”

Where does the StWC stand?

Will it ‘defend’ the genociders of Daesh, and the European volunteers for its racist Einsatzgruppen from this bombing?

We say:

Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik. The UK and the West have not opposed support for the reactionary forces of Al Nusra and other Islamist murderers. Their allies, such as Saudi Arabia, actively back these reactionaries. They have not stood against the threat of Turkish ‘Neo-Ottoman’ policy. They had not stood against Shia sectarian killings in Iraq.

The possibility that they will encourage any kind of democratic outcome to the civil war, and a replacement for the Assad regime with a progressive alternative is non-existent.

But to make opposition to this  bombing our chief objective is wrong.

We should be backing the democratic, largely Kurdish forces, of the People’s Protection UnitsYekîneyên Parastina Gel,, battling the genociders and their International volunteers on the ground.

There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 2, 2015 at 11:28 am