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Christine Lagarde: the Wrong Person to Deal with the Greek Crisis.

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 http://www.london24.com/polopoly_fs/1.4131724!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/image.jpg

 

Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square to support the Greek government’s attempts to throw off austerity (Photo: Chris Plexidas via Twitter).

 

Yesterday Evening:

The Greece Solidarity Campaign wants a European conference to cancel Greece’s debts, and around three thousand people are at the square now to show their support and hear speeches from a range of MPs and activists including Paul Nowak from the TUC, Owen Jones, Sarah-Jayne Clifton of Jubilee Debt Campaign, Andrew Burgin of Left Unity, and John Rees of the People’s Assembly.

Jeremy Corbyn has said: “There is an escalating crisis of Greek society. There is no sane solution to the situation in Greece that involves repaying this debt. “The only sensible way forward is to cancel the Greek debt – or at least substantial swaths of it – and for the international community to support Greece’s democratically elected government to rebuild its society and its economy.”

Andrew Burgin from Greece Solidarity Campaign said: “We are coming together today to stand with the people of Greece and say: no to austerity, yes to democracy.

London 24.

The news today:

If Greece does not transfer the equivalent of €1.6bn to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday, it will become the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history. The country will also take a step closer to what some fear could be its exit from the eurozone and another round of economic turmoil in Europe.

Writes the Financial Times.

It continues on site with a list of “10 things worth keeping in mind.”

One should add another “thing” to remember.

Christine Lagarde is the IMF managing director.

 Christine Lagarde was appointed head of the IMF – following Dominique Strauss Kahan’s ‘resignation’.

One reason was that it was “buggin’s turn’ – the post would still be held by a French person, but after the (Socialist politician) this time it would be a right-wing French politician.

Largarde’s political career has taken place  essentially in the exalted regions of appointees, beyond more than nominal engagement in electoral politics (councillor in the 12th arrondissement of Paris).

But she was, from 2007 to 2011, Ministre de l’Économie under  Prime Minister François Fillon (more detailed summary on French Wikipedia)

That is,  perhaps more significantly, during the reign of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This was a right-wing government pursuing a neo-liberal economic strategy, mired in scandal.

This relates to a notorious, and long-lasting, ‘affaire’.

Investigation into alleged misuse of power

On 3 August 2011, a French court ordered an investigation into Lagarde’s role in a €403 million arbitration deal in favour of businessman Bernard Tapie. On March 20, 2013, Legarde’s apartment in Paris was raided by French police as part of the investigation.[57] On 24 May 2013, after two days of questioning at the Court of Justice of the Republic, Lagarde was assigned the status of “assisted witness”, meaning that she was not herself under investigation in the affair. According to a press report from June 2013, Lagarde has been described by Stephane Richard, the CEO of France Telecom (a former aide to Lagarde when she was Finance Minister), who has himself been put under formal investigation in the case, as having been fully briefed before approving the arbitration process which benefited Bernard Tapie. Subsequently in August 2014 the Court of Justice of the Republic announced that it had formally started a negligence investigation into Lagarde’s role in the arbitration of the Tapie case.

This is what Lagarde said in an interview with the Guardian in  May 2012 when asked about the crisis in Greece.

….when she studies the Greek balance sheet and demands measures she knows may mean women won’t have access to a midwife when they give birth, and patients won’t get life-saving drugs, and the elderly will die alone for lack of care – does she block all of that out and just look at the sums?

“No, I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” She breaks off for a pointedly meaningful pause, before leaning forward.

“Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”

Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”

It sounds as if she’s essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time.

“That’s right.” She nods calmly. “Yeah.”

At the time Le Monde commented that the Greeks felt “shocked” and  “humiliated” by the Director of the IMF’s lecture on how, after living the life of Riley, they should now pay their taxes.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon remarked that it was Greek ship-owners and the Orthodox Church who ahd avoided paying taxes, not the ordinary people.  (Les Grecs se disent “humiliés” par les propos de Christine Lagarde.)

Largarde has made one notable further gaff (Wikipedia),

In January 2015, on the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Lagarde said “he was a strong believer in pushing forward women’s rights”.

Christine Lagarde is a vegetarian and is near-teetotal. Her pastimes include hanging out in the gym, swimming and cycling.

 

Morning Star Attacks “Unhinged” pro-Europe Trotskyist Left’s “alliance with CBI” and David Cameron.

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‘Unhinged” Leftists Say yes to European Unity. 

The Morning Star has published and extraordinary article, EU Referendum: Vote to Get Out, by Brian Denny (No2EU spokesman)  in support of the Campaign to vote to withdraw from the European Union.

It is headlined with a sentence containing this, “the EU functions as a cheerleader for unconfined monopoly capitalism.”

Younger readers may not have heard of “monopoly capitalism” which is known partly from Harry  Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) but owed its currency in Orthodox Communist circles under the name of “State Monopoly Capitalism.”

Elaborated by post-war Soviet, Eastern European and Western European Communist party economists ideologues, it is one of the planks of ” Marxist–Leninism”. The  thesis is that big business, having achieved a monopoly or cartel position in most markets of importance, fuses with the government apparatus. A kind of financial oligarchy or conglomerate therefore results, whereby government officials aim to provide the social and legal framework within which giant corporations can operate most effectively. This is a close partnership between big business and government, and it is argued that the aim is to integrate trade-unions completely in that partnership.” (Wikipedia)

State monopoly capitalism formed the foundation of the programme of the  1960s French Parti Communiste Français, and other orthodox Communist Parties. It featured in the Communist Party of Great Britain’s programme, such as Britain’s Road to Socialism (1968).

At present the Communist Party of Britain, CPB  (best known for the Morning Star) believes that the emphasis has shifted.

The European Union and Marxist theory and practiceRobert Griffiths, Communist Party of Britain general secretary 2004 (Extracts)

The drive to construct a monopoly capitalist United States of Europe with a common foreign and military policy has the same three-fold purpose identified by Lenin in 1916: to promote monopoly capitalism and suppress socialism at home, to exploit neo-colonies abroad and to compete against rival imperialist powers and in particular the US. At the global level, it should be no surprise that the EU is a champion of privatisation, the free movement of capital, GATS and other archetypal ‘globalisation’ measures aimed at the developing and former socialist countries.

It is the drive to a United States of Europe which threatens, in our assessment, to undermine and circumvent the democratic institutions of EU member states. More specifically, EU laws and treaties have sought to limit the powers of democratic national parliaments – themselves the product of long working class struggle – precisely in those areas where they might limit the power and freedom of capital. Meanwhile, such unelected EU institutions as the European Commission and the European Central Bank acquire powers to initiate and enforce policies of privatisation, deregulation and monetarism enshrined in EU fundamental law.

In the present day, popular sovereignty is the struggle to impose the will of the working class and its allies – the vast majority of the nation – over monopoly capital. In Britain, the campaigns against participation in imperialist wars and in the US Star Wars programme are embryonic expressions of the aspiration for popular – and not just national – sovereignty.

Our party does not see anything progressive in the drive to construct an imperialist military United States of Europe. We do not believe that the creation of a rival imperialist super-power bloc, even if can be achieved despite its internal contradictions, would be a valuable ‘counter-weight’ to US imperialism. The two super-powers would collaborate with one another, and do rotten deals with each other, in their joint interest to suppress the working class movement at home and exploit and oppress other peoples around the world.

In the immediate future, as Communists and internationalists in Britain our responsibility is to ensure that the referendum campaigns against the single European currency and the EU constitution are imbued with the same spirit.

Imbued with this ghost of the call for ‘national sovereignty’, not to mention the phantom of the old Soviet Union,  as ramparts against international monopoly capitalism, Brain Denny launches into a tirade.

After an all too brief critique of  the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Brian Denny follows it up by this:

The EU has also been openly financing a junta that has violently grabbed power in Ukraine and which is led by fascists and revanchist groups promoting a cult around former Nazi collaborators.

This cult focuses particularly on Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, which joined forces with the nazis during the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Numerous monuments to Bandera have been erected, particularly in western Ukraine, including a statue in the city of Lviv, site of one of the largest anti-Jewish pogroms in WWII.

The Kiev regime even saw fit to pass a law under which wartime nazi collaborators, who carried out these mass murders, are officially recognised as “fighters for the freedom of Ukraine.”

At the same time it banned communist symbols and socialist thought across Ukraine.

This repressive, anti-democratic far-right regime is enthusiastically backed by its EU allies. Meanwhile Dmitry Yarosh, the neonazi leader of the Right Sector fascist party, has just been appointed as advisor to the chief of general staff of the armed forces.

This is how the EU projects its power externally on the international scene.

There is more in the same vein about the EU’s crimes, ranging from youth unemployment, privatisation, ” and so-called “free-market competition,” which is actually institutionalised monopoly capitalism”, to the, inevitable issue of fish.

Ultimately, the EU is a Tory project. The Tories took us in, campaigned to stay in, virtually wrote the 1986 Single European Act and supported the Maastricht Treaty and every right-wing, neoliberal treaty ever since.

Europhile Tory leader David Cameron claims that he wants to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership before holding an in-out referendum, probably next year.

But after a private meeting with the prime minister, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Cameron wants to use the upcoming EU referendum to “dock” Britain permanently to Brussels.

Cameron has no intention of fundamentally changing Britain’s relationship with the EU, mainly because finance capital does not want it altered.

There is no sign that he will end the supremacy of EU law over British law or even that he will keep Britain out of the eurozone in the long run.

Denny then evokes the spectre of ‘Trotskyism’ and its alliance with the Conservatives – perhaps an improvement on previous Stalinist claims about links between Trotskyists and much less pleasant political forces.

Cameron is already building an alliance for his strategy which stretches from the CBI to the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism.

But, ultimately, by campaigning for a Yes vote you are effectively endorsing all of the above crimes inflicted on Europe and further afield by fundamentally anti-democratic EU institutions.

It is without doubt that this does not refer to the SWP or the Socialist Party, both of which intend, like the CPB, to mark their ballots in the same way as UKIP,  the Tory ‘Eurosceptics’ and their big business supporters.

The “unhinged” left is without doubt here:

Campaign for a workers’ Europe!

This letter will be circulated to gather support for left opposition to UK withdrawal from Europe.

With the formation of “Conservatives for Britain”, the right-wing campaign to exit the EU has begun. Unfortunately, it is likely to be mirrored on the left.

A number of Labour MPs and trade unionists and the Morning Star newspaper will group themselves behind the banner of “Labour for Britain”, saying life will be better for British workers outside the EU.

Far-left groups are likely to dissociate from the nationalist name and from Labour. They say they will organise an internationalist anti-EU campaign, one that defends the rights of migrants.

They are all setting themselves an impossible task: the automatic right of EU workers to migrate to the UK, and of UK workers to migrate to EU countries, will be ended by UK exit. Those that do arrive after a UK exit are likely to come on worse terms than workers currently do, and they will arrive to a climate poisoned by the xenophobia of the referendum campaign, an atmosphere in which the left itself cannot thrive.

A UK outside the EU will offer worse prospects for fighting for workers’ rights than we have staying in. The nationalist right, no friends to workers, will have the political upper-hand in a post-exit UK, and UK workers will lose the possibility of organising a common struggle for better rights by workers across Europe.

The left cannot be anti-EU without being dragged behind the right-wing and anti-migrant backlash. It will raise a tiny voice, inaudible against the right-wing anti-EU campaign which has money, press backing, and establishment support, a campaign that is all about putting up borders and actively restricting migrants coming to the UK. The left-wing voice will be drowned out in the growing nationalist gale.

The concessions Cameron is seeking from the EU also threaten workers’ rights: in the first place, migrant workers’ rights to in-work benefits. He is also likely to seek further opt-outs from those European regulations that benefit workers. Many other EU governments will be sympathetic to Cameron’s vision of the EU: less regulated, more ruthlessly neo-liberal.

The Tories that want to get out and the Tories that want to stay in offer no choice for workers. But we should not be indifferent to the question posed in the referendum. The integration of capitalism results naturally from the process of outgrowing national boundaries, and workers do not have any interest in seeking to turn back the clock of history or re-erect national barriers. We oppose UK exit from the EU.

At the same time, we recognise that the EU, like its constituent member states, is organised primarily in the interests of capital, an increasingly pressured capital, forced to compete with growing industrial powers such as China and India, and therefore looking to liquidate those elements of “Social Europe” that still remain. We should not join any cross-class alliance with pro-EU Tories or business leaders: we do not positively support bosses’ Europe.

Instead, voices on the left are discussing a campaign for a workers’ Europe in the coming referendum. We will:

• defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism;

• vote against UK withdrawal from the EU;

• campaign for a workers’ Europe, based on solidarity between working people.

A reply to Denny by Jim can be seen on Shiraz.

The Tendance has signed the Campaign for a Workers’ Europe declaration.

Yes to a United Social Europe!

Against the chauvinist anti-EU left!

Update: a serious discussion of the problems of the EU, Britain and Europe after the general election: An interview with John Palmer.

Party of the European Left:

…..the Left, if it wants to channel its resistance against the demolition of the social state and of democracy into political alternatives, has to express itself as united at the European level and develop necessary concrete and alternative proposals for a different EU, and a different Europe together.

Why should it not find and determine the common political denominator – not the smallest, but in face of neo-liberal social destruction the largest – in order to successfully exist as an independent political force, and, at the same time, as a partner to  social movements, in order to be recognised as an actor capable of influencing and changing European politics?

In the light of the strength and tradition as well as the expectations of the feminist, ecological, and peace movements, it is high time for the political Left to live up to its responsibility. We want to contribute to the creation and realisation of new political strategies.

This is, without any doubt, the central challenge to left parties in the EU and in Europe, in a situation where neo-liberal thought is occupying ever more space in the minds of the people, a situation of apparent absence of alternatives to capitalist market logic, cost reductions, rigid and outrageous social demolition, and even the economic market sale of the whole society.

The Party of the European Left demands another Europe:

 

  • a Europe that says no to war and militarization. The European Left is an anti-war Left;
  • a Europe that defends the social states, and renews it, as well as redistributes wealth, power, and influence;
  • a Europe of diverse cultures, of freedom of spirit, and open to the world. The European Left is a cultural Left, which refuses historical revisionism, because it is capable of dealing with its own history critically and respectfully;
  • a Europe open to a world that resists capitalist globalisation. The European Left is critical of capitalism: It is anti-capitalist and aims at a transformation of societies beyond the rule of capitalism;
  • a democratic Europe. The European Left wants to get politics out of the backrooms of power and back into society, onto the squares and streets, into the debates of citizens, men and women of all ages. Politics is a part of movements and it forms parties; the parties act in parliaments and in governments, in initiatives and in extra-parliamentary protests; it is counter-power and a designing force. It is ready to be held accountable, which is what distinguishes parties in the broad social discourse.

We have to work seriously and honestly with all of the people who want to walk this path with us. In the sense of “Carpe diem!” we say: The social, peaceful and solidarity-based Europe needs our intervention! It is just the beginning!

Written by Andrew Coates

June 25, 2015 at 11:46 am

Syrian Kurds Beating Back ISIS Genociders.

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 Syrian Kurdish fighters take control of key Islamic State base north of Raqqa.

Is there no end to the rush to “explain” why some British Muslims have gone to join Daesh?

This was the latest:

British police are partly responsible for the radicalisation of three sisters thought to have taken their children to join extremists in Syria, it has been claimed.Mohammed Shoaib and Akhtar Iqbal, whose wives both left their homes in Bradford to travel to Syria, suggested that police encouraged their radicalisation by urging the women to contact their brother who had already left for Syria. It is believed he is fighting for with the Isis terror group. Independent.

Everyone is responsible, except the volunteers for oppression, terror and  genocide.

On the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) site, they posted  – not too long ago –  Russell Brand (6.3.15.) spouting  this self-indulgent piffle.

‘Jihadi John’ – widely regarded to be the masked executioner featured in several videos, produced by the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS), showing the beheading of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015 – has been revealed as West Londoner Mohammed Emwazi. Russell Brand ask whether the attraction of Islamic State for some young people in Britain, like Mohammed Emwazi, is due to the loss of identity and power in our communities.

More recently there is an article that singles out ‘Islamophobia’ as the greater menace, The status of Muslims in the west is under threat by David Miller, Narzanin Massoumi, Tom Mills & Hilary Aked.

The (academic) authors are very big on “anti-Muslim hate crime” – no doubt a serious problem.

But they fail to mention the actually existing Islamist hate crimes of the jihadis.

The template: ‘Islamophobia-Identity-Crisis-Imperialist-Intervention-in-the-Middle-East‘ – a kind of puddle of images, not an argument –  just about overwhelms any rational explanation  from this quarter.

One thing is, nevertheless clear – they are asserting that the Jihadis are just as much ‘victims’ as those they slaughter.

A rare glimpse of sanity came when Shiraz Maher published these words in the New Statesman on the 17th of June.

The experience of Britain’s suicide bombers shows how these men are full participants in the war engulfing Syria and Iraq. Over the past two years British fighters have tortured prisoners in their care, executed prisoners of war, beheaded journalists and aid workers, and participated in the revival of slavery. As this brutal nihilism has taken hold, some fighters, among them many Britons, have grown weary of its trajectory and left the conflict. Not so the suicide bombers. Theirs are the actions of the conscientious and committed.

Western liberals and the left could perhaps do better by first considering the acts of those resisting  Daesh.

The StWC lost interest in the Kurdish people’s battle around the end of last year, some of their supporters darkly hinting at US or ‘Zionist’ involvement in their operations.

By contrast many of us, socialist internationalists,  continue to back our Kurdish sisters and brothers.

There are some important recent articles on the fight back by the Syrian Kurds against ISIS/Islamic State. Or, as it’s widely known, Daesh.

This is one, from Arab Awakening

Syrian Kurds have won a strategic victory in Tel Abyad, uniting two of their self-run cantons and putting ISIS on the back foot.

The struggle against ISIS continues to be a topsy-turvy affair. Recent setbacks include ISIS’ capture of historic Palmyra in eastern Syria and the important Iraqi city of Ramadi. In northern Syria, along the Turkish border, however, the situation is entirely different.

On 16 June, the Kurdish militia of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), accompanied by allied Arab military units and supported by US-led airstrikes, captured the ISIS stronghold of Tel Abyad (Girê Sipî‎ in Kurdish).

Tel Abyad was of pivotal importance to ISIS as a gateway to the Turkish border post of Akçakale, through which foreign fighters had allegedly come, and as a supply route to ISIS’ self-declared capital of Raqqa.

In recent months, Kurdish forces have moved rapidly to reclaim large swathes of territory from ISIS in northern Syria. The capture of Tel Abyad came after a pincer movement of Kurdish militia and their allies from the east and west.

Prior to the capture of Tel Abyad, units from the separate Kurdish-run cantons of Kobanê and Cizîrê made contact for the first time. With Tel Abyad in YPG/YPJ hands, two of the three autonomous cantons of the Syrian Kurds’ self-declared Rojava territory are now linked and Kurdish control extends almost 400 km along the Syria/Turkey border, from the Iraq frontier in the east to the Euphrates in the west.

This represents a remarkable reversal of fortune for Syria’s Kurds and their allies. Late last year, ISIS appeared all but unstoppable in Syria. Equipped with heavy weapons abandoned by retreating Iraqi troops, it swallowed up territory and pushed the lightly armed Kurds into a corner.

In October, ISIS was poised to capture the Kurdish city of Kobanê and extinguish one of the fledgling Kurdish cantons. It was only the determined resistance of the YPG and YPJ and the commencement of a US-led air campaign against ISIS that saw the city saved.

Kobanê became a rallying point for the Kurdish cause. Kurds in Turkey who I spoke to at the time of the siege remarked that it had brought together Kurdish communities spread across the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. “We have thousands of years of history,” one man remarked, “now, for the first time all our hearts are beating together.”

The siege also saw greater coordination between the Kurdish YPG and the US military. On January 26, after a siege that had lasted 134 days, Kurdish forces broke ISIS’ stranglehold on Kobanê. Since then, the Kurds and allied forces have made rapid gains.

In the course of their brave fight against ISIS, the Kurdish militias of Syria (and Iraq) have won considerable international attention and sympathy. They have also attracted western recruits to the cause. In February, Australian Ashley Johnston was the first westerner to be “martyred” fighting alongside the YPG militia. An American, Keith Broomfield, was also killed earlier this month.

Kurdish advances in northern Syria have not been without controversy, however. Social media users and some ethnic Arab and Turkmen refugees have accused Kurdish forces of ethnically cleansing areas they have captured. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has echoed these allegations.

In a battlefield rife with conspiracy theories and misinformation it is difficult to determine the veracity of such claims. Kurdish activists, for instance, often allege that Turkey has supported ISIS against the Kurds.

The YPG, for its part, denies that it has ethnically cleansed the areas that it has recently captured. In fact, it has issued an appeal to refugees fleeing combat zones, regardless of their ethnicity, to come to “safe areas” under its control, an appeal that many have eagerly taken up.

It is also clear that the Kurdish YPG and YPJ militias are not acting alone in the campaign against ISIS. The recent battle for Tel Abyad included ethnic Arab brigades of the Free Syrian Army, participating under a joint operations command known in Arabic as Burkān al-Furāt (the Euphrates Volcano). It seems implausible that Arab militia would allow the ethnic cleansing of their kin by the Kurdish forces they are fighting alongside.

The Turkish president, meanwhile, has also expressed his displeasure at US air support for the Kurdish campaign. Citing the YPG’s affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), he argues that it amounts to western backing for terrorist forces.

Turkey’s misgivings about the Syrian Kurds’ advances have been evident for some time. Notably, the day after the siege of Kobanê was lifted, Erdoğan stated that Turkey would not tolerate an Iraq-style Kurdish entity on its border with Syria.

Turkey, the US and the EU classify the PKK as a terror group. Erdoğan’s scolding is a reflection of Turkey’s refusal to view the PKK as anything other than a terrorist vehicle, despite the significant role it has played in pushing back the jihadi forces of ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. It is also evidence of a deep-seated Turkish mistrust of Kurdish intentions.

Turkish concerns notwithstanding, the Kurds’ recent victories have changed the complexion of the region. By linking two of their cantons, the Syrian Kurds will now find themselves on a much stronger strategic footing.

Despite (as yet unsubstantiated) claims of ethnic cleansing, the Kurds in Rojava have established a political entity run according to a post-nation-state model of democracy and accepting of diverse ethnic groups. On the battlefield they have proven reliable and highly effective.

It beggars belief that western governments, looking upon the chaos of the region with dismay, have not established formal alliances with the PYD, the political entity administering the Syrian Kurdish cantons.

Perhaps most importantly, the Syrian Kurds have demonstrated that ISIS is not the military powerhouse it was once envisaged as, but is in fact eminently beatable.

It beggars belief that the majority of the British left has not followed the example of the rest of the European left and backed our Kurdish sisters and brothers.

This the latest news, from the Kurdish news agency Rûdaw:

BEIRUT (AP) — Kurdish fighters and their allies have captured a Syrian military base once held by the Islamic State group, activists and officials said Tuesday, moving within some 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the extremists’ de facto capital.Taking the Brigade 93 base further squeezes the extremists, especially after they lost a major supply line when the Kurds captured the town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border last week.However, even with the aid of U.S.-led airstrikes, battling even closer to the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa could prove costly for the Kurds and allied rebel factions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali said Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, captured the base Monday night. Both said YPG fighters and their allies later entered parts of the nearby town of Ein Issa, the last major residential area north of Raqqa, which the Islamic State group considers the capital of its self-declared “caliphate” across Syria and Iraq.

The YPG’s official Facebook page said “dozens of Daesh mercenaries were killed” at Brigade 93, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group. The Observatory said that Islamic State militants transferred the corpses of 26 of its fighters to Raqqa after they were killed in Ein Issa by airstrikes.

The U.S. has found a reliable partner in the YPG, who have been the main force in the battle against the Islamic State group in Syria. They are moderate, mostly secular fighters, driven by revolutionary fervor and deep conviction in their cause. They are backed by Arab tribesmen, Assyrian Christian gunmen and members of the rebel faction known as Burkan al-Furat — Arabic for the “Volcano of the Euphrates.

“The Islamic State group continues to have a supply line to Turkey running through northwestern Syria to Raqqa. It’s not clear whether the Kurds will push in further on Raqqa. When cornered in the past, the militants have relied on coordinated mass suicide car bomb attacks and other scorched-earth tactics.Those tactics have included mass killings. On Tuesday, a media arm of the Islamic State group in Iraq posted a video online purporting to show it kill over a dozen men it described as spies by drowning them in a cage, decapitating them with explosives and firing a rocket-propelled grenade at them in a car.

More News: Syrian Kurdish fighters take control of key Islamic State base north of Raqqa.

We note the words “The U.S. has found a reliable partner in the YPG…” in this article: so expect the StWC to wash their hands of the Kurds completely.

French President Hollande: Greek PM, Tsipras’s proposals are “acceptable”

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Pétition - La France doit soutenir la Grèce

La France doit soutenir la Grèce!

As the Greek crisis develops some new,  just now from Libération (adapted)

Monday morning: receiving a delegation of political and community leaders supporting the Greek government, the Head of State said he was convinced that an agreement is “close.”

Will France stand alongside Greece? This is what President of the Republic assured a delegation of signatories for the appeal “The role of France is alongside the Greek people” launched last week at  the Elysée,   this morning.

In the Green Room of the Elysée, the Head of State reiterated his government’s  position on these policies to this delegation from the left,  “There has to be an agreement” , ” Agreement is near” and “Tsipras’s proposals are acceptable ” .

“He gave credit to Tsipras for standing up to the Troika demands” , insists Julien Bayou, the spokesperson  for French Green Party (EELV)  and a member of the delegation.

A note of caution:  “Acceptable does not mean accepted. This is a negotiation “

Anne Sabourin,  of the  Parti Communiste, spoke of how President Hollande sided with Tspiras’ negotiation stance.

“He’s grasped that it’s not Greece that’s being intransigent.” added  Eric Coquerel of the  Parti de gauche,  who was present with other members of the  Front de gauche.

Coquerel, however, noted, that one can always leave an audience with François  Hollande at the Elysée with the impression that the President is on your side.

Afterwards…..the real facts come into play.

The Economic Times reports,

PARIS: A comprehensive deal with Greece allowing it to remain in the euro zone and live with its debts must be found either at a euro zone summit on Monday or in coming days, French PresidentFrancois Hollande said.

“If we get a deal tonight, that would be better, but if not, we’ll need to set the foundation tonight so that a deal can be reached in coming days,” Hollande told reporters in Paris before he was due to travel to Brussels for the summit.

Latest from Chron.

French President Francois Hollande says “progress has been made in the negotiations” between Greece and its creditors, which include eurozone states like France.

Hollande is urging Greece to find an agreement at a Monday summit in Brussels between Greece and its creditors.

“We must do everything so that an agreement is found tonight,” Hollande said at an event in Paris before heading to Brussels.

If Monday’s talks are inconclusive, Hollande insists an agreement would need to be found “within the next days.”

“France and Germany are aware that Greece must remain in the eurozone,” he said.

 More at l’Humanité,

End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report from Ipswich.

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Protesters flood Parliament Square (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Protesters flood Parliament Square (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report.

Around 80,000 people (the Tendance’s estimate) marched in London on Saturday. They protested against the newly elected Conservative government’s plans to continue, and deepen, austerity.

It’s unnecessary to list the faults of these policies. It’s enough to see the people begging in the streets, a few hundred metres from the office of Ipswich Tory M.P. Benedict Gummer. Without the response of the People’s Assembly, the unions, the diverse groups and parties on the demonstration, and the wider public, Cameron and Osborne will have free rein to create a mean-spirited free-market Britain.

From Ipswich and Stowmarket 42 people piled in our coach – there were more travelling to London by train. Up to 70% were under the age of 40, with a large percentage in their teens and twenties. This was reflected amongst the marchers, with a strong presence of young people.

While assembling by the Bank of England we were addressed by various speakers. Those advertised included Kate Hudson (Chair, Left Unity, CND) and Diane Abbott (Labour MP and candidate to represent the party for the London Mayoral contest). They and others made good, rousing, contributions on the need to fight austerity.

Weyman Bennett (SWP/Unite Against Fascism) linked people being rude to women wearing the Islamic veil to the massacre at Charleston and the heart-rending plight of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Lee Jasper (Respect Party), the ‘controversial’ former Director for Policing and Equalities under Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Authority Assembly continued in this vein.

Someone (one can imagine who) compared his peroration  unfavourably to Ali G.(1)  One Suffolk comrade remarked that on what she called the “shouting”.

It was to be regretted that there was nobody from the National Shop Stewards Network – a group which, whatever one’s political differences, represents a lot more than the former two users of the demo microphone – was not invited to speak.

The route of the protest, which began next to the City, took us from Ludgate Circus, down the Strand, past Trafalgar Square. This was the venue of a – poorly attended- commercial beano, a pop radio concert. It symbolised the use of public space for corporate gain.

Local People’s assembly groups (like Suffolk People’s Assembly) unions, Left Unity, anti-cuts organisations, disabeld rights groups,the SWP, the Socialist Party, and other (even) smaller left parties, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity , the Green Party …to Class War, were present.

In Parliament Square there were more speeches. Again there were solid well-argued arguments against the Cabinet’s plans, from Steve Turner (UNITE and the People’s Assembly) onwards. John Rees included a reference to the rights of atheists in a call for to defend the freedoms of different beliefs. His claim that the demonstrators were from all ethnic backgrounds was perhaps not fully substantiated by a glance at the overwhelmingly  white crowd.

Charlotte Church made an exceptional contribution.

The Mirror called it an “incredible speech“.

The Conservatives’ intention was to create a society around their principles, of private profit and public loss.

Describing the idea that Britain needs austerity as “the big lie”, Charlotte said: “They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. When it’s done, it will he hard to reverse.

“One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package.

“I’m proud to be British because of the NHS and David Bowie, not because of the Union Jack.

“Be proud for the right reasons. We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from years of yuppie rule.

“If you are ashamed that you have to use a food bank, because this Government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall. You have the moral high ground.

“We are not afraid of national debt and we will not let our public services be attacked.”

She added: “What this country needs is economic stimulation – most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping.”

Earlier, she said: “I’m here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here – it is a massive turnout – everybody who thinks that austerity isn’t the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary.”

It was hard not to be moved by Charlotte’s clear and heart-felt words.

Her call for positive alternatives and hope will resonate across the country.

For many present, Jeremy Corbyn, standing for the Labour Party leadership, made a decisive call to make sure there is a strong left, anti-austerity,  vote in this election.

End Austerity Now was a success.

Where we go from now is the subject of serious discussion.

One way forward can be seen in the multitude of protests against welfare reform: from the continued campaign against the Bedroom Tax, Benefit cuts, Workfare, to the – still not fully implemented – psychological treatment of some claimants.

It is to be regretted that some parties see groups like the People’s Assembly as a recruiting ground.

In Suffolk the Green Party does not appear to publicise this:

Suffolk’s best-known Green Party politician has pulled out of the battle to become Ipswich MP in next May’s general election – because he hasn’t “got the heart” to take on Tory Ben Gummer.

Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.

“Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.

“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.

Ipswich Star.

The day was an achievement for the organisers.

It was, as they say, only a beginning.

(1) This is what Jasper said (Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s rampant racism. 17th of January) about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo  (he doesn’t even mention the anti-Semitic murder at the Hyper-Casher):

“JeSuisCharlie in this context is nothing more than appeal from right wings white’s to be allowed to be racist without opposition in the name of free speech.  It’s a sort of ‪#WhiteLivesMatter statement particularly when viewed in the context of the tragic violence and world silence about the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram.

This privilege allows them to disregard the social environment and political context of such satire and its consequences.  Writing in this flawed tradition is the perogative  of white, middle class Libertarian anarchists. Charlie Hebdo is for me,  a silly magazine and quintessentially an exercise in white privilege and arrogance.

Danish Election Defeat: Consequences for the Left.

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http://www.danskfolkeparti.dk/pictures_ed//stor%20forside%20billede(1).jpg

Anti-European Party Makes Gains in Danish Election.

The BBC reports:

Denmark’s opposition parties have beaten the governing coalition after a close general election.

With all mainland votes counted, the centre-right group led by ex-PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen beat PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s centre-left coalition, although her party is the largest.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt has now stood down as Social Democratic Party leader.

The right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party will become the second-largest in parliament

These are the results in Parliamentary seats:

  • The Social Democrats (A) – 47
  • Radikale, the Danish Social Liberal party (B) – 8
  • Socialist People’s party (F) – 7
  • Red-Green Alliance (Ø) – 14
  • The Alternative (Å) –9

Blue bloc:

  • Venstre (V) – 34
  • Danish People’s party (O) – 37
  • The Liberal Alliance (I) – 13
  • The Conservative People’s party (C) – 6

From the Guardian.

Consequences.

Flemming Rose, the foreign editor of the right-wing Jyllands-Posten, comments on Politico.

The anti-immigration and anti-EU Danish People’s Party received its best result ever. It is now the second biggest party and almost doubled its support compared to 2011. This will resonate around Europe, where anti-immigration and anti-EU forces are gaining ground in several countries. The big question is whether the Danish People’s Party will join the new government. If that happens, the party’s chairman, Thulesen Dahl, may become the next minister of finance. It will depend on negotiations with Lars Løkke Rasmussen. “Am I awake, or am I asleep and dreaming?” the founder of the party and former chairman, Pia Kjærsgaard, told Danish TV.

The Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) policy includes the following (Party site):

    • The aim of the Danish People’s Party is to assert Denmark’s independence, to guarantee the freedom of the Danish people in their own country, and to preserve and promote representative government and the monarchy.
    • Denmark’s constitutional monarchy must be preserved.
    • The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church is the church of the Danish people.
    • Danish independence and freedom are the primary objectives of Danish foreign policy.The Danish People’s Party wishes friendly and dynamic cooperation with all the democratic and freedom-loving peoples of the world, but we will not allow Denmark to surrender its sovereignty.As a consequence, the Danish People’s Party opposes the European Union.
    • Denmark is not an immigrant-country and never has been. Thus we will not accept transformation to a multi-ethnic society.

The other electoral fact which will have a wider impact is that the ‘meat-free days’ Alternative Party (Alternativet)  got more seats than the left-wing Socialist People’s Party, (Socialistisk Folkeparti)  though fewer than the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne).

They compare themselves to Podemos.

Wikipedia notes, “it refuses to position itself on the classical left-wing, right-wing political spectrum.The party states the aims of supporting sustainability and environmentalism, internationalism, social justice and entrepreneurship.

Their platform is grounded on the following:

The Alternative is based on six core values that characterise our internal and external working processes as well as specific political proposals.

The six core values are:
Courage. Courage to look problems in the eye. But also courage about the future we share.
Generosity. Everything which can be shared will be shared with anyone interested.
Transparency. Everybody should be able to look over our shoulders. On good days and on bad.
Humility. To the task. To those on whose shoulders we stand. And to those who will follow us.
Humour. Without humour there can be no creativity. Without creativity there can be no good ideas. Without good ideas there can be no creative power. Without creative power there can be no results.
Empathy. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Looking at the world from that point of view. And creating win-win solutions for everyone.

This is their ‘Manifesto':

There is always an alternative!

The Alternative is a political idea. About personal freedom, social dignity, and living, sustainable communities. A hope. A dream. A yearning. For meaning, sense and compassionate relationships. The Alternative is an answer to what is happening in the world today. All around us. With us.

The Alternative is a shout out. Against cynicism, lack of generosity and the ticking off which prevails in our society.

The Alternative is a positive countermeasure. The desire to bring real and serious answers to the environmental and resource crisis our planet is in the midst of. A crisis which every day worsens our own and our children’s and grandchildren’s opportunities for good, rich and meaningful lives.

The Alternative is curiosity. About developing our local societies, cities and nations. We want to take back ownership of the economy and of democratic decisions. At our workplaces and in the places where we live our lives. Without losing the global vision for the responsibility for finding mutual solutions with our neighbours – including those who live on the other side of the world.

The Alternative is collaboration. We know that private companies alone cannot solve these problems. Neither can the public sector, and neither can the NGO movement. So we need to invent completely new links and ways of working together where we use the best from the private, public and the NGO sectors.

The Alternative is openness. Towards trying out new ideas and creating solutions which work. The Alternative is also thoughtfulness. About understanding complex contexts and resisting the temptation of simplified arguments and pleasant illusions.

The Alternative is courage. To look problems in the eye. But also courage about the future we have to share together. The Alternative is also humour. Without humour there can be no creativity. Without creativity there can be no good ideas. Without good ideas there can be no creative power. Without creative power there can be no results.

The Alternative is already a reality. Around the world new types of institutions, businesses and social networks are being created. Whether in Copenhagen, Seoul, Durban or Rio. Individually they may not be that significant, but together they form a global wave of change full of vitality.

The Alternative is for you. Who can tell that something has been set in motion. Who can feel that something new is starting to replace something old. Another way of looking at democracy, growth, work, responsibility and quality of life. That is The Alternative.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias is  influenced  by ‘post-Marxist’ populist discourse theorist Ernesto Laclau (Understanding Podemos. New Left Review. May-June 2015).

This ‘manifesto’ sounds as if one of the influences (if in a diluted form) on the Alternative is the  ‘programme’ advocated by John Holloway in such books as  How to Change to World Without Taking Power, screams and shouts included.

The Alternative’s  success in winning seats on this ‘ programme’  after only two years of existence will not be universally welcomed on the European left.

By contrast we draw inspiration from the good result of the Danish Red-Green Alliance.

For more information  on their background see, Denmark: Fresh openings for Red-Green Alliance as it marks 25 years. And their site (English section)

But all of this is overshadowed by the boost given to anti-European, anti-Internationalist, and xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti.

Update: already the Independent (just on-line)  draws this conclusion: David Cameron could have a new ally for his EU reforms.

The right-wing populist Danish People’s Party is the undisputed winner of the elections. It took 21.4 per cent of the vote, up from 12.3 in 2011.

The eurosceptic group has struck a deal with his right-wing allies to support David Cameron’s plans for renegotiating EU rules about migration.

The PM wants to renegotiate rules around freedom of movement and social security payments, but has been stonewalled by a number of other European nations – he’ll welcome support from the new Danish government.

But…..

While Mr Cameron will see the result as a welcome boost, having Denmark on-side doesn’t necessarily make him any more likely to succeed.

In one sense, the prime minister is just standing still – he lost a close ally late last year in Sweden after the centre-left took power there. Denmark is really stepping in to fill the gap.

Despite its international reputation, Denmark is also a rather small country, with a population similar to that of Yorkshire.

The PM also needs to find agreement across Europe to actually effect any change. With so many countries actively set against his plans, this will still be difficult to achieve.

Peter Tatchell: Britain should treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state. Free Raif Badawi!

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 Free Raif Badawi !

Peter Tatchell writes,

It is exactly three years ago today that the pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi was arrested and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the draconian sentence handed down for his ‘crime’ of setting up a liberal website: ten years jail and 1,000 lashes.

Meanwhile, Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law, Waleed Abu Al-Khair – himself a human rights activist and founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia – had his 15 year jail sentence confirmed in February.

This is happening in a country that successive British governments have allied with, diplomatically and militarily, despite its tyrannical nature and its sharp divergence from our stated democratic, liberal and human rights values. Our foreign policy on Saudi Arabia doesn’t match what we say we stand for.

Indeed, as well as Raif’s and Waleed’s persecution, Amnesty international has documented ten different forms of gross human rights abuse perpetrated by the regime in Riyadh.

Despite UK government silence, human rights campaigners have kept the Badawi case in the public eye. English PEN has been holding weekly vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London, and the Amnesty International petition calling for his release has over 1 million signatures. People worldwide are sharing the #FreeRaif appeal on social media, calling for his immediate, unconditional release.

Badawi is one of the human rights heroes of our age. He has been awarded several prizes, including PEN Canada’s One Humanity Award, and has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Numerous Nobel laureates have voiced their support for Raif, as have well-known public figures such as Patti Smith, Jimmy Wales, Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky.

…….

Today, on this third anniversary of Badawi’s arrest, we will be taking our campaign to Downing Street, with a delegation including representatives from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, English PEN, Index on Censorship, International Front for Secularism and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Our letter to the Prime Minister urges him to publicly call for the release of Raif and other political prisoners, and to condemn all human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. We also want David Cameron to make trade with Riyadh conditional on the regime’s respect for human rights and ethical norms of governance – particularly in relation to the sale of weapons that could be used to oppress Saudi citizens. These demands will be reiterated at a public meeting this evening in the Houses of Parliament with MPs, peers and campaigners.

Until it conforms to international human rights standards, Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah state. Arms sales must end, the British ambassador should be recalled, and key regime figures sanctioned internationally.

The letter:

Dear Prime Minister

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.

In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.

The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.

But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.

The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.

As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.

We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.

If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.

In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia

Yours

List of Signatures and more information: Free Raif Badawi.

Day of action for Raif Badawi (from English PEN).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 18, 2015 at 12:36 pm