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Nicaragua: After Police Kill Protesters, Giant Demonstration for Peace and against Daniel Ortega

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Manifestation au Nicaragua pour réclamer la fin des violences, le 28 avril.

Nicaragua se vuelca en una gigantesca marcha contra Ortega.

Tens of thousands march for peace and justice in Nicaragua

The protests have expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security changes to include broader anti-government grievances.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have joined a march for “Peace and Justice” called by the Catholic Church, the second massive demonstration in less than a week following a wave of deadly protests against social security reforms.

The two marches in Managua came after protests and looting last week that Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission on Human Rights said left at least 63 people dead, 15 missing and more than 160 wounded by gunfire.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has not confirmed or denied the casualty figures.

Mr Ortega, who began his third five-year term in office last year, withdrew the social security overhaul that sparked the social convulsion last Sunday and agreed to meet with different sectors of society.

The rescinded changes would have imposed higher contributions by workers and employers and required retirees with pensions to give up 5% of their checks for medical care.

But the protests, which have been largely led by university students, had expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security changes to include broader anti-government grievances. Protesters at times were met with violent with police repression and attacks from Sandinista youth and motorcycle-riding thugs

Guardian: A correspondent in Managua and  in Mexico City

Tens of thousands have joined student-led protests, which started as an outbreak of fury over social security reforms and morphed into a broader revolt against the authorities’ violent response – and Ortega’s 11-year rule. At least forty-two people have died in the unrest, including a journalist shot dead while broadcasting on Facebook Live.

“We came in memory of the university students who fell fighting a dictatorship,” said Cinthia Madrigal, 30, who joined a march in Managua. “We took to the streets peacefully … and Daniel ordered us to be killed.”

During the 1980s, Ortega became a poster boy for the global left: a mustachioed Marxist feted for overthrowing the despised dictator Anastasio Somoza and for his David versus Goliath cold war struggle with Washington.

Ortega, now 72, suffered a chastening setback in 1990 after losing a presidential election he had expected to walk.

In 1998, his step-daughter – Murillo’s daughter, Zoilamérica Narvaez – publicly accused Ortega of having sexually abused her for a number of years from the age of 12. Murillo chose her husband over her daughter, and gradually moved to the centre of power; both parents deny the allegations.

After two failed attempts to reclaim the presidency, Ortega staged a dramatic comeback in 2006 – a victory in Murillo is thought to have played a key role.

In his victory speech, Ortega pledged to rule for the poor and for the people and “create a new political culture”. Yet he returned a changed and to many a tarnished man.

Former Sandinista comrades began turning away from the Nicaraguan president amid accusations of cronyism and corruption and anger over his support for a highly controversial Catholic church-backed ban on abortion.

Background:

Nicaragua on the Brink, Once Again.  

New Yorker.

The present convulsion began earlier this month, after President Daniel Ortega proposed a change to the country’s social-security provisions that would have forced taxpayers to pay more for the program while simultaneously cutting payouts to beneficiaries. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries of Latin America, and public reaction to this change was furious and swift, with demonstrators taking to the streets to protest. The government’s ensuing response was as ill-considered as it was cruel. Police around the country fired live ammunition to break up the protests; as many as sixty people are believed to have died in the chaos that followed, including Ángel Gahona, a young reporter who was shot in the head while conducting a Facebook Live report in the streets of the Caribbean coastal town of Bluefields.

As the civilian deaths mounted, Rosario Murillo—Ortega’s wife, Vice-President, and spokesperson—issued a stream of belittling comments, calling the protesters “bloodsuckers,” “criminals,” and “vampires.” This only raised the ire of many thousands of ordinary Nicaraguans, and, just as happened in the late nineteen-seventies, when the dictator Somoza tried to stamp out dissent with harsh measures, the sentiments on the street have only hardened.

It’s clear now that, for all their pragmatic backpedalling on the social-security bill, Ortega and Murillo’s long time in power, and their near-total control of Nicaragua’s public institutions, have left them out of touch with the feelings of many of their countrymen. Ortega initially rose to power after the 1979 Sandinista revolution, when he was known as a Marxist firebrand, and he served as the country’s strongman President until 1990, when he ceded power after losing elections. He returned to the Presidency, in 2006, after dropping his Marxist tag, allying himself with former politicos and enemies that included Nicaragua’s corporate class and its archconservative Catholic archbishop, and declaring himself a belated follower of Jesus Christ. In the years since, Ortega and his wife have steadily consolidated their power, eliminating their opponents through a canny combination of economic co-option and, when necessary, outright repression.

In addition to the executive branch of government, Ortega and Murillo dominate Nicaragua’s Congress and judiciary. The couple’s children, in turn, run the family’s business empire via a web of public-relations firms and media companies that functions as the government’s communications department. The Ortega-Murillo regime, in other words, exists in an echo chamber.

More background: (2016)  Nicaragua’s compromised revolution

Memories of the 1979 Sandinista revolution remain strong in Nicaragua, but today’s FSLN is a very different organization, reports Jonah Walters from Managua.

The FSLN of today is not like the Sandinistas who led the left-wing government for a decade after the revolution, with Ortega at its head then, too.

After enduring a decade of economic strangulation and counterrevolutionary military attacks by the contra armies, the Sandinistas lost power to the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition in 1990.

Since then, the FSLN leadership has restricted internal democracy, colluded with the corrupt conservative governments that succeeded them and sought power again through cynical backroom deals. Its political stances became more and more moderate, if not downright conservative–in 2006, on the eve of Ortega winning the presidency again, the Sandinistas endorsed a law that banned all abortions in Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas once represented a vital revolutionary force–an inspiration to leftist movements all over Latin America and the world. But how should we make sense of the FSLN in the current moment, after decades of degeneration and behind-the-scenes maneuvering have compromised the organization?

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Catalonia: Revolution Postponed as Puigdemont backers say he will be President on the 31st of January……

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Image result for puigdemont caricature

Puigdemont with Adviser in Brussels.

Los diputados de Junts per Catalunya en Bruselas: “El 31 de enero Puigdemont será el presidente”

MPs of Junts per Catalunya in Brussels, “On the 3st of January Puigdemont will be President. 

Once upon a time, a long time back, a few weeks before Christmas….. Catalonia was on the threshold of a revolution.

Socialist Appeal echoed many a sage  left-wing commentator in stating, “the Catalan revolution: the struggle for the Socialist Republic of Catalonia, to serve as the spark for the Iberian Socialist Revolution, and the prelude to the European Socialist Revolution.”

As recruiting posters for a new Durutti column began to appear in Hoxton Quinoa bars, the left press was awash with stories from the front line.

Grizzled journalists made their way across snow swept Pyrenean trails to send back reports from Catalunya.

The Socialist set the tone, ” Spain/Catalonia: “Like a massive football match, with a revolutionary atmosphere!” Supporters lined up to cheer.  Socialist Worker advised, “Workers’ mobilisation” was the key to success.  Counterfire began an appeal “To support in any way possible the emergence of a broad based solidarity movement in the UK.” In an exercise of considerable imagination Red Pepper published a piece stating, “Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism”. Some Anarchists, no doubt excited at the prospect of visiting Hemp Milk Cooperatives off the Ramblas, saw a resurrection of the CNT as this tiny union backed independence. (1)

Spain’s PM, Rajoy seemed to act out of his way to reinforce the hostility of Catalans.There were justified protests in Catalonia against the repression unleashed against the ‘referendum’ and gaoling of Catalan MPs.  There were some strikes, many backed by employers, public functionaries and business, that failed to take off in the factories and the majority of the working class. Theyw ere more effective in snarling up road traffic than anything else.

But internationally the event the only demonstrations of support for Catalan nationalism, led by a large section of the Catalan bourgeoisie, and its main party, JuntsxCat were organised by the Scottish Nationalist Party, and, in Brussels, a curious event which saw Trotskyists march with the extreme-right Vlams Belang.

In the event the regional elections on the 21st of December saw a marginal victory for the assembled Catalan nationalists and a crushing defeat for the pro-independence radical left.

CataloniaParliamentDiagram2017.svg
Parties and coalitions Popular vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Total +/−
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Cs) 1,109,732 25.35 +7.44 36 +11
Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat)1 948,233 21.66 n/a 34 +3
Republican Left–Catalonia Yes (ERC–CatSí)1 935,861 21.38 n/a 32 +6
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE) 606,659 13.86 +1.14 17 +1
Catalonia in Common–We Can (CatComú–Podem)2 326,360 7.46 –1.48 8 –3
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 195,246 4.46 –3.75 4 –6
People’s Party (PP) 185,670 4.24 –4.25 4 –7

The loudest voice braying for Catalan nationalism, Socialist Appeal, was exultant, “The victory of the pro-independence bloc is a blow to the Rajoy government and the Spanish regime as a whole.” They explained away the defeat of their own favoured force, the CUP, as follows,

The anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP had a bad result: 4.45 percent of the votes and only 4 seats. For comparison, it had 8.21 percent and 10 seats after the 2015 elections. It ran a very good and militant campaign, in which it insisted on the defence of the Catalan Republic and the mandate of the 1st October referendum, linking these to the question of winning and defending social rights, and talking openly about socialism and internationalism.

But these strengths in the CUP’s campaign were offset by a number of factors. Firstly, the memory of its past mistakes in supporting JxSí and its budget of cuts. Secondly, the fact that many of its votes in 2015 were on loan from ERC supporters who did not want to support JxSí and who have now gone back to ERC. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that during the crucial events of the Catalan October, the CUP was not seen clearly enough as offering an alternative leadership.

 On odd left group that backed austerity……

I think we can guess who, in the eyes of Socialist Appeal,  is ready to offer such a “leadership”.

About the only force to emerge from these events with any credibility is Catalunya en Comú–Podem (aligned to Podemos) who also lost support (less drastically, from 8.9% to 7,5%).

Some of those who had previously criticised Podemos for the way its ‘populism’, the identification of the ‘people’ against the ‘casta’ as the main political conflict, suddenly  found in the Catalan ‘people’ led by the nationalist bourgeoisie a new progressive vehicle.

Podemos, by contrast stood for a ‘multi-people ‘ or plurinational Spain and defended the Catalans’ democratic right for decide their future for themselves.

In terms of real politics the biggest historic left nationalist party, the Republican left (ERC), is back to its previous position of propping up the right-wing Puigdemont led bloc.

Which leads us back to the present dilemma:

Catalan separatists agreed on Wednesday to try to re-elect Puigdemont as regional leader, raising the scenario of the fugitive former leader governing by video link from Belgium. He faces arrest in Spain for sedition and rebellion.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear,” said Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly press conference. “They do not contemplate the possibility of a (parliamentary) presence that is not in person.”

“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” he added.

(1) I note however that some retained, to their honour, their senses: Against all states, old and new! Down with patriotism! Down with borders! Long live the international class struggle!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Catalan Elections: Far-Left (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), CUP, loses half of its support in Latest Poll.

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Image result for la vanguardia sondeo electoral 2017 catalunya diciembre 2017

Far-Left CUP Slumps.

Nothing is settled about the result of the Catalan regional vote on the 21st of December.

In the last poll intentions to participate in the vote ( 82%) the Catalan nationalists (ERC, Jx Cat and CUP) have largely retained support and would have I seat over the absolute majority needed to control the Parliament (69 just over 68). La Vanguardia.

Rising support for the Catalan Socialists (up from 16 seats to 22), and above all the centre party Ciutadans/Ciudadanos(25 to 30 t0 31) remain important trends.

Podemos allies,Catalunya en Comú–Podem, are down from 11 to 8.

But the most dramatic shift is the halving of  support for the ‘left nationalists’ of CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), from 10 to 5.

CUP likes to claim that it was a key player in the declaration of independence by Spain’s most prosperous reasons, tired of paying for poorer areas and anxious to assert its cultural identity.

It also claims to represent radical leftist economic views, ecological policies, feminism, and part of social movements. As such is regarded by some in the rest of Europe as  part of the “rise of new left and progressive forces” .

Those unsympathetic  have described it as follows, “La CUP es una amalgama de siglas de pequeños grupos que están en continua ebullición y permanentemente en tensión” – an amalgam of acronyms for small groups which are at a non-stop boiling point, and permanently in friction with each other.” (The liberal digital newspaper, El Confidential).

The alliance indeed includes many different factions,  some of whom it describes as Trotskyist. The International Marxist Tendency (Grantists) promote “Endavant, calls himself a Marxist and fights for a Catalan Socialist Republic” others which have been listed include Poble Lliure and, in an earlier Blog post here, En Lucha (tied to the British SWP), Corriente Roja (section of the IWL,  Morenoist), Lucha internacionalista (La Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores (UIT-CIand Revolta Global-Esquerra anticapitalist which has links with the Izquierda anticapitalista and the Mandelite Fourth International,various activist campaigning groups, the original and important Occupy Movement in Spain, the Indignados, (not the US counterpart), the peasant  Pagesos per la Dignitat Rural Catalana. Okupas (Occupy, on housing and land issues),  self-managed social centres, (CSOA).

The impression one gets, apart from the fact that their policies are nationalist, is that this is a fine collection of odd balls.

The CUP participated at last week’s demonstration in Brussels in favour of Catalan nationalist demands (La CUP serà demà a Brussel·les per denunciar la repressió de l’Estat espanyol contra els catalans i les catalanes)

Le Monde noted, that in the 45,000 strong march, that aprt from Cataln flags Belgian supporters also brought along their own nationalist ones, of the Flemish Lion,

Le défilé est porteur de beaucoup de slogans et de pas mal de contradictions. Des militants flamands d’extrême droite saluent leurs « frères » catalans, tandis qu’un peu plus loin un militant trotskiste belge explique que « c’est la question sociale qui a réveillé la question nationale et, en tant que marxiste, on ne peut donc que soutenir la volonté populaire ». La Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, le parti indépendantiste flamand qui a remisé son programme institutionnel et privilégie désormais la participation au pouvoir fédéral belge, assure également une présence, somme toute assez discrète.

The march saw many slogans and not a few contradictions. Flemish activists of the extreme right saluted their Catalan ‘brothers;, which not far away a Belgian Trotskyist explained, hat “it’s the social issue which has awakened about the national issue, and, as a Marxist one can only support the popular will”. The (hard right) Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, the party for Flemish independence, though at present putting its place in Belgian federal politics first, had a presence, if discreet.

The CUP is strongly anti-European Union….

COP publishes a few articles in what is claims is English.

This is the most recent.

“And wanting to be a republic, we have learned to be a people”, by David Fernández

10/10/2017“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” Blade Runner.

That our ‘hackers of the impossible’ – my thanks, once again – won the difficult technological battle, always unequal, in order to keep alive the single census during the whole day, under free software schemes and encryption, gives food for thought. Plenty of it. Neither in analog (sic) or in digital: the Big Brother State did not get away with i, (sic)

Some on the pro-nationalist  left, which includes the equally odd Platypus,  believe various versions of the following, from Jorge Martin (International Marxist Tendency)

Struggle for self-determination as a revolutionary task

In a nut-shell, this summarises the position in Catalonia. Against the Spanish 1978 regime, the exercise of the right of self-determination is a task which can only be accomplished by revolutionary means. The Catalan bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politicians are not prepared to use revolutionary means. Some of them are not even committed to a Catalan Republic, other than as a threat with which to extract concessions from Madrid. The only way forward in the struggle for a Catalan Republic is a battle to remove the current leadership of the movement and replace it with one firmly based on the workers at the head of the petty-bourgeois masses: a leadership prepared to use revolutionary means to face and bring down the 1978 regime.

We await the “revolutionaries'” actions.

What “means” they propose to carry out their revolt,  based as they would be on not a single workers’ council – to start with – remain open to speculation.

Still the Vlaams Belang, Counterfire, the SNP, The International Marxist Tendency, Platypus and the  Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie will fight to the last Catalan to secure their national freedom.

By contrast Podemos, while not gaining support has not suffered the dramatic decline – if polls are confirmed – of the CUP and continues to speak sense,

In Podemos we have always said that the only solution is through the ballot box, offering Catalans the choice in a negotiated referendum to either remain as part of a new plurinational Spanish state or to pursue an independent Catalan republic.

..

Podemos sees Spain as a project to be constructed, we aim for a new country where nobody wants to leave because nobody is forced to stay. This federalised Spain would require the reordering of the states’s institutional and constitutional architecture so that there is no conflict between being Spanish and belonging to another national community existing in the state. It would be a polycentric Spain where not everything passes through Madrid, and where Madrid is converted into a federal district along the path to a less unitary state. Ultimately a plurinational Spain has to do with reinventing Spain’s own identity so that it ceases to be a weapon used to attack other Spaniards.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Catalan Nationalist Support Slumps as Puigdemont’s Call for UK Style Break from the EU Falls on Deaf Ears.

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No automatic alt text available.

The tragedy of Catalonia continues as Spain refuses bail for top Catalan politicians, as decision on Carles Puigdemont extradition delayed.

But the repressive acts of the Spanish PP government have not meant a surge in support for the Catalan parties backing independence.

Latest voting projections based on today’s opinion poll published in El pais suggest a big drop in pro-Catalan nationalists  in latest opinion poll,: ERC (Republican left), (down from 62 to 32),  party, Carles Puigdemont the Junts pel Sí (from 62 to 25-6) and the “radical left” odd balls of the CUP, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular,  sinking from 10 to 9.

The main story is the rise of pro-Spanish unity, centrist Ciudadanos (up from 25 to 31-2 to 11) and growth in PSOE (Catalan wing, PSC) backing (16 to 21. There has been a small decline in Podemos involved alliance, CeC-Podem (9, down from 11), backing.

Catalan nationalists look like losing an absolute majority in the coming, 21st of December Catalan Parliament ballot.

Ciudadanos será la fuerza más votada el 21-D según el CIS

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. A Democratic Socialist Review.

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Stalin. Waiting for Hitler. 1928 – 1941. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2017.

The Yugoslavian communist, A. Ciliga, a sincere man and an unimpeachable witness, one of the few who has escaped alive from the Soviet convict gangs, has written in his book, Au pays du grand mensonge: “Those who have not lived in the Soviet prisons, concentration camps and places of exile in which are shut up more than five million convicts, those who are not familiar with the greatest jail history has ever seen, where men die like flies, where they are beaten like dogs, where they are made to work like slaves, can have no idea what Soviet Russia is, what Stalin’s ‘classless society’ means.”

Boris Souvarine. Postscript to Stalin: a critical survey of Bolshevism. 1935

The first volume of Kotkin’s study of Stalin, Paradoxes of Power, 1878 – 1928. (2014) portrayed the dictator as the product of “immense structural forces”, the legacy of Tsarism, the mode of government he took over from Lenin and the Bolsheviks “castle in the air” version of socialism. But the author could not neglect the character of his subject, whose “cold calculation and the flights of absurd delusion were products of a single mind, he was shrewd enough to see right through people, but not enough to spare him a litany of nonsensical beliefs.” (1)

That these “closely mirrored the Bolshevik revolution in-built structural paranoia” is only one of the many elements that contributed to the harrowing themes of the present book. This begins with the mass murders, starvation and famine of agricultural Collectivisation, followed by the mid-1930s Great Terror, and concludes with Stalin’s’ miscalculations faced with the threat of Hitler’s Germany

There are few grimmer tasks for the left than facing up to the reality of Stalin’s Russia. What enthusiasm can be mustered for the October Revolution has to face the totalitarianism that followed. This is not a new dilemma. That Stalin was, in his own and Kotkin’s opinion, a “communist and revolutionary” and that he developed within “the moral universe of Marxism-Leninism” was galling – and contestable – to radical left critics of the first hour, like Boris Souvarine.

This cosmos was bleak. The collectivisation and war against the Kulaks, the first Five Year Plan, took place against the background of famine and epidemics which “probably killed between 5 and 7 million people between 1931-33. Perhaps 10 million more starved nearly to death ” (Page 127) In response Stalin accused peasants of “not wanting to work.” (Page 128) Yet industrialisation began, investment quadrupled to 44 % of GDP in 1932. At the time well-wishers of the burgeoning New Civilisation were enthusiastic But, Kotkin observes, “unrelenting optimism spread alongside famine, arrests, deportations, execution, camps, censorship, sealed borders. (P 305) “Stalin’s anti capitalist experiment resembled a vast camp of deliberately deprived workers, indentured farmers and slave labourers toiling of the benefit of an unacknowledged elite.” (Ibid)

The Great Terror.

Stalin. Waiting for Hitler tackles the Great Terror. There is a lengthy account of the assassination of Kirov by Nikolayev, the pretext for the mass killings and imprisonments that followed. The hysteria reached its peak in the Great Trials of the middle of the decade. At its height, “just for two years, 1937 and 1938, the political police, the NKVD, would report 1,575,259 arrests, 87% of them for political offences, and 681,692 executions.”(Page 305)

It is hard to get a measure of the suffering of so many victims. Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the country’s top theatre directors was one of the countless to fall into the hands of the butchers. In 1939 he was tortured and made to confess to spying for Britain and Japan. After systematic beatings, “Meyerhold’s interrogators had urinated into his mouth and smashed his right (writing) hand to bits” (Page 649) A footnote adds that while this was happening NKVD chief Beria awarded the larger part of his flat to one of his mistresses (Page 1029). He was executed by firing Squad in February 1940. 

Kotkin is not engaged in the history of the Gulag, only the contours of the Archipelago are sketched, and there are no Kolyma Tales Nor are there accounts of how Communist self-criticism ended in denunciations, or the whispers by a population-turned-delators to the NKVD. We are brought instead to the party machine and to Stalin’s Little Corner in the Moscow Kremlin, where he scanned lists of those caught in the lights of the hunt. “At least 383 execution lists signed by him have survived, containing the names of more than 43,000 ‘enemies of the people’, mostly the highest-level officials and officers (P 490). What kind of man performed filled his days with this never-ending work? Faced with a flood of letters of those appealing for those caught up in the murders, he “showed no sign that he was in the least tormented by the slaughter” (Ibid).

This was a war that hit the masses and the elite, clearing the way, Kotkin suggests for an intentional renewal of the bureaucracy. The new cadres, who took the posts of those found out as ‘wreckers’ ‘spies’ of anti-Soviet elements’, were described as “healthy young representatives of a healthy young people”. With rising salaries they were rewarded as such (Page 603) Stalin engineered human souls reinforced an already privileged caste, “The terror that murdered officials en masse accentuated the ascendancy of the functionary class.”(Page 604)

Over half of Stalin. Waiting for Hitler is occupied, as its title indicates, with Soviet foreign policy and, above all, with the build up to the war with Hitler’s Germany. From the Spanish Civil, an occasion to further Stalin’s obsession with Trotsky through attacks on the ‘Trotskyist’ (anti-Stalinist Marxist) POUM, Trotsky’s 1940 assassination, the ill-judged war with Finland (met with mass resistance by the Finns), the division of Poland with little perceivable long-term gain, to his wavering dealings with Mao in China, there were few signs of strategic genius.

Above all Stalin failed to prepare properly for the confrontation with the German army. This was not just the result of the purges of competent military and intelligence personnel. His tactical abilities were flawed. “Instead of acting cunningly, Stalin fooled himself. He clung to the belief that Germany could not attack before defeating the UK….”(Page 897)

A landmark.

Kotkin’s achievement as a historian of Stalin should not be overshadowed by the often hard to digest text. Key developments risk being submerged by lengthy day-to-day accounts. The plodding style, and turns of phrase such as the “wee hours” are not a help to the reader. But nobody can fail to recognise that the work is a landmark.

With such a protagonist in his sights Waiting for Hitler raises deep issues about the nature of the USSR under Stalin. One commanding thread lies in an effort to come to terms with the basis of the tyranny of the ‘vozhd’, the Leader, as Stalin came to be called. The author’s observation that he operated within a “near permanent state of emergency” could be said to cast light on the nature of Stalin’s rule. Lenin has used exceptional measures – a monopoly of political power, imprisonment of opponents, execution of ‘counter-revolutionaries’, censorship – in ‘defence’ of the revolution. These were indefinitely prolonged. That alone gave the Lenin appointed General Secretary scope for his efforts to impose his brand of ‘Marxism Leninism’ on his most “precious resource”, the people of the USSR.

Could both the original disregard for law and independent justice in the name of higher interests, the need to fight the Enemy, be compared to the pro-Nazi political theorist, Carl Schmitt’s speculation on the foundations of politics? Does the justification of the “state of exception” as a “transcendence” of normal politics cast light on the arguments of those who try to justify the “exceptional” circumstances of the Bolshevik Revolution to treat its opponents with contempt? In Stalin’s career, there is little doubt that the division of the world into friends and foes, with no-holds barred in the fight, “gave free rein to his savagery”. To those who seek psychological explanations for his behaviour Kotkin states, “Stalin’s sociopathology was to a degree the outgrowth of dictatorial rule”. (Page 5)

“Marx had never advocated mass murder but freedom” (Page 302). This may be scant consolation for those crushed by Stalin, his successors and emulators. But it important for those of us who are democratic socialists to make sure that the real history of Stalin’s rule is as familiar inside our own camp as that of those whom we venerate. We look forward to reading Kotkin’s Death of Stalin.

******

(1) Page 736. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephen Kotkin. Allen Lane. 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Far-Right – N-VA – Belgian minister: Catalan Leader Puigdemont can seek asylum here.

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Belgium Far-Right Flemish Separatist Minister Francken offers  Puigdemont Asylum.

Quand Theo Francken embarrasse le gouvernement dans toutes les languesLe Soir. 

A Belgian minister said Catalan ex-President Carles Puigdemont, removed from office by the Spanish government last week, could apply for asylum in Belgium.

By

“Catalan people who feel politically threatened can ask for asylum in Belgium. That includes President Puigdemont. This is 100 percent legal,” Theo Francken, the state secretary for asylum and migration, told public broadcaster VRT late on Saturday.

This has immediately been rejected by the Prime Minister of Belgium as adding fuel to the Fire.

Francken prêt à accueillir Puigdemont en Belgique, Charles Michel demande de ne “pas jeter d’huile sur le feu”.

Background Wikipedia.

Nieuw-Vlaamse AlliantieN-VA)[4] is a Flemish nationalist[5] and conservative[6][7][8] political party in Belgium, founded in 2001.[9] The N-VA is a regionalist[10][11] and separatist[12][13][14][15]movement that self-identifies with the promotion of civic nationalism.[16] It is part of the Flemish Movement, and (This bit is not coincidence whatsoever)  strives for the peaceful[17] and gradual secession of Flanders from Belgium.

Its best known member is their leader Bart De Wever.

Theo Francken

In October 2014 several political parties demanded Francken’s and Ben Weyts‘ resignation after the two were present at the birthday of Bob Maes, a former member of the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond, a party who collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War.[2] In the same month Theo Francken also came in stormy waters after the leaking of some old mails with allegedly homophobic statements and a Facebook post where he questioned the “added value” that immigrants from Morocco, Congo and Algeria bring to the Belgian economy. Subsequently, Theo Francken apologised in the federal parliament.[3]

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Catalunya Once Again.

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 Image result for catalonia demo close ups

Multi-racial Internationalists Say British Left. 

Catalunya, Cataluña, or as we refer normally to it in Occitan, Catalonha, is still in the news all this week.

Support for Catalan nationalism has grown significantly in recent years. It’s estimated that about half of those who supported separatist parties in 2015 did not back secession a decade earlier. In 2015, Catalans elected a pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament and a pro-independence president, Carles Puigdemont.

Like Scottish nationalism, the Catalan independence movement used to be dominated by middle class layers. On the Catalan national day (the Diada) in 2013, when protesters joined hands to form a human chain across Catalunya, “the parking lots were filled with BMWs and it really looked as if the Catalan bourgeoisie was having a fun day out,” observed one commentator, quoted in Raphael Minder’s recent book The Struggle for Catalonia (Hurst, 2017).

Yet the presence of conservative forces within Catalan nationalism should not overshadow the popularity of the cause among ordinary people – and not just Catalans. 2016’s Diada in the northern town of Salt,with its 40% migrant population made up of 70 nationalities, saw contingents participating from the town’s African, Latin American and Asian communities, with banners calling for independence in Arabic. There has also been growing involvement by poorer, working class young people, who see in the fight for independence an opportunity to escape the austerity policies of the Spanish state, much as similar sectors voted yes in Scotland’s 2014 indyref to opt out of Cameron’s Britain.

Tension mounts in Catalunya 

Mike Phipps.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm