A Left Strategy for Europe

"The crisis has been a momentous event for Europe. It has forced through rapid social change in favour of capital and against labour. It has also encouraged geopolitical change, turning the eurozone into a German backyard. At the same time, it has put paid to the hackneyed ideas of European partnership and federalism that have provided the ideological cover of the eurozone. The crisis should have thus provided an opportunity for the Left to recover its poise putting forth anti-capitalist proposals to take Europe in a socialist direction. Unfortunately this has not yet happened." For all of Costas Lapavitsas's article, see here.

From Wisconsin to Toronto

Watch videos of talks a forum about workers' struggles held in Toronto on April 8, with speakers including two socialist activists from Wisconsin, here.

PHOTOS: "Rally for Respect" in Toronto

Photos of New York anti-war demonstration

See the pictures of the April 9 demonstration online here.


Manitoba: "Today's NDP" Celebrates Ikea and Target

"Today's NDP" is how the Manitoba NDP leadership has branded the party in the spirit of Tony Blair's right-wing remaking of the Labour Party in Britain as "New Labour." Manitoba is one of two provinces in which the NDP governs at the moment. At this past weekend's Manitoba NDP convention, the party leadership's politics couldn't have been clearer than the finance minister's hailing of IKEA and Target. As the article reports, convention delegates called yet again for the government to act on party policy by adopting pro-union reforms to labour law, but there's no reason to think this will have any effect on the premier or anyone else in the NDP caucus in the legislature.

Since the election of the NDP in 1999, Manitoba union officials have never mobilized members to push the government to enact significant reforms, and the government has implemented only a handful of small measures helpful to workers. Errol Black and Jim Silver pointed out back in 2004 that "mobilizing workers for extra-parliamentary action against this government would prepare the labour movement to take on the next Conservative government." Unfortunately, if the Conservatives win the election this fall, the extremely demobilized and complacent workers' movement in the province will be very poorly prepared to resist their attacks.

Debating Bolivia

Many people on the left around the world have drawn hope from the 2005 election of Evo Morales as the first indigenous president of Bolivia. Last fall Jeff Webber (a former editor of New Socialist), who has written extensively on Bolivia over the last decade, published a critical assessment of Bolivia under Evo Morales and the MAS government:  "From rebellion to reform: Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism. This article has been criticized sharply by Fred Fuentes (who writes for the Australian publication Green Left Weekly) and Webber has responded. Read Fuentes' essay and Webber's response here.

Everyone interested in Bolivia should also check out Jeff Webber's new book.

Israeli Apartheid: 3 Links

If you missed Jonathan Cook's article that talks about how "some analysts suggest" that Israel's "diplomatic and strategic standing...  is at its lowest ebb in living memory," check it out on Electronic Intifada. For an introduction to the perspective that informs Israeli Apartheid Week, events for which were held recently around the world, watch Howard Davidson speak on "Israeli Apartheid 101" at an IAW event in Winnipeg in March. For a deeper look at the situation, the article "Reflections on the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority and the future of the national movement" by French activist Julien Salingue is worth reading.

The Federal Election

"It has been a long time since working people connected either their quality of life or their most deeply held aspirations directly to politics, because for thirty years politics has been about the diminishment of collective rights and how deep will be the cuts to the social wage. While the short and long term goals of labour and social movements have been pushed off the political stage, politics has increasingly been about perceptions of leadership, competence, trust and ethics."

These observations by union staffer and Council of Canadians board member Fred Wilson in a column in rabble describe the situation pretty well (though we could quibble about the 30 year figure). We should go further: the reason official politics has been reduced almost completely to talk about politicians' personalities and tiny policy details is because all the major parties (including the Greens) don't just support capitalism (nothing new about that) but also agree about the fundamentals of neoliberal ideology: corporate profits are good for society and the role of government is to help corporations make higher profits, which means accepting the goals of eliminating the deficit and reducing the debt. These dogmas are unquestioned so they're not discussed.

Some NDP supporters will disagree with the claim that the NDP accepts neoliberalism. But let's remember the 2008 election, when the NDP campaign was "silent on the key pillars of neoliberalism - corporate power, privatization, financial deregulation, free trade, precarious work and the radical transfer of income from labour to capital. All these questions took a backseat to appeals to the media-defined political "centre". We were even treated to the absurd spectacle of the NDP leader -- in the midst of a historic meltdown of financial markets and credible predictions of the worst economic downturn in generations -- refusing to countenance the very idea of running a government deficit, just as neoliberal governments themselves here and abroad prepared to do just that" (Nathan Rao, "Election 2008 and Beyond"). Of course, many NDP supporters reject neoliberalism, but the party leadership doesn't. Its brand may be "neoliberalism lite" (what in Europe is sometimes called social liberalism) but it's still neoliberalism. This doesn't mean the federal NDP is a pure-and-simple capitalist party like the other parties (that's another question), but its leadership does accept neoliberalism.

The neoliberal consensus among the parties is why Wilson's claim that in this election "The choice will be between a Harper majority and a new government that stands for something fundamentally different" is absurd. Wilson, who supports an "everyone except the Tories" coalition, seems to have completely forgotten that it was the Liberals who in 1995 implemented the biggest package of cuts ever brought in by a federal government. It was the Liberals who sent Canadian troops into Afghanistan. While in government from 1993 to 2006 the Liberals pursued their own racist anti-immigrant measures too. The 2008 platform signed in the bid to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government supported by the BQ declared that it was "built on a foundation of fiscal responsibility" -- a neoliberal profession of faith. A Liberal government or a Liberal-NDP government (which would most likely be dominated by the Liberals) would, of course, be different than a Tory government. But it wouldn't be fundamentally different.

Anyone who doubts this can just look south of the border. The Obama administration isn't identical to Bush's (though there are a frightening number of ways in which its actions have been the same). But it has been a huge disappointment to all those on the Left who hoped it would take a different path, precisely because Obama and the Democratic Party leadership agree with the Republicans on so many things, as writers like Paul Street have documented.

What US radical writer Adolph Reed wrote about the US in 2007 is true here in 2011: "we didn’t vote ourselves into this mess, and we’re not going to vote ourselves out of it. Electoral politics is an arena for consolidating majorities that have been created on the plane of social movement organizing. It’s not an alternative or a shortcut to building those movements, and building them takes time and concerted effort." The best that can be hoped for from this federal election is a minority government that's in a weak position to implement the kind of large-scale attack on public sector jobs and services that's underway in the US and many other countries.


Libya: Is there an alternative to military intervention?

"If there is one thought experiment that liberal supporters of Western military intervention in Libya ruled out of court (even forbade) it was the possibility that there were other social actors and strategies that could seriously affect the outcome of the battle between forces loyal to Gaddafi and the revolutionaries." Read the rest of this good article at the left flank blog.

From Egypt, the Socialist Renewal Current explains why the intervention should be opposed in its statement here.

Western Intervention in Libya (Updated)

A victory by Qadaffi against the revolutionary forces (led by a "mixture of human rights activists, democracy advocates, intellectuals, tribal elements, and Islamic forces" and "sections of the government and the armed forces that have broken away and joined the opposition," according to Gilbert Achcar) would have been a defeat for the revolutionary wave in North Africa and the Middle East. But "regime change" orchestrated by the military power of Western imperialism will also be a defeat.

These articles are worth reading on the current situation:

5 questions few are asking about Libya

UN declares war on Libya

The West goes to war for oil and power

A humanitarian intervention?

Libya: Not in our name!

Nothing humanitarian about US intervention

The drawbacks of intervention in Libya

Stop Bombing Libya

Libya / Japan (Updated)

In a new interview, Gilbert Achcar discusses the Libyan opposition, Qadaffi and the UN no-fly zone, in a manner somewhat different from Richard Seymour's article on Lenin's Tomb.

MRZine has been carrying news coverage of the nuclear crisis in Japan. On why the crisis confirms that nuclear power should be abandoned as an energy source, see Daniel Tanuro's article.

Class Struggle in Wisconsin & Struggles within US Unions

Listen to a radio interview with long-time US labour activist and writer Steve Early, who just published the excellent book Civil Wars in US Labor, on Against the Grain.

Rap music in Libya

From the Al Jazeera blog March 15

Two young Libyans whose rap music is being broadcast to the front line by rebel Benghazi radio hope they are helping to maintain the morale of fighters outgunned by Gaddafi forces.

"Rap does not physically change things, but it invigorates the soul of people fighting and sends a message to all Libyans," 16-year-old Imad Abbar, sitting perched on a paint can in the patio of his home in Benghazi, told AFP news agency.

Hamza Sisi agreed, and the lyrics - in Arabic - he wrote for their rap song "Shamat Al-Medina", or "Candles of the City", say all:

The candles of the city shine to tell the world what we want,
The candles of the city won't rest and won't give up,
The blood of the fighters is our own,
We won't surrender until the regime falls.

What's Next after Defeat in Wisconsin? (Updated)

"A one-day Wisconsin general strike April 4" -- the day that the AFL-CIO has called for a US-wide day of protest -- "would show employers and politicians there and everywhere the depth of the anger and labor’s ability to organize," argue two of the staff at Labor Notes.

The big question is, as Paul Street asks, will unionized workers fight to win when the union officialdom won't?


Live stream from Madison


More on No-Fly Zone over Libya

"No-fly zones... would involve a military attack on Libya's air defences and, judging from the Iraqi experience, be highly unlikely to halt regime helicopter or ground operations. They would risk expanding military conflict and strengthening Gaddafi's hand by allowing the regime to burnish its anti-imperialist credentials. Military intervention wouldn't just be a threat to Libya and its people, but to the ownership of what has been until now an entirely organic, homegrown democratic movement across the region." Read the rest of Seamus Milne's article here.

Also, on this website, check out Daniel Serge's blog post and the discussion it sparked.

Another argument against imposing a no-fly zone has been made by Phyllis Bennis here.

For a quick look at the current situation in Libya, see Simon Assaf's article.

International Women's Day 2011

"We have started 2011 with hope and revolution in our hearts and minds, as we support the struggle for self-determination and participatory democracy in northern Africa and the Arab world." Read the rest of the IWD statement from the World March of Women here.

Workers' Struggles in Wisconsin and Ohio at Crossroads

"In both states, things are coming to a head...Two different tendencies in the labor movement point in two quite different directions," argues Dan La Botz. Read his short article here.

Support the Libyan revolution!

"You do not oppose imperialism by supporting dictators who massacre their people.....  That can only reinforce imperialism."

Support the Libyan revolution!

Gaddafi out

Bureau of the Fourth International

The shock waves of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions continue to spread throughout the Arab world and beyond. For several days, it has been Libya which is at the centre of the revolutionary upheaval. Events are evolving from day to day, from hour to hour, but everything depends today on the extraordinary mobilization of the Libyan people. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have risen up to attack the dictatorship of Gaddafi, often with their bare hands. Whole cities and regions have fallen into to the hands of the insurgent people. The answer of the dictatorship has been ruthless: pitiless repression, massacres, bombardment of populations with heavy arms and air strikes.

Today, it is a fight to the death between the people and the dictatorship. One of the characteristics of the Libyan revolution, compared to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, is the splintering of the police and military apparatuses. There are confrontations within the army itself, a territorial division, with confrontation between regions and cities controlled by the insurgents and the area of Tripoli based on the military force of the dictatorship. The Libyan dictatorship represents too many social and democratic injustices and, too much repression, too many attacks on elementary liberties and rights. It must be driven out.

The Libyan revolution is part of a whole process which covers the whole Arab world, and beyond, in Iran and China. The revolutionary processes in Tunisia and Egypt are radicalizing. In Tunisia, governments fall one after the other. Youth and the workers’ movement are pushing their movement still further. All the forms of continuity with the old regime are called into question. The demand for a constituent assembly, opposed to all the rescue operations of the regime, is becoming increasingly strong.

In both countries, Tunisia and Egypt, the workers’ movement is reorganizing itself in the fire of a wave of strikes for the satisfaction of vital social demands. This revolutionary rise takes forms that are particular and unequal, according to the countries: violent confrontations in Yemen and Bahrain, demonstrations in Jordan, Morocco and Algeria. Iran is also once again affected by an outbreak of struggles and demonstrations against the regime of Ahmadinejad and for democracy.

It is in this context that the situation in Libya takes on strategic importance. This new rise already carries within it historical changes, but its development may depend on the battle of Libya. If Gaddafi takes control of the situation again, with thousands of deaths, the process will be slowed down, contained or even blocked. If Gaddafi is overthrown, the whole movement will as a result be stimulated and amplified. For this reason, all the ruling classes, all the governments, all the reactionary regimes of the Arab world are more or less supporting the Libyan dictatorship.

It is also in this context that US imperialism, the European Union and NATO are multiplying operations to try to control the process that is underway. The revolutions that are in progress weaken, over and above what the imperialists say in their speeches, the positions of the Western imperialist powers. So, as is often the case, imperialism uses the pretext of a “situation of chaos”, as it calls it, or of “humanitarian catastrophe” to prepare an intervention and to take control of the situation again.

No one should be fooled about the aims of the NATO powers: they want to confiscate the revolutions in progress from the peoples of the region, and even to take advantage of the situation to occupy new positions, in particular concerning control of the oil regions. It is for this fundamental reason that it is necessary to reject any military intervention by American imperialism. It is up to the Libyan people, who have begun the job, to finish it, with the support of the peoples of the region, and all progressive forces on the international level must contribute to that by their solidarity and their support.

From this point of view, we are in total disagreement with the positions adopted by Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortéga, and Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro has denounced the risk of an intervention by American imperialism instead of supporting the struggle of the Libyan people. As for Hugo Chavez, he has reiterated his support for the dictator Gaddafi. These positions are unacceptable for the revolutionary, progressive and anti-imperialist forces of the whole world. You do not oppose imperialism by supporting dictators who massacre their people who are making a revolution. That can only reinforce imperialism. The fundamental task of the revolutionary movement on an international level is to defend these revolutions and to oppose imperialism by supporting these revolutions, not the dictators.

We are on the side of the Libyan people and the Arab revolutions that are in progress. We must express our unconditional solidarity, for the civil, democratic and social rights which are emerging in this revolution. One of the priorities consists of supporting all aid to the Libyan people - medical aid coming from Egypt or Tunisia, the food aid which is needed -, demanding the cancellation of all commercial contracts with Libya and the suspension of all delivery of arms. We have to prevent the massacre of the Libyan people.

Solidarity with the Arab revolutions!

Support the Libyan people!

No imperialist intervention in Libya!

Hands off Libya!

March 3 2011

No-Fly Zone over Libya?

By Daniel Serge

One of the principles of socialism-from-below is that revolutions are made by the people. Military intervention just gives credence to the rulers' claims that they're under attack by foreign forces. This point is clearly made by Socialist Worker, who oppose western military intervention in Libya, for the good reason that it could stop the revolutionary process dead, imposing a new ruling class. The Iraq debacle is the clearest example.

However, some Libyans have called for a 'no fly zone': for western planes to prevent - and, if necessary, shoot down - Libyan planes. This is because Qaddafi is bombing civilians and the opposition, and using helicopters to ferry in mercenaries.

Should those committed to socialism from below support or oppose a no fly zone?

Socialist Worker says no:

Many people can see what a disaster British or US troops on the streets of Tripoli would be—but still call for the imposition of a no fly zone or sanctions.

This will reawaken memories for people across the globe. These were both used against Iraq before the 2003 invasion. More than a million Iraqis died from the consequences of the war.

This argument is unconvincing. Sanctions killed 500,000 Iraqi children; the no fly zone didn't. A million Iraqis died from the ground and aerial assault and subsequent occupation, not because the Iraqi regime's planes were shot down.

An anonymous blogger in The Guardian writes to oppose foreign military intervention, while supporting a no-fly zone:

how many martyrs will fall before Gaddafi does? How many souls will he take before the curse is broken?

This happy ending, however, is marred by a fear shared by all Libyans; that of a possible western military intervention to end the crisis.

Don't get me wrong. I, like most Libyans, believe that imposing a no-fly zone would be a good way to deal the regime a hard blow on many levels; it would cut the route of the mercenary convoys summoned from Africa, it would prevent Gaddafi from smuggling money and other assets, and most importantly it would stop the regime from bombing weapons arsenals that many eyewitnesses have maintained contain chemical weapons; something that would unleash an unimaginable catastrophe, not to mention that his planes might actually carry such weapons.

If we support socialism from below, don't we have a duty to support the actual revolutionaries on the ground, who have no access to planes? I understand the argument that revolutionaries win wars by convincing conscript soldiers to desert: but airforce pilots aren't conscripts. In the meantime, the revolution stalls because people are too afraid to leave their houses for fear of being bombed.

The argument that a no-fly zone would become an Occupation is a serious one. But again, this appears to be up to the Libyan people themselves. I'm not convinced that the west would automatically bomb the Libyan opposition as well: right now, it's in the west's interests to support the revolution. In this case, is there not a tactical case to be made for supporting a no-fly zone, while opposing troops on the ground? Can a deal with the devil save lives?


US: New Workers' Struggle Faces "Fateful Confrontation"

"The new American workers movement—born in the last few weeks in the giant protests in Wisconsin and Ohio—faces a fateful confrontation this coming week," argues Dan La Botz, whose short article takes a look at the stakes facing the movement, the consequences of defeat and what's needed to win.

Solidarity with Socialists in Zimbabwe Facing Torture and Treason Charges!

46 people in Zimbabwe who were arrested at a meeting of the International Socialist Organization on Feb. 19 have been tortured and are being charged with treason. Addresses for solidarity messages of protest and details about the situation are online at Links.

Revolt in North Africa and the Middle East

Here are 5 articles worth reading:

Surveying events across North Africa and the Middle East, Tariq Ali writes "If there is a comparison to be made with Europe it is 1848, when the revolutionary upheavals left only Britain and Spain untouched" and makes some important points about the accomplishments and limits so far here.

Echoing Ali's analogy with 1848, Pepe Escobar looks at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and writes, "There's a specter haunting the Persian Gulf: democracy... The great 2011 Arab revolt, for all its specific reasons in different countries, is definitely not about religion (as Mubarak, Gaddafi and Hamad have claimed) - but essentially working class unrest directly provoked by the global crisis of capitalism." Read his article here.

Juan Cole writes today here that 90% of Libya is under rebel control:"Most of the country stretching from the outskirts of Tripoli east toward Egypt is now in the hands of popular committees allied with local security forces that have defected from the dictator."

Cortni Kerr and Toby Jones look at Bahrain in more detail in this Feb. 23 article, suggesting the revolution has paused.

A member of the Egyptian group Revolutionary Socialists discusses the situation in that country and the role of the left in the revolution here.



Class Struggle in Wisconsin (Updated)

The response by workers in the US state of Wisconsin to the extremely aggressive attack on public sector workers and their union organizations by the state's Republican governor has been inspiring... but top union officials are moving to undermine the movement, trying to persuade workers to accept a deal that will maintain union rights but cut their pay by up to 20%.

Minnesota-based activist historian Peter Rachleff looks at the attacks on public sector workers and the history that led up to them here.

A 9 minute video that looks at what's happening and includes writer Naomi Klein analyzing Wisconsin in terms of "the shock doctrine" is online here.

Noam Chomsky's recent interview on Democracy Now includes discussion of Wisconsin.

For reports from activists on the ground, see the webzine of our US comrades in the group Solidarity in their webzine here.

Declaration of Egypt's Independent Unions

"O heroes of the 25 January revolution! We, workers and trade unionists from different workplaces which have seen strikes, occupations and demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of workers across Egypt during the current period, feel it is right to unite the demands of striking workers that they may become an integral part of the goals of our revolution, which the people of Egypt made, and for which the martyrs shed their blood." Read the full text of the Feb. 19 declaration here.