Greece: Election and Coalition Government

Greece's election produced a win for the anti-neoliberal left party SYRIZA... followed by the announcement that it would form a coalition government with the right-wing nationalist Independent Greek party!

For analysis of the election, see Stathis Kouvelakis's piece here.

On the coalition, see analysis by Richard Seymour and Kevin Ovenden.


Dispatches from Athens

British socialist activist Kevin Ovenden is in Athens, writing about the situation in Greece in the run-up to the Jan. 25 elections. Read his reports at Left Flank.

After the attack on Charlie Hebdo

A few good articles:

English translation of statement from the Parti des Indignes de la Republique

Cinzia Arruzza, "Is solidarity without identity possible?"

Olivier Cyran, "Charlie Hebdo not racist? If you say so..."

Stefan Cristoff, "Harper exploiting Paris shootings to deepen surveillance state and justify war"

Cuba: a victory and some risks

The resumption of diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba as well as the release of three Cubans sentenced to life imprisonment in the USA for espionage constitutes a victory for the Cuban people.

The broadening of the capitalist market in Cuba is heavy with dangers: the development of casualization, of inequality, challenges to national sovereignty, the end of sustainable development, among others. In addition, US imperialism will certainly attempt to obtain concessions from the Cuban regime (like, for example, “freedom” of commerce) in exchange for the lifting of the blockade.

To combat these dangers, there is no other way than mobilization and popular control, the control and management of enterprises by the workers and their representatives.

Remembrance Day: Challenge Militarism!

"One of the most pervasive and unquestioned myths is that the two world wars forged a united Canada as our soldiers defended freedom and democracy overseas." Read Doug Nesbitt's article here and take the time to listen to this one hour talk by historian Ian McKay about how Remembrance Day is used to boost support for militarism in Canada.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions on Israel: Now More Than Ever

"In light of the on-going brutal military assault on Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on supporters of human rights to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid." Read the rest of the BNC's statement here.

In light of the on-going brutal military assault on Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on supporters of human rights to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. - See more at:
In light of the on-going brutal military assault on Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on supporters of human rights to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. - See more at:
In light of the on-going brutal military assault on Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on supporters of human rights to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. - See more at:
In light of the on-going brutal military assault on Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on supporters of human rights to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. - See more at:

Interview with a socialist in Ukraine

Vitaliy Dudin is a member of the Left Opposition in Kyiv and pro bono lawyer for the independent trade union Zakhyst Pratsi (Defense of Labour). Read the interview with him here.

Remembering Ali Mustafa

As we reported on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, journalist Ali Mustafa, an editorial associate of New Socialist Webzine (and a former editor), was killed in Syria on March 9. A fine memorial website has been created here. A brief tribute from the NSW editors is among the tributes there, and we'll be publishing an obituary article soon.

Articles on Venezuela & Ukraine (updated)

Canadian mainstream media coverage of the quite different situations in Venezuela and Ukraine has one thing in common: how very misleading it is, and its slant. So here's a selection of articles worth reading:

On Venezuela:

Mike Gonzalez writes from Caracas

George Ciccariello-Maher on Venezuela at the crossroads

Jerome Roos on why it's the opposition that's undemocratic

Jeff Webber and Susan Spronk's major analysis

On Ukraine:

Interview with Denis, a radical unionist in Ukraine

A very useful two-part piece by Gabriel Levy, writing from Ukraine

A few pieces worth reading

We'll soon have some new articles to publish, but in the meantime here are links to 3 pieces worth reading: Dan La Botz on the Zapatistas 20 years after the Chiapas uprising, Derrick O'Keefe on the NDP's condolences on the death of Ariel Sharon, and Panos Petrou on the situation in Greece today.

Marta Russell obituary

Marta Russell died a few days ago in Los Angeles. A journalist and commentator about issues affecting disabled people as well as a film industry worker for many years, Russell was best known for her landmark book, Beyond Ramps: Disability at the end of the Social Contract (Common Courage Press). Here she set out a compelling critique of how capitalism marginalizes and oppresses disabled workers. Reading it as a young disability rights advocate, Marta was like a breath of fresh air, combining passionate advocacy with an understanding of political economy and how disabled people are systematically oppressed by capitalism. Marta was particularly unique in focusing on an anti-capitalist critique of disablement policy in the United States where postmodern analysis of the disabled body has predominated. With Jean Stewart, she wrote a remarkably biting piece about prisons and disablement for Monthly Review. She was also not shy about criticizing misguided strategies by disability rights movements that she felt were too moderate or co-opted. Disabled since birth, Marta leaves behind a daughter and countless disabled people she radicalized around the world. Advocates of socialism from below would do well to revisit her work on this too often ignored topic.

Ravi Malhotra is a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and co-authored an article with Marta Russell in Socialist Register in 2001. 

Tags for articles

Articles in New Socialist Webzine have now got subject tags, so you can see what's been published in each category via the tag cloud. So far only the articles published in 2013 have been tagged. More will be added soon.

The fight to save Canada Post urban home delivery

"We believe that there is a real possibility to build a movement spanning Canada and Quebec to stop these attacks, and even build the power to make positive transformations to our postal system. There are four key reasons why we don't think this isn't just wishful thinking," argue Doug Nesbitt and David Bush in their article "We Can Beat the Right and Win the Fight at Canada Post."

Canadian Union of Postal Workers activist Dave Bleakney writes that "the proposed cuts are simply another round in a long fight. And we will need to shift gears if we are to succeed... This is not simply a struggle for postal workers: people should not wait for permission to save their post offices and push for increased service." Read his "This post office belongs to everyone."

CUPW has a new page for its campaign here.

Support Postal Workers is a useful resource page created in 2011 around CUPW's rotating strike-turned-lockout.




Scandals and politics: "dangerous in more ways than one"

"We are gripped by scandal." Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy, Rob Ford and more. In an important analysis, Stefan Kipfer asks "Can progressive and left forces benefit from scandalized politics?" and argues that the "scandalization of politics" today favours the Right. Read it here.



Rob Ford: analysis from the left

With the controversy around Toronto mayor Rob Ford filling the mainstream media with a flood of shallow chatter, here's a selection of views from the left about his rise and the current scandal:

Parastou Saberi and Stefan Kipfer, "Rob Ford in Toronto: Why the Ascendancy of Hard-Right Populism in the 2010 Mayoral Election?"

Herman Rosenfeld, "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: A User's Guide"

Rinaldo Walcott, "Rob Ford and the Truth about Privilege"

Shawn Whitney, "Three Reasons Why Rob Ford Should Stay"

Two new books on the Middle East

I have read both of these books and they are both worth reading.

Achcar's book is more academic and it includes some Marxist theory as Achcar explores the question of why the Arab revolt spread throughout the Arab countries, but not beyond. Achcar has been an activist in Arab politics for decades, as well as an academic specializing in this area, so his knowledge of the Middle East is encyclopedic. For example, Achcar (citing another scholar) takes us through the numerous and contradictory diplomatic initiatives of the Emir of Qatar. Many of us know that the Emir launched Al Jazeera, but that's where our knowledge stops. With Achcar, that's where it starts.The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising

Scott Anderson's book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East is more journalistic and anecdotal.  It's an easier read, full of fascinating behind-the-scenes accounts.

Syria: Against any military intervention

Two statements by socialists:

Against any military intervention by France's New Anti-Capitalist Party

We Stand Behind the Syrian People’s Revolution - No to Foreign Intervention, a statement by socialist groups in Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon and Iraq.

Syria: "No to Washington! No to Moscow! No to Riyadh! No to Tehran!"

In Syria, the Revolutionary Left Current is involved in the struggle against the Assad regime and opposes intervention by the US, Russia and other countries. As talk of a Western military attack on Syria grows, check out this blog that publishes material from them in English and Arabic: Syria Freedom Forever

A few thoughts on radicals and workplace activism

Halifax activist David Bush has written an article on radicals and the workplace that deserves to be read and discussed by people on the left.

His conclusion is one I gladly echo: "Left wing organizations should be offering their energies, capacities and analysis while also humbly recognizing and understanding it is a learning process for the far left. This does not mean whole-hearted agreement with every step, but it does mean making engagement with rank and file movements a strategic priority. It also means we need to encourage, facilitate and organize rank and file activity where it does not exist... If we are serious about challenging capitalism and injustice in Canada and winning real gains for working people the left must organize itself in manner that can orient itself to building and enriching rank and file movements."

David's piece observes that "The far-left, for a variety of reasons has largely abandoned a practical orientation towards workers' movements in Canada over the past twenty years. Largely this is a capacity question, membership in far-left organizations has dwindled and thus there is an organizational inability to carry out a concerted strategy within workers movements. Implicating oneself in workers' movements is hard, unsexy work that requires time, resources, and patience. It is the type of work that only really produces results in the long-term and thus only groups with a long-term sense of struggle can engage in it."

I think there's a lot of truth to this, but I'll add two points.

First, I think the move away from such an orientation dates back further, to the early 1980s when the main far left groups built in the Canadian state over the previous 20 years dissolved (the Maoists) or lost most of their members (the Revolutionary Workers' League). The largest group on the radical left, the Communist Party, collapsed at the end of the 1980s along with most of the Stalinist regimes it supported. However, most of its union activists had long oriented to trying to change unions from above, by allying with left (and not so left) officials (see the comments on the role of the CP in the important fightback movement in BC in the early 80s in Bryan Palmer's book Solidarity: The Rise and Fall of an Opposition in British Columbia).

Second - and more important for us to reckon with today - is that in addition to a loss of capacity there's been a political shift among radicals away from seeing workplace struggles as important. The underlying reasons for this are the drastic decline in the level of workplace struggle and the decay happening within unions in recent decades.

Another point that needs to be raised in any discussion about "building and enriching rank and file movements" is the problem of sectarianism. It has been all too common for members of left groups to put the interests of their group ahead of what's best for workers' rank and file organizing (this was true of most of the far left groups of the 60s and 70s). For example, members of a radical left group may treat recruiting workplace militants as the most important goal when building relationships with them, and may try to keep them from making connections with other radicals who are seen as competitors.

So while it would be great for more radicals to adopt the orientation David argues for, this needs to be accompanied by a root-and-branch rejection of sectarianism. Otherwise new efforts will do little good or even be counterproductive.

A last thought: David identifies the "the activity and orientation of the left" as "the most important factor" in explaining "what accounts for vibrant rank and file networks and movements." The efforts of radical activists who are genuinely part of workers' self-organization are undoubtedly very important. But crucial to past successes by radicals has been the presence of a wider layer of militants of which the radicals have been a part (this was an important lesson eventually learned by some of the socialists who set out to build rank and file movements in the 1970s without fully recognizing how much had changed since the 1930s, as discussed here). Today this layer of militant workplace activists is probably weaker than it's ever been - a fact that needs to be appreciated by all of us who agree with David that there "is a role for the left to play in this current moment of rank and file reconstitution."

David Camfield

How Sir John A Macdonald used hunger to "ethnically cleanse" the Prairies

"a key aspect of preparing the land was the subjugation and forced removal of indigenous communities from their traditional territories, essentially clearing the plains of aboriginal people to make way for railway construction and settlement. Despite guarantees of food aid in times of famine in Treaty No. 6, Canadian officials used food, or rather denied food, as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape." Read historian James Daschuk's article in the Globe and Mail.

Train Explosion in Lac Megantic

"Residents of Quebec and across Canada are shocked by this catastrophe, but scarily, they ain’t seen nothing yet. The transport of petroleum products by rail in Canada is skyrocketing." Read the rest of Roger Annis's article on his site.

Coup in Egypt (Updated)

"The governments and media outlets of the American and European bourgeoisie are trying to describe what has happened in Egypt as if it were only a military coup against a democratically elected president, or a coup against the “legitimacy” of formal democracy.  But what has happened in reality far surpasses formal democracy with its ballot boxes.  It is legitimacy via the democracy of the popular revolution, direct democracy creating revolutionary legitimacy." So argues a statement from the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt.

An article by Turkish socialist Sungur Suvran offers a different perspective: "The deadlock born from the confrontation of two nearly equal social and political forces was simply inextricable. It threatened civil war. It was into this void that the army stepped in and staged its coup. This was a classic case of Bonapartism."

A July 4 video interview with Gilbert Achcar about events in Egypt: part one here and part two here.

Interview with Ahmed Shawki, who argues "the army didn't intervene to help the revolutionary movement make bigger gains or radicalize further of course. The aim was to contain the movement. But in a certain sense, this was also as an acknowledgement of the fact that the popular will of Egypt will not tolerate the Morsi government anymore."

In a new (July 6) statement, the Revolutionary Socialists argue that "The popular uprising of 30 June threw the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, and its plan is now clear. The Brotherhood is seeking to take over the squares in order to project an image of false popularity for the president who was removed by the uprising. It may even be aiming to negotiate his return to power with the support of the US and other imperialist powers in order to accomplish what Mursi promised to do for them in Syria and the region... The masses who made the revolution in January 2011, and sought to complete it in June 2013, are the only ones who can save it from danger."

The "Brazilian Spring"

If you're looking to understand what's been happening in Brazil, here are some articles to check out:

Interview with Joao Machado of the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) (June 23 and 27)

An article by Rodrigo Santaella (June 26)

An article by Euan Gibb, a Canadian activist in Brazil (June 26)

An article by Sean Purdy, a Canadian in Brazil who belongs to PSOL (June 26)

Ecosocialist talks online

Video and audio recordings of workshops at the Ecosocialism conference in New York City, April 20, have been posted on the Ecosocialist Contingent website. See the links here.

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