MS: First of all I want to take up what you call an EU-wide sea-change. If this means the idea that change could take place in a synchronised way, across the EU, that does not seem a reasonable perspective. I cannot see by what mechanism such a change could take place. Politics and the relationship of forces between social classes take place on a national level. Europe is not a country, it is not a nation, it is not about to become one. It is not, in fact, a polity. It is an extremely heterodox collection of 28 national, some in fact plurinational, states. There is no European people, there are peoples. Obviously what happens in one country affects other countries, particularly those which are geographically, culturally or politically close. That does not mean that nothing can be done on a European level. Of course there can be Europe-wide initiatives, in terms of processes like the Altersummit, in terms of initiatives like the 14 November strike. And over the next period one of the priorities of the EL, indeed probably the priority, will be to conduct a campaign on a European level against the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which we will try to build a broad social and political front, with unions and associations. And the EL will participate in the elections to the European Parliament, not as a collection of national parties but as a European political force. All these things are important, but change, in the sense of exercising political power, will start on a national level.
Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Joonas Laine of the Finnish publication Revalvaatio interviews Murray Smith on socialism, the European Union and the perspectives of the European Left. (Via Links)
December 12, 2013 -- Revalvaatio -- Murray Smith is a Scottish socialist who has been involved in leftist politics in various Western European countries since the 1960s. Since 2009 he has lived in Luxemburg, where he takes part in the activities of the left party déi Lenk and was elected to be the party’s representative in the European Left Party’s executive bureau in 2010.
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Perhaps it’s not possible to generalise, as traditions and practical party policies in different countries may be different, but what is your opinion on what the relation of these three types of parties "should” be? I’m referring to the issue of unity here. Do you think there should be attempts to get together into one big left/workers party?
Murray Smith: I think that as far as parties are concerned the main dividing line is not ideological – communist, social-democratic, etc. – but practical. In the face of the neoliberal offensive there are parties that have basically gone over to the neoliberal order. That is the case with all of the social-democratic parties in Europe, with varying degrees of conviction or reticence. That did not start with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, though the removal of an alternative to capitalism accelerated and facilitated the process.
For the Communist parties of course the shock and effects of these events were much greater. Even the parties that had taken their distance from the Soviet Union were profoundly shaken by the collapse into capitalism, because the Soviet Union was nevertheless part of their history and had remained for them a reference. (One could say something similar on a lesser scale about the effect on the far Left, the Trotskyists certainly. It was not so much the collapse of the Stalinist or post-Stalinist regimes that destabilised them. It was the restoration of capitalism. That was not supposed to happen. What was supposed to happen was an anti-bureaucratic revolution).
Monday, 25 November 2013
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Sunday, 3 November 2013
On February 17, 2013, national elections took place in Ecuador in which incumbent left-center President, Rafael Correa, won with an absolute majority against opposition candidates covering the political spectrum from Right to Left.
Since he was first elected in 2006, Correa has won a string of elections, including presidential elections (2009), a constitutional referendum, a constituent assembly and a ballot on constitutional amendments. Correa’s electoral successes occur despite the opposition from the main Indian organizations, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and CONFENIAE, the principle public sector teachers unions, environmental NGOs and numerous radical intellectual, academics and trade union activists. He also has routed the traditional pro-US right-wing and liberal parties, successfully defeated and prosecuted the subversive intent of the mass media moguls and survived an aborted police-military coup in 2010. Unquestionably Correa has demonstrated his capacity to win repeated elections and even increase his margin of victory.
Imperialism’s Multi-Track Opposition
US hostility toward Venezuela occurs at three levels of conflict: At the country-level, Venezuela marks out a new development paradigm which features public ownership over the free market, social welfare over multi-national oil profits and popular power over elite rule. At the regional level Venezuela promotes Latin American integration over US-centered Latin American Free Trade Agreements, anti-imperialism over “pan-Americanism”, foreign aid based on reciprocal economic interests and non-intervention as opposed to US military pacts, narco-military collusion and military bases.
At the global-level Venezuela has rejected the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignored US trade sanctions against Iran, opposed Washington and NATO’s bombing of Libya and the proxy invasion of Syria. Venezuela condemns Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestine. In other words, Venezuela upholds national self-determination against US military driven imperialism.
Presidents Chavez and Maduro have presented a successful alternative to neo-liberalism. Venezuela demonstrates that a highly globalized, trade dependent economy can have an advanced welfare program. The US, on the other hand, as it ‘globalizes’, has been eliminating its domestic social welfare programs in order to finance imperial wars. Venezuela has shown the US public that a market economy and large social welfare investments are not incompatible. This paradigm flies in the face of the White House’s message. Moreover, US Empire builders have no economic initiatives compete with Venezuela’s regional and global alliances. This situation is very different from the 1960’s when President Kennedy proposed the ‘Alliance for Progress’, involving trade, aid and reforms, to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution. Presidents Bush and Obama could only ‘offer’ costly military and police co-operation and worn-out neo-liberal clichés accompanied by market constraints.
James Petras (all footnotes in Part 2)
US relations with Venezuela illustrate the specific mechanisms with which an imperial power seeks to sustain client states and overthrow independent nationalist governments. By examining US strategic goals and its tactical measures, we can set forth several propositions about (1) the nature and instruments of imperial politics, (2) the shifting context and contingencies influencing the successes and failures of specific policies, and (3) the importance of regional and global political alignments and priorities.
By examining US strategic goals and its tactical measures, we can set forth several propositions about (1) the nature and instruments of imperial politics, (2) the shifting context and contingencies influencing the successes and failures of specific policies, and (3) the importance of regional and global political alignments and priorities.
Method of Analysis
A comparative historical approach highlights the different policies, contexts and outcomes of imperial policies during two distinct Presidential periods: the ascendancy of neo-liberal client regimes (Perez and Caldera) of the late 1980’s to 1998; and the rise and consolidation of a nationalist populist government under President Chavez (1999-2012).
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, US successes in securing policies favorable to US economic and foreign policy interests under client rulers fixed, in the mind of Washington, the optimal and only acceptable model and criteria for responding (negatively) to the subsequent Chavez nationalist government.
US policy toward Venezuela in the 1990’s and its successes were part and parcel of a general embrace of neo-liberal electoral regimes in Latin America.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Friday, 25 October 2013
Struggle against Austerity in Portugal – Francisco Louçã on the Left Bloc's perspectives - interviewed by Mark Bergfield
15 June 2013. International Viewpoint via Monthly Review
Francisco Louçã is an economics professor at Lisbon’s Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão. He is the author of numerous books and essays including Ensaio para uma Revolução [Rehearsal of a Revolution]; As Time Goes By — From the Industrial Revolution to the Information Revolution, with Chris Freeman; Portugal Agrilhoado — A Economia Cruel na Era do FMI [Portugal in Chains — The Cruel Economy in the Age of the IMF]; and most recently, co-authored with Mariana Mortagua, A Dividadura [The Dictatorship of the Debt] and Isto é um Assalto [This Is a Robbery].
Louçã was part of the student movement against the Salazar dictatorship in the 1970s. He was arrested for a protest against the colonial war in December 1972. He is one of the Left Bloc’s founding members, stood in the Portuguese Presidential Elections in 2006, and served as the Bloco’s chief coordinator between 2005 and 2012. He continues to play an active role inside the Bloco and the social movements internationally.
Q: Last year Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble labeled Portugal "the good pupil of the Eurozone." Now Portugal faces a difficult economic outlook. Unemployment, for example, has hit 18 percent. The PSD-CDS coalition government is demanding more time to implement its austerity measures. What are the underlying reasons for Portugal’s downward trend?
The recession was caused by austerity and the transfer of resources for the payments. As a consequence unemployment has reached unprecedented levels. Declining wages and pensions have created a downward spiral in the economy. This is anything but acting like a good pupil. It certainly is the price you pay for accepting Merkel and Schäuble’s rule.
Q: The economic crisis has created fractures in the regime. At the beginning of April, Portugal’s Constitutional Court out ruled down four of nine contested austerity measures. A senior member ofPortugal’s cabinet, Miguel Relvas resigned. What’s happening at the top of Portuguese society?