Aug 02 2013

BEHIND THE UNIONISTS’ ‘PROJECT FEAR’, THE UK STATE MASK SLIPS

Allan Armstrong (RCN) analyses two recent developments in the Scottish referendum campaign .

 

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The SNP government’s referendum on the future constitutional status of Scotland – ‘Yes’ for ‘Independence-Lite’ (or as Michael Russell terms it ‘Independence within the Union’), or ‘No’ for acceptance of the UK status quo – is still over a year away.

However, two events have occurred recently, which have considerable bearing on the conduct of the referendum campaign. It has been revealed that behind the scenes, some organisers of the mainstream unionist Labour/Conservative/Lib-Dem ‘Better Together’ alliance have dubbed their campaign ‘Project Fear’. Furthermore, the Guardian has reported that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been looking to ways of designating the Faslane Trident base sovereign UK territory, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote. Faslane would become, in effect, Scotland’s own Guantamamo Bay.

This article examines the significance of these two events for socialists. Right from the start, ‘Yes’ campaigners have, with much justification, styled ‘Better Together’ the ‘No’ campaign, because of its overwhelming negative approach. Hardly a day passes without us being told about some new disaster that will occur, if people in Scotland dare to vote ‘Yes’. Therefore, the revelation that the main drive behind the ‘No’ campaign is ‘Project Fear’ is not that surprising, although somewhat embarrassing for its organisers.
Continue reading “BEHIND THE UNIONISTS’ ‘PROJECT FEAR’, THE UK STATE MASK SLIPS”

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Jun 12 2013

IRELAND – UNION STRATEGY, KEYNES AND THE DEBT

This article, by James Fearon, is from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website. It highlights how the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) support for Keynesian reforms is tied to a strategy to make workers pay for the ruling class’s debts – only more slowly than the incumbent Fine Gael/Labour coalition government.  

In the UK, Ed Balls has flagged up Labour’s acceptance of current Tory attacks on our class, and his willingness, if Labour is elected in 2015, to go down the same road with further attacks on universal benefits. The TUC’s thinking goes no further than that of the ICTU. Only when pushed does it mount any actions – such as on November 30th, 2011 over pensions. However, these actions are merely token, as the TUC’s ignominious collapse in the subsequent days highlighted. The TUC is trapped in the same Keynesian thinking as the ICTU.  It has no wider vision than a return of a Labour government, hopefully committed to  some Keynesian economy boosting measures, so that, as in Ireland, workers are given longer to pay off the ruling class debts. With such miserable aspirations, it is unlikely that the TUC will be able to shift Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. Their appeal is directly to the  banksters and other corporate capitalists –  ‘You can trust Labour to continue the austerity offensive and the welfare counter-reforms.’

David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU whipping up worker enthusiasm

David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU whipping up worker enthusiasm

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and reformists in general, have been particularly animated recently over flaws that have been found, in the research by Reinhart and Roghoff, on the effect of austerity on the fiscal multiplier. They have taken this as evidence that ‘austerity isn’t working’ and that the possibility exists that they may still receive a lifeline from a slower, less virulent capitalist attack on the working class. If this ‘Better, Fairer Way’ to pay off the banksters’ debts should be adopted by the political elite in any meaningful way ICTU could claim that the slightly reduced pain of a slower austerity was their doing, and this in turn would provide them with some semblance of a fig leaf to cover their shame.

A former senior advisor to Citibank was quoted favourably in union literature recently when he expressed doubts about the efficacy of austerity based on figures which show a larger than predicted fiscal multiplier of €1.6 in economic shrinkage for every €1 removed through austerity measures. Figures from the IMF, based on data from 28 countries between 2009 and 2013, actually put the multiplier as high as 1:1.7 and Keynesian economists, the TUC and ICTU have all seized hungrily upon these figures. While trade unions exhibit a touching, perhaps over zealous, faith in these figures, the findings are not so readily accepted by the financial establishment.

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May 31 2012

A NEW TYRANNY OVER EUROPE


A crisis of capitalism, a threat to democracy

The leaders of Europe spent much time and ingenuity in designing the Financial Stability Pact so that it would not require a vote. The fact that Britain and the Czech Republic did not sign meant that it could not be formally part of European structures. The major powers went ahead anyway. The Irish government signed without a murmur. This ad-hoc arrangement was to become law over European citizens behind their backs, outside the formal (and already undemocratic) European structures, with a recommendation that it be written into individual constitutions. The Fine Gail coalition, having explored every legal avenue to try to amend the constitution without a vote, now tell us that there is no alternative to voting yes to the Pact.

The arguments of the European Leadership, of the troika and of Irish capitalism rarely refer to the contents of the pact. This is hardly surprising, as the ideology on which it is based is the debased neoliberal ideology that was used to justify the credit boom in the first place. It is roughly the fifth in a series of increasingly desperate attempts to resolve the credit crunch, which became the sovereign debt crisis and then the Euro crisis. Stability is to be achieved by imposing increasingly harsh austerity and savagely cutting wages, pensions and public services.  As none of these were in any way responsible for a crisis based on the financialisation of capital and a frenzied bubble of reckless lending by the banks, it is hardly surprising that repeated doses of the same medicine don’t resolve the issue, especially when the banks and the bondholders continue to absorb a greater and greater share of the world’s wealth.

Protesters often cry that austerity isn’t working. At a number of levels this misses the point.  It causes terrible privation to the working class – but this is the scheme working – this is what it is supposed to do.  It has certainly worked for the bondholders, banks and stock markets, restoring share values in the stock market to pre-crash levels. Where it hasn’t worked is in restoring stability and this is where the emphasis has shifted from the workers picking up the tab to a process of restructuring – wage rates and social benefits must be driven down to a point where competiveness is assured by pushing wage rates to the bottom and keeping them there. The stability pact is aimed at outlawing opposition and moving the levers of the economy outside any form of democratic control, so that  the workers feel powerless and so that any kind of reform seems impossible.

The demands of the fiscal pact are:

*            General government budgets shall be balanced or in surplus. The annual structural deficit must not exceed 0.5% of nominal GDP.

*            Budgets will be submitted to the commission in advance – so Ireland’s budget is discussed in Germany, not in the Dail.

*            The balanced budget rule will be introduced in Member States’ national legal systems at constitutional level. It will be out of the reach of any new government that opposes austerity.

*            Member States whose government debt exceeds 60% of GDP will sharply cut public spending.  In Ireland’s case this would mean a 5% cut year on year.

*            The governments in this situation shall submit a structural reform plan to the European commission and council and they will oversee the economy – a permanent troika arrangement.

*            The plan will be a partnership arrangement – social partnership in Ireland has delivered so well for capitalism that it is to be exported across Europe.

*            Countries that don’t meet their targets can be fined by the European court.

The central idea is that countries must balance their books. The sheer gall of this demand is breathtaking. The US economy floats on trillions of debt. The British print billions of extra pounds to manage their economy. The banks don’t balance their books, the bondholders don’t balance their books, the speculators don’t balance their books but Sean and Sinead Public – they must practice the most severe forms of financial stringency!

It is difficult to see just how extreme an idea this is when we are bombarded with propaganda that claims that the crisis is one of unbridled public spending and that assures us that national economies are just like private households.

All of the above is nonsense. Public spending had nothing to do with the credit crunch and Irish public spending  – and the level of public services – are at the bottom end of European tables.

In any case a national economy is nothing like a household. What it needs to function is liquid capital – the ability to move quickly between surplus and deficit as the occasion demands. The imposition of the pact would confirm the dependent nature of the Irish economy.

But much of capitalism no longer operates by the old rules. Despite all the blather about risk-taking entrepreneurs the new rule is that senior bondholders must never suffer a loss.

Under this rule the debt built up by banks and bondholders in the credit crunch became public debt. The public debt became sovereign debt. The accumulated sovereign debt became a crisis of the Eurozone. The Financial Stability Pact aims to stabilize the Eurozone by assuring bondholders that there is no limit to the amount that will be extracted from the working class to guarantee the euro.

There are two further elements to the pact worthy of notice. One is its permanent nature. It is not meant to overcome a temporary difficulty of one or two years. Rather it is meant to forever change the balance of forces between capital and labour and leave the majority of the working class in abject poverty. The other element is that, under the regime of late capitalism, democracy is becoming increasingly obsolete. In Greece and Italy capitalism has stepped in with an imposed regime. In Ireland the troika supervises the government. Now the FSP will enshrine  austerity in law and in the constitution and votes will have no power to alter economic policy.

The Irish establishment argue that the barbarism of the stability pact represents safety, stability and the road to prosperity. With these sorts of arguments they should be on a hiding to nothing – yet at the time of writing they have a majority of those expressing an opinion.

Beyond the formal argument there is an unstated argument, expressed in arguments that Europe will simply ignore a no vote or, alternatively, that we are so deeply committed to austerity that a new pact will make no difference. The basic argument is that Ireland is incapable of having any autonomy or level of self-determination. We should simply do as we are told and the imperialist powers will recover, dragging dependent countries like Ireland in their wake.

If we are to fight for a no vote we must both expose the dishonesty and brutality of our capitalist overlords and make the case for an alternative society able to meet human needs and that allows us to control our own destiny.

 

A better, fairer way

It is now generally forgotten that the bank bail-out was followed by mass demonstrations and by a public sector strike. The initial protests were not all unsuccessful – pensioners and students forced retreats on the first austerity plan. It was notable that the further one got from the trade union leadership the more successful the protests were.

There was a pretty simple reason for that. The trade union leaderships had been locked in social partnership with government and bosses since the 1980’s. Wage freezes were punctuated by cost of living rises and compensation in the form of tax cuts. Even while economic growth took place wages as a proportion of the economy fell sharply and profits rose equally sharply. Strikes were largely unknown but the union bureaucracy gained new status, ensconced in partnership committees at every level of society, sympathising with their members at changes to working conditions they had agreed in solemn conclave.

As this model of business unionism gained ground the salaries of union bosses, appointed for life, swelled – John Carr of INTO, with an enormous salary and pension package, become the highest paid union executive in the British isles, his pay dwarfing that of union officials in British unions with ten times the membership. He was closely followed by Jack O’Connor of SIPTU.

So when the credit crunch broke the concerns of the bureaucracy were not identical to those of their members. Ordinary trade unionists worried about jobs, wages and pensions. The bureaucracy worried about maintaining their place in partnership, including the acceptance of austerity. They had, however, to sell a policy of collaboration to their members.

The outcome was their policy of a “Better, Fairer Way”.  The policy was misnamed. In reality it was a better, fairer way to pay the bondholders. Essentially there were two proposals. One was to take longer to pay the debt. In essence the Irish government has been forced down this path. The outcome is even higher interest payments and austerity stretching beyond 2025.

The second proposal was that, in addition to paying the bondholders, the government should have adopted a “countercyclical” Keynesian programme of investment to stimulate the economy. Again this would have involved a bigger debt and more interest payments, but that didn’t matter. The fact that government and employers rejected their programme did not affect its usefulness in providing cover for a policy of support for austerity.

It is important to remember that, even if sincere, the “better, fairer way” would not have amounted to an alternative. It is firmly rooted in a Keynesian past and is essentially an appeal for an alternative, gentler capitalism. None of the major powers say that such an alternative exists. When the Greek people vote against austerity the capitalist powers tighten the financial necktie around their throats, when Hollande proposes investment for growth he does so on top of the continuation of austerity.  Socialists should not find themselves putting forward a left version of the bureaucracy’s programme.  The question is not what capitalism will do to help the workers. It is what the workers will do to fight back.

The union leaders called for a better and fairer way, but caved into savage wage and pension cuts. This collapse was followed by a new partnership, summarised in the Croke Park agreement , where the unions not only accepted cuts, but worked to agreed targets to impose them. The arrival of the troika saw trade union collaboration written into the memorandum of understanding.

There are a number of key elements in the discussion about the Croke Park agreement that remain important. One is the claim that the pay of public sector workers would be protected. Almost immediately that narrowed to cover existing members. New teachers, for example, work at a lower rate with very poor pension provision. That makes the agreement not a temporary shelter, but a mechanism for restructuring pay and conditions. Even in the case of existing workers pay rates are maintained via extra unpaid work and mass redundancies. Allowances, we are now told, are not part of our wage and can now be slashed.

A second point is the role of “left” trade union leaders. Although a sizable section of the trade union leadership opposed Croke Park, that opposition was purely formal and never involved putting forward an alternative or mobilising workers in struggle. Following the vote Jimmy Kelly of UNITE called on members to reverse their no vote, effectively turning a 60% victory for the right into a 100% victory.

Throughout the discussions about partnership, austerity and Croke Park one thing stands out. If the union bureaucracy stood by a single word of their “better, fairer” alternative then we would be facing into an indefinite general strike. At the very core of the Financial Stability Pact is the outlawing of any Keynesian “invest for jobs” alternative. So when ICTU shrugs their shoulders, when Jack O’Connor mumbles weasel words, they are simply confirming the policy of David Begg and the majority of the Trade union leaderships – there is no alternative to sacrificing the workers to save capitalism.

 

Building Resistance

Resistance has to begin by recognizing the depth of the hole we are in. We are the victims of a failed economic system, handicapped by the political collapse of working class institutions. As we write, the majority of workers in France and Greece have voted against the austerity. Growing opposition will cause disquiet and instability among the European elite, but will not lead them to abandon austerity.

In France Francois Hollande has won mass support, but has not put forward a programme of opposition to austerity. Rather he promises what our politicians routinely promise – renegotiation – with investment proposals that will remain marginal when tied to an agreement of permanent austerity.

Hollande is echoing many socialists when he proclaims that austerity isn’t working, but this is to misstate the case. At one level austerity has worked very well. All the bondholders have been paid, the stock exchanges have recovered to pre-crash levels and the total assets of the rich have significantly increased.

Of course austerity does not work for the working class. Young people flee Ireland. In the North charities distribute 1/3 million in food parcels. In Spain 50% of youth are unemployed.   In Greece parents, unable to feed their children, abandon them in food kitchens. This does not represent a problem to capital. Its normal operation involves a significant proportion of the world’s population living with permanent hunger. Part of the current recovery involves global speculation in food reserves, pushing the poor closer to starvation.

Where austerity isn’t working is in providing a return to stability. The level of debt weighs down economies. They slip in and out of recession and the danger of all-out revolt by workers becomes greater. The current strategy is to press ahead with austerity, to create a new reality where the price of labour is driven downwards so that if capitalism does recover, a new boom will be driven by low wage economies, with public services stripped away and privatised.  This will not feel very different from austerity to the working class. The capitalists hope to convince workers that it is impossible to fight back by removing democratic controls on the economy through the Financial Stability Pact.

The alternative strategy offered by Hollande is to manoeuvre to retain the support of workers by adding a small element of investment. One example of this kind of strategy was Obama saving the US car market while slashing jobs and wages far car workers. Even the minor proposals by Hollande have led to panic in the markets. They fear that rising hopes in workers that cannot be realized will simply increase the threat of revolt.

That revolt has to be changed from potentiality to actuality. We need to build new workers movements across Europe with policies that resolve the crisis in the interests of the workers, not those of capital.

 

A genuine alternative

A genuine alternative must include:

*            A full repudiation of the debt. Any form of bailout can only bleed the workers dry.

*            Seizure of assets where capitalism is no longer able to productively develop them. We either own them as public services or we have involuntarily bought them through NAMA.

*            A bank controlled by the workers – after all, we own all the capitalist ones.

Workers Control of national resources in the process of being given away to transnationals.

*            An international confederation of workers resistance across Europe.

All of the above presupposes an independent workers movement which can only be built from the existing resistance and from a political opposition to ICTU’s policy of collaboration.

A no vote will give new life to resistance. Alongside the votes in Greece and France it will establish that austerity is not something that workers accept but something imposed upon them, and thus justify further resistance.

And further resistance will be necessary. There is no possibility that a series of votes will persuade the bondholders, the IMF and ECB to set fire to hundreds of billions of debt. We may not be asked to vote again on this one, as it does not block the European strategy, but our enemies will be striving to apply the crushing blows of the Austerity Pact and bring a more brutal form of capitalism to life in an Ireland of perpetual austerity.

It is important that we build a movement that will continue after the vote and that sees itself as an action movement rather than an electoral one. The simplest process would be for the household charge movement to become a more general anti-austerity movement.

The movement must orient towards the working class. It should challenge ICTU now that it is effectively out of the shadows and in support of austerity. It should call on unions that say they are for a no vote to break with ICTU and to campaign actively as part of the resistance. Nor should it wait for any section of the bureaucracy: rank and file movements should be formed across the unions to assert the rights of the ordinary members.

The tide is turning. We have had four years of austerity and endless promises that capitalism would recover. Instead we have continued chaos and a merciless attempt to drive the living conditions of the working class back into the 18th century.

Now workers across Europe are saying no. We must join with them to reject capitalist austerity and begin the journey to a socialist society, based on human need.

 

Socialist Democracy (Ireland), May 2012

 

 

 

 

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Mar 20 2009

Well, the Crisis of Capitalism has arrived – So, what do we do now?!

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 1:39 pm

Not just a ‘Credit Crunch’ – but a ‘Crisis of Capitalism’

This year’s SSP Conference takes place against the background of an unprecedented crisis for capitalism. Every day it becomes clearer that the problems in the economy are not just confined to the over-inflated world of finance, but are having a major impact on the productive sector, as factories face closure or short-time working. Furthermore, the large drop in government revenues, due to the big decline in economic activity, threatens huge cuts in social expenditure and provision too. Brown and Darling officially concede that we are living in an economic recession. Other analysts and commentators openly talk of a new depression, perhaps even deeper than that of the 1930’s.

Marxists have long talked of the crisis of capitalism, albeit often only amongst themselves. What is new today is that so many economic commentators agree.The difference now lies in their proposed solutions to deal with the current economic situation. For the mainstream economists, in the various corporate funded think-tanks and university economics departments, the debate is confined to what is the best way to get the capitalist system fully up and running again. In other words how can capitalist accumulation and profitability be restored?

What has changed, in the thinking of business executives and politicians, is the sharp decline in their earlier belief that everything could be left to the market. When the global economy was ‘booming’, millions of workers could have their real wages and social benefits cut, whilst being offered seemingly ‘limitless’ credit as an alternative. Many more millions of peasants, throughout the world, could be uprooted and forced to seek a ‘better life’ as transient migrant labourers. However, whenever workers and peasants made any calls for government funding to address their immediate problems, they were brusquely told by neo-liberals that this would only stall the engines of economic growth. Now, in the face of the economic crisis, which threatens the rich and powerful too, recent advocates of neo-liberalism are on the defensive, as they shamefacedly look to governments to bail out their system.

Neo-liberalism and neo-Keynesianism – the two faces of capitalism

This helps to explain the rapid rise of neo-Keynesianism, with its calls for greater government spending and state regulation of the economy. Keynesianism originally developed in the 1930’s as the ideology of the capitalist system in crisis. It became economic orthodoxy after the experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War. In 1971, the then Republican US President, Richard Nixon, could say We are all Keynesians now.

By then, the majority of capitalists were in agreement over the economic mechanisms needed to keep any economic crisis at bay. However, just as an earlier Gold Standard, free market, economic orthodoxy was dealt a fatal blow by the Stock Market Crash of 1929; and just as the recent global corporate, neo-liberalism has faced its nemesis in the 2008 Credit Crunch; so too, capitalist confidence in Keynesian panaceas came to an end in the mid-1970’s.

It had then become obvious that the maintenance of profit rates was incompatible with steadily rising wages and an expanding welfare state. Furthermore, after 1968, workers’ rising expectations led to large numbers taking strike action, and even to some workers occupying their factories, to defend and advance their interests. Squeezed between declining profits and rising class struggle, capitalism was once more under threat.

This is why big business turned to the previously marginalised, ‘free market’ economists, such as von Hayek and Friedman, to help them overcome their latest problems. These neo-liberals opposed government intervention in the economy and believed that it could be left to ‘the invisible hand’ of the market. However, it was only with the backing of the very visible hand of the state, that the ‘full freedoms’ of the market were restored. Thousands of Chilean socialists and workers were killed after Pinochet’s military coup in 1973, whilst in 1980’s UK and USA, the Thatcher and Reagan led governments promoted mass unemployment and union-busting offensives to discipline the working class.

The Libertarian Right’s dream of a stateless society under the free market proved to be a utopian illusion built on the false notion that capitalism can thrive best without government interference. The application of neo-liberal policies certainly led to the cutting of government spending in the field of direct social expenditure. However, indirect taxes were increased and spending was diverted to the coercive arms of the state – the armed forces, police and judiciary – to undermine the power of the working class; or given directly to the corporations through military spending and other government contracts.

Imperialist interventions were stepped up once more, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East. Some of these had direct economic intent – to ensure corporate control over such vital assets as oil; others were demonstrations of raw ruling class power, to remind people just who was boss, and to promote favoured clients in the ‘Third World’. Even the elimination of the USSR-led ‘state socialist’ competition, after 1989, failed to reverse the rise in state expenditure in the West. ‘Free markets’ now depend on massive and continually increased government intervention and spending.

Thus, throughout the prolonged period of neo-liberal ascendancy, from 1979 to 2008, global corporations were benefiting from government promoted wars, and by military, police and security operations designed to break-up ‘communities of resistance’, thus creating pools of cheap flexible labour. Private capital also gained from the huge rip-offs of the tax-payer associated with PFI/PPP schemes; and from the state’s resort to the use of costly private agencies and overpaid consultants.

Far from renewing a ‘free market’ economy, with a much-reduced ‘night-watchman state’, the big corporations and their neo-liberal supporting politicians presided over the continued expansion of, and their dependency upon state power. ‘State capitalism’ was not confined to, nor did it end with the demise of the Soviet Union between 1989-91. It morphed into a new single global order with the definitive victory of the corporate executives over theparty bureaucrats. On a world scale, the global corporations were now the prime beneficiaries of state power.

Furthermore, the demise of the Soviet Union meant that, for a certain period, the US state, which fronted the largest collection of global corporations and had the most powerful armed forces in the world, could either pressure the ‘international’ UN to sanction wars in its interests (retrospectively, if necessary, as in Iraq), or just go it alone. After ‘9/11’, the US state also took upon itself the role of handing out ‘anti-terror licenses’ to supportive governments so they could crush their own troublesome oppositions, e.g. Israel and the Palestinians, Sri Lanka and the Tamils. Meanwhile the arms corporations in the USA, UK, Europe and Israel made billions.

Despite all their support from the state, super-confident and arrogant corporate executives opposed any public scrutiny of their activities. They pushed for the ending of all government regulation of the economy. They demanded the protection of private companies’ ‘commercial confidentiality’, even when undertaking publicly funded projects.

The net result of all this direct and indirect state assistance, combined with the lack of any meaningful public scrutiny and accountability, has been a massive switch of wealth to the ‘masters of the universe’. It also led to greatly increased incomes and perks for their supporters in the media, those they fund in various ‘educational’ institutions, and of course, for their apologists in government. So, by the 1990’s, Clinton’s Democrats and Blair’s New Labour Party could easily have said, We are all neo-liberals now.

However, the current economic crisis has shown that, even in the private, privatised and deregulated sectors of the economy, over which the corporate executives declared their complete competency, they have failed spectacularly. So now they openly demand, on top of all their earlier massive, if largely publicly unacknowledged, state support, mind-boggling financial government subventions – at our expense. This is not to be done for the wider benefit of the public, who have never figured in corporate executive concerns, but to ensure that their current staggering losses are socialised, and to restore their private profits in the future.

(Neo)-Keynesianism, national protectionism and the drive to inter-imperialist wars

As the current economic crisis deepens, even those publicly unaccountable transnational institutions, which corporate capital and its political backers have created or moulded to further their global interests – e.g. G8, IMF, World Bank, WTO, GATT, NATO and the EU – are being subjected to increased internal strains. An overstretched and badly bruised USA can no longer command automatic support for its imperial ventures – especially when they are unsuccessful. China and Russia, and possibly even the EU, or its bigger constituent states in the future, are pulling in different directions, opening up the even more dangerous prospect of inter-imperialist wars.

Faced with falling profits and the devaluation of their assets, competing national ruling classes are beginning to move away from their recent international capitalist cooperation and opt instead for ‘me first and devil take the hindmost’ policies. National neo-Keynesianism is linked to new protectionist drives, designed to uphold particular national capitalist interests, to set worker against worker, and to make future shooting wars between major imperialist powers more likely.

Furthermore, there is the chilling reality that, although several national governments pursued Keynesian policies in the 1930’s, these failed to end the Great Depression. Just prior to the First World War, Rosa Luxemburg had anticipated the choice facing humanity – Socialism or Barbarism. However, it took two world wars, with millions dead and the massive destruction of accumulated capital, to eventually give capitalism a new lease of life after 1945. Any future world war, however, brings the very real prospect of human annihilation, whilst the increased capitalist degradation of the environment adds another twist to Luxemburg’s warning. As the marxist philosopher, Istvan Mezsaros has said, the choice now lies between Socialism or Barbarism if we are lucky!

One worrying early example of the future likelihood of inter-imperialist wars has occurred since the last SSP Conference. The nasty little conflict, which emerged in South Ossetia, last August, highlighted the growing US/Russian antagonism. In this particular case, the US client government in Georgia, led by President Saakashvili, was unable to provoke the direct US intervention it sought on its behalf, despite the rapid Russian reaction to his bloody invasion of South Ossetia. The USA was too bogged down elsewhere to open up a new military front against such a dangerous adversary as Russia.

Saakashvili had to eat humble pie, as the Russian military took control of and guaranteed the ‘independence’ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The notion that Medvedev and Putin did this for the benefit of two of the many oppressed peoples of the Caucasus would not impress many Chechenyans. Successive US governments, though, have had more success in promoting their imperial aims in the one-time Warsaw Pact countries, and even in the former Soviet Baltic states. These have been drawn into NATO.

US and Russian inter-imperial competition continues, and is now focused upon Ukraine. Its shaky coalition government has recently faced threats to Russian-supplied oil and gas deliveries. This represents a warning from the Russian state not to get any closer to the West. Yet, the lengthy Russian borderlands represent just one potential shatter zone, which could become the focus of a rapid escalation of inter-imperialist wars in the future.

Israel represents another US client state, only too eager to provoke wider wars, to provide cover for its leaders’ desire to ethnically cleanse the remaining Palestinians. During the dog days of the outgoing Bush administration, Barak Obama was keen to be seen to take initiatives to deal with the crisis-ridden American economy, but he remained silent over the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The likely formation of an even further Right Zionist government in Israel, under Netanyahu, seems only to have prompted the US government to attempt to further cripple the elected Hamas government in Gaza, under the guise of foreign aid, channelled through the US/EU/Israeli Palestinian Authority stooges.

President Obama’s new administration includes nobody even remotely connected to those misguided radicals so important to the success of his election campaign. This is because they were not so crucial to his future project – the re-branding of US imperialism – as those big business backers, who now determine the real direction of US state policy. Obama’s Cabinet now includes Republicans, Clintonites and avowed supporters of any Israel – no matter how belligerent and oppressive the government in power. He has, in effect, formed a national coalition. Obama wants to get wider international imperial assistance, after the disastrous gung-ho, go-it-alone record of Bush and his neo-liberal advisors.

After facing unforeseen resistance, Iraq is largely being given-up as bad job. Nevertheless, it has been left in a much weakened and balkanised state, unable any longer to play a role as a regional power. Where outright victory can not be achieved, then a legacy of massive destruction and dislocation has become the preferred US policy option. Israeli operations in Lebanon and Gaza follow the same pattern. This may still provide openings for non-state terrorist organisations to operate; but if they become troublesome, then massive all-out bombing offensives can be launched, with total disregard for the wider human consequences. Increased numbers of US troops are now being sent to a disunited Afghanistan to cause even more havoc and misery. Meanwhile preparations are being made for more draconian sanctions against Iran.

Thus, just as neo-liberalism was not merely an economic strategy, but was accompanied by massive US imperial interventions throughout the world; neither is neo-Keynesianism confined to purely economic measures. It can only lead to further imperialist wars and to increased inter-imperialist competition, with dire consequences for humanity.

Looking at the world through different SSP lenses

Our annual Conference is the time to take a close look at these latest developments, and to debate the policies needed to address the situation we face. The SSP is a broad-based socialist party, which includes different organised platforms as well as less clearly formed tendencies. Conference resolutions are a reflection of these different approaches. The fact that self-declared revolutionary socialists may often find themselves in a minority can easily be understood in today’s non-revolutionary conditions. However, as long as there is genuine democracy in the SSP, the possibility of winning members (and others) to consistent republican and communist politics remains open, in the changed circumstances of the future.

So, what are the political tendencies to be found in the SSP? After the split, overt Left nationalists have become a weaker force, with the departure of the SRSM and several former SNP members. Similarly, Left unionists are a diminished presence, with the departure of the CWI/IS, SWP, and the apparent demise of the Left Unity Platform (although one of their constituents, the Left unionist and social imperialist AWL, still has members in the SSP).

The once dominant International Socialist Movement (ISM) has fragmented, leading to the rise of a variety of Left nationalist, Old Labourist, Green Left, radical/socialist feminist, and pro-social movement, spontaneist ideas. Former ISM platform members still form the majority of the SSP leadership, but are less politically cohesive than they once were. This has allowed other politics, including republican socialist, to make headway in our party.

Although Frontline no longer considers itself to be organised platform of the SSP, in some respects this journal represents a kind of ‘Continuity ISM’, where debates between and beyond former ISM members continue. The former ISM’s international contacts were less extensive than those of the CWI, which they originally broke from, but are still valued by Frontline contributors. Perhaps the closest of these are to be found in the Australian Democratic Socialist Party/Green Left and those Fourth International members, some in the French LCR, and others grouped around the magazine Socialist Resistance in England and Wales. Socialist Resistance has replaced the SWP as the main organised grouping in the post-split Respect Renewal. Unfortunately, Respect’s leader, George Galloway, is a Left unionist. He used his Daily Record column to give support to New Labour in the Glasgow East and Glenrothes byelections. Worryingly, neither Frontline nor Socialist Resistance has publicly commented on this.

Orthodox Trotskyism claimed that nationalisation = socialism

Since the old ISM came out of the Trotskyist and CWI,/Militant traditions, it will be interesting to see how their view of the economic crisis develops. ‘Nationalisation of the top 200 companies’ was always a particular Militant shibboleth. There has been much loose talk in the media, following the effective nationalisation of several major banks by the US and UK governments. Some have even declared that, We are all socialists now.

This equation of ‘nationalisation’ with ‘socialism’ has been the hallmark, not only of neo-liberal economists, but also of official and dissident communists (or socialists as Trotskyists prefer to call themselves in the British Isles). The last vestiges of effective workers’ control of the Soviet economy had been eliminated in 1921, after the crushing of the Kronstadt Rising. After that, official and dissident communist claims that the USSR was still moving towards ‘socialism’, rested either upon the continuation of Communist Party rule, or the extension of nationalised property relations. The idea of socialism became separated from that of genuine democracy or effective workers’ control.

In the USSR, the reality was that the working class had no effective control over the economy, only the ability to passively resist top-down directives – They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. Indeed, in the West, during the highpoint of class struggle between 1968-75, workers exerted more effective influence over the private companies they worked for, than did those workers in the East over ‘their own’ so-called ‘Workers’ States’. This was because of the relative strength of workers’ organisations in the West, at that time, compared to the situation workers faced in the East, where they had no independent class organisations of their own.

We have to be on guard against any notion of ‘socialism’ that separates state control from effective workers’ and popular democratic control. Any nationalisation or large-scale government funding measures under New Labour can only be aimed at meeting the needs of Brown, Darling and Mandelson’s real class backers – the global corporations.

Therefore, all those parties, which just voted for the government bail out of the banks, behaved in the same manner as those First World War Social Democrats who voted to provide war credits for their governments. For the decision to give trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to corporate capital amounts to a declaration of war upon the working class. We are going to be called on to pay for this through a massive austerity drive and further wars.

What is socialism and communism? – The need for a widened debate in the SSP

Nick McKerrall (Frontline) has been arguing for some time, that the SSP has not yet really developed a programme, which can address the situation we face. The RCN disagrees with Nick’s advocacy of a temporary retreat from public politics, in favour of a period of internal education. We believe, not only that you can do both, but that theoretical and programmatic development stems from political practice as well as from internal party education. However, we do agree with Nick that a new SSP programme is required. To do this though, the SSP needs to undertake a serious analysis of exactly what we mean by socialism (and/or communism) and, in particular, what role we see for the state, both today and in any revolutionary transition to a new society.

This is why, following on from our well-received pamphlet, Republicanism, Socialism and Democracy, we intend to produce another later this year, which addresses the issue of Communism and Socialism. Istvan Mezsaros’ challenging new book, with its essay, Socialism in the Twenty First Century, makes a major contribution to the wider ongoing international debate on this largely abandoned area of theory. The RCN has also been following the interesting ideas put forward in The Commune, a new website magazine, which is also beginning to re-examine earlier ideas about what constitutes socialism/communism.

There have always been some in the SSP who hanker after the days of ‘Old Labour’ (albeit within a Scottish national framework). This is not surprising, given the historical strength of Labourism in Scotland, and the spectacular betrayals of New Labour. The sudden revival of officially sponsored Keynesianism could give some sustenance to those who claim that state ownership is inherently better than private ownership, regardless of who controls the state.

However, the renewed debate between neo-liberals and (neo)-Keynesians should be used as an opportunity to put forward a distinctive socialist challenge to both these variants of capitalist thought. If all we do is become Left Keynesians, championing the role of the capitalist state over the capitalist corporation, then this can only contribute to the rebuilding of the discredited Labour Left, and to the possible demise of the SSP. Over a decade’s hard work to create an independent socialist organisation will have gone to waste.

The political dangers of national protectionism – ‘British jobs for British workers’

If the war in South Ossetia heralded possible new inter-imperialist wars, then the politically ambiguous legacy left by the recent strike at the Lindsey oil refinery, highlights the dangers of the shift to the politics of national protectionism. The defence of hard-won national contracts for all workers, whatever their nationality, is vitally important, especially since Lord Mandelson is the main promoter of ‘drive to the bottom’ in the EU. However, the reactionary demand of ‘British jobs for British workers’ can not be glibly dismissed. The BNP may have been seen off the picket lines, but you can bet it will be their support that grows in the forthcoming EU elections, and not those of some socialist parties hailing a great victory. Furthermore, the claim that such specifically ‘British’ appeals have little purchase in Scotland, are also worrying, given the undercurrent of unionism and loyalism, which can still be found here. Union Jack caps were to be seen amongst the Grangemouth strikers.

At present, the main danger to workers in Scotland is not the BNP, but the revived credibility of such Labour Party trade union leaders as UNITE’s Derek Simpson. He jumped on to the ‘British jobs for British workers’ bandwagon to cover up his opposition to any rank and file control in the union, and to smother the recent exposes of his privileged fat-cat lifestyle, paid for by union members. It was the Broad Left leaders of UNITE who undermined earlier militant strike action by Heathrow cleaners – but they were largely Asian women workers.

There has also been the attempt by Bob Crow of the Broad Left led RMT to play the ‘British workers’ card. He is trying to form a ‘No2EU’ electoral challenge in the forthcoming Euro-elections, with a platform defending ‘British democracy’ and opposing ‘social dumping’, i.e. migrant workers. Much of this could be accepted by the anti-EU UKIP.

The only significant strike in the last year in Scotland was that conducted by Grangemouth refinery workers to defend their pensions. Their success was linked to their key role in the economy, and has not been repeated by other workers whose pensions are under attack. Although there have been other strikes, involving civil servants and post office workers, these have been the token one day strikes used by trade union bureaucrats to let off steam. This perhaps explains the lack of motions this year to Conference addressing industrial struggle.

Broad Left versus Rank and File

Broad Leftism, however, remains the dominant industrial strategy pushed by the SSP leadership. In this there has been little movement from the old Militant tradition. Broad Leftism sees the main job of socialists in the unions as being to try and replace Rightwing leaders with Left wing leaders, through winning leading posts within the union bureaucracy. The underlying problem with this strategy is highlighted by the appearance of new Broad Left campaigns to replace old Broad Left leaders who have themselves become the new Right.

The alternative Rank and File approach, advocated by the RCN, represents an industrial republican approach. We see union sovereignty lying not in the union HQs, but in the collective memberships in their workplaces. Socialists should not accept the union bureaucrats’ right to dismiss workers’ own actions as ‘unofficial’. When such activity occurs, this amounts to independent workers’ action. When action is extended by means of mass picketing, it should still remain under the effective control of the workers involved. Elected officials, on the average pay of the members they represent, should service not control rank and file union members.

Furthermore, there are now large swathes of non-unionised workers in the country. A debate needs to be opened up in the SSP about the possibility of building additional, new, independent rank and file controlled unions. Too often, socialists can become mere recruiting sergeants for the existing cynical dues-pocketing bureaucrats, who offer no real support to their new members. Here, the experience of the Independent Workers Union in Ireland could be valuable. Ireland is a country where trade unionists have been hamstrung, since 1987, by the bureaucrats’ support for social partnerships with the government and employers.

As with Derek Simpson’s posturing, we should also be on the look-out for other moves to hoodwink workers, who are increasingly questioning union leaders’ near total commitment to New Labour and ‘social partnership’. We could well be told that, We are all in this crisis together, and that ‘our’ union leaders intend to push for more widely-based ‘worker participation schemes’, so that our concerns can be aired. Remember, the irregular conjugation of the verb ‘to participate’ in government/corporate speak – I participate; you participate; he and she participates; we participate; you participate, but – They decide.

The real importance of trade unions is that they are a key part of working class self-organisation – well, when they are not the playthings of privileged officials, or instruments in the hands of the governments and employers, that is. We can exert no meaningful control over the wider economy and society if we have no effective control over our own organisations. So the strengthening of independent working class organisations is the most pressing task of all in the current crisis. It will be necessary to return to the Broad Left versus Rank and File debate in the SSP.

Socialist unity can not be divorced from ‘internationalism from below’ in these islands

If motions addressing industrial struggle are absent from the Conference agenda, a call for socialist unity has come from Renfrewshire branch. This, however, is largely confined to Scotland, with a nod and a wink to certain developments in England and Wales – such as the Convention of the Left and the RMT initiative. However, the geographical scope of this motion doesn’t cover the full extent of the UK state, which also includes the ‘Six Counties’. Nor does it address the problem of the shared British and Irish governments’ promotion of the ‘Peace Process’ and ‘Devolution-all-round’. Together these policies are designed to maintain the best political framework for the corporations’ profitable operations in these islands. This common ruling class strategy has the backing of the British, Scottish and Welsh TUCs, and the Irish CTU. They are all locked into the ‘social partnerships’, which have turned union leaders into a free personnel management service for the employers.

Since 1992, the ‘Peace Process’, originally pioneered under Major’s government, has enjoyed shared Tory/Labour support. This reflects the widespread British (and Irish) ruling class agreement, in the face of their pressing need to pacify and reassert control over the republican ‘communities of resistance’ in the ‘Six Counties’. The disillusionment with the lack of any real ‘peace dividend’ has contributed to the re-emergence of physical force republicanism, with the killing of two British soldiers and a local PSNI officer by dissident republicans. In the absence of a wider political and social movement, such actions can only lead to further demoralisation and increased state repression.

It had already become clear that ‘British normality’had not been established in the ‘Six Counties’. Nevertheless, the UK government is now sufficiently in control that current Labour/Tory bipartisan support is fraying, as both parties develop their own strategies to preserve the Union in the face of the wider challenges.

Significantly, the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists have decided to form their own alliance to contest the next UK General Election. This represents the emergence of a new distinct and potentially dangerous Rightist strategy. The UUP is still heavily coloured by Protestant sectarianism, with many members active in the Orange Order. As yet, even after 87 years of the ‘Six County’ statelet and the UUP’s existence, it has not fielded even a single ‘Castle Catholic’ parliamentary candidate. This should be a wake-up call to the SSP, when Conservatives look for support in Scotland for their alliance with the UUP.

In the past, sections of the SSP, still influenced by the Militant’s old Left unionist traditions, were unable to make the distinction between the Irish republican struggle to end political and religious sectarianism, breaking the link with the UK, and the Ulster loyalists’ defence of Protestant privilege and the British Union. This was all dismissed as a ‘war between two tribes’. Gordon Brown’s call for ‘British jobs for British workers’ has been widely condemned for playing into the BNP’s hands. Now that the Conservatives want to give new life to Right Unionism in Scotland, it won’t only be the BNP who are given succour, but those supporters of the even more dangerous loyalist death squads, currently lying low over here.

Real headway has been made in the SSP over adopting a republican socialist strategy to break-up the UK and to end Irish partition, as opposed to a Left nationalist strategy for Scotland only. Nevertheless, the latter notion still enjoys some influential support in our party. The SSP initiated Calton Hill Declaration of October 9th, 2004, and the Republican Socialist Convention held last November 29th, were significant landmarks in the development of socialist republicanism. However, in the face of new reactionary pressures, we will need to stand firm in our commitment to democratic republicanism and to an ‘internationalism from below’ alliance with socialists in Ireland, Wales and England.

Such a strategy will be needed, not only to confront Unionism in all its forms, but to make any meaningful moves towards socialism in these islands. The failure of the ‘Peace Process’ to create ‘British normality’ in the ‘Six Counties’, along with the spectacular demise of the Irish ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic model, now offer socialists a real opportunity to put forward our alternative to both the unionists and the nationalists, if we can clearly see what is at stake.

The SNP retreats – the Republican Socialist Convention shows the way forward

The Republican Socialist Convention also drew the attention of visiting socialist republicans in England, Ireland and Wales to the political significance of the centrepiece policy of the SNP-led Scottish Executive – a referendum on Scotland’s independence. Although the various unionist parties have been quick to see the possible dangers this represents to the future of the UK, there has hardly been any discussion about this amongst the British Left. Their supporters in Scotland have probably put the issue to the very back of their minds, now that the economic crisis has taken the wind out of the SNP’s sails.

The SNP’s ‘independence’ project was based on the backing of key sectors of the Scottish business community, and tied to continued capitalist economic growth, led by a lightly-regulated Scottish-based finance sector. Indeed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s document, Wealth Creation in Scotland, provided the economic underpinning for the SNP’s proposed mild social democratic measures.

Alex Salmond, once keen to be seen in the company of the likes of Sir George Mathewson, now keeps his distance – at least in public. Whether Donald Trump’s proposed new business venture in Aberdeenshire survives the crisis remains to be seen. However, other SNP big business backers such as Brian Souter, Sir Tom Farmer and Donald Macdonald recently demanded to meet Salmond. Soon afterwards, the SNP’s other flagship policy, the abolition of the council tax, was dropped. It probably won’t be long before the independence referendum is abandoned too, in favour of the more ‘realistic’ ‘Devolution-max’ proposals emanating from the British unionists’ Calman Commission, which the SNP once scorned.

The RCN has long predicted that the SNP would fall fully into line with other constitutional nationalist parties, such as the Parti Quebecois, Catalan Convergence, the Basque National Party (PNV) and now ‘New’ Sinn Fein too (after taking ministerial office in her majesty’s Stormont government and voting in the Dail for government bailout of the Irish banks). An SNP, now holding office, will follow these constitutional nationalist parties in opting for gradual political reforms acceptable to the major imperial powers, the global corporations, and in particular, to their respective national business communities. The SNP’s recent, openly declared support for the British monarchy is a clear indicator of the very cautious road they have adopted. It also shows us exactly whose support they are courting.

If the SSP is to make its policy of the break-up of the imperial and unionist UK a reality, this means an end to tail-ending the SNP in such organisations as Independence First and the Scottish Constitutional Convention. These organisations are completely tied to the SNP leadership’s rate of movement – which could very soon be in a reverse direction. The precedent of the successful Calton Hill Declaration, and the new links to Ireland, Wales and England, made through the Republican Socialist Convention, offer the best basis for a campaign of radical constitutional and social change.

There has been general agreement within the SSP that any intervention in an ‘independence referendum’ campaign would be accompanied by clearly articulated economic and social measures, which would point to the type of society that we would want to help create. The fact that a Scottish Executive launched referendum is looking more unlikely does not lessen our need to develop a programme with such policies. Indeed the current crisis of capitalism makes it even more imperative, since it will increase the strains upon the Union.

Two things should be clear though – any calls the SSP makes for government intervention should be coupled with the demand for increased democratic control. Indeed, it is the republican demand for greater democracy, and not the nationalist desire to paint more British unionist institutions tartan, that should inform our campaign for political independence. Secondly, we can’t afford to confine such a campaign to Scotland. The various unionist parties are quite capable of whipping up British chauvinist feeling within the various countries constituting the UK, whilst warning an Irish government, which will be only too keen to comply, to keep its nose out.

The need for wider international contacts and campaigns

The ongoing economic crisis has created divisions amongst the leaders of the EU. We can take some cheer from the massive students and workers’ struggles, which emerged in Greece, and the mass strike action in France. The ‘unofficial’/independentworkers’ occupation at Waterford Glass has also given the trade union bureaucrats such a nasty jolt, that it has even prodded the Irish CTU into action. They called the massive 120,000 strong, Dublin demonstration on February 21st. Significantly, the wildcat actions of those fighting for ‘British jobs for British workers’, has not been seen by the TUC to represent a similar threat. The TUC and STUC remain bogged down in complacent inertia, pleased to hear a few sympathetic remarks from such government ministers as Alan Johnson and Peter Hain.

However, mounting resistance elsewhere will not stop European capitalists from trying to offload the cost of the current crisis on to workers’ shoulders. They are still trying to revive the neo-liberal Lisbon Treaty. Their attempt to browbeat the Irish into overturning their clear ‘No’ vote last year, should be met by an international campaign to back rejection once again. We hope that our Irish comrades in the Irish Socialist Network and Fourthwrite will consider seeking such support.

Unfortunately, the still divided European (and worldwide) Left is a long way from creating the new International we need to properly meet current challenges. This is one reason why the SSP must participate more fully in those wider international initiatives that do exist. To this end, the RCN has brought the formation of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, along with the European Anti-Capitalist Alliance (EACA), to the attention of Conference. We also offer a suggestion on how to improve their election platform for the forthcoming Euro-election.

Hopefully, the South Edinburgh SSP motion, which also advocates being part of the joint EACA campaign in the forthcoming Euro-elections, will also be adopted by Conference. Support for such policies would highlight the SSP’s active participation, alongside other European socialists, in promoting international solutions to counter the austerity and war-mongering drives being promoted by European capitalists, and by the Union Jack chauvinists of the BNP, UKIP, the Tories and sections of the Labour Party, as well as showing those SNP supporters committed to genuine independence that this can not be achieved on the coat-tails of the likes of Matthewson, Souter, et al. The purpose of the SSP is not to represent the interests solely of Scottish workers, but to act as an organisation representing all workers living and working in Scotland, whatever their nationality. This can only be achieved successfully in an active international alliance with others.

Despite the depth of the current crisis, capitalism could still yet be given new life, in a more barbaric form, and at the expense of the vast majority of working people. However, we shouldn’t underestimate its capacity, though, to bring about our complete extinction through nuclear war or man-made environmental catastrophe. Only socialists can offer an alternative future for humanity and the Earth. This is the bold challenge the SSP has to face up to at its 2009 Annual Conference.

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Jul 25 2002

Another World Is Possible

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 9:34 pm

Resistance to neo liberalism, war and militarism For peace and social justice

Call of social movements at the second World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jan 31st – Feb 5th, 2002

Profor Progress

1. In the face of continuing deterioration in the living conditions of people, we, social movements from all over the world, have come together in the tens of thousands at the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. We are here in spite of attempts to break our solidarity. We come together again to continue our struggles against neoliberalism and war, to confirm the agreements of the last Forum and to reaffirm that another world is possible.

2. We are diverse – women and men, adults and youth, indigenous peoples, rural and urban, workers and unemployed, homeless, the elderly, students, migrants, professionals, peoples of every creed, colour and sexual orientation. The expression of this diversity is our strength and the basis of our unity. We are a global solidarity movement, united in our determination to fight against the concentration of wealth, the proliferation of poverty and inequalities, and the destruction of our earth. We are living and constructing alternative systems, and using creative ways to promote them. We are building a large alliance from our struggles and resistance against a system based on sexism, racism and violence, which privileges the interests of capital and patriarchy over the needs and aspirations of people.

3. This system produces a daily drama of women, children, and the elderly dying because of hunger, lack of health care and preventable diseases. Families are forced to leave their homes because of wars, the impact of big development, landlessness and environmental disasters, unemployment, attacks on public services and the destruction of social solidarity. Both in the South and the North, vibrant struggles and resistance to uphold the dignity of life are flourishing.

4. September 11 marked a dramatic change. After the terrorist attacks, which we absolutely condemn, as we condemn all other attacks on civilians in other parts of the world, the government of the United States and its allies have launched a massive military operation. In the name of the war against terrorism, civil and political rights are being attacked all over the world. The war against Afghanistan, in which terrorist methods are being used, is now being extended to other fronts. Thus there is the beginning of a permanent global war to cement the domination of the US government and its allies. This war reveals another face of neo liberalism, a face which is brutal and unacceptable. Islam is being demonised, whilst racism and xenophobia are deliberately propagated. The mass media is actively taking part in this belligerent campaign which divides the world into good and evil. The opposition to war is at the heart of our movement.

5. The situation of war has further destabilised the Middle East, providing a pretext for further repression of the Palestinian people. An urgent task of our movement is to mobilise solidarity for the Palestinian people and their struggle for self determination as they face brutal occupation by the Israeli state. This is vital to collective security for all peoples in the region.

6. Further events also confirm the urgency of our struggles. In Argentina the financial crisis caused by the failure of the IMF structural adjustment and mounting debt precipitated a social and political crisis. This crisis generated spontaneous protests of the middle and working classes, repression which caused deaths, failure of governments, and new alliances between different social groups. With the force of cacerolazos and piquetes, popular mobilisations have demanded their basic rights of food, jobs and housing. We reject the criminalisation of social movements in Argentina and the attacks against democratic rights and freedom. We also condemn the greed and the blackmail of the multinational corporations supported by the governments of the rich countries

7. The collapse of the multinational Enron exemplifies the bankruptcy of the casino economy and the corruption of businessmen and politicians, leaving workers without jobs and pensions. In developing countries this multinational engaged in fraudulent activities and its projects pushed people off their land and led to sharp increases in the price of water and electricity.

8. The United States government, in its efforts to protect the interests of big corporations, arrogantly walked away from the negotiations on global warming, the anti ballistic missile treaty, the Convention on Biodiversity, the UN conference on racism and intolerance, and the talks to reduce the supply of small arms, proving once again that US unilateralism undermines attempts to find multilateral solutions to global problems.

9. In Genoa the G8 failed completely in its self-assumed task of global government. In the face of massive mobilisation and resistance, they responded with violence and repression, denouncing as criminals those who dared to protest. But they failed to intimidate our movement.

10. All this is happening in the context of a global recession. The neo liberal economic model is destroying the rights, living conditions and livelihoods of people. Using every means to protect their share value, multinational companies lay off workers, slash wages and close factories, squeezing the last dollar from the workers. Governments faced with this economic crisis respond by privatising, cutting social sector expenditures and permanently reducing workers’ rights. This recession exposes the fact that the neo liberal promise of growth and prosperity is a lie.

11. The global movement for social justice and solidarity faces enormous challenges: its fight for peace and collective security implies confronting poverty, discriminations, dominations and the creation of an alternative sustainable society. Social movements energetically condemn violence and militarism as a means of conflict resolution; the promotion of low intensity conflicts and military operations in the Colombia Plan as part of the Andes regional initiative, the Puebla Panama plan, the arms trade and higher military budgets, economic blockades against people and nations especially against Cuba and Iraq, and the growing repression against trade unions, social movements and activists

We support the trade unions and informal sector worker struggles as essential to maintain working and living conditions, the genuine right to organise, to go on strike, to negotiate collective agreements, and to achieve equality in wages and working conditions between women and men. We reject slavery and the exploitation of children. We support workers’ struggles and the trade union fights against casualisation, subcontracting of labour and layoffs, and demand new international rights for employees of the multinational companies and their affiliates, in particular the right to unionise and space for collective bargaining. Equally we support the struggles of farmers and people’s organisations for their right to a livelihood, and to land, forests and water.

12. Neoliberal policies create tremendous misery and insecurity. They have dramatically increased the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. Poverty and insecurity creates millions of migrants who are denied their dignity, freedom and rights. We therefore demand the right of free movement; the right to physical integrity and legal status for all migrants. We support the rights of indigenous peoples and the fulfillment of ILO article 169 in national legal frameworks.

13. The external debt of the countries of the South has been paid several times over. Illegitimate, unjust and fraudulent, debt functions as an instrument of domination, depriving people of their fundamental human rights with the sole aim of increasing international usury. We demand unconditional cancellation of debt and the reparation of historical, social and ecological debts. The countries demanding repayment have engaged in the exploitation of the natural resources and the traditional knowledge of the South.

14. Water, land, food, forests, seeds, culture and people’s identities are common assets of humanity for present and future generations. It is essential to preserve biodiversity. People have the right to safe and permanent food free from genetically modified organisms. Food sovereignty at the local, national, regional level is a basic human right; in this regard, democratic land reforms and peasants’ access to land are fundamental requirements.

15. The meeting in Doha confirmed the illegitimacy of the WTO. The adoption of the development agenda only defends corporate interests. By launching a new round, the WTO is moving closer to its goal of converting everything into a commodity. For us, food, public services, agriculture, health and education are not for sale. Patenting must not be used as weapon against the poor countries. We reject the patenting and trading of lifeforms. The WTO agenda is perpetuated at the continental level by regional free trade and investment agreements. By organising protests such as the huge demonstrations and plebiscites against FTAA, people have rejected these agreements as representing a recolonisation and the destruction of fundamental social, economical, cultural and environmental rights and values.

16. We will strengthen our movement through common actions and mobilisations for social justice, for the respect of rights and liberties, for quality of life, equality, dignity and peace. We are fighting for:-

  • democracy: people have the right to know about and criticise the decisions of their own governments, especially with respect to dealings with international institutions. Governments are ultimately accountable to their people. While we support the establishment of electoral and participative democracy across the world, we emphasise the need for the democratisation of states and societies and the struggles against dictatorships.
  • the abolition of external debt and reparations.
  • against speculative activities; we demand the creation of specific taxes such as the Tobin Tax and the abolition of tax havens.
  • the right to information.
  • women’s rights, freedom from violence, poverty and exploitation.
  • against war and militarism, against foreign military bases and interventions and the systematic escalation of violence. We choose to privilege negotiation and nonviolent conflict resolution. We affirm the right of people to ask for international mediation, with the participation of independent actors from civil society.
  • the rights of youth, their access to free public education and social autonomy and the abolition of compulsory military service.
  • the self determination of all peoples, especially the rights of indigenous peoples.

In the years to come, we will organise collective mobilisations. WTO, IMF and World Bank will meet somewhere, sometime. And we will be there!

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Mar 24 2002

National Workers’ Assembly meeting – a big step forward

Category: Issue 01RCN @ 8:11 pm

The following article by Jordi Martorell is from the website of Socialist Appeal. Despite our many political differences with this grouping we thought that the piece was full of useful information concerning recent revolutionary events in Argentina. Of particular importance is the growing ability of the Argentinian working class to find new democratic, organisational forms in order to advance their struggle. Whatever the outcome, and we must do all in our power to ensure that it is a positive one for our class, there are already many lessons to be learnt from this titanic struggle.

On Saturday, February 16, thousands of workers, unemployed and members of the popular assemblies, met in the Plaza de Mayo square in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires. This was the beginning of the National Assembly of Workers (employed and unemployed). The day after, two thousand elected delegates met at the Avellaneda Colonial Theatre, representing unemployed workers’ organisations from all over the country, but also local trade union branches, groups of workers’ in struggle, neighbourhood popular assemblies, etc.

Continue reading “National Workers’ Assembly meeting – a big step forward”

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