By KEVIN OVENDEN
My previous post was written early on Monday morning, London time.
Since then events have proceeded rapidly and dramatically. They will continue to do so. This update is meant to highlight the political significance of some of those developments in a fast moving crisis.
1) Despite desperate protestations it is now clear, as I had stated previously, that it was the Cypriot delegation in talks with the Troika in the early hours of Saturday morning that opted to sacrifice the mass of the population through raiding whatever deposits they had in the domestic banking system.
An angry Cypriot depositor drives an excavator into a bank
GUEST POST by KEVIN OVENDEN
Two months ago, perennial optimists were telling us that the worst of the Eurozone crisis was probably over. Then came the Italian election. Now the great Cypriot bank heist.
By Sunday morning it was dawning on tens of millions of people what had happened, as the news spread from the specialist financial commentary to front pages and top television news across the continent.
At one stroke, the Troika of the Eurozone finance ministers, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund had, with the new right-wing Cypriot government, stolen between 6.7 and 9.9 percent of the money of all depositors in Cyprus’s ailing banks. All in the name of a bank rescue.
Golden Dawn’s MPs in the Greek parliament
by KEVIN OVENDEN
Below are the points, updated and a little amplified, I made in a contribution to the highly successful Unite Against Fascism conference in London on 2 March. The speech (and I’ve incorporated my summing up) was in a workshop with Petros Constantinou from Greece, Marwan Mohammed from France and Glyn Ford MEP from Britain, who all made extremely clear and thought-provoking contributions.
London-based anti-fascist activist KEVIN OVENDEN reports on two aspects of the rise of the far Right in Europe. First, he analyses the high vote for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the Eastleigh by-election, where they beat the Tories into third place. Following this, a short piece on how the mainstream Right is feeding the success of Golden Dawn and other far Right forces in Greece.
The UKIP vote in the Eastleigh by-election — second with 27.8 percent — portends a dash to the Right in mainstream politics.
UKIP’s central slogan was “Stop open-door immigration” — lumping together the movement of EU nationals with asylum seekers and others through a deliberate sleight of hand into a single racist or xenophobic scapegoat.
What kind of anti-austerity is this?
In the end the results of Italy’s general election were even more unsettling than the most pessimistic pro-Euro commentators had anticipated. As this post was being completed, the lower house counts were as follows:
- Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left coalition 29.5%
- Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition 29.1%
- Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement 25.5%
- Mario Monti’s Civic Choice 10.5%
The shake up of the party system is big enough until one looks at some of the details and realises it’s even more profound. The “centrist” technocrat Monti, who was charged with implementing the Troika’s policies when the last Berlusconi regime disintegrated in 2011, has been humiliated. Worse for “the markets” Bersani’s pro-austerity team also failed to get a clear mandate. And the centre-left was pro-austerity despite its leading Democratic Party component being the effective inheritor of Italy’s once-powerful Communist tradition (it is especially depressing to see the leading intellectual light of Italian operaismo [workerism], Mario Tronti, winning a seat for the Democrats in Lombardy). As UK blogger Ben Folley put it:
The political trajectory of the mainstream Italian left has been to reject social democracy and shift rightward to replicate something more akin to the US Democrats … Ahead of the election, [Bersani] reportedly told the Wall Street Journal he “would stick to the fiscal commitments Italy has made to its European partners, wouldn’t roll back the pension and labor overhauls introduced by Mr. Monti and wouldn’t be held hostage on labour issues.”
“Mr Tsipras goes to Washington”
Following on from our previous coverage of the Greek crisis, Left Flank is pleased to publish this analysis — by Thanasis Kampagiannis — of the balance of forces within the Greek Left and the question of what kind of politics can take the resistance movements forward. Thanasis has previously written for Left Flank on Greek politics, and is a member of the Greek Socialist Workers’ Party (SEK) and the ANTARSYA electoral coalition.
In International Socialism 136 (Autumn 2012) Richard Seymour and Panos Garganas gave two different assessments of the political strategy the Left should adopt in Greece. It is an important debate for revolutionaries in Greece and elsewhere. Panos puts forward an argument that the anti-capitalist left should intervene in the ongoing social and political struggle through ANTARSYA, outside the political formation SYRIZA. Richard, on the other hand, proposes a strategy of a “critical support” to SYRIZA, and “wholehearted” support for the slogan a “Government of the Left”. Furthermore, Richard criticises the conception of “Left reformism” that Alex Callinicos has argued in his discussions of SYRIZA, saying that this term might “gloss over some important details”. I think the stress on concrete details is correct. The purpose of this note is to provide some of the details that need to be taken into consideration if international comrades are to make informed assessments on the Greek situation.
Immigrants protest against Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn
Just before 2012 closes out, I’m reposting my last Overland blog of the year, which originally appeared here. In some ways it is a summing up of themes we have developed at Left Flank since we started in mid-2010; chiefly in our attempts to present not just a general ideological or theoretical approach to the topics we covered, but to concretely analyse actually existing politics — something that we thought had not been focused on enough by the Australian Marxist Left in recent years. We hope readers have found the blog and our writings elsewhere stimulating because of that focus, and we look forward to developing these ideas more next year. Thanks to all of you for your readership, comments, criticisms and support.
The political prediction business is not one you should engage in unless you’re either willing to repeatedly admit erroneous forecasts (one of Ben Eltham’s most endearing qualities) or to march on obliviously ignoring them (most of the rest of the commentariat). It’s even worse for us Marxists, as we’re notorious for having accurately foretold five out of the last two recessions. The problem is that history unfolds dialectically in the real world, and not simply through a logical derivation from some initial starting point.
I have some pieces up responding to the Breivik verdict today (see below for links). I was also interviewed by New Scientist magazine, so watch out for that. Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so yet, you can still buy the e-book that Elizabeth Humphrys, Guy Rundle and I co-edited last year in response to the Norway Massacre, On Utøya: Anders Breivik, Right Terror, Racism and Europe — seller details here.
Antarsya banner at demonstration
As background to the recent posts on the situation in Greece, we’re reprinting the translation of an article written by PANOS GARGANAS, editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper, from his organisation SEK’s Socialism From Below magazine, May-June 2012 issue. This piece was written just after the 6 May elections. Translation is by Costas Todoulos. The original can be found here. Thanks to Nikos Loudos for circulating this.
Panos Garganas analyses the new phase of the double — economic and political — crisis and highlights the importance of anti-capitalist answers.
The elections of the 6th of May opened a new phase in the double economic and political crisis, not only for Greece, but internationally. The ‘Euro-rescuers’ of Greece suffered a shock while the workers and the students who have been resisting austerity across Europe gained new momentum for their struggles. Now, eventually, the question is not whether there is an alternative to the endless austerity of the successive memoranda but in what ways the workers’ movement will develop and enforce this alternative.
Since I last wrote about the situation in Greece the debate I mentioned at the end of my post — about whether all tendencies on the radical Left should get behind the election of a Left government led by SYRIZA — has been hotly debated by various Marxists on the internet. This should not be surprising: The question of which party wins the 17 June election is not an insignificant one. It would be much better if parties committed to breaking with the terms of the socially destructive “bailout” memoranda won out over the old political elites in New Democracy, PASOK and various smaller formations who are committed to maintaining Greece’s position in the Eurozone by acceding to the Troika’s demands for catastrophic austerity measures.
Not only would this be a massive blow to the state and business elites who want the costs of economic crisis to be borne by ordinary people in the Eurozone “periphery”, it would be a clear political signal that Greeks refuse to support parties that want to implement austerity.