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.
Introducing AN INTEGRAL STATE, the new blog by Elizabeth Humphrys
Recent years have seen a big increase in Marxist theorising on the state and its relationship to the capitalist system. These discussions have gone through several phases, from debates over the nature of globalisation in the late 1990s, to renewed interest in imperialism in reaction to the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, to the connections between capitalist interests and state agencies as governments dropped their “free market” pretensions to bail out the financial sector after the GFC.
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.
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.
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.”
With a sense of crisis swirling around the government, last Friday’s post on how the ALP’s problems run much deeper than a faulty “narrative” was republished at ABC’s The Drum. Then Christine Milne announced the end of the Greens-ALP agreement, and The Drum commissioned the piece below on the Greens. Now that comments are closed at the ABC website, we’re reposting it here.
Greens in 2013: Between a rock & a hard place
By Tad Tietze
Karl Marx once wrote, “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” In the case of the Australian Greens one might say that the party’s now-dead alliance with the Gillard Government weighs like a nightmare on their current political options. Continue Reading
In a considered piece at ABC’s The Drum on Thursday, Jonathan Green highlighted a phenomenon that seems to overwhelm Australian politics — the inability of simple facts about the Gillard Government’s performance to overcome the stench of crisis hanging over it.
He is correct to point out “that in assuming that the mere facts of its record should be enough to carry the political argument, this Government fundamentally misunderstands the question.”
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.
Today is the international day of action against fascism, an initiative called from Athens where the thugs of Golden Dawn have been trying to capitalise on their electoral breakthrough in the country feeling the sharpest edge of Eurozone austerity. Left Flank extends its best wishes to the ordinary Greek people fighting the twin horrors of economic catastrophe and the rise of Golden Dawn.
As we noted in a recent post, there have been and will be solidarity actions across the world. Sydney was first with a small but lively protest outside the Greek consulate in stifling 45°C heat. It is worth having a look at the protest’s Facebook page, especially to watch the video of NSW Greens MP John Kaye’s passionate speech condemning the Greek state’s collusion with the fascists, and linking the rise of the neo-Nazis to the crisis of capitalism.
There will also be a solidarity protest in Canberra tomorrow, outside the Greek embassy from 1pm. More details can be found here.
For ease of reference I have copied and pasted a debate on the connections between women’s oppression and the capitalist mode of production that started with a blog post by Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb. I have copied that opening post as well as my reply, Richard’s rejoinder and a further reply from myself. The debate ranged more widely on some Facebook threads, with some fascinating contributions, but I’ve limited myself to mine and Richard’s direct exchange here.
Seymour: Patriarchy and the capitalist state
I have recently had cause to invoke the concept of ‘patriarchy’ a few times, in the context of the Saville scandal, and the Iowa supreme court’s decision to back sexist employers. At first, I suggested that marxists should annexe the concept of patriarchy as a regional theory of which historical materialism is a general theory. Subsequently, I modified the concept by referring to ‘capitalist patriarchy’. This is in the spirit of bell hooks’ coining of the concept of ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’, which is a way of acknowledging the tremendous variety of historical forms that patriarchy has taken, and the fact that it is already articulated with, intersecting with and overdetermined by the other types of social relationship that it emerges alongside. In this case of the Iowa Supreme Court, I was indicating that the relationship between traditional patriarchal types of authority, in the church and family, and capitalist and state power, was not merely incidental. I want to take this process of refining and modifying the concept further still, to some extent prompted by the ‘Damina’ case.
Call for day of international solidarity with anti-fascist Athens
SYDNEY ANTI-FASCIST DEMONSTRATION IN SOLIDARITY WITH GREECE
12:30pm Friday 18 January, Greek Consulate, 219-223 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
Event Facebook page / Initiated by Solidarity & endorsed by We Are All Greeks Sydney / To endorse the demonstration, get more information or media call Amy on 0430 554 263
One of the key political developments of the past year has been the growth of far Right and fascist organisations across Europe. Preying on the long-term crisis of authority of traditional political establishments and linking this to growing bitterness against austerity, several of these parties have consolidated past gains and at least one — Greece’s Golden Dawn — has made a major electoral breakthrough in two consecutive elections. This experience has not been uniform, with fascists doing poorly in recent elections in Spain and the English Defence League falling into disarray in the face of consistent anti-Nazi campaigning (with a particularly strong role being played by Unite Against Fascism).
The rise in Golden Dawn associated violence against immigrants, the Left and other minority groups — often with more-or-less open backing from sections of the police — has provoked some hysterical media coverage implying that the neo-Nazis are unstoppable in the context of the deep social crisis being inflicted on the Greek people. Yet reports from activists on the ground suggest that despair is not warranted, and the radical Left has been central to working with migrant communities to build opposition to the fascists. While it is early days, it is clear that there is a very large groundswell of resistance to the threat posed by the far Right, and that this is seen as a central part of taking on the austerity agenda of the Samaras government and the Troika.
As part of this, a call has come from Athens for an international day of action against fascism, next Saturday 19 January. Already protests are planned across a range of cities, as the poster above indicates. You can see Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism sending solidarity to Athens in the video below. Left Flank is not aware of any specific actions being planned here in Australia — but if there are, we would love to publicise them here.