Sunday, November 29, 2015


Brief Concluding Remarks on the Discussion Paper--The New Left in Europe
Stephen Morgan
180) After 25 years, during which society was dominated by capitalist ideology, the tide has finally turned back towards the left. The apathetic and apolitical generation of youngsters from the pre-2007 boom, have now been replaced by a new left-leaning generation of anti-capitalist youth. Working people formally swept up in the false wealth of the property boom and unlimited credit, have swung back towards class struggle, under the onslaught on living standards and austerity measures.
181) This new wave of radicalized youth and more combatant workers have been the driving force behind the rise of the New Left. Because the old traditional workers' organizations lagged behind these changes in consciousness, the shift to the left in society found its expression in the growth of groups left groups like Podemos, SYRIZA, Die Linke and Front de Gauche, and, in Britain, in the left-wing surge behind Jeremy Corbyn in the LP.  
182) However, following decades, when class consciousness and political understanding was thrown back, the re-awakening of the working class is only at its beginning. Working people have not yet become fully conscious of their role in society as a class and of the need to transform society along socialist lines. This lack of clarity has found its expression in the fuzziness and limitations of the political programmes of the new left formations, compounded by their largely middle class composition and leadership.
183) Despite their stinging criticisms of capitalism, the new left groups lack any theoretical clarity or clear socialist ideology. This leaves them rudderless in the face of changing events, and opens them up to bourgeois influences, which encourage a watering down of their programmes and more and more opportunistic policies. Moreover, not having been thrown up directly by the workers' organizations, they lack the sort of social ballast and class roots needed to give them any permanency. Nevertheless, the development of the New Left represents a quantum shift in class politics. But, at the same time, it is only harbinger of many surges to the left in the future.
184) There are too many unforeseeable variables to say definitively what the future of these new left formations will be. At the moment, support for the new left groups seems to have peaked, and even appears to be declining in some countries. If the economy continues to improve, and they shift further to the right, their vote could fall back below 5%, and some groups might even break up and disappear altogether.
185) On the other hand, the weak recovery in the world economy and the possibility of a new recession, combined with continuing austerity measures and right-wing policies of the traditional socialist parties, could allow them to maintain a certain level of support. A severe economic downturn could breath new life into them. New left splits in some traditional workers' parties could also occur. But, that might be tempered, if a new crisis also shifts the old socialist parties to the left.
186) What is sure is that this isn't going to be one smooth, meteoric surge towards a new mass socialist movement, but process which will more likely to zigzags in contradictory ways. As we have already seen the development of the New Left hasn't been  uniform or synchronized internationally, but has taken on – and will continue to take on – many different forms, in different countries, at different times.
187) While there will be similarities and overlapping tendencies in how the left develops internationally, it is likely that new left movements in the future will manifest themselves in even more unique ways. However, at the same time, traditional paths for left-wing developments, through the old socialist parties, may re-arise in tandem with entirely new formations. Some of outlines of these processes may be foreseeable, while others cannot be predicted, and may appear suddenly from unexpected sources and in unpredictable places. Sudden and profound changes in class consciousness and political understanding, such as in Greece, can quickly throw up new mass left-wing movements.
188) If we look back on history, every single movement to the left since the beginning of the workers' movement has taken on unique and quite different features – Chartism in Britain in the first half of the 19th century; the communards of Paris in 1871; the 1st International; the creation of mass trade unions and the mass socialist parties at the end of the 19th century; mass anarchist movements in Southern Europe; the Communist parties in the 1920s, Stalinist societies; the mass left-wings in the traditional parties of the working class and their split-ways; and in the post-war period the overthrow of capitalism in the underdeveloped world by guerrilla armies and left-wing military coups. We also saw the mass Anti-Vietnam War protests and the Black Panthers in the US in the 1960s-70s, as well as other manifestations of left-wing currents in organizations, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the new phenomenon of the Green parties. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we have already witnessed a dizzying kaleidoscope of left-wing currents not seen before in history.  
189) As the economy rises and falls and the class struggle ebbs and flows, there will be victories and defeats, and advances and retreats for the working class and the left. There is no way of jumping over this process, because it is only through assimilating the lessons of triumphs and setbacks that new layers of workers and youth can draw the right conclusions about the need for revolution and the strategy, form and content of a socialist programme which can achieve that.
190) Therefore, socialists cannot afford to be dogmatic and schematic in their approach to building a new socialist movement. It may be possible to take a fixed position on a theoretical question or a political issue, but it would be disastrous to take a rigid and categorical standpoint on any unfolding and unfinished process. In particular, you can't simply impose a theory about how things will develop in one country onto another. That sort of blinkered and mechanical thinking will shipwreck any group or organization.
191) Consequently, revolutionaries need to be open-minded when it comes to analyzing events or anticipating future developments. Organizationally, they will have to be original and inventive in the ways they intervene in new left-wing currents and the labour movement in general. And they will need to find fresh and imaginative ways to put their ideas across and win support for a socialist programme.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake

We reprint this article from Counterpunch

This is a profound and accurate description of the savagery and slaughter western capitalist nations have inflicted on the former colonial countries of the old empires before the rise of US imperialism. The world's most efficient war criminals are here in the US.

Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake 
by Ramzy Baroud 

November 27, 2015

I still remember that smug look on his face, followed by the matter-of-fact remarks that had western journalists laugh out loud.

“I’m now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq,” General Norman Schwarzkopf, known as ‘Stormin’ Norman, said at a press conference sometime in 1991, as he showed a video of US bombs blasting an Iraqi bridge, seconds after the Iraqi driver managed to cross it. But then, a far more unjust invasion and war followed in 2003, following a decade-long siege that cost Iraq a million of its children and its entire economy.

It marked the end of sanity and the dissipation of any past illusions that the United States was a friend of the Arabs. Not only did the Americans destroy the central piece of our civilizational and collective experience that spanned millennia, it took pleasure in degrading us in the process. Their soldiers raped our women with obvious delight. They tortured our men, and posed with the dead, mutilated bodies in photographs – mementos to prolong the humiliation for eternity; they butchered our people, explained in articulate terms as necessary and unavoidable collateral damage; they blew up our mosques and churches and refused to accept that what was done to Iraq over the course of twenty years might possibly constitute war crimes.

Then, they expanded their war taking it as far as US bombers could reach; they tortured and floated their prisoners aboard large ships, cunningly arguing that torture in international waters does not constitute a crime; they suspended their victims on crosses and photographed them for future entertainment.

Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers made careers from dissecting us, dehumanizing us, belittling everything we hold dear; they did not spare a symbol, a prophet, a tradition, values or set of morals. When we reacted and protested out of despair, they further censured us for being intolerant to view the humor in our demise; they used our angry shouts to further highlight their sense of superiority and our imposed lowliness.

They claimed that we initiated it all. But they lied. It was their unqualified, inflated sense of importance that made them assign September 11, 2001 as the inauguration of history. All that they did to us, all the colonial experiences and the open-ended butchery of the brown man, the black man, any man or woman who did not look like them or uphold their values, was inconsequential.

All the millions who died in Iraq were not considered a viable context to any historical understanding of terrorism; in fact, terrorism became us; the whole concept of terror, which is violence inflicted on innocent civilians for political ends, abruptly became an entirely Arab and Muslim trait. In retrospect, the US-Western-Israeli slaughter of the Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians, South Americans, Africans, was spared any censure. Yet, when Arabs attempted to resist, they were deemed the originators of violence, the harbingers of terror.

Furthermore, they carried out massive social and demographic experiments in Iraq which have been unleashed throughout the Middle East, since. They pitted their victims against one another: the Shia against the Sunni, the Sunni against the Sunni, the Arabs against the Kurds, and the Kurds against the Turks. They called it a strategy, and congratulated themselves on a job well done as they purportedly withdrew from Iraq. They disregarded the consequences of tampering with civilizations that have evolved over the course of millennia.

When their experiments went awry, they blamed their victims. Their entertainers, media experts, intellectuals and philosophers flooded every public platform to inform the world that the vital mistake of the Bush administration was the assumption that Arabs were ready for democracy and that, unlike the Japanese and the Germans, Arabs were made of different blood, flesh and tears. Meanwhile, the finest of Arab men were raped in their jails, kidnapped in broad daylight, tortured aboard large ships in international waters, where the Law did not apply.

When the Americans and their allies claimed that they had left the region, they left behind bleeding, impoverished nations, licking their wounds and searching for bodies under rubble in diverse and macabre landscapes. Yet, the Americans, the British, the French and the Israelis, continue to stage their democratic elections around the debate of who will hit us the hardest, humiliate us the most, teach the most unforgettable lesson and, in their late night comedies, they mock our pain.

We, then, sprang up like wild grass in a desert, multiplied, and roamed the streets of Rabat, Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, calling for a revolution. We wanted democracy for our sake, not Bush’s democracy tinged with blood; we wanted equality, change and reforms and a world in which Gaza is not habitually destroyed by Israel and children of Derra could protest without being shot; where leaders do not pose as divinities and relish the endless arsenals of their western benefactors. We sought a life in which freedom is not a rickety dingy crossing the sea to some uncertain horizon where we are treated as human rubbish on the streets of western lands.

However, we were crushed; pulverized; imprisoned, burnt, beaten and raped and, once more, told that we are not yet ready for democracy; not ready to be free, to breathe, to exist with even a speck of dignity.

Many of us are still honorably fighting for our communities; others despaired: they carried arms and went to war, fighting whoever they perceive to be an enemy, who were many. Others went mad, lost every sense of humanity; exacted revenge, tragically believing that justice can be achieved by doing unto others what they have done unto you. They were joined by others who headed to the West, some of whom had escaped the miseries of their homelands, but found that their utopia was marred with alienation, racism and neglect, saturated with a smug sense of superiority afflicted upon them by their old masters.

It became a vicious cycle, and few seem interested now in revisiting General Schwarzkopf’s conquests in Iraq and Vietnam – with his smug attitude and the amusement of western journalists – to know what actually went wrong. They still refuse to acknowledge history, the bleeding Palestinian wound, the heartbroken Egyptian revolutionaries and the destroyed sense of Iraqi nationhood, the hemorrhaging streets of Libya and the horrifying outcomes of all the western terrorist wars, with blind, oil-hungry dominating foreign policies that have shattered the Cradle of Civilization, like never before.

However, this violence no longer affects Arabs alone, although Arabs and Muslims remain the larger recipients of its horror. When the militants, spawned by the US and their allies, felt cornered, they fanned out to every corner of the globe, killing innocent people and shouting the name of God in their final moment. Recently, they came for the French, a day after they blew up the Lebanese, and few days after the Russians; and, before that, the Turks and the Kurds, and, simultaneously, the Syrians and the Iraqis.

Who is next? No one really knows. We keep telling ourselves that ‘it’s just a transition’ and ‘all will be well once the dust has settled’. But the Russians, the Americans and everyone else continue bombing, each insisting that they are bombing the right people for the right reason while, on the ground, everyone is shooting at whoever they deem the enemy, the terrorist, a designation that is often redefined. Yet, few speak out to recognize our shared humanity and victimhood.

No – do not always expect the initials ISIS to offer an explanation for all that goes wrong. Those who orchestrated the war on Iraq and those feeding the war in Syria and arming Israel cannot be vindicated.

The crux of the matter: we either live in dignity together or continue to perish alone, warring tribes and grief-stricken nations. This is not just about indiscriminate bombing – our humanity, in fact, the future of the human race is at stake.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud
has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is:

The Nationalist Movements in Catalonia.

This is the last in our series on the rise of the New Left in Europe.*


by Stephen Morgan

147) The Catalan separatist movement represents a major threat to Spanish capitalism and the Spanish state. The current efforts by the Spanish ruling class to suppress the movement by the use of repressive legal and constitutional measures, could easily inflame the situation and potentially send it spiraling out of control.

148) The Spanish ruling class has not lost the heritage of its fascist past and its attempts to suppress the independence movement will awaken memories of the way in which the rights of the Catalan people and their culture and language, were trampled on by the former Franco dictatorship. The Catalan people also have a rich revolutionary history going back to the Civil War, and the Catalan workers played a leading role in the armed resistance to fascism.

149) Furthermore, the Catalan working class is the most powerful and politically advanced section of the working class in Spain and has always been a hotbed of socialist, communist, anarchist and Trotskyist ideas. Consequently, there is an inherent potential in this situation for this crisis to go beyond simple independence and grow over into a revolutionary challenge to capitalism. The representatives of Spanish capitalism will have to be very careful on how they proceed.

150) In truth, the Spanish ruling class is in a state of panic over the independence movement. It cannot afford to loose Catalonia. It is the industrial powerhouse of the Spanish economy. Catalonia accounts for nearly 30% of Spanish industrial output and 25% of its exports. If Catalonia seceded, it would be a body blow for the Spanish capitalist class.

151) Furthermore, if Catalonia broke away, the ruling class fears that this could also reignite the strong separatist movement in the Basque country, and encourage demands for independence in Galicia as well. The Spanish state could literally disintegrate, leaving just a rump of the country based on Castile and Andalusia.

152) The independence movement in Catalonia has grown out of the longstanding animosity between the Catalans and the Castilian-dominated government in Madrid, and the centuries-old suppression of their language and culture. But, the reasons for its current growth can also be found in the same factors which gave rise to the development of the New Left in the rest of Spain.

153) The crisis of capitalism severely affected the region and, like the rest of Spain, it suffered from economic hardship, compounded by the austerity measures carried out by the central government in Madrid. Added to this is the anger against the betrayals of the socialist, PSOE leaders, who were seen as jointly responsible for the economic and social problems in Catalonia, together with the right-wing PP.

154) Similarly to the Labour Party in Scotland, PSOE has suffered a severe decline in support in Catalonia, as a result of its right-wing policies and opposition to independence. In the general elections of 2008 and 2011 its share of the vote in Catalonia plunged  from 45% to 28%.  In the elections for the Catalan regional parliament its support has fallen even further — from 27% in the 2006 to 13% in 2015. Like the British Labour Party's in Scotland, PSOE is seen by many as a representative of the Spanish ruling class working in alliance with the ruling, right-wing party, the PP. The state of the PP also mirrors its Tory counterparts in Scotland, having never received more than a derisory vote in Catalonia. In the regional Catalan election in 2015, it could only muster a measly 8% of the vote.

155) However, the independence movement in Catalonia is much more complex than in Scotland and the role of the left is far more convoluted. Unlike Scotland, the main nationalist party currently heading the pro-independence movement is a center-right party, the CDS, which has an electoral alliance with the center-left, Republican Left of Catalonia Party (ER) called “Junts pel Sí”(Together for Yes). The Junts pel Sí was the main winner of the independence-regional elections in 2015, getting 39.5% of the vote and winning 62 of the 135 seats in the regional parliament. Its strength underlines the strong middle class character of the nationalist movement in Catalonia. The CDS vote is strongest in small towns and villages in the rural and coastal areas and less in urban concentrations. Its policy of “independence first, social justice later” has undermined its support among Catalan workers, while it scored nearly 40% in the regional elections, in the 2015 elections for the Barcelona city council, it got only 22% of the vote.

156) In the recent period, the left has begun to make some impressive gains. The CUP is the most left-wing of the nationalist parties in Catalonia and on a regional level it has grown from 3.5% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015, just behind Podemos, which had 9% regionally. That would put the combined vote of the “far-left” at about 17% in Catalonia as a whole.

157) In 2015, the left also captured control of the Catalan capital, Barcelona, winning the mayoral position through a left alliance called Barcelona en Comú, which included Podemos. Barcelona en Comú captured 25% of the vote and the more left-wing and stridently nationalist CUP won 7.5%, giving the left a combined vote of 32% in the city and throwing the CDS out of power there.

158) However, the situation with the left in Catalonia is complicated, particularly over the independence issue. The position of Podemos and its left allies in Catalonia is ambiguous on independence, stating that it supports Catalonia’s right to self-determination and a referendum on separation, but argues that Catalonia should stay part of the Spanish state. As a result it loses support among both pro and anti-independence workers and youth. Workers opposed to independence are suspicious of Podemos' vagueness and equivocation on the issue. They give the impression that it is just hedging their bets and their support for a referendum looks pro-separatist. Similarly, workers and youth in favour of independence are reluctant to support it because of the same ambiguity on independence and its argument that Catalonia should remain part of Spain.

159) But, what really undermines Podemos' ability to gain support from left-wing, pro-independence workers, as well as from those opposing separation, is not so much its ambiguous position on  independence, but its ambiguous position on socialism. It doesn't call for a socialist Catalonia, and it argues for Catalonia to remain inside a capitalist Spain. Thus, by not putting forward the need to overthrow capitalism throughout the Iberian Peninsular and create a federation of independent,  socialist states, it allows workers and youth to fall into the hands of both petty-bourgeois nationalists and petty-bourgeois unionist parties.

160) Consequently, while it has grown in support in Catalonia, it has not gained more than 9% of the vote, substantially less than 18-28% it has achieved in the rest of Spain. As it continues to shift to the right, its support will start to decline in Catalonia. Anti-independence workers who might have voted for Podemos will shift their support to the clearly anti-separatist Ciudadanos party, while left-wing pro-independence workers and youth will switch their allegiance to the more radical, left nationalist CUP.  And there is ample evidence that this is already happening.

161) There are considerable differences in the political programme of the CUP and Podemos.. The CUP is far to the left of Podemos and arguably one of the most progressive socialist groups, not only in Catalonia, but in the whole of Spain. It is the party closest to adopting a correct programme for both socialism and Catalan independence. The CUP stands for the right of self-determination for Catalonia and the creation of a Catalan state which is “independent, socialist, environmentally sustainable and free from the domination of the patriarchy." It is unambiguously committed to socialism and calls for a "planned economy based on solidarity, aimed towards fulfilling the needs of the people". They are in favour of the nationalization of public utilities, including transport and communication, and the nationalization of the banks. It also advocates the right of immediate recall for all officials and its MPs refuse to take more than an average worker's wage.

162) However, it is also influenced by anarchist ideas, describing its ideology as libertarian socialist. This is reflected in its policies such as decentralized democracy with political power located at the municipality level, and government policy to be decided by popular referendum and mass assemblies.

163) It has refused to go into alliance with both Podemos and the center-right, nationalist CDS, and while voting with it in favor of independence in the Catalan parliament, it refuses to support its right-wing leader, Artur Mas, for reelection as President of Catalonia because of the austerity measures he has carried out in the region as the head of the governing party.

164) The close vote over independence shows that not only is Catalonia split over the issue, but that many workers are opposed to it. The victory of a left coalition in Barcelona not clearly committed to independence suggests that maybe the majority of workers in Catalonia do not want separatism.  Another reason for that is that a big section of the Catalan working class comes from other parts of Spain, and migrated there from poorer areas in search of jobs.

165) Added to this is an unusual twist in events represented by the sudden rise of the new, populist, Ciudadanos party (Cs) Citizen party – a center party implacably opposed to independence. Analysis of the elections in Barcelona show that Ciudadanos did particularly well in the so-called “red-belt” of working class suburbs surrounding Barcelona.

166) Ciudadanos is another new anomaly on the Spanish and Catalan political scene. It presents itself as a moderate, progressive, reform orientated, but free-market party. It is a sort of center party duplicate of Podemos and gives the impression of also being anti-Establishment, but without left-wing policies. It was set up in 2006 and originally worked just in Catalonia. In 2010, it managed to only win 3% of the vote in the region, but in the elections for the Catalan parliament in 2015, its vote soared to 18%, making it the second largest party in the region. In the Barcelona city council elections its vote rose to 11%, making it the third largest party in the capital.

167) The rise in support for Ciudadanos, especially in working class areas, suggests that anti-independence workers didn't want to vote for either the national, ruling right-wing PP nor the traitors of PSOE. However, they didn't want to vote for Podemos because of its ambiguous stance on independence. Consequently, the only alternative seemed for many to be voting for the clearly, anti-independence party, Ciudadanos.

168) The situation in Catalonia is clearly very complicated, and what makes it worse is that at each different level of elections — national, regional or municipality — both the names and composition of the party electoral coalitions change. What will happen in the future depends on multiple factors and the volatility of Spanish politics, shown by the spectacular and unforeseen rise of both Podemos and Ciudadanos, means one has to be cautious about making definitive predictions. This is even more the case in Catalonia given the explosive nature of the independence movement.

169) If the economy continues to improve, the independence movement could decline, though there isn't always a direct correlation between economic developments and separatism. In certain circumstance political factors can play a more important role. However, if we look at the recent growth of the independence movement, support for separatism stood at only 10% before the economic crash of 2007. Then, under the influence of the following recession and budget crisis, it rocketed to 48% today. Therefore, it could also gradually decline if the economic problems also diminish.

170) Furthermore, if the ruling nationalist CDS continues to implement austerity measures in Catalonia, and more of the corruption scandals surrounding it come to light, its support could fall. In these circumstances, a section of the CDS could split away and form a new center-left party and create a new coalition with existing CDS junior coalition partners – the center-left, ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) and MES (Left Movement).

171) Some of the CDS vote may also pass to the CUP and it might also be helped by a shift to right by Podemos, taking some of its vote from its more left-wing supporters. But whether the CUP could become a mass party at this stage is questionable. There would probably need to be a revolutionary crisis and an extreme radicalization of the independence movement for the CUP to become a mass force..

172) Anti-independence, PSOE is still the third largest party in Catalonia, and were it to refuse to enter a new coalition with the PP at the national level, and take a stronger more left, anti-austerity position, it might regain some of the support it has lost in Catalonia. However, it looks unlikely that PSOE would form a coalition with Podemos and the Communist Party, like the PS in Portugal.

173) On the other hand, it is possible that PSOE would make an alliance with Ciudadanos. Support for Ciudadanos seems likely to grow both in Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Should PSOE enter an alliance with Ciudadanos that would strengthen the anti-independence movement. Much will depend on the outcome of the general election in 2015.

174) The other perspective is for the independence movement to continue to simmer or even increase in intensity. Despite recent improvements in the economy, mass unemployment and widespread poverty will continue to fuel the independence movement, and if there is a new world economic recession, it might even escalate. A lot will also depend on whether the ruling class continues with its heavy-handed approach toward the independence movement. If the Spanish constitutional court begins dismissing elected members of the Catalan parliament that could provoke a major backlash. Therefore, there are sufficient factors to indicate that the independence movement is unlikely to go away in the near future.

National Question Summary

175) While the the National Question is, at the moment, most developed in Scotland and Catalonia, it has the potential to become a major issue in many other European countries. In Britain, there is the potential for an independence movement to develop at some stage in Wales, as well as the possibility of the reemergence of problems in Northern Ireland. The Basque and Catalan issues in Spain also spill over into minority enclaves in France, where there is also the issue of Corsican independence and a potential separatist movement among the Bretons in the north east. Belgium has come close to disintegration on a number of occasions in the recent period with the strong separatist movement among the majority Flemish population. In Cyprus, there is the continuing division of Greeks and Turks, and Eastern Europe is a maze of overlapping minority populations inhabiting regions of each others countries. The question of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, and the many unresolved issues in former Yugoslavia are also potential flashpoints.

176) There is even the potential for the break up of Italy and Germany, at some point, through separatist movements in Northern Italy and Bavaria – both of which are not based on different ethnic groups, but peoples occupying a territory with strong cultural and historical identities. Indeed, as a harbinger of such potential processes, the Bavarian CSU, the longstanding coalition party of the ruling bourgeois CDU party in the rest of Germany, made the unprecedented step of splitting away from the alliance over the refugee crisis.

177) The current separatists movements are all comprised of indigenous national, ethnic and linguistic minorities within unified states, but which occupy their own clear historical territories. However, there is also the huge Roma population of 12 million people spread across Europe who have no geographic home, and, of course, the non-indigenous minorities like Arabs and Berbers from Algeria and Morocco mostly in France, Belgium and the Netherlands and the Turkish population in Germany, as well as Asians and the black population in Britain, all of whom have arrived in the post war period and who are intermixed with the local populations and occupy no clear territorial regions.

178) The creation of unified nation states was a prerequisite for the development of capitalism. Solving the National Question was one of its central tasks, but clearly this hasn't happened. In times of boom, independence movements tend to recede, but in times of economic recession, they can reemerge with a force which can accelerate the break up of states and intensify the crisis of capitalism. However, they can be a doubled-edge sword, because they have the potential to divide the working class, if they are lead by petty-bourgeois nationalists.

179) Lack of clarity on this issue by the new left groups can undermine their support among oppressed minorities, exacerbate divisions among workers and hinder the development of the socialist movement. The left must put forward a clear policy for the right to self-determination for all peoples, national minorities and ethnic or religious groups, but at the same time campaign for the greatest possible unity of the working class. They should stand for maximum independence within the context of an international socialist alternative. However it is formulated in different countries, the basis of the demand must be an economic federation between independent socialist states based on a democratically-run planned economy.
*We will be posting the series in its entirety  at the top of the blog in a day or so.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava

Children flash the victory sign after singing the Rojava anthem at a public elementary school in Qamishli, Rojava, Syria, on Nov. 12.
This article on Rojava is very important. Our Blog is inspired by it and especially by the role of the women fighters. However we are not completely clear on where this movement stands in relation to the imperialist powers. So we are putting up the piece but wish in particular  to hear from our readers their comments and thoughts. We ourselves will try and do some more investigation into this movement and where it stands. Sean O'Torain

American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava

By Michelle Goldberg

There is an astonishing story in Sunday’s New York Times about Rojava, a Kurdish region in Northern Syria that’s ruled by militant feminist anarchists. Rojava’s constitution enshrines gender equality and religious freedom. An official tells journalist Wes Enzina that every position at every level of government includes a female equivalent of equal power. Recruits to Rojava’s 6,000-strong police force receive their weapons only after two weeks of feminist instruction. Reading Enzina’s piece, it’s hard to understand how this radical experiment in democracy in one of the bloodiest corners of the world isn’t better known internationally, particularly on the left.

At the start of piece, Enzina himself isn’t quite sure Rojava is real. It sounds too fantastical:

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t officially recognize Rojava’s autonomous status, nor does the United Nations or NATO — it is, in this way, just as illicit as the Islamic State. But if the reports I heard from the region were to be believed, within its borders the rules of the neighboring ISIS caliphate had been inverted. In accordance with a philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan, Rojavan women had been championed as leaders, defense of the environment enshrined in law and radical direct democracy enacted in the streets.

The reports, Enzina eventually finds, are largely true. In Rojava’s three Kurdish cantons, together comprising an area about the size of Connecticut, society is being organized according to the principles of an American anarchist-ecologist philosopher named Murray Bookchin. (Bookchin’s most famous work is The Ecology of Freedom.) This unlikely turn of events springs from the ideological conversion of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., which was once a Marxist Leninist terrorist group in Turkey. With America’s help, Turkey captured Ocalan in 1999, and he was imprisoned alone—surrounded by over 1,000 soldiers—on an island near Istanbul. There he discovered Bookchin, who inspired a manifesto he issued in 2005. Enzina writes:

The manifesto called on all P.K.K. supporters to implement a version of Bookchin’s ideas; Ocalan urged all guerrilla fighters to read ‘‘The Ecology of Freedom.’’ He instructed his followers to stop attacking the government and instead create municipal assemblies, which he called ‘‘democracy without the state.’’ These assemblies would form a grand confederation that would extend across all Kurdish regions of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran and would be united by a common set of values based on defending the environment; respecting religious, political and cultural pluralism; and self-defense. He insisted that women be made equal leaders at all levels of society.

In Rojava, the Kurds, under the government of a P.K.K. affiliate, are following Ocalan’s directive. More amazing still, Rojava’s militias, the Y.P.G., or People’s Protection Units, and the all-female Y.P.J., or Female Protection Units, are successfully taking on ISIS. The New York Review of Books has just published a story by Jonathan Steele about their military successes, titled “The Syrian Kurds Are Winning!” In January, with the aid of U.S. airpower, the Y.P.G. drove ISIS out of Kobani, a town on the Turkish-Syrian border. In July, again with American help, the Kurds rousted ISIS from another border town, Tal Abyad. “This meant ISIS had lost two of the three crossing points from Turkey through which it could bring foreign volunteers, finance, and weaponry to strengthen the jihad,” Steele writes.

Given this, how has Rojava remained relatively obscure? Some have certainly tried to raise awareness: Over a year ago David Graeber, a major figure in Occupy Wall Street, published a piece in the Guardian titled “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Iraq?” He compared the hellish conflict in Syria to the Spanish Civil War, where leftists from around the world went to fight fascism. “If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world—and this time most scandalously of all, the international left—really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?”

If calls like this aren’t resonating, I suspect it’s because similar ones were made in the run-up to the Iraq war. Over the years, it has become hard to imagine why more than a few prominent progressives either supported that war or opposed it only ambivalently. But at the time, several Iraqi leftists—most notably Kanan Makiya—pleaded with their ideological allies in America not to oppose the overthrow of the fascist Saddam Hussein, however compromised George W. Bush’s motives were. I remember appeals to the memory of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the American leftists who fought Franco in Spain. The memory of Bosnia was still fresh, and at least some progressives believed that Western military force could be a force for good.

Very few on the left believe that anymore. The Iraq war not only destroyed Iraq, destabilized the Middle East, and lead to the rise of ISIS; it also destroyed Western faith that much can be done to help the people who are now struggling to stop ISIS’s spread. Maybe part of the reason Americans haven’t heard more about Rojava is because we don’t want to. We’re ashamed at having unleashed the horror that besieges them, and ashamed that we have no idea how to help them stop it without making things even worse. Writing in Dissent about international apathy towards Rojava, Meredith Tax asks, “Are we in the United States too cynical or depressed to believe anything new can happen? Are we able to recognize revolutionary ideas when they come from Greece, Spain, or Latin America but not from the Middle East?”

Yet aiding the revolutionaries of Rojava needn’t be framed purely as a question of American intervention. Tax writes:

I recently spoke to someone from the Kurdish women’s movement in Rojava and asked what they need most. She said they need a massive international solidarity campaign, beginning with political education about the evolution of the PKK and its politics, including its emphasis on democratic governance, anti-sectarianism, secularism, ecology, and women’s liberation. In practical terms, they need all possible international pressure to be put on Turkey and the KRG to end the embargo and let supplies through. They need the terrorist designation to be lifted so they can travel and raise money and do public speaking.

That doesn't seem like too much to ask for the feminists dying for America’s foreign policy sins.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How Chicago tried to cover up a police execution

I wanted to write a bit more about this but I will wait until tomorrow as it is hard for me to contain my anger at this point.I was talking with my grandson the other day. He is an African American 17 year old and he was sharing his views with me about the portrayal of black people in the media.  This could have been him. Any number of these murders of black youth could have been him.

This is not an isolated incident, it is an orchestrated, organized war against people of African origin by a state apparatus that was built on violence, and brutal exploitation including of European workers and poor. It is not new. It has always been the case. That it is coming more to light with regard to the security forces is due to increased technology that benefits capitalism in its exploitation of the working class but also has its downside for capitalists themselves.

The US capitalist class that figured out long ago that a natural bond, a class unity/consciousness that automatically develops between all oppressed peoples had to be undermined in this country and could be best accomplished on the basis of color and through the creation of a "white race".  The white poor had to be brought in to the fold, had to become "white" like them. 

As tragic as it is, this murder only reveals a more threatening foe. The remnants of the slaveocracy, the reconstructed power of the southern white supremacists after their defeat in the civil war and their northern class allies, the industrial capitalists. These are the forces at work here. And the failure of a united working class to confront them, and of white workers in particular to stand beside our African brothers and sisters in this struggle, will not only mean defeat, it will mean we are betraying our own children, we are leaving them no future. RM

Reprinted from

How Chicago tried to cover up a police execution
By Curtis Black | November 24, 2015

Source: Cook County Medical Examiner

It was just about a year ago that a city whistleblower came to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman out of concern that Laquan McDonald’s shooting a few weeks earlier “wasn’t being vigorously investigated,” as Kalven recalls. The source told them “that there was a video and that it was horrific,” he said.

Without that whistleblower—and without that video—it’s highly unlikely that Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke would be facing first-degree murder charges today.

“When it was first reported it was a typical police shooting story,” Kalven said, where police claim self-defense and announce an investigation, and “at that point the story disappears.” And, typically, a year or 18 months later, the Independent Police Review Authority confirms the self-defense claim, and “by then no one remembers the initial incident.”

“There are an average of 50 police shootings of civilians every year in Chicago, and no one is ever charged,” said Futterman. “Without the video, this would have been just one more of 50 such incidents, where the police blotter defines the narrative and nothing changes.”

Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release.  Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.
In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van
Dyke unloaded his service weapon, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said.  “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”  To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

In April, the Chicago Tribune revealed Van Dyke’s name and his history of civilian complaints—including several brutality complaints, one of which cost the city $500,000 in a civil lawsuit—none of which resulted in any disciplinary action. In May, Carol Marin reported that video from a security camera at a Burger King on the scene had apparently been deleted by police in the hours after the shooting.

“This case shows the operation of the code of silence in the Chicago Police Department,” said Futterman. “From the very start you have officers and detectives conspiring to cover up the story. The question is, why are they not being charged?”

Van Dyke’s history “also shows what happens when the police department consistently chooses not to look at patterns of abuse complaints when investigating misconduct charges,” he adds. This failure “is one of the reasons an officer like Van Dyke has an opportunity to execute a 17-year-old kid.”
Rather than acknowledging the systemic failures, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now trying to frame the issue as the action of one bad officer, as the Tribune reports.  “One individual needs to be held accountable,” he said Monday.

Kalven calls Emanuel’s “reframing” of the narrative “essentially false.” He points out that “everything we know now, the city knew from Day One. They had the officers on the scene. They knew there were witnesses. They had the autopsy, they had the video.... They maintained a false narrative about those events, and they did it for a year, when it could have been corrected almost immediately....They spent a year stonewalling any calls for transparency, any information about the case.”

He points to Cincinnati, where last summer a university officer was indicted for murder and video from his body camera was released within days following the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in a traffic stop.

“The policy in Cincinnati is that you should release within 24 hours unless there are compelling investigatory reasons to hold on longer,” said Kalven.  “The policy should be that the presumption is that this is public information and it is released as quickly as can reasonably be done, except in cases where there is a genuine and very specific investigatory need to withhold it.”

That’s not the same as waiting until an investigation is concluded. Friday’s ruling that the McDonald video must be released—and the absence of any affidavit from investigators about the need to withhold it—showed that “there was absolutely no legal or investigatory impediment to releasing this” long ago.

“This was an incredible test of leadership, a major challenge to [Emanuel’s] leadership,” Kalven said.  “Think how different the situation would be right now if the city had acknowledged the reality of what happened in the days or weeks after it happened. That would have built confidence.”
And instead of vague and politically self-serving calls for “healing,” it could have begun a real process of accountability of the kind necessary to start addressing the extreme alienation between police and wide segments of our communities.

Instead, with only Van Dyke indicted, it looks like he’s being sacrificed in order to protect the system that created him.

Chicago Remembers Laquan McDonald

Today's world is becoming increasingly more violent with increasingly less and less regard for human life. Of course, this is reflected in the U.S., with its ready-made access to weapons and insatiable desire to control markets, materials and resources.

Our cities have become overrun with story after story of people being brutally killed. And instead of protecting the communities under which they are supposed to serve, parts of the police force have run amok, contributing to the violence in our society instead of reducing it. As many people have previously observed, law enforcement exists primarily, if not exclusively, to protect the interests of the wealthy elements of our society. However, it is also clear that there are elements of the police force which harbor views of white supremacy and have no value and the utmost contempt for the lives of black people.

It is against this backdrop that we must examine the case Laquan McDonald. By now most readers are familiar with the details of the case. McDonald was shot 16 times in October of 2014 by Chicago Police Department officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke incredulously has remained on the force despite having 17 citizen complaints filed against him according to the University of Chicago and the Invisible Institute. More significantly, their study reveals a patterns of reckless behavior among many CPD members with tens of thousands of complaints having been lodged. Less than 5% of the cases resulted in disciplinary actions against cops.  Van Dyke's transgressions have included racial slurs and excessive force with their being a blue wall of silence around him.

The State of Illinois State Attorney for Cook County Anita Alvarez refused to file charges for over a year against Van Dyke. However, after a judge authorized the release of the video, Alvarez, who is facing strong challenge for re-election in March, changed her tune.

The Mayor's office in Chicago has also been complicit in the cover-up. Rahm Emanuel, who has been vilified as being out of touch with the concerns of many communities in Chicago, tried to prevent the video from being released. However, when he was overruled, Emanuel suddenly switched gears trying to cover his ass, said that Van Dyke's behavior was criminal and that he would be charged with murder.

The dash camera of one of the police cars that responded to reports of McDonald having stolen property contained no audio. Van Dyke, one of the eight officers who responded, was the only one who fired his weapon. Other officers on the scene did not see the need to use force. McDonald was not moving in the direction of Van Dyke or threatening him in any way.

According to Charlene Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project, Emanuel has tried to meet with leaders in the black community who work with young people, concerned about how they might respond now that the video has been released. She points out that this misses the point. It is the Chicago Police Department that needs to learn to be peaceful.

When asked about what needs to change, Carruthers mentions the need for "the massive divestment and defunding of the police and investment in black communities" where the need in Chicago is the greatest. Beyond this, she notes the high incarceration rates and criminalization of minor transgressions like the possession of marijuana.

Indeed, she is right. The time for change is long overdue.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


This a continuation of the series we have been publishing on the rise of the New Left in Europe. The second section of part 3 on Catalonia will follow.



by Stephen Morgan

129) Another complex manifestation of the radicalization in society and the shift to the left in general, has been the rise of nationalist, independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland, each with a strong left component. These are, by far, not the only nationalist movements in Europe, but, for the moment, they are the most significant ones.

130) The combination of the economic crisis, the betrayal of the leaders of the traditional workers' parties and historical animosity between the Scots and the English, and between the Catalans and the Castilian ruling class in Spain, has meant that many youth and radicalized sections of the middle class, together with many workers have turned towards secessionist movements to express their anger and in the hope that independence could be a way out of the crisis.

131) In both regions, there have been recent votes on independence, both of which were lost, but in which the separatist votes were very high. In 2014 in Scotland, 44% voted in favour and 55% against independence. In 2015 in Catalonia – where for constitutional reasons it took the form of regional elections – it was closer, with the pro-independence parties winning a majority of seats and 48% of the vote, just short of the 50% majority needed to declare victory. However, like the shift to the left in general, there are both similarities in the movements in Scotland and Catalonia and a great deal of differences as well.
SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at 2015 conference


132) In Scotland, the left nature of the independence movement has been much clearer than in Catalonia. Like the rest of the UK, Scotland hasn't experienced an independent left movement such as Podemos or SYRIZA for historical and cultural reasons. Instead the new left movement has manifested itself in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP), which is a left-nationalist party, that stands for secession and campaigns on a left-reformist programme of defending jobs and services. In its programme it states that the SNP fights for a, “real alternative to the pain of austerity, an end to unfair policies like the Bedroom Tax, a higher minimum wage and protection for our NHS and vital public services.”

133) Traditionally SNP support came from among the middle classes and the SNP has always been a petty bourgeois center party. But to stand any chance of taking power and winning a yes vote in a referendum, it had no choice but to move to the left. This was also facilitated by the shift to the right in the Labour Party and the absence of an autonomous, left movement like Podemos or SYRIZA, which left a vacuum on the left, which the SNP could fill. As a result, there has been a tendency to paint the independence movement as a working class movement. However, while there is no doubt that a large number of workers did vote for independence, it was not necessarily a majority. 

134) Many workers in Scotland were not convinced of the economic benefits of breaking away from the United Kingdom, and were afraid that it could lead to a loss of jobs and a fall in living standards. Workers understand that the Scottish economy is intrinsically linked with the national and international economy. They also know that the majority of the Scottish economy is controlled by the British ruling class, rather than by a Scottish bourgeoisie.

135) More than 70% of Scotland’s total economic output  is controlled by non-Scottish-owned firms and  83% of enterprises employing 250 or more people are owned by non-Scottish companies. Furthermore, virtually the whole of the North Sea oil and gas production is owned by foreign firms, and the top 90 banks and finance companies operating in Scotland are registered outside the country, with their profits going directly back to England or abroad.

136) Many Scottish workers feared that with the complications and instability which independence could bring, it might lead to many of these companies leaving Scotland or reducing their investments. Secondly, many Scottish workers feared that independence would divide them from other workers in Britain employed by those companies. They know that the capitalist class tries to play one group of workers off against another in different countries, and that this can lead to a reduction in wages and less job security. Moreover, organizing joint industrial action across international borders is a very difficult thing and they feared that if Scottish trade unions broke away from the all-British union structures, this would weaken solidarity with other British workers and undermine their ability to defend themselves against the bosses.

137) Until now, the British Labour Party has always been the traditional party of the Scottish working class., indeed Scottish workers played a key role in creating it. Scotland has long been considered a rock-solid bastion of the Labour Party, returning an overwhelming number of Labour MPs to Parliament. But in the 2015 UK national election, the Labour Party suffered a humiliating, PASOK-scale defeat in Scotland, and its catastrophe decline there has severely undermined its ability to form a future national government.

138) The Scottish referendum took place 8 months before the UK general election in 2015, and while many workers had voted against independence, when it came to the general election, they voted overwhelming for the SNP, mercilessly punishing Labour, not only for its betrayal of the British working class in general, but for the chauvinistic, class collaborationist position it put forward in the run up to the referendum. Labour had campaigned against independence, in alliance with the right-wing Conservative (Tory) government, which was carrying out draconian attacks on the working class in Scotland.

139) The Tories are largely despised in Scotland. They are seen by Scottish workers as the representatives of the English ruling class responsible for the suppression and exploitation of the Scottish people. Indeed, such is the hatred for the Conservative party that they have never succeeded in getting anymore than a handful of MPs elected from Scotland.

140) As a result of its alliance with the Tories in the independence campaign and its failure to present any class-based arguments.  If they had clearly supported the right of Scottish people to independence, but argued for the maximum unity of the working class and offered the perspective of a future federation of independent British states of Scotland, England and Wales, they would have caught the year of many Scottish workers. But, instead, Labour became seen as just another representatives of the oppressive English ruling class, and so although many workers voted no to independence in 2014, they mercilessly punished Labour in the 2015 national, general election. While the LP's overall vote in the UK also fell dramatically at a national from 40% to 30%, in Scotland its vote plunged from 40% to 24%, loosing 40 of its 41 MPs. SNP support, on the other hand, rocketed from 20% to 50% of the vote.

141) However, despite their stupendous victory in the general election, the austerity policies now being carried out by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament and city councils will erode their support. They are cutting millions of pounds from spending on public services and thousands of jobs are being lost. The SNP is betraying the working class and dumping its left programme in practice. It is shifting to the right, and as it increasing fails to deliver promised reforms and continues with its austerity measures, Scottish workers will begin to become disillusioned with it. It will also become clearer to Scottish workers, who voted for independence, that there cannot be a solution to their problems on the basis of an independent capitalist Scotland, and that there needs to be solutions on a national and international level. Then, there will be great opportunity to gather support for socialist ideas based on a Socialist Federation of Britain, and a European Socialist Union.

142) It is not clear whether the LP has been permanently destroyed in Scotland. It still commands a quarter of the vote, but because of the first-passed-the-post, constituency-based voting system – rather than proportional representation like other countries – they have not returned MPs corresponding to the size of the vote. An overall vote of 20% does show that the LP still has some base in Scotland. With the betrayals of the SNP, it is possible that it could recover, but to what degree is unsure.

143) Historical and cultural factors suggest that the shift to the left in Scotland will still probably find its main expression inside the traditional parties of the SNP and Labour Party, rather than through the development of some autonomous SYRIZA/Podemos-style movement. The victory of  Jeremy Corbyn as British Labour Party leader and the emergence of a more radical, left-wing British Labour Party could also attract back some disillusioned workers, who voted for the SNP.  The Scottish Labour Party (Scottish wing of UK LP) really has nowhere to go but left. The reformist nature of the SNP and the betrayals of the right-wing Labour leaders means there is no center ground for them. Indications of such a shift to the left came at the Scottish LP conference in 2015, when it voted to scrap the Trident missile programme, based in Scotland.

144) However, there are other possible variants. It could also be possible in the future that a more socialist left-wing develops within the SNP, in opposition to its shift to the right, and that eventually a split takes place in in its ranks, leading to the creation of a new more radical, left-wing nationalist party. Furthermore, if the right-wing manage to suppress the new left in the British Labour Party, it couldn't be entirely ruled out that the Scottish Labour Party would shift further to the left and even break away from the national party, creating an independent, left-wing Scottish Labour Party – which might then enter a coalition with a new break away, left-wing Scottish nationalist party.

145) How things develop also depends a lot on the economic situation. Increased growth could see a decline in the nationalist movement, there are even indications that a section of SNP voters have actually turned back to the Tories. Despite considerable poverty in de-industrialized areas, other areas of Scotland are relatively prosperous. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, for has example, has the best living standards of any city in Britain, with the highest wages, low unemployment and the lowest costs of living than anywhere else.

146) But another major world crisis could put independence back on the agenda, as well as pushing society further to the left in general. However, the correlation between the economy and the so-called “National Question” isn't always simple and straightforward. There are many other political factors and unforeseeable factors which can also change the direction that events take.