One of Greece's general strikes, June 15, 2011

One of Greece’s 24-hour general strikes, June 15, 2011

by Tony Norfield (2011)

Is the Greek debt crisis the fault of predatory banks? It might look that way, given that banks are demanding their money back, Greeks face job cuts and tax rises, and the Greek government now has to pay rates of up to 30% to borrow, if it can borrow any money at all. But an examination of how the crisis began points the finger instead at the euphoria that gripped Greek politicians, businesses and the middle class once the country joined the euro in 2001. Far from euro membership helping the development of Greece’s economy, it has turned into a disaster. Blaming the banks for Greece’s troubles may be popular, but it hides the facts and feeds the delusions of those who think that the only problem with capitalism is finance.

1. Greece’s euro membership

Greece joined the European Union in 1981, and became part of the single European trading market. It began to enjoy strong economic growth, helped by the growing trade relationships with and development aid from the rest of Europe. But there was only limited success in making the poorly developed Greek economy move closer to the European average. The money from European funds – worth several billions of dollars per year – was largely used to plug gaps in the Greek budget that was struggling to meet the costs of pensions and other current expenditures. One study calculates that, up to 1995, 60% of European development funds were not used on infrastructure projects.[1] Although the aid money was better spent after 1995, helping to modernise the transportation network, when Greece joined monetary union in 2001 there was another opportunity to screw things up.

Major European powers decided, just about, that Greece had met the membership rules that focused on economic issues like inflation rates and government spending deficits. These rules were designed to prevent unstable countries from causing trouble for the key players who would have to pick up the bill for the system’s problems, especially Germany.[2]

The benefits to Greece of EMU entry were Read the rest of this entry »

AlbertQuote-aiby The Spark

The State of Louisiana continues to hound a man who has spent 43 years in solitary confinement, 23 hours per day, 4 days a week. It objects to the release of Albert Woodfox, who was accused, along with two other inmates, Robert King and Herman Wallace, of killing a prison guard at the notorious Angola state penitentiary. The three always denied killing the guard.

For the authorities, not only were the three men black, and denying responsibility, they had joined the prison chapter of the Black Panthers. After a racist frame job, they were sentenced to life in prison.

After having spent 29 years in solitary confinement, Robert King was finally freed in 2001 and his conviction overturned.

After a campaign by Amnesty International, Herman Wallace was finally freed on October 1, 2013, after 40 years in isolation. He was 71 years old and fighting liver cancer, and was taken to a hospice in New Orleans. Despite his being near death, the State of Louisiana re-indicted him for the same crime just two days later. Wallace died the next day.

Finally, on June 8, a judge ordered the release of Albert Woodfox. The State of Louisiana appealed the decision, and won a stay of the judge’s decision, keeping Woodfox in prison during the appeal. He has already been tried twice, and both times his convictions were Read the rest of this entry »

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Greek workers protest; photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/Getty

by Don Franks

Words, such handy little things

So much those printed soldier boys can do

those little life enhancers saving us

from the unpleasantness

keeping our tepid brains from harm, since God died

we live in our brains so its important now

to keep that soft warm brain shit safe.

So TV news does not despoil our tea we have some magic words,

instead of blood and guts and anguish and a family home smashed up and all the nice things saved hard to buy and hand down and not to see our sister or her kids or pets again we have we have:

“collateral damage”

Today’s magic word’s “austerity”

A nice flat handy dry word do you think so?

Not too Read the rest of this entry »

kanafani9-350x255“The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is, as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.” – Comrade Ghassan Kanafani

43 years following the Zionist assassination of the leader, the writer, the strategist, and the visionary Comrade Ghassan Kanafani, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine once again recommits to the revolutionary clarity, political insight and creative vision that animated his leading role in the Palestinian revolution. We remember the martyr Ghassan Kanafani – assassinated in Beirut on July 8, 1972 by a car bomb, along with his niece Lamis – whose voice was not only that of the spokesperson of the PFLP but of the Palestinian revolution and the Palestinian people. His humanity, artistic and creative innovation, literary brilliance and dedicated revolutionary commitment remains the most relevant example for leadership in our struggle for liberation and return.

His clarity of vision prioritized and highlighted the necessary and revolutionary role of the Palestinian popular classes while exposing the role of Zionism, imperialism and Arab reaction.

Perhaps the Mossad and the Zionist state believed that by killing Kanafani, they could kill his ideas and everything he represented. On the contrary, his words echo today in Palestinian hearts in the homeland and exile everywhere as we march toward the revolutionary victory he envisioned.

Comrade Ghassan Kanafani was born in Acre in 1936, and his family was expelled from Palestine in 1948 by Zionist terror, after which they Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of days ago I went to lunch with some friends in Melbourne.  Afterwards one of them took me to the Uniting Church to meet a guy who had been in the US Army then became a prominent antiwar activist at the time of Gulf War I.  When I was introduced as being from New Zealand, Chip said, “You guys have a National Party government that is to the left of our Labor Party.”

The ALP is at least as bad as the New Zealand brand, if not even worse.  Its present leader is veteran right-wing union leader Bill Shorten, head of the Australian Workers Union, known through much of the labour movement and left as Australia’s Worst Union.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars went from employers into the AWU during Shorten’s time as head of the Victorian union and then head of the national union and was doing deals that left his membership worse off.  Shorten also attempted to undermine the more progressive Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).  In the article below, reprinted from Red Flag, a veteran union activist and Marxist in Australia looks at Shorten and the AWU. – Philip Ferguson

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The epitome of pro-boss trade unionism: ALP leader Bill Shorten

by Liz Ross

“If you want to know how Bill [Shorten] has got to where he is now, if you had to identify one thing, I think it is that he has been prepared to make decisions and to do things that almost anyone else would not.” – Richard Marles MP, in a 2006 interview with the Sunday Age.

What kind of union would rip off its own members, save the bosses millions and then pocket a few hundred thousand from grateful companies to fund its officials’ political ambitions?

The Australian Workers Union, that’s who, previously led by the current leader of the ALP, Bill Shorten. He was secretary of the Victorian branch from 1998 to 2006 and national secretary from 2001 to 2007.

The AWU has played a predominant and destructive role, in both the union movement and the Labor Party. It is a business union known for sell-out deals and neglect of members. It has done this both to please the bosses and to bolster its factional weight in order to put its top officials aboard the parliamentary gravy train.

While it’s nauseating to listen to dedicated union-destroyers such as Coalition MP Christopher Pyne challenge the opposition leader to answer questions about his role in the AWU – and to see the royal commission’s $80m witch-hunt moving in for the kill – there is no denying that Shorten is a grub and the AWU is corrupt.

It’s telling that not one union is rushing to support the AWU. Instead, despite some hypocritical ranting from Abbott and others, the union’s up-front backing is from Labor parliamentarians, business spokespeople and employers. That’s not surprising; the ruling class has fostered the kind of “yellow unionism” provided by unions like the AWU.

Praised by the bosses, for decades the AWU has played a particularly Read the rest of this entry »

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index

by Philip Ferguson

A couple of days ago veteran political commentator Matthew Hooton made an interesting claim in a short comment on The Standard blog.  In response to the outcome of the referendum in Greece he said, “It won’t be too long before they are forced to introduce exit visas. Syriza will be forced to take Greece down a totalitarian path. It’s what always happens when countries follow this type of economic thinking.”

So resisting austerity leads to ‘totalitarianism’?

Well, Greece has actually experienced totalitarianism.  In 1967 a brigadier-general and several colonels led a military coup that overthrew the elected Greek government and ushered in seven years of military dictatorship.  And what economic policies were followed by the totalitarians?  Did they resemble Syriza at all?

Of course they didn’t.  They were thoroughly pro-market, like Matthew Hooton himself.

They repressed the Greek working class while creating a series of pro-business incentives and stimulating capital accumulation.  Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from the soil as capitalism ‘rationalised’ the agricultural sector.  Wages were held down in order to make Greek capitalist enterprise more ‘competitive’ in the European market.

Greek capital boomed, while the society became more unequal, the state was used to suppress workers’ organisation and democratic rights generally, and thousands were arrested and tortured.

By the time the dictatorship was overthrown – by those supposedly ‘lazy’ Greek workers and left-wing students – the post-World War 2 global boom was over and capitalism entered yet another bust period and Greek firms were in such a chronic state that the post-totalitarian regime had to carry out a series of nationalisations!  (Nationalisations, of course, almost always come about because capitalists prove unequal to the task of managing businesses and, indeed, whole sectors of their own economy.)

The economic policies of the actual Greek totalitarians – as opposed to the imaginary ones in Matthew Hooton’s head – were an outstanding example of the necessary connection between Read the rest of this entry »

Redline received this message from a member group inside Syriza

greece-bailout-referendum1) We are in front of a great NO by the Greek People, who stands defiant and fighting against the ultimatums and the destructive policies imposed on Greece by the troika and its local supporters. Today’s NO has a pan-hellenic, national, popular, democratic character. It proves once again that the Greek People has a great reserve of courage and resisting spirit, and storms the political scene, as it has always happened in critical moments of our History.

2) This great NO, around 61,5%, comes despite the (unforeseen in post-war Europe) terror campaign and direct threats by all the systemic reactionary forces on European and international level. Moreover, it has been achieved despite the manifest weaknesses of the Greek Left’s forces. It is a result that was not expected by all those who underestimate the Greek people’s courage, and this remark is valid no matter how huge difficulties we shall face tomorrow (literally!). Read the rest of this entry »


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