Archive for september, 2017

september 30, 2017

Program of International Meeting and Pan-Hellenic Assembly against Racism and Fascism, 14-15 October, Athens

International Meeting and Pan-Hellenic Assembly against Racism and Fascism, 14-15 October, in-doors Basketball court Rouf

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Originally published and written by Keerfa .

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

International Meeting and Pan-Hellenic Assembly against Racism and Fascism, 14-15 October, in-doors Basketball court Rouf

Saturday 14/10
12.00-13.00. Arrivals-Reception
13.00-15.30. How do we continue the battle against fascism?
Speakers
Maria Kaskarika, mother of student Alexis Lazaris
Christine Buchholz, Aufstehen gegen Rassismus, MP of Die Linke
Konstantina Kuneva, MEP
Vanina Giudicelli, NPA France
Kostas Mantaios, Chairperson of the SFEA (Association of Imprisoned and Exiled by Greek Junta)
Marios Soussis, Chairperson of the Association of Holocaust Victims Descendants
Katerina Thoidou, Municipal Councilor Nikaia-Renti
Panagiotis Kalfagiannis, President of POSPERT (Federation of Public Radio-Television employees)
Petros Konstantinou, coordinator KEERFA, city ​​councilor of Athens

16.00-18.30. Resistance to racism, Islamophobia, concentration camps
Speakers
Weyman Benett, Stand Up to Racism, UAF (United Against Fascism), UK
Giorgos Tsiakalos, university student
Javied Aslam, president of Pakistan Community of Greece “Unity”
Yannis Sifakakis, ANTARSYA Central Coordinating Committee
Argyri Erotokritou, Intern Doctor at Genimatas hospital
Steve Sedar,  Catalonia
Lauretta Macauley, Organization of United Women African Women

19.00-20.00 The Golden Dawn trial
Speakers from the Civil Action at the GD trial
Dimitris Zotos, Thanasis Kampagiannis, Kostas Papadakis

20.30-21.00. Resolutions of the Pan-Hellenic Assembly
21.00-23.00. Live African music, food

Sunday 15 / 10.

11.00-14.00. International Meeting, action initiatives

Thousands of people flooded Syntagma  Square on September 16th, and headed for the headquarters of the Golden Dawn, demanding that the Neo-Nazi lair of murderers be closed on the 4-year anniversary since the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas.Employees, university and secondary education students, migrants, people of the left and of the movements have shown that we are joining together and marching ahead.

 

The Golden Dawn trial enters the final stage and we showed that we can crush them.The International Meeting and the Pan-Hellenic Assembly against Racism and Fascism on 14-15 October is the next stop. There will be activists from all over Greece, but also from the USA, Germany, France, Britain, Catalonia, Austria and other countries to discuss and organize the new battles together.

The battle in Greece against the neo-Nazis inspires activists around the world, as everywhere the fascist threat has emerged. But at the same time, a new massive anti-fascist movement strengthens at Trump’s America, the EU of Merkel, Macron, and May.In 2017, with the inauguration of Trump, as well as the hysterical screams of Islamophobia in Europe, the far-right attempted to regulate developments everywhere. Heather’s murder in the US has highlighted the depth of the fascist threat. They may not have achieved their targets in Europe because of resistance, but the threat remains in Austria and the Netherlands.

It is fed by the racist policies of EU-fortress, of closed borders, of concentration camps, that have drowned thousands of refugees on the altar of EU agreements with Turkey and Libya. The imperialist interventions in Middle East and Afghanistan are strengthening it. Islamophobia shows its horrible face with the Rohingya people massacre in Myanmar and the hunting of migrants across Europe.

The elections in Germany showed how deep the political crisis of the traditional parties is and the popular dissatisfaction. Merkel, with a racist agenda, sank, while fueling the rise of the far-right AfD. The anti-fascist movement came out on the first night in the streets.

The SYRIZA-ANEL government, with Muzala’s compromises, has turned its back on the solidarity movement to the refugees, and with persistence in the memorandums it sows the disappointment. Toskas ignored the will of the majority of the people and again sent the MATs (riot police) to protect with a Hellenic Police barrage the neo-Nazi offices on September 16th.

The rally on September 16 was a power river, with thousands of workers, young people from universities and schools. Thousands of migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, angry at the massacres in Rohingya, took part. They were the same people that came out to the anti-fascist rallies at Aspropyrgos and Menidi, but also to the strikes of the migrants spreading from Manolada to the K.Georgiou factory.

The year was filled with vigorous mobilizations, with that on March 18th, bringing refugees from the Muzala’s camps to the road and thousands of solidarity alongside.

KEERFA has made a decisive contribution to the strengthening of this movement and its unifying operation, supporting the campaign for the trial and conviction of the Golden Dawn, the organization and resistance of the refugees in the camps, the battles against the fascists at Aspropyrgos, Menidi and Ampelokipi with the murderous attempt against student Alexis Lazaris, the solidarity in the strikes.

We call on the activists of anti-fascist and anti-racist movements, trade unions, student associations, municipal community movements, refugee solidarity movements, LGTBQI movements, women, the disabled, migrant communities, left-wing organizations to participate in the International Meeting and the Pan-Hellenic Assembly on 14-15 October. In order to organize together the campaign to convict the neo-Nazis and to close their offices-lairs of assault, the solidarity to refugees and migrants. To keep the road of hope open and close the door to fascism in Greece, Europe and America.All of us together, to crush neo-Nazis and racism!

How to get there
METRO (line 3): KERAMEIKOS, ISAP (metro line 1): PETRALONA, SUBURBAN Rail: ROUF, BUS: B18, G18, 049, 914, 838, 815, TROLLEY: 21, stop: Kolymvitirio (Swimming Pool)

Participation

Sign up and send email: antiracismfascism@yahoo.gr
by completing the following application
aid price of € 5 NATIONAL BANK 167 / 470832-65, IBAN GR78 0110 1670 0000 1674 7083 265   SWIFT code ETHNGRAA
Name/Surname ………………………………………… ………………………………
Capacity/affiliation ……………………………………
Area ……………………………………
email …………………………………… tel. ……………………………………

 

 

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september 30, 2017

#Catalonia: The Powder Keg Catalán: “Rajoy or Republic”

We entered a decisive week for the future development of the so-called “Catalan conflict”. This Sunday will be the referendum called by the Generalitat, with a more or less plausible and guarantor result depending on the repression that the Spanish government decides against. We have been through weeks of tension, in which the massiveness and social rooting of Catalan protest, as well as the overtly authoritarian and repressive drift of the Spanish State, have become evident.

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Image: The Powder Keg Catalán: “Rajoy or Republic”

Originally published and written by José Luis Carretero Miramar.

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Read all our reports about Catalonia; here.

Catalonia: The Powder Keg Catalán: “Rajoy or Republic”

We entered a decisive week for the future development of the so-called “Catalan conflict”. This Sunday will be the referendum called by the Generalitat, with a more or less plausible and guarantor result depending on the repression that the Spanish government decides against. We have been through weeks of tension, in which the massiveness and social rooting of Catalan protest, as well as the overtly authoritarian and repressive drift of the Spanish State, have become evident.

In order to understand this intricate moment of peninsular politics, it is necessary to have clear certain previous concepts, relative to the very structure of the Spanish State, as well as to the genesis of the Catalan independence project.

In the first place we should mention the evolution of the so-called “Regime of the 78” in Spain towards an involutive and authoritarian way more and more evident. We need concepts: the “Regime of 78”, so named for being born with the current Constitution of 1978, has been the historical product of the so-called “Spanish transition from Franco to democracy.” This Transition, despite the mythical narrative that accompanied it in the international scene and in the media of the establishment, was nothing more than a reform of Franco’s own dictatorial regime, which established, in fact, a regime that secured a shift peaceful exercise of power between two parties that eventually became almost indistinguishable in their political practice. This almost perfect “bipartisanship”, because it only sometimes required recourse to the pact with Catalan or Basque nationalist forces to generate stable majorities, was justified by the generation of a social culture (the so-called “Culture of Transition” based on the idea of ​​consensus and reconciliation, obviating any possibility of resuming the previous republican experience or claiming the historic memory of the genocide carried out by the Franco regime after the Spanish Civil War.

In addition, the Transition, which incorporated as head of state for life and hereditary the king who had appointed Franco for that position, renounced the possibility of demanding any responsibility for the serious crimes or for the robberies carried out during the dictatorship. In short, the “Regime of 78” left untouched the oligarchy that has always led the Spanish economic and political life, which would then continue to lead the nation, although already with the mark of membership of the European Union.

A Spanish oligarchy that has kept the country, over the last forty years, based on a productive model based increasingly on precarious and cheap work, which underpins a monoculture of mass tourism, as well as the expansion of financed real estate bubbles for debt from Europe. Any coherent industrial policy is abandoned in the process of entry into the EU. This economic model, in turn, is seriously decomposed when, in the context of the global crisis of 2007, the real estate market collapses, in the context of a particularly tough legal order with mortgage debtors, catching hundreds of thousands of proletarian families who will be condemned to eviction and debt bondage in the face of a “systemic” financial institution sustained by a European-financed bailout, which entailed a strong process of neoliberal reforms and cuts in public services as conditionalities. such as hugely harsh labor reforms.

In addition, we must bear in mind that both bipartisanship and the real estate bubble have been generating a strong incidence of the phenomenon of political corruption in the Spanish state. In order to feed the real estate industry and the big tourist businesses, a “friendly” policy was necessary for public officials, who belonged mainly to the big parties. These, in turn, demanded, both to finance their organizations and to carry a luxury life train, the corresponding illegal commissions or favors of all types of real estate, financial entities and other economic actors. All this has caused that the representative function of the State was seen by the political class as a profession that gave right to squeeze the budgets of municipalities and state for personal enrichment itself, with almost no limits. So it is that the president of the government (of the Popular Party, conservative) has had to testify before the courts as a witness to these ubiquitous plots of corruption that would have affected the financing of his own organization.

Following the eruption of a strong cycle of popular struggles initiated on May 15, 2011 (the so-called 15-M), which indicated strong resistance to the social cuts imposed by Europe, and expressed for the first time coherent criticisms of the political architecture of the “regime of 78”, the government was implemented increasingly repressive measures, such as the approval of the so-called “Gag Law”, against more frequent activities in popular protests, reform of the Penal Code, or imprisonment and prosecution hundreds of trade union activists and social movements. Finally, this cycle of struggles, already in full reflux phase, was channeled into the electoral leadership, both by sectors of the previous left and by activists of the movements, through the creation of the Partido Podemos political party, as well as other related, regional spaces or municipal elections, which achieved some limited electoral success, while emptying the streets. We can, in turn, and until the last weeks, has been having an increasingly normalizing evolution within the political class of the regime, within which would accept a subordinate role, abandoning the criticism to the Transition (to put a and many demands that were fundamental keys of the 15m Movement, as well as tending to an increasingly hierarchical and monolithic internal organization.

It is here that we find the genesis of the enormous expansion of independence, or of the defense of the right to decide (not exactly the same, the first openly defend independence, the second only the need for a referendum on the subject) in Catalonia. Within the framework of the authoritarian drift of the last decade in the Spanish State, two powerful events took place in Catalonia: the rejection by the Spanish Constitutional Court, at the request of the Popular Party, of a draft Regional Statute approved by the Catalan courts, and by a referendum on citizenship; and the enormous power of the 15M movement, which came to besiege the Catalan Parliament, creating an enormous sense of danger in the local political class.

From there, two parallel processes that lead to the current situation unfold: the independentista movement, until then quite frankly minority, is becoming massive, and expanding between the popular classes and the social movements, before the failure to bring about effective changes of the 15m cycle; and a very important part of the political class (including the bourgeois regionalist forces that had historically underpinned the regime of 78, through its pacts with central governments) bet on the sovereignty process, given the impossibility of interlocution with the central government and the strong pressure that suffers from its bases.

Hence the strong ambiguity and ambivalence of the so-called “process” of independence: together with the power of the popular network formed by organizations for the right to decide or for independence, which embraces people from all social sectors, and in which it has a strong presence a parliamentary party, but declared anti-capitalist, such as CUP (Popular Unity Candidatures); we find that the direction of the process (still under enormous pressure from below) is in the hands of elements of the political class linked to the traditional Catalan bourgeoisie, who have repeatedly shown their neoliberal soul and their will to reach a negotiated agreement with the State Spanish (which essentially remains totally deaf to its offers). This ambivalence is expressed, for example, in the Law of Transiency approved by the Parliament of Catalonia next to the call of the referendum, which would accompany an eventual declaration of independence, which establishes a regime strongly presidentialist, and with no appreciable social content, for the interregnum of the Transition to the new Catalan State.

Faced with this growing powder, after the call for referendum by the Catalan regional government unilaterally, the Spanish government has responded with a huge wave of repression: arrests of political leaders, searches and seizures to get the material that could be used to celebrate the referendum (such as ballot papers or ballot boxes), the transfer of thousands of police and civil guards to Catalonia, the opening of criminal proceedings against more than 700 mayors for crimes they have not yet committed (to help with the referendum) and, above all, the application, in possible fraud of the law, of a policy designed to maintain budgetary stability to meet the requirements of the EU, to take economic control of the Generalitat of Catalonia. That is to say, application of the measures that allow the constitutional state of exception (including the placement of the Catalan autonomous police under the orders of a single command appointed by Madrid), without declaring legally such a state of emergency.

The response of the Catalan population to this merciless repressive wave has been to leave massively to the streets. Universities and schools have stopped classes, demonstrations have taken place, combative unions point to the possibility of calling a general strike after the referendum, dockers at the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona refuse to operate in support of ships in which come thousands of police every day. The conflict, in all its extension, is served.

Before him, social and popular movements could pose a number of key issues:In the first place, it is illusory to think that the authoritarian and repressive drift of the Spanish State will only be maintained within the borders of Catalonia or will be linked only to the repression of independence. We are facing a strong “erdoganización” of the government Rajoy. The “Regime of 78”, harassed, takes up in depth its strong Francoist heritage. It is clear that the entire ruling class (from the economic oligarchy, the political class and the judiciary, or even its cultural “mariachis”) see the repressive escalation as legitimate, and the appeals to democracy of the Catalan population as an extremist slogan. The drive to a dictatorship not declared as such, with a strong component of exception and loss of civil rights, is increasingly accused throughout the State.

Secondly, much of the power of Catalan independence comes from its discursive capacity to generate the greater process of delegitimization of the “Regime of 78” in the last 40 years. Moreover, criticism of this regime has even become a reiterated mantra of the Catalan political class. Like We can abandon the anti-regime discourse to dedicate itself to other things, Catalanism does not stop to recover it. To recover it, in addition, affirming against him another motto endowed with a strong emotionality: the Republic. It matters little whether Catalan or Spanish, the fact is that the slogan of the Republic has specific components in the Iberian peninsula, which go beyond the institution of the Head of State. The Spanish republican regimes that have been in history gave rise to profound revolutionary processes and were drowned in blood by the oligarchy. It is a myth of difficult translation abroad, but with a clear power. “Rajoy or Republic”, the last slogan of the Catalan independence, expresses definitively that what is at stake is the democracy before the dictatorship, the popular cravings of participation, against the traditional guardianship of the oligarchic sectors on the Spanish society.

This has implications for a consequent anti-capitalism: obviously a republic (whether Spanish or Catalan) is not necessarily an anti-capitalist regime or even advanced from the social point of view. But it is also true that in the power vacuum and the instability of the consolidation of the new regime, the popular movements could have possibilities of intervention and progress, if they are organized and are able to converge around common demands.

In third place. The popular movements have to have a territorial proposal for the Iberian peninsula. Territorial tensions are enormous in the Spanish state and not having a discourse on them, or resorting to the simplistic and primary visions, leaves the movements out of the political game.

This territorial proposal must combine two parallel concepts: respect for the right to decide of the people and the widest democracy, and the defense of a federal or confederal Iberian perspective that emphasizes the ties of solidarity and common work among the popular classes, in the search for a proper and autonomous discursive framework for them. The dialectic of free association must replace the dialectic of states and that of centralist imposition. The recovery of the federalist, municipalist and socialist discourse of republicanism and the libertarian movement prior to the Civil War is a necessity of the day.

In the fourth and last place: in the absence of a regionalist solution negotiated between the Catalan and Spanish political classes (an eventuality that can not be totally discarded for the post-referendum situation), the alternative that is currently being raised in the Spanish State is the following: authoritarian derivation of the “Regime of 78” or democratic deepening. The Social Revolution, at the moment, is out of the discussion and popular demands. However, the beginning of a new cycle of popular struggles through a process of democratic openness may favor the reinforcement and organization of working class organizations if it is used by it to establish its own claims and make them appear in the light of the day.

In the alternative “Regime of the 78th Republic”, or “Authoritarianism or Democracy”, which expresses much of the current struggles (including Catalan), the defense of civil rights, solidarity against repression, and “Right to decide” all aspects of social life (also the labor and economic) can open roads for popular empowerment.

José Luis Carretero Miramar.
september 30, 2017

Statement on #Catalonia by Some of the Enough is Enough Team

We are not exactly enthousiastic about states and nations. Not about new states and not about old states. In less than 24 hours there will be a public and binding referendum on Catalan independence from the Spanish state. We won’t jump on the nationalist bandwagon but we do see the ugly Francoist and fascist face of the Spanish state. After the massive wave of repression, which is ongoing, its not just about nationalism anymore.

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Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Read all our reports about Catalonia; here.

Statement on Catalonia by Some of the Enough is Enough Team

We are not exactly enthousiastic about states and nations. Not about new states and not about old states. In less than 24 hours there will be a public and binding referendum on Catalan independence from the Spanish state. We won’t jump on the nationalist bandwagon but we do see the ugly Francoist and fascist face of the Spanish state. After the massive wave of repression, which is ongoing, its not just about nationalism anymore.

Tomás Ibañez, the anarchist, was right when he wrote (in a letter to Miquel Amorós on September 26): “What has happened to some of the most combative sectors of Catalan society that have gone from ‘surrounding the Parlament’ in the summer of 2011 to want to defend the Institutions of Catalonia in September 2017?”

That many people are now celebrating the Catalan police (Mossos) is terrifying. It was the Mossos d’escuadra that cleared the Plaza Catalunya with an orgy of violence during the 15M occupation of the square in Barcelona in 2011. 

15M was the first movement which was able to mobilize large parts of Spanish society which questioned the political architecture of the “Regime of ’78”, named after the constitution of 1978. The so-called “transition” from the fascist Franco regime into a parlamentary democracy, left the Francoist political and military class untouched and actually was just a reform of the Franco regime. On October 9, 1976 former Francoist minister Manuel Fraga founded the People’s Alliance  (Alianza Popular, AP). Fraga authorized the execution of political prisoners under the Franco regime. A notable case is the execution of communist leader Julián Grimau, whom he called “that little gentleman” (Spanish: ese caballerete) in a press conference when asked about his detention and death sentence. Fraga was also one of the writers of the new Spanish constitution which was approved in 1978 and was never charged for the crimes he committed during the Franco years.

The now governing Partido Popular (PP) of prime-minster Mariano Rajoy was a re-foundation (in 1989) of the People’s Alliance (Alianza Popular, AP), again founded by Manuel Fraga. The 15M mobilizations made the political establishment increasingly nervous. Demonstrations were surpressed with police violence and the political class also reacted with new repressive and authoritarian laws like the “Ley Mordaza” (Gag law). With this law the cops are the ones who can charge and punish people for civil disobedience, without any form of interference or verdict by the courts.

A lot has happened since the massive 15M mobilisations across Spain in 2011 and 2012. In May 2017 we republished a piece by Autonomies about 15M in which Tomás Ibáñez stated that the “worst that could have happened to 15M, and the future of social struggle, would have been for it to have allowed itself to be led by the libertarian movement … or that it have assumed as its own the principles and objectives of the the libertarian movement.” (Ibáñez, Anarquismos a contratiempo, 269)  The “worst” thing, he qualifies, excluding 15M ending up in the hands of some left-wing, extreme left-wing or nationalist political parties. The rise of Podemos would seem to confirm the worst. The Spanish streets were empty again.

But not in Catalonia. The independence movement was already growing but the end of the massive 15M mobilizations and the rejection by the Spanish Constitutional Court, at the request of Rahoy’s Partido Popular, of a draft Regional Statute approved by the Catalan courts, was also the start of an enormous boost for the struggle for independence. The regional Catalonian political class became under pressure after social movements and large parts of society demanded the right to decide about the independence of Catalonia. As a result many politicians started to support the project of an independent state.

After the Catalan government announced to held a referendum for independence on the first of October, the Spanish state reacted with a wave of repression. Regional government buildings were raided, ballot boxes confiscated and thousands of riot cops and paramilitary Guardia Civil squads were send to Catalonia by the central government. The .cat domain registration office was raided, websites and google apps banned just to name a few of the measures taken by Rajoy’s central government in Madrid. Rajoy again and again stated that the referendum about the independence of Catalonia will not take place.

Given the wave of repression by the Spanish state many anarchist comrades in Catalonia will support the struggle against repression and for the right of self-determination and freedom of information. Many of them will do so although they are not supporting the idea of another state.

We don’t believe in new states, especially not within a capitalist framework. We are convinced that we need an anti-capitalistic social transformation where production, consumption and decision-making are self-organized and in the hands of the people, a social transformation without states and borders. But we also can’t look away when the Spanish state is showing its ugly fascist Francoist face and repress people. We can’t look away when basic rights like the freedom of information and the right to determine peoples political will is being attacked by the authoritarian government in Madrid.

The opinions of anarchist comrades in Catalonia are mixed. While some people think that Catalonian independence is an opportunity to boost the struggle for social and emancipatory issues in a new and possibly unstable state (at least in the beginning), others think that the struggle for independence is distracting from these struggles. There should be no doubt about the objectives of the neoliberal ruling class in Catalonia. As soon as they do not need the social movements anymore, they will be the first to repress the emancipatory forces in the movement. We are not very optimistic but will support the struggle against repression and for social transformation as good as we can. In Catalonia and elswhere.

Some of the Enough is Enough team will travel to Catalonia soon to support and cover the developing situation. But we your need support to be able to report from the ground. (You can read how you can support our work; here or support our crowdfunding campaign: here.)

In solidarity, some of the Enough is Enough team, September 30, 2017

september 26, 2017

The German Election: The West’s Nervous Breakdown Continues

Following Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary election here in Germany I can hear the mocking laughter of 1989’s ghost, echoing throughout Europe and around the world. The great victory march of the “Free Market” Religion, which featured pompous, self-righteous politicians, pundits, and other worshippers at the altar of Big Finance strutting and crowing in the years following the fall of the Wall about the final demise and alleged failure of the supposedly evil and misguided socialist idea, has come to a grinding halt.

The rapid growth of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany – which received almost 13% of the vote and will now be the third biggest party in the new Bundestag or parliament — has been driven, above all, by widespread rage and frustration in Germany’s Eastern states, the former communist German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR), over the broken promises made at the time of German reunification regarding “blooming landscapes” (former Chancellor Helmut Kohl) and the associated affluence that was to be expected there within a few years, if the people there would only discard the socialist ideal and rush to the protective bosom of the West. They rushed — delirious with dreams of trading their funny little two-cylinder Trabant cars for big powerful Mercedes, and being able to buy the scarce luxury good, bananas, every day of the week. They were promised that raising their standard of living to that of their fellow Germans in the West would be the country’s top priority.

Almost 30 years later, that has not happened. There is widespread nostalgia in the Eastern states for the DDR and the modest but stable and generally stress-free life that most citizens there led, free from the threat of losing their dwellings or their jobs. And the same is true in the other Eastern European nations which joined the European Union and NATO after 1989.

As Stephen Gowans writes in his recent essay “We Lived Better Then”:

‘Of course, none of the great promises of the counter-revolution were kept. While at the time the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was proclaimed as a great victory for humanity, not least by leftist intellectuals in the United States, two decades later there’s little to celebrate. The dismantling of socialism has, in a word, been a catastrophe, a great swindle that has not only delivered none of what it promised, but has wreaked irreparable harm, not only in the former socialist countries, but throughout the Western world, as well. Countless millions have been plunged deep into poverty, imperialism has been given a free hand, and wages and benefits in the West have bowed under the pressure of intensified competition for jobs and industry unleashed by a flood of jobless from the former socialist countries, where joblessness once, rightly, was considered an obscenity. Numberless voices in Russia, Romania, East Germany and elsewhere lament what has been stolen from them — and from humanity as a whole: “We lived better under communism. We had jobs. We had security.” And with the threat of jobs migrating to low-wage, high unemployment countries of Eastern Europe, workers in Western Europe have been forced to accept a longer working day, lower pay, and degraded benefits. Today, they fight a desperate rearguard action, where the victories are few, the defeats many. They too lived better — once.’

While the often racist and xenophobic manner in which East Germans and Eastern Europeans express their anger at what they see as an influx of foreigners who go to the front of the line for Western largesse — while the 30-year betrayal of the promises and misleading propaganda directed at themselves from 1989 to 1991 continues, although unacknowledged — is ugly and despicable, it is not hard to understand in its historical context. Somehow the assurances of the good life for all, thanks to the benevolent “invisible hand of the free market”, and the forecasts of blooming landscapes of prosperity across Eastern Europe, have failed to materialize. After more than a quarter of a century, prosperous areas exist but are exceedingly rare. In East Germany many small towns and villages are dying, and the population is shrinking as many follow the jobs westward, since few major employers have chosen to come eastward to them. Unemployment is much higher than in West Germany, and the cultural divisions between the citizens of the old DDR and West Germans have proven very stubborn and difficult to overcome. But the damage has not been confined to those in the formerly socialist countries. As Stephen Gowans points out:

‘But that’s only part of the story. For others, for investors and corporations, who’ve found new markets and opportunities for profitable investment, and can reap the benefits of the lower labor costs that attend intensified competition for jobs, the overthrow of socialism has, indeed, been something to celebrate. Equally, it has been welcomed by the landowning and industrial elite of the pre-socialist regimes whose estates and industrial concerns have been recovered and privatized. But they’re a minority. Why should the rest of us celebrate our own mugging?

‘Prior to the dismantling of socialism, most people in the world were protected from the vicissitudes of the global capitalist market by central planning and high tariff barriers. But once socialism fell in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and with China having marched resolutely down the capitalist road, the pool of unprotected labor available to transnational corporations expanded many times over. Today, a world labor force many times larger than the domestic pool of US workers — and willing to work dirt cheap — awaits the world’s corporations. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the implications are for North American workers and their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan: an intense competition of all against all for jobs and industry. Inevitably, incomes fall, benefits are eroded, and working hours extended. Predictably, with labor costs tumbling, profits grow fat, capital surpluses accumulate and create bubbles, financial crises erupt and predatory wars to secure investment opportunities break out. Growing competition for jobs and industry has forced workers in Western Europe to accept less. They work longer hours, and in some cases, for less pay and without increases in benefits, to keep jobs from moving to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other former socialist countries — which, under the rule of the Reds, once provided jobs for all. More work for less money is a pleasing outcome for the corporate class, and turns out to be exactly the outcome fascists engineered for their countries’ capitalists in the 1930s. The methods, to be sure, were different, but the anti-Communism of Mussolini and Hitler, in other hands, has proved just as useful in securing the same retrograde ends. Nobody who is subject to the vagaries of the labor market – almost all of us — should be glad Communism was abolished.’

This is the big picture, which is missing utterly from the political analysis in the “Extreme Center” which governs the West at the behest of the Finance Markets through neoliberal economic policy, and controls its corporate and government media. Pointing out the reality of this massive failure which has followed the much-lauded so-called historic victory of the capitalist model is taboo, as is the admission that the United States bears a huge share of the responsibility for the rapid expansion of the influx into Europe by refugees and economic migrants, a great many of whom are fleeing US-NATO war zones or their aftermath (see my recent article “Taboo Subject in NATO Media: Refugees, America’s Gift to Europe”) in nations including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. It is far easier to blame the rise of right-wing nationalism on ignorant racists who are so impatient as not to understand that blooming landscapes don’t spring up overnight, or that equality is an antiquated socialist concept which these “losers” will simply have to outgrow. In the USA, it’s a bit more complicated to deflect responsibility for the outbreak of unrepentant racism since, by and large, the malcontents have always been there, and are simply the economic rejects in a system returning rapidly to the Social Darwinism which held sway in the “land of the free” before World War II.

One of the main subjects among the few issues that dominated the relentlessly self-obsessed and sleep-inducing campaign which preceded the German election was INNERE SICHERHEIT (“Internal Safety” or “Security”). For conservatives and those who swallow racist propaganda – either the openly racist hysterical stuff spread by neo-Nazis and the AfD, or the more subtly suggestive xenophobic variety used by Angela Merkel’s Christian conservatives to try to appeal to their own substantial number of anti-immigration and racist voters – this is understood to mean safety from crimes committed by dangerous foreigners, refugees and other criminals, whether real or imagined. There has been a small but increasing number of crimes committed by refugees here, and nearly every one of them receives extensive media coverage, while the far greater number of attacks on foreigners by neo-Nazis, skinheads and other racist thugs is rarely mentioned in the official media. However, the big-picture problems with the Orwellian linguistic and political fog conjured up by any deeper focus on this approach to the idea of “security” are, predictably, myriad. The Extreme Center promoted this fear of crime during the German election campaign while simultaneously refusing to address or even mention the true sources of growing danger and instability in Europe and elsewhere: the US-NATO destabilization of the Middle East through wars of “regime change” and the upward spiral of terrorism and refugee displacement that decades of intervention have produced, largely with the EU’s support or obedient subservience; the reduced economic security of many even in economically booming Germany, thanks to reforms and cuts to the social system begun several years ago, similar to those now being undertaken in France by Macron, in the name of “economic competitiveness”, and resembling on a smaller scale austerity government in the UK under the Tories which has produced increasing political chaos there too — reforms and social cutbacks which are now producing growing old-age poverty and other forms of economic hardship; the drain on Western economies produced by growing military expenditures, largely associated with the New Cold War being pushed by US neocons and put in high gear by Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s support for the coup in Ukraine, which has provoked major tensions with Russia, and sanctions which the EU has pathetically felt compelled to support against its own self-interest; the growing societal fears and unease stemming from the knowledge (or in some sectors of society a less conscious osmotic absorption of the associated psychic stress) that major environmental disaster looms as an ever more likely reality, which beneath the happy-face of reassuring public pronouncements and the ridiculous fig leaf of the Paris Accords is not being addressed in any meaningful way. The response of many Germans and other citizens of the European Union to the faux threats, which they are encouraged to think of as coming from somewhere outside of Europe, is to try to wall off their still comparatively comfortable and affluent part of the world. For many, this goes hand in hand with nationalism, since support for the transnational EU has never been enthusiastic among large segments of the European population, and recent EU infighting around issues of refugees and austerity have reinforced or inflamed anti-EU sentiment.

Merkel’s election posters featured a close-up (years old) of her smiling face with a caption about voting for a country “in which we live well and gladly”. In essence, that was her campaign message: the economy is doing very well (no mention of those who are not sharing in the bounty), and after 12 years in office much of the credit must go to her – although in fact the reforms which lowered the unemployment rate and pumped up the profit margin were initiated by the previous Chancellor’s government of Social Democrats and Greens. After a total of eight years as her junior coalition partner, during which she has characteristically claimed and received credit for many Social Democratic policies both positive and (from the standpoint of those of us on the Left) negative, the Social Democrats have now been slaughtered at the polls, retaining only 20% of the vote, and have declared that they are no longer available as coalition partners. But it is probably too late to save Europe’s Social Democratic heritage, which is now crumbling in every European country except the UK, where Jeremy Corbyn has had the courage to return to truly socialist policies. Germany now faces a more fractured landscape of political parties, more like those in countries including The Netherlands and Belgium, which have been unable to form new governments for many months following elections. And, as in many other European countries, it will now attempt to fight a far-right party fed by racism and xenophobia, sounding the alarm that this party is a “Danger to Democracy” – although that party was founded, organized and became successful through the democratic process – while refusing to acknowledge the fact that the ruling conservatives are trying to win back those racists and xenophobes by moving closer to them politically. Although Merkel continues to verbally defend her refugee policies of 2015, in fact she has altered those policies in a 180-degree reversal over two years, to maintain the support of her own party and prevent further defections.

The changes were successful enough to keep her in the Chancellor’s office, but her support has fallen lower than ever, and 13% of the voters refused to forgive and forget what they see as her betrayal. Heralded by the increasingly clueless New York Times and other desperate Trumped-out presstitutes as the “New Leader of the Free World” – wherever that might be! – she will now enter extremely challenging coalition negotiations with the Green Party and others feeling herself to be, at least here in Germany, on much shakier ground.

Gregory Barrett, September 25, 2017, Off-guardian