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Tag: europe

A Short History of the European Working Class (Abendroth, 1972)

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by Wolfgand Abendroth

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Table of Contents:
Foreword
1. The Beginnings up to the Defeat of 1848
2. The First International
3. Working-Class Parties and Trade Unions
4. The Second International up to the First World War
5. The Working-Class Movement between the Russian Revolution and the Victory of Fascism
6. The Working-Class Movement in the Period of Fascism
7. The Working-Class Movement after the Second World War
Postscript, 1971

The Double Heritage of Communism to Come: 1917-1968-2018

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by Bini Adamczak

Crisis & Critique Vol. 5 Issue 2 Nov 2018: 50 Years After May 68

Communism does not exist in the singular. The common is no unity that would encompass everything by subordinating it to an idea, will, or central committee. The common is rather that which the many share with one another, as equals and free in solidarity.

At the same time, communism was repeatedly understood like this: a final sublation of social divisions into an overarching harmony. Thousands of communist parties and factions of the past dreamt in this way of the future: the troublesome dispute with enemies as well as with comrades would finally find an end when the whole world would see that just this one, one’s own party program is the right one. To be signed by everyone. Even, and especially, the Communist Party of the SovietUnion (Bolsheviks), for a long time the largest and most influential communist party, followed this dream. In a spiraling movement that begins even before 1917 and finds its climax in the Stalinism of the late 1930s, it combatted initially the monarchist and bourgeois parties, then the allied social-democratic, social-revolutionary and anarchist parties and ultimately, when all other parties were prohibited, the oppositions, fractions, currents and platforms within itself. As it had, according to its own conviction, a privileged insight into the truth of the social, it believed itself able to represent the common in all its parts: the population was represented in the working class, the class in the party, the party in the central committee, the central committee in the general secretary. The party line that was issued by the latter would lead into the communist future, no matter however much zigzag it would entail. Whoever would deviate from this deviating course was guilty. The counter term to identity was thus not difference, but opposition. “Other” became synonymous with “inimical”. Until its demise, the Soviet leadership saw itself surrounded by inner enemies. Wherever social initiatives cropped up, it was safer to oppress them. This mistrust worked as self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, the protesting people did (preponderantly in fact) not want a more democratic, more humanist or more friendly socialism, as was still the case in the 1920s, 1950s and 1960s, but rather no socialism at all.

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Review of the Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary

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by Alec (Leyzer) Burko

Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary, edited by Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath and Paul Glasser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), 856 pages, $60.00.

INTRODUCTION

The 2016 publication of the Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary (CEYD) was a milestone in the history of Yiddish lexicography.¹ It is a great work, enormous both in size and contents: it contains some 50,000 entries and 33,000 subentries (that is, the number of English words and phrases translated). But because one English word may be glossed by multiple Yiddish equivalents, the total number of Yiddish words and expressions is probably larger; I estimate about a hundred thousand.² This would make the CEYD more than twice as large as its recent counterpart, the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary (CYED) by Beinfeld and Bochner, and more than five times as large as its true predecessor, the English-Yiddish half of Uriel Weinreich’s Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary (MYEEYD).³ The CEYD is exceeded only by the unfinished Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language (GDYL), the massive 1915 Encyclopedic English-Yiddish Dictionary by Paul Abelson, and the recent Yiddish-Dutch online dictionary by Justus van de Kamp.⁴

The CEYD is an important new resource for anyone who reads Yiddish, but it is a real godsend for Yiddish writers and translators in particular. For the first time, they can find accurate Yiddish equivalents for English words and expressions far beyond the level of basic literacy. Using this dictionary, it is possible for novices to write in Yiddish with nuance about complex topics of modern life. Even the best-read Yiddishists will discover new idiomatic treasures, like how to say “beat around the bush” dreyen mit der tsung (lit. “to twist one’s tongue”), or “to give it one’s all” araynleygn dem tatn mit der mamen (lit. “put in one’s father and mother”). The CEYD is carefully designed and is the ideal instrument to expand the linguistic horizons of Yiddish-speakers everywhere.

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Marx and World History

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Michael R. Krätke (2018)

In 18811882, Marx undertook extensive historical studies, covering a large part of what was then known as world history. The four large notebooks with excerpts from the works of (mainly) two leading historian of his time, Schlosser and Botta, have remained largely unpublished. In this article, Marxs last studies of the course of world history are contextualized: Marxs previous historical studies and his ongoing, but unfinished work on the critique of political economy. The range and scope of his notes is astoundingly broad, going far beyond European history and actually covering many other parts of the world. Marxs focus in these studies supports the interpretation offered in the article: that the author of Capitalwas fascinated by the long process of the making of the modern states and the European states system, one of the crucial prerequisites of the rise of modern capitalism in Europe.

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A General Logic of Crisis

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Adam Tooze on:

How Will Capitalism End? by Wolfgang Streeck
Verso, 262 pp, £16.99, November 2016, ISBN 978 1 78478 401 0

‘Whatever it takes.’ These words, spoken by the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, to a crowd of investors in the City of London on 26 July 2012, have come to represent the symbolic end to the acute phase of the global financial crisis. In the political sphere, by contrast, where words are supposed to be everything, we have not yet been able to draw the line. More than four years on, we know that in 2012 the political fallout was only just beginning. It was in December 2011 that David Cameron reopened the European question by opting out of the new ‘fiscal compact’ drawn up by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy with the aim of enforcing budget discipline across the EU. In the US in spring 2012, Mitt Romney emerged as the candidate from the Republican primaries, but the freakshow anticipated the Trump campaign to come. In Italy the ousting of Berlusconi in a backroom coup in November 2011 and the installation of the ‘unpolitical’ economist Mario Monti as prime minister set the stage for the emergence of Beppe Grillo and Five Star in the local elections of May 2012. In France as the fiscal compact began to bite, François Hollande’s presidency was dead almost before it had started.

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The mystery of ‘populism’ finally unveiled

by G.M. Tamás

The philosopher of post-Fascism enters the populism fray with his own candidate for post-truth: Left betrayal.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Orban looking at the Bavarian and the Hungarian flag in front of the parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, March 2016

There is nothing new in consecrated terms being used in an entirely novel sense without announcing the change, and thereby misleading readers. It happens every day. It is no surprise if, being unable to explain a new phenomenon, people give it a resounding name instead of a theory or at least a description. This is what is happening with ‘populism’ or ‘right populism’ – or even ‘left populism’ – words used to depict states of affairs old as the hills at the same time as surprisingly new ones. ‘Populism’ has become a synonym of ‘I don’t understand it, but I was asked to talk about it’.

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From Welcome to Farewell: Germany, the refugee crisis and the global surplus proletariat

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by Felix Baum

In the summer of 2015, almost overnight, Angela Merkel transmuted in international public perception from a brutal whip of austerity policies, relentlessly squeezing already impoverished populations in the crisis-ridden South of the European Union, to the last defender of the humanist values Europe likes to take pride in. Having been regularly portrayed with a Hitler moustache in countries like Greece, she now reemerged as St. Angela, protector of the refugees. While Eastern European countries were busily erecting fences to stem the tide of unwanted intruders, and while the French state declared it sufficient to take in a mere 24,000 Syrians over the next two years, the head of the German government refused to give in to calls within her own party to limit the number of refugees, which was approaching one million (and eventually surpassed that figure by the end of the year). And just as the German hawkishness in dealing with the economic crisis of the Euro zone—seemingly irrational as it only deepened the recession—made observers resort to trivial psychology (was it maybe an exaggerated fear of inflation, deeply engraved in the German mentality, that drove those policies?), the willingness with which the German state, spurred on by its leader’s now famous We can manage!, opened its doors while almost everyone else did the exact opposite, left smart journalists wondering if Merkel’s biography (East German = victim of a Communist dictatorship = empathy for the persecuted) might provide a clue.

More critical observers, of course, suggested other readings. Some Marxists detected an “imperialist offensive” behind the German state’s seeming humanitarianism, welcoming Syrians to gain more influence on the war ravaging their home country while at the same time pushing for “a European solution” to the refugee crisis which, given Germany’s hegemony on the continent, could only turn out to be a solution in Germany’s very own best interest.1 Others focused more on the domestic situation, arguing that refugees are indeed most welcome in Germany, namely as fresh meat on the labor market at a time when many manufacturers are complaining about growing shortages of workers. In some cases, this line of interpretation feeds into a kind of left-wing nationalism that openly advocates “protecting” German workers from undue competition by foreigners. One prominent example is Sahra Wagenknecht, a high-ranking (and formerly Stalinist) politician of the parliamentary Left Party, who attacked Merkel’s policy as a “total failure of the state” and came out in favor of limiting the influx of refugees as the “population’s willingness to take them in has limits.” This earned her not only praise from the new right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but also a brown chocolate cake thrown in her face by leftist activists at a recent party conference.

Flashmob gegen Männergewalt, Köln 2016

Regardless of their political implications, both readings contain a grain of truth but ultimately seem questionable. It is true that the right to asylum, far from being an immaculate expression of humanism, has always just as much served as an instrument of power politics. (According to a recent study, of the 233,000 refugees the U.S. accepted between 1956 and 1968, a mere 1,000 did not come from “communist” countries, to name but one example.)2 And it is equally true that for capitalists, however much they claim that the ultimate goal of all their altruistic strivings is to provide jobs, full employment is simply a nightmare, as it strengthens workers’ bargaining position. Indeed, over the last nine months, representatives of German business have successfully pushed for lowering the barriers for asylum-seekers to enter the labor market. Still, both readings tend to underestimate to what extent politics, rather than following a consistent strategy, amounts to a hectic and highly contradictory muddling-through against the backdrop of growing global chaos. And what is more: if refugees are so beneficial for German capital and the imperial ambitions of its state, how is it that more recently the state-proclaimed “welcome culture” of summer 2015 has given way to very determined efforts to reinforce Fortress Europe?

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Vogelfrei: Migration, deportations, capital and its state

Greece Migrants

by Antithesi

This text aims at contributing to the analysis and critique of the politics of the EU and the Greek state on the control and biopolitical management of migration from a proletarian standpoint. The great increase of the migration movement towards the European Union during the last two years, which was mainly caused by the intensification of the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been confronted on the one hand with an intensification of border policing up to the point of its militarization and on the other hand with the formation of a new political and legal framework through the agreement between EU and Turkey on the 18th of March of 2016 which negates basic principles of the international asylum law. Our interest in the issue of migration as a form of the international mobility of labour, as a form of permanent primitive accumulation and as a form of autonomous proletarian activity is not academic. On the contrary, we seek to equip ourselves with theoretical instruments which may be proven useful for the development of common struggles of local and immigrant proletarians, as an integral part of the class antagonistic movement against capital and its state.

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Winter has come

refugee demo for better living conditions

tempelhofer feld, berlin, 23.1.16

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Refugeezation

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I. We Can’t Address the EU Refugee Crisis Without Confronting Global Capitalism by Slavoj Žižek

In her classic study On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the famous scheme of the five stages of how we react upon learning that we have a terminal illness: denial (one simply refuses to accept the fact: “This can’t be happening, not to me.”); anger (which explodes when we can no longer deny the fact: “How can this happen to me?”); bargaining (the hope we can somehow postpone or diminish the fact: “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”); depression (libidinal disinvestment: “I’m going to die, so why bother with anything?”); acceptance (“I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”). Later, Kübler-Ross applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (joblessness, death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction), and also emphasized that they do not necessarily come in the same order, nor are all five stages experienced by all patients.

Is the reaction of the public opinion and authorities in Western Europe to the flow of refugees from Africa and Middle East also not a similar combination of disparate reactions? There was denial, now diminishing: “It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it.” There is anger: “Refugees are a threat to our way of life, hiding among them Muslim fundamentalists, they should be stopped at any price!” There is bargaining: “OK, let’s establish quotas and support refugee camps in their own countries!” There is depression: “We are lost, Europe is turning into Europa-stan!” What is lacking is acceptance, which, in this case, would have meant a consistent all-European plan of how to deal with the refugees.

So what to do with hundreds of thousands of desperate people who wait in the north of Africa, escaping from war and hunger, trying to cross the sea and find refuge in Europe?

There are two main answers. Left liberals express their outrage at how Europe is allowing thousands to drown in Mediterranean. Their plea is that Europe should show solidarity by opening its doors widely. Anti-immigrant populists claim we should protect our way of life and let the Africans solve their own problems.

Which solution is better? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse.

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Global Working Class

SWWorld(Wildcat Germany)

Uprising or Class Struggle?

The concept of class has become popular again. After the most recent global economic crisis, even bourgeois newspapers started posing the question: “Wasn’t Marx right after all?” For the last two years Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ has been on the bestseller list – a book which describes in a detailed way how historically, the capitalist process of accumulation resulted in a concentration of wealth into the hands of a tiny minority of capital owners. In western democracies too, significant inequalities have led to an increase in fear of social uprisings. This spectre has haunted the world in recent years – from riots in Athens, London, Baltimore, to the revolts in North Africa, which at times got rid of whole state governments. As usual during these times of unrest, while one faction of the rulers call for repression and weapons, the other raises the ‘social question’, which is supposed to be solved by reforms or redistribution policies.

Global crisis has de-legitimated capitalism; the politics of the rulers and governments to make the workers and poor pay for the crisis has fuelled anger and desperation. Who would still dispute that we live in a ‘class society’? But what does that mean?

‘Classes’ in the more narrow sense of the word only emerge with capitalism – but the disappropriation from the means of production on which the property-less state of the proletarian is based, has not been a singular historical process. Disappropriation is a daily reoccurrence within the production process itself: workers produce, but the product of their labour does not belong to them. They only get what they need for the reproduction of their labour power, or that according to the living standard that they have claimed through struggle.

In principle, class societies don’t recognise any privileges by birthright, rather the ownership of money determines one’s position in society. In principle capitalism makes it possible to have a career that starts from being a dishwasher to becoming a stock market speculator (or at least a small entrepreneur, which is the hope of many migrants). At the same time, members of the petty bourgeoisie or artisans can descend into the ranks of the proletarians. Climbing up the social ladder is rarely the result of one’s own labour, rather of the ability to become a capitalist and to appropriate other people’s labour. (The mafia, as well, possesses this ability.)

In actual fact, a process of class polarisation takes place, which Marx and Engels had already grasped as an explosive force and precondition for revolution. “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority.”(Manifesto) Immanuel Wallerstein declared Marx’s thesis of class polarisation to be his most radical one, which – once related to the world system – has been proven to be true. Polarisation means, on one hand, proletarianisation, on the other hand bourgeoisification.

Capital is not simply wealth accumulated in the hands of a few. Capital is the precondition and result of the capitalist process of production, in which living labour creates value, which is appropriated by others. For capitalism is not typically the ‘exploitation’ of a single worker by an artisan master, but the exploitation of a big mass of workers in a factory. It is a mode of production based on the fact that millions of people work together although they don’t know each other. They produce value together, but together they can also refuse this work and question the social division of labour. As labour power, workers are part of capital; as the working class, they are capital’s biggest enemy within.

Generations of ‘scientific management’ researchers have tried to expropriate workers’ knowledge of how to produce in order to become independent from them. They have established parallel production units in order to be able to continue production in case workers go on strike. They have closed down and relocated factories in order to be able to increase exploitation of, and control over, new groups of workers. But they were not able to exorcise the spectre. During the strike-waves of 2010, for the first time it haunted all parts of the globe simultaneously. These struggles are currently in the process of changing this world. Even academia has become aware of it and after a long time has turned the working class into an object of their research again – as numerous publications, new magazines and web-pages demonstrate, through which left-wing social scientists try to create links between workers in different continents. In Germany for the last 25 years, workers were left alone with their struggles – here, as well, social movements and intellectuals have started referring to them again.

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Portugal: All Quiet on the Western front?

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by RICARDO NORONHA*, euronomade 

Taking the blue pill

Far removed at the western tip of Europe, like the cousin one occasionally hears about, the ‘P’ that starts the ‘PIGS’ has been the subject of a thorough marketing operation that displaced its position in the European imaginary, from being ‘the next to follow Greece’ to becoming the success story of adjustment under the Troika and the ‘good student’ of austerity policies in the Eurozone. In spite of more recent warnings by the IMF, according to which the meagre economic recovery of the last year stands on shaky ground and can be offset at the slightest rise in oil prices or interest rates in the international markets, Portugal is frequently incensed by the German government and Eurocrats of all sorts as ‘the case that went well in Southern Europe’. A slight increase in exports (including revenues from a tourism boom in Lisbon and Porto), a precarious (and fading) trade balance equilibrium achieved through massive cuts in public spending and wages, extra revenues from a privatization plan that brought in investment from State-owned Chinese companies and Angola’s plutocratic elites (real estate purchases also increased significantly after several licensing rules were ‘simplified’ and special visas were conceded to big investors), are usually referred as proof that expansionary austerity is possible and that the failure of the policies prescribed by Troika in Greece is due to endogenous causes, beyond the reach of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Simplifications such as these are bound to find traction in the international media, just as happened around the time the Memorandum was signed, in 2011, when the Portuguese, like the Greeks, were portrayed as ‘lazy big spenders’ that would soon be joined by the rest of the Southern European countries.

The fairy tale of Portugal as a ‘success story’ – even if we ignore the massive social cost it implied, with poverty affecting over 20% of the population (reports of hungry children passing out at school became frequent) and unemployment reaching a historical high of 17% (in spite of successive attempts by the Government to disguise the numbers with all sorts of publicly funded internship programs), resulting in mass emigration of over five hundred thousand people (the precise number is difficult to determine, but it is reasonable to admit that it was equivalent to 5% of the population) – is based on a persistent attempt to forget that none of the targets included in the memorandum (namely reduction of the State deficit and State spending) were achieved and that the fundamental change occurred when the European Central Bank started buying Portuguese public debt without limitation, thus bringing interest rates down and ending the relentless attack carried out by financial investors against the Southern European countries’ sovereign debt since 2010. Massive changes in labour laws, extraordinary taxes imposed on retired people and wage workers, along with blind cuts across the public sector (mostly in the national health service and the public education service, while the police budget was raised) were undertaken without any visible impact on the country’s competitiveness, economic recovery or fiscal discipline, but the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup, who have been persistently harsh in their judgements of Greece and its need for further ‘adjustment’, have been more than happy to select whatever data best suited their political agenda, so as to invent ‘diligent student’ of austerity.

The political nature of this marketing operation is ever clearer if we recall its chronology: it was the quick electoral breakthrough by SYRIZA in Greece and PODEMOS in Spain, both underlining the immense failure of the politics of internal devaluation, that created the need for a success case to keep alive the narrative upon which austerity in the South is served to the public opinion and voters in the North of Europe. The particularly servile posture of the Portuguese government helped make this operation successful, in a deal that suited both sides, since its internal unpopularity and political isolation (just a year and a half ago it was under a barrage of criticism from even neoliberal hardliners, and no minister could risk walking the streets unless surrounded by a wall of police) could only be compensated through an equally deceiving narrative for domestic consumption, portraying its actions as a ‘painful but necessary remedy’ that would show positive results in the medium-term, just as both the European institutions and the ‘markets’ were starting to notice. By some sort of coincidence, this medium-term coincides with both the Portuguese electoral calendar (general elections for parliament will be held next October) and the Spanish one (late December), while unexpected (?) Greek elections made confrontation within the Eurogroup a major focus of international attention.

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A Discussion of Syriza’s Referendum in the Current Crisis

Supporters of Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's Syriza left-wing main opposition party attend his pre-election speech at Omonia Square in Athens Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party has failed so far to overcome a gap in opinion polls with the anti-bailout Syriza party ahead of the Jan. 25 general election. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Where has Syriza taken Greece? Which are the forces at play in the restructuring of the Greek economy? And what are the conditions of its radical critique? What follows is a discussion of Cognord’s text “Changing of the Guards”, including TH’s critical remarks on that text, Cognord’s reply to these remarks and Ady Amatia’s comments on the questions raised in this discussion. TH and Ady Adamantia are members of Sic collective.

For full debate, see SicJournal.org

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Changing of the Guards

The recent anarchist riots in Greece have cost the country billions of dollars in damage. Rioters destroyed shops and luxury cars, sparing homes.  They attacked Citibank and other buildings which represented the system.  They were not interested in looting.  For example, they broke open an ATM machine and burned all the cash.

The recent anarchist riots in Greece have cost the country billions of dollars in damage. Rioters destroyed shops and luxury cars, sparing homes. They attacked Citibank and other buildings which represented the system. They were not interested in looting. For example, they broke open an ATM machine and burned all the cash.

by Cognord, Brooklyn Rail, July 2015

It appeared that the endless saga of the negotiations between the Syriza government and the European lenders had come to an end. After five months of ferocious zigzags, suspense, and fear, a certain deal had been reached. A sense of relief was radiating from the world press, the technocrats, and government bureaucrats. Whether the deal would be a success or not, however, seemed to depend on whom you ask. For those who wanted to ensure that austerity would continue, the deal was certainly to their liking. Curiously, for those who claimed to be on a mission to end austerity, the deal was also favorable. For those who will be immediately affected by the proposed measures, it seemed that not much had changed. The devil is in the details, some say, and many would have preferred those details to get lost amidst the obscure technicalities. Unfortunately for them, however, even Lorca knew that “ […] under the multiplications, the divisions, and the additions […] there is a river of blood.” The relief and satisfaction that the deal brought about could only have been short-lived. In fact, it could only have provided some gratification to the extent that it remained on paper. For as soon as its measures would have been implemented, the party would have been over.

Gentlemen, we don’t
need your organization

In the February 2015 issue of the Brooklyn Rail, I described Syriza’s infamous Thessaloniki Program(its veritable pre-election box of promises) as a minimal Keynesian program, with no real chance of reversing the catastrophic consequences of five years of violent devaluation. Back then, to say this was nothing short of blasphemy. An enthusiastic left was roaming around the globe speaking of a radical left, proclaiming an end to austerity, blowing a wind of change. Criticisms of Syriza and its economic program were cast aside as indications of an unrealistic and arrogant ultra-leftist dogmatism.

Today, the very people who supported Syriza in widely read articles and interviews are forced to admit a certain “moderate Keynesianism”1 in the initial program as well as a real distance between that program and today’s agreement. The happy chorus has stopped singing about the “end of austerity/Troika/etc.,” and has made a hard landing onto the desert of the real.2

It seems it took five months to openly admit what was already clear from the February 20th agreement. And while for those who put their trust in Syriza it is somewhat understandable that hope dies last, for those close to the decision-making process of the Greek government, such naiveté is, to say the least, suspicious. For if something has become crystal clear in the last few months, it is that Syriza was not negotiating with European officials; it was actually negotiating the ways through which the continuation of austerity will be accepted by its own members and by those who will be forced to endure its consequences.

Decline and fall of the
spectacle of negotiations

From the February 20th agreement in the Eurogroup onwards, it had become clear that Syriza was in no position to implement its Thessaloniki Program. After it became clear that they had no leverage to impose a discussion on debt reduction and an admission of Greece into the Qualitative Easing program of the ECB(European Central Bank),3 Syriza’s last chance was to rely on a show of good will from the Troika (which was kind enough to accept a ridiculous name change into “Brussels Group”), in exchange for social and political stability in Greece’s troubled territory. A clearly misunderstood version of the “extend and pretend” policy that the Eurozone has been following since the beginning of the crisis was seen by Syriza as a possible win-win for everyone: both the Troika and Syriza would pretend that austerity is minimized, while its essential character would remain unchanged.

However, a combination of the orchestrated irritation caused by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his inconsistencies, and the more substantial fact that any lenience towards Greece might spiral down towards Eurozone countries with more significant GDPs, meant that this sort of divergence from austerity was out of the question.

The only remaining way to salvage the spectacle of “negotiations” was to engage in a PR campaign which would offer different narratives to different audiences. In this process, what was a series of humiliating compromises in the Eurozone meetings was constantly transformed into a “harsh negotiation” for the Greek audience. Varoufakis became a cause célèbre, whose ability to annoy German Finance Minister Schäuble became a source of national pride in Greece. A mixture of hope beyond proof, disbelief, and the non-existence of political opposition made the task even easier for Syriza’s think-tanks. To top it up, one only needed to throw in a series of incomprehensible figures and decimal points. The self-evident truth of the abandonment of any prospect of minimizing austerity consequences was mystified through a steady production of numbers and statistics which left even experienced “experts” baffled.

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„EUROPA. ANDERS. MACHEN”? SO. WIRD. DAS. NICHTS.

LowerClassMagazine – Am Samstag ist in Berlin mal wieder „Aktionstag“ mit anschließendem Konzert. Wir brauchen schön langsam wirklich neue Ideen. Ein Vorschlag zur Diskussion, welche das sein könnten.

Seit vielen Jahren machen wir „Aktionstage“, „Aktionswochen“, bisweilen ganze „Aktionsjahreszeiten“ („heißer Herbst“, der zumeist recht kühl blieb). Jetzt kommt erneut ein „Aktionswochenende“ auf uns nieder. Am Samstag sollen wir zur Aktion schreiten und zwar in der Hauptstadt. Dort ruft ein „breites Bündnis“ (auch diese Formulierung wirkt schmerzhaft bekannt) dazu auf, zuerst zu demonstrieren und sich dann ein Konzert anzuhören (auch das gab´s vor wenigen Wochen mit exakt derselben thematischen Ausrichtung – Flüchtlingspolitik – wenige Kilometer entfernt am Oranienplatz).

Diesmal, so erfährt man aus dem Aufruf zu Demo und Konzert, geht es darum, „dass an Europas Außengrenzen seit Jahren und immerfort Tausende geflüchtete Menschen sterben“ und es geht gegen das „Dogma des Neoliberalismus“, gegen TTIP und gegen die Politik der EU gegenüber Griechenland. Das alles sind sinnvolle Anliegen, wichtige Themen werden aufgegriffen und zahlreiche zentrale politische AkteurInnen der deutschen und migrantischen Linken unterstützen das Bündnis. Es ist dankenswert und gut, dass sich Menschen Mühe machen, den organisatorischen und finanziellen Aufwand zu bewältigen, den so ein Tag kostet.

Ein Tag Spektakel, aber was bringt´s? Aktionstag (oder wars ne Woche, keine Ahnung mehr) zum Thema "Umfairteilen"
Ein Tag Spektakel, aber was bringt´s? Aktionstag (oder wars ne Woche, keine Ahnung mehr) zum Thema „Umfairteilen“

Gleichwohl kann man sich nicht ersparen, die Frage zu Stellen: Was bringt´s? Aktionstage gingen Stück um Stück über die Bühne. Sie schafften einige Aufmerksamkeit für Themen, ein bis zwei Tage werden sich entsprechende Meldungen in entsprechenden Medien finden. Danach geht man auseinander und schreitet an die Vorbereitung der kommenden Aktionstage.

Der Aufruf zu der morgigen Demonstration, die unter dem ob der Interpunktion etwas dadaistisch anmutenden Motto „Europa. Anders. Machen“ abgewickelt wird, ist hinsichtlich des zu erwartenden Outputs erfrischend aufrichtig. Er tut gar nicht mehr so, als könnten wir mit derartigen „Aktionen“ irgendwas ändern. Er sagt lediglich, man wolle damit zeigen, „dass die Bundesregierung nicht für uns spricht“. Ehrlich bis zur Schmerzgrenze heißt es: „Mit unserer Demo wollen wir einem anderen Bild von Europa Raum geben.“

Die Frage, die bleibt, ist: Was sollen die in libanesischen Lagern sitzenden Familien aus Syrien mit diesem „Bild“? Was sollen die vor dem – auch – europäischen Krieg in Libyen Geflohenen, die irgendwo im Mittelmeer aus den Schlepperbooten fallen, mit diesem „Bild“? Was machen die von der – vorrangig aus Deutschland betriebenen – Austeritätspolitik Drangsalierten in Athen mit diesem „Bild“? Und wie verbessert dieses „Bild“ unsere eigene von Prekarisierung und Lohnarbeit oder Erwerbslosigkeit und Elend zertrümmerten Leben?

Wie die Aktion werden wird, kann man sich denken, bevor man da war: Erst wird gelatscht, dann wird gequatscht. Wir werden Gregor Gysi und Co. lauschen und anderen, am Ende des Tages wird die Erkenntnis stehen, die wir alle auch schon zur Demonstration mitgebracht haben: Dieses Europa tötet. Soweit so gut. Aber was nun?

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The Dead are Coming

Center for Political Beauty – The German government’s worst nightmare is coming true: Over the next few days, refugees who drowned or starved to death at Europe’s external borders on their way to a new life, will be brought to Berlin. The aim is to tear down the walls surrounding Europe’s sense of compassion. Together with the victims’ relatives, we opened inhumane graves and exhumed the bodies. They are now on their way to Germany. Their relatives decided what will happen to them once they arrive.

This is where you will find out where exactly in Berlin the victims will appear. We will re-transform Europe into a continent of immigration. Please note that due to the explosive nature of the intervention, we will only announce the arrival of the bodies 6 hours in advance (especially bearing in mind the authority of the German Federal Police, Ministry of the Interior, Chancellery and Federal Border Guard).

News: nytimes / dw / thelocal

If Syriza is the answer, then the question was wrong

by Cognord, Mar 5, 2014

Predictions are often problematic. The complexity of the issues, the variety of important factors, and the unpredictability of social subjects forbid such attempts, and usually discredit those who make them. This realization, however, has ended up opening a space in which people feel free to say anything at all, with few consequences. This is what happened lately with Syriza: the left found a long awaited rallying-point to proclaim the “last chance to end austerity,” while the right warned against irresponsible “radicalism.” Both were, once again, wrong.

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Poster: HOPE IS COMING. GREECE IS MOVING ON. EUROPE IS CHANGING. SYRIZA. Graffiti: I WAS JUST WAITING FOR THE BUS.

It was remarkable, though not really surprising, that hardly any of the willing supporters of Syriza took the time to examine its expressed economic program. Repeating a few key phrases was enough to render Syriza the hope for the future of Greece (and Europe, for that matter), while any detailed analysis of Syriza’s proposed remedies was postponed to an indefinite moment in the future.1It was as if the left thought it impoliteto present Syriza as a social-democratic party with progressive sensitivities, treating a close look at its expressed program as unnecessary—if not intrusive.

The present age prefers the appearance to the essence, as was said a long time ago, and the greatest illusion is defended as vigorously as possible. Syriza came to represent something almost sacred for today’s disoriented left, and the rules for talking about Syriza’s past, present, and future were set from the beginning: it is a sympathetic and small Marxist party, far from the dogmatism of the Stalinist KKE; a bearer of the hopes of the tormented Greek people to catch a breath outside of the suffocating grasp of austerity; an honest fighter which will do its best to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis. If anyone criticized Syriza, they were surely ultra-left inhabitants of the ivory tower. Evoking the need to be “painfully realistic” and down to earth, Syriza’s supporters paradoxically scorned any actual attempt to be realistic. It seems as if no contradiction was allowed to spoil this common-sensical approach. Apart from the actual facts, that is.

In essence, and taking the best-case scenario, Syriza was merely proposing a Keynesian model of dealing with the crisis. For people like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz, this is as radical as it gets. Building a straw man of German-led invariance, Keynesian policies came to represent an oasis in the desert of neoliberalism. But what gives credit to all these pro-Keynesian writers (i.e. their hostility towards neoliberalism) masks certain easily-forgotten historical realities about social-democracy: its starting point is to urge capital to understand labor both as a cost and an investment; it prefers to see workers as both consumers and partners; it rejects the necessity of confronting the totality of social relations, insisting instead that the solution for the problems that capitalist social relations create lies within capitalism itself. On the bottom line, its goal is to liberate the potentials which neoliberal hard-headedness has undermined, promising that it is in a better position to manage capital. What it fails to realize is a very simple fact: Keynesianism already tried to save capitalism, and it ended in failure. Why this is considered such an offensive thing to say, is hard to understand.

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Fragments of Europe

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by Jacob Blumenfeld,  May 6th, 2014, Brooklyn Rail

Strolling down the promenade in central Madrid on a Thursday afternoon, I glance left and see a Museo del Jamón (Museum of Ham), I look right and find a shop full of Catholic kitsch, left again and it’s a bar selling overpriced tapas, right again and there are two glass doors brimming with hundreds of shielded riot cops about to explode onto the Puerta del Sol. They are waiting for the 20,000 high school students marching against austerity and cuts to education. If anything goes wrong, they are ready. Too bad though. The first windows are broken elsewhere.

With around 25 percent unemployment, and 50 percent youth unemployment, the prospects for a good life in Spain are not high. The economic crisis has crushed many dreams and evicted many locals, but the royal palaces and grand museums are still polished clean and packed with tourists. The squares are no longer centers of political discussion; that was already exhausted in 2011. Discussing ¡Democracia real YA! in public is a fine step, but it’s no substitute for the overthrow of economic domination. A social strike on the scale of March 29th, 2012, which shut down the economy in Barcelona and most of Spain, has not occurred since. People protest, barricades are built, bank windows are broken, buildings are claimed, squats named, centers socialized, pamphlets spread, and the museums are still full.

If Lisbon is the most beautiful city in Europe, it is also the most abandoned—decrepit, for sale, slowly decaying like Detroit. But this is not due to deindustrialization, urban politics, or endemic poverty. It’s a story of debt and crisis, capital flight and real estate bubbles, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Every once in a while, a protest or a strike will pass by your street or through a gorgeous square demanding this or trying to stop that. But to whom are they speaking when they chant? Is it Merkel, “Brussels,” the Portuguese, the rest of Europe? Who hears their provincial wails?

It’s Saturday in Berlin, the sky is half blue and half black, and right as I’m about to begin working my shift at the bar, lines of riot cops march down the street, van after van after van full, followed closely by a small demo, 200 maybe, mostly autonomists, antifascists, communists, housing activists and some locals holding signs about rising rent, gentrification, capitalism. Behind them, another few thousand riot police. Nothing happens, as usual.

A few days earlier, a nearby square occupied by refugees, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, was cleared. For almost two years, refugees lived in this Platz with makeshift tents, food donations, and some support from leftists. Politicians and policemen have been trying to evict them for a while, claiming health and safety reasons, but they were blocked thanks to the strong solidarity from anti-racist groups. But on this one foggy morning, the strategy was found: choose some leaders from the camp, make a deal with them, and then let them dismantle the camp themselves. And so it was done. When the activists arrived, the chaos was too far-gone. The police intervened later, after the fights within the camp had already broken up any hope of unity. The square is now a permanent police-zone.

Berlin has become a mecca for crisis refugees from southern Europe, with Spaniards, Greeks, and Portuguese competing for jobs with Polish and Russian immigrants from the former Soviet states, as well as the long-term Turkish community and, of course, the decadent Germans themselves. Along with floods of British partygoers, American tourists, Israeli exiles, and French Erasmus students, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Iran, and Syria are making a presence in this formerly homogenous place. Vietnamese and Korean zones exist on the outskirts, with the center of the city still negatively shaped by the history of the wall. With its low unemployment, cheap cost of living, and reasonable welfare provisions, Berlin is an ideal city for global surplus populations evading the terrors of economic and political catastrophe in their own lands. Germany itself has a negative birthrate, and so immigration has been encouraged by the government to make up for the gap in job-seekers. This process has reshaped Berlin from an Eastern outpost of the Cold War into a cosmopolitan hipster millennial party-town. The new class composition that undergirds this development has yet to express itself in struggle. For now, everyone is a member of the partying proletariat, no one a member of the party.

In a former nuclear silo an hour north of Berlin, 60,000 people dance non-stop for four days every summer to electronic music of every sort on 20 stages with no cops in sight, all self-organized by a bunch of older and younger antifascists, punks, and technofreaks. It’s a self-proclaimed communist holiday in which music, theater, cabaret, film, art, sculpture, workshops, dance, food, drinks, and fire are produced by each according to their ability and distributed to each according to their need. This communism lasts four days long. Then it’s back to work.

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