Tag Archive: resistance


VOAG-Logo-(Brick)13Anti-fascists organize resistance
as crisis grips Ukraine coup regime

Workers World, March 28, 2014
Just a month after a U.S.-backed coup d’état in Ukraine brought to power a regime dominated by neo-Nazis and pro-Western capitalist politicians, the ruling junta finds itself in deep crisis.

Threats from the government in Kiev and its U.S. and Western European patrons were unable to intimidate the people of the Crimean autonomous region, who voted overwhelmingly to break away from Ukraine and affiliate with Russia on March 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin and local leaders made it official on March 18.

Now infighting has exploded among the fascist factions in the ruling coalition in Kiev.
The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, has agreed to give the coup-makers an $18 billion loan — but only if they accept painful austerity measures. These are almost certain to throw Ukraine deeper into chaos.

Further, Kiev has been unable to subdue the rebellious eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, where anti-fascists are digging in to organize grassroots resistance.

People in these major working-class industrial and mining areas are rising to oppose the junta and demand political and economic autonomy. They reject the rule of the billionaire oligarchs appointed as new regional governors by Kiev. Some are even calling for re-nationalization of privatized industries.

Thieves fall out
Overnight on March 27-28, members of the neo-Nazi Right Sector gang surrounded the Ukrainian Rada [parliament] and threatened to storm it — much as they had done a month earlier, when the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled.

But this time, the Right Sector was protesting its own erstwhile partners, some of whom were barricaded inside, including members of the far-right Fatherhood party and neo-Nazi Svoboda party. European television broadcast images of Svoboda politicians hanging out of windows shouting epithets while Right Sector goons hurled rocks at them from the street.

What happened?
On March 24, Right Sector leader Aleksandr Muzychko was shot dead during a police raid in the western city of Rovno. Muzychko had a long history of fascist terrorism and was on several international “most wanted” lists — a Ukrainian version of the anti-Cuba terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

The assassination of Muzychko was followed by raids on Right Sector hideouts and seizures of weapons. The hit came on orders from acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, a representative of the Fatherland party associated with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Avakov has established a “National Guard” under his command to deputize the fascist gangs and bring them all under the junta’s control. He also masterminded the joint neo-Nazi/police patrols that have suppressed any resistance in the western cities.

Avakov represents the coalition of far-right forces that control the commanding heights of police, military and prosecutorial powers of the new regime. Some forces in the Right Sector, like Muzychko, didn’t want to follow orders. Avakov and his colleagues decided that those who wouldn’t play ball must be eliminated.

The fascist street gangs served their purpose as the violent fists of the Euromaidan protests that ousted Yanukovych. But when it comes to investments and military strategy, Washington, Bonn and the IMF prefer to work with well-groomed, business-suited fascists like Avakov and Svoboda leader Oleh Tyanhybok.

Tymoshenko: ‘Grab a machine gun’
U.S. imperialism has big plans for Ukraine. First, it contains pipelines that control much of the flow of oil and gas between Russia and Western Europe. In addition, stationing NATO troops and weaponry there is also key to U.S. plans to isolate and dismember Russia.

Even after promising the Kiev junta $10 billion in loans, Washington is worried about the stability of the coup. Means have to be found to stabilize the country — that is, make it profitable for the Western imperialists. That means not only controlling the far-right factions in the western part, but quelling the anti-fascist resistance in the south and east.

While the inter-regime crisis was unfolding in Kiev, a leaked phone call posted online revealed more about the fires of war that the Obama administration and congressional leaders are furiously stoking. The call was from former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, considered a leading candidate in the presidential elections planned for May 25. Tymoshenko, a leader of the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004, was imprisoned for corruption before the coup.

Speaking with a former military official after the Crimea referendum, Tymoshenko urged her supporters to “take up arms and kill the fucking Russians along with their leader.” Tymoshenko also said she was ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot [Putin] in the head.” The recording ends with Tymoshenko threatening to use nuclear weapons against the 8 million Russian-speakers living in Ukraine. After the call went public, Tymoshenko claimed the part about using nukes was manipulated. The rest, she confirmed, was accurate.

Anti-fascists build resistance
In the cities of southern and eastern Ukraine, the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle) is one of the groups organizing anti-fascist resistance. Borotba’s central office in Kiev was ransacked after the coup and its activists forced underground. Outside Kiev, Borotba and other anti-fascists work in a hazy state of semi-legality, operating more or less openly depending on the level of organized resistance in each city.

This creates special challenges for organizers. For example, print shop owners refuse to print flyers or newspapers due to threats from the fascists. However, Borotba has managed to get help from sympathetic workers to publish its materials. A 10,000-copy run of “Front,” the first issue of a newspaper published by Borotba and the Antifascist Resistance Center, sold out in just three days. Borotba activists have set up tents and information tables to spread their message and recruit people to local anti-fascist defense committees composed of activists, workers, youths and former Red Army soldiers.

In Kharkov, where the Right Sector murdered two anti-fascists on March 14, Borotba plays a leading role in organizing mass resistance. On March 22, some 2,000 people defied a ban and rallied at Freedom Square for a people’s speakout initiated by Borotba. A major goal of the event was to recruit supporters for the local defense organization, People’s Unity.

The following day, hundreds marched down Rymarska Street to remember the two slain activists. They chanted: “Fascists kill! Power covers up!” Police then charged Borotba leader Denis Levin, a convener of the rally, with violating the ban and ordered him to appear in court on March 26. After a crowd of supporters picketed the court during his hearing, the judge dismissed the charge as “baseless.”

In Odessa, Borotba activists took up the case of Anton Davidchenko, a local resistance leader who was seized by the “Alpha” special police unit on March 17 and kidnapped to Kiev, where he is being held incommunicado. Some 1,000 people defied fascist threats and rallied at Odessa’s Kulikovo Field on March 23 to demand a referendum on autonomy. Led by Regional Council Deputy and Borotba activist Alex Albu, they marched to the prosecutor’s office to demand Davidchenko’s release and an end to the regime’s political repression.

Communist Party holds congress
The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) has also been targeted by the junta. On its first day, the new regime threatened an outright ban of the KPU. The party’s headquarters in Kiev was trashed and is still occupied by the Right Sector. Party members have been attacked and beaten. KPU leaders have continued to assert their membership in the parliament although they have been effectively banned from Kiev since the coup.

On March 26, the KPU held its 47th Extraordinary Congress in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk. The party nominated its general secretary, Peter Simonenko, to run for president in the May elections. It is unclear whether the KPU will be allowed on the ballot, or what dangers party candidates might face.

Emphasizing the need of the party to preserve its cadres and organization, Simonenko said: “We have grounds for optimism. In a short time, the new regime showed its anti-people nature and incompetence, its inability to govern. The inevitable deterioration of the situation of workers as a result of the requirements of the IMF will inevitably create the basis for a new protest movement.”

Workers, youths and retirees alike are determined to defeat the far-right gangs and push back Western imperialism. They remember their history as part of the Soviet Ukraine, which defeated the fascist occupation during World War II, with support from the Red Army.enemy is at home

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ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) Conference

I left the comforting hills of Surrey today, Saturday 7th January, to attend the ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) conference.

I was impressed with the conference. The discussions were sensible; the conference well-organised, and the attendance was around 100 people.  

The conference was devoted to community action and organising issues. There were no theoretical or historical sessions. Several discussions referred to the August riots and to police repression. The conference had some good ideas about how to link the two issues and build connections amongst the youth to promote grass-roots organisation.

One idea was a poster campaign on estates, explaining legal rights under ‘Stop and Search’ laws, followed-up by legal-rights workshops. Also to support existing groups, for example, various local Police Monitoring Groups.

One contribution spoke of those who have been convicted of offences, relating to demonstrations or the August riots, as political prisoners: “Everyone who is charged with offences relating to demonstrations or riots, should be supported throughout their legal process and any subsequent sentence. Support should also be given to those effected by the riots, such as those made homeless”.

The Legal Defense Group added that their organisation provided support to political defendants in court. They appealed for more volunteers, and suggested that everyone who gets arrested and released without charge, or is wrongly accused, or mistreated by the police, should sue the police and donate some of the money to such groups.

It was a good conference, well worth attending.

Meeting on Total Policing @ LSE. With the London Met Police Commissioner
16th January, 6.30 – 8.30

WEB:              http://www.soundthealarm.org.uk
F/B Group: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Alarmists

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                               Theses on the AIUF

Jim Padmore, November 2011. 
1. The tactics of communists in relation to bourgeois and petit-bourgeois led movements coming into struggle with imperialism was outlined in essence at the Second Congress of the Communist International (CI). Lenin’s theses put forward the possibility of forming an ‘alliance’ with these forces on two conditions. One, that they were in practice leading a struggle against imperialism and two, that such an alliance placed no restrictions on the communist’s independent activity aimed at organising the workers and peasants against imperialism. The theses sowed no illusions in either the willingness or the ability of the ‘national revolutionary’ movement i.e. the bourgeoisie, to take the struggle through to the end, to break the stranglehold of imperialism. They emphasised that ‘a determined fight’ needed to be waged against painting these movements in communist colours. Independence of propaganda, organisation and action was necessary because the national bourgeoisie would vacillate and compromise in the struggle against imperialism.

2. The tactic of the united front in the colonial and semi colonial world was developed more fully at the Fourth Congress of the CI. Its development was part of the discussion and elaboration of the united front tactic undertaken between the Third and Fourth Congresses, in particular in relation to the social democratic parties and their trade unions in Europe. In the period directly after the Russian Revolution and during the revolutionary crisis which gripped Europe after World War I there was little stimulus to develop the Bolsheviks’ 1917 practise into generally applicable tactics for the CI, since the mass influence of the social democratic leaderships appeared to be on the point of collapse. As Trotsky said 1f we consider the party is on the eve of the conquest of power and working class will follow it, then the question of the united front does not arise.’ Within the CI the creation of communist parties, the building of soviets and the armed insurrection were the tasks central to a revolutionary situation. By 1921, however, it was clear that this revolutionary situation had passed. Capitalism, aided and assisted by the treacherous social democratic and labour leaders, had managed a temporary stabilisation. Recognising the changed situation and the strength of reformism in Western Europe, CI launched the united front tactic at the Third Congress under the slogan ‘to the masses’. After this Congress the ECCI developed the tactics that became known as the united front.

3. The workers’ united front was a tactic, or a series of related tactics, aimed at winning the mass of the working class to revolutionary communism, to the programme of the revolutionary party and for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not through propaganda alone but through action, and in struggle:

‘Only by leading the concrete struggles of the proletariat and by taking them forward will the communists really be able to win the broad proletarian masses to the struggle for dictatorship.’ (Theses on Tactics 3rd Congress). As a tactic the united front was subordinate to this strategic goal. To turn the united front from a tactic to a strategy, where bringing it into being (or its maintenance once achieved) becomes the perpetual long term goal, can only lead to the liquidation of the revolutionary programme; a necessary consequence of the continuation of a long term alliance with the non-revolutionary parties or organisation.

4. Not withstanding the common method of the united front which underpins both the workers united front and the anti-imperialist united front (AIUF), there are important differences between them. The workers united front in the imperialist nation rests on the unity in action of the workers organisations and their parties. Communists fight within such united fronts, however limited, to develop the demands of the common struggle, through the use of transitional demands, to a struggle to overthrow capitalism. This necessitates the fight to develop the united front, in acute periods of class struggle, into soviets and the struggle for the workers government. The AIUF however develops on the terrain of minimum or democratic demands-the struggle against imperialist domination, for national independence and unity, for democracy and democratic rights. Into this struggle it seeks to draw, not only the workers’ organisation, but those of the petit­ bourgeoisie-the organisations especially of the peasantry, the small urban property holders, the professionals, teachers etc-and even sections or elements of the national bourgeoisie itself, where ever the latter is compelled to resist imperialism by the pressure of the masses. The fight by communists to win the workers, poor peasants and the urban petit-bourgeoisie to the perspective of socialist revolution, to transform the struggle for democracy and against imperialism into a struggle against capitalism and for the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the extent that it is successful, must break up and replace the AIUP. The fight to win the masses from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and their parties, the struggle to create workers soviets in the towns and soviets of poor peasants and agricultural proletarians in the countryside, is part of the struggle for a workers and peasants government; a government where the peasants have been broken from their bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaders and won to the support of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

5. The united front by its very nature is a temporary agreement. Nine times out of ten, where there exists no especially favourable relation of forces or political situation, the reformist or nationalist leaders will refuse it and do their utmost to prevent their rank and file from participating. Where it is struck it will be around clear, precise and limited objects of real struggle. Its primary aim is not to produce joint propaganda (if it did it would be a propaganda bloc not a united front) but agitation around the action goals of the united front.

6. The Communist International made clear that the united front was not just an ‘appeal to leaders’; even less was it a proposal for a purely parliamentary combination or bloc: The united front means the association of all workers, whether communist, anarchist, social democrat, independent or non-party, or even Christian workers, against the bourgeoisie. With the leaders if they want it so, without the leaders if they remain indifferently aside, and in defiance of the leaders and against the leaders if they sabotage the workers united front.’ (ECCI April 1922). Thus the appeal for the united front was both from ‘above and below’. But, ‘the real success of the united front depends on a movement “from below”, from the rank and file of the working masses’ (Theses on Tactics 4th Congress).

7. The striking of the united front does not for one moment mean agreeing to end criticism. For the CI there were to be no diplomatic silences or glossing over of past or present vacillation and betrayals by the reformist leaders. Communists within the united front; ‘While accepting a basis for action must retain the unconditional right and possibility of expressing their opinion of the policy of all working class organisations without exception, not only before and after the action is taken but also if necessary during its course. In no circumstances can these rights be surrendered.’ (ECCI December 1921) Further more to maintain the united front in a bloc with reformist leaders during or after a betrayal in action, would be to become complicit in it. If it is important to know when to make a united front, it is equally important to know when to break it and thus issue an immediate warning to the rank and file workers that treachery is afoot.

8. The type of organisation appropriate to the united front is an organ of struggle not of propaganda for a programme. As such, a trade union is in one sense a united front. More correctly a united front creates ad hoc fighting bodies commensurate to the task in hand. These may be strike committees, councils of action and at the highest level soviets. Such bodies, vital for the struggle, strengthen the pressure on the reformist leaders to ‘break with the bourgeoisie’. A united front can therefore take many forms, it can be extremely episodic-for a single demonstration, rally, strike—or it can be of a ‘higher’ form, involving a series of actions and agreements-a military bloc, a rank and file opposition in the trade unions like the British ‘Minority Movement’ of the 1920’s. Whatever form it takes, it is a block for action in defence of working class interests, in which the communists neither boycott nor submerge their own programme, and they ‘march separately, strike together’.

9. The united front is not limited to defensive trade union or extra-parliamentary struggles. It is taken on to the electoral arena where reformist parties dominate the working class. It also takes up the question of government and governmental demands. The resolution on tactics at the Fourth Congress makes clear that the slogan for a workers’ government ‘is an inevitable consequence of the united front tactic’. The partial struggles of the working class inevitably run up against the structures of the capitalist state, against the government of the day and its policies. The communists have to provide society wide answers to the problems facing workers, they place demands on the workers’ leaders, put forward a programme for a workers’ government. But these are not just left as demands; they are fought for within the rank and file of the working class belonging to all workers’ parties and none, in a united front struggle to implement them via workers’ control in the factories, through the fight for soviets, via the general strike etc.

10. The basis of the anti-imperialist united front rests on the clash of interests between the peoples of the imperialised countries and the imperialist bourgeoisie. Imperialism promotes industrial development in the imperialised countries but in a stunted and lopsided form. The imperialist banks and monopolies dominate their economies, extracting super-profits in the form of repatriated profits and usurious interest payments on loans. They impose their constrictions on the economies through the imperialist agencies such as the IMP, World Bank, etc, and inevitably because of the impossibility of imposing such exactions democratically over any period, in alliance with the most reactionary elements tied to imper­ialism-the military hierarchy and landed oligarchy. The demand for ‘independent economic development’, for alleviation from debt, for state capitalist industrialisation, protectionism, land reform, and constitutional democracy, reflects the needs of those sections of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie which suffer most from the straight jacket of imperialist domination. These demands can lead to episodic clashes between the bourgeoisie of the semi­ colony and the imperialist bourgeoisie (or its agents within the country) as in the case of the struggle against Somoza in Nicaragua.

11. However, because of the weakness of the bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial world, the degree to which important sections of it are tied economically to imperialist capital itself, and most importantly, because of its fear of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses, which threatens its own rule as well as that of the imperialists, the national bourgeoisie only exceptionally leads or throws its weight behind serious struggles against imperialism. As a result in many countries in the twentieth century the leadership of the anti-imperialist movements has fallen to the petit­ bourgeoisie. But in the vast majority of cases its programme has remained faithful to that of the bourgeoisie despite the attempt to delude the workers by cloaking itself in socialist or communist colours – Nyrere’s ‘African Socialism’, Mugabe and the Ethiopian Derg’s ‘Marxism-Leninism’, the FSLN’s Sandinism, etc.

12. Where the bourgeoisie or sections of it, or the petit­ bourgeoisie, enters into a struggle with imperialism it is obliged to draw and lean on the mass of workers and peasants. In such cases it is the duty of communists to enter such a struggle alongside these forces. The anti ­imperialist united front aims to break the hold of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalists over the masses, in struggle. The communists neither stand aside in a sectarian fashion nor do they hide their criticisms of these leaderships or the goals for which they struggle. Unlike the popular front which is a cross class coalition subordinating the interests of the working class to the programme of the bourgeoisie, the AIUF confines itself to concrete joint actions, specific agreements which take forward the struggle against the imperialists, within which the communists retain both freedom of criticism and propaganda. Such united fronts, given the compromising role of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalist, are likely to be extremely episodic and temporary. There is no question of tailoring the slogans of struggle to those considered acceptable to the bourgeoisie, let alone ‘reserving a seat’ in the united front.

13. The conclusions Trotsky drew for the International Left Opposition from the Chinese revolution of 1923-7 were not that the tactic of the AIUF had to be abandoned but that its opportunist distortion led to disaster. Under the leadership of Bukharin and Stalin the tactic had been gutted of its revolutionary content The Chinese Communist Party abandoned its independence and submerged itself inside the bourgeois Koumintang (KMI). It had, under the guidance of the Comintern painted up the KMT leadership in communist colours, lauding its anti-imperialist credentials and abandoning all criticism of it. It had boycotted the demands of the workers and peasants which threatened to rupture its alliance with the bourgeoisie. It had turned the AIUF into a popular front which delivered the Chinese proletariat into the hands of the counter-revolution.

14. Stalin and Bukharin were aided in this by the lack of clarity of the governmental slogans put forward by the CI in its discussions of the AIUF tactic. The Chinese revolution proved the slogan of the ‘Revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry’ not only redundant but capable of being perverted into a call for a separate bourgeois stage of the revolution. In this sense, in Trotsky’s words, the slogan became a ‘noose’ hung round the neck of the proletariat. It implied that a bourgeois solution to the struggle against imperialism was the goal which the proletariat fought for with the united front The Chinese events reaffirmed the necessity of the perspective of the permanent revolution, the struggle for soviets and the workers and peasants government Such a perspective does not mean that the AIUF can only be struck around such demands. In periods of defeat or where the masses are emerging from long periods of dictatorship, the united front may well be agreed around democratic demands, rights of free speech and demonstration, release of all political prisoners etc. The fight for a democratic constituent assembly can become an important goal of an AIUF where it is part of the struggle to overthrow an imperialist backed dictatorship. The fight for the expropriation of the landowners and for an agrarian revolution would figure centrally in the struggle for such an assembly in most parts of the imperialised world. The fight for these demands are above all conducted to strengthen the independence of the working class and its organisations alongside those of the peasants-via demonstrations, strikes, committees of struggle, soviet type organisations, etc.

15. The AIUF in no way implies giving support to so called ‘anti-imperialist governments’. Communists give no support to bourgeois governments. We support any serious action of such governments taken against imperialist interests, e.g. the nationalisations or expropriations of imperialist holdings. Communists would support and participate in military actions taken against imperialism i.e. in Nicaragua against the contras and US advisors, in Argentina against Britain in the Malvinas, fighting in such a struggle for the arming of the workers, for democratically controlled workers militias. Similarly where the political struggle reaches the stage of civil war against a dictatorship, communists might enter a military united front, whenever possible as an independent armed force accepting a common discipline in battle, making agreements under a common discipline. Aiming to strike a united front around common goals of struggle-immediate elections to a constituent assembly, legalisation of trade unions and strikes, etc. We recognise that military blocs are one form of the united front-a form not qualitatively different to united action for political goals, ‘war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means’. When we call for the military victory of such movements as the FMLN, FSLN, etc, fighting against imperialism, its agents or a dictatorship, normally a slogan raised where the civil war or revolutionary crisis has reached a decisive stage, we are not endorsing the victory of their political programme. Within such a united front we struggle for our programme, to break the workers and peasants from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois leaderships and enter onto the road of struggle for a workers and peasants’ government

16. It is therefore not permissible to give the AIUF in a governmental form since the proletariat cannot share with bourgeois forces the goal of a common government. While we can join a common struggle for the convening of a constituent assembly along with petit-bourgeois and even bourgeois forces, our governmental slogan remain the workers and peasants’ government. No bourgeoisie will tolerate a genuine working class government i.e. one that rests upon the armed workers and serves their immediate and historic interests, and the proletariat must under no circumstances support a government of its own exploiters. Any government which claims to be ‘above classes’ or to represent ‘the people as a whole’ is a deception. The proletariat can indeed defend or seek to bring about a democratic regime, utilising democratic slogans insofar as these mobilise for a struggle against dictatorship and for the rights of the workers, poor peasants and the oppressed petit-­bourgeoisie. But such struggles and slogans should never be erected into a self-contained or self-limiting stage. Soviets must replace the freest parliament, and the workers’ dictatorship the democratic republic. From the moment that democratic liberties have been won-de facto as well as de jure – they become an arena for the proletariat’s struggle for power.
The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) Looks at the latest figures on youth unemployment.

According to the latest figures from the German Statistical Office and Eurostat, youth unemployment across Europe has increased by a staggering 25 percent in the course of the past two and a half years. The current levels of youth unemployment are the highest in Europe since the regular collection of statistics began.

In the spring of 2008, prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial crash of that year, the official unemployment rate for youth in Europe averaged 15 percent. The latest figures from the German Statistical Office reveal that this figure has now risen to over 20 percent.

In total, 20.5 percent of young people between 15 and 24 are seeking work in the 27 states of the European Union. At the same time, these numbers conceal large differences in unemployment levels for individual European nations.
In Spain, where the social-democratc government led by Jose Luis Zapatero has introduced a series of punitive austerity programmes at the behest of the banks and the IMF, youth unemployment has doubled since 2008 and now stands at 46 percent. In second place in the European rankings is Greece, the first country to be bailed out by the European Union and to install austerity measures, with a rate of 40 percent. In third place is Italy (28 percent), followed by Portugal and Ireland (27 percent) and France (23 percent).

In Britain, where youth have taken to the streets in a wave of riots and protests in a number of the country’s main cities, unemployment hovers around 20 percent. A recent report from Britain’s Office of National Statistics reported that joblessness among people between the ages of 16 and 24 has been rising steadily, from 14.0 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011—an enormous 40 percent spike in just three years.

According to the latest statistics, Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, has one of the lowest official rates of youth unemployment (9.1 percent), but these figures are deceptive. Due primarily to the policies introduced by the former Social Democratic Party-Green Party coalition government (1998-2003), Germany has one of the most broadly developed low-wage job sectors in Europe.

In 2010, no fewer than 7.84 million German workers were employed in precarious so-called “atypical types of employment”—i.e., agency work, temporary work and part-time jobs involving less than 20 hours of work per week. Many of these workers earned €400 or less per month. Recent figures show that the wage levels of such workers have actually declined in recent years, thereby compounding the pool of so-called “working poor” in Germany.
The German Statistical Office notes that nearly 40 percent of young Germans able to find work are invariably employed in such forms of precarious work, which pay badly and are strictly temporary. Exact figures on underemployment in Germany are difficult to obtain, but the extreme situation for youth in the country is reflected across Europe—i.e., the official statistics for youth unemployment would swell enormously if they included the millions who are underemployed.

The growth of long-term unemployment for a broad layer of European youth, including very many highly educated young people with academic qualifications who are unable to find work, has led a number of commentators to refer to a “lost generation”.

The social problems encountered by the young unemployed are compounded by the social cuts and austerity packages being introduced across Europe. All of these measures aimed at restocking the vaults of the banks and the swelling the portfolios of the European capitalist elite hit youth the hardest.

It is no coincidence that the suburb of London where protests and riots began last weekend—Tottenham—has the highest level of joblessness in London, and the 10th highest in Britain as a whole. Just to the south of Tottenham, the London borough of Haringey has already slashed its youth services budget by 75 percent this year. These cuts are part of a package of measures aimed at driving down the borough’s budget deficit along the lines advocated by the Conservative government headed by David Cameron.

The closure of youth facilities, including libraries and sports clubs, together with the slashing of welfare payments, such as youth allowances and housing subsidies, means that unemployed youth are condemned to poverty and denied any opportunity of using their leisure time creatively. Such conditions are not exclusive to London and Britain. They prevail across Europe and have been engineered by governments of all political colours—conservative, social-democratic and Green.

In Britain, leading politicians and both the gutter press and so-called “quality” press immediately sought to deflect attention from their own criminal activities by demonising protesting youth as “yobs” and vandals. For significant sections of the European press, however, the link between what took place in Britain this week and the complete lack of a perspective for millions of young people in modern Europe is evident.
Two commentaries in the German language press make clear that some sections of the media are concerned that the systematic wiping out of jobs and social protection for youth could have not merely explosive, but also revolutionary social implications.

On Thursday, the German Der Spiegel wrote that August 12 is International Youth Day, and posed the question: “This should be a day of celebration and joy…. But is there something to celebrate? Hardly.”
The article continues: “The numbers are so alarming, because they give a face to the European debt crisis. They show that the crisis in the euro countries is not just a problem for the treasuries of bankrupt countries, but has fatal consequences for the population. And, as is so often the case, it hits youth first.”
The article then draws attention to the hundreds of thousands of youth who took to the streets of Athens and Madrid to protest against austerity programmes and makes a parallel with the most recent protests in Britain, concluding, “In London it seems there is no holding back this hopeless generation.”

In Vienna, the Austrian Der Standard writes: “Governments are showering billions into the markets with one hand to keep our resident devil, the Dow Jones, happy. With the other, they’re slashing social benefits. That policies of this sort are received as pure cynicism in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain, where youth employment is around 44, 38 and 20 percent respectively, is a puzzle for the minuscule elite, who discuss the difference between frustrated protesters and criminals over tea while worrying only about the state of the money markets.”

The article continues that the solution is not “extra police and empty phrases, but action. And quickly”. The article concludes, however, by warning: “But who knows whether the generation demonstrating in the streets will see that day come.”

“The choice before humanity is socialism or barbarism. … When Rosa Luxemburg made this statement, she was speaking of a relatively distant future. But now the situation of the world is so bad that the threat to the human race is not in the future, but now.”…..Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

 This month marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Luxemburg. This article, which draws on some of her most important writings, was first published in Socialist Voice in July 2008.

 From the first day it appeared online, Climate and Capitalism’s masthead has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way.” We’ve been quite clear that ecosocialism is not a new theory or brand of socialism — it is socialism with Marx’s important insights on ecology restored, socialism committed to the fight against ecological destruction. But why do we say that the alternative to ecosocialism is barbarism?

Marxists have used the word “barbarism” in various ways, but most often to describe actions or social conditions that are grossly inhumane, brutal, and violent. It is not a word we use lightly, because it implies not just bad behaviour but violations of the most important norms of human solidarity and civilized life.

The slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” originated with the great Polish and German revolutionary socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who repeatedly raised it during World War I. It was a profound concept, one that has become ever more relevant as the years have passed.

Rosa Luxemburg spent her entire adult life organizing and educating the working class to fight for socialism. She was convinced that if socialism didn’t triumph, capitalism would become ever more barbaric, wiping out centuries of gains in civilization. In a major 1915 antiwar polemic, she referred to Frederick Engels’ view that society must advance to socialism or revert to barbarism and then asked, “What does a ‘reversion to barbarism’ mean at the present stage of European civilization?”

She gave two related answers. In the long run, she said, a continuation of capitalism would lead to the literal collapse of civilized society and the coming of a new Dark Age, similar to Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire: “The collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery.” (The Junius Pamphlet)

By saying this, Rosa Luxemburg was reminding the revolutionary left that socialism is not inevitable, that if the socialist movement failed, capitalism might destroy modern civilization, leaving behind a much poorer and much harsher world. That wasn’t a new concept – it has been part of Marxist thought from its very beginning. In 1848, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

In Luxemburg’s words: “Humanity is facing the alternative: Dissolution and downfall in capitalist anarchy, or regeneration through the social revolution.” (A Call to the Workers of the World)

Capitalism’s Two Faces
But Luxemburg, again following the example of Marx and Engels, also used the term “barbarism” another way, to contrast capitalism’s loudly proclaimed noble ideals with its actual practice of torture, starvation, murder and war.

Marx many times described the two-sided nature of capitalist “progress.” In 1853, writing about British rule in India, he described the “profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization [that] lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked.”

Capitalist progress, he said, resembled a “hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain.” (The Future Results of British Rule in India) Similarly, in a speech to radical workers in London in 1856, he said:

“On the one hand, there have started into life industrial and scientific forces, which no epoch of the former human history had ever suspected. On the other hand, there exist symptoms of decay, far surpassing the horrors recorded of the latter times of the Roman Empire.” (Speech at the Anniversary of the People’s Paper)

Immense improvements to the human condition have been made under capitalism — in health, culture, philosophy, literature, music and more. But capitalism has also led to starvation, destitution, mass violence, torture and even genocide — all on an unprecedented scale. As capitalism has expanded and aged, the barbarous side of its nature has come ever more to the fore.

Bourgeois society, which came to power promising equality, democracy, and human rights, has never had any compunction about throwing those ideals overboard to expand and protect its wealth and profits. That’s the view of barbarism that Rosa Luxemburg was primarily concerned about during World War I. She wrote:

“Shamed, dishonoured, wading in blood and dripping in filth, this capitalist society stands. Not as we usually see it, playing the roles of peace and righteousness, of order, of philosophy, of ethics — as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity — so it appears in all its hideous nakedness …

“A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism.” (The Junius Pamphlet)

For Luxemburg, barbarism wasn’t a future possibility. It was the present reality of imperialism, a reality that was destined to get much worse if socialism failed to stop it. Tragically, she was proven correct. The defeat of the German revolutions of 1919 to 1923, coupled with the isolation and degeneration of the Russian Revolution, opened the way to a century of genocide and constant war.

In 1933, Leon Trotsky described the rise of fascism as “capitalist society … puking up undigested barbarism.” (What is National Socialism?)

Later he wrote: “The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.” (In Defense of Marxism)

More than 250 million people, most of them civilians, were killed in the wars of extermination and mass atrocities of the 20th Century. The 21st century continues that record: in less than eight years over three million people have died in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Third World, and at least 700,000 have died in “natural” disasters.

As Luxemburg and Trotsky warned, barbarism is already upon us. Only mass action can stop barbarism from advancing, and only socialism can definitively defeat it. Their call to action is even more important today, when capitalism has added massive ecological destruction, primarily affecting the poor, to the wars and other horrors of the 20th Century.

21st Century Barbarism
That view has been expressed repeatedly and forcefully by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Speaking in Vienna in May 2006, he referred explicitly to Luxemburg’s words:

“The choice before humanity is socialism or barbarism. … When Rosa Luxemburg made this statement, she was speaking of a relatively distant future. But now the situation of the world is so bad that the threat to the human race is not in the future, but now.”

A few months earlier, in Caracas, he argued that capitalism’s destruction of the environment gives particular urgency to the fight against barbarism today:

“I was remembering Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg and the phrase that each one of them, in their particular time and context put forward; the dilemma ‘socialism or barbarism.’ …

“I believe it is time that we take up with courage and clarity a political, social, collective and ideological offensive across the world — a real offensive that permits us to move progressively, over the next years, the next decades, leaving behind the perverse, destructive, destroyer, capitalist model and go forward in constructing the socialist model to avoid barbarism and beyond that the annihilation of life on this planet”.

“I believe this idea has a strong connection with reality. I don’t think we have much time. Fidel Castro said in one of his speeches I read not so long ago, “tomorrow could be too late, let’s do now what we need to do.” I don’t believe that this is an exaggeration. The environment is suffering damage that could be irreversible — global warming, the greenhouse effect, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rising sea level, hurricanes — with terrible social occurrences that will shake life on this planet.”

Chavez and the revolutionary Bolivarian movement in Venezuela have proudly raised the banner of 21st Century Socialism to describe their goals. As these comments show, they are also raising a warning flag, that the alternative to socialism is 21st Century Barbarism — the barbarism of the previous century amplified and intensified by ecological crisis.

Climate Change and ‘Barbarization’
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been studying and reporting on climate change for two decades. Recently the Vice-Chair of the IPCC, Professor Mohan Munasinghe, gave a lecture at Cambridge University that described “a dystopic possible future world in which social problems are made much worse by the environmental consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions.”

He said: “Climate change is, or could be, the additional factor which will exacerbate the existing problems of poverty, environmental degradation, social polarisation and terrorism and it could lead to a very chaotic situation.”

“Barbarization,” Munasinghe said, is already underway. We face “a situation where the rich live in enclaves, protected, and the poor live outside in unsustainable conditions.”

A common criticism of the IPCC is that its reports are too conservative, that they understate how fast climate change is occurring and how disastrous the effects may be. So when the Vice-Chair of the IPCC says that “barbarization” is already happening, no one should suggest that it’s an exaggeration.

The Present Reality of Barbarism
The idea of 21st Century Barbarism may seem farfetched. Even with food and fuel inflation, growing unemployment and housing crises, many working people in the advanced capitalist countries still enjoy a considerable degree of comfort and security.
But outside the protected enclaves of the global north, the reality of “barbarization” is all too evident.
*2.5 billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, survive on less than two dollars a day.
*Over 850 million people are chronically undernourished and three times that many frequently go hungry.
*Every hour of every day, 180 children die of hunger and 1200 die of preventable diseases.
*Over half a million women die every year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of them are in the global south.
*Over a billion people live in vast urban slums, without sanitation, sufficient living space, or durable housing.
*1.3 billion people have no safe water. 3 million die of water-related diseases every year.

The United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008 warns that unmitigated climate change will lock the world’s poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods.

In UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervi’s words:
“Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs.”

Among the 21st Century threats identified by the Human Development Report:
*The breakdown of agricultural systems as a result of increased exposure to drought, rising temperatures, and more erratic rainfall, leaving up to 600 million more people facing malnutrition.
*An additional 1.8 billion people facing water stress by 2080, with large areas of South Asia and northern
*China facing a grave ecological crisis as a result of glacial retreat and changed rainfall patterns.
*Displacement through flooding and tropical storm activity of up to 332 million people in coastal and low-lying areas. *Over 70 million Bangladeshis, 22 million Vietnamese, and six million Egyptians could be affected by global warming-related flooding.
*Expanding health risks, including up to 400 million more people facing the risk of malaria.

To these we can add the certainty that at least 100 million people will be added to the ranks of the permanently hungry this year as a result of food price inflation.

In the UN report, former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu echoes Munasinghe’s prediction of protected enclaves for the rich within a world of ecological destruction:

“While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid’.”

As capitalism continues with business as usual, climate change is fast expanding the gap between rich and poor between and within nations, and imposing unparalleled suffering on those least able to protect themselves. That is the reality of 21st Century Barbarism.

No society that permits that to happen can be called civilized. No social order that causes it to happen deserves to survive.Be part of the future: Join us on the March 26th, TUC National Demonstration against the cuts. Subsidised  transport is leaving from Guildford, Staines, Woking and Redhill. Only £2.00 RTN. Buy a ticket online, using a secure Paypal at www.saveourservic.es -OR- Email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

The UK economy shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010, proving that government claims of Britain’s recovery are lies.

Today’s updated GDP figures prove that the government’s austerity program is not working. Even the Labour Party, who let us not forget had its own cuts program, has issued a statement today arguing that cuts are being made too deeply, and too rapidly.

Economists were reported in the Guardian as saying that GDP for the last quarter was much worse than expected, which meant that Britain could now suffer a double-dip recession. With inflation hitting 3.7% last month, there are also growing fears the UK is heading for an unpleasant dose of “stagflation”. A term coined in the ‘70s for the twin economic problems of stagnation and inflation.

The news has sent the pound falling by nearly one and a half cents against the dollar to $1.575, and pushed the FTSE 100 index down. Not that we at the Voice Of Anti-Capitalism have any shares.

The ONS (Office of National Statistics) reported that the services sector – the dominant part of the UK economy – shrank by 0.5% in the last quarter, and construction declined by 3.3%. UK retail sales dropped 0.8% last month- and over the year have been flat. The retail sector suffered its worst December in 12 years.

Even the head of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Richard Lambert accused Vince Cable of hindering business and job creation through politically motivated austerity initiatives.

George Soros, hedge fund owner and criminal financial speculator, hailed as an expert by his Tory lackeys, speaking at the World Economic Forum yesterday said the government’s spending cuts were unsustainable. He warned David Cameron that the government would push the British economy back into recession unless it modified its austerity package. Nouriel Roubini, another Tory economist I’ve never heard of, was quoted as having similar warnings.

What this goes to show is that there are significant concerns in the government and among its business partners as to whether Tory austerity measures will provide the greater profits promised by the government. No matter what the Tory’s say in the press, the ruling classes have no solutions to the crises.
There are no solutions to the crises under capitalism. The system has been prolonged by massively increasing debt and fraudulently underestimating the risk associated with that debt.

Debt ridden institutions have been buying and selling other institution’s debt in a merry-go-round, and now the bubble has burst. The best our politicians can come with is to take the money out of our pockets and put it in to the banks. The result is no consumer spending and a resulting recession.

But we don’t have to play this game. We can take over the banks and cancel the debt. This generation can break the cycle.

Focus On Iraq: The War Continues

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion’s share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what’s happening there in 2010 barely registers.

This view is being reinforced by the continuing Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq war, where Tony Blair was again called to give evidence last week. In August last year Obama declared that the occupation was over and he was bringing the troops back home on schedule.  For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the “end” of the war and reported “US troops to leave Iraq”.

The US isn’t leaving Iraq; it’s rebranding the occupation
Nothing could be further from the truth. The US hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq at all – it’s just rebranded the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was re-titled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” has been rebadged as “stability operations”.

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times in August: “In practical terms, nothing will change”. After this month’s withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called “the dumb war” goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked in rows over the Green Zone and domestic policy. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan. According to the Iraqi government, last year saw worst figures for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers. And al-Qaida – Bush’s gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government hasn’t just rebranded the occupation, it has privatised it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals”, typically from the developing world.

The US is now expanding their numbers, in what Jeremy Scahill – who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater – calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five “enduring presence posts” across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq’s reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 “worked” and that Iraq has come good after all.

It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of last year’s elections, the banning and killing of candidates and subsequent political breakdown, to claim that “Iraq is a democracy” is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq’s independence has only just begun.

Depleted Uranium
Meanwhile, it has become widely known that the UK used depleted uranium weapons during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A UK defence official has reportedly admitted using the highly controversial ammunition. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons last year.

It is alleged that a joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. The use of uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects. The US and UK have allegedly used up to 2,000 tons of such ammunition during the war.

In August last year, Labour Party MP Paul Flynn, speaking to Russia Today said: “The depleted uranium still causes serious health problems. “We know that in the first Iraq war depleted uranium was used in shells. It’s very likely it was used again,” Flynn said. “It’s used as ballast because of its density in shells. It’s not as radioactive as it might be, it’s uranium 238 where the gamma-radiation has been reduced. It’s not a weapon of mass destruction, but sadly it’s a weapon of eternal destruction because it turns into dust and gets into the water supply, into the air and it can of course give children cancer, and cause birth defects.”

Last year, findings of a study conducted by a group of researchers in London suggested the same. One of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan told RT: “The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer -and infant mortalities are also staggering,”.

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights is expected to file a lawsuit against Britain and the US over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq and will seek compensation for the victims of these weapons.

Corruption & Repression
Sami Ramadani, a British Iraqi wrote in The Guardian, 28th July 2010: “The Iraqis who Blair and Bush glorified and brought to power through sham elections are bleeding the nation dry through corruption and the sell-off of Iraq’s resources to multinationals. Freedom and democracy is nowhere to be seen. Deploying the US-built Iraqi security forces against the people is common. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of prisoners, widespread use of torture, and both judicial and extra-judicial killings”.

“Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists. Troops and police have raided the offices of workers’ unions across the country, following a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, to ban them and seize their assets”.

“Britain’s TUC has described the regime’s action as a “Saddam-style move”, and its general secretary Brendan Barber has written to the foreign secretary, William Hague, to help stop this “dangerous abuse of power”. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals”.

Having auctioned Iraq’s oil wealth, the oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani was recently given the electricity portfolio after mass demonstrations against lack of electricity supplies and regime corruption. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators while the prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising” – spreading to the capital.

Missing Millions
Meanwhile last year, The US department of defence called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn – out of a total of  $9.1bn – in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing. The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.

Iraqi officials said they knew nothing about the missing billions and had no means to find where they had been spent. “We will speak to the oil ministry finance committee about this,” said a spokesman for Iraq’s oil minister.

The funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s worn-out infrastructure which was to be a central plank of the US military’s achievement. The audit could not find any documentation to substantiate how the Pentagon spent $2.6bn. An additional $53bn has been allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq and the audit committee is examining whether those funds can be accounted for.

“The share of the national output going to wage earners fell from 65 percent in 1975 to 53 percent in 2007.” (New Political Economy Network)

The British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s austerity measures will throw almost 1 million more people into poverty over the next three years, including hundreds of thousands of children.

These are the findings of a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank, produced in collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

In October, the coalition government announced public spending cuts of £83 billion, including significant cuts in welfare benefits and a wage freeze across the public sector. The measures are not only a deepening of efforts to force working people to carry the cost of the Labour government’s multibillion-pound bailout of the banks. They mark a significant escalation in the attempts of successive governments to force down wages and fully dismantle essential social and welfare provision.

The IFS forecasts that there will be an exponential increase in the numbers of children and adults living in absolute and relative poverty, and a stagnation in the incomes of the broad mass of the population.

The numbers in absolute poverty—defined as households with income of less than 60 percent of the median in 2010/2011, adjusted for inflation—will rise by 900,000 by the end of 2014. Of these, some 200,000 will be children, the first rise in absolute child poverty in 15 years.

The numbers forecast to be pushed into relative poverty are just as damning. The benchmark for relative poverty is determined by median income. But, the IFS states, this target will itself fall, due to the decline in real earnings. As a consequence, relative poverty is forecast to rise by approximately 800,000.

The government’s cuts in housing and welfare benefits, combined with the previous Labour government’s decision to raise National Insurance contributions from next year, hit across the board. Poverty amongst working-age adults without children is expected to rise by 300,000 and 200,000 for absolute and relative poverty respectively.

Families with two children on “middle-incomes” have already suffered a 3.4 percent decline over the past two years, the IFS reported. They earned £988 a year less in 2010 than in 2008. They are expected to lose a further £300 in real terms over the next two years under the government’s spending cuts.

The IFS predictions come under conditions in which almost 2 million children in Britain are already living in conditions of “severe poverty” and fully 4 million are living in poverty.

The government’s measures have been condemned by anti-poverty charities—the very organisations tasked with filling the gap of declining social provision under the coalition’s grotesquely named “Big Society” plan.

They complained that the IFS projections will place the government in breach of the Child Poverty Act, passed into law earlier this year, which commits current and future governments to cut relative child poverty to 10 percent and absolute child poverty to 5 percent over the next decade.

But the government has already stated that it intends to redefine poverty so that “isn’t just about getting above an arbitrary line, but is about improving people’s life chances.”

It was Conservative Howard Flight who gave vent to the class sentiment motivating the assault on welfare. Speaking last month, just after he was selected as one of more than 20 new Tory peers, Flight complained that child benefit was being removed from higher earners. “We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible”, he said.

His remarks came barely a week after Lord Young, one of Prime Minister David Cameron’s senior advisers, was forced to resign after stating, “For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this so-called recession—started.”

A Treasury spokesperson dismissed the IFS report, claiming that “uncertainty” in the model it had employed meant that the “small differences they identify may not be meaningful”.

Elements of the coalition’s cuts package were also criticised by the Labour Party. The real measure of its stance, however, is made clear by the fact that it is Labour MP Frank Field who is drawing up the government report on “redefining” child poverty.

The coalition’s austerity measures come after a 30-year period in which successive governments have conducted a systematic assault on the social position of working people.

According to a report by the New Political Economy Network, the share of the national output going to wage earners fell from 65 percent in 1975 to 53 percent in 2007. It was Labour that fuelled the increase in the “working poor”. Through its various welfare “credits,” it ensured that business had access to a large army of workers on minimum pay, funded at taxpayers’ expense.

During the same time frame, as wage rises fell behind productivity, personal debt as a proportion of disposable income rose from 45 percent in 1980 to 160 percent in 2007.

As the report noted, “People did not borrow to increase their consumption. They borrowed to compensate for wages that were increasingly falling behind productivity increases. As household debt rocketed between 2001 and 2007, levels of consumption as a proportion of GDP actually fell”.

Even prior to the 2008 financial collapse, Labour’s policies had led to a vast increase in social inequality. A survey by the National Equality Panel based on figures from 2007/2008 found that the richest 10 percent of the population were over 100 times wealthier than the poorest 10 percent, and that income inequality had reached its highest point since the end of the Second World War.

Now, unemployment has crossed the 2.5 million mark, rising by 35,000 in the three months to October. Much of this was accounted for by the fall in pubic sector employment by 33,000, as the spending cuts began to make their mark.

The situation is even worse amongst the young. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming unemployment benefit has quadrupled since 2008, from 5,840 to more than 25,800. In July, UKJobs.net reported that the average annual salary had dropped by more than £2,600 in the past six months, with across-the-board wages falling from £28,207 to £25,543.

As a consequence of huge levels of indebtedness, rising unemployment and the undermining of welfare provision, millions are now threatened with penury.

According to the Independent, the number of emergency welfare loans paid out to people in dire distress has almost trebled in the last five years. More than 3.6 million “crisis loans” were made in the last financial year—up from 1.3 million in 2005/2006. The government has now said that, from April, Job Centre staff will begin issuing vouchers for people to exchange for emergency food supplies.

The Bank of England has also forecast a tightening financial squeeze on many families due to soaring commodity and utility prices, and the planned Value Added Tax hike to 20 percent from January 1. It warned that more than one in two people with unsecured debts are struggling to cope. This is especially the case where some credit companies are charging up to 2,600 percent interest a year.

On Monday, the Confederation of British Industry warned that interest rates would have to rise almost sixfold due to inflation over the next 24 months—from 0.5 percent to 2.75 percent by 2012. This would mean millions of homeowners facing a hike of almost £200 on the average monthly mortgage payment.

Meanwhile, the directors of the FTSE 100 companies have seen their total earnings rise by an average of 55 percent over the past year. The Incomes Data Services revealed last month that chief executives at the 100 most highly capitalised firms on the London Stock Exchange had received an average of £4.9 million in total in the year to June.

Don’t just sit there – Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for local news and details of events in Guildford. Get involved-Be part of the solution!
Email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

Join Save Our Services in Surrey: Demonstrate 24 November.

Build General Assemblies

In Guildford
We need a broad based student movement in the University to resist education cuts. A General Assembly that recognises the attacks on education is part of a wider program of attacks on public services.Here in Guildford we are seeing the total scrapping of the Connections careers service. Youth centers are being closed and social workers are being made redundant. This is in addition to a £3.9m reduction to front-line services for children and young people that was implemented earlier in the year. There have been 400 redundancies at the hospital with more on the way. A 25% reduction in our fire service. Road repairs are being put on-hold and road-gritting will be stopped this year. Council workers are being made redundant. There are cuts in benefits for the ever increasing numbers of unemployed, and services for the disabled are being cut. The Education Welfare service is being scrapped. The ‘Mother and Baby’ support centers have been closed. The list is endless. Bus services are also about to be reduced and in some places scrapped, due to the ending of the grant bus companies receive to provide less profitable bus services.

These local attacks are in-part due to a 30% cut in the central government grant awarded to local councils. Students, workers, trade unionists and service users must campaign together to put a stop to these unnecessary assaults on public services.Save Our Services in Surrey has already led several successful campaigns, stopping the closures of Shortwood School and Brooklands College. It has a dozen trades union branches affiliated to it, and several community organisations. Royal Holloway University Anti-Cuts Alliance, based at the Royal Holloway University in Egham is also affiliated.
Surrey University needs a large Anti-Cuts campaign “Save Our Services in Surrey Students” that can benefit from the knowledge of experienced campaigners and trade unionists, and with whom we can co-ordinate our campaigns.Education Activists Network Planning Meeting, 15th November.
With millions of young people, teachers and students inspired by the size and militancy of the 10 November national education demonstration, last night’s planning meeting for the Education Activists Network (EAN) was full of two hundred students and trade unionists in London who were eager to join the resistance and make their voice on the way forward heard.
But it rapidly became clear that the meeting – billed as an open and democratic forum for action was just a fig leaf for decisions made behind closed doors by an unelected clique. Farcically, an irresponsible 2pm gathering point just outside the Liberal HQ on the 24th November had already been announced to the national press in a conference called a few hours earlier by Socialist Worker Party (SWP) members within EAN.
Even worse; while the EAN, little more than an SWP front was unilaterally announcing the Liberal HQ protest, the SWP’s other front organisation, Right To Work, was sending out emails calling for the protest to be outside Parliament. 
Nonetheless, new faces, not just from the education movement but from London trade unions and youth services in the capital quickly filled the room. Activists excited by the prospect of a militant struggle against cuts chatted to each other, exchanging contact details and information.

When the meeting was started by Kings College UCU President Jim Wolfreys, there were shouts from the floor asking why NUS President Aaron Porter, who was due to be speaking, hadn’t turned up. “Where is he?!” students cried!

Speaking from the platform, Paul Whittaker, UCU President refused to condone or condemn the occupiers of Millbank Tower, while Mark Bergfeld from the NUS ‘block-of-12’ and SWP made an impassioned speech for solidarity with those arrested, to escalate the action and build committees of action as part of building a movement capable of launching a general strike to break the Con-Dem government. A speaker from a successful indefinite strike at Tower Hamlets College spoke about the electrifying effect student protests had had on workers at her college.

Mark was right dead right that we need committees of action – but it soon became clear that this meeting certainly wasn’t one.

Strike together!
John Bowman from REVOLUTION said that it was “a disgrace” that Aaron Porter hadn’t shown his face and that if he refuses to fight to save our education, then he should “make way for someone who will.” He said that we should defend education “by any means necessary”, and that we needed a national UCU strike alongside mass student struggle to defeat the cuts.

Echoing this, a member of the National Union of Teachers NEC said that their union was bringing forward their claims, aiming to coordinate national strike action with other public sector unions. He said that a focus for our movement had to be getting rid of Britain’s anti-union laws that allow the courts to ban strikes if they do not fulfill strict criteria. Simon Hardy from REVOLUTION at Westminster University said: “If they’re scared of a few broken windows, they’ll be terrified when we build a movement that gives workers the confidence to break the anti-union laws.”

Act before you think?
But as more speakers from the floor put forward ideas for the next steps that should be taken, Education Activists Network leaflets were passed round the room – declaring that students should gather outside the Lib Dem HQ at 2pm.

But a meeting of 60 students the night before, representing a large number of different universities and F/E colleges had already decided that this was potentially dangerous – at best leading people into a police pen or “kettle”, and at worst gathering an unformed and unorganised demonstration into the hands of violent police bent on revenge for the Tory HQ occupation. So a compromise was reached, that protests should meet at Trafalgar Square at 12pm, 10 minutes away from the HQ.

Socialist Workers Party and EAN activists, including Mark Bergfeld had attended this meeting – and chose to ignore the democratically agreed decisions.

Ashok Kumar, Education Officer at LSE was exasperated. He said that he was on the EAN steering committee – but had not been at all consulted about the 2pm Lib Dem office start point, and told about the press conference only one hour before it happened.

EAN is looking and acting more like a party front than a grassroots campaign, if it continues like this, it will not organise the movement but become irrelevant to it.

So what can we do instead? – General Assemblies
In European countries which have seen mass movements of youth and students, like France and Greece, General Assemblies are called which bring students, workers, different unions and campaigns together, at local, regional and national levels. This is what we need to see in Britain now as a burning priority. At these meetings proposals for action are made, voted upon and taken back to local groups by delegates for implementation – and breaking the decisions made by the mass movement is a recipe for isolation.

The assemblies are democratic and grow out of the movement, being called and built for by all activists as organising centers for the struggle.

We need a general assembly of students in Guildford to unite students into an unstoppable movement and to co-ordinate our actions locally and nationally with workers, youth and trade unionists.

A General Assembly has been called in London for the 21st November. Jo Pinto from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) said she hoped the Assembly on Sunday would be the first of many. “It’s a great initiative. This is where things really kick off. The General Assembly will bring unity to our movement – but that doesn’t have to mean consensus – if we democratically choose the strategy to go forward, we’ve succeeded.”

“In France and other countries across Europe with enormous student movements, general assemblies have played a key role not just in organising mass unified resistance to government attacks, but have even gone on to becoming key coordinating bodies in mass general strike situations”.

Revolution Socialist Youth and NCAFC member John Bowman, one of the General Assembly’s organisers said “The General Assembly will aim to bring together university and college anti-cuts groups, trade unionists, student unions, college students and school students into a mighty mass forum of resistance to the attacks on education and beyond.

We musn’t let the SWP split the student campaign. Come to the lunch-time protest on 24th November, 12-2pm outside Starbucks, near the entrance to the Student Union. Join the campaign against Fees and Cuts by joining Guildford Against Fees And Cuts on the 24th.
Save Our Services in Surrey:
www.saveourservic.es

Guildford Against Fees & Cuts:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Guildford-Against-Fees-Cuts/167151436659040

London General Assembly on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/l/d609cWb0KaSafN8-yterA3Vs1_g;www.socialistrevolution.org/1416/londonassembly
Botom-Of-Post - Protest