Tag Archive: revolutionary


Ukraine Fraudsters Again – A Message from the LRP

League for the Revolutionary party
April 2014


Reports on the events in Ukraine in recent months have mentioned three activists whose names some readers may recall: Oleg (Oleh) Vernik and Zakhar Popovych in Ukraine and Ilya Budraitskis in Russia. In the early 2000s, while members of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), they conspired to assume multiple fake personal identities as representatives of several fictitious socialist groups in Ukraine. Under these disguises they posed as supporters of a number of far-left groups in North America and Europe, from whom they stole funds, time and other resources. Their crimes further corrupted the reputation of a socialist movement already burdened by mistaken association with the heinous crimes of Stalinism.

We reported on this political and financial scam in CWI Group Guilty of Ukraine Fraud (Proletarian Revolution No. 69, Winter 2004), and we posted personal identifying information at Photos of the Perpetrators on this website. A list of many other articles on the affair at the time is at Statements from various sources on the Ukrainian fraud (wwww.bolshevik.org). A summary of the fraud, the CWI’s response and the current activities of these perpetrators was recently posted on the website of the Greek organization Communist Revolutionary Action. See Maidan and Ukranian Story of a Lasting Fraud.

The perpetrators of the fraud have not to our knowledge ever issued any explanation of, or apology for, their political, personal and financial dishonesty. Today Vernyk is chairman of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defence). See tradeunion.org.ua. Budraitskis belongs to the Socialist Movement of Russia, which is affiliated with the organization long known as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec). See for example his article Ukrainians fighting for a better society.

Popovych belongs to “Left Opposition” in Ukraine whose views are also disseminated by the Usec’s magazine International Viewpoint. See A mass revolt for democracy. He also made a widely reported visit to London where he spoke about the Ukrainian events. See for example Russian and Ukrainian socialists speak out. A video of Popovych speaking at a public meeting at the House of Commons is at Crisis in the Ukraine (House of Commons Meeting) – Videos. By comparing this video with the photos of Popovych in the original articles about the fraud, one can see that today’s activist is the same person as yesterday’s fraudster.

We warn the left in Ukraine and around the world: these people are not to be trusted in their political, organizational and financial adventures.

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voice of anti-capitalismThe truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it

David Graeber, theguardian.com
Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn’t know how banking really works, because if they did, “there’d be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy“, co-authored by three economists from the Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.– moneyTo get a sense of how radical the Bank’s new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don’t suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

It’s this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say “there’s just not enough money” to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending “crowding out” the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits” … “In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What’s more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with “quantitative easing” they’ve been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite.

Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? Well, one reason is because it’s obviously true. The Bank’s job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well. It’s possible that it decided that maintaining the fantasy-land version of economics that has proved so convenient to the rich is simply a luxury it can no longer afford.

But politically, this is taking an enormous risk. Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

Historically, the Bank of England has tended to be a bellwether, staking out seeming radical positions that ultimately become new orthodoxies. If that’s what’s happening here, we might soon be in a position to learn if Henry Ford was right.Enemy Is Profit

SF Meeting
Speakers

Peter Banda, Acting GS General Industries Workers’ Union of South Africa (GIWUSA)
Shaheen Khan, chief co-ordinator, Bolshevik Study Circles (ex-RMG).
Latief Parker, Critique journal Editorial Board
Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the RCIT
Gerry Downing, Secretary Socialist Fight Group
Chair, Laurence Humphries, Socialist Fight CC
Shaheen Khan speaks of their work with the Workers and Socialist party (WASP )

“Some of our comrades in the North are members of WASP. Our relationship with WASP starts off with the work our comrades did in the mine workers strike of 2012.
Two of our comrades were part of the mine workers committee in Rustenburg and one in Carletonville, and other comrades regularly attended the WASP meetings in Johannesburg.
I have been asked to do Marxist classes with the youth in the Socialist Youth Movement as well as the National Transport Movement.
We have also hosted WASP in Potchefstroom where they addressed Civic and Youth groups. Our view generally is that we support the WASP in the forthcoming elections and will participate actively to promote a vote for the WASP.”Rebuild The Fourth International

Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

National march to release the jailed minersMarch 12, 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the National Miners Strike. Local strikes had began at several Yorkshire collieries over pit closures, when Arthur Scargill, the NUM Miners union leader formerly called a national strike, that was to last from March 12, 1984 to March 3, 1985.

Over the coming weeks the inter-web is going to be full of miners strike commentaries, obituaries and articles, so The VOAG thought it would get its post in early. By the time March 12 arrives we will all be sick of miners strike articles and reminiscences.

It seems superfluous to write anything about the miners strike. It is such a well known, momentous event in working class history, that even the generation which has grown up since the strike is well acquainted with it. However, the news of an upcoming Conference on the Miners Strike, “Still The Enemy Within”, to be held on March 8, has prompted The VOAG to mark the anniversary with a short post.Still The Enemy WithinThe Tory government claimed its intention was to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. When the strike began, Scargill said that the government had a long-term strategy to destroy the industry by closing over 70 pits. Not only did the Government deny this but Ian McGregor, the head of the Coal Board which managed the industry, wrote to every member of the NUM claiming Scargill was deceiving them, and that there were no plans to close any more pits than had already been announced. Cabinet Papers released this year indicate that McGregor did indeed wish to close over 90 pits.Miners SupportSupport for the miners brought together disparate radical groups across Britain, involving more people in a greater intensity of activity, over a lengthier period than any other campaign in the history of the labour movement. There were many violent incidents during the strike, the worst being clashes between striking miners and police at Orgreave. Police charged crowds on horseback with their batons and several people were seriously injured. Watch this documentary which tells some of the story of “The Battle Of Orgreave”

The miners and their families suffered great hardship during the strike, many relying on food parcels, soup kitchens and other donations. On 3 March 1985 NUM delegates voted to abandon the strike at a specially convened conference. Two days later the miners returned to work. After the strike the pit closure programme of the conservative Government continued rapidly. In 1984 there were 170 coal mines open in the UK, by 2004 only about 11 mines were still open. The strike was a terrible defeat for the miners and following the strike the coal industry and British trade union movement were never the same again.The Voag is everywhere

SF Logo2The Marxist theory of the state:
Deformed and Degenerated Workers’ States and Capitalist States

From Socialist Fight (British Section, Liaison Committee for the Fourth International) 
The post WWII debate in the Fourth International of the late 1940s and early 1950s on the class character of the ‘Buffer States’ in Eastern Europe was resurrected in 1989-92 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR following the Yanayev coup and Yeltsin’s counter-coup of August 1991. We will see from the struggles we have outlined below that the Stalinist bureaucracies became divided into three camps following the defeat of the Brezhnevites by Gorbachev in 1989; those Gorbechevites on the left who wished to retain the degenerate and deformed workers’ states by opening up the economic plan by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), those in the middle (Yanayev and Deng in China) who sought the restoration of capitalism by slow, planned measures, maintaining the Stalinist bureaucracy as the vehicle of restoration and those on the right like Yeltsin who sought a rapid capitulation to western Imperialism and their own enrichment by plundering the state assets in alliance with western transnational corporations. We can observe at least elements of these three tendencies in most of the counter-revolutionary overturns of 1989-92.

The first debate on the nature of the East European countries behind the ‘iron curtain’ in the FI in the late 1940s eventually resulted in the correct conclusion that they were deformed workers’ states, but much confusion remained. We will look at the position again as it emerged in the debate over the class character of Cuba in the early 1960s and the debate about the class character of Cambodia in the late 1970s following the invasion by Vietnam on 25 December 1978. And of course, as we have mentioned, the debate following the victory of the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism in Eastern European and Asian states in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continue reading

capitalist crises mike brooksThe debate on the causes of the Great Recession

Mick Brooks, Author of Capitalist Crisis: Theory and Practice, comments here on the debate within the Committee For a Workers’ International on The Causes of the Great Recession and Capitalist Crisis.

Mick Brooks, September 2013
Since the outbreak of the Great Recession Marxists have debated its cause. This is a vital theoretical issue for understanding the world around us.

The debate centres around the issue as to whether the present crisis is caused by falling profits as explained by Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (LTFRP), dealt with in chapters 13-15 of ‘Capital Volume III’. Others argue that the crisis can be explained as one of underconsumption.

This debate is bubbling under within the ranks of the CWI. The leadership of the CWI (as of the IMT) take what I would characterise as an underconsumptionist position. Already two blogs are circulating inside the ranks of the CWI that advocate the LTFRP explanation, in addition to an excellent short film, and debates are beginning to take place in the localities. Signs of intelligent life? It looks like it. Check out:
Marx returns from the Grave, http://69.195.124.91/~brucieba/
Socialism is Crucial, http://socialismiscrucial.wordpress.com/

It should be explained at the outset that all parties agree that a crisis of capitalism takes theform of overproduction, of unsold goods, as it says in the ‘Communist Manifesto’. Overproduction and crisis, however, are not permanent features of capitalist production. It remains to be explained why capitalism dips into crisis when it does.

The leadership, reacting to criticism, has resorted to an ‘underconsumptionist’ explanation of the cause of crisis. The crisis is caused, according to a quote from Chapter 30 of ‘Capital Volume III’ by “the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.” (As one of the bloggers, CrucialSteve, points out this was actually a bracketed note added by Engels into the original text.)

The problem with the underconsumptionist explanation is that there is a permanent tendency for capitalism to restrict the purchasing power of the working class, because it is a system based on profit. Underconsumptionism therefore has no explanatory power as an explanation of crisis.

In any case not all commodities are produced for workers – pallet trucks and computer numerically controlled machine tools are capital goods bought by capitalists. There are also luxury goods consumed only by capitalists such as yachts and private jets. Why should there be a specific outbreak of overproduction of consumer goods intended for workers’ consumption such as jumpers rather than pallet trucks or yachts? Empirically crises of overproduction usually break out in the capital goods industries. Investment is the most volatile element in national income.

The opposition bloggers within the CWI have a powerful argument in their favour – the rate and mass of profit in the major capitalist countries fell sharply prior to the onset of crisis in 2007. Marx’s theory is confirmed! To take the case of the USA: “The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that in the 3rd quarter of 2006 the mass of profits peaked at $1,865bn. By the 4th quarter of 2008 it bottomed out at $861bn.” (Brooks – Capitalist crisis; theory and practice, p.32)

The facts confirm Marx’s analysis of the LTFRP as the fundamental cause of crisis. Why should this cause surprise, since we all agree that capitalism is a system of production of profit? The school of Marxian economists who support this analysis view the falling rate and also mass of profit only as an underlying cause of crisis. Essentially the argument is about levels of causation in the crisis. What about the financial aspect of the crisis – the housing bubble, crazy loans and collapsing banks? Of course this was all very important. These specific factors profoundly influence the depth and nature of the downturn. Every crisis is a unique event with its own characteristics. But, with or without a ‘financial crisis’ the fact that the mass of profits in the USA, the most important capitalist country, halved over two years would have provoked a big collapse of output in any case.

How does the leadership of the CWI deal with the detailed criticisms of their approach thrown up by the advocates of the importance of the LTFRP as an explanation of crisis? Lynn Walsh argues in ‘Socialism Today’ that profit and investment have become disconnected in recent decades. “Despite the staggering increase in the share of income taken by the top 1% in the US, investment declined.”(‘Socialism Today’, November 2012) So profits (with the share of the top 1% as a proxy) are supposed have soared at the expense of working people, but this has not translated into productive investment. Walsh concludes, “This factual data, in our view confirms the analysis of a crisis in capital accumulation put forward in ‘Socialism Today’ over many years” (ibid.).

If true, this is not an explanation for a pattern of booms and slumps. It presents a stagnationist perspective for the future of capitalism, a permanent slowing down of the rate of accumulation. Is the CWI serious about decades of stagnation? How do they explain the present crisis, where investment fell as a result of the fall in profits?

In fact there is a simple explanation for this alleged disjunction between profits and investment: the profit figures quoted are wrong. Michael Roberts has meticulously chronicled the rate of profit since the Second World War in his blog. Nobody has challenged his figures, which attempt to look beneath conventional statistics to work out a Marxian rate of profit.

Roberts concludes: first that there has been no return to the fabulous profits enjoyed by capitalists during the golden years of the post-War boom; and secondly that the rate of profit today in 2013 remains below that of 2007 before the onset of the great Recession. Andrew Kliman also carefully shows (in ‘The failure of capitalist production’) that the reason for lower investment in the years since 1974 is lower profits. There is just less to invest. Simples.

The CWI leadership buttress their ‘explanation’ as to why investment has been lower with recourse to the notion of financialisation. As Lynn Walsh argues in the same article, more and more funds have been gobbled up by financial shenanigans in preference to investing in industry. There is no mystery here. In so far as more “profits disappeared into the financial sector” (ibid.), that is a response to lower pickings to be made in production – because of the LTFRP itself.

Increasing exploitation of the workers over recent decades has not led to increasing rates of accumulation because of financialisation, it is asserted. This is part of the analysis of a whole school of thought, regarding itself as Marxian, which sees the current crisis as one of the neoliberal form of capitalism rather than capitalism as a whole. In fact this is the conventional wisdom of the majority of academic Marxist economists. A whole new stage of capitalism is supposed to have developed since about 1980, buttressed by the holy trinity of globalisation, neoliberalism and financialisation.

Dumenil and Levy’s book – ‘The crisis of neoliberalism’, 2011 – is an example. Phil Hearse writing in Socialist Resistance, the publishing house of the so-called Fourth international, also refers to “a neoliberal ‘regime of accumulation’”. The logic of this approach seems to be that neoliberalism should be destroyed rather the capitalist system overthrown. As we see, the CWI leadership has swallowed this analysis whole. By accepting the interpretation of this school the CWI is on a slippery slope indeed. We’re with the opposition within their ranks on this one.Socialist Fight

Picket Of The Greek Embassy, Saturday 31 August:
Defend Savas Michael-Matsas; Defend Communities Against The Nazi Golden Dawn

The Socialist Fight has called a picket of the Greek Embassy for Saturday 31 August between 1 and 2 pm and propose to hand in the following letter. We are requesting that your organisation participate in the picket and endorse the letter as an organisation so you name can appear as supporters.

The Ambassadoraddress
 H.E. Mr. Anastase Scopelitis
Greek Embassy in London
1A Holland Park,
31 August 2013

 Dear Mr. Anastase Scopelitis,

 We, the undersigned, are protesting today against of trail of Savas Michael-Matsas a Greek Jewish Marxist intellectual and General Secretary of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (EEK) of Greece and Constantino Moutzouris, the former rector of the University of Athens, on 3 September 2013.

 Savas Matsas is accused of “defamation” against the Greek openly Nazi party, the infamous “Golden Dawn”, for “instigation of violence and chaos” and “disruption of the civil peace” because, four years ago, in May 2009, the EEK has issued a leaflet calling for participation into an antifascist demonstration of protest against a murderous attack by the Nazis against the immigrant communities in Athens covered by the Greek police.

 In December 2008, an important youth revolt had shaken the entire country following the murder of a 15 years old youth, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, by two police guards. The revolt continued for nearly for two months, in what Dominique Strauss Kahn, head of the IMF at that time, had rightly described as “the first political explosion of the current world financial-economic crisis”.

 The police pogroms against the immigrants reached a climax in spring 2009, in Athens, in the neighbourhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where Golden Dawn thugs terrorised the immigrants with the support of the local police. Left organizations had called for anti-fascist demonstrations. The EEK took part and issued a leaflet calling on the people to participate. The leaflet signed by the EEK as a political party was also published in the party newspaper NEA PROOPTIKI and presented in the party’s web site. This is the “crime” for which the General Secretary of the EEK is accused and put on trial.

 In May 2009, leading members of the Golden Dawn, including Ilias Panagiotaros, now a member of the Greek Parliament, and Themis Skordeli (a woman with dark connections with the underworld, was accused of the assassination of an Afghan immigrant but who never was been charged), posed a lawsuit against the entire spectrum of the Greek left, from the Communist Party of Greece(KKE) and SYRIZA to the extra-parliamentary left, ANTARSYA and EEK, all the immigrant associations, and independent personalities like the Dean of the National Technical University of Athens Constantinos Moutzouris (accused to allow the alternative web site Athens Indymedia to broadcast from the space in the campus).

 The lawsuit was not acted upon until late 2012, after the Greek elections of May and June 2012, when, the Golden Dawn was catapulted to Parliament from the margins of political life and the shadow of the State repressive apparatus. In November 2012, at the day celebrated nationally for decades now as the anniversary of the 1973 youth revolt in the Athens National Technical University(Polytechnic) against the military dictatorship of the colonels, the Greek Police, after receiving orders from the judiciary, started interrogations of all the accused in the Nazi lawsuit of 2009. In June 2013, from the dozens of the accused in the legal action of 2009, and interrogated in 2012, only Savas Michael(Sabetai) Matsas of the EEK was called to trial on September 3, 2013, together with the former Dean C. Moutzouris.

 Simultaneously with this preposterous “legal” action, the Nazis have intensified a non-stop, vicious anti-Semitic and anti-communist campaign against the Secretary of the EEK, accusing him of being “an instrument of the World Jewish Conspiracy to foment civil war among Greeks to impose a Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Greece”. Pictures of Savas Michael are presented combined with anti-Semitic insults and openly death threats: “Crush the Jewish vermin!”

 We wish to express our total opposition to the Greek state and government collaboration with the Nazi Golden Dawn in bringing these persecutions. We wish to express out outrage at the collaboration of the Greek state and government in failing to oppose and thereby collaborating with the vile anti-Semitic campaign against Savas Michael-Matsas and thereby against all Jews.

 We demand that the charges against Savas Michael-Matsas and Constantino Moutzouris be dropped immediately and that the Greek state and government protect the immigrant community against the fascist assaults of the Golden Dawn and cease prosecuting their defenders. Signed:

Steve Hedley, on behalf of the Rail and Maritime Union. Weyman Bennett, on behalf of Unite Against Fascism D.R. Rayner Lysaght, on behalf of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) David Yaffe, on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist Group Michael Holden, on behalf of the Irish Republican Prisoners  Support Group Michael Pröbsting on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) Alex Steiner on behalf of permanent-revolution.org Martin Ralph on behalf of the International Socialist League To add your organisation to the list email:  Socialist_Fight@yahoo.co.ukSocialist Fight

Savas Michael-Matsas

Savas Michael (66), a longtime Trotskyist and former Secretary of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), is facing serious charges after a complaint by the fascist party “Golden Dawn”. The slogan “smash fascism” is considered an incitement to violence against them. The VOAG re-publishes an interview with the Greek-Jewish Trotskyist and Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK) of Greece member.  Interviewer: Wladek Flakin of the Revolutionary Internationalist Organization (RIO).

Greek Trotskyist facing charges by Nazis

You must appear in court in Athens on September 3 together with the former rector of the National Technical University in Athens. You are facing charges of defamation and incitement to violence – after a complaint by the Nazi party “Chrysi Avgi” (“Golden Dawn”). How did these charges come about?

 In early 2009, after the revolt of the Greek youth in December 2008, the right-wing government – with the assistance of the Nazis of “Golden Dawn” – unleashed pogroms in neighborhoods with lots of immigrants. The Greek left organized a number of antifascist demonstrations in which our party also participated.

“Golden Dawn” made a legal complaint against all the parties of the left – including the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the left alliance SYRIZA, the anticapitalist alliance ANTARSYA and also the EEK – as well as immigrant associations and independent activists. This complaint was resurrected by the right-wing Samaras government in 2012 and the police began interrogations of those named in the complaint. In June 2013, of the 80 people accused, two were selected: Konstantinos Moutzouris, the former rector of the National Technical University in Athens, and I.

What are you accused of?

I am accused on the basis of a leaflet produced by my party, for the antifascist demonstrations of May 2009. As general secretary of the EEK I am – according to the complaint – responsible for every text from the party, even if it doesn’t bear my signature.

The fact that I am a Jew makes my case worse. On the internet there are slogans like “kill the Jewish rat”, saying that I am an agent of a “World Jewish Conspiracy” to establish a “Judeo-Bolshevik regime” in Greece.

The charge of defamation refers to our condemnation of the fascist attacks against immigrants. The slogan “smash fascism” is considered an incitement to violence and the call for participation in a demonstration as “disturbing the civil peace”.Konstantinos Moutzouris is accused of allowing the independent news portal Indymedia to be run from the university campus.

Why did the fascists choose this legal attack?

Just like the Front National in France, the Greek fascists choose the legal path to provide a basis for state attacks against the left. But these “legal” means are always combined with illegal physical attacks against left-wing activists and immigrant communities as well as Jewish synagogues and cemeteries.

How could “Golden Dawn”, in the four years since the complaint was made, develop from a tiny splinter group to a party with 21 members of parliament?

Their rise is insolubly linked with the destruction of the living standards of the population. In the last three years of draconian austerity measures, imposed on Greece by the Troika made up of the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, millions of people – especially from the middle class – have been thrown into unemployment and pauperisation. In the context of this social tragedy, the bourgeois political system which ruled the country for decades is totally discredited. A major part of the population voted for the left reformist party SYRIZA and made them the official opposition, while another part turned to the extreme right.

The Nazis have connections to the repressive state apparatus from the time of the Greek civil war in the 1940s and the dictatorship of 1967-74. But these connections have gotten stronger after the youth revolt of 2008. Due to the crisis, the fascists are getting help from the state: they are protected from criminal prosecution, while prosecutors raise charges against antifascists. It is no coincidence that half of the police voted for “Golden Dawn” in the last elections.

How can the fascist danger be confronted?

We urgently need a united front of all organizations of the working class, the immigrants and the left against the Nazis. The collapse of the welfare state has created a vacuum that the Nazis try to fill with offers “for Greeks only”. To resist this, social solidarity networks must be created, as well as workers’ self-defence groups against fascist attacks. 

But above all, we must fight for a socialist solution to the current crisis, with an emergency program of measures against the social catastrophe. We have to bring down the capitalist government of troika servants, cancel all debts to the international usurers of capital and end the measures of social cannibalism. We need a workers’ government, via an internationalist struggle, together with the workers of all Europe, against the imperialist EU, and for a United Socialist Europe. Original source of interview: Unknown. 2013
Voag-Logo-9

The Battle Of The Beanfield: 27 Years On 

June 1, 2012
Today year marks the 27th anniversary of the infamous police attack on travellers on their way to Stonehenge in an incident now known as the Battle Of The Beanfield.

“What I have seen in the last thirty minutes here in this field has been some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist. The number of people who have been hit by policemen, who have been clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field, is yet to be counted. There must surely be an enquiry after what has happened today.”-Ken Sabido, ITN journalist. 

Twenty four years have passed since the defining moment of the Thatcher government’s assault on the traveller movement – the Battle of the Beanfield. On June 1st 1985 a convoy of vehicles set off from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire towards Stonehenge, with several hundred travellers on their way to setting up the 14th Stonehenge Free Festival. But this year English Heritage, who laughably were legally considered the owners of the Stonehenge Sarsen circle (built several thousand years before by god knows who), had secured an injunction against trespass naming 83 people. This was considered legal justification enough for a brutal assault on the entire convoy. What followed was a police riot and the largest mass arrest in British history.As the Convoy made its way to the Stones the road was blocked with tonnes of gravel and it was diverted down a narrow country lane, which was also blocked. Suddenly a group of police officers came forward and started to break vehicle windows with their truncheons. Trapped, the convoy swung into a field, crashing through a hedge.

For the next four hours there was an ugly stalemate. The Convoy started trying to negotiate, offering to abandon the festival and return to Savernake Forest or leave Wiltshire altogether. The police refused to negotiate and told them they could all surrender or face the consequences.At ten past seven the ‘battle’ began. In the next half hour, the police operation “became a chaotic whirl of violence.” Convoy member Phil Shakesby later gave his account of the day: “The police came in [to the grass field] and they were battering people where they stood, smashing homes up where they were, just going wild. Maybe about two-thirds of the vehicles actually started moving and took off, and they chased us into a field of beans. 

By this time there were police everywhere, charging along the side of us, and wherever you went there was a strong police presence. Well, they came in with all kinds of things: fire extinguishers and one thing and another. When they’d done throwing the fire extinguishers at us, they were stoning us with these lumps of flint.”By the end of the day over four hundred were under arrest and dispersed across police stations around the whole of the south of England. Their homes had been destroyed, impounded and in some cases torched.

THE VAN GUARD?
In today’s surveillance society Britain it is seems inconceivable that festivals like the Stonehenge Free Festival ever happened. At their height these gatherings attracted 30,000 people for the solstice celebration – 30,000 people celebrating and getting on with it without any need for the state or its institutions. The festivals themselves were just the highpoint of a year-round lifestyle of living in vehicles. As one traveller said at the time, “The number of people who were living on buses had been doubling every year for four years. It was anarchy in action, and it was seen to be working by so many people that they wanted to be a part of it too.”Having seen off the miners strike – the first casualties in the plan to re-order Britain according to neo-liberal economics (or as it was known locally – Thatcherism), the state turned its force on a more subtle threat. This time not people fighting for jobs and a secure place in the system but people who rejected that system outright. Although prejudice against travellers was nothing new, the traditional ‘ethnic’ travelling minority represented no significant threat to the status quo that couldn’t be dealt with by local authorities. But to many of the millions left unemployed by the Thatcher revolution, life on the road looked increasingly appealing. This was inconvenient for a state determined that conditions for the unemployed be miserable enough to spur them into any form of low-paid work.

WHEELS ON FIRE
The propaganda directed against the so-called ‘peace convoys’ by all sections of the media created an atmosphere which allowed draconian action. The Beanfield was not an isolated incident. The Nostell Priory busts of the previous year were a vicious foreboding of what was to come. Months before the Beanfield a convoy-peace camp site at Molesworth was evicted by police acting with 1500 troops and bulldozers headed by a flak-jacketed Michael Heseltine, then Defence Secretary. In 1986 Stoney Cross in the New Forest saw another mass eviction. At the time Thatcher said she was “only too delighted to do what we can to make things difficult for such things as hippy convoys”. This attempt to create a separate yet peaceful existence from mainstream society was to be ruthlessly suppressed.Over the next ten years – notably with the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice Act 1994 the whole lifestyle was virtually outlawed. As John Major said at the Tory Party conference in 1992 to thunderous applause: “New age travellers – not in this age – not in any age”. The CJA removed the duty of councils to provide stop-over sites for travellers and regular evictions began to punctuate traveller life. But it wasn’t all one way, thousands stayed on the road and the free festival circuit was infused with fresh blood from the rave scene. Even after the massive crackdown that followed the Castlemorton free festival the convoys in many cases moved onto road protest sites.

Ultimately however travellers were forced to adapt – abandoning the garish war paint of the hippy convoys for more anonymous vans, moving and taking sites in smaller groups. Many went abroad or were driven back into the cities. However, despite the worst excesses of the cultural clampdown, travellers remain all over the country. Many are now in smaller groups, inconspicuous and unregistered. It’s become more common for vehicle dwellers to take dis-used industrial sites blurring then lines between travelling and squatting. 

The fact that Stonehenge is now open again on the solstice might – on the face of it – look like a victory. But the event is a top-down affair complete with massive police presence, burger vans and floodlights – a far cry from the anarchistic experiments of the 70s and 80s. A smaller gathering had been permitted just down the road at the Avebury stone circle over recent years with the National Trust taking a far more lenient stance on live-in vehicles than English Heritage. But even there, since 2007, there’s now a ban on overnight stays on the solstice. 

Much of the festival circuit these days is in the hands of profit-motivated commercial promoters apart from the growing shoots of a range of smaller festivals, who continue in the spirit of people-led celebrations of community co-operation. But festivals today are also mostly buried under an avalanche of red tape and security, health and safety requirements – The Big Green gathering saw its security costs treble in one year (2007) as they were told to ‘terrorist harden’ the event.

When popular history recalls the pivotal moments in the mid-80s for Thatcher’s Britain, the Battle Of The Beanfield rarely adequately takes its place alongside the Miners Strike and Wapping. For UK Plc, travellers became – and remain – another ‘enemy within’, to be dealt with by organised state violence, like all others who have found an escape route from a society subordinated to profit, where freedom had been reduced to a series of consumer choices.

* For the definitive account see Andy Worthington’s book ‘The Battle Of The Beanfield’ – www.andyworthington.co.uk