Tuesday, 23 October 2007

German Greens split in vote on Afghanistan occupation

The Wombats bring you more interesting developments from Germany...

from Christine Buchholz
Dear comrades and friends,

I just want to inform you that the german parliament voted on the prolongation of the ISAF-mission in Afghanistan last friday.

All 51 MPs of the Left Party parliamentary group that where present on that day voted against the ISAF mission. 7 green MPs voted against, 15 voted in favour of ISAF, 28 abstained - by this many green MPs ignored a resolution passed by a party conference in September demanding a no-vote.

In the SPD parliamentary group 13 voted against, 13 abstained.

There is a total of 453 yes-votes, 79 no-votes, 48 abstentions.

From the beginning Germany is part of operation enduring freedom and ISAF. In March 2007 the governement sent Tornado airplanes to Afghanistan to deliver pictures of reconaissance flights to NATO. There is a constant 2/3 of german population against the war. In a current survey 52% demanded the immediate withdrawl of all troops from afghanistan.

During the last years the movement wasnt able to mobilise on a bigger scale against the annual prolongation of the mandate for afghanistan war. Now the mood started to change.

There was a national Demonstration of 10.000 people in Berlin on September 15th. The demo was the biggest mobilisation against afghanistan war since five years.The peacemovement collected 50.000 signitures against the war within few weeks.

The governement argues, that ISAF is a humanitarian intervention to build schools and help the women in Afgahanistan, and ISAF has to be protected by OEF.

The movement argues that this is not true: ISAF is to protect the corrupt puppet-regime of Hamid Karzai and that we have to reject all the missions in afghanistan.

It is obvious that there will be no peace in Afghanistan if the foreign occupation will last and that more civilians and more german solidiers will die. This ist he reason why people are against the war. The peacemovement and the left feel encouraged to keep on mobilising. There is also the plan to organise an international Afghanistan-conference in May next year.

The ruling class in Germany is very eager to maintain the troops in Afghanistan. It is crucial for the ruling class that germany is a reliable partner for the US and NATO, because Germany alone is not able to protect its economical and geostrategical interests. Afghanistan is ment to prove this "reliability".

We want to challenge this, we want to force the government to end this bloody war. We have to have patience to build the movement, win more people from the greens and the SPD and root the movement in the localities.

On November 14th there will be a vote in german parliament on the prolongation of Operation Enduring freedom. We hope to get more MP to vote against it.

for more Information:
Bundeswehr raus aus Afghanistan (Die Linke page against the war in Afghanistan)

All the best,
Christine Buchholz

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Solidarity with the Urewera 17! Free them now!

from Aotearoa IMC


Five arrestees appeared in the Rotorua and Wellington District Courts today, after yesterday evening's revoking of Jamie Lockett's bail in the Auckland High Court.

In Rotorua, Tame Iti was denied bail and will reappear on October 24th. In Wellington, four arrestees were expected to have a hearing on whether or not their cases would be moved to Auckland, but no decision was reached. All four will reappear on Friday for a bail hearing.

Around 4-5 people in Auckland have been questioned by police on Tuesday and Wednesday, although none have been arrested. It is extremely important that anyone called in for questioning has a lawyer present, and makes no comment whatsoever. There is no such thing as a harmless conversation when it comes to police questioning.

Solidarity events held across Aotearoa / NZ and Australia

Melbourne, Australia - 30 people gathered outside the NZ Consulate Tuesday morning to voice their opposition to the arrests. [ Report: 1 and 2 (with photos) ]

Christchurch - Around 80 people gathered in Cathedral Square Tuesday evening to send a message of support and solidarity to the arrestees, their families and friends and the people of Tuhoe. [ Flyer ] [ 3 Short Videos ]

Sydney, Australia - Wednesday morning saw 30 people protest outside the NZ Consulate-General. [ Report ]

Wellington - 200 people attended a demonstration was held today outside the District Court before four arrestees appeared inside. Some people wore stickers stating "terrorist sympathiser".

Stand in solidarity!

Everywhere: Any letters emailed to lettersforprisoners[at]riseup[dot]net will printed out and distributed to arrestees. Obviously don't write anything that could negatively impact on you or anyone else!

Auckland: A solidarity group has been formed, and will meet next on Thursday. Details to come.
Lower Kaimai: A weekend has been organised to discuss and organise in solidarity with the arrestees [ Callout ].

Christchurch: A solidarity demonstration will be held in Cathedral Square at 12noon on Saturday.

Sydney, Australia: Public meeting & demonstration on Thursday October 25th, 5:30pm outside NZ Consulate-General, 55 Hunter St, Sydney

Melbourne, Australia: A solidarity demonstration will be held Saturday 27th in Federation Square, 12noon.

At this stage, donations can be made to a defence fund organised by Global Peace & Justice Auckland. Identify the donation as being for the defence fund. 38-9000-0099726-00 GLOBAL PEACE & JUSTICE AKLD.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

15 concrete proposals to revitalize socialism in Cuba

The Wombats are a bit tired from a long fortnight of intellectual and political stimulation (and traveling to Melbourne and back, so we bring you this very interesting article unabridged and without comment).

By Pedro Campos Santos

via walterlippmann.com
Translated by Dana Lubow
Edited by Dawn Gable

In response to the Party’s call for discussion of Raúl’s 26th of July, 2007 speech

The recently published article: Guiding the PCC [Cuban Communist Party]: an in-depth and open discussion of Raúl's 26th of July speech* describes the need to revitalize socialism in Cuba and provides the theoretical and practical basis for the following 15 interrelated proposals that are intended to strengthen worker and popular control of the economy and society and to set the stage for advances towards self-managed, participatory socialism, a concept toward which many revolutionary professionals and academics have labored for years under the full awareness of the country’s leadership.

Emergency responses to temporary difficulties, without integral restructuring, usually lead to adverse results. That is what happened during the Special Period. Therefore these proposals must be implemented in full in order to prevent counterproductive consequences. The intention is not to prescribe a solution, but instead to simply add to the innumerable suggestions that will surely be put forward in the discussion called for by the Party.

More general measures aimed at strengthening labor and popular power and true Bolivarian integration must be fleshed out and adjusted in the coming months, in accordance with practical demands.

It is necessary— in the middle term— to organize and legislate socialist self-management for business and for all of society. In the short, measures that could guarantee revolutionary continuity, the deepening of socialism and the broadening of mass support are as follows:

15 proposals to revitalize socialism in Cuba

1-Establish the CUC (Convertible Cuban Peso) as the only currency circulating in the country, without changing prices in the hard currency markets, but instead readjusting current prices – in nonconvertible Cuban pesos – for goods and services under state control (electricity, water, telephone, housing, transportation and basic products) to proportion to the average salary which would be about 250 CUC. This would require an immediate increase in the real salary of workers and preparations for the integration of the Cuban economy into a harmonious and expeditious system.

2-Restablish parity between the Cuban Convertible Peso and the U.S. dollar, with a minimal tax on exchange in order to stimulate tourism, controlled foreign investment (preferably indirectly and in the form of mixed companies), remittances, and domestic and foreign economic activity.

3-Distribute equitably and democratically a designated portion of each company’s earnings among its workers, at the end of each productive period— monthly, quarterly or weekly— at all service and production centers. This is totally different from current additional stimulation measures.

4-Democratically elect leadership in all production and service centers. Elected leaders should be subject to the continual possibility of recall and average salaries should be established, without additional perks, to prevent social climbing.

5- Democratically control and plan production in all production and services centers, based on the interests of the labor collectives, discussed with and in concordance with the interests of the municipalities and the nation, with full autonomous control over production plans, costs, expenses, budgets, salaries, earnings and other economic facets in the hands of labor collectives. Inter-business, financial-commercia l contractual relationships should be established among all sectors for the gradual advancement towards equivalent exchange. This will conflict with current budgetary concepts until participatory, socialist self-management is fully established and legalized.

6-Eliminate all obstacles to agricultural production, especially with regard to the UBPC* and turn over idle, cultivable land to individual farmers and preferably to groups of farmers who are interested in forming cooperatives. This should be accompanied by the creation of an efficient national banking network that provides credit to farmers, cooperatives and laborers and by the full deregulation of the domestic market for all agricultural and fishing products.

7-Eliminate the ration book, preceded by the establishment of direct and selective subsidies for low income, retired, single mothers, handicapped and disabled individuals, regulated by People’s Power local chapters.

8-Create commercial cooperatives throughout the retail sector. Retail price controls should be instated and the state should retain control of the wholesale market. Local and regional authorities of the People’s Power should provide oversight.

9-Establish co-managed and cooperative transportation companies to service the cities, funded by state credit and eventually by indirect participation of foreign capital in order to expand urban transportation in the capital and main cities. Self employed taxis drivers should be voluntary grouped into cooperatives supported by the state.

10-Remobilize micro-brigades by workplace to build decent housing for workers, authorize the creation of construction cooperatives and related trades, and streamline legislation, procedures, regulations, credits and the sale of building materials for housing. Some of this is already underway.

11-Eliminate taxes and controls on room rentals between nationals in order to ease the current housing deficit. This should be done by immediately making necessary modifications to the law to guarantee ownership and to prohibit large-scale landlordship. A property tax on housing should be established according to quality, size and location that leads to rational use of building capacities.

12-Freely issue licenses for all self-employment, including street vendors, upon payment of a single, initial fee for permission to operate and exempt from taxes all self-employed individuals making less than 1200 CUC annually
(100 CUC per month, i.e. lower than the salary of any worker once point #1 above is applied.) Eliminate monthly quotas and all the related bureaucracy and corruption and establish a scaled, annually payable income tax set below current rates, which would be determined according to a sworn declaration of income, verifiable by the National Office of Tax Administration.

13-Authorize house, land and automobile sales among nationals, upon payment of taxes and without further restrictions. Permit “flea markets” (used objects) on weekends in neighborhoods and communities where people can gather to sell, buy or barter whatever one wants without control or taxes.

14-Strengthen the tangible power of the People’s Power and establish regional, self-managed, fiscal and budgetary control at the municipal level and bring the police and domestic order institutions under city control thus separating them from State Security, and hand over the prison system with all its personnel and functions to the Ministry of Justice.

15-Submit these and all other proposals to a broad and unrestricted popular discussion, in a horizontal process that includes the press, radio and television, work centers, unions, party chapters, student centers, military units, CDRs [Committees in Defense of the Revolution], FMC [Federation of Cuban Women] delegations, and People’s Power neighborhood assemblies. After being enriched by the people, proposals should be submitted to a national referendum over a period of three months in order to democratically guarantee the effectiveness of the process.

September 2, 2007 perucho1949@ yahoo.es
* http://www.kaosenla red.net/noticia. php?id_noticia= 40452
** UBPC. Basic Units of Cooperative Production

Pedro Campos Santos born in 1949 in Holguín. Degree in history. Former diplomat with missions in Mexico and the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. International political analyst. Researcher at the Center for U.S.
Studies at the University of Havana. Author of dozens of articles and essays about socialism, Cuba, the Untied States and Latin America. Upcoming book releases: "La autogestión empresarial obrera y social: urgencia y garantía de la revolución socialista", "Socialismo Sí", y "La Revolución Cubana y la Autogestión socialista". Currently retired.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Hello Lenin! - One in five Germans want Berlin Wall back

In a stark reminder of how good the "bad old days" actually were (or, more to the point, how bad things are today, now that all of Germany is safely ensconced in the hands of the "Free" Market), a poll conducted by polling company Emnid to mark 17 years since the Anschluss (ahem, sorry, "reunification") that brought the formerly 'socialist' East into the fold of German Capitalism found that 19% of Germans thought the country was better off when it was divided into two countries.

Taking a leaf straight out of the self-righteous patronising attitude toward the feeling that maybe things could have been done better almost two decades ago known as "Ost-algia", the media dismisses this. Along with the 21% of "Ossies" who want the Wall (erected on my uncle's - and Fidel's - birthday, by the way) back they are described as being merely
"nostalgic about the concrete, barbed wire and armed guards that separated them from the west."

Surely, now that history has ended, and Capitalism has saved us all, there should be no support for "failed socialist experiments". (The same words were used by former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher to describe aboriginal land rights, we should add).

However, the poll couldn't hide some of the very real problems that still exist in Germany since "reunification". An overwhelming three-quarters of "Ossies" said they still felt like 2nd-class citizens, a whole 17 years after the 'Great Day' of unification on October 3, 1990. And revealingly, the same proportion of "Wessies" didn't believe their eastern cousins knew what they were talking about.

The figures speak for themselves, however. Unemployment is 15% in the East, twice that in the West, salaries are lower by 25-30%, and most of the "aid" money put into rapidly developing the East to bring it up to par with the richer West was in the form of boomerangs.

The promise of "instant capitalist well-being" never arrived. Instead, East Germany is left a rusting, polluted, impoverished and neglected second to the production and finance centres of the West.

The dissatisfaction with the dithering, pro-business "Neue Mitte" approach of Schroeder and the SPD, and cuts to social welfare and infrastructure, became a time-bomb, and a collection of unique circumstances have given us a special new situation in Germany.

The graph to the right, from Die Zeit, shows that German voting and political tendencies are shifting leftwards. Already we have seen the results of this in the last general election, where the new left party, Die Linke, roared into the political landscape, outscoring the Greens.

Since then, however, Die Linke, which has traditionally polled very well in the East due to the factors alluded to above and to the fact that its main base is still that of the newly re-reformed Party of Democratic Socialism/ Linkspartei (the descendant of the SED, the old ruling party of East Germany), has begun to score victories in the West as well.

At the same time, the decline of the Greens caught up with the membership on September 15 and 16.

At special party congress in the central German city of Göttingen, a majority of 800 delegates rejected the party leadership's position by voting against its motion to unconditionally approve the planned extension of the German Army's mandate in Afghanistan.

The congress, specially called to deal with the issue of Afghanistan, is something of a wake-up call to the Greens (who have picked up the nickname of "Olive Greens" for their support for German troops in Afghanistan) after the rise of an openly left-wing party has pushed them to the sidelines.

The opportunist politics of the Greens leadership (and especially the "pragmatism" of Joschka Fischer), in combination with their lack of coherent class analysis when faced with the opportunity to share power, have meant that they have been eclipsed, and may be staring down the barrel of a long, slow death. There is even some talk of a split in the Greens, although this may have been prevented for the moment with the Afghanistan decision.

Die Linke, by contrast, refused from the outset to enter into a ruling coalition, even a "red-red" coalition with the SPD. Things are far from clear from the left, however, as the PDS/ Linkspartei has been in coalition with the SPD at lower levels of government for some time, causing some friction within the new party.

What is clear, however, is that Germany has entered into an exciting and volatile new period of politics, with a new, left-wing, party at the eye of the storm.

Die Linke: "Flunking the Written"

The article below (reproduced in full and taken from the latest edition of Red Pepper magazine) is by Chris Spehr, organiser for the new left-wing party in Germany Die Linke ("The Left"), and gives an interesting insight into the development of meaningful left regroupment in one of the more exciting political climates in Europe at the moment.

Despite the title, it is actually a positive account of what is still a very
complex and amorphous situation as the young party - which is already the third biggest force in Germany - goes through its teething process. For more background, read here, here, here, and, importantly, here.

Flunking the written

The newly formed Die Linke (Left) party is breaking the rules of German politics to create a strongly rooted party to the left of the Social Democratic Party across Germany’s historic divide. Die Linke organiser Christophe Spehr reports:

Since the second world war, there has not been a stable party to the left of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany able to compete successfully for working class votes and represent socialist values. In the 1980s West Germany saw the rise of a green-alternative party in the Greens. But in contrast to other European experiences there has not been a communist or left socialist party since the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was banned in 1956.

There have been numerous attempts both from outside the SPD and by left SPD members to break away and found a new party, but they all failed. No matter how far the SPD might move to the right there was, it seemed, no possibility of establishing a left party that could stand its ground. It was as if the SPD’s monopoly of working class politics was written in stone.

As a legally, formally constituted party, Die Linke (the Left) is still only a few weeks old, but it has already had a sizeable impact. At the 2005 federal election, standing as a coalition of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), with its roots in East Germany, and Labour and Social Justice – the Electoral Alternative (WASG), coming from the west, it obtained 8.7 per cent of the vote, gaining 54 seats in the German parliament. In eastern Germany, it has reached about 25 per cent at state elections. In Berlin it is part of the government with the SPD. In Bremen, the smallest German state, the party entered the state parliament with 8.4 per cent of the vote.

All current national polls see Die Linke above 10 per cent of the vote.There is a steady flow of SPD members switching to the party, especially trade unionists. Formally launched on 16 June 2007 with 71,800 members (60,300 from the PDS and 11,500 from WASG), it attracted about 2,500 new members in the first week of its existence.

What kind of a party is it? Can it become a new political force, changing the German party system forever? What is the source of its sudden strength?

The legacy of the German divide: the east

Die Linke is a fusion between two older parties, overcoming the historical divide between east and west.The PDS, the Party of Democratic Socialism, was founded in 1990 in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). After the Berlin wall fell and the GDR ceased to exist, the progressive and democratic parts of the state’s single political party, the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany), decided to build a new party, the PDS. The PDS broke from the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, from state socialism and authoritarian political organisation but worked with the practical, organisational legacy of the old SED.

In the reunited Germany of the 1990s, the PDS established itself as a major political force in the five eastern states and in Berlin, divided in the cold war between the east and west.The PDS appealed both to the material impoverishment and moral mortification that many east Germans experienced in the unified but westerndominated Germany, and to former GDR citizens’ experience of positive features of their past system.

Coming from a system that had raised ‘spin-doctoring’ to an art form, suppressing every failure and problem, the former GDR citizens were all the more disillusioned when west German parties promised prosperity but then carried out economic policies that led to economic and social decline in the east.The PDS became a kind of civil rights party for the eastern citizens of Germany. It developed a very practical reform-focused politics rooted in the problems of everyday life.

In the ten states of western Germany, however, the PDS was unable to become a significant political force. It was so identified with the GDR that it couldn’t overcome its image as purely an ‘eastern’ party however sharply it tried to distance itself from that history. Since two thirds of German voters live in the west, the PDS never achieved more than about 5 per cent of the vote at the federal elections. Indeed, in 2002 it fell below the 5 per cent minimum for representation in the national parliament.

The legacy of the German divide: the west

The other half of Die Linke was founded in the western states. Its origins go back to disillusionment with Gerhard Schröder’s ‘red-green’ government, which took over in 1998 after 16 years of chancellor Helmut Kohl.This followed a course very similar to that of Tony Blair and New Labour. Its ‘job market reforms’ hit German people as a hard shock and during the eight years it was in power, poverty and insecurity increased on a scale unprecedented in the era of the welfare state.The new government also led Germany to war for the first time since 1945, actively participating in the military action in the former Yugoslavia in 1999.

The SPD went on to lose hundreds of thousands of members and millions of voters. For the left of the Social Democrats, it became almost impossible to remain loyal to the party. Party members were willing to accept some harsh consequences of global competition and had recognised the need for compromise. But what many members could not cope with was the fact that the party’s leaders treated the unemployed, the low paid, manual workers and the poor in general as the new outcasts, self-inflicted losers, the ones too dumb to catch up. For anybody who had any sense of a class instinct, the SPD was simply no longer a home.

After the re-election of the SPD-Green coalition in 2002 and no sign that the government was reconsidering its course, preparations began for a new left party. The final decision was made in circles close to the two biggest trade unions – the metal workers’ union, IG Metall, and the public services trade union, ver.di. For them a new left party would be a means to put pressure on the SPD.The new party was called Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (WASG). It was a mixture of trade unionists and ex Social Democrats on the one hand, and people from radical left groups and social movements on the other.

In the first state elections in which it participated, those of North Rhine- Westphalia, the new party proved that it could hurt the SPD but would most likely share the fate other left-of-SPDparties in the past.Though the SPD lost heavily, the WASG achieved only 2.2 per cent of the vote and the PDS 0.9 per cent.There seemed little likelihood that the WASG could win representation at federal or state level. The laws of German politics would, it seemed, remain unbroken.

Flunking the written: the new party

After the SPD’s dramatic defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia, one of its traditional strongholds, Gerhard Schröder decided to go on the offensive. He brought forward the federal elections to 2005. One reason was to try to ensure that the WASG initiative would be stillborn.The WASG was inexperienced and would have great difficulties in setting up an effective campaign in so short a time.

Schröder’s strategy did not take account of an old personal enemy, however. Oskar Lafontaine, a former SPD chairman and minister of finance until his resignation in 1999, announced that if WASG and PDS would run for the election together, he would offer himself as front-runner.WASG and PDS accepted this as the only chance of gaining federal representation in the 2005 elections.They went to the elections under the label ‘the Left’ and won a surprisingly strong 8.7 per cent of the vote.The two parties then decided to go one step further and fuse into a new party of the same name.

It took two years to implement this decision. Fusing two parties is an extremely difficult process in the German political system. Meanwhile, polls and elections like the recent one at Bremen state have proven that the new party is both stable and electorally effective. For the first time since 1945, a party to the left of the SPD and the Greens has been established.

Why is it possible to ‘flunk the written’ now when it has previously proved impossible?

There are three major reasons.The first is that the shift to the right of the Social Democrats and the Greens has opened a huge space, leaving thousands of activists and millions of voters without proper political representation.

The second is that Die Linke has been able to challenge effectively the prejudices that people have against the idea of a left party.The party has shown it can work together. Its activists put aside internal fights and power struggles.They have created a party that is neither a purist ideological enterprise nor simply an exercise in realpolitik.

The third reason is that the process of fusion at ground level has led everyone to accept a much higher degree of plurality, diversity and equality than you would normally find in a left party – a precondition for success in a complex society with very different social experiences and political traditions.

The future of Die Linke depends on these conditions continuing to hold. But on the basis of the foundations created so far this will be measured not in years but in decades. It is written.