Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where have all the profits gone

Mid September marked the fourth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, widely viewed as the final trigger of the global economic collapse, a shock that remains the dominant factor in global economic life. Friday, October 19 brought a dramatic drop in US equity values, caused, commentators speculate, by dismal reports of US corporate earnings. The most observant of these commentators did not fail to point out that Friday was also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the largest US one-day percentage drop in stock values. The fact that such an anniversary came to mind reflects a general and widespread fear that more economic turbulence is forthcoming.

The growing gloom overshadows the glowing September report of retail sales released earlier in the week. Despite stagnant or slipping incomes, the US consumer turned to the credit card to boost purchases at retail stores, online, and in restaurants. Signs of an improving housing market also fueled optimism.

Opinions change quickly. A week earlier---Tuesday, October 9---the International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Report. While raising fears of a global downturn, the report cut the probability of a US recession by nearly a quarter from its April forecast!

Taken together, the sentiments of the last two weeks demonstrate widespread confusion and uncertainty.

Big Problems, Little Ideas

Most of the conversation about the global economy, about capitalism, is shaped by ideological bias, academic dogma, distorted history and wishful thinking.

The global economy has never “recovered” from the shock of 2008. Nor does it teeter on the edge of another recession. In fact, it is fully in the grip of a profound systemic crisis, a crisis that has no certain conclusion. In this regard, the crisis is very much like its antecedent in the 1930s. The popular picture of The Great Depression as a massive collapse followed by the New Deal recovery is myth. Instead, like our current economic fortunes, it was like climbing a metaphorical grease pole— repeatedly advancing a few feet and then slipping down. Serious students of the Great Depression understand that its “solution” was World War II, with its state-driven, planned, military “socialism.”

Of course war itself is no solution, but the organized, collective, and social effort that capitalism only countenances for violence and aggression is a solution. Similarly, the success of the People’s Republic of China in sidestepping the harsh edges of the 2008 collapse is due to the remaining features of socialism—public ownership of banks, state enterprises, and economic planning. Never mind that much of the PRC leadership hopes to jettison these features, the advantages are there for all to see. Yet few see.

Distorted history begets foolish theory. The two ideological poles that dominate economic discussion—classical liberalism and Keynesianism—both owe their claimed legitimacy to favored, but mistaken views of the source and solution to the Great Depression. While expressions of these poles are found across the political policy spectrum, classical liberalism—often called neo-liberalism—is generally associated with the political right.

Political liberals and the left, on the other hand, often advocate for the analyses and prescriptions of the school associated with the views of John Maynard Keynes.

Since classical liberalism has been the dominant economic philosophy governing the global economy for many decades, common sense would dictate that, after four years of economic chaos and general immiseration, neo-liberalism would be in disrepute. But thanks to the tenacity of ruling elites and the profound dogmatism of their intellectual lackeys, the market fetish of neo-liberalism still reigns outside of Latin America and a few other outliers.

But Keynesianism—broadly understood as central government intervention in markets—enjoys a growing advocacy, particularly with liberals, leftists, and, sadly, “Marxists.” Centrist Keynesians advocate intervention in markets from the supply side, most often through credit mechanisms and tax cuts that encourage investment and corporate confidence. Liberal and left interventionists argue for stimulating economic recovery and stability by generating consumption and expanding demand from government-funded projects or government-funded jobs.

The panic of 2008 turned most policy makers toward flirtation with supply-side intervention and generally meager demand-based stimulus, a fact that liberal Keynesians like Paul Krugman are fond of pointing out. Only China adopted a full-blown demand-oriented stimulus program. Yet that tact also brought a host of new contradictions in its wake.

Austerity versus Growth

Pundits like Krugman and politicians like Francois Hollande posture the theoretical divide as one between austerity and growth, a choice between rational growth stimulation and the irrationality of shrinking government spending to reduce debt. In an idealized classless world, this point would be well taken—austerity is an enemy of growth. However, it is naïve and misleading to fantasize such a world.

In our era of global capitalism, the idea of cutting government spending and lowering taxes makes all the sense in the world to the ownership class. The resultant transfer of value counts as a significant element in restoring profit growth and expanding accumulation. In a real sense, the popular and apt anti-austerity slogan-- “we will not pay for your crisis”-- tells only half the story. The other half should be “we will not pay for your recovery.”

In the end, it is profit that determines the success and failure of the capitalist system. Accumulation of economic surplus—the value remaining after the bills are paid--is the engine of capitalism, necessary for its motion and its trajectory. The dramatic drop in the Dow Jones industrial stock averages resulting from poor earnings this past Friday only underscores this point. Those who see consumption as the critical element in growth and recovery should recognize that this loss of momentum is independent of, as well as more decisive than, the September report of strong retail demand.

The Tendency of the Falling Rate of Profit

The central role of profit, its growth and momentum in understanding capitalism and its recurrent structural crises has been overshadowed, even among most Marxists, by the infection of left thought with Keynes’ crisis theory. Theories of crisis that rest on underconsumption, overproduction, or imbalances reflect this infection and reduce political economy to the study of business cycles and avoidable and terminable economic hiccups—consumption can be expanded, production can be regulated, and balance can be restored. These are the assumptions of social democratic theory and what divides it from revolutionary Marxism.

Marx saw crisis as fundamentally embedded in capitalism’s structure. Processes in the capitalist mode of production unerringly bring on crises. And he locates the most basic of these processes is the mechanism of accumulation, a process that tends to restrain the growth of the rate of profit.

While it is good to see a rebirth of interest in and advocacy of Marx's law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, most of its worthy supporters remain needlessly confined to Marx’s expository formulae that serve well in revealing the anatomy of capitalism, but less so in exposing its disorders.

Yet the intuition behind Marx’s law is easily grasped. When unmediated by the encroachment of working class forces, the capitalists’ accumulation of surplus results in the extreme concentration of wealth, a concentration that reduces the opportunities to gather the expected return in the next and each successive cycle. Whether restrained by the physical limitations of workers, the potential length of the work day, diminished return on physical investment, rapacious competition, super-inflated investment reserves, or the myriad other possible forces or factors, the rate of profit is under constant and persistent duress.

Leading up to the 2007 economic slowdown that presaged the 2008 collapse, the enormous pool of capital available for profitable investment was acknowledged by all reporters. Its sheer volume alone depressed interest and profit rates in the face of limited productive investment opportunities. The desperate search for a rate of return drove investors toward riskier and riskier ventures that generated the financial collapse which has been well documented. It was the pressure on profits—an expression of the tendency—that drove the investor class to a lemming-like indulgence in arcane financial wizardry.

The neglect of Marx’s tendential law since the popularity of Keynes and underconsumption/overproduction crisis theories has retarded Marxist and Communist understanding of capitalist crisis while bolstering reformist policies within the Communist movement. Happily, there is a renewed interest in Marx’s law, though a full and satisfactory understanding of its application to and operation within contemporary capitalism is yet to be given.

At any rate, the decline of earnings now emerging in the latest financial news indicates that counter-crisis and counter-tendency measures are now exhausted in the US. Despite the euphoria of rising consumption spending and housing sales, the profit-driven engine of US capitalism is slowing, likely allowing the US economy to drift closer to the whirlpool already drowning the European economies.

Tough times are ahead, but a fertile period to plant the seeds of socialism. 

ZZ taken from http://zzs-blg.blogspot.ie/2012/10/where-have-all-profits-gone.html 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Leningrad

Solitite of an Internationalist - Our Leningrad


“No one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten”. That is what is engraved in Gold on the granite stone, right behind the statue of the Motherland, spreading her arms in grief.

The Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery is in the city of St. Petersburg –186 mass graves and about half a million people are buried there, including most of my family from the maternal side.

During World War II, for 900 days (2 and a half years), the city of Leningrad stood firm, defying the most horrific siege in modern history. It stopped the advance of the Nazi troops, withstood constant aerial bombardments, bitter cold, hunger and the lack of all basic necessities. Almost half the population vanished, was burnt by bombs, frozen in trenches and in unheated flats, or was starved to death.

This cultural capital of Russia performed the ultimate sacrifice: rising in defiance and courage, playing an important role in defeating Nazism, and thus in saving the world.

All of this while most of the West, either collaborated with Nazism or tried to ‘appease’ it.

Naturally the USSR in general and Leningrad in particular, did not save the world that belonged to the white race; it saved the world of “non-humans”, according to the German Fascists, of exterminable beings: people from Indian sub-Continent, Africans, Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Slavs, most of the Asians and Arabs.

And by smashing Fascism, colonialism also received a decisive blow (as Fascism and colonialism are made of the similar stuff), allowing dozens of nations in Asia and Africa to gain independence, and freedom. At least for some time; at least until the Western nations managed to regroup.

This was, naturally, never forgiven in the European and North American capitals. The Soviet Union and all its ideals and principles had been dragged through the dirt and vilified. Although it saved the world from Nazism, it became common to compare it to Fascist Germany, and many progressive Western intellectuals adopted this twisted and insulting judgment.

As I sat on a bench near the Statue Of The Motherland, I was in the company of Artem Kirpichenok, one of the leading Russian historians; a Jew who lived in Israel for 15 years, but decided to return to his native St Petersburg after becoming disillusioned with racism and the institutionalized discrimination of the minorities living in the Jewish State.

“It is incredible that Western propaganda succeeded in making most people all over the world believe that Nazism and Soviet Communism are comparable”, I said. “Even some progressive intellectuals are pronouncing both ‘–isms’ in one single breath.”

“Nazi Germany, the same as England, USA and France, was based on racist and colonialist mindset, widely accepted principles among the Western bourgeoisie in the 1930s”, uttered Artem Kirpichenok. “Hitler was building his empire in Eastern Europe on the British colonial design in India. Nazi racial theories did not differ too much from the racism in the US South or from the racial theories of French, Belgian, British or Dutch empires implemented in the colonies. The collapse of the Third Reich hit hard on all those ideals of colonialism and racism. And the Soviet Union was mainly to ‘blame’ for that collapse. The ideological basis of the European dominance over Asia, Africa and Latin America had been damaged.”

That could of course never be forgiven.

* * *

During the siege, my maternal grandmother dug trenches on the outskirts of the city. She fought the Germans, and was decorated for her courage on several occasions. I have no idea how she did it, how she managed to fight and to survive – she was so gentle, fragile and very shy. Many years after the war, years after I was born, whilst she was reading me poems and fairy tales, I would find it very difficult to imagine her holding a Kalashnikov, hand grenades or even a shovel. But she did; she fought, and she was ready to die for what she then thought, was the epic battle for the survival of humanity. And she came very close to dying on several occasions.

She was an Orthodox Christian lady, but also a firm supporter of Communism, a rare combination. She married my grandfather, a brilliant Muslim man from the Chinese minority in Kazakhstan, Husain Ischakov, a linguist and a Commissar of Health and later for Food Supply (basically a ministerial post in the old days).

What followed was a fragment that appeared as if it had been cut directly from official Western propaganda. My grandfather fell out of favor with Stalin, was arrested and executed. In 1937, (the first earliest memory my mom had from her ‘childhood’) this tall and elegant man was bent over the cradle, lifting my mom in his arms, and pressing her against his chest, before being led away by the agents of the State, to oblivion and eternity. He cried as he looked at her face; he knew exactly what was ahead. He never came back.

My grandmother fought. She was decorated. But nonetheless, after the War was over, she was arrested and thrown into jail for ‘marrying an enemy of the State”. She spent years in prison, while my mother went through hell, virtually an orphan. When my grandma was released from prison, she said to my mother: “It was so terrible that I thought; two more weeks and I would hang myself there”. But she never betrayed my grandfather: all she had to do was to sign that she ‘regretted’ marrying him. She never did. Obviously, her loyalty was more important to her, than her own life.

She left that jail, still an Orthodox Christian, and still a Communist!

My grandfather’s name was eventually ‘cleared’; he was made a ’hero’ again posthumously. Books were written about him, and my mother was allowed to study architecture.

* * *

What happened to my family was of course brutal and terrible. And to claim that the USSR was some paradise on Earth would be insane.

But we are talking about 1930s and 1940s. And in that context, the USSR was definitely more humane than Western Europe or the United States. To dispute that would be to deny the most basic statistics.

“Let us compare”, I was repeatedly told by the greatest Southeast Asian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who was nominated countless times for the Nobel Prize for literature but never received one because, unlike Solzhenitsyn, he was imprisoned in the wrong – pro-Western – concentration camps. “Let us remember that everything occurs in some historical context.”

Western propaganda managed to put to work some tremendously effective lies, half-truths and outright fabrications, that could not be checked or disputed (not that most of the people would even try): the number of victims in the gulags were exaggerated, and were regularly combined with the numbers of both political and common criminals (in the Stalin era, everybody convicted of any crime was put to work, in some sort of labor camp with terrible conditions, as the country was still poor. Many prisoners never returned).

Some members of the Soviet intellectual and military elites (including my grandfather) were executed. But was it just because of ‘Stalinist terror’? Many analysts (Russian, Chinese and others) now claim that the Nazi spy apparatus thoroughly infiltrated Soviet intelligence. Germany wanted to get rid of the most talented, loyal and tolerant Soviet leaders and Generals. They identified them, and then began injecting and spreading the most damaging, but fabricated information about their disloyalty. My grandfather was, for instance, executed on the charge of ‘spying for Japan’, a ridiculous but somehow ‘logical’ charge as he was a linguist, and spoke several Asian languages.

On top of that, Stalin and those around him, had plenty to be ‘paranoid’ about: the hostility of the West towards the young Communist state was apparent. The USSR was attacked by the US, UK, and ravaged by brutal Czech Legions and other invading forces.

* * *

Anyone with a drop of objectivity would have to admit (unless he or she would be set on denying the basic principle of humanism, which declares that all people are equal, regardless of their race and or nationality) that the Communist Soviet Union committed much lesser amounts of crime than the Western countries under the banner of ‘constitutional monarchies’ or ‘multi-party democracies’.

While the Soviets were busy pulling tens of millions out of poverty (and we are talking, for instance, about the Muslims of the Middle East, the areas where the standard of living eventually reached that of the European parts of Russia, as well as the other countless minorities inhabiting this enormous country), in approximately the same era the Belgians managed to kill around 10 million people in Congo, chopping off their hands and burning women and children in their huts alive.

The Germans committed a monstrous genocide (or call it Holocaust) against the Herero tribe in Namibia, for no other apparent reason than because they seemed to dislike their members. The first concentration camps on earth were built by the British Empire in Africa, and the French colonial onslaughts are well documented in Southeast Asia, in West and North Africa and elsewhere. The Dutch plundered, raped, killed and enriched themselves on a great archipelago that is now called Indonesia.

The genocides, mass murder and terror that were spread by the West, in the rest of the world, have been countless, but of course under-reported, as ‘foreign aid’ for education and the media, managed to train and discipline collaborators in the poor world, securing that the truth about the past would be generally omitted.

Even the end of World War II did not bring to an end, the bestial treatment of ‘the natives’ at the hands of the European and North American colonialists. One should recall the treatment of the people of the Middle East, by Winston Churchill and other glorified British leaders. All this is of course well documented, including in the books written by Churchill himself, but hardly mentioned by the disciplined and reliable mainstream media and academia, in both the colonizing and colonized nations.

There are countless statues of Winston Churchill or the Belgian King Leopold II, all over capitals of Europe.

In the second half of the 20th Century, during the so called ‘Cold War’, the Soviet Union stood firmly on the side of the oppressed, on the side of the liberation struggles, for freedom in Africa, Asia and Latin America. One has to wonder how mighty has been the propaganda that has made it all to be forgotten?

While Europe and the United States (and their constitutional monarchies and multi-party ‘democracies’) cultivated despots in Iran, Egypt, the Gulf, the Middle East, South Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Indonesia and so many other unfortunate places, the Soviet Union stood by the Cuban, Nicaraguan, Tanzanian and North Vietnamese revolutions, it supported the leaders, true heroes and liberators like Patrice Lumumba and President Salvador Allende.

And both of us – Noam Chomsky and I – came to the conclusion during our recent debate at MIT, that the standards of living in Riga, Prague or East Berlin were allowed to be significantly higher than in Moscow, while those of Tashkent or Samarkand were just marginally lower. The standard of living in the colonies and the client states of the West were ten, twenty, even a hundred times lower than those in Washington, Paris or London, often resulting in the loss of millions of human lives.

I calculated that some 55 million lives have been lost since World War II as a result of Western colonialism, neocolonialism, direct invasions, sponsored coups and other acts of international terror. I am probably grossly under-estimating the numbers, as there were lives lost to famines, terrible mismanagement, and the outright misery triggered by Western imperialism.

Tens of millions of lives were further lost as a result of the terrible seeds planted by imperialism and colonialism, the most obvious case being the Partition of the Sub-Continent.

I would suggest that instead of comparing Fascism and Soviet Communism, the Left and the entire thinking world would begin comparing what is truly comparable: the Fascism, Western colonialism and market fundamentalism (the most violent fundamentalist faith on earth today), served and represented by “Western multi-party systems” and “Constitutional monarchies”.

* * *

When I meet a new person, which happens with a great frequency, to me there is nothing more frightening than the most simple and natural question: “Where are you from?”

I don’t know what to say, I cannot answer and even if I could, the reply would be too blurry, too complex, and too philosophical. On top of that, unless I would opt for some long and detailed answer, the information I would give would be very inaccurate.

I am a dedicated Internationalist, but it is not taken as an identity by the majority of those that I meet.

My interviewers and reviewers often choose Prague, the former Czechoslovakia or the present day Czech Republic as my identity, but it is thoroughly false. Prague was never my home. Czechoslovakia was where I endured a hellish childhood, where during the winter, I had my shoes filled with urine and then the other kids would let them freeze outside the school or gym, one of countless punishments for my having an “Asian mother”. It is where I had to fight after each class, from the age of six for my life, simply because my mother was not just half Asian, but because she was also half Russian.

My true identity is truly spread all around: it lies deep and high in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes where I faced death on several occasions while covering the Peruvian “Dirty War”. It is in Chile, bouncing from the walls of the narrow, winding and often haunted streets of the coastal city of Valparaiso – it lies with Chilean poets and with the songs of fishermen at its coast. My identity is spread throughout that enormous body of water of the South Pacific Ocean dotted with tiny specks of land – now ‘island nations’ that were colonized and utterly destroyed by the traditional colonial powers.

My identity is from the Swahili coast of Africa and around the Great Lakes of the continent, in all those places that underwent the worst genocide in modern history, the genocide triggered by the European and North American political and economic interests. My identity also lies in the deserts of the Middle East, and if I knew the Sub-Continent in just a bit more in detail, it would be there as well. I am at home in Havana, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Onomichi, Beijing, Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur. And I also live in Japan, Indonesia and Kenya.

It is a total mess, I know, it is very confusing and I cannot explain it, but that’s how it is.

For years, even decades, my home was where there was a struggle for justice and independence; I have been writing books and articles, making films or getting directly involved in the struggle. I can hardly identify my race, culture or national identity, anymore and I don’t even try to. I go where I am needed. And at the end, also, as Garcia Marquez wrote: my home is where they read my books.

* * *

I was born in Russia, in Leningrad (I am sorry, but I simply cannot call it St. Petersburg, as it is called now, it will always remain Leningrad to me). I had never lived there, because my parents took me to Czechoslovakia when I was just a few months old. But every year, my mother would put me on a plane, one of those old Soviet Tupolev jets with mahogany tables, lampshades and black caviar served on all the international flights, in just one single class, to send me to Leningrad where my grandmother would be waiting for me, armed with a set of keys to some humble rented room in the Bay Of Finland, a room which, for me, was like a paradise. My grandmother was always armed with endless tickets and passes to the opera houses, ballet performances and art exhibitions. In the Communist days they cost nothing, but it was not easy to get them.

And she had piles of books waiting for me. I let her read to me, even though I was able to read myself. She read to me until it was late into the night and when it rained outside, the moments were especially magic.

From the moment I left Leningrad, I began counting the days left till my return. I had my special secret book where I marked each day that had passed. The cold deep water of the Neva River, its bridges, the open spaces, the beauty of this former Russian capital so often covered by fog, the pathos of Russian and then Soviet history, the pathos of the history of my own family – all this captivated my mind, made me dream, made me prematurely adult.

In Czechoslovakia, my mother missed Russia terribly. She cried almost every night. She read books to me, too, and a lot of poetry.

Like this, I had no childhood naturally, but they managed to make a writer out of me at an extremely early age. I inherited their struggle, their 900 days of Siege, their war, their Russia.

Both women passed everything on to me, but it was not just the suffering, the prisons and the wars, but also great hope, the ability to dream, enthusiasm, optimism, as well as great solidarity. They taught me that one could always build from nothing or rebuild from the ashes. And that love, if it is true love, is not something that does disappear, nor does it vanish in one month or even in several years.

They also passed on to me the love for their city; their lost but never forgotten love.

* * *

Now, after all those years I came back to Leningrad. By now I was much more Latin American or Asian, than Russian. My native tongue was suddenly feeling so heavy and rusty: it was still perfect in terms of pronunciation but archaic and over-polite.

I returned exhausted, after launching my big book in London – the book about Indonesia, and how the West had ruined it after the 1965 US-sponsored coup. I returned after just finishing my 160 minutes documentary film on the genocide in DR Congo, and after working at the Ugandan and then on Turkish-Syrian border.

I suddenly felt lonely and I was desperately longing to tell my story to someone dear to me. But it so happened that no one joined me in Leningrad.

I wandered through the streets, so beloved and yet so foreign.

I went to the old beach at Zelenogorsk, but it had changed, the marina was dotted with private boats and yachts instead of my old tugboats and patrol vessels.

I went to visit the forest where the dead body of my grandfather was thrown from the train. Now it was the memorial cemetery, in fact a haunted forest with the names and photographs nailed to the trees. I did not want to travel here from the city where I was born, from Leningrad. I wanted to come here from Helsinki, from a neutral place, but it was not meant to be.

The forest was quiet. There were a few mourners, but otherwise total silence. My Muslim, Communist, Chinese grandfather was here. My grandfather, a linguist, the Minister of Health of Kazakhstan, a man who gave his entire life to the revolution, but fell out of favor and was killed, thrown into this quiet forest, without any respect or any rituals.

It was easy to draw conclusions, to condemn everything. But I had heard enough about him to know that he would not betray his beliefs, just as my grandmother had never done.

Before she died, I asked my grandmother: “You never re-married. You remained beautiful for decades after my grandfather died. Why?”

She smiled her unpretentious smile: “Your grandfather”, she said, “Was a very big man. It is extremely rare to meet a man like that. Others never even came up to his shoulder”. And she did not mean my grandfather’s height.

He was a Communist, and what it meant to him, was simply the process of building a much better world than the one he knew from his childhood.

In the forest, I sat on the grass. It was cold. After all those wars that I had covered, after the 145 countries I had visited, the dozens of books and films I had produced, after all that struggle, I suddenly felt the need to cling to someone, just for this moment; I needed to speak, to be held, to tell the story, from the beginning to the end. I was never the one into autobiographies, but now I needed to be understood. But in the end I came alone, with just my Leica and a tiny book of poetry written by Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, one of the Cuban 5 – patriots imprisoned brutally in Miami.

My entire maternal family was broken and scattered. But we were all fighters. Like my grandmother and grandfather I had to go on: I had to struggle and fight for what I believe in. Like them I knew how short life is, how little time there is, how precious it is and how mighty the enemy is.

* * *

Later I travelled on the legendary Leningrad metro, with all those underground palaces, and the old Soviet-era dilapidated carriages.

I kept reading Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, the bi-lingual Spanish and Russian, edition that was given to me in Kiev, by the translator of my writing.

El amor que expira no esamor

El verdadero amor pertenece

A todo el tiempo, a la tierra toda,

Sin temor enfrenta tempestades,

Resiste hasta el filo de la muerte

Y, como la natura, eseterno.

In this stunning poem written in a Miami prison, Rodriguez argues that love that can pass is not really love. That true love could resist even death itself and is, like nature, eternal.

I noticed that a young lady was reading over my shoulder. After a while, she asked me in passable Spanish: “Is it true what it says?” Also in Spanish I replied: “Yes, they are in prison, all of them. It is terrible.”

“It is not what I mean”, she said with certain urgency. “Is it true what it says? That love is eternal or it is not love?”

I was stunned, as this would not have happened even in Buenos Aires, this exchange could only take place in Havana… and here. Then I realized that after all, this was my city, the city where poets were read by the millions, and the city that made me a writer. I looked at the girl, looked her straight in the eyes and replied in Russian: “My grandparents thought so. I don’t know if it is truth but I always lived as if it is.”

The girl nodded. She said nothing, but as she was leaving the car at the next station, she gave me the most brilliant smile I have received in years. Obviously the city had its way to give me strength.

Outside, on the bank of Neva River, I briefly put my forehead on the granite wall that separated the sidewalk from the enormous waterway. The stone was cold, refreshing.

Leningrad did not try to hold me. It was too proud, too enormous. But I felt it was embracing me, before sending me back to war, to the battle. I had to carry on the legacy of those who were fighting for the survival of the humanity in the 1940s. I knew all those places that were under siege; I knew so many places on this earth that were worse than any hell professed by religious theories. I really knew so many of them. I was obliged to fight and to work, day and night.

As Rodriguez and others realized, one has to fight when men, women and children are being slaughtered, when entire nations and cultures are being destroyed. When injustice is called justice and in the name of it, cruelty reigns.

With the deep waters of the Neva in front of me, I whispered as I had when I was a child addressing the city: “Now I will go, but I will come back. Please wait for me.”

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the  South Pacific – Oceania – is published by Lulu . His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

This has been taken from the Counterpunch website http://www.counterpunch.org/ but has been reprinted here with the author's permission

Thursday, October 18, 2012

opportunism of the ULA on Greece

I don't usually use this site for any kind of attack upon other progressive forces in Ireland but I believe the ULA's latest meeting on Greece with an invited MP from Syriza misrepresents the struggle in Greece by using the above symbolic act of defiance by the KKE as their poster advertising the Syriza speaker with one important difference. Look closely and you will see on their posters they have Photoshopped, very poorly, the KKE and hammer and sickle out of the banner. This is not just a pathetic act of sectarianism it is attempting to portray Syiza as something they are not, militant, and misrepresent the workers struggle in Greece which in reality is led by the KKE and PAME. 

images from strike

more on today's strike in Greece

The demonstrations of the All-workers Militant Front (PAME) in Athens, Thessalonica, Piraeus and dozens of cities all over the country on the 18th of October, 2012 were a decisive response to the barbaric measures and political line of the government, EU and capital. 

PAME held a majestic demonstration in the centre of Athens. “We do not fall for the games aimed at disorientating, mocking and trapping the Greek people regarding the so-called negotiation.” This was stressed by Sotiris Poulikogiannis, President of the Metalworkers Union of Piraeus, at the central strike rally in Omonia. And he added that the three-party government of ND-PASOK-Democratic Left “have finalised the raft of measures which have been ordered by the monopolies.”

As the trade unionist of PAME said: “From the day when capital established the EU, it has sought through it to maximise its profitability, by cutting back every labour right-gain-freedom (…) all those who speak about a bad negotiation, subservience, foreign occupation etc are playing a dirty role. On the one hand they make a lot of noise and talk tough and on the other hand they assist the attempt to conceal the truth from the people- from the working class. To exonerate the big employers so that their destructive activity can proceed unchecked. They have given a role to the fascist gang of Golden Dawn in this plan. A triple role a) To turn Greek workers against immigrants, B) To use their slave-trading employment agencies to patronize the Greek workers and to hand them over to the employers as cheap labour, C) To operate as a para-state repressive apparatus against the class-oriented movement. For there to be effective struggles the racist-Nazi views of Golden Dawn must be condemned. We call on the workers, and the people to reject them in a mass and determined way. So that they have no factories or meetings where they can go to and speak and spread the poison of racism and xenophobia, and talk about the allegedly good patriotic capitalists.”

S. Poulikogiannis noted amongst other things that: “We upset their plans, because we expose their role and the real causes of the crisis. Because we have a proposal and a plan to overthrow their power. 

They are all infuriated when they hear us shout with class hatred the following slogan: WITHOUT YOU NO COG CAN TURN- WORKER, YOU CAN DO WITHOUT THE BOSSES.

Their plans for net salaries of 580 euros and maybe even less … are not only related to the minimum wage, everyone in the public and private sector will be paid on this basis. This is the life which they are preparing for us and our children. Work from dusk until dawn with starvation wages.

No hope of free time- no possibility of our children going to university- no access to basic health and welfare services- work until extreme old age with meagre benefits instead of a pension.

And all this will take place in the much-awaited development phase which they are ALL talking to us about, and when we say all we mean all those who praise the EU and identify our future with the profitability of the monopoly groups. 

For us this prospect is not called development but transformation of the workers into the slaves of the 21st century. 

There is only one path of development for the class-oriented labour movement: development in favour of the people and not the monopolies, utilizing all the productive potential of Greece. This development can be realized only with people’s power and economy, with the disengagement from the EU. With the socialization of the monopolies, so that they are transformed into workers’ and people’s property that will be utilized according to the central, national planning for the complete utilization of the productive capabilities of the country in favour of the popular strata. Only the workers’ and people’s power, which will transform not merely the current state property into social property but also the big businesses and factories, and can organize production on the basis of central planning so as to utilize to the utmost the immense productive capabilities of Greece. The people will be able to decide on their future and prosper only when they get rid of the yoke of the plutocracy’s parasites.” 

He called on the workers to organize the struggle in all workplaces in order to block the measures which have already been finalised and are dictated by the monopolies. He denounced the reactionary plan for the restructuring of the trade union movement which is promoted by the forces of SYRIZA and called on the workers to struggle through the ranks of the class-oriented labour movement, under the flags of PAME. 

The rally included also greeting speeches by Christos Marganelis from the People’s Committee in Peristeri (a working class neighbourhood in Athens) and Stathis Sachinidis president of the association of the self-employed and the small traders of Athens, on behalf of The Greek Militant Rally of Self-employed (PASEVE). Furthermore, the small shops which participated in the strike remained closed all over the country. 

A minute’s silence was observed as it is one year since the cowardly attack of the anarchist-fascist groups against PAME in October 2011 which led to the death of the construction worker Dimitris Kotzaridis

There followed a large march in the central streets of the Greek capital. At the time when the head of PAME’s demonstration was passing by the Parliament, in Syntagma Square, the tail was still in Omonoia square where the rally of PAME had taken place.

During the strike rally of PAME Aleka Papariga, GS of the CC of the KKE, made the following statement to journalists: “the important thing is to build a strong people’s alliance so that the people follow the path of rupture, overthrow , disengagement from the EU, cancellation of the debt and socialization. There is no other path.”

Death of a Demonstrator

After the completion of PAME’s march, there followed the demonstration of the compromised trade unions of GSEE and ADEDY where there were some minor incidents between the police and the hooded individuals. The police used tear gas, with the result that later a demonstrator who passed through this area felt discomfort and fainted. The information available at this moment states that this man was a 67 year old seaman, unemployed for many years, who according to witnesses had participated earlier in PAME’s demonstration. The information available states that the dead demonstrator suffered a cardiac arrest…

PAME Press Statement on Strike in Greece

Athens, October 18th, 2012

The Executive Secretariat of PAME salutes the thousands workers, men and women, unemployed, young, pensioners, who struggled in the workplaces for the success of the strike against the terrorization of the employers. The students and the interns who participated in a militant and massive way.

The selfemployed who closed down their shops and stood next to the workers, against the disorientation and the lies of the government which pretends that negotiates for the “benefit” of the workers and the people. All over Greece the demonstrations of PAME were magnificient.

This proves that the lines of the class movement are thickening. It proves that no force can lead it towards submission and subjugation.

This proves that the organisation within the workplaces is getting stronger and stronger. That day by day, more and more people are rallying with the people´s committees, especially in workers´ neighbourhoods.

This proves that the lines of the social alliance are strengthening, under the banners of PAME.
PAME calls the working class, the trade unions, to continue the struggle, the organisation in every work place, all around the country, with no stopping. We stay alert. We do not wait. We prepare our next steps. So as the brutal measures not to pass, so as to overthrow the antilabour policy, so as to get rid of the threat of bankruptcy, the chains of the monopolies and their power, the chains of the EU.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recent KKE demos all over Greece

Yesterday, the 4th of October, in every corner of the country the party organizations of the KKE spread the message for the labour and people’s barrier to the storm of anti-people measures and the call for the people to support the bill proposed by the KKE, which demands the abolition of the memoranda and the loan agreements, together with the laws which accompany them. The communist men and women, supporters and friends of the KKE and KNE, thousands of workers and toiling people, with visits in the morning to workplaces, factories, companies, services and with demonstrations in the evening in 32 districts of Attica and 60 cities in Greece, stirred up the neighbourhoods, calling on the people to take matters into their own hands and demonstrate their strength. With organization everywhere and alliance with the KKE, to fight against the barbaric measures, laying solid foundations in the struggle for disengagement from the EU with people’s power and unilateral cancellation of the debt.

The GS of the CC of the KKE, Aleka Papariga, participated in the rally organized by the KKE in Keratsini ( a working class district of Piraeus), from where she made the following statement: “The workers hold enormous strength in their hands and can in this phase hinder and block the new savage measures. If these measures are passed, the price will be very high. We must block them at all costs and in every way possible.”

In response to a journalist’s question regarding “Lagarde’s List”, related to Greeks who had transferred large sums of money in recent years before the crisis to foreign banks, and the discussion that has followed from this, Aleka Papariga noted : “The lists demonstrate the following: There are tax evaders, there are also the hypocrites and all those who want to foster the view amongst the people that the crisis was caused only by theft. Theft exists. The legal theft of the toil of the workers is what caused the crisis.”

Thousands march in Athens - PAME and KKE

The thousands of protesters who flooded the central streets of Athens on Tuesday 9/10/2012 cancelled in practice the banning of the demonstrations that the EU and the three-party government (liberals, social democrats, “Democratic Left”) sought to impose on the working people due to the visit of the German chancellor Angela Merkel to Athens.

The All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), which rallies the class-oriented trade unions of the country, held a particularly mass demonstration something that was acknowledged even by the bourgeois media which usually do not miss any chance to attack PAME and the communists. Young students (Militant Students’ Front-MAS), small and medium-sized self-employed and traders (Nationwide Rally of the Self-employed-PASEVE) the women (Greek Women’s Federation- OGE) demonstrated together with the workers under the banners of their unions.

Yiannis Tasoulas, member of the Executive Committee of PAME who delivered the speech at the demonstration of PAME in Omonia stressed amongst other things:

“No barricade and no water cannon can frighten us! The moment when the workers rise up makes them tremble. Our demonstration is a first answer. […]

The government of ND-PASOK-Democratic Left, the industrialists, the bankers are hosting a lady who is one of them, the representative of the German industrialists and bankers, of the German monopolies. […]

Merkel does not shed tears for any people. She rubs her hands, as the other capitalists do, for the chance they have to buy infrastructure at very low prices as well as the prime cuts of our beautiful country. She fights with the other vultures over the loot and not over the lives and the future of our children. This is what happens in the crises and the EU now which was presented as a safe haven. […]

All of them have supported the measures. They have not missed a summit, they have celebrated every EU directive, they have applauded all the agreements and now all of them, the parties and the parasites of the EU which have been undermining the working people for many years, have discovered that they are allegedly under occupation. The working people have lived for generations under their yoke and they must decide to cast off them.”

He continued: “the truth is simple and clear. Whoever disagrees with the memoranda, the application laws, the loan agreements, the troika… is against the EU, its agreements and its decisions, is against the capitalist path of development which is presented as a one-way street. Whoever applauds the EU and protests against the troika is simply mocking the people.

Merkel is coming like all the crows to the region of the Eastern Medietrranean because she smelt blood and plunder, like the other imperialists. The clouds of war are gathering in Syria with the danger of a generalized conflagration. In this way they are sharing out the oil, the natural gas, their transport routes and the markets. We must not shed our blood for their bank deposits in Switzerland. We must make sacrifices for our own struggle.

We call on the trade unions, federations, every honest trade unionist to smash the fear , to decide for a strike on the 18th of October. (...) The workers will take the struggle into their hands. PAME will be in the front line . Everyone must take part in the struggle, in the demonstration, in the strike." the speaker concluded.

A delegation of the CC of the KKE took part in the rally headed by A. Papariga, who made this statement to the journalists: " Those peoples which do not hesitate to break and get rid of their class chains will be victorious. This for us is the meaning of today's rallies. This must be the meaning of the immediate and future struggles."

PAME's magnificent march to Syntagma square followed, which gave the message of the class response to the machinations of the "black front" (EU-Government-Plutocracy). "Without you no cog can turn! Worker you can do without the bosses!", " An end to illusions. EIther you are with capital or you are with the workers!", " The workers are not a cost, but the parasites are, the capitalists!" etc.

Thousands of demonstrators could not be overshadowed by the stage-managed incidents with the riot police which some small groups of provocateurs tried to create, in coordination with the state apparatus.

PAME on Tuesday held rallies against the new anti-people measures in many Greek cities. In its press release PAME salutes today's impressive, combative, and determined rally. As it notes thousands of people, working men and women, unemployed, youth, pensioners and self-employed participated in the rally, in practice smashing the repressive measures and bans, answering the barbaric political line of the government, capital and the European Union.

PAME calls the trade unions from tomorrow without any break to continue to organize the struggle for the working class to respond with a new strike on the 18th of October. For this strike to be an organized response to big capital, the European Union, and the monopolies which seek to chain us.

PAME calls on the workers not to accept the abolition of the minimum salary and day's wage, the breaking of the 8 hour day, the radical upheaval of their lives.