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China
Slowest growth rate since 1990

25/01/2015: Economy decelerated 30 percent in five years

  China

Cuba
Diplomatic relations with US restored, embargo eased

24/01/2015: Threat of capitalist restoration accelerates

  Cuba, US

Northern Ireland
Water service workers win important victory

23/01/2015: A victory for all workers and an inspiration to resist the ‘race to the bottom’

  Ireland North

Sri Lanka
Mobilise now to defend our demands

22/01/2015: Article first published in the Colombo Telegraph

  Sri Lanka

 US
Kshama Sawant gives socialist response to Obama’s "State of the Union" address

21/01/2015: "Why can’t Barack Obama say “Black Lives Matter”?"

  US, Video

Russia/Ukraine
Facing a turbulent 2015

21/01/2015: As death toll rises, economies plunge into freefall

  Russia, Ukraine

Greece
Prospect of Syriza victory raises workers’ hopes

20/01/2015: Mass intervention of working class to struggle for socialist policies is vital

  Greece

Nigeria
The Massacre in Baga

19/01/2015: Socialism or Barbarism

  Nigeria

Review
‘Eleanor Marx - a life’

17/01/2015: Clare Doyle reviews ’Eleanor Marx - A Life’ by Rachel Holmes

  Review

 Video
Joe Higgins questions Irish Central Bank governor

16/01/2015: Socialist MP grills establishment over banking bubble and collapse

  Video

Nigeria
2015 general elections and the working masses

16/01/2015: Boko Haram and the war in the north-east

  Nigeria

  Video
Ruth Coppinger calls for referendum on abortion rights in Ireland

15/01/2015: "You march in Paris, yet uphold laws any religious fundamentalist would envy"

  Ireland Republic, Video, Women

 Video
A year of struggle in Brazil

14/01/2015: LSR members intervene in struggles of 2014

  Brazil, Video

Sri Lanka
New but uncertain period opens up

14/01/2015: President Sirisena aims for clean government but will face difficulties

  Sri Lanka

Iran
Labour and children’s rights activist, Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, sentenced to another nine years

13/01/2015: International action needed to overturn latest conviction and to immediately release Behnam

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Germany
What is behind the ‘PEGIDA’ anti-immigrant demonstrations?

13/01/2015: Unions and Left must organise against racism and for jobs and decent living standards for all

  Germany

France
Millions march for solidarity

12/01/2015: Unity against racism and capitalism!

  France

New Zealand
Extreme poverty worsens

12/01/2015: Workers need to build political alternative to major parties’ big business agenda

  New Zealand

France
Counter terrorist threat with workers-led mass unity

10/01/2015: The shocking, cold blooded slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, and more killings in subsequent days, has been met with mass outrage

  France

Norway
General strike called for 28 January

10/01/2015: Two-hour protest against worsening working conditions

  Norway

Sri Lanka
Rajapaksa defeated

09/01/2015: Period of uncertainty opens

  Sri Lanka

Sweden
New elections cancelled

09/01/2015: “Peace deal” between government and right-wing opposition

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Greece
Towards a Syriza government?

08/01/2015: General elections on 25 January

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France
Deadly attack on satirical paper Charlie Hebdo

08/01/2015: Defend freedom of speech! Don’t let us be divided!

  France

Hong Kong
Politics transformed by ‘Umbrella Revolution’

07/01/2015: A fighting democratic movement must be created to continue and build upon this historic “first round”

  Hong Kong

Israel-Palestine
A successful Socialism conference in the shadow of national divide

06/01/2015: Over 150 people participated in the ‘Socialism Conference 2014’ in Tel Aviv, organised by the Socialist Struggle Movement (SSM - CWI in Israel-Palestine)

  Israel / Palestine

Northern Ireland
The Stormont House Agreement

05/01/2015: Agreeing Not To Agree, Again

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Environment
Market forces hold back renewable energy

01/01/2015: Have capitalist governments around the world finally woken up to the danger of global warming?

  Environment

New Year
Political and economic ingredients for volatile 2015

31/12/2014: As crisis of capitalism worsens, vital to organise and continue the struggle

  Britain, Europe, World Economy

Britain
In defence of TUSC

30/12/2014: As the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition gears up for its biggest ever electoral stand…

  Britain, US

 CWI
National Question a key feature of political crisis of capitalism

28/12/2014: A socialist solution to national oppression

  CWI

Scotland
Blairite wins election as Labour’s new Scottish leader

27/12/2014: Murphy’s election means trade unions must build a new workers party

  Scotland

Obituary
Gough Whitlam, 1916-2014

26/12/2014: Former Australian Labour Party (ALP) prime minister

  Australia, Obituary

China
Hard landing in 2015?

24/12/2014: China’s economic slowdown already being felt throughout world economy

  China

Trotsky
‘The national principle’

24/12/2014: An article written by LEON TROTSKY, exposing the hypocrisy of world powers towards national minorities and oppressed peoples, translated into English for the first time

  History, Trotsky

Europe

Austerity locked-in with EU economic governance package

www.socialistworld.net, 05/10/2011
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Implications of so-called "six-pack of economic governance measures", voted on in the European Parliament last week, are vast

Paul Murphy, MEP, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), first published in the "Irish Left Review"

What was described by European Commission President as a “silent revolution” was passed in the European Parliament on Wednesday with hardly a mention in the mainstream media. The implications of the so-called six-pack of economic governance measures are vast. This package represents a qualitative leap forward in terms of the institutionalisation of austerity and neo-liberal economic policies at the heart of the EU and backwards in terms of a further undermining of democracy within the EU structures.

These pieces of legislation, ostensibly a response to the economic crisis, are actually a fulfilment of long-held desires by the capitalist establishment in Europe to develop a strong authority in the EU that would ensure that national governments implement austerity policies. The six-pack does this by establishing the European Commission as an effective policeman for austerity across Europe. It is also a step towards the fiscal unity that key sections of the establishment believe is necessary in order to save the euro.

Even if the media is ignoring it, the European establishment is aware of the significance of this victory from its point of view. Speaking in June 2010 about this package, European Commission President Barroso correctly stated that:

“The Member States have accepted - and I hope they understand it exactly - but they have accepted very important powers of the European institutions regarding surveillance, and a much stricter control of the public finances.”

What the package means:

In order to achieve this, the package centralises power in the hands of the un-elected European Commission, establishes a scoreboard of austerity, and gives the Commission power to impose massive fines on countries. There are many different elements to these six different pieces of legislation. However, the central basis of it is establishing a mechanism to put significant pressure on national governments to implement austerity and neo-liberal policies.

Essentially there are three key aspects of the mechanism to ensure that governments keep within neo-liberal economic orthodoxy. The first is the notion of “budgetary surveillance” and the “European semester”. What this means is a timetable across Europe for the presentation of draft national budgets at an early stage to the European Commission and Council. These draft budgets will be discussed by these bodies in advance of any discussion in national parliaments. The purpose of the discussions is clear - to put significant political pressure at an early stage on national governments to implement what the Commission and Council consider to be necessary policies.

The second is a qualitative strengthening of the “Growth and Stability Pact” - which limits countries’ public debt to 60% of GDP and annual deficits to 3% of GDP. In the past, this has been a relatively toothless mechanism, which has been ignored by both the major powers and the more peripheral less developed economies. Now this will be backed up by an enforcement mechanism.

Those who breach the targets and ignore warnings and recommendations from the Commission will be faced with a fine, consisting of either an “interest-bearing deposit” or a “non interest-bearing deposit” equivalent to 0.2% of GDP, which will be converted into a fine if the situation does not improve. This fine can then be increased with repeated failure to follow the Commission’s recommendations. These fines will amount to hundreds of millions of euro - being taken out of the pockets of states that are evidently facing real financial difficulties.

The third is the extension of this enforcement mechanism well beyond the strictures of the “Growth and Stability Pact”. Now countries will be monitored not just on their public debt and their annual deficit, but on a range of other measures as part of a “scoreboard” system. The details of what will be measured has still not been revealed, but Commission recommendations are to “cover the main economic policy areas, potentially including fiscal and wage policies, labour markets, product and services markets and financial sector regulation.” (’Prevention and Correction of Macroeconomic imbalances‘).

This gives a sense of how these proposals are not simply about tackling excess debt of deficits - but about giving the Commission a means to push right-wing economic policies generally and put pressure on countries to liberalise their labour markets and public services. Failure to act in response to warnings and recommendations from the Commission on the scoreboard issues, or being deemed to have acted “imprudently”, will open countries up to face fines. This is clearly a way for the Commission to push neo-liberal policies generally - including the liberalisation of the labour market and the privatisation of public services.

Assault on democracy

One of the most obnoxious features of this package is the fact that the already extremely limited democracy within the EU has been trampled upon in order to ensure that this austerity will rule. This attack takes a number of forms.

One is the strengthening of the power of the Commission. The majority in the European Parliament voted for a number of amendments designed to strengthen the power of the Commission. This is always the position of the right-wing in the Parliament who see the Commission as an ally in the fight for a “European” position as opposed to one rooted in the interests of the countries represented at the Council. The effect, however, is to remove decision making even further from ordinary people. The role of the Commission from the point of view of the establishment is to articulate a “European” strategy for the capitalist class in Europe. It is able to do this because it is relatively immune from the political pressure that national governments can face - precisely because the Commissioners exist in a bubble in Brussels and don’t have to face election.

Another attack is the stripping of the right to vote from “miscreant” countries on the question of sanctions. So if the Commission proposes that a country be punished by a fine of hundreds of millions of euro for example, that country and all other countries that have been deemed to be acting imprudently and have been subject to sanctions will not have a vote in this decision. You could therefore have a situation where most of the peripheral European countries have their votes taken away from them and it is the Northern European countries who are voting on the sanctions to be applied to these countries.

The other element is how this voting is to take place. The six-pack introduces a new form of voting which is breathtaking in its cynicism. Instead of a straight vote with a need for a majority of countries, or the traditional qualified majority system (which means getting 255 weighted votes out of 345, representing at least two thirds of the countries and at least 62% of the EU population), the qualified majority system is turned on its head. Now it is referred to as “Reverse qualified majority” voting. What this means is that the Council is presumed to agree with the sanctions, unless a qualified majority vote against it. This means that to overturn the sanctions, you would need to get a huge majority to vote against it. So even if the peripheral European nations still had their votes, they wouldn’t have a chance of defeating it if the major northern European governments were in favour of it! Of course, this was fully endorsed by the Parliament, and the agreed document (Enforcement measures to correct excessive macroeconomic imbalances in euro area ) argues that the procedure for the application of the sanctions should be “construed in such a way that the application of the sanctionon those Member States would be the rule and not the exception.”

Who is driving this agenda and why?

It is not indulging in conspiracy theorising to suggest that a large element of this six-pack is making sure not to “waste a good crisis”. This is posed as a response to the economic crisis. It is no such thing. It is part of the march of entrenching neo-liberal orthodoxy across Europe. The Corporate Europe Observatory (www.corporateeurope.org), an excellent research and campaign group working against the power of corporate lobbyists in the EU, has established how the major organisation of big business on a European level, the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), has been pushing for such an agenda for over a decade.

Their chairman proclaimed in 2000 that a “double revolution” was underway. “On the one hand we are reducing the power of the state and of the public sector in general through privatization and deregulation… On the other we are transferring many of the nation states powers to a more modern and internationally-minded structure at European level. European unification is progressing and it helps international businesses like ours.” In 2002, the ERT were calling for ”at the drafting stage, the implications of national budgets and of major national fiscal policy measures [to be] reviewed at the level of the Union” - precisely what will now happen.

European big business wants this, because, like their political representatives in the establishment parties, they want the certainty of knowing that what they deem to be “prudent” policies will be implemented. The uncertainty of democratic debate and discussion with different economic policy options on offer is simply too much of an inconvenience. Likewise, the ability of mass movements to put pressure on their governments to withdraw some of their worst attacks is a threat to the certainty of austerity. Therein lies the need for a central authority (the Commission) that through its sanctions and political pressure will act as a counterweight to the pressure of potential mass movements.

Can this package be stopped?

The Council is due to discuss and finally agree this six-pack on 4 October, which means that the package will enter into force at the end of 2011 or at the latest by the start of 2012. Effectively, the battle inside the institutions of the Parliament and the Council has been lost, given the overwhelming majority for the right-wing parties (including so-called social-democracy) in both institutions.

The battle now moves onto the plane of the streets and the protest movements. The movement against cuts and attacks that are aimed at making working people pay for the economic crisis is redeveloping in southern Europe. A major mobilisation by the unions is being organised in Portugal, while Greece will see a general strike on 19 October. While Ireland is currently behind these developments, with the passage of time and in particular the passage of their own savage budget in December, the ability of the new government to blame the old government and avoid facing responsibility and major movements will be reduced.

The Left has a crucial responsibility to build these movements and also to intervene into them, raising the need for a European-wide fightback as well as putting forward a socialist alternative to this crisis of capitalism. With lies being told about “lazy Greeks”, it is particularly important to stress the similar problems that working people face across Europe and raise the need for a common fight-back, including a 24 hour general strike against austerity across Europe. Part of this intervention must be publicising the effect of this economic governance package and injecting opposition to this European shock doctrine into the movements.

Paul Murphy is the Irish Socialist Party / United Left Alliance (ULA) MEP for the Dublin constituency



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NEWS

China: Slowest growth rate since 1990
25/01/2015, chinaworker.info reporters:
Economy decelerated 30 percent in five years

Northern Ireland: Water service workers win important victory
23/01/2015, Donal O’Cofaigh, Socialist Party, Fermanagh:
A victory for all workers and an inspiration to resist the ‘race to the bottom’

Sri Lanka: Mobilise now to defend our demands
22/01/2015, Tu Senan, International Coordinator of the Tamil Solidarity campaign:
Article first published in the Colombo Telegraph

US: Kshama Sawant gives socialist response to Obama’s "State of the Union" address
21/01/2015, Socialistworld.net, via socialistalternative.org:
"Why can’t Barack Obama say “Black Lives Matter”?"

Review: ‘Eleanor Marx - a life’
17/01/2015, Clare Doyle, CWI. Article published in the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Clare Doyle reviews ’Eleanor Marx - A Life’ by Rachel Holmes

Video: Joe Higgins questions Irish Central Bank governor
16/01/2015, socialistworld.net:
Socialist MP grills establishment over banking bubble and collapse

Nigeria: 2015 general elections and the working masses
16/01/2015, Aj. Dagga Tolar and Kola Ibrahim, DSM (CWI in Nigeria):
Boko Haram and the war in the north-east

Video: Ruth Coppinger calls for referendum on abortion rights in Ireland
15/01/2015, socialistworld.net:
"You march in Paris, yet uphold laws any religious fundamentalist would envy"

Video: A year of struggle in Brazil
14/01/2015, socialistworld.net:
LSR members intervene in struggles of 2014

Sri Lanka: New but uncertain period opens up
14/01/2015, Clare Doyle, CWI:
President Sirisena aims for clean government but will face difficulties

Iran: Labour and children’s rights activist, Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, sentenced to another nine years
13/01/2015, Campaign in Support Workers of Iran:
International action needed to overturn latest conviction and to immediately release Behnam

France: Millions march for solidarity
12/01/2015, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
Unity against racism and capitalism!

New Zealand: Extreme poverty worsens
12/01/2015, CWI Reporters, NZ/Aotearoa:
Workers need to build political alternative to major parties’ big business agenda

France: Counter terrorist threat with workers-led mass unity
10/01/2015, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) website editorial:
The shocking, cold blooded slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, and more killings in subsequent days, has been met with mass outrage

Norway: General strike called for 28 January
10/01/2015, Trond Sverre and Elise Kollveit (CWI, Oslo):
Two-hour protest against worsening working conditions

Sri Lanka: Rajapaksa defeated
09/01/2015, TU Senan, CWI:
Period of uncertainty opens

Sweden: New elections cancelled
09/01/2015, Questions answered by Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden):
“Peace deal” between government and right-wing opposition

France: Deadly attack on satirical paper Charlie Hebdo
08/01/2015, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
Defend freedom of speech! Don’t let us be divided!

Hong Kong: Politics transformed by ‘Umbrella Revolution’
07/01/2015, Editorial from Socialist magazine《社會主義者, of CWI in China and Hong Kong:
A fighting democratic movement must be created to continue and build upon this historic “first round”

Israel-Palestine: A successful Socialism conference in the shadow of national divide
06/01/2015, Or Dar, Socialist Struggle Movement, CWI in Israel-Palestine:
Over 150 people participated in the ‘Socialism Conference 2014’ in Tel Aviv, organised by the Socialist Struggle Movement (SSM - CWI in Israel-Palestine)

Environment: Market forces hold back renewable energy
01/01/2015, Pete Dickinson, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Have capitalist governments around the world finally woken up to the danger of global warming?

Britain: In defence of TUSC
30/12/2014, Clive Heemskerk, from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
As the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition gears up for its biggest ever electoral stand…

CWI: National Question a key feature of political crisis of capitalism
28/12/2014, Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI Scotland):
A socialist solution to national oppression

Scotland:Blairite wins election as Labour’s new Scottish leader
27/12/2014, Philip Stott, SPS (CWI Scotland):
Murphy’s election means trade unions must build a new workers party

Obituary: Gough Whitlam, 1916-2014
26/12/2014, Conor Flynn, Socialist Party (CWI in Australia):
Former Australian Labour Party (ALP) prime minister

China: Hard landing in 2015?
24/12/2014, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
China’s economic slowdown already being felt throughout world economy

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Cuba: Diplomatic relations with US restored, embargo eased
24/01/2015, Tony Saunois, CWI:
Threat of capitalist restoration accelerates

Russia/Ukraine: Facing a turbulent 2015
21/01/2015, Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow:
As death toll rises, economies plunge into freefall

Greece: Prospect of Syriza victory raises workers’ hopes
20/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
Mass intervention of working class to struggle for socialist policies is vital

Nigeria: The Massacre in Baga
19/01/2015, H.T Soweto, DSM (CWI in Nigeria):
Socialism or Barbarism

Germany: What is behind the ‘PEGIDA’ anti-immigrant demonstrations?
13/01/2015, Wolfram Klein, Socialist Alternative (SAV- CWI Germany):
Unions and Left must organise against racism and for jobs and decent living standards for all

Greece: Towards a Syriza government?
08/01/2015, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI in Greece):
General elections on 25 January

Northern Ireland: The Stormont House Agreement
05/01/2015, Michael Cleary, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Agreeing Not To Agree, Again

New Year: Political and economic ingredients for volatile 2015
31/12/2014, Peter Taaffe, General Secretary Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
As crisis of capitalism worsens, vital to organise and continue the struggle

Latin America: The end of one cycle and the beginning of another
17/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Document on Latin America, agreed by CWI International Executive Committee

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
15/12/2014, CWI International Executive Committee:
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Sri Lanka: Presidential Election January 8, 2015
11/12/2014, Interview with Siritunga Jayasuriya, USP (CWI Sri Lanka):
Socialist candidate challenges all other forces

Australia: Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road
08/12/2014, By Socialist Party (CWI Australia) reporters, Melbourne:
Socialist Party leads successful campaign against Toll Road and for investment in public transport

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
27/11/2014, International Secretariat of the CWI :
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Ireland: Lies and distortions against community protests, the AAA and the Socialist Party
21/11/2014, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) reporters:
Government and Water Charges completely undermined

Israel-Palestine: Netanyahu threatens “heavy hand” response to synagogue attacks
19/11/2014, Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (SSM):
New rounds of repression answered by new wave of rage and protest

Ukraine: Competing ’elections’ deepen divisions
15/11/2014, Rob Jones, CWI Moscow:
Working people need socialist alternative to warring oligarchs and outside powers

Northern Ireland: 20 years after the ceasefires
10/11/2014, Ciaran Mulholland, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
In 1994, the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries called ceasefires. Four years later the Good Friday agreement was declared to mark the end of the ‘Troubles’…

Germany: 25 years since November 9
09/11/2014, By Robert Bechert, CWI, who was living in Berlin in 1989:
Berlin Wall brought down by mass revolutionary movement

Elections in Brazil
07/11/2014, Andre Ferrari, LSR (CWI in Brazil):
Narrow win for Dilma sets scene for more crisis and instability

Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2014, Clare Doyle, CWI:
November 7th anniversary of workers taking power

Ireland: Stunning Dublin by-election victory, huge water protests…new chapter for working class resistance
04/11/2014, Kevin McLoughlin, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
How the Anti Austerity Alliance won a parliamentary seat and the way forward for the Left

Kurdistan: Battle for Kobanê at a crossroads
31/10/2014, Serge Jordan, CWI:
What does US military ‘assistance’ mean for the Kurdish struggle?

A ‘third industrial revolution’
28/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
New technological innovations are having a huge impact on the capitalist system, a subject explored in a new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

Britain: Anniversary of first issue of Militant newspaper
24/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, from this week’s Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
50 years of socialist ideas and workers’ struggle

Spain: Death knells of "Transition" regime
23/10/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Catalonia; ’Podemos’, and the left