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February revolution 1917
What lessons for today?

21/02/2017: 23 February 1917 (8 March in today’s calendar) marked the beginning of the socialist revolution in Russia, which sparked a revolutionary wave that would travel around the world.

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 CWI
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31/01/2017: Battles of Indigenous peoples, youth, workers will test Liberal government

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US
Airport protests help block Trump travel ban

30/01/2017: Defend immigrant communities

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Russian Revolution Centenary
January 1917 - On the eve of revolution

29/01/2017: War, hunger, hated Tsarist regime: class tensions reach breaking point

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China
CWI member Hu Xufang forced to flee

28/01/2017: Xu and his family are victims of China’s deepening police crackdown

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Afghanistan
The limits of US power

28/01/2017: Imperialism’s 15-year adventure a bloody catastrophe for millions

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US
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Duma legislates to decriminalise domestic violence

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  History

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

Yemen: International protests in support of TOTAL/G4S workers
20/02/2017, Socialistworld.net:
Solidarity spreads for victims of wage robbery and killing by multinational corporations

Netherlands: Anti-immigrant Freedom Party leading polls ahead of general elections
18/02/2017, Pieter Brans, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Netherlands), Amsterdam:
Only a choice between the “regular” and far-right?

Solidarity: French presidential candidate Mélenchon backs #JobstownNotGuilty campaign
17/02/2017, socialistworld.net :
Support the international solidarity campaign

Britain: Council cuts can be fought - and they must be
16/02/2017, Editorial comments from the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) :
Corbyn needs to stand up to Brexit rebels

Spain: Pablo Iglesias wins clear victory in Podemos congress
15/02/2017, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Spain:
Time to build the class struggle on the streets

US: A socialist strategy to defeat Trump
14/02/2017, Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council Woman and member of Socialist Alternative :
Escalate the resistance toward shutdowns on March 8 and May 1!

Greece: Athens’ bus cleaners win bulk of wages owed
14/02/2017, Eleni Mitsou (Xekinima - CWI Greece) and Apostolis Cassimere’s (Board Member of OASA - Athens Bus Workers’ Union):
The struggle continues!

Scotland: Greens back SNP government austerity budget
13/02/2017, Matt Dobson, Socialist Paty Scotland (CWI), Glasgow:
TUSC council elections candidates put forward 100% anti-austerity programme

Yemen: Workers protest at parliament against TOTAL and G4S
07/02/2017, Socialistworld.net:
Security workers demand wages and arrest of colleagues’ killers

Romania: Biggest street protests since 1989
04/02/2017, Mâna de Lucru (CWI supporters in Romania):
What position should the left take?

Quebec: Terrorist Attack in Québec City
01/02/2017, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Canada) :
Counter terrorism and hate with solidarity

CWI: 9th Latin American school a success
31/01/2017, socialistworld.net:
Over 200 participate in Sao Paolo CWI continental gathering

US: Airport protests help block Trump travel ban
30/01/2017, Socialist Alternative reporters, US :
Defend immigrant communities

China: CWI member Hu Xufang forced to flee
28/01/2017, chinaworker.info reporters :
Xu and his family are victims of China’s deepening police crackdown

Russia: Duma legislates to decriminalise domestic violence
26/01/2017, From Socialist Alternative (Russian CWI) website (socialist.news) :
For unified struggle for women’s rights and against capitalism

Tamil Nadu: Mass protests against state repression
26/01/2017, Isai Priya, from Tamil Solidarity website :
Support the right to assemble and protest - release those arrested immediately!

Bangladesh: Hartal protest against power plant
25/01/2017, Pete Mason, Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales) :
Follows mass strike of garment workers in December

Côte d’Ivoire: Social revolts shake Ouattara regime
24/01/2017, Militant Côte d’Ivoire (CWI group in Côte d’Ivoire) :
Public sector strike and soldiers’ mutiny expose reality behind “economic growth”

Taiwan: US foreign policy under Trump
24/01/2017, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info:
Island risks being pawn in his game

US: CWI joins protests around the world against Trump
23/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Photo gallery selection of CWI actions during weekend of mass protests

US: Kshama Sawant responds to Trump inauguration speech
23/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Socialist council member speaks

Russian Revolution Centenary: New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

Kazakhstan: Regime increases repression
20/01/2017, Andrei Prigor from Campaign Kazakhstan:
Citizens forced to register with police at all times

US: Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

Portugal: Purge in the Left Bloc
20/01/2017, Ysmail, Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal):
6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

India: Struggle against land grab in Pune
16/01/2017, Venkatesh Harale, New Socialist Alternative (CWI in India):
Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

February revolution 1917: What lessons for today?
21/02/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales), printed in the Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party):
23 February 1917 (8 March in today’s calendar) marked the beginning of the socialist revolution in Russia, which sparked a revolutionary wave that would travel around the world.

India: Upheaval in Tamil Nadu
09/02/2017, Sajith Attepuram, New Socialist Alternative (NSA) (CWI India) :
Corruption, nepotism, and other crimes of ruling party exposed

Britain: Universal basic income demand gains ground
08/02/2017, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales) :
What approach should socialists take?

CWI and Izquierda Revolucionaria – Towards unification
06/02/2017, Socialistworld.net :
Joint declaration of the CWI’s IEC and Izquierda Revolucionaria’s IEC

France: After Sarkozy, Juppé and Valls, now Fillon is on the way out
06/02/2017, Alex Rouillard, Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) :
Space opening up to left of Socialist Party

Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?
03/02/2017, Serge Jordan (CWI) :
New movements for change will need to arm themselves with the lessons of the Syrian tragedy

Sri Lanka: The year 2017
31/01/2017, Siritunga Jayasuriya, United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) :
Between oppression and struggle

Canada: Where are Trudeau’s ‘Sunny Ways’?
31/01/2017, Tim Heffernan, Socialist Alternative (CWI Canada), Toronto

:
Battles of Indigenous peoples, youth, workers will test Liberal government

Russian Revolution Centenary: January 1917 - On the eve of revolution
29/01/2017, Niall Mulholland, from 1917revolution.org :
War, hunger, hated Tsarist regime: class tensions reach breaking point

Afghanistan: The limits of US power
28/01/2017, Judy Beishon, from Socialism Today (February 2017 issue), monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)<br />
<br />
:
Imperialism’s 15-year adventure a bloody catastrophe for millions

US: Build 100 days of resistance to Trump’s agenda!
27/01/2017, Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative, US :
Establishment deeply divided as mass resistance explodes

Millions on women's marches around the world
25/01/2017, Editorial from the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) and reports from US marches :
Reports from mass women's marches against Trump

China: New US President’s approach to China
21/01/2017, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info :
Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

Ireland North: Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly
17/01/2017, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast :
Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

Spain: What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?
17/01/2017, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Spanish state, editorial :
Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

US: Trump prepares vicious attacks
05/01/2017, Philip Locker and Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative (US):
Mass resistance needed!

Russian Revolution centenary
02/01/2017, Editorial from Socialism Today, Dec/Jan 2017 edition:
Defending the legacy in a new era

2017:Upheaval and fightback will continue
01/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary :
Everything to play for in 2017

Britain's shifting political contours
22/12/2016, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) from Socialism Today Dec/Jan 2017 edition :
Capitalist establishment in disarray

CWI International Executive Committee: European capitalism “battered by events”
16/12/2016, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Report of discussion on Europe at CWI IEC meeting in November

CWI International Executive Committee: World shaken by seismic political events
14/12/2016, Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Report of first session of the CWI International Executive Committee, discussing World Relations

World capitalism in deep crisis
08/12/2016, CWI :
Perspectives documents agreed by November CWI international meeting

Sudan: Three day nationwide strike shuts down the country, in unique defiance of Al-Bashir’s rule
30/11/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Escalation of the struggle needed to overthrow repressive regime

US: Trump prepares attacks on working people,immigrants and women
27/11/2016, Tom Crean and Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative (USA):
We must prepare massive resistance!

Cuba: Fidel Castro, leader of 1959 revolution, dies at 90
26/11/2016, Tony Saunois, CWI :
Castro's life and the Cuban Revolution