Ecuador: The ‘drone revolution’ against Moreno’s IMF package

By Denis Rogatyuk.

“Se acabó la zanganería”.

With this phrase, President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno announced the end of the 40-year long policy of fuel and petrol subsidies that traditionally benefited the working class population. “Zánganos” (or drones) is a slang term traditionally used by the richer parts of society to refer to the workers and the poor as ‘mindless’ or ‘uneducated’, once again reflecting the neoliberal president’s classist attitudes of disgust towards Ecuador’s working class.

Overnight, the slang turned into a buzzword used by Moreno’s opponents to refer to themselves and the new movement as “la revolución de los zánganos” (the drone revolution).

Following this shock economic measure, the past week has seen a series of large demonstrations across the country, as a new package of neoliberal reforms was presented by the Moreno government in a bid to satisfy the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The latest explosion of mass protests was caused by the government’s announcement on October 1 of a series of new economic measures designed to reduce “wasteful” public spending and further balance the budget. The most controversial measure of all has been the complete elimination of the fuel and petrol subsidies, in place since the 1970s, thus directly contributing to a 123 per cent rise in the price of diesel and similar increases for other fuels. Furthermore, the package introduces a 20 per cent cut to the salary of public employees, and the initiation of plans to privatise pensions and to remove safeguards to workers’ conditions and job security.

‘State of emergency’ declared

Foreseeing the likelihood and the magnitude of protests against his government, Moreno declared a “national state of emergency” and proceeded to deploy both the police and the military against protests in the capital Quito and other areas around the country.

Among the most visible political forces leading the protests have been the Citizens’ Revolution Movement (MRC) of former left-wing President Rafael Correa, as well as a number of social and trade union organisations, such as the United Workers’ Front (FUT), the CONAIE indigenous organisation and the Popular Front (FP) political party. Furthermore, both transport workers’ unions and the taxi drivers’ associations announced strike action on October 3, bringing several cities around the country to halt, among them Quito and Cuenca.

The province of Pichincha converted into the epicentre of popular struggle, with more than 10,000 taking in part in the strike and the protests. Although the transport workers suspended the strike action on October 5, the protests by other organisations, particularly the indigenous, have shown no signs of stopping.

Below: Police retreating from mass protests in Quito

Below: Police repression in Quito – “Police retreating after injuring a protester with ammunition”

The state of emergency itself has been severely criticised by Correa’s MRC as being unconstitutional, as it lacks any specific parameters regarding proportionality, legality, temporality, territoriality and rationality (as mandated in the constitution) and is widely considered as a measure of preventing mass-scale uprisings in major cities that overthrew the neoliberal governments of Jamil Mahuad in 2000 and Lucio Gutiérez in 2005.

A total of 350 arrests have been made since the protests began on October 2, including of several activists from the transport unions, while more than 20 people have been injured around the country. In the city of Caymabe, Pichincha, the police are reported to have used live ammunition against the protestors. During the transport workers’ strike of October 3-5, several delegates and local leaders were detained by the police in the city of Cuenca, and a further four members of the taxi drivers’ associations were arrested on October 4 in relation to the strikes.

Moreno’s right turn

The cuts to the fuel subsidies have only served to fan the flames of popular discontent that has been spreading across the country since Moreno’s neoliberal economic turn and the embrace of authoritarianism.

On the economic front, Moreno has attempted to consistently discredit Correa’s (highly successful and popular) economic strategy of combining increased social spending with public investment in major infrastructure and energy projects, and the diversification of the economy away from oil through the building of a new productive matrix.

Instead, his government has pursued an IMF-mandated package of reforms that included dismissal of thousands of public sector employees, reducing the size of the public sector, initiating privatisation of parts of the public sector (particularly the public banking services), and introducing cuts to education and healthcare sectors.

Consequently, the levels of poverty and inequality have seen significant increases over the past several years of Moreno’s government. According to the official numbers, the level of structural poverty has increased from 23.1 per cent in June 2017 to 25.5 per cent in June 2019, with some economists projecting that structural poverty will reach 30 per cent by the end of the year if the new economic measures are enacted.

Extreme poverty has risen from 8.4 per cent to 9.5 per cent during the same period. Furthermore, the Gini coefficient of economic inequality has increased from 0.462 in June 2017 to 0.478 in June 2019, reflecting Moreno’s policies of reducing social spending, principally benefiting the rich.

On the legal side, the country has witnessed a continuous breakdown of constitutional law, with the persecution of the former vice-president Jorge Glas on dubious charges, the censorship of various critical media channels, and the scandal of the INA Papers and discovery of secret offshore bank accounts linked to the Moreno family.

It has also witnessed the dismissal of the newly elected Council of Citizens’ Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), the withdrawal from UNASUR and OPEC and the continuous political witch-hunt against Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’s Revolution, such as the former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and former deputy Sofia Espin.

Esther Cuesta, a member of the National Assembly of the Citizens’ Revolution Movement, explained her party’s position regarding both the new rebellion and the growing authoritarianism and repression by the Moreno government: “Millions of Ecuadorians, whom we join as the Citizen’s Revolution Movement, reject the neoliberal economic measures, dictated by the IMF and imposed to the Ecuadorian people by Moreno’s government, mainly because they will impoverish the vast majority of the population: the middle class, the working class and the poor, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, to the detriment of the future of children and younger generations.”

She further explained the significance of the Zánganos movement in the historical context of the Ecuadorian people’s struggle against neoliberalism: “Since the paquetazo [IMF package] announcement, what started as a transportation strike emerged as a growing social protest all over the country and from different sectors of the population.

“Ecuadorian people have memory. The adjustment policies applied in the country the 1980s and 1990s provoked massive unemployment, impoverishing of the population, and about 12 percent of the population emigrated.”

Denis Rogatyuk is a Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher. Follow him on Twitter @DenisRogatyuk.

This article originally appeared in The Grayzone and has been reprinted by Irish Broad Left with the permission of the author.

Channeling anger into action on climate change

By Damien Thomson.

Anger is generally characterised as a negative emotion, but I’d beg to differ. Social movements need anger. Anger motivates. It unites. Last week in climate politics gives us a lot to be angry about.

Monday

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, the UN Climate Summit took place. It was convened by United Nation’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, for a very specific reason – for countries to boost their climate ambition. 

The summit was nothing less than a flop. Mr Guterres wanted countries to come forward to make bold statements, calling it “a summit of action plans not platitudes”. He wanted countries to outline their carbon-neutrality plans, stop harmful subsidies, and end coal. He wanted big, and he got miniscule. 

This wasn’t one of the regularly scheduled climate summits; it was specifically a purpose-made opportunity for countries to show that they are responding to the climate strikes and committing to renewed, more ambitious climate action. 

The highlight of the summit wasn’t any announcement on renewed climate ambition from any country; it was, once again, Greta Thunberg. This wasn’t just any of Greta’s speeches, where she has shown stark tone and sharp attacks. This was in the context of a failed climate conference, one where world leaders did not rise to the challenge, not in the slightest.

When she said “how dare you”, it wasn’t hypothetical or poetic, it was really addressed to the crowd of leaders who were sitting on their chairs, preparing for their mediocre climate announcements later in the day. Her raw display of anger wasn’t some dramatic culmination to spice up her speech (she’s been on the road for a year delivering harsh speeches), it was unveiled emotion. There was nothing performative about it.

To sit in front of these people, knowing that a special moment and space has been created to allow them prove themselves, to show they’ve listened to the people, and then to know that they weren’t going to rise to the challenge – no wonder she was steaming with anger. It even got Donald Trump’s attention, who spitefully called Greta a “very happy young girl”.

Could it be that Greta’s angry speech was indeed the most productive thing to come out of the UN Climate Summit?

Wednesday

Later in the week the IPCC published its third special report in a year (there have only been four previous to that since 2000). The latest report was a study on the Ocean and the Cryosphere, the frozen parts of the world. 

Valérie Masson-Delmotte, one of the lead authors of the report, commented at the report’s launch in Monaco that “climate change is already irreversible… due to the heat uptake in the ocean, we can’t go back”. If this doesn’t make your jaw drop, then you need to read this sentence again. 

For a long time, climate change was spoken about as some future apocalyptic event, to take place at least the day after tomorrow. Now we are finally talking about how we are being affected by climate change today on a regular basis. What’s really terrifying, however, is that the feedback loop is already activated. This is the threshold past which the climate spirals beyond our control and global warming accelerates, no matter what we try to do. It’s like we are filling a bath full of water and eventually we break the knob and have no way of putting it back on. 

And while this news is horrifying, there’s also reason to be angry. European Commissioner’s welcomed the newest IPCC Special report in a joint press statement – ‘nice’ you may say, but considering that the “save the oceans” hallmark of the Commission over the past five years was just a proposal to ban plastic straws, it’s clear they haven’t gotten the message. Our ocean is dying, and we are continuing business as usual, while alarm bells ring on clogged ears.

Greta spoke at the UN about the “fairytale of eternal economic growth”, while the Commission starts work on its Green Deal for Europe – with high expectations of it being a ‘green Growth package with a funny label. Instead of a press statement “welcoming” the terrifying scientific analysis, we need a recognition that we are on the wrong track and we need radically new climate politics. Otherwise, they’re not really listening. 

Friday

The second global climate strike took place, finishing a week of student-led climate strikes that mobilised more than 7.6 million people across the world – the largest climate demonstrations in history.

Four million people took to the streets on Friday September 20 ahead of the UN Climate Summit, and more than three million protested on September 27. How many more need to pick up their placards to get the message through?

The next real chance to boost global climate ambition and for world leaders to show real commitment to climate action is at COP25 in Santiago, Chile. That won’t be until December. Given that the special UN summit on boosting ambition barely raised an eyebrow, what expectations can we have for COP25, where parties will only be threshing out the technical details on implementation of the Paris Agreement? What more can civil society be expected to do to put raising climate ambition on the agenda? 

So if you’re still in that phase of climate grief where you feel trapped in sadness or denial, it’s time to move on to the phase of anger. This is the productive phase that will lead us to the streets and keep the pressure on. 7.6 million, we learnt this week, is not enough to get world leaders to act. We need more people to be angry.

Keep being angry, keep building momentum.

Damien Thomson is a contributing editor of Irish Broad Left. Follow him on Twitter @dmacthomais.

Denmark passes landmark consent-based rape laws

By Lisbeth Latham.

Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance or Enhedslisten (United List) announced on July 14 that the governing Social Democrats and Social Liberals parties in Denmark’s Parliament had agreed to pass consent-based rape laws. This follows an agreement to support the new laws made by the Conservatives and Liberal parties in March. The announcement marks a significant and further step in shifting Scandinavian rape laws away from being based on violence and coercion and towards questions of consent.

As the Red Green Alliance statement said: “sex without consent isn’t sex”.

The Red Green Alliance had unsuccessfully sought to change Denmark’s legislation in November 2018, when the then governing Conservatives, Liberals and Liberal Alliance parties had refused to back the change supported by all of Denmark’s left and centre-left parties. The changes will define sex without explicit consent as rape. In doing so Denmark becomes just the 10th EU country to pass such legislation, and the second Scandinavian country to do so after Sweden introduced similar laws in 2018.

The Local pointed out on March 12 that the new laws would shift the burden of proof onto alleged perpetrators to demonstrate that consent had been given and that the survivor was in a state to give consent. At present, survivors are required to demonstrate that the accused is proved to have had sex with somebody who tried to, or was unable to, stop the act.

The changes are expected to significantly lift the potential for rape convictions and make complaint processes easier for survivors.

While changing the legal framework regarding is important in challenging sexual violence it’s insufficient and much work still needs to be done around attitudes towards sexual activity which see access to another person’s body as a right.

Lisbeth Latham is a contributing editor of Irish Broad Left. The poster text above reads “A victory for Unity List Consent-based rape legislation – A step in the right direction”

The beginning of the end for Argentina’s Macri

By Martin Burgos.

“Political vacuum”, “default” and “hyperinflation”: these are the terms being used by several economists from Argentina’s public service, discussing the country’s current political and economic situation.

Earlier this month, the Peronist opposition led by Alberto Fernández defeated the right-wing government of President Mauricio Macri in the primary elections by 47 per cent to 32 per cent. Primary elections in Argentina feature a selection of candidates and are open to the entire electorate, not only party members. the system was introduced in 2009 as a way of reducing the number of candidates in presidential elections. The participation rate for the the primaries held on August 11 was 75 per cent of the electorate.

Right-wing Argentinian President Mauricio Macri looks set to lose the Presidential election on October 27

This result, in effect, means that there is no chance that President Macri can reverse the situation in the presidential elections scheduled for October 27. Fernández leads the main opposition coalition, Frente de Todos, and his running mate is the former left-wing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. If he succeeds in gaining 45 per cent of the vote (or 40 per cent with a 10 per centage point lead), he will be elected President in the first round.

This situation means that we currently have a president continuing in office, with Fernández waiting to be able to assume his duties on December 10, after the ratification of his election in October.

As a result, Macri and his government exist in a political vacuum: he does not have the real power to lead the country and implement economic policies, while Fernández has real power, but not formal power. Game theory identifies this as a potentially dangerous situation, especially since the outgoing president has chosen an aggressive strategy that may be explosive for the country. This moment is reminiscent of the 1989 Alfonsin-Menem transition, when the former president had to anticipate the transition of power in the middle of an episode of hyperinflation.

The reasons for Macri’s defeat are clear: the electorate soundly rejected his neoliberal economic policies that have led to indebtedness, rising interest rates, the fall in GDP and wages since 2016, increases in utility rates, the rise in inflation that has reached 52 per cent (compared to 25 per cent in 2015) and the tumbling exchange rate (at 45 pesos per dollar, compared to nine pesos per dollar in 2015). The economic crisis of 2018, from which the country never recovered, combined with the unification of the opposition explains this political Waterloo of the Argentinian right.

Markets react with capital flight

The day after the primary elections, the exchange rate tumbled further, from 45 to 55 pesos, and the stock market fell by 30 per cent. The Emerging Market Bond Index (EMBI) Country Risk rose from 800 to 1800 points, illustrating investors’ doubts about Argentina’s ability to repay its debts. The 75 per cent interest rate the day after the primaries did not have positive effect on monetary variables, and the rush to the dollar was unstoppable.

For the “markets”, the defeat of their champion is grim news, especially as the talk on Wall Street describes Alberto Fernández as a puppet of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and fears a return of “populism” and “Chavismo” in Argentina.

The risk for Macri is that the economic chaos caused by his allies in the financial world will be used against him in the presidential campaign. For the moment, the support of the International Monetary Fund is propping up the government. The IMF sent the director of the central bank to Washington to request a $20 billion loan from the US government.

While US President Donald Trump has consistently helped Macri, it is very likely that this aid will end. That day, the government will have a hard time coping with the forces of the “market”, the very same forces that promoted Macri to power.

Martin Burgos is an economist at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación in Argentina. Title photo shows Alberto Fernández, right, with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Neoliberalism is dead, long live neoliberalism!

By Lisbeth Latham.

Neoliberalism is a term which has entered the left lexicon over the past three decades, although in different countries it can have other analogous terms. While it is a term that the left has embraced, the right, and the advocates of what is commonly referred to as neoliberalism, deny it exists as a phenomenon, instead arguing that it reflects the conspiratorial nature of the left. 

Contrary to these positions I argue that there is a usefulness in conceptualising neoliberalism as a distinct response to the capitalist crisis, and that it is not only the hegemonic response to capitalist crisis but that its proponents use crises to deepen and strengthen its hegemony. Moreover, because significant sections of the governmental left have embraced neoliberalism, challenging neoliberalism is central to not only rebuilding left alternatives but to challenging the rise of the far-right internationally. 

Why does capitalism experience crises?

Capitalism is the only economic system in the history of humanity that is driven by a need to expand and take over pre-existing social relations. It is also the only economic system in which  economic crises are characterised by the production of too much use values (at least in the early period of the a crisis). Marx postulated that the primary underlying driver of an economic crisis is the tendency of the rate of profit to decline. Adding to this general tendency is the anarchic character of the capitalist system, where individual capitalists seek to maximise their own profits by shifting investment to areas of higher rates of profits, which leads to a series of additional crises, specifically crises of overproduction and crises of over-accumulation. 

The rate of profit is profit (or surplus value) over the sum of constant capital and variable capital. Political economists dating back to Adam Smith and David Ricardo argued that it was an undeniable fact that there was a tendency of the rate of profit to decline; however, they believed it remained unclear what the mechanism for this decline was. Marx, in Volume 3 of Capital, argued that this tendency was driven fundamentally by profit (i.e. surplus value) being derived from labour. 

Therefore, increases in constant capital (an increase in the organic composition of capital – for example, factory machinery or the value of the goods and materials required to produce a commodity) would reduce the amount of labour power involved in production and thus overtime would result in a reduction in the amount of surplus value being extracted in comparison to the total constant and variable capital involved in its production. 

Crises of overproduction 

Overproduction simply means that too many goods – of either a single category or multiple categories of goods – are being produced to be sold and generate sufficient profits. Since the earlier period of laissez faire capitalism when markets were generally expanding, this is the normal state of affairs. In the US auto-industry, for instance, the industry operated at 75.9 per cent of capacity in the first quarter of 2019. 

A crisis occurs, however, when the production and sale of goods is no longer able to produce a profit, or at the very least a sufficient profit which can lead to individual companies, or whole industries collapsing. Such collapses, while a disaster for individual capitalists or corporations and the thousands of workers who are employed by them, creates opportunities in the economy to remove excess capacity from circulation and reduce competition.

Crisis of over-accumulation

Over-accumulation crises occur when the level of capital accumulation in the system reaches such a point that there is too much capital in circulation for significant levels of capital to be profitably invested or reinvested in production, or at least increases the appeal of capital investment in financial speculation rather than in investment in new capital goods. 

Overcoming a crisis of over-accumulation requires either the destruction of significant amounts of capital, such as through war, a major recession with widespread bankruptcy, the opening of new markets to create expanded demand, or via the development of new technology – opening new avenues for capital investment. In all of these circumstances, the relief provided cannot and will not be permanent.

Throughout the history of capitalism there have been a range of responses to capitalist crises, particularly large-scale crisis such as recessions and depressions. In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and resulting Great Depression, then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with a range of governments in advanced capitalist countries, embraced Keynesian responses, which focused on what Roosevelt referred to as “pump-priming” – i.e., public expenditure on infrastructure, much of which was subsidised by using the unemployed as a cheap labour source. 

The Great Depression

Such measures were essential in overcoming the impact of the Great Depression, and they undoubtedly ameliorated some of the worst levels of poverty unleashed by the depression. But there are two important points to remember: the first is that in many countries the Great Depression unleashed significant levels of class struggle, including both the unemployed and the employed – with this struggle resulting in the victory of fascism at the domestic level in Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain – and with the emergence of social democratic governments in a number of countries for the first time. 

In response to an increasingly combative US working class, exemplified by the West Coast maritime strike, the Teamster strikes in Minneapolis, and the Toledo Auto-Lite strike – all of which occurred in 1934 and are seen as key drivers of industrial unionism in the US –  Roosevelt’s second New Deal in 1935 had specific measures seeking to limit the level of violence in the class struggle with formal mechanism for union recognition (Preis, A. 1964. Labor’s giant step: Twenty years of the CIO. Monad Press, New York). 

The second point to note is that many economies did not truly recover from the Great Depression until the second world was, where the massive investment in armaments, mass conscription, and the destruction pf capital goods fed economic growth, and massive profits, this was particularly the case in the united states where the majority of unions, particularly in Stalinist lead unions, made no strike pledges to help support the war effort (ibid). 

Expansion of capitalist accumulation 

In the wake of World War II, the environment was set for the rapid expansion of capitalist accumulation. These were the massive destruction of capital goods wrought by the war, and the opening up of new markets as more and more imperial colonial powers broke up under the pressure of anti-colonial national liberation struggles. 

At the same time, the growth in confidence of the working class, along with the enhanced standing and expansion of the Soviet Bloc through its role in the defeat of fascism in World War II – placing whole swathes of Western Europe at risk of being ‘lost’ to capitalism – despite the efforts of the Soviet leadership to maintain the division of Europe as agreed between Britain, the US and the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference. 

In this context the US government launched the Marshall Plan to massively boost the rebuilding of capital in Western Europe and Japan. In addition, there was pressure to expand social services and public welfare provisions. These steps lay the foundations for the long post-war boom in Western Europe and the US, which was also prolonged by imperialist spending on their militaries as part of Cold War and hot wars in Korea and Vietnam. 

The 1973 oil crisis

However, the long boom held within it the roots its own demise, which were exacerbated by other dimensions. These were the absolute limits of expanding markets via the collapse of European colonial empires; the rebuilding of capital in the wake of the destruction of World War II leading to greater capitalist competition and reduced opportunities productive capitalist investments; and growing US deficits due to the cost of the Vietnam war. 

In addition, more and more markets were either removed or became more restricted from access to imperialist capitalism as a consequence of national liberation struggles and attempts to build their own national economies. These developments led to a growing stagflation crisis, where both inflation and unemployment grew. This meant that the international capitalist system was vulnerable to further shocks to the economy as the long boom came to a close. Of particular importance were the 1973 OPEC strike and subsequent oil crisis and along with global decline in the demand for steel, exacerbating pressures of deindustrialisation, particularly in the US.

Insurgent neoliberalism

In response to these challenges, a wave of conservative economist and social theorists began to gain a greater hearing among governments for their alternative model for saving capitalism. These groupings, commonly referred to as neoliberals, have their origins in a serious of meetings that founded the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) in 1947. 

Although not having a clear economic doctrine, it represented a political project to reassert capitalist class power and defeat the growing strength of the working class and its organisations the trade unions and the social democratic and communist parties. During its early existence neoliberalism sought to construct a international thought collective represented by a range of national and international think tanks, and seeking to influence and take over university economics departments transforming their positions into increasingly common-sense and thus hegemonic responses to economic crisis.

The ‘Chicago Boys’ make their mark

The first experiments with the implementation of neoliberalism came in Indonesia and Chile following the respective coup d’etats  in those countries in 1966 and 1973. In Indonesia, following the establishment of Suharto’s New Order regime, which had been supported in its smashing and mass slaughter of the country’s communist and nationalist left, orchestrated by US intelligence services (particularly the CIA), moves were made to remove barriers to investment by capital from the US and other imperialist nations. 

In addition, the Indonesian economy was actively carved up between US corporations. Despite these changes that enabled the expanded imperialist exploitation of Indonesian natural resources and labour, investment processes were extremely corrupt, with investments requiring joint ventures – with domestic Indonesian capital generally with connections to Suharto’s family and the cronies around him. 

The extensive level of poverty within the country, exacerbated by the opening up of the economy, also meant that the state was forced to provide a significant level of subsidisation of basic goods to enable much of the population to survive – essentially state subsidies for social reproduction in order to allow the imperialist extraction of super-profits. 

In Chile, following the September 1973 coup against President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government – carried out by the Chilean armed forces with the backing of the US government (pictured) – there began a program of both mass repression and economic transformation.

During the coup and its aftermath tens of thousands of people were murdered and terrorised, and a further 200,000 people (six per cent of the population) were forced into exile. At the same time, the ‘Chicago Boys’ – academic and graduates from the University of Chicago’s School of Economics, including “Nobel Prize” winner Milton Friedman – were brought in to reshape the Chilean economy. The impact of this transformation saw significant reductions when comparing, wages and social spending when comparing 1970 to 1989:

  • Wages decreased by eight per cent.
  • Family allowances in 1989 were 28 per cent of what they had been in 1970. 
  • Budgets for education, health and housing had dropped by over 20 per cent on average.

At the same time, Chile was seen as an economic miracle in comparison to other parts Latin America, with consistent growth in the economy, and lower levels of unemployment than in other Latin American countries. This helped neoliberals to assert ‘common-sense’ truths that private companies are more efficient than governments in delivering services; that higher profits leads to more jobs; and thus lower wages lead to more jobs. 

Neoliberalism bites in the global south

With these ‘successes’ neoliberals were in a position to push for the application of neoliberal solutions to economic difficulties facing both economies of both the imperialist centre and the global south. These changes were pushed by both the victory of openly neoliberal politicians such as US President Ronald Reagan and British PM Margaret Thatcher, and in the case of Australia, France, and Germany social-democratic (or more accurately social-liberal) governments. 

In these countries the attacks were pitched as necessary to maintain competitiveness, the rejection of social goods, and general social responsibility for the collective good – and the assertion, in Thatcher’s words, that “there is no alternative”. In many global south countries, resistance to change came from governments, who were unwilling to go as far as demanded, then the levers of international financial institutions as such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organisation (WTO), which sought to tie loans and bailouts to deregulation and privatisation of countries’ resources.

These institutions routinely operated on a gaslighting framework where the people whose economies had failed under the strain of neoliberal restructuring were told that the problem was not the changes that was enabling corporations to extract billions in profits from the countries for little return, but rather that that their economies had not been restructured enough and the recipe for their situation was more and more privatisation and deregulation.  

Can neoliberalism be defined?

So what is neoliberalism? There is no definitive prescription of what neoliberalism consists of, which is why its advocates can so readily dismiss its existence.

Neoliberalism began as a small intellectual society founded at Mont Pèlerin in 1947, initially heavily influenced by the ideas of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, but similar societies and think tanks were established globally. These organisations sought to take over and influence university, institutional, and governmental economics programs, forming what Philip Mirowski refers to as the “neoliberal thought collective”

These interlinking bodies do not so much articulate a coherent policy doctrine as seek to build and inculcate policy discussions with neoliberal ideas, which may well be at odds with each other, but have the effect of co-opting and subsuming the language of other movements, but also creating a situation where people are presented with not a choice between neoliberalism or an alternative solution, but simply varying forms of neoliberal solutions – which both, in George Lukács’ view is an articulation of the power of neoliberalism as a hegemonic discourse, but also reinforcing Thatcher’s dictum that “there is no alternative”.

Neoliberalism as a response to capitalist crisis

Neoliberalism constitutes a political project aimed at weakening the political power of the working class, asserting the political power of the capitalist class and seeking to establish profitable avenues for capital investment (Harvey, D. 2007. “A brief history of neoliberalism”. Oxford University Press, Oxford.)

Key features of neoliberal projects include:

  • Reducing barriers to the movement of capital by both removing barriers to capital investment and shattering trade barriers; 
  • Increasing barriers to the movement of workers – which results in increasingly constrained rights and marginalisation for migrant workers (this includes open calls to movement being linked to migrants’ wealth);
  • Prying open more aspects of social life for capital investment – privatisation and ownership of water, for example, exemplified by the 1999-2000 water wars in Cochabamba, Bolivia, between the community and the the Nestlé corporation;
  • Opening of government services to capitalist competition, whether through direct privatisation; corporatisation; “public-private partnerships”; access by government agencies or the introduction of “voucher systems” to enable government subsidisation of the entry of private capital into the provision of social services; and at the same time, deregulating costs. This is often articulated in terms of enhancing consumer “choice”;
  • Reduction in government spending, primarily premised on the justification of the need to reign in deficits, although this has rarely been achieved (throughout the neoliberal decades the US’s budget had regularly been in deficit). Instead reductions occur primarily as a consequence of declines in government income via the narrowing of the tax base to be more heavily reliant on working people, and a redirection of government spending away from social spending on the working class and the promotion of worker-funded retirement funds – which both reduce government responsibility and make massive levels of capital available for speculation on capital markets. For example, the Australian Superannuation Funds amounted to to $AU2.8 trillion in funds at the end of the March Quarter of 2019 .

Weakening the strength and power of organised labour 

The outsourcing of work occurs both within public services and in private companies, often posed as leading to cheaper costs, Outsourcing works to undermine the bargaining power both of the outsourced and non-sourced workers, but tends to have higher overall costs due to the labour hire companies’ own need to provide their own work materials. 

The tying of wage increases to productivity increases has resulted in a significant shift in the share of GDP to profits away from wages, as workers are forced to work increasingly hard to see their wages maintain pace with inflation 

The shifting the cost of the reproduction of labour onto the working class has occurred through a range of mechanism including:

Shifting the burden of paying for the state apparatus via increased taxes on workers and the reduction taxes on capital; 

Reducing spending on social services – via either total elimination of services or means-testing services.

The 2008 crisis and beyond 

The 2008 global financial crisis and subsequent Eurozone crises, with the accompanying response by governments have been seen by some as signalling the death of neoliberalism. However, as Mirowski and others would argue, the responses to these crises instead reflect a deepening of neoliberalism – in that they have resulted in the efforts of saving capitalism being carried on the back of workers, while international capital has largely been free to continue to reap massive profits and pay out dividends and bonuses even as they were receiving public subsidies to survive.  

In response to the global financial crisis (GFC), the US government bailed out banks and financial institutions to the tune of of $US4.6 trillion. This was bankrolled by US taxpayers. The US and other governments facilitated banking consolidation to “save the system” – handing billions in assets to surviving major banks. 

In response to the failure of the “big three” US auto manufacturers, the then Obama administration provided a bailout of $US80.7 billion. This bailout was premised on the tearing up of workers’ collective agreements with demands that workers make significant concessions on their working conditions in order to keep their jobs. 

In Europe, Ireland’s opening up of the purchase of non-performing loans to cheap purchase by vulture funds has driven up housing prices in Dublin at a time of acute economic decline. We also continue to see – in the face of the imminent destruction of our planet – continued refusal and obfuscation by governments and by capital to take serious action to slow and hopefully stop action to combat climate change. The US and Australian governments in particular continue to subsidise the fossil fuel industry .  

Factors behind the growth of the far right

The past three decades have seen a growth of the far right in a wide range of countries, which has coincided with a decline and weakening of the left. This shift has been partly premised on deindustrialisation of certain economies and the erosion of the welfare state, which left-wing parties have at times been responsible for, particularly when in government coalitions with right-wing forces.  

This has resulted in understandable anger and frustration among sections of the working class and the petite bourgeoisie – anger which the right has demagogically sought to direct into anger at marginalised communities, which it blames while at the same time cynically supporting many of the attacks on working people. 

In France for example, Marine Le Pen’s National Front – now National Rally – has sought to court a range of marginalised communities, including Jewish, Islamic, and Queer communities by painting itself as the only force capable of protecting them from “marriage equality” and Islamic fundamentalism respectively. 

Part of the growth of the far right can be explained by the reality that the interests of capitalist class are not homogeneous – the capitalist class is made up of fractions that reflect different interests within its own class. The far right reflect interests of capitalist class fractions that would benefit from a more nationalist framework. Moreover, the far-right in a range of countries have a long history of supporting policies that are not in the interests of working people or the petite bourgeoisie. 

This includes support for:

  • deregulation and privatisation;
  • cutting of legislation which limit pollution; 
  • cuts to social security;
  • attacks on working people.

Left demands opposing neoliberalism

Despite this record, the far-right has taken advantage of the complicity of social-democratic and other left parties in the implementation of neoliberalism to seek to present themselves as the only opponents of austerity and the dislocation of the working class. This includes seeking to cynically accuse social democracy and the left more broadly of abandoning workers for support for multiculturalism and the support of other marginalised communities – causes that the left are more likely to support, but which is totally unrelated to the implementation and support for neoliberalism. 

In response to this challenge, it is important that the left is seen as putting forward proposals that address the needs of working people without giving ground to attacks on marginalised communities. Such demands would include:

  • In the event of mass foreclosures government should protect owner-occupiers;
  • Ensuring our demands are around universal provision of services rather than accepting means-testing for access;
  • Ban redundancies in profitable companies;
  • Job creation through limiting overtime and reducing working hours with no loss in pay;
  • Support for a universal basic income – but it must be set at a level which is liveable, and there must be strict controls on rent/commodity prices to ensure that it is not simply consumed as increased profits;
  • Ending of speculation and separating retail banks from investment banks;
  • Caps on wage ratios between senior managements and the lowest-paid workers;
  • Lifting company tax and personal income tax threshold for higher-income earners to fund an expansion of social services;
  • Reabsorption of outsourced social services back into the government – to facilitate collective bargaining and improved wages for workers in these vital and essential services;
  • Legislate to require companies operating in a country to at minimum comply with that country’s standards when operating in other countries;
  • Legislate to enable workers the option of creating co-operatives in companies facing closure or sale;
  • Give workers veto rights on restructuring plans.

While such demands seem unrealistic in the context of more than 30 years of retreat and defeat globally for progressive movements, it is important for us to consistently challenge neoliberal hegemony and to always, to quote Che, “be realistic and demand the impossible”.

Lisbeth Latham is a contributing editor to Irish Broad Left. You can follow her on Twitter @grumpenprol.

Marta Harnecker, presente!

By Federico Fuentes.

The international left has lost one of its most lucid intellectual, pedagogical educators and determined activists with the passing of Marta Harnecker on June 14, aged 82.

Marta will forever be remembered as one of the most influential and prolific writers on the Latin American left, having written almost 90 books covering a wide array of topics and debates on the left. Her collected works in many ways serve as insights into her lifelong commitment to learning, educating and defending the revolutionary cause throughout the continent.

Born in Chile, Harnecker began her activism in the early 1960s as a Catholic student activist before moving to France, where she studied under Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser.

Returning to her home country as a committed Marxist, Marta dedicated herself to popularising these ideas by producing numerous pamphlets such as Exploited and ExploitedCapitalist ExploitationSocial Classes and Class Struggle and Capitalism and Socialism.

Together with arguably her most famous work, Elementary Concepts of Historical Materialism,which was based on notes she prepared for Latin American students studying Althusser, these texts quickly became almost obligatory reading for leftists across the region.

Marta also threw herself into supporting the newly-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, particularly in her role as editor of the political weekly Chile Hoy.

Forced to seek refuge from the military dictatorship that followed Allende’s overthrow, Marta left for Cuba, which had captured her attention when she first visited it shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

In Cuba, Marta married her first husband, Manuel Piñeiro — Comandante “Red Beard” — a leading figure in the Cuban Revolution. Together they had a daughter, Camila, before his untimely death in a car accident in 1998.

There she also published Cuba: Democracy or Dictatorship? a collection of testimonies and experiences of popular power she documented.

Her constant quest to both learn from others and transmit these lessons as widely as possible led Marta to spend much of the next two decades collecting extensive interviews with key figures from the Latin American left, starting with guerrilla commanders from Central America and Colombia in the 1980s and leaders of some of the emergent left forces in South America in the ’90s.

Building left unity in reality

In these interviews, which were later published in various testimonials, Marta sought to draw out the lessons of defeats suffered, the strengths and weaknesses of differing tactics and strategies, the challenges of left unity and how revolutionary forces could begin to rebuild themselves and accumulate the forces required to turn ideas into reality. 

Marta also set up the Popular Latin American Memory Centre of Investigations (MEPLA) in Cuba to study and disseminate real-life experiences of communities working to build a better world.

The lessons Marta extracted from these interviews and experiences, combined with her own original contributions and ideas on topics such as globalisation and the collapse of the Soviet Union, became the basis for The Left on the Threshold of the 21st Century: Making the Impossible Possible.

Published in 1999, the book came out just as Hugo Chávez was elected in Venezuela — the first of what became a string of progressive presidents elected in the region.

For the next two decades Marta devoted herself to studying these experiences, steadfastly defending them while never being afraid to express her criticisms. She collated many invaluable lessons learnt along the way, firstly in Rebuilding the Left, and then A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-First Century Socialism.

After reading The Left on the Threshold, Chávez granted Marta an extensive interview, in which Marta — in her customary manner — challenged and probed him like few dared to do. The experience led Chavez to ask Marta to come and work with him, where she continued to challenge him whenever she disagreed.

Marta moved to Venezuela with Michael Lebowitz, her second husband, who, like her, had dedicated his life to enriching Marxist ideas. Together they shared a profound belief in the revolutionary potential and creativity of ordinary people engaged in struggle, along with a deep love for each other.

They helped organise two international solidarity gatherings in Caracas, in 2004 and 2005, and were fundamental to the establishment of the Miranda International Centre (CIM) in 2006 as a space for Venezuelan and international intellectuals to contribute their ideas to the process.

In between giving workshops in communities and workplaces and constant meetings with activists seeking advice, or simply wanting to discuss politics, Marta continued to collect testimonies from anyone she felt others could learn from.

As part of her work in CIM, she organised a series of panels bringing together key figures from the new left in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador, during which she would conduct a collective interview with the aim of encouraging comradely discussion and debate between the participants.

She always sought to include all voices in these panels, believing everyone had something to contribute and that by opening such space we could learn from each other. Participants often commented that such encounters seemed almost impossible at home but were of great value, helping bridge seemingly unbridgeable divides.

As a result of these interviews, Marta published a series of unique books chronicling the rise and challenges of these new left parties, encompassing their differing viewpoints.

Venezuela’s communal councils

Marta was able to do all this while dedicating much of her time to highlighting various experiences in popular participation at the community level, travelling across Venezuela to listen and debate with local activists.

These community experiments became of intense interest and concern for Marta, who saw in them not just the embryos of local self-government but everyday schools that could foster the revolutionary subject required to push the process forward.

Through this work Marta played a critical role in bringing the Venezuelan government’s attention to various experiences in building communal councils. Chávez would go onto embrace the communal councils and then the communes as central to his emancipatory project of 21st Century Socialism and asked Marta to become an advisor for the new Ministry of Popular Participation, which he created in 2005.  

Becoming acutely aware of some of the negative state practices that were undermining this process, Marta publicly spoke out about them, even when it earned her the ire of some in government.

The lessons she obtained from the communal councils and communes, together with other experiences she studied in Kerala, India and Porto Alegre, Brazil, nourished the ideas she outlines in Planning from Below: A Decentralized Participatory Planning Proposal, which is due to come out just weeks after Marta lost her battle with cancer.

Without doubt, Marta will forever have a place among the key left thinkers of the past century. Her extensive collection of books, pamphlets and articles will serve as invaluable tools for activists, young and old, new and experienced, for many years to come.

For those like me, who had the pleasure of working with her, and countless others who had the opportunity to meet her, she will always be remembered as much more.

She will forever be that Marta who always wanted to listen and learn from others, who always had an encouraging word to say, who believed everyone had something to contribute, and whose profound and unwavering belief in humanity was not simply something she preached, but something she practiced every day of her life.

Compañera Marta Harnecker, presente! Now and forever!

Federico Fuentes is an Argentinian-Australian writer and activist who worked with Marta Harnecker in various capacities over the past decade. This obituary was first published on June 21 in Green Left Weekly and has been reprinted here with the permission of the author. Follow Federico on Twitter @FredFuentesGLW.

Romani and Traveller activists deliver action plan on Romani Resistance Day

Aspiring Romani barrister, Brigitta Balogh, independently organised a parliamentary event in Westminster on 16 May 2019 to mark Romani Resistance Day, officially commemorating the Romani heroes of 1944 for the first time in the United Kingdom.

The “Press for Progress” conference was a working event intended to set out a 10 Point Action Plan to the government and ministerial bodies on how to improve the lives of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK. Participants had the opportunity to engage in critical discussion and create guidance for the government on how to proceed in future when drafting policies affecting these communities.

The event was chaired by Andy Slaughter MP, who was joined in a panel by Jonathan Lee from the European Roma Rights Centre, Lisa Smith who is the Chair of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers, Mihai Calin Bica, a campaigner at the Roma Support Group, and Brigitta Balogh, a Bar Professional Training Student at City University of Law.

The 10 recommendations are intended to be distributed amongst civil society organisations, and government and ministerial bodies. The attendees of the event request the government to promote and protect the rights and entitlements of these underrepresented marginalised communities, in reference to the 10 Point Action Plan set out here. In order to press for meaningful progress in the lives of Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers in this country, we recommend that ministers and policy makers:

  1. Create and fully implement a National Roma Integration Strategy and appoint a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller person as the main national contact point in the United Kingdom
  2. Reinstate the part of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 that places a statutory obligation on authorities to provide sites.
  3. Establish a funding scheme specifically targeting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils in order to support both secondary and higher education students. This scheme is to be based on the methods set out by the Roma Education Fund to ensure Romani empowerment by promoting participation in professions in which Roma are underrepresented.
  4. Reject recent policy proposals to make every form of trespass a criminal offence.
  5. Introduce a statutory definition of Gypsy and Traveller, for use in all relevant areas such as housing, planning, accommodation assessment, education and health. This will incorporate those living a nomadic way of life and those who have ceased to live in this way for purposes that include: educating children; illness; old age; and lack of pitch provision.
  6. Introduce a definition of anti-gypsyism in the United Kingdom to help acknowledge and raise awareness of the discrimination faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. Discrimination includes hate speech, hate crime, cyber bullying, social exclusion and direct or indirect institutional racism. The definition is to be used in active monitoring schemes that identify and record racially motivated incidents.
  7. Simplify the EU settlement scheme to ensure it is accessible for Roma and other groups who may be lacking the necessary documentation, language and IT skills.
  8. Establish a government obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to collect and monitor racist incidents of bullying in schools, including acts against Gypsy/Roma and Irish Travellers.
  9. Establish a Romani and Traveller Women’s group as part of Parliament. This is to be based on the Council of Europe recommendation to promote Romani Women’s political participation.
  10. Allocate funding and appointing a national co-ordinator to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month.

The 10 Point Action Plan was drafted by participants who attended the event:

Stephen Marsh
Lara Simak
Zachary Whyte
Tom Hoeksma
Sioned Morgan
Natalie Ayre
Jonathan Lee
Lisa Smith

The Action Plan was finalised in consultation with:

David Watkinson
Michael Haggar
Lynne Townley
Colin Clark .

Photo above picturing the activists involved is by Brigitta Balogh.

Thousands plan to protest Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland

By Memet Uludag.

Protest: Thursday June 6, 6pm at the Garden of Rembrance, Dublin. See the Facebook event here.

Donald Trump is a threat to us all.

His presidential campaign was based on racism against Mexicans – “build that wall!” He has tried to ban visitors and migrants from Muslim countries from entering the US. He is separating children from their parents at the border. 

President Trump gives carte blanche support to apartheid Israel to murder Palestinians and steal their land at will. He has worked with, encouraged and emboldened far right racists and fascists across the world.

As the world’s leading climate change denier who has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement, removed environment protection in America he is destroying the planet and endangering the whole future of humanity. 

In the age of #MeToo, when women globally are standing up for their rights, he has boasted of his ability to sexually assault women with impunity. 

He is undermining Irish neutrality via Shannon. He is an imperialist warmonger. 

Trump has posed as the friend of ‘the working man’ but in reality he is a billionaire property developer who represents the interests of the super-rich.  He filled his cabinet with CEOs and generals. 

Our protest against Trump is in solidarity with the millions of American people who are also victimised by Trump’s policies. We extend our solidarity to all people in the US involved in the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns, and those who stand up to Trump’s barbaric border policies.

United Against Racism calls on the Irish government, which claims to be progressive, to make this clear to Donald Trump and to ensure that no public money – so urgently needed for the housing and health crisis – is spent on this visit.  

We call on European governments to open the borders to refugees fleeing wars and persecution.  

We also call on the Irish government to #EndDirectProvision and normalise all undocumented migrants in Ireland.

We are for a progressive Ireland of equality, justice and hope, not of racism, hate and fear!

Memet Uludag is the convener of United Against Racism, and one of the organisers of the ‘Stand up to Trump!’ protest in Dublin, which is supported by a broad range of progressive campaign organisations, unions and parties. Protests are also taking place in Shannon, Cork, Belfast and Derry. Follow Memet on Twitter @Memzers, and follow United Against Racism on Twitter @UnitedARacism.

Moreno regime in Ecuador escalates persecution of its opponents

By Denis Rogyatuk.

The arrest, sentencing and the plans for the extradition of Julian Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States continue to prompt waves of condemnation from all around the world, along with disgust at the Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno (pictured) and his increasing subordination to the US.

This was the first time in living memory that a government allowed a foreign law enforcement agency to enter its sovereign territory, the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and take into their custody a publisher whose status as a refugee has been recognised by the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international organisations.

As confirmed by a number of investigative articles and publications, this act of political cynicism was motivated by the acquisition of $4.2 billion in IMF loans, as well as the revelations published by Wikileaks of secret offshore bank accounts in Panama operated by Moreno’s family members, known widely as the INA Papers scandal.

Repression intensifies against political foes

Yet this is only a part of a larger campaign of repression against free speech and persecution of political opponents that the Moreno government has been actively conducting in the past couple of years.

Ola Bini, the Swedish software developer, internet activist and a longtime advocate for internet privacy, was arrested and held in detention for almost 30 hours without a hearing on April 11 in Quito, Ecuador, for his alleged collaboration with Julian Assange and the attempts at illegal computer hacking. Once the hearing commenced, no official charges against Bini were presented, with the legal authorities instead asking for 90-day pre-trial detention.

Along with the absurd allegations that he collaborated together with yet-to-be-named “Russian hackers” inside the country, the only pieces of evidence presented against Bini has been his personal friendship with Assange, his visits to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and his support for Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes and government corruption around the world.

The provincial court of Pichincha’s decision of May 2 to deny him an appeal and return him to El Inca Detention Centre was allegedly based on Bini’s possession of a number o books on privacy rights and hacktivism, as well the apparent fear that he would flee the country.

Bini himself, his parents, his legal team and a number of prominent political figures around the world consider him to be a political prisoner of the Moreno government – his persecution being politically motivated in order to further criminalise Julian Assange and silence any evidence of Moreno’s corrupt personal dealings.

In a letter published on May 6, Bini talks about his experience of living in the system of Ecuadorian penitentiary detention, describing it as a “maddening mixture of long stretches of isolation and boredom interspersed with random threats and acts of violence”. Yet despite his ordeal, he does not feel any grudge towards Ecuador or its people, insisting instead that he “has his life here and, if he was allowed to, he would continue to live it” there.

Censorship

Moreno’s disregard for human rights and the freedom of speech and press have been further highlighted by the continuous campaign of censorship of radio stations, news portals and websites publishing information critical of the Moreno government, as well evidence of the INA Papers and the links between Moreno himself and the illegal funding received from the Chinese construction company, Sinodyro, and other sources.

Up to this point, Ecuadorenmediato, Ruta Kritica online journal, Radio Pichincha Universal, and Hechos Ecuador website have been either censored, experienced a large number of online attacks, had their broadcasting signal cut or have been forced off-air by the Ministry of Communications or the Moreno government’s supporters.

Furthermore, a number of journalists and communication experts appointed during former President Rafael Correa’s government – including Fernando Alvarado, Marco Antonio Bravo, Carlos Bravo, Patricio Pacheco, Carlos Ochoa and Richard Macias – have also suffered persecution and harassment by Moreno’s government.

Targeting leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution

Moreno’s regime is showing no signs of slowing down its continuous persecution of the historic leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution, with the pre-trial arrest warrant being issued by the Ecuador attorney general against Ricardo Patiño, the former minister of defence, economy and foreign relations, on charges of “inciting of violence” based on a speech he gave at an internal meeting of his political party in October 2018 in which he called for “combative resistance” involving “resistance” and the “seizing of public institutions” as the means of opposing the Moreno regime and its increasingly neoliberal policies and repression against dissenting political voices.

Patiño was among the most prominent of leaders in Correa’s government, playing a crucial role in the establishment of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), granting and organising the asylum for Julian Assange, as well as playing a leading role in the Citizens’ Revolution Movement (MRC) of groups and organisations opposing Moreno and his neoliberal turn. Patiño left the country on April 17 and is residing temporarily in Mexico, a country he has a long personal and political relationship with.

Finally, the political and psychological warfare waged against Rafael Correa and former Vice President Jorge Glas appears to be entering new stages of absurdity, as Moreno’s government feels more and more pressure from the fallout of the INA Papers scandal. In an attempt to further invalidate the legitimacy of Correa’s and Glas’s 2013-2017 term in office, Moreno’s government and the attorney general’s office have now begun producing claims and alleged testimonies that the construction company Odebrecht was involved in the illegal financing of the 2013 electoral campaign of Allianza Pais for the presidential and general elections that year.

Two more of Correa’s advisors from his time in office, “Pamela M” and “Laura T” were detained on May 5 after the discovery of emails and communications allegedly showing a transfer of up to $11.6 million from the Brazilian construction giants into the account of Allianza Pais political party during the period of 2013-2014, in a case that has now become known as “Arroz Verde”.

The most apparent evidence to refute these claims has been the complete lack of any previous testimony on the part of Conceição Santos, a key witness in the case against Jorge Glas, regarding any financial transfers to Allianza Pais during this time.

Even the time period of the alleged transfers does not appear to correspond to the electoral campaign period itself, as Correa and Glas were elected in February 2013 with an overwhelming majority of 57.17 per cent of the vote.

In the meantime, the attorney general is yet to take any concrete actions against the actual, existing and well-known corruption cases, such as the INA Papers. This further illustrates the cruel irony of “justice” under neoliberalism – the jailing of activists, journalists and progressive leaders, as the cover for an implementation of the policies of austerity, and a distraction for the corrupt personal dealings of the ruling political elite.

Denis Rogatyuk is a Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher. His articles, interviews and analysis have been published in a variety of media sources around the world including JacobinLe Vent Se LéveSputnikGreen Left WeeklyLinks International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Alborada and others. Follow him on Twitter @DenisRogatyuk. This article first appeared on The Grayzone and has been reprinted here with the permission of the author.

Climate Emergency Manifesto launched by the European Left

By Damien Thomson.

On Tuesday 16 April, Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the Environment Committee in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, calling for “Cathedral Thinking” on climate action – a reference to the huge and immediate mobilisation of empathy, panic and money at the sight of the Notre Dame in flames. The real panic, she said, should be about the “house on fire” – the planet – leading to a mobilisation of funds, emergency emissions reductions and state-led direction of the transition.

Today in Strasbourg, the Left group in the European Parliament GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left), has launched a Climate Emergency Manifesto ahead of the European elections taking place at the end of next month, firmly marking Just Climate Action as the group’s number one priority.

The manifesto, which explores six overarching demands for effective climate action, comes off the back of two recent developments: the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report from October 2018 strongly pushing for policymakers to limit global warming to 1.5°; and the global social movement known as ‘Fridays for Future’. These two developments have shaken the political foundations of the European Union (EU) in particular, and called into question its climate credentials. 

Climate emergency demands emergency response

The latest IPCC report paints a dark picture of the current pathway we are on. It gives us less than 12 years to enact “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to every aspect of the economy to stay below 1.5° of global warming. We are already at 1° of warming above pre-industrial levels, and at 1.5° the chain reaction of climate catastrophe will be unleashed as we surpass the tipping point. We are already in climate chaos at cliff-edge: the emergency brakes need to be activated now.

At the 24th UN Climate Conference held in 2018 in Poland (COP24), Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, stood up on a platform with the Canadian environment minister and other posing ministers to hold a big banner stating ‘High Ambition Coalition’. This was their way of trying to affirm that they are the leading parties at these high-level climate negotiations – leading for higher climate ambition. Needless to say, no-one was really convinced. 

The EU’s feeble attempt to promote itself as a global climate leader looks even more pathetic now in the context of over one million students across the globe coordinating a world-wide strike on 15 March 2019.

These young people are clearly not impressed with the self-congratulating Commissioner Arias Cañete’s level of ambition, nor of any state that claims it is doing enough. After all, the CV which qualified him for the portfolio he runs is based on his family ties to the oil industry itself. The next global strike scheduled for 24 May 2019 will set the tone for the European elections, demanding that radical climate action is on the agenda. 

As students gathered last month with their placards and chanted in more than 1,000 locations in over 100 countries worldwide, there wasn’t any rallying to congratulate the EU or the ‘High Ambition Coalition’ Ministers. Nor did young people chant “Carbon Tax Now” or “Secure the Rulebook!” They demanded climate justice.

The manifesto presented today by GUE/NGL is a response to this call and is commensurate to the demands of the striking youth.  A central demand to the global movement is a declaration of climate emergency – to effect an emergency response to an emergency situation. This manifesto is the Left’s way of hitting the panic button and declaring a climate emergency, as well as putting its climate commitments out there before the elections for all voters to see. 

Left approach rejects the market’s pseudo-solutions

The anti-capitalist Left has a nuanced approach to climate action – one that is clearly distinct from the Greens and Social Democrats, and of course, the Liberals and beyond who always appropriate the language of climate action to cover up their prioritisation of profits.

The Greens and Social Democrats prize the market and economic growth just as much as Conservatives, and consistently vote for the liberalisation of the EU energy market for instance, withdrawing the directional control of the energy sector away from elected governments.

Any real Leftist would reject this. We demand that governments are behind the wheel on the transition rather than watching markets fluctuate, and crucially, we are the only ones that reject the perpetual growth mode – the root cause of the climate crisis.

By removing the responsibility of climate action from governments and lawmakers and placing it in the invisible hands of the market, the Greens and Social Democrats have actively played an important role in this climate disaster.

While their intentions may well-motivated, the Greens have been the driving force in pushing climate responsibility off the desks of world leaders, by pushing for the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) carbon market, commercialised energy markets, the monetisation of pollution and carbon pricing – all policy recommendations from the fossil fuel industry itself. 

Climate crisis requires anti-capitalist action

The conclusion here is clear – only by being anti-capitalist can one be a climate activist. Anything less than this is the preservation of the status quo. Greening capitalism is indeed the most sinister form of climate action delaying. 

The manifesto launched by the Left goes to the very heart of the economic model that has created climate change. Overturning global capitalism may not be realistic within the next 11 years, given how it morphs and self-replicates in the search of commodities, but the forces of capitalism can be resisted. It is precisely here – in counteracting capitalist forces – where an effective response to the climate crisis lies. 

Keep fossil fuels in the ground

The solutions to climate change must come from outside the capitalist framework, beyond the logic of a market transition.  This is why this manifesto is about directly regulating the fossil fuel industry – keeping fossil fuels in the ground and phasing out their use altogether with strict time-bound targets.

It is about massive public investment, matching the financial responses already seen at times of war, responding to terrorism, or saving the banks. It is about regulating sectors to ensure sustainable practices, stopping the wild flurry of extraction and environmental abuses produced by capitalism. The Left is the only group bringing forward this critique and this response.  

Core to this manifesto, and a prism used throughout it, is that of the principles of climate justice. For the Left, these are not just pretty words to speckle our manifesto – they are guiding tools and tests. We stand for climate policies that empower communities, not debilitate them. We stand for a rights-based approach to climate action, including a right to renewable energy. We want an integrated sustainable development approach to climate action – ensuring the fight against climate change interlinks with the struggles against poverty, gender inequity and socio-economic inequalities. 

Just and effective climate action is our number one priority, and anything less than this is a climate crime. 

A copy of the manifesto in English can be found here. Other language versions can be found on the GUE/NGL website

Damien Thomson is a contributing editor of Irish Broad Left and the climate campaign coordinator for the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament. Follow him on Twitter @dmacthomais.