Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Revolutions arrive too late or too early, but always when they’re not expected

Raul Camargo, Joseba Fernández, Miguel Urban Crespo
International Viewpoint
May 2011

This article will offer some explanations of the success of the movement (and its continuation), the special relevance of casualisation and young people, and the significance of this event-movement as a destabilizing factor in the mobilization against the crisis.

We have no fear
15 May has opened a breach. Of that there is no question. It is a movement that opens new paths and that presupposes, bluntly, an inflection point in the social response to the crisis in Spain. Whoever in the Left can find no reason for celebration and joy, beyond the current uncertainty, has a serious problem. They have been, then, in an offside position.

Antecedents: the breeding ground, the dereliction of duties of some and the impotence of the “alternative”
Expanding once more about the factors that explain the profound deterioration in social, economic, environmental and all of political life in Spain does not make much sense. It’s well known how the capitalist economic crisis smashed into Spain’s growth model and how that has affected millions of people. The model of exit from the crisis has also tailed the elites — a dynamic “class struggle from above” that, dictated by the EU and IMF, has left a trail of victims and created a scene of crushing victory for banks, big capitalists and certain types of speculators.

The balance that has emerged from the break in the Spanish economy is an appalling one. Financialization of the middle classes, the “wealth effect” and the stupefying dream of an “ownership society” and “social ladder” had worked perfectly, as illusory mechanisms for the peaceful evolution of this country’s developmental model. However, the bursting of the various bubbles that gripped the Spanish economy has blown up this scheme of fictitious capitalism. A society partly euphoric at the credo of growth has been transformed into a society without social handles to grip. And, without venturing into psychological holes, it has gone from a citizenship based on networks of trust to a society suspicious of the social and political institutions on which the regime sits.

But this change was rapid. The knockout punch, suffered by the majority of the working classes, was administered and digested through different phases and moments. No one goes from euphoria to fear — and from there to outrage and mobilization — in a short and mechanical sequence. But, clearly, this was the “breeding ground” that would produce the “outbreak” the 15-M movement was constructing, little by little, and covertly. And, in recent months, it was being constructed outside of the channels and structures that were expected to star in any comprehensive opposition to the social emergency and coup being carried out against the lived economy and political sovereignty.

However, a previous breach had opened a few months earlier. It was 29-S [the general strike on 29 September 2010]. That day (and in the weeks of preparation beforehand) the real possibility of extending the framework of resistance and popular responses (from the world of work, and well beyond) was reaffirmed in the call for and fallout of the General Strike. For the social Left and anti-capitalist politics the conditions of continuity of the strike were a given: Neighbourhood platforms, new socialised work initiatives, collective learning for new activists, etc.

The winding up of the unions’ oppositional, conflictual approach and the major unions’ decision to commit to social dialogue and agreement presumed an inability to take advantage of a real political opportunity to intervene from these actors, an inability to follow a different model — the accumulation of forces in a social response to crisis. The damage caused by the pact over pensions to the morale of many activists, and the real (and deserved) delegitimation that the union leaders have suffered as a result explains why they cannot be perceived, at this time, as effective instruments through which the “general malaise” can be interpreted and channelled.

Neither, on balance, has what we call (broadly and diffusely) the alternative and anti-capitalist Left been much better. Obviously it hasn’t played a role of legitimiser or stooge of the farce of social peace. But, yes, at least in its inability to express what could be the alternative in the street. While “resistance-ism” [resistencialismo] has been marked, organizational incapacities, narrow-mindedness, a real disconnection from those who are the core activists or, simply, the use of repertoires of action attractive and appealing for a different public face have led to demonstrations that, while necessary and relatively successful, could not initiate a cycle of mobilisation. Thus, the alternative unions, the more radical and coherent social movements and the radical political Left haven’t been able to break from the circle in which they have moved. While it is true that the Left has expanded in recent months, its role as a catalyst for the battle in the streets has always had a ceiling on it. But it is also true that small initiatives that have been punctuating recent months and years have generated part of the discourse that today is drawing in more sectors of the now-mobilized.

Imitation effect and resistance in the world of the dispossessed
This lack of practical references, symbolic and identity-bound, has held back the possibility of social responses in recent months. Knocking at our door have been other people’s experiences and new forms of self-organisation, in the form of riots, rebellions and revolutions. It was the Portuguese youth in their struggle against the IMF; Italian students against Berlusconi, job insecurity and cuts in education; the Greek trade unionists and youth against debt and EU blackmail; universities occupied and mobilized in the United Kingdom; France rebellious and insubordinate against the loss of social rights. And there have been, like an unexpected miracle, the uprisings for dignity and against tyranny in the Arab nations. The youth of Tunisia and Egypt and many other countries, their social and political organizations, have in recent years heroically resisted economic and political dictatorships and have shown that it is possible to reach heaven by direct struggle, even in the worst conditions. And somehow, it is we who were afraid!

Now the contagion effect that these riots and revolutions have had on the planet can’t be overestimated — how they are helping to transform many things and supposedly unchangeable realities in the management and governance of capitalism and imperialism on a global scale.

It is more difficult to demonstrate how they have specifically impacted on the awakening of instinctual rebellion in Spain. To not only two things: at the level of discourse and of forms of organization (management of social networks and symbolic force and real public space) they seem to have been an authentic inspiration.

Youth: an empty signifier yet full of content
Inigo Errejón said in a recent article in the mobilization of 7 April, “Youth Without Future” the concept of youth had been managed, successfully, as an “empty signifier” which encapsulated much of the social reality and collective imagination able to legitimise a protest of this type. It is an accurate analysis that, as we can see, is still working and will continue to do so.

Again, as already happened in the cycle of 1968 although in a completely different conditions [1], the youth, in various pockets of resistance, are acting as a true “tactical vanguard” in the context of an overall movement. We don’t enter an opinion here on such thorny issues as the concept of “generations” itself or on the available objective and subjective conditions for the mobilization of youth today. We simply assert its importance as an initiator of social antagonisms. And it is very uneven across demographic (Arab v European) and political (policies at movement level) contexts.

However, the focus of discourse and practice that hinges around insecurity is still being shown as an asset when it comes to uniting wills. The accumulation of experiences and counter-hegemonic discourse in universities in recent years is not negligible. The launch of an initiative with so much potential as “Youth Without Future” is just a sign of how sections of student activists have recognized that it is a discourse with the capacity to combine and refine mobilisation practices with a capacity for social impact.

In this sense, one can’t understand 15-M without 7 April. And it may mean a movement in the streets without the special intervention and ownership claims, discourses and practices of groups such as “Youth Without Future.” The alarming statistics of youth unemployment and insecurity were already signs of concern for sociologists linked to the PSOE and José Felix Tezanos or the IMF itself that has, more recently, dared to mention the risk of a “lost generation” in Spain.

The victories of 15-M and its risks: against the dictatorship of the markets, a rising movement
Something has changed since 15-M. In Madrid you can breath the atmosphere of mobilisation. Of what is (or should be) a demonstration: take to the streets, connect with ordinary people, expand the space as you can. Lose the fear. That we were told weeks before on posters of “Youth Without Future” [2]. And it was collectively shouted in the streets of Madrid (and in many other cities): “Without fear”. A fear that only we can shake off from the common, from the community. The great triumph of neoliberal politics has been its penetration into individual problems (in fear of work, of the future, of banks, of social disconnection). Only through collective channels, away from false individual solutions, can fear give way to other states of mind. And part of that fear has shaken us. That is the lesson that, collectively, we have lived. Surely, it has been the experience that many people do not participate in the rituals of protest and various expressions of the Left. And that is a gift to the radical Left: the possibility of politicization of new layers.

The keys to the success of the protest, and its continuation, are circulating, and are starting to be widely recognized. Despite some ambiguous and contradictory statements in the posters that had circulated in the days prior, it was perceived that there was a possibility of widening the social spectrum, to reach so-far demobilized sectors.

The tension between organization and spontaneity is shown, again, insoluble and false. There is no scope for strengthening the mobilization and grounding of organised experiences without a space for spontaneity; but there also isn’t room for it without prior organizational work that is also open to the unexpected.

In Madrid, the work and vision of “Youth Without Future” has allowed this platform to become the essential reference pole right now — for its dynamism, its fighting spirit and its ability to forge alliances. A public and media appearance, tolerated so far, but we fear a change of sign in the short term.

But 15-M has also not been a youth movement or a false signal of intergenerational conflict. It was the coming of what may be a new citizens’ movement — diverse, with apparent contradictions, but with even more possibilities. A movement, even one difficult to characterize, that was necessary and that breaks the inertia of defeat and pessimism that had overtaken the broader social Left.

And if it’s exciting for the number of people who have gathered (the largest demonstrations against crisis since the General Strike), it’s because most of the speeches are typical of words that the Left has been insistently repeating long before the outbreak of the crisis: the dictatorship of the markets and banks, against the social cuts, against this model of “democracy”. And that is a victory: socializing on the street are the flags of the anti-globalization movement, of students, of teachers and health workers in struggle over recent years, of honest and militant unionists.

One might say that the narrative is not finished, is not complete. Of course not. It lacks many things: analyses of environmental destruction, of the energy crisis, of the finitude of the planet. Also of patriarchy and the crisis of care. Or a story on immigration, immigration law or CIEs. That is what is missing. And many other things.

But it is a discourse and practice that must be kept company, which it is possible to construct along the road. The sectors that have built the resistance — from schools, workplaces, from the environmental movement, from feminism — should (and should be able to) fill in the content.

The 15-M movement and the grounded platforms that are emerging are a possibility that the Left and social movements can use to expand the audience for their ideas and practices. Because these movements, fortunately, don’t arise from agreements between apparatuses, they are not experiences for discussion among the most conscious. It is, finally, an ongoing experience for the movement. It is, paraphrasing Brecht in his polemic with the “identities”, an experience that has “legs” and not “roots”. These are the convergences that have a future: those who have “legs” (of marchers) and no “legs” (of a table).

The answer to this phenomenon of institutions and accommodation of the Left is symptomatic of the very success of the movement. [3] The stigmatization of the protests, the labels put on them, their underestimation and repression, are all palpable evidence of the concern they are causing. Some progressive intellectuals’ voices have asked us to be indignant and react. When we do, we should not offer alternatives to anti-systemic violence. It’s always the same story with those stuck in being “politically correct”.

The outlook for what comes after 15-M is uncertain. Of that there is no doubt. We know that more, however, will come on 22-M: more social cuts, less democracy.

We have always maintained that the “class struggle” is a long-winded battle. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Even when we know how to change the world. Neither 15-M nor what is happening now is a final lesson. But it has been a small tear in the normality of this democracy that gives a truncheon and anti-social orders under the spurious designs of what they call “market”.

Use this crack, shape spaces of resistance on the ground that don’t abandon the big problems, consolidate the spaces for the practice of resistance and of democracy that are the tasks that allowed us the cry of 15-M.

In mobilizing against the crisis and the fight against this world of looting, a small door has opened in this corner of the planet. Daniel Bensaid said that revolutions “arrive too late or too early, but always when they are not expected.” He also said that revolutions are a miracle, but we even have to prepare miracles. What has erupted in 15-M (if not before, in 7-A) is not a revolution, naturally. But it is a real opportunity to build a strong movement against the effects of the crisis. With intelligence and a good dose of virtue and fortune, you can start changing things.

And as we have seen and experienced in recent years such opportunities are not abundant.

We shouldn’t let it pass us by.

17 May 2011

This article was first translated and posted on this blog.

Raul Camargo is a leading member of Izquierda Anticapitalista in Madrid.

Joseba Fernández is a militant of Izquierda Anti-capitalista.

Miguel Urban is a leading member of Izquierda Anticapitalista in the Spanish state.


[1] Such as expressed by Daniel Bensaid, this was a “generation” of young installed in the “getting better” while today we are facing the “getting worse”.

[2] “No home, no jobs, no pension, no fear.”

[3] Just read the statements of political leaders of the “standing” of Jose Blanco and Ángel Pérez on this.


Portugal: IMF-EU imposes austerity, left fires up for fight

Dick Nichols
Green Left Weekly
May 22, 2011

When the 548 delegates to the Seventh National Convention of Portugal’s Left Bloc came together in a vast sports hall in Lisbon onver May 7-8, they had two big questions to answer.

The first was what alternative should they propose at the June 5 Portuguese elections to the €78 billion (about $103 billion) “rescue package” negotiated between the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the “troika”) and the Socialist Party (PS) government of prime minister Jose Socrates?

The second was how to build greater unity among all those forces opposed to austerity — representing millions of Portuguese — so that a government of the left becomes thinkable in a country used to a back-and-forth shuffle of PS and Social Democratic Party (PDS) administrations?

As its convention met, the polls showed the Left Bloc on 7% — behind the Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU), which involves the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) plus Greens. On 7.4%. The conservative Democratic and Social Centre-People's Party (CDS-PP) were on 10.5%, the PS on 34.8% and the PDS on 37%.

But a huge 45.3% of those polled refused to say how they would vote, or were yet to make up their minds.

With the combined Left Bloc and PCP vote over 20% in recent years and PS supporters never so disillusioned, a left government of some kind, while still unlikely, was at least thinkable.

Portugal is torn between resistance and resignation. The resistance has come in the form of a general strike in November and a 300,000-strong Lisbon protest of young people — the self-styled “generation on the scrapheap” — on March 12.

The resignation shows in a 40% abstention in elections and sizeable support for the troika’s package, seen by many as taking the country out of the hands of corrupt and incompetent politicians.

The immediate trigger of the June 5 election and the troika package was the March 23 resignation of the PS minority government. This came after the PDS and CDS-PP finally joined with the Left Bloc and CDU to reject Socrates’ fourth emergency budget in a year.

The right-wing parties had backed the three previous budgets and also abstained on a Left Bloc no-confidence motion in Socrates on March 10.

The budget had aimed to reassure financial markets that Portugal, like neighboring Spain, could get its public sector debt under control through welfare cuts, privatisations and public sector cutbacks.

But, unlike the Spanish government, Socrates found no allies for his brutal plan.

But the interest rate on Portuguese public debt soon surged towards 10%. The caretaker PM, who had earlier said 10 million Portuguese stand between us and the IMF” and had allegedly tried to induce Brazil and Venezuela to buy Portuguese government bonds, finally went cap in hand to Brussels.

The election is a referendum on the troika’s package, which will deepen recession, unemployment and social misery in western Europe’s poorest country. Despite being a rework of Socrates’ rejected budget, the package is supported by the PSD and CDU: their election fight with the PS will be over how the pain of the package is to be spread.

At the Left Bloc convention, debate centred on how to approach the public debt, a growing part of which is due to bailing out the private banks.

Bloc leader Francisco Louca’s opening address was targeted at concerned SP voters, explaining the pain that “the biggest shift to the right in PS history” would bring, and accusing Socrates of irresponsibility.

Louca said: “He didn’t explain where €1.4 billion for the health budget will be found; how €569 million will be cut from education; how, year after year, the sackings of public servants are to be done; how the plan to reduce the number of councils and shires will work; and why €890 million is to be cut from pensions.”

Louca said Socrates had a choice — he should have implemented a review of the debt and demanded its renegotiation, as proposed by economists like Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini.

There was no other way to lift growth and employment, defend the welfare state and fund urgently needed investment in environment, agriculture, fishing and regional development.

On public debt, as on other issues, the convention had four positions to choose from, spelled out in resolutions (“motions”) that had been the basis for the election of delegates.

Motion C, led by Portuguese followers of the International Workers' League and representing 11.5% of conference delegates, proposed the immediate suspension of all public debt payment.

Criticising Motion A (representing the positions of the outgoing leadership and 82.5% of delegates), its supporters wrote in the Bloc’s discussion bulletin: “To audit the debt without suspending payment is to cover up the problem: if we want to audit the debt it’s because it is unjust.

“Shall we continue to pay for an injustice? If the answer is yes, then full employment, maintaining public services and ending casualisation will be little more than demagogic catchphrases.”

For Motion A supporters, it was vital that the Bloc’s policy could show that the government’s decision to call in the “troika” was not inevitable.

Any renegotiation of the debt, including any eventual suspension of payments, could be forced on the powers of finance only if it had strong public backing.

That could only be built through a public auditing of all debt — amounting to a mass education campaign — such that the Portuguese people could see where their money was going and for whose benefit they were making sacrifices.

Closely tied to this debate was that over how best to take steps towards the left unity needed to underpin any government of the left.

For Motion C supporters, the core of the issue was an alliance with the PCP — “united the Left Bloc and the PCP could be a governmental alternative”. In debate, its supporters accused the leadership of privileging unity with left SP forces.

This had ended in the “disaster” of the Left Bloc’s support for a “left” PS candidate (Manuel Alegre) in the 2010 presidential poll, who was then supported by the PS itself, putting the Bloc and the PS in the same camp.

Motion B supporters (1.8% of delegates) also backed the Bloc making a unity push towards the PCP, but to create a new left “movement-party” capable of attracting broad layers of those in the struggle — especially the young people of the “generation on the scrapheap”.

Speakers for Motion A replied that the process of left unity would never be achieved by decree or by the single tactic. For example, a Left Bloc-PCP alliance might well attract less support than if the parties ran separately: there were PCP supporters who would never vote Left Bloc and vice versa.

That sentiment was reflected in Motion D (1.6% of delegates). In the words of spokeperson Jorge Ceu, it would “never envisage governmental solutions with the PCP”.

It even arose within Motion A, where an amendment stating that “the PCP does not distance itself from the Chinese CP and Cuban CP regimes and other repressive regimes”, was rejected.

Notwithstanding these tensions, the Left Bloc and the PCP recently held a leadership meeting. Miguel Portas, a Left Bloc deputy in the European Parliament, said: “The PCP and the Left Bloc have everything to gain from normalising their relationship, preventing friction and creating a non-sectarian political atmosphere.”

At this stage, the Bloc’s formula of a “left government” remains unavoidably abstract: it can only take clearer form on the basis of real developments, not least the results of the June 5 election and ongoing struggles against austerity.

The other main focus of debate was over the role of the Bloc’s 16-strong parliamentary fraction, and a supposed lack of internal democracy and involvement by the party’s 10,000 members.

The minority motions all shared this criticism. They say this is evidenced by the fact that important decisions in the life of the party (such as the decision to support Alegre and bring a no-confidence motion against Socrates), had been taken by the 16-person political commission and not the 80-person national board (the leadership elected at national conventions).

Lack of democracy was also said to be the cause of the Bloc's low vote (3.1%) in the 2009 municipal elections.

These differences were laid bare in the session that considered changes to the Bloc’s statutes. Amendments adopted included a provision that at least 50% of the national board be composed of rank-and-file members.

A proposal to limit parliamentarians and elected public officials to two terms in office was put off to a future vote, as was a proposal to limit elected officers in the unions and social movements to three terms.

Other proposals, such as compulsory turnover on leadership bodies and easier conditions for calling special national conventions, were defeated.

When the vote on the motions was taken Motion A had won 80.6% and Motion C 14.3%. Motions B and D and abstentions sharing the rest. The incoming National Board reflects these proportions.

These debates, played out on Portuguese TV and radio and extensively covered in the print media, might suggest a party at war with itself. But that would be mistaken.

The Left Bloc’s seventh national convention was a high-energy engagement with the burning tasks of Portuguese politics, often driven by the younger generations of the party. The debate, conducted with scrupulous democracy, intensified the conviction and commitment of the delegates for the battles ahead.

When Louca delivered the convention’s closing address, a call to arms to the Bloc’s members to make the election campaign a battle of resistance against austerity, the hall shook with their enthusiasm.

[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s European correspondent. For further coverage of the Left Bloc conference go to www.bloco.org .]


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spain: This is what working class revolt in 2011 looks like

Alex Snowdon
20 May 2011

Spanish people have taken to the streets in huge numbers, with public squares occupied by protesters opposed to anti-worker austerity measures and calling for real democracy.

Emmanuel Rodriguez and Tomas Herrero wrote from Madrid in a May 19 Counterfire.org article that on May 15, “around 150,000 people took to the streets in 60 Spanish towns and cities to demand 'Real Democracy Now', marching under the slogan 'We are not commodities in the hands of bankers and politicians'”.

“The protest was organised through web-based social networks without the involvement of any major unions or political parties. At the end of the march some people decided to stay the night at the Peurta del Sol in Madrid. They were forcefully evacuated by the police in the early hours of the morning.

“This, in turn, generated a mass call for everyone to occupy his or her local squares that thousands all over Spain took up. As we write, 65 public squares are being occupied ...”

The extraordinary scenes in Madrid can be seem live at SolTV.tv. The mass movement seems to have swelled since its emerged on May 15 in the capital and across Spain.

It is both militant and massive.

A May 18 Euobserver.com article by Gemma Galdon Clavell explained that the protests are “the immediate continuation of the May Day demonstrations that were organized independently of mainstream trade unions and parties and largely ignored by the media”.

The article explained some of the longer-term background, pointing especially to the movement opposed to the “Sinde law” (which clamps down on illegal file-sharing). Galdon Clavell also pointed to the role of a Facebook group (“real Democracy Now”) in catalysing the “May 15 movement”.

The article said the larger context is “skyrocketing unemployment rates (45% registered youth unemployment), generalized cuts in health, education and wages, tax cuts for the rich and widespread political corruption”.

None of this is being discussed or contested in mainstream political debate. There is a profound disconnection between the elite and the street.

The article explained: “Trapped in the tougher-than-you-on-crime race to the bottom, the gap between a population that hardly makes ends meet and sees banks and corporations get away with murder, and a political class that has built a wall of arrogance, incompetence, impunity and empty promises to keep the young, the unemployed and the evicted out has grown to reach seemingly unbridgeable proportions.”

The social democratic, or centre-left, Spanish government has presided over the unemployment, cuts and corruption. The entire political class is therefore the target of people's rage.

It is therefore unsurprising that “anti-politics” sentiment is widespread on the demonstrations, with contempt for all political parties.

Emmanuel Rodriguez and Tomas Herrero said: “It is possible (in fact it is quite probable) that on 22nd May, when local and regional elections take place in Spain, the left will suffer a catastrophic defeat. If that were the case, it would be only be a preamble to what would happen in the general elections.

“What can be said today without hesitation is that the institutional left (parties and major unions) is the target of a generalised political disaffection due to its sheer inability come up with novel solutions to this crisis.”

However, this may not mean an automatic rejection of all things political. Gemma Galdon Clavell noted: “[D]emonstrators have not given up on institutional politics — while the slogan in 2001 in Argentina was ‘que se vayan todos’ (get rid of them all), the #15m movement is giving non-mainstream parties a chance, and while claiming independence and autonomy, seems to be interested in building bridges with some parties.”

There is clearly a huge spontaneous element to the current upheavals, but there's also some background in the anti-Sinde law and May Day protests. Similarly, there's visceral anger with politicans, but that doesn't mean absolutely no co-operation with any kind of political organisation.

What happens next is highly unpredictable.

Social media have played their par and will continue to. But a radical idea only goes viral, and translates into mass protests and occupations, if it connects with large numbers of people's grievances.

In the absence of any lead from established organisations — such as reformist parties or unions — a Facebook page and a Twitter hashtag can become detonators.

This popular working class revolt doesn't look how many would expect it to. The unions appear to be nowhere. At best they are lagging behind the mainly young people taking to the streets; at worst they are neutered by compromise with a failing centre-left government.

It will be tempting for many protesters, and their supporters elsewhere, to conclude that spontaneity is all, organisation is irrelevant, and the unions should be ignored.

But the protesters will need to rapidly construct new, grassrooots, democratic forms of co-ordination and decision-making. They will have to demand the unions, which can still potentially mobilise millions, to get behind them.

The mass protests in Spain are an inspiration to everyone facing austerity and fed up with the hollowing out of democracy. The movement fuses economics and politics, just like in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.

It takes inspiration from the Arab Spring, while seeing itself as part of Europe-wide resistance to cuts. Spain's young workers, jobless and students are showing us the way.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Olivier Besancenot will not be NPA candidate in 2012

Olivier Besancenot
International Viewpoint
May 2011

On the 2nd May, the leadership of the New Anti-capitalist Party was informed that Olivier Besancenot, their best-known spokesperson, would not be the party’s candidate in the presidential elections for 2012. It was Olivier’s successful campaigns in 2002 and 2007 for the LCR (Revolutionary Communist League, French section of the Fourth International) that had laid the basis for the creation of the NPA. After a further meeting of the Executive Committee on the 4th of May, Olivier sent this letter to all NPA members.

"Do not forget the men who will serve you best are those who you chose from those among you, living their own lives, suffering the same ills.

Challenge yourselves just as much as the ambitious newcomers, while others who consider only their own interests always end up being regarded as indispensable ...

Choose instead those who do not seek your votes; the most important virtue is modesty and it is for voters to recognise their chosen representatives, and not for them to push themselves forward. "

Appeal of the Central Committee of the National Guard of the Paris Commune, March 25, 1871.


I will not be the candidate of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in the presidential election of 2012. This is a political decision that I have taken. And if I want today to pass the baton to one of our comrades, I am not saying that I no longer wish to be involved in all our struggles; quite the contrary. Rather, I believe that the NPA has an opportunity to establish itself on a new basis, in accordance with the project of emancipation which more than ever motivates me.

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those in the NPA - and in the LCR before - who have been actively involved in the collaborative work for which I have served as spokesperson these last ten years. To all the comrades of the local branches who put up posters, distributed leaflets, organised rallies (and who have always welcomed us with open arms), to those who gathered signatures for our candidacy in 2002 and again in 2007, and those comrades in the leadership who worked on the arguments, orientation, communications and security, to all of you I want to say thank you. This team has taught me a great deal and contributed a huge amount throughout this funny experience of being a spokesperson.

I have tried, for my part, to do my level best in order to acquaint a broader audience with our ideas and beliefs, and I fully intend to continue to do so in order to communicate our program, promote our actions and to increase our vote. NPA activists and, more generally, all those fighting to change the world can count on my commitment.

This is therefore a political decision, one that should not come as a great surprise. For many months I have been one of those warning our party against the political risks of excessive , exaggerated, personalisation. That ideas are embodied within a specific social and political context, and that it is necessary to delegate the tasks of activists through public representation – for a specific and time-limited mandate – is one thing. It’s quite another to play the media game as a substitute for real grass-roots action in the class struggle.

We organise daily in our workplaces, in struggle, at election time, to defend the prospect of finally ridding society of alienation, exploitation and oppression. Emancipation from contemporary forms of servitude necessarily implies a break with the current system. This rupture presupposes a growing popular engagement with politics. Whenever possible, this break must intervene here and now, without holding back its seething revolutionary promise until tomorrow.

This means that here and now we call, tirelessly and conscientiously, on all those anonymous citizens to take ownership of their destiny. That is why we always exalt the popular classes to burst onto the political scene by breaking the speakers erected by politicians in order to keep us away from the arena where our lives are played out. Wherever we operate, we carry this original and subversive message to housing estates, businesses, schools, the universities, street markets, in protests during the elections. This message is the hallmark of our party, and we must not tarnish it in the name of some electoral reflex.

We created a sensation when the LCR had the audacity to introduce a young worker, a postman, in the 2002 presidential election. Let us once again cause a sensation today with other unknown candidates during the next elections who will highlight all that we really are: a collective tool and a heterogeneous group. To strive to demonstrate that we do not need politicians to express ourselves, to understand and propose solutions, is a progressive act. To reassure themselves by thinking we should "play safe" would yield, on the contrary, to pernicious conservative instincts which should be left to others. However, we do not conceive of political like the other parties do.

Such a move would also, in my view, resolve an untenable contradiction, which sees us denouncing a system where politics has become a form of marketing on the one hand while on the other involuntarily integrating ourselves into the traditional political scene by embedding our movement and ideas in the ritualV debates. That risks eventually transforming us into a caricature of ourselves, even into an alibi for the failures of the system.

Like any of you, this is a prospect which I find personally unbearable. I do not want to feel like I am one of the traditional politicians in the eyes of the general public, something which has influenced our position in recent years. My continuing to work in the post office - an activity that I never let go - is not a long term serum powerful enough to counteract the dynamics continuously imposed on the consensual electoral battlefield and in the media. The young worker who set out to attack party politics in 2002 inevitably became, in 2007, someone who "was playing politics while continuing to work" and probably the person who "does politics tout court" in 2012. I am a militant and an activist and I want to remain so. Releasing me from this contradiction is the best guarantee that I will be able to continue to continue the fight of the NPA in the public arena, but in a different way.

So I ask you to be supportive of my choice, recognising it as a desire that the NPA can finally establish itself. Find yourselves not a familiar name but a reappropriated collective identity which can be deployed on a more conscious and more consistent basis. More aware of the need to carry on a revolutionary, internationalist, lively and open project which is clearly distinct from the present system. More constant in its overall activity in everyday life, intervening constantly in workplaces, housing estates, and among the youth, and leading an active resistant network of social movements - around work, anti-racism, environmentalism, feminism and so on.

The presidential election will take place within a year. This gives us time to prepare and make 2012 a major step in our rebuilding process.

I am prepared to invest myself 100% in our party, the NPA, and to support as best as I can our candidate so that we can intervene effectively in the next presidential election, for we must continue to communicate our message to millions of people instead of shutting ourselves off from the world. The moments of uncertainty which the labor movement in France has been experiencing should not overshadow the unstable political situation largely caused by the global crisis which the capitalist system has faced over the last three years.

The Arab revolutions prove one thing: the winds of history are shifting and can turn quickly.

Revolutionary greetings,


-Olivier Besancenot is the best-known spokesperson of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), formed in 2009 following a call by the Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR), French section of the Fourth International). As candidate for the LCR in the presidential elections in 2002 and 2007, he received 1.2 million votes (4.5%) and 1.5 million votes (4.2%) respectively.


Friday, May 6, 2011

May Day Statement by Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

In commemoration of the International Workers’ Day, the Palestinian trade union movement holds its first BDS conference and announces the formation of the:

Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS)*

Statement of Principles & Call for International Trade Union Support for BDS

Occupied Palestine, 4 May 2011 – In commemoration of the first of May - a day of workers struggle and international solidarity – the first Palestinian trade union conference for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) was held in Ramallah on 30 April 2011, organized by almost the entirety of the Palestinian trade union movement, including federations, professional unions, and trade union blocks representing the entire spectrum of Palestinian political parties. The conference marked a historic event: the formation of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) as the largest coalition of the Palestinian trade union movement. PTUC-BDS will provide the most representative Palestinian reference for international trade unions, promoting their support for and endorsement of the BDS Call, launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005, guided by the guidelines and principles adopted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), of which PTUC-BDS has become a key component.

The global trade union movement has always played a key and inspiring role in its courageous commitment to human rights and adoption of concrete, ground-breaking, labor-led sanctions against oppressive regimes in a show of solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world. The trade union boycott of apartheid South Africa stands out as a bright example of this tradition of effective solidarity. Trade unions today are taking the lead in defending the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, justice, freedom, equality and the right of return of our refugees as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. Many of them have heeded the call from Palestinian civil society, and its labor movement in particular, to adopt BDS as the most effective form of solidarity with the Palestinians in our struggle to end Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Ending Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people -- comprising occupation, colonialism and apartheid -- has become a test for humanity. For decades, Israel has enjoyed impunity while continuing its gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev) desert; its 44-year-old occupation; its theft of land and natural resources; its colonization and construction of illegal colonial settlements and walls, its siege of Gaza; its relentless denial of refugee rights; its endless wars of aggressions and incarceration of political prisoners; and its wanton killings of civilians and demolition of infrastructure. Israel’s systematic destruction of the Palestinian economy, expropriation of the most fertile agricultural land, as well as humiliation of and racist discrimination against Palestinian workers have all become part of its apartheid reality that should never be tolerated by the world today.

Given the complete failure and unwillingness of hegemonic powers to hold Israel accountable to international law, it is up to people of conscience and international civil society, especially the trade union movement, to take concrete action to end international collusion with decades of violations of international law and human rights by Israel, its institutions and international corporations.

The support of the entirety of the Palestinian trade union movement for a full boycott of Israel,[1] as the most effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian people, was the overarching message of this historic gathering.

The Conference was honored to welcome Joâo Felicio, International Relations Secretary of CUT, the Brazilian trade union representing more than 20 million workers, who expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, and reiterated CUT’s endorsement of BDS. The conference received numerous messages of solidarity from a large number of trade union federations, including the International Federation of Arab Trade Unions, COSATU (South Africa), ICTU (Ireland), and a large number of individual trade unions in Canada, Scotland, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Australia, USA and other countries. All major Palestinian political parties also enthusiastically supported the conference and the formation of PTUC-BDS.

The Conference decisively condemned the Histadrut and called on international trade unions to sever all links with it due to its historic and current complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights. The Histadrut has always played a key role in perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of racial discrimination by:

1. Publicly supporting Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other tenets of international law
2. Maintaining active commercial interests in Israel's illegal settlement enterprise[2]
3. Allowing Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to join the organization[3]
4. Supporting Israel’s war of aggression on besieged Gaza in 2008/9;[4] it has later justified Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010[5]
5. Illegally withholding over NIS 8.3 billion (approximately $2.43bn) over decades of occupation from wages earned by Palestinian workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territory,[6] deducted for ‘social and other trade union benefits’ that Palestinian laborers from the OPT have never received.
Recalling the trade union maxim “an injury to one is an injury to all”, and given the global trade union movement’s historic role in effective international solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world, PTUC-BDS:
• Cordially salutes all global trade unions for their solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially those that have endorsed BDS against Israel,
• Calls on trade unions around the world to actively show solidarity with the Palestinian people by implementing creative and context-sensitive BDS campaigns as the most effective way to end Israeli impunity. For example by:
o boycotting Israeli and international companies (such as Elbit, Agrexco, Veolia, Alstom, Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, etc.) and institutions that are complicit with Israel’s occupation and violations of international law,
o reviewing pension fund investments with the purpose of divesting from Israel Bonds and all Israeli and international companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid,
o pressuring governments to suspend Free Trade Agreements, end arms trade and military relations with Israel with the intention of eventually cutting all diplomatic ties with it,
• Calls on port workers around the world to boycott loading/offloading Israeli ships, similar to the heroic step taken by port workers around the world in suspending maritime trade with South Africa in protest against the apartheid regime, and
• Calls on trade unions around the world to review and sever all ties with the Histadrut.
Such non-violent measures of accountability must continue until Israel fulfils its obligations under international law in acknowledging the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, and fully complies with international law by:
• Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied since 1967 (including East Jerusalem), as well as dismantling of the illegal wall and colonies,
• Recognizing the fundamental right of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equity, as well as ending the system of racial discrimination against them, and
• Respecting, protecting and supporting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UNGA Resolution 194.

* The Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) is the broadest and most representative body of the Palestinian trade union movement and includes the following organisations: General Union of Palestinian Workers, Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Professional Associations (comprising the professional syndicates of Engineers, Physicians, Pharmacists, Agricultural Engineers, Lawyers, Dentists and Veterinarians), General Union of Palestinian Teachers, General Union of Palestinian Peasants and Co-ops, General Union of Palestinian Writers, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), Union of Public Employees in Palestine-Civil Sector; and all of the trade union blocks that make up the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU): Central Office for the Workers Movement, Progressive Labor Union Front, Workers Unity block, Progressive Workers Block, Workers solidarity organization, Workers Struggle Block, workers resistance block, Workers Liberation Front, Union of Palestinian Workers Struggle Committees, National Initiative (al-Mubadara) Block.

- Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS)

[1] Despite rumors to the contrary, PGFTU’s recently issued statement explicitly calls for a full boycott of Israel and of all its institutions that are complicit in the occupation: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/pgftu-clarrification-6559
[4] http://www.labourstart.org/israel/Histadrut_on_Gaza.pdf
[5] http://www.histadrut.org.il/index.php?page_id=1801
[6] http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/news/2422-israel-owes-over-nis-83-billion-to-palestinian-workers-from-the-occupied-palestinian-territories


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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