Friday, February 27, 2015

Greece: Syriza wins loan extension, but with strings attached

Alexis Tsipras celebrating SYRIZA's victory, January 25
On February 23, Greece’s new left-wing SYRIZA government submitted its list of proposed economic reforms to its international creditors as a precondition for the approval of a four-month loan extension tentatively agreed to on February 20.

With Greece’s existing loan arrangement expiring on 28 February and bankruptcy looming, a last minute deal was finally agreed after three weeks of intense negotiations that were characterised by daily – sometimes hourly – twists and turns, claims and counterclaims, leaks and threats.

For SYRIZA, elected on January 25 on a wave of hope and a fierce rejection of the crippling austerity measures that have been imposed on Greece in return for economic “bail-out” programs by the “Troika” – the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) – the new arrangement represents a significant compromise.

Any discussion of debt write-offs, “hair-cuts” or renegotiation has been postponed until the next round of negotiations at least, and funds earmarked for bank recapitalisation will have to be used for that purpose, rather than redirected towards meeting Greece’s desperate social need.

Greece no longer has to accept the unilateral diktats of the Troika and is able instead to negotiate with each body separately. But the new funding comes with conditions, including close oversight by those same bodies, now referred to as “the institutions”, and restrictions on how the money can be utilised.

Importantly, the SYRIZA government has been required to refrain from any “rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.”

While less than specific, this restriction likely includes any privatisations already completed, as well as those currently underway (although Greek law allows the government to change the terms of sale). 

Depending on the "assessment" of the institutions, this may also impact on measures promised by SYRIZA to improve social welfare, such as raising the minimum wage and the restoration of collective bargaining and other workplace rights. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Germany: Hamburg elections a win for SPD and smaller parties, but a blow against Merkel

State elections in Hamburg on February 15 saw the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) retain control of the traditionally left-wing city-state, while smaller parties of the left and right also made gains.

The SPD won 45.7 percent of the votes, equal to 58 seats in the city legislature – a result down 2.7 percent on the record margin it won in 2011. Having now lost the absolute majority the party held prior to the vote, SPD Mayor Olaf Scholz will need to find a coalition partner in order to form government.

The most likely candidate for this role is the Green Party, which has already indicated its willingness to enter a coalition. The Greens took 12.2 percent of the vote, a slight increase on the 2011 result.

On the other hand, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the biggest loser, dropping by 6.1 points to only 15.9 percent of the vote – barely enough to keep second place ahead of the Greens.

It was the party’s worst ever result in Hamburg and its worst result in a state election since 1959, and – when viewed in light of the 20 percent the CDU lost in 2011 – the result suggests that the conservatives are truly in crisis in the Hanseatic port city.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Irland: Der Ruf nach einer neuen linken Kraft wird lauter

Proteste gegen Wassersteuern in Dublin, November 2014, informatique/flickr
Von Zeitschrift LuXemburg - Gesellschaftsanalyse und linke Praxis. Bitte lesen Sie diesen Artikel >>HIER<<.

Führende GewerkschafterInnen, die republikanische Partei Sinn Fein und eine Reihe weiterer linker Stimmen haben einen Aufruf zur Bildung einer neuen politischen Kraft gegen die Austeritätspolitik unterstützt – mit der Perspektive, die Regierung in der Republik Irland zu übernehmen.

Anknüpfend an den historischen Sieg von SYRIZA in Griechenland am 25. Januar, rief der Vorsitzende von Sinn Fein, Declan Kearney, dazu auf, eine organisierte Diskussion um den Aufbau einer breiten linken Koalition zu führen. In der Februarausgabe der republikanischen Zeitung An Phoblacht hatte Kearney die Linke aufgerufen, sich die verbreitete Wut gegen die lähmenden Sparmaßnahmen zunutze zu machen, um eine glaubwürdige linke Alternative in Irlands südlichem Staat aufzubauen.

»In Irland sollte eine politische Diskussion um die Frage beginnen, wie ein Konsens zwischen Sinn Fein, progressiven Unabhängigen, der Gewerkschaftsbewegung, lokalen Initiativen und der nichtsektiererischen Linken herbeigeführt werden kann«, so Kearney.

»Es ist jetzt Zeit für ernsthafte politische Diskussionen zwischen AktivistInnen progressiver irischer Politik, der Lokalpolitik und den Gewerkschaften über Ideen und Strategien, wie die Wahl einer linken Koalition im Süden erreicht werden kann, um eine neue nationale Republik zu begründen. Es ist der einzige Weg nach vorn.«

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ireland: “Political” arrests used to intimidate water charge protesters

Jobstown protest against water charges
A series of coordinated early morning police raids in south-west Dublin have seen at least seventeen people – including several left-wing politicians – arrested for attending a peaceful rally against water charges last November, amid claims of “political policing” and intimidation.

Shortly before 7am on Monday February 9, six police arrested Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD and Socialist Party member Paul Murphy at his home while he was still in his pyjamas, having breakfast with his children.

Two AAA councillors on South Dublin Council – Mick Murphy and Kieran Mahon – were also arrested in separate raids the same morning, as was Scott Masterson from socialist republican group Éirigí. They were held for several hours, questioned, and then released without charge.

The following morning, ten police burst into the home of a 16 year old boy, arresting him as he got dressed for school. Another three people were arrested by the same morning, and then later released, amid ominous warnings that another 40 people were going to be arrested.

The pattern was repeated again on February 11 and 12, with four arrests on Wednesday morning, and five on Thursday, including boys aged only 14 and 15. All were released without charge, but their files have been sent to the Department of Public Prosecution, and charges are expected at a later date.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sinn Féin leader calls for an Irish left coalition to end austerity

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams with SYRIZA's Alexis Tsipras
Writing in the wake of SYRIZA’s historic win in the Greek elections on January 25, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has called for formal discussions to begin on building an Irish Left coalition to cohere an anti-austerity government in the South.

Writing in the February edition of republican newspaper An Phoblacht, Kearney called on the progressive and republican left to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the upheaval in Irish politics in recent years, and build a credible political alternative to challenge the dominance of conservative politics in Ireland.

“As new international political forces move towards governmental power, formal political discussion should commence in Ireland on how to forge consensus between Sinn Féin, progressive independents, the trade union movement, grassroots communities, and the non-sectarian Left,” Kearney argued.

“That process should concentrate on building durable, strategic, cross-sectoral, cross-community and political alliances North and South.”

“This is the time for serious political discussion among progressive Irish political, community and trade union activists on the ideas and strategies which will ensure the future election of a Left coalition in the South dedicated to establishing a new national Republic.”

“It is the only way forward.“