donderdag, september 22, 2005


There was a rather bad short post posted here until recently, if you're wondering where it went. I decided to remove it and hereby swear to never again blog while under the influence.

woensdag, september 21, 2005

The 'dolchstosslegende' of the neo-liberal 'left'

Across the Rhine, neo-liberal nabobs of the right and left, are twisting themselves into Rubik's Cubes of re-interpretation attempting to explain away Sunday's election result in Germany, like the relics of the eighties that they are.

France's presumptive future Yankophile king, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his supporters seem to feel the result is of a piece with the recent European Consitution referendum, but not in the same way la vrai gauche does, according to the Guardian's France correspondent, the soggy moderate Jon Henley:

'Patrick Devidjian, a loyal and influential Sarkozy supporter, told Libération that Ms Merkel's problem had been one of method rather than principle. "The tax reforms she proposed were totally deformed by someone (the 'professor from Heidelberg' Paul Kirchhof) who did not have the political and pedagogical qualities needed in a politician," he said. "For us, that is the real lesson - radical reforms have to be properly explained."'

Just as with the referendum, it is not that voters made a rational decision, rejecting neo-liberalism, but it is merely that the subject has not been properly explained. The arrogant sense of superiority of Thatcher's children is perhaps neo-liberalism's most insufferable attribute. We are just too stupid to understand the benefits of markets, plainly.

Meanwhile, across the floor, the Socialists haven't wasted time blaming the far left for their own defeat, just as they did in the wake of the 2002 presidential election where Socialist Lionel Jospin was locked out of the second round between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen (Henley again):

'The moderate French left, including most of the Socialist party's current hierarchy, were not slow to blame the rise of Oskar Lafontaine's Linkspartei - made up of ex-Communists from the east and former SPD members disappointed with the party's perceived liberal drift - for Mr Schröder's discomfiture.

"It bears direct and complete responsibility for the failure of the left," Pierre Moscovici, a former Socialist European affairs minister, said. "Its populist rhetoric prevented the SPD from scoring as it should have done."'

Horseshit. First of all, the left won. There is theoretically no reason why Schroeder cannot continue to govern (as a minority government, following the Linkspartei's vote for him as Chancellor [who are they going to vote for, Merkel?]), with or without passive support from the Linke. Secondly, if it weren't for the hemorrhage of CDU votes to the Linkspartei, the CDU would have a clear majority. Thirdly, the Linkspartei's very existence forced the SPD to tack left, pretending that it was the defender of the social model, which, together with Merkel's flat tax fubar, resulted in the enormous surge in support for the SPD in the last fortnight.

In the years following the First World War, a political fairy story developed in Germany that it was not the German army that lost the war, but in fact left-wing politicians - the so-called dolchstosslegende (stab-in-the-back-legend). It is as untrue today as it was then. The viability of such attacks on the real left from its social democratic Judases has long since passed. If social democrats insist on capitulation, they have no one to blame but themselves.

dinsdag, september 20, 2005

Bertinotti encourages Linke to join SPD coalition?

Just got a couple of press releases on our friends in Germany from Fausto Bertinotti's pan-European Party of the European Left. Thought y'all might like a gander.
'The German elections give a new and big outburst [Ed. - 'Outburst'? Odd choice. Ah, Euronglish*] to the party of the European Left. The Linke successfully accomplishes an unprecedented undertaking in the history of the after war Germany: that of a mass consensus given to a party which places itself to the left of the biggest social democratic party on the continent.

'The Linke adherence to the Party of the European Left underlines the possibility and historical necessity of the growing of radical and alternative left in all European countries.'
He also notes that the first congress of the European Left Party will take place in Athens at the end of October and that Lafontaine, Bisky and Gisy will take part.

Interestingly, Bertinotti critcises the SPD's consideration of a Grand Coalition with the CDU when the broad left won the election and seems to suggest that they consider a left coalition instead:
'The German Social Democrats face a choice of great responsibility: the clamorous defeat of the most convinced supporter of the neo-liberalist policies, the CDU of Merkel, would make the choice of a wide coalition more a dangerous social adventure, rather than a choice of stability.

'The great success of the Linke asks the SPD to have the courage to break with the moderate and anti-social policies. After all, in different shapes, this is the problem that reformists will be facing in the whole of Europe.'
What exactly is he trying to say here? Could it be that Bertinotti is encouraging the Linkspartei to do what his own comrades in the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista have done vis-à-vis L'Unione? Or am I just reading too much into what is probably just a dig at the SPD?

Nonetheless, a release from the Linke I received at the same time all but explicitly (and quite rightly) rules out the possibility:
'The question of the future German government is open. There are three main variants: so-called street-light-coalitions of SPD, the Greens and FDP or CDU/CSU, FDP and the Greens as well as a grand coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU. The postponed voting in one Dresden constituency on 2 October with three seats can bring no principal change to the general picture. Be it that as it may, the Left Party.PDS will get a good chance to win a higher profile as the only consistent opposition force to the neo-liberal orientation of the German political class.'

'As Gregor Gysi stated at a press conference after the vote, the party will support neither the neo-liberal politics of Schröder, nor of Merkel.'

The release, from Helmut Ettinger and Helmut Scholz of the party's international department, also offers a more fleshed-out geographic breakdown of the party's support:

'Under difficult conditions, with a new partner, being fought by all the other parties and large parts of the media, it reached its main goal to enter parliament with its own group. The party could more than double its result of four per cent in 2002. The 8.7 per cent of the vote and 54 seats it received are an increase of 4.7 per cent and 52 seats.

'The best news is that the co-operation with the WASG worked fully, bringing about a result of a new quality, going far beyond the sum of the two organisations’ expected individual scores. Highly important is the overcoming of the five percent hurdle in most of the country, also in six of the ten lander of western Germany. In the western lander the party scored altogether 4.9 per cent of the vote Top results have been achieved in the Saarland (Oskar Lafontaine’s homeland) with 18.5 per cent, Bremen with 8.3 per cent or Hamburg with 6.3 per cent. In the East the Left Party.PDS received 25.4 per cent.

'Even in the lander with government participation, highly disputed among its followers, the Left Party.PDS got large increases: in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania 7.3 per cent (23.7 per cent altogether) and in Berlin five per cent (16.4 per cent altogether). The only two PDS deputies in 2002-2005, Petra Pau and Gesine Lötzsch, won their constituencies in Berlin again. The third direct mandate was taken by Gregor Gysi also in Berlin. [A total of] 30 deputies have been elected in the East, 24 in the west of the country.'

'This election has changed political life in Germany. For the first time since the 1950s there is a nation wide political force to the left of the SPD. The Left Party.PDS will continue fighting the dismantling of the German welfare state, the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, the sending of German troops into military action abroad.'

* Euronglish: adj. 1. Of or relating to Euronglish. 2. Mechanical dialect of English spoken by fluent but non-native English speakers to other fluent but non-native English speakers, esp. in Europe. As more individuals speak Euronglish than its parent language, persistent differences between it and English 'proper' cannot said to be 'wrong', e.g., the word 'touristic'. See Europanto.

Linkspartei 'clear winner' of German election - Jonathan Steele

Superb, absolutely superb commentary on the German election by Jonathan Steele in today's shrinky-dink Guardian. Do I say it's superb because he says essentially the same thing that I do? Not at all. Well maybe a little bit.
' In all the confusion over Germany's election result, one winner is clear. The newly founded Linkspartei - Left party - has taken 54 seats, leapfrogging Joschka Fischer's Greens, who have been part of the governing coalition for the past seven years. It is an extraordinary achievement and means that for the first time since the second world war the Social Democrats are faced with a rival party to their left.

'The SPD's losses almost exactly equal the surge in support for the Left party. It is often dubbed "far left" or "extreme left", but this description is no more justified than it is to call Germany's Free Democrats - who were the other big winners on Sunday - "extreme right".'

'... Sunday's central message was a protest against neoliberalism. It had much in common with this summer's votes in France and the Netherlands against the EU constitution... Confused, bitter and bereft of leaders with a convincing programme, many are joining a growing trend in saying that there must be another course.'

Well, quite.

He also, intriguingly, suggests that the CDU's lost votes that went FDP way may have been something to do with recalcitrant sexism on the right.

maandag, september 19, 2005

SPD has upper hand

Some more quick thoughts.

Schroeder plainly has the upper hand in negotiations with the CDU over any Grand Coalition, and could quite easily remain Chancellor. Although the SPD and Greens have repeatedly said they refuse to enter into any coalition with them, the current SPD-Green government can continue without change with support from the Linkspartei. Alternately, there is the SPD-Green-FDP 'traffic light' coalition possibility. Now, there is no love lost between the FDP and the Greens, and the leader of the FDP has repeatedly said he refuses to work with Fischer's gang, but the party itself is champing at the bit for a chance at government after seven years in the wilderness.

In any case, Schroeder theoretically has three options, while the CDU has only one - a Grand Coalition with the SPD.

Now, plainly, Schroeder's preferred option is coalition with the CDU, so it may well be the chancellorship that the conservatives have to sacrifice in order to join the government.

(Hmm. I suppose the CDU actually has a second, if far-fetched option: CDU-FDP-Greens - the 'Jamaica' option. Theoretically possible, but I just don't see it.)


Interesting (wholely unscientific) poll at Fistful of Euros on the most likely coalition grouping voted on by readers. Now, Fistful's readers stretch across the political spectrum; nonetheless, they feel the most likely possibility is a continuance of the current government - SPD-Green - with the Linkspartei supporting.

Also - that promised Galloway-Hitch commentary? Coming up, if y'all're still interested.

German election results: Reasons to be cheerful

It's 'the worst of all worlds', according to a pantywaist BBC analysis of the deadlock between the SPD and the CDU in the German election: Christian Democrats won 35.3 per cent of the vote; the Social Democrats 34.2 per cent; the Free Democrats 9.8 per cent, the Linkspartei 8.6 per cent and the Greens 8.1 per cent. Now 'nothing will change'. 'Four more years of empty pockets, that's what it'll mean. Mark my words,' says a Russian émigré CDU supporter, quoted by the BBC's Clare Murphy.

And indeed, the
markets seem to agree with him: The Dax index lost two per cent in early trading, and the euro fell to a month low against the US dollar.

Even the 'liberal' media are offering up a pre-packaged consensus for the populace to swallow: No matter where you stand politically, we had to move forward, and this is a recipe for further paralysis and even instability, thus it would have been better for one or party or the other to have won outright. Of course, the only party they're actually thinking should have won outright is the CDU. Similar chicken-little bleatings would be heard had the SPD won outright.

Reasons to be cheerful

Well, enough with these blinkered neo-liberal Cassandras. For Christ's sake, the left won this election! The left won clean and clear - a remarkable achievement given that Merkel's CDU and the CDU's Bavarian sister part, the CSU, began the election with a 21 per cent lead on the SPD. Together, the broad (in the broadest of definitions of the word broad) left - between the SPD, Linkspartei and the Greens - won 50.9 per cent of the vote, while the right won 45.1 per cent.

Although more than a third of the population either supports the CDU's proposed structural adjustment or has been suckered into voting for them simply for the sake of change, we can see that when the electorate is told exactly what this change means - a flat tax, in particular - that support dissolves like
rat turds in a vat of chocolate. The CDU actually won three percentage points fewer than they did in 2002 - one of the party's worst results ever. The election shows an utter rejection of the flat tax and an embrace of the continental social model. (It also exposes the idiocy of the CDU's honesty in the electoral campaign. They forgot the golden rule of campaigning: social democrats must mutter something about social justice and then rule from the right once in office, and conservatives must just shut up lest anyone figure out what they're actually going to do and then rule from the right once in office)

Apart from any other reasons to be cheerful, the main one is that that grim fatty giblet of a gift to the rich, the flat tax, now cannot be implemented in this parliament, as now readily concede
investors who had earlier been as rigid with excitement as pubescent thirteen-year-old boys at the prospect.

Furthermore, the Linkspartei did as well or better than hoped, and came from nowhere to become fourth biggest party in country. They would have been third biggest, but CDU seems to have lost ground to the Free Democrats from centrist voters possibly scared about the flat tax and who were under the mistaken impression that the FDP are closer to the centre. The far left can no longer be dismissed as a fringe concern that only attracts middle class university students and 1968 nostalgics with poor personal hygiene: Across Europe (the Linkspartei in Germany, the LCR and the rest of the Gauche du Non in France, the Left Bloc in Portugal, the Scottish Socialists and Respect in the UK, the PRC in Italy, the Socialist Party and Groen Links in the Netherlands, and, to some extent, Izquierda Unida in Spain), some fifteen years after the welcome demise of Stalinism, a new, liberatory socialism has become a legitimate electoral alternative and inconstant, faithless social democracy is in its death throes.

The CDU will most likely form a coalition with the SPD. For the left, this is in fact the best of all possible results (given that the Linkspartei did not have a chance of winning the election this time around), as the 'reforms' will not be as harsh as expected because SPD will want to burnish its left credentials and distinguish itself from CDU. However, the SPD leadership remains committed to structural adjustment, and so will continue to support unpopular reforms (which will bring nothing but further misery - as neo-liberal adjustment has done in Latin America). This will continue to result in disillusion with the SPD amongst traditional and union supporters who are already sympathetic towards the Linkspartei. There is even a good possibility that the SPD will split over the reforms.

A similar effect will happen if Schroeder manages to form a so-called traffic-light coalition (red, yellow, green) with the FDP and Greens. Schroeder will still march ahead with his reforms, even if they are not as thoroughgoing as they would be under a straight SPD-CDU coalition, and the SPD will still be racked by an internal turmoil from which the Linkspartei can only benefit.

Finally, even the Greens should be happy with the result. They may have lost some prestige and dropped into fifth place, but their end result is not markedly different from previous years and they didn't lose as many votes to the Linkspartei as some had predicted. This is perhaps somewhat predictable, as Green supporters are a largely middle-class bunch for whom structural adjustment and labour reforms are not as much of a concern as baby seals and fair trade deodorant anyway.

The CDU cannot form a government on its own (or with the FDP) and either of the coalitions that are possible - CDU-SPD or SDP-FDP-Greens - will benefit the left.

I really don't see how it could have gone any better.

** Update: Meaders makes a what should be the rather obvious point that the likes of the BBC seem to have missed:

'[that] the biggest single story emerging from the German poll is that the radical left have not only established a firm base across both east and west Germany, but have forced the German political establishment into its gravest crisis at least since reunification.'

He also calls the Greens 'little more than the FDP with windfarms', a turn of phrase I quite like.

And Dear Kitty has some slightly different figures (with slightly more for the FDP). I suppose there will be some movement a bit here and there over the coming days as the all the votes are counted, and, of course the delayed votes in Dresden. DK also has a class breakdown of Linke voters. Fun fact: a full quarter of unemployed workers voted Linkspartei.

vrijdag, september 16, 2005

There-is-no-alternative-ism and the German election

It is disappointing that so often otherwise intelligent people regularly serve up as commentary such a floppy salmagundi of received ideas, bounded logic and economic platitudes. James Meek, long-time Guardian foreign correspondent and resident Mr. Clever-Trousers whose The People's Act of Love was long-listed but not short-listed for this year's Booker, and which by all accounts is supposed to be v. good, has written in the aforementioned Berliner about, well, Berlin, as it happens, or, rather, the entirety of Germany for which the capital metonymises, and the inevitability of 'reform' in the wake of the upcoming elections there.

Margaret Thatcher's fiat, 'There is no alternative', has become so inarguable to the array of mainstream commentators who set the boundaries of debate that even the manifest economic destruction neo-liberalism has wrought in the heart of Europe becomes not an argument against the project but, irrationally, one for a tightening of the reins. The rational prescriptions of the Naomi Kleins and George Monbiots that find their way into such liberal publications remain decidedly beyond the pale; They are permitted to be published, of course, but no one should ever be so impolite as actually to vote in an election for those parties that actually propose the implementation of such measures (such as the Linkspartei in Germany, the LCR in France, or Respect in the UK) however - frankly - softly Keynesian they in fact are. No, no. They are 'Extremists', no matter that the manifestoes of any post-war Labour or Tory, Social Democrat or Christian Democrat party proposed at a minimum a bouquet of nationalisations and that this New New Left, though opposing any further privatisation, does not dare to imagine an expanded economic role for the state. And heaven forbid that anyone might even strike to defend their class's social patrimony.

Meek tours pre-election Germany, interviewing managers, executives and publishers soliciting their prescriptions for the country's afflicted economy. You'll be as shocked as a professional magician at a five-year-old's neighbourhood magic show to learn that such a strata of society uniformly calls for tough love, a period of what will certainly be quite painful reforms - cutbacks to the social contract and a loosening of labour regulations - similar to that which the UK and US went through in the eighties, but one which will have similar, copacetic results.

'The spirit of Margaret Thatcher is abroad in Germany, wafting in from the sink-or-swim business cauldron of neighbouring Poland as much as from Britain. Dirk Grosse-Leege, the corporate voice of Volkswagen, told me about the book he had on his desk: Margaret Thatcher's Shock Cure - A Recipe for Germany, by the German writer Dominik Geppert. It makes a comparison of the former British prime minister and Angela Merkel, leader of the centre-right CDU, who faces Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the SPD in Sunday's election. "As an individual, I just love this book, because it's totally right," said Grosse-Leege.'

Not that any of these gilded ninnies will ever have to swallow so much as a spoonful of the medicine they prescribe.

Meek does visit the wretched towns of Wolfsburg and Weisswasser to speak to The Poor, but not to remark on what results neo-liberal globalisation and the concomitant structural adjustment have had on their regions, but to argue that the 'reforms' go further lest such economic dislocation continue. To be fair, Meek does not himself make the arguments; the weasel lets the words of others, fellow members of his class, to make them for him.

You will have heard it all before, but let's run through the argument briefly, shall we everyone? Repeat in sing-song voice like rote times tables: In a global economy we simply cannot afford such luxurious public provision, high wages and strong worker protection. We will not attract any investment so long as it is so expensive to do business here. We have to cut back in order to compete with eleven-year-old, productive-as-bunnies-on-Viagra Surinamese seamstresses. Blah, blah, blah...

All of which is true in its way, but once we have cut back, as prescribed, if we follow the original logic of competitiveness, then there will be some other country that cuts back still further with whom we must compete. Then we undercut them again in turn. Then they undercut us again, making the same arguments Meek's managers make but to their own populations, and it is a vicious, nay, animalistic, race to the bottom.

The Big Idea sweeping in from the East already law in the Balkans and the centre-piece of the CDU's platform is the flat tax - a gross fatty dinner of philanthropy from the poor to the rich. Bush is probably now too mired in the swamps of Iraq and New Orleans to dare attempt its introduction in his final term, despite the plans of his anti-New-Deal libertarian fundamentalist puppetmasters, but a Cheney government, or a reinvigorated post-9/11-Mark-II Bush, or even a future severe-recession-mired Democrat administration would certainly be able to find the political capital to do so, and the current conservatives ruling Greece have said they intend to introduce a flat tax, and Britain's Tories are also toying with the idea. Indeed, it is the flat tax that the right believes will go some distance toward righting the crisis of the rate of profit the West across-the-board has experienced since the early 1970's.

But do not believe that it will end there. The bourgeoisie demands, requires, has no choice but to force the post-war social contract be torn up. The uneven social provision of the welfare state was only ever introduced to begin with so that the bolshy post-war working classes of Europe not overthrow capitalism. Believing themselves now safe from the threat of communism, and greedy for a return to 1950's/1960's profit rates, there is no need any longer to 'offer social reforms, lest the working classes offer social revolution', as there acutely was in the immediate post-war period.

West Germany in particular, the advanced industrial society on the frontier of both Stalinist state capitalism and European capitalism needed to be the very model of a social democracy in order to show that capitalism could offer at least the illusion of social advancement. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, capitalism's show room could be safely packed away.

Do not believe that the neo-liberals do not have a plan. The introduction of the flat tax, far from flooding government accounts with new revenues as the economy expands (Reaganite economist Arthur Laffer's humbug economic theory that lower tax rates produce increased tax revenues), will instead produce a crisis of funding so severe it would require the wholesale dismantling of the welfare state and the remnants of labour protections and union rights. This is in fact is their aim. They are not merely anti-New-Dealers: They are Victorians.

But what of the virtues of the robust 'Anglo-Saxon' economies? Their full employment and free-spending? There is an old saying - or maybe it's not old and some Keynesian prof whose name I can't remember told it me once: 'You only know who's not wearing their swimming trunks when the tide goes out.' Any decrease in taxation on elites or diminution of the social provision will certainly attract investment in the short term. Like the hypothermic man knocking back a jigger of brandy who has the illusion of being warmed while the hooch actually hastens his death of cold, when the tide of investment dries up with the inevitable turning of the 'business cycle', the cities of England and America will look even more threadbare than they do today.

At one point, one of Meek's interviewees, Gabor Steingart, the Berlin bureau chief of Der Spiegel, does come close to pointing this out:

'I asked [Steingart] about something that confused me. If Germany was doing so badly, and Britain was doing so well, how come Britain still looked so scruffy and run-down, while Germany looked so smart and prosperous?

'"I think the performance of the British economy is better than Germany's, but you can't see it on the streets," he said. "What you see here in Germany is the accumulated capital not of the past year but of our economic miracle. It's a snapshot of the miracle in the 50s, the 60s and the beginning of the 70s."'

In the depths of recession, this is what Germany looks like - unemployed, not wealthy - but at least not like New Orleans.

The Asian Tigers were held up as diligent disciples of the Anglo-Saxon model until the bottom of their economies fell out, as was neo-liberalised Argentina. Indeed for all the Americans' demands for others to liberalise their economies, the Bush administration has been a paragon of protectionism and militarist Keynesianism - vastly expanding government expenditure, easing the money supply, cutting taxes and racking up vertiginous debt. In terms of the economy, if not in any other area, Bush has been doing exactly what he should be doing. However, he only gets away with his profligacy because his is the largest economy in the world. The global economy would have foreclosed on the USA long ago were the country named El Salvador or Turkey or, heck, even France.

And this is where the neo-Keynesnian arguments of the New New Left distend and where the neo-liberals make a very good point. They are quite right: there simply is no room for the welfare state and worker protection any more. Companies cannot afford them, and they're not lying when they say this. In a global economy, though capital is nowhere near as mobile as its champions say it is, it remains master of any national parliament. Through investment flight and economic sabotage - as is happening in Germany today - capital commands all. It is not merely that German workers are saving too much, worried that they are about to lose their jobs and thus not spending and keeping the economy afloat, it is that German capital is consciously sitting on its hands, refusing to invest, when it could. It aims to discipline the SPD and the electorate.

Thus even if the Linkspartei were to form a government (which they cannot this election, but, as the third biggest party in the country now, it certainly is within their grasp within a handful of electoral cycles), as their plan is entirely dependent on 'priming the pump' - boosting demand as Bush has done, Germany would be the subject of the most ruinous economic sabotage on the part of both domestic and international capital that they would be tumbled out of office within one term.

It is worth remembering that the perfidious PT, the Brazilian Workers' Party, was not formed as a social democratic party, but a centrist (in the Marxian sense) coalition of both unreconstructed socialists and left social democrats, along with extra-parliamentary activists set up in contradistinction to the existing Brazilian social democrats who had proven to be model neo-liberals. The PT was a formation not unidentical to the Linkspartei, Respect and even the LCR (which may be named the League Communiste Revolutionaire but internally is a kaleidoscope of Marxists, anarcho-reformist altermondialiste youth, republicans and liberal NGOniks). Now the PT too bows down before the IMF, cuts pensions, attacks landless peasants and rounds on its left flank. It is not that when the party was founded, its leaders intended to betray their principles; it is that they have the simple choice of staying in power or being hounded out by capital. So long as the New New Left remains beholden to a national Keynesianism, it will only repeat the errors of the PT.

The solution is lies outside the domestic realm. Capital may be able to chasten even an economy as large as Germany, but it cannot abandon an entire continent. At the European level, theoretically, democracy could once again be at least an equal match for capital. Priming the German pump is no solution, but priming the European pump may yet be. A European Keysianism is both saleable to the electorate and achievable, and, conveniently, dovetails with the need to offer an alternative vision of Europe by the Gauche du Non in the wake of the defeat of the European Constitution.

For this to happen, the German and indeed European left needs to reorganise itself on international lines. A common party-political identity throughout Europe, at a minimum, is necessary. The weakest of baby steps towards this have been taken in the form of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament and its successor, the European Left Party, although this is largely top-down and currently far too oriented around the former Stalinist parties.

More importantly, the parties need to advance a common programme throughout Europe (tailored to local concerns and conditions, naturally).

A similar, cross-border project is happening in some form through the European Social Fora, although this too is far too ad hoc and its tyranny of structurelessness simply allows authoritarian tendencies to accrete power. Still, the instinctual internationalism of activists on the ground born in the hot summer of 2001's various European anti-globalisation protests is a good foundation from which to build.

And finally, most importantly, and, as always, most difficult, the trade unions need to begin to co-ordinate political strikes on a pan-European basis. Demonstrations are always enjoyable, and resolutions passed are important, but nothing has the power to stop capital in its be-white-spatted tracks but labour.

A continent-wide union is not desirable. The unwieldy bureaucracy would actually inhibit transnational actions rather than encourage them. But networks of rank and file trade unionists - that Holy Grail of the far left - have the ability to build industrial movements as strong or stronger than those we have seen in France and Italy, but on the level that is capable of winning permanent gains.

The Linkspartei is doing many of the right things, but it, together with the rest of the New New Left, must put into practical application the internationalism that is no longer a socialist platitude, a lyric sung once a year on 1 May, but in fact the last remaining tool in the left's tool box.

Maggie and the neo-liberals have repeatedly said there is no alternative to globalisation. The alternative is internationalism.

There is an alternative to Maggie, Meek.

donderdag, september 15, 2005

Bush short and curly - Chavez

When one learns a language, there are often words that do not really have a translation, and one has to just learn such a sui generis word as the thing itself. The French 'sympa' could be one example. The same language's ubiquitous flippant grunt, 'bof', could be another. Naturally, such words will often be slang, which is the case with the glorious Spanish profanity, 'pendejo'. Equally naturally, such words - any slang really - are often amongst the first words one learns. In my case, I learnt the latter word from the be-baseball-capped chuckle-head in my university Spanish class who went on unendingly about his Mexican girlfriend and getting trousered in Tijuana, and who, Christ alone knows why, thought I was his 'buddy'. I never really learnt any translation, but I knew what it meant.

A few weeks ago, when that squinty, happy-clappy fatwa-monger Pat Robertson called for the U.S. to 'take out' Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Paddy's defenders huffed, 'Well, but, but Chavez once called George Bush an asshole, donchaknow!'

But he didn't, muchachitos and muchachitas; He called him a pendejo, but 'asshole' is what the Miami Herald et al translated his comment as. Well, this afternoon, I was having a bit of a time-wasting ménage à moi on the old Wikipedia and I came across the actual, literal meaning of pendejo. It turns out a pendejo is 'a strand of pubic hair', which, I reckon, is sooo much better than the pedestrian 'asshole'.

There doesn't, however, seem to be a word in Spanish for 'a strand of pubic hair caught in one's foreskin', which would be a more apt description of Bush, given all the pain he is causing.


Yes, I'm back from my hols, comrades, although the posting will still be a little spotty until the end of September, when I officially finish at the sausage factory.

I'm hoping to get up a blow-by-blow of the Popinjay vs. the Indefatigable One some time termorrer, along with a bit on Hitchens' turdish 'dossier' on Galloway he or some fart-catcher intern has posted on the Hitchens Web.


On the stereo - The Cardigans' latest (Wha? He's recommending the Cardigans? Pff. He's gone soft), 'I need some fine wine, and you, you need to be nicer', is quite catchy, and 'Wenn es Passiert', by Wir sind Helden is equally bubble-bath-and-candles-worthy. While back in the Great White North, I came across Toronto Manu-Chao-sound-alikes Bedouin Soundclash in the pages of Exclaim magazine. You can watch their clip, 'When the night feels my song' - the very model of a band-pretending-to-busk video promo - here. Lastly, and I'm a bit late to the cotillion with this one, but isn't 'Munich' by the Joy-Division-worshipping Editors rather rather-good?