‘Be Realistic, Demand The Impossible!’ ~ How The Events Of 1968 Transformed French Society


France. Paris et Banlieue. Graffiti, bombages, inscription et affiche dans les fac et les rue autour de mai 1968

This week, 50 years ago, France was going through the biggest labour strike in its history. Two-thirds of its labour force were out in the streets demanding better working conditions. Workers had taken control of factories, set up barricades, organised sit-ins and fought off attempts by the police to disperse them. Thousands of students who had rebelled against conservative university administrations had also joined them.

By the end of the week, French President Charles de Gaulle would disappear from Paris, seeking support from the French army for a military intervention against the strikers.
Tanks, however, would not roll down the streets of Paris that year. De Gaulle would decide instead to dissolve the parliament and call for general elections. Although the crisis would subside by June, the events of May would have a major ripple effect in space and time.

Today, 50 years later, we can honestly say that what happened in May 1968 – from Paris to Prague, and from Mexico to Madrid – was the most significant political development that took place in the West during this tumultuous decade.

The 1960s witnessed the emergence of the second chapter of the civil rights movement in the US, the re-radicalisation of the labour force throughout Western Europe, women’s rights, and gay rights. But the political scene in the 1960s was marked above all else by the Vietnam War and the protests of 1968 against political elites, authoritarianism, and the bureaucratisation of everyday life.
They were spontaneous, explosive protests of rebellious spirits that changed fundamentally the political, social and cultural landscape of entire nations, although no revolution ever occurred
The May ’68 protests had the most dramatic impact in the country that had experienced one of the greatest social upheavals in western history, the French Revolution. Read more

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May Day 2018: A Rising Tide Of Worker Militancy And Creative Uses Of Marx


Prof.dr. Jayati Ghosh – Photo: blogs.lse.ac.uk

International Workers’ Day grew out of 19th century working-class struggles in the United States for better working conditions and the establishment of an eight-hour workday. May 1 was chosen by the international labor movement as the day to commemorate the Haymarket massacre in May 1886. Ever since, May 1 has been a day of working-class marches and demonstrations throughout the world, although state apparatuses in the United States do their best to erase the day from public awareness.

In the interview below, one of the world’s leading radical economists, Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Jayati Ghosh, who is also an activist closely involved with a range of progressive and radical social movements, discusses the significance of May Day with C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout. She also analyzes how different and challenging the contemporary economic and political landscape has become in the age of global neoliberalism, examining the new forms of class struggle that have surfaced in recent years and what may be needed for the re-emergence of a new international working-class movement.

C.J. Polychroniou: Jayati, each year, people all over the world march to commemorate International Worker’s Day, or May 1. In your view, how does the economic and political landscape on May Day, 2018, compare to those on past May Days?

Jayati Ghosh: Ever since the eruption of workers’ struggles on May 1, 1886, commemorating May Day each year reminds us of what organized workers’ movements can achieve. Over more than a century, these struggles progressively won better conditions for labor in many countries. But such victories — and even such struggles — have now become much harder than they were. Globalization of trade, capital mobility and financial deregulation have weakened dramatically the bargaining power of labor vis-à-vis capital. Perversely, this very success of global capitalism has weakened its ability to provide more rapid or widespread income expansion. As capitalism breeds and results in greater inequality, it loses sources of demand to provide stimulus for accumulation, and it also generates greater public resentment against the system.

The trouble is that, instead of workers everywhere uniting against the common enemy/oppressor, they are turned against one another. Workers are told that mobilizing and organizing for better conditions will simply reduce jobs because capital will move elsewhere; local residents are led to resent migrants; people are persuaded that their problems are not the result of the unjust system but are because of the “other” — defined by nationality, race, gender, religion, ethnic or linguistic identity. So this is a particularly challenging time for workers everywhere in the world. Confronting this challenge requires more than marches to commemorate May Day; it requires a complete reimagining of the idea of workers unity and reinvention of forms of struggle. Read more

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Trade Wars Are Never “Easy to Win”: Economist Robert Pollin On Trump’s China Policy


Robert Pollin ~ Photo: UMass Amherst

Before the election, presidential candidate Donald Trump promised voters across the country that he would turn the tables on foreign competitors to reverse US trade deficits. Last month, President Trump invoked a 1974 trade law and launched a trade war against China by announcing tariffs on more than $150 billion of Chinese goods and products. Trump has argued that the move might cause “a little pain” but that the US will benefit from it in the long run. But are tariffs good for economic policy? And whom do they benefit most — capitalists or workers?

C.J. Polychroniou spoke to Robert Pollin — a distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst — about the impact of tariffs and trade wars on national economies and the labor market.

C.J. Polychroniou: Bob, let’s first of all get some things straight about Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Chinese goods and products. Is the US in an actual trade war with China? Trump says it is not, yet he has also gone on record saying that trade wars are “good, and easy to win.”

Robert Pollin: One never knows exactly what Trump is really up to. Whatever policy pronouncements he may have made on day one, there is a good probability that by day four or five, he will have reversed himself. That said, since his 2016 campaign, Trump has been denouncing Chinese trade practices. His main adviser on trade, Peter Navarro, has long been a vehement opponent of US trade relations with China, having authored books titled Death by China and The Coming China Wars.

Since January, Trump has certainly started aggressive actions against Chinese imports into the US. It started with tariffs of 30 percent on imported solar panels, most of which come from China, then moved on in early March to a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum. Predictably, China then retaliated with tariffs on US imports, including aircraft, automobiles, and chemicals,worth about $50 billion. Trump then shot back on April 5, proposing another $100 billion in tariffs on a range of Chinese imports. I wouldn’t yet call this a “war,” but the threats and skirmishes are intensifying.

Are trade wars “good and easy to win?” Taking the second part of Trump’s pronouncement first, it is clear already that they are not “easy to win.” China has the capacity to retaliate if provoked excessively. Are trade wars “good?” As with other kinds of war, we are opening ourselves up to all kinds of uncertainties. Trump’s latest overture to re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership — after he had also repeatedly denounced this trade agreement and in fact had already pulled out of it — no doubt reflects his utterly incoherent attempt at keeping up alliances with the rest of East Asia while he is roughing up China. Who knows where it will lead? Certainly not Trump or his advisers. Read more

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“A Complete Disaster”: Noam Chomsky On Trump And The Future Of US Politics


Noam Chomsky ~ Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Just how bad are things with Donald Trump in the White House? And what does having a racist, misogynist, xenophobic and erratic president who continues to enjoy unquestionable support from his base tell us about the state of US politics and the dangers to the future of democracy in the US and in the world on the whole? Noam Chomsky shares his thoughts on these and other related questions in an exclusive interview with C. J. Polychroniou for Truthout.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, it’s been already 14 months into Donald Trump’s turbulent White House tenure, but sometimes we still need to pinch ourselves to make sure that it’s not a nightmare that a racist, misogynist, homophobic man who apparently cares only about himself runs the world’s most powerful nation. But, really, how bad is it having Trump in the White House?

Very bad. As Trump began his second year in office, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced their Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, citing increasing concerns over nuclear weapons and climate change. That’s the closest it has been to terminal disaster since 1953, when the US and USSR exploded thermonuclear weapons. That was before the release of Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, which significantly increases the dangers by lowering the threshold for nuclear attack and by developing new weapons that increase the danger of terminal war.

On climate change, Trump is a complete disaster, along with the entire Republican leadership. Every candidate in the Republican primaries either denied that what is happening is happening or said … we shouldn’t do anything about it. And these attitudes infect the Republican base. Half of Republicans deny that global warming is taking place, while 70 percent say that whether it is or not, humans are not responsible. Such figures would be shocking anywhere, but are remarkably so in a developed country with unparalleled resources and easy access to information.

It is hard to find words to describe the fact that the most powerful country in world history is not only withdrawing from global efforts to address a truly existential threat, but is also dedicating itself to accelerating the race to disaster, all to put more dollars in overstuffed pockets. No less astounding is the limited attention paid to the phenomenon.

When we turn to matters of great though lesser import, the conclusion is the same: disaster. While Trump’s antics occupy the attention of the media, his associates in Congress have been working intensively to advance the interests of their actual constituency — extreme wealth and corporate power — while dismantling what is of value to the general population and future generations. With justice, the Republican leadership regard the tax bill as their greatest triumph. Joseph Stiglitz rightly describes the triumph as “The US Donor Relief Act of 2017,” a vast giveaway to their actual constituency — and to themselves. As he points out, the Republican leaders “are stuffing themselves at the trough — Trump, Kushner and many others in his administration are among the biggest winners — thinking that this may be their last chance at such a feast.” And “Après moi, le deluge” — literally in this case. Read more

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The Middle East Is Heating Up ~ Again: An Interview With Richard Falk


Prof.em. Richard Falk

The Middle East is heating up again, in part due to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Trump administration has also incited upset with its unconditional support for Israel’s aggressive policies, which violate basic principles of international law and threaten the region with the eruption of military confrontations. For an assessment of the latest developments in the Middle East, C.J. Polychroniou spoke to Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, former UN special rapporteur for Palestinian human rights and author of scores of books and hundreds of academic articles on international relations and international law.

C.J. Polychroniou: Richard, let’s start with Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there by May of this year. First, is this legal from the standpoint of international law, and second, what are likely to be the long-term effects of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on the region as a whole?

Richard Falk: There is no question that Trump’s Jerusalem policy relating to recognition and the move of the American embassy is provocative and disruptive, underscoring the abandonment by Washington of even the pretense of being a trustworthy intermediary that can be relied upon by both sides to work for a sustainable peace between the two peoples. Some critics of the initiative are saying that the US is free to situate its embassy in Jerusalem, but it isn’t Israel, as the status of the city is undetermined and East Jerusalem, where the “Old City” is located, is considered to be an “occupied territory” in international humanitarian law.

Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, which rests on the central proposition that an occupied territory should not be altered in any way that changes its status and character without the consent of the occupied society. It also is a unilateral rejection of a near universal consensus, endorsed by the United Nations, that the future of Jerusalem should be settled by negotiations between the parties as a part of a broader peacemaking process. Israel had already violated both international law and this international consensus by annexing an enlarged Jerusalem, and declared that the whole city, within expanded boundaries, would be the “undivided, eternal capital” of Israel. It is notable that the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2017, approved by an overwhelming majority of 128-8 (35 abstentions) a strong condemnation of the US move on Jerusalem, with [the US’s] closest allies joining in this vote of censure.

It is difficult to predict the long-term consequences of this diplomatic rupture. It depends, above all, on whether the US government manages to restore its claim to act as a conflict-resolving intermediary. The Trump administration continues to insist that it is working on a peace plan that will require painful compromises by both Palestine and Israel. Of course, given the unconditional alignment of Washington with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, and the orientation of those entrusted with drafting the plan, it is highly unlikely that even President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority will be inclined to enter a diplomatic process that is virtually certain to be weighted so heavily in favor of Israel. Yet as many have come to appreciate, nothing is harder to predict than the future of Middle Eastern politics. At the same time, Jerusalem has an abiding significance for both Islam and Christianity that makes it almost certain for the indefinite future that there will be formidable regional and international resistance to subsuming Jerusalem under Israeli sovereign control.

Israel appears bent on restricting Iran’s rising influence as a regional power in the Middle East. How far do you think the US can go in assisting Israel to contain Tehran’s strategy for empowering Shias?

Israel and Saudi Arabia are both, for different reasons, determined to confront Iran, and quite possibly, initiate a military encounter with widespread ramifications for the entire region, if not the world. A quick glance at the Syrian conflict suggests how complex and dangerous is this effort to destabilize the Iranian governing process, with the dual objectives of destabilizing the governing process mixed with the more ambitious goal of causing civil strife of sufficient magnitude as to produce a civil war, and ideally, regime change.

The Israeli adherence to this recklessness seems partly motivated by its overall security policy of seeking to weaken any country in the region that is hostile to its presence and has the potential military capability to threaten Israeli security in a serious manner. Israel has been so far successful in neutralizing each of its credible adversaries in the region (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria) with the exception of Iran. In this sense, Iran stands out as the last large unfinished item on Israel’s geopolitical agenda. The question of Israel’s real intentions [is] hard to pin down, as the alleged Iranian threat is also frequently manipulated by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders to mobilize domestic support for sticking with an aggressive foreign policy. In this latter context, Israeli security specialists express an appreciation of the risks of an actual military confrontation with Iran. Read more

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Is Greece On The Road To Recovery, Or Will It Remain Trapped By Debt? An Interview With Economist Costas Lapavitsas


Professor Costas Lapavitsas BSc Photo: SOAS University of London

In early 2010, Greece became technically bankrupt as it was shut out from borrowing in the international credit markets because of skyrocketing deficits and huge public debt levels. Since then, the country has been under bailout programs created by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to keep it inside the eurozone. However, the bailout programs have been accompanied by brutal austerity measures that have had a catastrophic effect on Greek economy and society. Yet the current pseudo-leftist Syriza government — which has been enforcing the EU neoliberal agenda since coming to power in 2015, with greater dedication than any other Greek government since the outbreak of the crisis — declares today’s economic situation a “success story.” However, not everyone is buying the official story.

Costas Lapavitsas is a Marxist economist at the University of London. Since the outbreak of the eurozone crisis in 2010, he argued consistently in favor of Greek default and exit from the eurozone as the key to a left-wing strategy to confront the crisis. He produced much analytical work and his arguments had considerable influence within the left, but also more widely across Greek society. For several years, his name became widely associated with these policies and had influence within Syriza, even though its leadership was completely opposed to this strategy. In January 2015 he accepted an invitation by Syriza to join its electoral ticket as an independent, and was elected to the Hellenic Parliament with a great majority in his electoral region of Imathia.

Lapavitsas served as a member of parliament for seven months and was one of the leading voices in the country in favor of a radical course of action that would bring a political rupture with the lenders. The Syriza leadership, and especially the circle of Alexis Tsipras, tried systematically to marginalize him, keeping him away from positions of authority. When the Syriza leadership surrendered to the lenders in August, 2015, Lapavitsas left the party, together with more than 30 others. They were the true left of Syriza and tried to create an alternative left-wing party called Popular Unity. Unfortunately, their efforts have not been successful, partly because of their own organizational weaknesses, and partly because a disillusionment with the left prevailed in Greek society after the surrender of Syriza.

Is Greece on the road to economic recovery? In this interview, Lapavitsas suggests it is simply ludicrous on the part of a former left party to speak of a neoliberal success story for a country mired in poverty and debt. Read more

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