The coming elections will not only mean a new set of MPs, but perhaps also the beginning of a different political system. Podemos wants the fundamental protagonists of these changes to be citizens, and not economic and political elites. By Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias, 19 July 2015. Translated by David Broder; read the original Spanish-language article here.
By James Kilgore, author of the forthcoming book, Understanding Mass INcarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Era. This post was was originally published on CounterPunch.
In his most recent book, British writer Tariq Ali refers to a political phenomenon which he calls the “extreme center.” For Ali, this represents the convergence point where the established political left and political right unite behind a free market, pro-corporate agenda. Ali views this as the defining political feature of this era, both in Europe and the US. The convergence is more pronounced in most European countries where powerful trade union movements had historically amalgamated with Labor or Social Democratic parties. These combined forces were able to advance pro-working class, social welfare agendas that delivered national health plans, free mass education, enormous expanses of low-cost public housing and a general safety net that protected the poor and the unemployed from the miserable fate that awaits the marginalized in most US cities today. In Ali’s view, these working class-oriented parties stood on principles for which they were willing to fight. The dividing line between the conservatives and the welfarist parties was clear and, on most issues, irreconcilable. The answer to the question “which side are you on?” was unequivocal.
In the last three decades, especially since the rise to power of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and her crushing of the 1984-5 mineworkers strike, the official Left has melted into the extreme center. They may quibble with conservatives over small issues, fight over electoral seats and public opinion poll numbers but essentially both parties of the extreme center share the same overall “dream” – electoral democracy and a free market economy unfettered by high taxes and redistributive “madness.” The invisible hand of Adam Smith has replaced the clenched fist of solidarity. What Ali says about Britain seems almost universal: “We live in a country without an opposition.”
I read Ali’s book the same day President Obama made his path-breaking speech to the NAACP on mass incarceration. Like perhaps anyone who has spent years fighting the US compulsion to criminalize the poor and throw them into prisons and jails, my reaction combined joy, relief, disbelief and suspicion. Why now? Why on the heels of commuting the sentences of 46 people? Why when the parade of unlikely partners: Van Jones and Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul and Cory Booker, the Koch Brothers and the NAACP has already grown quite long? No real answer to those questions. Yes, the President arrived late to the party, but at least he came.
They said ‘No’. Called to vote on the lenders’ aid plan on 5 July, more than 61 percent of Greeks rejected it. And now? In some EU countries, with Germany in the lead, the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone is no longer a taboo.
In the following interview with Sarah Halifa-Legrand of L'Obs, philosopher and member of the Greek anti-capitalist Left party Antarsya, Panagiotis Sotiris, maintains that there is only one way to avoid humiliation: leave the euro. Translated from the French by David Broder; read the original French text here.