Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review by Gabriel Carlyle

Peace News, August 2014

Review by Gabriel Carlyle
A. W. Zurbrugg (ed), Not Our War: Writings Against the First World War (Merlin Press, 2014; 264pp; £12.95) / Ernst Friedrich, War against war! (Spokesman, 2014; 242pp; £9.99)

In the UK, the centenary of the First World War has already prompted a deluge of books, events and media coverage. The BBC alone has announced 2,500 hours of programmes, which – like 99% of the mainstream response – will doubtless run the A to B of the mainstream political spectrum.

True, Thatcherite historian and apologist for imperialisms past and present, Niall Ferguson, was granted 90 mins on BBC2 to argue that Britain should have stayed out of the war, at least at the outset. In his view, it was ‘a great mistake’.

Even this had to be ‘balanced’ by an hour-long slot with former Telegraph editor Max Hastings, arguing that Britain’s participation was ‘tragically necessary’.

Almost completely absent, it seems, are the voices and arguments of those such as Rosa Luxemburg and Eugene Debs, who opposed the First World War and took action to stop it, often at considerable personal risk (both served substantial jail terms, and Luxemburg was murdered at the war’s end).

Merlin’s new anthology of contemporary writings by the war’s opponents – some of whose texts appear here in English for the first time – is therefore especially welcome.

To be sure, the range of opposition represented is not quite as broad as advertised on the blurb: there are definitely far more anarchists and socialists than feminists, liberals, religiously-motivated pacifists or independently-minded radicals. (Bertrand Russell, who probably falls in this last category, is notable by his absence.) However, I suspect that all but the most expert readers will find at least something new.

Two pieces that stood out for me were a brilliantly-contemptuous anti-war poem that appeared in the working class paper _The Firth Worker_ shortly before its suppression, and feminist Hélène Brion’s note to the leader of the French metal workers, in which she quoted the words of 19th century socialist Victor Considérant: ‘When women are initiated into social questions, revolutions will no longer be made with rifle fire.’

Elsewhere, in one of the book’s longest extracts, Lenin (in 1916) reveals his true colours, railing against the ‘reactionary Christian socialists’ advocating disarmament, whom he takes to task for their ‘aversion... to bloodshed, death etc....’ as a result of the war.

‘[D]o the advocates of disarmament stand for an altogether new kind of revolution, unarmed revolution?’ he asks increduously, perhaps forgetting that one of his two ‘world-historical facts’, the 1905 Russian revolution, was a predominantly nonviolent affair.

Though it now appears to be generally acknowledged that Europe’s socialist movements were too weak to mount effective collective action to prevent the war’s outbreak in 1914, Zurbrugg notes that they were ‘not compelled to ally themselves with the state or vote for war credits’.

A minority, of course, did not.

While some of the anti-war analyses that were offered – especially regarding the war’s origins – now seem rather simplistic, the fact that people continued to preach and practice a transnational ethic when so many acquiesced in – or worse, actively supported – a cataclysm that killed over eight million human beings, should command our respect and attention 100 years later.

First published in 1924, Ernst Friedrich’s photographic examination of the war’s horrors – and his heartfelt call for ‘human beings in all lands!’ to resist war – still has the power to shock 90 years later.

An anarchist and a pacifist, Friedrich was the founder of the world’s first international anti-war museum in Berlin in 1925, before he was forced to flee the country by the Nazis in 1933.

Beginning with a blank table in which ‘the rulers and governments of those countries who fear the truth and who forbid this book’ are invited to register themselves, the book proceeds to pictures of war toys, before escalating to images of starving Armenian children and the horrifically-mutilated faces of some of the surviving soldiers.

The basic organising principles are jarring juxtaposition and ironic captioning.

In his foreword, British peace activist Bruce Kent notes that: ‘To spend $1.7 trillion a year on war and weapons, as we do today, when billions live in abject poverty, is a scandal’.

In this 100th anniversary year, it is surely our job to continue Friedrich’s legacy by pushing this scandal centre-stage.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Mail From Dr. Mads Gilbert, the Norwegian surgeon in Gaza

Dearest friends -
The last night was extreme. The "ground invasion" of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying - all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza's hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Now, once more treated like animals by "the most moral army in the world" (sic!).

My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian "sumud" gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace - but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces - Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out - oh - the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes,cannulas - the leftovers from death - all taken be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here - almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors - all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals.But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.

And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flows, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!

An then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic 'Zennanis', the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much made and paid in and by US.

Mr. Obama - do you have a heart?

I invite you - spend one night - just one night - with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.

I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another "dahyia" onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.

Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Mads Gilbert MD PhD
Professor and Clinical Head
Clinic of Emergency Medicine
University Hospital of North Norway
N-9038 Tromsø, Norway

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Tormenting Gaza

Disappointing global response to Israeli aggression calls for more grassroots efforts to help Palestinian struggle.
Richard Falk

For the third time in the last six years, Israel has cruelly unleashed the full fury of its military machine against the defenceless 1.7 million people of Gaza, inflicting heavy civilian casualties and further devastation on the long besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip.

With cynical disregard of the realities of this latest confrontation between Israel and Palestine, instead of condemning such recourse to massive violence as "aggression" that violates the UN Charter and fundamental international law principles, the reaction of western diplomats and mainstream media has perversely sided with Israel. From the UN Secretary-General to the president of the United States, the main insistence has been that Hamas must stop all rocket attacks while Israel is requested ever so politely to show "maximum restraint".

Up to now, the Israeli attacks have caused over a hundred deaths (more than half of whom are women and children) and several hundred injuries, while the reported firing of over hundreds of rockets from Gaza have yet to cause a single death or injury, although there are reports that nine Israelis sustained injuries while fleeing to shelters.

Political condemnation
Granted that such indiscriminate rocket attacks are unlawful forms of resistance, but to single out this lesser type of violence and overlook the greater violence distorts the context in biased and unacceptable ways. Surely, the greater occasion of terror is that being inflicted on the hapless Gazans as disclosed by comparing the casualty figures, and surely the political condemnation by responsible governments and even more so by the UN should be directed at the aggressor, who also happens to be the only political actor with the means to end the escalating violence.

The international reaction to this latest crisis confirms for all with eyes to see that geopolitical alignments, not law or justice, dominate the diplomacy of leading western states and the UN, when it comes to the Middle East, and especially if it concerns Israel-Palestine, and never more so than in relation to Gaza.

After several days of the Israel attack, self-servingly code-named "Protective Edge" by Israel, US President Barack Obama has offered to mediate a return to the 2012 ceasefire that had been arranged through the good offices of Egypt after the earlier onslaught on Gaza.

Whether the US government, the undisguised patron and unconditional supporter of Israel, has the credibility to play such a mediating role is rather doubtful. It is possible that Hamas, weakened by developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, and by the desperation of a terrorised and totally vulnerable people, might accept such a move even if excluded from participating directly in the negotiations, which would mean depending on the Palestinian Authority to represent Gaza's interests.

After all, Hamas, although prevailing in fair elections back in 2006, remains "a terrorist organisation" according to the western diplomatic establishment, even though it has been in recent years mostly on the receiving end of Israeli state terrorism, and should be allowed to act diplomatically on behalf of Gaza.

At present, the issue may be moot as Benjamin Netanyahu belligerently insists that no amount of international pressure will lead Israel to stop its attack until the goals of the military operation have been attained.

An aspect of the distorted approach to responsibility for the violence in Gaza is the refusal of the West to take note of the connection between Protective Edge and the June 12 kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli settler teenage children and the surge of revenge violence, which culminated in the grisly murder of 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

Hysterical reaction
Without ever disclosing evidence linking Hamas to such an atrocious crime, the Netanyahu government and Israeli media reacted hysterically, immediately inciting a vicious campaign against Hamas throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including air strikes in Gaza and provocatively calling upon the Israeli citizenry to strike back at the Palestinians. In this inflamed atmosphere, the Israeli government undertook a massive campaign of collective punishment, itself a war crime: hundreds of Palestinians thought to be associated with Hamas were arrested and detained; house demolitions of the homes of suspects; killings of six Palestinians; lockdown of entire cities; air strikes against Gaza.

All this was done despite the mounting belief of independent observers that the crime against the Israeli youths was carried out by two Palestinians unaffiliated with Hamas, perhaps with an initial plan to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners in an exchange. Never has it been asserted in high profile diplomatic circles of the West that the horrible crime provided Netanyahu with a pretext for an anti-Hamas campaign, which seems less motivated by a response to the kidnapping/murder than by the political objective of punishing the Palestinian leadership for defying the Netanyahu government for recently achieving a measure of reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Further in the background is the Israeli interest in shifting responsibility away from themselves for the failure of the Kerry negotiations that collapsed at the end of April.

So far, Israel has met calls for restraint and a ceasefire with contempt. Rumours of Hamas' receptivity to a ceasefire have been ignored. Israel's leaders have responded defiantly, suggesting that Protective Edge will not cease until the Hamas infrastructure is destroyed, supposedly to ensure that no rockets will ever again be fired from Gaza. When Palestinian civilians are killed in the process of pursuing such an elusive goal, this is rationalised by Israeli officials as a regrettable side effect of what Israeli leaders are claiming to be a legitimate military undertaking. In a characteristic warped statement, Netanyahu declared: "We are not eager for battle, but the security of our citizens and children takes precedence over all else."

Some Israeli top officials went beyond the prime minister. Defence Minister Moshe Yalon called for the total destruction of Hamas, which is tantamount to seeking a hunting license in relation to the entrapped people of Gaza and the oppressed population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The deputy minister of defence, settler notable Dani Dayon, publicly urged Israel to cut off fuel and electricity to Gaza. If such a policy is implemented, it would virtually guarantee a grotesque humanitarian crisis.

While Gaza burns, the fiddlers at the UN content themselves by worrying about the text of a proposed Security Council resolution. Israel and the US were reported to be using all the leverage at their disposal to avoid condemnations of the Israeli air strikes on civilian targets in Gaza and even hoping that the final text of any resolution will include language about every sovereign state having the right to protect itself. It now seems that there will be no resolution, as the US is refusing to accept the language of the drafters.

Symbolic gestures
On the basis of this disillusioning global response to Israeli aggression, it should become clear that the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice needs to be waged worldwide primarily at the grassroots level. It has never seemed more reasonable and morally necessary for persons of good will to lend maximum support to the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign that has been in any event growing rapidly. It is also time to demand that governments adopt sanctions seeking Israeli withdrawal from the occupation of Palestine.

An appropriate further response would be for the UN General Assembly to recommend an arms embargo imposed on Israel. This would be a largely symbolic gesture as Israel has become a major weapons maker, exporting arms to many countries with a sales pitch stressing the benefits of "field-tested" weaponry.

It is painfully evident that state-to-state diplomacy and the UN have failed to produce a just peace despite decades of fruitless talks.

It is time to acknowledge that these talks were carried on in bad faith: while the diplomats sat around the table, Israeli settlements relentlessly expanded, apartheid structures deepened their hold on the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Gaza was cordoned off as a hostage enclave to be attacked by Israel at will and a bloody sacrifice exacted.

At least, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, condemned the "dangerous Israeli escalation", urged the Security Council to "adopt measures to stop Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip", and warned of the humanitarian consequences. Turkey and Iran issued official statements along similar lines.

There is so much regional turbulence at present that it is unlikely to hope for anything more than scattered verbal denunciations from authorities in the region preoccupied with other concerns, but given the gravity of the situation, attention needs to be refocused on the Palestinian ordeal.

Pressure on Israel is urgently needed to protect the Palestinian people from further tragedy. Israel's Arab neighbours and the European states that long held sway in the region, are challenged as never before to do the right thing, but it is doubtful that any constructive action will be taken unless regional and global public opinion becomes sufficiently enraged to exert real pressure on these governments. To pursue this goal now should be made a top priority of the Palestinian global solidarity movement.

Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On 10th Anniversary of Historic Ruling against Israel's Wall, Legal Scholars call on world to act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   
Scott Campbell: +510-295-8843 (US)
Jamal Juma’ (Stop the Wall): +970-598921821 (Palestine)


8 July 2014                                                  

On 10th Anniversary of Historic Ruling against Israel’s Wall,

Legal Scholars call on world to act


As protests continue in Palestine, worldwide events to stop Israeli impunity;

At the UN, 86 top legal experts urge UN and third-state action


Leading international jurists and legal networks from all continents, among them UN special Rapporteurs, acting and former judges, leading law professors as well as national and continental professional associations, called on the United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and world leaders to take “concrete action” against Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank.

The 9th of July 2014 marks ten years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its advisory opinion on the Wall Israel is constructing in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  The ICJ found the Wall to be part of the illegal Israeli settlement and annexation enterprise. It called for Israel to cease construction, tear down the sections already built and make reparations for damages caused.

The letter denounces the failure of the United Nations to implement the ICJ ruling and provides concrete recommendations for states to follow to break the inaction.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinians grassroots campaign Stop the Wall commented:

“While Gaza is once again under full scale military attack, the anniversary of the ICJ opinion on the Wall is a timely reminder of the international connivance with the ongoing injustice against our people and the international community’s legal obligations to stop Israeli violations of our fundamental rights.”

The ICJ ruling affirmed, that international law obliges the international community not to recognize, aid or assist in maintaining the illegal situation created by Israel with the Wall and the associated regime of laws, orders and administrative measures. The ICJ also called on the international community to adopt further measures in order to bring this illegal situation to an end and ensure Israel’s compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Ten years later, in the face of international inaction and Israel’s continued construction of the Wall and settlements, dozens of Palestinian coalitions and organizations issued a call to make July the “Month against the Apartheid Wall” under the slogan “Stop Israeli Impunity”.

“With our call for action, we highlight the fact that Israel’s continued occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and the racist discrimination, oppression and displacement of our people, are the cause of past and current Palestinian protests and must end”, says Jamal Juma

The letter will be presented at a special meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and member-states will be present. Signed by legal experts, the letter urges the UN and its member states “to comply with their obligations and take legally permissible measures to ensure the removal of the Israeli Wall from occupied Palestinian territory and the associated regime of settler colonies, institutionalized discrimination and annexation.” Such measures include a comprehensive and binding ban on trade with the illegal Israeli settlements, a halt of all economic relations with companies and institutions involved in these Israeli violations of international law, as well as prosecution of actors involved in war crimes.

“I believe the letter reflects the right approach to a just cause,” says Shawqi Issa, the Palestinian Minister representing the state of Palestine at the UN meeting. “All states hold legal responsibilities as outlined in the ICJ ruling and the IV Geneva Convention, and should act immediately with respect to international law and the ruling of the ICJ by adopting the measures recommended in the letter.”

In order to build pressure on governments to adopt the recommended measures, events against the Wall and Israeli impunity will be carried out in at least two dozen countries throughout the month of July. From the US and Britain to Paraguay, South Africa and India, civil society organizations will be holding protests, petition drives, conferences, film screenings, art exhibits, and more.

For more information regarding the Month against the Apartheid Wall, please contact the individuals listed above or visit

The full text of the jurists’ letter to the United Nations can be found here:

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Shannon policy facilitates Ireland’s role in Iraq

Ireland refused the invitation from the United States to join NATO when it was founded in 1947, and has maintained its military neutrality ever since. Roger Cole, Chair of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), recently published this article in the IRISH TIMES.

CrisisOpinion: The Army, born in a national struggle against imperialism, is being increasingly integrated into BattleGroups of the EU, a strategic military partner of Nato.

‘A small nation has to be extremely cautious when entering into alliances whichbring it, willy nilly, into those wars... we would not be consulted in how a warshould be started – the great powers would do that – and when it ended, no matterwho won . . . we would not be consulted as to the terms on which it should end.”
– Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, Dáil Éireann, July 12th, 1955.

On February 15th, 2003, millions of people throughout the world marched inprotest against the plan by the US and its vassal states to invade, conquer and occupy the secular state of Iraq. In Ireland well over 100,000 marched in Dublin against the war as did thousands more in Belfast. We failed.

The US and the UK invaded and destroyed the state, the consequences of whichare continuing to played out in the current phase of the ongoing war on Iraq. Of course, the destruction of the state of Iraq and its replacement by a Kurd state, aSunni state and a Shia state might be the outcome after a prolonged vicious and bitter war with the only winner being Israel, could be exactly what the US wants.

In Ireland, the Fianna Fáil party finally terminated the values of its founder, deValera, and backed the war, destroying Ireland’s long-standing policy of neutrality as defined in international law by the Hague Convention of 1907 by allowing millions of US troops use Shannon Airport on their way to and from thewar, and by voting against enshrining Irish neutrality into the Constitution (whichwas proposed by Sinn Féin and supported by Labour and independents).

Since then, the forces in favour of perpetual imperialist wars have grown stronger.

Germany, which opposed the war in 2003, is now dominated by ChancellorAngela Merkel, a strong advocate of the Iraq war. France, which also opposed thewar, is now an integral part of Nato, the nuclear armed military alliancedominated by the US.

The state of Libya was bombed and destroyed by Nato. Every effort has beenmade by the US and its allies to destroy the state of Syria, as over the past few years it has actively supported the Salafi jihadi rebels, who are now taking overlarge parts of Iraq. The US is actively seeking a confrontation with Russia. Withits “shift to the East”, the US also seems to want to take on China as well.

NATO Partner
In Ireland, the Army, born in a national struggle against imperialism, is being increasingly integrated into battle groups of the EU, a strategic military partner of Nato. Despite the massive economic crisis no banker has seen the inside of a prison, but Margaretta D’Arcy, an opponent of Ireland’s support for the Iraq war, is imprisoned.

The Labour Party, which under the leadership of its then spokesperson on foreignpolicy, Michael D Higgins, in 2003 played a key role in opposing the Iraq war; in government it supports the aviation policy announced by Minister for TransportLeo Varadkar on December 12th, 2012, in which he advocated “additionalmilitary flights” for Shannon Airport.

The section in the agreed Labour Party/Fine Gael programme for governmentwhich stated, “We will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace,airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates ofinternational law”, has been rejected in favour of the additional military flights. With US president Barack Obama now sending US troops back into Iraq, one canonly assume the Government will be pleased its policy of additional military flights through Shannon Airport will be a success.

However, the doctrine of perpetual war that was expressed in the Project for theNew American Century produced in the 1990s is in trouble. Simply put, theAmerican people are increasingly becoming tired of these never-ending wars.

The American people are beginning to say that it’s about time we focused onnation building at home. In the UK when for the first time since the 18th century a British prime minister’s proposal to launch yet another war, as David Camerondid, was rejected by the British House of Commons, a decision in no smallmeasure due to the campaign by the Stop the War Coalition, a British peace groupwith which the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana) has a strong association. Onesuspects opposition to this doctrine of perpetual war is growing not just in the UKbut throughout the EU. When UKIP and the National Front in France opposethese perpetual wars they are gaining support from voters who in previous yearswould have voted for parties such as the Democratic Socialists that used tooppose them.

The RedC poll commissioned by Pana in September 2013 showed 78 per cent supported a policy of neutrality and 79 per cent opposed a war with Syria without a UN mandate. Maybe the time is coming when article 2.4 of the UN charter that says all UN states “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” shall be restored as the keystone of international law.

Finally, in the local elections in 1920, the Unionists and Home Rulers in Kingstown were replaced by an alliance of Sinn Féin and Labour councillors thatchanged its name to Dún Laoghaire as a symbol of their commitment to Irishindependence. Some would now like it to return to its old name while a good deal more would like to call it Merkeltown. Those of us who support Irishindependence, democracy and neutrality remain happy with Dún Laoghaire – but with more pride, more self confidence and a greater willingness to resistimperialism.Roger Cole is chair of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and was one of the mainorganisers of the demonstration in Dublin against the Iraq war on February 15th, 2003.

© 2014

Image: A protest at Shannon in 2003 about US military equipment and troops passing through the Shannon Airport. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: Unmasking Austerity | The Project

This the latest offering by Dexter Whitfield which makes for uncomfortable reading. It is full of detailed well researched and explosive exposees of neoliberalism and faux austerity. Where most of us will have a general grasp and idea of just how our society is being abused and raped by these financial systems Whitfield goes into forensic detail. He offers some of the most chilling observations of unscrupulous conduct being passed off as financial management you will read. I could not put this book down. Once I started reading despite the painful content it was necessary to finish it immediately.

As with Whitfield’s previous offerings he presents the facts and details rather like the diagram you would receive when purchasing an Airfix model toy to construct. You have the vision of the finished product preceded by the “exploded version” where you are able to clearly examine each and every component part in minute detail complete with where it fits into the overall view.

The four chapters begin with the exposing of the malign and offensive fakery that is the neo liberalist agenda of Austerity. However, if you thought that we would be allowed off the hook and just blame right wingers for this odious circumstance he will have none of it showing that opponents of neoliberalism have not been particularly successful at offering strategies to rebut its effect.

Austerity did not create a ‘new opportunity’ to reconfigure the state, nor was it an example of ‘shock doctrine’. The financial crisis merely allowed the acceleration of reconfiguration, because the implementation of neoliberal policies in the public sector and welfare state has been systematic and continuous for over three decades.”

It gets no easier to consume as he provides a Super Trooper searchlight into the murkiest corners of opposition to Austerity and discusses what the opponents of austerity have done, and the minimal effect it has currently had in changing the neo liberal direction. He offers some cogent views on the actions and needs of Trades Unions to lead the opposition. He is also quite clear in that it cannot be from positions of isolation. Equally it cannot be from just one corner of any one country. This is an international assault and it requires a bigger vision and organisational approach than has thus far been offered or even considered. Effective opposition has had a communal dimension and that needs to be expanded from the Trades Unions and community groups in one country to many countries. The communication needs to be international. The co operation needs to be international. The events need to be strategic events rather than one off rallies or marches and they need to be placed in an overall plan for a future full of alternatives to austerity.

Whitfield is stating some of the things that you would expect political and Trades Union leaders to be advocating but are not, or not consistently enough. He says

Workforce development, childcare provision, equalities mainstreaming, good quality pensions, trade union representation, collective bargaining and facility time together with service and workplace democracy are an essential part of the reconstruction strategy.

And yet these have been said by trades union leaders but not often enough or loud enough. Whitfield is prodding all of us as trades unionists with a very sharp stick to start leading effectively and with new strategies.

However, some of these necessary and hard truths are then finished off with some of the successful exposing of facts that have had resonance and made an impact and offer a possibility for a part of the way forward.

The average public debt ratio in advanced economies is expected to stabilize in 2013–14 at slightly below 110% of GDP, 35 percentage points above its 2007 level.”

The top 1% of US households had 59.9% of the increase in income between 1979 and 2007

The shift from higher to lower-wage jobs also reduced productivity

In discussing the manufactured crises of austerity the one area that appeared to be overlooked were the credentials of the politicians arguments of the coalition government being exclusively drawn from PR. In the UK at least, there appears to be a belief that PR principles of repetition, repetition, repetition will suffice to engender the inculcation of the arguments into the mainstream thinking. Whilst that is certainly true with their support in the media and their blind obedience to regurgitating any neo liberal nonsense that is pushed their way. It is not dealt with here. Although this may have more to do with the international reach of these observations and analyses rather than concentrating on mere parochial concerns.

Overall this is a seriously muscular work which is both compelling and painful in equal measure. I do not appreciate the criticism mostly because it is well made and pertinent. I, as will all Trades Unionists, have to review my / our approach to what we are opposing and remedy the conduct and actions we undertake. The implicit indication from Whitfield is that he considers it necessary to have the Trades Unions lead the opposition to austerity. Given how New Labour were complicit in continuing what the neo liberalists began in 1979 I cannot take issue with that. We just have to be quick to find the leaders who can make the National and International connections to make this step change towards 21st Century Trades Unionism and ensure that we end the era of austerity with the return to the principles, social conduct and political will that Whitfield and myself believe is beneficial to the entire society rather than the 1%.

Review from The Project: A Socialist Journal:

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