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The economic crisis and Eastern Europe

24th January 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Jack Johnston

The global financial crisis has not only disturbed the previous course of capitalist economic development but also stalled many of its political projects. An example of this is the process of European Union expansion into the former non-capitalist states in Eastern Europe. While prior to the crisis these economies were enjoying high growth and falling unemployment, many have now been plunged into a severe downturn. This not only threatens their own internal political stability but also shakes the foundations upon which EU enlargement has been built.

The eastern enlargement of the EU, in 2004 and 2007, should be understood within the context of the restoration of capitalism that occurred throughout Eastern Europe from 1989. The economic collapse and social impoverishment, caused by the re-introduction of capitalism, were most severe and prolonged in the countries of the ex-Soviet Union. Yet the Central-Eastern European (CEE) states still suffered huge socio-economic declines. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, only Poland had crossed its pre-transition level of GDP; the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia were just returning to this level, whilst the Baltic States still had a GDP level 20–40% below that achieved at the end of ‘communism’. Consequently poverty, unemployment and social inequalities all sharply increased, leaving millions of people with a standard of living worse than they had before capitalism was reintroduced.

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Haiti needs aid not an occupation

21st January 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

As the extent of the immense devastation and human catastrophe in Haiti continues to unfold, what is clear is that the correct response must be one which both, firstly, deals with the immediate crisis, i.e. to ensure medical assistance, food, shelter and other basic human necessities; and that, secondly, this happens in the context of Haitian self-determination.

What is becoming increasingly alarming in the current situation is that the US response appears to be primarily geared at securing the state, rather than delivering aid. As one aid worker stated among a myriad of news reports depicting this same picture: ‘there are 200 flights going in and out everyday. But most of those are for the US military. The priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed.’

The governments of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have all expressed concern over a US military take-over.

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Fidel Castro reflects on Haiti

21st January 2010 Socialist Action 0

Reproduced below is Fidel Castro’s ‘reflections’ piece, which can also be found here

The Lessons of Haiti

By Fidel Castro Ruz

January 15, 2010 – Two days ago, at almost six o’clock in the evening Cuban time and when, given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti, television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake – measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale – had severely struck Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault located in the sea just 15 kilometres from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.

The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals, schools and more solidly constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I have read that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

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Guns, butter and Afghanistan

5th January 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Sammy Barker

The relative decline of US imperialism has underpinned the domestic debate about President Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan.

In his speech to the Corp of Cadets at West Point on 1 December, Obama said: ‘…as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it allows us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That is why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.’

This drew a fierce response from the Wall Street Journal, which supports the surge as a necessary expression of power, not as an unfortunate diversion from its exercise at home:

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What lies behind the current impasse in Ireland’s peace process

28th December 2009 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

Yet again, a crisis is brewing in the Irish peace process. This time it centres on the ongoing failure of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to agree a date for the transfer of powers on justice and policing from Westminster to the Assembly in Belfast.

The DUP’s obstructive approach on the issue has seen, at every twist and turn, excuse after excuse in order to block this key element of the new system, which is an integral part of the peace process.

Over 11 years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by referenda in the two parts of Ireland. It outlined a series of key measures to address one of the central inequalities of the northern six-county statelet – a legal system and a police force which were riddled with injustice to the core. From the foundation of the ‘Northern Ireland’ state in 1921, an armed sectarian police force acted to suppress and brutalise that section of the population which did not support British rule, and upheld in the most brutal way a rotten, sectarian state, which systematically discriminated against Catholics and Irish nationalists. This history of brutality, of the ‘police’ acting as a pro-British state militia, combined with a blatantly discriminatory system of so-called justice, was unique to that part of the ‘UK’. It included the use of non-jury ‘Diplock’ courts, torture, collusion, political bans and other methods which drew international condemnation – all of which has been well documented. Unsurprisingly, it met with sustained and mass popular resistance and political opposition.

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Copenhagen talks lay bare the class conflict at the heart of climate change

22nd December 2009 Socialist Action 0

By Paul Lewis

The failed climate change talks in Copenhagen last week demonstrated how climate change has become a central aspect of the international class struggle.

By failing to agree binding terms to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the capitalist nations, led by the USA, have demonstrated that they are prepared to allow the avoidable suffering of hundreds of millions of Africans, Asians, Caribbeans and Latin Americans, rather than risk a challenge to its model of capitalist imperialism that has dominated humanity for over two centuries.