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Ireland’s Labour and Fine Gael bear responsibility for death of woman denied abortion.

A Statement from Ireland’s United Left Alliance

Clare Daly TD and Joan Collins TD

Statement – 14 November 2012

Legislate for X Case NOW.

Protest at Dáil, Weds November 14, 6pm.

The death last weekend of a woman who was denied a life-saving abortion is an outrage which demands immediate action, said ULA TD’s Clare Daly and Joan Collins.

“Sadly,” said Clare Daly, “the very thing we feared last April when we put our X Case Bill before the Dáil, has happened. A woman has died because Galway University Hospital refused to perform an abortion needed to prevent serious risk to her life. This is a situation we were told would never arise. An unviable fetus – the woman was having a miscarriage – was given priority over the woman’s life, who unfortunately and predictably developed septicemia and died.

First and foremost we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the woman’s husband, family and friends for their terribly loss. This loss is all the worse because it need not have happened.

Make no mistake, had Labour and Fine Gael acted upon our Bill, medical guidelines could have been in place which would have ensured that there would have been no grounds for equivocation about performing an abortion when there was a risk to the life of the woman. Instead, the government took the cowardly step of hiding behind the fourth ‘expert group’ on abortion since 1992. This refusal to act has contributed to the circumstances which brought about this woman’s death. Fianna Fáil and the Greens also bear responsibility, due to their failure to legislate for the X Case.”

Joan Collins said that the TD’s demand immediate action by the government.

“We demand a full and public enquiry into the circumstances of this woman’s death. We demand that Minister Reilly immediately publish the report of his ‘expert group’ – now four months overdue from its own promised publication date. We intend to re-submit our X Case Bill, which provides for legal abortion when there is a risk to the life of a woman, as soon as we can. We demand that the government immediately provide Dáil time to promptly bring our Bill into law.

A woman’s life has been sacrificed due to the unwillingness of Labour, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens to legislate in line with the Supreme Court ruling on the X Case in 1992. We call on the women of Ireland to take to the streets to ensure that action is taken to stop this ever happening again. The first step is to protest at the Dáil at 6pm on Wednesday evening, November 14.”

TD is the equivalent of MP in the Irish parliament

 

Wrecsam protest against Israeli team in Wales

Congratulations to the pro-Palestinian protesters who opposed the Wales v Israel women’s football game at the Racecourse in Wrecsam last week.

ImageCampaigners from the local area and across the country including south Wales, north west Wales, Liverpool, Chester, Manchester and London demonstrated inside and outside the football ground. The action was called in protest at Israel’s participation in international competitions while the Palestinian team is prevented from taking part, while Palestinian footballers including Mahmoud al Sarsak remain imprisoned without charge or trial, and while Israel continues to maintain its Apartheid regime.

Israel’s behaviour today towards the Palestinians is similar to that of South Africa’s apartheid regime towards the black population before 1990. Palestinians are being shot, imprisoned, harassed, separated from their families, stopped from working, blocked from farming their land by a ruthless military state purely on the basis of their nationality. Most noticeable is the 30′ apartheid wall being built around the Palestinians, effectively the biggest open prison in the world.

One of the most effective weapons in the struggle against apartheid was an economic boycott. Another was the sporting boycott, which meant that South Africa couldn’t pretend it was a normal society. It’s equally important that Israel cannot pretend it is “normal” either to its own citizens or those of other countries. Last week’s protest reminded both Welsh and Israeli football fans that there’s nothing normal about Israel.

ImageAlthough most people stayed outside the ground holding banners, chanting, handing out flyers and engaging with punters, some activists gained entry. Others were refused – security were (selectively) asking to look in bags and one woman was prevented from using her free ticket for the match after a pro-Palestine sticker was found on her mobile phone. However, while she was arguing with security, others walked through unchallenged. Inside the ground there was an attempted pitch invasion, some people managed to wave flags and express their opposition loudly before being removed, while one man was thrown out merely for revealing his Palestine football shirt. The would-be streaker didn’t make it into the ground, unfortunately. Undeterred by one ejection, a couple of women went round the back of the stadium and gained entry to ‘the Kop’ via student accommodation recently built on the stadium car park (Glyndŵr University are the new owners of the Racecourse, or rather a subsidiary called Glyndŵr Innovations Ltd, the ‘delivering business solutions’ arm of what was once an establishment devoted to education). The activists unfurled their flags in a prime position facing the fans and right behind the media and made enough noise to be heard clearly inside the pub at the other side of the ground.

The main demonstration outside the ground wound up at around 6.30pm, and some activists stayed around and engaged with people leaving the ground after the match, which ended in a 5-nil victory for Wales.

When they tear down the walls and treat Palestinians as equals, they can play football in peace.

This article and images are assembled from reports in Indymedia UK and on the Plaid Cymru Wrecsam Blog.

Ireland and Greece: Referenda, elections and self-organisation.

The Irish left is still reeling from defeat in the Euro-austerity referendum on 31st May, and preparing itself for the next assault by the government. Some united left supporters claim they did not expect to defeat the government, while others, including our correspondent, Brendan Young, thought it was just possible – and that everything would depend on voter turnout.

Ireland’s 60:40 vote in favour of the EU Fiscal Stability Treaty was worse than expectations based on the likelihood that a significant number of those who have refused to register or pay the household tax (approx. 50% of households) would vote No – as indicated by opinion poll findings.

The key was voter turnout: middle class voters turned out to vote in much greater numbers than working class voters. There was a sharp class differentiation of the vote, with a big majority of middle class voters saying Yes and a big majority of working class voters saying No. This was the clearly the case in the urban areas.

An exact breakdown of the vote according to area is not available, but we do have indicative data. In one working class area of Dublin, there was a 90% No vote, but on only an 18% turnout. By contrast, in a predominantly middle class area there was a 70% Yes vote, on a 65% turnout.

There was also a clear urban : rural divide, with rural areas voting ‘yes’ in significant majorities – despite evident poverty and low wages in rural areas and small towns.

For the left, the referendum campaign was hard going and fragmented – groups on the left tended to do their own thing as priority, giving united-front work secondary consideration. The invaluable initiative that was the United Left Alliance is rather staggering along as a result – always the same issues, with the left groups continuing to operate in their old ways, unable to see the collective strength in unity. That, of all, is the most disheartening, and why the Europeans, in Greece, Spain, and France provide some comfort and encouragement.

For Irish voters, the fear-factor of exclusion from future bailout funding, generated by the three main parties in government and opposition, the EU, the business organizations and their civil-society supporters, the main farming organizations, all outweighed the arguments of the No campaigners. Although four trade unions came out for a No, they failed to campaign. Meanwhile, the trade union federation ICTU, although not calling for a Yes, allowed their members to be pressured by the Yes campaigns.

Many Yes voters did so reluctantly and unhappily. This was reflected in a complete lack of triumphalism by the government and its supporters: they are aware that they did not win the argument; and that many voted out of fear, rather than commitment. And the 40% No vote – predominantly working class – is a denial to the Labour Party of a mandate from its supporters to implement austerity measures.

The next stage will be the resistance to steps by the government to impose the household tax, and following that, the water tax. There are reports that at the end of June the government will begin to send letters demanding payment, but we have no evidence of that yet.

Over the past week the media has pre-occupied with a tax scandal of one of the members of parliament who has campaigned for non-payment of the household tax. This should blow over in the coming weeks but it is damaging and divisive for the anti-austerity campaigns.

But the absence of the promised ‘stability’ that was supposed to come after the austerity treaty referendum has not been lost on many people. This will impact upon the electorate when the next referendum comes – and it is already being said that Merkel’s ‘closer fiscal union’ will require yet another referendum in Ireland, although the recent successful question gave worrying scope to Irish governments to proceed without further public reference.The yes vote empowered the state to “ratify the treaty on stability co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union, done in Brussels on March 2nd, 2012. No provision in this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that treaty from having the force of law in the State”.

So the struggle will continue – both day-to-day and in any future referendum.

And a post-script on Greece…

The Greek election result is perhaps the best that could have happened. If Syriza was sincere in carrying through its promises of not implementing the EU-IMF austerity program, they would have to begin local self-organization – with neighborhood and workplace committees beginning to take over the running of the state, exercising control of the activities of the banks, etc. Syriza is not yet in a position to do that. But they can now begin to build that kind of network, based on their mass support, through organizing resistance to the austerity that will be imposed by New Democracy. It remains to be seen if they will – but the opportunity is now there for them. The KKE (Greek Communist Party) will also be examining the results, and the impact on their support of their refusal to participate in united front activity with Syriza. Interesting times!

Resist Greek ‘austerity’

European leaders and the IMF demanded from the unelected and illegitimate Greek government a new austerity plan for the release of the EU “assistance”, not for social development, which is a vital need for Greece, but to guarantee the reimbursement of sovereign debts to banks.

After three years of austerity, during which economic recession has prevailed, the Troika is back and the country is put under supervision, for new attacks on pensions, the abolition of the minimum wage in the private sector, further cuts in the public sector. In other words, the same method, with always the same consequences.

This is the eighth austerity plan, which, as the previous seven, would solve the problem of the Greek debt crisis once and for all. All those plans have been aiming at the reduction of salaries by 50%, the privatization of public services, the closing of schools and hospitals and to the explosion of unemployment, job insecurity and poverty.

How could we not understand popular anger that is expressed right now in Athens and in many Greek cities? As the saying goes, “he who sows misery, harvests anger”.

The European Left Party supports Greek citizens who fight against these measures and the parliamentarians that expressed the voice of the people in the Greek Parliament yesterday, by voting against this text, which is dangerous for Greece and for Europe as a whole.

We call upon European citizens to organise gatherings outside the Greek embassies in the different EU countries and demonstrate their solidarity with the Greek people. We also call everybody who resists these catastrophic austerity plans all over Europe, to work together for the formation of a counter-offensive of the European peoples.

Pierre Laurent
President of the Party of the European Left

Lens on Labour: Taking on the EU.

Len Arthur

Misgivings about whose purpose is really served by the EU have been held widely within the labour movement. It was not until the early 1970’s that Labour in part supported membership and the 1980’s when the TUC started to warm toward the Social Chapter following the ravages of the Thatcher governments.

On the left, many both within and outside of the Labour Party do not support the EU either due to the loss of UK or Parliamentary control – I believe Tony Benn has this view – or because it is simply an organisation to support capitalism.

Others in Labour and on the left accept these concerns but suggest that UK history has never been independent of what happens in Europe. The two world wars of the 20th Century demonstrated this and it is therefore better to be involved to try to influence events than think we can avoid the consequences of decision taken in the rest of Europe.

The EU Treaty is also a reflection of the post war social democratic and corporate settlement. Sovereignty was shared, the conflict between capital and labour reflected in reforms covering work and re-distribution of wealth geographically, and certain key industries such as agriculture were protected. At the same time, economic policy has been about opening up the internal market and improving international competitiveness through reducing the role of state, encouraging competition, standardisation, free labour movement and now with the Maastricht Treaty, restrictions on the use of government spending to encourage economic activity.

Tensions within the EU between the different assumptions that underpin these approaches have been restricted by the expansion to new states and the establishment of the Euro. It is now clear that not addressing these tensions has aided the crisis within the eurozone and they are being resolved by moving away from the social democratic settlement and democracy and toward an attack on the working class across the EU under the guise of ‘austerity’, making us pay for the bankers crisis.

Similarly tensions on the left have come to the surface. Some have argued, that we should leave the EU and it doesn’t matter if the eurozone or the EU falls apart. Others have suggested that the EU has always offered the opportunity for workers unity across Europe and now is the time to act together internationally, to resist the policies of austerity.

It should also be clear that the Tory government is no friend of the social democratic settlement, they are only interested in pulling back powers from the EU to remove the effects of the social chapter in the UK and cut back public spending even harder.

Whilst in Brussels a few weeks ago I drafted the following piece which could act as a motion for meetings; you can see where I come down on the debate – what do you think?

‘United front against the Treaty

People of Europe against austerity and the treaty: for an alternative social and democratic Europe

ETUC statement now seems radical. It is a measure of how far and how fast the EU has gone to the right. We are faced with a spectre the spectre of austerity. The workers of Europe are being expected to the pay the cost of the bankers’ crisis and not only are the representatives of the bankers’ being elected to use the state to solve their problems but in countries like Italy they have been handed the state without an election. In the UK a millionaires’ government intends to cut harder than across the EU and is primarily interested in representing the City of London.

Time is of the essence. We have until March. We can stop the Treaty if we mobilise across Europe: what is essential is a united front of workers organisations and parties to initiate solidarity action around the demand no to the Treaty; no to loss of democracy; yes to a social Europe based on equality; and yes to full democratic control of EU institutions.

We should call upon the TUC and the ETUC to launch an EU wide petition supporting these and more detailed demands looking for the widest possible support internationally. We should also call upon them to launch EU wide demonstration and industrial action culminating in time when the Treaty may be signed.

If they don’t take this action, we should do what we can to launch ourselves using social media.

The Spanish Elections: What price democracy?

After months of social upheaval and financial crisis, Spain goes to the polls on 20th November. Daniel Adam reviews the background and prospects.

The Spanish Constitution was inspired and influenced by the Portuguese socialist revolution of 25th April 1974. Some parts, written by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), such as the statement that private property has a “social function”, clearly attacked the fundamentals of a society where, for centuries, every time that someone tried to attack the establishment and create a fair system, he or she was murdered or had to flee.

The Communist Party paid a high price for such gains. They had to accept a monarchy basically appointed by Franco, and a voting system where some votes can be seven times more valuable than others. Votes for the conservatives, the Partido Popular (PP), or the labourists, the Partido Socialista (PSOE), will be unfavourably distorted against votes for Izquierda Unida, (IU, United Left), the broad left formation of the PCE

The king’s symbolic importance will have to be resolved in due course but the famous 1975-81 “Transición” to constitutional democracy was a mockery. The same old elites that ruled Spain under the brutal regime of Franco are still in power. The elite is mainly represented by the conservative party, the Partido Popular, which has not yet condemned the Franco regime in the European parliament. It was founded by the former Tourism and Information Minister from the fascist state, Fraga. His successor, the former prime minister of Spain, José María Aznar, wrote passionate articles against the Constitution, democracy and in defence of the fascist status quo.

Weak Social Democracy

Spanish people expected the PSOE to take the lead in the fight against this elite in the institutions. Considering the PCE too radical, they massively voted to make Felipe Gonzalez President of Spain, hoping that he would transform the country into a social democracy comparable with our European neighbours. The fact that Gonzalez now has a well paid post in one of the companies he himself helped to create by “restructuring” the gas sector, Gas Natural, and that he is never criticised by the media, gives you an idea of how wrong Spaniards were. Gonzalez left the country with a shaken economy, huge unemployment, integrated in NATO through lies (such as no intervention in wars) and integrated into the European Union, which itself deserves its own article.

The PSOE has been in power for twenty-two years in Spain, with an eight year break when Aznar became president. During this time, they built a country where, although the level of GDP per capita is similar to the average of the original 15 European states, social expenditure does not reach two-thirds of the average EU15 level. Educational standards, as well as salaries, are well below level; minimum wage is barely above €600 per month; there are five million unemployed; and corruption is blatant. Sure, the PP did their bit during their eight years, such as the “Ground Law” that started the massive construction speculation, but PSOE prime minister Zapatero had four years to change that before the crisis came, and he didn’t.

The reaction to the crisis by Zapatero is more than disappointing. It has been considered an act of treason by workers and the unemployed. The two main unions, being supporters of a Zapatero’s government and weakened in a country where people actually work in fear, have failed to react to the situation. It is impossible to understand that no strike was called until 2010. And that was unsuccessful, mainly because of the distrust that workers have in these two organizations, considered puppets in the hands of the government. People lost confidence in political parties, either because they are corrupt or because they have no chance to win the elections, and also in the main unions, the two institutions that are supposed to channel their voice. In a country where the two main parties and the two main unions are, at best, compromised, and where political consciousness is at a low ebb, people have lost their trust in “politics”.

Disaffection and Mass Action

But this ‘loss of trust in politics’ is a media version of the ‘post-politics’ anti-capitalism that is breaking out the world over. Spain is an extremely political country. Wherever you go, whatever the bar you enter, you hear people talking fervently about politics, in anger. The situation had to explode, and it did. On 15 May, this year, thousands of protesters gathered unexpectedly in demonstrations organized by new groupings who declare themselves unaffiliated to any political group, with no political agenda, and not related to the unions. The movement grew and, last 15 October, numbers of demonstrators reached the hundreds of thousands in Madrid and Barcelona, and several tens of thousands in Valencia, Sevilla, Malaga and other cities. No such demonstrations had taken place in Spain since the beginning of the Iraqi invasion.

Surprised by the amazing and unexpected turn-outs, experienced anti-capitalist fighters put aside their differences and joined the newcomers in a united movement, filled with vices and contradictions but massive, democratic (organized through assemblies) and craving for a new society, comparable with May ‘68. Or is it?

The movement set itself to be as broad as possible from the very beginning, trying to avoid well-known formulas or names. It rejects calling itself a “leftist movement”, or socialist movement, although it has clear leftist claims. It has also avoided linking itself to any political party or union.

On one hand, there is a very positive outcome. People are embracing ideas that have been typically on the left’s agenda, but without using the traditional terminology. On the other hand, an individualism in the minds of the protestors rejects all kinds of organizations whatsoever and, in doing so, loses previous experience that could be useful. It´s a naive movement and proud to be.

And the Elections?

The question is, ‘How will it affect the elections?’ – if, indeed, it does. The polls show no result except for an increase in abstention, which might be caused more by the disgust the PSOE evokes from voters, than the movement itself. The PP is likely to win the elections hands down, and neo-liberalism will continue its rampant pillage on Spain for several more years. It will be for the movement to give a significant jolt to the conservatives in government, which might happen, and force the same unions it despises into organizing strikes that succeed. Too many ‘if´s’!

Meanwhile social unrest keeps growing. The two main parties cast their circus towards the elections. Debates on television invite only those two to discuss their same economic agenda. The only hope left for the next elections is the rise of IU, which, due to the nature of the proportional voting system, needs 250.000 votes to get each seat in parliament while the PSOE and PP need just 60.000. With those numbers of votes, the United Left might be able to force a pact with the PSOE to create a more socially oriented programme. Given the nature of the constitution, this is highly improbable. So it will be back to the streets!

Daniel Adam is an economist and activist member of the UJCE (Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España – Communist Youth), part of the Izquierda Unida.

Foreign Policy for Wales – 25 Years of Nicaragua Solidarity

Leading activists from the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign had two clear messages at the recent 25th anniversary of the campaign’s support for the Sandinistas.

Writes Luke Nicholas.

The first was from the Welsh-Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano Hughes- “I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical. Solidarity is horizontal”. The second quotation that rang loud and clear at the event in Cardiff has been doing the rounds in Scotland amidst the positive political changes that have been taking place there; Alasdair Gray’s “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”.

Surely it is time now for Wales to have a foreign policy. Wales has developed extensive international links since devolution began, to the credit of First Ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. But although we are an internationalist country, Wales’ outward links under devolution have generally been based on charity, not solidarity. The charity aid projects that the Welsh Government has supported in Africa need to continue. But what we now need, in this changing world and to reflect Wales’ national development, is for the Government to put Wales in the international context. The politicised tone of the Nicaraguan event reminded us of the potential we have to engage with other nations, and it is surely time to do so on a political basis, rather than just a humanitarian level.

At the meeting, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Leanne Wood called for Wales to seek Observer status in the ALBA bloc of Latin American nations. There has been talk in the past of non-American nations having this status. The Palestinians and Syria have been mooted, because of their large diasporic communities in Latin America. Why not Wales? Our shared history of indigenous struggles and imperial exploitation would justify it. Our Welsh Ministers (from Labour and Plaid Cymru) have already incorporated aspects of Cuban literacy and agricultural policy into their own plans. It does not mean agreeing with every policy promoted by the ALBA bloc, but would give Wales a new avenue in which to contribute ideas on how we can create a better world.

Nicaragua’s Charge D’Affairs in the UK, Guisell Morales-Echaverry, reported the achievements of President Daniel Ortega’s Christian Socialist Solidarity project, which is the democratic socialist programme that is relevant to Nicaragua’s current conditions. Julie Morgan noted Nicaragua’s strong economic growth, and Leanne Wood reported the progress on reducing unemployment among women in rural Nicaragua, 60,000 of whom have been organised by the Sandinista government into independent co-operatives which are now producing wealth and goods. She also crucially expressed hope that the issue of women’s’ reproductive rights can be improved in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America, reminding us that our solidarity allows us to also suggest where our friends are going wrong.

The goodwill from First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Julie Morgan AM (a longstanding friend of Nicaragua) was welcome, and Vaughan Gething AM’s chairing of the event was engaging and enjoyable. The challenge for the Welsh left, of all parties and none, is to build on this goodwill and develop a Welsh foreign policy of our own. It would require a leap of faith for Welsh Labour, but would not be going against their history of solidarity with a whole range of causes, particularly in promoting Somaliland, whose representatives were invited by Rhodri Morgan to the National Assembly in 2006. It would also fulfil Plaid Cymru’s international outlook, with potential for expanding relationships with stateless nations such as the Saharawis or the Mapuche people in Chile, both of whom have had delegations to Plaid Conferences in recent years.

The history of the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign points the way to a better and fairer world. The video clips of representatives from Nicaragua’s diverse range of communities thanking the people of Wales, and making direct reference to Wales’ linguistic and social traditions, showed that the campaign has created a space for Wales in the psyche of the Nicaraguan people. If we believe that another world is possible, we owe it to the rest of the world to not hide behind British foreign policy but to forge our own path.

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