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17 Apr


Quebec government criminalizes student strike

April 17, 2015 | By |

By Laurent Lafrance
17 April 2015

The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) was the target of a massive intervention by riot police April 8 that was aimed at intimidating, beating up, and arresting students who were exercising their democratic right to strike on the university campus. The police repression is well documented in videos posted on YouTube by amateur journalists and strike supporters.

According to press reports, Quebec Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard personally contacted the rector of UQAM to demand the police crackdown.

The police invasion of a public educational institution is virtually without precedent in Quebec. It is part of an escalating campaign of state repression mounted by the Liberal government with the full support of Quebec’s big-business elite. The government is determined to break the student protest movement against its sweeping austerity program and to put an end to Quebec’s longstanding democratic tradition of political protest through student strikes.

This authoritarian drive is above all directed against the working class—at demonstrating that the government will mobilize the apparatus of state repression to criminalize any challenge to its program of brutal social spending cuts, user fee hikes, and wage and pension cuts for public sector workers.

The April 8 confrontation began when security guards, recently hired by UQAM, accosted and jostled a group of thirty students who were enforcing the strike mandate democratically decided by their officially recognized student association by seeking to prevent the holding of classes. With the security guards threatening further repression, the students complied with the guards’ demand that they vacate the premises.

A few hours later, however, police intervened massively and provocatively against a second group of striking students who were demonstrating on the UQAM campus. Fearing the police would seize on this as the occasion to mount a violent crackdown, a group of professors attempted to position themselves between the police and the students. In the end, the police arrested 21 people, aged 18 to 36, who have been charged with misdemeanors and unlawful assembly.

Later that evening, some 200 students decided to occupy the J.-A.-DeSève building to protest the police intervention on the campus and the subsequent arrests. They barricaded the building entrance with tables and chairs in a festive atmosphere. During the ensuing four hours, a handful of students committed acts of petty vandalism, leading to tensions with the vast majority of the students who were occupying the building peacefully.

Shortly after midnight and with the express approval of the UQAM administration, police forcibly ended the occupation. Montreal riot police broke down a glass door with axes and charged into the building. The students escaped out a rear exit, but were then chased for several hours by police who fired tear gas at them. Five people were arrested.

The police interventions at UQAM, including the brutal manner in which they ended the occupation, were emphatically supported by Premier Couillard. The corporate media and the entire political establishment, including the Parti Québécois, were quick to echo Couillard’s remarks, denouncing the students as “violent.” Turning reality on its head, they depicted the state repression as the consequence of the striking students’ “unacceptable behavior.ˮ In the face of this slander campaign, the supposedly left-wing Québec Solidaire simply called for dialogue so as to “prevent an undesirable escalationˮ of the situation.

Nothing was said in all of this about the government’s antidemocratic campaign to criminalize the strike and even more importantly about its brutal austerity measures, which target essential public services on which millions of Quebecers depend and the social rights that workers won through bitter struggles over several generations. If truth be told, the real authors of violence and intimidation are sitting in the Quebec National Assembly and in the editorial offices of the big-business media.

Throughout the strike, which was launched March 23 with the goal of pressuring the Liberals to backtrack on their austerity measures, UQAM Rector Robert Proulx has stoked the flames. At the government’s urging, he obtained a Superior Court injunction that makes it illegal for students to block access to classes. He also announced the unprecedented expulsion of nine students involved in student walkouts and other protest actions over the last two years. On April 7, he sent out an e-mail announcing that the academic calendar would not be changed and ordering all professors and contract teachers to continue teaching their courses even if their classrooms were empty. Despite many requests from the striking students, the rector has consistently refused all dialogue with them.

Whilst the media has made much of the fact that some striking UQAM students have donned masks, this was in response to the administration’s installation of numerous additional CTCT cameras and its hiring, at a cost of $500,000, of a large number of additional security guards from the private firm Gardium so as to surveille and police students.

The few acts of vandalism carried out on April 8 were likely the actions of a handful of anarchists—possibly linked to the Black Bloc—whose sole aim was to bring about a confrontation with the police. There is a long history of police infiltration of these anarchist groups and numerous cases of agent s provocateurs inciting young people to commit illegal acts. On the evening of the occupation, vehicles belonging to the Montreal police (SPVM) were left unsupervised near the entrance to the university, where they could be readily vandalized.

The Parti Québécois, the federation that represents the CEGEPS (pre-university and technical colleges) and several student associations and trade unions have responded to the events at UQAM by calling for a law “framing” students’ right to strike. Such legislation would be utterly reactionary. As its proponents suggest, it would be based on the Quebec labor code, which ties state recognition of the unions to sweeping limitations on workers’ right to strike, in some cases barring it altogether. The purpose of any law “framing” students’ right to strike would be to introduce a whole series of legal obstacles to prevent it from being exercised and to justify the repression of student protests.

The Liberals however want nothing to do with this proposal. Throughout the conflict, they have aggressively asserted that there is no such thing as a student right to strike, underscoring that their objective is to change the rules of the game and repudiate student strikes as an accepted form of political protest. Indeed, Education Minister François Blais has publicly deplored that student strikes have been accepted as a legitimate form of democratic action in Quebec since the 1960s. He has repeatedly avowed that the only “right” the government is constitutionally bound to uphold is students’ “right” to attend classes in defiance of a democratically decided class boycott.

The hard line taken by the government is a serious warning for the working class. The repressive measures directed at the students are only a foretaste of what the government is preparing to suppress worker opposition to its austerity program, including from the half-million public sector workers whose contracts expired March 31 and from whom the government is demanding sweeping concessions.

In the face of this threat, the trade unions are doing nothing to mobilize their members and prepare a counteroffensive. Just as they did during the 2012 student strike, the unions have refused to support the students, facilitating the government repression. At a major conference on March 31, the public sector union leaders insisted that their preoccupation is “good-faith” bargaining with the government and that not before the fall will they even begin to seriously consider resorting to the “ultimate” measure—by which they mean a legal strike.

Despite the fact that the student “anti-austerity” strike has drawn into its ranks tens of thousands of students across Quebec over the course of the past month—and at the beginning of this week as many as 20,000 students remained on strike—it is clearly petering out.

There is still broad opposition to the ruling class’s austerity agenda among the students, and even more so in the working class. However, none of the factions of ASSÉ (Association for Student-Union Solidarity), which as in 2012 is leading the student strike, has presented a viable perspective for social struggle.

The more “conservativeˮ faction, which includes many Quebec Solidaire supporters, continues to subordinate itself completely to the trade unions and after the union officialdom spelled out their forthright opposition to any mobilization of the working class called for a “strategic retreat”—i.e. the strike’s end. The other faction, apparently more “radical,ˮ has pressed for the continuation of the strike, but is making no effort to mobilize workers in the fight against austerity, limiting themselves to futile appeals to the ruling elite.

Like the unions, both wings of the ASSÉ leadership claim the draconian measures of the Couillard government are an “ideological choice,” not the consequence of a systemic crisis of capitalism that the ruling elite in Canada, as around the world, is seeking to resolve at the expense of the working class.

The only viable option to counter austerity is a turn to the international working class, the only social force with the power to break the stranglehold of big business over socioeconomic life, overthrow the profit system, and transform society on the basis of human need. The development of an independent political movement of the working class requires an intransigent struggle against the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy, which subordinates workers to the political representatives of the ruling class and binds them to capitalism.

16 Apr


Overturn the decision to block IYSSE affiliation on campus!

April 16, 2015 | By |

An open letter to the Clubs and Societies Committee at the University of Melbourne

By International Youth and Students for Social Equality (Australia)
16 April 2015

The following letter has been sent to the members of the Clubs & Societies Committee of the University of Melbourne, which voted at a meeting on March 29 to reject the application of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) to affiliate its club at the university. It is being distributed by members of the IYSSE among students on campus.

To the members of the University of Melbourne Clubs & Societies (C&S) Committee:

Gulsara Kaplan (Secular Society)
Lauren Taylor (Cosmic Hitchhikers Appreciation Society)
Yasmine Luu (Science Students Society)
Ryan Davey (Arts Students Society)
Steven Connolly (Pirates)
Claire Pollock and Stephen Smith (C&S office bearers)

On behalf of the members and supporters of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), I am writing to oppose your anti-democratic decision of March 29 to block our application to affiliate an IYSSE club on campus, and demand that you overturn it.

On March 31, the IYSSE received an email from C&S coordinator Fiona Sanders, of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), stating that the club’s application had been rejected. Stephen Smith, a C&S office bearer of UMSU and member of the “More activities!” student election organisation, had moved that the IYSSE should not be affiliated because its aims “significantly overlap” with those of an already-existing club, Socialist Alternative (SA).

We understand that all of you voted for this motion without any attempt to contact the IYSSE beforehand, thus preventing us from clarifying that Smith’s unsubstantiated claim was completely false. In reality, none of the aims of the IYSSE overlaps with those of Socialist Alternative. Moreover, your decision rides roughshod over the democratic rights of the 54 students who signed an expression of interest form in support of establishing the IYSSE club on campus.

First and foremost, the notion that the C&S Committee, or any other organisation, should be able to determine which clubs can or cannot be formed undermines the fundamental rights of students to organise and exercise freedom of expression. All students should be permitted to establish whatever clubs they choose, whether their interests are cultural, spiritual, political, sporting or academic.

That said, your decision contains a glaring contradiction. While you cite “overlapping aims” to proscribe the IYSSE, no such objections have been raised to block other clubs on campus—something the IYSSE would most certainly publicly oppose.

Among the more than 200 affiliated student clubs are two separate clubs representing the same political party, the Australian Labor Party—under the names ALP Club and Labor Club. And, as far as tens of thousands of students are concerned, if ever there were two parties with “overlapping aims,” they are Labor and Liberal, whose big business programs are essentially indistinguishable.

Moreover, there are four different Christian societies, as well as at least three science fiction clubs. In addition to Socialist Alternative, the Solidarity Club, which also defines itself as “socialist,” is also affiliated.

What is to account for this double-standard? Why has the IYSSE been singled out for rejection? We can only conclude that your discriminatory decision is based, not on procedural, but on undisclosed political considerations.

Without producing a shred of evidence, either this year or last, the C&S Committee used precisely the same justification of “overlapping aims” in 2014 to block our affiliation. So absurd was the motion that the Socialist Alternative club representative on the committee voted against it!

The class character and orientation of any political organisation is determined, first and foremost, by its history and political program. From this standpoint, the IYSSE and Socialist Alternative represent diametrically opposed political tendencies.

The IYSSE is the global student and youth organisation of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the world Trotskyist movement. The ICFI publishes the World Socialist Web Site, the most widely-read socialist publication in the world. The IYSSE is openly affiliated with the ICFI’s Australian section, the Socialist Equality Party, a registered political party.

The IYSSE’s aims, which were provided to the C&S Committee as part of our application, make this crystal clear. They state the IYSSE seeks to “educate students in the history and principles of the Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International,” and to “raise the level of intellectual discussion and debate on campus through the sponsoring of regular forums discussing the daily political analysis of the World Socialist Web Site, the Internet site of the ICFI, dealing with Marxist philosophy, economics, history and the arts.”

Socialist Alternative is not part of the ICFI and is not a Trotskyist organisation. It traces its origins to a petty bourgeois political trend known as “state capitalism,” which broke from the Fourth International in 1951, on the basis of an explicit rejection of its principles.

Socialist Alternative does not support either the World Socialist Web Site or the Socialist Equality Party. In elections, it calls on voters to give their support, not to the SEP, but to capitalist parties such as the Greens and the Labor Party.

In her letter to the IYSSE on April 1, C&S Coordinator Sanders wrote: “We recommend that you contact Socialist Alternative to discuss how your goals can be achieved through partnering with them.”

The arrogance of this statement is breathtaking. What gives the C&S Committee the right to instruct students, who support the ICFI and the SEP, to join an anti-Marxist organisation that we explicitly oppose?

A review of just some of the public statements of the IYSSE and Socialist Alternative on major global issues should be sufficient to demonstrate to you that the two organisations do not have “overlapping aims.”

On Syriza, which formed a self-proclaimed “left-wing” government in Greece in January of this year :

World Socialist Web Site, supported by the IYSSE: “Syriza’s election does not express a political development, a step forward, progress or anything of the kind by or for the working class … In its origin, social composition and politics, Syriza is a bourgeois party—one of many, including the Democrats under US President Barack Obama—that come to power making promises of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and then impose policies of austerity and war. It will inevitably betray, sooner rather than later, the aspirations for an end to social hardship and suffering that it has cynically exploited.”

Socialist Alternative: “A stunning victory for the left in Greece”: “These commitments [Syriza’s election promises to oppose austerity spending] combined with other polices—such as writing off much of Greece’s debt to the international banks, nationalisation of the local banks and an end to privatisations—are a direct challenge to the neoliberal agenda that has dominated Western capitalism over the last 30 years.”

On the United States-sponsored campaign to overthrow the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad, with the assistance of anti-Assad rebels financed by the US an d its supporters in the region:

World Socialist Web Site : “The Syrian war is the latest chapter in US imperialism’s efforts—with the support of its ultra-reactionary Gulf State clients—to violently carry out a restructuring of Middle Eastern and Central Asian politics…. In the Syrian war, as in the 2011 Libyan war before it, whatever initial protests occurred were overwhelmed and utilized as a pretext for large-scale military intervention by Washington against a regime with which it had long-standing grievances. In both wars, Washington’s key proxies were Sunni sectarian forces tied to Al Qaeda—veterans of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and the Al Nusra Front in Syria.”

Socialist Alternative: “Imperialism, in the sense of Western neo-colonialism, is not the main threat facing the masses of Syria, or of the Arab world as a whole … The time for ‘knee-jerk anti-imperialism’ has now passed …”

On the US pivot to Asia, and the preparations of both the US and Australian governments for war on China:

Socialist Equality Party: “The Obama administration initiated its ‘pivot to Asia’ in the wake of the 2008–09 global financial crisis … While the US military was bogged down in quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, China had emerged as the chief nexus of globalised production … The US was intent on ensuring that it, not its imperialist rivals in Europe and Asia, would dominate this massive cheap labour platform and source of profit. This, not the fraudulent claim that China is seeking new territory in the Asian region, is the real aim of the ‘pivot.’”

Socialist Alternative: “[The] United States, Australia’s traditional military ally and still its most significant foreign investor, is engaged in an increasingly tense struggle with China for domination over the Asia-Pacific. The US wants its allies to stick close and help it contain China’s expansion.”

On the nature of the trade unions:

The Socialist Equality Party: “The unions are not workers’ organisations in any sense. Under the impact of globalisation, the unions, grounded on nationalist and pro-capitalist foundations, have been transformed from organisations that once advanced limited reforms in order to contain the class struggle within the framework of the profit system, into corporatist apparatuses committed to achieving ‘international competitiveness’ on behalf of big business.”

Socialist Alternative: “Socialists support trade unions as the basic defensive organisations of the working class.”

If you cared to investigate you would find such fundamental differences between the IYSSE and SA on every political question. And that is because the two organisations have fundamentally opposed aims. The IYSSE and the Socialist Equality Party are revolutionary Marxist organisations, representing the interests of the working class. Our aim is to build a unified international movement of the working class against imperialist war and austerity, and their source, the capitalist profit system. Socialist Alternative is a middle class pseudo-left organisation that has fully aligned itself with imperialist war and austerity, and is preoccupied with the politics of identity, aimed specifically at undermining and suppressing the independent interests of the working class.

We again insist that the C&S Committee overturns its decision and immediately grants affiliation to the IYSSE.

Yours sincerely,
University of Melbourne IYSSE

08 Apr


IYSSE at the University of Michigan

April 8, 2015 | By |

Weekly meetings every Wednesday from 6:30pm-8:30pm in the Michigan
League, Room 2 (First Floor)
911 N University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

IYSSE UM Facebook Page

27 Mar


The Quebec student strike and the fight against austerity: A socialist perspective is necessary

March 27, 2015 | By |

The student strike set to begin March 23 reflects the deep anger in broad layers of the population at the pillaging of public services and the frontal assault on workers’ rights and living standards.

The struggle initiated by the students expresses a desire for a unified response to capitalist austerity—the class program, not just of the Liberals of Philippe Couillard and the Conservatives of Stephen Harper, but of the whole ruling elite in North America and throughout the world.

But energy and combativeness are far from sufficient to guarantee victory. The students and their supporters are confronted with the necessity—if they want to avoid a defeat like in 2012—of adopting a political line diametrically opposed to that of the organizers of today’s demonstration: ASSE (Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante /Association for Student-Union Solidarity) and the Printemps (Spring) 2015 committee.

Their militant speeches serve as a cover for a bankrupt politics of protest to the powers that be, subordination to the pro-capitalist unions, and narrow nationalism.

The failure of protest politics

Their protest politics is based on an idealist conception: that austerity is no more than an “ideological choice.ˮ Under conditions of the deepest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression, they insist that it will be possible to pressure capitalist governments to adopt other measures than those that guarantee the ruling elite an uninterrupted flow of billions in profits—ferocious budget cuts, the slashing of taxes for the rich, the massive lowering of living standards for workers.

All the political parties that historically advocated national reformism (the British Labour Party, French Socialist Party, Canada’s NDP, etc.) have embraced capitalist austerity over the past quarter-century—and this process has massively intensified since the eruption of the global capitalist crisis in 2008. Whereas once the social-democratic and Stalinist parties held up the welfare state as proof capitalism could be “humanized,” now they preside over the levelling of what remains of public and social services.

According to the leaders of ASSE, all that is needed is to have enough people demonstrating in the streets and “shouting louder, so that no one can ignore usˮ ( “crier plus fort, pour que personne ne nous ignore.” ). But in 2012 the ruling elite proved more than deaf to the students’ just demands. Its response was violent police repression and the use of the trade unions to isolate the student strike and politically harness it to the election of the Parti Québécois (PQ), big business’s other governing party. For the Spring 2015 committees, though, the problem is that the students didn’t shout loudly enough in 2012 and the great task of the hour is literally to…“howl.”

Lessons of the 2012 strike

By politically subordinating themselves to the pro-capitalist unions, the student leadership is turning the struggle against capitalist austerity over to the most hardened defenders of capitalism—the bureaucrats with six-figure salaries and privileges of all kind, and who control investment funds with billions of dollars invested in Quebec corporations.

For decades the unions have stifled and torpedoed all resistance by the rank and file to the anti-worker attacks of the ruling elite and have actively worked to impose the contract concessions (wage and job cuts, etc.) demanded by big business and the austerity measures demanded by the financial markets.

The most recent example was their intervention in the 2012 student strike. The unions isolated the students throughout the struggle. In their characteristic two-faced manner, the unions denounced Bill 78, while at the same time announcing that they would apply its provisions to the letter, including those that forced them to order CEGEP and university teachers to act as strikebreakers.

But when there was mass popular opposition to this antidemocratic law and the possibility arose that the student strike might spread to the workers, the unions intervened to suppress it and to tie the opposition to the Liberals’ austerity measures to the PQ, as exemplified by their call “From the streets, to the ballot box.ˮ Once in power, the PQ quickly implemented permanent university tuition fee hikes and budget cuts worse than those the preceding Liberal government of Jean Charest had sought to impose.

ASSE and the Spring 2015 committee today advocate the idea that the students can push these moribund bureaucratic apparatuses into “biting“ the capitalist hand that feeds them so lavishly.

This dangerous illusion is belied by the whole past experience, not to mention statements by the main parties involved. “We have agreed that each of us will look after our own respective affairs,” declared Quebec Federation of Labour President Daniel Boyer last week, when he joined the heads of the other union federations in ruling out any possibility that the half-million public sector workers whose contracts expire March 31 will join the striking students.

As so often in the past, the unions intend to keep the workers trapped in the straitjacket of collective bargaining. A legal strike—which the union officials invariably refer to as the “ultimate weapon” and which were it to be called would be quickly illegalized—has been put off to the fall, if not to 2016.

Greece and the bankruptcy of a nationalist opposition to the dictatorship of capital

As for the nationalism of the student leadership, it blocks the necessary turn of Quebec youth and workers to their most powerful allies—students and workers in the rest of Canada and the United States—and makes it impossible to draw any lessons from the social struggles taking place in the rest of the world, notably in Greece.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, the troika of the capitalist oligarchs (the IMF, EU and European Central Bank) has imposed on Greece a scorched-earth policy, devastating its economy and bringing about mass unemployment and the general impoverishment of working people. In this way, the troika has sought to set an example for the whole working class of Europe.

When in late January the Greek population elected a government supposedly against austerity, the international financial elite bluntly stated that they would not recognize the result and that the new Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) government must apply their program of social counterrevolution to the letter.

Faced with this predictable reply, Syriza, a party of the privileged middle classes that serves as a model for Québec Solidaire, abandoned all its election promises in record time and agreed to impose the severe austerity measures that it had claimed to oppose.

This is not because global capital cannot be fought, but because the national reformists of Syriza were implacably opposed to any challenge to capitalism and to any appeal to the working class of Europe, which has likewise been ravaged by austerity, for a common struggle against the troika and for a Workers’ Europe.

Prepare a political general strike

To students looking for a viable program on which to base the struggle against capitalist austerity, the IYSSE and Socialist Equality Party answer that another policy is possible and necessary—a socialist-internationalist policy based on the recognition that the profound objective contradictions wracking world capitalism can only find progressive resolution through the struggle for workers’ power.

The claim of bourgeois governments the world over that there is “no money” for health care, education and other basic social needs is a lie. But these resources can only be mobilized if the stranglehold big business exercises over social-economic life is broken and the world economy radically reorganized so that production and technology serve human needs, not the profits of a tiny capitalist minority.

Only one social class has the capacity to realize this revolutionary transformation. That is the working class.

In the first instance, this class must mobilize as an independent political force, uniting its diverse struggles in defense of public services, wages and jobs in a vast counteroffensive of French, English and immigrant workers throughout Canada.

Youth and workers should champion not a “social strike”—a protest movement aimed at appealing to the Quebec elite. Rather they should fight to prepare a political general strike of the entire working class, in defiance of the antiunion laws, and with the aim of bringing down the Couillard government and making the struggle against austerity in Quebec the spearhead of a movement of the working class across Canada, and throughout North America, for workers’ governments and the socialist reorganization of society.

The main obstacle to this path is the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy. The central task posed to the tens of thousands of students who will be on strike from March 23 is to support the workers in breaking out of the organizational and political straitjacket of the unions and taking the road of political struggle against capitalism.

Delegations of students must go to the subway stations, to workplaces and into working-class neighborhoods with the following message addressed to all workers: form rank-and-file committees independent of the unions, charged with mobilizing the working class against Couillard, Harper and the whole ruling elite, and fight for the independent political mobilization of the working class.

08 Mar


IYSSE at University of Minnesota Twin Cities

March 8, 2015 | By |

Weekly meetings every Tuesday from 7pm-9pm in Ralph Rapson Hall #15 (Lower Level)
89 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

04 Mar


IYSSE at San Diego State University

March 4, 2015 | By |

IYSSE at San Diego State University
Welcome to the San Diego State University (SDSU) Chapter of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality. Formed in 2008 at SDSU, the IYSSE fights for the revival of a socialist movement among young people throughout the country, as part of an international socialist movement of the entire working class. The IYSSE at SDSU has also organized rallies and protests on campus, including against US military intervention in Syria and in defense of public education.
Meeting time:
The SDSU chapter meets weekly on Tuesday at the newly constructed Aztec Student Union in the Visionary suite at 7:00pm.
Contact information
Anyone who would like more information can contact us through
Previous Events:
(The list of events is only a sample of the talks we have had since 2008)
•    The crisis in Ukraine: austerity, fascism and war
•    “Tsar to Lenin” Film Screening and Lecture
•    Lincoln: Equality and Revolution in America
•    Obama: Anatomy of a Right-Wing Presidency
•    The Enduring Significance of Marxism
•    Defend Edward Snowden!
•    Kony 2012: Humanitarianism of Imperialism?
•    Presidential Election and the Decay of American Democracy
•    The Syrian Crisis and the Response of the International Working Class
•    Leon Trotsky and the defense of historical truth
•    A Review of “In Defense of Marxism
•    Twenty-Five Years Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall
•    SYRIZA and the Significance of the Greek Elections

•    ISSE holds rally in San Diego in defense of public education
•    IYSSE holds anti-war rallies in San Diego and Berkeley, California

23 Feb


Oppose political censorship at Griffith University! by the IYSSE (Australia)

February 23, 2015 | By |

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) calls on all students to oppose the anti-democratic bans imposed by the Griffith University Clubs & Societies Office on the IYSSE, barring it from registering as a club on its Brisbane campuses, and from holding an orientation week stall.

This is a direct political attack on the IYSSE, which is the only organisation that advances an anti-war, socialist and internationalist perspective at Griffith University, and other universities across the country. It is also an assault on the basic democratic rights of students, including their right to decide for themselves which clubs to form and join.

On February 2, the IYSSE received an extraordinary email from Deb de Silva, Clubs Support Officer, Campus Life Clubs & Societies Office: “I’ve had a discussion with the Clubs Coordinator with regards to IYSSE’s attempt to start a club here at Griffith. Unfortunately, due to previous attempts, which proved unsuccessful in gaining student interest, we will not be proceeding further with this organisation registering as a student club. You can try to get a stall at O Week by contacting Please note that a fee will be required to be paid in order to come on to campus.”

This was followed by an email the same day from Alice Rozynski, the Events Coordinator, stating: “We have received the email from Deb in the Clubs Office in regards to having a stall at O-Week. Unfortunately due to limited space and full capacity, we have had to strictly close applications as we simply do not have the room for any more stalls.”

In other words, the Clubs & Societies and university management have arrogated to themselves the right to determine, in advance, that students—including all the new domestic and international students—will be blocked from joining an IYSSE club. Has any other club been banned in this way?

The political character of this censorship is clear from examining the record since the IYSSE first established a branch at Griffith University in 2013. Far from failing to “gain student interest,” the IYSSE submitted the required list of 15 members to Clubs & Societies last year and was granted provisional registration. The IYSSE has been the only political club on campus to hold regular information stalls (including during O Weeks) and advertised meetings—addressing the questions of war, social inequality and democratic rights that are of mounting concern to all young people.

In Orientation Week 2013, we held our inaugural meeting: “The global crisis of capitalism and the international socialist perspective of the IYSSE.” The next month, we screened From Tsar to Lenin, a famous documentary on the 1917 Russian Revolution. On August 15, we held a meeting on “Defend Edward Snowden! The socialist answer to the assault on democratic rights.” On September 26, we held another meeting: “No to war against Syria!” In 2014, we held a forum during O week, followed by a meeting on March 27: “The glorification of WWI and the preparations for WWIII.”

Then, when the IYSSE sought to book a room for another meeting last April—on “Ukraine, the dangers of fascism and war”—the Clubs & Societies Office suddenly declared, in an email sent on April 2, that the IYSSE was banned from booking meeting rooms because it was “a very political club.” The pretext offered was the former Labor government’s anti-democratic Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) legislation, which bars student services fees from being used to “support political parties.”

Again, far from failing to “gain student interest,” the IYSSE launched a campaign that won decisive support from students, forcing the university management to back down. In our April 4 statement and leaflet entitled “ Defend the democratic rights of Griffith University students! ” we exposed the fraud of the university’s pretext: “The administration is justifying its position on the absurd ground that if a political club like the IYSSE holds a meeting in a lecture theatre or tutorial room on the campus, this is equivalent to a student organisation using SSAF funds to make financial donations to a political party or election candidate—which, in any event, it should also be able to do!”

In that statement, the IYSSE explained that university managements nationally were turning to the SSAF legislation to “manufacture pseudo-legal justifications” to suppress any student club activities aimed at clarifying the underlying causes behind the drive to war, austerity and elimination of democratic rights.

That warning has been confirmed by the current attack, which is specifically aimed against the IYSSE. After overturning last year’s ban on booking rooms, which forced us to hold a meeting outside the library, we held two further meetings off-campus last year, the first on the renewed US-led war in Iraq and Syria and the second on “Why have Australia’s parliamentary parties all signed up for war?”

Students should consider the conditions under which the bans have been imposed on the IYSSE. Not only is the Australian government slashing budget spending on education, health and other social services, it is pushing through laws to permit mass on-line surveillance, stepping up its involvement in the Middle East war and placing Australia on the frontline of US confrontations with Russia and China.

Young people are also being subjected to a barrage of pro-war propaganda. As the centenary of the invasion of Gallipoli by Australian and allied forces during World War I approaches, the government and the media are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to “celebrate” that disastrous war, as a means of cultivating nationalism and militarism.

Griffith University is facilitating this pro-war campaign. While the IYSSE has been denied an O Week stall, the military has been invited onto campus to hold a recruitment barbeque on March 17. Students have been invited to: “Come along, enjoy a sausage sizzle, find out about the wide range of careers in the Australian Defence Force.” This is part of a saturation media campaign promoting the military as an attractive career option in the face of mounting youth unemployment.

The bans on the IYSSE have not been withdrawn, despite an IYSSE email to Clubs & Societies last Friday opposing the political censorship and stating that the IYSSE would campaign among students against it. In reply, Wade Hurst, the Clubs Coordinator and Student Representative Council Liaison Officer, claimed that the IYSSE had failed “five or six times” to attend a club sign-on day, “in the hope of forming a club,” and declared: “As other organisations (including corporate and not for profits) pay for a stall on these [O Week] markets, it is not fair for them to be charged but others not.”

The record is that the IYSSE held O Week stalls in 2013 and 2014, as well as numerous information stalls throughout both years. It was on that basis that we obtained provisional registration last year. In any case, what gives the Clubs Coordinator the right to arbitrarily set a limit on how many times a club can seek registration? The priority given to fee-paying “corporate and not for profit” organisations over the IYSSE’s democratic right to hold a stall speaks volumes about the pro-business orientation of Clubs & Societies.

We urge all students to insist that the Griffith University authorities retract their anti-democratic bans on the IYSSE, and we call on all students who agree with our political perspective to sign up as members of the IYSSE today.

20 Feb


IYSSE at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin)

February 20, 2015 | By |

Bundesregierung  gründet  neues  Osteuropa-Institut

Noch in diesem Jahr wird die Bundesregierung ein Institut zur wissenschaftlichen Erforschung des postsowjetischen Raums gründen. Das Vorhaben ist Teil der neuen deutschen Außenpolitik und ihrer geostrategischen Ausrichtung nach Osteuropa.

Ziel des Instituts ist es nach einem Bericht des Tagesspiegel, Entwicklungen im postsowjetischen Raum zu analysieren und Entscheidungsträger zu beraten. Dabei gehe es nicht um Grundlagenforschung, sondern um „anwendungsbezogenes Wissen“ – ein kaum verhohlener Begriff dafür, dass das Institut eine neue Denkfabrik für die aggressive deutsche Außenpolitik in Osteuropa werden soll.

Gegenüber der Nachrichtenagentur Reuters gab das Auswärtige Amt ausdrücklich an, die Gründung des Instituts sei eine unmittelbare Reaktion auf die Krise in der Ukraine. Es sei „ein wichtiges Anliegen des Außenministers, die Osteuropa-Kompetenz in Deutschland zu stärken. Dies gilt umso mehr mit der Zeitenwende der Beziehungen zu Russland mit der russischen Annexion der Krim. Deshalb ist das ein wichtiges Projekt,“ zitiert Reuters aus dem Umfeld Frank-Walter Steinmeiers.

Zum Artikel

German  government  to  establish  Eastern  Europe  Institute

The German government plans to open an academic institute that will be tasked with researching the region of the former Soviet Union. This plan is integral to the aggressive reorientation of German foreign policy and its geostrategic aims in eastern Europe.

The goal of the institute is to analyse developments in the post-Soviet areas and advise decision makers, according to an account in the Tagesspiegel. Its purpose will not be pure research, but “application-oriented knowledge”—a thinly veiled reference to the real intended purpose of the institute, which will serve as a think tank for an aggressive German foreign policy in eastern Europe.

The Foreign Office explicitly told the news agency Reuters that the founding of the institute was an immediate reaction to the crisis in Ukraine. “Strengthening our understanding of Eastern Europe has been a top priority of the foreign minister. This is all the more important given the paradigm shift in our relations with Russia since the annexation of Crimea,” a source close to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Read more

18 Feb


No to war and austerity! Join the International Youth and Students for Social Equality! (Australia)

February 18, 2015 | By |

As students and young people begin the New Year in 2015, they face a growing propaganda campaign by the political and media establishment aimed at glorifying militarism and war, as well as an escalating assault on the right to an education and to a decent, well-paid job.

The approach of Anzac Day, which marks the hundredth anniversary of the allied invasion of Gallipoli in 1915, is being accompanied by a truly nauseating deluge of war propaganda, including television mini-series, books, plays and public events, to “celebrate” Australia’s role in World War I. More money will be spent in Australia to commemorate the war than in France, Germany and Britain combined.

At the same time, the spectre of terrorism has been placed at the centre of Australian political life. Last December, the Abbott government, with the full support of the media, the Labor opposition and the Greens, exploited a hostage incident at a Sydney café by elevating it to the status of a national terrorist emergency. This occurred within the context of a series of widely-publicised police “anti-terror” raids, in which dubious evidence has been used to stoke paranoia and anti-Muslim chauvinism. A fabricated “threat to the nation” has been invoked as the all-embracing justification for Australia’s participation in the US-led war in Iraq and Syria, and for new legislation that increases police powers and strips away democratic rights.

Students face being forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a university degree, under the Liberal government’s education “reforms,” which followed on the heels of those imposed by Gillard’s Labor government. Murdoch’s flagship national newspaper, the Australian, summed up the attitude in ruling circles in an editorial last month, which declared that universities were “over-educating” students, who would not be able to get decent jobs anyway. In the eyes of the financial elite, public education is an intolerable and unnecessary burden on profits. Thus the future being offered to hundreds of thousands of young people is either low-paid, dead-end casual and part-time work or permanent unemployment.

One can only understand the origin of these attacks on the basis of an analysis of global economic and geo-strategic processes.

All of the great problems that confront the present generation of young people stem directly from the deep-going crisis of the capitalist system. One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, and 75 years since the end of World War II, the same contradictions of world capitalism—between a globally integrated economy, on the one hand, and the continued existence of rival and competing nation states, on the other—threaten to plunge mankind into an even greater catastrophe.

The ruling class and its political representatives internationally have responded to the 2008 global financial crisis and subsequent economic breakdown with two interconnected policies. Domestically, governments around the world have sought to protect the wealth of the capitalist elite through a series of savage austerity measures aimed at the jobs, wages and social rights of the working class and youth—including the right to education and health care. This has already led to staggering and unprecedented levels of social inequality. According to the latest report by Oxfam, just 80 individuals now control the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion people, or half the world’s population.

In foreign policy, all the major powers, above all the United States, are seeking to place the burden of the crisis on the backs of their rivals, leading to heightened international tensions and the danger of a Third World War.

The US and Russia, two nuclear-armed powers, stand on the brink of war as a result of the aggressive attempt by NATO to transform Ukraine into a military staging post against Russia. Last month, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt declared: “Unfortunately, war with Russia is conceivable.”

As a result of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”—which involves a diplomatic, military and economic encirclement of China—the Asia-Pacific region has been transformed into a tinderbox of military flashpoints. In the Middle East, two decades of US-led wars, regime-change operations, intrigues and economic sanctions have turned Iraq and Syria into a cauldron of sectarian tensions that threatens to engulf the entire region in war.

Australia is at the very centre of US war plans against China. Under agreements signed by the Gillard-Rudd Labor governments, US marines are now stationed in Darwin, while the country’s naval and air bases have been opened to US military forces. Joint US-Australian spy bases form a critical component of global US military operations. The Australian Financial Review commented last month that Beijing and Washington “now spend considerable time thinking about the war with each other. From a Chinese perspective, Australia is not so much hosting US military bases, but is a virtual American base in its own right.”

The vast majority of the population is deeply opposed to war. That is why immense resources are being devoted to promoting militarist propaganda and nationalism, particularly among young people. The aim of the ongoing WWI celebrations is to indoctrinate them with the notion that sacrificing one’s life for the “defense of the nation” is the pinnacle of human endeavor. The real aims of the imperialist slaughter, which was fought on all sides for control of markets, resources and colonies, are being concealed.

Fear of political opposition also lies behind the accelerating assault on democratic rights and the build-up of the intelligence, military and police apparatus. The brutal response in the US to the protests against the police killing of a young man in Ferguson, Missouri, was part of advanced preparations for authoritarian forms of rule.

In Australia, a critical role in facilitating the militarist and austerity agenda of the financial and corporate elite is being played by petty bourgeois fake-left parties that falsely portray themselves as “socialist”—such as Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party. These groups have justified the US-led wars and regime-change operations in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, with the lie that they are “democratic revolutions” from “below.” They demonise China as an expansionist imperialist power, while covering up for the real imperialist aggressors—the US and Australia.

The pseudo-lefts seek to prevent any struggle by workers and young people against capitalism by subordinating them to the Labor Party, the Greens and the trade unions and fostering the delusion that these organisations can be pressured to represent the interests of the working class. In Greece, Socialist Alternative’s co-thinkers are part of the newly-elected Syriza government which came to power by exploiting mass hostility in the population to poverty and mass unemployment. In the three weeks since, Syriza has already junked its election promises and pledged to maintain the austerity agenda of its predecessors.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) is a world movement of students and young people, committed to building an international anti-war movement to fight the rising danger of war, austerity and dictatorship. We seek to orient young people to the working class, the only revolutionary social force in modern society, and the struggle to build within that class a new revolutionary socialist leadership.

Critical to the development of such a movement is an understanding of the lessons of history—most importantly, of the strategic experiences of the international working class throughout the twentieth century.

The greatest of all these experiences was the 1917 Russian Revolution and the struggle for socialist internationalism, which was carried forward by Leon Trotsky and the movement he founded, the Fourth International, against the falsifications and betrayals of Stalin and the parasitic bureaucracy he headed.

The IYSSE will be holding forums and classes on campuses throughout the country to discuss the historical significance of the Russian Revolution, which was the conscious response of the Russian working class, led by the Bolshevik Party, to the contradictions wracking world capitalism and their expression in the slaughter of World War I. We will answer the lie, endlessly promoted in the media and throughout academia, that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 represented the final triumph of capitalism and the failure of socialism. In reality, it represented the collapse of the nationalist program advanced by Stalin, and was the harbinger of the collapse of all nationalist programs and parties, now underway in every country.

The IYSSE will bring to students and youth the political analysis published each day by the World Socialist Web Site (, the publication of our world party, the International Committee of the Fourth International. The WSWS is unique in presenting a genuine Marxist assessment of developments in politics, economics, workers and students’ struggles, culture and the arts, history, philosophy and science.

We urge you to join the IYSSE. Where there is not yet a club on your campus, contact us about establishing one. Become involved today in the building of a movement of students and youth devoted to the fight to unify the international working class, on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program, to end war, social inequality and repression.

02 Feb


Berlin IYSSE protests Professor Jörg Baberowski’s suppression of democratic discussion at Humboldt University

February 2, 2015 | By |

The letter published below has been sent by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality to the University Board of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Dear Professors Jan-Hendrik Olbertz and Michael Seadle:

On February 12, Professor Jörg Baberowski used authoritarian methods to suppress discussion at a colloquium held at the Humboldt University on the biography of Trotsky by Robert Service. His behavior throws into question basic democratic rights and fundamental academic freedoms at the Humboldt University.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at the Humboldt University call upon the University Board to censure Professor Jörg Baberowski’s abuse of his authority.

Baberowski had invited Service to a colloquium of the Department of History of Eastern Europe to which, according to the History Department’s web site, “all interested parties are warmly welcome.” But after the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG—Socialist Equality Party) and the IYSSE distributed leaflets and organized a well-attended meeting pointing out that Service’s biography of Trotsky had been described by a leading journal and internationally recognized historians as a “piece of hack work,” Baberowski responded with measures normally associated with a police state.

Baberowski (in green jacket) and his security detail bar David North from entering the seminar

To prevent any critical questions being asked of Service, Baberowski cancelled without advance notice the colloquium. No reason was given for this action. Moreover, those who had come to the officially announced location were treated in a completely dishonest manner. The public was not told that the meeting had been moved to another location. The new address was revealed only to a small number of associates and students of Baberowski, none of whom was likely to raise any objections to Service’s hack work.

However, when the new address of the meeting became known, several members of the public made their way to the new location—a room within the main building of the University. There, they were confronted with an extraordinary scene.

Professor Baberowski stood at the entrance to the meeting room, flanked by security personnel. Every member of the public was interrogated by Baberowski, who demanded to know who they were and why they were attending the meeting.

In flagrant violation of freedom of speech and opinion, Baberowski imposed political criteria to determine who would be allowed to attend a publicly announced meeting that was being held on the premises of the university. Anyone whom Baberowski suspected of harboring differences with Service was not allowed to enter the university meeting room.

Those denied entry included David North, the chairman of the American Socialist Equality Party. North, who has been a leading figure in the international socialist movement for 40 years, is the author of In Defense of Leon Trotsky, an internationally acclaimed book that exposed the errors and falsifications in Service’s biography. When North identified himself, Baberowski shouted rude anti-communist insults and threatened to call the police.

Professor Mario Kessler of the University of Potsdam, an internationally recognized historian, who, together with 13 other historians, had written an open letter protesting the publication of the German edition of Service’s biography of Trotsky, was also barred entry. A number of Humboldt University students who had attended the IYSSE event dealing with Service’s biography were also prevented from attending the meeting.

The behavior of Baberowski was a shocking violation of democratic procedures and the tradition of free and open discussion at public meetings at the university. There had been no threats to disrupt the event.

The Partei für Soziale Gleichheit had published its objections to Service’s biography, and even sent him a list of questions to facilitate the discussion. In two letters to Baberowski, the PSG had given an assurance that it would “of course, respect the framework of the colloquium.” Moreover, members of Baberowski’s department had attended the IYSSE meeting just four days earlier and were allowed to ask any questions without any restrictions.

Baberowski’s authoritarian measures were aimed exclusively at suppressing criticism of Service’s discredited biography. An atmosphere of intimidation prevailed at the colloquium, to which only 30 participants were admitted. It took place in a bunker-like room, whose doors were locked from inside, with several security guards posted outside. When, despite all these precautions, a critical question was raised, Baberowski told the questioner to stop talking!

Baberowski’s behavior was an attack on democratic rights and violated all the norms of appropriate conduct at an academic institution. The only reason for his exclusion of students and historians from his meeting was the fact that they had criticized a book!

Baberowski wanted to ensure that Service’s discredited work would not be challenged, and to this end launched an assault on free expression at the university. With his action, Baberowski has created a precedent for political censorship.

In his most recent book, Verbrannte Erde (Scorched Earth), Baberowski maintains that the source of the ruthless Stalinist regime is to be found in the dictator’s psychology. However, an examination of Baberowski’s own behavior provides a far clearer insight into the source of political violence. The aim of the Stalinist dictatorship was the suppression of ideas that challenged the regime. This is an ambition that Professor Baberowski is well suited to understand. When he is challenged by ideas that he does not like and cannot answer, Baberowski resorts to censorship, security guards and threats to call the police.

A leaflet circulated by the IYSSE among students asked the question: “Why has Professor Baberowski invited Robert Service to Humboldt University?” This question can now be answered. Baberowski is utilizing his position at the university to advance the notorious right-wing conceptions of Ernst Nolte, who for three decades has been associated with writings that seek to relativize and diminish the significance of Nazi crimes.

On February 10, the news magazine Der Spiegel published a lengthy article by Dirk Kurbjuwelt dealing with attempts to rewrite German history. Baberowski, an ardent defender of Nolte’s views, plays a prominent role in this campaign. He is quoted by Der Spiegel saying: “Hitler was no psychopath, and he wasn’t vicious. He didn’t want people to talk about the extermination of the Jews at his table.”

In Der Spiegel, Baberowski explicitly defends Nolte. “Nolte was done an injustice,” he told the news magazine. “Historically speaking, he was right.”

But in what regard, one must ask, was Nolte “right?” Der Spiegel quotes statements from the now 91-year-old Nolte that are normally associated with neo-Nazi publications. He stated:

“I am more and more convinced that we should attach more weight to the role played by the Poles and the British than is usually the case. Hitler did not want to wage war for war’s sake, as is often claimed. He would have liked to enter into an anti-Soviet alliance with the Poles. His claims against Poland were not ‘national socialist.’ Rather, they dated back to the days of the Weimar Republic. If the Polish government had sent a negotiator, as Hitler wanted, and had agreed to the ‘Weimar’ demands to return Gdansk to the German Reich and to establish extraterritorial road and rail connections through the ‘corridor,’ Hitler would not have invaded Poland.”

Nolte accuses Jews of co-responsibility for Auschwitz because some Bolsheviks were Jews and therefore had their “own share of the ‘gulag.’” Der Spiegel states bluntly that such claims “have long been an argument of anti-Semites.”

We leave you to draw your own political conclusions.

Service’s mendacious hack work fits into this picture. In order to lessen the guilt of the Nazis, the Russian October Revolution is denounced as a criminal act, and Trotsky, the most important Marxist opponent of Stalin, is demonized.

The attempts to establish a historically false narrative come at a critical point in German history. Such efforts should be seen in the context of recent statements by President Joachim Gauck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that it is now time to end decades of military restraint in Germany. The revival of German militarism requires a new interpretation of history that downplays the crimes of the Nazi era.

A specific policy requires specific means. Baberowski’s behavior on February 12 has shown that such a revision of history can be achieved only through intimidation and the suppression of dissent.

Baberowski’s attack on basic democratic rights and academic freedom serves the aims of those forces who would like to transform the Humboldt University into a center for right-wing and militaristic propaganda. It is well known that Baberowski has close links with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which is an academic center of right-wing politics in the United States.

Students have no desire to see Humboldt University transformed into a sort of “Hoover Institution on the Spree.” They want the university to remain a center of scientific and academic discourse, rather than a right-wing think tank that muzzles all critical opinions.

Professor Baberowski should be called to order. It is impermissible that democratic rights and free academic debate should be treated with disdain at a university named after a leading representative of the Enlightenment and located just a few dozen meters from the square where the Nazis burned books in 1933.

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Weber, on behalf of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality