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16 Apr


Oppose Indian government’s witch-hunt of JNU students

April 16, 2016 | By |

By the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (Sri Lanka)
7 April 2016

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) calls on youth and workers in India, across South Asia and internationally to oppose the witch-hunt India’s Hindu Supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is mounting against students at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) whom it claims raised “anti-national” slogans.

The state repression at JNU is aimed at criminalizing dissent. It is part of the government’s preparations to answer opposition from workers, the rural poor and students to its pro-investor “reforms” and its lining up behind US imperialism’s war preparations against China with state violence and communal reaction.

JNU Student President Kanhaiya Kumar and two other students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, have been charged with sedition—meaning they could be jailed for life—for their role in a February 9 protest marking three years since the judicial murder of Afzal Guru. A Kashmiri Muslim, Guru was framed up by Indian authorities for the December 2001 terrorist attack on India’s parliament.

At the government’s behest, the JNU administration is also targeting Kumar, Khalid and Bhattacharaya, along with 18 other students, for harsh discipline, including possible expulsion from the university.

The attack on the JNU students has been spearheaded by the highest levels of the BJP government. Home Minister Rajnath Singh instructed the Delhi police to raid JNU and arrest Kumar after receiving “complaints” from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the BJP’s close ally, the fascistic RSS. Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, the minister directly responsible for India’s universities, has been demanding university administrations crack down on “anti-national” elements, while promoting a pamphlet edited by BJP Vice President Balbir Punj, Communists and Jihadists at Work in JNU.

Last year Irani pressured Hyderabad University to strip PhD student Rohith Vemula of his fellowship after he screened a documentary film that exposed the BJP’s role in provoking communal violence against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. The government-backed victimization of Vemula rendered him destitute and led directly to his taking his own life in January.

Citing the JNU events, Irani is now calling for India’s national universities to be compelled to hire military “instructors” to teach “patriotism.”

The government’s case against the JNU students is a transparent, politically motivated frame-up. Video footage that reputedly shows students at the Feb. 9 JNU protest raising “pro-Pakistan” slogans and which the corporate media disseminated widely has been shown to have been doctored.

More fundamentally, the notion of state-proscribed “anti-national” speech violates the most elementary democratic principles and must be vigorously opposed.

It goes hand in hand with the BJP’s promotion of a bellicose, Hindu communalist-laced Indian nationalism. During their 23 months in office Primer Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government have systematically intervened to place Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideologues in charge of the country’s educational, cultural and scientific organizations, while excusing or downplaying violence against Muslims and other minorities.

State Repression and Communal Reaction

The Modi government’s witch-hunt of the JNU students is part of a turn to authoritarian methods of rule and stoking of social reaction whose principal target is the working class and rural toilers.

Battered by the global capitalist crisis, the Indian bourgeoisie brought the self-styled “Hindu strongman” Modi and his BJP to power to pursue social incendiary neo-liberal reforms aimed at wooing international capital. Continuing on from the previous Congress Party-led government, Modi has slashed social spending, cut price-subsidies and accelerated privatization. But this has only whetted big business’s appetite for even more unpopular measures—the gutting of labour law restrictions on layoffs and plant closures, easy access for industrialists and developers to cheap agricultural land, and the shifting of an even greater share of the taxation burden onto working people through a regressive Goods and Services Tax (GST).

As it conspires with big business to implement these measures, the Modi government is transforming India, behind the backs of the population, into a “frontline” ally of Washington in its strategic offensive and war preparations against China. By acting as satraps for US imperialism, the Indian bourgeoisie hopes to realize its own predatory great power ambitions, in the first instance securing regional dominance in South Asia

This ultra-reactionary agenda cannot be implemented peacefully. The Indian elite’s rhetoric about “high growth” cannot hide the reality. India is more socially unequal than ever. While a handful gorge on the profits of the past quarter-century of capitalist expansion, the overwhelming majority are condemned to poverty, hunger and economic insecurity.

By labelling its opponents as “anti-national,” the BJP government seeks to legitimize their state suppression. By stoking Hindu communalism, it seeks to incite reaction and divide the working class.

Globally, under conditions of capitalist breakdown, the ruling classes around the world are adopting similar methods. Everywhere the phony “war on terror” has been used to justify a massive expansion of the repressive apparatus of the state and sweeping attacks on democratic rights. Meanwhile, the bourgeois elites sponsor parties and politicians who promote bellicose nationalism, like Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, and rail against refugees, immigrants and minorities, as exemplified by Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the US Republican presidential nomination.

The Stalinist CPI and CPM and the political suppression of the working class

Social deprivation, the attacks on democratic rights, the Indian elite’s complicity in US imperialism’s bloody and reckless drive to maintain global supremacy, the growth of communal reaction—all speak to the urgency of the Indian working class advancing its own socialist solution to the failure of capitalism and in opposition to the entire bourgeois political establishment.

However, the response of the Stalinist parties—the Communist Party of India Marxist or CPM and the Communist Party of India (CPI)—has been just the opposite.

They have redoubled their efforts to chain the working class to the Indian political establishment and state.

JNU Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar is a leader of the CPI’s student group, the All India Student Federation (AISF). On the instructions of the CPI leadership, Kumar has repeatedly voiced his confidence in the institutions of the Indian state, including its courts and army, and advocated allying with the Congress Party, the Indian bourgeoisie’s traditional party of government, to defend “democracy” and “secularism.”

In fact the Congress has a decades-long record of conniving with the Hindu right, to say nothing of violently suppressing the struggles of the working class. Indeed even as it was claiming to oppose the witch-hunt of the JNU students, the Congress was pressing for the suspension of a Muslim legislator from the Maharashtra state assembly because he had refused to shout the slogan, “Victory for Mother India.”

Citing the need to defeat the BJP and a sometime BJP ally, the Trinamool Congress, the CPM-led Left Front is now jointly contesting the West Bengal state election with the Congress and hoping post-election to form a coalition government with it.

For the past quarter-century, the Stalinists have justified supporting a string of right-wing governments at the Center, most of them Congress-led, on the grounds that this was the only means of blocking the Hindu supremacist BJP from power. The result of the Stalinists’ unrelenting drive to politically smother the working class, tying it to governments that have pursued neo-liberal reform and a strategic partnership with US imperialism, is that today the BJP has a parliamentary majority for the first time ever.

A second and very much related element in the Stalinists’ response to the repression at JNU and the BJP’s labelling of their opponents as “anti-national” has been the CPI and CPMs’ full-throated campaign to promote themselves as the foremost defenders of what they call the true “progressive” Indian nationalist tradition.

In reality Indian nationalism is and has always been an ideological weapon of the Indian bourgeoisie, a means for it to mask its rule and harness the masses to its selfish class aims.

Terrified that the struggle against British colonial rule would escape their control, the “progressive nationalists” of the Congress, led by M.K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, suppressed the anti-imperialist upsurge that had convulsed the subcontinent in the first half the 20th century. In 1947-48, they struck a deal with British imperialism under which they inherited the colonial state apparatus and implemented the communal partition of South Asia into a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu India. Not only did this produce a horrendous bloodletting, with more than 1 million killed in Partition massacres, and more than 10 million rendered refugees: It gave rise to the reactionary inter-state conflict between India and Pakistan and transformed communalism within India into an indispensable prop of bourgeois rule.

Leon Trotsky and the program of socialist internationalism

It is high time for Indian workers and youth to draw a balance sheet of the ruinous role of the Stalinists parties in India and around the world.

The reactionary politics of the CPM and CPI flow inexorably from their common Stalinist roots, from their support for the privileged bureaucracy that usurped power from the Russian working class in the 1920s, renounced the program of world socialist revolution, and, under the banner of “socialism in one country,” pursued accommodation with world imperialism. In line with this in India, and other countries of belated capitalist development, the Stalinists advocated the “two-stage theory” of revolution, claiming that socialism was not on the historical agenda and that the working class could do no more than support the “progressive” section of the national bourgeoisie in opposing imperialism and “feudal reaction.”

For decades the twin Stalinist parties have functioned as an integral part of the bourgeois establishment, including administering the capitalist state apparatus for long periods in West Bengal and Kerala. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union by the bureaucracy under Gorbachev in 1991 and the Indian bourgeoisie’s abandonment of state-led development, the CPM and CPI have lurched still further to the right. They have fully supported the ruling class drive to make India a haven for cheap-labour production for world capitalism, pursuing wherever the “Left” has formed the government what they themselves call pro-investor policies.

Leon Trotsky, with Lenin the co-leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, fought tooth and nail against the Stalinist bureaucracy, upholding the program of international socialism. It is to this program, today embodied in the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) and its internet organ, the World Socialist Web Site, that Indian youth and workers should now turn.

The BJP’s anti-working class and communalist agenda can only be defeated though the independent political mobilization of the working class in an alliance with the rural poor on the basis of a socialist program to establish a workers’ and peasants’ government in India, as part of the struggle for the United Socialist States of South Asia.

The Indian bourgeoisie’s alliance with US imperialism in its war drive against China underscores the urgency of building an anti-war movement of the international working class on the basis of international socialism.

These are the tasks confronting the working class, students and other young people in contemporary India.

The IYSSE is the youth organization of the ICFI which is fighting to build revolutionary Marxist-Trotskyist parties in every country. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI, and the IYSSE (Sri Lanka) are eager to offer their unstinting support to all those ready to take up the fight to build a revolutionary party of the Indian working class.

As a first step, join the ICFI’s International May Day rally, Sunday, May 1.

16 Apr


Oppose the drive to war, austerity and the assault on democratic rights!

April 16, 2016 | By |

As protests take place at a number of campuses across Australia today, students and young people confront a world in the midst of a major crisis of global capitalism, which poses critical political questions.

Governments internationally are responding to the greatest economic breakdown since the 1930s with a program of militarism and war that has created flashpoints for a new global conflict. At the same time, they are carrying out, on behalf of the corporate and financial elites, a social counter-revolution aimed at destroying publicly-funded healthcare, education and social services and the decimation of the jobs, wages and social conditions of the working class. Amid mounting opposition to this agenda, authoritarian methods of rule are being developed. The police-state measures introduced over the past 15 years, in the name of the fraudulent “war on terror” are increasingly being directed against social opposition at home.

None of these issues will be discussed at today’s rally. Nor have they been so much as mentioned by its organisers in the National Union of Students (NUS). After years of single-issue protests and “days of action” held by the NUS and other student groups, students need to draw some serious lessons. What have these demonstrations accomplished? How have they prepared young people to fight against war or the drive to completely corporatise universities, or any of the other burning issues we face?

The answer is clear from the declared purpose of today’s rallies. Once again, the NUS is promoting the utter fraud that the election of a Labor government, supported by the Greens, will halt the assault on higher education. The NUS is completely silent on the fact that it was the Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard that carried out some of the deepest cuts to universities in history, and prepared the ground for the Coalition government’s drive to deregulate university fees.

It was the Gillard Labor government that in 2012 deregulated course enrollments and uncapped the number of places universities could offer to students, resulting in ever-greater competition for student enrollments and the abolition of “unprofitable degrees.” In its 2013 budget, the Labor government introduced the largest ever single cut to university funding—$2.3 billion. Between 2011 and 2013, Labor cut a total $6.6 billion from higher education and research. These measures were a continuation of a decades-long, bipartisan drive to transform universities into for-profit entities—initiated through the reintroduction of university fees by the Hawke-Keating Labor governments from 1983 to 1996.

At the last series of major demonstrations, the NUS did everything it could to suppress any discussion of Labor’s record. While inviting prominent Labor and Greens politicians to posture as opponents of the Abbott government’s cuts to higher education, the NUS blocked representatives of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) from speaking, in order to prevent students from hearing a genuine socialist perspective to fight the university cuts.

Since then, the corporatisation of higher education has proceeded apace, with the University of Sydney, Monash University and university administrations across the country outlining sweeping pro-business restructurings. The ever-greater dependence of university budgets on endowments from wealthy patrons, and on corporate sponsorship, has been accompanied by the evisceration of fundamental democratic rights on campuses. And the student unions are playing the key role in enforcing this agenda.

At the University of Melbourne, the Clubs and Societies Committee of the student union has refused to affiliate our IYSSE club four times in the last two years. Last month, the committee effectively banned the IYSSE. Why? Because we defended the principle that all students should be able to form clubs of their choice, without interference from any union or university body. And the NUS itself has done absolutely nothing to oppose this attack on the University of Melbourne IYSSE, or similar measures against our clubs at other universities across Australia. In other words, they are complicit in the establishment of a dangerous precedent, which poses before all student clubs the prospect of arbitrary and politically-motivated proscriptions and bans.

The attacks on the IYSSE take place in the context of a state-campaign to indoctrinate young people with pro-war sentiment, through the glorification of militarism and the rewriting of history. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the government on a celebration of the centenary of World War I, extending into every area of life, including the universities and even primary schools. Last year, the University of Sydney banned the Socialist Equality Party and the IYSSE from holding a meeting on campus over the Anzac Day weekend, entitled “Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III.” The meeting opposed the orgy of militarist propaganda and put forward a socialist perspective against the danger of war.

The University of Sydney ban was aimed at preventing mass anti-war sentiment among students, workers and young people from finding any organised expression. This year, less than two weeks away from Anzac Day, the government, the universities and every official institution is once again preparing to bombard the population with the lie that Australian participation in World War I—an imperialist bloodbath, fought by the various powers for resources, profits and geo-strategic advantage—was a heroic and “nation-building” development.

Underlying this campaign is Australia’s complete integration into the US preparations for war against China. While the Labor Party, the Greens, the unions and the pseudo-left organisations such as Socialist Alternative and Solidarity maintain a conspiracy of silence, extensive basing arrangements have already been established and hundreds of billions of dollars dedicated to military spending, to place the country on a war footing. In Canberra and in Washington, government-connected think tanks openly discuss plans for Australia to impose a naval blockade of shipping routes that pass through Indonesia, in the event of a US attack on China. More and more, they are discussing “thinking the unthinkable”—i.e., waging nuclear war.

The only means of preventing such a catastrophe, and halting all of the horrors of the moribund capitalist system, including the abolition of the right to education, is through the development of a revolutionary, socialist movement of the working class—the only social force that has no interest in the capitalist nation-state system, which inevitably leads to war, or in the private ownership of society’s resources by a tiny parasitic corporate and financial elite.

Such a struggle can only go forward on the basis of an international perspective. Young people, whether they live in the United States, Europe, China, Australia or any other part of the world, confront a future of war, poverty, and joblessness under the present social order.

The IYSSE, the student and youth section of the world Trotskyist movement, fights to unify the struggles of the working class and of students and young people across national borders, against the capitalist profit system itself, on the program of world socialism—the establishment of a global, planned economy to end the scourge of war and place society’s resources under the democratic control of the working class—the vast majority—to provide free, high quality education, healthcare, childcare and other essential social services for all.

We call on all students who want to fight against war and austerity cuts, and defend democratic rights, to join the IYSSE and build an IYSSE club on every campus around the country.

22 Mar


A socialist program to fight war, austerity and dictatorship!

March 22, 2016 | By |

By the IYSSE (Australia)
22 February 2016

As 2016 begins, young people in Australia and around the world confront the mounting threat of war, an increasingly desperate social crisis, another financial collapse with even greater repercussions than that of 2007–8, and the erosion of fundamental democratic rights. Governments around the world are responding to the deepest crisis of the world capitalist system since the 1930s with criminal military interventions that have created flashpoints for a global conflict in every part of the globe.

The Middle East, having been decimated by 15 years of US-led invasions and occupations is the scene of a new predatory military operation in Syria and Iraq involving virtually all of the major powers. Millions of refugees fleeing the carnage are being met by barbed-wire fences and police-state violence, reminiscent of the horrors of World War Two. In Eastern Europe, the US is spearheading a confrontation with the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin, which has already led to a bloody civil war in Ukraine and poses the threat of nuclear war.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Obama administration is carrying out a massive military build-up directed against China.

Behind the backs of the population, the entire political establishment—Labor, the Liberals, the Greens and their pseudo-left adjuncts in groups such as Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance—has signed-up to Washington’s preparations for war against China, in defiance of the anti-war sentiment among the vast majority of workers and young people.

In 2011, Julia Gillard’s Labor government struck a military deal with the Obama administration, aligning Australia with the so-called “pivot to Asia”, boosting ties between the two country’s military forces and establishing a new US marine base in Darwin. Every government since then—under Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull—has placed military expansion at the very centre of its agenda.

Washington now insists that Canberra participate in its provocative challenges to Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea—provocations that could trigger armed conflict. In preparation for war, the Australian establishment is devoting ever greater resources to acquiring new submarines, warships and aircraft. A report published last month by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, commissioned by the US Department of Defense, declared that the US and its allies in Asia, particularly Australia, needed to be ready to “fight tonight.” It stated: “As Australia’s own influence expands and Australia’s geopolitical position becomes more central to US strategy, Washington’s expectations of Canberra are growing.”

Young people must be clear: our generation confronts the stark alternative outlined by the great revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg following the outbreak of World War One—either socialism or barbarism. The same inherent contradictions of the capitalist system—above all, between a globally integrated economy and the division of the world into antagonistic nation-states—that led to two world wars last century, have created the conditions for a Third World War, which would inevitably involve nuclear weapons.

The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), and its youth movement, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), are fighting to build a socialist anti-war movement of the international working class aimed at averting such a catastrophe. As students and youth, we are being placed on the frontlines of a new global conflict and have definite historic responsibilities in this struggle. To halt the relapse into imperialist barbarism we must be at the forefront of the fight to politically educate and mobilise the great social power of the working class to overthrow the source of war, the capitalist profit system itself.

The ruling elites are well aware that masses of workers and young people are deeply opposed to war. That is why the entire political establishment has been whipping-up an atmosphere of nationalist patriotism, promoting militarism, the demonisation of refugees and the vilification of Muslims.

At the same time, state and federal governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to “celebrate” the centenary of World War I. Everything is being done to obscure the predatory character of these wars, which were aimed at securing resources, markets and profits for the imperialist powers, including Australia. Instead, in a flagrant campaign of historical falsification that extends into primary and secondary schools, Australian participation in the two world wars of the last century, and a host of other military adventures, is being whitewashed as the defence of “democracy,” and the celebration of “mateship” and the “Australian spirit.” Nationalist myths are being promoted through the publication of pro-war “history” books and biographies and the regular staging of public “commemorations.”

That the ICFI, the Socialist Equality Party and IYSSE alone oppose this militarist campaign was underscored by the extraordinary attempts of the Burwood Labor council and the University of Sydney (USYD) last year to prevent us from holding a meeting on the Anzac Day weekend, exposing the glorification of militarism and the preparations for new wars. This political censorship—replicated in attacks on the IYSSE at a number of other campuses since then—is the sharpest expression of broader attempts to suppress opposition to war and prevent young people from understanding the situation they confront.

It is no accident that USYD banned our meeting. As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, it is being transformed into a key ideological centre for the promotion of militarism. Its “United States Studies Centre,” a think-tank founded in 2006 to churn out propaganda aimed at overcoming hostility to US-led wars, devotes considerable resources to promoting the US-Australia military alliance.

Global war preparations go hand in hand with an escalating assault on the social rights of the working class. While almost $2 trillion is dedicated to military spending world-wide every year, the financial elites are carrying out the destruction of public education and healthcare and the decimation of living conditions.

In Australia, the $50 billion being squandered on the construction of new submarines would pay for at least 25 new, state-of-the-art public hospitals. The $39 billion earmarked for frigates and destroyers could finance a desperately needed five-and-a-half million dollar upgrade to every public school in the country.

The militarisation of society is incompatible with universities as centres of genuine higher learning, cultural advance and freedom of speech. The tertiary education sector has faced decades of unrelenting funding cuts, with students confronting endless restructurings involving the abolition of entire courses and faculties, while graduates face the prospect of being unable to find work in their field of study. Many will never find a decent job. TAFEs are being dismantled through the rapid hiking of fees to the tune of thousands of dollars a year, forcing many students to abandon their studies altogether. Last year, in New South Wales alone, enrolments dropped by 80,000.

In working class suburbs around the country, official youth unemployment often surpasses 30 percent. Here, young workers confront a life without a future, constantly targeted by parasitic private colleges peddling sham-degrees along with military recruiters promising a lucrative army “gap year.”

This social crisis will inevitably create major upheavals. A new mood of social opposition is developing around the world, reflected in emerging strike and protest movements throughout Europe and the US, and seething hostility to the official political establishment in every country.

The decisive question, however, is political leadership. Pseudo-left organisations, including Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance, play a central role in seeking to channel mass disaffection back behind the existing political set-up—above all, behind Labor, the Greens and the thoroughly corporatised trade unions. The pseudo-left, which speaks for an affluent layer of the middle-class seeking to advance its own careers in academia, the unions and the public sector, promotes identity politics associated with race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality to suppress the fundamental class issues, including the fight against imperialist war.

We urge students and young people to oppose all forms of nationalism and militarism and turn to the internationalist perspective of the IYSSE. As the youth movement of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution founded by Leon Trotsky, we will be holding regular meetings throughout the year, clarifying the fundamental theoretical and historical questions associated with the fight to develop a genuine revolutionary movement of the international working class. We encourage you to begin your political education in Marxist politics by reading the World Socialist Web Site, the most widely-read socialist publication on the internet, and contributing articles on the political, economic, cultural and social issues facing the working class and youth. Above all, we call on you to join the IYSSE and participate in the fight to build it as the new mass, socialist, anti-war movement among students and young people in Australia, throughout Asia, including in China, and the world.

16 Mar


A socialist program to fight the Coalition-Labor-Greens assault on education in Australia

March 16, 2016 | By |

By the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (Australia)
16 March 2016

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) opposes the pro-business restructure at the University of Sydney. It is part of the latest round in a decades-long assault on education supported by the entire official political establishment—Labor, the Liberals and the Greens—aimed at transforming universities into entirely corporatized, for-profit entities.

The organizers of today’s rally, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Sydney University Education Action Group (EAG), are seeking to cover-up this basic fact. They have called this protest to channel the widespread hostility to the university’s cuts behind the very forces responsible for the gutting of higher education, above all Labor and the Greens, and to promote the illusion that such demonstrations can “pressure” the authorities to “back down.”

The NTEU is explicitly preparing to support Labor and the Greens in the forthcoming elections. A lying press release by NTEU national president Jeannie Rea last September declared that Labor’s education program stood in “stark contrast to the unprincipled, unfair and unsustainable higher education policies of the Coalition.”

For its part, the EAG’s promotional material for the event says nothing about how the cuts can be opposed, instead blandly stating that, “Staff and students should have a say in the future of our University,” and that it is necessary to “fight back.”

Their real perspective was summed up by Socialist Alternative, which plays a prominent role in the amorphous collective composed of various pseudo-left groups, along with representatives of the Greens and the Labor Party on campus. An article on Socialist Alternative’s publication, Red Flag last month concluded by declaring, “Like the Liberals’ attempts to deregulate higher education in 2014-15, this restructure can be stopped by mass action on the part of students and staff.”

This is an utter fraud!

The Liberal-National government of Malcolm Turnbull has not abandoned the plans to deregulate university fees. It has merely repackaged them. At the “Universities Australia” meeting held last week, Turnbull’s Education Minister, Simon Birmingham made clear that the government is preparing to boost the “student contribution” to university funding, i.e. by massively raising fees. He also insisted that universities would have to become ever-more reliant on corporate funding.

Summing up the significance of his remarks, an editorial in the Australian declared, “a new model is emerging where universities will achieve their expressed desire for autonomy from government by funding it through industry partnerships.” It went on to state that the “era of excessive state patronage of universities is coming to a close,” i.e. any conception of universities as government-funded centers of learning and inquiry will become a thing of the past. Central to this program is the development of a two-tier system—with the elite sandstone universities increasingly accessible only to a wealthy minority, and working class youth forced into sub-par second-rate institutions.

Socialist Alternative’s invocation of the “victory” of 2014-15 is a warning of the role the EAG is seeking to play. The Abbott Liberal-National government’s budget of 2014, which included “fee deregulation,” a move that would have hiked fees by tens of thousands of dollars, was met by widespread opposition from workers and young people, including students, staff and academics.

The EAG and Socialist Alternative, working hand in hand with the NTEU and the National Union of Students did everything they could to subordinate the emerging movement to the existing political set-up. At a series of rallies throughout the year, they invited prominent Labor and Green politicians to posture as opponents of the Abbott government’s cuts to education.

Organisers repeatedly prevented members of the IYSSE from speaking at the rallies, in order to block students from hearing a socialist perspective and to suppress any discussion of the fact that the Gillard Labor government, supported by the Greens, had introduced the largest-ever single-cut to university funding in 2013—a massive $2.3 billion. Nor did they want mention made of the role of the Hawke and Keating Labor governments in the late 1980s and early 1990s in abolishing free university education and initiating the downward spiral in its funding ever since.

To divert attention from their rotten political perspective, these groups directed students to engage in protest “stunts”—including “sit-ins” at the offices of various university vice-chancellors, and noisy confrontations with Liberal Party politicians. These were aimed at presenting the assault on education as a product of the predilections of individual vice-chancellors and politicians and preventing any serious political discussion of the real causes.

The suppression of the movement that emerged in 2014, by Socialist Alternative, the EAG and other groups, cleared the way for the sweeping attacks now on the table, including the merger of the university’s 10 faculties and 6 schools into 6 faculties and 3 schools and the reduction in the number of undergraduate degrees from 120 to as few as 20. The restructuring at USYD is modelled on measures carried out at the University of Melbourne in 2008, which saw 96 undergraduate degrees reduced to just six, and were followed by hundreds of job cuts. Similar measures are being prepared at the University of Western Australia, which is sacking 300 staff, and at universities across the country.

The government, along with the university authorities, is well aware that the NTEU and its pseudo-left backers will enforce the cuts. In 2013, University of Sydney management announced plans to sack 340 staff and academics. The union struck a deal which destroyed 55 jobs, introduced a host of voluntary redundancies and forced 100 academics into teaching-only positions. The NTEU, the EAG and a host of other groups proclaimed this betrayal a victory. The union has carried out similar sordid maneuvers at every campus.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) is fighting for the development of an independent, socialist movement of the working class in opposition to the assault on education, and the gutting of social spending. In response to the deepest crisis of the capitalist system since the 1930’s, governments around the world are implementing sweeping austerity measures aimed at abolishing all the social gains made by the working class in past struggles. Throughout Europe and the US, this program has seen the return of depression-era conditions with mass unemployment, widespread poverty and social misery.

As this agenda provokes mounting social struggles, the pseudo-left organisations, including Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and “left” sections of the Greens are seeking to emulate the “model” of Syriza in Greece, which came to power last year by falsely presenting itself as an opponent of austerity, only to carry out the deepest-ever cuts to social spending in Europe. The pseudo-left represents affluent sections of the upper middle-class in academia, the unions and the public sector whose interests are tied to the existing political set-up and the suppression of any struggles by the working class.

Hand in hand with the imposition of austerity, the major imperialist powers are carrying out an unprecedented program of militarism and war that threatens the outbreak of a new global conflict. In this region, Labor, the Liberals and the Greens have lined-up behind the advanced US preparations for war against China. Universities are playing a central role in ideologically justifying these criminal policies, with institutions such as the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney being established to suppress mounting anti-war sentiment and to promote a climate of nationalist militarism.

The IYSSE calls for students to turn to the working class, the only social force that can halt the drive to war and the assault on social conditions, and fight to mobilise it against the capitalist profit system, the real source of austerity and war. The working class has no interest in the private ownership of society’s resources. It is the target of the assault on basic social rights, including to tertiary education, being spearheaded by the corporate elite.

In order to defend the democratic right to a free, high quality public education, students and youth must turn to the program and perspective of socialist internationalism and the fight for a workers’ government, which would place the major banks and corporations under public ownership and democratic, workers’ control. A socialist program would end the current squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars on the military, and instead allocate the resources required to guarantee the social rights of the working class as a whole, including to a free, high-quality education from kindergarten to tertiary level.

01 May


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

May 1, 2015 | By |

Für Meinungsfreiheit an der Humboldt-Universität

Mit einer „Öffentlichen Stellungnahme für Jörg Baberowski“ hat sich die Berliner Humboldt-Universität hinter einen Professor gestellt, der sich offen zum Nazi-Apologeten Ernst Nolte bekennt.

Bereits im Herbst letzten Jahres hatte das Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften an der HU eine „Stellungnahme zu den Angriffen auf Prof. Dr. Jörg Baberowski“ veröffentlicht, die ausdrücklich für politische Zensur eintrat. Sie wollte Kritik an Baberowskis öffentlichen Äußerungen „in Räumen der Humboldt-Universität“ nicht mehr dulden und forderte „Lehrende und Studierende der Humboldt-Universität auf, der Kampagne gegen Professor Baberowski entgegenzutreten“.

Offener Brief der Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG) und der IYSSE an die Berliner Humboldt-Universität

29 Apr


For freedom of speech at Humboldt University

April 29, 2015 | By |

By the Socialist Equality Party (Germany) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality
29 April 2015

The following is an Open letter from the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) to Humboldt University in Berlin.

Dear Professor Olbertz,

Humboldt University has published a “Public statement on behalf of Jörg Baberowski” on its official web site [1], which accuses the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit and its student and youth organization, the IYSSE, of “vicious defamation,” “slander,” and “character assassination” directed against Jörg Baberowski, chair of the department of Eastern European History. It is signed by yourself, as president of the HU, as well as 26 other professors.

We reject these accusations with indignation. Under the pretext of defending the reputation of a professor, a fundamental assault on the freedom of speech and opinion is taking place. The “statement” is an attempt to intimidate, suppress and criminalize criticism of controversial political views publicly put forward by a member of the university.

With this “statement,” Humboldt University is establishing a dangerous precedent, whose significance goes far beyond the immediate dispute. Should it go unchallenged it would pave the way for the political Gleichschaltung of the university: the suppression of political criticism and, along with it, all serious scholarly activity. It resumes the ignominious past of HU and its predecessor, the Friedrich Wilhelm University, which served as ideological bulwarks for war propaganda in the First and the Second World Wars.

The accusations you level against our party and our student organization are utterly baseless. They rest on insinuation, unsubstantiated allegations and outright lies. Nowhere do you address, factually, what the issues actually are. You do not refer to the content of our criticism of Professor Baberowski, although it is openly documented and accessible to everyone.

Professor Baberowski’s affirmation of Ernst Nolte

You present Professor Baberowski as a diligent scholar, who has been unjustly attacked. This is not the case. Jörg Baberowski is a public personality. He appears regularly in the media and takes an unequivocal stand on controversial political issues.

In February of last year, he openly declared his support for Ernst Nolte. Nolte is the foremost Hitler and Nazi apologist among German academics. This is not opinion, but a well-established fact. In 1986, Nolte triggered the “Historian’s Debate,” in which he downplayed the crimes of National Socialism, describing them as an understandable reaction to Bolshevism. Today he moves in neo-Nazi circles and is an unabashed defender of Adolf Hitler.

A film broadcast on German television channel BR-Alpha on January 13, 2013 shows Nolte in friendly conversation with Horst Mahler, well-known attorney of the neo-fascist NPD, following a speech to the far-right dueling club “Thuringia.” Mahler has been convicted several times for Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic statements. [2] At the end of last year, Nolte complained, in the magazine the European, of the “huge volume of hate and condemnation” that had made “the one-time ‘liberator’ [Hitler] into a representative of ‘absolute evil.’” He praised Hitler “as the forgotten representative of tendencies of ‘self-assertion’ … missing in the official politics of the German government.” [3]

Nolte’s extreme-right views have been known for a long time. For this very reason, CDU chair Angela Merkel refused in 2000 to present him the Konrad Adenauer Prize of the Deutschland Foundation. That did not prevent Baberowski, however, from publicly supporting Nolte fourteen years later. At the beginning of last year he declared in Der Spiegel: “Nolte was done an injustice. Historically speaking, he was right.” Baberowski also told the news magazine that he had already defended Nolte’s arguments as a student and, because of his defense, was shouted down in a seminar in 1986, at the high point of the Historians Debate. [4]

In the same Spiegel article, Baberowski trivialized Hitler with the provocative statement: “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.” We have not taken this quote, which positively compares Hitler with Stalin, out of context. It is in line with Nolte’s central argument that the crimes of National Socialism were merely a defensive response to the Soviet threat.

Neither does the objection that Baberowski was defending the Nolte of 1986, and not the Nolte of 2014, stand up to scrutiny. Nolte’s transformation into an open defender of Hitler had already been anticipated in 1986. Jürgen Habermas, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Hans and Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and other leading historians understood this at the time and, in the course of the Historians Debate, denounced Nolte as an apologist for Nazi crimes. Habermas accused Nolte of considering “the extermination of the Jews only as the unfortunate result of a nevertheless understandable reaction to what Hitler must have felt was a threat of annihilation.”

In our publications and lectures, we have repeatedly called attention to Baberowski’s affirmation of Ernst Nolte. This was a central element of our criticism. But it apparently does not disturb the university. By accusing us of “slander” and “character assassination,” you are declaring yourself to be an ally of Ernst Nolte. This is not just a defense of Baberowski, it is a defense of Nolte— with far-reaching implications. With this statement, Humboldt University has allied itself with an unrepentant Nazi apologist. That will be understood all over the world, whether you care to acknowledge it or not.

We do not know if all the signatories of the “statement” are aware of this background, or whether they simply feel under pressure to sign a letter put out by an influential, well-connected professor at Humboldt University. But with their signatures, they assume political, intellectual, and moral responsibility for the positions of Ernst Nolte.

Professor Baberowski’s trivialization of war crimes

The accusation that Professor Baberowski trivializes crimes of the Second World War is not, as you write, a defamation. This accusation has been raised not only by us, but also by academic publications. It is substantiated by many passages in Baberowski’s writings. We cited one example on October 23, 2014, at a meeting of the IYSSE on the theme “Why do the German elites once again want war?” which was met with great interest. More than 200 participants packed into an overflowing lecture hall at Humboldt University to hear it.

You mention this meeting, but carefully avoid quoting the passage to which you refer. Your “statement” declares that, at a seminar of the IYSSE on October 25, 2014 [sic!], a “Power Point presentation featured a photo of hanged partisans, accompanied by quotes from Jörg Baberowski, deliberately taken out of context.”

The quotation in question was as follows: “The Red Army left the advancing Wehrmacht with destroyed cities and villages, whose starving populations no one could provide for … Under these conditions, the infantry regiments of the Wehrmacht in their search for food and shelter rapidly transformed into bands of marauders which robbed the peasants and townspeople, not because they dreamed of the extermination of Slavic sub-humans, but because they had no other alternative.” [5]

The Wehrmacht terrorized and destroyed the Soviet population, therefore, because the Red Army left them with no other choice, and not because the Hitler regime and its general staff had planned a war of annihilation from the beginning and issued the appropriate orders. The Nuremberg Trials and historical research have proven conclusively that the latter was the case.

Also, this quotation was not “deliberately taken out of context.” A large number of similar statements can be found in Baberowski’s work. He writes in the same book from 2007 that, “Stalin and his generals imposed on the Wehrmacht a new kind of war which no longer spared the civilian population.”

Five years later, in Verbrannte Erde [ Scorched Earth: Stalin’s Reign of Terror], Baberowski wrote: “In any war, such conditions [as those which prevailed on the Eastern front] are reason enough for the enemy to resist and commit atrocities. Such behavior cannot be explained on the basis of ideological convictions. Hitler’s soldiers did not wage an ideological war, rather they fought a war whose dynamic they could no longer escape.” [6]

We are not alone in criticizing Scorched Earth for sanitizing the Nazis’ war of annihilation. The book also provoked opposition among specialists in the field. Following its release, the journal Osteuropa published three separate commentaries, which raised objections to the book. [7]

Benno Ennker accused it of presenting “an implicit exoneration of the Wehrmacht” and wrote of Baberowski’s assertion that the National Socialists had no longer been able to bring their war of extermination under control: “Such an exculpation—unsupported by evidence—of the ideologically planned extermination policy in the East by ‘situation and circumstances’ had up to now only been associated with the scandalous Polish historian Bogdan Musial.”

Jürgen Zarusky commented: “Baberowski has yet to present any evidence for his reckless assertion that the Soviet leadership welcomed the war. He largely ignores German plans to turn the war into a war of annihilation.”

Christoph Dieckmann accused Baberowski of having “not presented a balanced, differentiated study, but rather a 500 page polemic in which accusations and polarized positions are formulated …” He misjudges “the research which has demonstrated the broad consensus within the German leadership and the heads of the Wehrmacht prior to the attack on the Soviet Union, to subject millions of Soviet citizens to death by starvation within a few months.” Given this research, Baberowski’s version of events takes on the character of “apologetics.”

Are you also accusing the Osteuropa journal, with which we have no connection, of slandering and defaming Baberowski?

Baberowski’s justification of the methods associated with wars of annihilation is not limited to the past. At an October 1, 2014 panel discussion on the theme “Germany as Intervention Force?” held at the Schlüterhof of the German Historical Museum, he said of the fight against jihadist groups: “And if one is not willing to take hostages, burn villages, hang people and spread fear and terror, as the terrorists do, if one is not prepared to do such things, then one can never win such a conflict and it is better to keep out altogether.” [8]

Neither you nor Baberowski have ever addressed these public justifications of methods that violate every international legal standard and convention. Instead, you defame us because we make the public aware of them.

A manufactured accusation

Because you do not want to confront the content of our criticisms, you manufacture false accusations in order to discredit us. You claim that, at a conference of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, which took place in Berlin from January 25-27, 2015, Baberowski was “denounced as a Holocaust denier” by “a participant who hid his face.”

We question whether this incident ever took place. How could anyone with his face covered sit in a public conference? Be that as it may, the PSG and the IYSSE have absolutely nothing to do with the incident. To link us to it is a baseless insinuation.

No representative of our organization took part in the conference. Nor have we ever called Baberowski a “Holocaust denier.” We voice our criticisms openly, not “with hidden faces,” and we reject the disruption of meetings, as a matter of principle, in the manner described.

The biography of Trotsky by Robert Service

You write that we have vilified Baberowski “not least because of his scholarly examination of a controversial biography of Trotsky.” This stands reality on its head. Rather than conducting a “scholarly examination” of Robert Service’s Trotsky biography, which is what is being referred to here, Baberowski resorted to scandalous methods to suppress any critical examination.

When Baberowski invited Robert Service to speak on this 2009 Trotsky biography at a public colloquium, at his Institute on February 12, 2014, the biography had already been thoroughly discredited.

In his book In Defense of Leon Trotsky, the leading Marxist, David North, had demonstrated that Service’s biography was riddled with dozens of factual errors, half-truths, distortions, falsifications and outright slanders.

Professor Bertrand Patenaude (Stanford University) had fully confirmed North’s assessment in the prestigious journal The American Historical Review and concurred with his judgment, that Service’s book was a “piece of hackwork.” Patenaude drew the conclusion: “In his eagerness to cut Trotsky down, Service commits numerous distortions of the historical record and outright errors of fact to the point that the intellectual integrity of the whole enterprise is open to question.” Patenaude continued: “At times the errors are jaw-dropping.” [9]

Fourteen well-known historians, political scientists and journalists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland had addressed a letter to Suhrkamp Verlag, advising against the publication of a German edition of the biography because it “violated basic standards of historical scholarship.” The signatories of the letter included experts of international repute such as Prof. Hermann Weber (Mannheim), the head of the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna Prof. Oliver Rathkolb, the head of the German Resistance Memorial Center, Professor Peter Steinbach (Berlin), Prof. Heiko Haumann (Basel) and Prof. Mario Kessler (Potsdam). [10]

Any genuine scholarly examination of Service’s biography would have been obliged to take this critique into account. In order to prevent this, Baberowski resorted to the most undemocratic measures. To ensure that Service confronted no critical questions, he cancelled the colloquium at short notice and moved it from the advertised meeting place to a secret location in the main building of the HU. At this new location, Baberowski barred access, with the assistance of security guards, to any visitors he suspected might pose critical questions.

Among those locked-out were—together with a number of HU history students—David North, author of the most profound critique of the Service biography, and Professor Mario Kessler, a signatory of the letter to Suhrkamp Verlag.

The IYSSE had actively sought to ensure a genuine scholarly examination of Service’s book. We informed Baberowski, in advance, that we planned to participate in the colloquium; we acquainted students at HU with the background to the dispute; and we submitted written questions. When the rumor was circulated that the IYSSE planned to disrupt the event, we wrote to Baberowski to make clear that we had no such intention.

All these letters remained unanswered, including a letter to you, Prof. Olbertz, in which we complained that Baberowski’s approach violated “basic principles of democracy and freedom of expression” at Humboldt University. This pattern was repeated throughout the entire dispute: Baberowski and the university management refused any substantive discussion, did not reply to our letters and then claimed, without any substantiation, that we were conducting a smear campaign.

Already, by the autumn of last year, the Department of History at Humboldt had posted a “Statement on the attacks on Dr. Jörg Baberowski,” which expressly advocated political censorship. The statement declared that criticism of Baberowski’s public statements would not be tolerated in “lecture halls of Humboldt University,” and called upon “teachers and students of Humboldt University to oppose the campaign against Professor Baberowski.” We wrote to you at the time, Prof. Olbertz, to raise our protest. Once again we received no reply. [11]

The latest “statement,” signed by yourself, represents the culmination of these attempts to suppress critical opinion at the HU. For the first time, the university management has now positioned itself behind the attempt to stifle the right to criticism and freedom of expression.

We hope, in the interests of the university, that you, together with all the other signatories of the “statement,” will reconsider your position and withdraw your signature.

Be assured, we will not let the matter rest. We intend to inform the students and faculty of the university, and the German and international public, about these developments and encourage protest against them.

With best regards,

Ulrich Rippert Socialist Equality Party
Christoph Dreier, International Youth and Students for Social Equality



[2] Ernst Nolte – Ein deutscher Streitfall, by Andreas Christoph Schmidt, The “Thuringia” speech and the scene with Horst Mahler begin at the two-minute mark.

[3] Das Tabu brechen, by Ernst Nolte, The European 4/2014

[4] Der Wandel der Vergangenheit, Der Spiegel 7/2014. English:

[5] Kriege in staatsfernen Räumen: Russland und die Sowjetunion 1905–1950, by Jörg Baberowski 2007

[6] Scorched Earth: Stalin’s Reign of Terror, by Jörg Baberowski, New Haven: Yale University Press 2015

[7] Osteuropa, 62/4, April 2012

[8] As audio file:

[9] The American Historical Review, Vol. 116, No. 3, S. 900-902, Oxford University Press



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

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.

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.