International call for struggle and solidarity with Puerto Rico

A call for solidarity with Puerto Rico against the US-imposed debt regime from Junta Contra la Junta. No to colonialism, no to imperliasm, and especially no to the Oversight Board – the US committee that manages the colony. Translated by and shared from the Entitle blog.

“We are asking the international community and the Puerto Ricans of the diaspora to show solidarity with the situation that our country is now experiencing” 

Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States since 1898, currently faces an economic-financial and socio-political crisis with an economy that has contracted for 10 years, record-level outmigration and unemployment, and a massive debt of more than $70 billion, representing almost 70% of the county’s gross domestic product (GDP). Some have called it the “Greece of the Caribbean” and others have spoken of a potential humanitarian crisis.

The crisis is in important ways self-inflicted, thanks to decades of ill-conceived economic policies, as well as high levels of corruption. Yet it is undeniable that the colonial situation –expressed in US policies such as the mandatory use of the US naval fleet (the most expensive in the world) for imports to Puerto Rico, costing hundreds of millions annually; the triple-exempt tax status of Puerto Rico government bonds; the prohibition of any type of protection of local small businesses against large US corporations; and the inability to design foreign policies (including trade policy)– has also played an important role. The same can be said of the parasitic behaviour of the corporate financial sector which benefited from these policies. Any solution that does not address these issues, is therefore bound to fail.

PR1

In addition, there are strong arguments for not paying this debt in full. First and foremost, we need to recognize the social and ecological debt the United States has with Puerto Rico: from the US military bases that stole Puerto Rican land and water and, in cases like Vieques, created huge socio-economic and ecological devastation, to the economic returns and ecological damages generated by US corporations which have historically exploited Puerto Rican workers and land. Indeed, for decades, US corporations have operated from Puerto Rico without paying any taxes, repatriating more than $30 US billion annually.

Moreover, if, as the US Supreme Court recently confirmed, Puerto Rico’s legislative powers  emanate from the authority of the US Congress, then, the logical conclusion is that the debt incurred by the Puerto Rican government is actually owed by the US government which is the true authority. Another argument is that the vulture funds which have capitalised on the debt, bought it for a fraction of the amount they now seek to reap, with full knowledge of the dire economic situation and the risks faced in these investments. Finally, nearly half of the debt could be illegal, strengthening long-standing calls for a full audit of the debt before continued payment.

As a supposed ‘solution’ to this debt crisis, the US House of Representatives has passed a proposed law, cynically called PROMESA (promise, in spanish), designed by the Wall Street vultures precisely to guarantee that Puerto Rico pay this debt. The bill, which is supported by President Obama and by Hillary Clinton and is expected to be approved in the Senate, would lower the minimum wage in Puerto Rico for workers under 25 years of age, and would create a seven-member unelected board (to be appointed by the US Congress and the President).

This board will have powers to make all decisions about the Puerto Rican budget, make changes to the Puerto Rican public retirement system, sell Puerto Rican public properties, and approve in fast-track processes -over existing laws and the Puerto Rico constitution- any projects they deem priority for generating revenue. Amongst the projects that could be approved in such a fashion are a waste incinerator plant, which has faced strong opposition from local communities and environmental organisations, and a ‘super tube’ to transport natural gas across the island. The proposal contains no guarantee for a debt restructuring or bankruptcy process.

Besides laying bare the colonial status of Puerto Rico, PROMESA is a clear attempt to intensify the processes of dispossession of Puerto Rico’s resources and turn the island into an exclusive paradise for the super-rich. It also represents an imminent threat to the well-being and the lives of all Puerto Ricans. Various civil society organisations have begun organizing to mobilise against this project, while at the same time denouncing this colonial condition and demanding an end to it.

Cartoon of famed revolutionary nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos with the infamous Uncle Sam. Source: Acción Nacional Boricua Facebook page

One of these organisations, Junte contra la Junta has put out the following international call that seeks support in this struggle, which we reproduce below in English. The call is also available in Spanish,  Français,  Euskera,  Türkçe,  Português,  ქართული,  Кöрди.


International Call to Struggle and Solidarity against the Imposition of the Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A) in Puerto Rico

We invite the international community and the Puerto Rican diaspora to join us in solidarity in our country’s present situation. Let’s remember that Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898. Ever since the invasion up to our present time, the United States and the colonial government of Puerto Rico have imposed a series of laws for economic and political gain (Foraker Act in 1900, Jones Act in 1917, Gag Law in 1947, Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act in 1953, Public Law 7 in 2009) which have disrupted the social, economic, and political reality of the oldest colony in the American continent.

They have submerged us in a desperate economic crisis, with the intent of continuing to steal our resources while the living conditions of our people continue to rapidly deteriorate, thus exacerbating the precariousness of healthcare and education, rising costs of living, rampant unemployment, and rising criminality rates. A massive emigration has reached unimaginable levels, while there is no stopping the delivery of our country to big interests for their businesses and vacations. Currently, Puerto Rico has become the Greece of the Caribbean, with a debt higher than 73 billion dollars owed to Wall Street’s financial capital. The Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A), born out of H.R. 5278, pretends to bleed out the country for the benefit of the creditors (vultures). With the imposition of said board, true to the style of soft coups perpetrated by U.S. imperialism, the following would be established.

Protest banner against the Fiscal Oversight (Control) Board at the recent Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, June 12/2016. Source: juntecontralajunta Facebook page

The Oversight Board (P.R.O.M.E.S.A) in 12 points:

  1. The seven members who would compose the board would be chosen directly and solely by the Federal Government. Only one of the members would have to reside or own a business in Puerto Rico. Not even Puerto Rico’s Governor or the local Legislature would have any power within the board or over the decisions that the board could make.
  2. The board would last a minimum of 4 years. There is no yearly limit established.
  3. The board would control the entire budget and laws of the country.
  4. It could render ineffective, at any moment, any laws already approved.
  5. It could sell assets (goods, properties, buildings, and public corporations, among others).
  6. It would decide which laws would pass and which wouldn’t, using criteria based on financial impact, even if it means a deterioration of the lives, health, and social resources of the people.
  7. It would have the power to freeze job vacancies as well as toreduce and fire personnel.
  8. The board rejects laws and measures related to overtime pay.
  9. It would submit the population aged 20-25 to economic exploitation through the imposition of a minimum wage of $4.25 per hour.
  10. It would eliminate the right to strike.
  11. It would not include economic incentives. It would not bring equality in Medicare and other federal funds. It would NOT protect retirement.
  12. It would protect exclusively the economic interests of the creditors (vultures).

We call on the Puerto Rican diaspora in every corner of the world, social movements, and internationalist political organizations to show solidarity and organize against the Oversight Board. How? Visit https://juntecontralajunta.wordpress.com and stay up to date. Find information and agitation tools. Organize your neighborhood and your community, doing teach-ins and information sessions, distributing newsletters, protesting and marching against the Oversight Board. ¡Let’s build a Resistance!

No to the Oversight Board! No to colonialism! No to imperialism!

Contacts:

 Junte contra la Junta (Puerto Rico)

https://juntecontralajunta.wordpress.com

lageteantesqueladeuda@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/juntecontralajunta/

twitter: JunteContraLaJunta @NoALaJunta

Comité Boricua en la Diaspora – ComBo– (New York, USA)

facebook.com/comiteboricua

comiteboricua@gmail.com

decolonizepr@gmail.com (Chicago, USA)

 

 

Orlando means fightback – There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Statement of solidarity with LGBTQ+ community after Orlando homophobic attack, but equally strongly anti the racist Islamaphobic agenda. Shared from anarkismo.net

There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

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Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.


Orlando means fightback
There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia

Our hearts ache for the victims of the homophobic hate crime that took place over the weekend in Orlando, Florida where a gunman attacked an LGBT+ club killing 50 and wounding over 50 more. Much has been asked by us and by other left queers about the LGBT+ community, whether it exists and if it exists why don’t we feel a part of it. Sadly it is at times like these that we become aware of its existence. When people are considered deviants and deserving of a murderous assault for their sexuality, a trait all of us in the community share, we cannot but come together in sadness and in mourning.

We wish to draw special attention to the fact that the Pulse nightclub was hosting a Latino night with a trans performer headlining. We must be aware of the disproportionately high number of attacks that are carried out on a regular basis against queer and trans people of colour and we must fight to end this violence. Racism and queerphobia came together over the weekend to form a devastating result and these are two traits of the attack that we cannot allow to be erased from this.

We further warn against the Islamophobic backlash that has already begun in the wake of these attacks. We reject the use of the hurt that our community is experiencing at present in order to justify Islamophobia. There is absolutely no room in our gay agenda for Islamophobia; our liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all oppressed groups and that includes our muslim siblings, in particular our queer muslim siblings.

While the media and US authorities have branded this an act of terrorism we feel it is of high importance to state that this act of terrorism was also a hate crime. Already attempts have been made to erase the identities of the victims of this attack, the usual ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬ crusade has begun. The right wing media wishes to ignore the homophobic nature of this attack in order to continue their scaremongering of muslims. This is incredibly insulting and does a disgusting disservice to those who have been murdered primarily for their sexuality.

Just like Stonewall, Orlando means fight back. While many advances have been made and homophobia isn’t as common or as acceptable as what it has been in recent years we still have a long way to go; the road we take cannot be one of assimilation, whereby we have queer acceptance in a straight society – we must dismantle the straight society.

We must dismantle the society that made it possible for someone to harbour such views about us and to carry those views into such a tragic action. Greater hate crime legislation will not do this, all it will do is cover up the cracks of a society that is already deeply broken by the violence of neo-liberalism.

While we have made many advances, for too long has our focus been on marriage; something that will not prevent trans youth from being murdered, queer homelessness, and closer to home the DUP putting in place a conscience clause to effectively exclude us from civic society. When our right to live is cruelly taken away at the whim of a homophobic gunman we are starkly reminded of how much of a fight we have left. This serves as a rallying call against the violence of a society that is killing us, we must make it known that these queers bash back. No matter how bigoted a person is we will continue to survive, we will continue to resist, we will continue to live.

We call for an end to violence – state-sponsored, homophobic, racist, sexist, capitalist, imperalist violence. This can only occur through revolutionary methods; through overthrowing the society we currently live in.

For now, we must take care of each other because that’s what a community does. We must mourn and organise.

WSM, 13 June 2016

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY ACTION-WEEK: OVER THE FORTRESS from 30th of May to 05th of June

A call for Europe-wide action in response to the militarization an imprisonment of refugees in greece, particularly the forced eviction of the Idomeni camp. Join actions, organise new ones, spread the call. Shared from Indymedia Linksunten.

– Call for action below – On Tuesday, 24.05.16, parallel to the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, the eviction of Idomeni camp officially began. In many ways, a forceful eviction began weeks ago. Idomeni has long been subject of structural violence from both police and state policies, which have slowly but continuously dismantled the camps aid-structures.

In the last few days, fresh water supply was cut, electronic music blasted every night, toilets were locked, and trash was not removed. Doctors, media and volunteers were denied access to the camp, slowly taking away the most basic needs. The distribution of food, dry clothes, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and medical care was systematically blocked.

 

As of Tuesday, police have forced people by threatening to increase violence to move to the military camps. But so far, media has portrayed the eviction as peaceful, stating that people are leaving voluntarily to military facilities, totally disregarding the aforementioned facts.

 

However, to represent those at Idomeni as passively accepting the closure of the Balkan route, does not capture the whole picture; compared to overcrowded military camps, Idomeni has remained the least horrible option.

 

Military camps have been set up in a lackluster and rushed manner, without sufficient infrastructure to cover basic needs, nor the right to move freely in and out of these facilities. Although some camps appear better equipped than others, conditions are widely insufficient.

 

Scarcely any of these camps have internet access, thereby denying people their right to apply for the asylum or relocation procedure. Food is often inedible and the majority of these camps do not supply baby food or family support. In many cases, the locations chosen are completely isolated, making social integration impossible, and creating a dependence on the poorly supplied structures within the camps. Warm water is only provided in very few camps. The intentional governmental restraint of any information adds up psychological stress to a constant boredom created by a solitary environment.

 

Let us not forget some of the underlying motives for the eviction of Idomeni camp.

 

Since the closing of the Balkan route, Idomeni has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom of movement on the borders of Europe. It has unveiled the incompetence of EU powers and the failure of EU policies, which far from solving the EU-political crisis, in turn created a bottleneck, leaving thousands stranded on Europe’s locked borders.

 

By using media to further perpetuate xenophobic and racist structures and fear of terrorism within the western world, Europe has legitimized closing its borders. Europe exploits the situation to further obtain cheap labor forces in a regulated manner, to sustain and maximize their wealth and security.

 

As we speak, Idomeni’s forceful eviction has already been implemented and will soon disappear from the frontlines of newspapers. People will nevertheless be kept in indefinite detention that could result in years of waiting in military facilities for Europe to act on their behalf. But most probably the waiting will end in deportation.

 

Military camps have been portrayed as the next step and “only solution” for those caught up between borders and legal abandonment. They are meant to be “safe places” for people attempting to access the discriminative relocation program or apply for the only choice available for many, asylum in Greece.

 

But in fact people are shunned into militarized camps to decentralize the problem away from the borders and spreading it throughout Greece. This hides the topic away from the public eye and consequently minimizes the pressure on EU policies to take responsibility. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

Is this not tarnishing a reaction to the self-interested and exploitative EU immigration policies?

 

CALL FOR ACTION

 

This coming week, between the 30.05-05.06, we will once again raise our voices and show our outrage against the structural oppression denying freedom of movement, enforced by Europe and its allies.

 

This is a call for international solidarity and outrage under the slogan #overthefortress, as otherwise this political and humanitarian crisis will vanish from the public discourse, and thousands will be forgotten. The idea of having any real future has been traded for visa deals and a booming ‘Refugee’ industrial complex. Lets take the responsibility we have and bring people’s hopeless situation caused by structural repression out of the shadows back in to the public perception to burn it into the ignorant mind of European society.

 

With decentralized and creative actions we want to condemn Fortress Europe’s racist policies and formulate an accusation. Raise your individual voice and show solidarity in protest and action.

 

Greetings, Idomeni

The EU is awful – But I still would ask UK-based leftists to vote against leaving

One of the many voices clammoring to be heard about the Brexit referendum in June. First of all, let me say that this post is not addressed to UK ‘people’. As in, I’m not appealling to UK ‘interests’ or trying to argue that the UK would be better or worse in or out of the EU. How can a group of 60 million people have a common interest and be uniformly better or worse off with a single decision? And let me say secondly that this is also not a defense of EU – you don’t need to convince me of how undemocratic and right-wing the whole institution is. Instead this is aimed at progressives, activists and general lefties who have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the UK should remain part of the EU.

Far be it from me to tell people how to vote, but I saw a video recently on Novara arguing for the left to vote for Brexit, which gives me a bit of concern that some parts of the UK left might fall into the trap of thinking in an us-versus-them logic when the real need is for solidarity. In a nutshell, the video gives four reasons for a Brexit vote, which amount to:

  1. the EU is undemocratic and is aggressively eroding democracy in Member States

  2. Laws and treaties such as TTIP will make socialist changes illegal

  3. the EU forces countries from the global south to accept free trade deals and open their weak markets to the brute force of western competition

  4. it has replaced internal national borders with massive external borders.

All this criticism is entirely accurate, but my question would be is the UK any better on any of these counts? Any debate about Brexit that only looks at one side and not the other is only half the story. What happened to all the debate about the nature of the UK state that was thrown up by the Scotland referendum last year?

But anyway, in writing this I want to avoid getting caught in the trap of talking about this in terms of what is good for UK people, even if we are talking about the UK left. Like it or not, we are in a European crisis-management-regime, and the outcomes of the UK referendum will be felt by the left Europe-wide. In taking this broader viewpoint, there are a few points that Bastiani makes about EU democracy which, while completely correct, need to be looked at closer. There are effectively 3 ways that enfranchised european citizens can influence the content and personnel of EU institutions – a) the European Parliament elections; b) national elections, with elected governments appointing commissioners to the European Commission and sitting on the European Council and other committees; and c) through referenda. Aside from referenda, the other two mechanisms are completely flawed. As Bastiani says, the Parliament is indeed only a symbol. The real power sits with Commission and Council. Which brings up a contradiction: the public debates surrounding national elections are not usually Europe focussed, whereas the Parliament elections are the only time that european issues are publicly debated, all of which results in that the real EU power is ‘elected’ in a context of domestic-centred debate, while those elections which are conducted amid Europe-centred debate are to a body which has no power.

When it comes to referenda, though, these instruments do indeed have the potential for people to throw a spanner in the works of an otherwise unaccountable machinery moving in directions that diverge with popular will. Witness how the Dutch and French citizenry delayed the ratification of the EU constitution for 6 years until it was eventually renamed as the Lisbon Treaty, rejected by the Irish first time but then passed at the second asking. And it must be remembered that the elites succeeded in winning this second time of asking only because the referendum was characterised by a bullish Sarkozy who completely rejected the right of voters to vote NO, and where voters were in the grips of economic terrorism after their first rejection in 2008 was quickly rewarded with an assault on the country’s financial and banking sector. Considering all this, referenda are one instrument where populations can hold the institutions to account most effectively and directly. There should be a referendum in every member state on all major decisions. Critics would no doubt say this would render the EU unworkable, but if you ask me, I think if an institution cannot be held to democratic account then unworkable is the best way for it.

But there are are problems with referenda as an instrument, and this has a central bearing on the Brexit vote. Despite opening up debate on core EU issues before a vote, all that NO votes can do really is throw spanners in the works. The exact interpretation of the direction of that spanner can easily be manipulated or more often simply ignored. In the aftermath of both the Nice treaty rejection in Ireland in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 the establishment were quick to paint both rejections as a misunderstanding of the issues, and a narrow concern with Irish neutrality, along with various straw men that they burned with fanfare. In other words, they spinned it as ‘well they didn’t really reject it, and if they did reject it was only because of this one issue which happens to be inoffensive and we can get a declaration about it’. That happened twice, in a context in which all the establishment parties campaigned for yes votes and still WE couldn’t control the message of our own spanner. Now think about what would happen if left-wing voters brought about a NO vote in the Brexit referendum. Unlike the irish situations, in this case there are establishment parties, – conservative and far-right ones at that – campaigning against the EU and I can guarantee that they will be the ones claiming ownership and filling the spanner with a very right-wing meaning.

But this focus on formal democracy kind of leaves a lot of things off the table. If you are asking about how democratic the EU is, the very reform package is a testament to how non-democratic it is. An economically powerful country with a rightist government has blackmailed the union into conceeding reforms, after 5 years during which said government has been one of the stronger voices (though admittedly not the strongest) against granting any concessions to countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy and giving consent to blackmailing and economically terrorising them into implementing austerity meassures against the wishes of is people. That for me is the biggest reason why I ask UK left-wing voters to reject Brexit. After years of stiffling any leftward democratic expression, the right-wing UK government is now blackmailing the rest of the union for a rightward anti-democratic change. So, I ask that when you enage in discussing this referendum, please reject the ‘is this good for Britain?’ nationalist trap and instead stand in solidarity with Europe-wide activists who have been pushed around too long.

Press release from Greenpeace NL on leaking the TTIP docs

A great coup by Greenpeace, vindicating what the Stop TTIP campaign has been saying all along. My only fear now is that the establishment media with their love of balanced journalism surpress the main issue and  turn this into, well is this deal bad for Europe or is it actually good. Renewed pressure is needed to get the message out that the fact that it was negotiated in secret makes it democratically illegitimate and the whole thing needs to be scrapped. Here is the press release from Greenpeace Netherlands, posted originally at greenpeace.org. Share far and wide and join in your nearest Stop TTIP campaign if you haven’t already.

Greenpeace Netherlands releases TTIP documents

Press release – 2 May, 2016

Amsterdam, 2 May 2016 – http://www.ttip-leaks.org Today Greenpeace Netherlands releases secret documents of the EU-US TTIP negotiations. On http://www.ttip-leaks.org the documents will be made available for everyone to read, because democracy needs transparency.

“These documents make clear the scale and scope of the trade citizens of the United States and the European Union are being asked to make in pursuit of corporate profits. It is time for the negotiations to stop, and the debate to begin.

Should we be able to act when we have reasonable grounds to believe our health and wellbeing is at risk, or must we wait until the damage is done?

Were our governments serious in Paris when they said they would do what was necessary to protect the planet, and keep climate change under 1.5 degrees?

Environmental protection should not be seen as a barrier to trade, but as a safeguard for our health, and the health of future generations.

We call on citizens, civil society, politicians and businesses to engage in this debate openly and without fear. We call on the negotiators to release the latest, complete text to facilitate that discussion, and we ask that the negotiations be stopped until these questions, and many more have been answered. Until we can fully engage in a debate about the standards we and our planet need and want” – Sylvia Borren, Executive Director Greenpeace Netherlands.

Which documents are we releasing?

The documents that Greenpeace Netherlands has released comprise about half of the draft text as of April 2016, prior to the start of the 13th round of TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US (New York, 25-29 April 2016). As far as we know the final document will consist of 25 to 30 chapters and many extensive annexes. The EU Commission published an overview stating that they have now 17 consolidated texts. This means the documents released by Greenpeace Netherlands encompass 3/4 of the existing consolidated texts.[1]

Consolidated texts are those where the EU and US positions on issues are shown side by side. This step in the negotiation process allows us to see the areas where the EU and US are close to agreement, and where compromises and concessions would still need to be made. Of the documents released by Greenpeace Netherlands, in total 248 pages, 13 chapters offer for the first time the position of the US.

How have the documents been handled?

The documents we received had clearly been treated to make it possible to identify individual copies. Prior to release they have been retyped and identifying features removed. We have not altered content of the documents and have preserved the layout. For this reason we are not offering access to the original documents.

How do you know the documents are genuine?

After receiving the documents both Greenpeace Netherlands and Rechercheverbund NDR, WDR und Süddeutsche Zeitung, a renowned German investigative research partnership have analysed them and compared them to existing documents. The Rechercheverbund, which consists of different German media outlets, has covered, amongst other big stories, the Snowden leaks and the recent Volkswagen emissions scandals.

What are the first conclusions from the documents?

From an environmental and consumer protection point of view four aspects are of serious concern.

Long standing environmental protections appear to be dropped

None of the chapters we have seen reference the General Exceptions rule. This nearly 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), allows nations to regulate trade “to protect human, animal and plant life or health” or for “the conservation of exhaustible natural resources” [2]. The omission of this regulation suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.

Climate protection will be harder under TTIP

The Paris Climate Agreement makes one point clear: We must keep temperature increase under 1.5 degrees to avoid a climate crisis with effects on billions of people worldwide. Trade should not be excluded from climate action. But nothing indicating climate protection can be found in the obtained texts. Even worse, the scope for mitigation measures is limited by provisions of the chapters on Regulatory Cooperation or Market Access for Industrial Goods. [3] As an example these proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2 intensive fuels such as oil from Tar Sands.

The end of the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle, enshrined in the EU Treaty[4], is not mentioned in the chapter on Regulatory Cooperation, nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters. On the other hand the US demand for a ‘risk based’ approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters. This approach undermines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals.

Opening the door for corporate takeover

While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants. Opportunities to participate in decision making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision making process.

While civil society has had little access to the negotiations, there are many instances where the papers show that industry has been granted a privileged voice in important decisions. [5] The leaked documents indicate that the EU has not been open about the high degree of industry influence. The EU’s recent public report [6] has only one minor mention of industry input, whereas the leaked documents repeatedly talk about the need for further consultations with industry and explicitly mention how industry input has been collected.

END

Notes

[1] The documents we are releasing are

[chapter 1.1.] National Treatment and Market Access for Goods

This chapter addresses trade in goods between EU and US.

[chapter 1.2.] Agriculture

This chapter deals with trade in agricultural products and illustrates EU-US disagreements on matters such as genetically modified organisms.

[chapter 1.3.] Cross-Border Trade in Services

This chapter addresses trade in the service industry sector.

[chapter 1.4] Electronic Communications

This chapter addresses Internet and telecommunications issues.

[chapter 1.5.] Government Procurement

This chapter deals with purchases by government entities within the EU and US.

[chapter 1.6.] Annex Government Procurement

The annex of the previous chapter, with additional information about a US-proposed chapter on anti-corruption.

[chapter 1.7.] Customs and Trade and Facilitation

This chapter addresses differences among various customs regulations.

[chapter 1.8.] EU – US revised tariff offers

These are the respective positions regarding tariffs.

[chapter 2.1.] Regulatory Cooperation

In this controversial chapter EU and US aim for joint regulations on products and services, for example for food and cosmetics safety.

[chapter 2.2.] Technical Barriers to Trade

This chapter addresses differences between EU-US regulations and the ways in which they affect trade.

[chapter 2.3.] Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

This chapter deals with the protection of plant and animal health.

[chapter 3.1.] Competition

This chapter deals with competition between parties.

[chapter 3.2.] Small and Medium-sized Enterprise

This chapter addresses enterprises smaller than multi-national corporations.

[chapter 3.3.] State-owned Enterprise

This chapter addresses nationalised enterprises.

[chapter 4.] Dispute Settlement

This chapter deals with resolving disagreements between the EU and the US.

[chapter 5.] Tactical State of Play

Not intended for public viewing, this document describes EU-US disagreements and shows how much private industry influences the TTIP negotiations.

[2] Most of the WTO’s agreements were the outcome of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. Some, including GATT 1994, were revisions of texts that previously existed.

[3] Nothing in the relevant Articles 10 (Import and Export Restrictions) and 12 (Import and Export Licensing) of the Chapter on National Treatment and Market Access for Goods shows that necessary trade related measures to protect the climate would be allowed as a trade restriction under GATT Article XX (see footnote 1).

[4] “The precautionary principle is detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU). It aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=URISERV%3Al32042

[5] e.g. “While the US showed an interest, it hastened to point out that it would need to consult with its industry regarding some of the products” – Chapter ‘Tactical State of Play’, paragraph 1.1, Agriculture.

[6] ‘The Twelfth Round of Negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)’ http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/march/tradoc_154391.pdf

Contacts:

Dutch media please contact Greenpeace Netherlands, +31 (0)6 21 29 68 95, persvoorlichting@greenpeace.nl

Brussels media please contact Greenpeace EU press desk, +32 (0)2 274 1911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

International media please contact Greenpeace International press desk (24 hours), +31 (0)20 718 2470, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org

The new world of precarious work and its right wing cheerleaders

A few years back I found myself in a training called “Career Development and Planning” (with the implicit subtitle ‘how to sell yourself’) where we were shown a video, which was a series of graphic presentations of various statistics and messages relating to a paradigm shift towards the New World of Work, set to a soundtrack evoking haunting optimism with MGMT’s do do do do-do do do do doooooo. The message was that the Generation Y workforce is an empowered generation who have through their technology-mediated consumer lifestyles acquired more skills and tools than workplaces can offer. The nature of work is being continuously transformed (supposedly through their amazing innovation) to the extent that:

“The top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Using technologies that haven’t been invented yet in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet”.

The video would have us believe that this rapid rate of transformation is due to how the ‘Gen Y’ers’ use technology in their social lives to make everything they do ultra efficient, and that they are taking this approach with them into work. And here lies the rump of the emergent paradigm shift that supposedly ‘our Leaders’ are not ready for: this Generation Y workforce has also acquired certain expectations, four in particular, from their consumer lifestyle which they are demanding be incorporated into the new world of work in order to realise their ultra-high levels of productivity. These expectations are to Collaborate, Connect, Co-create, and Control/personalise their work.

That first time I was shown the video, the trainer started to tell us that we should have nothing to worry about in terms of the crisis. The recovery was coming, and when it comes, all those companies are going to be falling over each other to be a ‘talent magnet’ and to give Gen-Y the freedom to do some great work. The magical feel-good enchantment of MGMT was still lingering in the room, when one guy asked “what level of education would this apply to?”. And then like a riskless speculation orgy the bubble was burst when the trainer responded “well of course, this is aimed at higher end graduates from higher education institutions”. The frankness elucidated by this question was a welcome break from the self-congratulatory delusions that the training was trying to educate us to have. Neither the video nor the trainer thought it important to specify that when they referred to Generation Y, they actually were only referring to the upper middle class of that generation. Should we take it then that work practices of the lower 70% odd who don’t really matter, is their work practices the same old? Of course not, and there sits one of the most disturbing things about this sort of right-wing sentiment. Behind these declarations of emancipated self-management utopian labour paradigm – strictly for those who can afford it, mind you – is the reality of how ideological constructions of efficiency, and flexibalisation are used as a basis for an ongoing neoliberalisation of wage labour – this time for those who can’t afford it.

Capitalism in Marx’s day was characterised by a contradiction between the forces of Capital and Labour, materialised in the struggle between capitalists and workers over the labour process on the factory floor. At some stage came an innovation in the organisation of capitalism which has allowed the capitalist to excuse himself from the struggle: firms were put into the hands of ‘managers’ who’s wages would be tied to the profit rate of the firm, thus in effect enlisting the manager on the side of Capital. Freed from the immediacy of organising the firm, the capitalist was then free to manage his multiple investments, and with that came a new phase: finance capitalism. What is now happening with the current restructuring of work and the expansion in precarious labour is that workers themselves are being enlisted on the side of Capital – you are your own manager – internalising the contradiction between Capital and Labour – it’s your choice whether you want to reward or screw yourself, now or later. In this neo-liberated world of work you can personalise what short-term jobs you apply for, you can co-create ways to save money by working longer for less, you can connect with management because you are your own manager, and you can collaborate … wherever.

Well actually, somebody you cannot collaborate with so much is other workers. Union membership is plummeting in recent decades, and while one factor behind this might well be the way mainstream unions have been organising and arguably on the side of Capital, another undeniable factor is that Capital no longer concentrates workers in such a way that makes it easy for them to organise. In the European context, you can distinguish between three different groups of precarious workers – the graduates without a future, the informal and otherwise unprotected (often immigrant or under age), and the traditional working class. Although these latter two groups largely experience worse material deprivation and precarity is not a new condition, I’m going to focus more on the first group because in asking what hope is there for Labour resistance against Capital in this landscape the graduates without a future hold a particularly contradictory position.

Organisation faces a series of practical obstacles. Because many are unemployed, working in temporary positions, or have joined the self-employed race to the bottom, workplace unionising is not a valid route for obvious reasons. Worse, in the permanent state of short-term and underpaid contracts, any kind of labour activity is a bit of a non-starter, because as a self-manager you will be well aware that the shitty wages are compensated for by the experience you are gaining, which your next gig depends on – so don’t do anything to fuck this one up. But at a more ideological level, this state of precarity is often sold to Gen-Y’ers as temporary, and that in the future they will be rewarded for their hard work, which many manager-selves take to heart and expect to someday earn 6-figure salaries, possibly working as the financial fuckers of the future – the same class of people who made the crisis for everybody else. What hope is there for solidarity and class consciousness when you are grouped with these people?

A few years ago I was doing one of these stints in an investment bank (don’t ask me how I got in, all I know is they didn’t keep me very long). But there were around 50 to 60 interns there at any given time. When I was talking to any of them everybody had the same set of complaints about the life of the intern – shitty wages, getting screwed on rent because only cowboy landlords take short-term renters, not knowing what would happen next, working extra-hard because you need a good reference, having to continuously start from zero at each new place, being far away from loved ones, and in some cases facing the possibility of not being able to have children if things don’t pick up soon, as well as a host of issues specific to working at that particular bank. Almost everybody, even the finance prodigies shared some sort of story around some of these issues when going for a beer or having a cigarette. As I saw it, Capital was forcing us to screw ourselves at these jobs, which the company justified by saying there was no funds for full positions, only these legally obscure, sub-minimum wage internships for which they received external funding on a project-by-project basis. But my reasoning was that if you took away those 50-60 people (by legal re-classification or by strike) there is no way the bank could continue functioning without having to hire some new staff – US. In other words, acting as individuals on these once-off, semi-legal contracts led to us being classed as non-official participants, without any kind of employment rights, and therefore experiencing all these issues outlined above and ultimately undermining employment prospects for us as a category. To address any of this in whatever small way, we would have to be recognised, and recognise ourselves, as a collectivity rather than a set of one-off individuals.

Actually, in one way, the interns were organised – they had this informal elected position of coordinator, whose job it was to organise social events etc. I’m not dissing the importance of something like this for people whose lives are totally out of sync with the pace of the different places they have to inhabit short-term. Being able to quickly make friends and mutual support networks is a basic survival strategy. But I was hoping for more, and used to test the waters by from time to time suggesting couldn’t we organise other things apart from socialising, for instance all those things that everybody is always complaining about. I would only throw out these comments in small groups in a pub or at lunch to see what the general feeling was, but overall there was no appetite there – seeds would not take root in this soil.

So I spent about 6 months wondering how people could so strongly identify elements of a common class experience, but have no inclination for collective identification or organising around them. And what I was suggesting was far from radical – just interest-representation, not any kind of action. I would usually suggest the idea of having the coordinator or somebody else try to ‘liaise’ with management about certain intern-issues. All very corporate-friendly but still no interest in talking about the complaints that everybody faced beyond the context of social conversation. Until one evening one of the interns committed suicide. The management at the bank decided they needed to ‘address’ this and hastily called a meeting to ‘hear’ from the interns about how life was working there. This meeting took place less than 24 hours after the suicide so it lacked a clear sense of purpose or structure. And in my opinion this was the greatest aspect of it. Because after some caginess in the beginning, one-by-one the complaints started to be shared, and once that started, everybody started wanting to share their story. For the first time, WE talked about OUR working conditions, sometimes very specifically, sometimes more generally. Was this the start of something? Could the grads without future develop class consciousness and an understanding of the system that put us where we were? Would we be able to stand in solidarity with one another? Could we even start to think about the next step and stand in solidarity with informal and traditional working classes?

I don’t know what happened next because my time there came to an end soon after and I was on a Eurolines out of there. But I doubt much changed in the years since. The bank probably reframed the issue somewhere along the corporate friendly lines of one of the closing statements in the new world of work video: “So ask yourself, How easy do we make it for our Gen Y’ers to do great work? Are we embracing their ability to Control, Co-create; Connect, and Collaborate”. I imagine 95% percent of the interns there at the time have also moved on. I don’t know if many of them have retained this memory of almost-collective, but I’m pretty sure those lucky enough to have started their meteoric rise in the corporate and financial world won’t be looking back for notes on how to start building class solidarity.

It’s sad of course sad that it took a suicide for the bank to start paying any attention to how it exploits this underpaid unofficial workforce. But also sad that it took a largely insincere response to this suicide on part of management for us to finally take our thoughts on the experience of precarity from just coffee or beer talk to a semi-organisational forum and from peer-to-peer to we. While there are clearly practical barriers I would say it is culture which poses the greatest obstacle to pracarious organising as a first baby step to anti-Capital Labour. In one way I suppose the subjectivities created by new technologies and social media relations are not so conducive to collective-thinking. But more than that I think it is the right-wing shite that students are fed – sorry, educated – convincing them to self-identify as talent managers rather than workers. But then I suppose that makes sense as universities will teach people to side with Capital rather than Labour. The only way to confront this is through unlearning it in the university of life, the slow and difficult process that it is.

Open letters from Palenstinian refugees

Two open letters from a 22-year old and 86 year old Palestinians who have lived all or most of their lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon but have no citizenship there. Currently on a speaking tour in the US, these two letters were hand delivered to 11 US congress members.

Thanks to DissidentVoice for bringing these to attention.

April 25, 2016
Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I know that you asked John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to report to you about gross human rights violations committed by Israel.  My entire life is the result of such violations, so I would like to report to you about it.

I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as were my parents and some of my grandparents.  My family and the families of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine were expelled in 1948, a crime that continues until today.  This expulsion has a name.  You call it ethnic cleansing or genocide.  We call it al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I was born in Lebanon, but I do not have Lebanese citizenship because I am not Lebanese, and Israel does not let me return to my home in Palestine.  I am stateless and have no citizenship in any country.  No one defends my rights. Without citizenship, it is very difficult to travel, even to neighboring Arab countries. It is even more difficult to work, because we are considered foreigners and do not have the rights of Lebanese.

I am currently on a speaking tour of the US and Canada with 86-year-old Nakba survivor Mariam Fathalla.  We were invited by a US human rights organization to tell our story in more than 30 cities over two months.  We have met many kind and sympathetic Americans during this time, but we are very disappointed in US and Canadian policy.  Your country is supporting criminal behavior towards Palestinians.

We have also met many Palestinians who are living good lives in America.  We do not enjoy the same privileges in Lebanon. But living good lives in other countries is not a solution for us. We are Palestinians, and however much our rights are respected or abused in other countries, we demand our right to return to our homes in Palestine, as guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter and other international law.

If you respect human rights, you have to enable all Palestinians to return to their homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom and dignity. I am 22 years old, but when I am 86 like Mariam, I hope to be living in my home in Palestine. If not, I will return with another 22-year-old Palestinian to remind Americans of unkept promises and the support of your country for human rights violations.

Amena Ashkar
Resident of Bourj el-Barajneh Refugee Camp
Beirut, Lebanon

April 25, 2016

Hon. [name]
Congressional address
Washington, DC

Dear [title] [name],

I hope you care whether US policy supports human rights violations. I want to tell you about such violations, because they happened to me.

On May 14, 1948, the “birthday” of “Israel”, my village of al-Zeeb in northern Palestine was invaded by heavily armed Zionist troops, and all of the inhabitants were expelled. I was 18 years old. After some of my unarmed neighbors were massacred by the invaders, I and my husband and our families fled to Lebanon along with the rest of the town. By the end of the year, our 4,000-year-old community had been leveled to the ground.

[title] [name], this is a gross human rights violation known as ethnic cleansing or genocide. More than half the Arab Palestinians in Palestine were killed or expelled and more than half of the cities, towns and villages of Palestine were made to disappear, a crime that we Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).

I have lived for the last 68 years in a refugee camp in south Lebanon called Ein el-Helweh, waiting to return to my home in al-Zeeb, as US and international law requires.  During that time Israel has invaded south Lebanon multiple times and even bombed our crowded refugee camp, killing lots of unarmed civilians, including children. Al-Nakba did not end in 1948, and it continues today.

Some good American people invited me to come to the US to tell our story to the US and Canadian people.  I have seen your beautiful country, and I have met many Palestinians who have made the US and Canada their second homes.  Our situation in Lebanon is not as good. We are stateless and have few rights.  But we are not seeking another country.  We have a home and a country, and we want to return to it, and this is our right.

[title] [name], US support is enabling Israel to continue its violation of our rights. We want only to return to our homes in Palestine and to live there in freedom.  I want to see my beloved town of al-Zeeb again and to watch my children and grandchildren continue our family there. What is the US policy about this?  What can you do to help us?

Mariam Fathalla
Resident of Ein el-Helweh Refugee Camp
Sidon, Lebanon