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Netherlands: discontent over government once more benefits the extreme right

The right wing Farmers Party is the real winner in the recent Dutch elections. This is a catastrophe for the environment.

As was expected, the governing parties, the right liberal VVD, the liberal D66 and the Christian democrat CDA, suffered defeat in the recent provincial elections as discontent with government policy runs ever deeper. The new right wing farmers party BBB, who participated in the provincial elections for the first time, became the biggest party in all of the twelve provinces on the cusp of a far right rural movement railing against nitrate restrictions on intensive cattle farming. The massive victory for BBB came at the expense of other extreme right parties like Geert Wilders’ PVV and Thierry Baudet’s so-called “Forum for Democracy” (FvD) as well as the governing parties VVD and CDA.

While the vote shifted from other, more extreme right parties to the BBB, the far right camp in general – consisting of the BBB, PVV, FvD and the JA21 – has continued to grow. If one includes the Christian fundamentalist SGP, which has clearly positioned itself in the far right camp over the last years, the right wing fringe has managed to gain 28 out of 75 seats in the Dutch upper chamber of the legislative (which are determined by the provincial councils). In the previous provincial election in 2019, which was marked at the time as a landslide victory for the fascist FvD, the extreme right only managed to obtain 17 senate seats (19 if you include the SGP).

Commentators in the Dutch press gladly join in with the right wing talking point that there is a rural revolt against the big cities. This follows a century old trope masking right wing extremism as “farmer common sense” – a frame used mostly by demagogues in the cities rather than farmers themselves. Most recently it was deployed by the extreme right wing “journalist” and propagandist Wierd Duk in 2018 when he justified the action of fascist “blockading Frisians” who blockaded a highway to prevent anti-racist activists from protesting the racist ‘Zwarte Piet’ figure featured in the Dutch St. Nicholas celebrations.

A superficial glance at the facts will do to show that nothing about this frame fits the reality of the situation. Initially, the rise of the far right was an urban and sub-urban phenomenon. Of all places, the working class city of Rotterdam was the site of the rise of the Islamophobic and far right Pim Fortuyn who broke the taboo on explicitly racist politics in the Netherlands. Even the gains of the farmers party BBB are not limited to rural areas. And the Dutch countryside has seen a gradual shift to the right from the CDA, initially benefitting the right liberal VVD.

The victory for the BBB is a disaster for the climate and for biodiversity. The VVD and CDA have done all they can to shift responsibility for nitrate regulations on cattle farming to the provinces, hoping that the provincial councils would block the national policy. Following last weeks’ election result, they will likely succeed in this, although they have gotten more than they bargained for. Now that the BBB is the biggest party, it is almost certain that nitrate regulations will be stalled and eventually rewritten in the interests of the agricultural and processing companies. The provincial council fractions of VVD and CDA will likely support such a move, undermining the policy of their own national government and shifting the balance of forces in prime minister Rutte’s cabinet to the right.

The Netherlands’ concentration of pig farming compared with the rest of Europe. Graphic: Arte

Forum for Democracy”

One silver lining of these elections is the loss of the fascist FvD, even though it doesn’t come as a surprise. After the party split in December 2020 and the neofascist circles around Thierry Baudet and Freek Jansen consolidated their control of the party, the electoral support for the FvD has dwindled compared to the 2019 election. The seats the party won at the time have almost all been lost to internal conflicts over the course of four years. The joy on parts of the left over their loss therefore comes off as exaggerated.

FvD have only lost votes in small amounts to other far right parties. Around 40 per cent of FvD voters in 2021 did not show up this time. Only 10 per cent voted for BBB. The fascists therefore did not so much lose because of another far right party’s success, but rather because a significant part of their own support base have turned their backs on the FvD. It seems like this can be explained by the fact that the FvD leadership overplayed their hand. In the weeks before the election, the FvD increasingly turned against the BBB, accusing them of being a “controlled opposition”. This has led to BBB-chair Caroline van der Plas receiving death threats and a rift in the far right front that was supposed to have mobilised the “biggest demonstration ever” in the Hague on Sunday the 12th of March which ended in a flop for the FvD-fascists.

Although the FvD maintain a frighteningly loyal core support base, who not only vote for them, but are also party members, buy merchandise, consume fascist media and sometimes participate in far right street protests – they are still a small minority compared to the passive electorate of the far right. The latter wider group has up to now not been won over to fully fledged fascism and seems to abhor attacks on other far right parties.

But this situation is far from static. The FvD has a solid base and a real network of fascist media with a serious reach behind them. Furthermore, the fascists show the logical consequences of views that the entire far right share. FvD is focused on raising an extra-parliamentary movement and can continue building it. They might not be a big force electorally, but the danger of fascism is felt in the long term and doesn’t originate from their parliamentary fractions as much as from their influence outside of parliament.

The Left

The left wing parties (the social democrat PvdA, the green party Groenlinks, the socialist SP and the animal rights party PvdD) have done really badly in this election, even if one wouldn’t guess it from the speeches from their leaders. The left has not been able to profit from the blows the government parties incurred. The explanation is simple: the left have not consistently opposed the government and have made no attempt to offer an alternative. The PvdA and Groenlinks together have 15 seats in the Senate and form the second biggest fraction. That also shows that their plans to merge their parties together have not had any substantial positive effect. That is not surprising; the left parties have been losing for decades now because of their neoliberal, rightward turn and their untrustworthy opportunism. One doesn’t solve that problem with different marketing.

Groenlinks and PvdA proved their limited worth in the election debates. While the VVD liberals went on the offensive, the left parties had no fundamental answer. They didn’t dare to wholeheartedly defend the actions of Extinction Rebellion in The Hague on the 12th of March. Neither did they have a left wing answer to the hard capitalist arguments of the right wing – like Rutte’s remark that rents cannot be lowered because that would scare off investors from investing in affordable housing. They even cowed from saying that the right wing government has to go. PvdA’s lead candidate was asked four times in one debate whether Rutte should step down, and she never answered in the affirmative.

Even in direct confrontation with the VVD on the eve of the elections, the “opposition” parties wanted to come across as constructive. They are not opposing the government, they mostly hope that they can continue to help Rutte to maintain his parliamentary majority in exchange for some loose change. Sigrid Kaag of the liberal D66 party described this servile attitude in an unintentionally devastating way: “I know the PvdA and Groenlinks, up till now they’ve voted for almost every cabinet proposal, given some amendments, and I thing they will continue to do so after the 16th of March.” She’s right. The difference now though is that Rutte can make deals with BBB too, which means that the left parties have lost some of their leverage.

One piece of good news is the seat gained by the animal rights party (PvdD), now giving them a total of 4 seats. This party is also quite liberal and petite bourgeois in outlook, but is irrevocably green and principled. They were the only party who dared to directly contradict the BBB. Unfortunately, they needlessly juxtaposed the interests of farmers and nature, for instance with the tactless slogan “no bees, no food”, but nonetheless their courage and principles were rightly rewarded.

Bottom of the barrel

It seems like many left wing voters didn’t vote out of enthusiasm, but mainly out of horror of the right and far right, as was shown in the the Socialist Party’s (SP) fifth consecutive election defeat under the leadership of Lilian Marijnissen. Even in the party’s traditional stronghold of Oss, the SP gained less votes than BBB and VVD.

The party reacted as it usually does – by sticking its head in the sand and explaining the victory of the “protest party” BBB as “a middle finger to the established order”. The fact that this middle finger comes from the far right and not from the left, even from a party that prioritises the interests of agribusiness, apparently doesn’t even make a difference anymore. This latest defeat will not prompt Marijnissen to make way for new leadership, nor will it provoke genuine reflection. The leading clique has practically abolished internal party democracy and don’t have any ideas apart from continuing a failed and increasingly nationalistic strategy.

The SP will reach rock bottom one day, but the party has – in comparison to the other left parties – a surprising capacity to keep losing. Other left parties retain a certain attractiveness to voters who want to prevent things from getting worse. The SP is much less credible in this regard. The party flirts ever more openly with the far right, conducted a racist campaign against labour migration and let their MP Mahir Alkaya make an appearance on the fascist conspricacy channel BLCKBX.

The effect of all this is that the SP is the only left party that substantially lost votes to the far right. Of all SP voters in 2021, 21 per cent voted for the BBB this March. Only a third voted again for the SP. The SP did not manage to gain votes out of the far right camp – those voters have enough parties to choose from anyway.


Many commentators explain the success of BBB by pointing to the way in which the media has continued to offer the farmers party a platform over the last years. Especially talk shows have made a habit of inviting all kinds of uncouth figures. This was the case with Thierry Baudet, but also with leading COVID conspiracy theorist Willem Engel and the fascist commentator Raisa Blommestijn, whom talk show host Eva Jinek kept inviting on to represent a “fresh alternative point of view”.

But it would be too easy to blame the rise of the BBB on the media alone. VVD and CDA have laid the groundwork for the current nitrate crisis by attempting to circumvent EU environmental guidelines and opposing the nitrate regulation plans of their own government when they had no choice but to act. That in turn energised the farmer protests, which gained an ever more distinct far right character at the same time that the BBB became their most prominent political representative. The BBB therefore had a social movement behind them as well as the support of agribusiness.

Another factor was the lack of a credible left opposition. The left parties have done nothing to organise a left wing countermovement. The fact that the farmers movement and the BBB actually did manage to make things difficult for the government, meant that a lot of people mistakenly saw them as an alternative to the neoliberal status quo – even though the farmer protests are precisely meant to maintain this status quo.

Wishful thinking

Just like after the election victory of the FvD four years before, liberals are trying to square the circle in all kinds of ways to reassure themselves. One variant of this is the assumption that BBB will enter into a similar crisis to the one of the FvD after 2019. There is no indication of that at all. Furthermore, this wishful thinking ignores fundamental differences between BBB and FvD.

The FvD crisis stemmed from the fact that the FvD leadership was and still is pursuing a neofascist project, even though a big part of the party neither understood, nor had been won over for such an enterprise. The self-confident fascists in FvD initially amounted to a small group that tried to push the party to the right bit by bit. Before the 2019 provincial elections, the party needed all sorts of candidates that they did not have, and therefore needed to recruit them. Once elected, these representatives were confronted with ever more explicitly fascist outbursts from the party leader Baudet, which put pressure on their relations with other parties. This eventually prompted almost the entire FvD senate fraction to leave the party.

BBB is much different. They also have grown quickly and need new people. But while BBB flirts with all kinds of far right ideas – like the so called great replacement theory and conspiracy theories revolving around the World Economic Forum – and is unmistakably populist and opportunistic, the main party goals are clear to the entire membership. All kinds of former VVD and CDA politicians are now active for BBB. Furthermore, BBB has a powerful and experienced network of agricultural capitalists behind them, that can provide talking points and supply figures to support their arguments – whether those figures are manipulated or not. Despite this, we will surely see all kinds of amateurism from new BBB representatives, but indications for an imminent party crisis are nowhere to be found.


Once more, these latest elections were bad news for the left. The Rutte government can continue to govern and can find senate majorities with the far right as well as with the (centre) left. The VVD strengthened its position in the national government. The fact that the VVD has cleverly managed to put its mark on government policy goes a long way towards explaining their relatively small losses compared to the other government parties (D66 and CDA). It is therefore to be expected that the VVD will continue to strengthen its position. The continued rise of the far right helps them in this regard.

The implementation of nitrate restrictions will be kicked further down the road and probably rewritten in favour of the interests of the big agricultural companies. That will lead to significant conflict, as BBB is determined to force a break with EU guidelines on nitrate and environmental protections, whereas for the governing parties this is probably unnegotiable.

The left opposition will likely play an even more insignificant role. Groenlinks and PvdA are exclusively focused on parliamentary cow towing, which will deliver even less results. This underscores the importance of the extraparliamentary left, especially the climate and the trade union movements, who show that victories for working people are only possible if we fight for them.

This article originally appeared in Dutch in Translation: Freek Blauwhof, Die Linke Neukölln

The Imperial ambitions behind Olaf Scholz’s Japan visit

Victor Grossman on the Simmering Conflict with China


It has become so urgent to rally all those who oppose the most bellicose elements now panting for more weapons, more billions, militarization, even the draft and, basically, more war. German Foreign Minister Baerbock, the new Defense Minister Pistorius, EU boss von der Leyen and NATO-leader Stoltenberg all seem so close to Washington military policy they deserve a Stars-and-Stripes flag sewed on their pants or at least a USA lapel pin. Others, full of talk of “Eastern flank” and “Southern flank” and tactics for 2026 or 2067, dream once again of Prussian glory. They want regime change in Moscow, the opening of vast reaches of Eurasia and a springboard toward China.

Till recently China was Germany’s peaceful trade partner, its biggest. Now, with one provocative visit to Taiwan after the other, with a German warship, fighter planes and soldiers back in old German colonial areas, it is joining in with an encirclement of China like that against Russia.

Olaf Scholz just visited Japan to increase trade and cement common policies. “We are united by democratic principles,” the SPD politician made clear, as he does at virtually all state visits. A leading Japanese journalist noted that “in view of the current world situation, our coordination and cooperation with Germany in dealing with Russia and China are very important.” And Premier Kishida stressed that “Japanese-German relations are stronger and closer than ever before!”

He was not quite correct. They were once even closer. If, like the legendary American long-sleeper Rip van Winkel, I had fallen asleep in 1936, I might have read, before drowsing off:

“… the following November (1936) saw the ratification of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty between Germany and Japan; Italy joined the Pact in 1937… It aimed at “formally integrating the military aims of Germany, Italy, Japan, and later followed by other nations… to stand side by side and cooperate in their endeavours in the Greater East Asian region and the European territories, their primary aim being to establish and maintain a new order of affairs capable of promoting prosperity and welfare for the peoples there.“

On awakening today I would have been amazed at some similarities, such as the aspects on Russia and China! To quote Yogi Berra: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

There was a major difference from 1936; today’ German-Japanese friendship is under the aegis of that other major power, which also likes to promote prosperity and welfare but is more blatant about its goals – and more frightening. It would have been a rude awakening!

Twentynine Palms, Calif.: “…a half-dozen officers of the Hawaii-based Third Marine Littoral Regiment took a very short break from days of fighting … The war, they said, was going well.

The unit, newly created and innovative in nature, was facing its toughest test yet — a 10-day mock battle across Southern California…developing new tactics to figure out one of the service’s highest priorities: how to fight a war against Chinese forces in their own backyard, and win.

Over the next two years, the new unit will have a relentless schedule, with about four or five times as many exercises as most infantry regiments. Its next big test will be in the Philippines in April.” (NY Times, 3.5.23)

The China-Russia-USA tension recalls another game known to kids in many countries: “Rock, scissors, paper.” Which one wins points? During a visit to a Russian children’s home ten years ago I watched two sweet little 9-year-olds playing it and asked if I could join in. They laughed and nodded. Under their rules, the winner touches the loser‘s forehead with a gentle finger. As I followed this rule they roared at a funny foreigner playing along. Of course they could not know (or care) that I was an American.

I reflected later about another possible finger pushing a special button, not gently, and bringing an end to the girls, now adults, that happy home, all such games – and me if I am still around. People have marched to prevent such an ending in recent weeks, fine people, but far, far too few. Despite all differences, all quarrels, all coalitions. Such protests and demands must quickly increase, everywhere, with countless worried humans, of all colors, preferences and beliefs. My plea is: join in!

Child’s Play?

Recent news from Berlin: Netanyahu visit, Grand Coalition, and threatened split in the Left


I recall a circle game from my childhood; after each round another chair was removed, leaving one more child out. We called it “Going to Jerusalem.” Last week Israeli boss Netanyahu arrived FROM Jerusalem. After two days he was out of the Berlin circle – one day too early.

Since its founding the Federal Republic has supported even the worst Israeli leaders, aiming, by voicing loud regret for Nazi horror and displaying reform efforts, to win an admission ticket back into western society. Under a media blanket, however, all but the worst Nazi big shots crept back into every sphere, above all government and the economy. Age, death and rebellious young anti-fascists gradually removed most of them, but not their influence – or the total official support for every Israeli leader, even former terrorists like Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.

Such types now have total power, yet Chancellor Scholz upheld the formula and gave “Bibi” an honored welcome. Then the state visit was suddenly cut short! Was it because hundreds of thousands in Israel kept up mass protests against the demolition of democracy, even for Jewish Israelis? Or because of world-wide revulsion at the bloodshed against Palestinians, from well-aimed bullets killing Shireen Abu Akleh, a beloved woman journalist, or the torching of hundreds of Palestinian homes in the refugee camp of Huwwara by illegal Israeli settlers, while Israeli soldiers refused to intervene and then joined in, with ministerial approval?

Or because of demonstrations in Berlin, by Germans and Palestinians at the Bundestag and, at Brandenburg Gate, by angry Israeli ex-pats living in Berlin (a historic turn-around), waving Israeli flags while denouncing the new government? It is getting tougher for Bibi and his hate-driven ministers to find comfortably secure chairs anywhere. Perhaps, before long, even in Jerusalem?

But the featured game in Berlin these days was rather “Who’s King of the Mountain” or, slightly altered, “King of City Hall” (or its queen).  In an unprecedented decision, the courts canceled the totally-mismanaged September 2021 elections to the Berlin parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) and ordered new elections, which were held on February 12th.

Since 2016, the city was run by a coalition: Social Democrats (SPD), with their Franziska Giffey as mayor, the Greens and die LINKE (The Left). Most of the media now expected only minor changes.

Then came Surprise No. 1. Those three parties, added together, again won a majority, but a far slimmer one, with the SPD suffering its worst loss in Berlin history, a measly 18.4%, far behind the CDU (“Christian” Democratic Union) at 28.2%. Too many Berliners were fed up, for both good reasons and bad ones. New Year’s Eve fireworks, with angry attacks on the police and some firemen, were immediately blamed by the “Bild” and other rags (think “Fox” or “NY Post”) on “lazy, unruly and violent immigrants.” The coalition parties were accused of “spoiling” them instead of locking them away or deporting them. And the CDU, heavily racist-tainted, joined in.

Other heartstrings – in the tender breasts of car-drivers – were struck by the Greens‘ efforts to slow auto velocity and limit car traffic, even barring four-wheelers from a downtown shopping street, to increase the number and width of bicycle lanes and stop the extension of a big highway further into the city. Blood pressures behind steering-wheels rose.

Thirdly, Berlin’s less prosperous majority was angry at the ruling trio’s failure, despite its promises, to keep rental costs from soaring, prevent evictions, and build anything near the necessary number of affordable apartments. A referendum demanding the confiscation of all apartment buildings owned by big housing giants (with adequate repayment) had been dramatically approved by over a million voters, 59%, but was sabotaged by SPD-mayor Giffey, given only lukewarm support by the Greens and really backed only by die LINKE – but even then pushed into  “mañana“ status by that party’s accommodating, status-quo wing which is dominant in Berlin. So people asked: Where is the promised genuine rent control? Who has really fought for affordable housing! Many, dismayed or disgusted, decided to sit out this repeat election!

But many did vote. And to complicate the messy situation, both SPD and Greens got 18.4% – about 280,000 each! The SPD was ahead – by only 105 votes! Then almost 500 uncounted mail-in votes were found; would they give the Greens first place and a “Green woman mayor”? Suspense was huge, but in the end the SPD was ahead by a just 53 votes, enough to save the status quo.

But the top vote-getter gets first shot at forming a government. The CDU led the field with 28.2%, giving them 52 seats (out of 159), far from a majority. With neither die LINKE (22 seats) nor the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD – 17 seats) as possible allies, their right to a first chance seemed a useless formality. But the CDU kept up its usual loud-mouth bragging.

Surprise No. 2, it paid off! In an amazing switch, Franziska Giffey, whose unpopularity as Social Democratic mayor helped cause their losses, announced her decision to dismantle the leftish-sounding trio alliance, abdicate her position and take her party into a junior partnership, giving Berlin its first CDU boss since 2001. The probable new mayor, Kai Wegner, like his party, works hand in glove with the real estate lobby, and it’s a wide-open hand. He once assured these behemoths:

“The exchange with you, our cooperation, has always offered me a great deal. As you know, I was often closer to your side than to the other side.“

Giffey had never angered that side either; Berlin seemed in for five years of right-wing government. The SPD was trading any remaining left-over principles for a second prize, half the well-rewarded cabinet chairs. The Greens and die LINKE were suddenly relegated to cold opposition seats!

But halt! In Berlin’s SPD, majority approval by the party’s 53,000 members is needed for such major decisions; there is a call for rejection in some boroughs and in the SPD’s Young Socialist organization (Jusos). Will party discipline and pressure prevail in the end? The curtain has not yet descended on this topsy-turvy puppet theater stage.

Similar confusion and controversy abound on the national level, where Social Democrats and Greens share coalition rule not with die LINKE but with the small, pushy pro-big-biz Free Democratic Party. This FDP, now threatened with political bankruptcy, is trying to win back hearts and votes by moving closer to the CDU, now in opposition but drooling at a chance to overturn apple-carts as in Berlin.

So the FDP is bucking its Green coalition partner by preserving Germany’s “no speed limit” stretches on its Autobahns, which it tries to extend more than climate-friendlier rail traffic, and further hindering, as much as possible, postponed plans to cut down on carbon-spewing coal and gas heating and close down atomic energy plants. It alienates its SPD partners, now trying to regain lost working-class support, by resisting aid to the financially deprived while resisting taxes on the obscenely wealthy; the well- worn label is again “deficit-cutting”. Chancellor Scholz is trying to please everyone but the cracks widen while the CDU aims at becoming King of the Mountain. Like in Berlin.

One theme unites German coalitions; total support for continuing the Ukraine war. Many citizens base their support on an abhorrence of killing and destruction, on sympathy for Ukrainian refugees, over a million mostly women and children who have arrived in Germany. And for those left behind.

But men like Armin Papperger, the CEO of Rheinmetall, Germany’s main producer of tanks and other big weapons, have hardly been affected by human sympathy alone. His annual pay last year stood at €4,4 million while his company, happy since 1889 at all weapons orders, raked in $28.22 billion last year. “The war in Europe has ushered in a new era for Rheinmetall,” Papperger said.

Nor would a long war require more hankies for executives at Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and the like, or US coal and gas producers who, after years of pressure, finally succeeded in forcing western Europe to cancel imports from Russia and build new ports for far more expensive liquefied gas from fracking sites in the USA. In the second and third quarter of 2022 alone, American oil producers made $200 billion in profits; explosively capping off such successes, according to master journalist Seymour Hersh, was the blasting of the Russia-to-Germany pipelines on the Baltic sea bottom.

German politicians and media could hardly blame this convincingly on Russia, which constructed the pipelines. And they feared the political consequences of blaming either the obvious culprit or Zelensky, Washington’s man in Kyiv, now the most-feted star in Europe, well ahead of King Charles (not to mention Macron). So they tried to just keep quiet and hope people would forget about it.

Not enough did, so a Washington-CIA-Berlin legend was hatched about “non-governmental Ukrainians” in a boat so small it could never have carried the weight of explosives and devices. So they became mum again. Or are they now trying to hatch up some more credible alibi?

But not only the city-state Berlin, teetering coalitions or exploded pipes are making news, but their effects. Low-paid working-people, single parents, pensioners, have been hit hard by soaring prices for foodstuffs, higher rent, fears about increasing prices for heating, cooking, commuting to jobs.

Many are now fighting back. On Monday, March 27th, a giant one-day warning strike is shutting down rail service, key airports, much of urban public transportation. Kindergarten teachers, garbage collectors, civil servants, university staff; some well-paid pundits are weeping over this “rehearsal for a general strike!” while Britain and France seem closer – as models for action!

Some companies (and public institutions) are hoping for public animosity because of the resulting inconveniences but, often surprisingly, there is widespread public support for the strikers by all those who feel the same pains.

Such disputes, difficulties and struggles should be of advantage to a party dedicated to better lives for all the people, with no lobby pressures or dependence on corporate donors. Sadly, however, die LINKE is also split, now mostly on questions involving the Ukraine. Its stronger group, called by some the “reformers,” stands largely in line with the main parties and media, unconditionally condemning Putin and Russia, approving weapons shipments to Zelensky, calling for victory against the aggressor and condemning all doubters. Angrily opposed to them are those who voice (or demand) unconditional support for Russia.

But many – or most (?) “doubters” condemn the Russian invasion but point to the map and the constant, aggressive push by NATO, led by Washington, to surround Russia, strangle its approaches to the world’s oceans by blocking the Baltic and the Black Sea while stepping up dangerous military and naval maneuvers along its borders, coupled with open political interference in Ukraine and thinly-veiled calls to defeat “authoritarian governments”, meaning Russia (and Cuba, N. Korea, etc.), while snuggling up to or installing some of the world‘s worst tyrants.

These “doubters” ask what the USA would do if a hostile alliance conducted atomic-armed maneuvers near San Diego, Houston and Detroit, and as an answer they recall the Cuban crisis of 1962– almost atomic war! They also recall the bombing of Belgrade “to defend the rights of oppressed Albanian-speakers in Kosovo” and ask if there was no parallel to the very bloody repression of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

The split on these questions threatens the existence of die LINKE. When its most prominent member and best orator (or Germany’s), Sahra Wagenknecht, spoke in the Bundestag against a break in trade relations with Russia and called for peace negotiations, some prominent ”reformers” called for her expulsion. But In TV talk-shows, usually attacked four against one, she always ends up a calm, polite, smiling victor. She was the main organizer of the great peace rally of 50,000 in Berlin on Feb. 25th, which outraged the media – and opponents in her own party. But in their total rejection of a peace rally they isolated themselves.

Then, in early March, Wagenknecht stated that she would not again run as a candidate for the Bundestag but “retire from politics and work as publicist and author – unless something new turns up politically.” This hint at a possible new party, further to the left, possibly polling at 14% (and leaving die LINKE with 2%), was seen even by some of her enthusiasts as unfortunately vague, further splitting the party yet without offering any definite plan, thus with her strong voice muffled as if by a covid face mask. Her message is not uncomplicated: she charges a neglect of working class rights – and of German workers – with endless attention and bickering about divisive and academic identity and gender questions.

Most recently the two national chairpersons of die LINKE, both opposed to Wagenknecht, though not as angrily as other leaders, formulated a new policy statement for debate which, at first reading, seems to be a move toward bringing together all but the most uncompromisingly opposed party members and leaders. It is perhaps a chance to rescue the party.

Berlin must cease its campaign of harassment against Palestinians and their supporters

Speech by a Jewish Bund member at the trial of people arrested for assembling on Nakba Day 2022


Editor’s introduction: On Wednesday, 23rd March, former MP Christine Buchholz was in court to challenge the €300 fine imposed on her and others for being in Hermannplatz on Nakba Day, 2022. The verdict was postponed, as the policeman who had arrested Christine said that he was unable to attend. This means that of the cases which have taken place so far, 2 people have been told that they no longer have to pay the fine, and all other cases have been postponed to a later date,

Outside the hearing, Nakba75 organised a protest which was addressed by a number of speakers. Among these speakers was a member of the Jewish Bund who was the first person to win his appeal. This is an English translation of his speech.

“I want to thank everyone for showing up for Palestinian solidarity and against German state hypocrisy. Now a few weeks after my trial, the prejudice of the German legal system is already clearly seen in its choice of who is allowed to demonstrate and who isn’t. This is evidenced again in the results of recent court cases. Although most detainees were arrested together, charged with the same “crime” and face the same evidence (that is, absolutely none), two of those detained, first, myself, a Jewish Berliner, and second, a white German, have been quickly found non-guilty.

Meanwhile, the judges have applied much greater scrutiny to the cases of Palestinian and other Arab defendees. Despite the lack of evidence, rather than dropping the charges, the courts have drawn out the cases. In a recent case, a police officer called as a witness admitted to having received the order to “detain people with unusual clothing”. What does “usual” clothing look like?

When even the police witness could not identify defendants as having demonstrated, the German courts were not satisfied. In my case, I was let free within a few minutes without any police testimony. It should follow that if two of us arrested in the same kettle were found not guilty, everyone else similarly charged should also be found innocent.

I want to also point at that at no time did the police or anyone else find any evidence of antisemitism among those charged with demonstrating.

Once again, the Jewish Bund demands that the Berlin state attorney drop all charges. The city must cease its campaign of harassment against Palestinians and their supporters, including Nakba Day bans, and focus instead on the long-ignored problem of state complicity in and inaction against real racist and antisemitic groups.

Finally, I do want to thank the police and Berlin courts, as its openly racist policing and legal processes has brought together new comrades.”

Explosive movement to defend pensions in France – An indefinite general strike is needed

Demonstrations against Macron are getting bigger, and police violence in increasing, National union leaders must act


Thursday the 23rd of March was the ninth day of action called in opposition to Macron’s plan to add two years to everyone’s working life. Millions of demonstrators protested in hundreds of towns, more than in previous weeks, and with far more young people visible than before. Many were demonstrating for the first time, enraged by Macron forcing the bill through without a vote in parliament.

Half the country’s public transport and schools were closed; several universities and hundreds of high schools were blockaded. Major tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles were on strike. The public 24 hour news radio France-info was playing rock music Thursday morning as its journalists had walked out. Staff at Le Monde, the most respected of the national daily newspapers, had also joined the strike. “We have to throw all our forces into the battle”, radical Left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared, “People will not surrender, Mr. President”.

Ongoing strikes against the pension reforms continued into a second week among refuse collectors in at least 15 cities, and 10,000 tons of rubbish piled up in the streets of Paris. Continuing strikes by dockers, energy workers, airport staff and others show no signs of slowing down, and blockades of motorways, fuel depots, bus garages, wholesale distribution centres, tax centres, power stations, rubbish incinerators, ports and railway lines have been organized around the country. Energy workers, under the label of “Robin Hoods”, have taken over electricity distribution in some areas, and are organizing power cuts for Macronist town halls or regional police headquarters, and free electricity for hospitals and similar institutions.

On Wednesday night, the posh audience at the first evening of a contemporary dance show in the prestigious Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris had their leisure interrupted by theatre union demonstrators waving banners and singing songs (some of the audience left in disgust). Thursday morning, columns of farmers’ tractors were blocking main roads in some regions, while a group of 300 actors and personalities from culture and entertainment published an open letter asking Macron to withdraw the law.

Every evening this week there have been nighttime demonstrations in a score of cities, with violent police chasing thousands of young demonstrators, and rubbish bins being burned in the streets. Thursday night the doors of the town hall in Bordeaux and parts of a police station in Lorient were burned. A teaching assistant had her thumb blown off by a police grenade at a demonstration in Rouen.

It is impossible to list all the different strikes and protests, but important to note that the general strike we need has not yet arrived.

Macron forced his pensions bill through by decree on the 16th of March, avoiding putting it to a parliamentary vote which he would have lost. He then survived a no confidence motion in parliament by nine votes, which would have overthrown the government and its Prime Minister, Elizabeth Borne. After all this, Macron addressed the nation in a major lunchtime interview on Wednesday the 22nd. He warned his listeners of the dangers of “sedition” and tried to compare the young protestors burning rubbish bins in the streets of Paris this week to Trump’s far right putschist thugs who attacked the capitol on the 6th of January 2021! He insisted that his reform was necessary to save our pension system.

The least one can say is that he convinced practically no one. Opinion polls showed that 61% of the population thought his interview had provoked more anger. 7% felt it would help to calm things down, and 27% thought it would change nothing. Even the mainstream press were highly critical. “It will be hard to find a way out of the situation now” wrote one major editorial. Laurent Berger, leader of the least combative of the major union confederations (the one which, four years ago, had supported Macron’s previous failed attempt to slash pensions) accused Macron of lying and declared that the movement must continue.

Police violence is on the rise and the government has even been trying to requisition oil refinery workers to force them to work, which has provoked more anger and led other groups to join the strikes. So the movement shows no sign of calming down, but at the same time the national union leaders who have been fixing the regular days of action are still refusing to call for an indefinite general strike. Given the present level of anger, and the fact that 90% of employed people are opposed to the pension reform, this should be the obvious option. 

Foreseeing the future is not easy. Macron now technically has the right to sign his bill into law next week. In normal circumstances, it is far more difficult to organize opposition to a law which has already been put into effect. But these are not normal circumstances … and this is France ! In 2006, a law imposing worse conditions for those under 21 years old on work contracts and instituting a two year trial period for young people in jobs was voted and signed into law, before a huge social explosion sent then Prime Minister Juppé running for cover, and forced President Chirac to throw his law in the rubbish bin.

Macron no longer seems to have a plan beyond police repression and blaming the Left for the “terrible chaos in our streets”. Three million people demonstrated Thursday, and Thursday night 172 were arrested by the police. Not exactly the apocalypse!

We need to put as much pressure as possible on national union leaders to call an indefinite general strike, and soon. They do not want to do this, because they see the world through the eyes of professional negotiators. But the general strike is necessary, and no other body has the prestige and authority to make it happen. There is still everything to play for.

The next day of action is set for Tuesday the 28th, and must be used to build broader action still.