It’s happening. Right now, across the ocean, citizens of the United Kingdom are running to the polls to answer the big question:  Should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave it (or, as they say, Brexit)?

“It’s a once in a life-time opportunity to get back the independency and self-governance of this nation,” believes Nigel Farage, leader of the pro-Brexit United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

“Leaving would be the gamble of the century,” warns Prime Minister David Cameron “and it would be our children’s future on the table if we were to roll the dice.”

Saying that the issue is polarizing would be quite an understatement. So would be saying that the race is tight. By tonight, just about half of the UK will be exhaling in relief as the rest sinks into deeper anguish and anxiety. Which is will be which and why does it matter so much?

If you have waited until the very last moment to learn about the stakes of what’s happening today, here is what you should know.

What is the Brexit and Why is it Happening Now?

You probably heard that part and if so, you can skip right on to the next point. If not: Hi, welcome to the world! I promise it’s much better than the rock you’ve been living under.

Brexit is the very catchy abbreviation for the British exiting the European Union (EU).

The European Union is an economic union between 28 countries. Its first iteration was formed in the 50s in the wake of the Second World War. The big idea was that giving common institutions and economic interests to European countries would prevent them from tearing each other apart again.

The UK has been a member of the EU since 1973 and has had increasingly mixed feelings about it for just as long.

The last few years have been especially troublesome for the European Union. The addition of a number of smaller countries with struggling economies to the ranks, the plummeting of the Euro and the refugee crisis all nourished growing frustration across the continent and particularly in Britain.

While conservative Prime Minister David Cameron wants the United Kingdom to remain in the Union, both the opposition and his own party kept pressing him to address the issue. In 2015, Cameron promised that he would put it to a vote in a referendum if he won the general election.

Who Wants to Leave, Who Wants to Stay

The United Kingdom’s population is split 50/50 on the issue, but polls show a pretty clear demographic divide between pro-EU and pro-Brexit supporters.

The first group is young and college-educated and they live either in London, Scotland or Ireland. They mostly support the Green Party or the Labour Party.

The people in the second camp are typically over 60 years old, with the equivalent of a high-school diploma and a career in manual labour. They overwhelmingly support UKIP or the Conservative Party.

The most vocal advocate for leaving the Union is UKIP. Much like the Front National in France and Donald Trump in the US, UKIP is keen on blaming all of the population’s problems on immigrants. To them, the EU’s open-circulation policies are a threat to the stability of the British economy and its national security.

This viewpoint is also popular amongst the conservatives, whereas the Green party and Labour are convinced that the UK is better off within the Union. So is Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

david cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Zuma Press)

The vast majority of the International community is also hoping that the UK decides to stay.

The Case for Leaving

A really significant argument for the Brexit is the questionable democracy of the EU.

Many feel that too many decisions depend on unelected officials in Brussels. As Conservative Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, put it: “the more the EU does, the less room there is for national decision-making.”

Local representatives are often up against cumbersome economic regulations for their smallest initiatives, as well as hand-tied by EU policies for bigger decisions.

While the right wing campaign for Brexit tends to present the EU as a meddlesome left-oriented power, some people at the other end of the political spectrum view it first and foremost as a protector of corporate interests and power imbalance.

British journalist Paul Mason bluntly accused the EU of providing “the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organized crime.”

Those arguments, as sensible as they may be, didn’t get much attention. The Brexit movement preferred attacking the EU’s bureaucracy and, especially, its handling of immigration.

Boris Johnson (Reuters)
Boris Johnson (Reuters)

The financial contribution the UK makes to the EU was also often mentioned as a source of resentment. It is notably Boris Johnson’s favourite talking point. It is even written “We send the EU £350 million a week” on the side of his campaign bus.

The number is disputed by many, though. According to Fullfact, an independent fact-checking charity, the net contribution the EU received from the UK in 2015 amounts to £8,4 billion (around £161 million per week).

The Counter-Argument

However, it is not certain that leaving the EU would allow the United Kingdom to regain control over its immigration policies and economic regulations. Not if London wants to negotiate access to the EU market.

There are countries outside the Union which were granted privileged access to it, but only because they agreed to respect the EU regulations. Norway, for example, is applying 75% of them. The same would probably be asked of the UK.

The European Union might not be particularly agreeable in the negotiations with a parting country, analysts have noted. It would be foolish to expect many concessions.

Being part of Europe’s single market exposes local businesses to a sometimes brutal competition. But the UK has done pretty well for itself. As it is not part of the Euro zone, it escaped the 2008 financial crisis with remarkably few damages. The unemployment rate and public debt are still low comparatively to other countries within the Union.

A lot of corporations choose to establish their headquarters in London because it allows them to conduct their business everywhere in Europe. But this only works as long as Britain is part of the EU. Banks and businesses will probably flee if they no longer have access to the trading advantages of the Union.

Furthermore, it is estimated that around three million jobs around the country are linked to the EU and could quite simply disappear in the event of a Brexit.

There are many more predicted upsides and downsides for the economy, but one thing seems to be certain: the initial shock will be brutal. The most catastrophic estimates warn that the Country’s economy could shrink 7% in the next year, but even the most optimistic ones remain worrying.

Another source of concern is the clear geographical cleavage of the public opinion. Northern Ireland and Scotland are overwhelmingly against leaving the Union. Their already complicated relations with London might not endure the additional tension.

It was only two years ago, after all, that 44% of Scots voted in favour of independence from the UK. If the United Kingdom elects to leave de EU, it might not stay united for very long.

Why Does the Rest of the World Care So Much?

Whatever the potential long-term benefits, economists agree that a British exit from the EU will hugely disrupt the global economy. Finance magnate and influential progressive intellectual George Soros even predicted that the sterling will take a “black Friday” plunge if the referendum’s results favour the Brexit.

Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy. It would be the first country to effectively leave the EU, but it’s certainly not the only one thinking about it.

Eurosceptic movements are gaining momentum across the continent. Lead by left-wing politicians tired of submitting to the austerity conditions imposed for bailout in poorer economies, and by extreme right parties tired of bailing out everyone else in richer countries.

The fear of a domino effect is very real. Close economic allies of the UK, like Finland, Netherlands and Denmark, would have significantly less incentive to remain in the Union. Others are also inspired by the idea of setting their own immigration quotas.

Back in February, the Czech PM warned that if the UK decides to part ways, “a debate about Czech Republic’s withdrawal is to be expected in the following years.” Official opposition in Austria also promised to organize a referendum of their own if they were elected.

Polls close at 10pm tonight (Thursday) UK time, so roughly around the time this article is being published, but results should only be known around 7am Friday in Britain, or 2am Eastern.

* Featured image: Al Jazeera Creative Commons

The Western left is in dire straits today. Supposedly, the Left (at least the political parties on the left side of the political spectrum) is suffering from an acute sickness. Or is the Left dead?

What if the self-inflicted debacles of the Hollande/Valls administration in France, or of the Renzi coalition in Italy are not the symptoms of a sick socialist movement, but rather a clear manifestation that the Left as we know it has ceased to exist?

Up until now, debates within left-wing political formations have always been about direction, strategy, ideology and semantics. This is a tradition of the anti-establishment, or anti-capitalist movements that has varied throughout the decades and the past century.

Consider the debate between Bakunin and Marx, during the First International. Bakunin supported anarchist decentralization and horizontal organizing, while Marx argued for centralized, communist organizing, with an emphasis on the importance of the party structure. Also think of the indirect debate between Rosa Luxemburg‘s position of virulent war of movement and Gramsci‘s theory of cultural hegemony and his strategy attrition warfare during the la belle époque. And then there’s the debate between orthodoxical marxism and the New Left in the 1960s.

The New Left in all its glory: The Weathermen during the Days of Rage in Chicago 1968

Debates concerning ideas have always been the tempo to which left-wing movements have danced and they have created the space and the horizon for the evolution and mutation of such movements. Through these debates, for example feminist, anti-racist and Queer agendas have been able to impose themselves, making left-wing movements put a greater emphasis on the notions of patriarchy, the subaltern, racism, gender and recognition. But today the left, especially the European “traditional” left, doesn’t debate ideas anymore, it debates the central idea that braids all of these different threads of struggles together: the idea of socialism.

Emmanuel Valls, the current prime minister of the French socialist government, didn’t create many ripples when he stated earlier this year that it was about time the French Socialist Party came to terms with what he called the modern world. His vision of modernizing the Socialist Party was to change its ontological conception and drop the whole notion of socialism to the extent of dropping the word from its name.

This has already happened in Italy where once the strongest Communist Party on the continent, outside of the Soviet orbit, which at its peak boasted one million card carrying members, decided to drop its Communist label and opt for a more modern appellation, re-branding itself the Democracy Party of the Left. This maneuver was then as it is now the manifestation of a roller-coaster magnitude slide to the right.

Dropping the word Communist threw the flood-gates wide open. First the non-Marxist-Leninist lefties and socialists joined the fray, then its was the social democrats, then confused and dazed centrists who still considered themselves progressive, but actually were neo-liberals at heart but couldn’t come to terms with it (kind of like the Liberals here in Canada) and finally anyone and everyone who like the color red or later on fancied pink.

This used to be the Italian Communist Party

The story of the Italian Communist Party is like the story of Jesus transforming water into wine, only that in this case it’s about wine being transformed into water. With every new section of adherents further from the Communist ideological base, the new Democracy Party of Left became more and more diluted until it finally reconstituted itself along neo-liberal ideological guidelines. Today the ideological differences between Matteo Renzi and  the remainders of Silvio Berlusconi’s political group are non-existent, both are the guardians of an austere status-quo.

In the aftermath of WWII in eastern Europe, Stalin had operated a similar strategy. To impose the hegemony of his Stalinist communist affiliates in the newly self-proclaimed people’s republics, Communists parties would side during the first set of “open” elections with left-wing non-communist political groups to fend off the fascist threat and thus succeed in outlawing them. Then they would cut off any centrist opposition and so on and so forth until there would be no opposition left.

At the end of this process Stalinist ideology and the Kremlin’s line reigned supreme. This was known as the salami-slice strategy.

In 2014 its seems that the Brussels or maybe the Frankfurt line reigns without any constraints or limitations. The opposition that should have been offered by existing left-wing governments or by socialist parties is dead, these political formations have slowly been devoid from any of their founding ideological principles, they are the walking-dead of neo-liberalism.

In a context such as this strange things can happen, such as a Socialist prime minister addressing the Business TV awards and telling the 1% audience with a rather soothing and gentle tone that he would make sure that next year they would capitalize even more on the plight of the French working-class. Such a turn of events has pushed many commentators to disbelief and denial.

Fédérique Lordon had to publish in Le Monde Diplomatique of September of this year, a lengthy article entitled The Left Cannot Die to feel better about the whole ordeal. Unfortunately, in most cases, when debating if something can or cannot die then the thing in question (in this case the left) is probably already dead.

But amidst this windfall of Socialist auto-destruction there are some glimmers of hope. The breach opened by the tragic suicide of the traditional left has allowed in some places such as Greece and Spain new movements with new ideas to breed.

The death of the left as we knew it has allowed a new generation of anti-capitalist, progressive and alternative perspectives to enter the political scene, this apparent ontological death carries within itself the power to give birth to a new ontological premises for left-wing movements. So maybe “socialism” must die, for socialism to thrive.

A luta continua,

A specter is haunting democracies throughout the world. A barely visible cloud, an entangling nebula is settling in throughout large swaths of modern political rhetoric. Many pundits and opportunistic spokespeople are saying that the Ghost of Ideology from days long past is speaking from beyond the grave, and that it has resurrected and is walking among us again.

But, surely the question we must ask ourselves is, “Did ideology ever die in the first place?”

Ideology — as a word — is used for the most diverse purposes nowadays. It can mean almost anything in the current state of world affairs. Ideology is seen as the equivalent of a political agenda or religious dogma; thus, the religious extremism of ISIS and the “neo-fascistoid” elements of Greece’s Golden Dawn or  France’s Front Nationale become conflated. Ideology has also become individualised; ideology is not a systemic development anymore, but rather a personal one. Individuals can build their own ideologies.

On the other hand, we apparently live in a “non-ideological” world. Modern day apostles have announced, in a very Nietzschean manner, “Ideology is dead”.

At the same time, ideology has been “democratized” to the extent that it doesn’t mean anything anymore and has been declared irrelevant in the context of the advent of a non-ideological world.

Ideology can only be understood as a system of symbolic representations. It is, first and foremost, the articulation of a world-view through symbols. For instance, the current dominant global ideology of neo-liberalism uses growth, free trade, free markets, free enterprise and representative democracy as its symbols.

For many contemporary commentators, ideology was buried under the ruins of the devastation it created. From this vantage point, the death of ideology marked the end of a century of ideological struggles, which brought about war, famine and misery to most of mankind. The bi-ideological, and bipolar struggle that defined the Cold War is over. Capitalism is triumphant, all is well, ideology is dead, good night and good luck!

President Bush and President Gorbachev

But it is exactly when you think that you are roaming through the desert of ideology, exactly when the absence of ideology is supposedly self-evident, that is exactly when you’re submerged in ideology. You’re in the thick of it and can’t get out.

In his most recent public interview broadcasted on French national television 2 weeks ago, Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed his intention of reentering the French political scene. During the one hour interview Sarkozy made the case for a new “non-ideological” political movement that would move beyond the drawn fault line of left versus right. For Sarkozy, the main problem with the current Socialist regime was its ideological stance. I couldn’t disagree more. If anything, with the nomination of Manuel Valls as prime minister and his relentless grab for power, the Socialist government has proven that they too abide to this logic of a so-called non-ideological stance.

The problem with this discourse is that ideology, far from having disappeared from the French political scene, has, within the past few years, reinvigorated itself and has become so omnipresent that it now appears to be invisible, even non-existent. And this, because the majority of the French population has internalized the dominant ideology of austerity as being the ultimate truth — as has the majority of human beings on this planet.

In reality a non-ideological stance doesn’t exist. The political project to move beyond the ideological dichotomies of left versus right, of liberalism versus socialism — in the economical sense — doesn’t amount to anything more than a mirage of wishful thinking. Sarkozy is ideology at its purest form.

Protesters against austerity in France

The left — read here socialists — might have abandoned their ideological attire, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t ideological. In many ways socialist parties throughout the European Union have shedded their social vision and have become another one of those -isms without a suitable prefix. Within this new political dimension of fluid -isms, the driving force is the market and the free circulation of capital, better known as austerity. Differences are non-existent, but one ideology clearly reigns all mighty.

This abandonment of ideology by left-wing movements has allowed extreme-right movements to fill in the void and appear as alternatives. The story is the same throughout Europe, but also with the Tea Party in the US, the Reformists here in Canada, and Modi in India. These neo-nationalist and neo-liberal movements may take various forms, specific to the context to which they belong, but their raison d’être is the same, to fill in an ideological void.

Sarkozy can proudly parade his “non-ideological” message, and he will encounter no dignified opposition, because the ideologically left-wing alternative is dead — if it isn’t dead, then it’s in tatters. From the ruins of this ideological surrender, we must strive to rebuild an alternative dialectic; the ontological survival of the “Left” depends on it. The battle against neo-liberalism and the rise of neo-fascism is, first and foremost, a direct assault on their symbolic mobilizers: The key words, like growth and jobs, that are at its symbolic foundation. Only though this deconstruction can come the construction of a true alternative. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that an alternative ideology be built from the ideological ruins of the Left’s upcoming self-destruction.

A luta continua.

“The European Union isn’t a social union” said Angela Merkel German chancellor in a lyrical musing this past week. The truth of the matter is that she’s right. The current structure of the EU is anything but social, unless social means keeping southern Europe on a social lifeline at the boot of northern Europe.

But things haven’t always been this way. There was a time not so long ago that an ailing Germany had appealed to the goodness in Greeks hearts to come and save them in their time of need. But that period of time has long been forgotten, and a whole “counter-history” of the origins of the EU has been occulted and  replaced by a rhetoric that suits the purpose of austerity.

History is written by the victors, so goes the saying, but history unfortunately is only written by the victors that have a pen at hand. The history of the EU that is now taught in almost every educational system in Europe is an economic history: European countries after the Second World War were battered and torn. Europe was all but rubble and ruins, and needed some form of economic structure that would allow a shift recomposition of European society in the face of the Communist threat which was luring to the East.

Thus the European Union was built in opposition to the Soviet threat – a capitalist free market that would contend for the soul of Europe. The story ends in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall with the conclusion of capitalism as victorious. The moral of this story is capitalism is a better system than communism, END.

Since the economic liberalization of the 1980s – which supposedly is the main reason why capitalism was triumphant – the European Union has become the vehicle for neoliberalism on a continental scale: a supra-national neoliberal structure next to none except maybe the International Monetary Fund itself. A tight set of rules and regulations were set as criteria for membership, rules and regulations that resembled in many ways the structural adjustment programs so dear to the IMF and the World Bank.

The idea for Eastern and Southern European countries was that the key to French or German-type prosperity was to join this exclusive club. Once you were in nothing could go wrong. Thus, through European integration methods, public systems of health care, education, etc, were weakened, and labor markets became more “flexible” – a synonym for precarious – and financial speculation was idolized.

For a time being this system seemed to work, and even exceed its targets. Growth in new anointed member states was at an all time high, and slowly but firmly the history of capitalistic glory was ushered in and the social roots of the EU unearthed.

But the cost of this rapid expansion of capital was a brisk rise in inequality and eventually once inequality became too rampant, austerity was summoned to quell any rebellion. For a time being this “economic” union discourse had the upper hand.

But since the economic downturn of 2008 the validity of such a union has come into question by both far-left and far-right elements in the form of euroscepticism. At its inception the European common project wasn’t as clear-cut as the history books might now state. The idea of a social union was actually at the heart of many movements promoting the idea of a union that would banish the wicked demons of nationalism and fascism which had plunged Europe into two reckless wars. What movement better embodied that than the Partisans?

One of the most important chapters in European history is no where to be found in the current official history of the European Union, and next to no space in the official history of WWII. Partisan forces proliferated through occupied Europe during the entirety of the war, using guerrilla tactics in various forms to disrupt the Nazi war machine. After the war many notable Partisan movements took power such as maréchal Tito in Yugoslavia, but because of their too evident ties with leftist politics, they were blacklisted by anti-communist elements who perceived them as Stalin’s fifth column.

None the less these partisan movements such as le Conseil Nationale de la Résistance in France had a social project for post-WWII Europe, a union of the peoples of Europe that would be driven by the will to uphold human dignity and social and economic rights. Unfortunately that ideal was squashed under the hospices of “red fear”.

In these austere times, of great economic distress and the resurgence of a fascist “alternative” that reinvigorates austerity through a xenophobic diversion, this counter-history of Europe is essential. Another Europe is possible, one that doesn’t vivre for the liberation of capital, but for the liberation of its peoples.

A luta continua

In space of a few months the old continent has been rocked by a series of reactionary revolts that have spread like wildfire. Parallel to the rise of neo-fascist elements is an inverse movement: the retreat of the center-left and their embracing of neo-liberal, traditionally center-right policy.

The examples of the debacle of the socialist or social-democratic movement are self-evident, be it the humiliating defeat of the French Socialist Party at the municipal level, the incapacity of the left to govern in Italy, the defeat of the German social-democrats for the fourth time in a row or the Labor Party in Britain which is still dealing with the specter of Labor’s past. The once bright red flame of European socialism is but a pale shadow of its former self, a fading pink.

blair brown

For every defeat the left has succumbed to in the past months, it appears that the extreme-right has made leeway. There is much emphasis put on the “rise of neo-fascism” in Eastern Europe or on the Front Nationale, but this movement is a general one. We are seeing the comeback of neo-fascism in countries that in a not very distant past fought tooth and nail to establish a political system that would banish the gloom of fascism forever…  or at least they thought.

In Portugal, Spain and Greece, the countries that not so long ago emancipated themselves from some of the longest and most brutal dictatorships in Europe, the fascist movements, which were their graves before the economic meltdown of 2008 and the austerity measures of these past years, are now reinvigorated. The success of some of these movements translates into political parties with an unprecedented number of seats in their respective political arena, such as Greece’s Golden Dawn.

But something much more unsettling is happening in Europe. The neo-fascist message is getting generalized and some of the extreme-right’s fundamental ideals and principals now flow freely through the main arteries of the European political system.

In the 2012 French presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy lost the first round mainly because the Front Nationale had succeeded in capitalizing on the disenchantment of certain sections of the right-wing which had previously voted for him. Before the second round, Sarkozy made a final campaign pitch to those further to his right to rally to him in this final duel between himself and François Hollande.

Sarkozy and LePen posters side-by-side during the 2012 French Presidential Election (image
Sarkozy and LePen posters side-by-side during the 2012 French Presidential Election (image

It wasn’t so much the fact that he tried to lure the votes of the Front Nationale, it was the way in which he did it that, in many ways, changed the face of French politics forever. During the final stretch of the campaign, Sarkozy made one simple pitch to the nationalistic, xenophobic, neo-fascist electorate of Marine Lepen at every rally and in every speech he made: “Don’t be ashamed of being a fascist, your values are my values and beyond that the values of the French Republic.”

Now let’s put this in the context of France which still toils to make peace with the demons of WWII. In the context of post-WWII France, the Gaullist movement (of which Union for a Popular Movement UMP is an heir) was one of the firewalls against fascism on the right. Traditionally, the center-right movement was furiously opposed to any form of recognition of the values of neo-fascist movements within French society. That was the most important heritage of the French resistance against fascism which was shattered by Nicolas Sarkozy’s brand of la droite décomplexer.

Unfortunately this is not a trend that is cornered or quarantined in France. It’s a dynamic that fits perfectly within pro-austerity and neo-liberal agendas.

The rise of fascist movements is inherently linked to the development of austerity measures in Europe. Thus to focus solely on the fascist movements which are mainstream and not on the fascist rhetoric and policies that are advanced by parties that “supposedly” are in complete opposition to the fascist ideology is to miss the real “breakthrough” of the extreme-right.

The potency of a political ideology is not how many seats political parties that claim such an ideology gain or lose, but how the rhetoric and the ideals of such a movement influence the political discourse in general. And one thing is clear in Europe and to a certain extent in most of the world: the infatuation of neo-liberalism and austerity with fascism is shifting the center of gravity of the political spectrum towards the right on a daily basis.

For those that would shun this thesis, its factuality is manifest on the European political scene. It’s manifest in the coalitions between neo-liberal forces and neo-fascist forces throughout Europe, it’s tangible in the recuperation of ideals of the far-right by the neo-liberal movement, the most important being the corporatist element of neo-liberalism, which favors a complete laissez-faire attitude towards multinationals and the unrestricted flow of capital.

Corporatism is the centerpiece of many center-right political platforms nowadays. It goes without saying that corporatism is the economic policy at the foundation of fascism. Fascism in politics is completed only by corporatism in economics and this is the point of junction between the neo-liberal and neo-fascist movements.


Unfortunately it seems that the socialist movement is fading into a political landscape that has become color blind. The revolutionary force of austerity is pushed further and further by neo-fascist movements which, in a very paradoxical way, find their source of attraction in the rebuttal of austerity measures, but couldn’t survive outside of the framework of austerity. The socialist movement, which was once a force that wanted to revolutionize the very structure of global capitalism, has become a reactionary force which only acts in reaction to the palpitations of the neo-liberal right.

The only hope that still resides within the European political spectrum is the establishment of a viable left wing alternative in the form of a coalition of the parties of the European Left that have rejected austerity and the rhetoric of neo-liberal populism. With the European elections around the corner, it seems like more than ever the traditional political divide between center-right and center-left is irrelevant and that the European parliament after the upcoming elections will be a true reflection of European society in the wake of austerity: polarized to the extreme.

To those that ask how are we to stop the rise of the neo-fascist movements? The answer is clear: the fight against austerity is a fight against fascism.

A luta continua.

Something smells fishy within the realm of the French republic; La Quenelle, a sort of inverse Nazi salute, which first appeared during the 2009 European Elections for an ‘anti-Zionist’ political formation and was popularized by the French comedian Dieudonné, has gone viral, being by many adherents and ardent supporters of extreme right-wing rhetoric throughout French society.

From 2009 onwards, it became a popular online occurrence to see pictures posted on the social media of proponents of La Quenelle. One of the most noteworthy occurrences was when Alain Soral, a French extreme right-wing pseudo-intellectual that has refuted on several occasions the existence of gas chambers, made the gesture in the middle of the holocaust memorial in Berlin. Another occasion that put the spotlight on La Quenelle was when Jean-Marie Lepen, ex-leader of the xenophobic extreme-right wing Front National, was seen alongside his right hand man Gollnisch and two other self-identified ‘supports’ making the salute at the end of one of his political rallies.

But the source of the actual controversy is the fact that international footballer Nicolas Anelka on the 28th of the past month made reference to the gesture while celebrating a goal he had scored in the English Premier League. Many anti-racism and Jewish organizations immediately called for a playing ban and public excuses for what they saw as a hateful gesture.


Anelka denied that La Quenelle was a racist, anti-Jewish or hateful gesture, he stated that for him and Dieudonné, La Quenelle is an anti-system salute. La Quenelle represents the rage that many people have for a system of globalized capitalism that breeds inequality and alienation.

I won’t go more in depth about what I believe the real significance of La Quenelle is, because that isn’t the essential question that should be asked. Unfortunately though, “What’s La Quenelle” or “What’s the true significance of La Quenelle” are the only two headlines that make reference to the nascent trend in the media. It isn’t a trivial fact at all that most media outlets’ focus is to give a definition to this salute. Why? Because it’s much easier to label something as racist, xenophobic and anti-Jewish than actually attack the problem at it’s root.

The same logic works for the French government that has decided to take Dieudonné to court and shut down his shows, these attitudes are shortcuts… not solutions. They’re intellectual shortcuts that try to put the fault on the perpetrators and omit the underlying crisis.

The rise of La Quenelle is undeniably linked with the rise of extreme right-wing rhetoric in Europe. If La Quenelle signifies anything at all; it signifies the failure of the ‘progressive’ forces to reorient the political debate in Europe.

hollande posters

In May of 2012, the election of Francois Hollande was seen as a victory that would reinvigorate the European left and the fight against austerity. Since May 2012, things have continued the same. The European Union has continued on its ruthless quest for balanced budgets, no matter what the social sacrifices might be. The social malaise on the other hand has increased ten fold since that faithful day in May 2012, exactly because in many ways not much has changed.

The ‘historical’ socialist left in Europe has in many ways endorsed the austerity measures that were implemented by their predecessors for fear of destabilizing a fragile economic recovery they say. Because of this they are now trapped in the iron cage of neo-liberal economics.

Salutes, gestures and discourses are not the problem here and unfortunately for the French officials no law will stall the rise of the extreme right wing. Because right wing nationalism, xenophobia and racism aren’t fueled by a salute, they are fueled by economic inequality, austerity measures and the dismantling of the welfare state. La Quenelle is but the physical expression of this accrue rupture between the burden of millions for the well being of a few.

Dieudonné is but a pawn in this game, an insignificant factor, that will be pushed aside with the motion of time, but others like him will come forward and unfortunately maybe some of them will be more malicious and direct.  The rise of right-wing extremism will not die out until the left wing offers a clear alternative to the neo-liberal homogeneity.

To those that see La Quenelle as a battle cry, I have but one thing to say: one cannot create a more just and equal society with an impulse of hate, only compassion and solidarity can do that.

In the words of Che Guevara “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”

In 1941 at the height of the Second World War on an island in many ways similar to Lampedusa, the island of Ventotene, two leaders of the resistance movement against fascism and members of the Italian Communist Party Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, were held captive. Their captivity in many ways resembled what thousands of North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans and Middle Easterners live on a daily basis in one of the hundreds of identification and detention centers that populate the European coastline.

Spinelli and Rossi would write one of the most influential documents  in favor of Pan-Europanism, The Ventotene Manifesto. The manifesto would be illegally smuggled on to the continent and distributed throughout the Italian resistance. The ideal of a socialist federal union of European peoples became a central idea to many resistance movements throughout the European continent, the hope and the aspirations of a war-torn generation of Europeans would be embodied within the manifesto.

While captive on the island of Ventotene, Spinelli and Rossi vowed to rid the peoples of Europe of the chains of poverty and misery, to liberate Europe from the grips of fascism, but also build a society in which “never again” would the European social and economic situation allow for the flourishing of Nazism or Fascism. Fast forward 72 years later. The remote Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is a pearl, home to what Trip Advisor acclaimed as the world most beautiful beach in 2013, it’s a corner of paradise within a sea of hell.

Since 1988, within the waters and washed-up northern shores of the Mediterranean, almost 20 000 migrants have lost their lives. Lampedusa has become infamous throughout the world as the ‘Guantanamo of Europe.’ In the past two months Lampedusa has become, even more so than it already was, the center-stage of a continual tragedy that is the European Union’s blatant disregard for human rights, their disregard for the situation of thousands of migrants that brave horrible conditions in the hope to find a better life in Europe.

Lampedusa shipwreck victims (Image: Noborder network via Flickr, Creative Commons licence)

On the 3rd of October of 2013, 359 bodies were recovered from the worst recorded migrant shipwreck in recent history, several other bodies were never found. A mere two months later, Lampedusa was rocked by another tragic event, this time concerning the treatment of the detainees at the identification and detention center for illegal migrants on the island.

Hidden video footage surfaced throughout the internet showing several detainees having to strip and be ‘hosed down’ by security guards. This is not the first time that Lampedusa and the European immigration boarder security under the hospice of Frontex have been openly criticized for their treatment of migrants.

Frontex was founded in 2005 as a semi-private organization with the mandate to help the several different member-state boarder security coordinate their operations, on paper. In reality, Frontex is a paramilitary organization that functions in parallel to all other European security organizations and is accountable to no one, under only nominal surveillance from European elected officials and after several scandals has shown no will in upholding any basic standard of human rights.

The creation of Frontex, the privatization and militarization of Europe’s boarders, is a clear indication of the rise of neo-liberalism within Europe. And in reaction to neo-liberalism, an almost equal rise of xenophobia and extreme right-wing groups.

The first is the neoliberal, fostered by right-wing movements within the European Union, that have pushed for the deregulation of the labour market, of the banking system and the downsizing of the social state. On the other hand this same neo-liberal movement has pushed for the destruction of all barriers to ‘free-trade.’


Frontex is the perfect metaphor of the rampant neo-liberalism that has infected Europe.  Under the mantel of ‘austerity’ the European right-wing has tried to recraft the European ideal from its original purpose, embodied in the Ventotene manifesto, that of building a common European society based on protecting the dignity and the social and economical well-being of all.

The reaction provoked by the  rise of neo-liberalism in Europe is the undeniable rise in extreme right-wing rhetoric unknown on such a scale since the pre-WWII period.  The economical fluctuations that have left so many Europeans in misery was produced by the same neo-liberal ideal that made the “Mediterranean a cemetery” in the words of the Maltese prime minister.

In a recent meeting in Brussels, the leaders of the European Community joined forces to continue persecuting migrants at sea instead of addressing the issues of lamentable conditions within the detention centers or actually create a more ‘humane’ policy for migrants upon their arrival in the Shengen zone. As per usual, with every conference in Brussels the outcome is more austerity, austerity on the land, austerity on sea.The fight against austerity must then be one conducted on land and by sea.

Lampedusa is our Ventotene, Lampedusa is the embodiment of everything that has went wrong on the path of European construction. The EU is currently a prison, a financial one, one in which the will of the markets trumps the will of the people. Xenophobic, racist and nationalist discourses are on the rise, neo-fascist paramilitary groups are once again flourishing.

These fascist for many offer an alternative to the establishment, to neo-liberalism. Unfortunately they are the armed-wing of neo-liberalism, the armed-wing of corporatism.

The European left must stand with the migrants of Lampedusa and others scattered throughout the Mediterranean, we must re-appropriate the European ideal and build in this day and age a society that fulfills the principals of the Ventotene manifesto. Lampedusa is a major crack within the walls of Fortress ‘neo-liberal’ Europe, time to tear down the walls.

Off all the asinine comments made by Mme Marois in defense of her fatally flawed ‘Québec charte des valeurs’ (daycare workers wearing hijabs are threatening our children, comparing it to Bill 101, etc.) I think the one I want to discuss here is her rather unfortunate using of the French model of “laiçité” as an example for Québec to follow in integrating its Muslim population.

The notion, that French secularist traditions have led to some sort of social harmony between French society and millions of Arab speaking Muslim Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan immigrants, the vast majority of which arrived in France during the post-war period at the invitation of previous French governments to help fill jobs created by the boom of recovery in Europe’s war-torn economies, is simply laughable.

Anyone who has been paying attention to recent French history knows that unemployment rates among the Arabic Muslim minority (one in every 13 French citizens describes themselves as Muslim) are much higher than they are among the general population. There has also been a rise, though not due only to socio-economic conditions, of homegrown terrorism and racial tensions in France’s major cities (for example the riots of Clichy-Sous-Bois back in 2005).

French secularism is very different from North America’s, or even Quebec’s version of the institution, owing to the dramatically different historical, political and legal contexts in which it evolved. Even Marois seems to vaguely grasp this fact, saying that “Quebec will develop its own model based on our values and experiences.”

For starters, France has essentially been thoroughly secular at the governmental level since the French Revolution in 1789. But, more to the point, their version of secularism makes no exceptions for Christian symbolism in the public sector (i.e. no cross hangs in their National Assembly). Also, it should be said, that the measures being proposed by the PQ are not as drastic as those that were imposed in France, where there are no niqabs allowed in public whatsoever, and female students are not even allowed to wear hijabs at state schools.

But Marois’ ignorance of the French model that ostensibly inspired her bill is not confined to French history. She also spectacularly misreads British multiculturalism as a main cause of British terrorism, in the process unwittingly spewing the same claptrap as such noble political parties as the racist British National Party and the ultra-right wing UK Independence Party. I suppose it has never occurred to her to look at the rest of Canada as a successful model of multiculturalism?

Marois either doesn’t appreciate the obvious differences in context between Western Europeans societies and ours with respect to integrating religious minorities, or doesn’t care to. Irrespective, she will pursue her destructive agenda to the bitter end.

Perhaps we on the federalist side of the political spectrum should rejoice. This could be the final nail in the coffin for an already out-of-touch government with no economic or job creation strategy to speak of. Maybe one day we will look back on this moment as the kind of desperate gamble to remain relevant that resulted in the Republican Party in the US becoming beholden to the overwhelmingly white lunatic fringe of right wing politics that the Tea Party represents in that country.

But when we see the hatred, taking some of its cues from the rhetoric of the Parti Quebecois, starting to poison everyday life the way it did for the victim of a racist tirade on a bus in Montreal recently, it’s awfully hard to feel smug about the situation.

Of all the feelings I thought I’d have at a memorial to gay Holocaust victims, shame was the furthest from my mind. Yet it’s exactly what I felt.

While on a walking tour in Berlin recently, my boyfriend and I stopped at the breathtaking Holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg Gate.

A graveyard of towering grey pillars overwhelms its guests as they work their way into the grid. And as city sounds give way to silence, the sheer madness of the Holocaust, the demented logic of fascism, and the utter bleakness of World War II are brought to bear on those who enter.

The absence of identifiable symbols or colours—religious or otherwise—strengthens the inclusive nature of the monument. So when I found out the memorial was not actually for all victims of the Holocaust, but only for the Jews, I felt shameful.

I felt shame that my own community’s suffering was deemed unworthy of inclusion in a most important Holocaust memorial. Was the pain felt by a gay man somehow lesser than that felt by a Jew?

Enough people felt the suffering of homosexuals was worthy of commemoration, though, that a monument was eventually built for them. But after seeing it, I’m not quite sure what to think.

Coming from the immense Jewish monument, the ‘Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism’ is underwhelming, to say the least. It stands as but a single, towering, unmarked block of concrete, nestled away in a nondescript enclave of the famous Tiergarten.

The juxtaposition of the two sites—one impossible to miss, the other hard to notice—only added to my initial shame of exclusion. Why is the monument for gay victims hidden in the bushes?

Maybe it’s a fitting place, I thought to myself. Maybe a memorial planted in the forest, where those it commemorates were once shamed into seeking discreet sex, is appropriate. Or maybe not. In any case, the jury is out on that decision, so I’ll continue with the tour.

The shame of homosexuality is further explored in a video, seen through a window in the giant block, that features short clips of same-sex couples caught kissing in public. Despite hesitancy from the couples, all continue embracing their partner. The act, though hardly remarkable today, was once enough to end the lives of those caught under Germany’s anti-homosexual law.

Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, initially passed in 1871, criminalized sexual behaviour between men. Upon taking power, the Nazis intensified the law, allowing for the detention of homosexuals in concentration camps without any legal trial. Of the 5,000–15,000 gay men placed in concentration camps, up to 60 per cent perished.

Those that survived the camps were faced with further injustice after the war. Many of those “saved” were placed back in prison to finish the remainder of their sentence, since paragraph 175 was technically not a Nazi law. And even though the law was modified after WWII, it was not fully repealed until 1994.

Walking out of the woods and back on the main drag, I tried to make sense of the memorial. I realized I hadn’t even kissed my boyfriend in that most perfect of places. Caught up in the politics of the memorial, I’d lost sight of what it was all about: the ability to celebrate one’s love.

So I leaned in and, after a moment’s hesitation, we embraced—shame no longer on my mind.

The memorial may not be perfect. It may not be in the best spot and it may lack the power to inspire awe. But where it succeeds is in its simplicity with the message that love prevails.

Photo courtesy of Julian Ward

I’ve said for years that if a country tries to put austerity into practice for an extended period of time, an eventual revolution will be the outcome. In Greece and France this past week that is essentially what happened. I have no doubt there is more to follow.

France elected Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party last week, the first left leaning President to hold power in seventeen years. Hollande promised a “new start” for France and vowed to challenge the austerity plan that now dominates Europe. “Austerity can no longer be the only option” he said.

Over in Greece, it’s a little more complicated to be sure. The two parties that have driven the Greek economy into the ground then signed on to a disastrous austerity program (in exchange for dead-end bailouts from the EU and IMF) were widely rejected, receiving only a combined 32% of the vote.

When people become as desperate as the people of Greece, they tend to stop thinking rationally, just as the people of Germany did in the 1930s. The Neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party of Greece received 7% of the vote. Therefore, 21 Neo-Nazis will now have the right of sitting in the Greek Parliament. No Nazi has held a seat in a European nation since the Second World War.

Since no party received more than 19% of the vote, if a coalition government can’t be formed, a new election will be called at the begging of summer. SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left who recently finished in second place for the first time, is now leading in nationwide polling with 25.5%.

Francois Hollande

The radicalized politics in Greece and the election of Hollande in France are the result of austerity measures put in by the IMF and the Euro-zone (led by Germany) to fight spiralling national debt.

The policy of austerity is nothing new; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pushed free market policies and austerity since the 1970s and it has never worked. Every country that has adopted austerity has doomed themselves to high unemployment or the forced liquidation of government assets. South Africa following Apartheid is a great example of both.

It was much the same for South America. Decades of periodic financial crises and imposed austerity measures by the IMF kept their economies from growing. In Argentina’s case, the IMF drove their economy completely into the ground in the late 90s.

Luckily, Hugo Chavez along with leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay eventually rejected the IMF and World Bank and formed their own (Bank of the South). As a result, their economies handled the financial crises and are among the fastest growing in the world.

Back in Europe though, nothing much has changed. Austerity measures in Greece and Spain have led to Great Depression-like unemployment numbers (21% & 24% respectively). Unemployment in the Euro-zone is over 10% and among youths 18-24 it is closer to 50%.

Austerity protests in Greece

Great Britain’s self inflicted austerity programme has led to a double-dip recession. Their economy contracted by more than 7% during the 2008-2009 recession, which lasted fifteen months. Since then, recovery has been slow – the weakest in a century in fact, even slower than the Great Depression.

Pretty soon, the governments of Italy, Ireland and other nations where austerity is taking hold will be forced to answer to the people. If Greece and France are any indication, a left turn away from austerity is what the people will choose.

Follow Quiet Mike on Facebook & Twitter

People love to invoke the name of Franz Kafka for the slightest fucking absurdity in their lives. Example: I waited in line at the post office for an hour. Then I was told by the clerk that I would have to put my own envelope in the mailbox! WHAT A KAFKAESQUE TWIST OF FATE! In truth, very few situations in our humdrum daily lives would actually make good material for one of this Czech/German/Jewish writer’s novels or short stories.

Then there’s the legal ordeal of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, a human rights lawyer and jurist of the very first order who is currently standing trial in Spain for allegedly breaking the country’s laws. Perhaps the greatest living legal champion of justice for victims of human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes, being accused of violating the law he was sworn to uphold and trotted out in front of his former colleagues on the bench to answer to their examinations. I absolutely think Kafka would recognize this.

First, a brief look at the event that made the man a hero to many of us advocates of international law and rocked the international community to its foundations. It may not seem this way now, but before 1998, the idea that a former dictator, let alone from another country, could be brought to justice for crimes committed by him or on his behalf by his subordinates years earlier, was laughable.

Garzon, on the basis of the increasingly accepted doctrine of universal jurisdiction, got the ball rolling with an indictment for General Augusto Pinochet, former Chilean tyrant and senator, for crimes committed during his 17 year rule as generalissimo of that country. However, due to a legal technicalities and Pinochet’s allegedly poor health, his trial before the British House of Lords was cancelled. This was a watershed moment in international law and has been cited as precedent in any number of cases involving war crimes and crimes against humanity (Charles Taylor, George W. Bush, etc.) ever since.

The current case against Garzon smacks of political vendetta. The main element of the state’s argument is that the Garzon has violated a 1977 amnesty passed by allies of the Franco regime in order to facilitate the transition to democracy and provide immunity for atrocities committed during the fascist era of the country’s history. In his defence, Garzon has raised two key points: that crimes against humanity cannot be swept under the rug by virtue of any domestic law and that, since the crimes investigated (i.e. disappeared victims of the fascists) are ongoing, they remain subject to criminal prosecutions.

Garzon has made powerful enemies over the years for his fearless willingness to prosecute criminals, regardless of their status or location. Though his targets have often included notorious right wing extremists like Pinochet, it’s worth noting his courageous attempts to bring their mortal enemies to justice as well, including the members of Al Qaeda and Basque terrorists affiliated with ETA.

While I am always in favour of national reconciliation, it should never be done at the expense of justice. How will Spain ever put the ghosts of the past to rest, if it doesn’t allow this type of investigation into historical crimes to take its course? Garzon is a hero all over world for standing up for international law and human rights, this trial is a travesty designed to besmirch the reputation of a man whose name is synonymous with integrity and the rule of law.

To paraphrase Micheal Corleone’s only noteable line in Godfather III: “Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in!” I had to paraphrase it because I wouldn’t dare embed the YouTube clip these days and am even a little skittish about a direct quote from such a heavily copyrighted film. Yes, we all know that SOPA and PIPA got shelved in the US, thanks in large part to sites like Wikipedia going dark for a day and showing everyone just what a heavily censored and regulated internet might be like. But that doesn’t mean they’re done for good.

It also doesn’t mean that content owners (not to be confused with content creators) like the major film studios and record labels and big telecom corporations, the real forces behind such legislation, along with their paid legislators, are ready to throw in the towel. Far from it. The day following the internet’s temporary reprieve from a pit of SOPA-dom, the US went on the warpath and shut down (along with other affiliated sites) and arrested founder Kim “Dotcom” Schmitz and other employees.

Now regardless of what you may think about some of what happens (or happened) on MegaUpload one thing is clear: by seizing the 72nd most visited site on the internet, you’re bound to be affecting a whole whack of people who aren’t using the site to share copyrighted content, but rather to share their own larger documents. Some of those people are now looking to sue the FBI for those lost files. Others, like Anonymous, took a more eye for an eye approach to the fight, knocking out the websites of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry of Association of America, Universal Music, the FBI, the Department of Justice and others.

It’s a battle that needs to be fought. Even if you don’t believe there is an ulterior motive behind the MegaUpload takedown, namely one to prevent MegaKey (a service that allows artists to distribute their music directly to consumers and get paid 90% of what they make) from launching, it’s clear what’s really going on here. This isn’t about copyright or protecting content creators. It’s about what it’s always been about for major corporations and the establishment: maintaining power and profit. The internet as we know it threatens that, so their plan is to threaten the internet as we know it.

It’s a little more clever than that, though. When we all rise up and face the draconian measures before us and win, we think we’re safe. Then, they try to sneak the same thing or something a little worse by our false sense of security, changing only the location the law originates (irrelevant because the web is worldwide) and the letters of the alphabet used. Maybe they’ll throw in a number or two.

anti-ACTA protest in the Polish Parliament

Have you heard of ACTA or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement? That’s an international treaty that if ratified by the European Parliament (the vote is now scheduled to happen in June) would create a global body tasked with clamping down on copyright vioations and even generic drug sales on the internet while removing safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from being liable for the actions of their subscribers. ISPs would also be banned from hosting free software that can access copyrighted material. Basically an all-around attack on civil and digital rights and freedom of communication.

What about Bill C-11 (aka SOPA’s evil little brother), not yet in the committee stage, though on the horizon in Canada? While this is not to be confused with the C-10 Omnibus Crime Bill, it is another attempt by the Harper Government to re-brand and pass a previous failed piece of legislation. In this case, the Conservatives are bringing back Bill C-32, which would put digital locks on DVDs and course material, and throwing in a bunch of stuff from SOPA including website takedowns and forcing ISPs to block sites accused of copyright violation. Basically most draconian parts of SOPA that drew all the opposition.

So how do we continue to oppose measures like this? While our recent tactics worked, they won’t always. If Wikipedia goes dark every other week, it will start to lose effect. There is the hacktivism of groups like Anonymous which is respectable but can’t be the only means of protest and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. There is political lobbying, for which we are seriously underfunded compared to the media and telecom giants. There are awareness campaigns which work, but they can’t be the only thing in our arsenal.

So how do we fight back? I once suggested we essentially pirate the internet by creating our own. It may come to that, but until it does, we shouldn’t be afraid (or too lazy) to take to the streets as they did in Europe over ACTA yesterday. It’s also extremely important that we oppose without fear and show that as the people who love a free and open internet, we’re going to keep being open and free with our internet. With that in mind, I think I will post the YouTube clip of that line from the Godfather after all…no, wait, I think I’ll post a different line:

* Images:,,

Did you know there’s a war going on? One you haven’t heard of? It’s not a terribly well organized war. Not too many people are dying though this is changing, fast.

It’s not very well reported the established media has been slow at coming to terms with what’s actually transpiring here. They are blinded by their own complacency, and this war is partly their responsibility. Yet they, much like the rest of society, continue to look elsewhere, continue to deny their, our, reality.

Over a year ago, the reality came home. The G8/G20 fiasco was perhaps the greatest single broad, collective violation of Canadian human and civil rights the nation has ever witnessed. It was claimed by the Police State that they were acting in their defence, that they were only doing their job. The buck was passed, but the video doesn’t lie. And more than a year later too few have been held accountable. After all, you’ve got to justify building the Police State, and when there aren’t enough terrorists around, you go after your own.

Across the Arctic, one of our circumpolar neighbours is reeling from what was initially reported and in my opinion misleadingly reported to be a terrorist attack. The News Corp owned Wall Street Journal went ahead with that headline today, despite the fact that the Norwegian authorities had already detained a self-described Christian fundamentalist yesterday. The truth is never convenient.

And we’ll certainly know the truth soon enough. The man responsible has been outed by the Norwegian national broadcaster. His home has been raided. His forum posts and electronic exchanges have been found and the picture is becoming very clear. A delusional man hyped-up on thoughts of the impending Islamization of Europe, decided to blow up a government building, and then (dressed as a cop mind you) go on a shooting rampage at a summer retreat sponsored by the governing Labour Party’s youth wing. At the time of writing there are 97 confirmed dead, most of whom are youth. Precious youth gunned down in the prime of their lives because of their political affiliation. Gunned down because preaching racial intolerance and reactionary nationalism sells newspapers, and pulls in advertising. Gunned down because it’s easier to kill your fellow man than to try and understand him. The son-of-a-bitch is apparently cooperating with the police. He is doubtless certain that upon explaining he was merely acting in the defence of his nation, he will be pardoned. Perhaps he thinks he is now a martyr for his cause. It’s sick isn’t it?

Down South, the once great American Republic is being held hostage by the same kind of people who encouraged Norwegian shooter Anders Behring Breivik online prior to his deadly spree shooting. The same kind of people who fuel a deception/propaganda machine, and ultimately, perhaps unwittingly, produce their own home-grown terrorists: Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, Randy Weaver, William Pierce, George Lincoln Rockwell, Fred Phelps, Jared Lee Loughner, James Earl Ray all of these people led to believe that they could provide the solution to troubled times. It is a solution that comes, invariably, from the end of a gun.

When was the last time the Left produced a bomber?

When was the last time an anarchist assassinated someone?

Who was the last Progressive spree shooter?

I can’t think of anyone, but the aforementioned list (which is far from complete) resonates deeply in my mind. What’s sickening is that there this a collusion, possibly an international collusion of media, corporate interests and conservative political movements. The people involved push their flock to the edge of hysteria, and set them loose.

In other words, there is nothing stopping exactly this kind of tragedy from happening here in Canada. There is no preparation, no equipment, no police force, capable of preventing insane Fascists from acting ‘in defence of their nation’. Just like with Islamic terrorism, you can’t stop it. And the home grown threat is always invisible. Whether it’s someone pretending to be a cop or an actual cop, there’s nothing the State can do to stop dedicated killers, oppressors and those who believe the best change is executed with great vengeance and furious anger.

But perhaps the State can go after the media that feeds this insanity.

I would hope that’s what President Obama is thinking right now. In light of John Boehner’s refusal to accept a compromise to ensure the United States doesn’t go into default, it occurs to me that there is a pervading sense amongst nearly all Conservatives that cooperation is a kind of weakness. The child refused to cooperate, and left the meeting room in a huff with the issue unresolved. This is the Republican Party, holding a nation hostage for the sake of the elites. This is the same party, which through its lobby and media tentacles, has convinced countless ‘lone-wolves’ time and time again to wage their own personal war against whomever they disagree with. Boehner doesn’t need to put a gun in anyone’s hand the NRA’s already taken care of that. Boehner doesn’t need to tell people who to kill, Fox has already declared the Muslims/Anarchists/Liberals (etc, etc) are coming to get us. And Boehner doesn’t need to cooperate to make the American government work either. He’s gambling on an RNC landslide in 2012. He’s gambling on ‘lone-wolves’ to create new problems, new distractions.

Something must be done,

Because it doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s interest to protect the Left anymore.

We’re sitting ducks,

And involved in an undeclared and spontaneous war of attrition with a force that doesn’t seem to place much value on human life in the first place.

* Photos:,,

It might come as some surprise to many that Canada is in the middle of free-trade talks for a large-scale free trade agreement with the European Union. Obviously, we know that these talks have not been getting the same media coverage as prior agreements. They also have not generated the type of public outrage and mass-protests that we’ve seen in the past. The reality is that negotiations have been underway for over a year at the federal government level and that only recently have we been made aware of any specifics as draft text begins to be leaked out of secretive meetings.

Last week, I had the chance to attend a discussion on the subject of the agreement, which is being called the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The discussion took place at UQAM and was hosted by activists from the Council of Canadians, Trade Justice Network and ATTAC (Association pour la taxation des transactions financières et pour l’action citoyenne).

It became evident and expected that the general tone of the discussion was anti-CETA, as were the open attitudes of many of those attending, including activists, students and members of public sector unions. Why would provincial union employees want to know about CETA? The answer is that CETA is not designed only as an agreement between federal governments but goes further. Unlike previous international trade agreements like NAFTA, CETA seeks to also apply directly to Canadian provincial and municipal governments, therefore making privatization of many levels of government service is a strong possibility.

Business above all?: European Commission president Barosso and Charest in 2009 (photo Council of Canadians)

What I found particularly interesting right away was that the CETA talks were largely a creation of Canadian free-trade proponents. The Charest government, for example, was one of the main initiators of these trade talks. We might all have our own ideas as to Charest’s intentions here, but what I learned about CETA is that, as written, it will strongly facilitate corporations’ pressure to privatize public sector services.

Having now gained backing by powerful European corporate lobbying, CETA resembles NAFTA in many ways. It would contain text very similar to NAFTA’s ever-so-dreaded Chapter 11 clause, which forces our Canadian federal government to hand over our tax money to rich corporations should they successfully sue Canada in NAFTA’s international court on the basis of trade barriers. A trade barrier is now more clearly understood to be any government law that would prevent a corporation from gaining profit through the sale of a product, no matter how dangerous for humans or the environment that product may be.

Other negatives of the CETA agreement I learned include text preventing farmers from planting their own saved seeds, an end to Canadian laws preventing full foreign ownership of our telecommunications sector and complete ignorance and irrelevance of international labour standards such as those outlined in the UN’s Convention 94, which Canada and many European countries have not signed.

Despite all the negatives I have to agree with the proponents of this agreement that there are positives to free trade. Under true free trade we would have easier access to European technologies, products and services. We could use their expertise in many areas, for example in greening our economy, with many restrictions and costs removed. Europe would gain greater access to Canadian manufacturers’ products, in theory creating many jobs here.

However, Canada’s economy being largely based on natural resources, these resources play a large part in foreign countries’ interests in striking free trade agreements with Canada. We seem to be choosing here to open our clean water, oil and minerals to foreign hands.

Whether or not we’re treated like a banana republic or fellow G8 member will ultimately depend on the final agreement text negotiators create, its approval or disapproval by federal and provincial parliaments, and provincial, federal and international court cases for years to come interpreting it.

Therefore the question we should be asking ourselves is: What type of agreements are our Canadian negotiators capable of and likely to make? For clues and a look at their prior work, examining the effects of the NAFTA and WTO agreements should prove helpful.