Saturday, January 24, 2009

Germany: SPD stumbles as "super election year" begins

Germany began a "super election year" on January 18 when the west German state of Hesse went to the polls for the second time in twelve months.
The new elections became necessary after months of negotiations to form a coalition government collapsed late last year, when parliamentary members of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) rebelled against a plan to form government with the assistance of the left-wing party Die Linke.

Under pressure from SPD hardliners, party-leader Andrea Ypsilanti had promised not to deal with Die Linke, a fusion of the Party for Democratic Socialism (the successor to the former East German ruling party) with a left-wing split from the SPD in 2005.

However, when neither major party – the SPD, nor the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) – was able to form government after the 2008 poll, Ypsilanti back-flipped on her promise, securing an agreement with the Greens and Die Linke, but lost support in her own party.

When attempts to form government fell through, the Hesse parliament dissolved itself on November 19, forcing new elections.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fifty years of the Cuban Revolution

On January 1, 2009, the small island nation of Cuba celebrated the 50th anniversary of a revolution that overthrew a brutal dictatorship and set Cuba on its long and often complicated road towards socialism.

Worldwide, the media reports combined standard distortions and lies on the question of democracy on the island with a focus on the revolution's most obvious symbols: its historical leader Fidel Castro, and the iconic guerrilla army that marched into Havana in the first week of 1959 with Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara at its head.

At best, this view presents only a partial picture of the Cuban Revolution. It overlooks the hundreds of thousands in the urban underground movement who opposed the murderous US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista who was brought down by the revolution — fighting street-battles, conducting industrial sabotage, and organising general strikes, such as the strike on January 2, 1959, that brought the regime to its knees.

The same view of Cuba also ignores the struggle of workers and other popular sectors that, after Batista fled, transformed the anti-dictatorship struggle into a revolution that overthrew an entire political class — whose corruption and autocracy threatened to betray the Cuban people's aspirations for democracy and social justice. A socialist revolution was begun on the doorstep of the greatest capitalist power on earth.

The survival of the Cuban Revolution for half a century in the face of endless aggression from the most powerful nation on Earth only 90 miles away is an outstanding feat in itself, but the reality of the Cuban Revolution and its achievements deserves much deeper, and fairer, treatment that it gets in the Western media.