Category Archives: Class

Brazilian regime: Screw the poor, sell the commons

And the indigenous people of Brazil?

Screw them, too.

From the Guardian:

It is just a week since Michel Temer became interim president of Brazil, but his new centre-right administration already has begun scaling back many of the social policies put in place by Workers’ party governments over the previous 13 years.

Moves are under way to soften the definition of slavery, roll back the demarcation of indigenous land, trim housebuilding programs and sell off state assets in airports, utilities and the post office. Newly appointed ministers also are talking of cutting healthcare spending and reducing the cost of the bolsa familia poverty relief system. Four thousand government jobs have been cut. The culture ministry has been subsumed into education.


Renato Boschi, a professor of social and political studies at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said the new administration – with no female or black senior ministers – was unrepresentative and its cost-cutting goals were implausible.

“It’s a completely rightwing government. Even [President Mauricio] Macri in Argentina is not as rightwing as Temer’s government,” he said.

Pope Francis lashes out at ‘bloodsuckers’

He almost sounds like Bernie Sanders.

From Reuters:

Pope Francis condemned “bloodsuckers” who grow rich by exploiting others on Thursday, saying making “slaves” out of workers and setting unfair contracts was a mortal sin.

Francis, who frequently speaks of his concern for the poor, appeared to be referring to the kind of grueling labor often done by poor migrants in rich countries across the world, but also to many other workers on precarious contracts.

During mass at the Vatican, he told a story about a girl who found a job working 11 hours a day for 650 euros ($729) a month, paid “under the table”.

“This is starving the people with their work for my own profit! Living on the blood of the people. And this is a mortal sin,” he said at the service in his Santa Marta residence.

“Without a pension, without health care … then they suspend (the contract), and in July and August (the workers) have to eat air. And in September, they laugh at you about it. Those who do that are true bloodsuckers.”

Brazil’s suspended president gives 1st interview

On 12 May  the Brazilian senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff from office for up to six months or the senators either vote to either remove her from office acquit her of crimes charged they have alleged against her.

In the interim, the senate has replaced her with Vice President Michel Temer as interim president. Temer, a U.S. State Department informant, is a neoliberal, unlike Rousseff, a former revolutionary popular with Brazil’s poor. Oh, and Temer also faces criminal allegations.

Rousseff granted her first video interview to RT, and here it is.

From RT:

‘Coup by those who lost elections’: First Rousseff interview since impeachment

From the transcript:

RT: Speaking of the impeachment, the coup and the trial, I’d like to ask you – is this basically a soft coup, without weapons and violence? Moreover, to which extent do you think this coup is aimed against you, and to which extent not only against Brazil, but against its allies, say, the BRICS countries? 

DR: I think it’s an impeachment process, to remove me from the office. Our Constitution provides for an impeachment, but only if the President commits a crime against the Constitution and human rights. We believe that it’s a coup, because no such crime has been committed. They put me on trial for additional loans [from state banks]. Every president before me has done it, and it has never been a crime. It won’t become a crime now. There is no basis for considering it a crime. A crime has to be legally defined. So we believe this impeachment is a coup, because it’s clearly stated in the Constitution that only a crime of malversation can serve as basis for impeachment. The actions currently under scrutiny do not, strictly speaking, fall under that category. Besides, Brazil is a presidential republic. You can’t remove a president or a prime minister who hasn’t committed a crime. We’re not a parliamentary republic, where a president can dissolve the congress, which, in turn, can call for a vote of no confidence out of purely political reasons. So it’s impossible to impeach a president in Brazil based solely on political reasons or political distrust. We believe that what’s happening now in Brazil is an attempt to replace an innocent president involved in no corruption-related legal proceedings in order for the politicians that lost the 2014 election to control the state bypassing the new election. That’s what’s happening. This is an attempt to replace the entire political program that includes both the social and economic development aspects and is aimed at tackling the crisis that Brazil has been going through in recent years with a program clearly neoliberal in nature. This program provides for minimizing our social programs in accordance with the minimal state doctrine. This doctrine is at odds with all the Brazilian legal norms regarding healthcare, construction and ensuring that our people have their own houses, availability of high-quality education and minimum wages guaranteed to the poorest part of the Brazilian population. They want to do away with these rights and at the same time they conduct an anti-national policy, for example, when it comes to Brazil’s oil resources. Significant subsalt oil reserves, lying 7,000 m below the surface, were discovered recently. The ministers were saying that exploring these reserves was impossible, but now we’re extracting a million barrels daily from subsalt oil reserves. Undoubtedly, they were saying that thinking to change the legislation in order to guarantee access to these reserves to international companies. Moreover, in terms of foreign policy, starting from Lula da Silva and throughout my presidency, we have been seeking to strengthen ties with Latin American, African, BRICS countries and other developing nations, in addition to the developed world – the US and Europe. I think that BRICS is one of the most important multilateral groups created in the last decade. But the interim government holds different views on BRICS and the importance we place on Latin America. They are even discussing the possibility of closing embassies in some African countries. We have very special relations with Africa. Brazil is the country with the highest percentage of population of African descent in the world, second only to African countries. We have a lot of people of African descent, so over the last few years we’ve been putting particular emphasis on our relations with the African countries, and not only Portuguese-speaking ones. This shows a wider approach to the world, as opposed to the traditional one, supported by those who have usurped the power now and are taking steps that are at odds with the program approved by the Brazilian people, by 54 mln votes, on the day I was elected.

Headline of the day II: Killing off the ‘gig economy’

A screencap of the London Daily Mail homepage teaser for this story:


Sunday’s Austrian election features two outsiders

Though Austria has a long history of populist governments, most notably under the pre-World War I Christian Socials, since World War II the national has been governed either by the moderately Leftist Social Democrats or the center-Right People’s Party, the SPÖ and ÖVP.

But Sunday’s presidential election marks a sea change, pitting a non-partisan Leftist populist, economist and descendant of Russian nobility Alexander Van der Bellen against the odds-on favorite, a former aircraft mechanic and leader of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] Norbert Hofer.

Hofer, echoing another presidential candidate from across the Atlantic, declares himself to be “decisively opposed to forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.”

And while the presidency, as in most European parliamentary democracies, is largely ceremonial, the winner will be the commander of the nation’s armed forces.

Van der Bellen, formerly a member of and national spokesman for the Austrian Green Party, is running as a nonpartisan candidate, though with backing from the Greens.

Out of a field of six candidates in the initial round of voting 24 April, Hofer won  35 percent of the vote and Van der Bellen won 21 percent. And since no candidate had a majority, the two leading candidates headed to Sunday’s runoff.

What does it all mean?

From Der Spiegel:

All of Europe is looking this week to Austria, this small country in its midst where an eventuality considered by many to be outrageous may soon become reality. This reality, though, comes in the guise of a harmless, friendly face. Norbert Hofer is a 45-year-old trained airplane technician from the state of Burgenland, just southeast of Vienna. He is the father of four and his wife, his second marriage, is an elderly care professional. Hanging above his desk in parliament is a framed image of Article 1 of the constitution, which says of the Austrian Republic: “Its law emanates from the people.”

Will the people of Austria really elect a right-wing populist to become their highest representative on Sunday? Is Austria in the process of becoming part of that group of European countries, along with Hungary, Poland, Finland and Switzerland, where the right-wing is already part of the government? And if so, how long will it take before the new right-wing movement tears Europe apart?

If one looks geographically at the congratulatory messages the FPÖ candidate Hofer received following his triumph in the first round of presidential elections, a checkered pattern of new European nationalists emerges. Marine Le Pen from the French party Front National was first, followed by the Lega Nord of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. From the Netherlands, congratulations came from PVV head Geert Wilders and from Germany, plaudits were sent by the right-wing populists from the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The right wing in Europe is becoming organized and developing contacts across the Continent. The election on Sunday is far more than just a purely Austrian affair.

Across Europe, large, mainstream parties are losing power and influence. It has happened in Spain, France and Germany, but nowhere has the phenomenon been as dramatically visible as during the first round of the presidential elections in Austria. Hofer came in first place followed by Green candidate Van der Bellen. An independent candidate came in third place. Only then did the candidates of the SPÖ and ÖVP — the two parties that currently form the governing coalition — follow in fourth and fifth place. Together, they didn’t even managed 23 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: For a broader discussion of what’s at stake, here’s a video of a panel discussion on the election just posted by Deutsche Welle:

Crisis in Austria: Another Blow for Europe? | Quadriga

Program notes:

In Austria, Sunday could see a right-wing populist elected to the position of president. The FPÖ’S Norbert Hofer, whose xenophobic slogans have struck a chord with voters, aims to tap into the constitution’s potential for authoritarian power.

Norbert Hofer could take the reins of government by emergency decree if he wins Sunday’s elections. The current state of play augurs well for him.

In the first round of voting, the traditionally popular Social Democrats, the SPÖ, and the Conservatives, the ÖVP, got a taste of the electorate’s wrath. Chancellor Werner Faymann of the SPÖ resigned.

It seems the Alpine republic is lurching to the right as its voters follow a pattern that has emerged throughout Europe. Is there no end to the trend towards right-wing populism?

Our guests:

  • Ewald König is a freelance correspondent and an Austrian himself, who has been covering Austrian politics for decades now. He says: “It’s not only the refugees, there are many other reasons for Austria’s and Europe’s drift to the right.”
  • Alan Posener is a commentator for the Berlin daily Die Welt, who says: “Nobody cares who governs a small country like Austria. But Germany has a responsibility for the whole of Europe. We can’t afford Viennese coffeehouse politics.”
  • Ulrike Guérot of the European Democracy Lab believes that “A wildfire is sweeping across Europe. It’s taken in Hungary, and now Austria, with France looking likely to be next.”

Charts of the day: The underemployed of Europe

BLOG EU Undermployed

From Eurostat:

Among the population aged 15 to 74 in the European Union (EU), 220 million were employed, 23 million were unemployed and 136 million were economically inactive in 2015.

Around 8 in every 10 persons employed in the EU were working full time and 2 in 10 part-time. Among these 44.7 million persons in the EU working part-time in 2015, 10.0 million were under-employed, meaning they wished to work more hours and were available to do so. This corresponds to more than a fifth (22.4%) of all part-time workers and 4.6 % of total employment in the EU in 2015. Two-thirds of these underemployed part-time workers were women (66%).

Alongside the economically active population (employed and unemployed), 11.4 million economically inactive persons aged 15-74 in the EU had in 2015 a certain attachment to the labour market and could be considered as a potential additional labour force, equivalent to 4.7% of the EU labour force. Among them, around 9.3 million were available to work but not seeking, such as discouraged job seekers, and almost 2.2 million seeking work but not immediately available, for example students seeking a job to start after graduation. The majority of this potential additional labour force in the EU in 2015 was also women (56.7%).

Largest shares of underemployed part-time workers in Greece, Cyprus and Spain

In 2015, the proportion of underemployed part-time workers among total part-time workers varied significantly across the EU Member States. A majority of part-time workers aged 15 to 74 wished to work more hours while being available to do so in Greece (71.8%), Cyprus (68.0%) and Spain (54.2%), closely followed by Portugal (46.4%). At the opposite end of the scale, Denmark (9.5%), the Czech Republic (9.6%), Estonia (12.0%), Luxembourg (13.2%), the Netherlands (13.4%) and Germany (14.0%) registered the smallest shares of underemployed part-time workers. At EU level, 22.4% of persons working part-time were underemployed in 2015.

It should be noted that underemployed part-time workers were predominantly women in every EU Member State except Romania.

More austerity demand of Spain by the EC

The grim news from El País:

Brussels has postponed sanctions against Spain for its continuous deficit target misses until after the country holds general elections on June 26.

But that is where the good news ends.

On Wednesday, the European Commission (EC) also demanded budget cuts of over €8 billion between this year and the next.

The European executive wants Spain to bring down its deficit to 3.7% of GDP in 2016 and 2.5% in 2017. The Spanish deficit at the end of 2015 was 5.1% of economic output, far above its target. The country has the second-largest deficit in the entire EU.

The bad news comes as yet another blow to the Spanish working class, which continues to struggle with high unemployment rates in the still turbulent wake of the Great Recession, triggered by Wall Streets reckless housing speculation.

The latest numbers from Spain’s National Statistics Institute:

BLOG Spain