Category Archives: Institutional opposition

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 4th Moscow International Security Conference, Moscow, April 16, 2015

http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/5AE629B1C7B4097543257E2900647345

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 4th Moscow International Security Conference, Moscow, April 16, 2015

729-16-04-2015

Mr Shoigu, Mr Patrushev, colleagues, and friends,

The Moscow conference, organised by the Russian Defence Ministry, has firmly established itself as an important platform for an open and constructive exchange of opinions on key aspects of global security. This conversation is highly relevant, taking into account the ongoing buildup of forces of instability and conflict in international relations.

I would like to cite one quotation: “There can be no middle ground here. We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration, or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict.” These words were delivered by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. I believe that they formulated one of the main lessons of the most devastating global conflict in history: it is only possible to meet common challenges and preserve the peace through collective, joint efforts based on respect for the legitimate interests of all partners.

This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Great Victory. Leaders, delegations, and national military contingents from a large number of countries will participate in the events taking place in Moscow on May 9. By celebrating the anniversary of the Great Victory we are not only paying tribute to the heroic feat of the soldiers who freed the world from the madness of the Nazis, but are also reaffirming the great importance of the historic decisions that laid the groundwork for the postwar international system, including, of course, the UN.

Unfortunately, soon after the founding of the UN, the opportunities for global governance based on genuine partnership were undermined by the head-on bipolar confrontation. However, a quarter of a century ago it seemed that the end of the Cold War, for the first time in the history of humankind, had opened the prospect for a transition to a stage of broad cooperation and constructive development. Russia has been actively and consistently working toward this, among other things, calling for serious efforts in the Euro-Atlantic region to put into practice a principle of equal and undivided security and form a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Unfortunately, they refused to even listen to us, let alone heed our call. As a result, the events on the European continent have followed a totally different, negative path.

The shortsighted logic of Cold War victors prevailed in Washington and later in NATO. Our partners fell into a state of euphoria caused by false notions that the Western world had forever secured itself a place in the global political and economic “Olympus.” All this runs counter to facts, and to objective and obvious processes concerning the distribution of global power and influence and the assertion of diversity of culture and civilisation as a key aspect of the contemporary world. Therefore, all of us have once again approached a boundary where, just like after World War II, it is once again necessary to choose between cooperation and conflicts.

Russia is invariably guided by a sober-minded and pragmatic approach, and we are far from deliberately inciting any alarmist moods. Nevertheless, I’d like to note that one should not underestimate the prospects of a dangerous deterioration of the international situation. The world has made considerable headway on the road towards globalisation, and the threat of security problems in various regions, and even on different levels, forming one tight knot is becoming more apparent. But where is that wall which would make it possible to divide growing confusion, the whipping up of confrontation in European affairs and the incipient “arc of instability” stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan? In these conditions, one can hardly rely on the so-called principle of “compartmentalisation” which allows countries to confront each other on some issues and to cooperate productively on others. The creation of regional security systems built on common principles of equality, mutual consideration for each other’s interests, and a refusal to strengthen one’s security to the detriment of the security of others should become a more effective and natural option that would heed the current, growing interdependence. In our opinion, systematic cooperation between these regional systems would help create a global system by prioritising the UN Charter and collective actions for coping with common challenges.

Much is being said about Ukraine, and it is probably impossible to avoid this issue. It is impossible to resolve the conflict in Ukraine by military force. As such, there is no reasonable alternative to peacefully settling the domestic Ukrainian crisis on the basis of full and unconditional compliance with the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015. Above all, the ceasefire should be unfailingly observed, heavy weapons should be withdrawn as soon as possible, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine should verify this process. At the same time, we need to remove artificial obstacles hampering solutions to extremely acute humanitarian problems, to persuade Kiev to stop the economic blockade of Donbass, to launch a real (not decorative) political process, and implement a constitutional reform that takes the interests of all Ukrainian regions and citizens into account. Kiev’s compliance with amnesty obligations and a renunciation of attempts to reinterpret the Minsk Agreements have particular significance for preserving the unity of the Ukrainian state. I am confident that the West should and can force authorities in Kiev to scrap destructive policies aimed at glorifying the Nazis and persecuting those who saved Europe from Nazism. We discussed all this in great detail at a meeting of the Normandy Four foreign ministers in Berlin on April 13, 2015.

The Ukrainian political settlement should significantly expedite efforts to overcome systemic problems that have accumulated in the area of European security and which ultimately became the main cause of the Ukrainian crisis. So far, we have observed diametrically opposite trends and attempts to formalise new demarcation lines in Europe. Washington is either using the term “front-line states” with reference to our neighbours or saying that Russia has found itself at “NATO’s gates”. As if it is Russia moving towards the West, rather than the other way round, that is, NATO coming right up to Russian borders and deploying a powerful military infrastructure there. US military equipment is everywhere in Europe, and US Navy ships have basically settled in the Black Sea.

The US ABM programme remains a cause for serious concern. Ground-based missile-defence systems will be deployed in Romania this year and in Poland by 2018. More ships with missile-defence systems are being deployed. We perceive all this as part of a global project that is creating risks for Russia’s strategic deterrence forces and upsetting regional security balances. If the global missile-defence programme continues to be implemented without any adjustments, even as talks on the Iranian nuclear programme are making headway (as NATO representatives have already said), then the specific motives for establishing the European missile-defence system will become obvious for everyone. It is already clear that they misled us when they announced the so-called “adaptive” approach for setting up the missile-defence system. According to US President Barack Obama, the entire essence of this approach implied Washington’s readiness to adapt missile-defence plans to the situation on the ground at the talks on the Iranian nuclear programme. Although considerable success has been achieved at these talks, missile-defence plans continue to expand, rather than adapt to the situation.

Washington tries not to remember Russian proposals for equal cooperation in neutralising missile threats.

It is not our intention to force anyone to cooperate. However, it should be clear that by weakening partnerships among leading states we waste time in countering really serious [threats], not the perceived threats, above all, in the Middle East and North Africa. The sharp escalation of the situation there, the rise in terrorism and extremism, the expansion of the territory controlled by the so-called “Islamic State,” and the mounting interethnic and interreligious conflicts pose a direct threat to international stability and security and, of course, erode the prospects of stable development for nations in this region, which is close to us.

What raises particular concern are the attempts to artificially ratchet up the Sunni-Shiite disagreements and use religious differences to achieve political goals, among other things, by imposing schemes on the UN Security Council to approve outside interference. I would like to make an appeal for the current situation to be treated very seriously, guided by the ideas of tolerance, mutual respect, and the search for compromise as was formulated in the Amman Message that was agreed upon in July 2005 on the initiative of King Abdullah II of Jordan. Perhaps the time has come to reassert unequivocally the principles of the Amman Message. I am confident that the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation understand perfectly well all the dangers involved in a split of the Islamic world.

Effective external efforts to facilitate a resolution to intra-state conflicts should be based on international law and push the sides toward dialogue while organising a consolidated rebuff to extremist forces. Under these circumstances, there should be no room for attempts to impose internal political solutions or double standards on sovereign states. A situation where, in Yemen, the US looks favourably upon and directly encourages the forceful operation conducted by the coalition to bring the fleeing president back to power, whereas in Ukraine, quite on the contrary, Washington actively supported and helped organise an anti-constitutional coup d’etat, is bound to raise questions.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, a unilateral dictate and the imposition of external models bring a result opposite to the one intended: escalation instead of conflict resolution, and growing chaos instead of sovereign, stable states. Meaningful and positive results can only be achieved through concerted efforts “without any hidden agendas.” I should mention the successful completion of the unprecedented international operation to remove all components of and precursors to chemical weapons from Syria and the political framework agreement on the final resolution of Iran’s nuclear programme. Incidentally, this opens the way for abandoning the vicious policy of isolating Iran, and, in turn, involving it in collective efforts, on the basis of equality, in the search for solutions to the proliferating regional security issues. These include a political settlement in Syria and Yemen, facilitating national accord in Lebanon and Iraq, promoting the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and, of course, helping overcome the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the existing international legal framework and the Arab peace initiative.

Of increasing importance is the goal of establishing dialogue to create a framework for security and cooperation in the Persian Gulf with the participation of Arab countries and Iran, supported by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The situation in Afghanistan calls for the consolidation of efforts. Stabilisation is a long way off there. The country remains a source of terrorism and drug trafficking that can spill over into neighbouring states, including Central Asia.

We are also interested in ensuring peace, security, and cooperation in the Asia Pacific Region, our country being an inalienable part of it. The initiative to build a regional architecture of equal and undivided security, which was put forward by Russia and China in 2010, is designed to formulate generally accepted rules of conduct to ensure reliable stability and sustained development in the Asia Pacific Region. In conjunction with other states in the region, we have launched a multilateral dialogue on this subject within the scope of the East Asia Summit.

As I said earlier, it is important to move toward the creation of a network of regionally based structures responsible for ensuring security in their regions. If we advance toward the once proclaimed goal of creating a system of equal and undivided security in the Euro-Atlantic zone and search for ways of putting in place a broad [security] architecture in the Asia Pacific Region, unrelated to [military and political] blocs, then the value of the efforts that Russia and its allies and partners are making to ensure security in the area covered by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will grow.

We would like to reiterate the initiatives that were once put forward by the UN secretary general and the OSCE leadership, when the heads of regional security organisations were invited to share opinions and establish dialogue between them. I believe that the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, which, on the initiative of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has become an effective platform for cooperation, can serve as a good basis for the continuation of these efforts.

We are committed to continuing our active efforts, in conjunction with our friends and partners, in the interests of normalising international relations. Strengthening international and regional stability is an important part of the agenda for Russia’s BRICS and SCO presidencies. Russia is open to dialogue and cooperation with all those who are willing to cooperate.

I would like to wish the conference participants productivity in their work.

Political and Ideological Crisis in an Increasingly More Authoritarian European Union

Asbjørn Wahl is Adviser to the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees, Vice Chair of the Road Transport Workers’ Section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), and Director of the Campaign for the Welfare State, a trade-union-based national alliance fighting privatization and liberalization. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State (Pluto Press, 2011).

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​http://monthlyreview.org/2014/01/01/european-labor

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Monthly Review
2014, Volume 65, Issue 08 (January)

European Labor

Political and Ideological Crisis in an Increasingly More Authoritarian European Union

Asbjørn Wahl

Acute economic and political drama mark contemporary Europe. The terrible trauma of the financial crisis has been followed by a sovereign-debt disaster. In the countries most deeply affected, the people have been faced with massive attacks on public services, wages, pensions, trade unions, and social rights. The draconian austerity policies have pushed the situation in those countries from bad to worse, leading them into a deep depression. The result is an ever more serious social and political crisis. Mass unemployment is growing, and both in Greece and Spain youth unemployment has now passed 50 percent. In the European Union this is leading to more intense internal confrontations, both social and political.

Confronted with these multiple crises, the traditional labor movements appear perplexed and partly paralyzed. Social democracy is in political and ideological disarray and confusion, reflecting a deep crisis in these movements. On the one hand, social democrats have played a leading role in fierce attacks on trade unions and the welfare state in countries where they have been in power. On the other hand, other social democrats adopt statements and support appeals that sharply condemn the political course now followed by the European Union. The trade unions have also been stricken by the multiple crises, and have been unable to curb the attacks made on them. Of course, mass unemployment is also weakening their power and influence at the negotiating table. Extensive restructuring of industries, privatization of public services, and increased use of temporary workers have contributed to the unions’ loss of power.

This paralysis of the political left was illustrated in 2011 when huge masses of young people protested in countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Italy. The protest movements were inspired more by what happened at Tahrir Square in Cairo than by political parties or trade unions in their own home countries. The latter were hardly present to build alliances, to politicize, or to contribute to giving direction and content to the struggle. Instead, big parts of the trade-union bureaucracy have stagnated in a social-partnership ideology that no longer has any meaning, since capitalist forces have withdrawn from the historic post-Second World War compromise between labor and capital, and gone on the offensive to defeat the trade-union movement and get rid of the best parts of the welfare state.

While the deepest and most serious economic crisis since the depression of the 1930s is unfolding, criticism of capitalism has more or less fallen silent. The trade union and labor movements no longer represent a general, credible alternative to a crisis-ridden capitalism generating mass unemployment, poverty, suffering, and misery in great parts of the European continent. To the degree unions have put forward alternative proposals, they have ignored strategies and shown neither the ability nor willingness to put to use the means of struggle necessary to gain ground. Trade unions at the European level have sharpened their rhetoric, but they have hesitated when it comes to the necessary mobilization to resist the attacks.

How has this been possible in a part of the world that has hosted some of the strongest and most militant trade unions and labor movements in the world? Why have opposition and resistance not been stronger? And how did we come to the point where social-democratic governments in Greece, Spain, and Portugal have accounted for some of the most serious attacks on unions and the welfare state—until resistance from the population and frustrated voters ousted them from office and replaced them with right-wing governments even more faithful to financial capital?

This article deals with the challenges and barriers that trade unions now face in the European Union. There are a number of structural barriers that the European Union as a supranational institution represents, as well as internal political-ideological barriers that prevent unions from fulfilling their role in the current situation. The most important developments that are challenging, as well as threatening, what many people call Social Europe will be described: attacks on public services, pensions, wages, and working conditions, as well as strong anti-democratic tendencies. But first, it is necessary briefly to address the role of social democracy in Europe today in light of its history.

The Historical Role of Social Democracy

Much now suggests that the historical era of social democracy is over. This does not mean that political parties that call themselves Social Democratic (or Socialist, as they call themselves in southern Europe) will not be able to win elections and form governments, alone or with other parties. However, the role social democracy has played historically, as a political-party structure with a certain progressive social project, now seems to be irrevocably over. The original goals of social democracy—to develop democratic socialism through gradual reforms, place the economy under political control, and meet the economic and social needs of the great majority of the population—were given up a long time ago. Instead, what will be focused on is the role it played during its golden age—the age of welfare capitalism—as an intra-capitalist political party with a social project.

The change of the character of the social-democratic parties has developed over a long time, but today’s more intensified social contradictions help reveal what is hiding beneath the thin veil of political rhetoric. Where social democracy has been in power in EU countries in recent years, its leaders have been loyal executioners of brutal austerity policies, overseeing massive attacks on the welfare state and trade unions. In turn this has, among other things, led to dramatically reduced support for social democrats; with few exceptions, today they are hardly represented in European governments.

The role of social democracy in its golden age was to administer the class compromise—not to represent workers against capital, but to mediate between the classes within the framework of a regulated capitalist economy. As a result, the parties (especially where they were in power over long periods) changed from mass organizations of workers into bureaucratic organizations strongly integrated into the state apparatus, with dramatic losses in membership, and with their organizations increasingly converted into instruments for political careerists, and campaign machinery for a new political elite.

Based as it was on the class compromise, social democracy sank into an ever deeper political and ideological crisis as capital owners, responding to their own need to accumulate capital, gradually began to withdraw from the historic compromise around 1980. The social-democratic parties were so deeply integrated in the state apparatus that they changed alongside the state as it became strongly influenced by the emerging neoliberal hegemony. Social democratic parties have thus contributed greatly to deregulation, privatization, and the attacks on public welfare of the last few decades. This has been true whether it happened under the label of “the third way,” as in the United Kingdom; Die neue Mitte, as it was called in Germany under Gerhard Schröder; or even under the fluttering banner of folkhemmet (“the people’s home”) in Sweden. In fact, when social-democratic governments were in a majority in the late 1990s, for the first and only time in EU history, no change in the EU’s neoliberal policies took place. This led one commentator at the time to conclude that “There’s not much left of the left.”1

The political-ideological decay on the left was well illustrated by the many meaningless statements that came in the wake of the financial crisis in relation to the government emergency measures. Many social democrats in Europe stated that the big government bailouts to the banks and financial institutions were proof that the politics of the left were on their way back. State regulation and Keynesianism had once again come to honor and dignity, it was said. Even Newsweek’s front page proclaimed, “We are all socialists now.”2 The moderate, now retired, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), John Monks, said it this way: “All over Europe, everybody is a social democrat or a socialist now—Merkel, Sarkozy, Gordon Brown…. The wind is in our sails.”3

However, there is a difference between Keynesian social reform policies and desperate government bailouts to save the speculators, financial institutions, and perhaps capitalism itself. That it was the latter was realized by many only as the financial crisis changed into a sovereign debt crisis, and the stimulus packages were replaced by reactionary and anti-social austerity policies, in which banks and financial institutions were saved at the expense of ordinary people’s living standard, welfare, and jobs.

Social democracy has, without exception, supported all of the neoliberal treaties and important austerity legislation in the European Union. Social-democratic parties have fully supported the establishment of the single market, which in reality has been a systematic project of deregulation, privatization, and undermining of public services and trade unions. The problem the social-democratic parties now face is that the demands for Keynesian stimulus policies, which some of them advocate, are in violation of the same treaties and laws which they were instrumental in passing. The social democrats have painted themselves into a corner and are increasingly squeezed between growing social rebellion and their loyalty to the neoliberal European Union.

The political crisis also affects parties to the left of social democracy. In countries where such parties have been in coalition governments with social democrats—France, Italy, Norway, and Denmark—the consequences have ranged from merely negative, to disastrous. To a large degree, the small left parties have been made hostage to neoliberal policies, including support for privatization and the U.S. war machine, such as its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.4 They have not been able to be consistent critics of the system, let alone offer a credible alternative. This means that there is hardly any political or social force with strength and legitimacy in Europe today which is in a position to take the lead in organizing and coordinating the social resistance that regularly breaks out across Europe against the policies of austerity and rapidly rising inequality of income and wealth.
One of the most dramatic and dangerous consequences of this development, where the traditional labor parties pursue various degrees of neoliberal policies, is that confidence in the political left has broken down, while right-wing populism and extremism have gained ground. Parties representing these politics have now entered the stage—and parliaments—in most European countries. The indications are that a political restructuring of the left will be necessary for the labor movement once again to be able to go on the offensive and establish a wider, alternative social project.

Massive Attacks on Public Services, Wages, and Pensions

Many expected that the financial crisis, with its devastating consequences, would mean the final goodbye to neoliberalism, the speculation economy, and the hegemony of free market forces. These policies had led to a dramatic redistribution of social wealth from labor to capital, from public to private, and from the poor to the rich. The system was discredited, and surely the politicians would now realize that systematic deregulation, privatization, and free-flow capitalism had failed disastrously. The casino economy had to be stopped. In Iceland thousands of jobs, and the entire national economy, were turned into a gambling casino, where a small group of speculators enriched themselves beyond our comprehension at the expense of the country’s population. It was intolerable; the time was ripe for control and regulation.

That was not what happened. The neoliberals and the speculators, who strongly contributed to causing the crisis, remained in the driver’s seat, even when emergency measures were designed and the bills settled. Of course, what happened up until the crisis, as well as what has happened since, reflect power relations in society. It is not pure reason but the prevailing power relations that determine which “solution” is selected. Had reason prevailed—if the interests of the majority of the people had been paramount—the destructive speculation economy would have been stopped. This could have been achieved by regulation, by gaining increased democratic control of banks and other financial institutions, and by banning short selling, hedge funds, and trading in a variety of high-risk (so-called) financial instruments. This would have limited the power of the banks, restricted the free movement of capital, and reformed a tax system that now unburdens the rich and encourages unfettered speculation.

Deregulation of markets, greater inequalities in society, and extensive speculation were key factors that helped create the 2008 financial meltdown. In response, a number of governments ran up public debt to save their banks, financial institutions, and speculators. The effects were disastrous, and in many countries so many people were so strongly affected that neoliberals and speculators probably feared social unrest. Time showed, however, that there was no reason for this; popular revolt against the speculation economy failed to materialize. Trade unions in some EU countries mobilized, but a joint-European-offensive struggle never materialized. Thus, the neoliberals could continue their project of changing Europe according to their own economic and political interests.

The first thing neoliberalism’s champions and beneficiaries did was disclaim responsibility. While their unrestrained speculation and the formidable redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top had helped trigger the crisis, they now said that the problem was that people had “lived beyond their means.” Myths were and are still being spread that pensions and welfare services are gilt-edged and that these are the real causes of the crisis. In particular, the social elite and the dominant media portrayed working people in Greece as having granted themselves privileges without any real economic basis. This is being used as propaganda to legitimize widespread attack on the welfare state, while financial capital is protected.

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) quickly documented that these allegations were just myths with little connection to reality. For example, labor productivity increased twice as fast in Greece as in Germany from 1999 to 2009. According to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) statistics, on average Greeks work many more hours per year (2,152) than Norwegians (1,422) or Germans (1,430). While a few occupational groups have a low retirement age, pensions at early retirement are so low that hardly anyone is able to make use of them. For example, only thirty or forty of Athens’s 20,000 bus drivers have used the theoretical option of early retirement at age fifty-three. The real average retirement age in Greece is 60.9 years for women and 62.4 for men, which is higher than in Germany, where right-wing politicians played on these myths. These falsehoods still dominate in mainstream media and the political life in Europe, something that tells us a lot about the existing power relations, the media’s servility to the elite, and the political and ideological crisis of the left.

While the bailouts saved the speculators, governments did not use the opportunity to take increased democratic control or ownership of financial institutions. Of course, this would have been a challenging project given the enormous power capitalist forces have achieved in our societies through deregulation and accumulation of wealth over the last decades. The final communiqué of the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada in June 2010 gave us an excellent example of this. It contained little but the well-known, neoliberal proposals to remove even more barriers to the free movement of capital, goods, services, and labor. There was nothing left of all the proposals that had circulated about the need for regulation of financial markets and to raise more funds from banks and financial institutions. The losses are therefore socialized while profits are privatized—once again.

Governments, the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—the three latter (un)popularly called the Troika—have not reinstated Keynesian policies and re-regulated finance. Instead, they have used the crisis as an excuse to further transform society to meet the needs of finance capital. Thus the Troika now prescribes the same policy in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy as the IMF previously imposed upon developing countries and Eastern European nations through the so-called structural adjustment programs, namely massive privatizations. In Greece, for example, the railways, the water supply of Athens and Thessaloniki, utilities, ports, airports, and the remaining public ownership of the national telecommunications company have been privatized. Cuts, privatizations, and widespread attacks on public services are the order of the day in country after country. This is a recipe for depression and social crisis.

In several EU countries—the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Hungary—wages, working conditions, and pensions have been severely weakened. Pensions have been cut 15–20 percent in many countries, while wages in the public sector have been reduced from 5 percent in Spain to over 40 percent in the Baltic. In Greece, the number of public employees has already been reduced by more than 20 percent. And still more is demanded: in Spain only one in every ten vacant positions in the public sector is filled, one in every five in Italy, and one in every two in France. In Germany 10,000 public-sector jobs have already been cut, and in the United Kingdom it has been decided to cut close to half a million jobs, which in effect will involve about the same number of jobs in the private sector.

The Value Added Tax (VAT) has been increased dramatically in several countries; social benefits have been slashed, particularly for the unemployed and disabled; budgets have been cut; the labor laws have been weakened (especially employment protection); minimum wages have been reduced; universal welfare schemes have been converted to programs that are means-tested (as is the case with the British child benefit). Meanwhile, the tax on capital has been held constant—or even decreased. Collective agreements and labor rights have been set aside, not through negotiations with the unions, but by government decrees and/or political decisions. Increased competitiveness of European businesses is raised as the main aim, to which all social concerns are subordinated. This represents a new and dramatic situation in Europe. The massive austerity policy and attacks on trade unions constitute, socially and politically, a deadly mix, and the historical experiences in Europe make them particularly frightening. If the trade unions are not able to curb these developments, we face a defeat of historical dimensions for the labor movement in Europe, with enormous consequences for the development of our societies.

Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist and now professor at the University of Missouri, notes that there is a massive fight against workers taking place:

The EC [European Community] is using the mortgage banking crisis—and the needless prohibition against central banks monetizing public budget deficits—as an opportunity to fine governments and even drive them bankrupt if they do not agree [to] roll back salaries…. “Join the fight against labour, or we will destroy you,” the EC is telling governments. This requires dictatorship, and the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken over this power from elected governments. Its “independence” from political control is celebrated as the “hallmark of democracy” by today’s new financial oligarchy…. Europe is ushering in an era of totalitarian neoliberal rule.5

Towards an Authoritarian Europe

The European Union’s role has been crucial for what is now taking place in Europe. In addition to the democratic deficit that is embedded in EU institutions, these institutions have been formed and shaped during the neoliberal era. They are dominated by the interests of capital to an extraordinarily high degree. The crisis has been used to wage a massive battle from the heights of the European Union’s governance institutions to further transform Europe in the image of capital.

More and more political power is being transferred to the unelected EU institutions in Brussels. The European Union’s only elected body, the European Parliament, has been sidelined from much of the process. The European Union therefore now moves in the direction of further de-democratisation, at a speed and in a manner with frightening possibilities.

Currently this development is carried out through a number of political innovations:

The European semester, which means that national governments each year will have to submit their proposals for state budgets and structural changes to Brussels for “approval.”
The Euro Plus Pact, a deregulation and austerity pact that includes all Euro countries and other EU nations that have decided to join (the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Sweden have remained outside of it). Attacks on working hours, wages, and pensions are part of the pact.
New economic governance, with six new laws, also called the “six-pack.” The package is intended to provide the legal basis for the implementation of the dramatic austerity policies, including enforcement rules.
The Fiscal Pact, which, according to the German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, should be irreversible, and which will centralize and further de-democratize the economic power of the European Union, through (among other things) the introduction of financial and other sanctions against member states that do not comply with the requirements. It is an intergovernmental agreement, and therefore formally not a part of the EU institutional framework.
Several of these pacts and agreements overlap, but with an increasing degree of centralization and authoritarian top-down policy instruments, including the transfer of power from nation states to Brussels, and from the European Parliament to the Commission. At the same time, we see a more and more open division between some core countries, centered around Germany and France, and a periphery of weaker states, particularly in the east and south of Europe.

The most crisis-ridden countries, like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, have more or less been put under the administration of bodies still further away from democratic legitimacy: the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission. The European employers’ association, the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE), and the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) exult over the new economic governance model for the European Union.

The ongoing de-democratisation of the economic politics, as well as the attacks on the trade-union movement undertaken in order to prepare the ground for the anti-social, austerity policies, represent developments that we have hardly seen since fascism was defeated in Europe. Four previous judgments (see below) of the European Court of Justice have all contributed to the restriction of trade-union rights in the European Union, including the legal right to take industrial action. Add to this that the political authorities in at least ten EU member states already have implemented pay cuts in the public sector by setting aside collective agreements without negotiating with the unions, and the gravity of the situation becomes clear. An increasingly authoritarian Europe is emerging.

The European Union as a Barrier

Can this development be stopped? Is it possible to save Social Europe from the ongoing massive attacks on welfare and workers’ rights? Is it possible to mobilize social forces across Europe which can curb the massive attacks of capitalist forces and their political servants, with the aim of shifting power relations, and eventually creating the basis for a social offensive?

To say something concrete about this, we will have to look more closely at the challenges and barriers facing trade unions in the social struggle. What is it that restrains them from moving in a strong and coordinated manner into the fight to at least defend the social achievements that were won through the welfare state? It is necessary then to look at some important external barriers, as well as at weaknesses, within the movement itself.

There is a growing realization that the European Union itself creates a number of impediments, not only for economic and social development in Europe, but also for the social struggle. We will consider six such barriers:

Democratic Deficit

The first barrier is the democratic deficit, which has been there from the very beginning but has increased in recent years. Officially, the message from the European Union and its member states’ governments, with the support of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and other parts of the European trade-union movement, is the opposite. They claim that the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 took an important step towards increasing democracy in that the elected European Parliament had its authority widened in a number of areas.

In the opposite direction, however, some member states were more or less put under administration of the European Central Bank and the European Commission, with support from the IMF, in the wake of the financial crisis. Furthermore, the Parliament has been sidelined in much of the process to develop the new pacts and institutions described above. Finally, the new authority granted to the Commission to impose economic sanctions on member states that do not follow the strict (and financially and politically damaging) stability criteria will transfer power from democratically elected parliaments at the national level to the non-elected Commission, and thus further de-democratize the decision-making process in Europe.

Constitutionalized Neoliberalism

Second, neoliberalism has been constitutionalized as the economic system of the European Union through the Treaty of Lisbon and former treaties. Capital’s freedom of movement and right of establishment are carved in stone, and all other considerations are subordinated to this principle, which we clearly have seen in the labor market (see below). Free competition is another basic principle in the EU treaties. In recent years this has also increasingly been applied to the services market, which differs from the commodity market in the way that trade in services mainly deals with the buying and selling of mobile labor power.

It has long been a common saying on the European political left that socialism is prohibited by the EU treaties. With the stability criteria, and the new sanction regime to force member states’ structural budget deficit below 0.5 percent and government debt below 60 percent of GDP, we can conclude that traditional Keynesianism, or what we may call traditional social-democratic economic policy of the post-war period, is not allowed. This represents a dramatic curtailment of democracy in the EU member states and represents a major step towards a more authoritarian, neoliberal European Union.

Irreversible Legislation

Third, the European Union decision-making process makes the above principles and decisions virtually irreversible. While all member states have some institutionalised protection for their own constitutions—for example by requiring qualified majority (either two-thirds or three-fourths) to change the constitution—in the European Union it has to be full agreement (e.g., 100 percent of the twenty-eight member states) to change it. This means the possibility of changing any of the EU treaties in a progressive direction through ordinary political processes is virtually nonexistent. One right-wing government in one member state can prevent this.

The Euro as an Economic Straitjacket

Fourth, the existence of the euro, currently in seventeen of the twenty-eight member states, puts many of the countries into an economic straitjacket. As long as the economy and productivity develop differently in member states in the Euro Zone, and there is no large common budget to reduce economic inequalities, countries will need quite different monetary policies. Today it is Germany, Europe’s “economic locomotive,” which benefits most from this, with its strategy of exporting its way out of the crisis; meanwhile the most crisis- and debt-ridden countries—such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus—are the losers. The latter have no domestic currency to devalue and thereby make their exports cheaper and imports more expensive. Those countries with higher domestic consumption and weaker competitiveness are forced to conduct a so-called internal devaluation, that is, to increase competitiveness through wage cuts and cuts in public expenditure. This is certainly in line with the EU neoliberal project, but it is devastating to the countries’ economic and social development. This economic straitjacket can also contribute to the development of contradictions between workers in countries in need of very different policies.

Lack of Simultaneousness in the Decision-Making and Implementation Processes

Fifth, the lack of simultaneousness in the decision-making process between the EU member states constitutes a barrier to developing cross-national mobilizations of trade union and social movements against many of the neoliberal and reactionary policies. Although much of the policy within the European Union is adopted by EU institutions, it is carried out in such a way that implementation is made at different times in different member states. The attacks and weakening of the pension systems, for instance, occurred over time and in different forms from country to country, based on recommendations from the European Union, but not through direct legislation. This makes it impossible to create a single European mobilization against these attacks.

The same applies to much of the European Union’s privatization policy. The European Union seldom makes decisions on direct privatization; it decides to liberalize, or to apply its competition rules to ever more areas of society. One of the effects is privatization, as we have seen in energy, transport, and telecommunications. Further, the implementation of these policies takes place at different times and ways in different states, thus making it difficult to mobilize coordinated resistance across Europe.

The very special legislation process constitutes further problems. Directives are not applied in the member states directly; rather, the content of the directives has to be transposed into the laws of each member state. As if this is not enough, EU legislation is written in an almost impenetrable bureaucratic language. This reality is often exploited by national governments and politicians, who play down the effects of various legal proposals, which later turn out to have widespread negative effects.

The Extended Role of the European Court of Justice

Sixth, the European Court of Justice has recently taken on a more extensive role in reinterpreting and effectively expanding the scope of some EU treaties and legislation, particularly regarding trade in services, that is, trade in mobile labor power. In this context, it is important to understand the application of the four judgments that were made between December 2007 and the summer 2008—the Viking, Laval, Rüffert, and Luxemburg cases—all of which contributed to limiting trade-union rights, including the right to strike.

Before these judgments, the dominant view was that labor laws and regulations lay outside the EU domain. They belonged to the jurisdiction of the nation states. Through the four judgments, the opposite has clearly been established: labor market regulations are subordinate to EU competition law and to capital’s free movement and right of establishment. The judgments have also had the effect of transforming the so-called Posting of Workers Directive from a minimum to a maximum directive regarding the wages and working conditions that will apply to workers in companies established in one member state while they carry out work in another.

This directive prescribes that wages and working conditions of the host country should apply. However, according to the above mentioned judgments, this has now changed to include only some of the minimum conditions regarding wages and working conditions, thus contributing to social dumping in Western Europe—undermining both wage levels and labor protection laws which have been achieved through trade union struggle over many decades. This has first and foremost been the case in the construction industry as well as in service sectors such as hotels, restaurants, and transport.

The enormous wage gap between countries in a now single European labor market is what really spurs this development—to a considerable degree protected by EU legislation. ILO Convention 94, which intends to secure wages and working conditions in similar cases, was simply ignored by the European Court of Justice. Add to this the high level of unemployment and the extreme exploitation that many individual workers from Eastern Europe are exposed to in Western Europe, both legally and illegally, and we can easily understand how trade unions are being weakened and social regression has become the order of the day in ever more European countries.

The European Union Is Threatening the Unity of Europe

Taken all together, we now see an extremely dramatic and serious situation in Europe. While the establishment of the European Union’s predecessors, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, were based partly on the desire for peace in Europe in the wake of the two world wars, the EU project of the European elites today is bringing about a formidable economic, social, and political polarization. The so-called European Social Model is breaking down. We are thus faced with the paradoxical situation that the “peace project EU” is currently the greatest threat to Europe’s unity, not on a national, but on a social, basis. However, we cannot ignore the possibility that, in certain situations, the result will be rising national antagonisms. Given the history of Europe, the European economic and political elites are playing with fire.

With all the barriers summarized above, it is also an open question whether or not it is realistic to believe that the European Union as a whole can be changed from within through a broad pan-European mobilization. Maybe it will be necessary for individual countries to leave not only the euro but the European Union itself in order to save their economies and their people’s welfare. If so, it will be essential that trade unions and popular forces massively mobilize for a Europe based on democracy, unity, solidarity, and cohesion, and thereby counteract the possibility of total European disintegration.

Internal Political-Ideological Barriers

Although the European Union presents important external barriers to the social struggle, there are also internal barriers that prevent trade unions from fulfilling their historic tasks. This is not just on the political-ideological level, but also concerns the traditions and organizational structures that are no longer as effective in meeting the new challenges under the global neoliberal offensive: the international restructuring of production, the increase in precarious work and migration, and the deregulation of labor markets.

On the political-ideological level, the situation is strongly affected by the crisis on the left, including the fact that social partnership and social dialogue have largely been developed into an overall ideology in dominant parts of the labor movement at both the European and national level. This means that social dialogue has been given an exalted position as the way to promote workers’ interests, completely decoupled from an analysis of specific power relations and how they can promote or prevent the possibilities of workers gaining ground. Thus, the social-partnership ideology is also to a high degree unlinked from the recognition that social progress in the current situation can only be achieved through extensive social mobilization.

The criticism of social dialogue and the social-partnership ideology is, of course, not a criticism of unions discussing and negotiating with employers. These things they have always done, and they must continue. The criticism concerns the fact that social dialogue, always one of many tools in the labor movement’s toolbox, has been turned into the main strategy. And, in effect, labor has taken very specific historical experiences and behaved as if these were true for all time in terms of ideological guidance. When social dialogue produced results in many countries, especially in the first decades after the Second World War, it was precisely because of the power shift that had taken place in favor of the working class and the trade-union movement in the period before.

The class compromise and social dialogue were, in other words, the results of mobilization, harsh confrontations, and considerable shifts in the balance of power. However, in the current ideological version labor leaders portray them as the causes of increasing influence for workers and trade unions. This analytical mismatch creates ideological confusion in the trade-union movement, as, for example, in this statement of the ETUC: “The EU is built on the principle of social partnership; a compromise between different interests in society—to the benefit of all” (emphasis added).6

In face of the massive attacks that employers and governments are now waging against unions and social rights, such ideological claims are being put under increasing pressure. There is little doubt that the capitalist forces in Europe have withdrawn from the historic compromise with the working class, as they are now attacking agreements and institutions that they previously accepted in the name of the compromise. Nevertheless, the social partnership ideology is still deeply rooted in wide circles of the European trade-union movement, as the following remarks by (the now-retired) ETUC General Secretary, John Monks, so well illustrate. The starting point was a reference to some tendencies of the U.S. labor movement, where activists were campaigning for wider social goals:

There may be similar opportunities in Europe, says Mr Monks, if unions can move beyond their old-fashioned enthusiasm for street protests to campaign for policy changes that broadly benefit workers. “Given the tough labor market, and desperate employers, this is not a time for huge militancy,” he says. Instead, “it is a time to demand frameworks of welfare benefits, training, consultation and to put in place fairer pay systems, so that when the economy does recover there is no repeat of the surge in inequality that took place in the past decade.”7

Remarkably, Monks’s comments were made long after the financial crisis had led to an intensified level of conflict in several European countries. How Monks thought to achieve better social benefits and fairer pay systems without the need for old-fashioned street protests, militancy, and the like, is not clearly evident from the interview. Maybe he meant that this could be achieved by offering additional concessions to employers? In any case, the ETUC went so far, even for them, as to sign an extraordinarily weak joint statement with the various employers’ organisations in Europe in connection with the preparation of the EU 2020 strategy. This happened in the summer of 2010, after the Greek unions had carried out several general strikes, as the Spanish unions prepared their general strike, and while the preparations of the French unions for their fight against a pension reform were in full swing. The statement called for:

An optimal balance between flexibility and security…. Flexicurity policies must be accompanied by sound macroeconomic policies, favourable business environment, adequate financial resources and the provision of good working conditions. In particular, wage policies, autonomously set by social partners, should ensure that real wage developments are consistent with productivity trends, while non-wage labor costs are restrained where appropriate in order to support labor demand…. [Regarding public services,] accessibility, quality, efficiency and effectiveness must be enhanced, including by taking greater benefit from well balanced public-private partnerships and by modernising public administration systems.8

To demand that non-wage labor costs are restrained and to legitimize privatization through public-private partnerships in this way—in a situation characterized by crisis, increased class confrontations, and massive assaults on public services—confirms that submission to social dialogue as a main strategy in the current situation can have nothing but demoralizing effects on those who want to fight against social regression.

Another internal barrier for many trade unions is their attachment to the traditional labor parties. The move by these parties to the right, as well as the general political and ideological crisis of the left described above, also affect the trade unions. They have reacted differently to these developments, however. In many countries (like Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom), the loyalty between the national trade union confederations and the social democratic parties is still solid, while in others it is weaker.

Alone among the Nordic nations, the Danish Trade Union Confederation has declared itself formally independent of the Social Democratic party, but without adopting more radical positions. In the United Kingdom, some unions, like the British National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, have broken with social democracy and established themselves in a clearly more leftist and militant position. In Germany, the Schröder (so-called red-green) government (1998–2005) carried out comprehensive attacks on the social-welfare system, and this has led to a deep breach of trust between the Confederation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, the DGB) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). While the party was in opposition it tried to approach the trade-union movement again, which is not an unusual strategy, but it received a rather cool reception from the DGB’s leader, Michael Sommer: “The problem for the SPD is unfortunately that they suffer from a lack of credibility. They were in power until September last year and were involved in many of the decisions we feel are wrong. They still have a long way to go before they have restored confidence.”9

The most extreme experiences with social democratic parties in government, however, have been in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Considering how those parties so easily could implement their massive attacks on the welfare state and the trade-union movement, it might be time for broader sections of the labor movement to reconsider their strong ties to social democracy. At least, it is difficult to imagine that the close relationship between the trade-union movement and social democracy can be the same in Europe after these experiences, despite having lived down many deep conflicts in the past.

Increased Resistance

Widespread deregulation, the free movement of capital, and the crucial role played by global and regional institutions in the neoliberal offensive necessitate a global perspective and coordination of resistance across borders. Only in this way can we prevent workers in one country from being played against those in another, groups against groups, and welfare levels against welfare levels. Coordination of resistance across borders, however, requires strong and active movements at the local and national level. There is no abstract global fight against crisis and neoliberalism. Social struggles are internationalized only when local and national movements realize the need for coordination across borders in order to strengthen the fight against international and well-coordinated counter-forces. But international coordination presupposes that there is something to coordinate. In other words, organizing resistance and building the necessary alliances locally are decisive as a first step.

The social struggle in Europe is in the process of moving into a new phase. The crisis sharpens the contradictions and provokes confrontations. General strikes have again been put on the agenda in many countries, especially in Greece, where the population has been subjected to draconian attacks that threaten their basic living conditions. In Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom, general strikes and/or massive demonstrations have been carried out. The most promising development so far was the general strike that was carried out simultaneously by trade unions in six EU countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta) on November 14, 2011, while unions in other countries also held demonstrations or more limited strikes.

Although so far the outcome of these battles is pretty vague, it is in these struggles that we find hope for another development: alliances with other new and unconventional social movements, especially among young people, as we have seen with Spain’s Los Indignados and in Portugal. One thing has at least become clear: the European social model, as we know it from its heyday, has been abandoned by the European elites, even if some of them are still paying lip service to the trade-union movement.

Even if there are many barriers to a Europeanization of the social struggle, there have been some examples of all-European campaigns organized by trade unions and social movements across national borders. One example was the fight against the EU Port Directive, which was voted down in the European Parliament in 2003 and in 2006, after pressure from below in strikes and demonstrations. Another was the struggle against the Services Directive, which, while not rejected, was modified as a result. The fight against the EU Constitution (later the Lisbon Treaty) also faced a certain Europe-wide resistance, although mobilization was largely based where it ultimately prevailed, first in France and the Netherlands, and later in Ireland.

The dramatic attacks on trade unions and welfare now taking place actually contribute to strengthening the voice of a number of European trade union leaders. The Deputy General Secretary of the European Public Services Unions, Willem Goudriaan states that the Euro Plus Pact represents “an interference in collective bargaining which we have never before seen in the EU.” Even the cautious ETUC General Secretary, John Monks, who in 2009 said that all had “become social democrats or socialists now,” changed his tune shortly before his retirement in 2011 and characterized the Euro Plus Pact in this way: “EU is on a collision course with Social Europe…. This is not a pact for competitiveness. It is a perverse pact for lower living standards, more inequality and more precarious work.”10

That in 2011 the ETUC, which has always been very European Union-friendly, for the first time in the history of the European Union urged the European Parliament to reject a proposed treaty change, is a further indication that a change is underway. This could contribute to a questioning of the legitimacy of the European Union among European workers. The actual treaty amendment concerned the setting up of the European Union’s emergency fund (European Stability Mechanism), whose task is to lend money to member countries in crisis. There was no such mechanism in place when the Greek crisis unfolded, and instead the European Union improvised. The ETUC rejected the proposal because this pact contained nothing in the direction of what might be called a Social Europe, which is becoming an increasingly distant goal.

With continued draconian austerity policies and deeper economic, social, and political crises, there is a possibility of growing contradictions within social democracy, as well as within the trade-union movement in Europe. We perhaps got a taste of this during the ETUC Congress in Athens in May 2011, when the most militant sections of the trade-union movement demonstrated in front of the Congress building, accusing the ETUC of betraying the fight and asking them to go home.

On the political-rhetorical level, there is an ongoing radicalization of the messages from the European trade unions in response to the economic crisis, backed up with some symbolic demonstrations, organized by the ETUC in Brussels on September 29, 2010, in Budapest on April 9, 2011, and in Wroclaw on September 19, 2011. Much remains to be done, however, before this is followed by a more committed and widespread social mobilization, where trade unions put to use their most effective methods of struggle to enforce their claims.

This lack of trade union action is not, of course, only the responsibility of individuals in the leadership of the international trade union organizations. The ETUC board consists of representatives from a number of national trade unions, and the decisions have broad support among them.11 The new situation is a result of enormous shifts in the balance of power in society, the crisis, and intensified class contradictions that have removed the basis for a continuation of the policy of the social pact in the post-Second World War period. The capitalists have changed strategy, but the trade-union movement has not. To acknowledge this and take into account the consequences of it is one of the main challenges of the trade-union movement today.

What Has to be Done?

The political shift towards the right and the political-ideological crisis on the left mean that the trade-union movement itself has to play a more central, independent, and more offensive political role—political not in the party sense, but in the sense that it assumes a broader political perspective in the social struggle. The greater part of the trade-union movement is not prepared to take on such a role today, but it holds the potential. A development in this direction requires that the trade-union movement go through a process of change, not least because of the new conditions for struggle created by global restructuring, neoliberalism, and crisis. In the medium term a reorganization of the political left will also have to be put on the agenda.

If social progress and democratization are our goals, the ongoing economic and social crises have opened the door wide. As the crisis unfolds, the need for a new and radical political course is actually growing day by day. It assumes, however, that trade unions are able to recreate themselves politically and organizationally. The immediate task is to meet the confrontational attacks from capitalists and their political servants, to wage the defensive fight against the massive attacks on wages, pensions, and public services. In the long term, however, this will not be enough, as the Scottish Socialist Murray Smith so rightly points out:

In whatever scenario there is a structural weakness of the workers’ movement, which gives the advantage to the government and the ruling class. The weakness is political and lies in the absence of a credible, visible political alternative to neo-liberalism. Such a political alternative is not a pre-condition for resisting attacks in the short term, perhaps even winning battles. But at a certain point the absence of a coherent alternative has a demobilizing effect. This problem predates the present crisis, but the crisis has made it a much more urgent question. What is necessary is the perspective of a governmental alternative incarnated by political forces that have a credible possibility of winning the support of the majority of the population, not necessarily immediately, but as a perspective. Such a political programme would involve organizing the production of goods and services to meet the needs of the population, democratically decided. That means breaking the stranglehold of finance on the economy, creating a publicly owned financial sector, re-nationalizing public services, a progressive taxation system, measures that challenge property rights.12

The vision of an alternative development of society is important, then, to provide inspiration and direction for the ongoing struggle against the crisis and social regression. It is uncertain, however, that a lack of alternatives is the main problem. There are a great many elements for an alternative developmental model. The alternative to privatization is not to privatize. The alternative to increased competition is more collaboration. The alternative to bureaucracy and control from above is democratization and participation from below. Alternatives to increasing inequalities and poverty are redistribution, progressive taxation, and free, universal welfare benefits. The alternative to the destructive speculation economy is socialization of the bank and credit institutions, the introduction of capital controls, and the prohibition of dealing with suspect financial instruments. The list can be made much longer than this.

Rather than a lack of alternatives, it may also be a question of the ability and will to carry out the mobilization and make use of the resources that are necessary to enforce them. Here, it is important for there to be a political showdown with the ideological legacy of the social pact—that deep-rooted social partnership ideology and belief in social dialogue as the best way of resolving social problems for the benefit of all, as the expression goes.

The working class, the trade unions, and other popular forces are now facing a brutal power struggle, which was started from above. The constant tendencies to canalize the response of the unions to these attacks into the political power vacuum that the social dialogue at present represents at a European level, does little else than weaken the capacity of the unions to mobilize. From this angle, there is much to suggest that it is the ability, rather than the possibility, that is the most important challenge the trade unions now face. The time has come, in other words, to stake out a new course for the trade-unions’ struggle, as was suggested by the Basque trade union organizations on January 27, 2011, when they carried out their second general strike in less than one year:

We have come out to the streets, have gone on strike twice and will continue mobilising. Because we do not want the future of poverty they have prepared for us. They threatened us by saying after the crisis nothing would be the same again. So making things different is in our hands. It is necessary to continue fighting for a real change, for a different economic and social model in which [the] economy works in favour of the society.13

We have seen before that social struggles develop new leadership and new organizations. Although right-wing populists and authoritarian tendencies predominate in the European Union today, the anti-social policies of the elites can also provoke social explosions, especially in southern Europe. It can open the possibility for other developments, where the goals are more fundamental changes of power and property relations and a deepening democratization of the society. The battle is between a more authoritarian and a more democratic Europe. For the time being, the authoritarian tendencies have the upper hand, but power relations can change again.

Notes

↩John Vinocur, “On the New European Economic Road Map, There’s Not Much Left of the Left,” New York Times, November 24, 1998, http://nytimes.com.
↩“NEWSWEEK Cover: We Are All Socialists Now,” February 8, 2009, http://prnewswire.com. The cover appeared on the February 16, 2009 Newsweek.
↩“In From the Cold?,” Economist, March 12, 2009, http://economist.com.
↩For a more comprehensive discussion of this phenomenon, see Asbjørn Wahl, “To Be in Office, But Not in Power: Left Parties in the Squeeze Between People’s Expectations and an Unfavourable Balance of Power,” in Birgit Daiber, ed., The Left in Government: Latin-America and Europe Compared (Brussels: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, 2010).
↩Michael Hudson, “A Financial Coup d’Etat,” Counterpunch, October 1–3, 2010, http://counterpunch.org.
↩“ETUC: The European Social Model,” http://etuc.org.
↩“In From the Cold?“
↩European Social Partners, “Joint Statement on the EU 2020 Strategy,” June 3, 2010, http://etuc.org.
↩Quoted in Terje I. Olsson, “Mer lønn og forbruk skal løse krisa” [Higher Wages and Consumption Are Going to Solve the Crisis], Fri Fagbevegelse, October 8, 2010. Originally http://frifagbevegelse.no; available via http://archive.org/.
↩ETUC press release, “EU on a ‘Collision Course’ with Social Europe and the Autonomy of Collective Bargaining,” February 4, 2011, http://etuc.org.
↩There are also those who argue for more offensive positions, as, for example, the General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), Eduardo Chagas, has been taking inside the ETUC board over the last few years. Lately, some of the south European trade unions also have pushed for an all-European general strike. It is worth noticing that the Nordic trade-union confederations have brought up the rear in these discussions.
↩Murray Smith, “Den europæiske arbejderbevægelse under angreb!” [The European Labor Movement Under Attack!], Kritisk Debat, no. 56, June, 2010, http:// kritiskdebat.dk. [my translation]
↩Joint leaflet from the Basque trade unions ELA, LAB, STEE/EILAS, EHNE and HIRU, which carried out a one-day general strike against pension cuts and attacks on the welfare state. See http://labournet.de.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s Speech at the UN GA, 2010

Islamic Republic of Iran Permanent Mission to the United Nations

Address by H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Before the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 23 September 2010

 622 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017

Tel: (212) 687-2020 Fax: (212) 867-7086

email: iran@un.inl

 

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to the Almighty God who granted me the opportunity to appear before this world assembly once again. I wish to begin by commemorating those who lost their lives in the horrible flood in Pakistan and express my heartfelt sympathy with the families who lost their loved ones as well as with the people and the government of Pakistan. I urge everyone to assist their fellow men and women as a humane duty.

Let me thank H.E. Mr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, the President of the sixty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, for all his efforts during his tenure. I also would like to congratulate H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss, the President of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly and wish him all success. In the past years, I spoke to you about some of the hopes and concerns, including family crises, security, human dignity, world economy, climate change as well as the aspiration for justice and lasting peace.

After about one hundred years of domination, the system of Capitalism and the existing world order has proved to be unable to provide appropriate solution to the problems of societies, thus coming to an end. I shall try to examine the two main causes of this failure and picture some features of the ideal future order.

A) Attitudes and Beliefs

As you are well aware, the divine prophets had the mission to call everyone to monotheism, love and justice and show mankind the path to prosperity. They invite men to contemplation and knowledge in order to better appreciate the truth and to avoid atheism and egoism. The very nature of the message of all prophets is one and the same. Every messenger endorsed the messenger before him and gave glad tidings about the prophet to come, and presented a more complete version of the religion in accordance with the capacity of the man at the time. This continued up to the last messenger of God who presented the perfect and all inclusive religion. In opposition to that, the egotist and the greedy stood up against this clear call, revolting against the message.

Nimrod countered Hazrat Abraham, Pharaoh countered Hazrat Moses and the greedy countered Hazrat Jesus Christ and Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon them all). In the recent centuries, the human ethics and values have been rejected as a cause for backwardness. They were even portrayed as opposing wisdom and science because of the earlier infliction on man by the proclaimers of religion in the dark ages of the West.

Man’s disconnection from Heaven detached him from his true self. Man with his potentials for understanding the secrets of the universe, his instinct for seeking truth, his aspirations for justice and perfection, his quest for beauty and purity and his capacity to represent God on earth was reduced to a creature limited to the materialistic world with a mission to maximize individualistic pleasures. Human instinct, then, replaced true human nature.

Human beings and nations were considered rivals and the happiness of an individual or a nation was defined in collision with, and elimination or suppression of others. Constructive evolutionary cooperation was replaced with a destructive struggle for survival.

The lust for capital and domination replaced monotheism which is the gate to love and unity.

This widespread clash of the egoist with the divine values gave way to slavery and colonialism. A large portion of the world came under the domination of a few western States. Tens of millions of people were taken to slavery and tens of millions of families were shattered as a result. All the resources, the rights and the cultures of the colonized nations were plundered. Lands were occupied and the indigenous people were humiliated and mass-murdered.

Yet, nations rose up, colonialism was alienated and the independence of the nations was recognized. Thus, the hope for respect, prosperity and security was revived amongst nations. In the beginning of the past century nice talks about freedom, human rights and democracy created hopes for healing the deep wounds of the past. Today, however, not only those dreams are not realized, but memories, even at times worse than before, have been recorded.

As a result of the two World Wars, the occupation of Palestine, the Korean and the Vietnam’s Wars, the Iraqi war against Iran, the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as many wars in Africa, hundreds of millions of people were killed, wounded or displaced.

Terrorism, illicit drugs, poverty and the social gaps increased. The dictatorial and coup d’etat governments in Latin America committed unprecedented crimes with the support of the West.

Instead of disarmament, the proliferation and stockpiling of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons expanded, putting the world under a bigger threat. As a result, the very same old goals of colonialists and the slave masters were, this time round, pursued with a new facade.

B) The Global Management and Ruling Structures

The League of Nations and, then, the United Nations were established with the promise to bring about peace, security and the realization of human rights, which in fact meant a global management.

One can analyze the current governance of the world by examining three events: First, the event of the II September 2001 which has affected the whole world for almost a decade.

All of a sudden, the news of the attack on the twin towers was broadcast using numerous footages of the incident.

Almost all governments and known figures strongly condemned this incident. But then a propaganda machine came into full force; it was implied that the whole world was exposed to a huge danger, namely terrorism, and that the only way to save the world would be to deploy forces into Afghanistan.

Eventually Afghanistan, and shortly thereafter Iraq were occupied.

Please take note: I
It was said that some three thousands people were killed on the II September for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced and the conflict is still going on and expanding.

In identifying those responsible for the attack, there were three viewpoints.

1- That a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully cross all layers of the American intelligence and security, carried out the attack. This is the main viewpoint advocated by American statesmen.

2- That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.

3- It was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has fewer proponents. The main evidence linking the incident was a few passports found in the huge volume of rubble and a video of an individual whose place of domicile was unknown but it was announced that he had been involved in oil deals with some American officials. It was also covered up and said that due to the explosion and fire no trace of the suicide attackers was found.

There remain, however, a few questions be answered:

1- Would it not have been sensible that first a thorough investigation should have been conducted by independent groups to conclusively identify the elements involved in the attack and then map out a rational plan to take measures against them?

2- Assuming the viewpoint of the American government, is it rational to launch a classic war through widespread deployment of troops that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people to counter a terrorist group?

3- Was it not possible to act the way Iran countered the Riggi terrorist group who killed and wounded 400 innocent people in Iran. In the Iranian operation no innocent person was hurt.

It is proposed that the United Nations set up an independent fact-finding group for the event of the II September so that in the future expressing views about it is not forbidden.

I wish to announce here that next year the Islamic Republic of Iran will host a conference to study terrorism and the means to confront it. I invite officials, scholars, thinkers, researchers and research institutes of all countries to attend this conference.

Second, is the occupation of the Palestinian territories

The oppressed people of Palestine have lived under the rule of an occupying regime for 60 years, been deprived of freedom, security and the right to selfdetermination, while the occupiers are given recognition. On a daily basis, the houses are being destroyed over the heads of innocent women and children. People are deprived of water, food and medicine in their own homeland. The Zionists have imposed five all-out wars on the neighboring countries and on the Palestinian people. The Zionists committed the most horrible crimes against the defenseless people in the wars against Lebanon and Gaza.

The Zionist regime attacked a humanitarian flotilla in a blatant defiance of all international norms and kills the civilians.

This regime which enjoys the absolute support of some western countries regularly threatens the countries in the region and continues publicly announced assassination of Palestinian figures and others, while Palestinian defenders and those opposing this regime are pressured, labeled as terrorists and anti Semites. All values, even the freedom of expression, in Europe and in the United States are being sacrificed at the altar of Zionism.

Solutions are doomed to fail because the right of the Palestinian people is not taken into account.

Would we have witnessed such horrendous crimes if instead of recognizing the occupation, the sovereign right of the Palestinian people had been recognized? Our unambiguous proposition is the return of the Palestinian refugees to their home land and the reference to the vote of the people of Palestine to exercise their sovereignty and decide on the type of governance.

Third, is the nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is clean and cheap and a heavenly gift which is amongst the most suitable alternatives to cut the pollutions emanating from fossil fuels.

The Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows all member States to use nuclear energy without limits and the International Atomic Energy Agency is mandated to provide member States with technical and legal support.

The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon and which must totally be eliminated. The NPT prohibits its development and stockpiling and calls for nuclear disarmament.

Nonetheless, note what some of the permanent members of the Security Council and nuclear bomb holders have done: They have equated nuclear energy with the nuclear bomb, and have distanced this energy from the reach of most of nations by establishing monopolies and pressuring the IAEA. While at the same time, they have continued to maintain, expand and upgrade their own nuclear arsenals.

This has entailed the following: Not only the nuclear disarmament has not been realized but also nuclear bombs have been proliferated in some regions, including by the occupying and intimidating Zionist regime.

I would like here to propose that the year 20 II be proclaimed the year of nuclear disarmament and “Nuclear Energy for all, Nuclear Weapons for None”. In all these cases the United Nations has been unable to take any effective course of action. Unfortunately, in the decade proclaimed as the “International Decade for the Culture of Peace” hundreds of thousands were killed and injured as a result of war, aggression and occupation, and hostilities and antagonism increased.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Very recently the world witnessed the ugly and inhumane act of burning the Holy Quran.

The Holy Quran is the Divine Book and the eternal miracle of the Prophet oflslam. It calls for worshipping the One God, justice, compassion toward people, development and progress, reflection and thinking, defending the oppressed and resisting against the oppressors; and it names with respect the previous Messengers of God, like Noah, Abraham, Isaaq, Joseph, Moses and Jesus Christ (Peace be Upon them all) and endorses them.. They burned Quran to bum all these truths and good judgments. However, the truth could not be burned. Quran is eternal because God and truth are everlasting. This act and any other act which widens the gap and distances between nations is evil. We should wisely avoid playing into the hands of Satan. On behalf of the Iranian nation I pay respect to all Divine Books and their followers. This is the Quran and this is the Bible. I pay respect to both of them.

Esteemed Friends,

For years the inefficiency of the capitalism and the existing world management and structures has been exposed and the majority of States and nations have been on a quest for fundamental changes and for the prevalence ofjustice in global relations. The cause of the United Nation’s ineptitude is in its unjust structure. Major power is monopolized in the Security Council due to the veto privilege, and the main pillar of the Organization, namely the General Assembly, is marginalized.

In the past several decades, at least one of the permanent members of the Security Council has always been a party to the disputes.

The veto advantage grants impunity to aggression and occupation; How could, therefore, one expect competence while both the judge and the prosecutor are a party to the dispute?

Had Iran enjoyed veto privilege, would the Security Council and the IAEA Director General have taken the same position in the nuclear issue?

Dear Friends,

The United Nations is the key center for coordinating the common global management. Its structure needs to be reformed in a manner that all independent States and nations be able to participate in the global governance actively and constructively.

The veto privilege should be revoked and the General Assembly should be the highest body and the Secretary-General should be the most independent official and all his positions and activities should be taken with the approval of the General Assembly and should be directed towards promoting justice and eliminating discrimination.

The Secretary-General should not come under pressure from powers and/or the country hosting the Organization for his stating the truth and administration ofjustice. It is suggested that the General Assembly should, within one year and in the framework of an extraordinary session, finalize the reformation of the Organization’s structure

The Islamic Republic of Iran has clear suggestions in this regard and stands ready to participate actively and constructively in the process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I announce clearly that the occupation of other countries under the pretext of freedom and democracy is an unforgivable crime.

The world needs the logic of compassion and justice and inclusive participation instead oflogic offorce, domination, unilateralism, war and intimidation.

The world needs to be governed by virtuous people like the Divine Prophets. The two vast geographical spheres, namely Africa and Latin America, have gone through historic developments during the past decades. The new approaches in these two continents, which are based on increasing level of integration and unity as well as on localizing the growth and development models, have born considerable fruits to the ‘peoples of those regions. The awareness and wisdom of the leaders of these two continents has overcome the regional problems and crises without the domineering interference of non-regional powers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has expanded its relations with the Latin America and Africa in all aspects in recent years.

And about the glorious Iran,

The Tehran Declaration was a hugely constructive step in confidence building efforts which was made possible through the admirable good will by the governments of Brazil and Turkey along with the sincere cooperation of the Iranian government. Although the Declaration received inappropriate reaction by some and was followed by an unlawful resolution, it is still valid.

We have observed the regulations of the IAEA more than our commitments, yet, we have never submitted to illegally imposed pressures nor will we ever do so. It has been said that they want to pressure Iran into a dialogue. Well, firstly, Iran has always been ready for a dialogue based on respect and justice. Secondly, methods based on disrespecting nations have long become ineffective. Those who have used intimidation and sanctions in response to the clear logic of the Iranian nation are in real terms destroying the remaining credibility of the Security Council and the trust of nations for this body, proving once and again how unjust is the function of the Council.

When they threaten a great nation such as Iran which is known throughout history for its scientists, poets, artists and philosophers and whose culture and civilization is synonymous to purity, submission to God and seeking justice, how can they ever expect that other nations grow confidence on them?

It goes without saying that domineering methods in managing the world has failed. Not only has the era of slavery and colonialism and dominating the world passed, the path to the reviving old Empires are blocked, too.

We have announced that we stand ready for a serious and free debate with the American Statesmen to express our transparent views on issues of importance to the world in this very venue.

It is proposed here that in order to have a constructive dialogue, an annual free debate be organized within the General Assembly.

In conclusion,

Friends and Colleagues,
The Iranian nation and the majority of the world’s nations and governments are against the current discriminatory management of the world.

The inhumane nature of this management has put it at a dead-end and requires a major overhaul.

Reforming the world’s affairs and bringing about tranquility and prosperity requires the participation of all, pure thoughts and the divine and humane management.

We are all of the idea that:

Justice is the basic element for peace, durable security and the spread of love among peoples and nations. It is in the justice that mankind seeks the realization of his aspirations, rights and dignity, since he is wary of oppression, humiliation and ill treatment.

The true nature of mankind is manifested in the love for other fellow humans and love for all the good in the world. Love is the best foundation for establishing relation amongst people and amongst nations.

As Vahshi Bafqi, the great Iranian poet, says:

“From the fountain of youth, drink thousand sips You’ll still die if you don’t have love’s grip”

In making a world full of purity, safety and prosperity people are not rivals but companions.

Those who see their happiness but in the sorrow of others and their welfare and safety but in others’ insecurity, those who see themselves superior to others, are out of the path of humanity and are in evil’s course.

Economy and materialistic means are only some tools to serve others, to create friendship and strengthen human connections for spiritual perfection. They are not tools for show-off or means of dominating others.

Men and women complements each other and family unit with pure, loving and long-lasting relation of the spouses in its center is the guarantee for the continuity and the bringing up generations, for true pleasures, for spreading love and for reforming of the societies.

Woman is a reflection of God’s beauty and is the source of love and caring. She is the guardian of purity and exquisiteness of the society.

The tendency to toughen the souls and behaviors of women deprives them from their very basic right of being a loving mother and a caring wife. It would result in a more violent society with irreversible defects.

Freedom is a divine right that should serve peace and human perfection. Pure thoughts and the will of the righteous are keys to the gates of a pure life full of hope, liveliness and beauty.

This is the promise of God that the earth will be inherited by the pure and the righteous. And the people free from selfishness will take up the management of the world. Then, there will be no trace of sorrow, discrimination, poverty, insecurity and aggression. The time for true happiness and for the blossoming of the true nature of humankind, the way God has intended, will arrive.

All those seeking for justice and all the free spirits have been waiting for this moment and have promised such glorious time.

The complete human, the true servant of God and the true friend of the mankind whose father was from the generation of the beloved Prophet of Islam and whose mother was from the true believers of the Jesus Christ, shall wait along with Jesus the son of Marry and the other righteous to appear on those brilliant times and assist the humanity.

In welcoming them we should join ranks and seek justice.

Praise to Love and worship, praise to justice and freedom, praise to the true humanity, the complete human, the true companion of the humankind and peace be upon you and all the righteous and the pure.

Thank you.

 

Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s Speech at the UN GA, 2009

Speech by President Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the UN General Assembly, 23 September 2009

Source: UN
Permanent Mission to the United Nations
64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

23 September 2009

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

“All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, and peace and blessing be upon our Master and Prophet, Mohammad, and his pure Household, and his noble Companions”

“Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness”

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the Almighty God for granting me, once more, this opportunity to address this important international meeting.

I wish to begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, for having assumed the presidency of the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly and wish you all the success. I also extend my thanks to H.E. Mr. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the General Assembly, for his excellent stewardship of the work of the General Assembly during his term.

Over the past four years I have talked to you concerning the main challenges facing our world. I have talked about the roots and underlying causes of these challenges and the need for the world powers to review their outlook and workout new mechanisms to address the pressing international problems. I have talked about the two conflicting outlooks prevailing in our world; one that is based on the predominance of its materialistic interests through spreading inequality and oppression, poverty and deprivation, aggression, occupation and deception, and tends to bring the entire world under its control and impose its will on other nations. This outlook has produced nothing but frustration, disappointment and a dark future for the entire humanity.

The other outlook is the one that spouses with the belief in the oneness of the Almighty God, follows the teaching of His messengers, respects human dignity and seeks to build a secure world for all members of the human community, in which everybody can equally enjoy the blessings of sustainable peace and spirituality. The latter is an outlook that respects all human beings, nations, and valuable cultures in defiance of all types of discrimination in the world, and commits itself into a constant fight to promote equality for all before the law on the basis of justice and fraternity, laying a solid foundation to guarantee equal access for all human beings in their quest to excel in knowledge and science.

I have laid emphasis time and again on the need to make fundamental changes in the current attitudes towards the world and the human being in order to be able to create a bright tomorrow.

Friends and Colleagues;

Today, I wish to share with you a few points about the changes that should take place.

First,

Clearly, continuation of the current circumstances in the world is impossible. The present inequitable and unfavorable conditions run counter to the very nature of human kind and move in a direction which contravenes the truth and the goal behind the creation of the world.

It is no longer possible to inject thousands of billions of dollars of unreal wealth to the world economy simply by printing worthless paper assets, or transfer inflation as well as social and economic problems to others through creating sever budget deficits. The engine of unbridled capitalism with its unfair system of thought has reached the end of road and is unable to move. The era of capitalist thinking and . imposition of one’s thoughts on the international community, intended to predominate the world in the name of globalization and the age of setting up empires is over. It is no longer possible to humiliate nations and impose double standard policies on the world community.

Approaches in which realization of the interests of certain powers is considered as the only criteria to weigh democracy, and using the ugliest methods of intimidation and deceit under the mantle of freedom as a democratic practice, and approaches through which sometimes dictators are portrayed as democrats, lack legitimacy and must be totally rejected.

The time has come to an end for those who define democracy and freedom and set standards whilst they themselves are the first who violate its fundamental principles. They can no longer sit both the judge and the executor and challenge the real democratically- established governments.

The awakening of nations and the expansion of freedom worldwide will no longer allow them to continue their hypocrisy and vicious attitudes. Because of all these reasons most nations including the people of the Untied States are waiting for real and profound changes. They have welcomed and will continue to welcome changes.

How can one imagine that the inhuman policies in Palestine may continue; to force the entire population of a country out of their homeland for more than 60 years by resorting to force and coercion; to attack them with all types of arms and even prohibited weapons; to deny them of their legitimate right of self-defense, while much to the chagrin of the international community calling the occupiers as the peace lovers, and portraying the victims as terrorists.

How can the crimes of the occupiers against defenseless women and children and destruction of their homes, farms, hospitals and schools be supported unconditionally by certain governments, and at the same time, the oppressed men and women be subject to genocide and heaviest economic blockade being denied of their basic needs, food, water and medicine.

They are not even allowed to rebuild their homes which were destroyed during the 22-day barbaric attacks by the Zionist regime while the winter is approaching. Whereas the aggressors and their supporters deceitfully continue their rhetoric in defense of human rights in order to put others under pressure.

It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist ambitions.

It is not acceptable that some who are several thousands of kilometers away from the Middle East would send their troops for military intervention and for spreading war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation in the whole region while blaming the protests of nations in the region, that are concerned about their fate and their national security, as a move against peace and as interference in others’ affairs. Look at the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is no longer possible to bring a country under military occupation in the name of fight against terrorism and drug trafficking while the production of illicit drugs has multiplied, terrorism has widened its dimensions and has tightened its grips, thousands of innocent people have been killed, injured or displaced, infrastructures have been destroyed and regional security has been seriously jeopardized; and those who have created the current disastrous situation continue to blame others. How you can talk about friendship and solidarity with other nations while you expand your military bases in different parts of the world including in Latin America. This situation cannot continue. It is all the more impossible to advance expansionist and inhuman policies on the basis of militaristic logic. The logic of coercion and intimidation will produce dire consequences, exacerbating the present global problems.

It is not acceptable that the military budget of some governments exceeds far larger than those of the entire countries of the world. They export billions of dollars of arms every year, stockpile chemical and biological weapons, establish military bases or have military presence in other countries while accusing others of militarism, and mobilize all their resources in the world to impede scientific and technological progress of other nations under the pretext of countering arms proliferation. It is not acceptable that the United Nations and the Security Council, whose decisions must represent all nations and governments by the application of the most democratic methods in their decision making processes, be dominated by a few governments and serve their interests. In a world where cultures, thoughts and public opinions should be the determining factors, the continuation of the present situation is impossible, and fundamental changes seem to be unavoidable.

Second;

Any change must be structural and fundamental both in theory and practice, involving all domains of our life. The outdated mechanisms which themselves were instrumental in and the root cause for present problems in human societies can never be used to bring changes and create our desired world. Liberalism and capitalism that have alienated human beings from heavenly and moral values will never bring happiness for humanity because they are the main source of all misfortune wars, poverty and deprivation.

We have all seen that how the inequitable economic structures controlled by certain political interests have been used to plunder national wealth of countries for the benefit of a group of corrupt business giants. The present structures are incapable of reforming the present situation.

The political and economic structures created following the World War II that was based on intentions to dominate the world failed to promote justice and lasting security.

Rulers whose hearts do not beat for the love of humankind and who sacrificed the spirit of justice in their minds never offer the promise of peace and friendship to humanity. By the grace of God, Marxism is gone. It is now history. The expansionist Capitalism will certainly have the same fate. Because based on the divine traditions referred to as a principle in the Holy Quran, the wrong like the bubbles on the surface of water, will disappear. There remains only what that can be used forever towards the interest of human societies.

We must all remain vigilant to prevent the pursuit of colonialist, discriminatory and inhuman goals under the cover of the slogans for change and in new formats. The world needs to undergo fundamental changes and all must engage collectively to make them happen in the right direction, and through such efforts no one and no government would consider itself an exception to change or superior to others and try to impose its will on others by proclaiming world leadership.

Third;

All problems existing in our world today emanate from the fact that rulers have distanced themselves from human values, morality and the teachings of divine messengers. Regrettably, in the current international relations, selfishness and insatiable greed have taken the place of such humanitarian concepts as love, sacrifice, dignity, and justice. The belief in the One God has been replaced with selfishness.

Some have taken the place of God and insist to impose their values and wishes on others. Lies have taken the place of honesty; hypocrisy has replaced integrity and selfishness has taken the place of sacrifice. Deception in interactions is called foresight and statesmanship; looting the wealth of other nations is called development efforts; occupation is introduced as a gift towards promotion of freedom and democracy, and defenseless nations are subjected to repression in the name of defending human rights.

Friends and Colleagues;

Settlement of global problems and administration of justice and maintenance of peace will only be materialized with collective determination and cooperation of all nations and states. The age of polarizing the world on the premises of the hegemony or domination of a few governments is over.

Today we must rise together in a collective commitment against the present challenges; we must take change seriously and help others through collective work to return to the basic moral and human values. Messengers were sent by God to show the light of the truth to human kind, they came to make people aware of their individual and social obligations. Piety, having faith to Allah and its judgment of human behavior or conduct in the next world, belief in the primacy of justice in both lives, seeking one’s happiness, well being and security in the happiness, well-being and security of others, respecting human kind, making efforts to expand love and compassion against hostility were all on top of the teachings offered by the Messengers of God from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and the last one Prophet Mohamamd (PUH). All of them came to do something to eliminate war and ignorance, to eradicate poverty and uproot discrimination in order to spread happiness in the entire world. They are the best gifts that God Almighty has granted to human beings.

If the belief in Entezar( A waiting patiently for the Imam to return) will turn into a common and we join hands to achieve prosperity for all, then there will be more real and increasing hopes for reform.

Fourth;

In my opinion, we have several important agendas in front of us. The Secretary-General and the UN General Assembly can take the lead by undertaking necessary measures for the fulfillment of our shared goals on the basis of:

1. Restructuring the United Nations in order to transform this world body to an efficient and fully democratic organization, capable of playing an impartial, equitable, and effective role in the international relations; reforming the structure of the Security Council, specially by abolishing the discriminatory privilege of veto right; restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people by organizing a referendum and free elections in Palestine in order to prepare a conducive ground for all Palestinian populations, including Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in peace and harmony; putting an end to all types of interferences in the affairs of Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East, and in all countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

As our great Prophet said, a government may survive with blasphemy, but never with oppression. Oppression against Palestinians and violation of their rights still continue; a new group of Palestinians who lived in al-Qod al-Sharif were again forced out of their homes as the destruction of their residential homes continues by the occupiers; bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan have not yet sopped; and Guantanamo Prison has not yet been shut down and there are still secret prisons in Europe.

Continuation of the present situation adds to hostilities and violence. Oppression and military aggression must be stopped. Regrettably, official reports concerning the brutalities of the Zionist regime in Gaza have not been completely published. The Secretary-General and the United Nations have crucial responsibilities in this respect and the international community is impatiently waiting for the punishment of the aggressors and the murderers of the defenseless people of Gaza.

2. Reforming the current economic structures and setting up a new international economic order based on human and moral values and obligations. A new course is needed that would help promote justice and progress worldwide by flourishing the potentials and talents of all nations thus bringing well-being for all and for future generations;

3. Reforming the international political relations based on the promotion of lasting peace and friendship, eradication of arms race and elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons;

4. Reforming cultural structures , respect for diverse customs and traditions of all nations, fostering moral values and spirituality aimed at institution of family as the backbone of all human societies;

5. Worldwide efforts to protect the environment and full observance of the international agreements and arrangements to prevent the annihilation of nature’s non-renewable resources.

Fifth;

Our nation has successfully gone through a glorious and fully- democratic election, opening a new chapter for our country in the march towards national progress and enhanced international interactions. They entrusted me once more with a large majority this heavy responsibility.

And now, I want to declare that our great nation that has made great contribution to the world civilization, and the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the most democratic and progressive governments of the world is ready to mobilize all its cultural, political and economic capabilities to engage into constructive process aimed at addressing the international concerns and challenges. Our country has been a main victim of terrorism and the target of an all-out military aggression during the first decade of the revolution.

All through the past thirty years we have been subject to hostile attitudes of those who supported Saddam’s military aggression and his use of chemical weapons against us, and then they took military action in Iraq to get rid of him. Today, our nation seeks to create a world in which justice and compassion prevail. We announce our commitment to participate in the process of building a durable peace and security worldwide for all nations based on justice, spirituality and human dignity, while being dedicated to strongly defending our legitimate and legal rights.

To materialize these goals, our nation is prepared to warmly shake all those hands which are honestly extended to us. No nation can claim to be free from the need to change and reform in this journey towards perfectness. We welcome real and humane changes and stand ready to actively engage in fundamental global reforms.

Therefore, we emphasize that:

The only path to remain safe is to return to Mmonotheism (believing in the Oneness of God) and justice, and this is the greatest hope and opportunity in all ages and generations. Without belief in God and commitment to the cause of justice and fight against injustice and discrimination, the world architect would not get right.

Man is at the center of the universe. The man’s unique feature is his humanity. The same feature which seeks for justice, piety, love, knowledge, awareness and all other high values. These human values should be supported, and each and every fellow humans should be given the opportunity to acquire them. Neglecting any of them is tantamount to the omission of a constituting piece of humanity. These are common elements which connect all human communities and constitute the basis of peace, security and friendship.

The divine religions pay attention to all aspects of human life, including obedience to God, morality, justice, fighting oppression, and endeavor to establish just and good governance. Prophet Abraham called for Oneness of God against Nimrod, as Prophet Moses did the same against Pharaohs and the Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) did against the oppressors of their own time. They were all threatened to death and were forced out of their homelands. Without resistance and objection, the injustices would not be removed from the face of the earth.

Sixth;

Dear friends and colleagues;

The world is in continuous change and evolution. The promised destiny for the mankind is the establishment of the humane pure life. Will come a time when justice will prevail across the globe and every single human being will enjoy respect and dignity. That will be the time when the Mankind’s path to moral and spiritual perfectness will be opened and his journey to God and the manifestation of the God’s Divine Names will come true. The mankind should excel to represent the God’s “knowledge and wisdom”, His “compassion and benevolence”, His “justice and fairness”, His “power and art”, and His “kindness and forgiveness”.

These will all come true under the rule of the Perfect Man, the last Divine Source on earth, Hazrat Mahdi (Peace be upon him); an offspring of the Prophet of Islam, who will re-emerge, and Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him) and other noble men will accompany him in the accomplishment of this, grand universal mission. And this is the belief in Entezar (Awaiting patiently for the Imam to return). Waiting with patience for the rule of goodness and the governance of the Best which is a universal human notion and which is a source of nations’ hope for the betterment of the world.

They will come, and with the help of righteous people and true believers will materialize the man’s long-standing desires for freedom, perfectness, maturity, security and tranquility, peace and beauty. They will come to put an end to war and aggression and present the entire knowledge as well as spirituality and friendship to the whole world.

Yes; Indeed, the bright future for the mankind will come.

Dear friends,

In waiting for that brilliant time to come and in a collective commitment, let’s make due contributions in paving the grounds and preparing the conditions for building that bright future.

Long live love and spirituality; long live peace and security; long live justice and freedom.

God’s Peace and blessing be upon you all.

Courtesy: Payvand News