Poland: puppet of US imperialism

Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during visit of NATO general secretary to Poland (photo: NATO)

Poland has been one of the loudest cheerleaders in encouraging NATO’s drive to war. On 23 January the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki outlined Poland’s intent to send tanks it purchased from Germany to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion, with or without Germany’s consent. The original contract for the Leopard 2 tanks stipulated that any re-export of them must be approved by Germany. Since the collapse of the USSR and the socialist bloc, the formerly socialist Polish state has reintegrated into a capitalist economy and established itself as the US’s most committed ally in Eastern Europe. 


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Sweden: the global perspective

Torkil Lauesen's Riding the Wave, front cover

Riding the Wave: Sweden’s Integration into the Imperialist World System, Torkil Lauesen, Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2021, 268pp, $20 paperback.

This important book by the Danish anti-imperialist activist Torkil Lauesen charts the history of Sweden ‘from 16th-century colonialism to the present day’ (p7). It is a description of the bloody foundations of what was in the 1980s one of the most socially and economically equal countries in the capitalist world. The book also places contemporary Swedish political economy in a global context: examining how Swedish capital operates today, how the Swedish working class relates to the global division of labour, and the relations between Sweden and the major powers including China and the US.


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European imperialism and China: Germany moves first

Flags of Germany, China and the EU

On 4 November German chancellor Olaf Scholz, flanked by twelve German industry leaders, became the first G7 leader to visit China since the Covid pandemic’s onset. His visit represents the growing splits within the German ruling class: the very real reliance of Germany’s exports and economy on Chinese markets, balanced against a growing desire to follow the US into conflict with China. This, all amidst a backdrop of the proxy war in Ukraine, which has wrenched Europe away from dependence on Russian gas at the risk of major economic upheaval for European imperialism. The key question for US imperialism: can Europe be dragged through a similar process with China?


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Vaccine nationalism deadlock: to have and have not

AstrZeneca vaccine vials and syringe

Like many a noir thriller, it began in Berlin in winter: The night-train from Düsseldorf, morning papers aboard, rattling in on the Baltic freight line. Among tabloid, broadsheet and Berliner, a real humdinger – Exposed: the Anglo-Swedish racket at the centre of the latest row between London and Brussels. AstraZeneca hardly effective in seniors went the story. A tipoff from one anonymous source in the health ministry and a whole country awoke to Anton Karas on the zither. The double-dealing, the inferior product, the lives endangered – Germans could read all about it in the pages of Handelsblatt, breakfasting over a swindle that’d make Harry Lime blush. By the following day it had crawled onto the frontpage and – base pulp fiction that it was – won immediately a cult following. Popular recognition came with a great patron in the Palais d’Élysée: Quasi-ineffective said French President Emmanuel Macron of the AstraZeneca vaccine – meaning, incidentally, it compared favourably to EU vaccine production, vaccine procurement and vaccine distribution, all of which were ineffective in totum. But let not truth and frankness weigh down a box office doozy: the European Medicines Agency may have approved it for use in all age groups, but country after country reduced its AstraZeneca rollout – or suspended it outright.


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Covid-19 and the eurozone's financial quagmire

Medicine and syringe on Euro notes and coins

Following the 2007-08 financial crisis, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus begged for support from the European Central Bank (ECB), the eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to finance both their government debts and their insolvent banks. The weaker economies had huge debts which have had to be recycled against uncertain taxes or the sale of assets. The current collapse of profitable capital accumulation means that state spending is indispensable to provide access to basic commodities for a huge section of the working class. The ruling class daily calculates the provision of credit to businesses sufficient to prevent mass protests.


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Belarus: imperialist sponsored regime change

Protest in Minsk, 20 September 2020

Following the 2020 presidential election in Belarus on 9 August Alexander Lukashenko, who has been president of the country since 1994, was declared the winner with 80.23% of the vote. According to the official announcement, the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya received just 9.9%. Before the vote even took place the opposition had stated that the election would be fraudulent, and when the result was announced they called people out onto the streets against the regime. Demonstrations took place throughout August and September with over 100,000 people involved in some of the mobilisations in the capital city Minsk. The red and white flag displayed on the demonstrations has in recent history been associated with anti-Soviet and fascist expressions of Belarusian 'independence'. The demands of the demonstrations have centred on calling for the resignation of Lukashenko but the organised opposition, the Coordination Council, have openly pro-imperialist demands which call for the privatisation of state-owned industry, the end to economic, military and cultural links with Russia, and for Belarus to join both the EU and NATO.


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Against Racism, Against Fascism, Against Imperialism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 104, December 1991/January 1992

Ten years ago, many thousands demonstrated against racist attacks in East London. Now racism is spreading across Europe, new immigration and asylum laws are being designed and in Britain the political parties are sharpening their racist rhetoric for the next election. A new European-wide anti-racist and anti-fascist movement is required to stem the tide. We look at the growing racism and fascism in France, Germany, Belgium and the Asylum Bill in Britain.

‘What is at stake is both the defence of black and immigrant groups and also the future of the left in Europe. If, from the collapsed ruin of what has passed for socialism and communism in Europe, a healthy new movement is to be built, it will have on its leading banner ‘Against Imperialism, Against Racism, Against Fascism’, or it will have no banner at all.’ FIGHT RACISM! FIGHT IMPERIALISM! December 1990


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Fascism – monstrous product of capitalism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 119, June/July 1994

The electoral victories gained by fascist parties in Europe, argues MAXINE WILLIAMS, have lent urgency to the debate on how to fight fascism. Guardian columnist, Martin Kettle has solved these problems to his own, if nobody else’s, satisfaction by saying that these parties are not fascist at all. For example, Italy’s MSI now with five seats in the cabinet, 105 deputies and 43 senators:

‘While it undoubtedly attracts a significant number of genuinely fascist nostalgics and mimics, it is an altogether more modern right-wing party. In particular, it is an electoral rather than a military force.’


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Racism on the rise across Europe

On 12 September two thirds of the European Parliament voted to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary on the grounds it had breached ‘EU core values’. Clearly, the racist, anti-working class and patently reactionary policies of Hungary must be powerfully opposed; however, Hungarian President Viktor Orban was not being figurative when he said sanctions against Hungary would be the EU condemning ‘its own border guards’. Orban’s brutal, militarised and inhumane approach to immigration is far from unique to Hungary, with the EU itself and its member states showing nothing but racist contempt for the lives of migrants. Ruby Most reports.


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Immigration in Europe: fight racist border controls

Anti-facist protest in solidarity with migrants in Macerata Italy, March 2018

Anti-facist protest in solidarity with migrants in Macerata Italy, March 2018

On 28 June at an emergency summit of the European Council (EC), EU leaders agreed proposals which will further escalate the suffering of migrants who struggle through the repressive borders of Fortress Europe. The proposals will do nothing to deal with the root cause of the so called ‘migrant crisis’ and include such oppressive measures as creating more ‘processing [detention] centres’ inside the EU and further outsourcing border controls to non-EU and north African countries. Annemie Most reports.

As revealed by The Guardian, over the past 25 years there have been 34,361 documented deaths of refugees and migrants caused by the ‘restrictive policies’ of Fortress Europe. The actual numbers are sure to be much higher as this figure only covers documented deaths. Fractured Europe’s repressive border controls are being increasingly tightened and the journey across the Mediterranean is becoming increasingly deadly. This year alone there were 1,000 such deaths by 1 July, making this the fourth consecutive year in which over 1,000 have died on the journey through the Mediterranean.1 Although migrant arrivals in Europe across the Mediterranean from Africa and Turkey are at their lowest level in five years, the drive towards hardline, militarised and closed borders was at the top of the EC summit agenda.


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Racism on the rise in Europe

Anti-migrant xenophobia is spreading around Europe as far right parties make electoral gains. But so too is resistance, predominantly by the people most directly affected.


At the parliamentary election on 8 April 2018, Viktor Orban’s right-wing anti-immigrant coalition Fidesz-KDNP won 49.27% of the vote, allowing it to form its third successive government with 133 seats out of 199. Extreme right-wing party Jobbik increased its representation from 23 to 26 seats; while social democratic MSZP-Dialogue seats fell from 30 to 20.


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From the Mediterranean to the Channel: immigration controls kill

mediterranean crisis
Thousands of people continue to cross the Mediterranean on unsafe, overcrowded botas.

So far this year, more than 2,150 people have been confirmed dead while trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe – one in 40 of those trying to cross and three times as many as in late 2015, when EU rescue efforts began to be reduced. Meanwhile, in Britain, as the government prepares for withdrawal from the EU, restrictions and attacks on migrants continue. Tom Vickers reports.

Fortress Europe

The European Commission (EC) recently backed an Italian proposal that anybody rescuing migrants at sea should be forced to operate under the authority of the Italian and Libyan coastguards, who NGOs have said are deliberately allowing people to drown or are returning them to the violence and abuse of detention camps in Libya. The International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR have criticised the proposed restrictions on NGOs, reflecting splits in the ruling classes. The head of UNHCR’s Europe office, Vincent Cochetel, suggested regulations would be more appropriate for NATO and commercial ships operating in the Mediterranean, which he said have been switching off their GPS systems in order to avoid having to rescue people. Far-right groups have raised tens of thousands of pounds for a plan to intercept NGO boats and prevent them rescuing people from the sea; on 24 July ‘Defend Europe’ announced its first ship had entered the Mediterranean.


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Transgender rights: the shame of mandatory sterilisation

On 6 April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) finally ruled that mandatory sterilisation of individuals who legally change gender is a violation of their human rights.

The ruling was made in three joint cases against France. This however does not necessarily mean transgender people are less likely to be threatened than before. According to Transgender Europe[1], the countries that require sterilisation before changes in the legal status of any individual are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. The new legal standard will now apply to the 47 states signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). None have yet changed their laws. Some of them mandate surgical removal of genitalia and reproductive organs while other requirements more vaguely call for procedures that produce ‘irreversible infertility’. 22 of the 47 member states will now have to change their laws.


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Fortress Europe

Fortress Europe

Thousands of migrants and refugees are still arriving at the borders of the EU and, in response, Europe’s major imperialist powers continue to increase repression. Racist opposition to immigrants has given Prime Minister Theresa May licence to make freedom of movement a non-negotiable part of Britain’s exit from the European Union, and, at the start of January, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that he was ‘not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle’. Tom Vickers reports.

There is no fundamental contradiction between the ‘Fortress Europe’ policy of the EU and the ‘Little England’ policy of pro-Brexit sections of the British ruling class: both are determined to exclude from Europe those forced to flee the wars, poverty, environmental destruction and repression that imperialism has fostered and to outsource the repression necessary for this to Europe’s periphery.


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Fortress Europe – the death toll rises

fortress europe

The EU is reorganising its border controls, in an effort to maintain the divide between workers of oppressed and imperialist countries and to contain the consequences of its overt and covert wars in the Middle East and North Africa. Britain and other European imperialist powers rely on super-profits extracted from oppressed countries, with rates of return from UK Foreign Direct Investment of 9% in Africa and 13% in Asia in 2014, compared to 5% returns on FDI in the UK, and a net transfer of £45bn each year out of Africa. To protect this super-exploitation European imperialist states do whatever is necessary to prevent people from oppressed countries from moving where better wages and conditions are available, and to limit their rights if they manage to get there. But people on the move continue to resist these restrictions, leading to a constant struggle at Europe’s borders.


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Calais resists

In February a French court authorised the demolition of the 70,000 square metre southern section of the ‘jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. Prior to the ruling, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve claimed that ‘it was never a question of evacuating the south zone in a brutal fashion’ but he has a poor memory, because as recently as January bulldozers were brought in to demolish an estimated 20% of the camp, housing approximately 1,500 people (see FRFI 249). Following the ruling, a brutal and violent eviction of the camp began, with the CRS (French ‘anti-riot’ police) using tear gas, and burning down shelters.

The migrant residents of the camp have continued to resist. Twelve Iranian asylum seekers began a hunger strike on 2 March, with demands including an end to forced eviction and an end to the use of tear gas.


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Migration crisis- Europe’s violence unmasked

The death toll at Europe’s borders continues to rise, with at least 525 people reported dead or missing between 1 January and 20 March 2016. This is a direct result of the EU’s restrictive border controls, which disproportionately affect refugees and migrants from oppressed countries. There is no let-up in the wars, poverty and repression that force people to move, and so the repressive measures of European states do not stop people attempting to enter Europe, but only add to the death and misery, as well as removing rights from a section of workers who then become subject to super-exploitation. Tom Vickers reports

The main countries of origin for refugees and migrants seeking to enter Europe via the Mediterranean are Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – all of which have been subject to murderous and destructive imperialist interventions in recent years. Research recently published by the MEDMIG project has confirmed earlier findings that many migrants have little information about immigration policies in their countries of destination and often make ad hoc decisions en route about which country to move to, showing that more restrictive immigration policies do not stop people trying to reach Europe. The research also confirms that increased restrictions have ‘led to protracted and fragmented journeys and make it increasingly difficult for people to safely and legally access protection and employment’.


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Fortress Europe kills to protect imperialism

Europe has the deadliest borders in the world, claiming more than 4,000 lives in 2015. The increased risk of winter crossings has not stopped those desperate to flee war, persecution, or poverty: in December 2015 an estimated 4,000 people per day crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece, and on 2 January 2016 the first death of the year was recorded when a two-year-old fell out of a boat that hit rocks off the Greek island of Agathonisi. Migrants have also renewed attempts to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, with hundreds scaling the fences or swimming round them, but being forced back with violence by Moroccan forces and the Spanish Guardia Civil. During January 162 people were reported dead or missing at Europe’s borders; the actual figure is likely to be higher. Tom Vickers reports.

During 2015 more than 1.2 million people arrived by sea and land at the borders of Europe. Although a significant increase on the previous year, this is equivalent to only 0.24% of Europe’s population. Such numbers could easily be accommodated given Europe’s wealth, much of which has been plundered from other countries. The deaths that result from European states’ refusal to allow refugees and migrants safe passage is therefore a political choice, based on the defence of a barbaric capitalist system that cares nothing for human lives.


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Portugal; Eurozone and NATO confront election victors

The failure of the Portuguese left to combat the opportunism of the Portuguese Socialist Party effectively and force it into an electoral alliance before the 4 October parliamentary elections, gave room for the state president to refuse to invite them to form a government despite electoral gains by both the Socialist and Left Bloc parties. President Anibal Cavaco Silva’s obstruction directly reflects European financial interests and NATO’s political pressures.

In an openly reactionary step, President Silva was able to refuse to invite a coalition of electorally successful but disunited left parties to form a government on the grounds that in any case the left would violate existing commitments to the EU/IMF – the Lisbon Treaty, the Fiscal Compact, the Growth and Stability Pact, the euro itself and NATO. Constitutionally, a presidential election in January prevents another parliamentary election until June, so a government should be formed out of the recent election results. Thus on 22 October, gambling on continued divisions on the left, the president gave the incumbent, yet electorally defeated, Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, a new mandate to form a minority government. Coelho’s right-wing coalition won only 36.8 % of the vote. His ‘Portugal Ahead’ alliance of the conservative Social Democratic Party plus the neoliberal Democratic and Social Centre People’s Party is committed to maintaining the austerity programme agreed in the €78bn European Commission/European Central Bank/IMF bailout of 2011.


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A rising tide of racism against migrants and refugees

Refugees and migrants continue to struggle for entry to Europe, driven by war, repression and poverty created by imperialism. European states are attempting to reassert control, extending the repressive apparatus at Europe’s borders while increasing surveillance and reducing migrants’ rights within Europe. Tom Vickers reports.

Fortress Europe reorganises its defences

At the end of October representatives of 11 EU and Balkan states agreed a 17-point plan including: reception centres to house 100,000 newly-arrived refugees and migrants in Greece and along the western Balkans route; increased deportations and cooperation with governments receiving deportees in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Pakistan; additional assistance from the UN refugee agency; increased surveillance and registration of migrants by Frontex, the EU’s border agency; coordinated action between Europol, Interpol and local police against people smugglers; and an agreement that states will no longer facilitate the movement of migrants to the border of another country.

This plan is a reconsolidation of the arrangement by which those who cannot be kept out of Europe altogether will be contained in a peripheral zone, away from the main imperialist states of western Europe. In line with this, on 10 November the German Interior Ministry announced Germany would be renewing its use of the Dublin Regulation to return Syrian refugees to the first EU country where they were registered. The reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November again called these arrangements into question, with officials from Poland, Slovakia and the German state of Bavaria expressing new reservations, and sections of the media claiming spurious links between refugee movements and the Paris attacks.


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Solidarity with Calais migrants

‘In the last weeks many of us had to face a lot of police violence. Some of us got broken hands and broken legs… In the next days the fascists will come to Calais to meet and demonstrate here. There is no shelter for us to hide from them. We cannot trust the police to protect us as we experienced already so much violence from them. Migration is not a crime and each of us has reasons why we had to leave our countries and our families and why we are here now. Europe is always talking about human rights and freedom but we can not find this here.’ (Statement from migrants’ demonstration, 5 September 2014)

The plight of the migrants stranded in Calais hit headlines in Britain at the beginning of September when nearly one hundred managed to scale the fence surrounding the French port and storm the ramp of a ferry bound for Dover. The crew drove them back with fire hoses and hurriedly sealed the ship.


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Solidarity with migrants: taking on Fortress Europe

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

There has been a sharp rise in the last year in the number of migrants attempting to reach Europe as they flee imperialist wars, repression and poverty. Following dangerous routes across land and sea, often paying thousands of euros to unscrupulous people-smugglers, men, women and children are risking their lives in ever growing numbers to reach what they see as the relative safety and and economic security of Europe. In response, the imperialist countries have poured millions of euros into securing European borders, while brutally harassing, detaining and attacking those who do succeed in breaching the racist defences of Fortress Europe. But as repression intensifies, so does resistance.


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European elections: irrelevant for the majority

European elections

The European elections were a victory for xenophobic populist parties, UKIP, the French Front National and the Danish People’s Party, all of which topped the polls in their respective countries, being the most obvious examples. Their demagogic opposition to a corrupt political elite proved attractive to many, although an even greater number regarded the election as irrelevant – turnout across Europe was only 43%. The results do show that where there are significant movements of working class opposition to austerity, particularly in Greece and Spain, progressive movements received substantial support.


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Justice for Pitu – murdered by Basque police

On 29 March 2014 Supporters of FRFI visited Bilbao in the Basque Country to attend a football match between Athletico Madrid and Bilbao's Athletic Club. This was a top of the table clash and an important match for Athletic but the minds of the supporters were on sadder things. The match coincided almost to the day with the second anniversary of the murder of Iñigo Cabacas (28) by the Ertzaina, the Basque riot police.


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Popular uprisings in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Bosnia, which has never recovered from the war of 1992-1995, has recently been shaken by mass popular uprisings. The uprisings began in the former industrial powerhouse of Tuzla on 7 February and have since developed into a working class-led, non-sectarian mass movement of tens of thousands of people against corruption, nationalism, privatisation and unemployment. Citizens’ plenums – assemblies of direct democracy – have been established from which existing trade unions and political parties are banned. The continuing progress of the movement will depend on new organisations emerging that represent the struggle of the oppressed majority.


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Youth battle police on streets of Stockholm

By 24 May, masked youth had been battling Swedish police and burning cars and buildings for five consecutive nights in the suburbs of Stockholm. The uprising, which started in Husby, an overwhelmingly immigrant area of the city, was triggered by an incident earlier in May, when police fatally shot a 69-year-old man, said to be wielding a knife, and the subsequent refusal to hold a public inquiry into the killing. But underlying the anger and violence, which has seen masked youths torch cars, several police stations and a school, is a racist reality which explodes the popular myth of Sweden as a tolerant society with a model welfare state. Areas like Husby have high unemployment rates and many young people leave school with below-average results.


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Editorial / FRFI 222 Aug / Sep 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August / September 2011

As we go to press, a last-minute agreement between France and Germany has averted the potential collapse of the euro despite a partial Greek default. No one has any illusions that this is anything other than a stop-gap measure, and that the sovereign debt crisis of other European countries continue to worsen – Italy, Spain and Portugal in particular. As part of what is turning into a perfect storm of the world’s financial system, the dispute in the US over government debt threatens the survival of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.


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Switzerland: land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks and banking secrecy

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

Internationally Switzerland is famous for its neutrality, for having the best chocolate in the world, its world-class skiing resorts, a long tradition of watch-making and, of course, banks that are more than ready to manage and protect the assets of its rich clientele.

The capitalist system works like an organism with its vital centres (or hubs), such as New York, the City of London and Shanghai. But organisms generate waste that is filtered and recycled by specialised organs. Although financial hubs tend to get all the attention from the public and the media, financial recycling centres such as Switzerland are often overlooked.


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Money and armed force are central components in the construction of a European state. Blair was saying that Britain was not going to be left out of this process. Then, on 19 January, British Aerospace announced it was buying GEC's Marconi division in preference to partnership with French and German weapons producers. The cry 'Perfidious Albion' went up in continental boardrooms. Blair was said to be 'fuming'.

Steps towards consolidating the European power bloc make the Labour government's attempt to straddle its two positions - being the USA's number one partner while moving closer to the European project - more precarious. Tensions increase with the global capitalist crisis, intensified rivalry for markets and profits and the looming prospect of trade war between the USA and Europe.


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Chechnya: Carnival of Reaction

FRFI 152 February / March 2000

Background to the conflict
Conflict between Russia and Chechnya goes back centuries. In recent times, an expanding Imperial Russia forcibly incorporated Chechnya in 1859. Shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, in May 1918, the North Caucasus Republic, which included Chechnya and Dagestan, declared independence. In September 1919, a North Caucasian Emirate was proclaimed. This proclamation led to an invasion of Chechnya by the Red Army in 1920 who suppressed anti-Bolshevik resistance by 1921. Chechnya became an autonomous region of the USSR from 1922 to 1936 when it was allied to Ingushetia as the Autonomous Republic of Chechno-Ingush.

After a short period of social tranquillity the collectivisation of agriculture, which was fiercely resisted by the Chechen peasantry, led to serious social unrest and rebellion. By the start of World War II the Chechen rebels had come to view the Nazi invaders as liberators. Only Hitler's orders to treat them as sub-humans, with the consequent repression, denied the Nazis the opportunity to create a significant anti-Soviet force.


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