Stories written by Ignacio Ramonet

LIBYA: RIGHT AND WRONG

The Libyan rebels deserve the help of all democrats. Colonel Gaddafi is indefensible. The international coalition that is attacking him lacks credibility. A democracy is not built with foreign bombs. The contradictions implicit in these four statements give rise to a certain uneasiness about Operation Odyssey Dawn, especially to people on the left, writes Ignacio Ramonet, director of Le Monde diplomatique en espanol

A CALL TO OUTRAGE

He is 93 years old. His name is Stephane Hessel, and the story of his life reads like a fantastical novel. In a way it was even before his birth. Some of you may remember Francois Truffaut's film "Jules et Jim". The non-conformist woman played by Jeanne Moreau and one of her two lovers [1], Jules, a German Jewish translator of Proust, were his parents. In the artistic environment of Paris of the 20s and 30s, Stephane Hessel grew up surrounded by the friends that filled his house, including philosopher Walter Benjamin, Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, and sculptor Alexander Calder.

EUROPE: IMMIGRANTS SCAPEGOATED FOR ECONOMIC CRISIS

On November 28, a referendum in Switzerland was approved by 53 percent of voters authorising the expulsion of all foreigners convicted of serious crimes (homicide, burglary, procuring, drug trafficking, armed robbery) after serving their sentences. The measure was organised by the country's main party, the Democratic Union of the Centre (also known as the Swiss People's Party), which in 2009 succeeded in banning by referendum the building of minarets in mosques. Elsewhere in Europe there has been a rise in xenophobia as the economic crisis has grown more intense.

MEXICO AT WAR, THE US IS TO BLAME

November 20 was the hundredth anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, the first major social revolution of the 20th century: a heroic deed carried out by two legendary popular figures, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, whose victory was a victory for workers and peasant farmers: rights, agrarian reform, free, non-religious public education, and social security.

SPAIN ON THE ROPES

The days of social peace are over. The general strike held on September 29 protesting the labour reforms decided by the government of Prime Minister Zapatero marks the opening of what promises to be a period of social turbulence.

AMERICAS: THE BATTLE OVER VENEZUELA

Two decisive contests are fast approaching in the struggle for ideological supremacy in Latin America: the legislative elections in Venezuela on September 26 and the presidential elections in Brazil on October 3. If the democratic left doesn't win in the latter, the political pendulum would begin to swing continent wide towards the right, which is already in power in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. But this is unlikely to occur: it is inconceivable that Jose Serra, of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, could defeat Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT), supported by the very popular current president Lula Ignacio de Silva, who could easily win a third term if the constitution didn't bar it.

THE CORRUPTION OF DEMOCRACY

The "Bettencourt Case", which is rattling France with its storm of arrests, family feuds, suspicious checks, secret recordings, fiscal misdemeanours, and illegal donations to the party of French premier Nicolas Sarkozy, is plunging the country into a profound crisis.

OBLIGATORY NEOLIBERALISM

"Lower your head, fierce Sicambrian; love what you have burned, and burn what you have loved." So Bishop Remigius commanded the barbarian Clovis, converting him to Christianity so he could become the king of France, about 1500 years ago. The same command might have been addressed to social democrat Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero by the heads of state of the Europgroup in Brussels last May 7 when they joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the financial markets to make the Spanish premier abjure any social whims and swear allegiance to the neoliberal creed.

GARZON, JUSTICE, AND MEMORY

"For the dead man here abandoned, build him a tomb." Sophocles, Antigone (442 A.D.)

EUROPE: THE SOCIAL QUESTION

With the motto "Stop the misery", the European Union (EU) has declared 2010 "The Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion". In the 27 countries of the EU, there are some 85 million poor [i]. One in six Europeans lives in poverty [ii]. And the situation is getting worse as the effects of the global economic crisis spread. The social question must be put at the centre of the debate.

THE DECLINE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Ideas die too. The cemetery of political parties overflows with the remains of organisations that at one time ignited passions and roused multitudes but are now relegated to oblivion. Who in Europe today agrees with Radicalism, though it was one of the most important political forces (centre-left) of the second half of the 19th century? Or Anarchism? Or Stalinist Communism? What happened to these formidable mass movements that in their day could mobilise millions of workers and peasant farmers? Were they just passing fashions?

LEARNING FROM HAITI

As "natural" as it may seem, no catastrophe is natural. An earthquake of the same intensity has more victims in a poor country than in a rich industrialised one. For example, the earthquake in Haiti, 7.0 on the Richter scale, caused more than 200,000 deaths, while the one six months ago that struck Honshu, Japan, caused only one death and one injury though it was of the same strength (7.1).

NEOLIBERALISM: A SURVIVOR BY DEFAULT

The recent collapse of the global economy, caused by among other things the lack of regulation of financial markets, has further eroded the credibility of neoliberalism. And yet it continues to exercise a strong influence on the majority of economists and economic managers, for whom, despite its obvious shortcomings, it remains the default discourse.

DEATH OF THE DAILY PAPER

It is a major catastrophe: dozens of daily newspapers are bankrupt. In the United States, at least 120 have already closed. And the tsunami is now striking Europe. Not even institutions once considered the journals of record are safe: Spain's El Pais, France's Le Monde, The Times and The Independent of the United Kingdom. and Italy's Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica are all accumulating major economic losses as a result of the drop in subscriptions and the collapse of advertising[i].

A BITTER PILL FROM THE DRUG INDUSTRY

The conclusions of the final European Commission report on competition abuses in the pharmaceutical industry, released on July 8, are shocking and have wide-ranging ramifications. And yet the media have largely failed to cover it.

HONDURAS

The world's conservative groups and their usual propagandists [i] received the news of the June 28 coup in Honduras with immense pleasure[ii]. Although they made critical noises about the coup itself, they swallowed and justified the arguments of those who carried it out, repeating that "President Manuel Zelaya had committed numerous violations of the constitution by wanting to hold a referendum to remain in power." [iii]

OBAMA FULL STEAM AHEAD

In office only since January 20, US President Barack Obama has jumped into action so quickly he has not given adversaries or observers the time to organise criticism or attacks. Meanwhile Europeans, and in particular their political leaders, do not seem to have grasped the "Copernican revolution" that is underway in the US and appear stunned and incapable of reacting to the new developments that are taking place each day in Washington.

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