Archives for category: Europe

The Central Committee, in its meeting yesterday and today, continued the preparation work of the XIX Congress of the PCP, and analysed the evolution of the political, economic and social situation of the country and defined the main tasks of the Party aimed at boosting its political initiative and strengthening its organisation.

Regarding the XIX Congress of the PCP, the Central Committee adopted the Draft of the Amendments to the Party’s Programme and the Draft of the Theses/Political Resolution, documents that will be published with the September 27 edition of the “Avante!”, central organ of the PCP, opening the 3rd preparatory phase of the Congress.

A Congress that – from the assessment it will make of the international situation, the evaluation of capitalism’s devastating consequences on humanity, the crusade of exploitation and social and civilizational regression that traverses the world and also the European Union with the process of capitalist integration – affirms socialism as the indispensable alternative to ensure to the workers and the peoples a society free from exploitation.

A Congress where, from its realisation and what it will mean in terms of PCP’s affirmation, the workers and the people will find an answer not only to their concerns, but specially a confident affirmation that there is a different course and a different policy. A Congress that points a way that can fulfil the hope of millions of Portuguese for a better life – and which holds in the project, of the Party’s Programme, now being updated, of an “Advanced Democracy – the values of April in the future of Portugal”, as an integral and constitutive part of the struggle for socialism, a real possibility of materialisation.

A path that is urgent to materialise, when we see the country facing an unbearable deterioration of the economic and social situation, with an increasingly worrying and prolonged economic recession, unemployment, galloping impoverishment of the population and a brutal worsening of the exploitation of labour that are rapidly driving Portugal into disaster.

As the draft of the Theses stresses “The national crisis is, undoubtedly, an intrinsic expression to the development of the relations of capitalist production dominantly imposed on the country, inseparable from the action of successive PS, PSD and CDS governments”. A crisis that the main promoters of the right-wing policy invoke, with the materialisation of the Pact of Aggression, to lead to an unprecedented heightening of their offensive against the rights of the workers and the people, of compromising the future of the country and its submission to the interests of big business, national and foreign.

Aware of the devastating effects of its policy that not only did not solve any of the country’s major problems, but made them worse, including those they claimed they would solve – the debt and public deficit -, the PSD/CDS-PP government, showing a clear contempt of the already painful living conditions of the Portuguese, has been announcing new measures, which represent a brutal escalation of attack on the incomes of labour and their rights.

Measures that mean new and more substantial cuts in the wages and pensions of the workers of the public and private sector and a higher tax burden on labour; new dismissals and further attack on the rights of the public administration workers; new cuts in unemployment benefits, in social integration income and pensions above 1500 euros and more drastic cuts in the areas of health and education.

Measures to be included in the next Government Budget, which if materialised will drastically reduce the income available to the families, further narrow domestic market, launching thousands of companies into bankruptcy, and increase unemployment and misery,

Measures announced under the cover of a mystifying operation of equitable distribution of sacrifices between labour and capital, but end up by being yet another repulsive cynical farce, where few and merely symbolic measures of tax increase on income from capital, contrast with a brutal extortion of the popular classes and strata.

The PCP alerts to the manoeuvres the government has underway, and to which the Council of the State has given its blessing, which by falling back on the Social Security Tax, aim to maintain the goal of an assault on the wages and incomes of the workers and pensioners and continue the path of the country’s decline and regression.

The active and meaningful collaboration of the PS in the manoeuvre undertaken by the government during these past days of replacing the theft of the SST, by another theft of equal meaning to the workers and the people clearly shows the level of commitment and complicity among the underwriters of the Pact of Aggression and objectively reflects an incentive to continue with the implementation of this Pact and the continuation of the policy of national disaster.

In a context where the growing contradictions within the government become visible , inseparable from the deep erosion of its social base of support – particularly with CDS undertaking cynical manoeuvres of distancing and the PS, trying to conceal its heavy responsibilities in the situation we are in, the PCP reaffirms that it is not enough to reject this or that measure of the Pact of Aggression, it is not enough to change this or that minister, repeating manoeuvres of previous governments to save the right-wing policy.

What the situation of the country demands is the urgent rejection of the Pact of Aggression, the rupture with the right-wing policy, a profound change in national life which, with a new government, will assume a patriotic and left-wing policy to answer the aspirations of the workers and the Portuguese people.

As reality shows while the implementation of the Pact of Aggression proceeds, it is clearer that in order to satisfy the interests of big business the government is setting the country under fire and sword.

The scale and violence of the offensive that is underway has aroused a fighting and powerful answer from the workers and popular masses. An answer of struggle that, in these past two months, has been very strong in hundreds of companies against the use by the employers of the changes in labour legislation and a significant expression in the mobilisations around the country on September 15.
It should be stressed that this new phase of the offensive should be met with a new and stronger dynamics of resistance and struggle, where it is indispensable that the outrage and revolt that are becoming widespread should be transformed into an organised and consequent struggle.
Hence, the PCP calls for the development of the struggle in its various forms and in particular the action decided by CGTP-IN «Everybody to Lisbon, everybody to Terreiro do Paço [Square] » on September 29, building a powerful show of strength and confidence of the workers and Portuguese people, and similarly on the «National Day of Struggle», set for October 1st, and the October 5-13 «March against Unemployment».

Actions that are part of a wide process that will continue and will go as far as needed to impose a defeat of this policy and open a new path for Portugal.

The PCP draws attention to the continuation and intensification of the policy of submission of the national interests to the process of the capitalist integration of the European Union.

The insistence on the so-called policies of austerity, the strengthening of supranational mechanisms of decision, the defence of a single currency tailored to the interests of big business, specially German, the imposition of unacceptable ceilings on deficit and debt, is deepening the general framework of stagnation and economic recession, alongside a massive increase in unemployment.

On this issue, the Party’s Programme, now updated and under discussion, taking into account the increasing constraints and limitations on national independence and the limits it sets on its sovereign development, reaffirms and strengthens the idea that the “Portuguese people has and should always have the full right to decide on their own fate and choose the paths it believes is more in line with its historical identity and its interests and aspirations”.

In the situation we have reached, the solution is not found in repeating the worn-out talk on the so-called “political stability”, nor with appeals for “consensus” and the continuation of the programme of foreign interference, as the Council of State did this weekend, but by affirming the demand for a rupture with the policies which, in the name of stability, promote the most violent social and economic instability since the times of fascism.
A rupture that does not mean a reformulation of the Pact of Aggression, but involves the unequivocal and global rejection of the programme of economic and social destruction underway.

A rupture that assumes an alternative policy and puts an end to decades of right-wing policies by successive governments.

The country needs a patriotic and left-wing policy that undertakes an urgent renegotiation of the public debt; decisively bets on national production, improves the living conditions of the Portuguese, raising wages, pensions and retirement pay; ensures a real fiscal justice; recovers the control of the strategic sectors of the economy, namely by nationalizing the banks, and placing them at the service of development and progress; fights exploitation, restores and defends the rights of the workers and guarantees quality public services accessible to the entire population.

In one of the most complex moments of our country’s recent history, when so many doubts and worries on the collective future of the country have arisen among the workers and the people, the PCP affirms with full confidence that there is an alternative to this course of disaster. An alternative is not only possible but feasible, not only necessary but also indispensable and urgent. An alternative that is in the hands of each and all who do not resign to those who want to deny them the future to which they are entitled, build with their struggle and also their support to the PCP.

It is time to put an end to this path of disaster. There is enough strength in the workers and the people to defeat this government and this policy. A defeat which has also to be the defeat of the Pact of Aggression, the defeat of the parties of the Troika who support and encourage the foreign Troika within the country, the defeat of the cosmetic manoeuvres that aim to seek an alternance between the parties that have brought the country up to here, false solutions to perpetuate exploitation and injustice.

At this moment when we are planning our XIX Congress we affirm: You can rely on the PCP, an indispensable Party for the solution of the national problems, ready and able to assume all the possibilities the people want to give it.

here in Portuguese

We call on the hundreds of thousands of people who say “something must be done” to organize together with us the people’s counterattack.

The pro-people way out of the crisis must become the people’s slogan, which means the struggle to create the pre-conditions for a development path without monopolies, class exploitation, with socialization, central planning and workers’-people’s control, with disengagement from the EU and unilateral cancellation of the debt.

The elongation of the memorandum proposed by the government and the negotiation of SYRIZA so that the payment of the debt may be postponed for one or two years or for it to be reduced by an appeal to the international organizations and negotiations, or a return to the drachma, are different versions which will bring new woes for the people, while capital will once again benefit.

The theory of SYRIZA cadres that bankruptcy is a weapon of the weak is equally damaging for the people. In Argentina there was a cessation of payments, the currency was de-linked from the dollar, after years there was a new negotiation and an annulment of a part of the debt, but unemployment and poverty increased despite the capitalist development. In no instance can the people benefit within the framework of the EU and the system: the situation today entails internal devaluation in the eurozone and constant cuts in salaries, pensions, and social spending. The bankruptcy and the exit from the euro will be accompanied by a sharp price increase in the huge influx of imported products, a huge loss in the workers’ buying power. And in both instances the common elements are the tax raids and the deep undermining of the existing development potential of the country.

Sections of capital want and will be benefited by Greece’s exit from the eurozone, as they will be able to invest with less capital in a country with a devalued currency and salaries at a Bulgarian level.

The choices of the bourgeois class and the EU are inexorable. They want cheap and subdued labour power, now and in the future, the crushing of radical class-oriented labour and people’s movement. For this reason we insist that the workers turn their backs on the recipes for the management of the crisis by the government and SYRIZA, that the people must chart a course for their own power and government, which will free them from the crisis and bankruptcy once and for all. The way out of the crisis in favour of the people, for the achievement of the prosperity of the people and society are today fully linked to the demand of disengagement and the unilateral cancellation of the debt, with the people becoming the owners of the wealth they produce.

The government of the people’s power will transform the current ownership of the big business groups, of the capitalist businesses, the infrastructure, the means of land, sea and air transportation and the land into people’s property.

It will promote productive cooperatives of the small and medium-sized farmers and self-employed and guarantee what is only a dream today for the majority of the people:

  • Work for all, eradication of unemployment.
  • Food self-sufficiency for all the people.
  • Public, free healthcare, welfare for all, abolition of commercial activity in these sectors.
  • Education for all. Utilisation of scientific manpower, research and technology.
  • Free care of children, the elderly and people with special needs by the state.
  • Cheap and good quality housing with electricity, heating and running water
  • Sports, culture, holidays for all with organized infrastructure.

 

It will play a leading role in international economic relations on the basis of the peoples’ mutual benefit. With a sovereign and strong people that struggles for its prosperity the country will be able to liberate itself from the imperialist agreements and the NATO, from its involvement in imperialist wars. 

The workers’ –people’s power provided a great deal to the people in the countries where socialism was constructed. It provided solutions to problems which the workers in capitalist countries could only dream about. We draw lessons from the mistakes and the deficiencies that led to the counterrevolution and the overthrow of socialism. The struggle for a new type of power remains necessary and relevant. 

Now the people must take their matters into their own hands with generalized social-political struggles. These struggles must unite the working class -both in private and public sector- , the poor farmers, the self-employed, the women, the young people in a single direction and stable alliance. 

No sector or group of working people can ward off the relative and absolute destitution by demanding to be excluded from the generalized measures since the attack has a unified character and purpose. On the contrary, the demands of each sector, of each group of working people, of the unemployed and the pensioners can bring results only if they are fought for with appropriate demands and positions and at the same time support the joint nationwide demonstrations. The working people should not accept the struggles of the various sectors to be posed in opposition to each other, the slandering of advanced forms of struggle, of the strikes which are decided on by the working people and respond to the intolerable problems they face. 

At this stage the fronts of struggle and resistance in workplaces, in sectors and neighborhoods must become streams that will merge together and strengthen the general demand of the people for a pro-people way out of the crisis with militant mass demonstrations and the corresponding combative forms of struggle. The struggles must be based on the mass participation in the decision making process and in their organization. The struggle requires mass participation, organization and a political direction for rupture with the interests and the choices of the monopolies at a national and European level. 

The announcement of the measures of the government that will seize 23, 5 billion dollars from people and is preparing for a new round of measures is the first confrontation of the people after the elections. The new attack must meet the appropriate response in terms of form and mass participation e.g. a general strike which under certain conditions can become a starting point for the escalation and the stable strengthening of the people’s struggle. 

In this phase the people must prove that they have the courage, that they can liberate themselves from the illusions which are fostered by the political forces that support the participation of Greece in the EU and turn their back on the blackmail and the intimidating dilemmas. 

Today there are two paths of development which come in conflict: on the one hand, the path which is determined by the monopolies and their parties and on the other, the path of the struggle of the resolute and unwavering masses that leads to rupture, to the overthrow of the monopolies’ power. 

There is no way out as long as the working people, the unemployed, the pensioners are influenced by the various formulas for a liberal, socialist or “left” management of the system; as long as fatalism and defeatism prevail, the mistaken perceptions that the people cannot win, cannot wage effective struggles, that the radical change will never take place and belongs to the “Second Coming”. The people must not passively wait on the various networks, which are hypocritically called networks of solidarity and charity, which are set up in a planned way so that the people will get used to the idea of managing poverty. 

The KKE will take initiatives, at a nationwide, sectoral and local level so as to strengthen the mass class struggle, the people’s initiatives and solidarity in the partial fronts of struggle and at the general political level. It calls on the people to support politically as well as through their struggles the initiative of the KKE which tabled a draft law for the abolition of the memoranda, the loan agreements and the anti-people measures as a whole.

The KKE will be at the forefront of the struggles regarding the people’s income, collective bargaining agreements, social benefits and pensions, jobs, the rights of the unemployed and their families, public works for social infrastructure and housing programmes, for Education, Healthcare and welfare, against the privatizations, against the mergers of banks that lead to dismissals and reductions in salaries, against the dismissals in public sector, regarding the specific acute problems of the youth and women, the problem of drugs which is on the rise, to ensure medical treatment and medicine for all, for the salvation of the social security funds and the payment of salaries and pensions. 

Down with the taxes and the unjust levies. No repossessions and auctions for the indebted families of the popular strata. 

The trade unions, the mass organizations, the people’s committees must strengthen their solidarity while at the same time they should make demands and adopt militant forms of struggle. 

No one should be abandoned to the claws of the tax department and the other state mechanisms, homeless, without food, medicine with their children being driven to malnutrition. No one should be left alone against the repression and the authoritarianism of the state. 

The KKE with its proposal for the way out will be at the forefront of all these struggles along with the working people, the unemployed and poor who have gone bankrupt and cannot shoulder new burdens. 

We must reverse defeatism with the power of our proposal and by placing trust in the working people. We should contribute decisively so that the immense power of the people will be liberated from the bonds of the intimidating dilemmas, anticommunism, the intimidation and the authoritarianism of the employers and the state.

The consciousness of the people must be liberated so that the correlation of forces changes in favor of the people’s interests. 

The KKE calls on the workers to take part in the 38th festival, the major event organized by KNE and ODIGITIS, to participate actively in the mobilizations that will take place over the next period throughout the country and in Thessalonica. The members and the friends of the KKE and KNE must be in the frontline of the struggle with a spirit of self sacrifice in order to pave the way for the victorious course of the people. 

Athens 29/8/2012

The PB of the CC of the KKE

Mais alunos, menos professores

Tendo como objetivo analisar as condições de abertura e desenvolvimento do ano escolar 2012/2013 – mais alunos, menos professores e turmas gigantescas… –  e refletir sobre a situação social, política e económica do país e o seu impacto na Educação, tanto nas condições de organização e funcionamento das escolas, como no emprego e estabilidade dos docentes e na capacidade das famílias para que os seus filhos, com sucesso, frequentem a escola, a reunião do SN da FENPROF tomou também decisões sobre “a ação e a luta dos professores em defesa da Escola Pública e dos seus direitos sociais e profissionais”,  que estão, cada vez mais, a ser postos em causa.

Caracterizando a situação atual, Mário Nogueira alertou para a política de asfixia financeira que se abate sobre as escolas e para os números do desemprego a nível nacional (já são mais de 1 300 000 os portugueses sem trabalho) e entre os docentes, referindo os vários setores, do pré-escolar ao profisional e superior, do público ao particular e cooperativo, destacando, neste último caso, os despedimentos coletivos que têm sido provocados pelas entidades patronais.

Crato não conhece o balneário…

O dirigente sindical realçou os temas do desemprego docente e da instabilidade que marca a situação profissional dos docentes com “horário zero”, comentando assim algumas das declarações recentes do responsável do MEC: “Usando uma expressão dos meios desportivos, é caso para dizer que o Ministro Nuno Crato não conhece o balneário, ou seja, não conhece a sala de professores…”

“O ministro da Educação deveria ir a uma escola e tentar perceber qual é o estado de espírito dos professores, num momento em que nem sequer ainda começaram as aulas. Deveria perguntar aos professores o que pensam desta reforma curricular, o que pensam dos mega agrupamentos…”, disse.

“Ainda as aulas não começaram e já é visível o desgaste provocado aos professores”, registou Mário Nogueira, que afirmaria noutra passagem “Projetos nas escolas, para ajudar a combater o insucesso, são miragem… Só se houver “horários zero”. O resto é tudo cortado…”

Números do desemprego:
da fantasia à realidade…

“Onde é que estão os números fantasiosos do desemprego docente, de que falava o Ministro Crato? O MEC deixou de fora mais 40 por cento de professores. Isto é uma fantasia ou, infelizmente, um número bem real?”, interrogou.

Ainda a propósito de números, e da redução de alunos no sistema (14 por cento a menos nos últimos anos, segundo o Ministro), Nogueira sublinhou que “não é isso que dizem os números do GEP/MEC, mas mesmo que assim fosse como é que se justifica, em dois anos, um corte de 56 por cento de professores contratados, num cenário marcado também pela aposentação de cerca de 25 000 docentes desde 2006, com a entrada de apenas 396 docentes para os quadros…”

“Não há professores a mais. Foram, isso sim, tomadas medidas a mais para provocar esta situação de desemprego e instabilidade entre os professores”, acrescentou.

“Vincular” e mandar para rua?…

Nas declarações prestadas aos jornalistas presentes, Mário Nogueira chamou também a atenção para outra contradição do MEC de Nuno Crato: ao mesmo tempo que fala em vincular professores (garantia dada na Assembleia da República) fala da necessidade “inevitável” de reduzir o número de professores nos próximos anos…

O dirigente sindical lembrou que no setor privado quem tem três anos de casa fica efetivo e que o MEC mete na rua profissionais com 20 e mais anos de serviço e não com uns dias de trabalho, como disse o Ministro… “Não é assim que se deve tratar as pessoas. É precio respeitar estes profissionais”.

A clarificação das atividades letivas para os professores dos “horários zero” – “são todas as que envolvem o contacto direto com os alunos” – , a compensação por caducidade (“já vamos em 46 decisões dos tribunais”) e as ofertas de escola (“não pode ser um pronto a vestir, tem que respeitar as regras dos concursos”), são matérias, frisou Mário Nogueira, que a FENPROF quer apresentar  na reunião com o Ministro.

O Orçamento de Estado para 2013 é outra preocupação destacada pela FENPROF. Após cortes sucessivos nos últimos anos, perspetiva-se agora um nove corte na fatia para a Educação de 600 milhões. “Qualquer dia será preciso pagar taxas moderadoras para ir às aulas?…”

Ainda a propósito do OE, Mário Nogueira referiu-se à (também) difícil situação nas instituições do Ensino Superior, revelando que estão previstas, em breve, reuniões da FENPROF com o Conselho de Reitores e o Conselho Coordenador dos Politécnicos.

 

Here is the CGTP‘s assessment of the last troika evaluation.

The portrait presented to the country by the PSD-CDS government is a misleading one. It promises the return to growth already in 2013 – while the Bank of Portugal is still forecasting economic stagnation – following serious recession in the current year in which, with the imposition of successive sacrifices, the budgetary deficit will not be attained and public debt will continue to increase.
Despite the fact that interest rates of the debt titles are going down, the interest rates of 10 year obligations are still unacceptably high and subject to the “markets” speculation. Exports have maintained significant growth rates, but with less acceleration in the present year, while imports have fallen, due to lower purchasing power and drop of public and private investment. The message insists on cutting the external deficit, which means alleviating the need of funding the economy, without trying to assess if that is sustainable.
Therefore, a favourable scenario is being portrayed, in the precise moment in which the recession is deepening, unemployment grows yet again and more youngsters are leaving the country. This is serious,  not only because it is sowing illusions to try and lead to the acceptance of unfair sacrifices. September is a crucial month not just because there is another evaluation but also because the evaluation must be done in the light of what is being shown by the enforcement of austerity policies in several countries, including in Spain, but also of developments concerning the EU debt crisis. Besides being based on a wrong diagnosis, it is even more serious because the government has completely abdicated from its negotiating capacity.

A demonstration called by steel industry trade unions in the Liège area in October 2011 drew thousands. On the town square in Seraing, the crowd roared “All together! All together!” The sound echoed back from the nearby Standard de Liège stadium and from the ArcelorMittal blast furnace, standing idle a little further off. Ten days earlier the steelmaker had said it was closing its hot phase (1) facilities in Liège and nearly 600 jobs were on the line; and eventually the cold phase facilities might also close. Steelmaking, which had driven the regional economy for nearly 200 years, seemed doomed.

however as the article begun:

Liège, the ‘cité ardente’, has undergone considerable change. The disappearance of the mines and decline of the steel industry hit the city hard. But the saying ‘Do as they do in Liège, let it rain’ may no longer apply. For the economic capital of Wallonia, with a population of 200,000, or 600,000 including suburbs, is being reborn. The steel workers are battling to save its last blast furnaces; an underground system, trams and high-speed train station will transform its centre; and its film industry, starting with the Dardenne brothers, is booming. Now the city dreams of hosting host Expo 2017

When a group of artists took over the Teatro Valle, Rome’s oldest theater, in June 2011, nobody thought they would last long. Yet the artists, actors and crew members who first barricaded themselves in Valle soon grew into a crowd of fierce Occupiers who under the national media spotlight became the country’s foremost anti-austerity crusaders.

The past year has brought a great number of Italian theaters into the political spotlight in what might be considered the country’s parallel to the Spanish indignados or the Occupy Wall Street movement. Though two different efforts to kick-start an Italian version of the indignados failed—the first large one taking place in June and the second in late October of 2011—the ongoing Valle occupation is a unique response to the austerity crisis crippling much of Europe’s economy.

Matteo Bianchini, 24, an engineering student at Sapienza University of Rome and one of the 50 people currently occupying the Valle, explains: “We are not against the concept of privatization. What we don’t want is a form of privatization that only benefits [those who are] already rich. A privatization that is done by politicians for politicians. We decided we had to end that vicious cycle and take control of the theater ourselves in order to give it back to the people and the community.”

Today, similar occupations are underway at four other major theaters in Palermo, Catania, Venice and Rome, along with smaller theaters around the country. Over the past year, these scattered initiatives have become a single intertwined reality that has created a perpetual cycle of plays, shows, exhibitions and talks that move through the occupied stages of Italian cities.

Critics should also be reminded that in 1921, Teatro Valle staged the first performance of Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of Author,” a precursor to what would become known as the Theater of the Absurd. At the end of that show, the crowd chased Pirandello down the corridor and into his dressing room, shouting: “Mental hospital! Mental hospital!”

Inspired by Pirandello, the Valle’s Occupiers are defending their theater from an angry crowd that is shouting: “Austerity! Austerity!” 

Book review

Moreover, we are fortunate that these fragments survived because they provide us with searing glimpses into the nature of the Nazi occupation of Poland. As Shallcross compellingly shows, Szlengel, Ginczanka, Nałkowska, Miłosz, Andrzejewski, and Borowski all focused on the wartime fate of ordinary material objects in especially intense and vivid ways. They wrote about the seizing, sifting through, recycling, and abandonment of things, the detritus of genocide–sheets, desks, dishes, tables, shoes. In so doing, these early scribes of the Holocaust created some of the first attempts to represent the Nazi murder of European Jews. As Shallcross writes: “I believe that the nature of this genocide is representable, even though those who lived through it, and first spoke of it, were given no real opportunity or time to master strategies of representation that would express their experience. This representation occurs more vividly when the Holocaust experience is evoked through ordinary objects” (p. 11).

Two early writers of the Holocaust, along with Shallcross’s illuminating analysis of them, struck me most powerfully. The first writer is little known outside the field of Polish Jewish studies. Born in 1917, Zuzanna Polina Gincburg, who published under the pen name of Zusanna Ginczanka, was a noted poet in Warsaw’s interwar literary scene. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, she fled to her hometown of Równe and then to Lwów, before ending up in Kraków, where she was executed in December 1944 in a Gestapo prison courtyard. While Ginczanka wrote little during the war, her untitled poem of 1942, which somehow made it to a childhood friend who submitted it for publication in 1946, wrenchingly tells of plundering and death in Ginczanka’s own bedroom.

The ordinary objects of her bedroom function as props of murder. Ginczanka’s enumeration of her things in the poem, as Shallcross puts it, “becomes so intense that the reader can feel [them] almost tangibly” (p. 44). And yet this is not a poem of self-pity; it is one, rather, of jouissance in Shallcross’s reading. Ginczanka secured an uncanny victory over her perpetrators; she endowed her Polish neighbors–whom she called “my dear ones”–with the inheritance of permanent guilt for their participation in looting and murder, a guilt to which her blood-soaked goods would remind them long after the war had ended.

O, how they will work, like a house on fire,
Skeins of horsehair and sea grass,
Clouds from torn pillows and feather beds apart
Will cling to their hands, will change both hands into wings;
My blood will glue the oakum with fresh down
And will suddenly transform the winged to angels (p. 38).

Shallcross has rendered Ginczanka’s poem into English for the first time; the poem will now receive the broader audience that it most certainly deserves.

Borowski is the second early writer of the Holocaust whose poetry Shallcross examines with particular force. While Borowski has received no shortage of attention, Shallcross provides fresh analysis of his work. She examines, among other themes, the loss of tactility in his writings, analyzing the ending to Borowski’s “A Day at Harmenz.” Borowski concluded this story with the image of Becker, an older Polish Jewish prisoner who is near death, struggling to feel his way to his last meal. Becker is “vainly groping with his hand for the board to pull himself on to the bunk,” Borowski wrote (p. 117). Shallcross argues that Borowski articulated here the Nazi destruction of the human body and its sense of touch. He revealed a process of degradation that ended with the body turning almost into an object. In Borowski’s words: “I stared into the night, numb, speechless, frozen with horror. My entire body trembled, and rebelled, somehow even without my participation. I no longer controlled my body, although I could feel its every tremor” (p. 125).

Shallcross has written an erudite book that provides novel insights into a broad range of themes, including memory, representation, ethics, the human senses, and Polish Jewish relations. From my perspective as a cultural historian of memory and of the Holocaust, I see her book making two key interdisciplinary contributions. First, Shallcross labors, in many ways, as a cultural historian as much as she does as a literary scholar. Her analysis of Polish and Polish Jewish responses to the Holocaust as it was taking place (or just shortly after it ended) vividly reconstructs the Nazi destruction of Polish Jewry and the distinct literary encounters with human violence that the Holocaust engendered. Her book marks a significant addition to the historiography of the Holocaust. Second, Shallcross’s work enriches our understanding of early Polish and Polish Jewish responses to the Holocaust. Analyzing Miłosz’s poem “A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto,” she pauses to reflect on the significance of its creation: “To my knowledge, no non-Jewish author who lived under the terror of the Nazi rule would have signed an audacious poetic document of this caliber. The fact that Miłosz kept his poem close to him, in a suitcase, demonstrates an incredibly high level of both self-awareness and ethical conscience fused with a sense of responsibility” (p. 83). In analyzing the artifacts of writers who took up the ethical and precarious charge of testifying to the destruction engulfing and surrounding them, Shallcross has written an important book.

 

Michael Meng. Review of Shallcross, Bożena, The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture

here we can read an analysis of Portuguese Communist Party on the situation in Portugal (in Portuguese)

 Prediction: 2013 will be a year of serious global crisis. That crisis is predictable, and in fact has already begun. It will inescapably confront the next president of the United States. Yet this emerging crisis got not a mention at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We’ll see if the Democrats do better.

The crisis originates in this summer’s extreme weather. Almost 80% of the continental United States experienced drought conditions. Russia and Australia experienced drought as well.

The drought has ruined key crops. The corn harvest is expected to drop to the lowest level since 1995. In just July, prices for corn and wheat jumped about 25% each, prices for soybeans about 17%.

These higher grain prices will flow through to higher food prices. For consumers in developed countries, higher food prices are a burden — but in almost all cases, a manageable burden.

Americans spend only about 10% of their after-tax incomes on food of all kinds, including restaurant meals and prepackaged foods. Surveys for Gallup find that the typical American family is spending one-third less on food today, adjusting for inflation, than in 1969.

But step outside the developed world, and the price of food suddenly becomes the single most important fact of human economic life. In poor countries, people typically spend half their incomes on food — and by “food,” they mean first and foremost bread. When grain prices spiked in 2007-2008, bread riotsshook 30 countries across the developing world, from Haiti to Bangladesh, according to the Financial Times.   A drought in Russia in 2010 forced suspension of Russian grain exports that year and set in motion the so-called Arab spring.

Since the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian government has provided subsidized bread to the population. A disk of round flat bread costs about a penny. In the later 2000s, however, the Mubarak government found it could not keep pace with surging grain costs. As Egypt’s population doubled from 20 million in 1950 to 40 million in 1980 and now more than 80 million, Egypt has gained first place as the world’s largest wheat importer. The price rises of 2007-2010 exceeded the Mubarak government’s resources. Cheap bread vanished from the stores. Discontent gathered. In the August 18 issue of the British magazine The Spectator, John R. Bradley, an Arabic-speaking journalist long resident in Egypt, described what happened next:

“The conversations of tiny groups of Cairo’s English-speaking elites, and their Western drinking companions, were a world apart from talk among the Egyptian masses. … The main hope of those who poured into Tahrir Square was shared by the revolutionaries in Tunisia: that sudden and radical change would miraculously mean affordable food.”

And if food prices surge again? China is especially vulnerable to food cost inflation. In just one month, July 2011, the cost of living jumped 6.5%. Inflation happily subsided over the course of 2012. Springtime hopes for a bumper U.S. grain crop in 2012 enabled the Chinese central bank to ease credit in the earlier part of the summer. Now the Chinese authorities will face some tough choices over what to do next.

As part of Spain’s strict austerity measures, shoppers will now face a sharp increase in taxes on goods and services. Spain’s centre-right government on Saturday raised its main value-added tax (VAT) rate by three percentage points to 21 per cent as part of a drive to slash 65 billion euros ($82bn) from the public deficit by 2014 and save the country from a full international bailout. But most Spaniards are not happy about the tax increase. Cash-strapped Spanish shoppers and small businesses were resigned to more pain, as everyday living costs like heating, phone bills, clothes and haircuts all become more expensive following a hike in VAT.

In Portugal the maximum VAT are already in 23%: a robbery