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Catarina Príncipe: First Days, First Decisions (Jacobin)

Syriza has only been in power for a week, but debates are already raging inside and outside the party.

Serge Halimi: A modest and crazy dream (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain offer a chance at change in Europe’s politics, possibly the only escape from a despair which is inflaming the nihilism and extremism that led to the events in Paris.

Renaud Lambert: Now can Podemos win in Spain? (Monde diplomatique)

Syriza in Greece has a natural ally in Spain’s Podemos, the leftwing party that grew out of the demonstrations of 2011 and challenges the political status quo.

Panagiotis Sotiris: A Strategy of Ruptures: Ten Theses on the Greek Future (Viewpoint)
Mehreen Khan: The biggest debt write-offs in the history of the world (Telegraph)

A small southern eastern European country has announced a widescale programme of debt cancellation. No, it’s not Greece, but Croatia.
The Croatian government will be wiping off the liabilities of around 60,000 of its poorest citizens in a move to provide a “fresh start” for its indebted low-earners and get the economy moving again.
Although much of the current debate among Europe’s policymakers seems to regard debt relief as the ultimate taboo, the move for a government to cancel their citizens’ liabilities, or for a sovereign to be forgiven by its creditors, is not nearly as unprecedented as we might think…
Following the end of WWII, the London Debt Agreement of 1953 saw the abolition of all of Germany’s external debt. The total forgiveness amounted to around 280pc of GDP from 1947-53, according to historian Albrecht Ritschl…
In the words of historian Ursula Rombeck-Jaschinski, Germany’s “economic miracle would have been impossible without the debt agreement.”…
Greece’s new government is pushing for a debt conference on the lines of that which saved Germany from its post-war abyss. At more than €300bn, the Syriza-led coalition wants a nearly half of its debt pile to be permanently wiped off. So far, the country’s Troika of creditors are not playing ball.

„Deutschland ist der größte Schuldensünder des 20. Jahrhunderts“ (Spiegel)

Deutschland hat im 20. Jahrhundert zwei Weltkriege begonnen, den zweiten davon als Vernichtungs- und Ausrottungskrieg geführt – und anschließend haben die Feinde die Reparationszahlungen ganz oder in beträchtlichem Umfang erlassen. Dass die Bundesrepublik ihre wirtschaftliche Blüte der Gnade anderer Völker verdankt, hat auch in Griechenland niemand vergessen.

Russia might bailout Greece – finance minister (RT)

Jan Erik Wetzel: Space shrinking for freedom of expression in South Korea (Open Democracy)

The right to freedom of expression in South Korea is under renewed attack. On 19 December, the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), finding it had violated the country’s “basic democratic order”. The court also ordered that all UPP lawmakers in the National Assembly should lose their seats.
The court found that the UPP had the “hidden objective of realising North Korean style socialism”, based on party activities which purportedly included “assemblies to discuss insurrection”. The court’s decision referred, among other things, to “acts of refusing the national anthem and not raising the national flag” as indicative that the UPP “advocates the positions of North Korea”…
The UPP judgment has to be seen in conjunction with the widened and arbitrary application of South Korea’s infamous National Security Law (NSL) over recent years, which has diminished the space for freedom of expression…
The latest clampdown involves two women who organised and talked about North Korea during a speaking tour in South Korea in November. The US national Shin Eun-mi was deported earlier this month for speaking positively about North Korea, while the South Korean citizen Hwang Seon was arrested on 14 January and has been charged under the NSL for causing “social confusion” by holding the talks, and praising the North Korean regime on YouTube and in blog posts.

Hyun Lee: A Korean American Housewife Confronts South Korea’s National Security Law (Japan Focus)

On January 10, after detaining her for questioning on charges of violating the National Security Law (NSL), South Korea deported U.S. citizen Shin Eun-mi and barred her from returning to the country for the next five years. For the past two months, the Korean American housewife made daily headlines in South Korea after her speaking tour on her travels to North Korea sparked controversy and became the target of right-wing attacks. At one of the events, the detonation of a homemade bomb forced the evacuation of 200 people. South Korean authorities interrogated Shin for more than 50 hours before deporting her and arresting activist Hwang Sun who emceed the speaking tour.
“The gap caused by national division runs very deep in South Korean society,” says Shin. Indeed, in a year, 2015, that marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula, the Park Geun-hye government seems intent on silencing all those who advocate peaceful unification. The deportation of Shin and the arrest of Hwang follow on the heels of South Korea’s dissolution of the opposition Unified Progressive Party and growing concerns about intensifying government crackdown on free speech. The South Korean Ministry of Justice recently announced that it will push to strengthen the controversial NSL to allow the Supreme Court to disband organizations it deems “anti-government.”

Houria Bouteldja, Malik Tahar Chaouch: The Unity Trap (Jacobin)

After the armed attack on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the political and media exploiters of the emotional reaction to these events made a catchphrase of the words “national unity.” In so doing, they masked the attack’s social and geopolitical causes, and began a witch hunt against anyone who refused to submit to their agenda.
The “war on terror” — a weapon of theirs based on the supposed defense of “freedom” against “obscurantism” and “barbarism” — thus serves to consolidate the social and political order that contributed to this violence in the first place. Indeed, it suppresses any struggles that challenge these structures — including the fight against Islamophobia.

Richard Seymour: Sandbox Security (Jacobin)

In France, police bravely defend liberal democracy from an eight-year-old boy.
That “free speech” again. French press brings us news of a little boy named Ahmed who “glorified terrorism,” and was duly shipped to the police by the teacher and head of school.
Apparently, when asked in class on January 8 if he was “Charlie,” he replied that he was not. He didn’t like Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons, and that his feelings were with the terrorists. “I am the terrorists, because I am against the cartoonists of the Prophet.”
The head of the school later apprehended Ahmed while he played in a sandbox, saying “stop digging in the sand, you will not find a machine gun there to kill us all with.” Subsequently, the boy’s father accompanied him to school on a couple of occasions, Ahmed being rather distressed and out of sorts by the treatment he was subjected to.
Then on January 21, the head of the school decided to press charges against the little boy and his father. The boy was reported to police for “glorification of terrorism,” and the father for “trespassing” when he accompanied the boy to the school. Both father and son were forced to report to the police station in Nice to answer these charges.

Shlomo Sand: A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe (CounterPunch)

[T]here exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

Walden Bello: How the Left Failed France’s Muslims (CounterPunch)

The real breeding ground for extremism stems from the treatment of immigrant groups within Europe. Racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination have driven a generation of young migrants to radical movements as a solution to an absence of job prospects, poor education, deteriorated neighborhoods, lack of respect, and repeated bouts in jail. Ironically, the crackdown on these communities in the aftermath of the attacks could potentially escalate the problem.

Gideon Levy: A Labor win will only entrench the occupation / רק לא הרצוג (Haaretz)

On the most fateful issue, another term for Netanyahu would be a disaster, but a victory for Zionist Camp could be a worse disaster…
The Labor Party is the founding mother of the settlement enterprise; it never considered stopping it.
Its historical responsibility for the occupation is greater than Likud’s. The Labor troika of Golda Meir, Yisrael Galili and Moshe Dayan founded it, Shimon Peres continued it, and Herzog will go down the same path.

Gideon Levy: Zionist Camp reveals its true, racist face / המחנה הביזיוני (Haaretz)

The party that some hoped would defend Israeli democracy from attacks by the right wing has now joined the assault…
In the case of Zionist Camp it’s the decision to support the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) from running for the Knesset. With a left like this, we don’t need Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman anymore…
If Zionist Camp disqualifies Zoabi, a brave, authentic and legitimate candidate who hasn’t hurt a fly and who reflects the views of her voters, the Arabs of Israel and lovers of democracy will know: On this issue too, there is no difference between the right wing and this left wing…
But in its decision, Zionist Camp proved something much deeper and more significant: In Israel of 2015, Zionism and democracy cannot go hand in hand; there is an inner contradiction, inherent and unavoidable, between contemporary Zionism and the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, and there is of course also a deep contradiction between “Jewish” and “democratic.”
From that point of view, Zionist Camp has made a great contribution to the truth: There is no such thing as “Jewish” and “democratic.” In its decision, Zionist Camp has chosen “Jewish” at the expense of “democratic”: Zionist Camp knows that behind the decision to disqualify Zoabi is the transparent desire to remove all the “Zoabis” from the Knesset. There is no such thing as a democracy, where elected officials are prohibited from criticizing, as Zoabi is accused of doing, a member of their own people for serving in a police force that kills other members of their people.

Zeev Sternhell: Why the election in Israel will change nothing (Haaretz)

A radical change will not happen here as long as the present regime does not bring about a major national crisis. A failure such as Operation Protective Edge is not enough, since the heavy price of that conflict was paid primarily by the Palestinians.
Therefore, the realistic alternative lies in external intervention that will be massive enough to shake Israelis out of the placidity of their comfortable lives.
Only when everyone among us can feel the price of the occupation in their flesh, will the end to blue-and-white colonialism and apartheid come. Only when the economy is hit in a way that affects the overall standard of living, or when security is undermined as a result of a serious threat to American interests in the region, will the real treatment for eliminating the occupation and guaranteeing our future begin.

Mike Whitney: 40 Years of Economic Policy in One Chart (CounterPunch)

Growth of Real Hourly Compensation for Production/Nonsupervisory Workers and Productivity, 1948–2011
Is America in the throes of a class war?
Look at the chart and decide for yourself. It’s all there in black and white, and you don’t need to be an economist to figure it out.

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