Red Reading: Spectrezine's latest picks from recent publications

European Union
Public Services in Europe: From privatisation to participation

"Across Europe a major conflict is raging over the future of public services. On the one hand are those who believe that privatisation and liberalization is the only way to meet the needs of consumers, improve the efficiency of public finances and create a common European market allowing enterprises, professionals and workers to move freely. On the other hand are those who highlight the risks of privatising services that have been historically guaranteed and protected by the state, thereby depriving the public of democratic control over the way that their taxes are spent." Read Eurotopia's Public Services in Europe: From privatisation to participation

World Social Forum: A Spent Force?

After a disappointing World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi, Walden Bello asks whether it is still the most appropriate vehicle for the new stage in the struggle of the global justice and peace movement in World Social Forum at the Crossroads

World Trade Organisation: Free Trade vs. Small Farmers

"The 20th century was a terrible blight on small farmers everywhere. In both wealthy capitalist economies and in socialist countries, farmers paid a heavy price for industrialization. In advanced capitalist countries like the United States, a deadly combination of economies of scale, capital-intensive technology, and the market led to large corporations cornering agricultural production and processing. Small and medium farms were relegated to a marginal role in production and a minuscule portion of the work force. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, took to heart Karl Marx's snide remarks about the “idiocy of rural life” and, through state repression, transformed farmers into workers on collective farms. Expropriation of the peasants' surplus production was meant not only to feed the cities but also to serve as the source of the so-called “primitive accumulation” of capital for industrialization. Today, perhaps the greatest threat to small farmers is free trade. And the farmers are fighting back. They have helped, for instance, to stalemate the Doha round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This tug of war between farmers and free trade is nowhere more visible than in Asia." Read the rest of Walden Bello's article Free Trade vs. Small Farmers from Foreign Policy in Focus

NATO: US Missile Defence and Russia

US plans to build ballistic missile defences in Europe and further encircle Russia with NATO forces are triggering a new and dangerous rivalry. Read Praful Bidwai's New Cold War

France: Sarkoland

Will Nicolas Sarkozy's victory spark a new wave of unrest in the French suburbs, as predicted by an increasingly desperate Ségolène Royal, on the eve of Sunday's final-round presidential vote? Read Naima Bouteldja's answer in this Guardian article The same author writes on how the new President manipulated the French media during his election campaign And according to Mahir Ali, "the election of Sarko is a decision quite a few of those who voted for Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday
may come to regret before long." Find out why in Ali's znet piece "Right way ahead for France"

United Kingdom: Goodbye to a Bush's Zombie

Tony Blair announces his resignation and reveals his final day as prime minister will be 27 June. Read Tariq Ali's reflection on Tony Blair's days in office, Bush's Zombie Shuffles Off
Stage

Turkey: torn between God and state

"The candidacy of Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, for the presidential elections provoked massive demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara and aborted the voting process. The confrontation is between secularists and a ruling party with a neo-Islamic tinge, the popular Justice and Development party (AKP), which has overseen a sophisticated, fast-improving economy and the nation's candidacy for the European Union. The crisis arose from a contest for the soul of the nation, with nationalism at its core," according to Andrew Finkel. Read the rest

Iran-US standoff

Jan Oberg of antiwar group The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) writes to recommend a new report on this issue which his group has produced.

"The United States is the only in human history with a doctrine for beginning, fighting and surviving a nuclear war also against countries that don't have such weapons," Oberg writes.

"In March the British parliament voted by a wide margin to replace Trident nuclear submarines at a cost of anything between £20-70 billion pounds. At the same time, the permanent five at the UN Security Council reached agreement to impose tougher sanctions on Iran for her decision to continue small-scale enrichment of uranium for what she claims is peaceful purposes.

"And there is all kinds of - irrelevant - assertions that a Ballistic Missile Defence, BMD, is necessary to protect us against future terrorist organisations' mad designs while, in reality, the BMD aims to enable the United States to fight nuclear wars and survive unscathed."

Author of the report Professor Farhang Jahanpour, a British national of Iranian origin, adds,

"While nuclear powers have worked hard to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, they have not abided by their side of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On the contrary, they have further developed and upgraded those weapons, and have made them more capable of use on battlefields. Sadly, 37 years after its final ratification, the number of nuclear-armed countries has increased and at least four other countries have joined the club."

Prof Jahanpour's authoritative report deals with the real violations of the NPT and analyses the options available. He concludes that there is ample space for a negotiated solution and that the West would do wise to try to also see the issue in a historical perspective and take into accountIran's grievances concerning the United States. The more we move down the road of bellicose Diplomacy, rhetoric, sanctions and humiliations, the larger the risk of war.

Given the present mainstream media coverage of "the Iran issue" with its demonization of Iran, and its ignoring of the wider imperial perspective and the nuclear disarmament/NPT dimension, Dr. Jahanpour's report is one among several absolutely essential correctives.

Dr. Jahanpour spent 18 years at the BBC Monitoring Service covering the news from Iran, the middle East and North Africa.

Read the full text

Venezuela

As Venezuelan workers take control of foreign-owned oil fields and President Hugo Chavez stepped up his battle with Washington in a new wave of nationalisation and an announcement that the country would leave the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund , a newly-established web page from Global Policy Forum provides articles and papers on the threat of US military intervention in Venezuela.

Adios, World Bank!

"As the controversy around Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz’s uncertain future as president of the World Bank intensifies, the financial institution is not only losing supporters. It’s also losing victims. In Latin America, countries are paying off their World Bank loans early, cutting off ties with the Bank, and creating their own financing instruments to replace the world’s oldest multilateral lending agency. Unfortunately, the latest corruption scandal involving questionable promotions and outrageous salary increases for Wolfowitz’s girlfriend, Shaha Riza, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to doubts about the World Bank’s credibility, legitimacy and capacity to fulfil its stated mission of eradicating world poverty. Poor countries throughout the world should follow Latin America’s lead and desert the planet’s biggest hypocrite," argues Nadia Martinez in this article in Tom Paine. Read the rest