Weekly News Review Archive

Saturday, March 17, 2001

Tobin Tax Illegal in European Union

In an answer to a question posed by Swedish Left Party Euro-MP Jonas Sjöstedt, the European Commission has clearly stated that a so-called Tobin Tax, a small tax on cross-border transactions designed to diminish global capital speculation, would be forbidden under the EU's rules. A Tobin Tax, named after the economist who first proposed it, is supported by a number of broad-based movements including ATTAC (The Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions to Aid the Citizens), as well as by leading politicians in a number of EU member states. According to the Commission, such a tax would be forbidden under a number of articles of the Treaty of Rome, the EU's fundamental law. Free movement of capital and the right freely to speculate are written into the Treaty. The Commission clearly states in its answer that a member state may not therefore impose such a tax, either independently or by taking part in an international agreement. Even were the member states to agree unanimously to introduce a Tobin Tax at EU level, the Commission is of the opinion that this would be incompatible with the Treaty. "The Commission's answer shows that theEU is a hindrance to any attempt to find solutions to the negative effects of the globalisation of capital, and not a help," said Mr. Sjöstedt. "In the debate on EMU some supporters of the Euro argued that it could limit speculation, but the Commission clearly does not share this view. On the contrary, it is the EU's own rules which stand in the way of international co-operation to address the problem. If centre-left governments in the EU are serious in their support for a Tobin tax then they should be demanding a revision of the Treaty," Sjöstedt concluded.

Australia: DSP calls for a Socialist Electoral Alliance

The Democratic Socialist Party of Australia has written to other left parties and prominent left activists to initiate discussions around fielding common 'Socialist Alliance' candidates in the coming federal elections. The DSP is seeking discussions with other parties at the national and local level but will also be approaching left activists in the trade union and other social movements who are not in parties. The DSP has been studying the development of left electoral alliances in other countries, in particular the British and Scottish left's experiences with socialist electoral alliances. The most interesting feature of those experiences is that most of the active groups, in a notoriously fractious left, supported the alliances. In Australia, the left is not nearly as divided. However, until recently, many of the other active left parties there, in particular the International Socialist Organisation, have been opposed to running in parliamentary elections. Now it appears that the ISO is making a major change in its approach to elections and may be prepared to participate in a socialist electoral alliance. "This would be a welcome development," commented a spokesperson for the DSP. "Like the DSP, the ISO leadership now also recognises that the rise of an anti-corporate movement is creating the widest audience for left-of-Labor politics for more than two decades." The DSP, ISO and most o the other socialist groups in Australia do not believe that fundamental social change will be brought about simply by electing socialist candidates to parliament. "The state and federal parliaments are thoroughly and institutionally corrupted and controlled by the corporate rich," the spokesperson continued. 'These institutions provide a 'democratic' facade for the real rulers - the super-rich families that own the corporations and banks.' This means that the main emphasis of the DSP and other left groupings is on building a progressive extra-parliamentary mass movement that, in the DSP's words, 'can create new democratic institutions that are independent of the capitalist ruling class. There has been a lot of debate in the left about how best to advance the progressive extra-parliamentary movement and around the M1 project of anti-corporate tyranny strikes and mass blockades on May 1; much of the active left is coming to a consensus and beginning to work together.' A united socialist federal election campaign would clearly complement a successful May 1 mobilisation. Socialist electoral alliances would not necessarily have to hinge on the participation of the ISO. But it is clear that any socialist electoral alliance that does not involve either of the two largest and most active socialist parties in Australia - the DSP and ISO - would be unlikely to have much credibility among the growing radical layer of the population. DSP candidates and activists will be campaigning actively for socialist alliances over the next few weeks. For a more detailed analysis or information you can email the DSP, or visit there well - organised website

'Quote of the Week'

"From the standpoint of historical statistics, the most obvious abnormality is the ever-widening gap in the distribution of income and wealth in this country, made all the more alarming by the nature of the discrepancy. Since 1980, taxes on the labour in this country have isen substantially in the form of the FICA tax charged both workers and their employers. Fifteen percent of all labour costs go directly to the federal government today, harming both workers and small businesses... When all taxes are factored in, a nurse's aide trying to raise two children is paying a greater percentage of her income to Washington than Bill Gates."

Mary Schweitzer, associate professor of economic history at Villanova University, USA . See more on Schweizer's views at her website

Iraq: Sanctions the cause of 1.5 million deaths

Ten years of sanctions, imposed on Iraq by the world community after the Gulf war, have brought about the death of 1.5 million people, mostly children. Although this information is contained in a report submitted by the Iraqi government to the U.N. Secretary-General, entitled 'The impact of the current embargo on Iraqi children', figures quoted come from a study undertaken by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), whose experts came to the conclusion that the mortality rate among children under five in the densely populated areas of Iraq is twice as high as that registered ten years ago. Polluted water, the absence of high-quality foodstuffs and of medical supplies in public health centres are mentioned in the report as the main reasons for the growth of infant mortality rate. During the period of sanctions Iraq was moved from comparative wellbeing to widely spread poverty, the report said.

Actions Update: Demostrations, Campaigns, Conferences, etc.

For this first news bulletin I would like to mention a campaign that has been taking place every month since 1993. The 'Close Campsfield Campaign' has been active for some time and is aimed at bringing public attention to the disgraceful treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by the British government. Furthermore, the campaigners are calling for the closure of the refugee centre at Campsfield, near Oxford, and are organising a national network to coordinate similar ampaigns throughout Britain. A demonstration takes places the last Saturday of every month from 12-2 outside the gates at Campsfield. Monthly meetings also take place the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in Oxford Town Hall. For more details see the campaign website. See also The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

A little something to make you smile....

Below is the actual radio conversation of a US navy ship and the Canadians, off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. Although it is not related to anything in particular I thought some of you might find it amusing.

CANADIANS: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South, to avoid a collision.

AMERICANS: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the North, to avoid a collision.

CANADIANS: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

AMERICANS: This is the Captain of the US Navy ship. I say again divert YOUR course.

CANADIANS: Negative. I say again, you will have to divert your course.

AMERICANS: This is the aircraft carrier US Lincoln. The second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We ar accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I say that again, that's 15 degrees North, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

CANADIANS: We are a lighthouse. Your call.

Compiled By Ian Kitching (Spectre Youth Representative)