Mark Bergfeld

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New struggles, new unions? On the Pop-Up Union at Sussex University

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This article was first published in Ceasefire Magazine

April 18, 2013

A piece on an innovative trade union tactic pioneered by workers fighting privatisation at Sussex University

The struggle at Sussex University is the latest in a series of student rebellions against austerity and neoliberalism in our universities. Occupy Sussex held Bramber House for 55 days and called a successful 2,000-strong demonstration against the outsourcing of 235 non-academic jobs. It has shown us how students can resist university managers implementing their new fees regime.

The response by trade unions at Sussex University has, in contrast, lagged behind. The three campus unions – Unison, Unite and UCU – have finally called a membership consultation ballot nearly a year after the campaign began. But this welcome step forward would not have happened without a new factor: the Pop-Up Union recently founded by Sussex workers, which has pushed for ballots, built and supported Occupy Sussex, and argued for escalating the battle against Sussex management. (more…)

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McNally’s monsters, Georgy Lukács and hegemony – Can the Market Speak?

This book review was first published in the Berlin Review of Books on 05 April 2013

When first reading Campbell Jones’s Can the Market speak? I simply treated it by the author’s self-imposed standards: a philosophical enquiry into the market and “the structure of the ideas and fantasies that come with the category of the market” (7). If I had finished writing this book review before Cypriot bank heist and the run on banks it would have probably remained at the level of summarizing the book, and making some snarky comments on particular points I liked or didn’t like.

Protests outside the House of Representatives in Nicosia, Cyprus, in November 2012. (Photo: Tco03displays, source: Wikimedia, modified and used under Creative Commons ASA3.0 Unported License)

Protests outside the House of Representatives in Nicosia, Cyprus, in November 2012. (Photo: Tco03displays, source: Wikimedia, modified and used under Creative Commons ASA3.0 Unported License)

The euphemistic ‘Stability Levy’, which would steal up to 10 per cent from people’s savings, breathed new life into the wide-ranging critiques of the  market advanced by Campbell Jones. The question I asked myself was whether this short book could give meaning to this European Lehman Brothers moment  and the ensuing collapse of the market the following Monday morning. In his book, Campbell Jones argues that there is a long history of personifications of the market. Adversaries and apologists of the market alike have attributed human characteristics to non-human entities to display the powers of capitalism. (more…)

Event: Marx is Muss-Kongress, Berlin – 9-12 May, 2013


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From 9-12 May, the Marx21 network of Die Linke is organising its yearly 350-strong congress. I have been invited to speak on the German Revolution of 1918-1923 (watch my talk in English here) . Yeah, it’s been that long since Germany has witnessed some struggle.

Well, there’s The Left Party – die Linke – which elected its new leader Bernd Riexinger last year. One of his very first actions was to fly down to Greece to show solidarity with striking workers on the same day that Angie was meeting her Greek puppets. The same year ten thousands mobilised against the biggest Nazi-demonstration in Dresden and 30 000 participated in the Blockupy-demonstration against the ECB in Frankfurt. There even have been some strikes in the restaurant chain MAREDO.

This congress will unite the anti-capitalist movement, radical workers and die Linke activists. It will be a unique opportunity for radicals from across the Eurozone and beyond to learn and debate Marxism, capitalism’s crisis and the global movements against it.

Last year, I participated in a one-day workshop series on Marx’s theory of revolution, listened to Panagiotis Sotiris from ANTARSYA, a SYRIZA MP, Miguel Sanz Alcantára from the SAT in Andalucia, Christine Bucholz MP for die Linke, Tariq Ali, some dude from the Pirate Party who had just woken up and many other activists and popular authors such as Dietmar Dath who has just written a new introduction to Lenin’s The State and Revolution. I missed the People’s History of Berlin walking tour but I will definitely participate this year.

For more information check out: http://marxismuss2013.wordpress.com/

Portugal: “I prefer the horses in my lasagne to the donkeys in the government”

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04 March 2013

I was invited to write this article for MRZine the Monday after 1.5 million people marched against austerity across Portugal on March 2

Last Saturday’s ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ (Fuck the Troika) demonstrations represent a quantitative as well as qualitative shift for the anti-austerity movement in Portugal. In more than 40 towns and cities across Portugal 1.5 million people (800 000 in Lisbon) took it to the streets against the government’s slavish submission to the dictates of the Troika of IMF, ECB and EU. In the wake of the first demonstration by ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ on September 15, an on-going militant dockers’ strike and a general strike on November 14 of last year, Saturday’s demonstration is starting to tackle the unfinished business of the 1974 Portuguese Revolution. (more…)

Where next for the student movement?

students-carrying-placard-007First published in Socialist Worker (UK)7 Dec 2010

We have seen another huge outpouring of student anger onto the streets of Britain this week.

School, college and university students are once again coming out in their thousands to oppose the coalition’s plans to triple tuition fees and scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. And this week is by no means the end of it.

The vibrancy and energy behind the university occupations, school walkouts and local and national protests will not be halted by warm words—or by any parliamentary vote.
(more…)

Sparks fly over Günter Grass poem criticising Israel

images (2)First published in Socialist Worker (UK) 

17 April 2012

Günter Grass, the German writer and Nobel laureate, has been in the headlines recently for his poem “What Must Be Said”.

The poem criticises Israel for its nuclear weapons arsenal and the German government for selling submarines to Israel. It warns that an Israeli attack on Iran could wipe out the Iranian people.

This has caused commentators and politicians from all Germany’s mainstream political parties to accuse Grass of antisemitism. (more…)

Review: Lucio Magri – The Tailor of Ulm

9781844676989-Tailor-of-Ulm-December 2011

First published in Socialist Review

Lucio Magri’s memoir of his time in the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the most successful Communist party in Western Europe, is a story of confrontation and compromise.On more than 450 pages he traces the party’s and his own political trajectory, often spicing it up with personal anecdotes.

Magri joined the PCI in the mid-1950s. He believed that the communists had been the best fighters against the fascists. Those achievements, however, would far outweigh anything the party would accomplish in the years up to its disbandment in 1991. (more…)

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