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Political spectacle of the ruling class

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February revolution 1917
What lessons for today?

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South Africa

ANC returned to power in landslide

www.socialistworld.net, 09/05/2009
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

As class polarisation continues, black working class voters vest their hopes in Zuma …for now!

Weizmann Hamilton, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in South Africa)

The recently elected South African president Zuma will be formally sworn into office today (9/05/09) in a lavish ceremony attended by heads of state from around Africa and the world. Weizmann Hamilton, from the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in South Africa), examines the reasons behind Zuma’s victory in the fierce struggle inside the ANC, the class issues behind the recent elections and the prospects for another ANC term of office.

Socialistworld.net

On 22 April, in a record turnout that reversed falls in voter registration and polling in the two previous elections, 17.9 million voters -- the highest number since the first democratic elections in 1994 – returned the African National Congress (ANC) to power in a landslide, falling short of a two-thirds majority by a fraction of a percentage. The Democratic Alliance, a predominantly white right wing capitalist party, came a distant second with a little over 16%, followed by the ANC breakaway, Congress of the People, (Cope) led by former Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary and Gauteng ANC chairperson and premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, and former Defence Minister and ANC national chairperson, Mosiuoa Lekota, with just under 7.5%.

The ANC won an absolute majority in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal for the first time. Although the ANC lost its status as the biggest party in the Western Cape province, its main rival, the DA, failed to win an outright majority

Predictably the ANC leadership attributes the victory to the confidence of the masses in its policies, its effective election campaign, history and loyalty to the party of liberation, explaining its policies to the masses who “understood what we were saying.”

ANC leaders relieved

The triumphalism of the leadership is understandable, but it is also tinged with relief. For the last four years, and especially over the past eighteen months, the ANC was torn apart by the deepest divisions since its founding in 1912 as internal conflict shook the oldest liberation movement on the African continent to its foundations.

Mbeki’s resignation after being recalled from the presidency – the culmination of a rebellion by the party rank-and file that began after his dismissal of Zuma as the country’s deputy president in 2005 -- detonated the split that gave birth to Cope and with it, a genuine fear within the ANC leadership that the party would suffer a crippling decline in electoral support.

Opinion polls consistently predicted that the ANC was at risk of losing a number of provinces and its two-thirds majority. Internal ANC assessments, open divisions in the provinces, tensions in the ANC Youth League, the SACP and Cosatu all showed an ANC in the grip of a debilitating factional war which threatened the decisive majority it had enjoyed thus far. Following Cope’s launch entire branches defected to it from the ANC. Cope’s membership exploded to a claimed 500,000 with the leadership making confident predictions that over 50 senior ANC members would resign and join it.

The election results appear to confirm the ANC as the unquestioned party of the masses that will rule, in Zuma’s controversial words, “until Jesus comes”. However, the real significance of these elections lie in their confirmation of the ANC’s continued decline.

ANC’s support continues to fall away

Despite the fact that Cope’s performance did not match the hype or the expectation raised by its meteoric growth in membership, its emergence has changed the political landscape. With 1.3 million votes it is represented in the national parliament and in every provincial legislature. That its membership could grow half a million within weeks of its formation last October, is an indication of the desire for an alternative which initially swept not just the middle class but also workers and youth into its ranks. With the class character of the leadership and its programme now clearer, workers would have left just as quickly as they joined. Workers are more interested in jobs, education, housing -- the more mundane concerns of everyday life - rather than abstract issues like the ‘rule of law’ which the Cope leadership was pre-occupied with. The membership is now in all likelihood much smaller and mainly middle class. Nevertheless, much more significant than its size is the fact that it came out of the ANC, and cannot so easily be dismissed.

A closer examination of the election results show that although the ANC remains the dominant party by far, in percentage terms its majority has been reduced from 69.2% to 65.9% nationally, losing 33 seats. The fact that the ANC has fallen below two-thirds symbolises a loss of the momentum of history. Its aura of invincibility has been dented.

In the provincial elections held simultaneously, its support declined in eight of the nine provinces, by more than 10% in four of them. In the Western Cape, for the first time, the DA inflicted a decisive defeat on the ANC, coming very close to obtaining an outright majority.

The ANC’s convincing 62% victory in Kwa Zulu Natal had much more to do with the historic demise of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a party that collaborated with the apartheid regime, acting as its instrument in the notorious “black-on-black” violence that claimed over 20,000 lives in the early 1990s. Zuma also unashamedly flaunted his Zulu origins, portraying himself as a loyal adherent of the less progressive features of Zulu culture, appealing particularly to the rural voters - previously a bastion of IFP support.

In absolute numbers, the ANC increased its votes by just over 750,000 compared to 2004. However, amongst the big three parties, its share of the 3 million plus newly registered voters was the smallest. The DA’s increase was 1 million and Cope came from nowhere to take 1.3 million. More importantly, the ANC’s additional 750,000 votes came entirely from Kwa Zulu Natal which, as the Sunday Independent (26/04/09) points out, accounted for nearly a fifth of the ANC’s total vote nationally.

Whereas its 10.8 million in 2004 proved sufficient for a near 70% parliamentary majority in 2004, 11.6 million was not enough for even a two-thirds majority in 2009. As in 2004 its parliamentary majority masked its decline in support in the eligible voting population, as a whole. The ANC’s massive 2004 majority resulted from a decline in participation in the elections by disillusioned voters across all social classes but particularly the minorities, the middle class, youth and sections of the most marginalised of the working class who either did not vote or did not even bother to register. The ANC had merely received the biggest share of a smaller cake.

The ANC’s 11.6 million votes constitute only 34.8% of the 30 million eligible voters thus continuing the descent revealed in 2004 when its 0.8 million votes translated into 38% of the eligible voting population. As in the previous election, in 2009, the number of people who did not vote, 12.4 million (7 million unregistered plus 5.4 million registered) was greater than the number who voted ANC – 11.6 million. In percentage terms, as well as relative to the eligible voting population, the ANC’s vote was lower than at any time since the defeat of apartheid in 1994, despite the R200 million it spent in the most expensive election campaign ever.

Its overwhelming majority reflects its position in parliament vs. the opposition parties -- not within the population as a whole.

Social polarisation – the basis of the ANC split

The political stage in the drama of the ANC split may have been overshadowed by the two dominant political actors of the last decade – Mbeki and Zuma. But the material basis for the split in the ANC was the class polarisation in society accelerated by the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist policies of which the conflict between the Mbeki and Zuma factions was an indirect expression. The spectacular profits of the still predominant white capitalist class and the enrichment of their apprentices - the BEE mafikizolo black capitalists – while millions of working class people have to make do with welfare grants to stave off absolute poverty, have sharpened the antagonisms between the classes.

In his first address to the nation as ANC president, Zuma took the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of the “longest period of economic growth in SA history” generally associated with and attributed to Mbeki’s allegedly astute leadership in economic policies. Ironically, it is this very boom – for 40 consecutive quarters during the late part of which (2004 -2007) economic growth averaged more than 5% - that laid the basis for the split in the ANC forcing the Zuma-led faction to oust Mbeki - the alleged architect of SA’s economic growth.

But claims of economic policy success disregard both the impact of the growth on SA’s economy and its social effects. Apart from the increased neo-colonial dependency of the SA economy on imperialist countries, the deepening poverty of the masses, persistent mass unemployment, homelessness, exclusion from education, lack of access to decent health care, the HIV/Aids pandemic (claiming 1,000 lives a day), a dismal record in the delivery of basic services, rampant corruption, the horrifying escalation in crime and the worst inequalities in the distribution of wealth in the world – these are the “achievements” of the golden age of economic growth whose virtues Zuma extolled in his first address as president of the ANC in January 2008.

Although competition for access to state resources, opportunities for self-enrichment and the prestige of senior positions in government and state institutions is an important ingredient in the factional conflict, this is a secondary factor in the split. The ANC split came about because of conflicting reactions of the two factions to the growing discontent of the masses and the escalation in the class struggle: the service delivery protests and the increase in strikes in the workplace struggles, most spectacularly in the 2007 public sector strike – the biggest, longest and most highly politicised strike against the ANC government since it came to power.

Buoyed by the support of Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and the SACP (South African Communist Party), Zuma has portrayed himself as a champion of the poor and the marginalised. Cope, on the other hand, represents that faction of the pro-capitalist ANC elite which, recognising the sharpening class antagonisms, concluded that the ANC cannot continue to portray itself as the party representing the interests of all classes when it is in fact a capitalist party. Cope leaders wanted the ANC to have the courage of its class convictions – to come out of the closet and portray itself as unashamedly capitalist. In that sense, Cope is the ANC shorn of its revolutionary pretensions – a more honest version of itself.

According to former deputy defence minister (now Cope leader) Mluleki George: “The Alliance used to work but now the South African Communist Party wants to control it…We have to drop the language of Stalinism and the national democratic revolution and move beyond the constraints of an outdated alliance. People from the left, including the Communist Party, are welcome but if they want to take the revolution onto its second [‘fully Marxist’] stage, they need to go elsewhere.” (Mail & Guardian Online 17.10.09)

Zuma government cannot deliver

The Sunday Times’ correspondent, Fred Khumalo, explained (12.04.09) that Zuma’s second name, Gedleyihlekisa, is the shortened form of a Zulu sentence meaning “I won’t keep quiet when someone deceives me with a beautiful smile while he is doing damage to me”. As he accedes to the presidency, while his chief tormentor wanders around in the political wilderness, Zuma has good reason to feel the gods are smiling on him after all his travails.

Zuma was acquitted in a rape trial that his supporters claimed had been a “honey trap”. Just weeks before the elections, the corruption charges, so spitefully reinstated shortly after his victory over Mbeki for the presidency of the ANC, were dropped, this time finally. The revelations of political manipulation of the prosecution vindicated Zuma’s claim of a political conspiracy. But there is a Xhosa expression: “be careful what you wish for. You may just get it”.

Zuma is taking over as president at the worst possible time. The world economy is facing the most serious crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The boom that Zuma claimed credit for is over. The SA economy, integrated into and dependent even more on the world economy over the past 15 years, is described by the Economist as the most risky of all emerging markets, as it nose-dives towards its first recession in 17 years. The government is forecasting a budget deficit of 3.8% for the year through March 2010. In February it cut the tax revenue target by R50 billion because of falling profits in the miming industry, which accounts for 30% of exports. Unemployment is expected to swell by half-a-million by the end of the year.

The ‘Polokwane revolution’ was more than simply in opposition to Zuma’s persecution by Mbeki. It was a rebellion against the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist policies that had wreaked havoc on the lives of the masses for more than a decade. Both factions, Mbeki’s and Zuma’s, bear equal political responsibility for these policies. Contrary to what many may believe, Polokwane did not reinvent the ANC. “The Zuma ANC succeeded through a shrewd election strategy in portraying itself more as an opposition party intent on righting the wrongs of the Mbeki era than as the party in whose name the abuses took place.” (Business Day 04.05.09) The party that was created historically to fulfil the class aspirations of the emerging black capitalist class remains committed to the preservation of capitalism. The capitalist ANC leopard has not changed its spots.

The assurances given to big business at home and imperialism abroad that there will be no fundamental changes in economic policy are a recipe for social conflict. The capitalists’ answer to the economic crisis is to make the working class pay. Zuma will continue to come under enormous pressure from big business to maintain the anti-working class policies of the last fifteen years. If it was not possible to address even the most basic needs of the working class majority during a boom, how is it going to be possible to do so in a recession?

As the overwhelmingly dominant party voted in by the working class majority, the ANC was bound to reflect within itself the class polarisation within society as a whole. The 2009 elections were a continuation on the broader electoral plane, of the anti-neo-liberal capitalist Polokwane rebellion that took place within the ANC. The pressure on the Zuma government from the capitalist right will be matched by the working class pressures from the left. The Cosatu leadership, in particular, which has invested enormous political energy, political capital and material resources into the Zuma campaign, will be required to show a return on that investment or face the wrath of their members.

Already, even before the new government has taken office, there are tensions initially over secondary matters, such as appointments to government posts within the Tripartite Alliance of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu. In an early indication of the contradictory class pressures bearing down on the ANC, national treasurer Matthews Phosa made it clear that “the ANC’s good economic policies would be entrenched by the new government and the SACP would not alter their course. Nobody will change these policies because they are members of the communist party in the cabinet. I don’t see how Nzimande (can) come and dictate SACP policy on the ANC.” (Star Business Report 16.04.09)

Sdumo Dlamini, the Cosatu president, told The Sunday Independent (19.04.09) that the ANC was “regressing to a Thabo Mbeki-style marginalisation of the alliance.” Complaining about a pattern of deliberate exclusion of alliance partners in the selection of provincial premiers, Sdumo Dlamini spoke of the presence in the ANC of anti-communist and anti-worker sentiment. “We can’t accept that. The ANC was rescued by the workers. This is why I say it is a declaration of war.”

Political turning point in post-apartheid SA

The 2009 elections represent a political turning point in post-apartheid SA. The idea that the ANC can be challenged has been legitimised. The overwhelming support it has been given from those who voted is not unconditional. Many workers voted on the basis that they want to give the party of liberation one more chance. The Zuma government’s honeymoon will be short. If it fails to address workers’ needs, a split within the Tripartite Alliance will be posed.

The factional tensions that came to a head at Polokwane continued beyond the conference and only subsided as the election campaign took off. But they have not gone away. Suspicions remain and will resurface as the incapacity of the Polokwane resolutions to resolve the problems of the working class become clear ripping apart what is more a ceasefire than unity.

The Cope split is only a precursor of future splits. Whereas Cope’s exit from the ANC was to the right, future splits will be to the left. They will not necessarily occur neatly along the fault-lines of Cosatu/SACP ANC class divide. The objective conditions for an alternative on the left are present.

Unfortunately, the creation of a mass anti-capitalist alternative is being blocked by the “official” left - the Cosatu and the SACP leadership. The number of Cosatu members who want the federation to break from the Tripartite Alliance and form a mass workers’ party has grown from 30% (in the September 1998 Naledi survey on workers’ political attitudes) to over 90% in 2008. Standing in the path of the workers is their own leadership, which is determined to reform capitalism instead of mobilising to abolish it.

Precisely at a time when the scale and depth of the worldwide capitalist crisis provides the opportunity to make the case forcefully for socialism, the SACP leadership’s nails its colours to the mast of the capitalist market. Its Freedom Day statement, like the analysis of the world economic crisis by Nzimande and SACP deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin, makes no reference to socialism whatsoever. In a Sunday Times debate with the DA’s Ryan Coetzee, Cronin makes it clear not only that the communist party is not opposed to the capitalist market, but describes it as more efficient than Soviet-style central planning! The SACP declares its confidence in capitalism at a time when capitalist governments the world over are engaging in the biggest nationalisations in capitalist history.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) campaigns for a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme. We believe that the social raw material for a mass anti-capitalist movement is already present in working class communities involved in service delivery protests; in the now regular student protests against financial and academic exclusions from tertiary education institutions and in workplace struggles. What is needed is for these tributaries of protest to flow together into one mighty anti-capitalist river.



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NEWS

Solidarity: #JobstownNotGuilty international day of action a huge success
28/03/2017, socialistworld.net :
Over 30 protests around the world and 88 MPs/MEPs pledge support

Russia/Belarus: A week-end of mass protests
27/03/2017, Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) Reporters:
New spring of protest opens up, as 1,000s arrested

Hong Kong: Creeping “coup” by Chinese dictatorship
27/03/2017, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) :
Defend the four Hong Kong legislators

Britain: Terror attack at Westminster
24/03/2017, Judy Beishon, from the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) website :
Unite against terror, racism and war

Belarus: Protesters flood onto streets demanding scrapping of “law against parasites”
21/03/2017, Daniil Raskolnikov (translation of article from the Russian CWI site www.socialist.news):
President Lukashenko must go!

Spain: Student strike empties classes and fills streets on 9 March
21/03/2017, Sindicato de Estudiantes (SE), Spanish Students' Union :
Over 100,000 take to the streets in SE demonstrations

Scotland: Second referendum on independence?
18/03/2017, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) :
SNP fire the starting gun but offer no solutions to austerity

South Africa: Unity against poverty, crime and xenophobia
17/03/2017, Shaun Arendse, Workers and Socialist Party (CWI South Africa):
Capitalist politicians use xenophobia to divert attention from failures of profit system

International Women’s Day: March in Malaysia and week of activity in Belgium
16/03/2017, socialistworld.net :
Reports from Kuala Lumpur and Brussels

Netherlands: Election result a colossal defeat for austerity government
16/03/2017, Pieter Brans, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Netherlands), Amsterdam:
Oppose Wilders and the ‘mainstream’ right – Build a mass workers’ party that struggles for socialism

Russian Revolution: March 1917 - After the fall of Czarism, what next for the revolution?
16/03/2017, socialistworld.net:
New article on 1917revolution.org

Hong Kong: Protest against LSG Sky Chefs dismissal of union chairman
14/03/2017, Sally Tang Mei-ching, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) :
Ng Chi-Fai sacked for organising union by multinational’s Hong Kong division – international solidarity needed

Quebec: Counter protest against far-right
13/03/2017, Michele Hehn, Alternative Socialiste (CWI in Quebec) :
Rise of Islamophobia and right-wing reaction poses new challenges to the left

International Women's Day: Speech by Kshama Sawant
12/03/2017, Socialistworld.net :
Video of 8 March rally in Seattle

International Women’s Day: Millions join marches and take action
10/03/2017, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Socialists around the world demand an end to women’s oppression

Hong Kong: Women’s march against sexism and racism
09/03/2017, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) reporters:
International Women’s Day: “Solidarity with global mass protests and women’s strikes”

Spain: Hundreds of thousands participate in International Women’s day student strike
08/03/2017, Sindicato de Estudiantes, students’ union in the Spanish state :
‘Libres y Combativas’ and Sindicato de Estudiantes call strike against sexist violence and for working class women's rights

Pakistan: Political spectacle of the ruling class
08/03/2017, Tariq Shahzad, National Organiser of IYWM (International Youth and Workers Movement) :
Most workers underemployed, 40% in poverty - situation demands new workers’ party

Britain: Massive demo shows battle to save the NHS can be won
06/03/2017, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) deputy general secretary :
Up to 250,000 march in national protest, organised from below

Egypt: Price hikes hit workers and middle classes
04/03/2017, David Johnson, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) :
Falling support for dictator Sisi portends growing opposition

Hong Kong’s sham election
03/03/2017, Dikang, Socialist Action:
Pan-democrats sink to new low by supporting “lesser evil” John Tsang

US: Socialist response to Trump’s address to joint session of congress
02/03/2017, socialistworld.net:
Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative councillor, speaks

Catalonia: Historic demonstration in Barcelona in support of refugees
25/02/2017, Esquerra Revolucionària :
'Volem acollir'

Sweden: “Who could believe it?"

24/02/2017, Per-Åke Westerlund, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
What is behind Trump's attack?

Britain/Ireland: Dublin's #JobstownNotGuilty
23/02/2017, Neil Cafferky, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
Defend the right to protest - stop this political vendetta!

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Italy: Democratic Party splits and 5-Star Movement in crisis
22/03/2017, Marco Veruggio, ControCorrrente, (CWI in Italy) :
Class struggle can build real left force

Brazil: National day of strikes and protests shows Temer can be beaten


17/03/2017, André Ferrari LSR (CWI in Brazil) :
For a one-day general strike as the next step

Yemen: Workers and their families left to starve by multi-billionaire companies
16/03/2017, Cedric Gerome, CWI :
International campaign needed to force companies to pay

Ireland North: Snap election raises sectarian temperature    
14/03/2017, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast :
Workers need strong socialist alternative at ballot box and in unions

International Women’s Day 2017: A century on from the Russian Revolution
06/03/2017, Clare Doyle, CWI :
Demonstrations world-wide swelled by anti-Trump anger

February revolution 1917: What lessons for today?
21/02/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales), printed in the Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party):
23 February 1917 (8 March in today’s calendar) marked the beginning of the socialist revolution in Russia, which sparked a revolutionary wave that would travel around the world.

India: Upheaval in Tamil Nadu
09/02/2017, Sajith Attepuram, New Socialist Alternative (NSA) (CWI India) :
Corruption, nepotism, and other crimes of ruling party exposed

Britain: Universal basic income demand gains ground
08/02/2017, Judy Beishon, from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales) :
What approach should socialists take?

CWI and Izquierda Revolucionaria – Towards unification
06/02/2017, Socialistworld.net :
Joint declaration of the CWI’s IEC and Izquierda Revolucionaria’s IEC

France: After Sarkozy, Juppé and Valls, now Fillon is on the way out
06/02/2017, Alex Rouillard, Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) :
Space opening up to left of Socialist Party

Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?
03/02/2017, Serge Jordan (CWI) :
New movements for change will need to arm themselves with the lessons of the Syrian tragedy

Sri Lanka: The year 2017
31/01/2017, Siritunga Jayasuriya, United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) :
Between oppression and struggle

Canada: Where are Trudeau’s ‘Sunny Ways’?
31/01/2017, Tim Heffernan, Socialist Alternative (CWI Canada), Toronto

:
Battles of Indigenous peoples, youth, workers will test Liberal government

Russian Revolution Centenary: January 1917 - On the eve of revolution
29/01/2017, Niall Mulholland, from 1917revolution.org :
War, hunger, hated Tsarist regime: class tensions reach breaking point

Afghanistan: The limits of US power
28/01/2017, Judy Beishon, from Socialism Today (February 2017 issue), monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)<br />
<br />
:
Imperialism’s 15-year adventure a bloody catastrophe for millions

US: Build 100 days of resistance to Trump’s agenda!
27/01/2017, Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative, US :
Establishment deeply divided as mass resistance explodes

Millions on women's marches around the world
25/01/2017, Editorial from the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) and reports from US marches :
Reports from mass women's marches against Trump

China: New US President’s approach to China
21/01/2017, Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info :
Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

Ireland North: Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly
17/01/2017, Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast :
Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

Spain: What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?
17/01/2017, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Spanish state, editorial :
Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

US: Trump prepares vicious attacks
05/01/2017, Philip Locker and Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative (US):
Mass resistance needed!

Russian Revolution centenary
02/01/2017, Editorial from Socialism Today, Dec/Jan 2017 edition:
Defending the legacy in a new era

2017:Upheaval and fightback will continue
01/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary :
Everything to play for in 2017

Britain's shifting political contours
22/12/2016, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) from Socialism Today Dec/Jan 2017 edition :
Capitalist establishment in disarray

CWI International Executive Committee: European capitalism “battered by events”
16/12/2016, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) :
Report of discussion on Europe at CWI IEC meeting in November