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24/06/2016: Tories Out! General election now! Fight for a 24 hour general strike

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Budget 2016-17

24/06/2016: The digits change but reality remains a nightmare for most

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Britain
EU referendum

23/06/2016: Whatever the result, political turmoil is ahead

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Student protests win important victory

23/06/2016: Education ministry retreats over increased tuition fees

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Italy
Prime Minister Renzi’s party routed

22/06/2016: Five Star mayors elected in Rome and Turin

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Ireland
The left wing case for leaving the EU

22/06/2016: Article by Paul Murphy, Irish MP and former MEP and CWI member

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Hong Kong
New protests as kidnapped bookseller speaks out

22/06/2016: Gangster methods of China’s regime exposed

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Ireland
This weak government can be beaten

21/06/2016: “The reality is that a small clique of hard-left, Trotskyite politicians, who are quite upfront about seeking to overthrow the current system, are now arguably setting the political agenda.” (Shane Coleman, Irish Independent 17 May 2016)

  Ireland Republic

 Pakistan
Women health workers protest in Sindh

21/06/2016: Lady Health Workers organisation protests at non-payment of wages

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Britain
EU referendum

19/06/2016: Whatever the result, political turmoil is ahead

  Britain

US
Stand together against bigotry, war and terrorism

17/06/2016: Orlando – massive wave of solidarity with LGBTQ community

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Asia
Conflict in the South China Sea

16/06/2016: Territorial disputes resemble pieces on a ‘geopolitical chessboard’ as the US and China struggle for hegemony in Asia

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Middle East
ISIS under pressure on several fronts

15/06/2016: Working classes, through bitterest of experiences, will take to road of mass struggle again

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France
Massive protest demonstration in Paris

15/06/2016: Workers march as Senate debates hated labour law reform

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 US
Over 100,000 sign petition for independent Sanders challenge

13/06/2016: Surge in support for petition initiated by socialist councillor Kshama Sawant

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US
Orlando massacre

13/06/2016: Stand with our LGBTQ Sisters and Brothers! Fight back against Scapegoating & Islamophobia!

  US

Belgium
New trade union action plan

13/06/2016: “The cup is full !”

  Belgium

Egypt’s workers in revolt

12/06/2016: Review of "The Egyptians: a radical story"

  Egypt

Environment
EU green myths

11/06/2016: The truth about the EU and the environment

  Environment

EU
Left parties turning against bosses’ Europe

10/06/2016: Progress in Portugal and Spain, confusion in Britain

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History
China’s ’Cultural Revolution’ 1966-67

10/06/2016: 50 years ago the ’Cultural Revolution’ began in China.

  China, History

Britain
Youth and the EU referendum

09/06/2016: Fight for our future, starting with a Leave vote to smash the Tories

  Britain

Muhammad Ali
A fighter who inspired millions

09/06/2016: Establishment forced to incorporate his legend into re-writing of history

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Review
The working-class case against the EU

08/06/2016: Review of ‘And The Weak Must Suffer What They Must?’ by Yanis Varoufakis

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China
1989 mass movement and June 4 massacre

08/06/2016: Video by CWI comrades in China and Hong Kong

  China, History

Greece
Victory for Athens bus cleaners

07/06/2016: Strike action wins major concessions from contractors and bus administration

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Northern Ireland
Biggest union votes to support exit from the EU

06/06/2016: Union and Labour leaders should join NIPSA and other combative unions in opposing bosses’ club

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Venezuela
On the brink of collapse?

04/06/2016: Counter-revolution gaining ground

  Venezuela

Germany
After party conference, where is DIE LINKE going?

03/06/2016: SAV/CWI member Lucy Redler elected to national committee

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Portugal
Lisbon dockers victory against precarious work

02/06/2016: Militant strike action blocks bosses attempts to undermine collective bargaining

  Portugal

Britain
Tories tearing themselves apart over EU referendum

01/06/2016: Socialists say, ‘Vote Leave to get Cameron out!’

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France
Fight against Valls/Hollande government intensifies

31/05/2016: Gauche Revolutionnaire statement underlines vital need for political alternative

  France

Spain
Left government on the horizon in June elections

31/05/2016: Establishment parties panic as Podemos and United Left agree joint election challenge

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Greece
Bus cleaners renew strike after management’s broken promises

29/05/2016: "Triple-oppressed workers - immigrants, women and low-paid – show way forward"

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Congo
Day of Protest 26 May

28/05/2016: New massacres in mineral-rich region

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Tunisia

Salafist rampages bring worst violence since last year

www.socialistworld.net, 09/07/2012
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Interview with a revolutionary activist

Socialistworld.net

In the middle of June, days of rioting in Tunisia, supposedly triggered by an art exhibition in a suburb of the capital, Tunis, considered as ‘blasphemous’ by fanatical religious groups, left at least one person dead and 62 injured. Salafist groups - probably helped by elements linked to the fallen regime - armed with knives, clubs and Molotov cocktails, attacked shops, set police stations on fire, raided offices of the trade union and of political parties, and clashed with the police for several days in different parts of the country. Socialistworld.net spoke to a Tunisian revolutionary activist sympathising with the ideas of the CWI on the recent developments and their implications.

What are the origin and the context in which this violence has taken place?

In order to understand the recent events, it is important to realise first that the social climate in Tunisia has been extremely tense for several months. Nothing has changed, and there is a complete failure of the government’s policies to address the root causes of poverty, unemployment, rising prices, and so on. There have been continuing tensions between the government and the trade unions, and numerous strikes in all sectors of the economy, to which the authorities have responded with increasing hostility, including using militias to break them up. The government is desperate to find a way to prevent the working class from expressing its discontent and defending its interests.

Another important element is that a secular right-wing faction (people who are painting themselves as ‘progressive’ but who are organised around some elements of the old dictatorial regime, such Caid Essebsi, the ex-provisional Prime Minister) is re-affirming itself in opposition to the present Ennahda-led government.

Both of these wings are not happy that the debate in society has been dominated by social questions for weeks now. The leading party Ennahda is trying to avoid talking about these things as much as it can. And it has been a regular feature since last year that those in power are trying to divert attention from social questions and to feed division by exploiting issues related to religion and identity.

The picture given is that there is a supposed fundamental cleavage based around the place of religion in society. But for the majority of people, these are secondary questions. The most crucial needs to be addressed are jobs, infrastructure and social development, justice to the martyrs’ families, etc. On all these questions the government is hopeless and increasingly discredited.

It is within such a context that the violence launched by Salafist groups has taken place. One can only wonder if the fact that they are taking place now is a pure coincidence.

What triggered these riots?

It is a petty issue. A painting exhibition was supposedly at the heart of all this. The Salafists pretended that the paintings were against Muslim values, and wanted everybody to believe that religion was in danger because of a few supposedly unbelieving artists who were attacking God. Beyond the fact that this relates to the freedom of expression, the idea that this art exhibition was hurting Islam is not even true.

Some radical Imams and Salafist groups incited the violence. Moreover, the number two leader of Al-Quaeda, Ayman Zawahiri,made a public declaration just on the day before, calling Tunisian Muslims to rise up against a so-called “non-Islamist” government and to demand the application of the Shariah law.

In a matter of a few days things took an uncontrollable turn. Once the riots had begun, all sorts of bandits and marginalised and deprived youth took the streets as well. What followed were days of street violence and clashes between mainly Salafists and the riot police, in different parts of the country. These riots, however, didn’t have a large appeal or popular support. Contrary to the attitude of the population during the recent citywide general strikes that we have witnessed in many regions, the mass of the people didn’t take part but stayed on the sidelines.

What was the reaction of the government?

The government has been playing a balancing game with the Salafists since the beginning, and it continues to do so. On the one hand, Ennahda itself regularly tries to exploit religious sensitivities for its own political and electoral purposes, and generally didn’t intervene when the Salafists engaged in violent actions, in order not to hurt its own more radical base of support. Especially when the Salafists are taking action against left activists or attacking the trade unions, as happened on many occasions in the recent period, the government remained generally silent or lenient.

But this time they could not ignore the fact that these actions were provoking mass outrage among the population. At the same time, the government had been recently more and more pressurised by business people from the tourism sector, as well as by imperialist countries, to do something about these fanatical groups who by their actions are not favouring a “good climate for investment” and for the tourists to come back visiting the country.

That’s why they went for a crackdown, endorsing police intervention, the Interior Ministry even declaring that they would be willing to use live ammunition to quell further unrest (which they did, shooting dead one man in Sousse), and called the people involved in the riots “terrorists”, “extremists”, etc. The authorities imposed a 9pm-5am curfew in the capital, Tunis, as well as in seven other regions of the country, and arrested over 160 Salafists.

However, this still went hand-in-hand with proposals by Ennahda leaders to implement repressive laws condemning those who supposedly disrespect religious sensitivities, as well as with a call by the same party to demonstrate with “our Salafist brothers” after Friday’s prayers. But ultimately they pulled back from this last call, as its provocative character was “over the top”.

What is the appreciation of the government among the population?

It is clear that Ennahda has dropped dramatically in popularity, and has not the same margin of manoeuvre that they used to have in the past. Whenever a representative of the government travels into the regions, he is booed or his presence provokes clashes. I don’t think Ennahda will be able to repeat a score of over 40% in the elections as they did last November. A lot of people have voted Ennahda the last time, but won’t do it anymore.

Obviously Ennahda still maintains a certain base of support but it has been reduced. That’s why they had a tendency, despite their initial ‘moderate’ profile, to lean more and more upon radical elements to survive.

But people are angry that Ennahda is ruling with the same methods of brutality and nepotism as the RCD used to do. The party is using repressive laws set up by Ben Ali to deal with opponents, it places loyal figures in every sphere of the State, in the media, in the administration, in the justice system, and so on.

That is precisely why a figure of the old regime such as Essebsi has been able to make a comeback onto the political scene, by trying to exploit the rising popular anger against the ruling coalition (“coalition”, by the way, is an exaggerated term, as in reality the so-called troika doesn’t really exist: it is Ennahda which is the commanding machine of all this). Hence it is more than a possibility that old regime loyalists have also been involved in the recent clashes, in order to fuel a ‘strategy of tension’ which, they hope, would benefit this particular wing of the ruling class.

The working class especially is fed up with empty promises. The recent complementary budget which has been passed through in the Parliament is a provocation: it empties the pockets of the poor to give to the even poorer sections of society. Some subventions for poor families, as well as the construction of new social housing units have been decided, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the needs, and is mainly based on sharing misery instead of attacking the interests of the rich. It is also a way for the new regime to seed division between workers and the other layers of the poor, the unemployed, etc. That’s about all this government is capable of offering.

What is the response of the left in the present situation?

Faced with the danger of an emerging pole around Essebsi on the one hand, and the troika with its ambivalent attitude towards the Salafists on the other, the left needs to encourage and build an independent working class pole based on the UGTT and on the genuine demands of the revolution. We need to re-centre the debate on the issues that really matter for the people; the question is not of religious and non-religious people, but about fighting together for a society based on decent living standards for all, creating jobs for the unemployed, cleaning the State machine, etc.

The left organisations have a noticeable influence in the trade unions, but the problem is often that the political expression that they give to their work is below what is needed and doesn’t match the rapid radicalisation which is taking place among the masses in struggle. Some on the left, though they remain marginal at this stage, are even arguing now that faced with the danger of “islamisation” of the country, we should forget for a moment our strategic ambitions, and make an alliance with Essebsi and his clan.

We are willing to establish the necessary connection with the broader working class. For that purpose we need to stand uncompromisingly for the refusal of the payment of the debt inherited from the tyrant Ben Ali, for the nationalisation of the banks and of the big companies, for a steady development of the infrastructure on the basis of a massive public investment programme, especially in the interior regions.

We say there is no point of arguing against the present power if it is to fall back in the arms of people linked with the regime that the revolution just got rid of. During the recent crisis, we have encouraged initiatives based on the organisation of the people themselves to defend their neighbourhoods and their integrity against the violence of the Salafists. But we also fought consistently to defy the curfews imposed by the State and against police brutality, as we don’t want a State-imposed solution, with the military, the police and the national guard controlling our streets, as such a scenario would inevitably make our own struggle much more difficult.



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NEWS

Britain: After the referendum
24/06/2016, Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary:
Tories Out! General election now! Fight for a 24 hour general strike

Pakistan: Budget 2016-17
24/06/2016, Muhammad Khan Ahmedani Socialist Movement Sindh, Pakistan:
The digits change but reality remains a nightmare for most

Britain: EU referendum
23/06/2016, Editorial from the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Whatever the result, political turmoil is ahead

Taiwan: Student protests win important victory
23/06/2016, CWI Taiwan:
Education ministry retreats over increased tuition fees

Italy: Prime Minister Renzi’s party routed
22/06/2016, Chris Thomas, ControCorrente (CWI Italy):
Five Star mayors elected in Rome and Turin

Ireland: The left wing case for leaving the EU
22/06/2016, Originally published on sluggerotoole.com:
Article by Paul Murphy, Irish MP and former MEP and CWI member

Hong Kong: New protests as kidnapped bookseller speaks out
22/06/2016, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong):
Gangster methods of China’s regime exposed

Ireland: This weak government can be beaten
21/06/2016, By Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance MP and Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) member:
“The reality is that a small clique of hard-left, Trotskyite politicians, who are quite upfront about seeking to overthrow the current system, are now arguably setting the political agenda.” (Shane Coleman, Irish Independent 17 May 2016)

Pakistan: Women health workers protest in Sindh
21/06/2016, Sughran Khaskheli:
Lady Health Workers organisation protests at non-payment of wages

Britain: EU referendum
19/06/2016, Editorial of the Socialist, issue 906:
Whatever the result, political turmoil is ahead

US: Stand together against bigotry, war and terrorism
17/06/2016, Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative:
Orlando – massive wave of solidarity with LGBTQ community

Middle East: ISIS under pressure on several fronts
15/06/2016, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
Working classes, through bitterest of experiences, will take to road of mass struggle again

France : Massive protest demonstration in Paris
15/06/2016, Naomi Byron in France for The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
Workers march as Senate debates hated labour law reform

US: Over 100,000 sign petition for independent Sanders challenge
13/06/2016, socialistworld.net:
Surge in support for petition initiated by socialist councillor Kshama Sawant

US: Orlando massacre
13/06/2016, Immediate reaction from Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative councillor, Seattle:
Stand with our LGBTQ Sisters and Brothers! Fight back against Scapegoating & Islamophobia!

Belgium: New trade union action plan
13/06/2016, Nicolas Croes, PSL-LSP (CWI in Belgium):
“The cup is full !”

Egypt’s workers in revolt
12/06/2016, Christine Thomas:
Review of "The Egyptians: a radical story"

Environment: EU green myths
11/06/2016, Claire Laker Mansfield, originally published in Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
The truth about the EU and the environment

History: China’s ’Cultural Revolution’ 1966-67
10/06/2016, Edited version of article written by Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe for Militant (predecessor of the Socialist) in February 1967.:
50 years ago the ’Cultural Revolution’ began in China.

Britain: Youth and the EU referendum
09/06/2016, Editorial from the Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
Fight for our future, starting with a Leave vote to smash the Tories

China: 1989 mass movement and June 4 massacre
08/06/2016, Socialist Action (CWI) reporters in Hong Kong:
Video by CWI comrades in China and Hong Kong

Greece: Victory for Athens bus cleaners
07/06/2016, Eleni Mitsou (Xekinima - CWI Greece) and Apostolis Kasimeris (Board Member of OASA - Athens Bus Workers’ Union):
Strike action wins major concessions from contractors and bus administration

Northern Ireland: Biggest union votes to support exit from the EU
06/06/2016, Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Union and Labour leaders should join NIPSA and other combative unions in opposing bosses’ club

Venezuela: On the brink of collapse?
04/06/2016, Tony Saunois, Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI):
Counter-revolution gaining ground

Germany: After party conference, where is DIE LINKE going?
03/06/2016, Michael Koschitzki, SAV (CWI in Germany):
SAV/CWI member Lucy Redler elected to national committee

Portugal: Lisbon dockers victory against precarious work
02/06/2016, João Félix Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal):
Militant strike action blocks bosses attempts to undermine collective bargaining

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Asia: Conflict in the South China Sea
16/06/2016, This is an abridged version of an article by Vincent Kolo, originally published on chinaworker.info.:
Territorial disputes resemble pieces on a ‘geopolitical chessboard’ as the US and China struggle for hegemony in Asia

EU: Left parties turning against bosses’ Europe
10/06/2016, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Progress in Portugal and Spain, confusion in Britain

Muhammad Ali: A fighter who inspired millions
09/06/2016, Hugo Pierre, Socialism Today (originally published in 2003):
Establishment forced to incorporate his legend into re-writing of history

Review: The working-class case against the EU
08/06/2016, Hannah Sell, article from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Review of ‘And The Weak Must Suffer What They Must?’ by Yanis Varoufakis

France: Fight against Valls/Hollande government intensifies
31/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Gauche Revolutionnaire statement underlines vital need for political alternative

Austria: Only 31,026 votes prevent far right’s Hofer becoming president
24/05/2016, Sonja Grusch, SLP (the Austrian section of the CWI):
‘Breathing space’ offers chance to build a fighting, democratic left alternative

Britain: EU referendum exposes gaping political fault-lines
24/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
New road can open up for labour movement if working class relies on its own forces

Brazil: Fall of President Dilma Rousseff unleashes offensive against working class
19/05/2016, André Ferrari, LSR (‘Freedom, Socialism and Revolution’ - CWI Brazil):
The impeachment process and historic crisis of the PT (Workers’ Party)

Ireland: ‘Jobstown trials’ to go ahead
18/05/2016, Kieran Mahon, Anti-Austerity Alliance / Socialist Party Councillor, Dublin:
Government loses battle on water charges but wages war on Left

Saudi Arabia: Gathering storms over the House of Saud
13/05/2016, Serge Jordan, CWI:
Collapse of oil prices expose fragile foundations of oil Gulf monarchies

France: New stage in battle over labour law
12/05/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI:
Hollande’s decision to over-rule parliament provokes another round of struggle

Ireland: 100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly
12/05/2016, Three articles on Connolly’s life and ideas :
Revolutionary socialist, militant workers' leader and internationalist

Belgium: Trade unions announce new plan of action
11/05/2016, LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium) Reporters:
Call for two national demonstrations, building towards general strikes

Britain: 90th anniversary of epochal general strike
05/05/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) general secretary:
When workers tasted power

Israel/Palestine: The Marxist left, the national conflict and the
Palestinian struggle

29/04/2016, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
The necessity of a class approach and a socialist alternative

France: One-day strike set for 28 April
26/04/2016, Alex Rouillard, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France):
A final stage before indefinite action against Hollande’s government?

US: The un-Democratic Primary
22/04/2016, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative Seattle, originally published on counterpunch.org:
Why we need new party of the 99%

Capitalism: a failing system
18/04/2016, Peter Taaffe, from May edition of Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
A new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, analyses the downward course of the US economy – and the limits of the whole capitalist system

Review: ’Militant’ by Michael Crick
14/04/2016, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) general secretary:
Lessons of Militant vital for anti-austerity struggles today

US election turmoil
01/04/2016, By Tony Saunois (CWI Secretary) who recently visited the US for meetings of Socialist Alternative:
Bernie Sanders campaign - an opportunity to build a new party of the 99%

Britain: A new moment
28/03/2016, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales), published in April 2016 issue of Socialism Today:
Extracts from a statement discussed at the Socialist Party’s recent congress

Ireland: 100th anniversary of Easter 1916 Rising
26/03/2016, Cillian Gillespie, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
A revolt against imperial power and war

History: When Khrushchev denounced Stalin
26/03/2016, Niall Mulholland, from Socialism Today (April 2016 issue of the monthly journal of Socialist Party, England & Wales):
1956 ‘secret speech’ a devastating blow to Stalinist regimes

11th CWI World Congress: World Perspectives
22/03/2016, socialistworld.net:
Amended agreed version of the World Perspectives document agreed by the CWI’s 11th World Congress

Germany: Big gains for right-wing, nationalist, AfD in state elections
22/03/2016, Sascha Stanicic, Sozialistische Alternative (CWI in Germany):
DIE LINKE (Left Party) urgently needs to change course