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Third anniversary of Zhanaozen massacre marked

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Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road

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‘Economic miracle’ – a neo-liberal nightmare for the masses

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A turbulent period in history

27/11/2014: Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

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Right wing, populist UKIP wins second Parliament seat

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Metalworkers’ union expelled from COSATU

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Catalonia
9 November “consultation” on independence

22/11/2014: Another show of strength for independence - fight for a Socialist Catalonia

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Greece
Workers’ victory at Diamant telesales company

21/11/2014: Xekinima (CWI) member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

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Netanyahu threatens “heavy hand” response to synagogue attacks

19/11/2014: New rounds of repression answered by new wave of rage and protest

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Mid-term elections do not mean a turn to the right in society

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Indonesia
"New Hope" president faces intense pressures

16/11/2014: Initiative to build mass party of working class and rural poor urgently needed

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Ukraine
Competing ’elections’ deepen divisions

15/11/2014: Working people need socialist alternative to warring oligarchs and outside powers

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Mayors refuse to make job cuts

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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

Kazakhstan: Third anniversary of Zhanaozen massacre marked
18/12/2014, Socialistworld.net:
Struggle to free political prisoners continues

Taiwan : Kuomintang’s landslide election defeat redraws the political map
17/12/2014, Vincent Kolo and CWI Taiwan reporters:
Taiwan’s ‘Sunflower Movement’ and democracy protests in Hong Kong fuel massive rejection of ruling party

Italy: Mass support for general strike expresses anger at PD government
15/12/2014, Chris Thomas, ControCorrente (CWI Italy):
New political voice vitally needed

Ireland: Mass water charges protest on 10 December
15/12/2014, Cillian Gillespie, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Dublin City centre came to a standstill as different marches made their way to the Dáil

Sweden: Political crisis and new elections
15/12/2014, From articles in Offensiv, weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden):
Right-wing alliance relied on racist party to defeat budget

Greece: Government brings forward presidential election
12/12/2014, Slightly edited article from the current issue of Xekinima newspaper (CWI in Greece):
Kick out the austerity government and Troika! For a Syriza government with bold socialist policies!

Video: Paul Murphy speaks at mass Dublin water charges protest
11/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
For a new political movement to bring the "mob" to power

Greece: Violent clashes over prisoner hunger strike
09/12/2014, Xekinima Reporters:
Cruel and vengeful actions by the State and ruling elite

Video: All out on 10 December against water charges!
09/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger speak in Irish parliament

US: An Uprising Against Police Violence
08/12/2014, Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative:
From Ferguson to Staten Island

Mexico: Anger grows over missing Mexican students
04/12/2014, Led by the families of the 43 students who disappeared two months ago, thousands of protesters marched through Mexico City on 20 November to demand answers and action from the government.:
Dave Carr

Philippines: ‘Economic miracle’ – a neo-liberal nightmare for the masses
30/11/2014, By a CWI correspondent in Philippines:
Forced evictions, poverty wages and repression is the reality for millions

Britain: Right wing, populist UKIP wins second Parliament seat
26/11/2014, Editorial from The Socialist, weekly paper of the Socialist Party (England & Wales):
Labour’s pro-austerity ‘opposition’ no alternative

South Africa: Metalworkers’ union expelled from COSATU
25/11/2014, WASP Reporters:
Rebuild the trade union movement on socialist principles!

Catalonia: 9 November “consultation” on independence
22/11/2014, Rob MacDonald Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain) Barcelona:
Another show of strength for independence - fight for a Socialist Catalonia

Greece: Workers’ victory at Diamant telesales company
21/11/2014, Xekinima Reporters:
Xekinima (CWI) member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

Video: Joe Higgins denounces Irish government’s water charge trickery
20/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Mass boycott will defeat water charges

US: Mid-term elections do not mean a turn to the right in society
19/11/2014, Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative:
Big Gains for Republicans while Voters Support Progressive Ballot Measures

Video: Socialist TD defends anti-water charges protests
18/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Ruth Coppinger, Socialist Party TD (MP) appears on ‘Prime Time’

Venezuela: Scarcity and speculation - whose fault is it?
18/11/2014, Gabriela Sánchez. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Venezuela):
Who is sabotaging who?

Vital lessons of Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’
18/11/2014, chinaworker.info:
Mass struggle needs genuine internal democracy and fighting working class programme to defeat dictatorship

Video: Water tax revolt continues in Ireland
17/11/2014, socialistworld.net:
Tanaiste (Deputy PM) trapped by protestors; AAA TD (MP) and Socialist Party member, Paul Murphy, assaulted

Indonesia: "New Hope" president faces intense pressures
16/11/2014, Iyan, CWI Malaysia:
Initiative to build mass party of working class and rural poor urgently needed

Scotland: SNP government announces £500 million cuts
14/11/2014, Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI):
Majority of ‘Yes’ voters want end to austerity - anti-cuts candidates needed!

Afghanistan: British combat troops pull out
13/11/2014, Niall Mulholland, from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
A legacy of death and destruction

Germany: Highly politicised train drivers’ strike
12/11/2014, Sascha Stanicic, Socialist Alternative (CWI in Germany):
Last week German train drivers and on-board staff went on strike for four days, shaking and polarising the country

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Latin America: The end of one cycle and the beginning of another
17/12/2014, socialistworld.net:
Document on Latin America, agreed by CWI International Executive Committee

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
15/12/2014, CWI International Executive Committee:
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Sri Lanka: Presidential Election January 8, 2015
11/12/2014, Interview with Siritunga Jayasuriya, USP (CWI Sri Lanka):
Socialist candidate challenges all other forces

Australia: Major community victory stops Melbourne’s East-West Toll Road
08/12/2014, By Socialist Party (CWI Australia) reporters, Melbourne:
Socialist Party leads successful campaign against Toll Road and for investment in public transport

World Perspectives: A turbulent period in history
27/11/2014, International Secretariat of the CWI :
Signs of revival of class struggle signposts the future

Ireland: Lies and distortions against community protests, the AAA and the Socialist Party
21/11/2014, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) reporters:
Government and Water Charges completely undermined

Israel-Palestine: Netanyahu threatens “heavy hand” response to synagogue attacks
19/11/2014, Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (SSM):
New rounds of repression answered by new wave of rage and protest

Ukraine: Competing ’elections’ deepen divisions
15/11/2014, Rob Jones, CWI Moscow:
Working people need socialist alternative to warring oligarchs and outside powers

Northern Ireland: 20 years after the ceasefires
10/11/2014, Ciaran Mulholland, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
In 1994, the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries called ceasefires. Four years later the Good Friday agreement was declared to mark the end of the ‘Troubles’…

Germany: 25 years since November 9
09/11/2014, By Robert Bechert, CWI, who was living in Berlin in 1989:
Berlin Wall brought down by mass revolutionary movement

Elections in Brazil
07/11/2014, Andre Ferrari, LSR (CWI in Brazil):
Narrow win for Dilma sets scene for more crisis and instability

Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2014, Clare Doyle, CWI:
November 7th anniversary of workers taking power

Ireland: Stunning Dublin by-election victory, huge water protests…new chapter for working class resistance
04/11/2014, Kevin McLoughlin, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland):
How the Anti Austerity Alliance won a parliamentary seat and the way forward for the Left

Kurdistan: Battle for Kobanê at a crossroads
31/10/2014, Serge Jordan, CWI:
What does US military ‘assistance’ mean for the Kurdish struggle?

A ‘third industrial revolution’
28/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
New technological innovations are having a huge impact on the capitalist system, a subject explored in a new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

Britain: Anniversary of first issue of Militant newspaper
24/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, from this week’s Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
50 years of socialist ideas and workers’ struggle

Spain: Death knells of "Transition" regime
23/10/2014, Danny Byrne, CWI:
Catalonia; ’Podemos’, and the left

Kazakhstan: Brutal repression in imperialism’s interests
20/10/2014, Mike Whale, Secretary of Campaign Kazakhstan (first published in October 2014 issue of Socialism Today):
Workers pay the price for crony capitalism

Is the US promoting a “colour revolution” in Hong Kong?
18/10/2014, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong):
Beijing’s scare propaganda doesn’t stand up to examination

Britain: Workers need a pay rise - how can we pay for it?
17/10/2014, Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales):
End poverty, inequality and capitalism

Ireland: Byelection triumph marks turning point in anti-austerity struggle
14/10/2014, Eddie McCabe, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland):
Paul Murphy wins parliamentary seat as 100,000 march against water charges

Middle East: US-led policy of air attacks on Islamic State lies in ruins
13/10/2014, Tony Saunois, CWI:
As battle for Kobane rages, IS forces make major gains in Iraq

Ireland: Paul Murphy elected to Irish parliament in stunning byelection victory
12/10/2014, socialistworld.net:
Anti-Austerity Alliance victory shocks political establishment, reflects mass revolt against water charges and austerity

South Africa: "A workers’ party must emerge"
11/10/2014, John Malanga, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI South Africa):
Dire position of South African capitalism and inequality adds momentum towards creation of workers’ party

Israel/Palestine: After the Gaza war
07/10/2014, Shahar Benhorin, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine):
No justice for Palestinians and no peace for the region - For a socialist solution!