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latest news

China
Labour disputes soar

17/04/2014: 40,000 workers paralyse world’s largest sports shoe maker

  China

Greece
International anti-fascist conference “No pasaran!”

16/04/2014: Four thousand attend three-day event in Athens

  Greece

South Africa
Enthusiastic response for WASP ahead of May elections

15/04/2014: WASP campaigning material available on pdf

  South Africa

India
Massive election process could end in turmoil

14/04/2014: New party expresses, but cannot solve, major discontents

  India

Cyprus
Austerity sees living standards fall back 40 years

11/04/2014: One year of the right wing Anastasiades government

  Cyprus

 Iranian nuclear talks
Hypocrisy abounds

10/04/2014: Paul Murphy MEP

  Video

Britain
Dave Nellist on BBC outlining TUSC’s socialist policies

10/04/2014: Trade union and socialist coalition (TUSC) candidate count reaches 476 for May local election

  Britain

Taiwan
Occupation of parliament ends after 23 days

10/04/2014: What are the lessons of the island’s ‘sunflower movement’?

  Taiwan

Hungary
Election highlights lack of Left challenge

09/04/2014: Declining vote for ruling Fidész party; neo-fascist Jobbik picks up 20% as false ‘alternative’

  Hungary

Environment
Ukraine crisis exploited by multinational fracking lobby

09/04/2014: Oppose the pro-big business EU/ US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!

  Environment, Ukraine

Belgium
50,000 join ETUC Brussels demonstration

08/04/2014: Protesters’ radical mood

  Belgium

Britain
One in ten council seats will have TUSC candidate

07/04/2014: No-cuts election challenge grows

  Britain

Review
Net political impact

06/04/2014: To Save Everything, Click Here • By Evgeny Morozov •

  Review

Belgium
The rise of the PTB/PvdA

05/04/2014: Recent polls confirm a probable electoral breakthrough for the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PvdA).

  Belgium

Ivory Coast
First victory for students at University of Cocody

04/04/2014: An important step to push the struggle against neo-liberal policies further

  Ivory Coast

Canada
Port of Vancouver truckers’ strike wins significant gains

03/04/2014: After bosses’ seen off - unions must defend their right to strike!

  Canada

France
Government punished in local elections

02/04/2014: Far right gains highlight need for strong fighting left opposition

  France

Nepal
Turning back the wheel of history

01/04/2014: Second constituent assembly election – a shift to the right

  Nepal

South Africa
WASP manifesto launch success!

01/04/2014: On Saturday 29 March the Workers and Socialist Party launched its 2014 election manifesto at a rally in Katlehong, Gauteng

  Africa, South Africa

Taiwan
Half a million on the streets against President Ma

31/03/2014: Demonstrators call for trade pact to be withdrawn and for president to step down

  Taiwan

US
Winning $15 an hour in Seattle

31/03/2014: A socialist strategy

  US

Netherlands
Socialist Party local election gains

31/03/2014: Vote for SP can be the basis for a mass struggle against cuts

  Netherlands

 Video
Hypocrisy of Irish Govt & EU on Ukraine

29/03/2014: Joe Higgins, Socialist Party (CWI MP) speaks in Irish parliament

  Ukraine, Video

 Sweden
New political winds affect CWI Congress

28/03/2014: Optimistic Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna prepares for elections

  CWI, Sweden

No to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!

28/03/2014: Anti-democratic agreement seeks to increase corporate domination of politics

Portugal
Thousands of police and military march in Lisbon

27/03/2014: Reflection of the government’s intrinsic weakness

  Portugal

Spain
A million march for dignity in Madrid

26/03/2014: 22M: A before and after moment for the class struggle

  Spain

Taiwan
Ma government rocked by mass protests and occupation of parliament

26/03/2014: Down with undemocratic Kuomintang rule – for a Taiwan-wide student strike as the next step!

  Taiwan

Bosnia-Herzegovina
Mass protests - The first flowers of spring

26/03/2014: What programme should the Left advocate?

  Bosnia

Sudan
Has al-Bashir survived mass protests?

25/03/2014: Removal of hated regime not enough; crises of poverty and oppression due to grip of capitalism

  Sudan

Britain
After Bob Crow and Tony Benn

24/03/2014: Mourn the loss, fight for the future

  Britain

Italy

Voters reject austerity in ‘tsunami’ election

www.socialistworld.net, 27/02/2013
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Political instability, crisis and new opportunities ahead

Chris Thomas, Controcorrente (CWI in Italy)

The “Tsunami tour” was the name comedian Beppe Grillo gave to his election meetings which filled piazzas throughout the country with tens of thousands of ‘spectators’. Now an electoral tsunami has well and truly rocked the Italian political system with Grillo’s 5 Star Movement, which did not exist at the last election, becoming the biggest single party in the lower house with more than 25% of the vote. Another 25% of the electorate stayed at home, the highest ever post-war abstention rate.

The outcome of the election on 24 and 25 February is political gridlock. No party or list having an overall majority and the possibility of fresh elections quite soon. The opinion polls had predicted a victory for the Democratic Party (PD) in the lower house and most commentators expected an alliance of the PD in the senate with the electoral coalition of the outgoing (unelected) prime minister, Mario Monti. However, the polls vastly underestimated support for the 5 Star Movement and also for Berlusconi’s PDL, which, on the basis of populist programmes, tapped into deep and widespread anti-austerity and anti-political establishment feelings.

Just 120,000 votes separated the PD camp from that of the PDL in the lower house (Camera). The Centre-Left got 29.5% to the Centre-Right 29.2% but the PD lost nearly 4 million votes compared with the last election and the PDL 6 million! Even though the PD as the ‘winning’ party will receive bonus seats to give it a majority in the Camera, it cannot reach a majority in both houses of parliament, even in alliance with Monti.

Grillo has ruled out any alliances and a ‘grand coalition’ - embracing Bersani (PD leader) and Berlusconi - although not impossible, could be politically suicidal for the PD. The ‘technocratic government’ card has already been played with the Monti government, so the most likely perspective now seems to be a period of political crisis leading eventually to another election, possibly after a change in the electoral law, in which the support for the ‘Grillinis’ could grow even further.

The “worst result possible” was how the Wall St Journal described the election outcome. The repercussions will reverberate far beyond Italy. The day after the election, falls on the Milan stock exchange were so great that trading was temporarily suspended. At the same time the spread (difference between interest rates on Italian and German bonds) began to increase, raising once again the prospect of market turmoil in Europe. The fate of the Euro could eventually be decided not in Greece but in Italy.

‘NO’ to austerity

The election results were an overwhelming rejection of Monti’s austerity policies of public spending cuts, tax increases and attacks on workers’ rights. Monti had been dubbed the ‘saviour of Italy’ when he replaced Berlusconi in November 2011 and the markets began to stabilise after months of instability and crisis. In these elections he was the candidate of Brussels, of Merkel and of a section of the Italian capitalist class. They were fearful that a PD government with an overall majority would come under pressure from workers and unions to ditch or water down the austerity policies they had supported under Monti. A PD/Monti coalition was considered the safest option for continuing the ‘Monti agenda’. This strategy failed dismally with Monti’s alliance receiving just 10.5% in the Camera. Before the elections Monti’s personal ratings had been higher than all the party leaders but this was precisely because he was a ‘technocrat’ and not part of the despised political class. Once he became “one of them”, his days were numbered.

Grillo and the 5 Star Movement were the real winners. His slogan “tutti a casa” (send them all packing) summed up the absolute disgust and contempt which ordinary Italians have for politicians, establishment parties and an entire rotten political system mired in corruption, scandals and self-enrichment while working people are called on to make more and more sacrifices.

Scandals

Reports of the huge cover up and fraud at Italy’s third biggest bank, Monti dei Paschi, exploded during the election campaign, tainting the PD, who have been historically closely linked with the management of the bank. It reinforced the deep-rooted feeling that the whole system stinks. Every day pages of the press were devoted to stories of politicians receiving kick backs for economic favours, of public funds being creamed off to fund lavish lifestyles and of company directors (including the director of one of Italy’s biggest and most prestigious companies, Finmeccanica) being arrested for fraud and corruption.

The Grillo votes came from across the political spectrum – from the right, from the left and from those with no political affiliation. “I want to give them all a kick up the arse!” was how one voter explained her choice, summing up the mood of many of those who voted for the 5 Star Movement. In the piazzas, Grillo shouted populist slogans and sound-bites about curbing the power and privileges of the political ‘cast’, about a ‘citizen’s income’, a referendum on the Euro, a shorter working week, nationalising the banks, and about improving the environment, all of which struck a chord with those who have had enough of cuts and corruption.

There are enormous illusions in the ability of the Grillinis to shake the system up. In reality, the Movement (Grillo refuses to call it a party) has no worked-out programme capable of solving the day-to-day problems of unemployment, low wages, and declining public services which most ordinary Italians are concerned with. It has no real roots in the workplaces or communities, organising principally via the Internet and social media. Grillo himself decides policies and tactics in an ad hoc, off-the-cuff way with no explanation or understanding of how those policies could actually be implemented in practice. His ‘rants’ are confused and inconsistent.

Grillo has an ambiguous position with regards to the far-right and immigration. During the campaign he spoke of “eliminating” trade unions although he has also made a distinction between CGIL, CISL and UIL on the one hand and the more combatative FIOM and unions of the base. At a certain stage the limitations and contradictions of the Movement will become clear, ripping it apart. It is likely to disappear as quickly as it has arisen; but for the moment, in the absence of a left-wing, anti-capitalist alternative, it has become the main vehicle for expressing the anger, frustration and disaffection of millions of Italians and its support could grow even more.

Economic crisis

These elections took place against the background of the longest recession in Italy in the post war period. GDP has declined 7% since the economic crisis began. Unemployment has doubled and more than 37% of young people are now without work. Devastated by rising taxes and declining wages, the average family’s real income is at the same level as it was 27 years ago. Yet with working and middle class people desperate for an end to austerity, the PD were offering a continuation of the Monti agenda with just a few ‘modifications’. They pledged to respect the fiscal compact and balance the budget even though this would entail cuts of 45 billion euros every year. This is behind the massive fall of 11% in their ratings towards the end of the campaign.

Berlusconi, on the other hand, was astute enough to understand how supporting Monti’s tax increases and cuts agenda was undermining his electoral base and so he pulled the plug on the Monti government, waging a populist anti-austerity, anti- Europe, pro-tax-cutting election campaign. This included sending a mock-up tax demand to every home pledging to reimburse every penny that people had paid out when Monti reintroduced the IMU household tax. On the basis of this campaign the ‘mummy’, as one French newspaper dubbed Berlusconi, rose like Lazarus from the dead; his PDL alliance clawed back 15 points in support and ended up neck and neck with the PD.

What little remains of the Left was electorally crushed. Nichi Vendola’s SEL (Left Ecology Freedom) party, which was allied with the PD, got just 3.2%. Had the party stood alone it would have failed to cross the 4% threshold and would have had no seats in parliament. This was ultimately the fate of Rivoluzione Civile, the heterogeneous electoral list headed by the former magistrate, Antonio Ingroia.

New force needed

Instead of standing on a clear anti-capitalist/workers’ list, Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), once a semi-mass workers’ party, dissolved itself into Rivoluzione Civile on a vaguely reformist/liberal platform. This was an opportunist move, undemocratically imposed from above in a desperate attempt to get back into parliament. The PRC lost all of their MPs five years ago after entering into a coalition government with the pro-capitalist PD. After every electoral defeat, the PRC leadership, rather than looking to increase its support by involving itself in struggles in the workplaces and in local communities, has sought a new unprincipled electoral alliance, and every time its vote has plummeted. Rivoluzione Civile won just 2.2% of the vote meaning no seats at all..

The unprecedented support for Beppe Grillo can only be understood in the tragic context of the collapse of the Italian Left. But now an entirely new political landscape is emerging. The anger of working class people has exploded in the ballot box rather than on the streets and in the workplaces, but continuing crisis and instability will see the development of new mass struggles.

At a certain stage the inadequacy of the 5 Star Movement will be exposed leaving millions looking for another alternative and opening up huge possibilities for the building of a new mass political force based not on confused populism but on the movements of workers and young people, offering a real solution to the problems of working people by challenging not only the politicians but the economic roots of the whole rotten capitalist system.



Europe

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NEWS

China: Labour disputes soar
17/04/2014, chinaworker.info reporters:
40,000 workers paralyse world’s largest sports shoe maker

Nigeria: Bomb explosions in Abuja - more evidence of the failure of capitalist government
16/04/2014, Segun Sango, Socialist Party Nigeria National Chairperson:
For democratic self-defence committees

Greece: International anti-fascist conference “No pasaran!”
16/04/2014, Sebastian Forster (CWI Germany) and Elin Gauffin (CWI Sweden):
Four thousand attend three-day event in Athens

South Africa: Enthusiastic response for WASP ahead of May elections
15/04/2014, Socialistworld.net:
WASP campaigning material available on pdf

India: Massive election process could end in turmoil
14/04/2014, Clare Doyle (CWI international Secretariat):
New party expresses, but cannot solve, major discontents

Cyprus: Austerity sees living standards fall back 40 years
11/04/2014, Athina Kariati, New Internationalist Left (CWI in Cyprus):
One year of the right wing Anastasiades government

Iranian nuclear talks: Hypocrisy abounds
10/04/2014, :
Paul Murphy MEP

Britain: Dave Nellist on BBC outlining TUSC’s socialist policies
10/04/2014, :
Trade union and socialist coalition (TUSC) candidate count reaches 476 for May local election

Hungary: Election highlights lack of Left challenge
09/04/2014, Sonja Grusch and Tilman M. Ruster:
Declining vote for ruling Fidész party; neo-fascist Jobbik picks up 20% as false ‘alternative’

Environment: Ukraine crisis exploited by multinational fracking lobby
09/04/2014, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP, and Tanja Niemeier:
Oppose the pro-big business EU/ US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!

Belgium: 50,000 join ETUC Brussels demonstration
08/04/2014, Eric Byl, General Secretary, Linkse Socialistiche Partij / Parti Socialiste de Lutte (PSL/LSP):
Protesters’ radical mood

Review: Net political impact
06/04/2014, Ben Robinson, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) published in Socialism Today:
To Save Everything, Click Here • By Evgeny Morozov •

Ivory Coast: First victory for students at University of Cocody
04/04/2014, CWI in Ivory Coast:
An important step to push the struggle against neo-liberal policies further

Canada: Port of Vancouver truckers’ strike wins significant gains
03/04/2014, Socialist Alternative Reporter, Vancouver:
After bosses’ seen off - unions must defend their right to strike!

France: Government punished in local elections
02/04/2014, Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France) reporters:
Far right gains highlight need for strong fighting left opposition

South Africa: WASP manifesto launch success!
01/04/2014, Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP):
On Saturday 29 March the Workers and Socialist Party launched its 2014 election manifesto at a rally in Katlehong, Gauteng

Taiwan: Half a million on the streets against President Ma
31/03/2014, CWI reporters in Taipei:
Demonstrators call for trade pact to be withdrawn and for president to step down

Netherlands: Socialist Party local election gains
31/03/2014, Pieter Brans, Amsterdam:
Vote for SP can be the basis for a mass struggle against cuts

Video: Hypocrisy of Irish Govt & EU on Ukraine
29/03/2014, socialistworld.net:
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party (CWI MP) speaks in Irish parliament

Sweden: New political winds affect CWI Congress
28/03/2014, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna Reporters:
Optimistic Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna prepares for elections

No to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership!
28/03/2014, Vladimir Bortun, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales):
Anti-democratic agreement seeks to increase corporate domination of politics

Portugal: Thousands of police and military march in Lisbon
27/03/2014, Jose David Gregorio, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal):
Reflection of the government’s intrinsic weakness

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

Taiwan: Occupation of parliament ends after 23 days
10/04/2014, Interview with Sally Tang Mei-ching, CWI participant in Taipei protests:
What are the lessons of the island’s ‘sunflower movement’?

Belgium: The rise of the PTB/PvdA
05/04/2014, Eric Byl, LSP/PSL (CWI in Belgium):
Recent polls confirm a probable electoral breakthrough for the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PvdA).

Nepal: Turning back the wheel of history
01/04/2014, Senan, CWI:
Second constituent assembly election – a shift to the right

US: Winning $15 an hour in Seattle
31/03/2014, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative, USA:
A socialist strategy

Spain: A million march for dignity in Madrid
26/03/2014, Angel Morano, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Spain):
22M: A before and after moment for the class struggle

Taiwan: Ma government rocked by mass protests and occupation of parliament
26/03/2014, Sally Tang Mei-ching in Taipei and Vincent Kolo:
Down with undemocratic Kuomintang rule – for a Taiwan-wide student strike as the next step!

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Mass protests - The first flowers of spring
26/03/2014, Sonja Grusch, Socialist Left Party (CWI in Austria):
What programme should the Left advocate?

Britain: After Bob Crow and Tony Benn
24/03/2014, Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (No.177, April 2014), monthly magazine of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales):
Mourn the loss, fight for the future

Scotland: Unions and the socialist case for independence
23/03/2014, John McInally, national vice-president of the Public and Commercial Services union (personal capacity):
Aruging a independent, working class position

Ukraine: Crimea breaks away to join Russia
18/03/2014, Niall Mulholland, CWI:
Tensions between powers worsen

Australia: Socialist Party playing key role in fight against East-West tunnel
13/03/2014, Mel Gregson and Stephen Jolly, Socialist Party (CWI in Australia), Melbourne:
Campaign brings public transport to forefront of political debate

Bosnia Herzegovina: Mass protests of working people and youth show the way forward
13/03/2014, CWI Leaflet text:
Working people stir to end poverty, joblessness, corruption and ethnic divisions!

Socialist perspectives for Aotearoa / New Zealand
09/03/2014, CWI Aotearoa / New Zealand:
The world and New Zealand in crisis

International Women’s Day 2014
07/03/2014, Clare Doyle (Committee for a Workers’ International):
Fighting austerity and oppression world-wide

Venezuela: A year after Chavez’s death
06/03/2014, By Gabriela Sanchez (CWI Venezuela).:
Commemorations in context of new crisis

Ukraine: Russian troops take up positions throughout Crimea
04/03/2014, CWI Reporters:
Tensions deepen between Western powers and Moscow

Greece: Still in the eye of the storm
26/02/2014, Interview with Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI in Greece) published in Socialism Today:
From the outside, it can appear there’s a certain pause in the struggle in Greece. Is this true?

Ukraine: Bloodshed in Kiev
19/02/2014, Rob Jones, from Socialism Today (March edition, No.176):
What lies behind the Ukraine crisis?

Venezuela: An analysis of 12F
19/02/2014, By Gabriela Sanchez- SR Venezuela:
On 12F, three people (two right wing supporters and one government supporter) were killed in Caracas and dozens injured and arrested in the protests and demonstrations that took place around Venezuela to commemorate the annual ’Youth Day’.

Pakistan: Negotiating peace
18/02/2014, Khalid Bhatti, SNP Lahore:
Government/Taliban talks begin - But where will they go?

South Africa: The end of Cosatu?
17/02/2014, WASP (Workers and Socialist Party) Reporters, S Africa:
Time for a new socialist trade union federation

Greece: The fascist threat
08/02/2014, Christina Ziakka, Xekinima (CWI Greece) - translated by Amalia Loizidou. First published in Socialism Today:
Deep economic crisis, savage austerity and social upheaval have polarised Greek society.

South Africa: After NUMSA’s Congress
04/02/2014, Workers And Socialist Party (WASP) statement:
Seize the historic opportunity of the 2014 elections

Tunisia: Three years on since the fall of Ben Ali
30/01/2014, Serge Jordan and CWI supporters in Tunis:
New ‘technocratic’ government no response to workers’ demands

Thailand: Prolonged political crisis
27/01/2014, Ravichandran, CWI Malaysia:
Working class and rural poor need party of their own