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US
CWI joins protests around the world against Trump

23/01/2017: Photo gallery selection of CWI actions during weekend of mass protests

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US
Kshama Sawant responds to Trump inauguration speech

23/01/2017: Socialist council member speaks

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China
New US President’s approach to China

21/01/2017: Outbursts raise fears of confrontation

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Russian Revolution Centenary
New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution

20/01/2017: 1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

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Kazakhstan
Regime increases repression

20/01/2017: Citizens forced to register with police at all times

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US
Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration

20/01/2017: CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

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Portugal
Purge in the Left Bloc

20/01/2017: 6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

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Ireland North
Snap elections called to Stormont Assembly

17/01/2017: Build a socialist alternative to the ‘Orange’ versus ‘Green’ headcount

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Spain
What kind of Podemos do workers and youth need?

17/01/2017: Debate within leadership touches on fundamental issues for future of party

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India
Struggle against land grab in Pune

16/01/2017: Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

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Book Reviews
Trotsky and February 1917

16/01/2017: Preparing for revolution

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US
Seattle activists win $29 million for house building

13/01/2017: Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

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Palestine/Israel
Everyday life under occupation

12/01/2017: Discussion at Socialism conference in Tel Aviv

  Israel / Palestine

Mexico
Mass movement against “gasolinazo”

10/01/2017: Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

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US
Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party

10/01/2017: Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

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Ireland South
Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness

09/01/2017: Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

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Book Review
‘A Very British Ending’

07/01/2017: Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

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Ireland North
'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive

06/01/2017: Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

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Chile
The state is murdering Machi Francisca Linconao

05/01/2017: Solidarity appeal for messages of protest

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US
Trump prepares vicious attacks

05/01/2017: Mass resistance needed!

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Hong Kong
CY Leung forced out!

04/01/2017: Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

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Sri Lanka
Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'

03/01/2017: Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

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Russian Revolution centenary

02/01/2017: Defending the legacy in a new era

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2017
Upheaval and fightback will continue

01/01/2017: Everything to play for in 2017

  CWI Comment And Analysis

Iranian “election”

30/12/2016: Crisis continues; infighting escalates

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Review
The Iron Heel

26/12/2016: Jack London’s timeless classic

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Britain
Labour's nuclear conflict

24/12/2016: During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

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Germany
Berlin Christmas market tragedy

23/12/2016: Commiserations must not be exploited for racism

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US
Inaugurate the resistance

23/12/2016: Inauguration protests can serve as a launching pad for a massive grassroots resistance to Donald Trump’s new administration

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Austria
Victory & defeat for everyone & noone

23/12/2016: Presidential elections

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 Yemen
Three employees found killed, as workers demand unpaid wages

22/12/2016: Solidarity with workers and their families! Justice for the slain employees!

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Britain's shifting political contours

22/12/2016: Capitalist establishment in disarray

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Romania
New government, old policies

20/12/2016: The need for a socialist alternative

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Kazakhstan
Fifth anniversary of Zhanaozen massacre

19/12/2016: Letters to embassies worldwide demanding end to dictatorshi

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Bulgaria

Mass movement brings down government

www.socialistworld.net, 06/03/2013
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

Electricity prices trigger revolt against system

Danny Byrne, CWI

25 February was the sixteenth day of mobilisations of a powerful mass movement in Bulgaria that already done away with one government. Only a few months ago, Bulgaria was being touted as an “island of stability” (in the words of President, Plevneliev) in an otherwise increasingly unstable region. Its leaders boast the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio (16%) in the EU, and a budget deficit which meets the European institutions’ “stability” requirements. But despite this rosy picture, beneath the figures lies the poorest nation in the EU. This is an important contrast, at a time when the capitalist class across Europe are bleeding workers, youth and unemployed dry in the name of deficit and debt reduction, with the promise of a brighter future on this basis. However, as Bulgaria shows, on the basis of capitalism, such a rosy economic position for capitalism is not translated into a better, more stable life for the majority.

The majority of Bulgarians live in misery, with an average income of €360 per month, and state pensions as low as €75, per month. Official figures show that 49% of the population are judged to be in immediate risk of poverty, with one fifth currently living below the poverty line. Over one million predominantly young people have fled the country out of a population of 7.2 million. The contradiction between this reality, and the decades of false promises of “progress” and “modernisation” since the collapse of Stalinism in 1989, especially following the country’s entry to the EU in 2007, is among the essential ingredients for the recent social explosion. The rapid development of this movement and the dramatic impact it has had, along with the far-reaching mass demands it has thrown up, shows how quickly and devastatingly such contradictions can be unravelled when the ‘levee breaks’.

Electricity prices trigger revolt

The trigger for the movement, as has been reported in the international media, was the soaring, unbearable prices for energy and electricity. Electricity monopolies, mostly Austrian and Czech multinationals, have taken advantage of legal loopholes to dramatically hike up electricity “network charges” in the last months. This is an intolerable burden for millions of workers, young people, and pensioners. It was around this issue that mass protests first developed at the beginning of February, initially demanding relief of energy prices, and in many cases, the re-nationalisation of the electricity monopolies. The first days of protest action saw the mass storming of the headquarters of energy companies. The Czech multinational, CEZ, was the main target and its offices were spontaneously attacked and set alight by angry crowds. Main roads were blocked off, paralysing traffic.

These protests, which also embraced wide sections of the middle class and small business-owners - the traditional base of the former ruling GERB party - shocked the Bulgarian establishment, and immediately put Prime Minister Borissov on the back foot. In response brutal police repression was combined with conciliatory gestures to try to abate the mass movement. Borissov dismissed the Finance Minister, Simeon Dankov, as a scapegoat and sacrificial offering to the masses on Monday 18 February. When protests continued with renewed force the following day, Borissov announced an offer to bring down energy prices by 8%, with immediate effect. However, by this time, the masses had different ideas, and continued with their movement, forcing the withdrawal of Borissov and his entire cabinet. A caretaker ‘technocrat’ government is now in power until new elections are called.

Riot police lay down shields in solidarity with protesters

However, even the government’s resignation has not stopped the tide of radicalisation and struggle. Protesters, correctly expecting nothing from a re-composed government of the discredited political elite, continued with their demonstrations and blockades in the days following the fall of the government. A massive national day of protest – under the slogan “Let us burn the monopolies” – was held on Sunday 24 Feburary, when tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across the country. In contrast to the violent police repression during previous protests, 24th February saw an unprecedented development when riot police lined up in front of protesters and laid down their shields in solidarity! Upon his cowardly resignation, Borissov pathetically tried to claim he was resigning to defend the people from police violence, claiming he could not bear to “see the police attack the people”. However, the actions of the riot police when faced with such a powerful movement, shows that even these state forces can be drawn towards it, creating important breaches in the capitalist state apparatus. The police have shown that the capitalist class will not so easily be able to rely on them for their dirty work in the future. These divisions in the state machine must be further widened by the mass movement, by supporting the right of police officers to to protest, unionise and strike.

Socialist demands to the fore

While protests in towns and cities throughout Bulgaria country regularly gathered many tens of thousands, the widespread social support for the movement was tangible. Opinion polls consistently showed between 85% and 92% in support. This ferment, along with the militant character of the protests, and refusal to be contented with the government’s puny peace offerings, attests to the general anger behind the movement, which stretches far beyond the issue of soaring energy prices. Slogans and demands on the demonstrations also to testify to this. Protesters began to put forward evermore far-reaching demands, policies and proposals that challenge the fundamental basis of the current suffering in the country; the decades of robbery and looting by capitalists and oligarchs, benefiting from the privatisation orgy which accompanied the collapse of the Stalinism and the state-controlled, nationalised economy.

The nationalisation of the energy and utility companies, in some cases extended to the key sectors of the economy, as a whole, are widely embraced demands of the movement. Protesters also call for those guilty of robbing the country’s resources to be tried and imprisoned. At the same time, powerful democratic demands have come to the fore; for a new national assembly, for the breaking of the monopoly of the main parties, for the right to recall deputies etc. These demands testifying to how mass consciousness is radicalised and pushed to the left under the impact of events. They arose in the heat of struggle despite the glaring absence of a strong left and workers’ political force. Such a socialist alternative could participate in the movement, helping to popularise socialist demands and policies and a broad socialist perspective, such as the call for the nationalisation of the banks and commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working class.

Another key feature of the protests was the complete failure of mainstream opposition parties, all tied to the confines of the system, to have any significant impact. The leaders of Bulgaria’s main trade unions were also conspicuously absent from the leadership of the movement, although many union militants and the national students’ union played a role in organising protests. The movement must develop democratic structures, with local and workplace assemblies organised and democratically coordinated on a national level, to decide on a plan and programme for the movement. The development of a fighting democratic trade union movement, and of a mass, democratic political party of the workers and youth, which can give an expression to these demands, as part of a rounded-out programme for the socialist transformation of society, is an essential task. A strong mass movement armed with democratic, independent and fighting trade unions, and a mass political party with a clear understanding of the necessary programme to break from the misery of capitalism, could sweep away not only governments of Borissov’s ilk, but the system itself, which generates the contradictions and inequalities which provoked the movement. A socialist Bulgaria, based on a democratically planned economy, would send shockwaves throughout this devastated region, and beyond into Western Europe, where masses of workers and youth are searching for a way out of capitalist chaos and crisis.



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NEWS

US: CWI joins protests around the world against Trump
23/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Photo gallery selection of CWI actions during weekend of mass protests

US: Kshama Sawant responds to Trump inauguration speech
23/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Socialist council member speaks

Russian Revolution Centenary: New site celebrates and defends October socialist revolution
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
1917revolution.org brings rich lessons of 100 years ago to wide audience

Kazakhstan: Regime increases repression
20/01/2017, Andrei Prigor from Campaign Kazakhstan:
Citizens forced to register with police at all times

US: Global resistance against Trump’s inauguration
20/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
CWI organizes protests as millions prepare to fight Trump’s agenda

Portugal: Purge in the Left Bloc
20/01/2017, Ysmail, Socialismo Revolucionário (CWI in Portugal):
6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

India: Struggle against land grab in Pune
16/01/2017, Venkatesh Harale, New Socialist Alternative (CWI in India):
Socialists and villagers wage tireless battle

Book Reviews: Trotsky and February 1917
16/01/2017, Peter Taaffe, from the February 2017 issue of Socialism Today (monthly magazine of the Socialist Party – CWI England & Wales):
Preparing for revolution

Tunisia: Six years after the fall of Ben Ali, demands of revolution still to be realised
14/01/2017, Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki, CWI in Tunisia:
New revolts brewing

US: Seattle activists win $29 million for house building
13/01/2017, Adam Ziemkowski, Socialist Alternative:
Important precedent for using city bonding authority to build homes

Palestine/Israel: Everyday life under occupation
12/01/2017, Per-Åke Westerlund of Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden) :
Discussion at Socialism conference in Tel Aviv

Mexico: Mass movement against “gasolinazo”
10/01/2017, David Lopez, Izquierda Revolucionaria, Mexico:
Towards a general strike against the Nieto government!

US: Growing calls to “take back” Democratic Party
10/01/2017, Calvin Priest, Socialist Alternative:
Workers need for own party, independent of corporate cash

Ireland South: Apollo House occupation taps into mood of anger over homelessness
09/01/2017, Councillor Michael O’Brien, Anti-Austerity Alliance and Socialist Party member:
Far-reaching radical measures necessary to resolve housing crisis

Book Review: ‘A Very British Ending’
07/01/2017, Review by Tony Saunois :
Novelisation of attempts to undermine and overthrow Wilson’s Labour government

Ireland North: 'Cash for ash' scandal rocks power-sharing Executive
06/01/2017, Dave Carr from The Socialist (weekly paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales):
Need for non-sectarian, socialist politics

Chile: The state is murdering Machi Francisca Linconao
05/01/2017, socialistworld.net :
Solidarity appeal for messages of protest

Hong Kong: CY Leung forced out!
04/01/2017, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) statement
:
Now let’s change the whole corrupt system!

Sri Lanka: Island Nation - hell in 'paradise'
03/01/2017, By Clare Doyle, carried on Tamil Solidarity Campaign web-site, November, 2016 :
Review of play called 'The Island Nation'

Iranian “election”
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Crisis continues; infighting escalates

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26/12/2016, Jon Dale, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales)<br />
:
Jack London’s timeless classic

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During the second leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his ambition to have ministers for peace and disarmament in a future Labour government...

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Commiserations must not be exploited for racism

US: Inaugurate the resistance
23/12/2016, Patrick Ayers, Socialist Alternative, US :
Inauguration protests can serve as a launching pad for a massive grassroots resistance to Donald Trump’s new administration

Austria: Victory & defeat for everyone & noone
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Yemen: Three employees found killed, as workers demand unpaid wages
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CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

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 :
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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 :
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CWI International Executive Committee: European capitalism “battered by events”
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US: Trump prepares attacks on working people,immigrants and women
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24/11/2016, chinaworker.info reporters:
Xi Jinping becomes “core leader”

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17/11/2016, Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) :
“Nothing short of a coup”

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Biggest political trial in decades, as Socialist Party & Anti Austerity Alliance MP and councillors face threat of lengthy prison sentences

History: Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution
07/11/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
November 7th anniversary of workers’ taking power

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03/11/2016, International Secretariat of the CWI:
Draft documents for November CWI international meeting

Spain: PSOE leadership hands power to the PP
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A new phase in the class struggle

Hungary: The political revolution of sixty years ago
23/10/2016, Clare Doyle, CWI :
When workers fought arms in hand to end Stalinist dictatorship

Britain: The fight for real democracy in the Labour Party
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Defend Corbyn and transform Labour into a party acting for working class

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Which way forward for the Left?

US: The disastrous failure of ‘lesser evilism’
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Change through mass struggle  - a new party should act as an organizing and for solidarity

Spain: Crisis in social democracy
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Britain: Tories whip up division over Brexit
17/10/2016, Editorial from The Socialist (weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party, England & Wales):
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