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latest news

Greece
H&M workers score victory against management plans

28/03/2017: Despite very difficult times, struggle can bring results

  Greece

 Solidarity
#JobstownNotGuilty international day of action a huge success

28/03/2017: Over 30 protests around the world and 88 MPs/MEPs pledge support

  Solidarity

Russia/Belarus
A week-end of mass protests

27/03/2017: New spring of protest opens up, as 1,000s arrested

  Russia

Hong Kong
Creeping “coup” by Chinese dictatorship

27/03/2017: Defend the four Hong Kong legislators

  Hong Kong

Britain
Terror attack at Westminster

24/03/2017: Unite against terror, racism and war

  Britain

Italy
Democratic Party splits and 5-Star Movement in crisis

22/03/2017: Class struggle can build real left force

  Italy

Spain
Student strike empties classes and fills streets on 9 March

21/03/2017: Over 100,000 take to the streets in SE demonstrations

  Spain

Scotland
Second referendum on independence?

18/03/2017: SNP fire the starting gun but offer no solutions to austerity

  Scotland

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

17/03/2017: For a one-day general strike as the next step

  Brazil

South Africa
Unity against poverty, crime and xenophobia

17/03/2017: Capitalist politicians use xenophobia to divert attention from failures of profit system

  South Africa

Netherlands
Election result a colossal defeat for austerity government

16/03/2017: Oppose Wilders and the ‘mainstream’ right – Build a mass workers’ party that struggles for socialism

  Netherlands

Yemen
Workers and their families left to starve by multi-billionaire companies

16/03/2017: International campaign needed to force companies to pay

  Yemen

Hong Kong
Protest against LSG Sky Chefs dismissal of union chairman

14/03/2017: Ng Chi-Fai sacked for organising union by multinational’s Hong Kong division – international solidarity needed

  Hong Kong

Ireland North
Snap election raises sectarian temperature    

14/03/2017: Workers need strong socialist alternative at ballot box and in unions

  Ireland North

Quebec
Counter protest against far-right

13/03/2017: Rise of Islamophobia and right-wing reaction poses new challenges to the left

  Quebec

 International Women's Day
Speech by Kshama Sawant

12/03/2017: Video of 8 March rally in Seattle

  Women

 International Women’s Day
Millions join marches and take action

10/03/2017: Socialists around the world demand an end to women’s oppression

  Women

 Hong Kong
Women’s march against sexism and racism

09/03/2017: International Women’s Day: “Solidarity with global mass protests and women’s strikes”

  Women

 Spain
Hundreds of thousands participate in International Women’s day student strike

08/03/2017: ‘Libres y Combativas’ and Sindicato de Estudiantes call strike against sexist violence and for working class women's rights

  Women

Pakistan
Political spectacle of the ruling class

08/03/2017: Most workers underemployed, 40% in poverty - situation demands new workers’ party

  Pakistan

 International Women’s Day 2017
A century on from the Russian Revolution

06/03/2017: Demonstrations world-wide swelled by anti-Trump anger

  Women

Britain
Massive demo shows battle to save the NHS can be won

06/03/2017: Up to 250,000 march in national protest, organised from below

  Britain

Egypt
Price hikes hit workers and middle classes

04/03/2017: Falling support for dictator Sisi portends growing opposition

  Egypt

Hong Kong’s sham election

03/03/2017: Pan-democrats sink to new low by supporting “lesser evil” John Tsang

  Hong Kong

US
Socialist response to Trump’s address to joint session of congress

02/03/2017: Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative councillor, speaks

  US

Sweden
“Who could believe it?"

24/02/2017: What is behind Trump's attack?

  Sweden

Britain/Ireland
Dublin's #JobstownNotGuilty

23/02/2017: Defend the right to protest - stop this political vendetta!

  Ireland Republic

Ireland
A web of intrigue sparks government crisis

22/02/2017: Smear campaign against a prominent police whistleblower

  Ireland Republic

February revolution 1917
What lessons for today?

21/02/2017: 23 February 1917 (8 March in today’s calendar) marked the beginning of the socialist revolution in Russia, which sparked a revolutionary wave that would travel around the world.

  Russian Revolution

 Yemen
International protests in support of TOTAL/G4S workers

20/02/2017: Solidarity spreads for victims of wage robbery and killing by multinational corporations

  Solidarity, Yemen

Romania

Biggest street protests since 1989

www.socialistworld.net, 04/02/2017
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

What position should the left take?

Mâna de Lucru (CWI supporters in Romania)

Mass street protests erupted at the end of January in several Romanian cities over the plans of the new social-democratic government to pass two executive orders that would weaken the anti-corruption legislation. The protests reached their peak this week, on Wednesday, with approximately 400,000 people taking the streets across the country in the biggest mass demonstrations since the Revolution. Despite some of the right-wing features of the protests, the left needs to intervene and pose an alternative to both the government and the right forces trying to capitalise on the popular outrage.

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) won the general elections last December with a comfortable 45%. However, that win had less to do with its agenda (a hybrid of neoliberal and protectionist economic measures) than with the lack of a real alternative tackling the socio-economic problems that millions of Romanians are facing; hence, the low turnout of under 40%, with only 18% of the electorate voting for PSD. 

The first measure of the new government was to increase the minimum wage, which nevertheless remains the lowest in the EU after Bulgaria’s. The increase mainly came to support domestic capitalists, increasingly worried that they are running out of cheap labour, who would rather go and work on the minimum wage in Western countries. This way, PSD wanted to bring some comfort to the poorer layers of the working class (part of its traditional social base) while also serving the interests of national capital that they truly represent.

But PSD also represents the interests of much of the central and local bureaucracies, including party members who are currently being investigated or have already been convicted of corruption. The party leader himself, Liviu Dragnea, is currently serving a two-year suspended sentence for electoral fraud from the 2012 presidential impeachment referendum, which is the reason he could not become prime minister this time, but gave the position to a loyal party colleague, Sorin Grindeanu. Moreover, he is currently being investigated for allegedly embezzling 108,000 lei (roughly 24,000 euro) and a conviction in this case too would send him to prison for both sentences. 

That is why in January the government announced its plan to pass through two executive orders that had not been stipulated at all in the electoral programme of PSD. One would bring amnesty to some of those serving both prison or suspended sentences for corruption and the other would decriminalise abuses of office entailing losses under 200,000 lei, which would obviously benefit Dragnea in case he is found guilty in his on-going trial. Despite the attempt to justify these executive orders as a much-needed reform of the criminal law and a way to address the overpopulation of Romanian prisons, it led to street protests in several major cities and big pressure on the government – from both the protesters and the right-wing opposition – to either overturn its plans or at least subject them to public debate. 

After hasty public consultations at the beginning of the week, the government decided to send the amnesty proposal in the Parliament for debate but still pass through the executive order regarding abuse of office, which they did at midnight, on 1 February. This triggered huge protests on Wednesday evening, the biggest in Romania since 1989, with 150,000 people in Bucharest only and 400,000 across the country calling for the scrap of the order and even the resignation of the government and snap elections.  

The popular outrage is entirely justified. Under the pretext of otherwise legitimate issues such as the reform of the criminal law or the overpopulation of prisons, PSD’s executive order regarding the abuse of office is clearly meant to protect its leader from prison. Indeed, the change would entail an amnesty of all those already convicted for abuses of offices that resulted in losses under 200,000 lei. But maybe the most worrying provision of the modified law is the decriminalisation of those creating or implementing laws that violate human rights or that discriminate people on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, income or political affiliation! That basically means that we could potentially have racist laws in Romania without anyone having to go to prison for creating or implementing them.    

With this executive order, PSD proved once more that they are not a left-wing party, who represents the interests of the working class and of oppressed social groups, but a party for the corrupt oligarchs and bureaucrats, a party whose slight social measures are taken for the benefit of domestic capital. Rather than reforming the labour law, which is one of the most anti-labour laws in Europe, PSD is concerned with reforming the criminal law for the benefit of its own leaders. Rather than defending the millions of Romanians exploited and abused in their workplaces (such as the workers from the De’Longhi factory near Cluj, who are being forced to sign resignation letters for going on strike in December over their unpaid bonuses), PSD defends corrupt bureaucrats – this is their number one priority in a country ridden with poverty and inequality.

Some of those in the media defending the executive order argue – just like those defending Tump these days – that democracy requires us to allow them to govern as they wish because they have won the elections democratically. But democracy is not limited to electing a capitalist party or another every four years. Democracy also means the right to protest against the government, especially when that government plans to make abusive changes that were not included in the agenda based on which it won the elections. 

However, the situation is more complex than it seems and the protests display several limits that reflect the current subjective conditions in Romania. These shortcomings do not apply to all protesters though and the extent to which they will characterise the future development of the protests also depends on how the left will position itself towards the protests. 

Firstly, there is a tendency to diabolise the entire electorate of PSD, often in class terms, as they are deemed as “benefit scroungers” who ‘sell’ their vote to PSD, despite the fact that we have the fewest percentage of people on benefits in the EU and that many of the protesters are PSD voters themselves, who did not vote for the amnesty of corrupt politicians back in December. Indeed, this diabolisation comes packed with a lazy narrative about ‘the two Romanias’: on the one hand, the urban, middle-class, educated half that wants a democratic and modern country and which is now in the streets; on the other hand, the rural, poor, uneducated half that holds us back by voting with corrupt parties like PSD. One of the tasks of the left now is precisely to reject this false dichotomy and show that most Romanians, whether they are now on the streets or are sitting at home, have common interests as a class, such as having better wages, secure jobs, affordable housing, quality public services and, indeed, less institutional corruption.

Secondly, the protests tend to overlook the abuses committed by the anti-corruption fight itself, particularly by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), who has used quasi-legal methods of investigation, including testimonies made under pressure, threats against family members of suspects and witnesses, pre-trial detention as a form of leverage etc. (see the Henry Jackson Society’s report). Indeed, this has often happened with the help of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), the heir of the previous Stalinist Securitate, with very little oversight from elected state officials and which, despite some legal constraints, has infiltrated all strata of Romanian society, from politicians and journalists to the business environment. Moreover, the anti-corruption struggle in Romania has been rather limited to political and bureaucratic corruption, thus fuelling the perception that it has partly become an instrument in the power struggle between different sections of the ruling class. Indeed, particularly in a country as poor and unequal as Romania, genuine anti-corruption needs to also target the corruption of capital, such as the shady privatisations that have ruined the country’s industry or the abusive banking practices, which the head of the central bank is unashamedly defending as we speak. Thus, while clearly opposing the corruption of PSD, the left also needs to draw the attention to other forms of corruption that the likes of DNA and SRI have been ignoring.        

Thirdly, the left should also expose the right-wing features that have partly characterised the protests so far, such as slogans glorifying sexual abuse in prisons or calling PSD “the red plague” (a term used by Romanian fascists in the 1930s to describe the communists). Indeed, some of the right-wing political forces, including the President Klaus Iohannis, have attended the protests and are clearly trying to capitalise on them, although these forces are just as much part of the problem as PSD. That is why it is important that, just like in the previous street movements of 2012 and 2013, protesters express their opposition towards the entire political establishment for their collective responsibility in making Romania a country where 40% of the population lives on the verge of poverty. 

Nevertheless, despite these limits – that partly indicate the level of consciousness in Romanian society but also the poor organisation of the left here – these protests are perfectly legitimate in their outrage. The left cannot stay aside just because of the right-wing slogans or the right-wing forces trying to benefit from the protests. Indeed, the left needs to intervene not despite such right-wing overtones but precisely because of them, because it needs to put forward an alternative, class-based voice to the anti-PSD and the wider anti-establishment anger. Indeed, only by intervening in people’s struggles can the left develop politically and, at the same time, expose PSD even more clearly as the right-wing party that it is. Otherwise, the right will keep monopolising such outbursts of popular disillusionment in the future.

Therefore, as Mâna de Lucru (CWI supporters in Romania) argued in a statement published on Friday, the left has to categorically denounce the PSD government with all its undemocratic abuses and right-wing agenda, while at the same time draw the attention towards the limits of the anti-corruption struggle as well as to the right-wing features of the protests, particularly the diabolisation of PSD voters and the false dichotomy of “the two Romanias” it rests on. For such a dividing narrative serves well all political parties, precisely because it obscures our common interests as workers and the absence of any real political representation of these interests. The main task of the left these days is to highlight these common interests of our class and the need to build a socialist political alternative that would genuinely fight for them.

LATEST UPDATE: On Saturday night, the prime minister Grindeanu announced that there will be a government meeting on Sunday, where the executive order will be withdrawn and re-sent to Parliament for debate, with the 200,000 lei threshold for criminalisation of abuses of office possibly being scrapped. It yet to be seen whether the protests will continue or not.



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NEWS

Greece: H&M workers score victory against management plans
28/03/2017, Statement (slightly edited) by Xekinima (CWI Greece):
Despite very difficult times, struggle can bring results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden: “Who could believe it?"

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

CWI Comment and Analysis

ANALYSIS

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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