Laurent Wauquiez was elected leader of The Republicans (Les Républicains, LR) on 10 December, by a wide margin (74.6 percent) in the first round of voting. The low voter turnout (42 percent of paying members) shows that the stakes were limited: the new shift to the right had already been acknowledged by the party’s rank and file.

The situation in Ukraine four years after the Euromaidan overthrow of the Yanukovitch government could not be worse from the point of view of the masses. Brutal, IMF-inspired cuts in social spending, curtailment of freedom of expression and widespread corruption dominate the scene. So bad is the situation that even Western imperialists have started to openly voice criticism of the Poroshenko regime, which they backed and helped to install.

This month marks the anniversary of the December 1970 Polish protests – or ‘Black Thursday’ – when the workers of Polish coastal cities of Gdańsk, Szczecin, Gdynia and Elbląg rose in protest against a huge increase in prices of basic food products, but were harshly repressed by the so-called People’s Army. The cost of striking against price rises was high: 46 workers and students were killed and thousands injured in the stand-offs, just a week before Christmas.

The Catalan elections on 21 December represent a slap in the face for the strategy of the Spanish government: of introducing direct rule to smash the independence movement. The Spanish ruling party has been reduced to 3 seats in Catalonia and the pro-independence bloc has once again won an overall majority in the Catalan Parliament.

One phone call from Arlene Foster to the British Prime Minister Theresa May was enough to halt a deal between the European Union and British government, already agreed on Monday 4 December. Arlene Foster is the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland: a right-wing party with its roots in the anti-Catholicism of its former leader Ian Paisley. It is also pro-life, anti-gay and deeply reactionary.

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