Europe

Today, on Thursday 17 January 2019, at half-past-twelve local time, the mortal remains of Alberto Arregui, whose sudden death we reported yesterday, were consigned to the flames at the crematory of the Cementerio Sur, Madrid. The editor of marxist.com, comrade Alan Woods, pays tribute to the memory of a man who devoted his entire life to the cause of Marxism and the socialist revolution.

Yesterday, 16 people were arrested by Spanish police in Girona (Catalonia) without a warrant. Amongst those arrested were two local mayors of the anti-capitalist pro-independence CUP, a photojournalist and several activists of the CDRs (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), ANC (Catalan National Assembly), La Forja (pro-independence youth organisation) and SEPC (Catalan Students’ Union).

Rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal was never in doubt. The question was always by how much. But the scale of last night’s defeat for the Prime Minister – losing by an unprecedented 230 votes – defied even the most pessimistic of expectations. With her proposal firmly spurned by parliament, Theresa May is now set to sail the country into uncharted waters.

Note: this morning the Left Party announced they are going to abstain on the vote on the government, thereby allowing the Social Democrats to form a government with the Greens. What the Left Party leader hinted at on Monday now has become policy. We remain opposed to the formation of the government on this right-wing programme, and maintain our position that the labour movement should demand new elections and the establishment of a left government on a socialist programme.

Theresa May’s decision last year to postpone the vote on her Brexit deal has done little other than provide a brief respite from her insoluble dilemma. Her negotiated package remains hated by all sides. Rather than bringing people round to her proposal, the Christmas period has hardened the resolve of Brexiteers and Remainers alike.

On 11 December, two weeks before Christmas, three middle-aged siblings – Anthony, David and Geraldine McGann – were brutally kicked out of the home that they shared on a farm in Co Roscommon, Ireland. The three were injured, as they were dragged by their ears and hair. Their assailants – a group of 20 private security personnel led by an ex-member of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment – were executing an eviction order on behalf of KBC Bank. While this assault took place, the gardaí (Ireland’s police force) merely looked on.

The movement of the yellow vests is a social earthquake of exceptional power. It represents a major turning point in the class struggle in France – and is a source of inspiration for workers around the world. It will have a profound and lasting impact on the political life of the country.

In Spain, achieving the right to self determination is a revolutionary task. Any attempt to exercise it will meet the frontal opposition of a powerful imperialist state, inherited wholesale from the Francoist dictatorship. This regime will not tolerate any attempt to put into question the sacrosanct unity of Spain. Only mass, militant struggle against the state and the capitalist system on which it rests will conquer the right of national minorities (Catalans, Basques, and Galicians) to decide their future.

Yesterday, on December 25th, members of Republic of Srpska (Serb part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) riot police cracked down on a peaceful protest of the group called “Pravda za Davida” (Justice for David), in the centre of the statelets de facto capital, Banja Luka. 

Image: Flickr, War on Want

Since the beginning of the crisis of 2008, anti-immigrant parties and movements have made headway in Europe and the United States. They have even managed to win over certain layers of the working class to their programme. This has led a section of the labour movement to adapt itself to these ideas, calling for stricter border controls, justifying its position with quotations from Marx. Such short-sighted policies have nothing to do with Marx or the traditions of the First, Second or Third International, as we shall demonstrate.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the magnificent gilets jaunes movement in France, which has exploded out of nowhere to land a blow against the ruling class. Ever since his election as president of France in May 2017, Emmanuel Macron has been held up as a poster boy for liberalism by the European establishment. But the massive and militant yellow vests movement has shattered this delusion, demonstrating that there is a profound anger amongst workers and youth towards the broken status quo of inequality and austerity that the 'Jupiterian' president and the gilded elite defend.

Right-wing Hungarian prime minister, Victor Orbán has received a blow as a wave of protests has spread throughout the country. The protests have been triggered by a new piece of legislation, labelled the “slave law”, which was passed on 12 December. This vicious attack on Hungarian workers will allow employers to increase the amount of overtime they can ask of workers from 250 to 400 hours per year, which equates to roughly eight hours per week. Not only this, but there can be a delay in payment for this overtime of as much as three years.

黄背心抗议民众于12月15日在法国的街道上发动了第五次周末示威行动,被称为运动的“第五幕”。这是继马克宏于12月10日公布“退让”之后所发动的示威。而过去一周我们也看到了多起学生动员,以及法国全国总工会(CGT,以下简称全总)所发动的“全国行动日”。爆发了五周之后,黄背心这个运动达到了什么阶段,它的前景是什么?

黃背心抗議民眾於12月15日在法國的街道上發動了第五次週末示威行動,被稱為運動的“第五幕”。這是繼馬克宏於12月10日公佈“退讓”之後所發動的示威。而過去一週我們也看到了多起學生動員,以及法國全國總工會(CGT,以下簡稱全總)所發動的“全國行動日”。爆發了五週之後,黃背心這個運動達到了什麼階段,它的前景是什麼?

Lithuania is being shaken by an unprecedented teachers strike, which has now entered its fourth week and is causing severe anxiety, distress and panic among the ruling class and its political representatives. Already, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has been forced to sack not only the hated Education Minister, Petrauskienė, but also two other Ministers: for Culture, and the Environment.

For the fifth consecutive Saturday, the yellow vest protesters took to the streets of France on 15 December in what was dubbed ‘Act V’ of the movement. This was after Macron’s announcements of “concessions” on 10 December; and in a week that saw a mobilisation of students and a national day of action, called by the CGT trade union. After five weeks, what stage has the movement reached, and what are its perspectives?

In Albania, since 4 December 2018, thousands of students have been continuously demonstrating against the degradation and injustices of the education system. The initial spark for these protests was an increase in tuition fees, cancelled by the government two days after the first demonstrations. But the demands of the students have now gone well beyond this initial grievance and target the generally poor conditions of public universities. Note: the student activist interviewed for this article is not affiliated with the IMT in any way, and we do not necessarily share all of their views.

Theresa May has survived to live another day after coming through a vote of no confidence amongst her party’s MPs with a 200-to-117 majority. But whilst the Tory leader may have won this battle, she has most certainly lost the war.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the historic political crisis taking place in Britain, as the Tory Prime Minister's fate hangs in the balance. As Alan notes, the UK was once considered one of the most stable countries in the world. But now it is a source of enormous instability for world capitalism. And the crisis is not confined to Britain. May, Macron, and Merkel are all facing huge difficulties at home, as the broken status quo collapses around them. Only the call for a socialist Europe can offer a way forward.

On Monday evening, Macron gave a televised speech in an attempt to placate the yellow vest movement that now threatens his government. The following day, its contents were scrutinised and debated among all who have mobilised in recent weeks. The verdict: "smoke and mirrors". In particular, "the increase of the minimum wage by 100 euros" includes the automatic revaluation of the minimum wage scheduled for January 2019, in addition to an increase in the "activity premium" supplement, which will not cost employers one cent – and will not be taken into account when calculating pension entitlements.

上周末(12月8日),法国的黄背心运动以另一轮大规模抗议行动进入了第四幕。虽然官方报道参与抗议的人数为十三万左右,但实际人数可能达到五十万人。这一次,政府方面的反应却也更加的残暴,在法国各地动员了八万九千名员警来试图阻止黄背心参与者发起和平或其他性质的抗议,导致了两千馀人遭到逮捕。

上週末(12月8日),法國的黃背心運動以另一輪大規模抗議行動進入了第四幕。雖然官方報道參與抗議的人數為十三萬左右,但實際人數可能達到五十萬人。這一次,政府方面的反應卻也更加的殘暴,在法國各地動員了八萬九千名員警來試圖阻止黃背心參與者發起和平或其他性質的抗議,導致了兩千餘人遭到逮捕。

The yellow vest movement entered its “fourth act” this weekend, with another round of radical protests by well over the officially cited 130,000 people (possibly as many as 500,000). This time, the state response was even more brutal, with 89,000 gendarmes mobilised across France in an attempt to prevent the yellow vests from demonstrating – peacefully or otherwise – resulting in over 2,000 arrests.

Following the motion (submitted by our comrades) that passed with strong majorities at student assemblies at l'université Paul-Valéry-Montpellier and Toulouse, another extremely radical resolution has been adopted by the Paris Nanterre University. It declares the university on strike, lays out a series of demands against Macron's educational counter-reforms, states its solidarity with the yellow vests, condemns police repression, calls for Macron's resignation and puts the word out for a delegate conference of representatives from Paris universities to

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The social and political situation in France is moving at a breakneck speed. In less than a month, the ‘yellow vests’ movement has put the country on the threshold of a revolutionary crisis. In the coming days, this threshold could be crossed. What will be the decisive factor in pushing the movement forward?

Karl Marx once remarked to Friedrich Engels, his lifelong friend and collaborator, that there were sometimes uneventful decades in which years passed as though they were just days. But, he added, “these may be again succeeded by days into which years are compressed”. The current period in Britain is like the latter. Events are moving at a blistering pace.

The strategists of British capitalism are getting jittery. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, is worried. Capitalism is having a bad time of it. Conservatives, he said, should continue to make the case for the market economy — a model which had evolved “down the ages”. “This mission is urgent,” he stated recently. But why the urgency?

The following motion has been passed by student members of Révolution (the IMT in France) at a general assembly at l'université Paul-Valéry-Montpellier. It has also be raised at a student assembly in Toulouse (to be voted on today), and will be raised in Nanterre and Lyon. It states support for the yellow vest movement, and calls for a campaign of strikes to overthrow the hated Macron government.

40 years ago today, the Spanish Constitution was approved after decades of brutal dictatorship under Franco. But as Alan Woods (himself a witness to these historic events) explains, the so-called Transition to Democracy was a colossal betrayal cooked up by the leaders of the Spanish working-class, which left the main pillars of the reactionary old order intact.

On the weekend of 16 November 2018, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) held its second Francophone school in Geneva. During those two days, more than 70 activists and sympathisers participated in the school, coming from Switzerland, Belgium, and France; as well as Quebec, England and Germany.

Ever since 1 December, the latest day of mass protest in France, the French media have relentlessly broadcast the scenes of conflict between “yellow vest” protesters and riot police that overtook Paris. Journalists and politicians alike are running a 24/7 relay-race to “condemn all violence” – with the notable exception of violence by the riot police, which has so far resulted in the death of at least one protester, and injured many peaceful demonstrators.

The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) movement in France is at a turning point. In the face of building radicalism, which now threatens the very survival of his government, Macron has changed his defiant tone and promised to “suspend” the fuel tax hike that provoked the movement. This retreat came after street battles over the weekend between thousands of protesters and the police that have left over 200 injured in Paris alone and resulted in at least one fatality.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Malaga, Seville and Granada last night in response to the results of the Andalusia elections, which saw the far-right party VOX enter the regional parliament with 12 deputies. The demonstrations, which had been called through social media, were overwhelmingly made up of youth, with many carrying red and Republican flags, as well as the Andalusian green and white flag.

Just over 25 years after its foundation, the European Union looks like it could be falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions. Everywhere you look, the major parties are coming under increased pressure due to the heightening of the class struggle as a result of 10 years of crisis. This has meant that, in one country after another, the ruling class can no longer rule in the old way.

In France, hundreds of thousands of people have participated since mid-November in the yellow vests movement to protest against the rise in fuel taxes and, in general, against the ever-increasing cost of living. This movement is the inevitable result of a palpable economic crisis, and the brutal austerity imposed by the current government.

Recently, the bourgeois media, particularly in Europe, has been delighting in the “miraculous” turnaround of Portugal’s fortunes. Just seven years ago, the Portuguese economy was teetering on the brink. The country was heading for the kind of social upheaval that caused a pre-revolutionary situation in Greece, and led to an enormous mass movement in neighbouring Spain.

On 8 November, the student council of the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, VUB) refused to recognise a student Marxist society, set up by the IMT in Brussels (Vonk – Marxistische jongeren), on the grounds that our organisation is… anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-fascist! We reiterate: this was a decision taken by the majority of the student council, not the university bosses.

If asked 'what is the least proletarian profession?', many might place ‘video game designer’ pretty close to the top. Until quite recently, that opinion might well have been shared by a majority of game designers themselves. But now this is changing rapidly. A snowballing of awareness is taking place about the extreme exploitation that the video games industry is based upon.

It’s been a turbulent time for the aviation industry recently. And now another airline looks unlikely to weather the storm. Flybe is up for sale, with the regional air carrier calling in accountants from KPMG in an attempt to save itself from collapse. Half-year profits have plunged and the company’s auditor, PwC, warned of “significant doubt” over its future. KPMG's involvement should have instantly set alarm bells ringing, as they were also the administrator of Monarch Airlines last year.

The mobilisation of the gilets jaunes (“yellow vests”) protest movement marks an important step in the development of the class struggle in France. With no party, no union, and no pre-existing organisation, hundreds of thousands of people have participated in this movement against a tax increase on diesel and petrol, sweeping aside the pseudo-concessions and threats of the government. They are supported by a large majority of the population.

Upwards of a trillion-and-a-half Danish kroner in “dirty money” (an amount that corresponds to about 60 percent of the Danish GDP) appears to have passed through the Danish financial giant Danske Bank. This case is just one in a long series of scandals, which show that the bourgeois rule of law is an illusion.

Finally, after months of fraught negotiations, the UK-EU negotiators have come up with a proposed deal. Written on the side, however, are instructions: light the blue touchpaper and stand well clear. All hell is about to break loose. From the point of view of big business, the draft deal is not too bad, tying the British economy to Europe. But for Tory Brexiteers, in particular, the deal is toxic.

The German Revolution of 1918 ended the First World War. During a little-known episode of the Revolution, German soldiers liberated Belgium from a brutal military occupation before the armistice of the 11 November was signed. This revolutionary movement was also crucial in pushing through a swift introduction of universal general suffrage in Belgium.

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