Is polio re-emerging as a threat in Britain?

Posted on: July 2nd, 2022 by Sam No Comments
A child in Cameroon, Africa receives her dose of the oral polio vaccine.

A child in Cameroon, Africa receives her dose of the oral polio vaccine.

How worried should we be about polio after scientists found the disease in London’s sewage system last month? The Sun, along with many other right wing newspapers, thinks we should be very anxious. “Polio is spreading in the UK for the first time in decades, officials claim” it hollered, while offering readers “six signs of polio you need to know”.

Researchers have detected the poliovirus in the sewage system in east London on a number of occasions this year. Its original source is likely to be someone recently inoculated with an oral version of the polio vaccine.

This is used today mainly in countries where there are higher rates of polio circulation and where public health and hygiene infrastructure is weaker.

The oral polio vaccine works by passing a small quantity of a live poliovirus into our bodies and thereby teaching our immune system how to defeat it. We then shed parts of the virus in our poo.

It is normal for small traces of the poliovirus to be found in sewage from time to time. However, the virus has turned up regularly in east London in recent months, and several closely related versions of it are showing.

It is rare but possible for the oral vaccine virus to revert to a virulent form that can cause disease. Changes to the virus found in sewage samples suggest the virus may be spreading among a few people in a catchment area of over 4 million people. There is, however, no direct evidence of this so far.

With high levels of immunisation in Britain—and vaccines being nearly 100 percent effective—any outbreak should be relatively easy to control. For most adults polio is not a serious illness, even if they are unvaccinated. Most people report few if any symptoms if they contract it.

But for children and those with weakened immune systems it is different. Polio for them can cause terrible damage, in severe cases it can cause paralysis.

The problem in London is not so much that there may be a limited amount of polio in circulation, but that vaccination rates in parts of the city have fallen to dangerously low levels. In some areas they are below the 95 percent rate for two year olds that the World Health Organisation says is necessary to eradicate the disease.

It is particularly true of London, where fewer than half of 13 to 14 year olds received their booster vaccine last year. That’s why health officials declared a “national incident”.

Falling vaccination rates mirror almost every indicator of health service deterioration. In 2012-13 the percentage of children vaccinated by their first or second birthday was easily above 95 percent but then followed a steady decline.

Retired GP Kambiz Boomla told Socialist Worker, “The pressure on practices is to get to the low hanging fruit, the people that will readily respond to calls to get their children vaccinated. But what happens to those in harder to reach communities, and those that have come from situations which might make them more hesitant about vaccinations?”

Kambiz says people who have come to Britain after experiencing Western military intervention can be difficult to convince. “In east London we quite often hear people that have come from war-torn countries saying, ‘We don’t trust your bombs, so why should we trust your vaccines?’”

The virus is endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan—two countries that have been at the forefront of the West’s “War on Terror”. If we are really to wipe out polio, then our government must direct huge resources towards public health in Britain and replace military intervention with healthcare for all.

Mass strikes—why do they matter?

Posted on: July 2nd, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
A rally for the RMT union rail strikes

Strikes, like the RMT union rail strike, show the power workers have according to Rosa Luxemburg (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Ordinary people welcomed and took part in supporting the 40,000 rail strikers who walked out of work for three days last month. For socialists, workers’ action and the withdrawal of their labour is a crucial way to fight back. Not only does it hit the bosses’ ­profits, it also raises questions of broader political change in society.

Revolutionary ­Polish-German socialist Rosa Luxemburg argued that mass strikes were the fusion of both economic and political demands. She used this to explain how struggle was the vehicle to radically ­transform society. Luxemburg developed her ideas in her 1906 pamphlet The Mass Strike, the Political Party and Trade Unions. She did this to tackle debate in the German Social Democrat Party over the nature of revolution.

It contained importation lessons from the 1905 revolution in Russia, which sparked large strikes in Germany and saw workers’ action increase confidence to raise political demands. Luxemburg explained how capitalism brought state and economic power much closer together. The capitalist class dominates the working class politically using the state, and economically through exploitation.

So workers’ economic struggle—for instance fighting for higher wages—can develop into a political struggle about who runs society. “The ­economic struggle is the transmitter from one political centre to another,” she wrote. “The political struggle is the periodic fertilisation of soil for the economic struggle.”

During economic fights workers learn about the power of organisation. Here they can gain a wider political consciousness. Economic demands can become political at both higher and lower levels of struggle, whether it’s hundreds of thousands or just a handful of workers striking. This is why revolutionaries argue for longer, bigger strikes. 

Luxemburg added that it works both ways—political struggle can also lead to economic demands. “Every new onset and every fresh victory of the political struggle is transformed into a powerful impetus for the economic struggle,” she said. “Extending at the same time its external possibilities and intensifying the inner urge of the workers to better their position and their desire to struggle. 

“After every foaming wave of political action a fructifying deposit remains behind from which a thousand stalks of ­economic struggle shoot forth. And conversely. The ­workers’ condition of ceaseless economic struggle with the capitalists keeps their fighting energy alive in every political interval.”

The ruling class are scared by this prospect. That’s why they say economic issues facing society, such as rising inflation, have no political cause and are merely a phenomenon. Even trade union leaders say that their power to call workers to down tools shouldn’t be used for political reasons. And Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is opposed to supporting strikes.

Luxemburg analysed this “two pillar” approach when German coal miners went on strike in the Ruhr in 1889. The strike spread across industries—ignoring trade union leaders’ direction—to those who weren’t in a trade union. The workers demanded improved conditions, then soon added that the government upheld workers’ rights. But union leaders were desperate to regain control of the workers. And the main workers’ party—the SPD—branded the strike as purely economic, so not their concern. 

Luxemburg’s analysis was rooted in 1905 Russia, when worker’s economic and political demands sparked a revolution. Under the ruling Russian monarchy life was brutal with peasants and workers alike suffered terrible living and working conditions. Tsar Nicholas II ran a repressive, undemocratic and racist rule. So in January 1905 an unarmed march for civil rights headed to the Winter Palace in the capital Petrograd to present a petition for improved working conditions.

The Imperial Guard shot down protesters in what was known as Bloody Sunday. In protest workers withdrew their labour in a general strike across the city. This bred a period of other strikes, mutinies and uprisings across Russia, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics. The striking workers demanded economic and political change.

Workers confronted the Tsar’s state and fought for their right to protest. Other workers were then inspired to battle to improve their own wages and working conditions. In October a general strike forced the hand of the Tsar when he promised political reform. Luxemburg said class  consciousness awoke “as if by an electric shock”. “The ­proletarian mass quite suddenly and sharply came to realise how intolerable was that social and economic existence which they had patiently endured for decades in the chains of capitalism.

“Thereupon there began a spontaneous general shaking of the tugging at these chains.” The experience transformed revolutionaries’ understanding of how a modern working class revolution could take place. As Luxemburg wrote, “The mass strike is the first natural, impulsive form of every great revolutionary struggle of the proletariat”.

She described general strikes as “the living pulse-beat of the revolution and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel”. They are a driving force towards revolution, ­transforming ideas among workers and giving them ­confidence for more fights. That’s why struggle, Luxemburg argued, is the best educator for the masses.

She wrote, “Absolutism in Russia must be overthrown by the proletariat. But in order to be able to overthrow it, the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation.” To achieve that can only be done “by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution”.

But mass strikes will reach limits under capitalism. That’s why they have to be taken ­further, to a revolution that can smash the state and make the economic and political demands a reality. The prospect of revolution and general strikes can seem unrealistic for a majority of workers fighting small-scale battles in one workplace. Yet even the smallest strikes build confidence and ideas among workers to win. 

Oppressive ideas such as racism and sexism can fall apart on picket lines, and workers are able to envision a different version of society with them at the helm. But Luxemburg underestimated the lengths the trade union bureaucracy would go to break a mass strike. She wrote that mass political and economic struggles wouldn’t pause to “ask the union leaders whether they had given their blessing”.

She added, “If they stood aside from the movement or opposed it, the result of such behaviour would be only this—the union or party leaders would be swept away.” Leader of the RMT union Mick Lynch has boiled the rail strikes down to demanding no compulsory redundancies. Although their fight is not on the scale of a general strike, workers view their action as a confrontation with high prices and low wages.

Strikes on a mass scale can paralyse the state, but they are not always enough to sweep away the influence of unions and reformist parties. This can be seen in the general strike in Britain in 1926 that was sold out by the union officials, scared of losing control of the workers. This also led Luxemburg to also underestimate the need for a revolutionary party.

The revolutionary party is a force that is able to break the bureaucrats’ control and guide the self-activity of workers. But Luxemburg made clear that workers are central to achieving their own emancipation. She stressed that liberation would not be simply handed by rulers or through a series of reforms. Workers themselves must fight for it.

In the fight for ­self-emancipation, strikes are the working class’s most potent weapon. They are able to combine economic damage to the ruling class with political demands on a mass scale, which can escalate to win a much better society. As Luxemburg explained, “Socialism will not and cannot be created by decrees, nor can it be established by any government, however socialistic.

“Socialism must be created by the masses, must be made by every worker. Where the chains of ­capitalism are forged, there must they be broken.” Working class people today in Britain endure rising inflation, low wages and poor working conditions. Luxemburg’s work is a reminder to all workers the power to change those conditions, as well as the society that causes them, lies within the working class collectively.

‘We have a world to win’—hundreds join opening rally of Marxism Festival

Posted on: July 1st, 2022 by TTE No Comments
“Across the board bosses try to make us pay for their crises,” he said. “First it was austerity, then it was the pandemic now it’s inflation.”  Speaking about the recent strikes, he said, “If these groups of workers win, every worker can win. We’ve got to make sure the RMT isn’t a one-off.”  “The same bosses who attack our pay and living standards are the same people who pour fuel on the fire while our planet burns.” He added, “To win that different world, we’re not going to settle for the least worst option. Real change in society comes from below.”

Chanting “No justice, no peace” at the opening rally of Marxism (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A new mood of resistance ran through the over 800-strong opening rally of Marxism Festival 2022 in east London on Friday night. The three-day political festival, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at Queen Mary University, is the first in-person Marxism in three years. Speakers at the event include former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and rapper and activist Lowkey.

The opening rally followed a series of meetings during the day. Topics included Capitalism’s crimes against nature with author Jeff Sparrow, resisting the war on trans people, the legacy of Black Lives Matter and Rosa Luxemburg. And, in the Culture Tent hosted by Bookmarks bookshop, people heard journalist Gary Younge in conversation with Esme Choonara on race, class and identity.

The rally kicked off with inspiring speeches from strikers, including a striking Churchill train cleaner, a Tube striker and a Coventry bin worker. Bella, an RMT member and Churchill cleaner striker, said, “The company says its ethos is doing the right thing. They’re doing the right thing by themselves, certainly not by their workforce  

“We are super-exploited workers. We have been for a long time. We are now standing up and standing together to fight for what is ours. Why should my colleagues work full time to sleep at a shelter at night time?

“I’ve learnt a lot from joining the RMT—a lot they don’t teach you in school. I’ve learnt that together we can achieve anything.” The rally broke out into chants of, “The workers united will never be defeated.” 

Jane, an RMT member and Tube worker, said, “We are being asked to pay for a crisis not of our making by the very people that are profiting from the crisis. Neither public support or the media will win this struggle. It will be the fight back by workers using their industrial power. This is a fight for the dignity of all workers.”

Haydn Jones, Unite union convenor of HGV drivers in Coventry, slammed the Labour council’s treatment of the strikers. “There’s no way we’re going to be knocked around and called liars,” he said. “We are determined and we will go on.

“I’m hoping now we have not just a summer of discontent, but a whole year so we can bring these Tories down.”

He added, “Look what they’ve done to us in Coventry—is Labour the answer? What are we going to replace the Conservatives with? I’ll never vote for Labour again—I only have hatred and contempt for them.”

But alongside signs of resistance, the Tories and bosses are still launching huge assaults. Across the world capitalism is in crisis—from climate catastrophe to nuclear war, economic stagnation and an ever-deepening cost of living crisis. The system’s centrist defenders offer no solutions to working class people, and the fascists, far right and bigots hope to gain.

The US Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade was just the beginning in the right’s war on the gains the women’s, LGBT+ and anti-racist movements have won.

Virginia Rodino, a US abortion rights campaigner, said, that the Democrats were unable and unwilling to take on the attacks. She argued they “absorb and de-radicalise movements, not bring the change that we need.”

“Reproductive rights are simply a class issue,” said Virginia. “We need to take it out of that hands of corporations, judges, and politicians. Workers are poised to take this on. We need each other.”

In Britain, the Tories are ramping up racism against migrants and refugees with the Nationality and Borders Act and Rwanda deportation plan. Tandrina, an anti-racist activist in Greater Manchester, slammed the Tories’ “hostile environment” to migrants, and the new laws. “It’s time to question who benefits from these policies,” she said. “The Tories brought the hostile environment upon us. It needs to be challenged and needs to be overturned.” 

She said the government is “aggressively blaming migrants for shortages in everything—jobs, housing, healthcare.” And she explained how “division is created by the ruling class”. “I want to see more demonstrations, more strikes and demands for action,” she said. Chants of, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” erupted after she concluded. 

Only a few days before Marxism Festival the Police Act, which gives cops more powers and further criminalises Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) people, came into force.

Jake Bowers, a Romani journalist and organiser of Drive 2 Survive, asked,“What kind of country is it where you have to apply for the right to protest? The fact they’re clamping down so hard shows we’re powerful and must continue to be powerful.” 

Jake called on the rally to join GRT protests outside parliament during its reopening in the autumn to “reclaim” it. The bill is a “direct racist attack”, he added. “It’s there to chill and frighten people. But we’re still travelling, stopping and claiming our place on the British landscape for survival. We’re still trespassing on the ground with intent to reside—because there’s nowhere else for us to be.”

Aamer Anwar—solicitor of the family of Sheku Bayoh who died after contact with the police—spoke about their fight for justice. “His family has refused to be silenced,” he said. “They’re asking for the truth—without the truth there can be no justice.”  An inquiry into Sheku’s death began in Edinburgh on 10 May

“When black men die in police custody they are dehumanised and stereotyped,” Aamer added. “Why is it that a black man is always responsible for his own death in police custody? Four years of trusting the system has given lies and no justice. Sheku had no machete and no knife. He was unarmed.” People chanted, “No justice. No peace.”

Lewis Nielsen from the SWP central committee said the festival is urgent because the ruling class “are coming for every gain we ever made”. “Across the board bosses try to make us pay for their crises,” he said. “First it was austerity, then it was the pandemic now it’s inflation.” 

And speaking about the recent strikes, he said, “If these groups of workers win, every worker can win. We’ve got to make sure the RMT isn’t a one-off.”  “The same bosses who attack our pay and living standards are the same people who pour fuel on the fire while our planet burns,” he added. “To win that different world, we’re not going to settle for the least worst option. Real change in society comes from below.” 

Marxism Festival continues over the weekend. On Saturday Egyptian revolutionary Hossam el-Hamalawy and Sudanese revolutionary Muzan Alneel will join a book launch of Anne Alexander’s Crisis and Revolt in the Middle East and North Africa. And the following morning Lowkey and anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe will join a panel on the struggle for Palestinian liberation.  

It’s not too late to book a ticket and join the debates on Saturday and Sunday. For a full timetable, click here

Protests and guerilla tactics —the fight for abortion rights

Posted on: July 1st, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

An abortion rights protest in Pittsburgh (pic: Mark Dixon on Flickr )

Now the supreme court in the US has ripped up abortion rights, the fight is on to help desperate women end their pregnancies. The pro-choice organisation, The Guttmacher Institute, found that some 2,548 abortions were provided every day in 2020—the last year ­figures were available.

So what happens to those women now? As well as protests against the decision itself, a host of guerilla struggles are taking place. Many women will try to get their hands on what’s known as “medication abortion”.

Abortion pills, most commonly mifepristone and misoprostol, already account for 54 percent of abortions in the US. Most states in the US allow abortion pills to be sent out in the mail, but 19 don’t, as they require a health worker to be there. 

Many US based telehealth services won’t mail the pills to women in states with abortion bans. But some services beyond the US’s legal jurisdiction can post medication to women throughout the states.

For instance, since website Aid Access was set up in 2018, it’s shipped abortion pills to tens of thousands of people from its pharmacy in India. Activists in Mexico have long helped women from the US with abortions—and now they are ­expecting to redouble their efforts.

They’ve been transporting pills over the border in toys, jars of vitamins or sewn into the hems of clothes. For poor women, one of the ­biggest barriers to abortion access is who will pay for the procedure and associated costs such as travel, accommodation and childcare expenses.

Dozens of abortion funds operate like charities to help women pay off these bills. In the “trigger ban” states, some are still operating to help women travel further afield to get the care they need. Others shut up shop abruptly, ­fearing legal repercussions if they were to continue to operate.

Although expected for a long time, the Supreme Court’s ruling on 24 June was instant. So women who were due to receive abortions were turned away from clinic doors. It plunged health workers into a desperate scramble to find options to get women the care they need. 

A group called Elevated Access has chartered volunteer-piloted light ­aircraft to transport women to abortion appointments, sometimes from small rural airstrips. The Just The Pill organisation has bought two vans—one for medication abortions and one for surgical procedures.

“We are undaunted,” said Dr Julie Amaon, director of Just The Pill. “By moving beyond a traditional brick and mortar clinic, our mobile clinics can quickly adapt to the courts, state legislatures, and the markets, going where the need is greatest.

Some are trying legal routes to keep their doors open and keep women out of the backstreets. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is trying to stop a state law that will make most abortions illegal on 7 July. “We’re not giving up,” said Diane Derzis, clinic owner. “Women have always had abortions, no matter what it took.” 

Democrats encourage passivity as abortion becomes illegal

The Supreme Court made the decisive blow, but blame still lies with the Democrats.  When Roe v Wade was struck down, president Joe Biden offered lukewarm words of objection. Yet he has refused to act in defence of abortion rights.

There are measures the White House could put in place to ease abortion access for women dramatically.  Biden could pass laws to open government-funded clinics along state borders.

He could ensure that telemedicine and abortion pills would be readily available to women, no matter what state they’re in. And he could give clinics permission to open on federal lands. But he hasn’t done any of these. Other reactions from top Democrats were equally pathetic.  

Democrat speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, responded to the news by reading out a poem. And Michigan congressman, Andy Levin, posted pictures of himself doing yoga. So nobody should be fooled by the Democrats’ lies that the critical issue is the 8 November midterm elections.

The Democrats have shown they will stand by as the right tears away abortion rights. It should be no surprise that a party led by a man who can barely even utter the word “abortion” acts in this way. 

The Democrats are fixated on not upsetting sections of voters. That matters more to them than defending women’s rights.

More massive protest needed

Although the anti-choice bigots are on the offensive, there is a mood to fight back for abortion rights. Big and angry mobilisations gathered just hours after the Roe announcement.

Some 20,000 people marched in New York, with many thousands taking to the streets in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, California, and countless other cities. There were angry protests in states with some of the most restrictive laws.

For instance, thousands of people gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the state government wants a near ban on a woman’s right to choose. The visceral rage of working class people comes as a counterweight to the inaction and timidity of the NGOs and organised labour movement.

Planned Parenthood said, “The #1 thing you can do right now is help protect abortion access at state level.” That can lead people down the dead end of focusing on elections.

This is also partly why protests aren’t bigger currently. The reliance on elections and the courts often leads people to believe their rights will be protected if they vote for the right people.  The battle over abortion rights has to encompass more than just who controls the state legislature.

It’s important to fight for legal gains.  But the best way to do that is to build a large enough movement, with workers at the heart of it, that makes it impossible for the state machine to deny those demands.

Hundreds more protests are now planned, many under the “We won’t go back” slogan. They are crucial to the resistance.

BT Group workers deliver huge vote for strikes

Posted on: June 30th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A picture of two EE workers holding CWU union signs campaigning in the BT strike ballot

EE workers in Doxford, Sunderland, campaigning in the strike vote (Picture: @CWUnews on Twitter)

Tens of thousands of telecoms workers have voted to strike in what could be the next major battle over pay. CWU union members working in BT Group—BT, Openreach and EE—all voted overwhelmingly for strikes. They are furious after bosses imposed a pay increase of £1,500 without any agreement from the union. For every worker, that’s a real terms pay cut.

The vote—in three separate ballots—shows workers in every section want to strike. In Openreach, workers voted by 95.8 percent to strike on a 74 percent turnout and in BT by 91.5 percent on a 58.2 percent turnout.

Workers in EE voted by 95 percent for strikes but fell eight votes short of meeting the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by anti-union laws. Each result shows there’s widespread anger over pay among BT workers—and a readiness to fight.

“We always knew it was going to be a landslide in Openreach,” Eugene Caparros, a CWU rep in South Wales, told Socialist Worker. “People are outraged at the way they’ve been treated over the last couple of years. The members are still angry at not being given a pay rise last year.

“Had the company given them one maybe they could have settled this—but they’ve always got their hands in our pockets.”

And Jonathan Young, a rep in south London, Surrey and North Hampshire, told Socialist Worker, “This is massive. Our members believe that if push comes to shove they can’t afford not to go on strike. Now we have to prepare for it.”

Speaking immediately after the ballot results were announced, CWU general secretary Dave Ward slammed BT bosses for raking in profits while holding pay down. “BT posted profits earlier this year of £1.3 billion, and they also paid out £700 million to their shareholders,” he said. 

He added that BT chief executive Philip Jansen’s earnings had increased by over 32 percent to a point where he’s now earning over “3.5 million a year.” And he noted that BT had put prices up by 10 percent. “So these people are partly the cause of spiralling inflation, not workers.”

He said union leaders would demand BT bosses give workers a “substantial pay rise”—though he wouldn’t say what that would mean. Instead, he said he wanted “senior management to come back to the table.”

Ward said there wouldn’t be a “knee jerk reaction from the union”, but also said the union could call action by the end of next week. That’s if bosses didn’t confirm “they’re willing to set aside the imposition of pay and come to the table with a significantly improved offer.”

Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr added that, though BT’s pay offer “was not enough, really the biggest issue was the imposition of it.”

Eugene said that on BT’s own online platform for its employees, workers had posted with the hashtag “10 percent and nothing less.” “That’s what many people are saying,” he said. “The union won’t pick a figure because you can’t negotiate if you have hard lines set down. But we do need something in line with inflation.” He added, “The ball’s firmly in the company’s court.”

BT workers shouldn’t accept an improved offer if it’s still below inflation, even if it’s agreed with the union rather than imposed.  In a similar dispute last year, Kerr backed away from action after a deal. It put union officials “back in the room” with bosses, but which left many union activists angry.

This time there needs to be a fight—with strikes called immediately to put the pressure on bosses, not used as bargaining chips and talks. And the union should also be prepared to defy the unjust anti-union laws and call its members in EE out anyway. 

Kerr himself said that “had we balloted now” with “the two or three hundred extra members who joined in the past couple of weeks we would have got it.” “Those 200 or 300 members joined because they wanted to vote, they wanted to vote yes,” he said. 

It would be wrong if Tory anti-union laws were allowed to stop those low paid workers from fighting. Eugene said workers in South Wales were already preparing for strikes. “We’re going to have mass pickets across South Wales if action is called,” he said. “We’re just waiting for Andy Kerr to fire the starting pistol.” 

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Mass resistance sweeps the streets of Sudan

Posted on: June 30th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Image of protesters in Sudan standing by the barricades, smoke is everywhere and people have flags and safety helmets on

Protesters defying police and troops in Khartoum, Sudan (Picture: @Elmosharaf_E on Twitter)

Huge demonstrations swept Sudan on Thursday, emphasising the refusal of ordinary people to submit to the military government. And in an escalation from other recent protests, at the end of the marches people set up sit-ins in two areas of the capital Khartoum. This recalls the defiant tactics from 2019 which caused a deep crisis for the regime at that time.

The ruthless authorities responded with their habitual repression on Thursday. By 10pm activists reported that police and soldiers had killed nine people, most of them in the city of Omdurman. A sniper on the rooftop of The Holy Quran University in Omdurman fired live ammunition at marchers.

In Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannons to block protesters from moving towards the presidential palace. But that didn’t stop the marches. In Bahri, north of Khartoum, people forced their way across the Al Mak Nimer bridge and pushed back cops and troops.

Amd later the sit-ins began at Al Muassasa and Bashdar. Initially, these were declared for 24 hours, but were subject to extension depending on the participants’ votes.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tyres. Workers at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet throughout Thursday.

Sudan’s Radio Dabanga reported demonstrations in Nyala and Zalingei in Darfur, Kadugli in South Kordofan, El Gedaref and Kassala in eastern Sudan, and Dongola and Atbara in northern Sudan. In Port Sudan in Red Sea state, demonstrations faced repression and tear gas.

Sudanese people have fought bravely for eight months since general Abdel Fattah al‑Burhan seized power on 25 October last year. The coup ended a supposed transition towards democracy. It also put an end to a fake “power-sharing deal” between the military and civilian leaders.

Thursday was a significant date because on 30 June 1989 Omar al-Bashir led a military coup and overthrew the elected government. He ruled for nearly 30 years until 2019 when a mass movement drove him out, triggering an extended process of revolt and revolution.

Networks of resistance committees—local democratic structures that bring together activists and organise defiance of the military—organised the marches.

“We will use this day to rededicate ourselves to the process of people’s revolution,” a Sharg Al Nil Janub Coordination member in Khartoum told Socialist Worker.

The Khartoum State Resistance Committees Coordination said it hoped the marches would be “a powerful storm that overthrows the coup authority’s repressive hold on power”. “We will go out and refuse to return or renounce our duty until the coup is overthrown,” it said. “This is an open battle with them until we prevail.

“Either we achieve our objectives or perish trying. We shall accomplish what we are set out to do, despite the opposition of every traitor, coward, and slacker. And we will employ all peaceful means, such as protests, strikes, disobedience, and barricades.”

Protesters are demanding the overthrow of the regime, a civilian government and a democratic transformation.

One reason the military does not want to relinquish power is that they control large parts of the economy. A report this week from the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS) produced a database of 408 commercial entities controlled by security elites. They include agricultural conglomerates, banks, and medical import companies.

C4ADS is headed by figures linked to the US military establishment. It knows where the money flows in Sudan. The report said that the family of the infamously brutal Rapid Support Forces leader Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo controls over 28 percent of the shares in the major Khaleej Bank. He also has many other holdings.

Those who took to the streets on Thursday have shown immense courage and determination. But those qualities alone will not defeat the ruthless regime.

The resistance committees have to become not just protest bodies, but the centre of an alternative government to the generals and their supporters. That has to be linked to building strikes in the best-organised sections of workers—telecom, transport, finance, port workers and public services such as hospitals, schools and universities.

Recent teachers’ strikes have won real gains over pay and conditions. And 18 teachers’ committees declared they would join the 30 June demonstrations.

There are debates among the resistance committees over core issues. The Revolutionary Charter for People’s Power, adopted by resistance committees in 15 states, includes a roadmap to form a government. This would start with the selection of local councils in a process that would start immediately as part of the resistance against the coup.

But it also restricts itself to a public-private economic system which would leave much of the present wealth structure intact. The revolution has to go deeper and organise to overthrow the regime and its economic backers.

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Timeline of revolution

December 2018: A trebling in the price of bread and other basic goods leads to protests. They quickly became a political revolt against the regime of Omar al-Bashir who had ruled for 30 years since a military coup. Despite repression, protests grow during the next three months.

April 2019: Instead of leaving at the end of a march in Khartoum, protesters occupied the area around the military headquarters and began an indefinite sit-in. They set up barricades to protect themselves from attack, organised food, water and security, began cultural projects and held constant discussions. The example spread to some other cities. And workers began to protest not just as individuals but as organised groups from workplaces.

11 April 2019: Fearing the scale of the protests, the military leaders announce that Bashir has been removed. But the military stay in charge. The protests and sit-ins continue and on 28 and 29 May workers hold a powerful general strike.

3 June 2019: Led by the notorious Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries, military council forces stormed the Khartoum sit-in and killed at least 110 people. But protests and strikes continue.

August 2019: Instead of building on the protests to sweep away the military, a rotten agreement sees “power-sharing” between the military and the pro-democracy movement.

October 2019: Huge numbers of people come onto the streets angry at the slow pace of change and economic hardship.

July 2020: Up to a million people march “to correct the path of the revolution”.

October 2021: The transitional agreement says the military should step aside, but they launch a coup to stay in power. It’s met by immediate street protests.

6 Nov 2021: A million people demonstrate across Sudan against the military. They block roads and make clear they will not accept military control.

21 Nov 2021: Abdalla Hamdok, the ousted civilian prime minister, does a deal with general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to lead a government of technocrats for a transitional period. Most of the anti-coup opposition denounce the move as a sham designed to give the appearance of change while the military effectively stays in charge.

2 January 2022: Continuing mass street protests force Hamdok’s resignation. The United Nations and Western powers continue to seek a compromise between the people on the streets and the generals.

  • Send a solidarity message to the Resistance Committees here 
  • Hear Muzan Alneel, Anne Alexander and Hossam el-Hamalawy speak on the Sudanese and Middle East revolutions at Marxism 2022, 1-3 July, London. Details here

Nato summit ramps up the threat of wider war

Posted on: June 30th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
world leaders from turkey, findland and sweden are shaking hands at Nato summit in Madrid

Turkey, Finland and Sweden sign agreement paving the way for more Nato alliances (Picture: Nato)

The declaration from the Nato summit in Madrid has paved the way for more death and destruction in Ukraine—and the threat of wider war. The warmongers’ alliance laid out a “blue print” for a “more competitive world” on Wednesday with the biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War.

The Nato leaders agreed more arms for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke to the summit. This means a ramping up of the proxy war that US imperialism and Russian imperialism are waging over Ukraine.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg boasted about “a fundamental shift to our deterrence and defence” in the new Strategic Concept. He promised “more forward deployed combat formations”, “more high-readiness forces” and “more prepositioned equipment”.

President Joe Biden had already pledged the US will pour military equipment into Europe. This will include a permanent headquarters for the 5th Army Corps in Poland, 5,000 more troops in Romania and two F-35 squadrons in Britain.

It will send air defence equipment in Italy and Germany and increase the number of naval destroyers in Spain from four to six.

The new US deployments come on top of the 100,000 troops it has in Europe—which it had already increased by 20,000 since the Russian invasion. And, beyond just the US, its allies will increase the number of troops on high alert from 40,000 to 300,000.

At the summit Nato leaders agreed that they will invite Finland and Sweden—until now officially neutral countries—to join the alliance.

This involved a filthy deal with the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. In return for Turkey dropping its block on the two countries joining, they will clamp down on Kurdish political exiles who’ve faced Turkish repression.

The agreement will see Sweden and Finland “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects”—supporters of the Kurdish nationalist PKK and YPG groups.

Finland and Sweden joining Nato is another sign of how the world is being forced into rival imperialist camps, the US and Russia and China. They are armed with nuclear weapons—and confront one another across eastern Europe and Asia.

Supporters of Nato paint it as a defensive and democratic alliance. The Strategic Concept talks of taking on Russia and China that “undercut the rules-based international order counter to our values and interests”.

In reality, it’s about US imperialism trying to defend its murderous hegemony in the face of competition from Russia and mainly China.

An article on Nato’s website ahead of the summit made clear it was about increasing rivalry between “great powers”. It said that the new Strategic Concept would “prepare the alliance for a world characterised by the return of inter-state threats and great power competition”. It explained this marked a step change from its focus on “non-peer competitors” in the 1990s and 2000s—when the US launched brutal wars against weaker countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the US and Nato ramp up imperialist competition, it’s all the more important to build an anti-war movement that rejects all the imperialists. In Britain that means demanding Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine—and opposing the US and Nato escalation and expansion.

Israeli government collapse is rooted in the racist state’s foundations

Posted on: June 29th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Image of Israeli president Bennett at a meeting with US leaders

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett  (Picture: James K. Lee)

Israel’s government has collapsed. The occupation of Palestine—and the very existence of the Israeli state itself—are at the heart of the crisis.

Right wing prime minister Naftali Bennett was forced to dissolve his government on Wednesday. He failed in his attempt to renew a law that extends Israeli civilian rule to its citizens in West Bank settlements.

The law was a cornerstone of Israel’s apartheid system as it privileges Israeli settlers over West Bank Palestinians, who live under military rule. Every Israeli government—and most Israeli parties—have voted to renew it every five years ever since Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967.

But Bennett’s government narrowly lost the renewal vote on its first reading in June—and looked set to lose a further vote on Friday. That would have left more than 475,000 Israelis in West Bank settlements living under the same military law as Palestinians. Rather than risk that, Bennett chose instead to dissolve the government. 

For most Israeli politicians, this had nothing to do with principle or opposition to settlements. The bill would have passed if it wasn’t for the viciously right wing opposition led by former prime minister, racist warmonger Binyamin Netanyahu.

As prime minister, Netanyahu championed settlements in the West Bank. He didn’t want to end them—but to prove that Bennett’s government can’t manage the occupation. That’s a fundamental question that strikes at the very existence of the Israeli state—and is at the root of Israel’s political crisis. 

Israel’s settlement-building campaign is designed to claim Palestinian land—with a view to eventually annexing it—and deny Palestinians the hope of any kind of state. But annexing Palestinian land also means more Palestinians living inside Israel’s border. The prospect of this is an existential crisis for a state premised on maintaining a clear ethnic majority over Arabs.

Every Israeli government has had to face up to this contradiction—and none has found an answer.  Bennett’s coalition government replaced Netanyahu a year ago this month. It ended a two-year-long stalemate in which four elections had failed to produce a government.

The one thing that every party in Bennett’s coalition agreed on—“left” and right—is that Netanyahu could no longer manage the occupation. He is bogged down in multiple corruption scandals. But—more importantly—last year’s Palestinian revolt had rocked Israeli society.

Yet those parties were also split on how to manage the occupation and preserve Israel as a “Jewish” state. Some of them are so-called “centrist” or “left” parties who think a commitment to some sort of Palestinian state is the best way to keep Arabs out of Israel.

Others—such as Bennett—want to annexe the whole of the West Bank. They were also divided on what Israel’s “Jewish identity” should mean. Some are secular and want to end privileges enjoyed by Israel’s orthodox minority, while others are deeply religious.

That left Bennett’s coalition fragile and vulnerable to splits—and Israel’s political system mired in repeated elections and stalemates. The only near certainty is that any outcome will likely mean intensified repression of Palestinians. 

Bennett and Netanyahu are committed to never letting go of Palestinian land. Their answer is to do their best—through settlement building and violent repression—to force Palestinians into ever smaller enclaves.

Israeli mainstream politics once denied the crisis had anything to do with the occupation. But now the truth is coming to the fore—it’s about a racist state that can’t exist without oppressing Palestinians.