John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Live from Cairo - Hannah Elsisi on the Egyptian crisis

Originally published in Ceasefire Magazine

Hesham Zakai: Have we just witnessed a massacre in Cairo and where does the blame for the enormous bloodshed lie?

Hannah Elsisi: We haven’t just witnessed a massacre. We’ve just witnessed another massacre.

The blame begins on 18/19 November 2011, when the army massacred hundreds of youths on Mohammed Mahmoud Street just as the parliamentary voting polls were opening their doors. The Muslim Brotherhood’s members chose to support the military then; its leadership – unlike many on the “revolution continues” list – chose not to withdraw from the SCAF-orchestrated elections.

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Martin Pravda: Apartheid in Israel - a hidden tragedy continues

Last Sunday (14 July 2013) a village was destroyed in a desert in Negev, an area in what is now known as southern Israel. Bulldozers were sent over for the clearing along with a large number of Israeli police officers to make sure that the job could be completed with little disruption. Of course, clearing out a village of its population will never come without resistance, especially when it is now the 53rd time that a village has been destroyed in this region.1 The people being cleared out were Arabs, known by some as “The Bedouin” – a people who 65 years ago made up 90,000 of the population of Negev, and who now only make up less than half that number. Thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against the destruction, and were reportedly attacked by Israeli police who made 28 arrests.2 After the village was torn apart and its people arrested and displaced, the bulldozers and the police retuned to their towns and hundreds of Arabs returned to the broken up site to rebuild what they could out of their destroyed village.

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Interview on the fall of Morsi – live from Cairo

Is today a victory for revolution or counterrevolution?

In a way, both. I’m currently sitting just off Tahrir Square with the woman who started ‘no to military trials’, a musician, one of Cairo’s most active street artists, and a novelist of the revolution. That is precisely the question we’re discussing now – and we are split down the middle. Half of us see this as a victory for the revolution and the other half as a victory for the counterrevolution – half as a step forward, half as a step backwards.

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Hannah Elsisi: Report from Cairo

I'm sitting in a flat just off Tahrir in "west-el-balad" and I can hear political shows blasting from TVs in café-lined streets. Honking cars drive through the celebrators, and a child in the alley beneath my balcony is singing "we won't leave, he will leave". A festive march passing through Hoda Sha'rawy street now is chanting: "The free revolutionaries carry the revolution forward" (Thowar ahrar hankamel el meshwar) while calling on people to come down from their balconies and join the festivities. People are throwing bottles of water from their balconies to the marching protesters. Egyptians are celebrating Morsi's forthcoming departure today as they were all across Egypt yesterday. In short, It's Eid in Egypt already.

Yesterday I saw the largest mass of people I had ever seen walk Cairo's streets, as I walked along the march from Ramses to Itihadeyya giving out leaflets and carrying a plain red flag (For the revolution's dead. and communism, duh.) (Note: Tamarod had also banned all flags except the Egyptian flag on the day), and as the march got slower and slower, it eventually extended from Ramses, where the crowds almost met with the protesters in Tahrir and Kasr el Nil, across half the width of Cairo all the way to the Presidential Palace in the East. It felt as if everyone who'd signed Tamarod's petition had taken to the streets, and more. In the sea of euphoric protesters were what felt like a whole load of "new people", taking to the streets for the first time, as though enchanted with this new form of expression, out and staying out to get what the revolution promised… among other things.

What I have felt and seen over the past month is that a new maturity characterises the revolution. No longer an inconvenient aside, that "needs to end sometime soon" so things can go back to normal, the striking bus drivers and overfilled squares and jammed roads of Egypt have become a social reality. Not so dissimilar to the way capitalism seems to consume one's every departure point, reference or aspiration. The streets are seen as a friendly place to get things done, the coming and going of rulers and political tides mere blips on the grand scale. Protest becomes both daily routine and special festivity, every social act becomes worthy of critique, or just the "revolution's business".

The accrued complexities and contradictions of the past two years seemed to play out beautifully on the 30th of June. There were those who had voted for Morsi and were disappointed by lack of jobs or safety, there were those who felt vindicated in their decision to boycott or vote for Shafik, there were many who just wanted to get rid of him regardless of what came next. While many seemed inclined to believe the army may bring order and economic prosperity, many more felt they could take on the military next if they took over after Morsi's ousting. There were the ultras and youths who chanted against the military and police as we passed them on the march, and there were roars of cheering and clapping when the army's helicopters flew over the demonstrations. There were Muslim Brotherhood supporters camping out in Nasr city in support of the president and the Salafist Noor party who, despite great criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood's government, have decided not to participate in Tamarod's call-outs. And then there is the Tamarod campaign, which against all odds received the kind of support and popularity, as well as 15 million signatures calling for early elections, that opposition forces such as Sabahi or El Baradei have been unable to garner.

That military helicopters were flying over Tahrir dropping Egyptian flags on the protesters should be enough indication of the kind of image the military is building for itself as the political saviour and bearer of law and order. At first chants for or against the military would immediately descend into one side beating up the other, but as the day progressed, the protests just turned into adjacent chunks that chanted against the MB in sync. Then, each chanted for or against the military depending on which side was louder in that particular part of the square. Cool, like that. In all seriousness, it is in this new maturity or calmness that I see a widening space for grassroots movements of women, workers, students and communities to assert their alternatives; to fight for more than just the ousting of this or that government, but at every level and area of society. 

In this article I want to focus on a particular facet of the revolution and the past few days' protests: sexual assault and rape in the square(s). I will comment on other aspects alluded to above in future articles. I'm currently working with an open group, Opantish (or operation anti-sexual assault), that is fighting to secure squares and streets as safe spaces for women to protest. For over a year now, protests in and around Tahrir have been marred by large numbers of mob sexual assaults, which have in some cases involved the use of knives and other weapons against women. Groups such as Opantish and others have been working to combat these assaults and to campaign against sexual violence on a broader scale.

Yesterday, 30 June, Opantish received 46 reports of sexual assaults in Tahrir. Activist Yasmin el Refai said this of her experience:

"The atmosphere felt more threatening to me immediately after getting out of the taxi near Tahrir, at which point it was still daylight. I don’t understand what kind of subliminal group psychology contributes to this, but it seems like there is some consensus that Tahrir and downtown are areas where it is particularly OK to harass women."

"I started my shift with Opantish at around 7:30 last night. We did not wrap up until after 3 in the morning. We received 46 reports of cases of mob sexual assault in and around Tahrir. We were able to intervene in around half, in coordination with other groups such as Tahrir Bodyguard. Some attacks saw the use of blades and sticks. One case had to go to hospital and undergo surgery. Several others needed medical attention. Some volunteers were wounded. The square became undeniably unsafe for women."

Whether one believes that the assaults are premeditated or spontaneous, there is no doubt that imbedded social perceptions surrounding harassment and sexual assault as "OK" contribute to the growth of the mob. This is the fight we are currently waging. The despicable statements by the Shura Council earlier this year about these violent attacks, which were largely characterised by victim-blaming, are indicative of a vicious social discourse that has justified assaults against female protesters, by attempting to invalidate their political cause or social occupation.

The issue of sexual assault in Egypt has come to the fore particularly in the wake of the revolution, and particularly as a phenomenon of Tahrir and other squares across Egypt. While the MB today use footage of these assaults as proof of the criminality of the popular protests engulfing Egypt, the "Opposition" parties have instead chosen to remain silent on the issue, if not openly denying its existence. While Opantish and similar groups are accused of fabricating reports across the social media, it feels as though a surprising chunk of the revolutionary street, and a lot of men in general, have resolved either to deny that sexual assault occurs or to justify inaction with worries of "smearing the revolution" or calls to wait because it's not "quite the right time" to fight for "women's issues". This, as though we can just ignore systematic sexual assault against half Egypt's population until…WHAT? Until we get another government that can further entrench sexism and rape or mob-assault culture in our institutions? Or until the military, itself a perpetrator of institutional sexual violence against women including virginity tests, steps in?

It is high time for a wider and united grassroots movement that can push women's rights onto the social agenda, both in parliament and in revolutionary squares, streets and workplaces. 
I am immensely encouraged by the women and men who, time and time again, have risked their own physical safety to combat sexual assault in the square, and by the student, activist and labour movements that have raised the issue through protest and media. There is absolutely an awareness of the issue, however polarised, that I had not felt before. 

I do not know what political future the revolution holds for Egypt; there are several competing forces and discourses on the streets today. Just as there is no doubt a pivotal fight within the forces of counter-revolution. This can be observed most clearly in General Abdel Fatah El sisi's ambiguous statement released earlier today giving (presumably) Morsi 48 hours to fulfil the "people's demands", and further by the police's refusal to protect the MB's headquarters as protesters ransacked it late yesterday. I will comment on this in forthcoming articles. Regardless of the nature of the revolution's next foe, I am certain that the fight against sexual violence and sexism must be at the heart of the larger struggle for freedom. It cannot be tabled for later, hushed up or ignored.

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Matt Hale: The ‘rebel’ protests: revolution and counter-revolution

Egypt Rebel Protests

Protests on 30 June in Egypt marked a new stage of the revolution. Called to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s presidency, and with estimates of 3 million attending nationwide, the protests have once again thrown to the fore the question of a revolutionary (workers’) government.

Since the revolution’s inception, we have seen the raising of democratic demands accompanied by those expressing the revolution’s social character in the form of workers’ strikes and occupations, protesters demanding social justice, and moves against "mini-Mubarak" bosses.

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Jamie Allinson: A report from Rio

The protest movement in Brazil has reached a stage that is both inspiring and effective - a status that the headlines of the bourgeois press ("Chaos!" "Out of Control!") make obvious even to the visitor with the scantiest grasp of Portuguese. Last week millions of people demonstrated throughout the country, including all the major cities. The rise in bus fares that originally sparked the demonstrations has been rescinded, and President Dilma Rousseff has made a batch of concessions including the promise that oil revenues will only be spent on education.

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