A World to Win News Service for 9 October 2018 contains two items. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it credited.
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Coming 19 October: Online premier of Bob Avakian’s talk “Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution”
This speech is about something that has never been addressed this way before – the basis and strategy for how a revolution could actually be carried out in a country like the U.S. Such a revolution would receive a tremendous welcome all around the globe, and people worldwide need to see this film to learn how an actual revolution could deal with the immense and unnecessary suffering humanity faces. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA is seeking to activate hundreds of people right now to make sure as many people as possible see and engage with it.
Watch the trailer now on revcom.us (on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=SNkQADmx218) and spread the word (and the link) far and wide!
“A flag for the Aquarius” and the immense political importance of this battle
9 October 2018. A World to Win News Service. This past weekend saw many demonstrations throughout France and in other European countries to demand that the humanitarian ship the Aquarius be given a flag. Responding to the call for “an orange wave” to sweep through Mediterranean Europe, they wore t-shirts and other clothes the bright colour of life vests and the hull of the rescue ship that has saved 29,523 people from drowning as they crossed the sea from Africa.
The Aquarius (like a quarter of the world’s ships) had been sailing under a Panamanian flag until the new fascist government in Italy pressured Panama to cancel its registration. Since late September it has been unable to leave port in Marseille for fear that Italy or any other government could board and seize the now technically illegal ship and imprison its crew. Despite President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Italy’s “irresponsibility” for closing its ports to rescued migrants, France has joined all the other European Union countries united against the Aquarius and its sister ships. This is all the more flagrant and shameful in that the ship’s operators, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) and SOS Mediterranee, are based in France, and a broad swath of French society has appealed to Macron to let the Aquarius be registered in France.
On 6 October, thousands of enthusiastic people rallied in front of the old port in Marseille, where the night before fascist thugs had taken over the Aquarius’s headquarters. The fascist group, “Identity Generation”, has moved aggressively and sometimes violently to disrupt rescue operations at sea and in the mountains and forests along the French-Italian border. It is backed by the fascist National Assembly party (formerly the National Front), which has been building increasing ties with the country’s mainstream right. Not a few demonstrators commented on the contrast between the authorities’ tolerance for this combat-hungry group and the harsher treatment with which NGO activists are being threatened.
It is a sad fact that in France, like Italy and elsewhere, the fascist right is making opposition to immigrants (both “illegal” and legal, including people born in Europe of immigrant parents) its battering ram, while the centrist forces (like Macron) make that racist discourse respectable by adopting legal measures formerly considered unthinkable in mainstream politics, and the parliamentary “left” parties do their best to focus attention elsewhere, especially on economic issues. Issues like pension cuts are considered by these latter forces to be more able to unite people broadly, while the nationalism and racism that is deeply and disastrously disuniting the people is left unconfronted. This reactionary approach is sometimes at odds with the sentiments of these groups’ younger rank and file, leading to deliberate ambiguity and political manoeuvring at the top.
At least a thousand took part in a rally in Paris. What was most significant about the 6 October campaign in France is that there were street demonstrations in some 15 cities, some relatively large, especially in university towns like Montpellier, and events in another three dozen cities and towns. They apparently involved both students and other youth and older people who consider themselves “a-political” but yet find themselves organizing actions that go up against the flagrant or tacit anti-immigrant position of most of the country’s so-called “political class”. About a thousand people protested in Calais, where the French government had notoriously sent in its security forces to bulldoze a migrants’ camp (which they disdainfully called “the jungle”) and forcibly disperse its 10,000 inhabitants, again without much opposition other than from people who consider themselves humanitarians.
Some of the 6 October actions in Italy seemed to have a similar character. The largest demonstration was in Palermo, Sicily, whose mayor offered to take the Aquarius’s passengers in June, when the Italian government refused to allow them to come ashore. Several hundred people rallied “against all forms of racism, fascism and discrimination” in Riace, a small mountain town in Calabria, southern Italy, whose mayor had just been arrested for his public campaign to bring immigrants from Africa and elsewhere to repopulate and revitalize this depopulated region.
At this moment, although Italy and the EU have successfully cleared the Mediterranean of NGO ships and forced even commercial shipping vessels to avoid areas where they formerly picked up people in danger, two more ships are preparing to set sail. One is funded and crewed by Italians associated with anarchist-minded people who emerged from the country’s anti-G8 protests together with religious groups determined to defy the new Italian regime.
In Switzerland, many prominent personalities and some legislators have signed an open letter demanding that their government exercise its right to allow the Aquarius to fly a Swiss flag. Once again this is notable because although the signatories are mostly quite mainstream, this is in opposition to the country’s leading political party and much of public opinion.
Other demonstrations in support of the Aquarius were scheduled to be held in Madrid, Valencia and Brussels.
A week earlier, at least 20,000 people marched through Hamburg, passing by the city’s docks to demand that German ports be opened to passengers from the Aquarius and other rescue ships. Another 4,000 demonstrated in Berlin. These protests were spurred by revulsion against the anti-immigrant riots in Chemnitz and the sympathy for the fascist forces voiced at the highest levels of Angela Merkel’s government. (See awtwn180920).
Amid these events, a German government official threatened to organize charter flights to send back to Italy asylum seekers who passed through that country on their way north (which means most). Italy’s new strongman Matteo Salvini announced he would close down the country’s airports rather than accept them. These are very serious examples of the degree to which mainstream parties are meeting fascist demands and fascists are gaining the political initiative in Europe.
The Aquarius began its operations in February 2016, after the EU abruptly ended the search and rescue operations it had been obliged to mount three years earlier by the public outcry at the drowning of 366 people in a single shipwreck. At that time, many ordinary Italians, including on the island of Lampedusa that became a focal point for immigrant landings, shamed their government with their heroic examples of rescue and human solidarity. Back then today’s UK Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the loudest voices insisting that the EU halt rescue operations because they allegedly encouraged people to undertake the dangerous sea crossing.
Especially since the rise of Italy’s new regime, other EU governments have allowed it to take the lead in stopping rescue ships and making deals with Libyan warlords to block or turn back immigrant boats. Militias backed by Italy and France kidnap, imprison and sometimes auction off black Africans as slaves. While the number of people reaching Europe and especially Italy has fallen drastically, the percentage of those who die trying has tripled or quadrupled. (See awtwns180916. For yet another credible description of the hell that Italy, France and the EU have turned Libya into, see the New York Times, 17 September 2018, “Italy, Going It Alone, Stalls the Flow of Immigrants. But at What Cost?”)
Almost all the European governments have either aggressively joined or become thoroughly complicit in the efforts to stop immigration no matter what the cost in human lives. The genocidal spirit so openly on display today could herald even more atrocious and massive measures to come. It is not just a coincidence that at the same time as the EU is trying to politically sink the Aquarius, Medecins Sans Frontieres has been ordered to leave Nauru, in the central Pacific. Australia has used this tiny island nation, mostly reduced to rubble by foreign mining operations, as an open air prison camp for the would-be asylum seekers its navy kidnaps at sea before they can reach the mainland. MSF is not being expelled because its work is no longer desperately needed, but because it staff have exposed conditions so harsh that suicide attempts have become endemic among the hundreds of adults and children who have no hope of ever getting out. At the February EU summit, there was open discussion about following the Nauru model, perhaps with similar camps in deserts or other regions in North Africa.
This context is what gives the battle around the Aquarius and other rescue ships such far-reaching significance.
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