Notes from the front – of the week 21/5/2015

Upturn in the anti-austerity movement

Since the Tories won the election just two weeks ago (7 May), with the support of less than 25 per cent of the electorate, significant numbers of people have got involved in the movement against austerity to resist what will be the most right wing, vicious government since the Second World War.

More than 3,000 people marched in Bristol last week, a protest which was organised by seven six-form students, whilst 1,000 people – overwhelmingly young – took to the streets in Cardiff, Sheffield and London respectively.

Thousands of people have also been joining meetings of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in cities across Britain, including Nottingham, Newcastle and Manchester to discuss the how to oppose the Tories. More local protests and mass meetings are planned over the coming weeks.

On a national level the growth of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and its student wing, the Student Assembly Against Austerity, is encouraging. Since the General Election tens of thousands of people have signed up to attend the ‘End Austerity Now’ national demonstration in London on Saturday 20 June. Mobilising for this national demo and supporting the protests and meetings taking place across the country are the key next steps in building a big, united, national movement against austerity.

Help build the demonstration and find out what is going on in your area:

End the repression in Egypt

The military dictatorship in Egypt scaled new heights of repression on 16 May when the first elected civilian President in the country’s history was sentenced to death. 100 death sentences were passed in the case.

Not only were President Morsi and his top aides included, but also included was Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, President of the World Federation of Scholars.

Morsi had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison from a previous trial in April. The death sentence was given for his alleged conspiracy with Hamas and Hezbollah to topple the Mubarak regime in Egypt, alongside an alleged prison escape. The lawsuit also included 71 Palestinians, two of whom were dead at the time of the ‘offence’, and a third was in an Israeli prison at the time. Such inconvenient facts make little difference to the tribunal. Morsi is also due for a further trial on 23 May, with four additional lawsuits pending against him.

So far, Dr Mohamed Beltagy, leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, has received the most jail time, 150 years. He told his accusers ‘You killed my daughter, arrested and detained my son, persecuted and harassed my wife, and burnt down my clinic. Do you think I am here to defend myself? I swear to God – in my eyes, innocence and execution are the same’.

There are 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt. Several thousand protesters have been killed. Torture and rape are common for those detained by police, security and military services.

1,541 death sentences have been passed since July 2013, with 570 of these ratified. The day after Morsi’s verdict, seven young men were executed following a military trial. Amnesty International said that ‘… at least three of the men were held in secret at the time of the crime they have been sentenced for’.

Whether Morsi’s death sentence will actually be carried out is finally dependent upon Sisi, the President who deposed Morsi in a military coup. It cannot be excluded, Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s most important leader was executed in 1966. But it could promote widespread outrage if Sisi were to follow this precedent.

US reinforces Gulf dictators

President Obama’s Camp David summit with the six states making up the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) on 14 May ended in an agreement on enhanced security arrangements between the participants. The joint statement issued said that the GCC states were committed to developing a ballistic missile defence capability, including an early warning system, with US technical help. The US pledged to fast track arms transfers to the GCC states.

This agreement follows the US government decision in December 2014 to allow US arms sales to the GCC as an organisation – similar to the arrangements with NATO – which helped prepare the way for integrating missile defence and maritime security systems. Given its difficulties with direct intervention in the region, the Summit confirms the vital role that Saudi Arabia plays for US policy.

The summit also restated the commitment of the GCC and US to achieve, in the words of Obama, ‘an inclusive Syrian government without Bashar al Assad’. The US government has quietly accepted that Gulf States are supplying arms to al Nusrah and al Sham in Syria, despite them being affiliates of al Qaeda. The Nusrah front has set up its own capital in Idlib.

Fighting has increased again in Syria, with ISIS taking the al-Hail and Arak gas fields. These are vital for electricity generation in areas currently under the control of the Syrian government. ISIS has also seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province. It is evident that the US is making no progress in defeating ISIS. On 6 June, the Stop the War Coalition has organised an activist conference to debate these and other crucial issues for the anti-imperialist movement.