Red Review #111 -- International Left and Labour Report
With reports from India, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Spain, Germany. Denmark, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and elsewhere.
CPI(M) members march in Hogenakkal, India August 16 -- Image via the CPI(M)
On 7 August in a groundbreaking move, Bulgaria’s Parliament approved a series of amendments to the Penal Code. This is a great victory for the trade union movement as any crimes committed against workers in their right to freedom of association will now be punishable with one to five years imprisonment or fine up of to $5000.
Bulgarian unions, including IndustriALL affiliates won a 30-year long battle when Parliament approved these changes which criminalizes actions directed against the right of association of workers and employees in Bulgaria.
The amendment includes any offences committed against the right of workers to join trade unions, may it be through violence, threats, or in any other illegal way, which prevents someone from exercising their right to join a trade union by forcing them to renounce their membership in a trade union organization or by preventing them from creating one. If any acts are repeatedly committed the penalty is imprisonment for up to five years or a fine up to $5000.
Workers at the Bloomington Eastside Starbucks voted unanimously Tuesday to officially join Starbucks Workers United, a collective of more than 340 U.S. Starbucks partners across the country. The store, which is located at Third Street and 46 Bypass, is the third store to unionize in Indiana.
According to a press release, workers at the Bloomington Eastside Starbucks voted 14-0 in support of union representation.
“Our unanimous decision only goes to show that the way this company is being run is unacceptable to its workers, depriving us of our dignity and our ability to make a living,” Bloomington Eastside Starbucks Barista Stefanie Sharp said in the press release. “We have come completely united and now demand that the company come and sit at the bargaining table in good faith.”
Working class sections in Germany, along with trade unions, social movements, and left-wing political parties, have raised objections to the insufficient raise proposed by the Minimum Wage Commission. On Wednesday, August 9, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) accused the Commission of not doing justice, even at a time of soaring inflation. It said that employers want to save money at the expense of those who are financially the weakest in the labor market.
In June, the Commission, which comprises representatives of employers, trade unions, academics, and others, recommended raising the statutory minimum wage in the country from 12 euros (USD 13.23) per hour to 12.41 euros (USD 13.68) for 2024 and 12.82 euros (USD 14.13) for 2025. Trade union representatives in the commission deemed the hike inadequate and stated that it would lead to a fall in real wages in the backdrop of ongoing inflation.
Germany and other countries across Europe have been undergoing a period of crisis marked by de-growth, high inflation, an energy crisis, skyrocketing food prices and high rents. Even though the rate of inflation, which stood at +6.2% in July, has fallen slightly compared to the peak last year, food (+11%) and energy (+5.7%) prices continue to remain high, affecting the working class and low-income households in the country.
The two Communist Parties of Denmark (DKP and KPiD) issued a public statement announcing their reunification. The statement reads:
The 3rd of September this year an important event is taken place in Denmark. After being divided for 30 years Communist Party of Denmark and Communist Party in Denmark are being reunited. The historical force that defined The Communist Party of Denmark since its founding in 1919 are forming the framing for the reunited party.
With the collective experience in the workers movement and the class struggle the two parties will reunite its forces and experiences because Denmark needs a strong communist party that can be defining in the workers movement and the class struggle.
We would therefore appreciate very much if our international comrades will send a letter of greeting on the occasion of the reunification of the two parties. You can send your greetings to email@example.com.
Long live international solidarity!
In a statement, the Communist Party of Ecuador (Partido Comunista de Ecuador- PCE) condemns the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio (photo) in Quito and demands the punishment of those responsible for the crime.
More specifically the statement signed by General Secretary Ab. Winston Alarcón Elizalde reads:
The Communist Party of Ecuador condemns the assassination of the candidate for the Presidency of the Republic Fernando Villavicencio and demands the Law investigations and the punishment of the actual and moral instigators who are responsible for such an execrable crime.
The PCE rejects the attempt to suspend the electoral process and the intention to
use the state of violence and crime for the purpose of justifying a coup of state of "civilians and military" as they have already stated.
Workers at South Korean-owned Kumho Tire have fought hard to join a union in the face of union busting and violations of workers’ rights. Kumho Tire, which supplies tyres for auto companies such as Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on union-busting consultants in an effort to prevent USW from organizing the tyre plant.
But relentless in fighting for their rights, more than 325 employees at Kumho Tire Georgia, ratified the first labour contract at the tyre facility on 10 August. The vote took place more than two years after the United Steelworkers was certified as the workers' bargaining agent.
Almost 700 workers employed at the Ekapa diamond mines in South Africa’s Northern Cape province began an indefinite strike on August 7. Organized by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), workers have downed their tools in rejection of the “starvation wage” they are currently being paid.
On Thursday, August 10, as workers were picketing outside the mines, formerly owned by the De Beers mining company, the police deployed water cannons and fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them. Police then proceeded to arrest 43 workers, NUMSA regional organizer Tshepo Mokhele, who was present at the picket, told Peoples Dispatch. The workers were granted bail on August 11.
NUMSA issued a 48-hour strike notice to Ekapa on August 4, following which the company threatened to lock out workers if they went ahead with the action, the union said in a statement on August 7. The striking workers, which include permanent, contractual, and trainee workers, represent over half of the 1,200 workers employed at the mine.
Among the key demands being raised by the workers is a 17% wage increase and an entry level salary of R17,500 (USD 930.2). Workers have also sought a one-off payment of ex gratia funds amounting to R10,000 (USD 530.1).
The social democratic government of President Nicolas Maduro, has proceeded to an unacceptable and shameful coup against the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), imposing through a judicial sentence a puppet "leadership" composed of mercenaries. This activity comes as a result of an escalating attack orchestrated by the Venezuelan state against the communists and the country's working class movement.
In a statement published on social media, PCV points out:
"We denounce before the Venezuelan people, the Communist and Workers’ Parties, and the genuinely anti-imperialist forces of the world, that the government of Nicolás Maduro has consummated the assault against the Communist Party of Venezuela through an arbitrary judicial sentence that endorses the imposition of a leadership composed of mercenaries at the service of the high government officials of the PSUV.
This Friday 11 August, the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice incurred in an inexcusable error of law by admitting and deciding in favour of a writ of amparo that was promoted out of time by a group of citizens who do not belong to our ranks and therefore do not have any legal qualification to act on behalf of our organization, in violation of the Organic Law of Constitutional Rights and Guarantees.
This procedural fraud, which violates the political rights of the PCV and the Venezuelan working people, not only creates a serious precedent in the political and legal history of the country, but also exposes the authoritarian, anti-democratic and reactionary character of the PSUV-Government, which mistakenly believes that it will subdue the Venezuelan communists with this maneuver.
The National Leadership of the PCV is meeting at this moment, evaluating the legal and political, national and international, actions that it will promote in defense of our right to exist as a Communist Party and to continue fighting for the regrouping of the political, social, workers, peasants and popular forces to conquer a revolutionary solution to the Venezuelan capitalist crisis.
Nobody destroys the Communist Party!"
A number of global solidarity organizations including the São Paulo Forum, International Peoples' Assembly, World March of Women, International Peasants' Movement and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas have launched the "Let Cuba Live!" calling on US President Joe Biden to remove the socialist country from its absurd inclusion on the arbitrary state sponsors of terrorism list.
In November, 2022 for the 30th year in a row the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to call for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo, imposed by the USA against Cuba.
The vote was a staggering 185 in favour with only the United States and Israel voting against. There were 2 abstentions, Ukraine and Brazil.
The Let Cuba Live! campaign seeks to gather a million signatures to present to Biden in December on Human Rights Day.
The organizers note: "Today Cuba faces a blockade whose sole purpose is to force it’s people into submission; a blockade that is using new tools like the State Sponsors of Terrorism list to increase its strength and reach."
In the wake of an unabated housing crisis and soaring rents, working class sections in Austria have intensified their campaign demanding long-term rent freeze and reforms in the country’s rental law. In its petition, the Communist Party of Austria (KPO) demanded the Austrian People’s Party (OVP)-Greens-led federal government to freeze rents at the current levels until 2029. The Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) endorsed this demand. Groups including the Austrian Tenants’ Association and the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB) have also called for a freeze on rents.
According to reports, persistently high inflation and a rising Consumer Price Index (CPI) led to a continuous increase in rental prices across the country. As of now, the average inflation in Austria this year stands at 9.63%. Rents in the private sector increased six times over the last two years due to rising CPI, equivalent to about 1,400 euros per year (USD 1,535.24). Rents in the cooperative sector also spiked as rental costs are linked partly to inflation and partly to the financing costs incurred by loans. With a 5.5% increase in benchmark rents marked from August’s first week, at least 135,000 households in Austria, including tenants of old buildings, have been affected.
KPO’s federal spokesperson Tobias Schweiger told Peoples Dispatch that “rent is exploding in Austria, especially during the last decade, when average rents doubled. Over the last three years, the rents rose even faster due to inflation. Therefore, the communist party demands a nationwide rent freeze.”
The Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) firmly rejected a recent ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) that appointed a new ad-hoc board to lead the party.
In a video message posted Monday, PCV Secretary General Oscar Figuera shared the declaration issued by the V Plenum of the Central Committee of the party in light of the court’s decision, arguing that it constitutes an “illegal” intervention in the internal affairs of the organization.
“This sentence by the Constitutional Chamber is an illegal and incorrect sentence,” said Figuera.
In its statement, the Central Committee maintains that the seven people appointed to the board of directors are not PCV members and therefore cannot occupy leadership posts in the party, making their appointment by the court an “usurpation” of the collective’s credentials.
Minister of National Defence Gen. Phan Van Giang led a high-ranking Vietnamese delegation to the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS-11) in Russia on August 15.
Addressing a plenary session on security in Asia-Pacific, Minister Giang underlined the region's importance, which attracts the interest and presence of many countries outside the region, particularly world powers. This interest opens up opportunities for cooperation and development but at the same time results in geo-political competition and intertwined and friction of strategic interests.
Besides, the region is also facing non-conventional security issues that are growing serious such as natural disasters, epidemics (for example COVID-19), climate change, energy security, cyber security, water resource security, terrorism and transnational crime.
To tackle those non-traditional security challenges, the minister called for unity, collaboration, and contributions from countries not only inside the region but worldwide.
Hundreds of striking Liquor Mart workers took to the steps of the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday, calling on the provincial government to negotiate an end to a weeks-long labour dispute that has closed down most of the province's liquor stores.
The rally comes a day after an independent conciliator recommended binding arbitration to settle the dispute over wage increases between Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, which represents about 1,400 workers with the Crown-owned corporation.
While Liquor & Lotteries said Monday it had accepted a conciliator's proposal for arbitration, MGEU says it wants to ensure that process is fair before agreeing to it.
Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday he intended to seek the support of the lower house to form a new government after an inconclusive election on July 23.
"I will ask for parliament's confidence to form a progressive government," Sanchez said in a address to the legislators of his Socialist Party (PSOE).
He said his party, which won the second-highest number of seats in the general election held last month, will first seek to clinch the lower house speaker position on Thursday.