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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #18 -- International Left and Labour News

The eighteenth edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Ecuador, Zambia, Venezuela, Peru, Cuba and elsewhere.

New Che mural calling for the end of the economic blockade of Cuba unveiled in Belfast, August 13 -- Image via twitter

August 8:

THE Socialist Party has asked the Electoral Commission of Zambia to take firm action against PF following a brutal attack on its Shiwang’andu parliamentary candidate Andrew Kapasa Makasa Kalulu by Stephen Kampyongo’s thugs on Friday afternoon.

Kalulu was brutally attacked as he campaigned in Mwiche and Ichingo wards and was left unconscious.

August 9:

It’s not surprising that the establishment in Erie County, perceiving a threat to hierarchy and profit, would mount an organized backlash. Yet ending the mayorship in Buffalo would be a drastic move, to say the least. To understand how the incentive has arisen, it’s useful to look at how Democratic politics and certain media dynamics have played out in the aftermath of Walton’s victory. These machinations underscore how, whenever socialists have come within striking distance of power in the United States, capital and its allies have always reacted swiftly to attempt to curtail any chance of redistributive change.

August 10:

The pet imperialist project of Canada and other junior partners in the US empire, the Lima Group, appears to be dying with something more like a whimper than a bang.

Founded in August 2017 to try to undermine, overthrow and support sanctions against the legitimate Venezuelan government and Nicholas Maduro, the group embraced Juan Guaidó's pathetic attempt to proclaim himself president in 2019.

Since that total sham has unraveled, the entire effort has seemed far more a sad farce than a serious force.

Now it may be in its final stages.

The Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia will be leaving the ‘Lima Group’ and is restoring its relationship with Venezuela based on CARICOM’s position of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

The new Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government, led by Prime Minister Philip Pierre, is the second to announce its withdrawal from the interventionist Lima Group this week, following Peru’s announcement to leave the entity.

A broad representation of Cuban scientists will address a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden evidencing Cuba’s scientific and political capacity to face Covid-19, in an altruistic manner, despite the limitations of the U.S. blockade.

The missive, to be written by top Cuban researchers, will constitute a resounding response and rejection to Biden’s July 15th statements in which he referred to Cuba as a ‘failed state’ and discredited its competence as a country and discounted its health system.

On August 10, thousands of doctors, peasants, teachers and truckers took to the streets of Paraguay’s capital Asunción, demanding compliance with agreements reached previously with the far-right government of president Mario Abdo Benítez.

The truckers continued their semi-blockade on Costanera avenue with their trucks. Teachers mobilized across the capital city and blocked roads leading to parliamentary buildings. Peasants and Indigenous communities held demonstrations in front of the Congress, the state attorney general’s office, and the ministries of public works and communications, agriculture and livestock, and urbanism, housing and habitat. Doctors protested in front of the public health ministry.

The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) on Monday vowed to continue its campaign for the protection of public lakeside beaches, saying they were assets that needed to be preserved for future generations.

Zsolt Molnár, the party’s director, told an online press conference from the Siófok airport in western Hungary that the Socialists would “continue the fight for public beaches both on land and in the air”.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is on a collision course after his own constituency party in north London was one of several to back a socialist green motion.

Holborn and St Pancras was one of eleven Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) to vote for the Labour for a Green New Deal motion which calls for a radical overhaul of the party’s climate policies.

The proposals, which will now be voted on at the party conference later this year, include a socialist green agenda centred on public ownership of energy, water and transport.

Mounties arrested 33 people during a massive sweep of old-growth logging blockades on southern Vancouver Island on Monday, while hundreds more protesters gathered in downtown Victoria to mark one year since the protests in the Fairy Creek watershed began.

Police have now arrested 556 people since they began enforcing a court injunction to remove activists from the watershed in May, according to a statement Monday night from the Lake Cowichan RCMP.

With the release of the deeply disturbing IPCC climate report, devastating wildfires in Turkey and Greece, the destruction of Lytton BC, wildfires and record temperatures in Siberia and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation facing possible collapse, the time for fundamental change is now.

August 11:

On Tuesday, Peru’s President Pedro Castillo enacted the National Cancer Act, which aims to ensure universal and free health care coverage for all oncological patients, regardless of the type of cancer they suffer.

"Our government will work to make sure that the Peruvian health system will no longer be a privilege," Castillo assured. The new law will apply to all public, private, and mixed companies that provide oncological health services.

A week-long strike waged by the workers of the Paroc Polska plant in Trzemeszno, Poland, successfully ended in the early hours of Wednesday, August 11 after the management accepted the major demands raised by the workers. Paroc Polska is a producer of stone wool insulation and is part of US-based Owens Corning.

The Trzemeszno plant workers started their strike on August 4 under the coordination of the Labor Confederation at Trzemeszno, demanding an end to the abuse of temporary contracts, increased internship allowances, and a hike in the annual salary indexation. Leftist parliament member Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk and the Polish left-wing coalition Lewica Razem supported the workers throughout their strike.

August 12:

Several lobby groups representing Kenyan youth on Wednesday urged the government to come up with social safety nets in order to cushion this demographic from negative impacts of unemployment.

Speaking at a consultative forum in the coastal city of Mombasa, the lobby groups that included United Green Movement, Communist Party of Kenya and University Students Caucus said policy reforms were long overdue to promote economic empowerment for the youth amid pandemic related disruptions.

On August 11, thousands of Ecuadorians mobilized across the country against the neoliberal economic policies of the right-wing government of President Guillermo Lasso. Workers, teachers, students, peasants, Indigenous communities and members of social organizations held various peaceful demonstrations in different provinces to demand the annulment of presidential decrees, passed by the previous government, which increased the price of petrol and diesel on a monthly basis.

On August 12, Ecuadorian teachers, who had been carrying out a hunger strike in defense of public education since July 12, ended the measure after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Organic Law of Intercultural Education (LOEI). The highest court ratified the constitutionality of the LOEI and declared it valid as demanded by teachers as well as students and parents who supported them.

Over 100 workers of Talema Electronics in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, India, have been on strike since August 4, demanding wage revision. The workers associated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) have asserted that they will not call off their strike until a reasonable wage hike is offered by Talema Electronics, a Swedish company.

According to Srinivasan, president of the CITU union at Talema Electronics, “the previous wage pact expired on February 13, 2020, but the administration took no effort to come up with a new agreement. We submitted a memorandum with our demands on February 22, 2020, yet no efforts were made.”

Pret a Manger staff are considering strike action after the coffee shop chain told them it was permanently cutting pay despite the easing of trading restrictions.

The workers, the vast majority of whom earn basic pay of the legal minimum £8.91 an hour, were told they would temporarily not be paid for breaks and a service bonus would be ditched in July last year after the pandemic hit.

On 13 July, some 800 Electrolux workers rejected the company's latest collective bargaining proposal. Learning of the decision, the company informed union members that the hours spent during a work stoppage in June and at previously authorized union meetings would be deducted from their pay.

In response, the unions held a strike on 14 and 15 July and have since brought production plants and distribution centres to a standstill. Workers condemned the company's attitude after it delayed the start of the collective bargaining process, which should have run from October to December 2020, for almost a year.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice has certified a class-action lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc., which advances a fight to get some of the platform’s Canadian couriers and drivers recognized as employees.

The class action was certified by judge Justin Paul Perell in a decision released late Thursday afternoon and stems from a court filing made by Samfiru Tumarkin LLP and Uber Eats courier David Heller in 2017. The Toronto law firm and the Ontario man’s class action argues that Uber couriers should be entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and other protections because they meet the definition of employees under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

“Uber has complete control over these drivers, when they work, how they work, what they get paid for the work that they do,” said Samfiru Tumarkin lawyer Samara Belitzky.

August 13:

Very powerful and moving concession speech by Fred M'membe, leader of the Socialist Party of Zambia which ran a very principled campaign on a socialist program for revolutionary change.

"There are more revolutionary seasons to come".

On Friday afternoon, the government of President Nicolas Maduro and members of the Venezuelan opposition begin a new negotiation process in Mexico City.

“We’re one step closer to securing minimum protections and entitlements for these people. Things like minimum wage, overtime pay, holiday pay, access to [employment insurance] benefits, workers’ compensation — all of the things that employees in the entire province already have as a bare minimum right and protection.”

August 14:

More than 70,000 Communist Party members in work teams of 2,500 were deployed to Yangzhou to support quarantined residents, state broadcaster CCTV said. Daily necessities worth 300 yuan (US$46) will also be distributed to 5,000 households in need in the main urban area, Xinhua said.

On Twitter, 85-year-old Loach, a winner of the Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake, said: “Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled. Well … I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge. There is indeed a witch-hunt … Starmer and his clique will never lead a party of the people. We are many, they are few. Solidarity.”

The Venezuelan government and the platform of opposition forces in the country signed a historic agreement in Mexico City on Friday August 14. The move represents an important advance to address the political crisis faced by the country for the past several years as US-backed opposition forces have turned to radical and violent methods in an attempt to force the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro out of office. Venezuelan officials are also hopeful that the talks can help to lift the crushing unilateral coercive measures imposed by the US and its allies which have already cost billions of dollars in economic losses and tens of thousands of lives.

August 15:

The Indian government’s draft Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021, has stirred up a wider protest among the fisher community across the country. Fisherfolk in the southern State of Tamil Nadu have staged several protests since the draft Bill was published. The Fishermen Federation, an umbrella body of several unions, held a one-day rally on August 9 and called for a sustained agitation against the Bill. They allege that the Bill will destroy traditional fishing in various ways and favor big players to capture the sea wealth.


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