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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #48 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Portugal, Cuba, Venezuela, the USA, Canada, Slovenia, the UK, India and elsewhere.

There is also a section related to the war in Ukraine.

Communist rally for the 101st anniversary of the Portuguese Communist Party in Lisbon, March 6 -- Photo via the PCP website

March 5:

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) opened their 5th Congress, March 5, with music and a cheering crowd, followed by serious speeches of the PSUV leaders. The international delegation, including the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, with ambassadors from People’s Korea, China, South Africa, Cuba, Russia, Bolivia, Palestine and Nicaragua, were welcomed by every speaker.

Diosdado Cabello, first vice-president of the PSUV, described the 1572-plus delegates representing the workers, indigenous, Afro-Venezuelan, women and youth sectors participating. Women are more than half the delegates and more of the leadership. The largest PSUV section of members are in their thirties, having grown up with the Bolivarian Revolution. For nearly half the room this is their first congress.

March 6:

Hundreds of members and supporters of' the Portuguese Communist Party gathered for a mass rally at the Campo Pequeno in Lisbon on Sunday, March 6 in honour of the 101st anniversary of the party's formation. The rally was held under the slogan "The future has a Party. Freedom, Democracy, Socialism".

There were musical performance and a number of speeches including a keynote address by the party's General Secretary Jerónimo de Sousa.

Havana, Cuba's capital city, will be the hosting place of the 22nd International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties (IMCWP) on October 27-29, 2022.

March 7:

As an expression of the excellent cooperative bilateral relations shared by the two peoples, Cuba donated a batch of 458,000 doses of our Soberana 02 pediatric vaccine to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Destined to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipment "carries with it the affection of the entire Cuban people, especially our health workers and scientists, who have created three vaccines, and continue working on two other candidates to achieve their registration,” stated Déborah Rivas Saavedra, deputy minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex).

For his part, Yuri Valdés Balbín, deputy director of the Finlay Vaccine Institute, said that the institution is very pleased that "our Soberana vaccines will be able to reach the Saharawi Rebublic."

A two-week bin strike has started in Wiltshire as GMB union members campaign for a pay rise.

Hills Municipal Collections said workers were initially offered a 2% rise amended to 7% over two years.

GMB's Gary Palmer said in practice that only amounted to a 3.5% rise across two years whereas workers wanted 7% to help with increases in the cost of living.

March 8:

INSECURE work is “endemic and is tightening the grip of structural racism on the labour market,” the TUC Women’s Conference has been warned.

The conference, which began today and runs until Friday, heard reports from new analysis published by the TUC about the structural racism faced by black women who, at 4.7 per cent, are nearly twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men, at 2.4 per cent.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Insecure work is endemic in modern Britain, with more than a million people having to rely on zero-hours contracts to make ends meet.

“And it’s black workers, particularly women, who are getting trapped in jobs with the worst pay and the worst conditions — struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.

“We need to end the scourge of insecure work once and for all. That’s how you start to tackle the structural racism that holds black workers back. And that’s how you take meaningful action to fight for gender equality in the labour market.”

TUC race relations committee chairwoman Gloria Mills told the Star: “Black workers and black women are at the sharp end of structural racism in the labour market.”

March 9:

Aijaz Ahmad (1941-2022) died at home on March 9, surrounded by his books and papers, and by the warmth of his children and his friends.

Forty thousand workers from the education sector in Slovenia went on strike on March 9, after the Ministry of Education failed to act on repeated requests to bring salaries in line with inflation and recognize the contribution of education workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of Slovenia (SVIZ), the strike spread over 652 education institutions, including kindergartens, schools, students’ homes, and universities, affecting more than half a million people.

Hundreds of Iraqis on Wednesday, March 9, took to the streets in protest against the rise in prices of food commodities, including wheat and other food grains and essential cooking items like oil and flour over the course of the last week. The protests took place predominantly in the neglected southern regions of Iraq, also the epicenter of the massive anti-government protests in 2019. The Iraqi government in the meantime announced several measures to control the prices of essential food items and to provide some relief to ordinary Iraqis dealing with acute shortages and exorbitant prices of basic goods.

March 10:

Starbucks workers at three more Buffalo-area stores voted to unionize on Wednesday afternoon. The votes were close. The union won by a 15-12 margin at two locations and a 8-7 margin at the third store.

Starbucks Workers United, an SEIU affiliate, has now won six of the seven elections that have been held since December. In total, workers at 126 Starbucks locations across dozens of states have petitioned for union representation.

Baristas at a Starbucks in west Olympia have filed to join a workers union, as stores across the country band together for employee rights. The Cooper Point Village Starbucks, located at 315 Cooper Point Road NW, sent a letter to the coffee chain’s President and CEO Kevin Johnson announcing their intent, which was shared on the Workers United Twitter page on Feb. 26. In the letter, signed by at least 20 people, employees at the Olympia location referenced the company’s record-breaking $8.1 billion in revenue reported in the first quarter of 2022. Despite the uptick, employees said they’ve continued to experience “abysmal working conditions” that have made it difficult for them to be proud of who they work for.

The union representing grocery store workers in Southern California supermarkets said Thursday it has authorized a strike vote as contract negotiations with the owners of Ralphs and Vons/Pavilions/Albertsons have stalled.

Bertha Rodríguez, communications coordinator for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, told City News Service the vote will take place between March 21 and March 26.

The local is one of seven representing some 60,000 grocery workers in more than 500 stores from the Central Valley to the Mexico border. Talks have stopped, Rodríguez said.

The Amazon Fresh grocery store at 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street in Seattle’s Central District came together to demand better pay and working conditions.

A union leader said that workers at the store have been organizing for months. The official name of the union is Amazon Workers United. At present, Amazon does not recognize the union. Workers however are still protected. Laws have been put in place and monitored via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fight against retaliation for conducting union activities.

FORMER Bolivian president Evo Morales announced the launch on Wednesday of a global campaign for the dissolution of Nato, warning that the military alliance poses a threat to world peace.

The indigenous leader said that social movements worldwide were holding discussions on the formation of an alliance to press the demand.

“Nato is a danger to world peace, to security, so we are in the task of reaching agreements with social movements, not only in Latin America, but in all continents, to eliminate it,” he told Russia’s Sputnik media outlet. “If nothing is done against Nato, it will become a permanent threat to humanity.

Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabir organized protests and observed a general strike on Thursday, March 10, against home demolitions planned by the Israeli municipal authorities. The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem reportedly plans to demolish around 800 Palestinian-owned homes in the area. Palestinians believe this is part of a much larger and long-running Israeli project of expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem in order to colonize and repopulate the area with Jewish Israelis, and ultimately to annex the occupied Palestinian territory into the present-day state of Israel.

Budtenders at The Original Farm Hillside location are the newest members to join BCBUD, a division of UFCW 1518, after a successful certification vote to address issues surrounding staffing, turnover, job security, and more.

The new members will combine bargaining efforts with Original Farm budtenders from the downtown Victoria location that joined the union in 2021.

The BJP has won a second successive victory in the UP elections. With intensified communal polarization, control over large sections of the media and immense money power, BJP retained government with a reduced majority.

Despite the immense economic hardships faced by the people, relief measures like provision of free foodgrains, have had an impact.

The BJP has also won the Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur elections.

In Punjab the Aam Aadmi Party has won a sweeping victory. The people of Punjab have voted for a decisive change rejecting the two traditional parties, the Congress and Akali Dal.

Overall, these results indicate the continuing dominance of right-wing politics. The Left and democratic forces will evolve fresh strategies and redouble their efforts in the fight against the Hindutva-Corporate regime, its policies and growing authoritarianism.

March 11:

Mexico’s left-wing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador published a blistering statement denouncing the European Parliament as “flunkies of the reactionary and coup-plotting strategy of the corrupt” right-wing oligarch-backed opposition in his country.

López Obrador, who is known popularly by the acronym AMLO, criticized the European Union’s lawmaking body for meddling in Mexico’s internal affairs, and implored its members to “evolve, leave behind your obsessive meddling disguised as good intentions.”

Noting that he has a 66% approval rating, which is higher than any leader in Europe, AMLO stressed, “Don’t forget that we are no longer a colony of anyone. Mexico is a free, independent, and sovereign country.”

Moroccan teachers yesterday announced an extension to their strike until the end of the week, in protest against prison terms issued against their peers.

The statement was made by the Coordination of Contractual Teachers, after a Moroccan court yesterday sentenced 44 teachers to up to three months in jail and fined some 1,000 dirhams ($110) as a result of protests held last year.

The statement said it had been decided to extend the strike until 13 March in response to the "unjust" punishments of teachers who are members of the National Coordination.

The strike was launched on 28 February, with teachers denouncing "repression" of demonstrations by the state and the arrest of their peers.

There are more than 100,000 contract teachers in Morocco, according to official data.

On Friday, President-elect Gabriel Boric will assume command of his country amid an economic, social, and political crisis created by more than three decades of conservative policies.

In March 2022 the new youth organisation of the Party of Labour Austria will start its activities. It bears the name "Youth Front of the Party of Labour" (in short: Youth Front; German: Jugendfront) and functions as a Marxist-Leninist organisation of working and learning youth and young people in Austria. The first step is the founding campaign "Youth in a common front - get organised!". Youth and young people are to be addressed, politicised and organised with the campaign. It will conclude with the founding congress, which is expected to take place in autumn 2022.

The formation of the Youth Front was necessary for two reasons: There is no nationwide, unified Marxist-Leninist youth organisation in Austria that is clearly anti-revisionist and distances itself from right-wing opportunist and reformist organisations; and there are a large number of young people in the Party of Labour and its political environment who urgently needed an independent organisational structure to fulfil their tasks.

The Youth Front will now become active as a rallying point of the youth in the revolutionary class struggle against capitalism and imperialism, for socialism and communism. It is internationalist and anti-militarist and opposes opportunism and reformism in the workers', pupils' and students' movements. The activities of the Youth Front will be carried out in close cooperation with the Party of Labour as the Marxist-Leninist militant party of the Austrian working class.

The Minneapolis teachers’ strike kicked off this week with a huge turnout. Over 4,000 teachers and Educational Support Professionals (ESPs) are on strike for the first time in 50 years. The teachers are demanding smaller class sizes, increased wages (especially for ESPs who are mostly people of color), increased mental health support for students, and retention of educators of color. Students, parents, and community members have joined these educators in this strike.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has certified that the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has collected enough signatures for a union election to be held at fulfillment center LDJ5. This is the retail giant’s second fulfillment center in an area where workers have secured the right to a union vote. The first is JFK8, also on Staten Island.

ALU president Christian Smalls said the NLRB hearing on March 14 will determine the logistics of the LDJ5 election.

March 12:

Nicaragua’s Government of Reconciliation and National Unity sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Spain, communicating its decision to withdraw the Nicaraguan Ambassador, Carlos Midence, from his duties.

The letter, dated Thursday, March 10th, said the decision was in response to “continuous pressure and interventionist threats on our Ambassador, which make it impossible to carry out diplomatic work.” It was signed by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada.

Ukraine War:

GREEK communists have raised an urgent question in the European Parliament regarding the safety and whereabouts of two leading Ukrainian communist youth leaders arrested earlier this week on accusations of spying for Russia and Belarus.

MEP Kostas Papadakis wrote to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warning that the lives of Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine (LKSMU) leader, Mikhail Kononovich, and his brother, Aleksander Kononovich, are in danger.

He accused the EU of implementing an “unacceptable anti-communist legal framework that unhistorically and provocatively equates fascism with communism” while neonazi forces operate unchallenged and are even incorporated into the Ukrainian military and security apparatus.

The KKE has been unequivocal in its condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has raised the alarm over the intensified persecution of socialists and communists in Ukraine since it began.

The MEPs of the KKE denounce the arrest of two cadres of the Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine with an urgent question submitted by Kostas Papadakis, MEP of the Party, to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, J. Borrell.

The question reads as follows:

“The arrest of the First Secretary of the Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine, Mikhail Kononovich, and his brother, Aleksander Kononovich, by the Ukrainian authorities raises serious concerns, while there are allegations that their lives are under threat.

At a time when the imperialist conflict has been raging following the Russian invasion on the grounds of its competition with the USA, NATO, and the EU, the Ukrainian government proceeds to the wanton persecution of the two young communists. It utilizes anti-communism, which is an official policy of both itself and the EU, and implements the unacceptable anti-communist legal framework that unhistorically and provocatively equates fascism with communism. At the same time, fascist and neo-Nazi groups are operating undisturbed even as part of the Ukrainian army and attacking downtrodden Ukrainians, while they have also been being utilized for years against the Ukrainian people both in 2014 with the open imperialist intervention of the USA, NATO, and the EU in the country and to this very day.

Anti-communism, which always goes hand in hand with anti-popular policy, is sharpening especially in conditions of imperialist war, seeking to align the peoples with one or the other imperialist camp. In particular, today they seek to erase the collective memory of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples who had been living in peace for decades under socialism in the USSR.

Based on the above, how does the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy respond to the urgent demand for the immediate release of the two arrested young communists as well as the lifting of all anti-communist persecution and bans in the country?”.

On Monday, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel condemned the U.S. and European Union (EU) economic sanctions against Russia and called for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Ukraine.

"Continuing to use such sanctions as coercive policies do not solve the current crisis, but exacerbates it and further aggravates the economic recession prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Diaz-Canel stated.

"We are clear that the international norms principles oppose unilateralism," he added, recalling that Cuba has faced a U.S. economic, financial, and commercial blockade since 1962.

At a Cabinet meeting this week, ministers from the Bulgarian Socialist Party opposed the deployment of eight Netherlands Air Force F-35 fighter jets to help guard Bulgaria’s air space, BSP parliamentary group deputy leader Filip Popov told reporters on March 11.

The Cabinet agreed on March 8 to the deployment, proposed by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, of eight Dutch F-35s and 200 military personnel from the Netherlands.


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