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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #68 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from China, Sudan, Morocco, Swaziland, Belgium, Spain, the DPRK, Panama and elsewhere.

There are also a number of updates about the union wave in the USA -- including at Starbucks and Trader Joe's -- and from the conflict between unions and the Starmer's Labour Party in the UK.

The stage at a reception in Beijing's Great Hall of the People in honour of the 95th anniversary of the formation of the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China, July 31 2022. The anniversary itself was on August 1 -- image via Twitter

July 24:

A new political alliance “Forces for Radical Change (FRC)” led by the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and comprising a number of civil and trade union groups was announced in Khartoum on Sunday.

At the end of its fifth national conference, the Democratic Way in Morocco announced the formation of a new political party, the Workers’ Democratic Way Party, as a party of the working class with a socialist and anti-imperialist ideology. The three-day conference was held in Rabat on July 22, 23 and 24.

The conference elected an 81-member central committee and a 21-member political bureau of the new party and elected comrade Jamal Berrajaa as its general secretary and Abdel Hamid Amin and Zahra Azlaf as his deputies.

According to a statement issued after the end of the conference, the new party will be an independent party for the working class in Morocco fighting for “national liberation, democracy and socialism.”

The three-day conference was held despite hostilities and repression by the state authorities. The Moroccan government had not only denied permission for holding the conference at a public venue, but also took violent action against Democratic Way leaders when they protested the denial earlier this month.

The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) held its Annual Political Winter school from 22-24 July 2022 under the theme "The Democracy We Want on Our Own Terms".

The Winter School was attended by 150 delegates drawn from all over Swaziland as well as from the neighbouring countries. The School also received messages of support from Swazi and international revolutionary organisations.

The CPS 2022 Winter School convened amid ongoing gross human rights abuses by the Mswati autocracy mainly through its army and police. This is in the context of deepened brutalisation of the people in the regime's desperate attempts to stop the democracy wave.

July 25:

A pensioner berated Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer to his face when she gatecrashed a business lunch that he was attending in Liverpool.

Activist Audrey White, of Merseyside Pensioners Association, was applauded by protesters who brandished placards outside the posh restaurant.

On Monday, July 25, Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) charged 22 former members of the army, one state official, and two civilians with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The JEP determined that the members of the 16th Brigade killed 303 innocent people in 218 incidents between 2005 and 2008 in the Casanare department, and then framed them to government authorities as left-wing guerrilla fighters killed in combat to obtain rewards.

The JEP condemned that within the military unit, a criminal structure was created that naturalized this violent practice to access promotions, cash prizes, vacations, and other perks. It also stated that under the command of convicted retired Major General Henry Torres, these criminal operations increased.

July 26:

Eighty workers at MOM's Organic Market in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood moved to form a union Tuesday, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

The workers at the store in the Rotunda shopping center will be represented by the Teamsters Local 570.

July 28:

Workers at a Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts have formed the grocer’s very first union, adding another historic win to a string of recent victories for organized labor.

Employees at the chain’s store in Hadley, north of Springfield, voted 45 to 31 in favor of joining the new group Trader Joe’s United, according to a vote count broadcast online Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board.

LABOUR went into meltdown today as union leaders and MPs blasted Sir Keir Starmer for sacking Sam Tarry from his front-bench team.

The fallout came as former shadow chancellor John McDonnell backed calls for a general strike.

Sir Keir faced an open revolt in the party after sacking Mr Tarry as his shadow transport minister for joining a rail strike picket line on Wednesday and for giving a round of media interviews without permission.

The Labour leader’s move has been met with fury by union leaders and the left of the party.

The ICP condemned the sectarian power-sharing system which divides key posts among religious and ethnic groupings, saying it breeds “failure and corruption.”

“The ongoing struggle for power, among the ruling forces, does not represent a struggle over projects for state-building, but rather an extension of the fighting over sharing wealth and influence,” the communists said.

Spain's leftist ruling coalition introduced a draft bill on Thursday to create a temporary tax on banks and power utilities, aiming to raise 7 billion euros ($7 billion) by 2024 to fund measures to ease cost of living pressures.

"There is no social justice without fiscal justice," spokesperson for the Socialist Party in Congress Patxi Lopez said, adding it was the duty of a "progressive government" to share the costs of the crisis "fairly and equitably".

A study session on the gist of Xi Jinping's speech to welcome the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), attended by officials at the provincial/ministerial level, was held from Tuesday to Wednesday in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), delivered a speech. He stressed that on the journey to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects and achieve the Second Centenary Goal, the whole Party must hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, follow the guidance of Marxism adapted to the Chinese context and to the needs of our times, remain confident in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and stay committed to driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that Marxism has been showing new vitality in the 21st century, calling on all Marxist political parties to make the theory more relevant to the national conditions and the times.

Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message to the Communist Party of China (CPC) and World Marxist Political Parties Forum in Beijing.

Marxism is an open, developing theory, said Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Only when it is adapted to each country's specific condition can it take root in a country, and only when it keeps abreast of the times can it be full of vitality.

He said Marxism in the 21st century has been opening up new horizons and increasingly showing new vitality, thanks to the arduous exploration and concerted efforts of Marxist political parties of all countries.

After a decade of campaigning for 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave by unions, the new Albanese Government will finally introduce legislation to enshrine the right into the parliament today.

Over the past decade, while successive Coalition Governments refused to support this leave, unions campaigned for, and won it in thousands of workplace agreements in all industries across the country. Today, by enshrining the leave into the National Employment Standards, the Albanese Government will ensure that nearly every worker gets this entitlement, including casual and part-time workers.

Amid the vigorous advance to open up the broad avenue for socialist victory under the guidance of the ever-victorious Workers' Party of Korea, the civilians and servicepersons of the DPRK are significantly celebrating the 69th anniversary of the victory in the great Fatherland Liberation War with the high pride of heroic Korea and the heroic people who have been glorified century after century.

A grand celebration event took place in front of the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War in the capital city of Pyongyang when the whole country is overflowing with a firm faith and will of the people to succeed as blood vessel the fighting spirit and tradition of victory, the revolutionary legacy bequeathed by the heroic generation of war participants, and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche without fail on the occasion of the great war victory day that provided an eternal foundation for all victories in the development course of the glorious Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the DPRK, attended the celebration event.

July 29:

Newly unionized WestJet workers in Calgary and Vancouver have ratified a first contract that gives members at least a 13% wage increase, their first increase in five years.

“After nine months of challenging bargaining, the Local 531 bargaining committee achieved long overdue and significant wage increases, improved benefits and better working conditions,” said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to the National President and lead on the airline sector.

“Members starting out in the wage grid will see their wages rise as much as 40% and members at the top of the scale will see increases between 13% and 17% over the life of the agreement.”

The bin dispute which began in January has now ended with a pay rise for the drivers worth up to 12.9%, which is worth an estimated £3,600 per year in their pay packets.

The deal also includes Christmas bonuses worth some £4,000, and disciplinary charges against Unite Shop Steward Pete Randle dropped.

July 30:

Employees at five more Starbucks coffee shops in the Capital Region are attempting to unionize, following successful bids by workers at stores in Guilderland and Latham.

Workers United, the union that helped organize the first two local stores, has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to unionize Starbucks locations at Crossgates Mall, Clifton Park, Niskayuna, East Greenbush and Malta.

The leader of one of the UK’s biggest trade unions said she is “aghast” by Keir Starmer ’s approach to striking workers - urging him to “pick a side”.

Unite boss Sharon Graham warned that his party is becoming “irrelevant” to the people it represents - and at times sounds more like the Conservatives.

She spoke out in response to Sir Keir sacking shadow transport minister Sam Tarry after he joined the picket line in London this week.

The General Secretary of Unite said: “If I was speaking to Keir right now I would say to him: which side are you on? Because the reality is, if I closed my eyes, sometimes I wouldn't know whether it was the Labour party or the Tories who were speaking.

“This is one of the biggest crises that workers are facing - we are trying to defend them with every fibre of our being and the party who is supposed to be echoing that in parliament is doing the exact opposite.

“I'm very disappointed - aghast, quite frankly - and I think it’s something Labour is going to have to think seriously about.”

July 31:

Workers at the South Minneapolis Starbucks coffee shop on 47th and Cedar Avenue went on strike the morning of Sunday, July 31. The Cedar Avenue Starbucks, represented by Starbucks Workers United, was one of the earliest locations in the city to unionize in early May and had only three employees vote against unionization. This is the first strike by a unionized Starbucks to occur in Minneapolis.

“As Starbucks baristas and Shift Supervisors, we have provided the absolute best possible work under the conditions provided to us,” read a statement written by employees to the store location’s manager. “However, you and corporate have left us to rot exhausted and in pain, leading to the spine of this location, the workers, to deteriorate even more so than anytime before.”

On July 30 and 31, popular movements, social organizations and trade unions, which have been mobilizing across Panama since July 1, protesting the high cost of living and lack of support from the right-wing government, won two more victories.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met at New Delhi on July 30 & 31, 2022. It has issued the following statement:

The last four months since the CPI(M)'s 23rd Party Congress concluded have seen a chilling confirmation of the aggressive furthering of the Hindutva agenda of the fascistic RSS combined with the rabid pursuit of neo-liberal reforms, strengthening crony capitalism and the communal-corporate nexus undermining India's economy and heaping greater unprecedented burdens on the people.

On Sunday 31 July 2022, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) hosted another night rally in the community of KaKhoza, one of the townships outside Swaziland’s largest city, Manzini.

Over four hundred community members, mostly youth, braved chilly winter conditions to actively participate in the rally.

The night rally was part of the Sunset Rallies programme of the CPS under the Party’s “Turning the heat for Democracy Now” campaign.

August 1:

Shadow cabinet ministers have warned of a “breakdown in discipline” over Labour’s approach to strikes, as Lisa Nandy visited striking BT workers days after Keir Starmer reiterated that frontbenchers should not go to picket lines.

Nandy and members of Starmer’s team are understood to dispute whether she was given tacit permission to attend the picket line. Sources close to the Labour leader said the matter had not been resolved and shadow cabinet minsters were furious.

Multiple shadow ministers said the policy to ban frontbenchers from picket lines had now “effectively broken down” since the shadow transport minister Sam Tarry was sacked for conducting multiple broadcast interviews from a rail workers’ picket on Wednesday.

THOUSANDS of BT and Openreach workers showed their determination to address their declining real-terms pay by taking another day of strike action today.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), including call centre staff and engineers, walked out for a second day after a 24-hour strike on Friday.

Striking employees walked a picket line outside of five Boston-area Starbucks locations on Monday, alleging the cafe chain is retaliating against the workers who've chosen to unionize.

"Starbucks has chosen to wage war against its own workers," said Kylah Clay, an employee at the Commonwealth Avenue location in Brookline.

Employees have been picketing outside that location around-the-clock for about two weeks. Their demonstration was joined Monday by employees at several other stores in protest of a new benefits package that Starbucks is giving to all non-union, non-organizing locations.

If you stopped at the Starbucks at 11 East Central St. Monday morning to pick up a Caffè Americano, cappuccino, espresso, espresso macchiato or a latte, you were out of luck.

The recently unionized baristas are on strike against unfair labor practices by the Seattle-based coffee giant.

"We're on strike here at East Central Street because of unfair labor practices, union-busting and Starbucks choosing to not give us management that upholds Starbucks' own stated missioning values," barista Bailey Fulton said. "That's really the issue. They have great missioning values. They're not taking the action to uphold them."

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Sunday attended a reception to celebrate the 95th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which falls on Aug. 1.

The reception was held at the Great Hall of the People by the Ministry of National Defense.

Xi, also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), was joined by other senior leaders of the Party and the state, including Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng and Wang Qishan.

August 2:

The Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) has protested human trafficking and exploitation of illegal migrants by labor subcontractors and construction companies in in the country. On Monday, August 1, PTB announced that Sofie Merckx, head of the party group in the Chamber of Representatives in the Belgium Federal Parliament, will file a bill to fight exploitation of laborers by subcontractors.

Reports of exploitation of laborers at the Antwerp site of the chemical company Borealis have provoked widespread outrage among working class sections in the country. Following the reports, Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne assured an investigation into the matter. Working class sections have demanded that the government support the victims and ensure strict punishment for the subcontractors who have exploited the laborers, as well as human traffickers who illegally brought the workers to the country.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation condemns the FBI’s raids and McCarthyite attacks on the African People’s Socialist Party.

In their latest attempt to smear radical organizations and stifle political dissent, on July 29 the FBI carried out several raids targeting the APSP’s Uhuru House in St. Petersburg, Florida, their Uhuru Solidarity Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and the residence of their chairman, Omali Yeshitela. According to the FBI, these raids are part of a federal indictment of a Russian national, Aleksandr Ionov, who leads a non-governmental organization alleged to receive funding by the Russian government.

Using the pretense of “law enforcement,” this was a political operation pure and simple. Ionov is the one charged, not the APSP, but he is currently overseas — as the FBI well knows. Living abroad, they know he will not ever stand trial here to rebut the government’s charges, nor will the APSP receive its official opportunity to counter the claims in the indictment. In short, the FBI gets its indictment reported in the mainstream media, undoubtedly filled with whatever sensational stories they could concoct as if these were established facts. Their aim is to portray, without rebuttal, a long-established Black radical organization as controlled by “the Russians” — a ridiculous proposition.

Jeremy Corbyn has urged western countries to stop arming Ukraine, and claimed he was criticised over antisemitism because of his stance on Palestine, in a TV interview likely to underscore Keir Starmer’s determination not to readmit him to the Labour party.

“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution, it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war,” Corbyn said. “We might be in for years and years of a war in Ukraine.”


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