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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #88 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Greece, France, Tunisia, Vietnam, the USA, Swaziland, South Africa, Russia, India and elsewhere.

Thousands of protesters march in Syntagma Square in Athens, March 5 as outrage continues to grow over horrific train crash that killed 57 on February 28 -- Image via Twitter

February 27:

Union workers from across Iowa gathered Monday at the State Capitol to protest proposals making their way through the Legislature loosening state child labor laws.

“We are drawing a line in the sand now,” said Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor. “Our kids are not for sale. We are not — we are not selling our kids out to multinational corporations for profit … and cheap labor. Our kids are not for sale.”

February 28:

The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) reported on February 28 that the police force of Africa’s last absolute monarchy has shot and disappeared one of their members, Mvuselelo Mkhabela, age 21. “Comrade Mvuselelo was badly shot at and dragged to the police van helplessly and his whereabouts and condition is unknown and the armed to teeth police force continued its attacks to the protesting community,” CPS tweeted. Reportedly this abduction happened at around 13:00h (local time) on February 28.

This latest act of violence by the Swaziland police force comes amid an uptick in police repression of recent protests against the “farcical” parliamentary elections. CPS claims that the elections are a farce because the parliament itself is under the control of the monarchy, so the electoral process constitutes “a tool used by the absolute monarchy to sanctify King Mswati’s decision.” Mvuselelo himself was arrested and tortured earlier this month for protesting these elections, which are set to occur this August. Shortly after his arrest, Mvuselelo told Peoples Dispatch, “Often, when [police] invade communities, there is no one to defend the family or the individual from the wrath of the regime. This cannot go on.” Mvuselelo was abducted today in one such police invasion.

Mswati's police today shot Comrade Mvuselelo Mkhabela at close range as the regime's police invaded communities to enforce the unpopular sham election processes.

The armed police contingent from Hlathikhulu police station was part of the deployment of the regime to enforce its unpopular rule to the people when they shot at him at around 1:00PM (CAT).

Comrade Mvuselelo was badly shot at and dragged to the police van helplessly. He has been identified at Hlathikhulu Government Hospital. The police dumped him in the hospital and informed the hospital staff that they will come check him at night.

Two senior police officers visited his ward to identify him. Subsequently, two plain clothed police came and took pictures of him .

By 4:15PM (CAT), his exact medical status remained unknown.

Comrade Mvuselelo Mkhabela (20) is one of the trusted organisers in his community, Hosea, and a member of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS). His unwavering activism against the Mswati autocracy has attracted the wrath of the police on him and the community. His community, on the other hand, remains firm in defending him and itself.

March 1:

The Communist Party of Sweden condemns the anti-communist and anti-democratic legislative changes which are set to enter into force in Poland on March 14. With the impending changes to the penal code, promoting a communist “totalitarian state system” will be punishable by up to three years in prison, and the same will apply to the spreading, selling or possession of texts or other material, or the carrying of communist symbols, with the same aforementioned aim of promoting communism. In addition, the new legislation equates communism with nazism and fascism.

This legislative change is only the latest step in a long political process that has the criminalization of the communist opposition as its goal, in which the Communist Party of Poland and its newspaper have earlier been put on trial.

The repression against communists, and those who hold up a view of history which contradicts bourgeois anti-communist propaganda, is escalating on several fronts, in Poland and Ukraine as well as in Venezuela or the Czech Republic, to name some examples. The repression will only harden as capitalism sinks deeper into crisis, dragging with it the peoples’ living standards and making it ever harder to make ends meet, all the while monopoly capital reaps enormous profits.

The repressive laws in Poland, and everywhere, have their origins in the bourgeois class dictatorship’s needs and interests. Therefore the struggle must not only be directed against the bourgeoisie’s laws and legislative acts, but also against the class dictatorship and the capitalist world system as a whole.

The Communist Party of Sweden expresses its solidarity with the Communist Party of Poland and its support for their struggle against the bourgeois repression.

Long live the Communist Party of Poland!

The Communist Party of Greece condemns the decision of the Biden administration to keep Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, as announced on 1 March.

This is a provocative decision that reinforces the tools used by the imperialists to blackmail Cuba economically and politically and to tighten the blockade aiming at undermining the achievements of the Cuban people and promoting their counter-revolutionary plans.

No matter how unsubstantiated and ridiculous the claim that Cuba fosters terrorism might seem, it remains dangerous since some of the greatest imperialist crimes of the past decades against the people have been carried out in the name of combating terrorism.

The KKE condemns this new step towards the escalation of imperialist aggression against Cuba and demands that all measures of the barbaric economic and trade blockade of Cuba be lifted immediately.

The KKE reiterates its internationalist solidarity with the Cuban people and the Communist Party of Cuba.

More than 30 workers at Menzies Aviation at Halifax Stanfield International Airport successfully joined Unifor on March 1.

“We welcome these new members to our union. The need for aviation workers to have representation is so important during this period of contract flipping and chaos at Canada’s airports,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “Unifor will stand by them through whatever turbulence comes our way in the industry.”

A federal automatic certification was received March 1 with no vote, after an application was filed showing a large majority of workers signed cards to join the union at the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on Feb. 2. Unifor began its organizing drive in Nov. 2022.

These workers perform ramp and customer service functions at the airport currently contracted to Flair Airlines.

Among some of the challenges the workers face include treatment by management and fair wages.

March 2:

For two nights in a row protests by students, Communists and others have been held in the Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki after the horrific train crash on February 28 that has left -- as of Thursday night (March 2) -- at least 57 dead. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has also condemned the present and previous neo-liberal governments for what it says was a totally preventable disaster brought on by privatization, liberalization and a lack of oversight.

Responding to the news that the Caledonian Sleeper Service will be returning to the public sector, ASLEF Scottish Organiser, Kevin Lindsay said:

"This is a major victory for the rail unions and the passengers we serve. We are delighted that the Scottish Government has listened and taken on board the recommendation in our 'Vision for Scotland’s Railways' report, to take the sleeper service back into the public sector.

"The mismanagement of the sleeper by privateers has been an abject failure - it’s now time to turn the sleeper into a world class, vibrant well run, publicly owned service.

"All Scottish railway services should now be brought under the one public structure and the Scottish Government must make the investment needed to ensure they are affordable, accessible and attractive so that more passengers and freight make the shift from road to rail.

"This will encourage economic growth whilst helping Scotland meet its climate targets."

March 3:

Today, Friday 3 March 2023, the Mswati's police went to Comrade Mvuselelo’s home to meet his family only to report that he had disappeared from hospital and were sorry that they had shot and gravely injured him.

A Hlathikhulu police 'delegation' led by its station commander, his deputy and three other junior-ranked police officers arrived at Comrade Mvuselelo’s home in Hosea this afternoon.

They claim to have come to report to the family about the shooting of Comrade Mvuselelo by the police on 28 February, three days ago.

"Site ngekutocolisa ngekulinyalelwa ngumntfwana lowadubuleka... Sibika nekulahlekelwa nguye umntfwana, asimati kutsi ushonephi (We have come to report the injury of your child who was shot by our police officers... We also report that he has disappeared without trace)," said the station commander.

The police shot Comrade Mvuselelo Mkhabela (21) a member of the Communist Party of Swaziland and a community organiser on 28 March 2023 at around 1300hrs in his community at Hosea, Hluti in the Shiselweni region.

Workers at an REI store near Cleveland voted 27-12 in favor of unionizing on Friday, adding more fuel to a labor organizing campaign at the national outdoor retailer.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said it prevailed in the vote following a tally by the National Labor Relations Board. The company has a week to file any objections to the results.

March 4:

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) on March 4 launched a big demonstration against President Kais Saied’s authoritarian rule. Chanting “freedom” and “fight the police state,” thousands of trade unionists demanded a stop to the government’s arbitrary arrests of labour leaders and pro-democracy personalities. They also called on the government to return to the path of social dialogue.

UGTT said that around 20 opposition leaders were already arrested by the government, including trade union leader Anis Kaabi, who led a labour strike in the country’s motorway tolls. “We will never recognise these arrests as legitimate and just. We will resist them to defend our trade union rights. We are united like the five fingers of a hand," said UGTT President Noureddine Taboubi, in front of more than 3,000 protesters who have gathered at Tunis, the country’s capital.

UGTT also expressed its deep concern over the hateful, discriminatory and xenophobic messages online that target migrant workers, particularly sub-Saharans. It stressed that the hateful online contents have contributed to the climate of violence, fear and intimidation in the country, and further weakened social peace.

March 5:

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov laying flowers at Stalin's grave in honour of the 70th anniversary of his death.

On Sunday March 5 thousands of students and workers marched on Syntagma square in Athens, Greece as part of continuing protests after the horrific train crash February 28 that claimed the lives of at least 57 people, many of them young people coming home from university. The protests are being met with tear gas and other attacks by police.

The March 5 mobilization was called by unions and Left political parties and organizations to keep up the pressure on the Greek government to launch a full investigation and to reverse the privatization, austerity and liberalization agendas of previous governments that many feel directly led to the disaster.

March 5 marked ten years since the passing of Commander Hugo Chávez, former president of Venezuela and the father of the Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez was Venezuela’s president from February 2, 1999, until his death on March 5, 2013.

Chávez inaugurated a new period in Venezuela’s history. Through his comprehensive and inclusive social and economic policies, he brought back dignity and pride to the Venezuelan people and transformed the social reality of the country. He forged important projects for Latin American unity and integration such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He died at the age of 58, following a two-year battle with cancer.

On the tenth anniversary of his death, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of the capital Caracas to pay homage to Chávez and ratify their commitment to defend his anti-imperialist and socialist legacy. Workers, students, members of political organizations, social movements and trade unions gathered at different points in Caracas and marched together to the Cuartel de la Montaña, where the mausoleum with Chávez’s remains is located. They chanted slogans such as “Chávez didn’t die, he multiplied!”, “I am Chávez,” and “Chávez is alive.”

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with former Cuban President Raul Castro and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who traveled to Caracas to attend tributes to Commander Hugo Chavez on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death.

This meeting was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Ramiro Valdes, Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela Vice President Diosdado Cabello, and Venezuelan First Lady Cilia Flores.

Prior to the meeting with Maduro, Castro and Correa evoked Commander Chavez during the closing session of the World Meeting on the Validity of the Bolivarian Thought of Hugo Chavez in the 21st Century.

March 6:

Hundreds of workers affiliated to the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) downed tools on Monday across the country over a wage dispute, among other demands.

This is despite the Department of Public Service and Administration obtaining a court interdict to prevent the strike on Saturday. On Monday, the department returned to court to get a final order interdicting the strike.

NEHAWU asked for leave to appeal the government’s interdict on Sunday.

Other unions and federations supporting the “indefinite” strike action include the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Policing Union (SAPU) and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and other affiliates.

The six-party opposition coalition in Turkey decided on Monday, March 6, to field Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as its joint presidential candidate to face Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming national elections.

Considered a social democrat, Kılıçdaroğlu (74) is the leader of the main opposition party in Turkey, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Negotiations to decide on a joint presidential candidate have been ongoing for months now. Last week, there was disagreement between the coalition’s second-largest party, Good (İyi), and the other five parties, led by the CHP, over who the candidate would be. As per the reports, İyi had insisted that, given their popularity, either the mayors of Ankara or Istanbul should be fielded as the joint presidential candidate.

Apart from the CHP and İyi, the ‘table of six,’ as the coalition is popularly known, comprises the Democracy and Progress (DEVA) party, the Gelecek (Future) party, the Saadet (Felicity) party, and the Democratic party.

Union challenger Shawn Fain is narrowly leading United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ray Curry in a runoff election, a court-appointed monitor said on Monday, but the race is too close to call.

Fain received 69,118 votes and Curry has 68,473 votes – a difference of 645 votes - but there are 1,608 unresolved challenged ballots. "The outcome of this race cannot be determined until a sufficient number of these challenged ballots are resolved," the monitor's office said.

The election comes at a critical time for the union.

Labor contracts with Detroit's Big Three automakers expire in September. The UAW is working to organize new battery plants and members worry that shifting to electric vehicles will cost jobs.

March 7:

On Tuesday, March 7 hundreds of thousands of workers, students and supporters took to the streets to again bring France to halt in protest against the proposed pension and retirement "reforms" of French president Emmanuel Macron. Macron's push to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 while also raising the number of years of work it takes to qualify for a pension has galvanized French workers into mass action that has the government on the defensive.

"It has been decades since the working world has been so united in a struggle. We can win and push back the government." - French Communist Party (PCF) leader Fabien Roussel

Truck drivers who say they are forced to speed, drive fatigued and delay maintenance have marched on Aldi as part of a wider campaign demanding better conditions from major retailers.

Hundreds of truckies protested outside Aldi stores in co-ordinated rallies across the country on Tuesday, after the German-owned chain pushed back on union demands.

Aldi is the only one of the major three supermarkets to refuse to sign the Transport Workers’ Union’s charter on supply chain accountability, according to the union.

The protest follows the collapse of Australia’s largest cold-chain operator, Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics. The company collapsed last week, with the loss of 1500 jobs, after being hit hard by increasing fuel prices, weather events and COVID shutdowns.


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