top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #97 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Cuba, the UK, the USA, Canada, Greece, Croatia, Ecuador, Hungary and elsewhere.

Led by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Raul Castro, Cubans take to the streets in Havana en masse to celebrate International Workers' Day on May 5 -- image via Twitter

May 1:

The Workers Party of Ireland sends warm regards and socialist greetings and solidarity to our fellow workers and their families, and to our comrades and friends at home and across the world. Every year on 1st May, workers across the world celebrate and commemorate International Workers' Day (May Day). This important event commemorates past labour struggles, celebrates historic victories and renews a commitment to the struggle for workers’ rights and a better future. It recalls the gains and achievements of the international working class and outlines the continuing battles to be faced.

We know the reality of our class-based society. We see the unrestrained attacks on the social and economic conditions of workers and their families; the impoverishment of working people; the increased power of the monopolies and multinational corporations; the continuing attacks on living standards, labour rights, social protection, health, education, public employment and the provision of public services.

On May Day, we assert our determination to struggle for proper pay, conditions and pensions for workers; against low paid, precarious and casualised work; against the privatisation of public services. We declare that poverty, inequality, exploitation and oppression are inherent in the nature of our social order, capitalism, a system which must be abolished. It cannot be reformed.

This year’s May Day celebration in Cuba was interrupted by severe storms that knocked out electricity in much of the country. Authorities had no choice but to postpone the traditional mass marches. But for over 150 young grassroots organizers from the United States who had traveled to the country to mark the holiday, this turn of events was just more reason to deepen their efforts to end the US-imposed blockade of the country.

Miya Tada, a brigade participant from New York, explained how this showed that “the biggest obstacle the Cuban people are facing is the repression and economic warfare of our own government, and that just inspires me to further the struggle against the blockade back in the United States.”

This wide range of activists from nearly 30 states and dozens of organizations was brought together by the International Peoples’ Assembly, a network of left movements and parties around the globe. Members of the solidarity brigade had spent the preceding week taking part in educational panels, discussions with Cuban activists, and youth exchanges as they sought to deepen their understanding of the Cuban Revolution.

On May 1, hundreds of members of the CTSE gathered in the Santo Domingo square and marched to the House of Ecuadorian Culture, marking the union’s first massive action. The union center stressed that its members took to the streets “to demand Lasso’s expulsion; to protest the imposition of policies that exploit the workers, criminalize the popular organizations, and denigrate the life of the people; and to demand with all the strength of the working class that our rights be guaranteed.”

During the May Day march, Juan Rodríguez, president of the CTSE, told Peoples Dispatch that the CTSE is “a new type of confederation, which is focused on the defense and rights of workers.”

The president of the CTSE underlined that “we want to forge a new union organization that is dedicated to the defense of the workers, so that there will be a true social system in our country, not a neoliberal one that attacks the workers and only looks out for the elites of this country.”

With respect to some of the urgent demands of the country’s working class and the union’s objectives, Rodríguez said that “we demand that the government withdraw the decision that allows the carrying and use of weapons by civilians. The workers and the people do not endorse this decision, it is against the security of the country.”

The union leader added that the CTSE is “an anti-patriarchal confederation,” and will promote and support struggles for expansion of women’s rights in Ecuador. “We want women to occupy the space they deserve in our society,” he said.

Rodríguez reiterated that the CTSE is “a proletarian and revolutionary confederation and we seek the renewal of union leaders, democratically.” “There must be leadership cadres that manage the organizations with new ideas and proposals to raise the union level and impact the struggle against the system,” he stressed.

On May Day 2023, activists in Dallas celebrated by helping to organize “flying pickets” at different Starbucks stores across the metro area. The group included members of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Young Active Labor Leaders, and the Communist Party USA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Club. We pioneered an old but new labor organizing tactic that, to our knowledge, has never been done before in history in the North Texas area.

May 2:

The "International Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba and Anti-imperialism, 200 years after the Monroe Doctrine" was held in Havana, Cuba on May 2, 2023 and saw over 1000 foreign delegates and 200 Cubans in attendance, including activists and leaders of associations and movements of solidarity with Cuba, trade unionists, and social activists.

First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz - Canel Bermúdez welcomed the participants calling it an act of courage and commitment in these times to visit Cuba, "we know it and we appreciate it.".

He also noted that for "200 years the policy of the powerful neighbor has been one, to seize Cuba, Latin America and our resources, it has tried to internationalize this policy and has used blockades, isolation policies, economic sanctions, defamation campaigns for them.

We are convinced that this is the main cause of the blockade, to prevent the triumph of a socialist system, independent only 90 miles from the empire".

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has issued a letter to the administration of Joe Biden, calling for the United States to end aid to organisations he perceives as opposed to his government.

The letter specifically identifies funds from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), though it does not name the groups López Obrador objects to.

May 3:

Thousands rallied in Budapest on Wednesday to protest against new government-sponsored legislation that would eliminate the public servant status of teachers and significantly increase their workload.

Almost 5,000 teachers have already said they will leave their profession if the so-called Status Law comes into force, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is going ahead with the reforms that would strip teachers of some of their job security.

Forced by widespread outrage from doctors and progressive sections, the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government in Greece, on May 3, decided to take back a controversial circular requiring doctors to be on-call duty. The circular was issued on April 28.

Intended to manage the shortage of doctors in public healthcare facilities in the country, the circular required available doctors to treat patients irrespective of their specialization, which doctors’ unions assert will put patients’ lives at risk and could also put doctors in trouble. The Federation of Hospital Doctors’ Unions Greece (OENGE) and the Athens and Piraeus Hospital Doctors’ Association (EINAP) had vociferously opposed the circular. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME) also expressed solidarity with the doctors’ protest.

The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) on May 3 co-organised the fifth Theoretical Symposium under the theme of "Some theoretical and practical issues on building socialism in Vietnam and Cuba".

The event was co-chaired by Nguyen Xuan Thang, Politburo member, President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics (HCMA) and Chairman of the Central Theory Council, and Roberto Morales Ojeda, Politburo member and permanent member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee.

In his opening remarks, Thang emphasised that sharing experience, theoretical and practical issues in the process of building socialism in Vietnam and Cuba is an important content of cooperation between the two Parties with an aim to enhance mutual understanding, tighten and promote the special relationship between the two Parties and peoples.

May 4:

Britain's RMT trade union said on Thursday railway workers had voted in favour of further strike action in a new ballot amid a long-running pay dispute with train operating companies.

"This sends a clear message to the employers that the huge anger amongst rail workers is very real and they need to recognise that fact, face reality and make improved proposals," RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said.

More than 3,000 teachers and other workers in the Oakland Unified School District went on strike Thursday, saying the district failed to bargain in good faith on a new contract that asks for more resources for students and higher pay for employees.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced Thursday that, by an overwhelming majority vote of nearly 84 percent, workers at REI, Inc. in Chicago, IL, voted to join the organization making this the fourth unionized REI store in the country.

“I am beyond excited at the results of the vote to officially make REI Chicago a union store. I have never been more proud to work for REI and am inspired by the passion and courage of my fellow green vests who have taken part in any of this. I look forward to shifting focus towards the next steps of bargaining with REI to help our team see more consistent hours and schedules to allow us to better plan our personal lives as well as hold REI accountable for the many promises and initiatives they have failed to uphold over the years,” said Andrew Loveland, member of the REI Chicago organizing committee and retail specialist at REI.

May 5:

Dozens of pre-election rallies and other activities of the party organizations of the KKE are taking place all over the country ahead of the electoral battle of 21 May.

On Friday 5th of May a large rally took place in the central square of Larissa, the capital of the region of Thessaly. Dimitris Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of the CC of the KKE, addressed the rally, criticizing the bourgeois parties (ND, SYRIZA and PASOK), which have been in power in recent years, for the problems experienced by the working class, the poor farmers and the lower middle strata. He referred to the recent crime in Tempe, near Larissa and added: "An average of 200 work "accidents" a year occur In Thessaly alone. After all, what happened in Tempe happens to all of us, in our daily lives. We are facing a system, a state and a policy, which are constantly committing crimes against the workers and the people in order to serve the interests of the few, of the business groups. They sometimes sacrifice our living conditions and our income, our rights, our contemporary needs, and they sometimes even sacrifice our very lives, as has happened in dozens of cases. What is the common denominator of these practices? Their profits! This is how the way is paved for the next tragedies (...)

100% union. 100% closed. 100% immoral.” That’s how members of Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) sum up the company’s plan to shutter all its stores in Ithaca, N.Y., on May 26.

Workers at the Commons location, by the city’s popular pedestrian mall, learned of the closures at work on Friday. District Manager Andrew Sugar read a prepared statement citing “financial and operational needs” as the reason for shutting down the store. When asked about the possibility of transferring to the Meadow Street location, Sugar said that outlet would be permanently closed as well.

Employees who weren’t at work were notified by phone that afternoon—“out of respect,” according to the company representative who left a voice mail to tell workers they would be out of a job. That message, provided by a worker at the Commons store, blamed “staffing difficulties” and “operational performance” for the store closures.

(Roughly translated, staffing difficulties means “our workers voted to unionize,” while operational performance refers to the employer’s ability to do whatever the hell they want.)

May 6:

With the feudal spectacle of the coronation of a new king looming in England many -- quite rightly and understandably -- are decrying the sickening absurdity of the public purse being used to pay for a lavish shindig anointing an incredibly wealthy man who was literally born into staggering privilege.

While the British government has been predictably tightlipped on what will be squandered for Charles' big day out, estimates say it will likely be in the neighbourhood of £100 million. Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarch campaign group Republic said of this “Charles is already king. There is absolutely no need to go through with this expensive pantomime. At a cost of tens of millions of pounds, this pointless piece of theatre is a slap in the face for millions of people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis."

Which it certainly is. It is also extra galling given just how fantastically rich Charles is.

The sickening spectacle of the coronation of feudal fossil Charles was bad enough on its own. But it was also predictably met with outrageous, undemocratic police overreach that included the intimidation and harassment of entirely legitimate protestors, preemptive illegitimate arrests including of the leader of anti-monarchist group Republic Graham Smith and most obscenely of Westminster Night Safety volunteers for carrying rape alarm whistles.

Smith said of the whole grotesque affair “These arrests are a direct attack on our democracy and the fundamental rights of every person in the country. Each and every police officer involved on the ground should hang their heads in shame. They showed no judgement, no common sense, and no basic decency. This was a heavy-handed action which had the appearance of a pre-determined arrest that would have occurred regardless of the evidence or our actions.”

The Communist Party of Britain in a statement denounced not only the coronation and the police actions, but the absurd continued existence of the monarchy itself.

Peaceful protesters were given a foretaste of what to expect under draconian new public order laws on Saturday when police arrested dozens for “offenses” including wearing campaign T-shirts and carrying megaphones.

As London ground to a halt for Charles Windsor’s lavish taxpayer-funded coronation, republicans and environment campaigners were among 52 people arrested and detained by the Metropolitan Police to prevent “disruption.”

The actions were condemned by human rights groups, MPs, and by protesters targeted for arrest, but were defended by the government, which introduced the new powers just days before the extravaganza.

As Charles III was crowned king in a sickening display of pomp and privilege, thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square and marched in central London to oppose the coronation and the monarchy. Not that you’d know this from the wall-to-wall coverage of the coronation in the mainstream media.

Scotland Yard has been accused of an “incredibly alarming” attack on the right to protest after police used new powers to arrest the head of the leading republican movement and other organisers of an approved demonstration just hours before King Charles III’s coronation.

Graham Smith, the chief executive of Republic, had been collecting drinks and placards for demonstrators at the main site of the protest on Trafalgar Square two hours before the king was due to arrive at Westminster Abbey when he was stopped along with five others by police on nearby St Martin’s Lane.

Zagreb’s anti-fascist legacy remains alive and strong in the face of revisionist attacks from the right. In 2015, the Network of Anti-fascist Women of Zagreb (MAZ) reignited the tradition of marking Liberation Day by lighting bonfires at the place where partisan units entered the city in 1945. Since then, increasing numbers of people have shown up at the event to pay tribute to the many women and men members of the National Liberation Army and local resistance movement who freed the city from the fascist Ustaša regime and Nazi occupiers.

MAZ reminded the thousands of participants at the central event on Saturday, May 6, that the bonfires remain a symbol of the city’s collective victory at a time when the legacy of the anti-fascist struggle is under attack. “With the symbolic act of lighting the bonfires, we show that we will not forget our anti-fascist past, that we are fighting, and will fight, for its future,” the organizers said.

Thousands of trade unionists (including many members of the Australian Labor Party) and anti-war activists marched through Port Kembla on May 6 to reject the plan to site the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine base in that town.

The Wollongong May Day march was held in Port Kembla as a symbolic launch of a mass campaign of "feet in the streets" to stop this nuclear military madness, South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris told the marchers

May 7:

Workers at the Little Dog Coffee Shop in Brunswick went on strike Sunday, alleging owner Larry Flaherty has refused to bargain in good faith on a union contract and failed to maintain equipment — claims he denies.

The shop’s workers in November unanimously voted to unionize through Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that represents Starbucks workers at shops across the country, including one in Biddeford and another in Portland that recently closed. Since then, Little Dog workers have been negotiating a contract with Flaherty while equipment keeps breaking down, they claim. The workers last week filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging Flaherty has bargained in bad faith.

May 8:

HOUSE opposition lawmakers are seeking to investigate “grave violations of international humanitarian law” allegedly committed by the military against two leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The House Makabayan coalition asked the House human rights committee to investigate the deaths of communist party leaders Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, and their eight companions.

“The government’s resort to brutality to suppress revolutionaries like the Tiamzons is not a solution to the underlying issues that give rise to armed conflict. These issues include poverty, injustice, lack of sovereignty and independence, and a lack of genuine democracy,” the solons said in House Resolution No. 939.

Workers at a Goodyear tire plant in Mexico voted Monday to throw out an old-guard union that was accused of stealing a ballot box at a failed union election last month.

The skullduggery at the plant in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi illustrated the uphill battle Mexican workers face in unseating old-guard unions that once kept wages low and enjoyed government protection.

The Labor Department said employees voted 727 to 140 against renewing the labor contract held by a union affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers. The vote opens the way for a new union organizing drive at the plant.

The Confederation of Mexican Workers, or CTM, for decades functioned as a wing of the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI. By signing contracts behind workers' backs, such unions long held Mexican industrial wages to about one-eighth or less of what workers earned doing similar jobs in the U.S..

Marvin Alfred, on behalf of the Executive Board of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, is proud to announce that today we won our fight to protect members’ right to strike.

In a historic ruling, Hon. Justice Chalmers of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that Ontario legislation banning TTC workers from striking violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is a historic and important decision confirming the right to strike for working people. Further, the Court characterized the government’s request to delay the implementation of the decision until after March 31st, 2024, as unreasonable. Effective immediately the legislation is declared unconstitutional and of no force and effect.

May 9:

May 9th, 1945 was Victory Day in the USSR when the Soviets officially accepted the surrender of Germany after years of devastating war. The world owes the peoples of the Soviet Union an immense debt of gratitude for their extreme sacrifices in the struggle to defeat fascism.

Here we share statements today (May 9, 2023) from the Communist parties of Greece and Turkey as well as the Workers' Party of Ireland celebrating the Great Anti-fascist Victory of the Peoples.

On 9/5/23, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, GS of the CC of the KKE, delivered a speech at a mass pre-election rally of the KKE in Kallithea, a district of Athens. During the fascist occupation, fierce battles were waged in this district between the organizations of the resistance (EAM - ELAS - EPON) and the fascist occupiers. The illegal printing press of the KKE was also located there.

Koutsoumbas stressed the following: “Neither the date nor the place of this rally is accidental. Today we commemorate the anniversary of the Great Anti-Fascist Victory of the Peoples. The day when the Nazi monster capitulated unconditionally, after the red flag with the hammer and sickle had been nailed to its heart in the Reichstag building.

On the occasion of this anniversary, the friends of New Democracy and SYRIZA, that is, the German Christian Democrats and Social Democrats who govern the local state, have banned the red flag and the “Sacred War” march.

They probably forget that this flag never asked for permission to wave in Berlin!

That is why the forces of the KKE, together with comrades from the Communist Party of Turkey, once again broke this unacceptable ban and commemorated the Anti-Fascist Victory inside the iconic Treptower Park, where 7,000 Soviet soldiers who fell in the battles of Berlin are buried.

We commemorate today’s anniversary here, in Kallithea, the district of the Resistance, of EAM, ELAS, and EPON (...). The people of Kallithea, with the communists at the forefront, as always, fought and shed their blood to get rid of the Nazi occupiers, to breathe freely in a more just homeland.

The world’s global unions are up in arms against the South Korean government’s flagrant violation of trade union rights. On the first anniversary of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration, the Council of Global Unions (CGU), which represents 200 million workers worldwide, issued a statement expressing grave concern about recent attacks, legal harassment, and interference with legal trade union activity and working people's rights in South Korea. It also mourned the tragic death of Yang, a district head of the Korean Construction Workers Union (KCWU), who set himself on fire to protest government harassment of labor unionists. Yang was one of the people harassed by the South Korean authorities.

Jan Simpson, the first Black woman to lead a National Union in Canada, has been re-elected to an historic second term as National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). This gives her a decisive mandate to take the Union forward as it faces tough collective bargaining negotiations. In another first, the National Executive Committee is now predominantly female. Rona Eckert has been elected 1st National Vice-President; Beverly Collins has been re-elected to her third term as National Secretary-Treasurer; Coleen Jones has been elected 2nd National Vice-President and Jody Hutton has been elected 3rd National Vice-President.

Simpson has led the Union through the turbulence and uncertainty of Covid-19, ensuring that postal workers and all CUPW members were kept safe while working - helping the country to flatten the curve. She has been re-elected at a time when workers across the country have been emerging from the pandemic more determined than ever to fight for better working conditions, wages, and work-life balance. The CUPW is also pushing for the creation of a Public Postal bank, a game-changer which could support those who are under banked and those in remote communities. The Union is also pushing Canada Post to play its part in the fight against Climate Change by calling on the Corporation to accelerate its plans to reduce its carbon footprint.

In her acceptance speech, Simpson called for unity as members prepare to mobilize to meet the challenges ahead.

May 10:

School support staff for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education are on picket lines across the Halifax area today after failing to reach an agreement with the province.

The strike by members of CUPE Local 5047, which represents more than 1,800 workers in the HRCE, started at 12:01 a.m. AT.

Schools in the Halifax area remain open — with the exception of pre-primary classes — but support workers such as educational program assistants, who help students in need of one-on-one care, are on picket lines.


bottom of page