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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #98 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from India, Turkey, Thailand, Nepal, Australia, Greece, Portugal, Kenya, Swaziland, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and elsewhere.

Farmers stage a protest rally in Greater Noida, India, May 15 -- Image via the CPI(M)

May 10:

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

The South African Communist Party (SACP) is deeply sad to announce that a stalwart of our struggle for liberation, democracy and socialism, David Niddrie (69) passed away on Tuesday evening, 9 May 2023, at his home in Johannesburg.

“This came as a shock to us. He had just finished editing the SACP publication, Umsebenzi, for April 2023. The Party published this latest issue of Umsebenzi on its website on Monday, 8 May 2023. This was a day before he passed away”, said SACP General Secretary Solly Mapaila.

Mapaila conveyed the SACP’s message of heartfelt condolences on Wednesday, 10 May 2023, to Niddrie’s family. The SACP will announce the details of the memorial and funeral services publicly after consultation with the family.

The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (CC-PCC) and President of the Republic, Miguel Diaz-Canel attends on Wednesday the ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Polisario Front, at the Universal Hall of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), in Havana.

Also participating are Roberto Morales Ojeda, member of the Political Bureau of the CC-PCC and Secretary of Organization, and Jatri Aduh, member of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front and special envoy of the president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Earlier, on his Twitter account, Diaz-Canel wrote: "We commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Polisario Front, which agglutinated in a single identity the aspirations for independence and sovereignty of the brotherly Sarahauĺ people. Cuba's eternal support and solidarity to their legitimate and historical cause".

May 11:

Labor unions on Thursday asked a United Nations agency to investigate whether gaps in U.S. law have allowed Starbucks Corp to allegedly violate the rights of baristas organizing at the coffee chain's cafes, a filing seen by Reuters showed.

The complaint to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a U.N. workers' rights watchdog in Geneva, relies on the same set of standards that Starbucks shareholders used in March, when they approved a proposal for an independent review of the company's labor practices.

Critics say the company's firing of activists and closing of unionized stores violate ILO principles, which Starbucks explicitly agreed to follow in its 2020 Global Human Rights Statement.

May 12:

After a bruising three-year fight, workers at school bus manufacturer Blue Bird in Fort Valley, Georgia, voted May 12 to join United Steelworkers (USW) Local 697.

“It’s been a long time since a manufacturing site with 1,400 people has been organized, let alone organized in the South, let alone organized with predominantly African American workers, and let alone in the auto industry,” said Maria Somma, organizing director with the USW.

“It’s not a single important win. It’s an example of what’s possible—workers wanting to organize and us being able to take advantage of a time and a policy that allowed them to clear a path to do so.”

The Portuguese Nurses Union (SEP) and the Democratic Union of Portuguese Nurses (Sindepor) went on a one-day strike on May 12, International Nurses’ Day. In addition to striking, the nurses also gathered in a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Health in Lisbon.

The trade unions are taking action over grievances that have been left unaddressed for a long time. These include shortcomings of the current system in determining career paths and professional advancement, discrimination against nurses returning from maternity leave, and staff shortage.

Mário Macedo, nurse and health activist, told People’s Health Dispatch that by striking, nurses are trying to achieve better working conditions for all. At the moment, most nurses are forced to work extensive overtime to make up for the staff shortage. If successful, their actions will also benefit patients. “Safe and adequate staffing is synonymous with better quality in health and better health outcomes,” said Macedo.

“For the first time there is a president, that instead of trying to take the land away from peasants to keep it or give it to his friends, he is trying to give the land back. And now some former colonel says that this deserves a coup d’état… these coups are resisted and overcome through the mobilization of citizens,” declared Colombian President Gustavo Petro during an event in Sucre, in which land was turned over to dispossessed peasants.

Petro was referring to the incendiary statements made on Thursday, May 11 by retired Army Colonel John Marulanda during a debate on La W radio. Marulanda said that the mobilization of retired members of the military is a sign that Colombia is “following the steps of Peru” wherein “the reserve forces were successfully able to defenestrate a corrupt president.” He added, “Here we will do our best to defenestrate someone who was a guerrilla fighter.”

Marulanda, who is the ex-president of the Association of Retired Army Officials (ACORE), immediately tried to rectify his statement in the interview saying “I correct what was said. It is not about trying to defenestrate the president as Peruvian President Castillo was defenestrated…[Petro] is legitimate, it is perfectly plausible that he is president of the Republic.”

London commuters heading home on Friday are facing travel misery as train drivers stage their latest strike in a long-running pay dispute.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef have walked out at more than a dozen train operators, crippling services in and out of the capital on Friday.

The union has described a four per cent pay offer as “risible and obviously unacceptable”.

May 13:

THOUSANDS marched in solidarity with Palestine at the weekend to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nakba — when over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes as the state of Israel was established.

Quoting Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion — who said of the expelled Palestinians that “the old will die, and the young will forget” — Stop the War’s Lindsey German said: “The young haven’t forgotten. We’ve had 75 years of resistance to the Nakba.”

But the situation was worsening, she warned the crowds outside Downing Street yesterday: “The Israeli government is waging war on Palestinians. This year practically every day somebody has died, either at the hands of Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers.”

On Saturday 13 May, Eliseos Vagenas, member of the CC of the KKE and head of the International Relations Section, spoke to Greek expatriates in New York, USA. The full speech of E. Vagenas reads as follows:

Dear friends, dear comrades

Good afternoon!

We are very happy to be with you here, in New York, and to be provided with the opportunity to inform you about the developments in Greece and around the world as well as about the KKE’s assessments.

On May 21, parliamentary elections will be held in Greece, which are likely to lead to new, early elections on July 2, despite the fact that the main parties in the country can form a coalition government from the first election battle. Why is this happening? What awaits the Greek people in the coming years? In what kind of international environment are these processes taking place? How are the world trends being formed and what should be the stance of the communists and all people concerned about them? How do all the above affect Greek-Turkish relations and the international position of the country in general? What is the KKE’s assessment of the developments and what is its proposal? I will make an effort to focus on all these issues.

In order to help the discussion that will follow up, I will touch on a few aspects.

The Kenya Finance Bill 2023 is an unfair and regressive legislation that favors the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the working-class and poor majority. It fails to implement progressive taxation, placing an undue burden on those who can least afford it while failing to adequately tax the wealthy. For example, the proposed increase in tax on kerosene, a basic commodity used by many poor Kenyans for cooking and lighting, will hit the vulnerable hardest.

The people of Karnataka have decisively rejected the BJP in the assembly elections. This defeat is the result of the gross misrule and corruption of the BJP government. This verdict also shows that the people have rejected the virulent communal propaganda conducted during the election campaign led by PM Modi himself.

The strong anti-incumbency has benefited the Congress which has won a big majority in the assembly.

The Polit Bureau congratulates the people of Karnataka for this strong verdict against the BJP.

May 14:

In the Turkish parliamentary elections held on Sunday, May 14, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led People’s Alliance retained its majority. However, there was no clear winner in the presidential elections and a run-off is likely to be held between incumbent Recep Tayyib Erdoğan and his challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

As per Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK), over 87.20% of the electorate or 55 million citizens voted in the elections. The results have defied public opinion surveys published prior to the vote which stated that Kılıçdaroğlu was ahead of Erdoğan. Kılıçdaroğlu was expected to also benefit from the withdrawal of Muharrem İnce, one of the four presidential candidates.

The results have also dashed the opposition’s hope of benefiting from the serious popular grievances against Ergodan’s government, which include prolonged high inflation deepening the cost of living crisis, the issue of Syrian refugees, and the mismanagement of the February earthquake relief.

Meanwhile, several opposition leaders have accused state broadcaster Anadolu Agency (AA) of misrepresenting and manipulating the presentation of the results.

The CPN-UML has decided to hold an international conference of communist parties on the occasion of the 75th year of the establishment of the Communist Party of Nepal.

UML leader Bishnu Rijal said that the event is being organized this year as Nepal’s communist movement was exemplary of the international communist movement.

He added that the world’s communist parties’ conference would be held on the constructive use of Marxism.

Likewise, Rijal said that the UML would construct memorials for the protection and promotion of different place sand personalities who made historical contributions in the development of Nepal’s communist movement.

As shared by Rijal, UML would continue the party’s grassroots mission where the central committee members should serve for a year in making party organisation by visiting another district from his or her working geography.

May 15:

Thailand’s political landscape has witnessed a seismic shift as results indicate an overwhelming disapproval of pro-government and pro-military forces. According to preliminary results released so far, opposition parties, including the Move Forward Party, have secured more than three-fifths of the seats in the House of Representatives. However, the establishment forces seem better placed to form the government as they have a decisive hold on the upper house, the Senate. Elections were held on Sunday and 99.4% of ballots were counted as of Monday.

Defeating the AKP by becoming like the AKP was a great illusion and deceiving the people. The so-called Nation Alliance is the subject of this illusion and the effort to deceive the people.

AKP, on the other hand, has been deceiving the country for more than 20 years. Now it has the opportunity to continue to do so for a while longer in the parliament and with a possibility in the presidential office. Despite all the poverty, injustice and the devastation caused by the earthquake, large sections of the society voting for AKP and MHP do not want to go beyond the illusion created by the government.

In order for them to do so, interventions were needed to subvert their political and ideological preferences, which were actually quite shaken. The Nation Alliance, on the other hand, has built its entire strategy on preventing these interventions. Only the defence of secularism, anti-imperialism and questioning the deep inequality caused by the market economy would have mobilised the social base of the People’s Alliance.

Maybe this mobilisation would not have produced the desired result in the elections, but the current picture in Türkiye would have changed radically.

The Nation Alliance was formed to prevent this. The People’s Alliance and the Nation Alliance complement each other.

Both alliances, from their side, have served to create a state of illusion that includes a large part of the society, and Erdoğan has been the one who has taken a step forward here.

The Green Left Party (the Party under which HPD entered the elections) have been added to this picture with their ideological and political diversity and their influence among the Kurdish population. This organisation, which act and will continue to act according to the gaps and tensions within the bourgeois politics, are fed by the same illusion and have lost the chance to become an independent actor.

The TİP (Workers’ Party of Turkey, the party that split from TKP in 2014 and was elected to the parliament from HDP lists) on the other hand, has created another illusionary space by attracting those who are uncomfortable with the Nation Alliance’s resemblance to the AKP, but who want to achieve freedom and justice in an easy way and within the limits of this social order. This party, which responds to the effortless search of those who are disappointed with the right-wingisation of the CHP, will now be as “left” as the social segments it attracts allow it to be.

The Communist Party of Türkiye, on the other hand, has fallen into the illusion that it can increase its votes in an election campaign in which it uncompromisingly defends secularism, independence, statism, republicanism, socialism and emphasises advanced human values.

In order to increase our votes, we were supposed to do more without compromising our values, principles and stance.

We had not been able to do it.

Of course, we will not be part of that great deception because we could not. On 15 May, we said that we would continue our struggle. Our party does not measure itself only, or even mainly, by votes.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked for the suspension of Israel’s membership from the United Nations as it had failed to implement even one of the hundreds of resolutions adopted by different UN bodies since 1948 asking it to protect Palestinians rights and end its occupation.

Abbas was speaking during the first official UN commemoration of Nakba on Monday, May 15, at its headquarters in New York.

Abbas asserted, “We demand today officially, in accordance with international law and international resolutions, to make sure that Israel respects these resolutions or suspend Israel’s membership of the UN.”

The event was organized as per a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly in November last year.

Anywhere between 700,000 and 800,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their lands, homes, villages, and towns in historic Palestine by the Zionist forces during the months leading up to the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948. More than 500 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed during those months by Israeli forces.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Nakba, that took place on 15 May 1948, when the newly established state of Israel proceeded to mass killings and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land, the KKE expresses its full solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for their long-lasting, heroic struggle. It condemns the raids by the Israeli occupation forces which have led these days to the death of more than 31 Palestinians, including 6 children and 3 women.

It is an ongoing crime committed with the timeless support of the USA and the EU, whose policy fuels the aggression of the Israeli state in Palestine and in the wider region.

The just struggle of the Palestinian people can be vindicated with the solidarity and firm support of the peoples, against all sorts of imperialist plans.

Almost 100 workers at a medical supplies distribution centre in western Sydney have walked off the job, demanding better pay and conditions after stalled industrial negotiations.

United Workers Union (UWU) members at the site in Yennora, in western Sydney, took strike action early on Monday in a bid for a pay rise of up to $7 an hour and better redundancy terms, the union said.

Workers had been bargaining with EBOS Group-owned company Onelink for more than four months to secure pay and conditions in line with industry standards, the union said.

More than 3,200 Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) who work at the University of British Columbia (UBC) will join B.C.’ s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). GRAs will join CUPE 2278, the union that already represents Teaching Assistants, English Language Instructors, and Invigilators at UBC.

“We’re proud to welcome Graduate Research Assistants to our local,” says CUPE 2278 President Emily Cadger. “Research Assistants play a crucial role in the academic community, and they have sent a clear message that their compensation and working conditions need to improve.”

UBC has filed several objections to the union’s application for certification and they have argued against research assistants’ right to unionize claiming they are students and not employees.

“The research that these workers are producing contribute immensely to the university’s reputation. Their work is a key factor in UBC being an elite research institution,” says Gracy Buckholtz, CUPE 2278’s vice-president as well as an organizer with the campaign and a current GRA.

The mid-term session of the 13th Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC) opened in Hanoi on Monday, Vietnam News Agency reported.

Chaired by General Secretary of the CPVCC Nguyen Phu Trong, the session was scheduled to review the leadership of the 13th CPVCC's Political Bureau and Secretariat and to conduct a vote of confidence on the members.

The session is also set to roll out decisions on several issues of significance to the key political tasks of the 13th CPV (Communist Party of the Vietnam) Central Committee especially in the context of "rapid, complex and unpredictable" difficulties and challenges in both global and domestic environments.

In his remarks at the opening meeting, Trong stressed the importance of analyzing the external and domestic situations, which go with both opportunities and challenges further down the road, putting forth policies for national development during second half of the term, Vietnam News Agency reported.

The CPV session is scheduled to conclude on May 17.

A delegation from the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) led by its secretary general, Paulo Raimundo, on Monday begins a visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in the context of what the Portuguese described as “friendly relations” between the two parties.

In a statement sent to the media, the PCP said that the delegation would visit the cities of Shanghai, Hefei and Beijing.

Asked by Lusa about the duration and purpose of the visit, the party said that it would take place during this week, without giving a date for the delegation’s return. It added that the visit was taking place within the “framework of reciprocal information exchange and better knowledge of the reality of the People’s Republic of China.”

During the trip “talks will be held at different levels with leaders” of the CCP, it said, adding that further information about the trip would be provided at the end of the visit.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), on Monday, May 15, once again refused to hand over the pro tempore presidency of the Pacific Alliance to Peru’s de facto president of Peru, Dina Boluarte. President AMLO said that there was a consensus between Mexico, Colombia and Chile not to give the presidency of the alliance to Peru.

“There are four countries [in the bloc]: Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru. And the opinion of the president of Colombia is similar to mine and the president of Chile. He is [also] not interested in giving Peru the presidency of this group called the Pacific Alliance… We can hand it over to Chile, to Colombia and let them decide what they [want to] do, but this lady, with all due respect, [is] a usurper, [who] expelled our ambassador from Peru,” said AMLO in response to a journalist’s question during his daily morning press conference.

May 16:

In a first in the country, the Kerala government on Monday launched a welfare fund for Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers in the State.

Launching the initiative, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the workers who have completed the age of 60 will be entitled for pension under the fund which will also provide financial assistance for medical treatment, education, marriage, among other benefits.

He said 27 lakh people in the State depend on the MGNREGS and the Left government intends to make use of the scheme for the social development of Kerala. In a Facebook post, Vijayan said the workers need to pay a nominal monthly amount of Rs 50 as contribution to the fund and the government will also contribute an equal amount. He said for those who have paid the contributions for ten or more years, their families will get the benefits in case of beneficiary’s death.

On Tuesday 16/5, the GS of the CC of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, spoke at a mass pre-election rally in Patras, the third largest city in Greece, where Kostas Peletidis, a communist mayor, has been elected. In his speech, Dimitris Koutsoumbas stressed among other things:

“In the past years, we have fought battles amidst the pandemic, we broke the unacceptable bans and took to the streets for the strengthening of the public health system, for protective measures at workplaces, means of transport, schools and universities.

We did not wait to ‘settle accounts later’, nor did we propose ministers of common consent with the New Democracy, like SYRIZA. After all, what do we have in common with them? We are worlds apart... We fought battles in the trade union movement to repeal anti-labour laws, to sign Collective Labour Agreements with wage increases, to appeal dismissals. We did not wait for the elections, as some were calling for, because ‘the conditions are not ripe for us to achieve things’, as they said. Our people could not wait. They struggled. We struggled together. And we have won several victories. [...]

In order for us to achieve even more together, you know what you have to do next Sunday. You know very well that things are not stagnant. That the contribution of each and every one of us to the collective effort multiplies our strength and can make a difference. You know that the vote for the KKE is the one that can rock the boat.”

Tens of thousands of unionized construction workers were to stage a two-day street rally in central Seoul on Tuesday in protest of what they called the Yoon Suk Yeol government's oppression of labor unions.

About 30,000 members of the Korean Construction Workers' Union, affiliated with the country's biggest umbrella union, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, were expected to join the protest rally, union officials said.

Participants were to gather in central Seoul for a rally protesting the Yoon government's labor policies and calling for Yoon's resignation.

Czech trade unions have declared a strike alert with immediate effect over the government’s budget consolidation package, said Josef Stredula, chairman of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (CMKOS), after the unions’ meeting yesterday.

Stredula said the situation was serious, and criticised the government for not leading a genuine social dialogue with the unions. He said the main impact of the measures would fall on workers, their families and pensioners.

About 100 union members brought Sydney’s CBD to a standstill in a vigil for 301 truck drivers who have died on roads since 2016.

The “unauthorised public gathering” began at about 11am on Tuesday, when union members and transport workers walked from the Hyatt Regency to the intersection of York St and King St.

Drivers trying to cross the busy intersection were blocked for about 15 minutes, as Transport Workers Union (TWU members) sat on the roads.

May 17:


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