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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #99 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Belgium, Venezuela, Luxembourg, India, Cuba, Kenya, Sudan, Greece, South Korea, the UK, the USA and elsewhere.

We have also included the full text of a statement by 40 Communist and Workers' parties in solidarity with the Communist Party of Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of workers march in Brussels on May 22 to protest worsening working conditions and attacks on the right to strike -- Image via Twitter

May 12:

May 16:

The manifesto of the Communist Party of Luxembourg (KPL) for the upcoming municipal council elections scheduled on June 11 promises interventions to ensure dignified housing and social rights and focuses on peace. On May 16, the KPL stated that its manifesto offers alternatives and a program to ensure that municipalities actually belong to the inhabitants. The election manifesto was finalized at the party’s national conference held in Lasauvage on May 13. KPL has fielded candidates for the municipal councils of Esch-sur-Alzette (List 5), Rümelingen (List 5), and Differdange (List 6).

The manifesto includes promises such as: (1) a solution to the housing problem, above all through concrete measures to build housing under socially just conditions, (2) democratic changes in the municipalities and concrete proposals on the competencies of the municipal councils, (3) improvement of medical care, (4) opposition to tax increases and privatization of municipal property, (5) concrete measures to create jobs and solve social problems of people with low and medium incomes, (6) democratic and socially just schools in which the right to education is fully enforced for all, (7) rights for all young people, real equality for women, and the right to a dignified life even in old age, (8) culture and sport to not be treated as a luxury for residents, (9) protection of the climate and a healthy environment and priority for public transport, and (10) a just peace in Ukraine through the immediate start of negotiations without preconditions and the cessation of all arms deliveries.

On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, the D.C. Council unanimously voted to urge President Joe Biden and Congress to end the 60+ year economic blockade against Cuba and to remove the country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

After three months spent in committee, the resolution, officially titled “PR25-0113: Sense of the Council on the Restoration of Cuban American Relations Resolution of 2023,” was brought to the whole body for a vote. All council members voted in favor, as members of the community rallied in the chamber in support.

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Venezuela has described the Extraordinary Official Gazette No. 6.746 as "the death certificate of the minimum wage in the country".

This was declared by Pedro Eusse, National Secretary for the Workers and Trade Union Movement of the PCV. The Extraordinary Official Gazette N°6.746 has made official the freezing of the minimum wage at 130 Bolivars as opposed to the increase of the food bonus, called cestaticket socialista, to 1,000 Bolivars and the so-called economic war bonus to 750.00 Bolivars.

"From the moment President Maduro announced this on May 1, it generated expressions of indignation. Now, with the Official Gazette already published, we must turn that indignation into unitary mobilization of the working class to forcefully confront what constitutes one more step aimed at the destruction of the wages of the workers in Venezuela," said Eusse.

The communist leader specified that these measures are also "a mortal blow for the pensioners and retirees of our country".

May 17:

Floral offerings by Army General Raúl Castro and President Miguel Díaz-Canel presided over the funeral of Cuban revolutionary Raúl Curbelo, who passed away on May 11 due to a sudden illness.

In the Pantheon of the Veterans of the War of Independence, in the Colón Cemetery, his mortal ashes and the medals received for his loyalty to the Homeland and the Revolution were exhibited, where his comrades in struggle paid tribute to him.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, on Wednesday, May 17, at 7 am, signed a presidential decree to activate the “cross-death” constitutional tool and dissolved the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament. The decision came a day after the legislature began an impeachment hearing against Lasso, who stands accused of the crime of embezzlement of public funds. With this decision, the impeachment process against Lasso was canceled, which could have removed him from office.

Hospital Professionals in Barrie and Kingston held protests on Wednesday, May 17 to raise awareness of the damaging effects of Bill 60 on the public healthcare system. The Ford government’s healthcare privatization bill, passed on May 8, will mean the privatization of surgical and diagnostic services currently done in hospitals, which will pull funding and staff away from public hospitals.

OPSEU/SEFPO Local 4106 members working at Kingston General Hospital and OPSEU/SEFPO Local 346 members working at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre held sidewalk protests to speak out against healthcare privatization and the severe staffing crisis public hospitals are experiencing. These protests were two of many to come province-wide this summer.

Hospital professionals are calling on the Ford government to fix the crisis by providing funding to hire more staff in Ontario’s public healthcare system.

May 18:

Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining and Nguyen Van Nen, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam and secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee, held a video conference on Thursday to discuss the friendship and cooperation between the two cities.

A leading railroad workers' union this week struck a landmark deal with industry giant Norfolk Southern to provide more than 3,300 employees up to seven days of paid sick leave each year.

"This is a big day for the BLET," declared Scott Bunten, a Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen general chairman. "Our members are the heart of the railroad, and this agreement is a major win in our tireless efforts to improve the quality of their experience on and off the job."

May 19:

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, visited the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery in Sinmi-ri on May 19 on the lapse of one year since the demise of HyonCholHae.

He was accompanied by Kang Sun Nam, minister of National Defence of the DPRK.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un laid a flower at the grave of HyonCholHae, recalling the sincere and resolute appearance and praiseworthy life of the revolutionary soldier who remained boundlessly loyal to the cause of the Party with his genuine revolutionary traits and noble humanity and devoted himself to the country, revolution and people without any slight affectations and selfishness.

He paid a silent tribute to the memory of HyonCholHae, son of the great DPRK and distinguished elder loyalist produced by the Juche revolution.

May 20:

The Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) has pointed the finger at the leadership of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) for an alleged attempt to “hijack” the organization.

“The PSUV leadership wants to take away the PCV’s legal status to neutralize its role in the country’s social struggles,” Communist Party Secretary General Óscar Figuera said in a press conference on Saturday.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) debated and exchanged views with the communist parties of Nicaragua, Cuba, Turkey, Uruguay, Italy, Portugal, Sri Lanka and South Korea in a meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland.

This information was released by the PSUV’s direct link to Aragua, Ricardo Molina, who specified via his Twitter account that he is in Switzerland to attend an invitation from the Swiss Communist Party.

Molina posted, “We responded to the invitation of the Swiss Communist Party to hold a meeting in Geneva with representatives of the Communist Parties of Nicaragua, Cuba, Turkey, Uruguay, Italy, Portugal, Sri Lanka and South Korea.”.

The approval of a law that fortifies the State in the protection of its assets abroad and the consolidation of ties with China, stood out in the week that ends today in Venezuela.

The Polit Bureau strongly condemns the Central government ordinance to nullify the recent Supreme Court judgement by a five member Constitution bench upholding the rights of the elected government of Delhi over major areas of governance including control of the bureaucracy. Not only does this constitute contempt of court, it is a direct assault on the federal character of the constitution and the norms of accountability and democratic governance as defined by the Supreme Court. This defiance of the highest court of the land is a measure of the blatant authoritarian nature of the Modi government. The spurious reasons given that it is in the national interest is an open insult to the court as though the constitution bench was oblivious of national interest when it gave its landmark judgement.

This concerns not just the people and government of Delhi but all citizens concerned with the bulldozing of the constitutional federal framework by the central government. It must be opposed. CPI(M) demands its withdrawal.

May 21:

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) made significant gains in the Greek parliamentary elections on Sunday, May 21.

The KKE saw its seat count rise from 15 to 26 seats and its vote increased from 299,621 (5.3%) to 425,763 (7.23%). Meanwhile the faux left social-democratic SYRIZA -- which capitulated on its promises when in government and lost power in 2019 -- saw its support erode disastrously even further. Their percentage of the vote declined by over 11% from 31.53% to 20.07% and they lost 15 seats. The governing conservative New Democracy party also lost seats (12) though their vote remained relatively stable.

The KKE is also now the third largest party in Attica, the wider region around the Greek capital.

Thousands of schoolchildren gathered on Red Square wearing red hats and neckerchiefs Sunday as Russia's Communist Party inducted new members of the Pioneers, the party's youth organization during the U.S.S.R.

In an opening address, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov thanked parents and teachers for their loyalty to the “glorious traditions of the great Soviet era.”

While the Young Pioneers was dissolved when the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian lawmakers last year approved the creation of a new, modern-day youth movement in the style of the Soviet-era organization.

May 22:

Hands off the Communist Party of Venezuela

No to the plans to attack and ban the Communist Party of Venezuela!

For many months now, communists all over the world have been following a slanderous and anti-communist campaign against the CP of Venezuela launched by the leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). All signs indicate that this process will escalate in the coming months.

While the CP of Venezuela is participating in and promoting the struggles for the improvement of wages, the people’s income and the rights of working people in general, the Venezuelan government chooses the slippery slope of criminalizing struggles and persecuting communists. It cannot subjugate the CP of Venezuela and turn it into an instrument in the service of the anti-popular policy that has condemned the Venezuelan people to the escalating deterioration of their living conditions; thus it aims to create a mockery of the Communist Party, comprised of mercenaries, PSUV members and government officials, so that it can then justify the attack and judicial intervention against the CP of Venezuela.

The Communist and Workers’ Parties unequivocally condemn and reject any attempt to prosecute and criminalize the CP of Venezuela as well as any judicial machination that may not recognize its elected leadership in the recent 16th Congress. We are well aware that the CP of Venezuela has many years of militant experience and unbreakable ties with the working class and the people and that it will not bow before blackmail and persecution.

We express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people who are the victims of both the imperialist sanctions and attacks and the anti-popular policies that are being implemented. We particularly express our solidarity with the Communist Party and the Communist Youth of Venezuela, with the workers’–people’s movement in Venezuela as a whole and its legitimate right to struggle to defend its demands and interests.

(Signed so far by 40 parties).

On Monday, May 22, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced the partial suspension of bilateral ceasefire between the government and the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), a dissident group of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) guerilla group. The decision came after four minors from an Indigenous community, who had been forcibly recruited by the EMC in March, were murdered in the Putumayo department when they tried to escape.

In a statement shared on his Twitter account, President Petro described the murder of children as “an atrocious act that questions the will to build a peaceful country,” adding that “there can be no justification for this kind of crime.” The head of state said that “the bilateral ceasefire currently in place with this armed group in the departments of Meta, Caquetá, Guaviare and Putumayo is suspended and all offensive operations are reactivated.”

A controversial bill proposed by Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne calling to ban ‘rioters’ from participating in protests has drawn widespread criticism. Working class sections and rights groups claim that provisions of the bill can be misused to brand trade unionists and activists as rioters and curtail their freedom to participate in protest and strikes. Earlier this week, due to fierce opposition from legislators of the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA) in the Justice Committee of the Chamber of the Belgian Parliament, Quickenborne backed down from asking for an immediate vote on the bill. General Labor Federation of Belgium (FGTB-ABVV) leader Thierry Bodson also slammed the bill which could impose a “ban” on participants in any collective action.

Quickenborne, from the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld), mooted the bill for “a more humane, a swifter and a firmer justice” which contains provisions to ban—from three to six years—“rioters” from protests. Critics of the bill point out that the government and security forces can misuse these provisions to target trade unionists and activists. The High Council of Justice and the Federal Institute of Human Rights have also expressed their concerns over the bill.

Belgian workers have been intensifying mobilizations demanding wages at par with inflation to cope with the ongoing cost of living crisis. Currently, a major workers’ protest is underway in retail stores and supermarkets of the Delhaize group against the company’s anti-worker and anti-union policies. Trade unions have called for a major mobilization in Brussels on May 22 in solidarity with Delhaize workers.

Heavy shelling in Sudanese capital Khartoum and its sister-cities of Khartoum Bahri (North) and Omdurman continued on the morning of Monday, May 22, hours before a seven-day ceasefire was scheduled to begin at 9:45 p.m local time.

The “Agreement on a Short-Term Ceasefire and Humanitarian Arrangements” was signed on May 20 by the envoys of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—former allies and partners-in-coup who have been fighting each other since April 15.

By then, the death toll of civilians caught in the crossfire had climbed to 850, while nearly 4,000 others were injured, said the Sudanese Doctors Union (SDU), stressing that these figures do not include casualties among fighters.

While none of the previously announced ceasefires have held out, this is the first time the warring parties have signed a written agreement with a mechanism for monitoring. A Monitoring and Coordination Committee is to be established, comprising three representatives from SAF, three from RSF, and three each from the US and Saudi Arabia, which have been jointly facilitating the negotiations in the Saudi city of Jeddah since May 6.

While welcoming the ceasefire agreement, spokesperson of Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) Fathi Elfadl told Peoples Dispatch that this 12-person committee is insufficient to monitor and ensure compliance. “It does not include a single representative of the civilians who have been suffering the most in this conflict,” he added.

The World Federation of Trade unions, representing more than 105 million workers from 133 countries of the 5 continents extends its unconditional solidarity with the general strike in Italy on 26th May 2023 against the worsening of the working and living conditions, price rise, deterioration of workers’ purchasing power, precariousness, labor flexibility, insecurity, unemployment, poverty, misery, and exploitation.

We join our voice with the working class of Italy and the militant WFTU affiliate USB which call for massive participation in the Strike demanding full respect for working rights and achievement, implementation of trade union freedoms, dignified salaries linked with real inflation, a decrease of prices and tariffs, 300 euros net immediately in the pay envelope, and a minimum wage of 10 euros per hour.

The workers are not willing to be shouldered the bill for the new capitalist crisis. This message is loudly and clearly heard from more and more workplaces, from more and more countries. The WFTU calls for the militant class-oriented trade unions to express their solidarity with the workers’ struggles in Italy which constitutes an integral part of the unstoppable wave of struggles all over the globe.

Almost 20,000 Belgian trade union members mounted a demonstration on Monday to protest what they see as increasingly bad working conditions and the erosion of their right to strike. Action by transport workers paralyzed subway and other traffic in Brussels for most of the day.

The trade unions are irked by companies that seek to impose new contracts on workers that impact their social rights, affect their working conditions and cut their pay. They are specifically protesting the decision by the Delhaize supermarket chain to change the store management setup, directly cutting into the income and rights of staff.

Hundreds of school support staff for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education marched across the Macdonald Bridge on Monday as their strike nears two weeks since it started.

More than 1,800 members of CUPE Local 5047 have been off the job since May 10.

"We need higher wages. Thirty-seven cents more an hour isn't enough," said Tanya Spellman, who has been an educational program assistant for eight years.

May 23:

The first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), Miguel Diaz-Canel, is chairing the 6th Plenary Session of the PCC Central Committee on Tuesday.

According to the Presidency’s Twitter, the agenda of the day includes the evaluation of compliance with the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.

In addition, the Political Bureau will render an account of its work to the 6th Plenum.

The meeting will deal with the report on the fulfillment of agreements, the evaluation of the project on the Code of Ethics of the Cadres of the Revolution, and the Call for the Second National Conference, which will take place in October.

In the aftermath of the recent staff-level agreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Kenyan administration, Kenya finds itself at a critical juncture. This deal, along with the regressive Finance Bill 2023, exposes the government's betrayal of the Kenyan people and their ongoing fight for economic justice. It signifies the continuation of a longstanding legacy of neocolonial subjugation and the perpetuation of exploitative neoliberal policies. The Communist Party of Kenya remains steadfast in rejecting this agenda, advocating for an alternative path towards economic liberation and prosperity for all.

Throughout Kenya's history, the adoption of neoliberal policies championed by institutions like the IMF and the World Bank has wreaked havoc on our economy. The structural adjustment programs (SAPs) of the 1990s devastated us, transforming our vibrant economy into one reliant on the export of raw materials and causing widespread job losses. The painful consequences of those policies must serve as a stark reminder as we confront the latest IMF deal disguised as "budgetary support."

The IMF's staff-level agreement promises a substantial amount of funds to Kenya, but it comes at a steep price. The conditions attached to these loans bind us to further indebtedness, subjecting the already struggling majority to harsh austerity measures. The Kenyan administration's approval of the regressive Finance Bill 2023 highlights their willingness to sacrifice the well-being of the people in a desperate attempt to meet the IMF's demands.

Leftist parties, workers’ organizations and progressive groups in Italy are actively engaged in solidarity and relief efforts in the flood-ravaged parts of the Emilia-Romagna region. Two waves of floods — in the first week of May and another that started on May 16 — hit the region, devastating parts of the cities of Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini. At least 16 people have lost their lives and more than 50,000 have been displaced. The damage due to the floods is estimated to be around 5 billion euros (US$ 5.39 billion).

Heavy rain, cloud bursts, and the Storm Minerva led to the widespread flooding of the rivers in the Emilia-Romagna region and caused multiple landslides in the mountainous terrain. Experts have pointed out that extreme climate change has been causing intense rain in central Europe and wildfires in the Mediterranean over the past 2-3 years. Groups including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), and the Young Communists (GC) have blamed the federal and regional administrations’ pro-business development model, which has neglected environmental concerns.

GMB members at Amazon in Coventry will begin two further days of strike action this week, bringing the total days on the picket line to 16.

This comes as Coventry Amazon workers await the outcome of their historic union recognition bid to the Government’s Central Arbitration Committee and Amazon workers in Rugeley and Mansfield vote on joining strike action.

Around 700 Coventry workers are expected to walk out on the two days of strike action.

Indian unions, including IndustriALL affiliates, have successfully negotiated with the Coal India management to secure a 19 per cent increase in pay and a 25 per cent increase in allowances.

The Joint Bipartite Committee on Coal Industry (JBCCI- XI) comprising central trade unions and management of Coal India Limited (CIL) signed the eleventh national coal wage agreement (NCWA- XI) on 20 May. The agreement is valid for a period of five years, starting from 1 July 2021. Around 280,000 permanent workers of CIL and its subsidiaries, and the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) will benefit from the agreement.


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