Via Campesina farmers to heads of state: Time to change food policies!

Via Campesina

Rome, June 3, 2008 -- Now that the FAO expects that hunger will affect an extra 100 million people by the end of the year, heads of states and leaders from around the world are gathering in Rome for the FAO "High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy".

The international peasant’s movement Via Campesina welcomes this sudden high level interest in food and agriculture production, but reminds governments and international institutions that the current climate and food crisis are not the result of any sudden natural disaster. They are the fruit of decades of policies of trade ``liberalisation'' and of the vertical integration of production, processing and distribution by corporate agriculture.

Therefore, governments today have to take full responsibility for the current crisis and take resolute actions to solve it.

Malaysia: PSM -- a decade of struggle

Port Dickson, Malaysia, June 1, 2008 -- The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM -- Parti Sosialis Malaysia) successfully concluded its 10th congress at a time when the ruling Barisan Nasional Party faces its biggest threat to its survival in Malaysian politics and while capitalism faces its biggest challenge -- the world food crisis. It is an exciting time and it is time for change.

The PSM's successful three-day (May 30-June 1) national congress was attended by around 150 people, including delegates from seven states, three front organisations and invited guests who have been strong supporters of PSM for the past years.

The congress was held at the National Union of Banking Employees (NUBE) centre, Port Dickson. The road leading to NUBE was decorated in red. Banners greeted the delegates. [The PSM is] the vibrant and only remaining socialist party in Malaysia... [This congress marked] 10 years of uncompromising politics -- to uphold class politics against communal politics, to advance the working-class agenda against the ruling capitalist class. Ten years of survival without legal political registration.

Cuba's vice-president: `We can confront the food crisis'

Address by José Ramón Machado Ventura, vice-president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, to the high-level conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.

(English translation by Climate and Capitalism, from Juventud Rebelde, June 4, 2008)

Two years ago, in this very hall, the international community agreed to eradicate world hunger. It adopted a goal of halving the number of malnourished people by 2015. Today that modest and inadequate goal seems like a pipe-dream.

The world food crisis is not a circumstantial phenomenon. Its recent appearance in such serious form, in a world that produces enough food for all its inhabitants, clearly reveals that the crisis is systemic and structural.

Venezuela: Rumbles in the PSUV; Big stakes in Nov. elections; 2.5 million take part in PSUV pre-selection; Candidates announced

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UPDATED: June 5

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Caracas on the Line - Rumbles in the PSUV

June 2, 2008 -- Fred Fuentes in Caracas reports on important struggles being played out within Venezuela's governing PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). While President Chavez' power base is with the grassroots organisations, some of the entrenched bureaucrats and more conservative politicians are fighting off challenges from delegates representing these organisations. PSUV is currently going through a kind of pre-selection process, and the more conservative elements are using all kinds of dirty tricks to hang on to their influence within the party. Aired on LeftCast.

19.3Mb 128kbps mono 21:08 minutes

Argentina: The clash over rent

Following the March 11 decision by the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner government to introduce a sliding tax increase – varying from 35% to 45% – on soya exports, Argentina has been rocked by a wave of protests by agricultural producers. For 21 days, the “countryside” – including the four organisations that unite large, middle and small agricultural producers – organised a rural lockout, blocking the circulation of agricultural produce to the cities. On April 1, one-hundred thousand government supporters

Germany's Die Linke: ‘We have the wind of history in our sails’

By Duroyan Fertl

May 30, 2008 -- After a year of stellar successes, almost 600 delegates from Germany’s new left-wing party, Die Linke, came together for the party’s first ever congress, held in the east German city of Cottbus on May 25 and 26. Former East German communist Lothar Bisky and former Social Democratic Party (SPD) national president Oscar Lafontaine, once dubbed by the media as “Europe’s most dangerous man”, were re-elected as co-chairs of the party, and a social justice-oriented platform was adopted for the coming period, which includes state elections in Bavaria this September and federal elections next year.

Die Linke was officially formed in 2007 as a fusion between the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS — the successor to the former East German ruling party) and a collection of militants, unionists and socialists from the west organised as the Electoral Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice (WASG). Die Linke now has almost 80,000 members.

Musical interlude: Abdullah Ibrahim's Mannenberg (Is Where It's Happening)

Mannenberg


Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) is seen here visiting Mandela's cell on Robben Island, and wandering in and around Cape Town -- including the famed District Six and Mannenberg -- to the soundtrack of his now classic South African jazz tune Mannenberg (Is Where It's Happening).

Migrant workers in South Africa: Photography and social justice struggles

Born in Durban and the author of a forthcoming book on Wentworth in Durban, Peter Mckenzie was a co-founder of the photo collective Afrapix agency under the auspices of the South African Council of Churches and the chief photographer for Drum magazine until the late 1980s before going freelance. He was also the co-ordinator and facilitator of the photojournalism department at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism from 1996 to 1999. Mckenzie has published and exhibited both in South Africa and internationally, and is recognised as one of South Africa's greatest photographers.

Below, McKenzie provides a commentary on aesthetics and representation strategies for popular movements committed to social justice.


 

 

Pre-post: A trajectory in South African photography

By Peter Mckenzie, Sean O’ Toole and Jo Ractliffe

Sean: Very often in discussions of contemporary South African photography, and I would say I’m a guilty culprit here too, commentators have tended to speak of the 1990s signalling a break in continuity. After decades of socially committed photography, Drum magazine in the 1950s and early 1960s, and more pointedly the socially committed vision of the Afrapix collective in the 1980s, it seems that after Mandela’s release and the transition to a non-racial democracy photography splintered. At least so goes the master narrative. Or will history, which is good at flattening things, simply define the 1990s as the identity decade?

Nepal: On the eve of the republic -- Interview with CPN (Maoist) leader Prachanda

An exclusive interview with CPN (Maoist) leader Prachanda by MRZine (reposted by Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission).

By Mary Des Chene and Stephen Mikesell

It is 14th Jeth, 2065, [Tuesday May 27, 2008] in Nepal, the day before the constituent assembly is to convene and declare Nepal a full republic. The king remains in his palace. The form of the new government, who will lead it, whether the old parliamentary parties will join in a Maoist-led government or, as they have indicated so far, will boycott and try to isolate it -- these and other basic questions remain to be resolved.

The following is an early morning interview with CPN (Maoist) leader Prachanda, before he embarked on a last intensive round of negotiations to try to bring the parliamentary parties into a coalition government under Maoist leadership.

Fidel on Obama: The empire's hypocritical politics

By Fidel Castro Ruz

May 25, 2008 -- It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Barack Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23, 2008, at the Cuban American National Foundation, created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did [John] McCain's and Bush's. I feel no resentment towards Obama, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favour. I have therefore no reservations about criticising him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly.

Yugoslavia, Washington and the `Balkanisation' of Bolivia

By Michael Karadjis

I feel forced to write to correct some confusion that has been circulating regarding the current US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, who has been supporting the so-called ``autonomy'' referendum by the Bolivian oligarchy.

A continuous line has come out that Goldberg ``has experience in partition'' because he allegedly participated in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. This tends to be a secondary point alongside a more general point that erroneously compares actual oppressed nations, such as the Kosovar Albanians, the poorest people in Europe, who have striven for independence for over a century, with the rich oligarchy of low-lands Bolivia, engaged in an imperialist-backed destabilisation of the Bolivian revolution.

Along with Kosova, some also list Tibet and other examples of so-called ``secessionism'' as being related to the Bolivian oligarchy's campaign. One feels compelled to add Palestine, Eritrea, Bangladesh, East Timor, Aceh, Tamil Ealam and other national liberation struggles by oppressed peoples just to make it consistent.

¿La Unión Soviética, estado sin partido?

Reseña crítica de Alex Miller

El siglo soviético
por Moshe Lewin
Verso 2005
416 páginas

Los medios comerciales y las élites intelectuales capitalistas han promulgado un estereotipo sobre la Unión Soviética: una línea ideológica directa y sin interrupciones lleva del bolchevismo de la revolución de 1917 al totalitarismo del período stalinista (1920-1953), pasa por el período post-stalinista desde 1953 y termina en el colapso del régimen soviético en 1991. Normalmente, se esgrime el estereotipo contra el bolchevismo, y en realidad contra cualquier forma de marxismo revolucionario: se usa el estancamiento y la declinación post-stalinistas, así como las masacres y purgas del período stalinista, para elaborar una reducción al absurdo de las aspiraciones originales de la revolución de 1917.

Venezuela: Struggle in the PSUV -- `If the people don't stand firm, the right will screw it up!'

By Stuart Munckton

May 27, 2008 -- The two Venezuelanalysis.com articles below, by Kiraz Janicke (a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau and Venezuelanalysis.com journalist), give a feel for the increasingly intense struggle that is taking place within the Chavista camp.

``Venezuela gets ready to choose candidates for regional elections''

-- http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3487

``Controversy erupts over nominations for PSUV candidacies in Venezuela''

-- http://www.venezuelanalysis. com/news/3494

In fact, as articles from the GLW Caracas bureau among a fair few others have pointed out in recent times, the key struggles in Venezuela are occurring within the Chavista camp — and the outcome of this struggle will play a major role in determining the fate of the Venezuelan revolution.

The Soviet Union: a no-party state?

Review by Alex Miller

The Soviet Century
By Moshe Lewin
Verso 2005
416 pages

Xenophobia tears apart South Africa's working class

By Thandokuhle Manzi and Patrick Bond

May 26, 2008 -- The low-income black township here in Durban which suffered more than any other during apartheid, Cato Manor, was the scene of a test performed on a Mozambican last Wednesday morning (May 21). At 6:45am, in the warmth of a rising subtropical winter sun, two unemployed men strolling on Belair Road approached the middle-aged immigrant. They accosted him and demanded, in the local indigenous language isiZulu, that he say the word meaning ``elbow'' (this they referred to with their hand). The man answered ``idolo'', which unfortunately means ``knee''. The correct answer is ``indololwane''. His punishment: being beaten up severely, and then told to ``go home''.

 

March against xenophobia, Johannesburg, May 24, 2008.

Egypt: Workers impose a new agenda

By Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka

The road from the airport to the hotel shows the story: modern buildings partly conceal dilapidated, crowded structures that seem on the verge of collapse. Ancient jalopies chug along as if by inertia, while the latest luxury models zip past them. Huge billboards advertise multinational corporations. All this goes side by side with centuries-old mosques of breathtaking beauty, witnesses to a time when Egypt was the centre of Islamic culture — not just another third-world country offering the world cheap labour for exploitation. This was my first encounter with Cairo. Love at first sight.

I wasn't there as a tourist. What brought me to Egypt with my colleague, Samia Nassar, was the wave of strikes which, since December 2006, has been shaking the regime of Hosni Mubarak. In 2007 there were 580 strikes, demonstrations and protests, involving between 300,000 and 500,000 workers. The number for 2008 is likely to be more than twice that, reflecting enormous hikes in food prices.

Prospects for socialist revolution in Venezuela and Latin America -- Celia Hart

 

Cuban revolutionary Celia Hart addresses the ``A World in Revolt'' conference, Toronto, Canada, May 22-25, 2008. She discusses the reformist and revolutionary trends in Latin American politics, the right-wing ``autonomy'' moves in Bolivia and Venezuela, and the challenges that face the revolutions in Bolivia and Venezuela. She concludes by discussing the significance of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution for Latin America.

 

 

The conference was sponsored by Socialist Action-Canada, Socialist Action-United States and the Socialist Unity League (LUS) of Mexico.

 

 

El Salvador: FMLN's Jorge Schafik Handal Vega discusses the 2009 election

May 24, 2008 -- Jorge Schafik Handal Vega --son of the legendary FMLN founder ``Comandante Simon''' Jorge Schafik Handal -- joined the militant left in El Salvador in 1968 as a student. He was a combatant commander throughout the people’s war in the 1970s and 1980s and, following the 1991 peace accords, was integral to the successful transition of the FMLN’s combatant structures into the political and civil institutions of El Salvador. He is currently a deputy for the FMLN in the Central American Parliament.

Handal Vega is toured Australia in May 2008 to build solidarity with the FMLN’s 2009 election campaign, a message that was enthusiastically received. All recent opinion polls in El Salvador indicate that the FMLN will win both the mayoral and presidential elections next year, wresting the last Central American country to be governed by the extreme right wing out of its control. Desperate to prevent this, the US-backed ruling Arena party has launched a massive campaign of bribery and intimidation, which is accompanied by a growing number of brutal attacks on, and murders of, FMLN leaders and activists.

The FMLN is expecting Arena to also use fraud to try to win the elections, and is urging Australian activists to travel to El Salvador in December-January to act as international observers of the election.

Bolivia: The letter of the law and the law of power

By Guillermo Almeyra, La Jornada, Mexico

May 18, 2008 -- The letter of the law is one thing, and quite another is the power that imposes it and makes it real. For this reason, it is absurd to fall for the fetish of the written legal text while forgetting the balance of power which gives it validity and allows its application. For if said balance is unfavourable, the legal or constitutional text is nothing more than a dead letter.

Photo essay: Silicon Valley janitors go on strike against Yahoo!, Cisco

Photos and text by David Bacon

Mountain View, California, May 20, 2008 -- Silicon Valley janitors, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, walked out of Cisco Systems and Yahoo buildings in the first day of a Bay Area-wide strike intended to force building service contractors to sign a new agreement with their union, Service Employees Local 1877.

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