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Egypt: Historian Joel Beinin on the role of the labour movement; Democracy Now! interview

February 10, 2011 -- Democracy Now! -- Egypt’s pro-democracy uprising is surging after striking workers joined in the protests nationwide. Thousands of Egyptian workers walked off the job February 9 demanding better wages and benefits. Strikes were reported in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and the Suez Canal. We speak to Stanford University Professor Joel Beinin, who, as the former director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, has closely studied the Egyptian labour movement for years. “This is huge, because there has been for the last 10 years an enormous wave of labour protests in Egypt”, Beinin says. “In the last few days what you’ve seen is tens of thousands of workers linking their economic demands to the political demand that the Mubarak regime step aside.” Click HERE for the program transcript. Intervew continues HERE.

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Egypt: Workers hold key to uprising

Pro-democracy protesters confront police in Suez.

By Jeff Kaye

January 31, 2011 -- MyFDL -- While much analysis has focused on the youth-social network driven aspects of the recent uprising in Egypt, or on diplomatic and political maneuvers that thus far have left President Mubarak in office, and given even more power to the state repressive apparatus through the appointment of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the vice-presidency, it is the Egyptian working class that holds the future of its country in its hands.

The organised workers' movement saw its unions gutted by state privatisation and the gutting of union independence though the hated Law No. 100, which guaranteed that union representation would be strongly controlled by the state. However, recent events, particularly in strategic Suez, have shown that when the social weight of the workers is thrown into the balance, even all the machinations of Hillary Clinton’s State Department will not be able to patch together Mubarak’s state apparatus. The question then will be, what will follow it?

Cuba: Australian Workers Union tips its hat to Washington

More than a million Cuban workers mobilise each year on May Day, organised by the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba trade union federation.

[See also "Cuban trade unionist: `Workers are key participants in the Cuban revolution'".]

By Tim Anderson

January 26, 2011 -- This January the Australian Workers Union (AWU) wrote an insulting letter to the new Cuban ambassador to Australia, Pedro Monzón. The union’s response shows the tight ideological hold that the US has over the weaker, more compliant sections of the trade union movement in Australia.

The rise and fall of Tunisia's Ceauşescu

Socialist Unity, January 17, 2011 -- Picture sent by Twitter from Al Jazeera journalist Ayman Mohyeldin. Protesters hold up signs outside a trade union office saying “Protests must continue”, rejecting the fake “national unity” government.

[For more on Tunisia in revolt, click HERE.]

By Richard Seymour

[This article first appeared on Seymour's blog, Lenin's Tomb. It is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission.]

South Korea: Struggles by 'irregular' workers multiply, solidarity needed

January 11, 2011, irregular cleaning staff at Hongik University in Seoul protest their unfair dismissal.

[For more background to the South Korean irregular workers’ struggle, see Chris Kim’s excellent article on the Hyundai irregular workers’ strike in Ulsan: “South Korea: ‘Just the first round’ by ‘irregular workers’ at Hyundai Motors”, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, December 16, 2010.]

By Roddy Quines

How the Communist Party of Australia exposes the Democratic Socialist Party's 'Trotskyism'

By Doug Lorimer

[This article first appeared in the Democratic Socialist Party's internal discussion bulletin, The Activist, volume 10, number 7, August 2000.]

The Communist Party of Australia has recently published a pamphlet by David Matters entitled Putting Lenin's Clothes on Trotskyism which claims that the DSP's rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is really a cover for its support for Trotskyism. However, the real purpose of the pamphlet is to criticise the DSP's position on the 1998 waterfront dispute.

This is made clear in the introduction to Matters' pamphlet by CPA general secretary Peter Symon:

In writing Putting Lenin's clothes on Trotskyism, David Matters has contributed to the task of clarifying ideas and maintaining the validity and truth of Marxism...

The attack on Marxism in the name of Marx, or on Lenin in the name of Lenin, is a particularly pernicious form which can easily mislead those who are not familiar with what Marx, Engels and Lenin actually said and wrote.

The pretension that Trotsky was a great Leninist is one of these misrepresentations and was refuted time and again by Lenin.

China: Workers' strikes -- what did they win?

By Boy Lüthje

December 23, 2010 -- Labor Notes -- 2010's auto worker strikes in South China reverberated throughout the country and overseas. As workers in supplier companies for Honda, Toyota and other auto multinationals downed tools, the international business press expressed fear over the rising power of workers in China.

At the same time, a tragic series of suicides at Foxconn—the world’s largest contract manufacturer of computers and iPods—exposed the inhumane nature of low-wage mass production for global brands such as Apple, HP and Nokia.

Both events shook unions and the public in China—and experts thought they could be a watershed moment for labour relations in the country.

But the workers’ activity disappeared from the media radar almost as quickly as it arrived. What happened?

Workers vs. boss—and government

South Korea: `Just the first round' by `irregular workers' at Hyundai Motors

Hyundai Motors workers' sit-in at Hyundai's plant in Ulsan.

Chris Kim reports on strikes and factory occupations at Hyundai Motor Company in South Korea, which is building solidarity among regular and irregular workers, and among workers internationally.

December 16, 2010 -- Socialist Worker (US) -- "Even a worm will squirm when it is being stepped on" is an old Korean idiom that basically means that even the most powerless creature reacts against an aggressor. However, when such a worm is transformed into a fearful dragon, it will do a lot more than just squirm, to the point that you had better think twice about stepping on it.

That's what happened at one of South Korea's most profitable companies, Hyundai Motors, when the company's irregular workers mobilised with strikes and factory occupations during the middle of November, after decades of being "stepped on". Before we start with that fateful day of November 15, we need to take a look at how it progressed.

South Africa: `COSATU has waged titanic battles' -- COSATU marks its 25th anniversary

Workers celebrate COSATU’s 25th anniversary. Picture: Gallo Images.

The following speeches, by COSATU's president and general secretary, were delivered at a ceremony in Johannesburg on December 3, 2010, to celebrate the Congress of South African Trade Unions' 25th anniversary.

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By Sidumo Dlamini, COSATU president

December 3, 2010 -- Cyril Ramaphosa was prophetic when he declared that “a giant has arisen!” That giant has grown from 130,000 members when it was launched to well over 2 million paid up members today.

While still barely walking, the young giant launched itself into titanic battles against employers and the apartheid regime. In his speech at the launch, founding COSATU president Elijah Barayi gave apartheid ruler P.W. Botha a six-month deadline to do away with passes. Indeed Botha succumbed and the hated pass laws that had humiliated millions for decades were scrapped. Today we carry proper identity documents.

France: Not victorious, but not defeated

By Murray Smith

December 8, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It is now possible to begin to draw a tentative balance sheet of the vast movement against the reform (or more exactly, counter-reform) of the pension system in France over the last few months. We need to look at the depth and breadth of the movement, the forms that it took and the positions adopted by its various components. And finally at what might be the repercussions and consequences.

The immediate aim of the reform proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government seemed quite clear. It was to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age for retiring with a full pension from 65 to 67, with corresponding increases in the number of years of contribution required. But behind this immediate aim lies the ongoing objective of slowly undermining the public pension system, with the aim of pushing workers towards subscribing to private pension plans, to the greater profit of the pension funds.

Private funds have never been able to develop in France to the extent that they have elsewhere.

New Zealand: Matt McCarten on Unite and the prospects for a new left party

Matt McCarten (right) campaigning for better pay.

December 7, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Matt McCarten is secretary of the New Zealand's fastest growing union, Unite. The union organises fast-food workers, cleaners, hotel and casino workers, security and part-time staff. It has a financial membership of 8000 members. The transient nature of the industries the union organises means it has an annual membership turnover of 66 per cent and recruits about 600 new members every month. The union operates on an income of just over 1 million dollars per annum.

McCarten is a veteran of many left campaigns, including playing a key role in the foundation of the New Labour Party following the split from the New Zealand Labour Party in 1989. It was his leadership in the historic 1985 occupation of the Sheraton Hotel with the Hotel and Hospital Workers Union that put McCarten in the national spotlight. He writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday.

France: Movement debates next steps in resistance to government attacks

By Chris Latham

November 14, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- President Nicolas Sarkozy enacted a new law on November 10 that increases the retirement age of French workers. The move came just days after more than a million workers and students mobilised across France against the law.

The November 6 protests were the eighth national strike and protests since September 7 against the bill — although it was the easily the smallest of the mobilisations.

The protest highlighted the depth of ongoing popular anger over the changes, which were pushed through parliament on October 27. However, the decline in the size of the protests reflects growing divisions in the movement over its direction now the law has been passed.

Sarkozy enacted the law just hours after it had been approved by the Constitutional Council. There had been hopes among some union leaders and left groups that the council would reject the bill.

South Korea: Epic Ssangyong workers' strike remembered

Indonesia: FNPBI fifth congress -- `Time to awaken the sleeping lion'

 

Compiled by Ulfa Ilyas, translated by Risma

November 4, 2010 -- Berdikari -- The National Front of Indonesian Workers’ Struggle (FNPBI) held its fifth congress on October 24-26 in Denpasar Bali. About 300 FNPBI organisers from nine provinces of Indonesia attended the opening ceremony. It was also attended by Agus Jabo Priyono, the chairperson of People's Democratic Party (PRD), and Agung Winarte from the Labor Department of Bali Province.

Agus Jabo, in his solidarity message, highlighted the importance of workers organising themselves and being at the forefront of the national liberation struggle. He disagreed with the idea that labour movement should not be political. He asserted that to alienate the workers from the political arena is the same as to deny the workers a better future.

Swaziland: Historic unity and merger of trade union federations

By Bheki Ntshalintshali, COSATU deputy general secretary

October 2010 -- COSATU has welcomed the great leap forward and giant step taken by workers of Swaziland in resolving to unite by merging the two federations; Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL), together with the independent Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) to form a new giant federation. It marks the deepening and strengthening of the most progressive, militant and revolutionary traditions constantly being evolved by the working class movement the world over.

This breakthrough comes after years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice behind the scenes to diagnose, confront and clear all obstacles in the way of unity. Frank and brutally honest engagements, painful and demanding persuasions, as well as engaging feedbacks to members are all the hallmarks of a transparent, democratic and accountable process characterised by traditions of worker control. Once this part of the journey has been travelled with success, the nearing horizons only serve to inspire the march on.

Turning the tide of oil in US and world politics

By Dan La Botz

October 22, 2010 -- The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico represents the latest in a series of atrocities committed by petroleum companies against the environment and against humanity. Yet, terrible and tragic as the BP spill is, it is merely a marginal event in the long and sordid history of the oil companies in US and world history. The petroleum companies have been at the centre of US politics for a hundred years, determining its domestic agenda, its environmental policy and its foreign policy. To be a US politician was to be baptised in oil. To be an admiral or a general was to be a warrior around the globe for the petroleum industry.

Foreign policy

By the 1920s, with the rise of the internal combustion engine and the automobile, and the conversion of the US Navy from coal to oil, petroleum became the most sought after commodity in the world. Oil became a strategic commodity, a necessity of modern life and modern warfare. From that time on, the oil corporations moved to the centre of US politics. President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet was known as the “oil gang”, and the cabinet-level corruption involved in the attempt of private parties and corporations to get at the navy oil reserves led to the Teapot Dome scandal, for which Harding’s administration is best remembered.

New Zealand: Matt McCarten for Mana! It's time for a new left

In a wide-ranging Radio New Zealand interview on October 17, 2010, Matt McCarten discusses atheism, socialism, neoliberalism, the IWW, working class history and the need for a new left party.

Listen here | Download here (45 mins)

For the latest on Matt's campaign, visit http://www.matt4mana

By Joe Carolan

`French workers and people show the way in resisting attacks' -- solidarity from Philippines, Australia, Indonesia

Demonstration in Lyon, central France, October 16, 2010. AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, Boston.com.
For more on the French workers' upsurge, click HERE.

Swaziland: Crackdown on eve of protests, PUDEMO leader arrested

Protest march in Manzini, September 7, 2010.

[See also "Swaziland: Small country, big struggle -- global day of action for democracy".]

By Lucky Lukhele and Norm Dixon

September 8, 2010 -- The deputy president of Swaziland's People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) Sikhumbuzo Phakathi was arrested on September 6 at the Phongola border post as the Swazi police and army were deporting a delegation of South African activists from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). PUDEMO president Mario Masuku was detained before the start a protest march on September 7 to mark the global day for democracy in Swaziland. He was "escorted home" by police to prevent his participation.

South Africa: Strike ends, workers' anger remains

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On September 6, the major trade unions representing South Africa's 1.3 million public servants and teachers announced that the 20-day strike for higher wages and allowances had been "suspended". See union statements below. Union leaders said the move would allow members to consider the latest government offer. Public servants went on strike demanding an 8.6% pay rise, while the government has offered 7.5%. According to the BBC, workers who came to hear union officials shouted in protest when they announced that the strike was being suspended. Meanwhile, workers in many other industries are taking or threatening industrial action.

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By Terry Bell, Cape Town

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