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General strike shakes France’s Caribbean colonies

Introduction by Richard Fidler

February 26, 2009 -- Life on the Left -- The general strike in two French colonies in the Caribbean is firm, with no end in sight. It began in Guadeloupe on January 20 and spread to neighbouring Martinique on February 5 as a protest against the high cost of living and, more generally, the gross inequality between the conditions of the black population and a tiny white elite, descendants of slaveholders, who control most industry and agriculture.

The two islands, each with a population of about 400,000, are officially designated overseas departments of France, and the repression of the strikers by the French government, which has flown in more than a thousand gendarmes from the metropolis, has underscored their colonial oppression.

The islands, along with two other French colonies — French Guiana in South America and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, both of which are experiencing mounting unrest — have the highest unemployment rates in the European Union, double those of metropolitan France. Also, prices of basic commodities and food staples, most of them imported, are much higher.

Australian Tamils call for ceasefire in Sri Lanka -- sign the crisis statement

In an attempt to put an urgent stop to the humanitarian catastrophe, a group of young Tamil Australians have written a Sri Lankan Crisis Statement for the wider Australian community to sign.

From March 2, 2009, they will take it to the media and the Australian government to raise their concern for this largely unreported war.

If you want to sign this statement, please email fastuntoaction@hotmail.com as soon as possible, or visit http://fastuntoaction.wordpress.com/sri-lanka-crisis-statement-of-support

* * *

Sri Lankan Crisis Statement

We are Australian citizens who share a deep concern about the escalating civilian crisis in Sri Lanka.

We call on the Australian government to demand the Sri Lankan authorities and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam declare an immediate ceasefire.

We are deeply concerned about the lack of medical staff and aid agencies serving the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

Sri Lanka: Genocide of the Tamil minority

Tamil refugees who fled from Sri Lankan military operation in Vanni

By Brian Senewiratne

January 23, 2009 -- There is a humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil minority in the island’s north and east are facing annihilation at the hands of the Sinhalese-dominated government. 

This article will deal with the current crisis, with the more fundamental problem of the legacy left by colonial British rule (1796-1948) dealt with in later articles. These colonial administrative structures will need to be reversed of there is ever to be peace or prosperity in Sri Lanka.

I am a Sinhalese, from the majority community, not from the brutalised Tamil minority. I quit Sri Lanka in 1976.

Who runs that country is of no concern to me, as long as it is run without serious violations of human rights. Sri Lanka was tossed out of the UN Human Rights Council in May last year due to its human rights record, and the drift of a democracy to a fascist politico-military dictatorship, none of which have been publicised internationally.

Current problem

Bolivia's vice-president:‘We are consolidating our process of change’

Alvaro Garcia Linera with Bolivia's President Evo Morales

Interview with Bolivia's vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera conducted by Pablo Stefanoni from Argentina's Clarin newspaper. Introduction and translation by Green Left Weekly's Federico Fuentes.

January 31, 2009 -- The people of Bolivia on January 25 voted overwhelming to approve a new constitution, a demand first raised by the indigenous movements in the early 1990s. It was also a key promise of the successful 2005 election campaign of the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales.

The new constitutional text will dramatically increase the rights of the indigenous majority within a “plurinational” state. This includes official recognition of the languages of Bolivia’s 36 indigenous peoples and the right to “self government and the exercising of self-determination”, allowing for greater indigenous control over local development and natural resources.

Along with indigenous autonomy, the new constitution also establishes autonomy at the departmental, provincial and municipal level, but within the framework of defending national integrity.

Sri Lanka: Behind the genocidal war against the Tamils

By Tony Iltis

January 17, 2009 -- The January 14 announcement by the Sri Lankan government that its forces had completed the capture of the Jaffna Peninsular, effectively bringing all of the historic Tamil nation in Sri Lanka’s north-east under military occupation, was a grim reminder that the Israeli assault on the Gaza ghetto is not the only holocaust at the start of the new year.

The Tamil people have been fighting for independence from Sri Lanka since 1983 when an island-wide pogrom (the most violent of several that had regularly occurred since 1956) convinced Tamils that they would not attain equality or security under the Sinhala-chauvinist state that has ruled Sri Lanka since independence in 1948.

Sinhala is the first language of 74% of Sri Lankans. Most of the remainder are Tamil-speaking. Tamils form the majority in the north and east of the island (Tamil Eelam).

While the government has declared that the group leading the armed resistance, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is finished as a military force, this is not the first time their demise has been announced. However, it has undoubtedly suffered a serious setback as a result of the sustained military offensive by the Sri Lankan army.

Black president in the White House: Not the `same old white supremacy' but …

Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as president of the United States. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

By Mike Ely

For literally millions of people, for many of a new generation, the awakening to politics starts in these moments. This is the world, the arguments, the summations, the claims, the promises that they hear and that they will see unfold in the days ahead. We need to understand this moment, we need to also inhabit this world that they are seeing — in order to craft from among them a revolutionary force that can actually connect with and represent their highest hopes.

Indigenous-majority Greenland wins self-government

By Ray Bell

December 1, 2008 -- Bella Caledonia -- One of Scotland’s largest neighbours has just voted for independence. I don’t mean England, or Ireland, or Scandinavia, but a country which is bigger than all of these combined. And I use the term “neighbour” loosely, because it is a good few hundred miles across the Atlantic from us, and very few readers will have ever been there.

Greenlanders voted by 3-1 for almost total independence in late November 2008. I say “almost”, because while they don’t get control of defence or foreign policy, they get control of just about everything else. 32 areas of government will be handed over to them. Every political party, but one, in Greenland backed the “yes” vote. Who couldn’t sympathise with this statement that senior politician Hans Jakob Helms made?

“Home rule was a compromise, it’s a simple fact that home rule has reached its limit and there’s a need for more room for self-government.” 

Applied to Scotland, it appears that even the majority of Unionists support this position. The result makes Greenlandic independence pretty much inevitable.

Challenges facing Québec solidaire following breakthrough in Quebec election

Québec solidaire's Amir Khadir (left) has been elected to the Québec National Assembly.

By Richard Fidler

December 15, 2008 -- In the December 8 Québec general election, the Liberal government headed by Jean Charest was re-elected with 66 seats, turning its minority status before the election into a thin majority of seats in the National Assembly. The sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), benefiting from a late surge in the polls, was elected in 51 seats and replaced the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) as official parliamentary opposition. The ADQ elected only seven members.

Quebec: Breakthrough for Québec Solidaire

By Paul Kellogg

December 9, 2008 -- Amir Khadir, one of the two spokespersons for Québec Solidaire (QS), has won a seat in the Quebec National Assembly. Among the many excellent aspects of the Québec Solidaire platform is a call for the Quebec government to pass a motion opposing “any Canadian imperialist intervention in Afghanistan.”[1] The QS success represents an important advance for the social justice and anti-war movements in both Quebec and English Canada.

Khadir’s victory was not just the victory of one individual. In his riding [parliamentary constituency seat] of Mercier, QS won 8861 votes, 38.06% of votes cast, defeating Daniel Turp, a star candidate of the Parti Québécois (PQ) by 872 votes. But in the ridings surrounding Mercier, QS also did extremely well. In Gouin, the other co-spokesperson for QS, Françoise David, came a very close second to the PQ winning 7987 votes (31.95%). In ridings adjacent to either Mercier or Gouin, QS won 2963 votes (13.01%) in Laurier-Dorion, 2228 votes (11.43%) in Outremont, 3009 votes (15.22%) in Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques, 2502 votes (12.91%) in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and 2470 votes (8.24%) in Rosemont – more than 30,000 votes in total in these seven ridings on the Island of Montreal.

Canada: Political crisis exposes national, class divisions; left debates Liberal-NDP coalition

Rally in favour of a Liberal-NDP coalition, Toronto, December 6, 2008.

By Richard Fidler

OTTAWA -– December 8, 2008 -– In a classic 19th century work, English journalist Walter Bagehot divided the constitution into two parts. The “efficient” part — the executive (cabinet) and legislative — were responsible for the business of government. The “dignified” part, the Queen, was to put a human face on the capitalist state. Bagehot noted, however, that the Queen also had “a hundred” powers called prerogatives, adding: “There is no authentic explicit information as to what the Queen can do….”[1]

Civil rights campaigner, musician Odetta remembered

Odetta (300)
Keystone / Hulton Archive

Odetta was often called "The voice of the civil rights movement."

Barack Obama’s dual mandate

By Solidarity (US)

November 10, 2008 -- Millions of Americans see the election of Barack Obama as a referendum on white supremacy and today we join in their celebration. The racist campaigns launched against Obama, conducted sometimes in coded language and other times in inflammatory accusations, turned out to be amazingly unsuccessful. Yet the 2008 election also represents a dual reality that is important for socialists and activists for peace and social justice to grasp.

For tens of millions of Black Americans, seeing a United States president-elect who’s Black – and even more important, for their children to see a Black president – is a huge symbolic stride towards full citizenship and liberation. Perhaps no event since that legendary night in 1938, when Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling, has there been such a magic moment of celebration for the Black community; only in this case they weren’t simply spectators but participants in the victory.

Stop the war in Sri Lanka! The Tamil national question in demands a political solution!

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation central committee statement on developments in Sri Lanka.

October 27, 2008 -- The Sri Lankan government's ongoing military campaign to corner and crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has led to a terrible humanitarian crisis in the country. Reports emanating from the island indicate that the Sri Lankan state is on the verge of wresting military control over large parts of LTTE territory including the administrative headquarters in Killinochi. While the number of people killed so far in the crossfire between the advancing Sri Lankan armed forces is anybody's guess, some 500,000 people are estimated to have been displaced and rendered homeless in their own land. With the Sri Lankan government not allowing any relief to reach the people in refugee camps, international humanitarian organisations have been forced to leave the battle zones and recently even UN food convoys have had to return, leaving a vast population in the battle zones on the brink of starvation.

Quebec left's challenge to socialists in the rest of Canada

Bloc Québécois supporters

By Richard Fidler

October 19, 2008 -- Once again, the Bloc Québécois has taken a majority of Quebec’s seats in Canada's House of Commons — 50 out of 75, one less than in 2006, although down by three percentage points.

In doing so, it dashed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hopes of a Conservative breakthrough in Quebec that would deliver him a majority government in Ottawa. Working people throughout Canada heaved a sigh of relief.

The Bloc’s support is more than a rejection of the Tories’ right-wing policies. As Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe declared on election night, October 14, it is a clear demonstration “that Quebec is a distinct nation linguistically, culturally, socially and economically”. This was the sixth consecutive federal election since 1993 in which the pro-sovereignty Bloc has won a majority of Quebec’s seats under the first-past-the-post system.

Hugo Blanco: `No contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism'

Interview with veteran Peruvian Marxist Hugo Blanco, conducted by Yásser Gómez for Mariátegui magazine, September 9, 2008. Translated by Sean Seymour Jones for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

“The Self-organised Legislative Coup of the FTA [Free Trade Agreement], Indigenous Peoples and Social Movements” was the name of the national gathering of originario [indigenous] peoples, peasant communities and social movements that took place in Lima. There Mariátegui magazine interviewed Hugo Blanco, who in the 1970s led land takeovers in La Convención, Cusco, before the agrarian reform of Juan Velasco Alvarado was implemented. Today he continues in political combat from the trenches together with the peasantry, and as director of the newspaper Lucha Indigena (Indigenous Struggle).

What is your analysis of the Peruvian indigenous movement?

United States: The financial calamity, African Americans and Obama

Barack Obama supporters

By Malik Miah

October 8, 2008 -- The deepening financial calamity exposes how the “fundamentals” of the economy impact on working people, particularly African Americans. The so-called unfettered free market system has been a failure.

The issue of the economy has given the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, the first Black candidate for a major party, a big boost. After eight years of Bush-Cheney, Obama should be a shoo-in. Democrats are expected to garner big majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Tamil question in Sri Lanka

By Chris Slee

October 5, 2008 -- On January 2, 2008, the Sri Lankan government formally renounced the ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which a previous government had signed in February 2002. But by the beginning of 2008 the ceasefire already existed only on paper. Violence, which had been escalating for several years, had by then reached the level of full-scale war.

Canadian election: Left and labour movement discuss way forward

A selection of articles from Canadian socialists discussing the October 14 federal election and the debates and discussions in the Canadian and Quebec left and labour movements on electoral tactics.

Canada’s elections: What’s the alternative to the Tories?

By Roger Annis

October 1, 2008 -- Canada’s minority Conservative Party government has called a federal election for October 14. Serious issues confront voters  war in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the economic downturn that that will grow out of the US financial crisis, and climate change that endangers human life on our planet. But four of the five parties in the federal parliament are avoiding serious debate on these issues.

The fifth, the labour-based New Democratic Party (NDP), has a platform that responds to many working class needs, but it is evading vital issues. Only action by trade unions and social justice movements can place working-class concerns at the centre of the electoral spectacle.

The Liberal Party lesser evil?

Philippines: Towards a memorandum for self-determination for the Moro people

By Herbert Docena

Force has kept the Moro people within the Philippines. Against their will, beginning in the early twentieth century, the Moros, who were already living in their own states in the south, were incorporated into what became the nation-state of the Philippines by US colonisers and their Filipino partners from the north. [i]

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