Monday, May 02, 2011

Murder and Mayhem should not distract from May Day in the Middle East

SO, after invading Afghanistan and Iraq, conducting military operations and bombing civilians on the soil of its ally Pakistan, the US has finally caught up with a former asset, and killed Osama Bin Laden - who it turns out was not hiding in a mountain cave but in a large fortified house in a Pakistan barracks town. Within 100 yards of an officer training school.

At least it looks better than NATO's 'humanitarian' mission accomplishment in killing Colonel Gaddafi's grandchildren.

President Barack Obama says it "'marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaida." Some might say it is so far the only achievement.

Apart from the crowds cheering in Washington, we may guess there are a few Americans, not far from the previous Administration, who will be relieved that Bin Laden has not been captured alive to stand trial and blurt out anything embarrassing about past links and business associates. It may not have been mere incompetence that kept US forces searching and bombing the wrong places so long.

On the other side, it's probably bad news for Trump and the Tea Party Republicans. Getting Bin Laden is bound to trump demanding the president show his birth certificate. And confound all those ignorant Americans who thought it smart to confuse Obama and Osama. Talking about former President Jimmy Carter's willingness to call for a change in US Middle East policy, roving Palestinian ambassador Afif Safieh was regretting recently that the Iran hostages debacle brought Carter's defeat by the Republicans.

Whether Carter might have been as enlightened in office as he has been by defeat, we don't know. But disappointing as Obama has been, in failing to close Guantanamo or to restrain Israeli settlement expansion, the perhaps this victory will make him more confident. The only alternatives available for now are clearly a damned sight worse.

The superstition that killing one bogeyman-figurehead can finish a movement is unlikely to be confirmed. Terrorism, whether of the state kind or al Qaeda's, will continue. But what we should not be distracted from is the more significant fact of these times, the re-emergence of mass struggle, and of the forces that can really challenge imperialism and Islamic reaction, and change society for good.

In Trafalgar Square yesterday it was good to see the Bahraini flags among the crowd for May Day, and to hear from the platform that hundreds of thousands - one Turkish speaker claimed a million - were rallying in Istanbul. From friends in Israel, reports and pictures of the red flags out for May Day in Tel Aviv, no longer kept to a safe mockery run by the Zionist Histadrut.

From the Morning Star this news from EGYPT:

Thousands of workers packed into Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, demanding social justice in Egypt as they celebrated their first May Day in three decades without ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Speakers representing some of the independent trade unions that have sprung up since Mr Mubarak stepped down on February 11 took to the stage in the square, calling for a minimum wage, better welfare programmes and the trial of corrupt trade union chiefs.

Waving Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian and Communist Party flags, they chanted "social justice" as security forces and military police looked on, clearing the way for traffic.A statement signed by 49 organisations - including the Coalition of Revolution Youth, the Communist Party and other left-wing groups, independent unions, NGOs and rights groups - called for a minimum monthly wage of 1,500 Egyptian pounds (£150) and a wage ceiling to "ensure fair distribution of wealth."

They also called on the ruling junta to freeze the assets of Mubarak-era trade unions.Hussein Megawer, former head of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, is currently being investigated for corruption as part of a sweeping probe. Egyptian Communist Party chairman Salah al-Adly said that his long-repressed group is committed to "achieving the revolution's demands by drafting a constitution for a civil state, rather than a religious or military one, which is based on democracy and in which socialism and social justice are achieved."

FROM Iraq it was reported that the Iraqi Communist Party appears to have read the signs, and having moved away from collaboration with the occupation, it is trying to claim credit for recent protests, though many of those taking part " have no faith in the political process or any of the parties taking part in it", according to our correspondent. But anyway here is a report on May Day in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) has organized a demonstration for hundreds of workers in central Baghdad’s al-Tahrir (Liberation) Square on occasion of the International Labor Day, taking place today (Sunday).

Aswat al-Iraq news agency’s correspondent, who attended the occasion, said that the demonstrators carried placards, demanding their legitimate rights, the abolishment of the expression ‘employees’ for workers and the issuance of laws that organize their work and vocational life.

“The majority of demonstrators belong to the Iraqi Communist Party, as well as workers of the public sector and representatives of the private sector, who demanded the legislation of new labor laws that open employment chances for unemployed workers,” he said.

The correspondent quoted the trade union Railways cadre, Latif al-Mash’hadany, as saying: “The Iraqi Communist Party calls on all working masses, unions and workers trade unions, the mass protest committee in Iraq and the youth organizations to stand together to the side of the ICP in its struggle, on the occasion of the International Labor Day, in such a way that matches with the working class and its historic movement in Iraq.”

“Iraqi workers demand the Parliament and the government to legislate new labor laws and abolish all decisions that were issued against the workers, granting them their full rights and putting an end for corruption and unemployment,” he said.

A statement, issued by the demonstrators, copy of which was received by Aswat al-Iraq, said: “The demands, raised by the revolutionary masses since Feb.25th last, were all workers demands, or demands by the working class.”

“The first of May is the day for raising those demands highly by the workers themselves in Iraq’s main streets and squares, along with their strikes and sit-in demonstrations, being an important step to expand the revolutionary situation,” it added.

The statement demanded “the freedom of strikes, demonstration, organization, abolishment of self-financing, achievement of work or guarantees against unemployment, release of all detainees, especially those detained in demonstrations and trial of all criminals who opened fire on the demonstrators.”

Our Iraqi friend also forwarded this message

A message to all members of Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative - مبادرة تضامن المجتمع

إلى : الأخوات والأخوة في الحركة العم

الية العراقية
من : نقابة العمل الامريكى ضد الحرب (USLAW)
رد : عيد العمال -- عيد العمال الدولي لتضامن الطبقة العاملة

أيها الأخوات، أيها الأخوة ، الأعزاء ، أيها الرفاق في النضال : ونحن نشارك معكم اليوم في معركتنا المشتركة لحقوق العمال والكرامة الأساسية للعمال في كل مكان. ونحن نحيي شجاعة وحزم العمال و الطبقة العاملة العراقية في سعيها لعراق ديمقراطي حر من كل التدخلات الخارجية والسيطرة، وخالية من القمع ، ويضمن الحقوق الكاملة للعمال الذي تكفله معايير العمل الدولية.
نحن في نقابة العمل الولايات المتحدة ضد الحرب، التي تتكون من أكثر من 190 فروع وتمثل خمسة ملايين من عمال الولايات المتحدة ، نعلن الوقوف معكم ونتعهد بتقديم دعمنا المستمر للعمل الخاص ووضع نهاية سريعة لاحتلال العراق من قبل جميع القوات الأجنبية والحكومات واستعادة السيادة الوطنية الكاملة للشعب العراقي.
نشعر بالتأثر من حقيقة إن جميع الذين يزورون النصب التذكاري لشهداء العمل 1886 في ساحة هايماركت في شيكاغو ، رمز المجزرة التي أدت إلى إعلان 1 مايو باعتباره اليوم الدولي للتضامن العمال ، يشاهدون رسالة تحية وتضامن من العراقية الحركة العمالية المدرج هناك في 2007 خلال زيارة تاريخية للولايات المتحدة من قبل ممثلي الحركة العمالية العراقية.
ونحن نحتفل معكم في هذا اليوم في ضل صراع الطبقي مكثفة ، ونحن نقف متضامنين معكم في استمرار في مواجهه هذا الصراع الطبقي الذي يهدد حياة ومعيشة الشعب العامل في بلدينا.
عاشت الحركة العمالية العراقية.
عاش التضامن بين شعوبنا.
نقابة العمل الامريكى ضد الحرب (USLAW)

شارك في الاجتماعات كل من : كاثي بلاك ، جيني بروسكن ، بوب موهيلينكامب ، بروكس سونكت ، نانسي وولفروث ،و مايكل زيوج
المنسق الوطني : مايكل ايزنجر
المنظم الوطني : توم كوكان
المنسق الإداري : نيقوسيا ادريان

From: U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
Re: May Day - Labor's Day for International Working Class Solidarity

Dear Sisters, Brothers, Comrades in struggle:

We join with you today in our common battle for worker rights and basic dignity for working people everywhere. We salute the bravery and resolute action of the Iraqi working class as it seeks a democratic Iraq, free from all foreign intervention and control, free from repression and with full rights for workers as guaranteed by international labor standards.

We in US Labor Against the War, whose 190 affiliates represent over five million U.S. workers, stand with you and pledge our continuing support for your work and a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq by all foreign troops and governments and restoration of full national sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

We are moved by the fact that all who visit the memorial to the 1886 labor martyrs at Haymarket Square in Chicago, whose massacre led to the declaration of May 1 as an international day of worker solidarity, see a message of greeting and solidarity from the Iraqi labor movement inscribed there in 2007 during an historic visit to the United States by representatives of the Iraqi labor movement.

As we commemorate with you that day of intense class struggle, we stand in solidarity with you in the continuing class conflict that threatens the lives and livelihoods of working people in our two countries.

Long live the Iraqi labor movement.
Long live solidarity between our peoples.
U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Co-Convenors: Kathy Black, Gene Bruskin, Bob Muehlenkamp, Brooks Sunkett, Nancy Wohlforth, and Michael Zweig
National Coordinator: Michael Eisenscher
National Organizer: Tom Gogan
Administrative Coordinator: Adrienne Nicosia

Also from the USA, and regarding Bahrain, where union offices were seized and hundreds of trade unionists have been sacked since the Saudi tanks came in to enforce "order", a petition launched today by the AFL-CIO unions in the States calls on the Obama administration to scrap its five-year old trade accord with Bahrain, in response to the crackdown on workers' and democratic rights.

Here in Britain, the campaign Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) which united left-wing Iranians and British supporters issued this at the weekend:

May Day statement in support of workers in Iran

Over the last year workers in Iran have struggled on several fronts. The subsidy cuts coupled with the crisis in world capitalism are driving living standards down for the majority of Iranians. Basic food stuffs are rising in price at a phenomenal rate, with bread rising a massive 25% and unsubsidised fuel increasing 7 fold. This is in a country with the third largest oil reserves in the world and the necessary refining abilities to produce cheap and affordable fuel for the entire population. The sanctions regime continues to undermine Iranian industry, robbing many workers of their jobs whilst the elite continue to amass great wealth. We stand with the Iranian working class fighting austerity and call for an end to all sanctions. We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

There have been important centres of working class resistance where the working class has shown its strength. At the Alborz tyre factory in Iran over 800 workers have held protests outside of the presidential office after 9 months of unpaid wages. There has been a recurring struggle over wages being withheld on a regular basis since privatisation of the factory in 1991.

The state-run Haft Tapeh sugar cane factory workers have faced consistent repression and attempts to crush their union. Ali Nejati, the President of the Union, is in prison and in ill health facing further charges of endangering national security. This continued repression, failure to pay wages and the refusal of the management to allow sacked workers to return have forced workers to down tools and strike several times over the last 12 months.

The strikes in the Petrochemical industry starting on March 19 at the Imam Port complex were contagious and spread across the industry. The initial demands focused on ending the current contract system that offers only precarious work and little security. Thousands of workers have been on strike demanding the introduction of the 2005 directives on hiring.

At the Pars Paper Company over a thousand of workers struck in defence of 60 laid off workers who had been at the company for over 10 years. In Qazvin workers at multiple textile plants have struck against unpaid wages, with some workers going unpaid for over a year. They were also joined by workers from the city’s Ziaran slaughterhouse who have unpaid wage claims going back two years.

At Iran Khodro the overworked yet militant workforce has continued to be a beacon of resistance. In January 4 workers were killed and 13 injured as a worker who was ill and tired after repeated back-to-back shifts collapsed at the wheel of the truck he was driving. Workers immediately demonstrated and called on the CEO to resign. Scuffles broke out between security and revolutionary guards.

The protest movement that erupted in 2009 was savagely put down by the security forces with violence not witnessed since 1999. Many leaders and activists remain in jail, many have fled and gone underground and hundreds have been murdered. Yet flickers of open defiance continue and below the surface the Iranian masses have rejected the theocratic regime. It is only a matter of time until mass action will threaten the existence of the Islamic Republic.

The uprisings in the region are a nightmare vision of the future for the regime as the revolts creep closer to the border. The imperialists have also suffered defeats, with Mubarak, a lynchpin of their domination, falling along with Tunisia’s Ben Ali. Yemen’s Saleh is soon to go. In this chaotic atmosphere the war threat has increased as we must not rule out further military action by the imperialists to demonstrate their power and reassert political domination. As part of threatening war with Iran, Saudi troops have gone in to suppress the people in Bahrain. This is what the intervention in Libya is about: not protecting civilians. The current interventions in the region must end and there must be no attack on Iran.

Hands Off the People of Iran reiterates our commitment to oppose the war threat and sanctions whilst supporting the struggle against the theocratic regime.

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