Archive for the ‘Protest’ Category

Left, Cyril Ramaphosa; Right, Marikana Massacre

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa has produced a plethora of articles hailing a new dawn for the nation.  The Irish Times published an article written by the South African psychologist and current John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University, Professor Brandon Hamber.  The title of the article was the unimaginative A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland.(1)

But here I want to focus on South Africa.  He is after all from there and Ramaphosa was hailed in Ireland as a champion of peace and an important figure in the decommissioning process.  If his election as president of South Africa is a new dawn, then it will not be long before he is once again held up as an example to us all, which is what Hamber does, in effect.

He acknowledges problems in South Africa, but states that with Ramaphosa’s election, “A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.”  He further states that “South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.”  Were that true it would be a remarkable accomplishment in a matter of days.  The hypebole of people power is overwhelming and nauseating.

To be clear, the new president of South Africa is a mining magnate, a multimillionaire whose fortune is calculated, depending on the source as being between USD 450 and 700 million.  Yes he was once a lawyer and a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  But that is in the past.  How he became rich says more about the South Africa he will build than all the fine words that we expect at inaugurations or the sycophantic faith of academics who should (more…)


Rio Turbio miners

by Nicolás Daneri (Feb 20, 2018)

In the recent midterm elections in Argentina, the right-wing Cambiemos party of President Mauricio Macri was able to secure the largest share of votes. As a result, the elections were widely interpreted as political support for his austerity program. However, shortly thereafter, his government saw a rapid dwindling in popular support when it passed a major pension reform. The proposed law was met by a major resistance movement this past December. Although it succeeded in passing the pension reform, the government paid a high price for its offensive and had to retreat from its initial plan to pass a labor reform law as well.

20,000 attended election rally of the Left & Workers Front in Nov 2016

During the summer months, when there’s generally very little political activity in Argentina, the government continued to lay off workers in the public sector, and unemployment rose in the private sector as well. This summer though, in almost every industry, workers fought back with strikes, roadblocks, and marches, in stark contrast to the previous year in which the majority of the layoffs were carried out without a fightback from workers. Some of the most important struggles this summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) include the miners’ strike of Rio Turbio and the strike by workers of the Posadas Hospital. These actions point to a growing political unrest among the working class

Because the government wasn’t able to push through a (more…)

As part of commemorating 1968, “The Year of Revolutions”, we are running the piece below.  It is the text of a talk given by Ernest Mandel, plus excerpts from the discussion, at the International Assembly of Revolutionary Student Movements, which was sponsored by the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the major radical youth movement in the USA in the 1960s.  Mandels’s talk took place on Saturday evening, September 21st at the Education Auditorium of New York University. More than 600 people packed the auditorium and the question and answer period extended for several hours.

The introduction to the pamphlet based on the talk notes, “Mandel’s speech was a powerful polemic against the tendencies of pure ‘activism’ and ‘spontaneism’ which have recently sprung up among some radicals in the West. He argued in defense of the Marxist conception of the indispensable integration of theory and practice. During the question period, Mandel gave extended replies to a number of controversial questions in radical circles today. Among them were the socio-economic nature of the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, the necessity for a Leninist party, and moral vs. material incentives in the construction of socialism.

A Belgian, Ernest Mandel took part in the resistance movement there during the Nazi occupation in World War 2.  He became a leader of the Fourth International after the war and an important Marxist theorist and educator.  He wrote widely on political struggles of the 1960s and was popular with radicalising students in many countries.  Mandel was the author of Marxist Economic Theory,  and a number of other important texts, including An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.  His The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx traced the main discoveries of Marx from his first economic investigations in 1843 to the publication of Capital. Mandel’s work was translated into a range of languages from English to Arabic.

by Ernest Mandel

Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the Berlin students, and many of the other representative student figures in Europe, have advanced as the central idea of their activity the concept of the unity of theory and action, of revolutionary theory and revolutionary action. This is not an arbitrary choice. The unity of theory and action can be considered the most important lesson of historical experience drawn from past revolutions in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

The historical tradition which embodies that idea goes from Babeuf through Hegel to Marx. This ideological conquest means that the great liberation movement of mankind must be directed by a conscious effort to reconstruct society, to overcome a situation in which man is dominated by the blind forces of market economy and starts to take his destiny in his own hands. This conscious action of emancipation cannot be carried on effectively, and certainly not carried through, unless man is aware of the social environment in which he is living, of the social forces he has to confront and the general social and economic conditions of this liberation movement.

Just as the unity of theory and action is an essential guide for any emancipation movement today, so Marxism teaches that revolution, conscious revolution, can only be successful if man first understands the nature of society in which he is living, if he understands the motive forces behind social and economic development in that society. In other words, unless he understands the forces that command social evolution, he will not be able to change that evolution into revolution. That is the main conception that Marxist consciousness has been introducing into the revolutionary student movement in Europe.

We will try to show that these two concepts, unity of theory and action, and a Marxist understanding of the objective conditions of society, which existed for a long time before the student movement in Europe was born, were rediscovered and reintegrated in practical struggle by the European student movement as a result of its own experiences.

The student movement starts everywhere – and it is no different in the United States – as a revolt against the (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of “the year of revolutions” – 1968.

One of the things that marked 1968 was that massive revolutionary upsurges took place in the Third, Second and First Worlds.

The Tet Offensive in (Third World) Vietnam, which began at the end of January, shook US imperialism to the core and made it clear that the western imperialists, including NZ, could never win in their massive armed intervention there.

In May-June the students and workers of (First World) France shook the French ruling class to their core, with the biggest general strike in history (in terms of percentage of the population involved), along with workplace and university occupations.

In (Second World) Czechoslovakia, the masses demanded socialist democracy against the privileged elite running the country and pretending to be communists.  It took the tanks of the Soviet Union and its minion states to crush the ‘Prague Spring’.

In Yugoslavia there were significant student protests against the privileges of the bureaucracy – the “red bourgeoisie” – and the concept of the Red University was born.

All over the world – from the examples above to the civil rights movement in the north-east of Ireland to the most significant trade union action in NZ since the defeat of 1951 to guerrilla movements in Latin America to the strike by women workers at Fords Dagenham in Britain for equal pay – massive numbers of people, especially young people, were in motion.

In the United States, a poll taken by Time magazine showed that among young people the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was more popular than any of the candidates in that year’s presidential election.

At the Olympics, two black American athletes on the podium gave Black Power clenched fist salutes, and were supported by the white Australian athlete who shared the platform with them.

For some examples of the radicalism of 1968, see the following:

This article on Vietnam includes the Tet Offensive and this one is about the My Lai massacre and the horrendous nature of the imperialist war on Vietnam

This article covers the strike by women workers at Ford Dagenham

This is an appreciation of Che Guevara

This article covers the momentous ‘evenements’ in France in May-June

This article covers the student rebellion in Mexico and this one covers the 1968 Olympics

This article looks at NZ at that time

This article deals specifically with the protest over the nil wage order at parliament in Wellington in June 1968

The start of this interview contains material on the civil rights movement in Ireland in 1968

Future articles will look at the upsurges in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as more parts of the world, in 1968.

by Don Franks

It was a stinking hot afternoon down at Fords Lower Hutt assembly plant when one of us deliberately smashed a new truck windscreen. The truck trim line was a small non-automated section where four or five painted cab shells got fitted out each day, their windows fixed in place by skilled use of a big rubber hammer.

A worker would tap around the edges of the glass, on this occasion whacking it hard in the middle so it shattered. This meant work in the area had to stop until a cleaner’s union guy was located, had made his dignified way across to us and methodically swept up all the pieces. That process took a good twenty minutes, during which we were able to enjoy a break.

Of course we didn’t pull that stunt too often or it would have looked suspicious. There were other, less dramatic ways to get a break.

This time as we sat watching (more…)

Being arrested for union organising, Minneapolis 1934

One of the most important battles fought by workers in the United States in the 1930s was waged by the Teamsters Union in Minneapolis.  Through a series of fights, Minneapolis was converted into a union town and the Teamsters were able to spread organising across the Mid-West.  At the heart of the working class struggle in Minneapolis were a group of teamsters who were union militants and Marxists.  One of the most prominent of these was Vincent Raymond Dunne (1889-1970).  Dunne later spent 16 months in jail for opposition to WW2.

Recently, long-time left-wing activist Howard Petrick, a former anti-Vietnam War GI, produced a play on Dunne and his life. 

by Barbara Gregorich

Howard Petrick’s one-man play, Fight for 52 Cents, is set in 1969, with Vincent Ray Dunne speaking to a meeting. With this as the framing device, Dunne tells his younger-generation audience about his life — the lessons he learned in helping lead the working class in its struggle for better living conditions and why he became a communist.

Howard Petrick as V.R. Dunne

As written and performed by Petrick, Fight for 52 Cents is a well-structured play that treats the audience to the story of Dunne’s life: what events were significant to him, and why; how these events helped shape him and allowed him to stand on a strong foundation.

Childhood experiences

The first event Dunne speaks about is that when he was five years old, his father, who was a street-car conductor in Kansas City, fell into a hole and broke both legs. Because of this accident, his father was not able to work. There was no such thing as workman’s compensation in 19th century United States. Dunne experienced this grave injustice first-hand: the five-year-old child saw that his father was injured and as a result the company he worked for dropped him from existence. The Dunne family was forced to (more…)

by Yassamine Mather

There has been a considerable amount of fake news about the demonstrations that started in Mashad and other towns in Khorassan province on the 28th of December 2017. These demonstrations have continued, five days later in Tehran, as well as in many other towns and cities across the country. The protesters are angry and fearless, and their grievances are reasonably clear. What began with outrage against rising prices, unemployment and poverty has evolved into more political slogans against corruption and against the dictator, Ayatollah Khameini.

Basic food prices have sky-rocketed in the last few weeks, with the price of eggs rising by 40% in a matter of days. In some of Iran’s major cities, rents have risen by 83% in the last 3 years alone. Mass unemployment is a big issue – particularly in the provinces where the protests emerged. The rate of inflation may have fallen from 35% under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but it remains at unsustainable levels.

Despite being controlled by the factions of the Iranian regime, the relative diversity of the media inside Iran has ensured that most Iranians are aware of, and indeed well-informed about, the multi-billion dollar corruption scandals in which all factions of the regime are implicated. Rouhani’s government, senior ayatollahs associated with more conservative factions of the regime and the former populist president Ahmadinejad (who claimed to be the defender of the disinherited) are all embroiled in corruption and embezzlement.

Ahmadinejad and his close allies are currently facing criminal charges of serious (more…)