Archive for the ‘Uprisings/insurrections/rebellions’ Category

As we noted here a few weeks ago, 1968 was “the year of revolutions” – revolutions in the Third World, the Second World and the First World.  Throughout this year, we’re running articles commemorating especially important events during 1968 and re-advertising articles already on the blog that cover 1968 events.

During the Tet Offensive the imperialist forces came under attack across much of South Vietnam, including in the US embassy compound in Saigon; it was the beginning of the end for the US and its allies in the war

by The Spark
March 5, 2018

In the night between January 31st and February 1st, 1968, during the holiday of Tet (Vietnamese New Year), fighters of the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese guerrilla organization of the National Liberation Front (NLF), rose up against the U.S. military occupation. They took control of more than 100 towns and cities, including the capital, Saigon.

Although, from a military point of view, the disproportionate level of forces did not allow the Viet Cong to hold these cities for more than a month, the world nevertheless viewed the Tet Offensive as an NLF victory. The NLF had proved that it had the support of the majority of the population, whom the ferocious war waged by the most powerful imperialism on the planet had failed to crush.

At the beginning of 1968, there were 500,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Vietnam. They possessed an ultra-modern military arsenal with an unprecedented capacity for destruction and massacre. There was no comparison between this force and what could be put forward by a small country ravaged by French and Japanese imperialism that had already been through 13 years of war.

Despite all this, in one night, some tens of thousands of Viet Cong fighters were able to rattle the most powerful army in the world, deep within its own strongholds in the cities. They went so far as to (more…)


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…)

South Africans protest the use of administrative detention by the Israeli state, 2016

Among the arsenal of repressive measures used by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom is “administrative detention”.  This is, in essence, internment without trial.  While the Israeli state pretends to be a democracy, measures such as these show it is anything but a democracy in relation to the Palestinians.

The below piece on administrative detention is taken from the site of Addameer, The (Palestinian) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association:

Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Although administrative detention is used almost exclusively to detain Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Israeli citizens and foreign nationals can also be held as administrative detainees by Israel (over the years, only 9 Israeli settlers have been held in administrative detention). Israel uses three separate laws to hold individuals without trial:

  • Article 285 of Military Order 1651, which is part of the military legislation applying in the West Bank;

  • Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (Unlawful Combatants Law), which has been used against residents of the Gaza Strip since 2005;

  • Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law, which applies to Israeli citizens.

Palestinians have been subjected to administrative detention since the beginning of the (more…)

Rosa Luxemburg, rallying workers for struggle

by Don Franks

In a February 13th interview in The Listener, Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk makes a valid point: by going on strike, workers may get hurt.

“I remember some strikes. . . and dad losing his job. In the ’90s he was made redundant and survived on his redundancy pay. It terrifies me to think that some people don’t have that backup, so have no way of feeding their families if they lose their jobs. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were. Maybe we are in the mature era and the feminisation of the union movement has changed things. We are not guys coming in and having a punch up any more.”

In New Zealand industrial punch ups have sometimes got quite heated, but not to the extent of some overseas confrontations. For example: “During the night two delegates of the railwaymen were arrested. The strikers immediately demanded their release, and as this was not conceded, they decided not to allow trains leave the town. At the station all the strikers with their wives and families sat down on the railway track-a sea of human beings. They were threatened with rifle salvoes. The workers (more…)

Our 1968 coverage continues although, strictly speaking, this is October 1967. . .

Che was executed without trial in Bolivia on October 9, 1967.  The Cuban leadership declared 1968 “The Year of the Heroic Guerrilla” and supported revolutionary movements throughout Latin America in particular.  Che’s reputation, already very high among newly-radicalising young people around the world, grew significantly in 1968.

Below is the speech about Che delivered on October 18, 1967 by Fidel Castro to a rally of several hundred thousand people in Havana.

I first met Che one day in July or August 1955. And in one night — as he recalls in his account — he became one of the future Granma expeditionaries, although at that time the expedition possessed neither ship, nor arms, nor troops. That was how, together with Raúl, Che became one of the first two on the Granma list. 

Twelve years have passed since then; they have been 12 years filled with struggle and historical significance. During this time death has cut down many brave and invaluable lives. But at the same time, throughout those years of our revolution, extraordinary persons have arisen, forged from among the people of the revolution, and between them, bonds of affection and friendship have emerged that surpass all possible description. 

Tonight we are meeting to try to express, in some degree, our feelings toward one who was among the closest, among the most admired, among the most beloved, and, without a doubt, the most extraordinary of our revolutionary comrades. We are here to express our feelings for him and for the heroes who have fought with him and fallen with him, his internationalist army that has been writing a glorious and indelible page of history.

Che was one of those people who was liked immediately, for his simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely attitude, his personality, his originality, even when one had not yet learned of his other characteristics and unique virtues.

In those first days he was our troop doctor, and so the bonds of friendship and warm feelings for him were ever increasing. He was filled with a profound spirit of hatred and contempt for imperialism, not only because his political education was already considerably developed, but also because, shortly before, he had had the opportunity of witnessing the criminal imperialist intervention in Guatemala through the mercenaries who aborted the revolution in that country.

A person like Che did not require elaborate arguments. It was sufficient for him to know Cuba was in a similar situation and that there were people determined to struggle against that situation, arms in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that those people were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and patriotic ideals. That was more than enough.

One day, at the end of November 1956, he set out on the expedition toward  (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.

Constance de Markievicz, in Irish Citizen Army uniform

by Philip Ferguson

Today (Feb 4) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman elected to the British parliament! This was in the general election of December 1918, at the end of WW1. And no, she was not a Tory reactionary, but an Irish revolutionary – Constance Markievicz.

She was in jail at the time in London.

She had been second-in-command lof the insurrectionary forces at Stephen’s Green during the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin and, among other things, performed valuable sniper duties; after the surrender she was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death, commuted to penal servitidue for life on account of her being a woman.

The British were subsequently forced to release the prisoners, from the end of 1916 to mid-1917. Considered one of the hardest of the hard-core, she was in the very last group of prisoners to be released, returning to an ecstatic welcome in Dublin.

In May 1918 she was arrested for sedition and again imprisoned in England. It was here that she ran for parliament.

She stood on a platform of independence and radical social change in Ireland and not taking her seat at Westminster if elected.

In that election, 73 seats were won by people who said they wouldn’t take their seat at Westminster if elected.  A majority of them were in prison or ‘on the run’.

(These people won a majority of the seats in (more…)