Monthly Archives: September 2012
Dear Mandela — a film on the new generation of struggle and hope in South Africa
Theatrical Trailer — When their shantytowns are threatened with mass eviction, three ‘young lions’ of South Africa’s new generation rise from the shacks and take their government to the highest court in the land, putting the promises of democracy to the test.
DEAR MANDELA was awarded the ‘Best South African Documentary’ prize after its World Premiere at the Durban International Film Festival. See http://www.dearmandela.com for more information
A film review by Louis Proyect, The Unrepentant Marxist
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of “Dear Mandela”, a documentary now showing at the IndieScreen Theater in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn through tomorrow evening. After a decade or more of Hollywood movies like “Invictus” or “In My Country” that can best be described as public relations for the ANC, a fierce documentary directed by Dara Kell, a South African now living in the U.S., and Christopher Nizza, finally catches up with reality–a system of economic apartheid has replaced one based on race.
Just as the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 helped galvanize a movement against racial apartheid, the slaughter of 36 miners in Marikana creates the political context for a new freedom struggle based on class. To understand how South Africa has entered a new terrain of struggle, there is no better introduction than “Dear Mandela”, a film that focuses on the struggle against slum clearance in the name of “development” that took place in the outskirts of Durban. We meet three young activists of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Residents of the Shacks) who are committed to the rights of the poor to live in informal settlements. Despite the promise of President Nelson Mandela that every South African would have the right to a decent home, the new ANC pushed through legislation that would give the government the right to demolish the shacks that the poor were forced to live in. Each day “Red Ants”–work crews in red coveralls–come to the slums and raze their shacks to the ground and each day community members rebuild them. They had learned that ANC promises to build new homes were empty. Continue reading
Philippines: Catholic Church leader an illegal ivory smuggler and pedophile?
Priest Included in Philippines Investigation of Ivory SmugglingBy ANDREW C. REVKIN
There’s an important development in the global ivory wars, stemming directly from the great National Geographic article (explored on Dot Earth recently) that focused on the demand created by the market for religious icons carved from elephant tusks. A Catholic priest, whose statements about ways to illicitly ship ivory to the United States were featured in the magazine article, is being investigated by government authorities in the Philippines. Here are the details, as reported by Floyd Whaley out of Manila for The Times:
MANILA — Philippine law enforcement officials said on Wednesday that they were investigating whether a senior priest in the Roman Catholic Church was involved in the smuggling of elephant ivory to feed country’s passion for religious icons.
The investigation was prompted by an article in the October issue of National Geographic magazine that quotes Msgr. Cristóbal Garcia, a senior church official on the central Philippine island of Cebu, as telling an American reporter how to smuggle illegal elephant ivory figurines into the United States. “Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,” he is quoted as saying, to deter inspection. Continue reading
Julian Assange Addresses UN General Assembly – Full Video and Transcript
[In a bold new move to bring his case, Wikileaks, and the case of accused whistleblower and political prisoner Bradley Manning, to the United Nations, Julian Assange has delivered this electronic media. While he addresses special appeals to President Obama, which will fall on deaf imperialist ears as usual, his arguments will undoubtedly gain renewed circulation and support among activists and people internationally. — Frontlines ed.]
Sep 26, 2012 by Russia Today
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed permanent representatives to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly at a high-level talk on the legal and ethical legitimacy of diplomatic asylum. Assange’s address, which was made from inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London via live stream to the UN on September 26, was broadcast live and exclusively by Russia Today (RT).
Transcript of Julian Assange’s Address to the UN on Human Rights – given on Wednesday 26th September – Proofed from live speech. Continue reading
India: Uproar over political prisoner status to jailed Maoists
| Video | Uproar over political prisoner status to jailed Maoists | India Videos | – India Today. (Click for Indian news video)
[A background note, by Revolutionary Frontlines, on why capitalist governments refuse to grant “political prisoner” status to democratic and revolutionary opponents who have been captured and held by the state:
A court in India has decided that some allegedly Maoist prisoners should be categorized “Political Prisoners.” Other sections of the state apparatus oppose this, loudly. Some even launch legal motions to remove this category from the Maoists. What’s the difference, and why should be care?
Everywhere in the world, wherever governments drape themselves in the pretense of democracy—and this goes for imperialist countries like the US, Britain, France and many others, as well as countries that adopted the “democratic” veneer when they emerged from colonialism and became “independent” but neo-colonial neo-comprador states—they actively promote the lie that democratic rights and freedoms are equally shared, and all can receive justice under the law.
But when a huge section of people—even a majority, or more—are blocked, from generation to generation, from any form of rights or justice, and they develop democratic and revolutionary movements and organizations, all their protests and demands are routinely criminalized, because their existence and practice expose and destroy the legitimacy of the faux-democratic state.
So, getting back to the question: why demand, and struggle for “political prisoner” status when activists are arrested and charged with common crimes—or are held for months or years without charge? Because, for a state to admit it has political prisoners is
- to admit that the state is not democratic, that oppressors and oppressed have no equality before the law;
- an admission that political prisoners have been arrested mainly because of their opposition to the state, and are being denied basic human rights;
- a confession by the state that criminal charges are routinely fabricated to cover up the political repression which is going on;
- and that democratic movements and revolutionary organizations which have been jailed are representing the political interests of the oppressed, and are not criminal organizations.
- and finally, the presence of political prisoners indicates that justice is not a domestic struggle–seeking civil rights from an oppressive state—but is a battle for human rights, to be sought by the masses themselves, using whatever arena is available on an international level.
For these reasons, the Indian state is determined to quash the “political prisoner” status granted by a wayward, indisciplined—and uncommonly principled—Indian judge.
See the following articles from the Indian bourgeois media about the “Political Prisoner” label/debate. – Frontlines ed.]
7 Maoists get political prisoner status
KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court Wednesday granted status of political prisoners to seven Maoist leaders and sympathizers in West Bengal jails, the rebels’ counsel said.
The seven include Venkateshwara Reddy alias Telugu Dipak and Chhatradhar Mahato.
“Justice Kanwaljit Aluwalliah allowed our prayer granting the status of political prisoners. They have been languishing in jails for long and it is yet to be proved that they are Maoists and involved in violent activities,” counsel Subhasish Roy told IANS.
The others to get the status are Communist Party of India-Maoist spokesperson Gaur Chakrabarty, Sukhshanti Baskey, Shambhu Soren, Sagun Murmu and Prasun Chatterjee.
Deepak, a close associate of slain Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, is said to be the mastermind behind the Silda camp attack in West Midnapore district which left 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles soldiers dead. He was arrested in March 2010.
Tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato was the spokesman of the Maoist backed Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and was arrested along with Chatterjee in 2009.
(IANS) Continue reading
Spain steps up more austerity amid protests
The government is due to pass its 2013 austerity budget, which includes further salary freezes for government workers.
|27 Sep 2012|
[Photo: Protesters have gathered for a second day in a row to rally against the austerity measures in the country [Reuters]]
Thousands of protesters rallied near the Spanish parliament for a second straight night on Wednesday after a rough day on the markets again raised the spectre of a full bailout and deeper economic pain.
Shouting “Government resign!” and “We are not afraid”, demonstrators faced off against riot police in the Plaza de Neptuno, the same area of Madrid where officers beat protesters and fired rubber bullets to disperse them on Tuesday night.
“I came yesterday and I’ll come every day to say no to this system,” said Angel Alcaide, a 30-year-old engineer who carried a sign reading “Resign”.
“This government is worse than the last. It protects its privileges, its luxuries, and the people just get cuts in health and education,” said 26-year-old Carmen Lopez, who lives in London, pushed abroad, she said, by the lack of jobs for young people.
But mass protests seemed the least of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s problems as the prospect of an international rescue revived.
Spain’s borrowing costs crept back up to danger levels and the stock market plunged on Wednesday, as pressure from Catalonia, which called snap elections in a drive for greater independence, added to the gloom.
Oakland’s Government Can’t Defeat the Struggle for Justice against Police killings
Unresolved OPD Shooting of Black Teenager Alan Blueford Illustrates Oakland’s Continuing Crisis of Governance
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
After seeking justice from the City of Oakland for months, the family of Alan Blueford finally caught the attention of city leaders on September 18 when their protest brought the City Council to a halt.
Alan, an African-American high school student, was murdered on May 6 by Officer Miguel Masso, who drove up on the young man who had committed no crime, chased him for five blocks and shot him dead outside a Cinco de Mayo party. Masso initially claimed that Alan shot him, a story spread by the local media, although when it was revealed that Masso actually shot himself this lie turned into the claim that Alan pointed a gun at the officer. The Bluefords refute even this claim, considering Masso’s earlier lie.
Since May, the Bluefords have demanded that Masso be fired and prosecuted and that stop-and-frisk and racial profiling practices be ended among Oakland police. The elected leadership of Oakland have largely ignored these requests outside of a handful of closed door meetings where the Bluefords were promised a timely investigation and no slandering of Alan in the press. Neither promise was kept.
The Bluefords arrived at the September 18 City Council meeting with over 100 supporters to speak during open comments, recounting not only their heartbreak but also the endless unkept promises from the city and OPD. “I just want to know what happened to my son,” Adam Blueford, Alan’s father, both begged and demanded of the Council.
The Councilmembers, typically masters of evasion who are usually absorbed in their cell phones and magazines during public comments, suddenly all sat upright at full attention. Once it was clear the Bluefords were not going to walk away quietly without answers, City Administrator Deanna Santana went scurrying to find something to offer the Bluefords. Finally, it was announced that OPD Chief Howard Jordan was on his way to City Hall with the police report in hand – after refusing to release it for months.
This promise also evaporated within the hour after the Bluefords refused yet another closed-door meeting with Jordan, insisting he address the public in order to be held accountable. With no sign of either Jordan or the report, the Council attempted to resume with its first order of business – passing a resolution declaring Oakland an International City of Peace. This absurd resolution, from a city internationally known for the murder of Oscar Grant and the repression of Occupy Oakland, led to chants of “No Justice No Peace” and “Howard is a coward!” from both the Bluefords and the audience, many of whom were beaten and tear-gassed during those two movements. Continue reading
South Africa strikes spill into transport sector
The unrest has forced three leading platinum producers to halt mining operations on the richest deposits in the world
Unions representing an estimated 28,000 truckers said poor pay and conditions had prompted them to launch the latest in a rash of sometimes deadly strikes that threaten to spook investors and curb growth in the emerging nation.
Drivers are seeking a 12-percent wage increase for 2013 and 2014, more than the rate of inflation, which stands at 5.0 percent.
Last week President Jacob Zuma said stoppages in the mining sector in the past nine months had cost the economy close to 4.5 billion rand ($534 million, 415 million euros).
Firms in the transport and mining sectors on Tuesday tried to end the standoffs at the negotiating table, although progress appeared to be slow.
Road Freight Association spokesperson Magretia Brown said no deal had yet been reached with transport workers, but talks were ongoing.
Meanwhile Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) workers, who have been on a wildcat strike which is now on its second week, held their first day of talks.
The strike has shut down operations at the world’s top platinum producer.
“We expect Anglo American to come with something on the table and if they are unable to do that, the strike will continue and it will be the start of the (formal) strike,” said Gaddhafi Mdoda, a workers representative. Continue reading
Spain prepares more austerity, protesters battle police
By Tracy Rucinski and Paul Day, REUTERS
MADRID | Tue Sep 25, 2012
(Reuters) – Protesters clashed with police in Spain’s capital on Tuesday as the government prepared a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced on Thursday.
Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, a few meters from El Prado museum in central Madrid, where they formed a human chain around parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and more than 1,500 police in riot gear.
Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen.
As lawmakers started to leave the parliament shortly after 2100 GMT in official cars or by foot, a few hundred people were still demonstrating in front of the building. Most dispersed shortly afterwards.
The protest, promoted over the Internet by different activist groups, was younger and more rowdy than recent marches called by labor unions. Protesters said they were fed up with cuts to public salaries and health and education.
“My annual salary has dropped by 8,000 euros and if it falls much further I won’t be able to make ends meet,” said Luis Rodriguez, 36, a firefighter who joined the protest. He said he was considering leaving Spain to find a better quality of life. Continue reading
‘Drones causing mass trauma among civilians,’ major study finds
September 25th, 2012 | by Chris Woods
The near constant presence of CIA drones ‘terrorises’ much of the civilian population of Pakistan’s tribal areas according to a new report.
Men, women and children are subjected to almost constant trauma – including fear of attack, severe anxiety, powerlessness, insomnia and high levels of stress – says a nine month investigation into CIA drone strikes in Pakistan by two top US university law schools. More than 130 ‘victims, witnesses and experts’ were interviewed in Pakistan for the study.
A number of those eyewitnesses corroborated the Bureau’s own recent findings – that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by the CIA in the tribal areas.
The new study heavily challenges US government claims that few civilians have died in CIA drone strikes, saying that there is ‘significant evidence’ to the contrary.
As the report notes in its executive summary: ‘In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.’
by bravenewfoundation, http://www.warcosts.com/
Since 2004, up to 884 innocent civilians, including at least 176 children, have died from US drone strikes in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. A new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Many interviewees told the researchers they didn’t know what America was before drones. Now what they know of America is drones, death and terror. Continue reading
“Revoke ban on RDF”: Arundhati Roy
[The recent ban of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) in Andhra Pradesh is but the latest of many fascist moves by the Indian government against democratic and revolutionary activists. Arundhati Roy has joined a growing protest of this ban, as reported below.
Hyderabad, Indian Express News Service, Sept 24, 2012
Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy on Sunday demanded an immediate revoke of the ban imposed on Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) in the state.
Addressing the gathering at a meeting organised by the Viplava Rachaitala Sangham (Revolutionary Writers’ Association) against the ban, Roy termed the ban unconstitutional and urged the members to keep on with their struggle against state-sponsored violence. “RDF is not a armed organisation. It’s activities are in consonance with the Indian constitution. Then why is it banned?,” she questioned.
However, she said that the ban had indirectly helped the RDF in growing strong. “The ban has indirectly benefited the RDF. It has allowed it to grow stronger and the bond among it’s members and with the people grow deeper,” she said. She lauded RDF’s members for fighting for the human rights of the dalits and the adivasis in rural India.
“The ban has forced mass migration of RDF’s members from Hyderabad to either Delhi or to the rural parts of the state but still the organisation has grown stronger in the state capital, she said indicating to it’s swell of ranks during the first national conference of the RDF in Hyderabad on April this year. Continue reading
South Korea’s Boom Leaves Workers in the Dust
[Another report on the further globalization of exploitation and resistance–class struggle. — Frontlines ed.]
Monday September 24, 2012
By Michelle Chen, In These Times
South Korea is sometimes touted as an exemplar of capitalist progress in Asia–a sophisticated economy with global brands and an educated populace (not to mention a stunning contrast to its miserable Communist analog to the north). But the lives of South Korean workers tell a different story. In recent months, they’ve been slammed by a much-maligned free trade deal, tussled with Hyundai in a bitter strike, and, according to an international assessment, become examples of how an economic boom can be a bust for labor.
According to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), published as part of the World Trade Organization’s periodic Trade Policy Review, Korean workers have faced major challenges in organizing independent unions, and women, migrants, and other marginal workers face widespread discrimination and exploitation.
Though unionization is generally legal, in practice, labor activities are regularly suppressed by employers, and independent organizing may be preempted by “management-controlled” or “paper” unions. Restrictions on public-sector union activities–in the name of protecting the public–parallel the limits on labor activism imposed on U.S. civil servants, according to the report:
[T]here are numerous categories of public officials who are still denied their trade union rights, including managers, human resources personnel, personnel dealing with trade unions or industrial relations, and special public servants such as military, police, fire-fighters, politically-appointed officials, and high level public officials. … The law also prohibits public sector unionists from engaging in “acts in contravention of their duties prescribed in other laws and regulations when doing union activities”. This very broadly worded provision leaves the door open for abuses.
For any issue that isn’t limited to the workplace, including broader economic justice demands, the strike is simply not a tool available to activist workers:
Strikes are illegal if they are not specifically called for labour conditions, such as wages, welfare and working hours. In addition, given the complicated legal procedures for organising a strike, collective actions on labour conditions often become “illegal” for breach of procedure. Unauthorised strikers often are punished with imprisonment for one year or/and heavy fines.
The weakness of organized labor is accompanied by structural inequalities in the workforce. Like many other “developed” economy, migrant workers have streamed in to fill low-paid, less desirable jobs, generating a two-tiered workforce that leaves the poorest workers socially and politically marginalized:
The government has paid insufficient attention to workplaces that employ foreign workers as only 5 to 6 per cent of roughly 75,000 such workplaces were inspected by labour inspectors. Reportedly, in such workplaces there are numerous cases of sexual harassment of migrant women workers and differences in pay. Continue reading
Open letter of the Syrian Revolutionary left to support the Syrian popular revolution!
[The views and voice of the Syrian revolutionary left has been difficult to hear amidst the clamor of contending distortions by international media–whether Western, Russian, Chinese, or from within the Middle East. We are seeking more information from popular secular forces involved in the uprising–including more information about the revolutionary left forces. The following is an important statement and analysis by the Revolutionary Left in Syria, detailing the role and relations of the various forces within Syria and of the world imperialist and regional forces who have been attempting to seize control of the uprising. We will report further materials confirming and contextualizing this, as they become available. — Frontlines ed.]
“The major Western imperialists powers, and other world imperialist powers such as Russia and China, as well as regional ones such as Iran and Turkey, in their entirety and without exception, continue to try to implement a Yemeni-type solution in Syria – in other words, to cut off the head of the regime, the dictator Bashar Al Assad, while keeping its structure intact, as was witnessed during meetings between U.S. and Russian officials, or at the international conference in June 30 in Geneva. The only sticking point is the Russian position of still trying by all means to keep Assad in power, but Russia may sacrifice this in the near future to protect its interests in Syria. The United States in turn has repeatedly expressed its desire to preserve the structure of the military and security services intact.” — from the Open Letter of the Syrian Revolutionary left
The resistance of the Syrian people has not ceased to grow since the revolutionary process began in March 2011. The struggle of the Syrian people is part of the popular struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, which has spread to other countries in the region.
Similarly, the Syrian revolutionary process is part of the global anti-capitalist struggles. The “Indignados” or “occupied” movements and occupations have taken their inspiration from the Arab revolutions. More than 700 cities in over 70 countries have resonated and for some still resonate of slogans and demands of a movement that demonstrates against poverty and the power of finance. In the same time, the resistance of the Greek people against the dictates imposed by financial agencies and notations is also a battle for dignity and social justice, but also the emancipation against the capitalist order and not its submission, joining the struggles of the peoples of the region.
The Syrian uprising, arising out of the global financial and economic crisis is also a revolt against the neoliberal policies imposed by the authoritarian regime, and encouraged by international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB).
The neoliberal policies were used to dismantle and to weaken increasingly the public services in the country, to the removal of subsidies, especially for basic necessities, while accelerating the privatization process, often in favor of the ruling and bourgeois classes linked to the political power.
The neoliberal reforms of the regime have encouraged a policy based on the reception and the welcoming of foreign direct investment, the development of exports and of the service sector, especially tourism. The repressive apparatus of this country has served as a “security agent” for these companies, protecting them of all disorders or social demands. This State has played the role of matchmaker for foreign capital and multinationals, while ensuring the enrichment of a bourgeois class linked to the regime.
The ills and consequences of these neoliberal policies in Syria are numerous. This includes the high rate of unemployment, particularly among young university graduates who cannot find opportunities in an economy now focused on low value-added jobs, and where skilled labor is scarce, or characterized by underemployment, a direct consequence of these measures. Continue reading
2,000 Workers Riot At China’s Foxconn Factory
Unrest at the notorious factory where Apple manufactures many of its products injures 40 employees, reportedly stems from security guards beating a worker.
A fight among 2,000 factory workers broke out Sunday night at a Foxconn Technology Group factory dorm in China, NBC News reports.
The dorm brawl injured 40 people and shut down production Monday, Foxconn said in a statement. There have been reports in Chinese media that 10 people died, but the company has not confirmed any deaths.
The factory employs about 79,000 workers who make electronic components of automobiles and consumers products, including the Apple iPhone 5, according to Reuters.
Photos and videos of the aftermath were captured and shared on Chinese microblogging sites:
Foxconn said the incident began as a personal dispute around 11 p.m. and ended around 3 a.m. But word spread quickly on Chinese blogs that the fight may have been started by security guards who nearly beat a worker to death. Continue reading
As Apple Corp. approaches $1 Trillion in wealth, its Chinese production workers rebel
[The class struggle continues to sharpen on global scale. Simultaneous with the following news about “rioting” workers at Apple’s production contractor, Foxconn (in Taiyuan), the New York Times blog revealed that Apple Corporation, raking in super-profits from its intense marketing hype with iPhone 5, is now approaching $1 Trillion in wealth–a record among the largest capitalist corporations. As the NYT reported: “Apple could become the first company ever to be valued at $1 trillion.” Then they report that business analysts project the trillion-dollar milestone to be reached between 2013-2015. “Not long ago, Apple was a boutique PC maker. Since then, it has rolled over almost every company in its path, first with music players, then with cellphones and, more recently, with laptops. Nokia, Sony, Research in Motion, Dell and Hewlett-Packard have all watched open-mouthed as Apple took markets they thought were secured. Each time, Apple’s stock rose and their stock fell.” But the Times spoke only of Apple’s success over capitalist competitors, not of their successful exploitation of Chinese workers in oppressive factory conditions. The Chinese workers are struggling to make the point which the NYTimes will not.–Frontlines ed.]
Report: Riots break out at Foxconn factory in China
Reports early Monday from China suggest that a mass disturbance or riots may have broken out at a Foxconn factory in the Chinese city of Taiyuan.
It is still unclear what exactly happened, but posts on China’s popular twitter-like service, Weibo, from users in the area show photographs and video of large numbers of police in and around the factory – many in riot gear – blocking off throngs of people.
Other photos show debris strewn around the Foxconn compound and in one case, an overturned guard tower.
According to popular tech blog engadget, the disturbance kicked off after Foxconn security guards allegedly hit a worker around 10 p.m. on Sunday.
Censors in China have reportedly already started deleting pictures from the scene. Continue reading