[This is another in series on electoral politics. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be the way democracy works, and people must vote for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests have been lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. As the 2016 election candidacies begin to control the political imaginations of millions, a fight-back begins to grow. In this report of a Black Lives Matter protest at a Bernie Sanders campaign event, a BLM leader says no politician deserves automatic support (but leaves open the option for later). — Frontlines ed.]
Economic Inequality Underlies Hong Kong Protests
Over the past week, the protesters in Hong Kong have focused on well-defined political demands, with full democratic elections and the resignation of Chief Executive C.Y. Leung at the top of the list. But protesters have also been driven to the streets by a variety of longstanding grievances, many of which stem from the economic inequality which has built up in Hong Kong society, putting the city at the top of The Economist’s “crony-capitalism index,” or list of “countries where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper.” The gini coefficient, which measures the gap between rich and poor, is at the highest levels ever for Hong Kong, according to a 2013 report from Bloomberg:
Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, rose to 0.537 in 2011 from 0.525 in 2001, the government said last June. The score, a high for the city since records began in 1971, is above the 0.4 level used by analysts as a gauge of the potential for social unrest.
Hong Kong’s close business ties to mainland China, especially since the handover in 1997, have exacerbated these inequalities. But as the recent protests show, economic issues are quickly becoming political for residents of Hong Kong who are missing out on the boom. Neil Gough reports for the New York Times:
China is grappling with a political problem in part because Hong Kong is dealing with an economic one. Underlying the current unrest in Hong Kong, an affluent city of 7.2 million that was a British colony for 155 years before it was returned to China in 1997, is a widening wealth gap. Continue reading
“Social unrest mars 2014 World Cup”
The Mercury, 23 May 2014
The city of São Paulo has been at the centre of repeated protests against the government’s R114bn spending, writes Lizzie Dearden
The city has been at the centre of repeated and sometimes violent protests against the government’s R114 billion spending on the World Cup when the money is so badly needed elsewhere.
“People already have the feeling and that image condensed this feeling,” Paulo Ito told slate.com.
“The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,” he said.
The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, recently made a throne speech, in which he spoke of the settlers who founded the country: “They dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers … reached a vast continent. They forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”
This genocidal logic finds its companion image in the photos released last week, of 700 heavily armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a stand-off in New Brunswick with the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and their allies, who are currently defending their lands from the predatory activities of a Houston-based company conducting shale gas explorations. Over the past days, peaceful protesters have been pepper-sprayed, shot at with rubber bullets, and more than 40 people have been arrested.
Earlier this month, a group of First Nations elders travelled to London to mark the 250th anniversary of the royal proclamation of 1763. They did so, in part, as a reminder of the existence of promises made by the British crown to the First Nations of Canada. Issued by King George III at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, the proclamation recognised that all unceded lands of Indians would be left as such until they were ceded by way of treaty with the British crown. The document thus recognised indigenous rights to their land and, at the same time, asserted the underlying crown title to all of Britain’s colonial possessions in what was to become Canada. The proclamation emerged at a time when the British crown and First Nations were negotiating treaties on a nation-to-nation basis. And in this paradox lies the heart of settler colonialism today: the recognition of indigenous rights on the basis of their prior occupation of the land, now enshrined in section 35 of the Canadian constitution, along with the ongoing assertion of colonial sovereignty. Continue reading
[The New York Times reports the Brazilian power elite’s attempts to attribute “blunders” — not mass resentment at religious and political arrogance, extravagance, and brutal repression — for the obvious breakdown of bourgeois authority and credibility in social and political life. — Frontlines ed.]
Pope Francis with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. Pope Francis, with a long history of support for repressive powers in Latin America, became an object of the ongoing mass protests against Dilma Rousseff’s corrupt and repressive regime — an unintended consequence of a visit planned to “fan the fervor of the faithful” and to distract the anger of the oppressed.
By SIMON ROMERO, New York Times, July 24, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis celebrated his first public Mass on Wednesday at one of Latin America’s largest shrines, asking Catholics to shun the “ephemeral idols” of material success, power and pleasure, but his visit to Brazil continued to be marked by tension over blunders by its Brazilian organizers.
The missteps began minutes after Francis arrived in Rio on Monday, when his small motorcade got stuck on a crowded thoroughfare, exposing the pope to a mob scene of people trying to touch him through the open window of his car. On Tuesday, Rio’s subway system broke down for two hours, leaving thousands gathered here for a conference of Catholic youth scrambling to reach a seaside Mass.
Rio’s political authorities have also faced scrutiny over their handling of street demonstrations around the pope’s visit. They acknowledged using undercover agents to infiltrate the protests but denied claims that their intelligence officers were to blame for violence, including the throwing of firebombs. Continue reading
[Another report on the further globalization of exploitation and resistance–class struggle. — Frontlines ed.]
Monday September 24, 2012
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
Published on Jun 25, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
The decision by Egypt’s electoral commission ends a week of uncertainty in a country without a parliament or a constitution, and a barely functioning economy. There is a new president, the country’s first elected leader. Mohammed Morsi, the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood. Is Egypt’s political limbo over? Guests: Hisham Kassem, Waleed El-Haddad, Adel Darwish.