Solidarity 071, 14 April 2005

Refugees and gypsies scapegoated in a race-hate election

By Rosalind Robson

For some months now the Tories and Labour have been trying to win votes by competing to see who can be the most “hardline” against asylum seekeers. More recently the Tories have added gypsies and travellers to their list of “undesirables”.

Michael Howard has probably beaten Tony Blair with his nasty populist election campaign. Now he is “out on the stump” spewing out his message — “It’s not racist to want to control immigration”; and “Let’s clamp down on illegal traveller sites.”

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Union activist jailed following convention

Dharmananda Panta, chair of a branch of the GEFONT trade union in Nepal, has been imprisoned for 90 days for trade union activity.

The authorities allege that his views had “hurt friendly relationships between neighbouring countries and disturbed peace in society”.

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Army assassinates agricultural workers

The Colombian army has assassinated three members of the agricultural workers trade union FENSUAGRO, from the town of San Juan de Sumapaz on the outskirts of the Colombian capital Bogotá.

On 18 March the men were travelling to another town to inspect some cattle, when they went missing. Some days later the Colombia media reported that the army had killed three guerrillas in the area and, on 27 March the families of the three men identified their bodies.

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160,000 strike over new laws

Around 160,000 members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions took industrial and protest action on 1 April. Some 120,000 workers at 231 workplaces struck for four hours.

The protest was over two new laws which the KCTU argue will clear the way for accelerated casualisation of Korea’s workforce. Some 60% of all Korean workers are now employed on “temporary” or “irregular” contracts.

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The anti-imperialism of fools

The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) has produce a withering attack on the fake “anti-imperialism” of Islamist forces across the globe. An article by Farooq Sulehria contains a sharp rejection of these forces. Although we disagree with the LPP’s views on some other “anti-imperialists” discussed in the article, we welcome their honest and uncompromising stance.

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Organising in the maquilas

Evangelina Argueta comes from the Central General de Trabajadores in Honduras and co-ordinates a project to organise the workers in the maquilas — factories which assemble goods for export. The maquilas are found in Mexico and Central America. They offer cheap labour, few labour or environmental regulations and low taxes. Products include clothes, electronic products and car parts. In Honduras 127,000 workers are employed in this sector.

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Pakistani women organise

On 11 April a group of women organised a demonstration outside Pakistan’s national parliament. They were protesting against a violent attack on female runners a week earlier.

On 3 April groups of Pakistani Islamists threw petrol bombs near to a mini-marathon involving women runners. Feminist activists and democrats in Pakistan are increasingly dismayed by the government's inability and unwillingness to deal with violence and intimidation by the Islamists.

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Letter to a student SWP member: Why are you joining the reactionaries?

Dear comrade,

On 7 April, at this year’s National Union of Students conference, Socialist Worker Student Society members, in alliance with the Islamist-dominated Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), organised a walkout in protest at the speech given by the Iraqi socialist, Houzan Mahmoud, who had been invited to conference as a guest speaker.

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A real rise of anti-semitism

On the final day of NUS conference, the two Union of Jewish Students members on NUS national executive, Luciana Berger and Mitch Simmons, resigned in protest at the NUS leadership’s failure to stand up to growing anti-semitism in the student movement. In addition to the Executive’s lack of response to a variety of anti-semitic comments and incidents over the last year, they might also have cited the political capitulation in search of votes, by NUS President Kat Fletcher and her allies to the MAB-supporting leadership of FOSIS. Yet their resignation statement met with scoffs from all parts of the political spectrum.

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Workers occupy a dozen farms

Members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) have occupied 12 farms in the state of Pernambuco, to try to pressure the government to speed up land reform. More than 5,000 families from the MST have moved on to the farms.

The MST say the Lula government had failed to live up to its election promises to have settled 400,000 families by 2007. The government has settled less than a quarter of that number. The land reform budget has been in order to repay debts.

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