Workers of the world

Submitted by Anon on 18 June, 2003 - 6:47

by Pablo Velasco

  • Peruvian unions defy state of emergency
  • Zimbabwe opposition strikes
  • Lula gets backing from right
  • Class struggle in Israel
  • Indonesian socialists to contest elections

Peruvian unions defy state of emergency

Thousands of trade unionists in Peru marched through the capital Lima last week in defiance of the government's state of emergency. In Arequipa, the second largest city, local leaders called a general strike to support the protest. There were protests in other major cities.

On 27 May President Toledo imposed the state of emergency in the midst of a rising wave of discontent and strikes by teachers, farmers, public health workers and court workers. The protests have been led by Peru's largest union federation, the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP).

Around 280,000 teachers went on strike on 12 May staying out for 24 days in a dispute over pay. Leaders of teachers' union SUTEP reached an agreement at the end of last week, with a promise to double teachers' pay by 2006. But the deal is still to be ratified by members of the union.

Peru has been the fastest growing Latin American economy over the last two years and has its lowest inflation rate in decades. The government says it cannot afford to pay workers a living wage because of promises it has made to the IMF.

Zimbabwe opposition strikes

Workers in Zimbabwe took five days of strike action at the beginning of June against Mugabe's government, as part of a "final push" organised by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The government admitted that the strikes on Monday and Tuesday were 80-90% successful in the capital Harare and in Bulawayo. But workers met fierce repression from police, who used rubber clubs, rifle butts, water cannon, tear gas and warning shots with live ammunition to disperse crowds.

At a clinic, where opposition supporters hurt in the demonstrations were being treated, police savagely attacked patients. In another incident, soldiers beat an opposition supporter to death. The MDC said 500 oppositionists were arrested. Although the repression drove oppositionists from the streets, many workers stayed at home and refused to work.

Some commentators argue that the MDC's "final push" lacked a clear strategy. The MDC says Mugabe should resign, or agree to a constitutional review.

Since 2001 more than 100 factories in Zimbabwe have closed, throwing more than 3,000 workers onto the streets. More jobs are expected to be lost as the economy spirals downwards. Unemployment is currently over 70% and eight million people, more than half Zimbabwe's population, need food aid.

Lula gets backing from right

At the end of May, Brazil's largest party, the Brazilian Democratic Party (PMDB) agreed to support President Lula da Silva's tax and pension plans in Congress, giving the government the majority it needs to pass the proposals.

The PMDB, which has more party members than the PT but fewer seats, supported the previous Cardoso government. It also backed Cardoso's candidate Jose Serra against Lula in the elections last year. The PMDB is expected to join the government later this year.

The alliance between the PMDB and the PT represents a further lurch to the right by Lula's government. It also makes it easier for Lula to bypass socialists within the PT who oppose to the government's austerity plans.

Class struggle in Israel

Last week thousands of Israeli public sector workers walked out in protest at pension reforms, disrupting services at government offices and local authorities. Dozens of flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport were delayed as part of the protests, as baggage-handling staff held a go-slow. Israel's ports were also disrupted.

The Histadrut union federation says it will organise another wave of public-sector strikes and demonstrations unless the government backs down.

The day before the pensions protests, police attacked workers from the Haifa Chemicals' southern plant, who had been blocking the entrance to the factory for two weeks. The blockade was set up after management refused to allow a workers' committee to be formed.

Indonesian socialists to contest elections

The People's Democratic Party (PRD) is to participate in next year's elections in Indonesia. The PRD says it wants an "alliance of groups fighting for democracy and social justice to gather alternative forces to challenge the ruling elite". It says the alliance should position itself against the IMF, the current Megawati government and the remnants of Suharto's old order. It wants "a road built by the strength of the poor masses" but does not spell out a specifically working class perspective for the campaign.

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