International News

Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters gathered to commemorate International Workers Day on May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced he would call a constituent assembly, effectively remaking the country's constitution.

"Today, on May 1, I announce that I will use my presidential privileges as constitutional head of state in accordance with article 347, to convene the original constituent power so that the working class and the people can call a national constituent assembly," President Maduro said.

,

Venezuelan trade union leader Esmin Ramirez was killed on April 23 in Guayana City in the south-eastern state of Bolivar after being kidnapped in an act that people close to him say was politically motivated.

Ramirez was a member of the Movement 21 union in the state-run iron ore producer Ferrominera and a member of the governing United Socialist party of Venezuela (PSUV). The union leader was killed by several gunshots to the head. He had been kidnapped the night before.

A survey found a mass uprising against the Irish government would be joined by more than half of young people in the country, an April 26 Independent article said.

Fifty four per cent of 18-34-year-olds said they would take part in a “large scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months”.

The survey polled nearly 20,000 people in Ireland as part of the European Broadcasting Union’s Generation What? research.

It showed that about 76% viewed politicians as corrupt or partly corrupt.

“Labour is solidly ahead of the Conservatives with voters under 40 years old, despite being more than 20 points behind in the polls overall, according to a significant new poll,” The Independent said on April 26.

Over the past seven years of Hungary’s right-wing Viktor Orban regime, there were no strong protest waves — until now.

Every day, groups are popping up across Budapest demanding Orban resign. Every two-to-three days, masses gather to protest against new undemocratic laws proposed by the ruling Fidesz party in parliament.

The two biggest protests happened within just one week. The first major protest took place on April 9. It started as a protest against the so-called Lex CEU law that attacks academic freedom and ended with the masses marching on the Fidesz head office.

April 26 marked the 80th anniversary of the infamous aerial bombing of Gernika by the forces of General Francisco Franco in the fascists’ war against the Spanish Republic. The war began when Franco led a military rebellion against the legitimate, elected republican government in 1936, with the fascists eventually triumphing in 1939.

The Basque Country is a historically oppressed nation divided between the Spanish and French states. It was the scene of some of the worst fascist violence.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that the country will begin the process of exiting the Organization of American States (OAS).

The announcement came after the organisation's Permanent Council agreed on April 26 to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Venezuela, with 19 votes in favour, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.

Women took to the streeks of Caracas on April 27, demanding an end to violent opposition protests, Venezuelanalysis.com said that day. The rally was supported by dozens of women’s groups from across the country, after being called by the Minister of Women and Gender Equality, Blanca Eekhout.

“Sisters, let's go together to fill the streets with love in the defence of life,” Eekhout said ahead of the march. She added, “We will overcome!”

For more than two months, displaced Tamils have been camped outside a military base at Keappa-Pulavu in northern Sri Lanka. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken over by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

On April 24, Tamilnet said the Sri Lankan military has offered to return 30 acres of the 482 acres originally taken, while also giving the displaced people 90 acres of jungle.

Protestor Arumugam Velauthapillai responded: “We are not prepared to give up the protest until all our lands are released.” 

Less than three months into President Donald Trump’s reign we can already say that there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will soon be engaged in a nuclear war.

The threat is still remote, but the pieces are in place. An aircraft carrier group is en route to the Korean peninsula and anonymous sources have threatened a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

For the first time since France’s fifth republic was established in 1958, the presidential run-off to be held on May 7 won’t involve a candidate from either the traditional centre-left or centre-right parties.

Former investment banker and ex-government minister Emmanuel Macron (24%) and far right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen (21.3%) topped the results in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23.

Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it are.

Since April 4, right-wing opposition militants have carried targeted acts of violence, vandalism and arson. They are deliberately clashing with security forces in a bid to plunge the country into chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government.

It is the continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy.

Support for the more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which began on April 16, continues to grow across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite the more than 1500 prisoners on hunger strike getting almost no reaction from mainstream media.

More than 35 million people in Brazil launched one of biggest general strikes in the country’s history against President Michel Temer’s neoliberal reforms on April 28, bringing the country to a standstill.

The strike was largely organised by Unified Workers Central (CUT), the largest union federation in Latin America. It was backed by the Workers Party (PT) of Dilma Rousseff, the elected president overthrown in an institutional coup last year.

Dozens of other unions, grassroots groups teachers, church leaders and civil servants also threw their support behind the strike.

Turkish war planes launched air strikes against Syria and Iraq on April 24.

For months local and foreign forces have been closing in on the main ISIS strongholds: the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Turkey is a NATO member and recognised as an ally against ISIS by the US-led coalition of Western powers in Iraq and Syria, that includes Australia.

But the Turkish air strikes did not target ISIS. Instead, they were aimed at the terror group’s most consistent opponents — left-wing Kurdish-led revolutionary forces.

On April 25, 1945, the National Liberation Committee of Northern Italy (CLNAI), called for an insurrection against the Nazi-Fascist occupation of Italy.

Based in Milan, the Committee was led by (among others) Sandro Pertini, a key figure of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) who later became Italian president in 1978.

Pertini made the announcement to the “Italian citizens and workers”, declaring: “Nazi-Fascist occupation must be ended and Italy has to be liberated, so the invaders have to surrender or perish.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election for June 8.The Tory leader is hoping that Labour has been sufficiently weakened by the attacks of the right on Labour’s left-wing leadership around Jeremy Corbyn that she will be rewarded with a further five years in office.

It is, of course, a complete coincidence that rumours had started to emerge that the Crown Prosecution Service were about to move against 30 individuals for electoral fraud in the last general election, threatening the Conservative government.

The struggle to build a united left force with enough support to implement real social and environmental change took a crucial step forward in Barcelona on April 8.

On a bright spring day, the new Catalan “political subject” provisionally called Un Pais En Comu (“A Country Together”) held its founding congress.

The group, whose definitive name will be decided by membership referendum, is the third Catalan left unity project with “en comu” (“together”) in its title.

On April 25, 1945, the National Liberation Committee of Northern Italy (CLNAI), called for an insurrection against the Nazi-Fascist occupation of Italy.

Based in Milan, the Committee was led by (among others) Sandro Pertini, a key figure of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) who later became Italian president in 1978.

Pertini made the announcement to the “Italian citizens and workers”, declaring: “Nazi-Fascist occupation must be ended and Italy has to be liberated, so the invaders have to surrender or perish.”

One hundred years ago, on May 7, 1917, the following declaration appeared on the front page of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda under the title, “Draft of a mandate for use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies”. 

This “mandate” marked the first appearance of the slogan “All power to the Soviets” in an official party statement.

The Soviets emerged out of the February Revolution that year, which succeeded in overthrowing the Tsar. The Soviets were based on elected delegates of workers, soldiers and peasants.

Balochistan, in Pakistan’s south-west, is the site of an intense struggle for self-determination that has been met with violent repression from the Pakistani state. Baloch Students Organisation-Azad (BSO-A), which organises for Baloch self-determination, released the statement below calling for justice for Baloch activist Zahid Baloch, who was abducted in 2014.

***

Four years ago this month, a former bus driver with humble working-class origins became the president of Venezuela. 

Promising to continue the revolutionary legacy of deceased former president Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro pledged to advance the living standards of Venezuela’s poor and oppressed. 

But since taking office in 2013, Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution his government leads have faced non-stop attacks from Venezuela’s US-backed right-wing opposition, making advancements difficult.

“War aids capitalism, those who support capitalism support war, that is, the philosophy of death and destruction,” Boliva’s left-wing President Evo Morales said on April 18.

Morales warned that humanity was “at risk of disappearing in a nuclear holocaust,” as tensions mount worldwide after US military attacks in Syria and Afghanistan.

“Nuclear power in the United States and Western countries are getting us dangerously closer to a nuclear conflagration.”

Hundreds of cities took part in a worldwide “March for Science” to coincide with Earth Day on Saturday. Grouping together local and international environmental issues, the demonstrations championed science, research and evidence in the face of political inaction toward the environment and climate change and increasing steps by taken by Donald Trump’s attacks on science and planet.

The US is looking to increase support for the Saudi Arabia-led war on Yemen, officials said on April 19 — a move some see as another signal that President Donald Trump is itching to take the US to a new war.

KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks workers wenton strike across new Zealand on April 22 after negotiations broke down over a new collective agreement.

“Yesterday Restaurant Brands announced  profits of $26 million and they have paid their CEO a million dollar bonus. Tomorrow the workers who actually make and sell their products have to go on strike to get a few cents above the minimum wage” said Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir said on April 21. 

French Guiana, in South America, and the French West Indies, in the Caribbean, could join the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America (ALBA), if left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were to win France’s presidential election.

ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004 as an alternative to neoliberal free trade agreements, and now includes 11 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

The movement behind weeks of social unrest in French Guiana, a French colony in South America of about a quarter of a million people, said on April 17 it would extend protest actins until the government signs a draft accord on an emergency financial package and reopens talks on further funds.

The Collective to Get Guiana Moving summed up its demands in a seven-page draft sent to the government on April 16. If accepted the movement said it would “suspend the movement in its present form”.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favoured a more militarised foreign policy. They differed on the main target: Clinton aimed at Russia, while Trump singled out China.

Clinton wanted to continue the policy of both Republican and Democratic administrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union of steadily expanding NATO up to Russia’s borders in Europe. She also proposed challenging Russia in Syria.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of the capital on April 19 in huge pro-government rallies marking the country’s independence day. 

Thousands of right-wing opposition also took to the streets in often violent protests. The day after the large pro- and anti-government marches, more right-wing violence broke out. The government accused opposition protesters of attacking public institutions, including a maternity hospital, on April 20. Ten people were also confirmed dead after a riot in Caracas.

A record number of Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners’ Day on April 16.

More than 1500 prisoners are taking part in the largest mass hunger strike in recent years. Marwan Barghouti, sentenced by Israel to five life sentences, is leading a renewed campaign to draw attention to the conditions Palestinian prisoners face.

It also aims to highlight the oppressive nature of Israel’s colonial occupation that makes arrests of Palestinian people all but inevitable.

HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag

Thousands of opposition supporters chanted, “We know we won, we know they lost, we are not afraid”, in the streets of major cities after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in the April 16 referendum to strengthen presidential power. 

Late in the evening police attacked opposition demonstrators outside the headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Shock followed by surprise followed by upset. The French presidential election, whose first round is April 23, is yet another expression of the political volatility produced by the aftershocks of the biggest economic recession since the 1930s and the incapacity of both neo-liberalism and social democracy to maintain support for their pro-austerity governments.

Trump doubles US air strikes on Yemen

The United States administration of Donald Trump has so far carried out at least 70 air strikes in Yemen, TeleSUR English said on April 4, more than twice as many as those carried out last year under the Barck Obama administration, according to data provided by the Pentagon.

In January last year, many thousands of academics around the world signed the statement “We will not be a party to this crime”, which called for peace in Turkey.

The statement was issued in solidarity with courageous academics in Turkey who had formed the Academics for Peace group and were working for an end to state terror in Turkish Kurdistan. The group pushed for the resumption of peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdish liberation movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

As Venezuela and its elected left-wing government faces a series of violent right-wing protests, attacks from the right across the region and threats from the United states, a range of left-wing and solidarity groups in the Asia-Pacific region released the statement below on April 19.

* * *

In defence of the Bolivarian process against right-wing counterrevolution: No to foreign intervention in Venezuela!

In light of the latest extreme attacks on the LGBTIQ+ community in Chechnya, Russia, which United Nations human rights experts have called “unprecedented”, English group Left Unity released the following statement on April 14.

***

Participants at the Party of the European Left's Third Mediterranean conference in Malaga.

The Party of the European Left (PEL), which is made up of left groups across Europe, held its Third Mediterranean conference in Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain, from March 31 to April 2.

The three-day gathering brought together left-wing, socialist, anti-imperialist and anti-austerity parties from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Presenting himself as a genuine alternative to the far-right candidate National Front and free-market candidates Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron, left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon who has surged into third sport in France's presidential race, whose first round is set for April 23. The Left Party's Melenchon pitched himself as the candidate for peace and solidarity across borders at a mass meeting on April 8 attended by 70,000 supporters in Marseille.

A March 10 trial court judgement acquitted 117 workers from Maruti Suzuki’s automobile factory in Manesar, Gurgaon, India of charges of murder. Eighteen workers were convicted of minor offences.

However, 13 workers – all leaders of the Maruti union – were found guilty of murder. The Maruti workers plan to appeal the verdict in the High Court.

Why are workers being jailed for murder? The story at Maruti is a familiar one in India’s industrial scene.

Where unionisation is a crime

Pages