January 15, 2011
From People's Voice
By Stephen Von Sychowski
The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students, hosted last month in Tshwane, South Africa, shone a spotlight on the struggle of Western Sahara, Africa's last colony. Delegates from the Polisario Front national liberation movement addressed the Festival's Anti‑Imperialist Court to denounce the crimes of Morocco, which has brutally occupied Western Sahara for decades.
The origins of the Polisario Front go back to 1971, when Sahrawi university students in Morocco organized The Embryonic Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el‑Hamra and Rio de Oro. In 1973, the group relocated to Spanish‑occupied Western Sahara and prepared for armed rebellion. On May 10 of that year, the Polisario Front was formed with the aim of forcing an end to Spanish colonialism through armed struggle.
In 1975, the fascist Spanish government of Francisco Franco began negotiations with Morocco and Mauritania to hand over its colonial subjects to its regional friends. By 1976, the Madrid Accords had been signed between the three countries. Spain departed Western Sahara while Morocco and Mauritania moved in.
The Polisario Front continued its guerilla war against the new occupiers, refusing to accept the notion that one set of occupiers is better than another. They also guarded fleeing refugees escaping occupied cities. The Polisario's strength grew immensely during this period, despite Morocco's bombing of refugee camps, and the assassination of Polisario leader El Ouali.
Meanwhile, Mauritania struggled to hold on to control. They received a helping hand from French imperialism in the form of air force attacks on Polisario columns. But Polisario attacks both within Western Sahara and Mauritania ultimately wore down military morale and crippled Mauritania's economy, leading to a coup d'état.
The coup leaders moved to sign a cease fire with the Polisario Front. By 1979, a peace treaty led to the departure of Mauritanian forces and recognition of the rights of the Sahrawi people. King Hassan II of Morocco then moved unilaterally to annex the territories previously occupied by his formed ally.
During the mid‑1980's, desperate to fend off Polisario attacks, Morocco erected a massive wall protecting the main economic centres of Western Sahara. The wall was then staffed by a military force nearly a large as the Sahrawi population itself. The wall separated families and physically closed the Sahrawi out of the economy of their own country. Despite this, the struggle for liberation continued and attacks against the occupying forces did not end.
In 1991, a UN sponsored cease‑fire came in to effect with the promise of a referendum the following year on the question of Western Sahara's independence from Morocco. But the referendum has never been held and the process remains stalled.
Meanwhile, the Polisario Front continues to carry out a campaign of peaceful struggle against the Moroccan occupation. More recently, the Moroccan government put forward a new proposal in 2007 that "self government" could be granted through its Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs governing the area with a degree of autonomy. Naturally this proposal quickly garnered the support of imperialist powers such as France and the United States, but has not won over the Polisario Front which continues to demand full independence.
Since 1979 the Polisario Front has been recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, although Polisario's real legitimacy comes from the mass support of the Sahrawi people.
South Africa and over 50 other countries today recognize the legitimacy of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which exists across the areas of Western Sahara not behind Morocco's wall. Included in these countries are socialist Cuba, and all the socialist countries of the world.
Missing from the list is our own country, Canada, which shamefully claims neutrality on the issue.
Last October, thousands of Sahrawis left the occupied city of Laayoun and established the Gdaim Izik protest camp by setting up tents in the desert. The camp soon swelled to 25,000 people and quickly garnered international attention.
On October 30, Tiago Vieira, President of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, along with several journalists and elected representatives from Spain, was detained and expelled from Morocco upon attempting to visit the camp to witness the situation first hand. No journalists or independent observers have been allowed by Moroccan authorities to visit the camp. This is probably due to the fact that it has been subject to attacks by Moroccan forces which killed at least one and wounded hundreds. Eyewitnesses state that Moroccan security forces targeted women, children, and the elderly in particular. But despite violence and repression, the struggle continues.
Western Sahara has been relatively unknown to most people in Canada and many other countries. Perhaps its prominent place in a massive gathering of over 15,000 youth and students from around the world will help to change that and add more voices to the struggle for freedom in Western Sahara.
By Johan Boyden
DEC. 13 - The opening ceremonies of the World Festival of Youth and Students wrapped up with a bang, as fireworks exploded over a large sports stadium in a township outside Pretoria. Delegates had just heard President Zuma welcome them to South Africa, and the leader of the African National Congress Youth League called for free public education and putting the economy under the people's control.
Some delegations are still in arrival. The opening gates and registration are a flurry of activity as youth people from all over Africa, but also Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America enter the Festival looking tired but excited.
At the Festival grounds, around the Tshwane University of Technology and the Tshwane Fair grounds, there are some logistical challenges, but a great mood of friendship and solidarity as young people from diverse backgrounds and different ideologies gather.
A word picture for readers is not adequate.
Picture a street closed from traffic flowing with young people of all nationalities and peoples, some draped with national flags, others wearing sports jackets in their country's colours, or just casual shorts and t‑shirts. Suddenly a group of South African youth, about fifteen, appear from around the corner of the building in a quick‑step run. Their fists are in the air and their voices fill the space with a powerful yet beautiful struggle song in one of South Africa's many national languages.
The delegation gets larger and their chants echo off the big festival hall buildings. Young people join in and follow them. Then another delegation appears with a giant banner - Our country will never again be a colony, it proclaims. The chanting and singing grows. In the background are giant, red, Vietnamese flags.
The South African sunshine is slipping away and bold thunderstorms appear on a horizon of small rolling hills with a beige dried grass. The rain falls and people rush indoors. Turning into a large hall, young people are seated behind a main podium discussing peace, sovereignty and social transformation in their respective countries. The current speaker from Bahrain is declaring the need to break with US imperialism in the Middle East with a series of lengthy but powerful slogans.
There are problems with translation and the delegates are hungry because the food has not yet arrived, but people are excited. Everyone has stories of new countries they have just met, what they have told them, gifts exchanged.
The rain has ended and back out on the street a bus has stopped. Suddenly Latin American music blares as the delegates get off and a dance party appears in the street, joined by a crowd of small South African children dancing with the delegates. As the music fades the scene seems to almost blur in the heat, but the diversity and energy of this tremendous event, the largest anti-imperialist gathering of youth and students in the world, becomes clear.
The delegations from Africa are the largest. There are big groups from Angola, Zimbabwe, Libya, Algeria, and South Africa, but also smaller delegations from countries like Senegal, Mozambique, and Egypt. There are also sizable delegations from Sri Lanka, India, the Democratic Republic of Korea, Spain, France, Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.
Forty young delegates are attending from Canada, including youth activists from the Canadian Federation of Students, the Québec solidaire political party, numerous local student organizations, several locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Palestine solidarity activists, queer youth, young Métis and First Nations delegates, Québequoise youth and the Young Communist League of Canada.
In the opening ceremonies the All‑Canada delegation proudly marched behind a banner demanding that a better Canada is possible, and with flags from Québec, Aboriginal nations including the red Mohawk Unity Flag, and the Canadian flag.
We are learning that the young people all over the world do not accept the miserable future offered them by capitalism and imperialism. They yearn for a new world and a different social order, that puts people first. They are from Spain, talking about the strikes and protests. Iraqi Kurds, talking about ending the occupation and the fight for peace. They are U.S. delegates who denounce their country's foreign policy. They are from Nepal and talking about the struggle to defeat the monarchy and now win democracy and for socialism.
People's Voice will feature interviews from the festival in subsequent issues. Already young socialists and communists from diverse countries such as Palestine, Western Sahara, the United Arab Emirates, Hungry, Paraguay and Vietnam have been interviewed about struggles in their country.
BCGEU members hoping mediation efforts will help with a first collective agreement without having to walk off the job.
Vancouver (14 Jan. 2011) - Members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) who work for ProTrans, the operator of the Canada Line, have voted 95% in favour of a strike to back their bargaining committee if necessary to negotiate a fair contract.
The vote sends a strong message that Canada Line workers are serious about getting a first collective agreement with the company.
The union plans to apply for mediation services to assist with the talks before making any decision on job action. Regular updates will be posted on the BCGEU website.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
- R.Y. eds.
January 14, 2011
Reprinted from Metro Vancouver
There’s no place for war in sports, said a group of hockey fans who plan to campaign outside of Rogers Arena Saturday.
The new Vancouver-based group, Hockey Fans For Peace, stemmed from the war talk of Don Cherry, a hockey-broadcasting icon known for his forthright style, during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.
“As a sports fan, I’m deeply offended,” said Kimball Cariou, the group’s spokesman, of Cherry using HNIC as a platform to express his support of the troops in Afghanistan.
And Cherry says he’s just that: Pro-troops. Not pro-war.
“You don’t see me saying war is good and people getting killed is good,” Cherry told Bill Good during his CKNW radio show on Thursday.
“But while the troops are there you have to support them — that’s the way I see it.”
The group, however, views it otherwise.
“The best way to support those troops is to bring them home,” Cariou said.
Sports culture doesn’t have to mean rough-and-tough and firing guns, he said.
Wearing T-shirts with crossed hockey sticks and a “peace puck” on the front, the group plans to gather outside of Rogers Arena Saturday during the Canucks game with the Detroit Red Wings.
The game will be broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada.
“Our intent,” Cariou said, “is to tell people it’s OK to be against the war if you like hockey.”
January 12, 2011
The National Union has a long history in the Canadian labour movement. Our work with our colleagues within the House of Labour has helped shape the face of the labour movement. We are proud of our contribution.
The work of our leadership and activists with the Canadian Labour Congress, the provincial Federations of Labour and the district Labour Councils has improved the lives of thousands of working families.
The ability to play an important role in labour centrals is based on mutual respect for, and adherence to, the bargaining relationships that affiliated unions have established on behalf of their members. The work of labour centrals, unions united around shared principles, goals and collective action, cannot happen in the shadow of raiding.
Raiding is much more than a local disagreement between affiliates. It has a negative impact on the CLC, Federations of Labour, Labour Councils, other unions and the members in parts of the country that are not involved in the dispute in any way.
We are encouraged that the CLC convened a meeting in December of labour leaders to discuss the issue. It was a productive meeting and we believe there is an opportunity for real progress on the issue. We are hopeful.
We commend the leadership of CLC affiliates for the commitment they have made to find a resolution to a practice that destroys labour unity.
We will work hard with our CLC colleagues to find a solution. We are committed to the issue. We are committed to the process. We are committed to the House of Labour.
Zapatista's deny accusations of connection to kidnapping of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos which are currently being used as possible pretext for aggression by the Mexican regime.
(This document was originally posted in Spanish on the Enlace Zapatista page and is translated into English by Schools for Chiapas.)
On January 1, 2011 some National and International newspapers began to circulate a story, based on a note received by the Spanish news agency EFE from “a faithful member of the insurgent forces of the EZLN”, which attributed responsibility for the kidnapping of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos to the EZLN. The confused story spread by the Spanish news agency also accused several collectives of the Other Campaign of being co-conspirators of the aforementioned kidnaping, and cited various web pages and old communications, in public circulation and available to all on the web, as places to seek evidence for this accusation against the Zapatistas.
Well ok, the “communication” made its way to the inbox of our web-page in its complete form and, one way or another, it also arrived in the hands of different journalists who reported and published it. Suffice to say, the letter on which the story is based should make it completely obvious to any reader that linking the origin of the letter to the EZLN is impossible. Come on! Inconsistencies abound throughout the document and it is clear that whoever wrote it was seeking prominence, generating confusion and serving the interests of power.
The Other Campaign is a civil, pacifist and political movement. It has been this way since it’s inception and it has moved and acted as such throughout these long years. It has never resorted to kidnappings to obtain resources nor to make political statements.
Similarly, it is well known that the EZLN has demonstrated, in its’ history and practices throughout 27 years, from its inception until this day, it does not carry out kidnappings. It is against their principals. For this reason, the EZLN has neither the development nor the organizational structure nor the physical infrastructure to undertake these types of actions. From the year 1994 when the Zapatistas declared a cease fire, in order to give an opportunity to construct a just and dignified peace, they have kept their word. This can not be said about the Mexican government that has politically, economically, and militarily attacked from the 1st of January in ’94 until this day.
Because of this, it is clear, and once again we reiterate, that neither the EZLN nor the Other Campaign carry out kidnappings. Neither the EZLN nor the Other Campaign kidnaped Diego Fernandez de Cevallos.
If anyone sympathizes with or considers kidnapping politically correct, they have no place in the Other Campaign. The “Warrior Ballam” as he calls himself and to whom we have already referred has already had his 15 minutes of fame. Some reporters reprinted fragments of his writings and placed them on their front pages. You can enjoy them. In the meantime, the communities of Zapatista indigenous suffer a new increase in aggressions as a result of this type of opportunistic political incident. This is the true danger brothers and sisters; we will continue to be vigilant regarding this new provocation against our Zapatista companions.
Por Enlace zapatista, Javier Elorriaga, Sergio Rodríguez Lascano.
México, a 2 de enero del 2011.
LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR RELEASE SAHARAN POLITICAL PRISONERS
I am following with utmost concern the degrading situation of human rights that the people living under Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara as a result of the repressive system in place in the territory of Western Sahara through the deployment of multiple units to abuse, kidnapping and torturing peaceful demonstrators Sahrawis, as the persecution and harassment of human rights defenders, preventing the exercise of their fundamental rights and free expression of their legitimate rights to self-determination.
I am also concerned about the alarming situation experienced by dozens of Sahrawi political prisoners in the prisons of El Ayoun, Ait Meloul, Tiznit, Inzegan, Taroudanet, Salé and Kenitra. These prisoners were tortured, interrogated, subjected to unfair trials and sentenced for illegally, have been internationally recognized as prisoners of conscience.
Faced with this grave situation of abuse and violations of their fundamental rights contrary to international conventions and international humanitarian law, requires:
The immediate and unconditional release of ALL SAHARAN POLITICAL PRISONERS.
SIGN THE LETTER HERE
January 11, 2011
People's Voice Editorial
The Jan. 8 massacre at a "meet the voters" event held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has ripped the mask from the face of ultra‑right demagogy. It is clear that the bullets fired by Jared Loughner were aimed at several targets: women who dare to challenge the misogynist ideology of male supremacy, immigrants and racialized people, and anyone who disputes the rabid "Tea Party" line. Perhaps the most critical target is the concept of democracy itself.
This is not to argue that the United States is a genuinely democratic society, or that Rep. Giffords is truly a "progressive". But for many years, ultra-right forces have made increasingly overt threats against any opposition. The election of a non‑Republican African‑American president and the adoption of even some timid measures to expand health care coverage have inspired this neo-fascist movement to mobilize against the limited forms of democracy which remain in the USA. Far from being a grassroots reaction, this movement is funded by the most reactionary, aggressive, militarist sections of US finance capital. One vicious example is Sarah Palin, who emerged from the murky ranks of the "militia" movements to the top leadership of the Republican Party, with the backing of energy and arms industry corporations. A website linked to Palin implicitly urged this crime, placing gunsights on a map of the districts of 20 Democratic politicians, including Gabrielle Giffords.
The smug idea that "it could never happen here" is disproven by Canadian history. But the drift towards the destruction of democracy is not inevitable. What's needed is a powerful mass movement, led by the working class and its allies, to win a program of truly progressive and democratic social reforms. This, not despair or cynicism, must be our response to the murders in Tucson.
First round of elections held for Cuba's sixth party congress
Cuba's governing Communist Party (CCP) has started to elect pre-delegates to its sixth party congress.
On Monday Cuban First Vice-President of the Council of State Jose Machado expressed hope that party members with economic expertise will be picked.
He said they could "help with their work experience" in discussions on streamlining the country's socialist economic model.
The April congress is expected to pass a series of reforms laid out in a set of draft guidelines on economic and social policy, which are currently being discussed by the 850,000 cadres of the CCP and the public in mass meetings at workplaces and in neighbourhoods.
Delegates will be elected next month from the pool of pre-delegates.
A report in Cuban state media today noted that the congress coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
January 10, 2011
International Action Center statement on the Arizona shootings and the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
Joint statement from Tucson and New York City offices of the IAC
January 9, 2011
The Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords should rightfully be termed a political assassination attempt. The planned murder attempt, which took the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old child, takes place in a political climate of extreme racism, anti-immigrant terror, and fear-mongering that the right-wing, their politicians and pundits have been stoking for more than a decade.
It is part of the calculation of the ruling elite in this country to fan the flames of division, racism, and reactionary thinking in order to divert people’s attention from the economic crisis. The attempt on the life of a member of Congress is a direct by-product of the economic crisis.
The infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, anti-immigrant law SB1070, the outlawing of Ethnic Studies programs in public schools, the escalating militarization of the border -- this is what laid the basis for the events of Jan. 8. “Hate radio” talk-show hosts, like Tucson’s Jon Justice, along with nationally known bigots like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck, in their on-air rants continually use language encouraging violent acts.
The assassination attempt is also directly related to the policy of border militarization. “These senseless deaths are the result of a border policy that has been building since 1994,” stated Isabel Garcia, an immigrant rights activist and community leader with Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson. “This has propelled the growth of fear, hate and violence. Over 5,000 migrant deaths, shootings and continuing violence are a direct result of this policy.”
The rise of the right-wing rhetoric encouraged by many mainstream government and political forces and incessantly promoted by the media is meant to divert the people of this country from the real problems at hand: unemployment, deepening cuts to education and social services, attacks on public service workers and unions, continuing foreclosures and evictions, and other dire conditions.
The powers that be -- Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington -- allow and foster this right-wing rhetoric to fan the flames of division in society. They utilize this division to try to keep people's attention away from the real culprits behind the deepening economic catastrophe and budget cuts facing the workers and poor: Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington.
The increasing number of heavily-armed Border Patrol agents roaming the desert areas adjacent to the border wall has resulted in two fatal shootings within the last two weeks alone. Each of these events involved a large group of Border Patrol agents and a shooting spree. The first incident left a Border Patrol agent dead, while the most recent incident resulted in the death of a 17-year-old Mexican youth who was shot while trying to scale the border wall. Homeland Security will not provide any further details on either shooting.
Shooter was encouraged to commit this act
The militarization of the border and the actions of the racist Minutemen are just two examples of the climate that led to the Jan. 8 massacre. This was not the action of a "mentally unstable" youth "acting alone." It was the action of someone who has been given the signal that these kinds of violent and deadly attacks are needed. It was the action of someone who was encouraged to act as he did.
For example, Giffords retained her seat last November by a narrow margin in a campaign against Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly. Fundraisers were held by Kelly where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully-loaded M-16 rifle. He was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
Giffords was among the candidates that Sarah Palin targeted for removal in the last election. Palin depicted these targets on her website by placing the crosshairs of a gun sight over the congressional district of the “target.”
A town-hall meeting on health care that Giffords hosted in the spring of 2010 was disrupted by Tea Party bigots, one of whom dropped a weapon out of his pants. The night after the health-care vote in Congress, Gifford’s office was vandalized by kicking or shooting out a glass door and window.
Arizona Congressperson Raul Grijalva received death threats after he called for a boycott of Arizona in response to the passage of SB1070. His office also had windows shot out during the fall election campaign.
At about the same time on Jan. 8 as the shooting, the Cesar Chavez building at the University of Arizona was vandalized. This building is home to the university’s Mexican-American Studies program.
Time to step up the struggle
The youth who pulled the trigger, Jared Lee Loughner, is being portrayed by the media as a "mentally unstable lone gunman," solely responsible for this act. According to Paul Teitelbaum of the IAC in Tucson: "The blame lies squarely with the racist, anti-immigrant forces that have been steadily escalating their war against the immigrant and Latino/a communities in Arizona. Billions have been spent to militarize the border, terrorize communities and sow confusion and division among workers, youth and poor people.
"What if the assassin had been Latino/a, a Muslim or another person of color? Martial law would have immediately been imposed in Tucson. The banks, private prison companies and military contractors are raking in millions of dollars off the situation in Arizona, while the people suffer. This must be stopped," concluded Teitelbaum.
Teresa Gutierrez, national co-coordinator of the IAC, stated: "Events in Tucson on Jan. 8 demonstrate that the progressive, union, anti-war and immigrant rights movements must ratchet up the struggle. The media give an enormous amount of time and air waves every time the right-wing sneezes, while progressive events get ignored. This fosters acts like Jan. 8. But history shows that when the people are in motion by the tens of thousands, we can push back the powers-that-be as well as the rightwing. The people can and will prevail."
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