February 12, 2011

Cuba and international solidarity

Angolan leader Augustino Neto and Fidel Castro in Cuba

By Stephen Von Sychowski

Cuba is known around the world for its feats of international solidarity. Today it is a sort of medical super-power, sending doctors across the globe to help those in need. But during the struggle against colonialism and apartheid in Africa, Cuba played one of the most p...rominent roles of any non-African country on the side of freedom and national liberation.

Unfortunately it is not common knowledge that while the United States backed racist South Africa, Cuba sent tens of thousands of volunteers, as well as tanks, artillery, and other military hardware to aid the liberation armies.

The best known battle is that of Cuito Cuanavale, where 95,000 Cubans joined with Angolan troops and Namibian SWAPO guerillas to smash a 1987-88 offensive against independent Angola by the South African Defense Force (SADF) and their US-backed UNITA allies.

But 33 years ago, in a lesser-known altercation, Cuba helped to stop a brutal massacre of men, women, and children by the South African Defense Force in the southern Angolan town of Cassinga.

Cassinga was the site of a refugee camp, established by the Namibian South West African People's Organization (SWAPO). On May 4, 1978, it came under airborne attack and bombing from South African planes. Paratroopers quickly overran the surprised SWAPO troops, leaving hundreds of civilian refugees defenseless.

The Cubans were stationed nearby at Techamutete. When news of the attack reached them, they immediately set off to engage the aggressors. When the South Africans intercepted news of the Cuban advance, they evacuated some of their forces, leaving the rest to finish their "mopping up" operations, and search for intelligence.

The Cubans arrived, and a battle ensued. 150 Cuban soldiers lost their lives, giving Cassinga the unfortunate distinction of the highest casualty rate of any battle during Cuba's military involvement in Angola. But what the Cubans discovered after the fighting subsided was even more horrifying.

The South Africans fled in disarray, leaving behind 40 prisoners of war whom they had intended to kidnap for interrogation and almost certain torture and death. Cassinga was largely destroyed. The massacre and the battle which followed lasted only nine hours, but left 624 dead and 611 wounded. Among the dead were 167 women, and 298 teenagers and children.

The leader of SWAPO, Sam Nujoma, addressed the United Nations Security Council on May 6. He condemned the invasion of Angolan territory, and the massacre of Namibian refugees. The Council passed Resolution 428, which condemned apartheid and its occupation of Southwestern Africa, while commending Angola's support for the Namibian people.

The SADF later claimed that Cassinga had been a SWAPO military base, not a refugee camp. While there was a military presence, it was primarily civilians who were present and who were ultimately massacred. The government of Namibia established a day of remembrance, Cassinga Day, marked every May 4th.

But Cuba's involvement in Cassinga did not end with the South African retreat. Cuba welcomed survivors, mostly women and children, to its country for recovery and medical treatment. Many stayed and were enrolled in schools where they received the education they were denied back home. Some eventually graduated from Cuban Universities. One, Grace Uushona, even went on to become the Namibian Ambassador to Cuba.

Today Cuba is under a renewed propaganda assault, led by North American and European imperialist governments. Media stories which depict US-paid "dissidents" as freedom fighters, while painting Cuba as a dark, repressive, and anti-democratic country are the norm. But these distortions can't hide the fact that it was Cuba, not imperialism, which stood with the people of Africa during their struggle for independence. Cuba, not imperialism, stands with the oppressed people of the world today.

(The above article is from the Feb. 15-28, 2011, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

Nelson Mandela's speech on release from Prision

Friends, Comrades, and Fellow South Africans:

I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release.

I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners.

I salute the African National Congress. It has fulfilled our every expectation in its role as leader of the great march to freedom.

I salute our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo, for leading the ANC even under the most difficult circumstances.

I salute the rank and file members of the ANC. You have sacrificed life and limb in the pursuit of the noble cause of our struggle.

I salute combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, like Solomon Mahlangu and Ashley Kriel who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of all South Africans.

I salute the South African Communist Party for its sterling contribution to the struggle for democracy. You have survived 40 years of unrelenting persecution. The memory of great communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for generations to come.

I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our finest patriots. We are heartened by the fact that the alliance between ourselves and the Party remains as strong as it always was.

I salute the United Democratic Front, the National Education Crisis Committee, the South African Youth Congress, the Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses and COSATU and the many other formations of the Mass Democratic Movement.

I also salute the Black Sash and the National Union of South African Students. We note with pride that you have acted as the conscience of white South Africa. Even during the darkest days in the history of our struggle you held the flag of liberty high. The large-scale mass mobilization of the past few years is one of the key factors which led to the opening of the final chapter of our struggle.

I extend my greetings to the working class of our country. Your organized strength is the pride of our movement. You remain the most dependable force in the struggle to end exploitation and oppression.

I pay tribute to the many religious communities who carried the campaign for justice forward when the organizations for our people were silenced.

I greet the traditional leaders of our country - many of you continue to walk in the footsteps of great heroes like Hintsa and Sekhukune.

I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you, the young lions. You, the young lions, have energized our entire struggle.

I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and sisters of our nation. You are the rock-hard foundation of our struggle. Apartheid has inflicted more pain on you than on anyone else.

On this occasion, we thank the world community for their great contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle. Without your support our struggle would not have reached this advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline states will be remembered by South Africans forever.

My salutations would be incomplete without expressing my deep appreciation for the strength given to me during my long and lonely years in prison by my beloved wife and family. I am convinced that your pain and suffering was far greater than my own.

Before I go any further I wish to make the point that I intend making only a few preliminary comments at this stage. I will make a more complete statement only after I have had the opportunity to consult with my comrades.

Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in- calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy lies in ruins and our people are embroiled in political strife. Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.

I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am therefore in full agreement with all of its objectives, strategies and tactics.

The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organization and to allow the democratic structures to decide. On the question of democratic practice, I feel duty bound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a principle which must be upheld without any exceptions.

Today, I wish to report to you that my talks with the government have been aimed at normalizing the political situation in the country. We have not as yet begun discussing the basic demands of the struggle. I wish to stress that I myself have at no time entered into negotiations about the future of our country except to insist on a meeting between the ANC and the government.

Mr. De Klerk has gone further than any other Nationalist president in taking real steps to normalize the situation. However, there are further steps as outlined in the Harare Declaration that have to be met before negotiations on the basic demands of our people can begin. I reiterate our call for, inter alia, the immediate ending of the State of Emergency and the freeing of all, and not only some, political prisoners. Only such a normalized situation, which allows for free political activity, can allow us to consult our people in order to obtain a mandate.

The people need to be consulted on who will negotiate and on the content of such negotiations. Negotiations cannot take place above the heads or behind the backs of our people. It is our belief that the future of our country can only be determined by a body which is democratically elected on a non-racial basis. Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid will have to address the over- whelming demand of our people for a democratic, non-racial and unitary South Africa. There must be an end to white monopoly on political power and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratized.

It must be added that Mr. De Klerk himself is a man of integrity who is acutely aware of the dangers of a public figure not honoring his undertakings. But as an organization we base our policy and strategy on the harsh reality we are faced with. And this reality is that we are still suffering under the policy of the Nationalist government.

Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.

It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters' role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.

In conclusion, I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:

"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Message of Solidarity by the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians to The Egyptian National Association for Change (Canada).

Dear Brothers and Sisters; Friends and Comrades,

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians congratulates the Egyptian people on their success in ousting the dictator Husni Mubarak and salutes their heroic and historic struggle against dictatorship and for freedom, democracy and social justice.

Backed and supported by the US and other western countries the Egyptian regime, like many other Arab regimes – as indeed most of the governments in Pakistan - have served the interests of the rich internally and that of imperialism regionally.

The Egyptian armed services, just like those of Pakistan, receive well over a billion dollars annually from the United States, most of which ends up in the pockets of senior officers. The ties and cooperation between the security agencies of the US with those of Egypt – as with the security forces of Pakistan – are even closer. Along with you, we hope, these relationships will end.

The Saudi monarchy – the most reactionary, despotic and US-dependent of the Arab regimes – has also played a significant role in aiding and abetting undemocratic and unjust regimes in the region – including those of Pakistan. King Abdullah had personally phoned Mubarak to express his solidarity, calling the protests an ‘attack against the security and stability of Egypt’ that were being carried out by ‘infiltrators in the name of free speech’. Like you we hope that the transformations in Egypt and Tunisia are the beginnings of political and social change in the entire region.

Israel, allowed a virtually free hand first by government of Enver Sadat and then by that of Mubarak in its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and oppression of the Palestinian people was loath to see the dictator leave. Tel Aviv hopes that the successor regime in Cairo will be as pliant toward it as was Mubarak’s.

Canada, a partner in Western imperialist plunder, also has been a supporter of the Egyptian and similar regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. The most pro-Israeli government in Canadian history, the Harper Conservatives have turned a blind eye to the oppression and misery of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel.

We demand that the Canadian government put pressure on Israel to immediately end its criminal blockade of Gaza, stop all settlement activity on Palestinian territories and support, in word and deed, the withdrawal of Israel from all lands it occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian state with Palestinian refugees having the right to return to their homeland.

Like you, The CPPC hopes that changes in Egypt are not merely cosmetic –Mubarakism sans Mubarak. We share your hope that future Egyptian governments will be truly representative of the democratic aspirations of its people, and again salute you and express our solidarity with you in your struggle to build a peaceful and prosperous society based on principles of fairness and social justice, free of foreign domination.


Reprinted from People's Voice, January 1st

By Liz Rowley, leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin has concluded that police and government action that led to the arrest, detention and beatings of 1105 people last June 26/27 in Toronto constitute "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history".

It's a clear statement that the violence at the G20 protests, and before, was caused by police and directed at protestors and passersby.

Marin's report to the Ontario Legislature on the G8/G20 Summits holds Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair responsible for much of the violence. The Ontario Liberal Cabinet is responsible for giving police extraordinary powers, with a regulatory change to the Public Works Protection Act which effectively allowed police to implement martial law in Toronto.

The Public Works Protection Act is World War II legislation, intended for use in a war situation. Police and parliaments used it to declare war on more than 40,000 Canadians exercising their civil and constitutional rights to legally assemble, demonstrate, and speak out against the Summits, and the austerity policies being imposed across the globe, including in Canada.

Many of those arrested were beaten and detained without access to phones, legal counsel, food or bathrooms for long periods. Many were subjected to strip searches and body cavity searches intended to frighten, humiliate and intimidate. Most were young, and police appeared to target demonstrators from Québec, pulling buses over on the highway and making mass arrests.

Until Marin's report hit the Legislature, none of the various public bodies looking into the police attacks was able to hold the cops or governments responsible. Thousands of photos showed police beating demonstrators, but hidden faces and badge numbers prevented individual officers from being identified. Civilian police overseers like the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) claimed their hands were tied.

The Toronto Star called on the public to send in photos and videos showing the vicious police attack on Adam Nobody, whose case has come to symbolize the brutality and the lies and cover‑ups that followed. The response was huge, including new photos identifying the police who beat Nobody within an inch of his life. Still, Chief Blair has resisted arresting the identified officers, claiming internal procedures trump criminal charges against the officers.

In fact, police brutality was so widespread the courts would be choked with criminal charges against cops who assaulted peaceful protesters. Many of those assaulted have signed onto a class action suit against all the police forces involved (from across Canada), provincial, federal, and municipal governments, plus named individuals. The issue in this class action is nailed by Andre Marin: the implementation of martial law in Toronto, the arbitrary mass arrest and detention of 1105 people, and the suspension of civil liberties and democratic rights.

The McGuinty government is now in damage control, debating whether to amend or kill the Public Works Protection Act. With a provincial election next October, there is fear the Act could be used again by a very right-wing Tory government if the Liberals don't scrap it now.

In a strange twist, the Tories are casting themselves as defenders of democracy as they respond to the Marin Report and attack the Liberals. This is more of the dangerous right‑wing populism that snookered Toronto in the civic elections.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) is calling for a full public inquiry, and for scrapping the Public Works Protection Act. The threat to democracy and civil liberties is serious, even more so as civilian oversight bodies responsible for holding police to account have proven incapable and powerless.

Establishing strong civilian controls over police, and democratic controls over Legislatures and Parliaments, is vital. This will be a crucial part of the struggle to curb corporate power in Canada, says the CPC (Ontario). The fight for democracy is at the centre of almost every struggle today.

February 11, 2011

Regarding employment in British Columbia

February, 2011

In British Columbia, employment is dropping faster than anywhere in the country, save the Atlantic region. Official government figures indicate employment jumped to 8.2% in January, and actual unemployment may be as high as 12%. During the first month of 2011 most other provinces saw an increase in employment numbers over the last month, yet BC continues to slip.

Youth and workers in BC have been told for some time that the economy is in recovery mode. But no recovery has arrived for workers, youth, and students. This "jobless recovery" means a recovery for big business only in a province short on jobs, with the lowest minimum wages in the country, and continued attempts by government and employers to make workers pay for the economic crisis.

The provincial government has made no significant moves to fix the growing problem of unemployment. Unemployment levels of this magnitude or higher suit the political agenda of the BC Liberals, because competition keeps workers divided and facilitates a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions. In BC corporate income taxes are being cut while working people are hit with increases in fares, tuition, and other fees, as well as the hated HST. This trend highlights the anti-worker stance of the BC Liberal government.

The cause of unemployment is fundamentally tied to the mode of production. That is to say, the economy is owned and controlled by private corporations whose interest is in profits, not the people. Furthermore, there is little recourse for working people to have democratic input in the economy. Thus, the economy reflects the interests of the few owners and bosses, not the mass of British Columbians. The BC Liberals are of owners, of big business, which seeks to further the exploitation of workers to the most extreme level.

To ensure total worth-while employment there must be enforced legislation for a living wage for all workers, and abolition of the $6 training wage. Work weeks must be shortened and a ban placed on mandatory overtime. Ban raw log exports, and open publicly run mills in British Columbia. Nationalize oil and gas, end and reverse privatization of BC Hydro, and increase funding to post-secondary education. All of these reforms would create good-paying, secure jobs and increase the standard of living for British Columbians.

Experience over the past ten years of Liberal rule have shown that only a broad, mass, and militant fightback led by labour and joined by, among others, the youth and students, can force change on a government that is unreceptive to the will of the people. The power of mass extra-parliamentary struggle should not be downplayed, as recent events in Egypt and Tunisia demonstrate. We also note that with the potential of a provincial election within the year, the opportunity now exists to ensure the defeat of the Liberal Party as well as to block the rise of new and resurgent forces on the right like the BC Conservatives and BC First Party. But this will only occur if the people of BC, fed up with years of the Liberal's big business policies, are mobilized around not only their discontents, but a progressive alternative.

Ultimately, we know that while the opportunity exists to win many progressive reforms which will improve the lives of working people, youth and students, the capitalist system with its periodic crisis, its need for war and plunder, and its environmental degradation, can only offer increasingly dismal long term prospects. The exploitative capitalist system which produces economic crisis, unemployment, and poverty, must be replaced by a new, socialist, system wherein working people hold all political and economic power and harness it for the benefit of society, not for the profits of a minority.

Build the Trade Unions!

Build the Students' Unions!

Build the Young Communist League!

Better Work, Better Wages!

BC Provincial Committee
Young Communist League of Canada

WFDY statement on the victory in Egypt

It is a great historical moment of pride and dignity, of enthusiasm and persistence. It is the time when the people rose up for their inalienable rights, when they fought, revolted and won.The great Egyptian people have achieved a big victory that can reshape the future of their country and also of the region. After 30 years of tyranny from the Mubarak regime, the puppet of imperialism in the region that worked day and night to protect the interests of USA and Israel in the region was ousted by the people, even if, in total show of hypocrisy, now all the former supporters of Mubarak regime come to the media to salute the achievements of the Egyptian people by overthrowing their ally of yesterday.

In this regard, WFDY highly praises the victory of the people and their organization, and expresses its solidarity with all the demands of the Egyptian people in constitutional amendments, dismantling the parliament and electing a new one and organizing new, free and open presidential elections open for the people to have their choices. WFDY also supports the demands calling for restoring the civil system as soon as possible accompanied by the constitutional amendments and political reforms.

WFDY calls for the continuation of the struggle until the full achievement of all the rights of the Egyptian people, and also for making the Egyptian revolution as an example for all the youth of the region and the world that change is possible and that the power only lies in the hands of the masses.

The spirit of revolution is spreading in the region, after Tunisia came Egypt and after Egypt the people will continue the struggle for further victories.

Let’s reinforce the struggle and continue the way!

Let’s fight for a democratic progressive Middle East fighting against imperialism!

Let’s support the Egyptian youth and people!

Sudan communist journalists arrested

Sudan Tribune
February 3, 2011

Sudan has arrested a group of journalists working for a newspaper affiliated to the opposition Communist Party, drawing rebuke from Amnesty International which described the action as “a blatant attempt to stifle free speech.”

Al-Maydan, the weekly mouthpiece of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), had nine of its staff members snatched by armed agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Forces (NISS) as they were leaving the paper’s office in Khartoum 2 area on Wednesday night.

Four of the detained journalists were released hours later, Sudan Tribune has learned, while the rest are being held incommunicado and their whereabouts is not known.

Sudan stepped up censorship of newspapers in the wake of anti-government protests which erupted on Sunday in response to a campaign organized online by youth groups encouraged by the ongoing events in Egypt and January’s uprising in Tunisia.

Al-Maydan already had copies of its Tuesday’s edition confiscated for containing reports on the protests. On Monday, NISS agents also confiscated copies of the independent daily Al-Sahafah and Ajrass al-Hurriyah, which is linked to the SPLM, for reporting on the protests.

The SCP issued a press release in which it denounced the action as “a stealth coup against all the constitutional provisions governing political rivalry”, and demanded the immediate release of the paper’s staff.

Amjad Farid Idris, a prominent young member of SCP, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the arrest of Al-Maydan’s journalists was part of “the regime’s attempts to curtail the already-tight margin of freedom and halt the paper’s publication in order to close another window of communication between political forces and the public.”

He further warned that by doing so the government was “digging its own grave and pushing for confrontation with the people.”

The global human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday chided the government for its action and urged the immediate release of the detainees.

“The Sudanese government must immediately release all those detained during this blatant attempt to stifle free speech,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Program director.

“The people of Sudan have every right to peaceful protest without fear of arrest, assault and harassment. And the media have every right to freely report these events,” he added.

In recent years, Sudan introduced what is known as the pre-printing censorship system under which NISS agents visit offices of newspapers at night to screen draft editions and expunge contents deemed anti-government.

Sudan occupies a low rank of 172 out of 178 in the world press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders.

Hosni Mubarak resigns as president

From Aljazeera.net

Egyptian president stands down and hands over power to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address that the president was "waiving" his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the armed forces.

Suleiman's short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as well by pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country on Friday.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted "We have brought down the regime", while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the "greatest day of my life", in comments to the Associated Press news agency.

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression,'' he said.

"Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation ... today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world," our correspondent at Tahrir Square reported, following the announcement.

"The sense of euphoria is simply indescribable," our correspondent at Mubarak's Heliopolis presidential palace, where at least ten thousand pro-democracy activists had gathered, said.

"I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless." Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera.

"The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people's power to bring about the change that no-one ... thought possible."

In Alexandria, Egypt's second city, our correspondent described an "explosion of emotion". He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere had earlier marched on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

Anger at state television

At the state television building earlier in the day, thousands had blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on the protests.

"The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside]," Al Jazeera's correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said that "a lot of anger [was] generated" after Mubarak's speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

'Gaining momentum'

Outside the palace in Heliopolis, where at least ten thousand protesters had gathered in Cairo, another Al Jazeera correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was "no indication that the military want[ed] to crack down on protesters".

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely "friendly".

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Our correspondent said the crowd in Heliopolis was "gaining momentum by the moment", and that the crowd had gone into a frenzy when two helicopters were seen in the air around the palace grounds.

"By all accounts this is a highly civilized gathering. people are separated from the palace by merely a barbed wire ... but nobody has even attempted to cross that wire," she said.

As crowds grew outside the palace, Mubarak left Cairo on Friday for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh, according to sources who spoke to Al Jazeera.

In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the "masses" of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have "clear resolution" and "bigger resolve" to achieve their goals than ever before.

However, he also said that protesters were "confused by mixed messages" coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak's staying in power until at least September.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday on Friday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only "as soon as the current circumstances end".

Thousands are laying siege to state television's office

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed with that army statement, and had vowed to take the protests to "a last and final stage".

"They're frustrated, they're angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions," she said.

Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on "Farewell Friday" in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.

Alexandria protests

Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organizer and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.

"People are extremely angry after yesterday's speech," he told Al Jazeera. "Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can't tell you what the next step will be ... At this time, we don't trust them [the army commanders] at all."

An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.

"It's an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night," she said.

"The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home ... I don't see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people."

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mansoura, Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

Violence was reported in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station. At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack, our correspondent said.

Dismay at earlier statement

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing "the functions of the president" to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.

Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped in Tahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.

Immediately after Mubarak's speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to "go home" and asked Egyptians to "unite and look to the future."

Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.

February 8, 2011

Ontario Federation of Labour gains 25,000+ new members!

From OFL President Sid Ryan's report for the OFL Executive Board 2001.02.07.


In five months, 26,052 new members have joined the OFL, and there’s no end in sight as the
Federation continues to field calls from locals around the province. This is GREAT news for Ontario’s labour movement. With two elections to fight and major campaigns underway, we’re
determined to create a social movement that will change the social and economic landscape.
Welcome to our newest members from CAW Locals 222, 567, 830, 1106, 4207, 4266A, 4268 and 4401; CEP Local 79M; CUPE Local 132; and the Queen’s University Faculty Association.

Tunisia: Interview with UGTT Deputy Secretary General Hacine El Abassi

On January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, was forced to flee the country as a result of the revolutionary mobilizations of an entire people.

No sooner had Ben Ali fled than all the reactionary forces -- both inside Tunisia and on a world scale -- rushed to form a government of national unity structured around Ben Ali's party, the RDC, but also incorporating liberal "opponents" to the old regime. Key to this attempt to put a halt to the revolution under way in Tunisia, and to rescue the old regime, was the effort to co-opt the leadership of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) trade union federation into joining the government of national unity.

Initially the UGTT accepted this proposal from Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. But as soon as it was announced that three representatives of the UGTT had joined the government, a revolt took place at all levels of the UGTT federation against this decision. The UGTT had been a backbone of the revolution; its local and regional leaders and activists were central leaders of the revolution, its headquarters had been used widely as the organizing centers and launching pads for the mass mobilizations.

Under huge pressure from the members and officers of the union federation, the National Administrative Council of the UGTT convened an emergency meeting 12 hours after its initial decision and voted a resolution announcing that it was withdrawing its representatives from the national unity government and from all elected positions on a national, regional level and local level.

This opened a new chapter in the unfolding Tunisian Revolution.

We are publishing below an interview with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT. it is reprinted from the Jan. 26, 2011, issue of Informations Ouvrières, the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party (POI) of France. The interview was conducted on January 24 by theInformations Ouvrières correspondent in Tunisia. -- Alan Benjamin

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INTERVIEW with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT:

"If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call a general strike."

Question: What is the position of the UGTT in the current political situation?

Response: I remind you that on January 18, the UGTT adopted a resolution that states:

"Considering that the coalition government does not correspond to our ideas, that it does not express the demands we have put forward and that it does not represent the aspirations of the people and workers, [the UGTT] decides to withdraw our representatives from the coalition government; to have our elected union officials resign from the National Assembly, from the Assembly of the Council, and from the local councils; and to suspend the participation of the UGTT in the Economic and Social Council."

The UGTT also demanded, "[t]he dissolution of the RCD ... and the rejection of any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of our people, as they were the ones who overthrew a president that repress[ed] the people; the people therefore should be the ones to determine their destiny without outside interference."

The trade union federation also called for the "nationalization" of the Ben Ali clan's property, that is, the takeover by the Republic of Tunisia of a large portion of the economy. In this vein, the UGTT called for a "Constituent Assembly through free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people."

It is in this sense that the Secretary General of the UGTT and three members of the National Executive Committee, of which I am one, will meet tomorrow [Tuesday, Jan. 25 -- Ed.] with the political forces that want to end the RCD regime and its government. The goal is to discuss with them the conditions for the formation of a Government of Public Salvation, as per the January 18 resolution adopted by the UGTT's National Administrative Council.

The UGTT will play its role as a catalyst until a solution is found that is consistent with the interests of the people and their revolution. It will help ensure that opposition political parties will become part of the Government of National Public Salvation, constituting thereby a transitional political alternative to the RCD government, which has been rejected by the Tunisian people.

The only goal we pursue is the fulfillment of the goals of our revolution.

The UGTT will play its role to help gather and unite all opposition political forces in this direction. On this basis, we will be an obstacle to all internal and external enemies, who are able to weave their webs only to the extent that they are in our midst and are still willing to collaborate with our enemies.

Question: What are the objectives of the Tunisian revolution?
Response: Economic development, democracy, social justice, and a constitution. The first spark that will indicate that our country has changed course is the development of the interior regions, regions that have been totally abandoned by the RCD regime.

During 2010, we had undertaken an economic study of the Sidi Bouzid region and had warned the government of the risk of social explosion because of the alarming unemployment rate and the total lack of economic projects and job prospects. Development projects were implemented only along the coast.

Numerous studies show that the Ben Ali government's policy of privatization since he came to power has been responsible for the destruction of the economy.

They did not even know how to administer their own privatization policies. Workers in many privatized sectors are now demanding the nationalization of their companies. I cite, as an example, the public transport company, Tunis Air -- and there are many others.

In the face of the failure of the privatization policies, we had demanded a halt to the process to see if the privatized enterprises were functioning or not. We have always demanded a halt to privatization and the conservation of our companies as public enterprises.

Today, we ask that all of our companies are restored to the State because they must serve the objective of development and employment in our country. More specifically, we are calling for the the restoration of all privatized public enterprises into the hands of the State. This is imperative.

The French people have suffered for many years from this damaging privatization policy, dictated by the European Union (unemployment, the dismantling of public enterprises, the blows to social rights, etc.)

We are aware of this situation and know the harmful social effects that privatizations are causing in Europe as well. In each of our union battles against privatization, the government told us: "Even Europe is compelled to privatize."

The union federation in basic education has called today [January 24] for an indefinite strike. The strike has been followed massively, according to the reports we have received. But faced with the deafness of Ghannouchi and the RCD government, what can be done?

For our part, we will use all legal means to ensure that the demands of the Tunisian people are carried out -- for the departure of the Ghannouchi government and the dissolution of the RCD. Strikes are taking place in many sectors, as are marches and demonstrations.

If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call a general strike. But we believe that the pressure of the street and that of workers in their workplaces, schools, etc. is in the process of making the government tremble.

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