Saturday, February 28, 2009



As long as we are talking about women's rights here's an example closer to home, from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). One of the things about Sneaky Stevie's new budget down Ottawa way that has been more or less lost in the swirling debate about where to throw the mountains of government money is the budget's effect on pay equity. CUPE would like Canadians to pay a bit more attention. Here's the story and appeal.

Controversial pay equity bill has no place in the budget:
Please take a minute to email your MP about the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, a controversial law that would take away federal government workers' rights to file human rights complaints over pay equity.

The Harper government has made this law part of the federal budget, even though there's no proof it will save the government money.

But it will confine pay equity to collective agreement negotiations, where the federal government has shown its willingness to legislate wage increases and undermine collective agreements.

If this bill passes, women's rights to equal pay for work of equal value will be on the chopping block.
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter to your MP.
On February 6, 2009, the government tabled legislation that will radically change the rules governing pay equity in the federal public sector.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act - which has been included as part of the omnibus Budget Implementation Act - will remove the right of public sector workers to file complaints for pay equity with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It will transform pay equity from a human right to an "equitable compensation issue" that could be traded away at the bargaining table.

Pay equity is a fundamental human right that must not be taken away at a bargaining table where the federal government historically holds the balance of power. The Harper government has already demonstrated its commitment to legislating wage increases and undermining collective agreements. Now, women's rights will be on the chopping block.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act will effectively eliminate women's ability to pursue pay equity complaints by forcing them to file complaints as individuals. This bill will also impose a $50,000 fine on any union that encourages or assists their own members in filing a pay equity complaint, leaving women to fight the system unaided. Since no individual can afford to do so, this will clearly be a mockery of justice.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act won't help the economy or save jobs.

Government officials have admitted that there's no proof it will save the government any money. However, it will prevent women in the federal public sector from receiving equal pay for work of equal value. It has no place in the budget.

I am extremely concerned that the government would table such a bill, and I call on you to put pressure on your party and on the government to ensure that the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act is removed from the Budget Implementation Act.

It seems like it's Iran Week here at Molly's Blog. Here's another appeal, this time from the Human Rights First organization. It concerns three Iranian women who were arrested for campaigning against gender discrimination in Iranian laws. As you can see from the article below one has already been released, but others still remain in detention. Help pressure the Iranian authorities to release them.
Urge Iranian Authorities to Release Women Human Rights Defenders:
UPDATE: On February 5, Nafiseh Azad was released on bail after being detained for six days.

On Friday, January 30, three members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots campaign to reform gender discrimination in Iranian laws, were arrested while collecting signatures in northern Tehran.

The three activists, Nafiseh Azad, Bigard Ebrahimi, and a third person wishing to remain anonymous, were held for several hours at the local police station before being transferred to other detention centers. Of the three, Azad remains in detention and is being charged with "acting against national security."

The next day, on January 31, security agents came to the home of women's rights activist Alieh Eghdamdoost and escorted her to the Revolutionary Courts. She faces the imminent enforcement of a three-year prison sentence for participating in a women's rights demonstration in June 2006. While a number of activists were sentenced for joining that protest, none have been imprisoned to date. Eghdamdoost's imprisonment will mark a further escalation of repression of human rights defenders.

Join us in protesting these repressive actions against women human rights defenders in Iran:
Call for the immediate and unconditional release of Nafiseh Azad; and urge the authorities to suspend implementation of Alieh Eghdamdoost's sentence and release her from custody.
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter to Iranian authorities in support of these women.
I am specifically writing about the case of Nafiseh Azad, who, with two
other persons, was arrested on January 30, 2009, for peacefully collecting
signatures for a petition to reform discriminatory laws. Although the two
other individuals arrested with Ms. Azad have been released on bail, I
understand Ms. Azad remains in detention and is being charged with acting
against national security.

I am also writing to convey my deep concern about Alieh Eghdamdoost, a women's rights activist whose home was visited by security agents on January 31, 2009, who escorted her to the Revolutionary Court so that the authorities could begin implementing a three-year sentence for participating in a women's rights demonstration in June 2006. That demonstration, organized as a peaceful demonstration in support of women's rights, was violently broken up by the authorities and resulted in dozens of arrests. I understand that Ms. Eghdamdoost is the first person arrested on that day whose sentence is now being implemented by the authorities. Her imprisonment marks an increase in the repression of
peaceful rights advocates, and I urge your office to stay the sentence and
release her from custody.

The rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association are enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was endorsed by all U.N. member states, as well as the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory and which is binding on the Iranian government.

These arrests indicate that the recent closure of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi's Center for the Defense of Human Rights is just the most visible indication of a broader campaign to repress and intimidate human rights defenders over the last few years. I ask that the government of Iran end this crackdown immediately and comply with its obligations to protect citizens exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of association and assembly.

I urge you to release Nafiseh Azad, and stay the sentence of Alieh Eghdamdoost and release her from custody.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter

Friday, February 27, 2009

Worker's Memorial Day (April 28) is fast approaching. This is a day set aside for the memory of the myriad of workers killed and injured on the job. Molly has blogged on this day both in 2007 and in 2008 (see our archives), and I will undoubtedly do so again this year. But, until then, here's a little early bird announcement from the AFL-CIO Blog about what they are doing to commemorate this day. Workers' memorial day, by the way, is a Canadian contribution to the world. It was first initiated in 1984 by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the next year the Canadian labour Congress took up the idea. See the link above for other details.

Workers Memorial Day 2009 Materials Ready Now:
by Mike Hall, Feb 25, 2009

For many of America’s workers, going to work can literally be deadly. The most recent edition of the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect shows that an average of 15 workers a day were killed on the job and each day, another 11,000 workers were injured or made ill in 2007. Overall in 2007 (the latest figures available), 5,488 workers died from workplace injuries and 4.0 million were hurt or made sick by their jobs.

Recent studies have shown that the workplace injury reports may miss as many as two out of three workplace injuries, meaning that the real toll of workplace injuries is much higher than reported.

On April 28, to honor those killed and injured on the job and to call for improved workplace safety, workers in the United States and around the world will mark Workers Memorial Day. The theme of this is “Good Jobs. Safe Jobs. Give Workers a Voice for a Change.”
You can start planning and organizing a Workers Memorial Day event in your workplace or community with materials now available online from the AFL-CIO. The materials include:
**Workers Memorial Day flier.
**Workers Memorial Day poster.
**Workers Memorial Day clip art in English and
Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living and
Good Jobs, Safe Jobs. Give Workers a Voice for a Change;
**Workers Memorial Day stickers.
**Workers Memorial Day events form.
**Workers Memorial Day proclamation.
**Safety and health update (February 2009).

The 2009 edition of Death on the Job, set for release in April, will examine workplace death, injuries and illness by occupation, state and cause. It will analyze trends and examine the federal government’s track record on developing workplace safety standards. It also will look at the enforcement—or lack of it—of current safety laws by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

The AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day online tools include links to a collection of workers’ memorials in the United States and around the world and poems and other tributes to workers killed on the job.

The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the creation of OSHA in 1971 and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada.(As I said above the day actually originated in Canada-Molly) Trade unionists around the world mark April 28 as an International Day of Mourning for workers killed.

Click here to read how health and safety experts from the labor, scientific and academic fields say OSHA can be rebuilt after the Bush administration spent eight years tearing down the safety agency.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The following is from the Ottawa based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT). Despite Canada's reputation as the "peaceable kingdom" our arms trade supports numerous wars across the globe, including those of Israel. The following is a link to how we do this, and also to other ways in which we contribute to death worldwide.
Canadian Military Exports to Israel: Aiding & Abetting War Crimes in Gaza (2008-2009):
The Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) has just released an online report containing ten detailed tables of data about Canadian military companies with direct or indirect export links to Israel:

Canadian Military Exports to Israel: Aiding and Abetting War Crimes in Gaza (2008-2009)(Click above for an annotated list linking to the report's ten data tables, or use the quick links provided below.)

Summary Article (This article sums up the issues in COAT's report.)


COAT's report is part of a campaign to oppose CANSEC, Canada's top military industry trade show. CANSEC 2009 is organized by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI). In an apparent conflict of interest, the federal government handed over $200,000 in grants to this arms industry lobby group, between 2006 and 2008. These "contributions" were explicitly to support CADSI's "international trade," "export marketing" and "international business development activities."

CADSI's CANSEC arms bazaar -- a closed, private event -- will be hosted by the City of Ottawa at its prime publicly-funded facility, Lansdowne Park, May 27-28, 2009.

COAT's report on Canadian military exports to Israel exposes details about more than 100 corporate members of CADSI that have export links to Israel. Many of these exporters will be exhibiting their wares at CANSEC this spring to potential buyers from many Ottawa embassies.

Please join us in exposing and opposing the CANSEC arms bazaar!

In 1989, in response to COAT's first campaign, the City Ottawa banned ALL arms shows from municipal property. But now they're coming back! This May is the 20th anniversary of COAT's mass rally -- led by former Mayor Marion Dewar -- when many thousands took to Ottawa's streets to peacefully protest against the ARMX weapons bazaar at Lansdowne Park

Quick Links to Data Tables in COAT's Report on Canada's Military Exports to Israel

CADSI members, current or former, with Direct or Indirect Export Links to Israel

Table 2a:

Canadian War Industries supplying Parts and/or Services to the USA for the F-15 (a major Weapons System used by Israel)

Table 2b:

Canadian War Industries supplying Parts and/or Services to the USA for the F-16 (a major Weapons System used by Israel)

Table 2c:

Canadian War Industries supplying Parts and/or Services to the USA for the AH-64 (a major Weapons System used by Israel)

Table 2d:

Canadian War Industries Supplying Parts and/or Services for three Major US Weapons Systems used by Israel

Table 3:

CPP Investments (2003-2008) in Prime Contractors for three Major US Weapons systems used by Israel against Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-2009)

Table 4a:

Exports to Israel by Canadian military companies that are corporate members, current or former, of CADSI.

Table 4b:

Canadian Exports to Israel by Military Companies that are NOT linked to CADSI.

Table 5a: Actively Pursuing Exports:

CADSI members Canadian military companies that are current or past members of CADSI reporting that they are "actively pursuing" exports to Israel.

Table 5b: Actively Pursuing Exports:

non-CADSI Canadian Military companies "actively pursuing" exports to Israel that are not current or past members of CADSI.


If you are in Ottawa, we hope to see you at some upcoming events:

(1) Information and Strategy Session to Oppose CANSEC

Tuesday, March 24, 7 pm

Southminster United Church,

15 Aylmer Ave at Bank Street.

(Just south of the Rideau Canal. Enter from the Galt St. entrance at the back of the complex.)

(2) Rally to Expose and Oppose CANSEC

Speakers, Music and Candlelight Vigil

Wednesday, May 27 (evening - exact time to be announced)

Southminster United Church (see address above)

Speakers and Music in the church sanctuary will be followed by a Candlelight Procession just across the Bank St. bridge to Lansdowne Park, the site of CANSEC.

(3) Documentary -



Wednesday, March 18, 2009,

7 pm

1064 Wellington Street (3 blocks west of Somerset)

The documentary will be followed by a discussion with the film makers, Amy Miller and Boban Chaldovich, who are on a whirlwind Cross Canada Tour in March and April.

Click here to find a film showing near you.

Note: One of the people interviewed in the above documentary is Richard Sanders, coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT), editor of COAT's magazine Press for Conversion! and author of COAT's report entitled

As elsewhere in the world anarchists in the country of Colombia have seen the need for further organization and coordination. Thus they have founded the Red Libertaria Popular Mateo Kramer/Peoples' Libertarian Network Mateo Kramer. Molly is sorry that she has no idea of who Mateo Kramer was. perhaps somebody else can enlighten me. The following is from the A-Infos site, but the original source is the Anarkismo site. Readers should note that there is an error 9in the link at the A-Infos site. i have corrected this in what appears below.
Colombia: Founding of the Red Libertaria Popular Mateo Kramer:
Bogotá, 23 February 2009 ---- With great emotion and expectations we are pleased to announce that after two intense days of discussion and collective work we have successfully concluded the founding General Assembly of the Red Libertaria Popular Mateo Kramer ("Mateo Kramer" Popular Libertarian Network - RLPMK). Through long but fruitful reflection and in a general climate of debate and enthusiasm, the 11 groups that make up this Network have reached the following agreement points:
1. The RLPMK is an organization made up of individual libertarian collectives, working for Popular Power through the promotion of horizontal, grassroots self-organization and self-management in the physical and virtual territory of the city of Bogota
.2. The RLPMK carries out political work along with children, young people, political prisoners and workers, through popular, libertarian education, alternative means of communication and counter-culture.
3. The RLPMK carries out its activities according to the following organizational principles: complete self-management, horizontality,popular direct action, effective solidarity, grassroots work, collective self-education, popular ecologism and anti-capitalist diversity.
4. The RLPMK is part of the wider opposition block that rejects the current Colombian political regime and seeks to generate collective alternatives in order to advance towards a new world, a more just freer world.
The groups that participated in the Assembly and are part of the RLPMK are:
* ESPORA (Grupo de investigación y difusión libertaria y popular)
* CILEP (Centro de Investigación Libertaria y Educación Popular)
* CEALA (Centro de Estudios Abolicionistas por la Liberación Animal)
For more information, visit:
Bogotá, 23 February 2009
Translation by
Related Link

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Islamo-fascist regime continues its repression. What follows is a selection of recent articles, all taken from the website of the Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network, a site that Molly recommends highly, though it is certain that their politics and mine differ
considerably. What they show is the breadth of the repression and the barbarism that it entails. Lest this be taken as an example of something far away, both in distance and culture, I remind the reader that despite the fact that the recent elections in the USA have put the development of an indigenous fascism in the most powerful country in the world off that such a thing is more than possible later. If the Obama Administration should fail in its project of halting American decline, something that is entirely possible, then all that stands between us and a victorious American fascism is the stupidity of American fascists. Make no mistake about it. Fascism will not come to America or any other country dressed in the robes of a nostalgic subculture hoping to recreate the Third Reich. Like most of classical fascism outside of Germany it will come dressed in anti-capitalist rhetoric (whatever the reality behind the words) and religiously blessed - just as it has been in Iran. We need to support the people of Iran who are struggling against their domestic version of fascism because such an ideology cannot be allowed to succeed anywhere, or it will threaten everywhere. All it takes is for the American fascists to extend their populism beyond their cultural obsessions and into economics.

Anyways, here's what is happening in Iran these days.

According to the Co-ordination Committee for the Creation of Labour Organisations on Wednesday 18 February 2009 Shiva Kheyrabadi and Susan Razani, two female labour activists, were flogged.(Their photos are above-Molly) The flogging sentences were passed against Ms Kheyrabadi, Ms Razani and two other labour activists in August 2008. Their crime was taking part in a May Day rally in Sanandaj (in Iranian Kurdistan).

On 5 August 2008 the 101st branch of the criminal court in Sanandaj sentenced the four to this brutal, barbaric and medieval form of punishment because they had taken part in the 2007 May Day celebrations in the city. The court sentenced Ms Susan Razani to receive 70 lashes and be jailed for nine months; Ms Shiva Kheyrabadi 15 lashes and four months; Abdollah Khani (Abeh Nejar) 40 lashes and 91 days; and Seyyed Ghaleb Hosseini 50 lashes and six months in prison. The defendants were given 20 days to lodge an appeal with the Kurdistan province court.

The Iranian regime is not carrying out this policy from a position of strength. The whipping of workers is a desperate attempt by the regime to dampen the combativity and high morale of the workers who, despite having no legal trade unions and suffering from the crippling economic situation, continue to fight for their rights.

Last year, weeks before May Day, the authorities began a campaign of intimidation and terror against the new labour movement so that 2008’s rallies and celebrations would not be as big and radical as those in 2007. In February 2008 three labour activists were flogged and a further eight were also sentenced to receive the lash.

The flogging of Ms Kheyrabadi and Ms Razani exposes the Iranian regime and shows the whole world its true colours. Despite the nuclear technology, the satellites and big rhetoric about scientific and medical advances, deep down this regime remains a medieval and reactionary beast with a cruel and dark heart. In flogging workers this regime is committing an act that has been banned in Britain since the reign of Queen Anne in early 18th century!

Please send a protest letter to put pressure on the Iranian regime to stop flogging labour activists and to release all class war prisoners immediately and unconditionally.
Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network21 February 2009
Here is a story about the other two labour activists mentioned above.

Two more labour activists flogged!
On Saturday 21 February Abdollah Khani and Ghaleb Hosseini were summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office in Sanandaj (in Iranian Kurdistan). The two labour activists were then arrested so that their sentences could be carried out.

The two activists were arrested last year for taking part in the 2008 May Day rally in Sanandaj. They were sentenced as follows: Ghaleb Hosseini, six months in prison and to receive 50 lashes, and Abdollah Khani, 91 days in prison and 40 lashes.

At 11:00 a.m. they were flogged and at 1:30 p.m. the two activists were taken by the security force of the Prosecutor’s Office to serve their custodial sentences in Sanandaj’s central prison.

The flogging of Abdollah Khani and Ghaleb Hosseini follows that of two female labour activists, Ms Kheyrabadi and Ms Razani, on 18 February. Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network utterly condemns this medieval and reactionary punishment that was carried out for the workers merely exercising what is their undeniable right. May Day is Labour Day for all workers across the world and they should all commemorate it without any harassment from the police and the courts.
Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network
23 February 2009
The repression isn't limited to workers but extends to any progressive forces in Iranian society-such as students. Here's another article about the aftermath of a recent student demonstration in Tehran.
Over 70 students arrested after clashes at Amir Kabir University:
The Iranian regime's attempt to re-bury war dead from the Iran-Iraq War in the grounds of the university sparked protests from hundreds of students, clashes with the security forces and over 70 arrests.
Manoeuvres to prevent protest
The security forces, with the co-operation of officials from the Ministry of Science and Amir Kabir University (in Tehran), since last week had made arrangements so that the burial ceremony would go ahead without any protests. Mr Rahaii, the University’s Chancellor, had made a request to detain four students locked up at the University, to bar 12 students from entering the grounds of the University, and to contact the families of protesting students to put pressure on them. All these steps were taken to make sure that there were no protests.

During the past two days, after students objected to “burying the martyrs” (i.e., war dead) in the grounds of the University, the authorities changed the ceremony into a public one, so that they could easily bring in the Pasdaran and basiji forces into the campus. From Sunday (22 February) they even publicised this on billboards all over Tehran. On Sunday Ayatollah Khamenei published a statement welcoming the re-burial ceremony to stave off any protests (yet he did not send one for the re-burial at Kashan University on the same day).

In addition, Fars, ISNA and many other news agencies of the authoritarian faction, have published many reports about the advantages of re-burial at the University, trying to threaten the dissenting students. One of the latest cases was when a website published a report that basiji talebs (religious students) in Qom province had held a meeting to express their support for the re-burial.

The students’ protest
Despite all these pressures, the students of Amir Kabir wrecked this charade of re-burying the war dead. By chanting slogans like “Dictator of the day, the war dead have become your excuse”, “Down with the Taleban, both in Kabul and in Tehran”, “Basiji get lost”, “Guns, tanks, basijis are no use anymore”, “Down with the dictator”, “Useless basiji, you’ve made the Koran into a spear”, the students protested against the tense security situation at the University.
Click on the following:
Photo reports of the protest: 1 and 2.
Videos of the protest: 1 and 2.
Brutal attack on the students
The Pasdaran and the basiji forces, who, because of their presence, could not imagine that there would be any protests from the students inside the campus, reacted angrily and brutally by beating the students. The supposed agents of Islam, who were armed with knives, pepper spray and martial arts’ weapons, took out their frustration on the students.

Over 60 students were injured and around 20 were taken to various hospitals. Three of the injured are in a critical situation. Students have injuries consistent with the use of knives, knuckle dusters and fists on their bodies. As the students were taken to hospital, Intelligence Ministry agents were posted at the hospitals to prevent news of the injured students’ situation spreading.
Photos of a leading basiji attacking the students.
After burying the coffins and beating the students, the arrests started. Within a few minutes of the re-burial ceremony ending, all those arrested were taken away in red vans. At the time there was no information about where they were being taken.

Then Intelligence Ministry agents, helped by the University’s security personnel, were present at the gates to stop anyone leaving the University. Even though many students wanted to stay on campus for a few hours because of the unsafe situation, the Chancellor announced that no one could stay after 7:00 p.m. and asked security to clear the University of all students. At the same time Intelligence Ministry agents, helped by security, checked the IDs of students and arrested those who had been protesting.

According to the latest figures over 70 students were arrested, with most of them being taken to police station no. 107 on Palestine Square. But there is no information about where some of the other students are being held. The University’s security personnel are present at police station no. 107 helping to identify the arrested students. All these students have been photographed and their student cards have been confiscated. The police and security forces have been abusing and swearing at the students; they were particularly angry about the “Down with the dictator” slogan. By Tuesday (24 February) over 40 students were released, with nearly 30 still under arrest.

This statement is based on a report posted on the Amir Kabir University students’ website.
Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network24 February 2009
Then, of course, there is the everyday ongoing repression against any workers who try to speak up for their rights. Here's the story of one such individual, Taba Azadi.
Labour activist Taha Azadi tried for "acting against national security":
Taha Azadi, a member of the Steering Committee of the Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers was tried by the Revolutionary Court in Kangan on 15 February. The judge accused him of acting against national security and conducting propaganda against the Islamic system.

Taha Azadi was arrested on May Day 2008 because of commemorating Labour Day. He was imprisoned for 47 days, during which time he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse.

In addition to denying these charges, Taha Azadi said that commemorating Labour Day was his and every other worker’s right: “If you think that commemorating May Day, which is the undeniable right of workers, is an act against national security and propaganda against the Islamic system, then that’s your opinion.” In continuing his defence Taha Azadi, by pointing out the placards and banners that were photographed, said: “As you can see on these placards we want a better life and we workers see these demands as our right.”

At the end of this trial, which lasted 15 minutes, Taha Azadi was told that the court’s verdict will be sent to him. The Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers has condemned this trial.

Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network strongly condemns the baseless accusations of the regime’s court and calls for all Taha Azadi’s charges to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.
Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network
22 February 2009

A couple of announcements in this category tonight. First of all, Larry Gambone of the Porkupine Blog continues his 'Self Management in Cuba' with part 3. Here he contrasts the vision of self-management now being debated in Cuba with his own ideas and the history and theory of mutualism as it has developed outside of the Communist dictatorships. Very worthwhile, and not just for the subject of Cuba. A rejoinder to those who might claim that mutualism is "self-managed capitalism". Also a couple of handy references. Pay the Porkupine a visit and see for yourself.
Also....just when the ruling class thought it was safe to go back on the internet. Heeee's back ! The ever irrepressible Eugene Plawiuk seems to be back in good form, after a brief hiatus, at his mega-blog La Revue Gauche. With swipes at 'Obama Embraces Neo-Con Agenda', 'Harper Does Right Wing Talk Shows' and a deja-vu look at this years Oscars, '1930s Oscars' and more Plawiuk proves himself once more a master of the blogging boxing ring. Have a look over there as well.

Recently a quite lengthy (too lengthy to reprint in full on this blog) article has been making the rounds of the 'anarchonet'. The article in question 'Venezuela, The Revolution Delayed: 10 years of Hugo Chavez's Rule' has been reprinted, amongst other places, on the A-Infos website(see HERE and HERE). You can also read it, along with other English translations from the Spanish, in the English language section of the Venezuelan anarchist publication El Libertario. The article, in fact, is an interview with members of the El Libertario collective by a French anarchist 'Charles Reeve'.
Venezuela is, of course, a darling of the present left, and the leftist attitude towards said state is even more uncritical, if that is possible, than their views of the Castroite dictatorship. The latter, of course, is reaching its end soon, and "analyses" of its successes and failings will be soon left to the political autopsy technicians. The regime of Chavez, however, appears, at least on the surface, to still have some wind in its sails- though its longevity is undoubtedly very dependent on the world price of oil.
I encourage readers to take in the full article. To those unfamiliar with previous "autopsies" of failed "socialist" states it may be quite revealing. The Venezuelan comrades provide a guide to the topsy turvy world of state socialism in power, and how such simple concepts as "cooperative" have a meaning that becomes totally different when the rising ruling class of the state bureaucrats lay their hands on them. This, of course, is old news to those of us who are old enough to have seen the Leninist states in full power and to have witnesses the old leftist reaction to them as well.
As I said, the article is far too long to reproduce here, but the following excerpts will hopefully give the flavour of it.
Miguel (M.) – There is a lot of talk nowadays of a left turn in Latin America. There have indeed been several governments elected who belong to traditional left tendencies. For us, there are two main currents. On the one hand are governments brought to power after great social movements,such as is the case in Bolivia and Brazil, countries with a long history of struggle.
Apart from these – and more particularly, in Venezuela - the so-called “left” governments have not come to power off the back of social movements or grassroots struggles. They belong to a cultural set more linked to Latin American populism of the caudillo variety. It is clear in our eyes that all such governments meet the needs of a situation of political crisis. It is impossible to understand the rise of Chavismo without looking back to the caracazo of 1989. These riots in Caracas left thousands dead. The pact which had existed between the various forces in politics was thus broken and society faced a crisis of governability. This concern was most acute within the ruling class itself. All the more so given that these riots opened up a cycle of struggle in Venezuelan society, with the emergence of grassroots organisations independent of the old left political parties. Some people called this “a new civil society”,particularly as regards the student movement and even the movements in the poor barrios. For example, the Human Rights group, with which I work, came about in these years. The same went for environmentalist groups and women’s groups. So people who identified with leftist ideas escaped the control of the parties.
For its part the workers’ movement mostly remained dominated by social democracy (and the Acción Democrática party), with a few fringes controlled by groups of the authoritarian Marxist left. During the 90s there was real turmoil in Venezuelan society, with popular struggles organised in opposition to A. Perez, the social-democrat president responsible for the 1989 massacres. This turmoil led to huge changes in society. Three years later, in 1992, there was an attempted military coup: a recurrent event in the history of this country, where the army has often intervened in political life. Despite their failure, within a few years these putschist army men, in particular Chávez, had managed to recuperate the whole of this popular resistance movement. Chávez’s appeal in part came from the fact that he was able to make himself seem in tune with the popular movements of the 90s.
That is how this powerful resistance movement fell behind this figure and became part of a new institutional arrangement.This was a dialectical integration: well known activists in these movements were also on the look-out for some institutional role: in their eyes, indispensable for carrying out their plans.
This “civil society” was new, having existed for barely a decade and had carved out very little space of its own in society. It had little experience in terms of concrete social engagement and anti-authoritarian organising. So now, rather surprisingly, we find the cadres of this new“civil society” in power with Chávez. The blank cheque they have given in part results from this inexperience and lack of a concrete project. Here we find the imprint of the country’s cultural make-up. Even if revolutions define themselves by breaking with such paradigms, we have to say that Chávez himself is repeating the whole caudillo, statist and militarist tradition long established in Venezuela. He has breathed fresh life into this culture.
'Chavismo” and the neo-liberal model
I. - Chavismo has another characteristic beside its links with the traditional left. The régime’s project is tied into the current international situation, which supports a global drive for capitalist rule. I will explain: nowadays it is easier to implement the plans of neo-liberal capitalism in a country with a left-wing government which uses populist slogans without provoking real mobilisation on the part of workers. For us, that is Chavismo’s principal role. Of course, I am not saying that all the people and groups who support Chávez are conscious of this. I repeat, Chavismo does not have a homogeneous supporter base. There are those who think the régime is doing the best it can to improve the lot of the people... there are even thous who are convinced that today we are experiencing a unique opportunity to “build socialism”. We, for our part, think that this neo-liberal role can be seen in the régime’s policies on oil and trade, and indeed in its whole economic agenda. This manipulative populist rhetoric covers up the real agenda of clearing the way for the implementation of the neo-liberal model, to a greater extent than ever before.
C.R. - Chavismo as the spearhead of neo-liberal policies: quite an original take on things! From this standpoint, can we see the rise - or the creation - of a new private sector emerging from the Chávez years: one based on the new networks of patronage and corruption?
I. - But obviously! In Venezuela such networks have always been integral to the functioning of society. Initially the Chavistas tried to break with this set-up. But in reality there were but minor changes in the structures of bureaucracy, and corruption and patronage continued. There are few studies of this issue. But at an empirical level we can state that it is plain to see in the oil and financial sectors where the government has introduced its plans. In the co-operative sector, for example, cliques have identifiably appropriated projects to build centres of economic power from which they can make personal gains.
M. - Of course, we have a totally different idea of co-operatives. For us,a co-operative is an initiative which comes from below. For the Chavistas, on the contrary, enterprises in what they now call the “social economy sector” must operate in the form of state-aided co-operatives. Every day people start organising co-operatives - people who are totally foreign to the spirit and practice of co-operativism... because it is the quickest way of getting contracts and state credit! In many industries the law obliges the state to give priority of tenders to “co-operatives” above private enterprises. So many malign people have started creating co-operatives in order to win contracts with government bodies. That as the case with the public roads enterprise you mentioned. A private enterprise was thus transformed inter a co-operative to win the tender, and at a stroke the workers lost all their rights and bonuses. They now have three-month renewable contracts, such that the “co-operativist” (in reality, the new name for the boss!) has no duties towards them. Thanks to this lie, after a few months it could be said that there were 200,000 co-operatives... All this in order to make propaganda showing that society has changed. But it is all artificial, created by decree.
I. - I would add that, after the oil workers’ strike, the government learned that it had to control the world of work. First it explained that the state would create a new form of organisation based on solidarity and where all workers would benefit from the same privileges. The co-operatives! At a stroke the government broke the services contracts it had with private companies (particularly for cleaning), which by law had to pay workers ’social bonuses’. The workers were laid off and forced to seek temporary work with these co-operatives now dealing with the state.They lost the bonuses and rights which they had previously (in theory at least) had. Moreover, many of these co-operatives disappeared as soon as they were created. So we are witnessing, as your friend is right to emphasise, the casualisation of work.


Over the past few months Molly has received oodles and oodles and oodles of mail in her inbox from various US labour organizations about the 'Employee Free Choice Act'. To listen to its promoters this proposed bill is a cross between the Second Coming and free ice cream for all. To say the least I have been sceptical because, insofar as I can make out, the Bill would merely make labour organizing about as easy and as hard down USA way as it is up here in Canada. Hardly a Messiah in congressional robes. Here's another sceptical view, from the website of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Can We Rebuild The Labor Movement With The Employee Free Choice Act?:
By Adam W. - Industrial Worker, January, 2009
Much has been said in the United States labor movement around the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a bill many mainstream leaders tout as the solution to the decline of unions. With the recent election of Barrack Obama and the Democratic Party holding the majority of seats in both houses of the US Congress, these same leaders have their hearts set that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions will pay off with the passage of the bill.

The meat of the EFCA would amend existing labor law in the US to allow unions to gain official recognition in a workplace through a majority of workers signing authorization cards and avoid the perilous and employer-dominated election route. Once a union is certified, employers have to begin sitting down with the union within ten days. If no deal is reached government mediators can force employers to sign a first contract, even without the vote of workers. The EFCA also would drastically increase the penalties companies face for violating workers rights, such as with firing workers for organizing, which happen at record rates in the US compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Workers could receive up to three times the back pay owed and companies could be fined up to $20,000 for willful or repeated violations.

What are members of the IWW to think of this? We are a small but growing international union with a vision of a completely different world. Not the vague change promised by both sides in the US presidential elections, but a world without bosses, where everyday workers are in the driver’s seat, and where hopes and dreams for a better world can truly be realized. Will the passage of the EFCA move us closer to our vision of a new world? There is certainly a great deal of hope in the change that the EFCA could bring, but I think we need to look more critically whether substantial change will come even if the EFCA should pass.
Weighing the EFCA
Let’s lead off the discussion on the positives. With the harsh reality of unemployment, growing debt and long stagnant wages that many workers throughout the US are currently facing, mainstream news coverage of Congress merely debating workers rights is enough to make millions consider the idea of a union at their workplace. This could provide an opening in the narrow, pro-business discussion that dominates US politics. Should it happen, members of the IWW would be wise to seize this opportunity to talk with more workers and expand our organizing wherever we can.

Further, if the Act should pass in its existing form (as it could easily be watered down) the increased penalties could provide us with greater leverage over resistant employers. A prime example would be New York warehouse employer Handy Fat Trading, which has fired IWW members and defied several rulings by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Both a national debate around unions and workers right and greater enforcement of labor laws would help us in the IWW.

Now let’s discuss why I think we should see the EFCA in a critical light. Many labor leaders promote the bill in language that ranges from a ‘great step forward’ to a cure-all of sorts, which would usher in a new era of unionization such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) organizing drives of the Thirties.

I think these views have some serious problems.

First, I’m skeptical that it will pass and not just because Obama has appointed a centrist cabinet of former Clinton officials. Labor’s betrayal by Democrats and the game of “wait and see, they’ll deliver” every time a Democratic president comes to power is a river so deep, you may as well call it an ocean. Barring significant strikes or actions by workers that begin to scare business elites into wanting to offer labor a bone, I don’t see this history changing.

The largest issue with the EFCA, though, is the use of card checks to gain official union recognition. To join a union, a worker would sign a membership card. If more than 50 per cent of the workers signed cards, the employer would have to recognize the union.

While the bill would undeniably make this process easier, I don’t think this will lead to the huge membership increases we’re led to believe. Canada, for instance, has similar card check recognition and enforced arbitration laws yet it has a declining private sector union rate of about 17 per cent, compared to eight per cent or less in the US. Despite the laws, Canadian companies have continued to effectively use union-busting to prevent workers from organizing and to decertify existing unions at higher rates than new ones can be organized—exactly the same situation as in the US.

Mainstream labor’s embrace of this aspect of the EFCA is actually the most troubling in my eyes because it represents the same problem that has been plaguing mainstream unions since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935: trading easier membership gains and labor peace in exchange for the shop floor militancy that can actually fight effectively to win against employers. If unions are able to gain recognition through card check that they wouldn’t have been able to do through fighting for voluntary recognition, this drastically increases the likelihood that the large, centrally controlled business unions will be meeting employers at the table with stacks of authorization cards and passive bodies of workers, rather than the well organized rank-and-file committees needed to win. These unions would rely on two year, government-imposed contracts that workers will not be able to vote down and which will bar workers from striking.

Overall, much of mainstream labor’s framing of EFCA promotes short cuts to rebuilding the labor movement, such as relying on government laws, rather than the hard work of organizing and fighting the bosses that is needed. This framing is a not an entirely subtle analogy drawn between the EFCA and the mass organizing of industrial unions in the 1930’s under the breakaway CIO that was allowed by the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

But the analogy doesn’t hold water. The worker insurgency of the 1930s in the US was a mass movement of workers who struck and occupied factories largely without any leadership by unions and before the formation of the CIO. The government reacted to this development by passing the NLRA in 1935, whose purpose was to cool disruptive strikes through offering workers the legal right to collectively bargain. In the next several years, the CIO was then able to sweep the insurgents into its membership as the wave of sit-downs peaked in 1936-37. Over the next decade, the CIO worked to create its own “labor peace” through signing no-strike clauses, curbing the ability of workers to deal with grievances on the shop floor, and channeling workers’ energies into electoral politics (for more see Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward’s chapter on the CIO in Poor People’s Movements). This background should be kept in mind any time we hear arguments that federal laws and union officials make history and not workers themselves.

So, in what light should labor radicals who want to rebuild the labor movement and create a new world, see the EFCA? First, we should not hold our breath or hold back in any of our organizing efforts by waiting for its passage. Second, should the EFCA pass, we should take every effort to take advantage of the increased discussion of unions. This may be difficult in practice as workers may approach us wanting to organize, but under the false impression that it is suddenly “easier” under the new check recognition. We need to stick to our guns, though, and continue our practice of solidarity unionism, even when it involves strategically using the card check process.

Above all, we should remain critically cautious and skeptical around the promises of the EFCA and even more skeptical of those in the labor movement who promote it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009



The case of five Iranian sugar worker activists, summoned to a kangaroo court for their legitimate union activities, was mentioned a few days ago here at Molly's Blog. Here's an update on the case from the IUF and a call for further solidarity.

Iran: Verdict against five union leaders of Haft Tapeh expected in next few days:
Posted to the IUF website 24-Feb-2009
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The court hearing against the five union leaders of Haft Tapeh in the southern city of Shush concluded yesterday at 2.30pm local time. The Revolutionary Court said that the verdict will be issued in a few days. All five men are trailed for "propaganda against the government". During the hearing, the union's lawyer argued against this allegation citing that it is too vague and the court has not followed the proper legal procedure.

The verdict against Ali Nejati, Feridoun Nikoufard, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Ghorban Alipour and Jalil Ahmadi were scheduled to be delivered on 17 February but was forced to be delayed after the defendants and the lawyer demanded the presence of the plaintiff who did not even bother to make his appearance before the judge that day. Nor was there any serious "evidence", they argued successfully.

After this session, another Executive Board member of the union, Rahim Beshag, was arrested on 22 February by the secret police and taken into the custody. His charges are not known. This is a part of the on-going attack by the authorities to crack-down the union activities at Haft Tapeh. Today, the Ministry of Labour pushed for an election of Islamic Labour Council at the factory. Much to their dissatisfaction, a small minority of the workers took part in the voting.

The IUF and the unions around the world have been supporting the Haft Tapeh workers union and this court case over the past few weeks. Upon hearing this brave news of the defendants challenging the Revolutionary Court procedure, they stepped-up their campaign by organising mass protest mails to the Iranian leadership. More than 8,000 people have accessed to the online protest sites set by the IUF and LabourStart in less than a week. Mailing lists by the ITF and Amnesty International were used to support the campaign.

In the past, the court has "issued" verdicts in other cases involving the leaders of independent workers' movement such as Mansour Osanloo but have often failed to produce anything in writing. In some cases, it has taken a few months for the verdict to be delivered.

IUF members stand ready to support our members in Iran and we will provide updated information as this case progresses.