Monday, July 27, 2009

One Day In July: Remembering The 1934 Minneapolis Teamster Strike

THE 1934 MINNEAPOLIS TRUCKERS STRIKE On "Bloody Friday", July 20,1934,at 3rd and 6th, 67 striking truckdrivers and their supporters were shot by Minneapolis police, acting on orders from the Citizens Alliance, an anti-labor employers' group, which controlled city government. Seventy-five years later, WE REMEMBER THEIR SACRIFICE!

This weekend Minneapolis returned to an old tradition and celebrated the 1934 general strike in Minneapolis, that brought unionism to Minneapolis. The first day was a music festival in the streets where the fighting took place. Today was a picnic attended by relatives of strikers, and representatives of the UE who took part in the Republic Windows occupation in Chicago. No known 1934 strikers are living.

Teamsters got their name from starting out organizing drivers of teams of horses. There was less time between the 1934 stike and the Civil War, than the strike and today.

By Dave Riehle

Three successive strikes by Minneapolis truck drivers in 1934 resulted in the defeat of the Citizen's Alliance, the dominant employer organization that had broken nearly every major strike in that city since 1916. The strikes also established the industrial form of union organization through the medium of an American Federation of Labor (AFL) craft union and set the stage for the organization of over-the-road drivers throughout an 11-state area, transforming the Teamsters into a million-plus member union. The strikes were notable for their almost unequaled advance preparation, military tactics, and the degree to which they drew the active participation of union, non-union, and unemployed workers in Minneapolis alike into their struggle. Veteran union militants expelled from the American Communist Party in 1928 as Trotskyists led the strikes.

Carl Skoglund and V R. (Ray) Dunne, the central leaders, had also been expelled from the AFL Trades and Labor Assembly in Minneapolis in 1925 for their political views, along with 20 other Communists. In 1931 Skoglund obtained membership in Teamsters Local 574, a small general drivers. local. The president, William Brown, was supportive of their perspective for organizing drivers, helpers, and inside workers into an industrial union formation that could break the hold of the Citizen.s Alliance.

By late 1933, working in Minneapolis coal yards, they had consolidated a volunteer organizing committee, including Grant and Miles Dunne (V.R's brothers), Harry DeBoer, and Farrell Dobbs. Dobbs, DeBoer, and Shaun (Jack) Maloney became key leaders of the over-the-road drivers' organizing campaign from 1935 to 1940.

On 7 February 1934, a strike was called in the coal yards, shutting down sixty-five of sixty-seven yards in three hours. Under the leadership of DeBoer, an innovative strike tactic was introduced for the first time, cruising picket squads patrolling the streets by automobile. Cold winter demand for coal brought a quick end to the strike two days later, resulting in a limited victory for the union. Local 574's membership rose to three thousand by April, as the organization drive continued.

In preparation for a general drivers. strike, 574 got agreement for active support from Minneapolis unemployed organizations and the Farm Holiday Association, allied with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party. On 15 May, Local 574, now 6,000 members strong, voted to strike all trucking employers, demanding union recognition, the right to represent inside workers, and wage increases.

The union deployed cruising picket squads from strike headquarters, a big garage where they also installed a hospital and commissary. A strike committee of one hundred was elected, with broad representation from struck firms. A women's auxiliary was established at the suggestion of Carl Skoglund.

On Monday, 21 May, a major battle between strikers and police and special deputies took place in the central market area. At a crucial, point, 600 pickets, concealed the previous evening in nearby AFL headquarters, emerged and routed the police and deputies in hand-to-hand combat. Over thirty cops went to the hospital. No pickets were arrested.

On Tuesday, 22 May, the battle began again. About 20,000 strikers, sympathizers, and spectators assembled in the central market area, and a local radio station broadcast live from the site. Again, no trucks were moved.

Two special deputies were killed, including C. Arthur Lyman, a leader of the Citizen's Alliance. No pickets were arrested. On 25 May a settlement was reached that met the union's major objectives, including representation of inside workers.

In the following weeks, it became clear the employers were not carrying out the agreement. Over 700 cases of discrimination were recorded between May and July. Another strike was called on 16 July. The union's newspaper, The Organizer, became the first daily ever published by a striking union. Trucking was again effectively closed down until Friday, 20 July, when police opened fire on unarmed pickets, wounding 67, two of whom, John Belor and Henry Ness, died.

The Minneapolis Labor Review reported attendance of 100,000 at Ness's funeral on 24 July. A public commission, set up later by the governor, reported: "Police took direct aim at the pickets and fired to kill. Physical safety of the police was at no time endangered. No weapons were in possession of the pickets." On 26 July, Farmer-Labor Governor Floyd B. Olson declared martial law and mobilized four thousand National Guardsmen, who began issuing operating permits to truck drivers.

On 1 August, National Guard troops seized strike headquarters and placed arrested union leaders in a stockade at the state fairgrounds in Saint Paul. The next day, the headquarters were restored to the union and the leaders released from the stockade, as the National Guard carried out a token raid on the Citizen's Alliance headquarters. The union appealed to the Central Labor Union for a general strike and the governor issued an ultimatum that he would stop all trucks by midnight, 5 August, if there was no settlement. Nevertheless, by 14 August there were thousands of trucks operating under military permits.

Although the strike was gravely weakened by martial law and economic pressure, union leaders made it clear that it would continue. On 21 August, a federal mediator got acceptance of a settlement pro-posal from A. W. Strong, head of the Citizen.s Alliance, incorporating the union.s major demands. The settlement was ratified and the back of employer resist-ance to unionization in Minneapolis was broken. In March 1935 International president Daniel Tobin expelled Local 574 from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). However, in August 1936 Tobin was forced to relent and recharter the local as 544. The leaders of 544 went on to develop the area and conference bargaining that exists today in the IBT. Local 544 remained under socialist leader-ship until 1941, when eighteen leaders of the union and the Socialist Workers Party were sentenced to federal prison, the first victims of the anti-radical Smith Act, a law eventually found by the United States Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Afghanistan: Bloodshed Without End

Written by Ewan Gibbs
Thursday, 16 July 2009

The war in Afghanistan has re-emerged in the headlines as casualty rates for American and British forces have now reached their highest since the invasion of Afghanistan. Already more than one hundred American troops have been killed since the beginning of this year alone, whilst in Britain the news has been dominated by the deaths of eight soldiers who were killed in twenty four hours over the weekend,

Three of them were just eighteen. Although this has briefly seen a temporary rush of sympathy for the dead expressing itself in support for the army, in the long run this is only exposing Afghanistan as being an unwinnable venture which is seeing young working class people sacrificed in the interest of an insane neo-colonial war that is far from in their interests.

U.S. soldiers fire a 120mm mortar during a combat operation in the Da'udzay Valley in the Zabol province of Afghanistan Oct. 23, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Downen)

It is clear that the total death toll since 2001 of Afghans simply unknown and most estimates do not even factor in the effects that living in a war zone may have on access to medical supplies and the effect of the stress and duress of the daily pounding of bombs on young children and pregnant women etc. Alongside this an untold amount of damage has been done to the already precarious infrastructure of the country. The hunt against opium has seen thousands of acres of farm land burnt as peasant farmers struggle to survive whilst the wider ‘battle for hearts and minds’ is getting nowhere fast.

Despite the loud claims that Afghanistan was entering the twenty first century through a “western style democracy” following the elections in 2004, it is clear that the American led vision of dominating Afghanistan from afar, via a loyal and stable government in Kabul, is little more than a pipe dream. The elections themselves are very precarious affairs. Outside of the capital and the immediate surrounding areas their legitimacy is severely in question due to the involvement of local warlords, to whom the American led coalition are all too happy to give a piece of the pie in return for their cooperation. Mean while areas of the west of the country such as the Helmand province that lie under Taliban domination are effectively excluded from the process what so ever.

As a result the man who is in theory president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai has been branded the world’s most expensive mayor. Entirely reliant on the support of coalition forces his government has been completely bound to the interests of imperialism. In spite of the image the western media has presented of Karzai heading a supposedly reforming liberal government he comes from the same background in the Islamist Mujahideen as the Taliban. His government includes many warlords and recently in has gone as far as to propose legislation that would not only legalize the rape of Shia Muslim women by their husbands and prevent them from leaving their houses, attending school or registering for a doctor without his support. (Amnesty international 14/7/09)

The real origins of this situation go back to the Saur Revolution of 1978 which saw the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan take power through support in the military. Whilst in name a socialist revolution, the coup in effect placed a layer of progressive military generals in charge of the country. Despite failing to establish genuine workers democracy and perusing an agenda centred on protecting and furthering the privileges of the generals, the regime established a planned economy that made huge strides in health care, education and the reform of Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

The American response to this was to support the opposition in the form of the Mujihadeen guerrilla fighters who were funneled huge sums of money through the Pakistani state, in particularly its intelligence forces, the ISI. Eventually these forces overwhelmed the PDPA regime which finally fell apart in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union from which it drew material and political support. Basing themselves on a reactionary Islamist ideology the Mujihadeen was made up of a variety of disparate groups that based themselves on local strong men who often grew rich out of the trade in opium poppies. Eventually the hard-line Taliban faction took power in 1996, holding it until the US invasion in 2001.

U.S. and British soldiers during a combat patrol in the Sangin District area of Helmand Province. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Daniel Love)

Islamic fundamentalism, in both the case of Iran and Afghanistan, has proved to be a monster the US initially mobilised against social revolution but which eventually escaped its own control. From the fall of the PDPA regime in the early 1990s Afghanistan has been more of a land in between countries than a nation in itself as various factions headed by glorified gangsters have vied for control of the state. The Taliban regime fell from favour with the US as it grew too big for its own boots and various terrorist attacks, such as the attack on the US embassy in Kenya in 1998 and the attempt on the World Trade Centre in 1994, began to be traced back to training camps in Afghanistan.

The attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 proved to be the last straw and the perfect excuse for American forces to invade the country. Yesterday’s freedom fighter became today’s terrorist as the politicians sought to assert their domination over the country. Meanwhile the dollar signs showed in the eyes of the American and British energy companies, who sought to build their own pipeline to the Caspian Sea free from Russian influence. Evidently all were blind to the historical record of those invading Afghanistan! Seemingly the defeat of both the British army in the nineteenth century or the Soviet forces in the 1970s and 80s in Afghanistan did not cause them to think twice.

The invasion of Afghanistan has ended up in disaster. Whilst it is sickening but unsurprising to see opportunist politicians such as David Cameron cashing in on the needless deaths of young working class men who may well have had nowhere to turn but the army upon leaving school, the truth of the matter is no matter how many more helicopters are shipped over the situation will not change. As in Iraq and Vietnam imperialism has entered into a venture it cannot win and has attempted to subdue a people who will not be held down by military force. Sooner or later the Americans will be forced to come to a compromise with a section of the Taliban and, just as in Iraq, forced to march home with their tails between their legs - having only achieved a greater destabilisation of the region and a weakening of their allies and strengthening of their enemies.

This will unfortunately not answer the problems of the Afghan masses. It is the duty of socialists in all countries with troops in Afghanistan to demand their immediate withdrawal and an end to the occupation and national oppression of the Afghan people. However this in itself will not be enough. As long as Afghanistan lies under the domination of the gangster warlords, imperialism will keep trying to gain access to the resources of Afghanistan and, if paid handsomely enough, these leaders will only happily oblige.

The recent activities of the Pakistani section of the International Marxist Tendency, The Struggle, during the fighting in the Swat Valley demonstrated the way forward. By opening relief camps and running Marxist education workshops whilst providing aid to the refugees and mobilising the efforts of the local people to do so, they proved that the masses can resist the forces of imperialism and its ill disciplined mercenaries. It is only by standing for their own interest and taking the resources and infrastructure of their country under their control and in their interests that the Afghan workers and the peasants behind them can find a meaningful solution; that is to say through the socialist revolution.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Carnival of Socialism # 40 Is Here

The Carnival of Socialism # 40 is here. At it's description profile it says, "The Carnival of Socialism attempts to bring a fortnightly round up of everything that's going on in the global socialist blogosphere." Hopfully this carnival, will introduce a few new blogs for your consideration, at other carnivals as well.

Kasama caught my interest with a post entitled Mao Zedong: Should Reactionaries Have Free Speech?.

American Left History should be a regular stop on your blog reading. This blog centers on American history and culture, from a socialist view. Markin's love of history and art shine through.

The Third Estate managed to interview political icon in the UK Tony Benn.

Left in East Dakota notes Obama's base being disillusioned with him.

Worker's Press criritiques Obama on healthcare.

River's Edge notes that the UK anti-terror units, only find rightist plots, "it is invariably more by luck than by design".

Vengeance and Fashion has an interesting post about a schoolteacher who was abused by his students and snapped. There are Facebook groups supporting both sides. It is unusual for socialists to write about such a subject so close to home.

The Trotsky Museum has a blog of its own.

Querida Celia Hart Is a Spanish blog that honors Celia Hart Santamaria, the Cuban revolutionary who died last year in an auto accident related to the Cuban Hurricane. Celia opened doors for socialist democracy in Cuba.

From Turkey Mehmet Çagatay writes about Michael Jackson.

The Red Mantis tackles Iranian unrest, and asks who leads and where is it going?

Histomat replies to a BBC documentary about Leon Trotsky, based on the book The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky. Histomat writes, "Just as Stalin smeared the Jewish Trotsky as an agent of Hitler, so Richard Overy describes Trotsky's supporters as a 'motley crew', while Trotsky himself suffered from a 'blindness to any sense of humanity' and apparently 'never had any scruples about killing those in the way of the Marxist utopia'. It is a pity that Overy has seemingly not made time to read Trotsky's Their Morals and Ours where he answered exactly Overy's critique about 'moral scruple' over seventy years ago:"

Socialism or Barbarism reviews the Irish economy, in a two part series.

Celticfire writes about a Portland transit riders union.

The Daily Maybe discovered the Trotskyist soft drink Red Kola.

Untouchable Earth writes from India about the will of the Iranian people. This blog is oriented to socialism, art and astronomy.

Madam Miaow gives us good analysis of the Uighur uprising in China. At my local coffeeshop Madam Miaow's blog is blocked by the computer's filtering software. What's wrong with Anna Mae Wong?

A Reader's Word from India, takes on the myth of micro finance.

The next Carnival will be August 02, 2009 at Red Wombat

Renegade Eye

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

An interview with an Iranian socialist: “Electoral Fraud” and the movement in Iran today

Written by Ted Sprague
Thursday, 09 July 2009

Millions of Iranians have come out on the streets demanding a change in regime. The movement that was first sparked off by “electoral fraud” has become a movement to demand complete democratic rights and against the dictatorship of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is an interview (conducted on July 2nd 2009) with Arash Azizi, an Iranian socialist, which was originally made to explain the situation in Iran to an Indonesian audience.

Ted Sprague: Can you explain to our readers about the electoral fraud in Iran and the movement that has emerged out of it?

Arash Azizi: Well, politics works in mysterious ways! If you want to take things at face value you have to believe millions of people have come onto the streets, in a direct clash with the deadly forces of an oppressive regime just because of some “electoral fraud” between candidates that didn’t really have a difference in platform! But that is not the case. You can’t analyze events without seeing them in the context and their background.

The truth is that people participated in the elections and massively voted for Mousavi for a reason which wasn’t his platform or anything like that. People had seen the obvious splits in the ruling clique of the Islamic Republic and they wanted to use these splits. They wanted to play off one wing of the regime against the other to get rid of them all eventually. The Mousavi wing advocated lifting somewhat the repressive measures of the regime to prevent or delay the people’s uprising against the whole regime. But the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad wing couldn’t really allow that. They knew that if they concede a little bit of freedom, people will want more and eventually would not stop short of overthrowing the whole regime. That’s why they staged a “coup”, a velvet coup d’etat, if you wish. They declared Ahmadinejad the winner with a ridiculously high margin of 16 million votes. But they hadn’t expected that the people would not just go home and accept that Khamenei can just do this with impunity. They came out massively and we witnessed the largest demonstrations of the past 30 years. This wasn’t and isn’t about Mousavi anymore. Even voting for Mousavi wasn’t about Mousavi! It is about a huge population that hates life in the Islamic Republic and is willing to fight it step by step. What we now have is no longer a movement against “electoral fraud”, but a massive revolutionary movement against the Islamic Republic in its entirety. This is also revealed in people’s slogans. They started with “Give me back my Vote” but then moved on to shouting: “Down with the Dictator!” and “Down with Khamenei!” and, although to a lesser extent, “We don’t want a theocracy!”

TS: It has been three weeks since the start of the protest; can you give an update as to how this movement has developed? And who is leading it?

AA: I think I hinted at this in my previous answer. The movement started spontaneously, which is normal, even though its scope was unprecedented and extraordinary. You suddenly had more than 5 million demonstrating all over Iran! Immediately after the election, the people’s demand was of course for the repealing of the vote and giving power to Mousavi and so they perceived him as their leader. They called on him (and Karoubi, another “Reformist” candidate) to “get back their votes”. But of course Mr. Mousavi and Karoubi are much more afraid of millions of people on the streets than they are of the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad gangs.

So they decided ‑ and did their best actually to achieve this ‑ to send the people home. In the first week we had a pattern of Mousavi calling for “no demonstrations” to “save people’s lives” but then the people showed up and he had to go there and speak. He was being psuhed by the events.

Giving a concise and concrete answer to your question is hard because this “movement” is not a homogenous one and changes every movement. What is definite is that it has shown great courage, which means it is ready to fight the Islamic Republic. What is also evident is that it lacks a leadership that could lead it to the results it desires. Mousavi and Karoubi are part and parcel of this regime and they would never willingly lead an opposition movement against the regime. The people’s aim is really an end to the Islamic Republic. But they lack an effective leadership to lead them to this.

TS: The Ahmadinejad government has claimed that this movement was organized by the imperialist powers (the CIA in particular) in order to topple the regime. Is this true?

AA: Well, anybody who has lived in Iran for a while knows that for them everything is organized by Israel and the CIA. Independent intellectuals, writers, poets, journalists, even youth who just want to have fun are usually attacked in this manner. This is because oppressive regimes never want to concede that people are actually against them!

Of course this is ridiculous. This is a genuine mass movement with millions on the streets.

TS: Quite a number of people in the left support Ahmadinejad, including Chavez. What do you have to say about this?

AA: First you have to differentiate Chavez from other “Leftists”. Chavez is a head of state and he has to carry out some formalities which are acceptable as long as it is about getting trade agreements and similar questions (which are vital for Venezuela). But he is making serious mistakes in his position toward Ahmadinejad. He does not understand that the real friends of the Venezuelan Revolution are the masses of the world, including Iran. His support for the hated Ahmadinejad has unfortunately led to a feeling of hatred on the part of many Iranians towards him and the Bolivarian Revolution. I was in a solidarity demonstration recently and I heard some people claiming that Venezuela is sending police forces to crush the protesters in Tehran! While this is probably just a rumour, it shows to what degree people have feelings against him that they are circulating these rumours.

He actually has some leverage with the Iranian government and should have at least voiced some concern. Even if he wants to only think about the immediate benefits at this stage, I should tell him that this government of the Islamic Republic will not be in a power for long! And he had better wait for the new government to have good relations with! I am confident that he will eventually change his position, especially as many parts of the Bolivarian movement are voicing their concern over this. I, for example, read a statement by the Venezuelan Marxists (Revolutionary Marxist Current, CMR) that disagreed with Chavez over this question.

As I said, while Chavez is a head of state that has taken a lot of progressive measures, but who is making some lamentable mistakes about Iran, other leftists are just showing how disconnected they are from reality.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read on, the website of the “International Committee of the Fourth International”, that they are connecting the protests to foreign intervention. This website is actually quite popular among some Iranian leftists… or was popular I should say, as of now! I haven’t read anything from the International Socialist Tendency yet. But they have to do something about their support for the Islamic Republic over the years. Anybody on the left who has supported this regime even for a day will be seen as being so guilty when we succeed in getting rid of the Islamic Republic and establishing a workers’ state in our country. They then will have to come and kneel before the Iranian workers and socialists to be forgiven! We will forgive them then, but we will never forget how, when this regime was killing us in our thousands, they supported it.

TS: Mousavi has been portrayed as a reformist by the media, the face of democratic change in Iran. What is the feeling of ordinary Iranians towards him?

AA: Let me get this straight first: the “Reformists” are a wing of the Islamic Republic that has played a huge part in murdering tens of thousands and oppressing society. They are a fierce defender of the vicious Islamic regime and its founder, Khomeini. Actually their main platform has always been for a “Return to Khomeini”! This is the kind of reform they want! They remind me of a song by Phil Ochis, an American radical artist, who mockingly talks about how the Democrats and the Republicans in the US are really no different and they are all united against the people and the workers. It is the same with the “reformists” in Iran.

But how the average Iranian feels about Mousavi differs every week, if not every day. I think Iranians understand that he is part of the regime and that they don’t really want him but they are also very practical and say to themselves “he is much better than Ahmadinejad, so let’s get him for now”. He will be looked on as the leader for now, but people will soon realize he is not there to lead them to power and will pass beyond him.

TS: Now, many commentators have compared this movement to the one in 1979, the so-called Islamic Revolution, is this assessment correct?

AA: What is definitely incorrect is to call our Great Revolution of 1979 an “Islamic Revolution”. It was not. It was a popular revolution against the monarchy and for Freedom and Equality which was hijacked, with the help of the western governments, by the reactionary Khomeini and mullahs. You have to remember that Political Islam would have had no real chance to take power in Iran if it had not been for the aid of western governments. They found this dead corpse in the dustbin of history and brought it back to life because they realised its anti-left and oppressive potential. That needs a longer discussion…

As to the relation of the current movement to that revolution…well, if you ask me I’d like to say that I hope the current revolutionary movement will fulfil the goals that the 1979 revolution failed to achieve because of its defeat by counter-revolutionary mullahs. I also believe that the 1979 revolution, even though it was brutally defeated, provides important lessons to Iranian society and workers. Workers can remember how powerful they can be when they come onto the scene of history. The real commemoration of the memory of the 1979 revolution would be a revolutionary overthrowing of the counter-revolutionary Islamic regime which had hijacked that revolution and going toward the real goals, that are Freedom, Equality and the Well-being of the people, which by the way, are only possible under Socialism.

TS: How is this movement going to affect the political landscape in the Middle East?

AA: It has already affected the whole world, not only the Middle East. The people of the world have been inspired by the extraordinary courage that their Iranian brothers and sisters have shown. Once more they have come onto streets to fight a vicious regime. In a period of 30 years, this people have fought two of the most brutal dictatorships in human history. I think anybody who has fought even for one day against oppression and tyranny will be inspired by this people.

The conclusion of this movement has of course much more important implications in the region and internationally. The overthrowing of the Islamic Republic, in my idea, will lead to an end of Political Islam as an international movement because this movement will lose its main head. The resources for the Islamists in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria will dry up and this is only good news for the people of those countries! As I said, it will also prove to everybody that no regime is indestructible and one has to fight against dictatorships and once the collective power of the workers and people is on the scene, any regime will be brought down.

I, of course have much higher hopes for the new Iranian Revolution. I am hoping, and I will fight for, a socialist revolution that would establish a socialist republic in Iran and if that happens, if a country of 70 million people becomes socialist, an international battle will begin that will only end with the end of capitalism and will open up a new page in human history.

TS: What about the labour movement in Iran?

AA: the labour movement has its weaknesses and strengths. It lacks traditional mass organizations (like Trade Unions which are almost non-existent) but on the other hand it has great revolutionary traditions like the workers’ councils which were formed in the 1979 revolution. It also has a lot of potential militancy and has so far shown no illusions in any wing of the regime, which is extraordinary. But it is yet to decisively enter the struggle and when that happens, the fate of the Iranian revolution will be sealed.

TS: Where do you think this movement will lead? It has been 3 weeks of constant demos, how do you think it will end?

AA: I have never been a sole “predictor” of the event and I like to think myself as part of the movement that tries to move it to the left. This revolution will be stopped by a lot people at different “stations”, if you will. They will try to tell us when is the time for what, and that the time for what hasn’t come YET. The task is for a revolutionary leadership to emerge that would be accepted by the people and would lead their revolution all the way to victory, which means overthrowing the Islamic Republic and laying the foundations of a new society. My wish is for Iran to go socialist and I know this is not possible without a mass revolutionary party that would lead the workers and the people.

But apart from what I wish, one thing is for sure: Iran will never be the same again. The beginning of the end for the Islamic Republic has started and in the aftermath of the destruction of this regime, the people will have a real chance to found a humane society that would be a beacon of hope for the oppressed people all over the world.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Honduras: One week after the coup – mass mobilisation continues – Army prevents Zelaya’s come back

By Jorge Martín
Monday, 06 July 2009

All kinds of manoeuvres are taking place after the coup in Honduras. The coup organisers want to hold on, but pressure is being brought to bear for some kind of compromise solution, which however cannot satisfy the masses. The only real answer lies in the full mobilisation of the Honduran workers and peasants.

Hundreds of thousands had marched to the Toncontin airport and broken through police lines to make sure Zelaya's plane could land.On Sunday, July 5, a week after having been removed by a military coup, Honduran president Mel Zelaya boarded a Venezuelan plane in Washington with the aim of going back to his country. Hundreds of thousands had marched to the Toncontin airport and broken through police lines to make sure his plane could land. However, the army opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators, injuring scores and killing at least one. Zelaya’s plane was prevented from landing by the Army which positioned vehicles on the landing strip. The government of Micheletti ‑ imposed by a coup ‑ has closed down all of the country’s airports.

Men, women, children, workers, peasants, the poor, had gathered from early in the morning to march to the airport to receive their president. A report from Radio Globo put the figure at half a million, others put the number at 200,000 people. The live broadcast from Telesur showed a huge crowd of hundreds of thousands, far bigger than the 65,000 that had marched against the coup the day before in Tegucigalpa. Speaking from Honduras to In Defence of Marxism, Democratic Unity (UD) party MP Tomás Andino said: “This demonstration was unprecedented, probably the largest in the history of Honduras”. We have to take into account that the population of the country as a whole is only 7.5 million people. This demonstration was the biggest so far against the coup and dwarfed any of the demonstrations organised by the coup plotters during the week.

This massive movement of the people of Honduras has taken place despite the fact that the new regime has imposed a curfew (which has not been extended and is in place between 6pm and 6am every night), has arrested dozens of known trade union and popular movement activists and leaders, has killed a number of them (the correspondent from El Pais has reported that people have been taken to hospital by the police with bullet wounds every single night), has suspended constitutional guarantees (a de facto state of emergency situation) and put in place a media blockade (a number of radio and TV stations have been closed down). According to police officials 651 people were arrested on Saturday and Sunday alone. None of this has stopped the movement and the strikes which have paralysed mainly the education system and the telecommunications and electricity companies. Peasant and indigenous organisations are maintaining road blocks in many of the districts in the interior of the country.

The scope of the movement against the coup and growing the international pressure is already opening up rifts within the camp of the coup organisers. According to some reports, businessmen Ricardo Maduro, Rafael Ferrari and Carlos Flores Facussémet met with representatives of the coup organisers until early in the morning trying to get them to reach an agreement. But the coup plotters, led by Micheletti, are particularly obtuse representatives of the Honduran oligarchy, and having taken the step of organising the coup, are now in no mood to make any concessions. In a farcical press conference Micheletti alleged that Nicaraguan troops were massing at the border in preparation for an invasion of Honduras. When pressed by the journalists to give more details, he changed his tune and said that it was just a “psychological invasion”!

On Saturday, July 4, Micheletti’s junta also rebuffed OAS general secretary Insulza, who had gone to Honduras in a last minute attempt to reach a compromise. It is clear that this coup is highly embarrassing for the current US administration and that pressure is being put on the coup plotters to at least make some concessions which could allow for a negotiated settlement, probably including some guarantees on Zelaya’s part that he would not seek to call a referendum on a Constituent Assembly.

The role of the United States in the coup

There has been a lot of speculation about whether the Obama administration was involved in this coup or not. On this question, Andino was very clear: “We think it is impossible for the Honduran Army to have acted without at least tacit approval on the part of US intelligence”.

All the information that has come out over the last week confirms what we said just after the coup:

“It is clear and public knowledge that the US knew that a coup was being organised. They had had conversations with the leaders of Congress in which the coup had been discussed. The advice from the US had been against taking the step of arresting Zelaya. Probably the US administration, faced with the mass mobilisation on Friday and having learnt some lessons from Venezuela, was not very confident in taking what might be seen as an illegal step and were more in favour of continuing with the script of the “constitutional coup”, leaving the removal of Zelaya for another, more favourable, moment.” (Defeat the reactionary military coup in Honduras – Mass mobilisation in the streets and general strike!)

US ambassador Hugo Llorens had stated on a number of occasions that he was against the consultation being proposed by Zelaya on the possibility of a referendum on a constituent assembly, but he phrased his opposition in typical diplomatic language: “one cannot violate the Constitution in order to create a Constitution”, he said (La Prensa, June 4). This was precisely the argument used by the oligarchy to block Zelaya’s proposed consultation.

Llorens stressed that: “whatever is finally done, it should be done within the law, within the Constitution”. On June 17, he echoed the arguments of the Honduran capitalists: “The political situation in the country does not help to create an investment friendly climate. Uncertainty in a country does not help investment” (La Prensa). And he added that the dispute about the consultation should be resolved by Congress. What he was saying, loud and clear, was that the US were in favour of a “democratic constitutional coup”.

Right up to the eve of the coup, US ambassador Llorens was talking to the coup plotters. On June 21, there was a meeting in the US embassy with the presence of president Zelaya, as well as all the coup plotters: Congress president Micheletti, Liberal and National Party presidential candidates Santos and Lobo, and the head of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vásquez. According to the report in the Honduran La Prensa, Zelaya was told that “the best way out of the crisis” would be for him to “cancel the consultation and carry out an opinion poll instead”. (La Prensa, June 22). The very fact that the US ambassador is meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country in this manner is a clear indication of the status of Honduras as a “banana republic” dominated by US imperialism. The message to Zelaya was clear: cancel the referendum or else.

It would be extremely naïve to think that Llorens did not know of the plans for a coup ‑ in fact this was being openly discussed in the Honduran media in the days leading up to it ‑ and even more naïve to think that he had not reported to Washington. Llorens is not a newcomer, he was nominated as US ambassador to Honduras by the Bush administration and had been Head of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council in 2002 and 2003. This position made him Bush’s main advisor on matters related to Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. He therefore was well aware of the failure of the 2002 coup in Venezuela.

The policy of the new Obama administration regarding Latin America has been one of hiding the stick and mainly waving the carrot. The aims are the same, but after the fiasco of Bush’s bullish policy in the region, Obama is keen to push back the revolutionary wave sweeping the continent by leaning on the “reasonable left” governments in the region. He cannot, therefore, afford the embarrassment of a military coup. Certainly the US administration wanted to remove Zelaya, who had become a thorn in their side, by joining ALBA, siding with Chavez, refusing for months to accept the new US ambassador, Llorens, as a gesture of solidarity with Bolivia (where the US were involved in another attempted coup in September last year) and by generally contributing to a sharpening of the class struggle (“polarisation”) in Honduras with his “irresponsible” statements about the rich and poor, and “freeing the country from imperialism”. They merely preferred to do so by constitutional means.

On June 25 the Honduran congress declared itself in “permanent session”. They were going to carry out the coup by declaring the disqualification of the president. The coup was averted at the last minute with the intervention of Llorens and even, according to some reports, of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself. But this only delayed the coup until Sunday 28, when the army took Zelaya in the middle of the night and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.

This was revealed in the lukewarm and belated statements of the Obama administration in the aftermath of the coup. The first official pronouncement of the White House was along the lines of an appeal to “all political and social players in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”. That was an appeal for all players to respect democracy, when some of them had just carried out a coup! It was only after the strongly worded condemnation of the coup by the ALBA member countries, led by Venezuela, that the US was forced to utter the word “coup”, and threatened to curtail military aid to Honduras. However, ambassador Llorens was left in Honduras, in order to keep an open line “with all players”.

Even though Zelaya has been in Washington for a few days, neither Obama nor Clinton have thus far met with him, preferring to allow the OAS to deal with the matter. The Organisation of American States has been charged with trying to find a reasonable solution to this mess, one that would save face by bringing Zelaya back, but on the basis of neutralising him – and above all the masses who support him. After all, even if he came back, he does not have control of Congress, nor the Supreme Court, nor the Army, and there are elections scheduled in November in which he cannot legally participate. When Zelaya announced that he was going back to the country on Thursday, July 2nd, the OAS gave the regime a 72-hour ultimatum, thus delaying his return. Then Zelaya announced that he would go back on Saturday 4th, only for OAS general secretary Insulza to announce his own visit to Honduras on that day, delaying Zelaya by one more day.

But Insulza was met with derision on the part of the coup plotters who announced that, before anyone kicked the out, they would be leaving the OAS. There are certain elements in politics that are never completely under anyone's control. Here we saw the most obtuse representatives of the Honduran oligarchy biting the hand that was offering them a way out.

The Spanish El Pais, always reflecting faithfully the opinions of imperialism, put it quite bluntly last week: “It is urgent to find a way out within the agreed [OAS] deadline, in order to prevent Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, from filling the vacuum which might be left afterwards. If the OAS, with US support, does not reinstate Zelaya, the road would then be open for the insurrectionary solution that Chavez is suggesting. The US seems to be conscious of the fact that it is running more risks here than they could have ever imagined in a country like Honduras, and is attempting to be very careful in its moves, so that Zelaya can win but without a victory for what he represents. In other words, without a victory for Chavez and populism”. (El Pais, July 2nd, Ultimátum de la OEA a los golpistas)

El Pais, incidentally came out against the coup but supported the reasons for it, after having written a vitriolic denunciation of Zelaya the day before the coup, in an editorial which ridiculed Chavez’s warning that a coup was being prepared in Honduras. (Editorial: Crisis en Honduras, June 26th)

Negotiations and mass action

Nonetheless, in the next few days, more pressure will be exerted on the coup leaders to reach a settlement. This was confirmed today in an article in the Washington Post: “U.S. officials confirmed that Honduras's de facto government had sent a message to the OAS seeking to open negotiations, a move that one official described as positive. 'We think this could create the basis for continuing movement by the OAS on diplomatic initiatives,' one official said.”

Tomás Andino, the UD deputy, told us that Carlos Flores was in negotiations with Washington to find a negotiated way out of the current crisis. “They want to bring back Zelaya, but bound hand and foot”. He pointed out that the businessmen fear that if the current efforts do not force the coup plotters to step down they will be faced with an armed mass uprising of the people which would threaten the whole of the capitalist regime.

However, we must be clear on one point: no amount of diplomatic pressure can defeat the coup in Honduras unless the masses of workers and peasants fight for it on the streets as they have done in the last few days. It may even come to pass that Zelaya is returned to Honduras, only for Congress to start proceedings to remove him from the presidency before the end of his term in January.

Over the last week, the mass movement in Honduras has become broader, more confident and more radicalised. This is precisely what the coup plotters feared, and the reason why they organised the coup. The struggle of the hundreds of thousands of Honduran working people, who have come out on the streets over the last week braving repression, is not only for the reinstatement of the president, but also for the trial and punishment of the coup plotters. Even more than that, it is a fundamental struggle for jobs, bread, land, dignity, and national sovereignty. None of this will be achieved simply with the return of Zelaya alone. If a negotiated settlement is finally reached, this will not satisfy the demands of the masses for justice, and it will certainly not solve the economic and social problems that have pushed them to rally behind Zelaya.

Speaking to Tomas Aquino, from the Honduras Democratic United Party, he made it very clear that the Peoples’ Resistance Front Against the Coup rejects any kind of negotiation with the coup-plotters and stands for the unconditional reinstatement of the president. He added that the masses of the people have become radicalised through their own experience. “They no longer demand a referendum on the Constituent Assembly, they want a Constituent Assembly full stop, as they are not prepared to deal any more with the political institutions that organised the coup”.

The return of Zelaya, if it does finally take place in the next few days, will only be a real victory for the mass movement if it is achieved without concessions on his part. If so, it will strengthen the resolve of the workers and peasants, it will increase their confidence in their own strength.

This last week of struggle has been a very rich school of political education for the masses. Under the whip of repression their political understanding has developed by leaps and bounds. All that Zelaya wanted, apparently, was to carry out a consultation on the possibility of a referendum to decide on a Constituent Assembly! And just because of that, the oligarchy en bloc organised a military-civilian coup. As Andino explained to us, the coup has the support of all traditional political parties, the hierarchy of the Evangelical and Catholic churches, the monopoly mass media groups, the owners of industry, the landowners, the judiciary and the tops of the Army. The whole of the capitalist political establishment is against a minor democratic reform! Because they are terrified of the revolutionary implications of the direct participation of the masses of the workers and peasants in politics. The capitalist system cannot allow it. Andino added that, “what we see is the beginning of a revolution”, and he is correct.

The two main lessons to be learnt from these events are, on the one hand, that the oligarchy in these underdeveloped capitalist countries cannot allow even the most moderate progressive reforms if these are accompanied by a process of politicisation and mobilisation of the masses. They fear the revolutionary consequences of the active participation of the masses in politics. On the other hand it should by now be clear that it is utopian to expect that the institutions of the capitalist state (the judiciary, army hierarchy, mass media, police, etc.), will allow genuine revolutionary change to take place without them stepping in to defend the interests of their masters, the ruling class. This is a serious warning for the revolutionary movement in Bolivia, in neighbouring El Salvador, in Ecuador, etc.

The only way forward for the movement in Honduras is to continue the mobilisation against the coup. This must be organised and coordinated nationally through committees in every workplace, neighbourhood and village. An appeal must be made to the ranks of the Army, the ordinary soldiers who are also part of the people. Mass demonstrations must be protected by defence committees made up of the workers and peasants themselves. The army generals have already shown what they are capable of, the people cannot face them unprotected. Tomás Andino reported to us lots of different examples of fraternisation of police officers and soldiers with the protestors. These have not yet crystallised in any section of the army openly rebelling, but this could happen in the next few days.

Finally, the main weapon of working people against the oligarchy and the coup is the general strike. Without the permission of the working class not a wheel turns and not a light bulb shines in Honduras. Workers can bring the country to a halt and prevent the coup regime from functioning. Andino reported to In Defence of Marxism that about 60% of public sector workers had participated in the strike against the coup and that this week would see the spreading of the strike movement to the private sector. The call for strike action had been made by the three trade union confederations, all of them part of the Peoples Resistance Front.

Tomás Andino also made an appeal for action to the international working class. “There should be blockades against Honduran products on the part of dockers and transport workers. This can hit the capitalist class where it hurts”.

International solidarity on the part of working people and the labour movement internationally is also crucial. We stand firmly on the side of the Honduran people and against any attempts to water down their fundamental demands.

For the immediate return of Zelaya!

Trial and punishment for the coup plotters!

Full support for the struggle of the people of Honduras!