Friday, February 27, 2009

Guadeloupe Strike Continues Despite Deal on Salary Increases

Guadeloupe strike on despite deal

Unions in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have signed a deal to raise workers' salaries, but have not ended a five-week-long general strike.

The agreement will see the wages of the lowest-paid workers supplemented with a 200-euro ($254; £178) monthly payment.

But union leaders said the strike would continue until France's government had addressed spiralling prices, which are far higher than on the French mainland.

The strike has crippled the island and occasionally erupted into violence.

Last week, union leader Jacques Bino was shot dead by rioting youths at a barricade in Guadeloupe's largest city, Pointe-a-Pitre.

A similar strike has taken hold on nearby Martinique, where the situation has become calmer after two consecutive nights of riots.

Both Guadeloupe and Martinique are full overseas departments of France, but prices on the islands are generally higher while wages are lower than on the mainland, and unemployment stands at 20%.

Hundreds of police and gendarmes have been deployed from France to support local security forces and help restore order.


Unions and employer groups on Guadeloupe signed an agreement on Thursday to pay a 200-euro monthly supplement to those workers earning less than 1,400 euros ($1,770; £1,250) a month.

Other workers will see a wage increase of about 6%, though this will be negotiated separately by each sector, Henry Berthelot, secretary-general of the CFDT union, told the Reuters news agency.

The French state will contribute half of the wage increase from 2009 to 2011.

However, after the agreement, union leaders quickly turned their attention to other demands, such as the lowering of food and energy prices.

"We have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the prefect (local administrator) to continue the negotiations," the leader of the LKP union, Elie Domota, told the Associated Press.

Asked if the general strike would now end, he said: "No."

On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that "not everything has been resolved, but finally progress is being made".

"I'll go to the French West Indies in a few weeks' time to scrupulously keep all the commitments I have made," he told the AFP news agency.

"When you approach things calmly, when you honestly try to find the right solutions, when the issues are dealt with seriously, then that calms the situation down, of course," he added.

The president also said that "the same causes of injustice, of feelings of injustice, exist in Martinique as they existed in Guadeloupe".

"So we need to find ways and means of restoring dialogue, reducing tensions, and above all providing concrete answers to the problems our compatriots in the West Indies are experiencing," he said.

"It is absolutely not right for prices to be much higher in the West Indies than in metropolitan France," he added.

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Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/27 15:04:04 GMT

Guadeloupe unions win raises but strike goes on


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Unions in Guadeloupe scored a victory in getting a deal to raise some workers' salaries, but said Friday they will not end a general strike now concluding its sixth week on the French Caribbean island.

Leaders of the strike-organizing Collective Against Exploitation, or LKP, paused for handshakes and photos with small business owners after signing the deal just before midnight Thursday. The agreement raises some workers' salaires by $250 (euro200) a month.

The union leaders quickly turned their attention to unsettled issues of raises for thousands more workers and lowering food and energy prices many times higher than those on the French mainland.

"We have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the prefect to continue the negotiations," LKP leader Elie Domota told The Associated Press after getting up from the signing table. Asked if the strike would now end, he said simply, "No."

The strike has shuttered stores across the island, chased away tourists and occasionally erupted into clashes between protesters and police. The deal was officially named the "Jacques Bino Accord" in honor of slain a union member killed leaving a strike meeting Feb. 17.

Starting March 1 those employers will provide up to half the salary increase for workers making up to $2,353 (euro1,849) a month, with the rest paid for by the French and local government. Workers making up to $2,690 (euro2,113) will receive at least a 6 percent raise.

But prospects for further salary talks were set back earlier Thursday when the French Caribbean department's large business owners refused to return to the negotiating table, accusing the unions of creating a "climate of intimidation and violence."

"Each day that passes, more and more companies face great difficulty, taking measures of unemployment, redundancy or are close to bankruptcy," the employers said, citing roadblocks and shop closures and accusing the LKP of physically intimidating business owners.

Around the same time, about 500 LKP supporters descended on a high-end Carrefour grocery store owned by a key business leader and kept open using nonunion workers during the strike.

The protesters chased off shoppers and chanted, "Employers are thieves, exploitation has ended!" as they knocked over shopping carts and barricaded the parking lot. French riot police were on hand but did not intervene.

Protests have also spread to the neighboring French Caribbean island of Martinique over high prices, low pay and alleged neglect by officials in Paris. Strikers have looted stores, burned cars and hurled beer bottles at police who responded with tear gas.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called Thursday for calm in Martinique and for all parties in Guadeloupe to quickly conclude an accord.

African American History Forum on "Black Labor & The Struggle For Economic Justice," February 28, 2:00pm

For Immediate Release

African-American History Month 2009

Commemorating the 44th Anniversary of the Assassination of Malcolm X

"Black Labor & the Struggle for Economic Justice, Past & Present"

Date: Saturday, Feb. 28
Location: 5920 Second Ave.
At Antoinette, just north of
Wayne State University
Time: 2:00pm-5:00pm

Soul Food Dinner and Video Excerpts on the Tulsa
1921 Destruction of Black Community and Malcolm X
Speech on "How to Fight Police Brutality."

Plus Presentations and Discussion:

Abayomi Azikiwe, Pan-African News Wire, Editor
Speaks on "The Role of Black Labor From Slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, Unionization
and Today’s Struggle Against Low Wage Capitalism."

Kevin Carey, Workers World Party
Speaks on the "Legacy of Paul Robeson,
the Anti-lynching Campaigns and the
Early Labor Movement."

Andrea Egypt of MECAWI
Speaking on "African-Americans and the
Revolutionary Legacy of Malcolm X."

Donation Requested - $5 or $1 for fixed income, students, unemployed

For more information, call Workers World Party 313-831-0750
or email

Labor donated 2/2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guadeloupe, Martinique News Bulletin: LKP Seizes TV Station; Martinique Erupts in Second Night of Rebellion

Guadeloupe Protesters Seize State TV - Channel Editor

Thursday February 26th, 2009 / 19h18

PARIS (AFP)--Protesters have seized control of a state-run television station on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and plan to make an on air statement, the channel's editor in chief said Thursday.

Speaking by telephone from Baie-Mahault, Francois-Joseph Ousselin said members of the LKP protest movement, which is leading a five-week-old general strike, had taken control of local network RFO-Guadeloupe.

"They're everywhere in the corridors, the studios, the gardens and the car park," he told AFP. "They asked to be able to express themselves on air, which they should be able to do very soon."

At 1:00 pm (1700 GMT) RFO began broadcasting music and militant chants.

Ousselin said the protesters were angry about moves by the station management to transfer RFO's broadcasting base to Paris during the strike, which has paralyzed the island.

Since Jan. 20, the LKP has been protesting the high cost of living in Guadeloupe, which in theory is part of France and the European Union but which has much higher poverty levels than the mainland.

Government negotiators believe they are close to an agreement to end the action in exchange for a package of salary increases.

Thursday February 26th, 2009 / 19h18 Source : Dowjones Business News

Guadeloupe inches closer to strike-ending deal


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Bleary-eyed negotiators shuffled past hundreds of striking protesters in a Guadeloupe plaza before dawn Thursday, hailing progress but still short of a deal to end a general strike that has paralyzed the French Caribbean island for 37 days.

Union leaders, business owners and French government officials were again unable to find a solution that would both help islanders cope with economic crisis, unemployment and soaring living costs and be acceptable to the French overseas department's private sector.

But the 11 hours of debate stretching from Wednesday afternoon until 3 a.m. (2 a.m. EST, 0700 GMT) Thursday were some of the most productive yet thanks to a French government offer to provide $102 (euro80) of a striker-demanded $250 (euro200) monthly increase on the minimum wage.

"We made progress but we have not reached the end," Nicolas Desforges, Guadeloupe's top Paris-appointed official, told reporters as he exited the meeting. He said representatives of the private sector were considering proposals and would return to the negotiating table Thursday afternoon.

Strike leaders with the Collective Against Exploitation, or LKP, told exhausted but cheering supporters who remained singing and drumming throughout the negotiations that they had secured a promise to meet the $250 monthly raise for islanders making $1,130 (euro900) a month but that details were yet to be finalized.

Business owners involved in the negotiations could not immediately be reached to confirm those statements.

Patience, however, wore out by late Thursday morning when roughly 500 protesters descended upon a high-end grocery store in Baie-Mahault and chased off shoppers. They chanted, "Employers are thieves, exploitation has ended!" as they knocked over shopping carts and barricaded the parking lot.

Several French riot police arrived, although the protest did not turn violent and no property was damaged.

LKP member Max Celeste said protesters targeted the Carrefour store because they are angry at large business owners.

"They are the only ones blocking the negotiations," he said.

In Martinique, the protest turned violent for the second night in a row as protests over high prices, low pay and alleged neglect by officials in Paris spread to a second Caribbean island.

Strikers looted stores, burned cars and hurled beer bottles at police who responded by firing tear gas. Two police officers were injured and one was taken to the hospital, police said in a statement.

The rioting began late Wednesday after someone set fire to a garbage bin in the capital of Fort-de-France. Hooded and armed rioters soon took over the capital, but police responded and calm returned in the pre-dawn hours. Dozens of people were detained, although police did not immediately provide a specific number.

Firefighters said they responded to about 50 calls that included 14 burned cars and about 40 garbage bin fires.

At least 27 people remain detained since Tuesday night, accused of participating in looting and arson.

Martinique has not seen the same degree of violence as that on Guadeloupe, where weeks of strikes degenerated into rioting in which one labor activist was shot dead. Business on both islands has been largely frozen.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a $730 million (euro580 million) financial package to help development in the Caribbean regions of his country. But strikers complained that proposals were vague and did not directly address their demand for higher pay.

Associated Press Writer Rodolphe Lamy in Fort-de-France, Martinique, contributed to this report.

New violence erupts on French island Martinique

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AFP) — Protesters set fire to garbage bins and rammed vehicles into hypermarkets Wednesday in a second night of violence on the strike-stricken French Caribbean island of Martinique.

Protesters blocked several streets of the island's capital Fort-de-France with trash bins, some of which were sent ablaze. Smoke rose above the city while tear gas could be smelled across town.

Police used tear gas to drive back young protesters on a Fort-de-France boulevard and prevented several attempts at looting.

But the metallic barriers of at least three large stores were broken, reports said.

A stolen car ploughed into the gate of the Carrefour Dillon hypermarket, according to RCI radio.

Police were deployed to protect the store. About 50 metres (yards) away, a group of youths took positions along the entrance of a highway, some of them holding Molotov cocktails.

Assailants drove a tractor into another store, Intersport, before police arrived. According to local journalists, another sports store was looted.

On Tuesday night, around 20 small stores and two mid-sized stores were looted and vandalised, while several cars were set ablaze.

Martinique and the neighbouring French island of Guadeloupe have been on strike for weeks, demanding higher wages to cope with the high cost of living on the tourist islands.

Stores looted, cars burned on island of Martinique


FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) — French police officers patrolled Martinique's capital late Wednesday after vandals burned cars and looted stores overnight as protests over high prices, low pay and alleged neglect by officials in Paris spread to a second Caribbean island.

Nearly 30 people were detained following the outburst in Fort-de-France, the French island's chief city, according to police headquarters.

Dozens of protesters gathered at city hall Tuesday night to demand results from slow-moving negotiations there over demands for pay increases. Around midnight, some began hurling rocks and bottles at police guarding the building, and officers responded by firing tear gas.

Protesters burned at least five cars, several garbage bins and a small grocery store. Several stores also were looted, but no one was injured, according to a police statement.

On Wednesday evening, a phalanx of French police officers were helping patrol the capital to enforce order.

Martinique has not seen the same degree of violence as that on the nearby French island of Guadeloupe, where weeks of strikes degenerated into rioting last week in which one labor activist was shot dead. Business on both islands has been largely frozen.

In Guadeloupe's biggest city of Pointe-a-Pitre, strikers assembled Wednesday night outside a seaside building where bargaining talks are taking place cheered apparent improvements in negotiations aimed at ending the more than monthlong general strike.

Government representatives have offered to add a euro80 ($102) monthly raise to islanders making euro900 ($1,130) a month in order to end the unrest in the French Caribbean island, according to Nicolas Desforges, Guadeloupe's top Paris-appointed official.

"This is a big contribution by the French government to get out of this crisis," Desforges told reporters.

Added with the pledged contributions of island business owners, strikers now have a euro180 ($230) raise offer on the table — just euro20 ($25) less than the euro200 ($250) monthly increase they have been seeking.

But Guadeloupe protest leader Elie Domota said Wednesday evening that it was too early to say whether the new offer would be acceptable. "This is a proposal on the table we are going to review," he told reporters.

Government negotiators in Point-a-Pitre had left the bargaining table Monday night, saying they were not prepared to agree to a euro200 ($250) monthly raise for those making euro900 ($1,130) a month.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a euro580 million ($730 million) financial package to help development in the Caribbean regions of his country. But strikers complained that proposals were vague and did not directly address their demand for higher pay.

Associated Press writers Pierre-Yves Roger in Paris and Jonathan M. Katz in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe contributed to this report.

Allons, enfants!

Feb 26th 2009 | PARIS
From The Economist print edition

French fears that protests will spread from the Caribbean to the mainland

THERE was a time when Nicolas Sarkozy relished crisis management. His fearless, no-nonsense approach resolved more than one stand-off. Few people have forgotten how, as a young mayor of Neuilly 16 years ago, he walked into a nursery school and negotiated with an armed hostage-taker threatening to blow up the building. Yet a series of protests, overseas and on the mainland, are now testing the president’s skills to the limit.

The most turbulent have been on the island of Guadeloupe, a French department in the Caribbean that has been paralysed by a general strike. One union member was shot dead when matters turned violent. Although the island seems calmer now, the strike goes on, as does the conflict between the government and the unions, which want a €200 ($256) monthly pay rise. This week trouble broke out in Martinique, a neighbouring island, with cars burned and shops looted.

The biggest fear is that the turmoil may spread to the mainland. In recent weeks, high-school pupils, teachers, university researchers, railwaymen and car workers have taken to the streets. On one day in January some 1m-2.5m people protested against low pay and job cuts. Unions have called another day of action for March 19th. In a poll, 63% of respondents said the violence in Guadeloupe could spread to mainland France.

In many ways, the troubles in Guadeloupe and Martinique are specific. With their French post offices, town halls, prefects and use of the euro, they are in theory French administrative departments. In reality, the state pumps €13 billion a year into the overseas territories in subsidies and tax breaks, including a 40% salary premium for civil servants. Yet unemployment is three times as high as on the mainland, and GDP per person just over half as big. Prices of goods such as yogurt or fresh beef are on average 34% higher, according to France-Antilles, a newspaper.

A demand for higher pay to compensate set off the strikes in Guadeloupe. Mr Sarkozy’s government is in talks with the unions. Yet the protests are racial as much as economic on an island where the white minority owns most businesses. The main protest group calls itself, in creole, Movement against Pwofitayson, a blend of the words “profiteering” and “exploitation”. Elie Domota, its leader, who is a securely paid French civil servant, talks of re-establishing “the legitimate rights of blacks as the majority people”. The struggle is an unusually toxic mix of neocolonial resentment and economic unrest.

There are still grounds for worrying about contagion. French opposition politicians have piled in to Guadeloupe to “express solidarity”, implicitly linking the struggle to home. The poster-boys of anti-capitalism have made the trip, including José Bové, a sheep-farmer-turned-campaigner, and Olivier Besancenot, a hard-left Trotskyite leader. Even Ségolène Royal, a Socialist former presidential candidate, dropped in this week, proclaiming, “Let’s remember the French Revolution!”

Many anxieties in Guadeloupe exist in France too. After meeting union leaders recently, Mr Sarkozy tried to head off more conflict by offering to raise family allowances, reduce income tax for the lowest-paid and boost unemployment insurance. But the unions also want a higher minimum wage, a cut in VAT and an end to civil-service job cuts. Union elections to company works councils are due in March, and nobody is in the mood to compromise.

One person who spoke to the president recently says he is “extremely tense”. He needs to make sure that public opinion does not swing behind the strikers. Yet ordinary people feel they are paying for the excesses of others, so many support the protesters. Paradoxically, they may do so even more because of new rules guaranteeing minimum service, ensuring that strikes do not paralyse public transport.

Mr Sarkozy needs to tread a line between helping the most vulnerable and resisting demands that would weigh on the public purse in the long run. But his popularity has sunk by seven points, to 37%. He has not helped himself by publicly ridiculing professionals, such as university lecturers, whom he is trying to encourage to accept reform. Above all, his action-man style leaves him exposed. By taking most matters into his own hands, in contrast to the patrician aloofness of his predecessors, he has robbed himself of one trick many of them used: blaming the prime minister when things go wrong.

Debswana and Anglo American Downsize Workers in Precious Metals Industry

Botswana diamond firm shuts mines

Debswana, a diamond producing firm jointly owned by Botswana's government and De Beers, will close two mines for the rest of the year as demand falls.

Debswana's four diamond mines will close on 25 February, but two of them will resume work on 14 April.

Its Damtshaa mine and Orapa No 2 Plants will be closed till the end of 2009, directly affecting 580 employees.

These workers will be redeployed within the company or offered voluntary early retirement and other incentives.

"These actions are being taken to mitigate the effects of the global downturn by reducing production during 2009 to align with demand, conserving cash for the company, protecting employment and maintaining readiness for an eventual upturn in the market," said De Beers.

Diamond giant De Beers, the world's largest diamond producer by value, said in a statement last week 48.1 million carat in 2008, while Debswana produced 32.3 million carat, down 4% from 33.6 million carat in 2007.

The ongoing global financial and economic crisis forced even wealthy consumers to cut their spending on luxury goods, including jewellery.

Luxury-jewellery retailer Tiffany said in January its same-store sales for the holiday season fell by 24%.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/23 17:14:06 GMT

Anglo American to cut 9,000 jobs

Mining giant Anglo American has said it is to cut an additional 9,000 jobs as the global economic downturn hits demand for raw materials.

The losses come on top of the 10,000 job cuts that Anglo's South African unit, Anglo Platinum, had already announced earlier this month.

The job cuts follow similar moves at rivals Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Anglo also announced a 3% fall in 2008 pre-tax profit to $8.57bn (£6bn) and warned that 2009 would be tough.

A spokesman said the job cuts would be across the group's operations, which are mainly in South Africa, South America and Australia.

Mining companies have seen a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes as the downturn hits home.

A boom in the price of metals and other commodities, sustained by China's once insatiable demand for raw materials, has to come to end.

Unprecedented uncertainty

Cynthia Carroll, Anglo's chief executive, said that the effects of the economic downturn "were difficult to overstate".

"The world economy faces an unprecedented level of uncertainty," she said.

"The outlook remains poor in the near term, with expectations for continuing volatility and weakness in commodity prices."

She added that the board had decided to halt dividend payouts to shareholders to conserve cash. The credit crunch has made financing harder to obtain.

Both prices and demand for nickel, platinum, iron ore and coking coal, used in steel production, had declined significantly, the company said.

Anglo American's downbeat assessment of the industry's prospects hurt the share prices of other mining firms.

Rio Tinto shares ended 10% down, while Xstrata fell 11%.

Anglo American shares ended 17% lower at 1027 pence.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/20 21:27:06 GMT

Egypt Hints at Compromise on ICC Prosecution of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan

Egypt hints at compromise on ICC prosecution of Sudan president

Thursday 26 February 2009

February 25, 2009 (CAIRO) — The Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit today expressed concern over a possible arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit (AFP) Next week the ICC judges are set to decide on an application by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed last July requesting the issuance of an arrest warrant for Bashir on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder.

Ocampo accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

“Egypt has a consistent position in line with the Arab League and African Union (AU) towards a deferral by the UN Security Council (UNSC) to any indictment against Bashir for at least a year” Aboul-Gheit told reporters today.

However the Egyptian official suggested that a compromise is possible between Sudan and the international community on the issue of Darfur crimes.

“The European and Western governments want Khartoum to move towards punishing those accused [of Darfur crimes]” he said.

Aboul-Gheit predicted that there will be “intense wrangling” towards an Article 16 resolution by the UNSC as well as “convincing the Sudanese government to move so it can meet with the international community somewhere in the middle”.

This is the first time an Egyptian official speaks publicly about the need for Sudan to undertake measures on the issue of Darfur war crimes.

Last weekend the Sudanese president held talks with his Egyptian counterpart behind closed doors on the ICC row.

Egyptian officials frequently referred to discussions made between President Hosni Mubarak and European leaders particularly French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French government insisted that Sudan must remove Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs who is wanted by the ICC for 51 counts of war crimes before any deferral of prosecution was to be considered.

Sudan has refused to dismiss Haroun or investigate him but declared that it is working on prosecuting militia commander Ali Kushayb who is also wanted by the ICC.

Many observers in Sudan believe that Egypt wants its southern neighbor to begin serious judicial proceedings to block intervention by the Hague based court.

Egypt along with African and Arab countries are wary that ICC arrest warrant against Bashir will threaten fragile peace efforts in Darfur.

This month a joint Arab League-African Union (AU) delegation in New York met with UN Security Council (UNSC) members to lobby for Article 16 resolution which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely. However the supporters of Article 16 do not have the required nine votes to push through this resolution.

African Development Bank Praises Zimbabwe Plan

African Development Bank praises Zimbabwe plan

Thu, 26 Feb 2009 16:24
CAPE TOWN, Reuters

Zimbabwe has made an impressive start on an economic recovery plan which warrants support from the international community, African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka said on Thursday.

He told reporters on the sidelines of a summit of southern African finance ministers in Cape Town that the AfDB was prepared to set up a donor meeting for Zimbabwe, but its $5 billion foreign debt needed to be cleared to secure more aid. "It will require that Zimbabwe comes forward with a credible economic programme.

Now the first steps I have seen, listening to (Zimbabwean Finance) Minister Tendai Biti, is quite impressive and it merits support," Kaberuka said. The new administration urgently needs to tackle an economic meltdown that has led to the world's worst hyperinflation, food shortages and a cholera epidemic. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said last week it would cost as much as $5 billion to repair the economy.

Zimbabwe's unity government will be depend heavily on foreign aid to ease the decade-old economic crisis. But Western donors say money will be provided only when a democratic government is created and economic reforms implemented.


Kaberuka called on Zimbabwe to meet its external debt repayments to the Paris Club of government lenders, international finance institutions and other creditors to secure more financial help. "Now that can done fairly quickly. It's complex but it's not undoable," Kaberuka said.

John Robertson, a leading private economic consultant in Harare, said donors should take charge and drive policy reforms and then base aid flows on government compliance. "It's some kind of vicious circle.

The economy is in doldrums and cannot contribute to any debt repayments until it gets off the ground, and it cannot get off the ground without some massive outside help," he said. "You have to get the economy on a programme to produce again before you can get Zimbabwe out of the woods. It's going to be hard, and the government has to pass the credibility test."

Mugabe, blamed by critics for the collapse of the once-promising economy, expressed doubts over Tsvangirai's policy of paying civil servants in foreign currency, instead of inflation-ravaged Zimbabwean dollars, under the recovery plan. "When it was first mooted, the idea of paying people in U.S. dollars, I was against it and I still am because we just do not have enough (foreign currency)," said Mugabe.

"It is a problem that confronts us even now." The veteran leader's comments, part of an interview with state television to be broadcast on Thursday, were carried by the state-run Herald newspaper. Economic woes have been made worse by the suspension of international aid, mainly over policy differences with Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980. South Africa, the continent's biggest economy and a regional diplomatic power, is well placed to help Zimbabwe and has already given it 300 million rand ($30.08 million).

President Kgalema Motlanthe has floated the idea of Zimbabwe adopting the South African rand in a bid to stabilise its economy. Analysts doubt Harare would accept because it would mean the government giving up some control of the economy. "Personally, I think we should revalue the Zimbabwe dollar in a manner that fixes its relationship with the rand for a while. We will protect it for a while, for a while as we increase production.

But we should protect it," said Mugabe. South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said reconstruction in Zimbabwe over the next 10 months would cost $2 billion, in two packages. "One they are looking at is a self-liquidating loan to ensure that you can stimulate retail and all kinds of things," he told SAfm radio. "The other detail, about $1 billion for emergency education, health, (and) municipal services....," he said.

Pages From African American History: "Labor Rights Are Civil Rights"

“Labor rights are civil rights”

by Julian Bond
February 15, 2009

The following is excerpted from a speech to the AFL-CIO 25th Constitutional Convention in July, 2007.

I know the mutual benefits that grew from the historic alliance between organized labor and the movement for civil rights–benefits we all must work to strengthen and extend today.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most labor unions excluded blacks. Unorganized blacks were used as scabs when white unionists went on strike. The old divide-and-conquer strategy was put to good use by corporate bosses. The labor movement’s racism was used against it to great effect.

Things began to change when A. Philip Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in the 1920s. Blacks scored a major breakthrough in the struggle for admission to the ranks of organized labor in 1930 when the AFL recognized the Brotherhood.

In 1924, the NAACP helped create the Interracial Labor Commission. Its goal was to bring more blacks into the labor movement. It worked. Thousands of black workers joined the ranks of the organized rank-and-file in the ensuing years as widespread discrimination began to fall, and they quickly became some of labor’s most disciplined and dedicated foot soldiers, infusing the movement with renewed energy and vigor.

In many organizing campaigns in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in the South, black workers were the first to join, were the most steadfast and the most militant. This was true of campaigns to organize longshoremen along the Mississippi River, in ports of the Gulf of Mexico and on the Eastern Atlantic Coast and in largely black mining regions in Alabama and West Virginia.

Given our common interests, minority Americans and organized labor are both better off when we cooperate. Most of us are working people. Our interests and your interests are the same.

In 1961, when Martin Luther King Jr., addressed the AFL-CIO Fourth Constitutional Convention in Bal Harbour, Fla., he spoke of the “unity of purpose” between the labor movement and the movement for civil rights. He said:

“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community….The duality of interests of labor and Negroes makes any crisis which lacerates you a crisis from which we bleed. As we stand on the threshold of the second half of the twentieth century, a crisis confronts us both.“1

Now, as we stand on the threshold of the 21st century, a crisis confronts us once again.

It is a crisis for the freedom movement and a crisis for the movement of working women and men. Despite impressive increases in the numbers of black people holding public office, despite our ability now to sit and eat and ride and vote and attend school in places that used to bar black faces, in some important ways non-white Americans face restrictions more difficult to attack than in the years that went before.

The current leadership of the House and Senate is as hostile to civil rights as any in recent memory–on a report card prepared by the NAACP, they fail!

In recent years, in a stealthy, devious campaign, the enemies of justice and fair play have whittled away at the components of the progressive coalition. They’ve promoted deeply flawed economic and foreign policies. They’ve passed tax cuts that were not only unfair but unaffordable.

How did they do it? How did they make political hay from barnyard straw?

They did it by coupling ostentatious piety with a victim mentality. They quoted Martin Luther King and misused his message, all the while profiting from a supine press. They reinforced their message by harnessing a round-the-clock perpetual motion attack-machine and echo chamber. And some Democrats won’t take their own side in a fight.

They’re attacking Social Security, the underpinning of every American’s dream of retirement free from need and want. They want private charity to replace government’s helping hand, substituting faith-based organizations free to discriminate and proselytize for the fairness and secularism required of the public sector.

They’ve outsourced thousands and thousands of jobs–now they’re even outsourcing torture, sending suspects to foreign lands.2 They’ve gone after labor unions, making it harder for workers to organize.

We are today the most economically stratified of all industrial nations, the gap between rich and poor larger than in Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, France, Finland–larger here and growing faster here than anywhere else.

And for those workers whose skins are black or brown, the gap is greater and the prospects bleaker. Today the net financial assets of black families in which one member has a post-graduate degree are lower than white families in which the highest level of education achieved is graduation from elementary school.

But we know black union members earn more than their non-union counterparts: In 2003, the average non-union black worker earned $491 a week, while the average earnings of blacks who were union members were $665. That’s like a 35 percent paycheck bonus.

While once blacks couldn’t get a union card, today they and other minorities are disproportionately represented in terms of the total American population. Polls show that when asked, 77 percent of blacks say they’d join a union. Only 49 percent of whites say the same.

More than 40 years ago, a coalition of progressive forces brought justice to the segregated South. That same coalition created the New Deal this callous Congress has tried to repeal.

That coalition can shape public policy once again.

Minority Americans have better lives because of labor’s struggles. Labor supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. We know labor will be with us when we fight for renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The interests of minorities and labor are inevitably bound together; as Martin Luther King said, “When you are cut, we bleed.”

When labor reaches out its hand to racial minorities, labor and minorities win. When either turns its back on the other, each loses, America loses. We all lose.

Julian Bond — a co-founder of the Institute for Southern Studies — is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Government at American University in Washington, D.C., and a Professor of History at the University of Virginia.In February 1998, he was elected Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors; he has announced he will step down in 2009.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr., Address before the Constitutional Convention, AFL-CIO, Bal Harbour, Fla., Dec. 11, 1961.

2. “Torture, American Style,” Bob Herbert, The New York Times (Feb. 11, 2005).

Support Needed to Remove Imam Jamil Abdullah Al Amin (H. Rap Brown) From the "Hole"

Support Needed to Remove Imam Jamil Abdullah Al Amin From the "Hole"

The number that has been provided to protest the placing of the Imam Jamil Abdullah Al Amin (the former H. Rap Brown) in "the hole" is the general prison number. Insofar as our brother is in maximum security, the protest needs to be made at a different number: 719-784-9464.

They will transfer you to his counselor, Mr. Madison. They would not give us a direct number for Mr. Madison, but they will connect you with his number, which also has a voice mail. PLEASE CALL! THIS IS NOW THE SECOND WELL-KNOWN POLITICAL PRISONER, THE FIRST WAS LEONARD PELTIER, WHO HAS BEEN ATTACKED SINCE THE ELECTION OF OBAMA.

Some have thought that the prison/police/fascistic structures are afraid of Obama's and Holder's supposedly more liberal inclinations with regard to the prison-industrial complex and even political prisoners, and want to make sure none of our heroes are ever freed.

Free Jamil Abdullah Al Amin!
Ona Move!
Free Mumia and All our Political Prisoners!
Jamil Al-Amin has been moved to what is known in prison as
"the hole". He was strip searched and placed in a
cell with no bed, no control over the lights and no shower.
They have taken his Qur'an and all of his other
personal property.

Please take some time contact the warden, and to get the
word out to all of your contacts. We all need to
write, call, fax or email Ron Wiley Warden ADX to inquire
as to why Jamil Al-Amin has been placed in the hole. No
information has been given as to why this transfer was made,
but nothing could justify this inhumane treatment.

In the past when action has been taken by the public on
Jamil Al-Amin's behalf, changes have been made that
benefited him. Please remember to keep your correspondence
brief and to the point, and avoid threats, rambling etc. We
want positive changes to be made.

Free The Angola 3--Bring Political Prisoners Woodfox and Wallace Home Now!


Sign the petition

Lets make the Angola 3 household names!

Albert Woodfox, political prisoner of the Angola 3, needs your support. In July 2008 a Federal Judge (Brady) overturned Albert Woodfox's conviction after a State Judicial Magistrate found his trial was unfair due to inadequate representation, prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and racial discrimination in the grand jury selection process.

The State appealed this decision to the 5th Circuit Court of appeals and March 3rd are the oral arguments for that appeal.

36 years ago, deep in rural Louisiana, three young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000-acre former slave plantation called Angola.

Peaceful, non-violent protest in the form of hunger and work strikes organized by inmates, caught the attention of Louisiana's first black elected legislators and local media in the early 1970s. State legislative leaders, along with the administration of a newly-elected, reform-minded governor, called for investigations into a host of unconstitutional practices and the extraordinarily cruel and unusual treatment commonplace in the prison.

In 1972 and 1973 prison officials, determined to put an end to outside scrutiny, charged Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King with murders they did not commit and threw them into 6x9 foot cells in solitary confinement, for nearly 36 years. Robert was freed in 2001, but Herman and Albert remain behind bars.

The oral arguments on March 3 are a very short and formal process. Albert's attorneys will explain to the court why Judge Brady did the right thing, and the State will try to argue he made a mistake in overturning the conviction. Each side will argue for 20 min and then the court will take anywhere from 1-6 months to issue their decision.

If the 5th Circuit agrees with Albert's attorneys and upholds Judge Brady's ruling, then the State has 120 days to either retry or release Albert. They have already vowed to retry him. If the 5th Circuit agrees with the State, then the conviction is reinstated and Albert would have to start the appeals process all over again with a different claim if he wants to try to gain his freedom.

For more info:

New York Judge Throws Out Case Against Amtrak Employee Over Shoe Incident

Judge throws out case against Amtrak employee who threatened to throw shoe at MTA chief

By Michael E. Miller
Tuesday, February 24th 2009, 1:23 AM

Stephen Millies outside Midtown Community Court on Monday.
If the shoe doesn't fit, you must acquit.

A Midtown Community Court judge threw out the case against Stephen Millies, the Amtrak employee so outraged with potential MTA fare hikes that he threatened to throw his shoe at MTA Director Elliot Sander in December.

"Case dismissed," Millies said, smiling as he left the courtroom yesterday. The disorderly conduct charge against him was quickly dropped on a technicality - the ticket says he disrupted a "religious ceremony" - leaving the 55-year-old free to once again take aim at the MTA.

"This is a shoe of contempt," Millies said, pointing to the same black Oxford he brandished before being dragged out of the MTA board meeting on December 17. Millies and several others who spoke at the public meeting expressed outrage over MTA plans to increase fares and cut services.

"We're in a recession. This is the worst time to raise fares," Millies said, calling the increase a "tax on working people." He said he was especially irked with proposed cuts to the city's Access-A-Ride program, which provides transportation for people with disabilities.

Millies bared his sole just three days after an Iraqi journalist hurled his loafers at then-President George W. Bush. Unlike his Iraqi counterpart, Millies wasn't beaten or imprisoned, but he was nabbed by undercover MTA police.

"When they gave me the bum's rush, I thought they were just going to take me out of the room," Millies said, adding that he never intended to throw his shoe at anyone.

Julie Fry, his lawyer, said the charges were "ridiculous" and violated Millies's right to freedom of speech.

"When you're speaking at a public hearing and they grab you from behind, that's going to intimidate others," she warned.

The MTA has proposed a 23% bus and subway fare hike, higher tolls and cuts in service in order to meet a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit for 2009, officials said last week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grenada Thanks Cuba For Historical Solidarity

Havana. February 24, 2009

Grenada thanks Cuba for historical solidarity

Foreign Minister Peter Charles David received by Vice President Esteban Lazo in Havana

ESTEBAN Lazo Hernández, vice president of the Council of State and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, received Grenadian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Peter Charles David, who carried out an official visit to Cuba.

During the meeting, the two leaders expressed their satisfaction with the current state of bilateral relations and announced their support for increasing and strengthening links, particularly in the field of cooperation.

The Grenadian foreign minister expressed gratitude for Cuba’s historical solidarity with the Caribbean island and recalled the success of the recently-concluded Cuba-CARICOM Summit that took place in Santiago de Cuba last December.

Meanwhile, the Cuban vice president emphasized to the Grenadian foreign minister that his visit is an expression of the strengthening of the historic links of friendship between the two peoples and expressed the significance and potential of the current process of Caribbean integration.

Peter Charles David also met with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque where he used the opportunity to once again call for the U.S. blockade of Cuba to be lifted.

The Grenadian minister visited the Raudillo Fleitas International School of Nursing in Matanzas province where 19 young people from that country are currently studying.

“The relationship between Grenada and Cuba today is deeply-rooted within our people,” he stated.

Translated by Granma International

Havana. February 24, 2009

51 million jobs could disappear worldwide

The International Labour Organization (ILO) said that approximately 51 million jobs around the world could disappear by the end of the year. This means that 230 million people globally could be unemployed by 2010.

Unemployment brings with it an infinite number of social problems, principally a deterioration of the quality of life and the subsequent consequences. For example, when income is lowered many families face losing their homes.

Facing the rise of this uncontrollable disaster, the ILO proposes the creation of rescue plans for low-income families, many of whom will be obliged to live on less than one dollar a day.

Unemployment and necessity in homes forces many children to leave school to work and support their families, deteriorating, in certain ways, their future prostpects.

The phenomena experienced today, which has caused millions to fall into deep despair, is not only affecting poor or “third world” countries. According to the World Bank (WB), more people are falling into poverty in developing countries. In other words, the employment crisis is global and those who are feeling the worst of it are those who have always felt like the “masters of the world.”

In this respect, IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, pointed out that the principal economies are in a deep depression and maintained that the worst is still to come.

One fact to keep in mind is that as the crisis becomes worse, many countries will start to close their doors to immigrants who, as usually occurs, are seeking to escape from the poverty in their own countries to work in others. (Taken from Rebelión)

Translated by Granma International

Havana. February 23, 2009

International economists conference on globalization

Three Nobel Prize winners and other well-known individuals to attend

Susana Lee

THE impact of and alternatives to the international economic crisis in all its dimensions from the approaches of various schools of thought will be the central themes of the 11th International Economists Conference on Globalization and Problems of Development, taking place in Havana from March 2 through 6.

Dr. Esther Aguilera, vice president of Cuba’s National Association of Economists and Accountants (ANEC), described the event as an exceptional opportunity to debate these crucial issues facing humanity today. More than 1,000 specialists in economic and social sciences from every continent are expected to attend.

Aguilera, who is also permanent secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Economists Association (AEALC), announced that numerous individuals have already confirmed their participation, including Manuel Zelaya Rosales, president of the Republic of Honduras; Edmund Phelps (2007), Robert Mundell (1999) and Robert Engle (2003), winners of the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, and Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, who will all give master lectures.

Likewise, there will be representatives from 10 international and 10 regional organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the FAO, UNESCO, and other UN bodies, and also senators and deputies.

The idea for these conferences emerged in 1998 at the suggestion of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro during the Economy’98 international event.

The schedule will also include an AEALC general assembly and the International Conference of Economic Students.

Translated by Granma International

Martinique News Bulletin: Rebellion Erupts As Negotiations Over General Strike Demands Stall

Stores looted, cars burnt on island of Martinique

PARIS (AP): Vandals burnt cars and looted stores in Martinique overnight, police said on Wednesday, after nearly three weeks of labor protests on the French Caribbean island.

Some 20 people were detained after the destruction in Fort-de-France, the island's chief city, according to the police headquarters on Martinique. Police did not give a number of stores or cars damaged, but the looting and burning did not appear to be widespread.

Martinique has not seen the same degree of violence that recently hit the nearby French island of Guadeloupe. Weeks of strikes on Guadeloupe over wages and high living costs degenerated into rioting last week in which one labor activist died.

Guadeloupe's strikes and labor protests spread to Martinique, where talks were to resume Thursday between employers and labor unions on ending a 20-day strike that has halted businesses on the island.

Protesters walked out of the talks on Monday after business owners did not offer a concrete counterproposal to demands for a monthly pay increase of euro354 euros ($452), strike organizer Michael Monrose said.

On Guadeloupe, talks aimed at ending the paralyzing 36-day-old general strike were to resume on Wednesday.

Government representatives left the bargaining table Monday night, saying they were not prepared to agree to a euro200 ($250) monthly raise for those making euro900 ($1,130) a month. They have since been awaiting new instructions from Paris.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a euro580 million ($730 million) financial package to help development in France's overseas regions, where prices are often much higher than on the mainland but salaries are not.

Al-Shabab Fighters Seize Somali Town of Hudur

Islamist rebels seize Somali town

A Somali Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda has captured another town, the latest in a string of gains by the movement known as al-Shabab.

The rebels - who are opposed to UN-sponsored reconciliation efforts in Somalia - overpowered pro-government forces in Hudur early on Wednesday.

Four civilians in Mogadishu were killed bringing the death toll to about 50 and 120 injured from two days of fighting.

It comes days after the new president returned to the Somali capital.

Correspondents say it is the fiercest fighting since President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected by MPs in January under a UN-brokered peace deal.

The first bunch of nearly 100 lawmakers and ministers arrived in Mogadishu from Djibouti on Wednesday to help the president in his efforts to set up a new unity government.

The failed Horn of Africa state has not had a functioning national government since 1991.


BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the spreading influence of Islamic fundamentalists allied to al-Qaeda will be viewed with considerable alarm by Somalia's neighbours - Kenya and Ethiopia - as well as by the United States.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says another 11 people died as al-Shabab fighters seized Hudur, 300km (180 miles) north-west of Mogadishu on Wednesday morning.

Most government officials fled to Hudur after Somalia's temporary seat of government, Baidoa, fell to al-Shabab last month.

In the last six months al-Shabab has captured other strategically-important areas, including the ports of Kismayo and Merca and the towns of Buloburte and Elbur.

But the movement was also forced out of the towns of Guriel and Dusamareb in the last month after clashes with rival militias and former warlords.

Back in Mogadishu, thousands of residents have been fleeing a second day of fighting in the south of the city near the presidential palace, as rebels took on African Union and pro-government troops.

Among at least four civilians killed was a child who died when a shell hit a school.

Mo'alim Mohamed Aden Yusuf, a teacher, told AP news agency by telephone: "The shell landed on the school as the students were busy studying. Blood was everywhere."

Foreign fighters

At the weekend, al-Shabab claimed a suicide attack which left 11 Burundian peacekeepers dead at a Mogadishu barracks.

Al-Shabab counts foreigners in its ranks and deputy al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri regularly issues statements in the group's support.

The movement is loosely allied with another recently formed grouping - the Islamic Party - whose forces now control parts of Mogadishu.

The fragile transitional government has been left with little more than sections of the capital under its control.

Ethiopian troops, which had been in the country since 2006 to support that government, pulled out at the end of January.

Some three million people - half the population - need food aid after years of fighting.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/25 13:18:14 GMT

Somalia-born Rapper Returns to His Roots

Somali-born rapper returns to his roots

By Nikki Jecks
BBC World Service

Somali-born rapper K'Naan may have exchanged the cross-fire of civil war for the rapid-fire of hip hop and rap, but in his latest album Troubadour, Somalia is still every present.

K'Naan, born Kanaan Warsame, fired his first gun at the age of eight. At 11, he found a hand grenade, detonated it by mistake and blew up half his school. Later, he saw three of his closest friends shot dead.

He and his mother fled the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 1991, just as the country plunged into civil war.

Now resident in Canada, the situation in Somalia still very much it influences his music.

His songs are sometimes described as "poetry for the dispossessed" and K'Naan sees himself more as a poet than a rapper.

Challenging conceptions

K'Naan means "traveller" in Somali and much of his music is about his personal journey from war-torn Somalia, to the streets of New York, to rapper in Canada.

Speaking to the BBC World Service about his new album, he explains why his homeland is so omnipresent in the songs.

"I don't think you can ever really escape Somalia, once you've had that experience and lived in it," he says.

"A lot of my family's still home, and I think the reflection of when I was a young boy there and also as a grown person contributing and making music, my reflections on it are still very much prominent on this album."

Tracks called Somalia and America sit side-by-side on Troubadour.

In Somalia, K'Naan challenges listeners about their preconceptions about pirates, rapping: "So what you know about the pirates terrorise the ocean? To never know a single day without a big commotion?"

He says Somalis are presented as people without reason, and he is concerned with the way the media presents piracy.

"I think it is still undiscussed in the true sense of what is going on with it," he says.

It is context that is often missing according to K'Naan.

"I really wanted to touch on it, not from the way the media has been covering it, but from the way a Somali would talk about it."

"I think its conveniently discussed...not in a way that is well rounded at all. A lot of the issues we talk about in western media when we're concerned with Somalia are very much sensationalised."

He accuses the media of telling us what has happened, but rarely why.

It's not just piracy that concerns him. He always agonises over his responsibility to the many members of his family that were not able to escape Somalia with he and his mother when the civil war first broke out.

"We have family members whose homes were hit by rocket propelled grenades and we have to be responsible for trying to get them into proper hospitals, if there is such a thing in Somalia. These things are daily issues and everybody is just kinda trying to survive over there."

Mixing traditions

His music is increasingly popular both not just in North America and the Somalia diaspora, but also in Somalia itself, breaking new territory for rap and hip-hop.

"My music does [have a profile in Somalia] but modern hip-hop music does not," he explains.

"My music mixes the traditions of Somalia to American folk protest to hip-hop. Somali's because of the content of the music have taken to it."

But he resists any efforts to label him a spokesperson.

"Just by the nature of what I do I think people kinda respond to it...but I'm not really trying to be a spokesperson, to be honest."

Instead he just wants people to listen to his music and enjoy it.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/24 17:42:34 GMT

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Che Guevara Came to New York

When Che came to New York

by Key Martin

In January 1965, Ernesto "Che" Guevara gave up his post as
Minister of Industry in the new revolutionary Cuban government and returned to the guerrilla struggle. On Oct. 9, 1967, just 25 years ago, he was captured by CIA operatives in Bolivia and murdered.

Those were tumultuous years in the movement. Some of the events that provided the context for Che's decision were:

- A sharp turn to the right in U.S. Latin American policy in favor of coups, military regimes, greater repression and death squads. This came as U.S. economic domination tightened and living standards fell.

- White mercenary columns marched through the Congo, destroying the liberation movement of the late Patrice Lumumba and leaving a gruesome trail of massacres.

- President Lyndon Johnson began massive bombing raids on North Vietnam and sent hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops into the south.

- The Civil Rights movement in the U.S. was raising demands with a power and anger that could no longer be ignored by the government.

Before Che disappeared, he made a last appearance at the United Nations and also met with a group of supporters in New York. At the time, none of us knew the real purpose of the meeting was to say goodbye. The discussion extended until midnight and covered a broad range of topics, from guerrilla movements in Latin America to the impact of the U.S. blockade on Cuba.


Vince Copeland led the Workers World Party delegation to the
meeting. He edited Workers World newspaper for its first ten
years. A former steel worker and union leader (21,000 workers had gone out on strike when he was fired from the sprawling Lackawanna Steel Works outside Buffalo during the McCarthy period), he later wrote of the meeting:

"We were seated around Che in a semi-circle. [He was] sitting on the floor, probably to put us at our ease.

"Che was as handsome as his pictures and informally witty as he was reputed to be. `A revolutionist has to be a little loco,' he told us with a sympathetic smile, when someone asked him what were the human qualifications necessary to create a movement to destroy capitalist oppression.

"You would never have known by anything in his manner that he was the author of the book `Guerrilla Warfare'--and more significantly a great practitioner of its lessons. Several of us remarked afterwards on the total absence of build-up and pomp and `greatness' that every big shot in the capitalist world surrounds himself with on such occasions.

"He didn't at all have the `commanding presence' that great
leaders are supposed to have. Nor did he speak with an air of
special wisdom or was he overconscious of his position. He seemed like a person who would find it absolutely impossible to pontificate about anything at all, including that which he had the most right to speak authoritatively about--guerrilla warfare.

"He was just as serious about the number of eggs produced in Cuba as he was about the possibilities for world revolution. At that time, there was a great deal of talk about rationing of food in Havana. And with many of the statistics at his finger-tips, he made the fundamental point that for the great masses of Cuba, rationing was a tremendous step forward, because formerly they had had practically nothing and now they were being fed, while the formerly well-to-do had to wait.

"No one felt any more strongly than Che Guevara himself that he could not fail, and that the socialist revolution was inevitable.

By the same token, Che also was one of the foremost among those brave spirits throughout the ages who have taken to arms against oppression, who have sounded the clarion call to struggle for a better world. He felt deeply that one `who wills the objective must will the means thereto.' And his advocacy of armed struggle, like his example of laying his own life on the line, shall not perish with him."

In addition to Vince, a delegation of youth from Workers World was present, including Deirdre Griswold (the current editor of Workers World), Ellen Catalinotto (an anti-war community organizer), and this writer. Black Civil Rights activist Mae Mallory was also present.

Some years later we read Che's diary, a moving account of his
experience in the guerrilla struggles in Bolivia, of the problems and sacrifices they faced, and his political thinking in the final months of his life.

When he saw his CIA murderer come into the room in Bolivia, Che, lying captive and wounded on a cot, said merely, "Now you will see how a real revolutionary dies."

A few weeks after his murder, Workers World youth, active in Youth Against War and Fascism at the time, distributed hundreds of portrait-placards with the caption `Avenge Che.' This was at the massive march to protest the Vietnam war that surrounded the Pentagon, the first demonstration that began to show the revolutionary militancy in the youth movement that the 1960s became famous for.

Che's picture haunted the Pentagon that day and will continue to haunt them for generations to come.

Stimulus Package---Why Workers Need More

Stimulus package—why workers need more

By Fred Goldstein
Feb 18, 2009 5:04 PM

Mass protests against the global economic crisis are spreading.

Protests recently toppled the government of Iceland. There have been militant protests against unemployment in Greece, Chile, Latvia and Bulgaria. A general strike in France on Jan. 29 compelled the government to give money to the automaker Citroën in return for a promise not to lay off workers.

As the crisis deepens in the United States, the multinational working class, unions, community organizations, students and youth must not be lulled into inactivity waiting for the $787 billion stimulus package, signed on Feb. 17, to take effect.

It is understandable that millions of workers who voted for Barack Obama are anxiously hoping that the legislation will bring them some assistance and relief from the dire economic circumstances they face. Some are unemployed and running out of benefits. Others, particularly public workers, are in danger of losing their jobs and health care.

In addition to the millions of unemployed workers and the people who have lost their homes, there are millions more who were impoverished even before the crisis and are hoping that the stimulus package will help them.

What workers get directly

Many features of the package are aimed at immediate relief. They are the very measures the Republicans focused on trying to cut back, evoking the rightful outrage of workers and all progressives.

Among many other provisions, the final bill stipulates $40 billion for extended unemployment benefits through Dec. 31, 2009. It increases these benefits by $25 a week and funds job training. It sets aside $20 billion to increase food stamp benefits by 14 percent. It includes $3 billion in temporary welfare payments and $14 billion for a one-time $250 payment to Social Security recipients, people on Supplemental Security Income, and veterans receiving disability and pensions. (

There is aid to students, to workers who have lost their health care, to states to keep their sinking budgets from going completely under, and other measures that, altogether, are supposed to create 3.5 million jobs.

The bill is designed to entice states into expanding their unemployment benefits to include part-time workers, workers who have been forced to leave the job for family reasons, and workers who are in training.

Better than nothing—but still a pittance

Of course, any increase in assistance to workers is better than no increase at all. When you are unemployed or falling into poverty, every dollar counts. The workers are in desperate need and should take everything they can get.

But considering that the working class has created all the wealth of this society in goods and services yet now is living with a huge deficit, the workers are entitled to a lot more than the paltry sums being talked about.

According to government statistics, the unemployment rate went up to 7.6 percent in January. It is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future, certainly for the rest of 2009 and into 2010.

A rate of 7.6 percent means 11.5 million jobless workers. Let’s assume that the annual wage of these workers was $40,000—which is a little less than the average wage and represents mere survival for a family of four.

If the jobless rate remains at the present level for the next year, the officially unemployed will have lost $460 billion in wages. This does not include the millions who are unemployed but not counted because they have given up looking for work. Add them in and the figure rises to $500 billion.

It is important to note that “total unemployment”—an official government figure that also includes those estimated to have dropped out of the workforce from discouragement about finding a job and those forced into part-time work—is actually 13.9 percent. At that rate, more than 20 million people are unemployed or underemployed. Of those, only 4.8 million are receiving unemployment benefits from the states and 1.7 million are receiving federal special supplementary benefits.

That means that 14 million unemployed or underemployed get no unemployment insurance.

Bankers get lion’s share

The situation is only going to get worse. The number of unemployed is far surpassing the limited plans for job creation. For the first time since 1939, the number of unemployed has grown by more than half a million per month for three months in a row. While the stimulus package is supposed to create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, 3.6 million jobs have already been destroyed since the crisis began in December 2007.

To make matters worse, the government’s plan to bail out the banks aims to squander $2.5 trillion—three times the amount of the stimulus plan. The excuse for this fund is to “loosen up the credit markets.”

The fact that the government has given the banks trillions of dollars in direct cash and loan guarantees certainly entitles Washington to tell the banks: “Lend, or else.” But everyone knows that banks will not lend in an economy that is going under. There is no profit in lending in a shrinking economy and that is what banks do—make profit.

So why give trillions of dollars to greedy, profit-gouging bankers to “help” the economy? They are less than useless and have proven it by wild, fraudulent speculation that has ended up in disaster.

That money is being taken away from the stimulus package. It is being taken away from funds needed to keep people in their homes. It should be used to create a real jobs program. The multinational working class needs a direct jobs program. Unemployment insurance, if you’re lucky enough to get it, has a time limit and is not enough to live on. What workers need most right now is jobs at a living wage and an affordable home.

This is what the $2.5 trillion bailout should be spent on—every nickel of it.

Save workers, not profits

The secret truth that no one in the government dares say out loud is that most of these big banks are probably insolvent already. They should have been declared bankrupt long ago because the debts on their books are not worth much more than pennies on the dollar. The bailout is meant to keep these crooks from going under.

These millionaires and billionaires are worrying that they may be down to their last $100 million or so. Meanwhile, millions of workers are worrying about how to pay their rent, their mortgages, their bills for food, medical care, credit cards, auto loans, student loans and so on.

Only after decades of economic attacks on the multinational working class is the capitalist government hastily coming forward with a pittance in aid. These band-aids have nothing to do with concern for the workers. They are meant to save the profit system.

The help the government is offering is a pittance in comparison to what is needed.

The workers and their communities must form alliances everywhere to fight back.

This is an emergency!

The federal government and every state and local government have provisions in their charters or constitutions mandating the authorities to render assistance to the residents of a state or locality in time of emergency. The profit-addicted capitalist class has created emergencies everywhere–of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, medical crises and hunger.

An outstanding example of fightback is the Detroit Moratorium Now! campaign. The organizers have been carrying on a campaign of mass demonstrations and popular agitation to force the government to pass legislation to declare an emergency and stop foreclosures and evictions. The campaign has influenced the political atmosphere in Michigan to the extent that the Wayne County sheriff recently found a legal reason under the provisions of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to refuse to execute any more foreclosures.

Mass layoffs in times of unemployment create a threat to survival, a true emergency for the workers, their families and the communities that depend on their income.

State and local governments have given hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks, infrastructure and other enticements to get corporations to build in their areas in order to promote jobs and economic activity. Every one of these companies that closes down or cuts shifts is in violation of such an agreement. The community and the workers have every right to enforce the agreement by demanding that the plants stay open and the jobs remain.

In general, the right to a job should be recognized as a right of all workers. Every worker who has worked for a boss has contributed to the wealth of the employer and the creation of the enterprise. The workers have property rights to their jobs, since they have created the property by their labor.

Inextricably bound to this right is the right to occupy the workplace, the way the Republic Windows and Doors workers did in Chicago and the way the Waterford-Crystal workers have done in Kilbarry, Ireland.

There are innumerable legal ways to assert the rights of workers. But the only way to make those rights legally enforceable is for mass organization and struggle to compel the employers and the governments to meet their obligations to the people.
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Kim Jong Il's Leadership Feats Praised in Democratic Republic of Congo

February 23. 2009 Juche 98

Kim Jong Il's Leadership Feats Praised in Democratic Congo

Pyongyang, February 23 (KCNA) -- Otete Gaston Mboyo, chairman of the National Committee of the Genuine Lumumbist Patriotic Party of Democratic Congo, made public a statement on Feb. 18 on the occasion of the birthday of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

The statement noted that Kim Jong Il performed great feats in the course of further glorifying socialist Korea centred on the popular masses. Thanks to his wise guidance the position of socialist Korea has been raised beyond comparison, it added.

It stressed that the revolutionary cause of Juche is being successfully carried forward by Kim Jong Il who is faithful to the revolutionary cause of President Kim Il Sung.

Noting that the Korean people are holding high the banner of socialism invariably despite the persistent moves of the U.S. imperialists to stifle the DPRK and their military threat to it, it said that this is unthinkable apart from the Songun politics pursued by Kim Jong Il.

The signal achievements being made by the Korean people in political, economic, cultural and all other fields at present are a great encouragement to the world progressive humankind aspiring after socialism, the statement said, stressing that the cause of global independence is sure to be realized thanks to Kim Jong Il.

The Threats Against Obama: When Are Whites Going to Get Over It?

What a White Reporter wrote in a Georgia Newspaper About President Elect Obama

Andrew M. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia and wrote this for an editorial in the Macon Telegraph.

When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

For much of the last forty years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African Americans finally going to get over it? Now I want to ask: "When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that "Election Spurs Hundreds' of Race Threats, Crimes" should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in "Bombingham," Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than "talk the talk."

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right.

Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster.

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we're back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we've proven what conservatives are always saying -- that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to "assassinate Obama."

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, "How long?" How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can - once and for all - get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we starting "living out the true meaning" of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that "red and yellow, black and white" all are precious in God's sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn't believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don't believe I'll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here's my three-point plan: First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I'm going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I'm going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama Third, I'm going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can "in spirit and in truth" sing of our damnable color prejudice, "We HAVE overcome."

It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

General Strikes Continue in Guadeloupe and Martinique Amid Deadlock in Negotiations

Guadeloupe, Martinique await salary negotiations

2009-02-24 21:06:59

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) - Protesters in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe said talks aimed at ending a paralyzing 36-day-old general strike over wages and high prices would resume Wednesday.

Leaders of the strike-leading Collective Against Exploitation, or LKP, have already met with small business owners and are expected to meet with major employers and government officials on Wednesday, according to Richard Flessel, head of the LKP-aligned Guadeloupean National Alliance.

Government representatives left the bargaining table Monday night, saying they were not prepared to agree to a ¤200 ($250) monthly raise for those making ¤900 ($1,130) a month.
They have since been awaiting new instructions from Paris.

Strikers are warning of more roadblocks and street protests if their demands are not met in Guadeloupe, where rioters last week smashed windows, burned cars and threw rocks at police, who fired tear gas. One union member was shot dead, apparently by rioters.

The labor collective has a list of nearly 140 demands including the wage increase, covering issues from lowering the cost of imported goods to environmental and judicial reform.

Meanwhile, similar pay negotiations were expected to resume in the nearby sister island of Martinique on Tuesday, where a 20-day strike has paralyzed the French overseas territory.

On Monday, protesters in Martinique walked out of a meeting after business owners did not offer a concrete counterproposal to demands for a monthly pay increase of ¤354 euros ($452), strike organizer Michael Monrose said.

Before negotiations can continue in Martinique, strikers must allow businesses to operate as usual, said Patrick Lecurrieux-Durival, president of Medef Martinique, a union that represents businesses.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a ¤580 million ($730 million) financial package to help development
in France's overseas regions.

But Sarkozy remains unpopular in Guadeloupe, where his response to the global financial crisis, including bank bailouts, was seen as management-friendly.

Associated Press writer Rodolphe Lamy in Fort-de-France, Martinique contributed to this report.

A French West Indian crisis that Paris fails to comprehend

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

“Lyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon” (LKP), Union against exploitation. A fire that sparked in Guadeloupe, then spread to Martinique now threatens to blaze even farther.

Sana Harb, Algiers

This all began with a mere protest against the high cost of living there, a movement that struck a chord with the Guadeloupian people who were tired of the lasting colonial anachronism that the French flag embodies. “Guadeloupe belongs to us, not them!” cried protesters.

The “them” refers to the companies owned by a minority of whites, locally called béké, who are descendants of colonists and have a firm grip on the local economy. Their prices are often 30% higher than those in France.

“In mixed families, the children are of different colours. It is not harmonious. I don’t think that’s a good thing. We wanted to preserve the purity of the race.”

Gas prices there remain high despite oil prices plummeting. France seems a distant place. The prefect representing the French Republic stayed at the home of the of 80 year old béké, Alain Huygues-Despointes, who uttered racist remarks during a report on Canal -uteur de propos racistes dans un reportage diffusé sur Canal.

“In mixed families, the children are of different colours. It is not harmonious. I don’t think that’s a good thing. We wanted to preserve the purity of the race” he said while criticising historians for only talking about “the negative aspects of slavery, which is unfortunate.” The prefect of Martinique Ange Mancini, who presided over the negotiations during a general strike across the island, cleaned things up afterwards but the symbol remained – a distant republic that clings to an anachronistic system.

A distant republic, an anachronistic system

In an interview in the Libération newspaper, the economist Pascal Perri, provides a diagnosis of the profound causes that have led to the current social movement. “Guadeloupe remains in a colonial and monopolistic economic system.

Certainly, the plantations have disappeared but the descendants of the planters are now heads of distribution and import-export companies. This is no small fact on an island that imports 90% of everything it consumes. The lack of competition is particularly striking in the French West Indies.”

Perri’s comments echo the sentiments of a union worker who describes the fight against “pwofitasyon” as “a second abolition movement.” Indeed, the movement, which buried unionist Jacques Bino on Sunday the 22nd, who was fatally shot in dubious circumstances, is gathering support from the French leftwing political community and embarrassing the government.

Yves Jégo : “The conflict between the colonists and slaves has exploded in our faces.”

Egged on by strikers, José Bové denounced, “the neo-colonial regime that exists in Guadeloupe” and “the plantation structured economy that exists to the detriment of the local population.” For him, LKP’s fight “goes far beyond financial considerations,” and is a question of “cultural identity and the struggle for the right to food.” Olivier Besancenot, spokesman for the New Anti-capitalist Party and Ségolène Royal also made the trip to the French West Indies.

Ideas for the Left in France

While the French government fears the spread of this social unrest to other overseas departments, LKP’s fight is inciting “militant” interest in mainland France where a social movement is also gathering strength. Some 15,000 persons protested in Paris to support the LKP.

Even if this fight is about more than basic financial concerns, the demand for a 200 euro increase on base salaries is at the core of the negotiations led by the LKP.

The MEDEF is stalling. Sarkozy, who had failed to mention the situation in the French West Indies, the 5th of February, during his televised address, decided to get involved. This is because the movement is gaining strength even if a certain degree if calm has recently become apparent.

“This crisis is highlighting something other than a social crisis. The structure of the economy is completely archaic and is a vestige of the colonial era […] Much needs to be done in terms of culture and history […] the conflict between the colonists and slaves has exploded in our faces.”

These are not the words of José Bové or Olivier Besancenot. These are the remarks of the very official and overwhelmed overseas territory Secretary of State, Yves Jégo.

Talks deadlocked in Guadeloupe wage strike


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Protesters rebuilt roadblocks Monday as talks showed little progress in ending a 35-day-old general strike over wages or helping this French island's inhabitants cope with economic crisis.

Representatives of the French government left the negotiating table Monday night, saying they were not prepared to meet the strikers' demand for a euro200 ($250) monthly raise for those making euro900 ($1,130) a month.

"The state doesn't believe that it should finance or reimburse wage increases for private employers," Nicolas Desforges, the island's top Paris-appointed official, told reporters. He said the representatives were awaiting new instructions from Paris before they would return.

Leaders of the strike-leading Collective Against Exploitation said they had reached a tentative agreement with small business groups to meet half the requested raise but that the rest would have to come from the government.

Meanwhile, protesters prepared to take the dispute back to streets where riots raged last week, pushing burnt-out cars back into intersections and erecting new roadblocks on major highways.

"If they don't want to talk, we will put the popular pressure on the streets and make them share their fortune with the people of Guadeloupe," Patrice Tacita, a Collective Against Exploitation official, told hundreds of supporters in front of the seaside port authority building where negotiations are taking place.

Last week, rioters smashed windows, burned cars and threw rocks at police, who fired tear gas. Union leader Jacques Bino was shot and killed, apparently by rioting youths, in an incident still being investigated.

The workers have been striking since Jan. 20, tapping widespread resentment over the control that descendants of slave holders hold over much of the island's economy. Strikes also have taken place on the nearby French island of Martinique.

The labor collective has a list of nearly 140 demands including the wage increase, covering issues from lowering the cost of imported goods to environmental and judicial reform.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a euro580 million ($730 million) financial package to help development in France's overseas regions.

But Sarkozy remains unpopular in Guadeloupe, where his response to the global financial crisis, including bank bailouts, was seen as management-friendly.

"They give plenty of money to the banks to face the crisis, they must make an effort for the consumers too," collective negotiator Harry Durimel said.

Shops in the principal city of Pointe-a-Pitre opened briefly on Monday for the first time in more than a month, but metal storefront gates came crashing down as the marchers approached waving red flags and pumping their fists.

Guadeloupe marchers converge on strike talks


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Shops in this French island's biggest city opened Monday for the first time in more than a month, but then slammed their doors shut as thousands of chanting protesters marched to a meeting aimed at ending a 35-day-old general strike.

Even as protesters blocked highways with new barriers, hopes were high among islanders that unions, businesses and French officials will reach agreement and prevent a repeat of last week's riots. The workers have been striking since Jan. 20, demanding lower prices and a euro200 ($250) monthly raise for those making euro900 ($1,130) a month.

Also fueling the unrest is resentment over the control that descendants of slave holders hold over much of the island's economy. Strikes also have taken place on the nearby French island of Martinique.

For a few hours Monday, Pointe-a-Pitre's commercial center returned to normal as shopowners took advantage of a lull in the street protests. Women lined up at a pharmacy and the smell of cinnamon and licorice filled an open-air spice market that normally caters to cruise ship passengers.

But the city's stores hastily closed down as the marchers approached waving red flags and pumping their fists. They chanted "We came to negotiate!" and sang the anthem "Guadeloupe is ours!" as they marched to the seaside port authority building, where talks are taking place.

"We are afraid for ourselves, we are afraid for our businesses and we are afraid for our customers," said a visibly nervous shopowner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Among the marchers was French leftist leader Olivier Besancenot, who walked behind strikers carrying red flags bearing the image of revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Leaders of the strike-leading LKP, or Collective Against Exploitation, told supporters that no deal had been reached by mid-afternoon and that talks were continuing.