WORLD NOTES: Sept. 22

South Africa: Cosatu challenges ANC leaders

On Sept. 12, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) rejected nominees for the South African Broadcasting Corp.’s board of directors proposed by Parliament, where the African National Congress (ANC) commands a strong majority.

Criticizing the nominations for their pro-business bias, Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven called for a “working-class perspective on the news.”

The action reflects more general Cosatu concerns about the ANC’s leadership. Following an upcoming central committee meeting, the federation, according to the Cape Times newspaper, will be naming its preferences for ANC leadership to be chosen in December. At a Sept. 11 press conference, Cosatu’s general-secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, explained: “We have a class interest in who becomes that leadership; we will no longer leave things to chance.”

A recent statement on Cosatu’s web site, responding to ANC economic proposals, expands upon this theme: The “accumulation regime has not changed,” it declares, referring to capitalism in South Africa. “Development and underdevelopment ... coexist. Cheap labor is reproduced.”



U.K.: Unions defy prime minister, plan strikes

Addressing the annual conference of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) on Sept. 10, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called upon public sector workers to accept “pay discipline” to fight inflation.

In response, Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union, declared that workers “are not the cause of inflation; they are the victims,” and cited a union study that assigns blame to the rising costs of housing and oil.

Denouncing the government’s privatization practices and its use of contract workers, Serwotka urged a union fightback, proclaiming, “Unity is strength — stand together and we can win.”

The TUC conference unanimously backed a strike plan presented by civil service workers, and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber announced the formation of a preparatory strike committee. Postal workers had already decided to strike in late September, and civil service unions had earlier rejected the government’s plan for limiting pay hikes to 2 percent over three years.



Iraq: BBC details Iraqi views on ‘surge’

The BBC, together with ABC News and the Japanese news agency NHK, recently surveyed Iraqi opinion on the impact of foreign and Iraqi troops, including the impact of the so-called U.S. surge. Interviews with over 2,000 Iraqis took place Aug. 17-24, and the survey results, which were released Sept. 11, were assigned a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

The Iraqi respondents were generally more pessimistic than those involved in a similar survey six months earlier. Today 70 percent of Iraqis think security has deteriorated and conditions for political dialogue have worsened, and 65-67 percent think the troop increase has interfered with government functioning, reconstruction and economic development. Forty-seven percent now want foreign troops to leave immediately, up from 35 percent earlier, and 85 percent have little or no confidence in the U.S.-led occupying forces.



Venezuela: Labor federation endorses socialist party

In Venezuela, a 2-million-worker labor federation, beset since its foundation with conflict over labor autonomy versus ties to President Hugo Chavez’s government, recently called upon its members to join Chavez’s new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Until now, internal divisions had kept the National Workers Union (UNT) on the periphery of change, to the point where Chavez hesitated to assign unions and workers — only 20 percent of them unionized — a leading role in building socialism.

UNT leaders, still jealously defending labor’s independent role, dismissed charges that their new stance toward Chavez’s party was contradictory. Both the unions and the new party “are part of the same fight towards socialism,” said one of them, quoted at Venezuelanalysis.com.



India: Left parties protest naval exercises

Left parties in India united Sept. 4 to hold large demonstrations in Chennai and Kolkata and, four days later, at Visakhapatnam, all major ports on the Bay of Bengal. They were protesting Indian participation in U.S.-led naval and air exercises that party leaders view as signaling subservience to U.S. foreign policy, especially when coupled with the proposed Indian-U.S. nuclear treaty.

Involved in the maneuvers, according to newkerala.com, were 26 ships — aircraft carriers, missile frigates and destroyers — from Japan, Singapore, Australia and the United States.

The protesters were targeting the ruling United Progressive Alliance, led by India’s Congress Party, who they condemned for sacrificing India’s sovereignty.

Bangladesh’s Communist Party followed suit on Sept. 8 with a statement expressing concerns over the exercises. That party congratulated Indian working people, led by communist parties, for “continuing their struggle to keep India out of ‘strategic partnership’ with the global terrorism of U.S. imperialism.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @megalink.net).