Worldnotes - June 14, 2008

Germany: The Left Party sets course

“The wind of history is in our sails,” Oscar Lafontaine proclaimed as 500 delegates of the Left Party, Germany’s third largest political party which evolved from the Socialist Unity Party that had ruled the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), convened May 25–26 in Cottbus.

This party is the product of the union last year between the Party of Democratic Socialism and Social Democratic Party dissidents. The anti-war party opposes the European Union constitution and would work to remedy Germany’s 18 percent poverty rate. Lafontaine, once leader of the Social Democrats, shares party leadership with Lothar Bisky who was a leader in the Party for Democratic Socialism.

The convention called for tax increases, a crack down on business crime and massive funding for job creation and education. Analysts say that center parties, pressured by the Left push, now support taxes on the wealthy, a minimum wage, and paid maternity leaves.

For a fuller story see Victor Grossman’s “Three contrasting congresses meet in Germany” at www.pww.org.





Peru: U.S. military intervenes

U.S. troops arrived June 1–2 in Ayacucho, Peru. Air Force Link enthused that 139 members of task force “New Horizons Peru” will build classrooms and clinics; 990 more are expected.

Writing of “Gringos and Cubans” on erbol.com, Ricardo Bajo contrasts U.S. soldiers carrying “long range M-16 rifles and machine guns” within range of Shining Path insurgents with 2,000 Cubans in Bolivia doctoring and teaching literacy. The latter “only want Bolivia and the world to be a more just place to live,” he adds.

Amidst fears of an eventual U.S. base in Peru, the Ayacucho Defense Front is planning a general strike for July 8. Opposition leader Ollanta Humala notes that armed foreign troops are illegal in Peru.

For further discussion go to the May 29 post “1,000 Marines in Peru worry opposition parties.” on

peoplesweeklyworldblog.blogspot.com.





South Africa: Revival of alliance

The labor federation COSATU recently elected nurse Sdumo Dlamini, seasoned by 20 years of public sector unionism, as president. A Business Times interviewer asked him June 5 about the recent tripartite alliance summit involving COSATU, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party. There, neoliberal policies were rejected in favor of egalitarian initiatives propelled by the alliance.

Dlamini promised COSATU electoral support for the ANC, but opted for an ANC “inclined towards working-class aspirations.” He rejected calls for President Thabo Mbeki, no longer the ANC head, to resign.

Dlamini sees successor Jacob Zuma, a likely presidential candidate, as “part of our experience ... born of the working class.” Dlamini himself is “a Christian who has grown to become a communist.”





Australia: Unions respond to migrant workers

Australia’s Guardian newspaper reports that employers are pressuring the Kevin Rudd labor government to convert the country’s guest worker program, under which 46,680 overseas workers arrived last year, into a source of cheap labor.

Unions, led by the Australian Workers Union, have made proposals aimed at improving the lot of visa-authorized foreign workers and, indirectly, Australian workers. They are seeking assurances that “market wages” are paid, that collective bargaining be available, and that employers certify labor shortages as bone-fide.

Julius Roe, president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, charged recently that employers cheat by taking excessive deductions from workers’ pay to cover health, accommodation and migration costs.





Gaza: Abbas promotes reconciliation

Addressing the Palestinian people on June 4, President Mahmoud Abbas called for dialogue to end internal divisions. Discussions would be based on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s proposals last March for early elections, respect for Palestinian law, reconstruction of security systems and restoration of earlier power arrangements.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya of Gaza’s dissolved Hamas government welcomed the initiative, calling for Arab League supervision.

Abbas also met with leftist groups. Afterwards, according to IMEMC news, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party declared jointly, “Our unity is our power, our means for liberation, independence and the right of return.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@roadrunner.com)