Russia: Battle of Stalingrad remembered

In a moving ceremony on Sunday, World War II veterans from across Russia were joined by political leaders and foreign ambassadors in marking the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.

The battle turned the tide of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, and started the drive by Soviet troops that forced the German army all the way back to Berlin. It ended Feb. 2, 1943, with the surrender of Nazi Field Marshal Paulus.

Ambassadors from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Italy and other World War II combatants joined veterans in placing wreaths and flowers at the imposing monument depicting a woman representing the Motherland, holding a sword high in the air. A million people were killed in the fighting around Stalingrad – now called Volgograd – and an estimated 27 million Soviet people died in the war.

In a message of sympathy, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared, “Stalingrad is a symbol for the immeasurable suffering that the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union brought upon millions of people.”

South Africa: Union federation opposes war

“The world should be particularly concerned by the threat from the Bush gang to jettison the entire United Nations system in pursuit of dangerous unilateral military action in the most volatile region of the world,” the Congress of South African Trade Unions declared in a statement Jan. 27. “COSATU, our government, the people of South Africa, and all progressive people across the world stand united in declaring: No Blood for Oil!”

The statement highlighted the Bush administration’s oil interests and its “hopeless performance” on the economy as underlying the drive toward war, and pointed out that “The strategy of using war and death as diversionary tactics is a well established part of American presidential politics.”

Mexico: Farmers protest vs. NAFTA

Tens of thousands of farmers, carrying banners and machetes as symbols of their defiance, gathered in Mexico City Jan. 31 to protest the threats to their livelihood posed by a flood of cheaper imports from the U.S. and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). They warned that a treaty clause which came into force last month, allowing agricultural and livestock imports to enter Mexico without tariffs, will have an especially negative effect.

Protest organizers warned that unless the government of President Vicente Fox withdraws from NAFTA and initiates a new agricultural policy, they will up the ante by blocking ports and border crossings with the U.S.
A quarter of the country’s 100 million people make their living from the land, and since NAFTA was signed nine years ago, many farms have gone bankrupt under the pressure of cheaper foreign imports.

New Zealand: Unions ask to meet with U.S. ambassador

The Council of Trade Unions has asked U.S. Ambassador Charles Swindells to receive a delegation from the CTU’s 34 affiliated unions to express concerns over the increasingly worrying Iraq situation, and the implications for workers. The letter sent by CTU head Ross Wilson conveys the “concern and alarm workers have at the daily statements by President Bush and other U.S. leaders, suggesting the U.S. will take unilateral military action against Iraq outside any United Nations mandate and in apparent disregard of international law.”

Wilson said the CTU supports strengthening and implementing treaties and conventions to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction through UN processes, and mandated international inspection of all countries developing and producing weapons of mass destruction.

Haiti: Former army officers will stand trial

Former colonels Carl Dorelien and Hebert Valmond were deported to Haiti Jan. 27 by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The two, former members of the High Command of the Haitian Armed Forces that was responsible for a violent military coup d’etat in September 1991, had fled to the U.S. after constitutional government was restored in 1994.

Valmond and Dorelien were taken to the National Penitentiary on their arrival in Port-au-Prince. The two had been tried in absentia and sentenced on charges largely relating to the April 1994 Raboteau massacre. They will now have the opportunity to defend themselves at a new trial.

India: Mass anti-war demo planned for Feb. 10

The Committee Against War on Iraq announced this week that a massive protest demonstration will be held at the American Center in New Delhi on Feb. 10. The Committee, which includes the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) along with a number of other parties, popular movements and prominent individuals, had organized an earlier protest last November.

At its Jan. 20 meeting, the Committee decided to greatly step up its activities, including calling on the Indian government to oppose the Bush administration’s drive toward war on Iraq.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, international secretary of the Communist Party USA. She can be reached at