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Berta Cáceres assassinated. Allies fight for the release of Gustavo Castro

By Michael O’Neil - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, March 11, 2016

A week after the assassination of Berta Cáceres, coordinator and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), devastated colleagues and allies in the global movements for indigenous people’s rights and energy democracy are demanding justice.

That justice begins with Honduran officials immediately releasing Gustavo Castro Soto, founder and director of Otros Mundos/Amigos de la Tierra México and the only witness to Berta’s murder. Gustavo was shot twice in the attack and his life is in danger.

The Center for International Environmental Law is circulating a letter to the Honduran, Mexican and embassy authorities to demand that the perpetrators – AND architects – of Berta’s murder are brought to justice.

The Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, the AFL-CIO and other unions and allies have signed an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for pressure to produce an international, independent investigation into Berta’s murder along with meaningful safety measures for others who are still in danger. Trade unions and other organizations that would like to join as co-signers can email Angelika Albaladejo at the Latin America Working GroupThe letter is also calling on the US to “suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.”

The government has issued an alert barring Gustavo from returning to his home in Mexico for 30 days, to keep him as a “protected witness”. Meanwhile, Gustavo himself has published an open letter asserting that the scene of Berta’s murder was altered. The government has shown Gustavo photos and video in a supposed attempt to identify the assailants, but all materials are from marches organized by Berta’s own organization.

Prior to her murder, Berta faced systematic harassment and death threats from government officials, security services and others who would benefit from the Agua Zarca Dam poject, which Berta and the Lenca people have opposed. Now it appears that her horrific assassination is being used as a pretext to further target members of that struggle.

Already, the government has detained Aureliano “Lito” Molina, the number two figure in COPINH, as a “suspect” in what they preposterously claim was a crime of passion, while also maintaining it was a robbery gone violent.

TUED asks that we stand together for Berta and all those facing violence and repression in the fight for basic rights and a safe and healthy environment.

Berta Cáceres, Presente!

From Solidarity Networks to Class Organisation in Times of Labour Hallucinations

By Angry Workers World - LibCom.Org, June 24, 2017

Dear sisters and brothers,

Some comrades from Frankfurt got in touch recently, wanting to set up a solidarity network. They approached us with some concrete questions. [1] We want to use the opportunity to reflect more generally on our limited experiences with our solidarity network initiative so far and about the political direction we want to take steps towards. We do this against the current background of post-election ‘Corbyn-mania’ and a surge in political activities focused on the Labour Party. The first part of this text briefly explains our opposition to the focus on electoral activities, whether that be through the Labour machinery or in the more post-modern form of ‘municipalism’ [2] – despite the fact that locally in our area, the election circus had less of an impact, given that most workers here are not allowed to vote anyway. And as an alternative to this electoral turn, the second part focuses on our political proposals towards a locally rooted class organisation. We then go on to talk in more detail about our concrete experiences with the solidarity network in west London.

The Labour of wishful thinking

  • * We understand that ‘hope’ is needed amongst a divided and beaten working class and that Labour’s rhetoric of social unity and equality is welcomed.
  • * We would criticise our comrades of the radical left if they merely proliferate this ‘message of hope’ and material promises (end of austerity), without questioning the structural constraints which will make it difficult for a Labour government to deliver on their promises. Syriza in Greece has shown how a hopeful high can quickly turn into an even deeper depression once ‘our government’ has to turn against us.
  • * For us it is less about warning the working class not to vote on principle or focusing on Corbyn’s problematic power struggle within the Labour apparatus, but about pointing out the general dynamic between a) a national social democratic government, b) the global system of trade, monetary exchange and political power and c) the struggle of workers to improve their lives. In other words, all of the historical lessons have shown us that the outcomes of channelling working class energies into parliamentarism within a nation state that fits into an overall system of capital flows, has always ended up curtailing a longer-term working class power.
  • * The Labour party proposals in general are not radical as such, e.g. their promise to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020 (!) under current inflation rates would more likely lead to a dampening of wage struggles amongst the lower paid working class, rather than instigating them. The minimum wage regulation introduced by Labour under Blair in 1998 had this effect in the long run.
  • * An increase in taxation to mobilise the financial means to deliver on their promises will increase capital flight and devaluation of the pound – most capital assets which bolster the UK economy are less material than in the 1970s, therefore it would be difficult to counter the flight with requisition (‘nationalisation’), a step which Labour does not really consider on a larger scale anyway.
  • * While any social democratic program on a national level is more unlikely than ever, the Labour program focuses workers’ attention increasingly on the national terrain: struggle for the NHS, nationalisation of the railways etc.; (in this sense the leadership’s leaning towards Brexit is consequential and at odds with most liberal Corbynistas); while officially Labour maintains a liberal approach towards migrants, those Labour strategists who are less under public scrutiny as politicians, such as Paul Mason, are more honest: if to carry out a social democratic program on a national scale means to have tightened control over the movement of capital, by the nature of capital-labour relation, this also means to tighten the control over the movement of labour; it would also mean re-arming the national military apparatus in order to bolster the national currency that otherwise wouldn’t have the international standing the pound still has. [3]
  • * A social democratic government needs a workers/social movement on the ground in order to impose more control over corporate management, e.g. through taxation. At the same time it hampers the self-activity of workers necessary to do this – e.g. through relying on the main union apparatus as transmission belts between workers and government.
  • * In more concrete terms we can see that groups like Momentum or local Labour Party organisations have done and do very little to materially strengthen the organisation of day-to-day proletarian struggles on the ground, but rather channel people’s activities towards the electoral sphere, siphoning off energy and turning attention away from concrete proletarian problems. Many ‘independent’ left-wing initiatives – from Novara media to most of the Trot organisations – became election advertisement agencies.
  • * While for the new Labour activists – many of them from a more educated if not middle-class background – there will be advisory posts and political careers, we have to see their future role with critical suspicion.
  • * If a Labour government would actually try to increase taxation and redistribute assets, the most likely outcome is a devaluation of the pound and an increase in inflation due to a trade deficit, which cannot be counteracted easily (see composition of agriculture, energy sector, general manufactured goods etc.)
  • * The new Labour left – trained in political activism and speech and aided by their influence within union leadership – will be the best vehicle to tell workers to ‘give our Labour government some time’, to explain that ‘international corporations have allied against us’ and that despite inflation workers should keep calm and carry on; wage struggles will be declared to be ‘excessive’ or ‘divisive’ or ‘of narrow-minded economic consciousness’. More principled comrades who told workers to support Labour, but who would support workers fighting against a Labour government risk losing their credibility and influence.
  • * Instead of creating illusions that under conditions of a global crisis ‘money can be found’ for the welfare state we should point out the absurdity of the capitalist crisis: there is poverty despite excess capacities and goods (for which ‘no money can be found’ if they don’t promise profits for companies or the state). We have to be Marxists again, analysing structures rather than engaging in wishful thinking.
  • * We should focus our activities to a) build material counter-power against bosses and capitalist institutions that makes a difference in the daily lives of working class people and b) prepare themselves and ourselves for the task of actually taking over the means of (re-)production. [4] For this we need to be rooted and coordinated internationally. We can clearly see that in the face of these big questions our actual practice seems ridiculously modest, but we want to share our experiences honestly and invite others to organise themselves with us. [5]

Shocking New Investigation Links Berta Cáceres’s Assassination to Executives at Honduran Dam Company

Elisabeth Malkin interviewed by Juan González and Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, November 1, 2017

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with shocking new revelations about the assassination of renowned Honduran indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres. On Tuesday, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a team of international lawyers released a new report that shows how the plot to murder Cáceres was months in the making and went up to the highest levels of the company, whose hydroelectric dam project Cáceres and her indigenous Lenca community were protesting. The report’s release celebrated the effort to push back against the brazen impunity with which the murder was carried out.

PROTESTERS: Berta no se murió, Berta no se murió. ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: “¡Justicia! Berta!” “Justice for Berta!” they chanted, upon the report’s release.

In 1993, Berta Cáceres co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For years, the group faced death threats and repression as they stood up to mining and dam projects they said were destructive to their ancestral land. Then, on March 2nd, 2016, Cáceres was gunned down just before midnight in her hometown of La Esperanza. At the time of her death, she was organizing indigenous communities to resist the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, saying it threatened to contaminate her community’s water supply.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a team of five international lawyers have found evidence that the plot to kill Cáceres went up to the top of the Honduran energy company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos, known as ”DESA.” The lawyers were selected by Cáceres’s daughter, Bertita Zúniga, and are independent of the Honduran government’s ongoing official investigation. They examined some 40,000 pages of text messages and say the conversations are proof that the orders to threaten COPINH and disrupt its protests came from DESA executives. The investigation also revealed DESA exercised control over security forces in the area, issuing directives and paying for police units’ room, board and equipment. In their new report, the lawyers write, quote, “The existing proof is conclusive regarding the participation of numerous state agents, high-ranking executives and employees of Desa in the planning, execution and cover-up of the assassination.”

For more, we go to Mexico City, where we’re joined by Elisabeth Malkin. She’s a reporter for The New York Times, has read the new report and details its findings in her article, “Who Ordered Killing of Honduran Activist? Evidence of Broad Plot Is Found.”

From Solidarity Networks to Class Organisation in Times of Labour Hallucinations

By Angry Workers World - LibCom.Org, June 24, 2017

Dear sisters and brothers,

Some comrades from Frankfurt got in touch recently, wanting to set up a solidarity network. They approached us with some concrete questions. [1] We want to use the opportunity to reflect more generally on our limited experiences with our solidarity network initiative so far and about the political direction we want to take steps towards. We do this against the current background of post-election ‘Corbyn-mania’ and a surge in political activities focused on the Labour Party. The first part of this text briefly explains our opposition to the focus on electoral activities, whether that be through the Labour machinery or in the more post-modern form of ‘municipalism’ [2] – despite the fact that locally in our area, the election circus had less of an impact, given that most workers here are not allowed to vote anyway. And as an alternative to this electoral turn, the second part focuses on our political proposals towards a locally rooted class organisation. We then go on to talk in more detail about our concrete experiences with the solidarity network in west London.

The Labour of wishful thinking

  • * We understand that ‘hope’ is needed amongst a divided and beaten working class and that Labour’s rhetoric of social unity and equality is welcomed.
  • * We would criticise our comrades of the radical left if they merely proliferate this ‘message of hope’ and material promises (end of austerity), without questioning the structural constraints which will make it difficult for a Labour government to deliver on their promises. Syriza in Greece has shown how a hopeful high can quickly turn into an even deeper depression once ‘our government’ has to turn against us.
  • * For us it is less about warning the working class not to vote on principle or focusing on Corbyn’s problematic power struggle within the Labour apparatus, but about pointing out the general dynamic between a) a national social democratic government, b) the global system of trade, monetary exchange and political power and c) the struggle of workers to improve their lives. In other words, all of the historical lessons have shown us that the outcomes of channelling working class energies into parliamentarism within a nation state that fits into an overall system of capital flows, has always ended up curtailing a longer-term working class power.
  • * The Labour party proposals in general are not radical as such, e.g. their promise to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020 (!) under current inflation rates would more likely lead to a dampening of wage struggles amongst the lower paid working class, rather than instigating them. The minimum wage regulation introduced by Labour under Blair in 1998 had this effect in the long run.
  • * An increase in taxation to mobilise the financial means to deliver on their promises will increase capital flight and devaluation of the pound – most capital assets which bolster the UK economy are less material than in the 1970s, therefore it would be difficult to counter the flight with requisition (‘nationalisation’), a step which Labour does not really consider on a larger scale anyway.
  • * While any social democratic program on a national level is more unlikely than ever, the Labour program focuses workers’ attention increasingly on the national terrain: struggle for the NHS, nationalisation of the railways etc.; (in this sense the leadership’s leaning towards Brexit is consequential and at odds with most liberal Corbynistas); while officially Labour maintains a liberal approach towards migrants, those Labour strategists who are less under public scrutiny as politicians, such as Paul Mason, are more honest: if to carry out a social democratic program on a national scale means to have tightened control over the movement of capital, by the nature of capital-labour relation, this also means to tighten the control over the movement of labour; it would also mean re-arming the national military apparatus in order to bolster the national currency that otherwise wouldn’t have the international standing the pound still has. [3]
  • * A social democratic government needs a workers/social movement on the ground in order to impose more control over corporate management, e.g. through taxation. At the same time it hampers the self-activity of workers necessary to do this – e.g. through relying on the main union apparatus as transmission belts between workers and government.
  • * In more concrete terms we can see that groups like Momentum or local Labour Party organisations have done and do very little to materially strengthen the organisation of day-to-day proletarian struggles on the ground, but rather channel people’s activities towards the electoral sphere, siphoning off energy and turning attention away from concrete proletarian problems. Many ‘independent’ left-wing initiatives – from Novara media to most of the Trot organisations – became election advertisement agencies.
  • * While for the new Labour activists – many of them from a more educated if not middle-class background – there will be advisory posts and political careers, we have to see their future role with critical suspicion.
  • * If a Labour government would actually try to increase taxation and redistribute assets, the most likely outcome is a devaluation of the pound and an increase in inflation due to a trade deficit, which cannot be counteracted easily (see composition of agriculture, energy sector, general manufactured goods etc.)
  • * The new Labour left – trained in political activism and speech and aided by their influence within union leadership – will be the best vehicle to tell workers to ‘give our Labour government some time’, to explain that ‘international corporations have allied against us’ and that despite inflation workers should keep calm and carry on; wage struggles will be declared to be ‘excessive’ or ‘divisive’ or ‘of narrow-minded economic consciousness’. More principled comrades who told workers to support Labour, but who would support workers fighting against a Labour government risk losing their credibility and influence.
  • * Instead of creating illusions that under conditions of a global crisis ‘money can be found’ for the welfare state we should point out the absurdity of the capitalist crisis: there is poverty despite excess capacities and goods (for which ‘no money can be found’ if they don’t promise profits for companies or the state). We have to be Marxists again, analysing structures rather than engaging in wishful thinking.
  • * We should focus our activities to a) build material counter-power against bosses and capitalist institutions that makes a difference in the daily lives of working class people and b) prepare themselves and ourselves for the task of actually taking over the means of (re-)production. [4] For this we need to be rooted and coordinated internationally. We can clearly see that in the face of these big questions our actual practice seems ridiculously modest, but we want to share our experiences honestly and invite others to organise themselves with us. [5]

Free Nurbek Kushakbayev! Support independent workers’ organisation in Kazakhstan!

By Gabriel Levy - People and Nature, April 19, 2017

Trades unionists have launched an international campaign for the release of Nurbek Kushakbayev, who was jailed this month for his part in organising strike action in the western Kazakhstan oil field.

A court in Astana, the Kazakh capital, sentenced Kushakbayev to two-and-half years in jail, followed by a further two-year ban on organising.

Kushakbayev is a trade union safety inspector at Oil Construction Company (OCC), an oilfield service firm based in Mangistau, western Kazakhstan. He is also deputy president of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, which the government banned last year under a law designed to straitjacket unions not controlled by the state.

In January, workers at several oil companies in Mangistau staged a hunger strike in protest at the ban on union federation, to which their workplace organisations were affiliated. Dozens of participants in the hunger strike were arrested. Most were released without charge, but Kushakbayev and another union organiser at OCC, Amin Yeleusinov, were arrested and secretly transported to Astana, more than 1000 kilometres to the east. Yeleusinov is still awaiting trial.

California Port Gridlock: Labor Disputes May End Up Costing Billions

By Alex Lubben - In These Times, November 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

West Coast ports are stuck in gridlock. Earlier this week, truck drivers were waiting for as long as seven hours at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to try to retrieve single containers of cargo. The backup at these ports, which handle the majority of shipments from Asia, is threatening the timely delivery of billions of dollars’ worth of holiday goods.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the docking companies at ports along the West Coast, blamed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for the initial slowdown, accusing the union of refusing to dispatch skilled workers at the ports, creating backups that are part of an attempt to gain leverage in contract negotiations. The union—whose workers have been without a contract since July—has denied that they are intentionally clogging the port’s flow of goods.

The “orchestrated job actions,” as PMA refers to the alleged slowdown, began at ports in the Pacific Northwest and has since spread to the Los Angeles-Long Beach (LA-LB) ports. PMA claims that the ILWU informed them that they would stop dispatching qualified workers.

ILWU denied this in a press release issued on November 10:

Obscuring months of data regarding the non-labor related causes of the current crisis-level congestion problem, PMA’s Texas-based public relations firm announced that the ILWU was the cause bringing “the port complex to the brink of gridlock.” The public relations firm also propagandized about the ILWU, its leadership, and false claims of safety issues.

Stateless Democracy: The Revolution in Rojava Kurdistan

By De Balie -Vimeo, October 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

#1. Stateless Democracy: The Revolution in Rojava Kurdistan [part 1] from De Balie on Vimeo.

The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has often been portrayed as a fight between the West and its Arab allies against Islamic ultra-fundamentalists. Over the last several years, however, a progressive Kurdish-led resistance has been forming in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) amidst the Syrian Civil War. The resistance has successfully implemented new models of grassroots democracy, gender equality, and sustainable ecology, its members practicing a political project they refer to as Democratic Confederalism. Women and men stand side-by-side in its armed forces in the face of both ISIS and the Bashar al-Assad regime. Despite the resistance’s efforts, Rojava is currently threatened by a massacre, and the international community continues to stand by silently as tragedy unfolds.

This conference discusses the current Kurdish resistance in Kobanê, Rojava against ISIS. With help of representatives from the Kurdish movement as well as specialists in the field, it explores the politics and culture of Rojava and the reasons behind the formation and growth of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The question as to what and how the international community and civil society can help is also addressed—not only to stop ISIS, but more crucially, to support a movement from within the region that is offering a new democratic horizon from which the world can learn.

Keynote speeches by Dilşah Osman (co-president of the Kurdish Democratic Society Congress in Europe, KCD-E) and Dilar Dirik (PhD researcher and activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement), contributions by Joost Jongerden (researcher and Kurdish specialist, Wageningen University), Jolle Demmers (co-founder of the Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht), Jonas Staal (artist), Jasper Blom (Director Scientific Bureau Groenlinks / Green Party), Dilan Yezilgoz-Zegerius (Amsterdam council memberfor Liberal Party VVD, former Amnesty International specialist on Turkey) en Golrokh Nafisi (artist) and many others.

The conference is hosted by New World Academy; BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht; and De Balie, Amsterdam.

Stateless Democracy: The Revolution in Rojava Kurdistan is the first of a series of events on stateless democracy organized by New World Academy in collaboration with the Kurdish Women’s Movement.

Protesters set fire to Mexican palace as anger over missing students grows

Newswire - Reuters, reprinted in The Guardian, November 9, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A group of protesters set fire to the wooden door of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s ceremonial palace in Mexico City’s historic city centre late on Saturday, denouncing the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers.

The group, carrying torches, broke away from what had been a mostly peaceful protest demanding justice for the students, who were abducted six weeks ago and apparently murdered and incinerated by corrupt police in league with drug gang members.

Police put out the flames and enforced fencing designed to keep the protesters away from the National Palace, which was built for Hernan Cortes after the Spanish conquest and now houses Mexico’s finance ministry.

Pena Nieto lives in a presidential residence across town, and was not in the palace at the time.

Mexicans Outraged After Attorney General Karam Stops Ayotzinapa Press Conference Because He's Tired

By Yara Simon - Latin Post, November 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jesus Murillo Karam, Mexico's attorney general, held a press conference on Friday to talk about the 43 Iguala students who disappeared in Mexico in September.

According to Murrillo, a local mayor told police to abduct the students before they were turned over and killed by a gang. The bodies were burned and Murrillo said that it couldn't be confirmed that it was them until DNA tests were run, which he said would be difficult to do.

"I have to identify, to do everything in my power, to identify, to know if these were the students," Murrillo said.

At the press conference, pictures of the burned remains and confessions from three people claiming to be gang members were released.

When Murrillo was asked why they should believe the confessions, he ended the press conference. He thanked people for showing up, and though he tried to whisper "Ya me canse," (or "I'm already tired"), the comment was picked up by the microphone on the lectern, revealing his innermost thoughts to everyone. 

Burkina Faso: Masses Rise Up Against Neo-Colonial Rule: Thousands hold signs and wear t-shirts honoring the revolutionary legacy of Thomas Sankara

By Abayomi Azikiwe - Global Research, November 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Burkina Faso have forced the longtime imperialist-backed leader, President Blaise Compaore, to resign amid mass demonstrations and rebellions in several cities across the West African country. Compaore took power in a French-supported coup on Oct. 15, 1987 against revolutionary Pan-Africanist and socialist leader Capt. Thomas Sankara. 

Several political parties and movements that are seeking to reclaim the legacy of Sankara were very much in evidence during the unrest that reached a critical point on Oct. 30 when thousands stormed the parliament building and setting it alight. The legislative body was set to vote on a motion to extend the 27-year rule of Compaore, who although coming out of the military, ran for office repeatedly as a civilian candidate.

Compaore sought to reassert his authority by refusing to formally resign from the presidency until the evening of Oct. 31. Gen. Honore Traore announced after the rebellion on Oct. 30 that he was assuming power and dissolving parliament.

Immediately people within the various opposition parties began to object to the leadership of Traore. The following day Nov.1, yet another military leader emerged claiming to be in charge.

This time it was Lt. Col. Isaac Zida, the deputy commander of the elite presidential guard. Media reports emanating from Burkina Faso said that the military had endorsed the leadership of Zida.

After meeting with foreign diplomats on Nov. 3, Zida said that the military would hand over power to a civilian transitional authority which is acceptable to the people of the country. If the military leader does not move swiftly in this regard, there could be more violent unrest.

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