Monday, June 29, 2009

Honduras- Resist the Coup, Solidarity with the People

Honduras- Resist the Military Coup-
Solidarity with the People's Movement

Host: Socialist Aotearoa

Saturday, July 4, 2009
2:00pm - 4:00pm
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Show your solidarity with those fighting for freedom against the military coup in Honduras, and bring a red flag in solidarity with the General Strike planned there.

More information at-

General Romeo Vasquez

Key leaders of Honduras military coup trained in U.S.

From Facing South- Institute of Southern Studies
At least two leaders of the coup launched in Honduras on June 28 were apparently trained at a controversial Department of Defense school based at Fort Benning, Georgia infamous for producing graduates linked to torture, death squads and other human rights abuses.

Leftist President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped and transported to Costa Rica on Sunday morning after a growing controversy over a vote concerning term limits. Over the last week, Zelaya clashed with and eventually dismissed General Romeo Vasquez -- who is now reportedly in charge of the armed forces that abducted the Honduran president.

According to the watchdog group School of Americas Watch, Gen. Vasquez trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at least twice -- in 1976 and 1984 -- when it was still called School of Americas.

The Georgia-based U.S. military school is infamous for training over 60,000 Latin American soldiers, including infamous dictators, "death squad" leaders and others charged with torture and other human rights abuses. SOA Watch's annual protest to shut down the Fort Benning training site draws thousands.

According to SOA Watch, the U.S. Army school has a particularly checkered record in Honduras, with over 50 graduates who have been intimately involved in human rights abuses. In 1975, SOA Graduate General Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From 1980-1982 the dictatorial Honduran regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate, Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates).

General Vasquez isn't the only leader in the Honduras coup linked to the U.S. training facility. As Kristin Bricker points out:
The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996. The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis. When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them. Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.
For previous Facing South coverage of controversy surrounding the School of Americas/Western Hemisphere Center, see here.

The coup in Honduras

Honduras' elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was taken prisoner by soldiers and forced out of the country on the day Hondurans were supposed to vote in a nonbinding referendum on changing the country's constitution.

Early in the morning, Zelaya was captured, beaten and forced onto a plane that took him to Costa Rica. Other members of his government were also detained--the whereabouts of several were unknown late Sunday night.

The events in Honduras were similar to a coup attempt against left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2002. But that U.S.-backed effort failed when masses of poor Venezuelans mobilized to demand Chávez's return.

Whether the coup in Honduras will succeed remains in doubt. International condemnation has been strong. The U.S. government at first appeared ready to acknowledge the coup-makers as a "force for democracy." But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later condemned the coup and called for respect for "constitutional order."

Eva Gollinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney and writer, and author of The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela. She lives in Caracas and issued regular reports on developments in Honduras at her Postcards from the Revolution Web site. Here, we reprint her initial report from late yesterday morning, followed by excerpted updates from throughout the day.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

THE TEXT message that beeped on my cell phone this morning read "Alert, Zelaya has been kidnapped, coup d'etat underway in Honduras, spread the word."

It's a rude awakening for a Sunday morning, especially for the millions of Hondurans who were preparing to exercise their sacred right to vote today for the first time on a consultative referendum concerning the future convening of a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution.

Supposedly at the center of the controversy is today's scheduled referendum, which is not a binding vote, but merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.

Such an initiative has never taken place in the Central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes. The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan administration's dirty war in Central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people.

Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras' Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary. He was backed by a majority of labor unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occurred, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly. Nevertheless, today's scheduled poll was not binding by law.

In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative National Party of Honduras (PNH). This move led to massive protests in the streets in favor of Zelaya.
On June 24, the president fired the head of the high military command, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, after he refused to allow the military to distribute electoral material for Sunday's elections. Vásquez held the material under tight military control, refusing to release it even to the president's followers, stating that the scheduled referendum had been determined illegal by the Supreme Court, and therefore he could not comply with the president's order. As in the United States, the president of Honduras is commander-in-chief and has the final say on the military's actions, and so he ordered the general's removal. The Minister of Defense, Angel Edmundo Orellana, also resigned in response to this increasingly tense situation.

But the following day, Honduras' Supreme Court reinstated Vásquez to the high military command, ruling that his firing was "unconstitutional." Thousands again poured into the streets of Honduras' capital of Tegucigalpa to show support for Zelaya and their determination to ensure that Sunday's non-binding referendum would take place. On Friday, the president and a group of hundreds of supporters marched to the nearby air base to collect the electoral material that had been previously held by the military. That evening, Zelaya gave a national press conference along with a group of politicians from different political parties and social movements, calling for unity and peace in the country.

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AS OF Saturday, the situation in Honduras was reported as calm. But early Sunday morning, a group of approximately 60 armed soldiers entered the presidential residence and took Zelaya hostage. After several hours of confusion, reports surfaced claiming the president had been taken to a nearby air force base and flown to neighboring Costa Rica. No images have been seen of the president so far, and it is unknown whether or not his life is still endangered.

President Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10 am Caracas time, said that in early hours of Sunday morning, soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. "It was an act of cowardness," said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occurring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over.

Casto de Zelaya also called for the "preservation" of her husband's life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in "serious danger" and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d'etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya.

Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condemning the coup d'etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated.

Last Wednesday, June 24, an extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is a member, was convened in Venezuela to welcome Ecuador, Antigua & Barbados and St. Vincent to its ranks. During the meeting, which was attended by Honduras' foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, a statement was read supporting President Zelaya and condemning any attempts to undermine his mandate and Honduras' democratic processes.

Reports coming out of Honduras indicate that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces. Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras was shutting down all electricity throughout the country. Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d'etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas.

"Telephones and electricity are being cut off," confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. "The media are showing cartoons and soap operas, and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening."
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup, and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting, and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order.

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HONDURAS IS a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occurred during the 1980s, when the Reagan administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential "communist threats" in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsible for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region.

On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) convened a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Honduras, later issuing a statement condemning the threats to democracy and authorizing a convoy of representatives to travel to Honduras to investigate further. Nevertheless, on Friday, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Phillip J. Crowley refused to clarify the U.S. government's position in reference to the potential coup against President Zelaya, and instead issued a more ambiguous statement that implied Washington's support for the opposition to the Honduran president.

While most other Latin American governments had clearly indicated their adamant condemnation of the coup plans underway in Honduras and their solid support for Honduras' constitutionally elected president, Manual Zelaya, the U.S. spokesman stated the following, "We are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

As of 10:30 a.m., Sunday morning, no further statements had been issued by the Washington concerning the military coup in Honduras. The Central American nation is highly dependent on the U.S. economy, which ensures one of its top sources of income--monies sent from Hondurans working in the U.S. under the "temporary protected status" program that was implemented during Washington's dirty war in the 1980s as a result of massive immigration to U.S. territory to escape the war zone.

Another major source of funding in Honduras is the U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides over $50 million annually for "democracy promotion" programs that generally support NGOs and political parties favorable to U.S. interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region. The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous combat planes and helicopters.

Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the U.S. ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far. The modus operandi of the coup makes it clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by U.S. forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the U.S. government.

President Zelaya has increasingly come under attack by conservative forces in Honduras for his growing relationship with the ALBA countries, and particularly Venezuela and President Chávez. Many believe the coup has been carried out as a method of ensuring Honduras does not continue to unify with the more leftist and socialist countries in Latin America.

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Update at 11:15 a.m. (Caracas time): President Zelaya is speaking live on Telesur from San Jose, Costa Rica. He has verified that soldiers entered his residence in the early morning hours, firing guns and threatening to kill him and his family if he resisted the coup. He was forced to go with the soldiers who took him to the air base and flew him to Costa Rica. He has requested that the U.S. government make a public statement condemning the coup--otherwise, it will indicate their compliance.

Update at 12 Noon: The Organization of American States is meeting in an emergency session in Washington concerning the situation in Honduras and the kidnapping of Honduras' president. Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS Roy Chaderton just announced that the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Honduras have been kidnapped along with Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, and are being beaten by Honduran military forces.

President Obama has made a statement regarding his "concern" for the situation in Honduras and a call to all political leaders and parties to "respect democratic norms." However, this statement is NOT a clear condemnation of the coup d'etat that has taken place during the early morning hours on Sunday. Nor did Obama indicate, as other countries have done, that Washington would not recognize any other government in Honduras other than the elected government of Manual Zelaya.

Opposition forces in Honduras, led by a U.S.-funded NGO Grupo Paz y Democracia, have stated via CNN that a coup has not occurred, but rather a "transition" to democracy. Martha Diaz, the coordinator of the NGO, which receives USAID funding, has just declared minutes ago on CNN that "civil society" does not support President Zelaya nor his "illegal quest" to hold a nonbinding referendum on a potential future constitutional reform. She justified his kidnapping, beating and removal from power as a "democratic transition."

Again, this is eerily reminiscent of the coup d'etat in Venezuela in April 2002, when so-called "civil society," along with dissident military forces, kidnapped President Chávez and installed a "transition government." The groups involved also received funding from the U.S. government, primarily via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and later from USAID as well.

CNN en Español, Telesur and other international television stations reporting on the situation in Honduras have been removed from the airways in the Central American nation. The whereabouts of the Foreign Minister and the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua are still unknown. OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulze has announced he will travel immediately to Honduras to investigate the situation. President Chávez of Venezuela has also announced an emergency meeting of ALBA nations in Managua, Nicaragua, as soon as this evening.

Updated at 12:18 p.m.: Dan Restrepo, presidential adviser to President Obama for Latin American Affairs, is currently on CNN en Español. He has just stated that Obama's government is communicating with the coup forces in Honduras, trying to "feel out" the situation. He also responded to the reporter's question regarding whether Washington would recognize a government in Honduras other than President Zelaya's elected government by saying that the Obama administration "is waiting to see how things play out" and so long as democratic norms are respected, will work with all sectors.

This is a practical confirmation of support for the coup leaders. Restrepo also inferred that other countries are interfering in Honduras' international affairs, obviously referring to Venezuela and other ALBA nations, who have condemned the coup with firm statements earlier this morning.

Updated at 12:30 p.m.: Foreign Minister of Honduras Patricia Rodas has been taken from her home by soldiers, beaten and imprisoned. Serious human rights violations are occurring in Honduras, and President Obama has so far only said he is "concerned." Another showing of a U.S. double standard? Since Zelaya is a "leftist" president, will the Obama administration refuse to condemn the coup against him?

Updated at 1 p.m.: President Zelaya is speaking right now live from San Jose, Costa Rica, alongside the right-wing president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, who traditionally has been a staunch ally of Washington. Arias has just adamantly condemned the coup against Zelaya and called for the whole hemisphere to follow suit.

Updated at 2:10 p.m.: Incredible! Just like Venezuela in April 2002. CNN has just issued a report saying that the Honduran Congress has just read President Zelaya's resignation from the presidency and the head of Congress will be the new president of Honduras.

However, just under one hour ago, President Zelaya spoke live from Costa Rica and did not give ANY indication whatsoever that he was going to resign. Zelaya, moreover, reiterated that he remains the elected president of Honduras until 2010 and was hoping to return to his country as soon as possible.

Updated at 2:20 p.m.: President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was just live on CNN en Español, confirming that he never signed nor authorized his resignation from the presidency. This is a coup d'etat taking place, he said. The Honduran Congress has forged a resignation letter illegally removing the president from power.

Updated at 3 p.m.: Minister of the Presidency in Honduras, Enrique FLores Lanza, is live on "Once Noticias" Channel 11 news in Honduras affirming that hundreds of thousands of Hondurans are taking to the streets to demand the return of President Zelaya. He has confirmed that President Zelaya has not resigned, and the letter presented by the Congress is a fake.

The Obama administration has not yet called for the unequivocal reinstatement of Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras.

Updated at 3:30 p.m.: A member of Honduras' Congress has just admitted that in discussions with the U.S. ambassador in Honduras, the U.S. Ambassador suggested they let the poll take place today, and then vote against the Constitutional Assembly in November. But, said the member of Congress, "We can't just allow 'these people' to do this with the help of Venezuela and Cuba."

Updated at 3:44 p.m.: The alleged resignation letter with the forged signature from President Zelaya is dated June 25, 2009. This is completely ridiculous considering that up until he was violently kidnapped this morning, Zelaya gave no indication whatsoever that he was planning to resign. Today, in forced exile from Costa Rica, he has reaffirmed his role as constitutional president of Honduras and denied any resignation via letter or any other means.

The Honduran Congress has violated the human rights of its citizens and has brutally repressed members of Zelaya's administration. Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, who was beaten and taken from her home a few hours ago, has still not resurfaced.

Updated at 4:32 p.m.: The Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, elected in November 2005, has been kidnapped, beaten and forced into exile in Costa Rica. A fake letter of resignation, with his forged signature, was used by Honduras' opposition majority Congress to justify the president's ouster. Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas was brutally beaten and kidnapped by military forces in her residence just before noon and taken into custody. She has not been seen since.

In complete violation of diplomatic law, the ambassadors of Venezuela and Cuba were both beaten and kidnapped for a short period by Honduran soldiers, under orders of the coup leaders. They have both been released and have taken refuge again in their respective embassies.

A nonbinding vote, scheduled for today, on a possible future constitutional assembly, was impeded by the coup leaders, violating the Honduran people's right to vote and participate in their political processes.
Nations around the world, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, Latin American countries and even the United States, have condemned the events in Honduras. Only the Obama administration has yet to clarify whether it will recognize the illegal coup government led by the president of Honduras' Congress Micheletti.

Updated at 5:37 p.m.: It's official. Illegal, but official. Roberto Micheletti, up until now the head of Congress, has just been sworn in as de facto president after violently ousting President Zelaya from power, kidnapping him and forcing him into exile in Costa Rica.

Micheletti just gave a speech before Congress, broadcast live via CNN en Español and Telesur, along with Honduran stations, in which he declared his "utmost respect for democracy and the constitution." (?!) He also discussed how his "cabinet," which he is about to announce, will "restore democracy" and "respect for the constitution." He repeated over and over again that what took place was not a military-civil coup, but rather a "civil society" action to "ensure democracy."

Still no word about kidnapped and beaten Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas' whereabouts. The Congress also did not explain President Zelaya's beating and kidnapping and forced exile or the forged resignation letter, which they now obviously are no longer using as a legitimate "justification" for the coup. It's just too bogus.
BTW, the U.S. Military Group in Honduras trains around 300 Honduran soldiers every year, provides more than $500,000 annually to the Honduran Armed Forces and additionally provides $1.4 million for a military education and exchange program for around 300 more Honduran soldiers every year.

The United States maintains a military base in Soto Cano, Honduras, that houses approximately 500 soldiers and Special Forces. The leaders of the coup today are graduates of the U.S. School of the Americas, a training camp for dictators and repressive forces in Latin America.

Updated at 6:54 p.m.: In a major blow to the coup leaders in Honduras who illegally installed themselves in power, the Organization of American States (OAS) has just issued a resolution condemning the coup against President Zelaya, demanding the return of Zelaya to power immediately and clarifying that the OAS will not recognize any other government other than Zelaya's in Honduras.

Whew! For a minute there, I thought this was going to turn out like Haiti in 2004, when coup forces kidnapped President Aristide and forced him into exile and, while the OAS "condemned" the constitutional rupture, they never called for Aristide's reinstatement, and since the U.S. backed the coup, an illegal transitional government was installed, and nothing more came of it from the international community.
This time, things seem different. Still waiting on the U.S. government's official position. If they say they will not recognize the coup government, then we have to see how things will play out in Honduras.

Updated at 7:40 p.m.: Since the Obama administration has stated the coup situation in Honduras should be resolved via the OAS, and the OAS has just condemned the coup and called for the unconditional restoration of President Zelaya to power, that should also imply that the U.S. government shares the same position.

Some rumors are flying around that two U.S. government reps have made statements to the effect of Obama not recognizing the coup government in Honduras, but not wanting to "get involved" and "wait" for the coup government to decide it is illegitimate by analyzing the OAS decision.

I think a clear coup d'etat against a democratic government that also happens to be dependent on U.S. economic and political aid should require a more firm and concise statement by the U.S. government.
Tomorrow, the State Department will have to respond to questions about the coup.

From in the USA

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sri Lanka- Peace In Pieces Lecture this Thursday

Kia Ora,

With renewed strength, the Peace in Pieces Committee is determined to present the long awaited lecture series highlighting the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. It will be an opportunity to hear New Zealand academics and other subject matter experts speak about various topics including media freedom and human rights violations in Sri Lanka to provide a better understanding of the crisis that has unfolded. Due to unforeseen and at the same time despicable reasons, the lecture series did not commence last month as initially planned, presumably due to its controversial nature.

We sincerely hope that this is by no means going to discourage you from attending but in fact has given rise to your curiosity. This time you will have the opportunity to hear two academics speak at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT):

‘Journalism, Human Rights and Terrorism in Sri Lanka’

by Dr Martin Hirst, Associate Professor of Journalism, AUT University


‘Slow Genocide’

by Professor Margaret Trawick, Professor of Social Anthropology, Massey University.

When: Thursday, 2nd July 2009 at 6.30 pm

Where: Lecture Room WA220, AUT Wellesley Campus, 55 Wellesley Street (Ground floor of AUT Library Building).

Please see invitation attached. Your presence will be greatly appreciated. Please forward this invite to all your contacts.

Peace in Pieces Event Committee

Justice for Iranian Workers - Day of Action NZ

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran: a new left is emerging on the campuses

There have been major confrontations over the last month between students and Iranian security forces. Iranian socialist Behzad of the Iranian Marxist journal Saamaan No (New Order) spoke out about the new left wing movement rising in Iranian universities.

‘For students in Iran 7 December is an important date. It was on this day in 1953 that students staged mass protests in the University of Tehran at the visit of then US vice-president Richard Nixon.

Nixon was visiting the Shah (the king of Iran) to congratulate him on the coup that toppled the popular nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadeq.

This was a US and British backed coup, and although they got rid of Mossadeq, it did not crush the movement that brought him to power.

The Shah’s security forces fired on the student demonstration, killing three. Since then this date has became a celebration of resistance to dictatorship and the struggle for freedom.

Following the 1953 protests, Iranian students formed the Confederation of Iranian Students to oppose the Shah. Many activists in the confederation were socialist and participated in the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Also among them were Islamist students who were part of the National Front – a movement inspired by Mossadeq focused on nationalising Iran’s oil.


This movement came to an end when universities were closed for two years following the foundation of the Islamic Republic and the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeni.

These were the years of the Iran-Iraq war and terrible repression. Many tens of thousands were killed or put in prison. The left was defeated.

In the early 1990s a reform movement grew in Iran. It brought to power the “reformist” president Mohammad Khatami. This movement emerged at the same time as the Soviet Union collapsed. So the left was in disarray and dominated by ideas that said there can never be revolutionary change, the best you can hope for are gradual reforms. This movement put all its faith in Khatami.

However, as it became clear that the reformist president could not deliver the changes demanded of him, this created the conditions for a new left to emerge.

One of the centres of this movement was the pro-reform student Islamist societies in the colleges. At the time these were small groups calling for democracy. They did not describe themselves as socialist or left wing.

They put their faith in small changes that would bring greater freedom and democratic rights, a free press and so on. These students became radicalised following the failure of the reform movement, and the closure of Salam, a pro-reform newspaper. Their protests were heavily attacked by the security forces. Some students began to break with the fundamentalist ideology and question reformism and the state.

Gradually through studying the history of the labour movement in Iran and internationally, they began to develop Marxist ideas. They began to organise and publish newspapers, blogs and other literature. They debated everything from art to politics.


Their demands range from improving conditions in universities through to questions of democracy. And the opposition to neoliberal policies of the government has also tapped into wider discontent across the country.

At the same time as a growing radicalisation among students there was a rise in workers’ struggles in Iran. At the heart of this were bus drivers, who established an independent trade union and found themselves in opposition to the state.

The majority of Iran’s 70 million people are under 35. There are over four million students in the country.

Two years ago, left wing students joined with reformists and the Islamic student societies to organise a major celebration of the events of 7 December 1953.

A year later these students began to raise slogans calling for socialism. They could not march in the streets, but they had good mobilisations on campus. The state responded with waves of arrests and repression.

In the first wave 30 left wing students were seized, in the second 11 – one of whom was killed. These arrests galvanised other students into protest behind student action committees.

Since then we have seen a massive growth in the socialist student societies. There are now up to 15 left wing journals and newspapers – most of which are clandestine.

These students have been debating two major political questions. The first is the opposition to imperialism, especially the threats from the US following the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The second is how to achieve real change inside Iran. They see these two positions as being important for the movement for change.

The right inside Iran has been able to use the threat of imperialism to snuff out any opposition at home. The first time was when the US supported Iraq during its war with Iran (1980-88) and now following the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Last month there were major confrontations between students and security forces. At the same time there have been strikes and other protests. The re-emergence of the student movement and left wing ideas on campus is a sign of a growing confidence and changes that are developing inside Iran.’

Iran repression: a regime in crisis

by Simon Assaf

Iran is in the grip of a popular rebellion, the like of which has not been seen since the 1979 revolution.

It began as a protest against alleged vote rigging, but has now become a movement that lays bare the deep contradictions inside Iranian society.

There have been four crucial days in the uprising so far.

On Saturday 13 June, the day after the presidential elections, tens of thousands of people spilled onto the streets of Tehran to protest at suspected election fraud.

These protests spread rapidly to other cites. The Basaji militia loyal to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the winner of the elections, moved to crush the protests.

They raided Tehran University, the centre of the reform movement. Five students are believed to have been killed. Similar raids took place at other universities.

Yet far from this taming the movement, it grew. On Monday 15 June, millions of people turned out in Tehran in the biggest demonstration for 30 years.

Similar mobilisations took place across the country.

Over the next two days supporters of Ahmadinejad and the opposition became involved in a battle of mobilisations. Rumours began to circulate that elements within the Revolutionary Guards had mutinied.

Unconfirmed reports say that the Tehran head of this elite force was arrested after he refused an order to attack the demonstrations.

The battles on Wednesday 17 June were decisive. In Esfahan the rioting gave way to fear. The hated Basaji militia took the offensive in night time raids.

Meanwhile rumours began to circulate that workers at the giant car plant north of Tehran, Iran Khodra, planned to hold two one-hour protest strikes. And a statement from the heavily repressed bus workers’ union declared its support for the demonstrations.

One 26 year old worker in Iran who was contacted by the British Socialist Worker paper on Thursday of last week said that many people felt it was “like 1979”.

“The protests are very uplifting and most people do not see them as a challenge to Islamic rule,” he said. “We have lost our fear of the state.

“Many of the protesters do not have much affinity with [reformist leader] Mousavi and they are frustrated by the lack of alternative to both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.”

He spoke of the extreme tension ahead of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s key speech following Friday prayers – when he ordered demonstrators to end the protests.

The reformers and their allies inside the establishment called for the demonstrations to continue.


This open defiance of Khamenei illustrates the depth of the divisions within the Iranian state. Mousavi called for a general strike if he was arrested.

But the repression began to take its toll on the size of the demonstrations.

Security forces acted with extreme brutality against those who defied the state to protest. On Saturday 20 June snipers fired at people on the streets.

Some 30 are said to have been killed, including 26 year old student Neda Soltani, whose last moments were captured on a mobile phone camera.

Her death has come to symbolise the cruel repression of the regime. Mosques were ordered not to hold services to mark her death, while her family had to bury her in secret.

Yet battles continued on that day. One eyewitness described how construction workers in Tehran came to the aid of some of the demonstrators:

“We watched a clash between the police and the construction site workers at the Towhid Tunnel [in Tehran] from our apartment window.

“The police tried to take a shortcut to ambush the protesters. The workers used shovels, bricks and construction equipment to stop the police. At this point the demonstrators joined in to help the workers.”

The involvement of workers and the poorer neighbourhoods is an indication of how this movement is reaching deep into Iranian society- reports were emerging of protest strikes involving millions of Iranian workers. Many of the reports that have emerged from Iran are difficult to verify.

But eyewitness statements and footage of mass demonstrations and street battles point to the depth of the convulsion from below that is shaking Iran.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» Workers’ action is key to the success of the Iranian movement
» Behind Iran’s rising
» Who’s who in Iran
» Protests bring a chance of change for Iran
» A vital moment for the movement
» The West’s bloody role in the Middle East

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A tale of two referenda- Hit Poverty, not Kids.

Over 200 worksite delegates from Unite union gathered in Mount Albert last Thursday to launch a campaign that promises to see some of the passion and colour of its SupersizeMyPay fight re-ignite on the national stage. Unite is now collecting signatures for a Citizens Initiated referendum to raise the minimum wage to $15ph immediately, and then by steps until it reaches two thirds of the average industrial wage. The campaign was endorsed at the meeting by the candidates for the Labour and Green parties, as well as Darien Fenton of the SFWU, but the real outstanding speeches came from the delegates themselves, all of whom are struggling to make ends meet on low wages.

Socialist Aotearoa organisers and delegates within Unite will be doing our part to build a massive united front that takes the $15ph petition to the streets. If you want to do a stall in your workplace, community or campus, please contact us at 021 186 1450.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Radical Left breakthrough in Ireland

Irish Marxist Joe Higgins takes Dublin Euro seat off governing party Fianna Fail

The local elections in Ireland have seen the governing Fianna Fail party and their Green Party coalition partners massacred, as voters use the ballot box to exact revenge on a government that has been attacking workers conditions and slashing public services. With over 400,000 workers now unemployed in a country with the same population as Aotearoa, the economic crisis has now come home to rout the Neo-Liberals in the ballot boxes.

Fianna Fail has been the biggest party in Ireland since the 1930s, but now sees its national vote fall to the low 20%s. The Irish Greens betrayed their principles around military neutrality, ownership of natural resources and even motorway building, and have lost heavily in all areas where they held council seats.

The experience of the Alliance party in coalition with NZ Labour in 2001 shows the danger of small left wing parties being swallowed up and destroyed by the policies of the devil that they dance with. The Italian Refondazione party, which led the struggles at Genoa in 2001, founded the European Social Forum in 2003, and led a mass anti war movement afterwards, was also destroyed when they sold out to power and joined a government with the Social Liberals.

But the rout of the Irish Greens should serve as a warning to both their NZ counterparts and to the Maori Party. As the effects of the global crisis accelerate in Aotearoa, so hatred of the National Party and their allies will increase. Parties who have entered into dodgy coalitions or signed memos of understanding can try to explain all the niceties of their treachery when the backlash comes, but experience shows that voters keen on revenge will lump them all together.

The great victory in the Irish elections is the breakthrough of the more radical left parties, notably the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit Alliance. The Socialist Party's Joe Higgins is fighting tooth and nail for Dublin's third European parliament seat, and the SP have taken council seats in Swords , Balbriggan, Fingal and Tallaght. The People Before Profit Alliance have taken five seats in Dun Laoghaire, Ballybrack, Crumlin, Clondalkin and Ballyfermot. Other independent socialists such as Declan Bree in Sligo and Seamus Healy's Workers and Unemployed Action Group in Tipperary have also broken through.

Socialist Aotearoa congratulates its Irish socialist comrades on their great victory, and looks to the day when the radical left in New Zealand can organise a serious alliance to give workers here a fighting voice, both in local and national politics.

People Before Profit GAINS:
Brid Smith elected in Ballyfermot.
Richard Boyd Barrett elected in Dun Laoghaire,
Joan Collins elected in Walkinstown,
Hugh Lewis elected in Ballybrack.
Gino Kenny takes seat in Clondalkin

In Dun Laoghaire, Richard Boyd Barrett topped the poll with 4091 1st pref votes-22.8% of the vote.

Ballyfermot Brid Smith tops the poll with 18.93% - 2,289 1st Pref votes.

Joan Collins (Crumlin/Walkinstown) holds her seat 2512 1st pref 17.43%

Ballybrack (5 seater): Hugh Lewis on 15.8% with 2131 takes seat.

Gino Kenny (Clondalkin) took a seat late this evening bringing to five the seats won by PBP.His first preference were 1,137 or 7.3% of vote.

Tina McVeigh (Dublin South West InnerCity) beat the Greens with 640 votes on the tallies giving a terrific 8.3% for a first time out.

Bryce Evans in Rathmines with 1st Pref 639 votes is on about 3.91%

Pat Dunne (Tallaght/Greenhills) polled 1300 votes at more that 5%

Ex Waterford Crystal worker Donie Fell is on a little over 5% in Waterford

Martin O'Sullivan running a creditable 3% for first outing in Artane/Whitehall

Sean Moraghan (Tralee Town Council) 127 1st Pref 1.3% (beat 2 FF and tied with Green)


Dublin Euro tallies:

Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party candidate, was elected to the Dublin Constituency for the European Parliament on the seventh count at around 5.15am this morning.He received 22,201 votes from the eliminated Sein Fein candidate Mary Lou McDonald, leaving him with 82,366. FF's Eoin Ryan received 5,426 transfers leaving his vote at 76,956.Afterwards Eoin Ryan said he was disappointed to loose his seat as an MEP having served Dublin for 25 years.

Mitchell 26.43%
De Rossa 18.4%
Eoin Ryan 14.1%
MLM 13.2%
Joe Higgins (SP) 11.1%
PMK 3.4%
EB 4.4%
CS 3.6%
DDB 4.4%

Joe Higgins (SP) is on 3787 Ist prefs 28.1% in Fingal; set to top the poll in Castleknock

Clare Daly (SP) set to top the poll in Swords 3192 1st Prefs 20.5%

Mick Barry (SP) set to top the poll in Cork North Central 2096 Ist Prefs 26.5%

Mick Murphy (SP) on 10% in Tallaght Central (2159 1st prefs) with two LP candidates - the three are fighing out the last two seats.

Mulhuddart: Sitting Councillor Ruth Coppinger (SP ) 1,705 1st Prefs 12.86% and Denis Keane (SP) 642 1st Pref 4.84% one seat likely .


Declan Bree Independent Socialist elected in Sligo Strandhill 1366 Ist Prefs 16.8%

Seamus Healy Workers and Unemployed Action elected in Clonmel 2336 and 21.8%

Breaking News: Workers and Unemployed Action Group (South Tipperary)(leader former Deputy, Seamus Healy) has gained a seat on Carrick-on-Suir Urban District Council following the elimination of one of the two sitting Labour Party councillors. WUAG were unrepresented on the outgoing council. Labour Party representation on the council has now been reduced from two to one of the nine seats.

Where Clonmel Leads, will Ireland follow?

The combined strength of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is now reduced to one third of the seats on Clonmel Borough Council following the election of all five Workers and Unemployed Group candidates. The combined representation of WUAG and the Labour Party on the Council is now up to seven of the twelve seats.

Cllr Seamus Healy headed poll having polled 3 quotas.

Composition of outgoing council: Fianna Fail 4, Labour Party 3,WUAG 3, Fine Gael 2

Composition of new Council: WUAG 5, Labour Party 2, Fianna Fail 2, Fine Gael 2, Independent 1

NEW ANALYSIS- A Seismic Shift in Irish Politics, by Irish Marxist Kieran Allen

Friday, June 05, 2009

Marching Against the Motorway

"John Key! Hear us say! We don't want your motorway!"
Over 300 local residents marched along the proposed route of the SH20 Motorway extension in Auckland, braving the wind, rain and an over zealous police force intent on pushing people onto footpaths so sacrosanct traffic could flow unabated.

Spirits were high on the march, as the chants of "Who's streets? Our streets! Who's homes? Our Homes!" echoed down the roads of Waterview, Hendon Ave and Owairaka. Locals were joined by activists from Socialist Aotearoa, the Unite union, the Greens and the Labour party, and there was a lot of talk about direct action and escalating the campaign to the next level.

TVNZ News video HERE

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tiananmen Square, 1989: China’s uprising

Twenty years ago China’s autocratic regime cracked down on a democracy movement that swept the country. Matthew Cookson looks at the legacy of Tiananmen Square

The image of a single defiant protester halting a convoy of tanks captured the imagination of millions of people around the world 20 years ago. This lone man facing down the immense power of the army has come to represent the Tiananmen Square uprising of June 1989. It shook China’s rulers to the core.

Those at the top managed to put down the revolt using the utmost brutality. But they have failed to suppress its inspirational story or to deal with the issues that lay behind the protests, and that continue to spark resistance in China today.

Many commentators claim that the 1989 uprising was a movement against Communism and in favour of free market reforms.

In fact millions of people took to the streets of China to challenge the corrupt state bureaucracy and its turn to the world market.

The Chinese Communists, led by Mao Zedong, took power in 1949. They wanted to build an independent national economy that could compete on the world stage.

While the leaders used the language of socialism, they pushed through policies that subordinated the needs of China’s hundreds of millions of exploited peasants and workers.

Socialist Aotearoa describes the regime as “state capitalist”. Its economy was based on class division and exploitation, but the state, rather than competing ­private companies, owned and controlled production.

The regime emulated the way society was organised in the Soviet Union, which had itself become state capitalist under the rule of Joseph Stalin.

After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took control of the state. He opened China up to the global capitalist market in an attempt to solve the country’s economic problems.

Over the following years this intensified pressure on ord­inary people, hitting students, workers and peasants. It inspired various protests, but none had become widespread.

The situation changed with the democracy movement sparked by the death of Hu Yaobong on 15 April 1989.

Hu had been the general secretary of the Communist Party for much of the 1980s and had been responsible for political reforms in China and Tibet.

The state bureaucracy forced him from office in 1987, after a series of student protests which it felt he was too sympathetic towards.

The day after his death students began to gather in the gigantic Tiananmen Square in the centre of China’s capital Beijing to remember Hu.

The numbers increased over the next few days to tens of thousands of people, including many workers.

Speakers in the square began to raise political demands – including democratic elections, freedom of the press and assembly, and an end to corruption among the bureaucracy.

Crucially, protests and strikes took place in other Chinese cities.

Those on the right tend to focus on the individual acts of defiance in Tiananmen Square. But the wave of mass protests that was spreading across China was central to understanding why China’s rulers were so scared – and why they acted as they did.

A worried ruling class banned all ­demonstrations for Saturday 22 April, the day of Hu’s funeral. Police and the army took up position in Tiananmen.

But throughout the night columns of students marched into the square past the police lines.

The next day 150,000 protesters were camped out in the square, listening to speakers, waving red flags, and singing the socialist anthem, The Internationale, which became the movement’s song.

Fearful of the consequences of repressing the students, the government did nothing. China’s rulers were in crisis. Some were unsure how the army would react to the protests. They didn’t know if they could rely on the army to back up the government.

After Hu’s funeral service the students marched out of the square chanting, “Up with democracy, down with autocracy.”

Around 150,000 people – half of them students and half workers – then marched through Beijing on 27 April. Every factory and workplace they passed was shut down as people came out to show their support.

Thousands of workers intervened to stop soldiers from approaching the march.

After a brief lull in the movement, a small number of student leaders called a hunger strike that began in Tiananmen on 13 May. This raised the protests to new heights.

The hunger strike began with 200 people, but the number soon rose to 1,000, while thousands more protesters descended on Tiananmen. The hunger strikers demanded Deng’s resignation and the sacking of Chinese premier Li Peng.

The next day there were a million protesters and the day after two million.

The government tried to defuse the hunger strikes. Li Peng and Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party general secretary who was seen as sympathetic to demands for reform, met with protesters.

When these talks failed the regime declared martial law on 19 May. Some 300,000 troops began moving into Beijing.

Ranks of students and workers formed human barricades on the outskirts of the city to halt the troops.

Underground workers cut the power to the tube system to stop it being used to transport troops. Workers at the Capital Iron and Steel Works walked out, and many other workers stayed away from work.

Barricades of buses, trucks and construction vehicles were put into place. Millions of people came out onto the streets to stop the army.

Their show of power forced the state back and revealed the extent of the crisis facing the ruling class.

Two eyewitnesses in Beijing reported in the British Socialist Worker newspaper, “For 48 hours now the city of Beijing has been entirely in the hands of the people.

“Though the atmosphere is tense, there is no drunkenness, no looting and no violence.

“For over 1,000 metres there must be over 100 buses arranged in intricate patterns blocking the road.


“The barricade won’t, and isn’t meant to, stop tanks. The idea is to halt and slow up moving troops to allow people to argue with the soldiers and turn them back, as has happened so often in the last couple of days.

“All of the city centre, maybe six miles wide and six miles deep, is now under the control of workers and students.

“Everywhere open-topped trucks packed with workers and students are passing. They all have red flags and banners flying as they speed from barricade to barricade, checking on the situation… And everyone sings ‘The Internationale’ over and over again.”

Huge protests also took place across the country and one million people marched in Hong Kong.

A stalemate developed in Beijing allowing the regime to draw breath and make preparations. Deng Xiaoping and six military commanders put together a task force to crush the revolt.

Troops moved into Beijing on 3 June. Armoured cars and tanks smashed into Tiananmen Square in the early morning firing at the protesters.

The Chinese army is called the People’s Liberation Army and until this moment most protesters didn’t believe that they would actually fire on the people.

Stunned workers poured onto the streets in solidarity with the students, and many were gunned down. They fought back, setting fire to barricades and throwing bricks, stones and petrol bombs at the army.

It took until the evening of the next day for the troops to quell the resistance using the bloodiest methods possible.

The Chinese Red Cross estimated the death toll was 2,600 – which it later retracted after pressure from the government. Many thousands were injured, with casualties filling the hospitals.

The repression continued. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and many executed. No one knows what became of the anonymous protester who stopped the tanks on 5 June.

Deng and China’s rulers were able to continue with their free market drive, creating an even more unequal society.

The last few years have seen a rise in the level of struggle as workers have demonstrated and struck against bullying management and lay-offs, and peasants have protested against unjust taxes and corrupt local bureaucrats. Students have also protested.

The defiant spirit shown 20 years ago in Tiananmen Square lives on.

The events of 1989, despite their bloody ending, revealed that China’s workers, peasants and students have the power to challenge the country’s rulers, and the potential, ultimately, to overthrow them.

This is the nightmare that still causes the butchers of Beijing to lose sleep.