In late November, Education International (international federation of teaching unions) received information from contacts inside Iran that Kurdish teacher activist Farzad Kamangar was being prepared for execution in the notorious Evin Prison. There was a flurry of activity, with many thousands of people around the world responding to the request to email Iranian president Ahmedinejad against Kamangar’s execution. Latest reports suggest that Kamangar is still alive, but he remains in imminent danger.
Kamangar has been convicted of involvement with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) but his lawyer says that “nothing in Kamangar's judicial files and records demonstrates any links to the charges brought against him”, and he was cleared of all charges during the investigation process. Despite this, he has been in prison for nearly a year, with witnesses testifying that he has been beaten and prevented from seeing visitors.
Unfortunately, many socialists internationally – the very people upon whom Kamangar should be able to rely for solidarity – believe that the regime threatening to kill him is a progressive, “anti-imperialist” force in world politics. They are wrong. Socialists should act to save the life of Farzad Kamangar and other worker and human rights activists persecuted by the Iranian regime; visit www.labourstart.org for more details.
According to much bourgeois political commentary on Israel/Palestine, the situation there is merely one of endless and inescapable inter-ethnic conflict. But through the conflict based on the brutalisation of one national group by the state of another runs a seam of conflict of a different kind — that of worker against boss.
Within both Israel and occupied Palestine, workers are organising on a class basis. In Palestine, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate has recently announced plans to hold a conference in 2009, with its President Naim Toubasi emphasising the need for journalists to organise against the threats posed by the Israeli occupation, Hamas, and the corrupt Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
The International Federation of Journalists plans to send a delegation to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to support the conference.
In Israel, the Middle and High School Teachers' Association is threatening strike action over the government's new proposed education reforms. Although we would criticise the political perspectives and structures of these unions, their activities prove that the struggle between labour and capital is not suspended in situations of national conflict. Activists who believe in a working-class, socialist solution to the Israeli colonisation of Palestine should look to organised labour on both sides as the only agency capable of creating a just and democratic outcome.
More than 30,000 Korean trade unionists demonstrated on 29 November to protest against government plans to revise legislation protecting part-time and agency workers. The state responded heavy-handedly, deploying nearly one riot cop to every 10 demonstrators.
Richard Gallardo, Luis Hernández and Carlos Requena, members of the Unidad Socialista de Izquierda (USI, United Socialist Left) and of the UNT trade union federation in Venezuela, have been assassinated.
According to reports on the Aporrea website, the three men were killed in the early hours of 27 November in a drive-by shooting. The day before, they had been supporting workers at the Colombian owned Alpina plant in the state of Aragua; earlier in the week the men were campaigning in the local elections, standing as socialist candidates.
Gallardo and Hernández were long-time revolutionary socialists who, together with Requena, were also associated with the rank and file current C-CURA, led by Orlando Chirino. There are reports of assemblies of workers discussing strike action in protest at the killings, and calling for a transparent investigation into the deaths.
The day before the killings, the three had denounced the repression of the Alpina workers by Aragua state police. The outgoing opposition governor Didalco Bolivar has frequently deployed police against workers in disputes. Bolivar was an ally of President Hugo Chavez until last year, when he defected to the right-wing opposition during the constitutional referendum.
There is speculation that the attack was carried out by paramilitaries hired by Alpina. Drive-by shootings on motorbikes, known as sicariato, are a method of assassination commonly used against trade unionists and social movement activists in Colombia where the firm is based.
We salute these brave socialist fighters, and call for a labour movement investigation into the killings.