40 years on: The 1968 Mexican student rebellion

September 2, 2008

- Tim Bowron

Orginally published at Socialist Democracy.

The situation in most of Latin America in 1968 was vastly different to that in Europe, the United States and South East Asia. Throughout most of the continent the revolutionary dynamic seemed to be running in reverse - since the 1959 Cuban Revolution the left seemed to be everywhere on the retreat, with right-wing military dictators ruthlessly crushing any opposition.

It was not as though the left suffered from any shortage of militancy - in Venezuela and Colombia communist cadre inspired by the example of Ernesto “Che” Guevara fought heroically to overthrow capitalism by setting up guerrilla foco in the countryside. However unlike their Cuban comrades they failed in the vital task of building a parallel mass underground movement among the urban working class, and consequently were left isolated.

An attempt by Guevara himself to lead a guerrilla insurgency in Bolivia in similar conditions led to his capture and execution at the hands of local military and US intelligence officers in 1967.

In Peru the peasant leader Hugo Blanco had led a relatively successful guerrilla campaign in the early 1960s which had mass support among the indigenous population of the Cuzco region, but by the mid 60s Blanco was in jail and the insurgency crushed.

In 1968 a left-wing army officer named General Juan Velasco Alvarado took power in Peru in a coup d´état, however despite implementing land reform and some other progressive measures the workers and peasants continued to be marginalised under his regime.

In Argentina too a military regime was in power throughout the period and the left driven largely underground for most of the decade. Only in 1969 would the class struggle briefly reassert itself with the urban uprising known as the Cordobazo.

However, in the continent of Latin America there was one key flashpoint in 1968 - Mexico.

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Iranian socialist: “Capitalism is causing these wars”

September 2, 2008

Torab Saleth, a leading activist in the Iranian Workers Left Unity current and a prominent figure in the British-based Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) campaign, was recently interviewed by Philip Ferguson of the Workers Party.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about Workers Left Unity - how it came into existence and what work it does?

Torab Saleth: Workers Left Unity was formed in exile in the early 1990s, as one of the earliest responses to the crisis of the Iranian left (following its decimation in the early 80s at the hands of the counter-revolutionary theocratic regime). WLU is an independent organisation based on individual membership and an agreed minimum uniting all radical socialist currents cooperating towards a new regroupment of the socialist left. We come from many different traditions, principally from backgrounds in the Fedayeen minority and in Iranian Maoism and Trotskyism.

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EPMU leaders’ strange behaviour

September 1, 2008

- Don Franks

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Labour’s Goods and Services tax, Listener columnist David W Young wrote:

” The reason GST is much-loved by right-of-centre policy wonks in New Zealand and marvelled at by their colleagues overseas, is that it’s “pure”. (Finally, a tax that right-wingers like!) GST wasn’t adulterated to make it palatable to the masses. Calls to exempt food, education and health were rejected by Douglas and Brash’s committee. The few exceptions are rents on residential rental properties, donations and financial services.”

Young noted:

“The biggest concern about GST was that it would disproportionately harm the poor. That argument, made strenuously by unions and mainstream politicians in the 1980s, has shifted over time to the fringes of debate. It’s based on the fact that GST is effectively a regressive tax, because poorer people spend a greater proportion of their income than the rich, who put more into savings.”

(“Happy Returns”, Listener Dec 1 2006)

Today, argument about GST is continuing inside the trade union movement, but with some union leaders opposed to the wishes of their rank and file.

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Wellington bus drivers resist dirty tactics

September 1, 2008

- Nick Kelly

Wellington bus drivers continue to struggle against company attacks on their pay and conditions. Tactics employed by NZ Bus include being deceitful about their proposed pay increase, attempting to undermine the high Tramways Union density at the Kilbirnie bus depot, and being disrespectful to union members wishing to attend the recent funeral of long-serving union secretary Phil Griffiths.

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Casino workers play the wild card

September 1, 2008

How do you take on a powerful company when over a third of the staff are not in the union? Laurie Garnet finds union members at Auckland’s SkyCity casino are coming up with creative solutions.

SkyCity casino is on course to make $110 million profit this year. So when the company offered a 4% increase to staff, with new staff starting on the minimum wage of $12 an hour, it was flatly rejected by union members.

There are two unions at the casino - SEA-Unite with nearly 1000 members, and the Service and Food Workers Union with around 300 members. They wanted a 5% increase and recognition of service for longer serving staff. They voted to take strike action and to keep up the fight up for the next six months if necessary.

Barely had the vote been counted (97% rejecting the company offer) when workers started walking off the job.

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ACTs of hypocrisy

September 1, 2008

- John Edmundson

So the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has suspended one of its workers because he is standing for parliament on the Act ticket. Shawn Tan, a former Green Party member who became a convert to Act, has been suspended (on full pay) because there is a clause in his contract which prevents his running for parliament without the permission of the EPMU national executive.

The Workers Party has a very clear view about this case and others like it. Regardless of the reactionary trajectory of Shawn Tan’s politics, we believe it is essential that any worker has the right to express his or her political views and to run as a candidate for political office without the interference of an employer. To take any other viewpoint would be to concede additional power to the capitalists over their workers, not only within the workplace but also in their employees’ lives beyond the workplace.

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The truth about job losses

September 1, 2008

New Workers Party leaflet available for download here.


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