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Year 2001 No. 123, July 16, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Militant Manifestation against Anti-Social Offensive

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Militant Manifestation against Anti-Social Offensive

Report on the "Dispersal of Xenophobia"

The Illegality of "Legal Opposition" in Colombia to the Bolivarian Movement

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Militant Manifestation against Anti-Social Offensive

The Big Meeting on the race course

This year's 117th Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting took place on Saturday July 14. As expected the whole event was a militant manifestation against the anti-social offensive in which thousands took part in spite of the pouring rain that came down through out the day's event. The parade of brass bands, banners and contingents started to pass through the centre of Durham at 9.00am and continued right up until the speeches started some four hours later. Bands from around 30 ex-mining villages and their lodge banners as well as large contingents of public service workers from water, gas electricity, health and local government took part. UNISON banners declared the theme of the day for "Positively Public" Campaign.

At 1.15pm the Big Meeting started with several thousand people gathering in the centre of the racecourse in a slight lull in the rain. Presiding was David Guy, President of the Durham NUM. He started by introducing the Fishburn Colliery Band and musical director Ian Robinson to play Gresford to commemorate all the miners who had lost their lives in the industry. He made a special dedication for this year's Gala as it was being held on the 50th anniversary of the explosions that took place in Easington and Eppleton Collieries. At Easington 81 miners lost their lives along with two rescue brigadesmen and at Eppleton nine miners lost their lives. After introducing the guests on the platform David Guy introduced the guest speakers. Guest speakers from the trade unions were two newly elected General Secretaries, Michael Rix of ASLEF and Dave Prentis of UNISON.

Michael Rix brought greetings from the railway workers. He said that after five years of one of the most disastrous privatisations, of seeing death, turmoil, injury, lack of health and safety and profiteering, the government should put the railway industry back into the public ownership. He talked about the galvanisation and radicalisation that was taking place within the trade union movement today. He said that we need a radical agenda to follow that traditional agenda to campaign in the labour and trade union movement. He said we need the formulation of a new charter on trade union rights, employment rights from day one. He asked why in the 21st century with a Labour government we were still having to campaign against trade union legislation, we were campaigning for an economic policy with core values of redistribution and full employment, we were still fighting to redistribute wealth in the fourth richest country in the world, we were still fighting to restore the link between earnings and the state pensions and finally he asked why are we still fighting for an ethical foreign policy based on internationalism, based on peace and based on socialism. Referring to Tony Blair's statement that there is unfinished business he said in conclusion that there is unfinished business. "We have only just started to re-galvanise and radicalise the movement to this time deliver on those policies."Manifestiation of Bands and Banners as contingents pass the County Hotel in Old Elvet

Dave Prentis in his remarks exposed the Private Finance Initiative and the Public Private Partnerships. He said the new hospital in Durham was built by a private company and run by them, and that 130 beds had gone, one in ten nurses had gone and a fifth of the medical budget of that hospital had gone. This is a hospital, he said, where some of the patients walk to their operations because it costs £32 to call out a private porter. He said it was a hospital where patients pay £25 a week to watch TV and where a patient receiving an incoming phone call pays 50p a minute. He said that there is the same picture in Hexham with the new PFI hospital. One in three beds will go and so will 150 nursing posts.

In Middlesborough a private company has taken over the work of over 1,000 local government staff. The private company is called Hyder Business Services but who owns it? Nomura International, the biggest investment bank in the world. The company is not only taking the work in Middlesborough but bidding for public services in Cleveland, in Redcar, in Bedfordshire and throughout the country. Dave Prentis remarked that our public services were being handed over to multinational private companies for them to make a profit out of badly needed services. The global economy is here with us, he said. He went on to say that private companies must not be allowed to make profits out of caring for our elderly, our sick and our children. He said that the public service ethos was to do what is right for the patient, the pupil and the passenger and to make sure that they came first and not the profit on the balance sheet.

The Labour Party won the election because people voted for their hospitals, schools and public services, the UNISON general secretary said, and the government has got no mandate whatsoever to privatise public services. He said that the government needs the public service workers to deliver their pledges on public services. "But if you injure those members we will stand up for them. An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!" He said that UNISON was not alone. Other unions will work with them. Dave Prentis called on everyone to support the campaign against the privatisation agenda.

Labour MPs Dr Lynne Jones and Dennis Skinner also addressed the Big Meeting. After all the guest speakers had spoken David Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham NUM, thanked the speakers and everyone for attending in spite of the rain. Among other things, he said that he joined with the remarks made earlier by David Guy in pointing out the important work the NUM was doing, exposing the criminal delays, and in fighting with the government to get compensation payments speeded up for former miners with industrial diseases.

During the day, activists of RCPB(ML) both within their contingents and around the Party's bookstall took part in distributing several hundred copies of the bulletin North East Workers & Politics which contained a statement from the Northern Regional Committee of RCPB(ML): "Make the Durham Miners Gala a Force for the Alternative! Build the Opposition to the Third Way of New Labour!" A number of people were engaged in discussion on the issue of building the opposition and many copies of Workers' Weekly and several of the party's Draft Programme for the Working Class were sold.

Article Index

Report on the "Dispersal of Xenophobia"

"The dispersal of xenophobia" is the title of a special report released by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR). The report, together with a new report "The Emergence of Xeno-Racism", also released by the IRR, deals with what the Institute refers to as racism which "cannot be colour-coded, directed as it is at poor whites as well, and is therefore passed off as xenophobia". This racism, the IRR reports, is directed at the displaced, the dispossessed and the uprooted, those that the European powers have helped to displace.

According to the IRR, there are 125 million displaced people, living either temporarily or permanently outside their countries of origin. Those seeking asylum are demonised as "bogus", as "illegal immigrants and economic migrants". The EU has developed an approach known as "global migration management", setting up legal routes for migration. This however, the IRR points out, although directed at utilising refugees as an important source of skilled labour also has the aspect of moving to abolish the right to claim asylum, as guaranteed by the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. This has led to the criminalisation of migration that does not take place through the authorised channels and is coupled with a complete absence of concern for refugee protection. The organisation Migrant Rights International in this connection has said that "in national and international fora, the dominant considerations regarding displacement of people have deteriorated from assistance and hospitality to rejection and hostility". The IRR points out that the blocking of legal routes for those seeking asylum has thrown them into the arms of smugglers and traffickers. The migrant becomes, not a victim, but as complicit in the act of "illegal migration".

The IRR elaborates that governments admit, when it suits them, that traffickers trade in human misery, citing the example of the 58 Chinese young people who suffocated in a refrigerated lorry on its way to Dover. This case was utilised by Tony Blair in launching a joint Anglo-Italian initiative to clamp down on trafficking via the so-called "Sarajevo route". The so-called "War Against Trafficking", the IRR points out, serves as the means and the justification for states like Britain to recast asylum seekers as "illegal immigrants". To break domestic immigration laws, through for example entering the country as a stowaway, is redefined as a criminal act, even though the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees upholds the right of refugees to break domestic immigration laws in order to seek asylum. Asylum seekers are dehumanised as a homogenous and undifferentiated mass, as were Jews under Nazism or "Blacks" under slavery.

With this scenario, the Tampere European summit in October 1999 formalised EU policies that turned the governments of developing countries into immigration police for western Europe, the IRR explains. The redrawn Lomé convention of February 2000 tied £8.5 billion in "aid" and trade agreements between the EU, Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) to specific rules guaranteeing the repatriation and expulsion of people deemed to be "illegal" within the EU. The former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, proposed that refugees be compelled to remain in their region of origin, in huge refugee camps, from which Europe will "select" a quota to be brought to Europe for resettlement, the IRR says. Those selected would, of course, be those with skills required by the western European countries.

"The dispersal of xenophobia" elaborates that in Spring 2000 the governments of Britain and Ireland set in motion a new system for the reception of asylum seekers. The report says that the Home Office has not presented dispersal as a process that could enrich local communities. On the contrary, it launched a negative debate about asylum seekers, describing them as a "flood" and stereotyping them as "bogus" and "illegal" claimants. Dispersal has been introduced as part of a deterrent asylum strategy to make Britain less attractive to asylum seekers and to stop "bogus" claims. When governments fail to meet the social costs of the reception of asylum seekers, the report points out, then asylum seekers are unjustly blamed for social decay and a backlash is created against asylum seekers who are blamed for stretching under-resourced health and social services to new limits.

The IRR points out that the debate on asylum has become synonymous with the debate about numbers, and this is having a corrosive effect on political and popular culture. Concentration of asylum seekers is alleged to give rise to xenophobia and hostility. The IRR report explains that the government's approach legitimises xenophobia by implying that there is something innate about the asylum seekers' nature which accumulates to generate xenophobia.

Article Index

The Illegality of "Legal Opposition" in Colombia to the Bolivarian Movement

The following article is taken from the website of FARC-EP, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia: www.farc-ep.org

Colombia boasts its status as one of the countries on the continent with the most democratic stability in the last century. This statement is based on the long tradition of civilian government elected by popular vote, interrupted only by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla's military coup (1953 - 1957), and the installation of a Governing Military Junta (1957 - 1958). At the beginning, the coup was supported by the population and enjoyed the acquiescence of the country's political and economic elites, granting a new nature to authoritarianism, very different from that the Southern Cone experienced years later with their military dictatorships.

Notwithstanding this "democratic" image, in practice political opposition in Colombia has traditionally had very limited margins for legal activity, and has constantly been pushed toward non-institutional forms of action.

Systematic repression, electoral fraud, and mechanisms for exclusion - these are some of the methods used again and again by bipartisan liberal-conservative political elites to confront political movements outside their ideological boundaries. Popular memory holds dear the figures of Rafael Uribe Uribe, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Jaime Pardo Leal, Bernardo Jaramillo, Carlos Pizarro, Manuel Cepeda, and many other leaders who have been assassinated with impunity for defending their democratic convictions in the public sphere.

Today, when the world's intellectual circles are discussing the fact that we are now seeing the "end of ideologies," in Colombia the persecution of popular organisations has not let up, popular protest is still criminalised, and legal political opposition remains a target for official bullets. As we shall attempt to demonstrate in this brief article, this is not a new phenomenon, but rather a situation which has been present within very different historical contexts throughout the country's political life span.

The Persecution of Gaitanismo

Without a doubt one of the most important popular experiments, by virtue of its reach and projections in national political history, is gaitanismo. The leader, Liberal lawyer Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, founded the Unión Nacional de Izquierda Revolucionaria (UNIR) in 1933. It marked an important effort to unite blue collar and peasant sectors, and very quickly acquired great influence in Cundinamarca, Tolima, and other areas in the midst of agrarian conflicts.

Under UNIR, the peasantry carried out important actions revindicating their rights, such as the take-over and dividing up of the "El Choco" hacienda, and other invasions in various parts of the country, all led by the slogan: "land is for those who work it."

The landowners' reaction was not long in coming. The Movement rapidly became a target of attack for the so-called "departmental guards," or armed groups led by the landowners to defend their interests. In early 1934 these official corps baptised the new movement by blood with the assassinations of several peasants demonstrating peacefully in Fusagasugá (Cundinamarca).

More massacres followed, including the "Tolima" hacienda massacre six months later, which left a hundred wounded and cost the lives of a dozen peasants. Gaitán soon understood the difficulties of political work outside the traditional Liberal and Conservative collectivities, and opted to dissolve UNIR, thereby displacing the class confrontation to the very columns of the Liberal party.

His anti-oligarchy discourse and beyond-the-party preaching would make Gaitán a true popular hero. In the 1946 presidential elections he competed with the official representative of his party, supported only by his bases, and won 44% of the Liberal votes. In the following elections, his arrival to the executive office seemed imminent. But the Colombian oligarchy, fearing the popular tone his candidacy was taking, cut his path - and his life - short on April 9, 1948.

After the assassination of the popular Liberal leader official violence was generalised throughout the country: labour and popular organisations were for all intents and purposes annihilated, and massacres of civilians belonging to liberal and communist parties multiplied. This was the first page in a new chapter of armed peasant resistance.

Throughout this entire period, and in the decades to follow, the Communist Party begun in the 1930s played a larger role in mobilising worker and peasant masses. Members of the Party, constantly victims of bipartisan violence, undertook clandestine political activity, or at most, a "legality" that curbed their political rights.

Opposition to the Frente Nacional

With the beginning of the Frente Nacional (1958 - 1974), a sort of "Restricted Democracy" was implemented, which combined elements of formal democracy with mechanisms of authoritarian regimes, to exercise strict control over the opposition and popular movements.

The Frente Nacional pact constitutionally consecrated the political monopoly of bi-partisanship, and denied the participation of other political forces outside its boundaries. This marginalising manipulation of power was complemented by restricting democratic freedoms with a permanent state of siege, to contain social struggles.

Meanwhile, the role of the armed forces was re-directed. It now began to carry out repressive functions against opposition political movements. Following this orientation, known as the "Doctrine of National Security," the armed forces slowly assumed greater participation in social conflicts, developing punitive actions against zones of peasant self-defence and worker and student demonstrations for rights. Different currents of opposition arose within the framework of this model of domination. Some of them adopted partisan dissidence, such as the Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal (MRL), which brought together important popular forces and obtained more than 35% of the total vote in the 1962 presidential elections. In its brief life span, the MRL was met with relentless persecution of its bases and leaders, which cost the lives of many members in the countryside and the cities, as well as some of its representatives in public corporations.

In this same time period the Frente Unido emerged; a pluralist movement, it succeeded in joining different sectors of society from the most diverse political backgrounds in its rank and file. Its primary leader, Father Camilo Torres, eventually opted for the armed struggle.

The Movimiento Alianza Nacional Popular (ANAPO) canalised a great percentage of unconformity with respect to Frente Nacional policies and denounced the April 19, 1970 presidential electoral fraud favouring the official candidate. Faced with this situation several ANAPO leaders chose the path of armed struggle, thereby beginning a new guerrilla organisation, the Movimiento 19 de abril (M-19), which would play an important part in the national political arena in the following years.

Toward the end of the 80s, the M-19 went from armed struggle to legal political struggle. This, however, did not protect its highest leader and presidential candidate for the Alianza Democrática M-19 (AD-M-19), Carlos Pizarro, from being assassinated shortly after having condemned the armed struggle as a political option.

The Genocide of the Unión Patriótica

Still, one of the opposition movements most affected by the terrorist policies in the history of the Colombian state has been the Unión Patriótica (UP), born of the Cease Fire, Truce and Peace Accords (The Uribe Accords) signed between the FARC-EP and the administration of President Belisario Betancur (1982 - 1986) on March 28, 1984.

Since its inception the UP has sought power with and for the people by uniting the actions of the countryside and the city, and building bridges among the different, fundamental forms of struggle of our people. Peasant marches and civil protest find in the UP an interpreter of the people's needs and aspirations, contributing to their struggle, to opening political spaces and achieving, via denunciations, a meaningful presence in the media.

The UP's ascent was overwhelming; it flooded squares and streets in the cities and its message of peace reached all corners of the nation. The March and May 1986 elections, the first in which the new political movement participated, demonstrated the enormous welcome its programs and men and women enjoyed throughout the country. The UP elected 14 congress members to the Senate and the House (among them Iván Márquez, current member of the FARC-EP Central Command), 18 deputies in 11 departmental assemblies, and 335 councillors in 187 councils, tripling the vote the Left traditionally received.

Two months later, UP presidential candidate, ex-magistrate and union leader Jaime Pardo Leal broke the previous voting record for public corporations and quadrupled the results obtained by the Left in previous presidential elections.

Faced with the UP's significant advances, the oligarchy responded with the most savage of "dirty wars" ever loosed against a movement. More than three hundred dead shed their heroic blood over its brief, young history. During the 1986 electoral campaign, the climate of terror increased with paramilitary activity and the generalisation of assassination attempts on the lives of members of the Left, in an attempt to nip the peace process and its principal experiment, the UP, in the bud.

According to data from the media and Human Rights bulletins, as 1986 came to a close, the list of assassinations of UP members was: three members of Congress, one deputy to the Meta Departmental Assembly, and eleven council members. In the same period, one magistrate from Santander, two candidates to public corporations, sixty-one leaders and activists in patriotic groups, sixty-nine members of the bases, twenty-four guerrillas in truce, and thirty-four UP supporters were murdered.

Later, before the perspectives of the 1988 mayoral elections in which the UP participated for the first time, reactionary sectors regarded the UP's prospects for victory in wide regions of the country with apprehension. From 1986 up to the 1988 elections, militarism concentrated its attacks on UP leaders; approximately 30% of its candidates were assassinated before elections.

In October 1987 UP presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal was assassinated. Later, in March 1990, his successor Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa met the same fate. More recently, at the beginning of the Samper administration (1990), the only UP senator, Manuel Cepeda Vargas, was assassinated; 1½ years later, its highest national leader, Aida Abella, fled the country after an attempt on her life. Yet the UP is hanging on amidst so much genocide in some regions of the country.

The crimes against the UP, as those against many other Colombians who have fought in the rank and files of the opposition, have largely remained unpunished, and the bloodied hands of the murderers are still shaken vigorously by the alternating presidents.

The lesson these experiences through history leave us in this new century, is the need for a broad movement to join the banners of popular struggle and act secretly throughout the country, until new political conditions make it possible to participate equally, with guarantees from the traditional parties, in public squares, and to elect in popular assemblies, in cities and in the countryside, the authentic representatives of the people to the posts of Mayor, Municipal Councils, Parliament, and the Presidency.

This is the aim of the Movimiento Bolivariano which, under the leadership of the FARC-EP, joins Colombians seeking a political end to State terrorism and indignity before the US empire.

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