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(en) Black Flag #222 - News (part 1 of 2)

From anarcho@geocities.com
Date Mon, 9 Dec 2002 02:46:16 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

South Africa:
SMI/LPM/internationals march on $andton!
About 20,000 protestors (1) from the Social Movements Indaba, the
Landless Peoples Movement and other sub-national and international
social justice organisations of the poor marched under blazing skies on
the World Summit on sustainable Development on August 31st.
    Thousands of residents of the poor township of Alexandra turned out
to cheer on the marchers with revolutionary songs from South Africa's
anti-apartheid struggle - now directed against the ANC-Inkatha Freedom
Party neoliberal regime.
Hot weather, transport problems and an attempt by ANC marshalls to
divert 20 buses of SMI/LPM supporters to their own sham "non-
governmental" march lead to a lower than expected turnout.
    But spirits were high and the mood of international solidarity was
fantastic, with protestors from Palestine to Tibet (both fighting
occupation), from Bolivia (where last year, anti-privatisation protests
beat back multinational Bechtel) to Pakistan, and just about anywhere
else you care to mention.
   As water poured off fake waterfalls at Sandton City, near the
convention centre, thirsty marchers who were not allowed by police to
even buy water from nearby shops were forced to drink from a mud-hole
in the pavement where a water main had burst.
    Despite the attempts of some international media crews to drum up a
scare story when they encountered a few anarchists, some of whom were
masked up to prevent identification by police, the protest - anarchists
included - was entirely peaceful and included children, one in a
wheelchair, and pregnant women.
    But the message to the ruling elite when we got to Sandton was
uncompromising: the SMI told the world's media that if the ANC did not
stop riding rough-shod over the poor, they would remove them from power
in the same way they removed the apartheid regime.
    Global arch-terrorist George Bush junior came in for a solid verbal
drubbing as did the Israeli neo-apartheid regime - and all the fat-cats
of the WSSD, some of whom peeked at the protestors from behind the
"ring of steel" (as the local media likes to call police cordons).
    In the end, the boys in blue never got to swing their nightsticks,
the army vehicles with their turret-mounted machine-guns were impotent
displays of testosterone and the police warhorses merely fertilised the
streets of what before we arrived was the most sterile suburb in the
    The movement surges forward!
Michael (Bikisha Media)

(1) Which means we fielded 10 times the numbers that the so-called
"non-governmental" ANC-backed march did! The United Social Movement is
now a bigger presence on the streets of South Africa than the
neoliberal ANC-SACP-Cosatu troika!

The street is mightier than Le Pen

Tens of thousands of French people took to the streets when the news
spread that fascist candidate Le Pen had made it into the second round
of the Presidential elections. The anti-Le Pen opposition quickly
gathered force, became bigger, more violent and more organised.
    More than 10,000 people vented their rage at the results in Paris
demonstrations on Sunday and Monday night at the Place de la Bastille,
Place de la Republique and Place de la Concorde - traditional rallying
points since the French Revolution. Each time, police were forced to
fire tear-gas grenades to disperse the crowds after a small hard core
of militants clashed with them. Some protestors threw Molotov
cocktails, while others broke windows and telephone cabins and damaged
parked vehicles. Thirteen police officers were slightly injured and 14
youths were arrested.
    In the rest of France, similar disturbances erupted without
warning. On the Monday, a total of 100,000 people marched through Lyon,
Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux and other towns and cities. In Tours, anti-
globalisation militant Jose Bove marched at the head of a 12,000-strong
crowd. More militant protests were swelling early on Tuesday in the
towns of Le Havre, Rouen, and even in the southern Le Pen stronghold of
    Most were started by high school and university students, who
streamed out of classes to parade past startled police. They soon
gathered force as others stepped into line. A climax was reached on May
1, when millions of protesters took to the streets across France. In
Paris, a flood of humanity showed how small Le Pen's support actually
is. The election results simply confirmed this wave of popular revolt.

General Strike shuts down Spain
The Spanish general strike over "reforms" of the labour law was great
success. Timed to coincide with the EU summit in Seville, the reformist
unions claimed 84% backing. The government claimed support was "very
slight," a claim belied by the facts!
    Mass demonstrations occurred across Spain. during the strike,
involving millions of people. Many cities, including Vigo, Seville,
Madrid and Barcelona saw over 100,000 marching.
    The syndicalist unions took an active part. Not happy with just
striking, they also tried to shut down workplaces which were still
open. Such pickets were active in the whole country.
    Madrid saw all the syndicalist unions working together in calling
for a strike, picketing and demonstrating together. They denounced the
practice of the reformist unions and argued that the General Strike
should be "a starting point and not a cul-de-sac." They argued that
workers need to "build another type" of unionism, "based on class
demands and struggle, through the participation and decisions of
workers through assemblies." This was the "only mechanism to face the
aggressions of the European Union and capitalist Globalisation."
    Some 15,000 demonstrated as part of the Syndical Coordinating
Committee, which unites all the syndicalist unions (the CNT, CGT and
Solidaridad Obrera). Slogans included "Syndical Unity? Yes, but to
fight!", "Apply the Foreigners' Law to the Monarchy" and "The Solution?
    The joint red-and-black demo is encouraging as it is the largest so
far in Madrid and shows that the syndicalist organisations in Spain are
learning to fight together.

Immigrants Occupation in Seville

The two hundred and seventy immigrants who were occupying the
Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville were evicted by riot police on
the eighth of August. They had been occupying the University demanding
papers for over two months. One hundred and twenty eight of them were
taken into custody and are now in a detention centre in Ceuta,
segregated from other inmates. The others remain in Spain but are at
risk from intensive police checks in the area.
    Spanish immigration law was, until recently, comparatively open
because of the need for cheap agricultural workers. However now Spain
is part of the European -wide immigration crackdown. The occupation
came about after immigrants from the Magreb, who had been employed in
the strawberry harvest in Huelva, Andalucia, were replaced by Polish
immigrants brought in on temporary work permits. The previous mainly
Algerian and Morrocan workers had begun to organise and get higher
wages so the employers were trying to substitute workers who were
ignorant of local labour conditions and unlikely to attract support
from other workers locally.
    There have been lots of occupations throughout Spain in the last
few years of churches, public squares, government buildings and
universities by groups of immigrants demanding regularisation and many
have been successful. This latest occupation, initially involving over
four hundred people, mainly Algerians, coincided with the EU summit in
Seville in June. In this case the state tried to divide the occupiers
by offering papers to a limited number, and attacking as outside
agitators the support groups who were raising money for food. (Four
hundred people eat a lot.)
    The situation in Huelva shows the danger of different groups of
immigrants being played off against each other to compete for who can
work for the lowest wages. The situation of the Polish workers is an
example of a method of exploitation the EU wants to increase. As they
only have work permits for a defined short term contract, they can be
employed for a specific job and then must leave or become illegal. This
is exactly what the state wants: cheap taxpaying labourers that will
not be able to stay and use any public services, who can be called and
returned on demand.

Strike Paralyses Toronto
The end of June saw the start of the largest strike by city workers in
Canadian history, with a walkout by 23,500 municipal workers paralysing
Toronto. After 10 days, piles of rotting rubbish lined the streets and
public services were suspended.
City employees who handle rubbish and other outdoor services were
joined nine days latter by Toronto's indoor municipal workers. This
meant that city-run museums, galleries and day-care centres were
closed, building and parking permits were unavailable and restaurants
did not undergo health inspections.
    The workers said they were striking over job security, not money.
They're afraid of losing their livelihoods if the city privatises
public services. Toronto guarantees lifetime employment to any full-
time, permanent, unionised city worker with at least 10 years on the
job. City employees want that guarantee to begin after six years. "City
politicians seem determined to go down the road of contracting out and
privatisation of dozens of services in this city" said one union's
national president.
After 16 days, the strikers returned to their jobs. This was after the
Ontario legislature passed back-to-work legislation forcing workers to
return to their jobs (using "public health" as the justification). It
should be noted that it was the left-wing socialist New Democratic
Party which ensured the end of the strike.
    The city's Mayor predictably argued that he could not afford the
deal workers want. "The real world doesn't get jobs for life," he said.
"Where are we going to get the money?" At the same time, Canada held
the G8 summit in Kananskis, Alberta, its biggest internal peace-time
military operation ever. While being unable to find money for city
employees, money was found for the G8's security costs (estimated to be
$300,000 million and included anti-aircraft tanks plus 4,500 soldiers
as well as police from across Canada).

Class struggle in China
March saw the class war in China heat-up.
    Mid-March saw tens of thousands of sacked workers surrounding  the
main office at China's largest oilfield in protest against cuts in
their lay-off benefits. Up to 50,000 protesters gathered every day at
the Daqing oil field in north-eastern Heilongjiang province for nearly
two weeks. The workers were protesting against cuts in severance pay
and heating subsidies promised them when they were sacked three years
ago, and an increase in unemployment insurance premiums.
    The end of March saw large-scale labour unrest shaking two cities
in northern China's industrial zone. Unpaid and laid off workers
protested, massing 10,000-strong to face off with military police.
    In Liaoyang, an industrial centre in the Liaoning province, columns
of military police protected the city government office (on Democracy
Road). The crisis erupted when 600 workers blocked the main highway to
the provincial capital Shenyang. Reports stated that hundreds of armed
police moved in at midnight to clear the highway and dozens of people
were injured. Undeterred, more than 1,000 factory workers besieged the
city hall, demanding unpaid wages and the release of four detained
labour leaders.
    In Daqing, an oil town in northern China's Heilongjiang province,
up to 50, 000 workers demonstrated. There have also been smaller
demonstrations in the capital Beijing and in the south-western province
of Sichuan.
    Such demonstrations, which have been growing in the region since
early March, are unusual in China, where the government keeps a tight
rein on protests and uses threats and force to discourage any anti-
government activism. However, the government has also acknowledged that
workers are suffering from widespread closures of inefficient and
outdated state firms. Farmers have joined in to protest not being paid
by bankrupt factories that were built on their lands.

March 27th saw the Italian working class once again demonstrating that
it will not allow itself to be walked all over by the Berlusconi's
vicious attacks on their social conditions. Three million people
demonstrated in Rome bringing it to a standstill - and this despite the
state's clear message that it is prepared to return to the 'strategy of
tension' of earlier years, if these protests continue. The target of
this demo was the labour reforms that will make it easier for bosses to
fire workers, then re-hire them at lowered wages.
General Strike in Italy
April 16th saw Italy grind to a halt as the first general strike in 20
years took place. More than two million people took to the streets in
demonstrations all over Italy as twenty million workers went on strike
across the country. The strike was called to protest against proposed
new labour laws.
    In many cases COBAS - grassroots trade unions - held independent
demos, sometimes outnumbering the official ones. Anarchists and anti-
capitalist groups supported these grass root union demonstrations.
    Direct actions targeted temporary employment agencies. Several were
occupied, while many others had their entrances 'sealed' with glue. The
office of an Italian employment agency in Milan was 'raided' and
covered with shit (the real thing). In Rome, main roads leading into
the city were blocked by small groups.
    Genoa's message, "you G8 we 6 billions" starts to become a reality!

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