Friday, September 10, 2010

DP World in labour dispute at Algeria port: sources

By Lamine Chikhi and Christian Lowe

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Dockworkers at Algeria's busiest port, operated by Dubai-based DP World, have staged an unofficial strike in protest at a management drive to raise productivity, industry sources told Reuters.

The operator said the container port was functioning as normal and one of the sources said the union representing the workers reached a deal last weekend to end the protest.

But for weeks before that, stevedores at the port in the Algerian capital were operating an unofficial go-slow strike, with just a handful of containers being moved each day and a backlog of ships offshore waiting to unload, the sources said.

"I waited 25 days before my four containers were unloaded in the port of Algiers," Reda Rahmouni, a book importer who has regular dealings with the port, told Reuters.

"There is nothing official, but it seems that they are on strike ... They unload only eight to nine containers per day. This is not acceptable."

DP World, a unit of conglomerate Dubai World, took control of operations at the terminal last year under a 30-year operating concession.

The terminal, re-named DP World Djazair, handles more than 60 percent of Algeria's external trade, according to the company. None of OPEC member Algeria's crude oil and gas exports go through the port.

Asked by Reuters to comment on the labour dispute, a DP World said in a statement provided to Reuters: "We have been working with the union to increase the efficiency of the terminal and have reached an agreement that will see service improve there. DP World Djazair is operating as normal."


The terminal, in the heart of the Algerian capital, was built by former ruler France and much of the infrastructure dates back to the colonial period.

Long delays at Algerian ports are common, causing supply problems for a country whose economy is dominated by oil and gas and which imports most of the goods that it consumes.

An industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the union go-slow was sparked by a dispute over pay and an attempt by DP World managers to introduce new shift patterns to improve productivity.

The source said he did not know the details of the agreement the union and management reached last weekend. "Whatever the case, productivity has now gone up and we expect the backlog and number of idle vessels outside the port to diminish."

But the source added: "I have a feeling that our woes in the port are not entirely over."

Indebted parent company Dubai World is prepared to sell DP World, among other assets, to help raise billions of dollars it needs to repay creditors, according to a company document obtained by Reuters last month.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ISO "Whitening"

I found this piece to be very interesting

This is Just to Say

by Donna Chidi on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 5:19pm

I sent this to you because I have enjoyed working with you in the ISO over the years or you knew how dedicated I was to my work with the ISO and deserve to know what happened with it.

This is just to say that I am no longer a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and did not leave on good terms by any standard. This is also to say that I am still a committed socialist activist and will not allow my negative experiences in the ISO taint my view of revolutionary politics or the amazing activists I met.

If you've got ideas or social justice struggles you're involved in and want to collaborate, then get in touch.

My story is divided into three chronological parts:

  1. Stifling debate about diversity in NYC ISO
  2. Mass expulsion and membership exodus on not-so-good terms in DC ISO - resulting in a 90% white branch in a 54% black city (Oh no, she didn't!)
  3. Getting back to fighting capitalism - LET'S GET ON WITH IT
Appendix: The Full Response

I. Stifling debate about diversity in the NYC ISO
During the convention period in March 2010, three immigrant ISO members of color submitted a document calling for opening up a dialogue about recruiting and retaining members of color. Although I favored many of the ideas and issues raised in the document, the response to it was so hostile that I could not muster up the courage to speak up in defense of the ideas contained within it. It was clear that the leadership had taken a strong position, as quoted below, and any attempts to raise a different perspective would be shut-down without consideration.

Here is a quote from it, but the full four-page response is attached at the bottom in the Appendix:

“…In fact, the term “diversity” is itself a liberal term that sees combining as many different kinds of experiences and backgrounds as possible as an end in of itself, rather than a means to lead the working class to victory over exploitation and oppression.

The identity politics framework of the document is exposed when the document’s authors argue: “We do believe that comrades of color provide an important link between their communities and revolutionary Marxism.” This both assumes that Marxism is foreign to the fight against racism (and therefore requires special conduits) and that there are such things as “communities” based on racial identity. In fact, any racial or ethnic group is broken down into its various class components. Working class Blacks are no more a part of Barack Obama’s “community” as working class women are part of Hilary Clinton’s or gays a part of Barney Frank’s….”

-H.T. on behalf of the NYC District Committee in Response to “Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Members of Color in the ISO”

The harsh and hostile response effectively shut down discussion – though the main point of “Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Members of Color in the ISO” was to start such a conversation. As a comrade of color, I identified with the ideas presented in the document about paying special attention to developing members of color as leaders. It’s difficult to develop a person’s skills if you don’t know what their skills are or anything about them for that matter. So although the long-term leaders of the NYC ISO might have intended to train and develop me as a comrade, those intentions remained intentions as I was ignored for the most part and none of them ever initiated conversation with me. Since the call for open discussion about these issues was so harshly shut down, I got the message that I’d better keep my ideas to myself as these issues were not of concern to our leaders.

II. Expulsions and membership exodus on not-so-good terms in DC ISO - resulting in a 90% white branch in a 54% black city
After the Socialism conference in June 2010, a group of people from the DC branch got together to discuss ideas they had to improve upon the work of the branch and decided to put all their thoughts together in a Perspectives document to be presented to the entire branch during the political perspectives discussion/kick off to organizing for the remainder of the summer. Recognizing similar problems, such as stifling debate and democracy (see above), I signed on in support of the document.

However, before the Perspectives meeting was to take place, the leaders of the branch called an “Emergency Meeting” for the Monday evening before, in which we would discuss some important issues in our branch and which Ahmed Shawki of the national steering committee would attend and convene.

At this Emergency meeting, Shawki described reasons why the national steering committee had voted to expel Zach Mason and indefinitely suspend David Thurston of the DC branch, whom he met with and delivered the news that afternoon. Now, 5 hours later, they were not welcome to this “members only” meeting where the issue of their expulsions would be discussed by everyone else. In that meeting in June, now my last ISO meeting, I commented on how sad it was to see socialists stand up and slander and crucify people they had worked with for 14 years and 7 years respectively without even allowing them to attend and defend themselves.

Among several other hostile comments made in my direction because of this, Shawki closed the discussion by inviting me to leave the ISO, although he has never spoken to me before, “If you think these guys are being crucified, then maybe this organization is not the right organization for you.”

Here is the e-mail exchange that then occurred between myself, Michele Bollinger – the acting convener of the branch, and Ahmed Shawki of the national steering committee.

show details Jul 2

Michele Bollinger to me


We would like to meet with you as soon as possible about the status of your membership in the DC branch. Please email back with some dates and time that you are available.


show details Jul 4
Donna to Michele

Hi Michele,
I believe it was made undeniably clear in the last meeting that I attended that I am not welcome in the DC ISO branch - especially in the comments made by comrades Dave Zirin, Mike Stark, and Ahmed Shawki. Therefore, I am not sure what we would be discussing in particular. If you still need to meet with me, I'm available on Tuesday evening after 6pm.


show details Jul 5
Michele Bollinger to Ahmed, me
Hi Donna,

Fair enough, then. I'll take you off the listserve. Any other questions, best to contact Ahmed.


show details Jul 6
Donna to Michele

Can I have Ahmed's contact info, just in case questions do come up in the coming weeks?


show details Jul 6

Michele Bollinger to me

Sure – xxxxxx{Email address}

show details Jul 12
Donna to ashawki
Hi Ahmed,
I've been struggling with finding the words to describe to my NY comrades, what the status of my membership in the ISO is. Evidently, I am no longer a member but I did not resign. Michele Bollinger deferred to you on this question (see messages below) so specifics would be greatly appreciated.

The concerns I need for you to address are: 1) Is there an appeals process for me and 2) How do I explain my membership status to my NY comrades?


show details Jul 19
Donna to ashawki

Hi Ahmed,
I sent the message below to you last week and am still awaiting your response. It'd be much appreciated.


show details Jul 21
Ahmed Shawki to me

Hello Donna:

It is my understanding from the email exchange below that you are no longer a member of the ISO. I base this on what you said in your email of July 4, explaining your decision not to meet with the DC branch committee to discuss your membership status.

So to answer your two questions: 1) I don’t know what you would be appealing and to whom 2) You can circulate this email exchange to comrades in New York to help explain what has taken place. Feel free to have any NYC comrades to email or call me to discuss these issues.

Best. Ahmed

show details Jul 27
Donna to Michele, Ahmed

Hi Ahmed,
I'll use the email exchange then, to describe my membership status. However, I must make the correction that I did not decide NOT to meet with the DC branch committee and offered a date and time that I was available to meet. I only intended in that message to Michele to find out what, said meeting would be about. No one has yet refuted the statement that I am not welcome in the ISO, even though I did nothing wrong by speaking up in that fateful meeting, but somehow I was taken off the listserve before I had a chance to read the email or even think about my membership. As for the Appeals process, obviously, I got the not-so-subtle message that you sent about me leaving the organization and would be a fool to try to claw my way into a group where I am not wanted.

I dedicated the first four years of my adulthood to organizing with the ISO in college in Ithaca, NY and also in New York City and made many personal sacrifices for the sake of my branch in Ithaca. After all that hardwork, including working in a fraction of two people to bring two busloads & carpools of people to the National Equality March last year, you can imagine how I'm feeling very short-changed here.

This terse response you've given to this matter is hardly fitting for the situation and is somewhat dismissive. In my time in the ISO, I saw many new people come and go, but never on such bad terms as the atmosphere in that aforementioned meeting. You said in that meeting "better be friends in the movement, than to be enemies internally," but in order for that to happen, people have to separate on good terms. Nothing about this email exchange implies that you or Michele care about any good terms or amicable relations between myself and the ISO.

However, I will not allow this negative experience color my perceptions of the amazing activists and fighters that I have met in the ISO over the years. This has been a very difficult experience for me and I have taken away important life lessons from it. Hopefully, you all have also learned something from all this as well.

Again, a response would be greatly appreciated.


****To date, 8/26/10 no response****

Clearly, I was pushed out/expelled/whatever without a fair process and although it was my intention to resign, I thought I reserved the right to do that myself. In response to that hostile “Emergency meeting,” 6 others resigned from the DC ISO, not including myself. So in total 9 people left the ISO voluntarily and involuntarily as a result of the happenings that day and a realization of the depth of lack of democracy in the ISO.

Most disturbing about the mass-resignations is the complacency of the DC and National ISO leadership to losing a majority of their members of color without regard – almost willingly. They knowingly made the choice to push us out in order to keep the group free of dissenters and people who ask questions – even though it resulted in a much smaller group with a ghastly 90% white majority in a 54% black city, also known as Chocolate City. This may not have been the intention, but actions speak louder than words and over and over again the actions of the leadership ISO say that internal democracy is conditional.

Those of us who left, together with some others, are participating in social justice struggles around DC and are looking to link up with other socialists and activists who want to fight for a better world without tearing each other down along the way.

III. Getting back to fighting capitalism - LET'S GET ON WITH IT
If you've got ideas or social justice struggles you're involved in and want to collaborate, then get in touch – especially if you’re in the Washington DC area.

------------------------------------------------ ~FIN~ ------------------------------

Appendix – The Full Response

Response to “Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Members of Color in the ISO”
Comrades who submitted “Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Members of Color in the ISO” stated as their goal: to “begin an organization‐wide conversation about racial and ethnic diversity in the ISO and our efforts and strategies to recruit, develop, and retain more members of color into it.” Putting aside for the moment the implication that this discussion has not “begun” in the more than 30 years of the life of the organization, the politics of the document are problematic and non‐Marxist.

Despite the authors’ hopes that the document is not “dismissed as one coming from a framework of identity politics,” the politics of the document are in fact based in ‐‐ or at best, influenced by ‐‐ liberal ideas of “diversity” as well as identity politics, “the idea that only those experiencing a particular form of oppression can either define it or fight against it.” (Smith 2008)

A Marxist approach to racism is based on an understanding that it is necessary to build a multi‐racial organization and multi‐racial working‐class struggle because that is the only way that either capitalism or oppression can be fought. And a multi‐racial struggle needs Marxism and the politics of class solidarity to succeed. As the Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin, put it: “Working class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is affected.”

The need for a multi‐racial organization and fight‐back is not a secondary issue to be discussed (or one which comrades of color within the organization are responsible for raising), but is actually the whole purpose of our project. The question of oppression cannot be separated from an analysis of class exploitation and vice‐versa. This is especially the case in the United States, where the historic role of slavery, white supremacy, and Jim Crow segregation have ensured that racism (and particularly racism against African‐Americans) has become the key division used and manipulated by the American ruling class.

Of course we are not yet where we want to be in achieving our goal (whether that be regarding the racial composition of the group, our size, or our implementation in the working class), but unless we are dreaming up wish‐lists for where we want to be, a serious approach to the question would require a concrete assessment of our work, objective challenges, and specific next steps.

Instead, “Recruiting, Developing..” offers a confusing set of broad generalizations regarding objective difficulties, a two sentence throw‐away regarding the tremendous anti‐racist work of the organization over the years, and vague recommendations which mostly outline the work that the organization already does. Yet implicit in the idea that we need to be “systematic” in our approach to recruiting, developing, and retaining members of color in the ISO, is the assertion that we currently do not. Despite this very serious implication, there is no honest or concrete assessment of our current work anywhere in the document.

A quick look at even the last month in NYC alone would demonstrate the opposite—a city wide tour of Brian Jones speaking on civil rights sit‐in movement brought out a multi‐racial periphery (and a high proportion of African American contacts in particular) at every stop; a city‐wide meeting on Haiti that drew 150 people, chaired by a new member; a Campaign to End the Death Penalty anti‐lynching tour; an event at NYU about Marxism, Nationalism, and the Third World; teacher members organizing against school closings in predominantly African‐American and Latino neighborhoods; and as always a commitment to develop comrades, and particularly comrades of color, as meeting chairs, speakers, and most of all as Marxists.

Liberalism and Identity Politics
But more problematic than the generally non‐concrete, non‐serious assessment of our work, the document reads as a liberal appeal to consciousness and the “will” to build a multi‐racial organization, as though this can be achieved by exhorting ourselves to do so, or by developing a more savvy/sophisticated approach. This was also argued by one of the document’s authors at convention, who said we need a “more complex” approach to Chicano politics, the implication being that Marxism doesn’t adequately address oppression.

In fact, the term “diversity” is itself a liberal term that sees combining as many different kinds of experiences and backgrounds as possible as an end in of itself, rather than a means to lead the working class to victory over exploitation and oppression.

The identity politics framework of the document is exposed when the document’s authors argue: “We do believe that comrades of color provide an important link between their communities and revolutionary Marxism.” This both assumes that Marxism is foreign to the fight against racism (and therefore requires special conduits) and that there are such things as “communities” based on racial identity. In fact, any racial or ethnic group is broken down into its various class components. Working class Blacks are no more a part of Barack Obama’s “community” as working class women are part of Hilary Clinton’s or gays a part of Barney Frank’s.

As Sharon Smith wrote in a 2008 ISR article on identity politics: “There is no such thing as a common, fundamental interest shared by all people who face the same form of oppression. Oppression isn’t caused by the race, gender, or sexuality of particular individuals who run the system, but is generated by the very system itself—no matter who’s running it.”

She argues further, “Oppression is something that even most white male workers suffer to some degree. If one were to compare the self‐confidence of the vast majority of white male workers to that of the arrogant Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice, it would be clear that something more than personal politics is a determining factor in oppression. The problem is systemic.”

Of course possessing a personal “identity,” or awareness of oneself as a member of an oppressed group, is an important and legitimate response to experiencing oppression. Smith explains:
No white person can ever understand what it is like to experience racism. No straight person can
understand what it is like to experience homophobia. And even among people who are oppressed by racism, every type of experience is different. A Black person and a Native American person, for example, experience racism differently—as does a person from Mexico versus a person from Puerto Rico. A gay man and a lesbian have quite different experiences.” But Personal experience is not the same as political strategy, which for Marxists is rooted in an understanding of the systemic nature of oppression under capitalism, and the shared interest of the working class across race, sex, and national borders.

Holding the ISO accountable?
Further, the document argues for affirmative action within the ISO, “because our organization does not exist in an egalitarian socialist vacuum and because there is no such thing as colorblindness. Just like we expect other institutions/organizations (many of which we protest) to include diversity development statements in their guiding principles and make structural changes to reflect those principles, we shouldn’t expect any less of our organization.”

Here the document’s authors compare the ISO to institutions under capitalism that need to be held accountable (and that we in fact protest)! In arguing that “there is no such thing as colorblindness” the comrades that wrote the document seem to be saying that the ISO suffers from racism within our organization. If this is in fact true, it is a grave accusation that needs to be explained.

Of course as individuals who live in an oppressive society, we all carry the internal baggage of that society, or as Marx put it, “the muck of ages.” A conscious attempt has to be made to develop women, people of color, working‐class people who have been told our whole lives that we are not good enough or smart enough to speak our ideas, let alone lead others.

Yet despite the fact that we don’t operate in an “egalitarian vacuum” the fact is that a socialist
organization, because of its very nature and goals, has a different material interest than capitalist institutions. It is made up of a self‐selecting group of individuals who voluntarily commit our lives to the emancipation of the working‐class and liberation of all oppressed groups. As Lenin put it, our vision of revolution is a “festival of the oppressed and exploited.” We are bound together by that common purpose and a self‐interest in making an organization fitted for that task.

An old debate within the Russian socialist movement helps shed light on this question. The 1903 congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) took up as its first agenda item the Jewish Labor Bund’s demand that it be recognized as the representative of Jewish workers living in Russia (to be a conduit, one could say). Jews at that time were of the most oppressed in Russia, living under harsh legal restrictions and terrorized by violent pogroms. The Jewish Bund was a genuine revolutionary organization who adamantly rejected Zionism.

Yet their demand to represent the Jewish working class showed a fundamental distrust of the RSDLP and its handling of oppression against Jews. “The Jewish proletariat,” a leader of the Bund argued, “is very much more strongly interested in the struggle against the exceptional restrictions that are imposed on it than the rest of the proletariat is, and for this reason it is also a more active fighter against this oppression.”

Leon Trotsky, a leading Russian revolutionary, and himself a Jew, responded:
If the Bund, lacking in confidence in the Party, is…demanding safeguards, that we can understand. But how can we put our signatures to this demand? ... To accept such conditions would mean that we acknowledged our own moral and political bankruptcy…

Lenin argued:
Is it not, in fact, the duty of our entire Party to fight for full equality of rights and even for the recognition of the right of nations to self‐determination? Consequently, if any section of our Party were to fail in this duty, it would undoubtedly be liable to censure, by virtue of our principles: it would undoubtedly be liable to correction by the central institutions of the Party. And if that duty was being neglected consciously and deliberately, despite full opportunity to perform it, then this neglect of duty would be treachery.

That is to say, if we cannot trust our own revolutionary organization, committed to the full liberation of the human race, through its own self‐interest to take seriously and systematically the building of a multiracial organization and cadre, then our organization is not worth very much at all.

Lastly, the document argues that comrades of color should be specially trained and developed in the politics of their own identities, “Chicano comrades on questions of ethnic nationalism,” etc. But the best way to train our entire organization to effectively build the movement against oppression and the system which produces oppression is to develop a strong Marxist core. The most effective means to develop comrades of color as cadre is to develop strong Marxists. And while having comrades of color that are confident and well‐versed in our politics certainly helps win others within our multi‐racial periphery, ultimately it is our politics not our identities that win people. That is why, for example, leading white members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in NYC carry so much weight and credibility within the work that they do.

Could there have been a document that effectively assessed our work in building a multi‐racial,
revolutionary organization rooted in the working class? Yes, and in fact convention documents that took up our work in particular struggles around the criminal justice system, housing, etc., provided a useful and concrete assessment of some of our work. Another useful contribution would be to assess the objective terrain, challenges and opportunities (for instance, the state of Black politics) that we face in building a multi‐racial organization.

Unfortunately, “Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Members of Color in the ISO” made no serious attempt to do so. It implies that we do not take seriously, or make systematic, our work in building a multi‐racial organization, essentially race‐baiting the ISO. And it provides neither a Marxist framework nor next steps in achieving that goal.

We’ve made a lot of headway in past years in writing and publishing socialist literature on oppression; in participating and leading in struggles against racism, immigrant‐bashing, homophobia, Islamophobia, and sexism; and in developing a Marxist cadre steeled in the politics of liberation and self‐emancipation. We have a lot to be proud of, and still a long way to go. Political clarity and honest, concrete assessments will be key in moving forward.
H.T. on behalf of the NYC District Committee

New Orleans Black Activists Denounce Obama and Shame Misleadership Class

New Orleans Black Activists Denounce Obama and Shame Misleadership Class

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it."

This weekend saw two major Black demonstrations - one in Washington, one in Detroit - and a presidential speech at Xavier University, in New Orleans, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Yet a small, hardly noticed protest outside what used to be a public housing project in the St. Bernard section of New Orleans, was probably more relevant to the burning issues of today than the rallies held by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

A relatively small group of New Orleans activists gathered in the rain outside the project to protest the visit to the city by President Obama, whose housing policies spell doom for the entire concept of public housing in the United States. When Katrina struck, the Bush administration's Department of Housing was quick to call for demolition of all the public housing units in New Orleans, even though most of the buildings were salvageable. The residents were locked out, 3,000 of them, like hundreds of thousands of others across the country since the early Nineties, victims of corporate greed for the land the projects sit on and a racist prejudice that holds that Black and poor people are inherently dangerous when concentrated in one place. Katrina was simply a convenient excuse to get rid of public housing in New Orleans, where four major projects were demolished.

In New Orleans and elsewhere across the country, the poor who are evicted from public housing are expected to disperse, get out of the way of corporate development that serves the needs of other people, and be quiet. But this weekend, the former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent. They had earlier built a tent encampment nearby, called Survivors' Village. Now they denounced President Obama and his friend, Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire hedge fund baron who is developing the site of their former homes under a new name, Columbia Parc, for a new class of residents.

"The former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent."

The Obama administration has taken the anti-public housing policies of Bush and previous presidents to a new level, with a plan to abandon any federal commitment to building and maintaining housing for the poor. Instead, fat cats like Warren Buffett and huge private banking institutions will inherit the nation's public housing properties. In New York City, the Citigroup bankers now own a piece of 13 public housing projects - a taste of what Obama has in store for what remains of America's public housing stock.

At the start of this commentary, I said that the St. Bernard neighborhood demonstration was "probably more relevant to the burning issues of today" than Al Sharpton's Washington rally and Jesse Jackson's Detroit event. That's because the demonstrators in New Orleans knew whose policies they were protesting against, and called out his name: President Obama. In Detroit and Washington, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it.
Obama's wars range from Asia and Africa to the streets of America's cities, whose schools and housing he is turning over to the likes of Warren Buffett, rich finance capitalists that have already exported all the jobs. The demonstrators in New Orleans understand that. What currently passes for Black leadership, does not.

Friday, September 3, 2010

S African unions 'to widen strike'

S African unions 'to widen strike'
Public workers threaten to cut ties with ruling party and expand strike if demands unmet.

South African labour unions have said that they will cut ties with the ruling party, and widen a national public sector strike, unless their pay demands are met.

There were no signs of a resolution on Friday, nearly two weeks after more than one million public sector workers walked off the job, shutting down many hospitals and schools.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it filed seven-day strike notices on Thursday so that all its two million members could join the state workers strike, which they said would also target the mining and manufacturing sectors.

The labour unions were key supporters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and Jacob Zuma, the country's president, helping him win the last election.

"We cannot sustain the status quo. We cannot allow the situation that nobody does nothing about the current situation within the alliance..." Sdumo Dlamini, president of Cosatu, said.

Alliance threatened

The latest comments by union leaders were some of the strongest signals to date that organised labour may be ready to cut, or change, its relationship with the ANC that was forged in the struggle to end apartheid.

The unions have set a deadline of September 2 for the government to provide a 8.6 per cent rise in salaries and a 1,000 rand ($138) monthly housing allowance.

The government is offering a seven per cent pay hike and 630 rand for housing, saying that it cannot afford the workers' demands.

Themba Maseko, the government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the strike had raised concern and efforts were being made to resolve it.

Government services and the economy have been disrupted by the strikes, but the country's currency has suffered no major impact.

Workers frustrated

Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu's general secretary, said that the federation had not wanted a strike and had recommended civil servants accept the government's offer.

"We have to be loyal to our members. If they say this deal is not good enough, we have to march with them," Vavi told reporters.

"They are earning 4100 rand as a minimum wage, the lowest paid. They see a [government] minister issuing a statement about 'We must save the children' when [his] children are in a private school and he is driving a 1.3m rand Mercedes or BMW."

While the strike intensified, Zuma was in China leading a delegation of cabinet ministers and business people searching for business partnerships.

South Africa has been hit hard by the global recession, losing 900,000 jobs last year on top of already high unemployment.

The government has said it wants to devote funds to creating new jobs, not just raising the salaries of those already working.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Defend and Free Diop Olugbala!

PHILADELPHIA-On Tuesday, August 24, the US government gave another example of its desperation in the face of popular resistance with the conviction of Diop Olugbala in Philadelphia.

Despite all the efforts to paint imperialism with a new, benign and friendlier face, the US government, using its local arm of the law in Philadelphia, showed its vicious fangs for all to see, with a pretense of a trial that was designed to take Diop Olugbala off the streets and deny the ability of Africans to struggle against our own oppression.

The official felony charge that Diop was tried and convicted for, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment and fines, was Aggravated Assault on a cop.

He and his co-defendant, Shabaka Mnombatha, were also convicted of Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest. Felony charges against Shabaka had been dropped in court proceedings earlier in the year.

However, for everyone familiar with the case, it is known that the charges were political.

The US pretends not to conduct political trials so the Philadelphia government went out of its way to criminalize political protest that is legal even by US constitutional standards.

Diop’s case stems from a demonstration at a Philadelphia city council meeting, where he and others were protesting the latest attempts to transfer the system’s economic crisis onto the backs of African workers and other exploited and oppressed people in the city.

As the video of the protest clearly shows, the government, concerned about the growing unpopularity of the vicious economic attacks on the people, had the police physically attack Diop and the protesters, snatching his protest banner and choking him in full public view.

But, as is usually the case, Diop was charged with attacking the police. A case of the thief yelling, “STOP, THIEF!”

If there was any doubt of the nefarious intent of the government to silence Diop, one only had to see the history of the events leading to the trial.

In Philadelphia, under Diop’s leadership, International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) held numerous demonstrations against the police violence in the African community and candlelight vigils for victims of police murders, sometimes being the only organized voice of resistance.

InPDUM held People’s Tribunals, one of which put the City of Philadelphia on trial fro crimes of genocide.

In the process of building the tribunal Diop physically served Mayor Nutter and Police Chief Charles Ramsey with the People’s Subpoena to appear at the Tribunal.

This subpoena was served on Mayor Nutter Chief Ramsey at a December 10, 2008 Townhall meeting at Ben Franklin High School, where Diop also exposed the 1.1 billion dollar police budget of the city.

And in addition to many other community based struggles, Diop also managed to unite the progressive black movement in Philadelphia against the selection of neocolonial District Attorney Seth Williams, who ran for office on a platform calling for the opening of Prosecutors’ Offices in every African community in Philadelphia, as well as calling for the execution of Mumia Abu Jamal.

To deepen the reality that these are political charges against Diop, in addition to the formal charges leveled in Philadelphia, there also exist the unspoken charge, which stems from the August 2008 Obama rally in St Petersburg, Florida.

Diop had the temerity to raise the question of Obama before millions of people around the world, the same question he has been raising with Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s regime: “What about the black community?”

Judge Roxanne Covington at left

The trial itself was a mockery of justice. It only took Judge Roxanne Covington ten minutes to review all the evidence, including witness statements and video of the meeting in question, to render a verdict of guilty on everything the State claimed Diop and his co-defendant did.

These 10 minutes were apparently used for her to go to her chambers, wipe the smirk off her face, put on her make-up, so that she could come back and read what did not even appear to be a sober or just verdict.

Here is a summary of some of the observations of the legal skullduggery that arose during the proceedings in Judge Roxanne Covington’s Courtroom:

Incompetent counsel: This should have been a jury trial. We should have given the judge the opportunity to sustain all of the prosecutions objections and overrule all of the defenses.

The colonial court was unchallenged. When comrade Diop objected to a Bench Trial, the Judge intervened, recessed the trial for five minutes and instructed attorney Michael Coard to confer with his clients with respect to the Bench Trial was already a done deal.

Coard’s advice was that “Hey, I just won a Bench Trial this morning before Covington, and I can do it again.” Thus, the bench lynching transpired.

There were many, many other legal travesties that occurred at this trial. Not the least of which our attorney failed to present a single witness for the defense that would have contradicted the police testimony, which the video would have clearly done.

The police testified that they did not put a hand on Diop. Our attorney led us to believe that he knew something, that he had the inside scoop. Maybe he did.

Our paid lawyer never put Diop or anyone else on the stand to testify to our right to free speech or the right to protest. We saw Diop raise a banner during an Obama meeting and he was not attacked by the police.

They must have been playing catch up at the Philadelphia city council meeting.

Michael Coard never solicited ACLU or National Lawyers Guild’s help to raise the question of free speech, which he assured us he would raise. He only cited one case law on free speech. And we can go on and on.

However, from years of experience of having to defend ourselves and our people in rigged US courtrooms, and having to go in with legal representation who has absolute confidence in US colonialist courts, there was no reason what-so-ever to believe that Michael Coard was any different.

Therefore, allowing this travesty to occur rests squarely on the shoulders of those who were leading the effort to Free Diop Olugbala.

This trial absolutely came to be because of the problems Diop and the InPDUM presented to the Michael Nutter and Barack Obama regimes in raising the question, “What about the black community.”

Black Liberation Movement has raised its head in the US, dealing with the oppression and colonial exploitation of our people as it represents itself today, at this moment. This is not just a rehashing of the past repression as exposed by the attempt to murder our dear brother, Mumia Abu Jamal, for something he is accused of from the 1980s; this is not the case of the San Francisco 8, those courageous brothers who fought for our freedom in the 1960s and 1970s.

Diop’s case is about resistance as it is necessary now. Indeed, the attack on Diop is clear evidence of the impact our movement is having in the struggle against imperialism within US borders today.

It is clear evidence of the fragility of a great “super power” that cannot even tolerate real, critical political and ideological debate. It is evidence of the fraudulence of US white ruling class democracy.

But, despite the efforts of the US capitalist-colonialist state, the genie is out of the bottle: the resistance has begun and it cannot be stopped by the arrest and conviction of Diop Olugbala.

The militant all day demonstrations in support of Diop Olugbala and the packing of the courtroom showed our determination to resist and struggle for our and Diop’s freedom.

The hundreds of phone calls and emails to the neocolonialist Negro judge, Roxanne Covington, demanding the freedom of Diop bear witness to our total commitment to fight and resist police and economic terror whose interest she ruled in favor of.

This movement to Free and Defend Diop Olugbala will do even more to build the resistance while exposing US imperialism under Barack Hussein Obama to its rotten core.



What You can Do:

Take Action! Support and Sympathy Must Transform Into Organized Resistance

InPDUM, our supporters and allies waged a fierce campaign to Free Diop. This campaign is far from over. In fact it has just begun. There is an appeal process that we have every intention to pursue as we await Diop’s sentencing hearing on October 13th.

The International Executive Committee of InPDUM is calling for our supporters and members to participate in the effort to carry out following plan of action:

Main Goals and Objectives of the Free Diop Campaign:

  1. Build and Consolidate a Free Diop International Steering Committee comprised of (but not limited to) the following positions: Chair, Secretary, Fundraiser, Treasurer, Membership Coordinator, Political Action Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator.
  2. Build and Consolidate local Free Diop committees in all the cities where support for the campaign exists.
  3. Put Diop on tour. Bring Diop to speak to your community, college campus or high school.
  4. Continue to call and write Judge Roxeanne Covington demanding the charges be dropped.

If you are willing to help out in any way described above, immediately fill out a membership form to join the Free Diop Committee or call 215-459-7551 or email

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