Vol. 2- No 34
E-mail newsletter of the
Irish Republican Socialist Party
Thursday 28th April 2005
2)Letter from Venezuela
3)China and Wal-Mart
6)From the Media
May Day Message from the IRSP
The leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Party sends May Day greetings to its friends and supporters worldwide. May Day itself is an opportunity for the working class to celebrate its strengths and the victories achieved by the working class. May day is also an opportunity every year for the world to be reminded that there is a continuous class struggle taking place worldwide.
Here in Ireland we have daily class battles taking place. There is the struggle for union recognition in Ryanair. There is the battle for fair wages for Turkish migrant workers. There are the campaigns against the education cuts in the North and against the privatisation of water and the imposition of water charges. Private interests own half the water supplies of the North’s population. Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Europe is owned by a British aristocrat.
Every day there are small class battles taking place in our country. These battles are waged in many cases by small groups of people isolated from the mainstream of trade unionism. The isolation and marginalisation of the workers is in the interests of the employers who exploit division within the class in order to keep wage costs down and profits up. The unity of the workers is hampered by racism, sexism and sectarianism. So long as there are divisions within the working class movement so long will exploitation continue.
But we can learn from the experiences of the working class worldwide. The success of the Cuban revolution and the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela give hope to the workers. The struggles of the poor in the Philippines, in Nepal, in Iraq and all around the world show that Imperialism is not getting its own way. The IRSP sends greeting to all those progressive forces in struggle against Imperialism.
But while we identify with international struggles we do not forget our own struggle against Imperialism. While involved in the day-to-day struggles of the class the IRSP recognise that the major contradiction in Ireland is the unresolved National question. That is at the heart of the problems facing our class in Ireland. In solving the national question we create the conditions for the withering away of sectarian divisions.
Neither the current round of elections nor the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will resolve the fundamental contradiction at the heart of Irish society. Only a socialist Ireland can begin to do that. Socialists need to take the leadership of both the class and national questions for neither gas and water socialism- as James Connolly described neither reformism- nor sterile nationalism can bring about a united country or a united working class.
Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!!
Letter from Venezuela
My arrival in Caracas came off the back of a hectic week travelling around the Basque Country and Catalonia so the intense heat here compounded the burden of my heavy backpack. Walking through the airport, I notice a sign that translates as, "The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, now for all". I came here to Venezuela intrigued by the reports I had been reading of the "Revolutionary Process" that the left in Ireland and Britain had been debating about.
Some argue that Chavez’s radical programmes aimed at alleviating the poverty suffered in this oil rich country fall far short of Revolution given the huge wealth gap that still exists since his coming to power. Others argue that one must look to what came before Chavez to appreciate the radical nature of his policies.
Since coming to power in 1998, Chavez began to slowly deconstruct the corrupt political system that served the selfish purposes of the mega rich minority. He instigated a nationwide consultation with the poor population of Venezuela that gave birth to a new Constitution that enshrined the right of poor in the country to a more dignified existence.
He sacked the corrupt executives of the National Oil Company that oversaw the annual "disappearing" of $40 Billion per year of oil revenue.
Having recaptured this huge amount of national revenue began spending it on a number of "missiones" or programs aimed at alleviating the deprivation suffered by the majority of the countries population. Most notable amongst these programmes are the free medical programmes in which oil is exchanged with Cuba for medical practitioners who operate out of specially built clinics in the countries poorest districts. Free Education programmes at all levels have seen schools in the poorest area open to almost eradicate once widespread illiteracy in only a few years.
New land reform legislation that allows the Government to seize land that has not been productive for a long time (80% of the countries land is owned by app. 15% of the wealthy elite) accompanied with further legislation making it easier for small farmers and cooperatives to access grants and credits to develop the agricultural production of the country. It is incredible to think that this fertile land with vast plains imported 80% of its food before Chavez's reforms. This is now changing. National food production is on the up and is helped along by a new chain of nationalized supermarkets that offer staples grown in Venezuela at cheap rates to the countries poor.
These along with countless other initiatives have paved the way for the true revolutionary aspect of Venezuelans recent history, the revolutionary change in the consciousness of the countries poor.
All of Chavez’s programmes have awakened a sense of pride and dignity in the Venezuelan people that had been suppressed by the oppressive Neoliberal puppets of the USA that had come before. People are taking a more active role in their affairs. Poor inner city areas are heaving with community organisation similar to that witnessed in the past in the Bogside of Derry and Ballymurphy in Belfast. Fierce communal pride reinforced with a deep suspicion of parliamentary politicians is pushing the people to create a dignified and promising future for themselves and their children. Aided with assistance in the form of educational and medical resources supplied by the national government the Venezuelan people are at the baby steps stage to a truly Democratic and grassroots Socialist society.
The picture is not entirely rosy. There remains a huge reactionary presence in the countries civil service and government structures. Despite the Chavez government sincere commitment to radical social change, there are those who wish to destroy the process totally, as well as those claiming to be for the process but frightened by the mass organisation and self sufficiency being shown by the people in the poor "Barrios". This has lead to tensions and conflict between the people and the conservatives within the revolutionary government, the revolution within the revolution as it has been called.
The Juan Batista Alberdi School in a poor Barrio in western Caracas lay in near dereliction due to a lack of investment from the anti Chavez mayoralty and was run by anti Chavez teachers who joined in the walk out "strike" organised by the rich elite aimed at ousting Chavez. The people of the community responded with a counter strike and ousted the teachers. The local community then organised and embarked on a renovation of the school so that it could serve to educate all in the area, children and adults alike. A democratically elected and administrative staff, caretaking staff teachers for the school was put in place and the school have expanded its alumni and curriculum since. It was a huge achievement; all of the labour and academic help was totally unfunded for the initial few years and is a credit to the community.
The children are responding well to the community approach to their education. There is a somewhat relaxed atmosphere in the school with no real atmosphere of austerity and discipline. The children love their teachers and openly display affection to them. Gabby, a voluntary teacher at the school was greeted with hugs and kisses by laughing and smiling children when she guided me through school to show me where I will be working.
The Alberdi School is where I have volunteered to, in a small way, participate in the revolutionary process here in Venezuela, which, despite the dogmatic ramblings of those who profess the contrary, is taking place directly where Revolutions do. On the very streets of the poorest areas of Venezuela. I have committed myself to Basic English lessons for the primary school age classes and hope in return that the kids can improve my awful Spanish. After I finish my classes, will then volunteer the rest of my day to help out the volunteer caretaker staff with the many logistical tasks required in running a school.
The work is the least I can do for the people in the Mannicomio area where the school is situated. I have been received here like a local and been afforded lunches, dinners and endless hospitality in many houses. I stress however the term, "like a local". There has been no exception made for me. This sense of community and sharing is the norm here and whilst my efforts are welcomed, I am just another helper in their efforts to improve their existence and I in turn, am grateful for that.
On my first full day here in Caracas I was invited to Oscars house for a tasty breakfast of Arepas (a bread dumpling made from corn flour) cheese and coffee. After breakfast, a friend and "good comrade" Luis called and the three of us sat and drank coffee. I struggled to understand as Oscar and Luis sat and discussed the local community issues vigorously. Two men armed with the knowledge that they were affecting the affairs and changing things for the better for themselves and their community. It reminded me of the times I sat listening to my father and his friends discussing community and political issues in my home in the mid eighties. I was a child then and didn’t quite grasp the nuances of the politics they discussed but I sensed the feeling of community and popular struggle. Sitting with Oscar and Luis I sensed the same powerful feelings and longed for them to return to Belfast.
CHINA AND WALMART
A Republican Socialist recently made this objection against defending the gains of the Chinese revolution:
"China, with Japan, is the largest holder of the USA's public debt. China recently purchased the PC division of IBM Corporation. China is known the world over for its garment working sweatshops. ...Wal-Mart, when confronted with workers in the US seeking to organise a union were told by the reactionary administration of Wal-Mart Corp. that they should join the union of its workers in China, because union-hating Wal-Mart loves its Chinese union, because unions in China don't defend workers, they mobilise them for the needs of production. . It is not an example of the success of socialism; it is an example of the hideous crimes that can be perpetrated against the working class by a party that calls itself "communist." It is absolute proof that "communist" parties are the enemies of working class people and that the struggle for socialism must be waged by the working class itself and not a party claiming to function in its name."
In 1996, Wal-Mart began its operations in China. Today it has over 40 plants employing 23 000 people. Wal-Mart does business with more than 4800 Chinese companies employing 130 000 people. Wal-Mart then exports to the US what had been produced in China. (1)
Wal-Mart tried to introduce in China its US work practices: extended hours, etc. It also forbids trade unions. However, Cheng Siwei, vice president of the Chinese Parliament threatened Wal-Mart last year: "If you do not respect our social laws, you will pay the consequences."(2)
In November 2004, Wal-Mart was forced to give written guarantees that it will respect social legislation and trade union rights. Zhang Hingzun, a Chinese trade union leader declared: "If we can successfully organise trade union activity in Wal-Mart, it will greatly encourage labour activists in the US."(3)
Factories used by Wal-Mart were investigated by the CP and the Union. The He Yi and Qing Shu factories in the Guangdong province were particularly bad: painted on the wall was the slogan "If you don't work hard today you will have to work hard to find a job tomorrow."(4)
Under the action of the workers, union and party, that had to change. Work will be based upon collective conventions, will be limited to 8 hours per day and 5 days a week, that wages will have to be above the minimum wage etc (5).
The Chinese workers, government and union want to use this victory against
Wall Mart as an example to force all companies to respect social legislation. It is now attacking Dell, KFC, Kodak and others.
For our critic "It is absolute proof that "communist" parties are the enemies of working class people." The reality is that it is those who fail to defend the gains of the Chinese revolutions that are the enemies of working class people, and 'council communists’; by their sectarian attitude towards the world communist movement is the absolute proof of it.
(1) Wal-Mart drifted into trade unions dispute in China, Xinhua, and 17 October
(2) China tells MNCs to set up trade unions, Legal Daily, 25 octobre 2004 ·
(3) Wadi'h Halabi, Wal-Mart workers of the world unite, Political Affairs,
juin 2004 ·
(4) The dark side of Wal-Mart's low prices, China Newsweek, 22 mars 2004 ·
(5) Following the He Yi factory incident, Chinese Social Security Magazine,
5 juillet 2004.
1. RPAG PUBLIC MEETING IN DERRY:
IN A statement on April 25 Richard Walsh, PRO, Republican Prisoners Action Group said that the RPAG will hold a second public meeting to discuss the current conditions facing Republican POWs in Maghaberry jail on Saturday, April 30 in the Munster Suite of the Calgach Centre, Butcher Street, Derry City (opposite the Tower Hotel), starting at 2p.m. The statement called on everyone concerned about the plight of Republican prisoners to attend.
On 30th April 2005, the IPSC is organising a meeting of diverse groups and individuals to discuss plans for demonstrations on 4th June to coincide with the Ireland/Israel football match at Lansdowne Road. Suggestions include a number of street theatre events in the course of the day representing Israeli checkpoints or the demolition of the Apartheid Wall, a concert after the match, face painting in the Palestinian colours, etc. etc. Please come along and make your own suggestions, and/or volunteer to participate in this attempt to show the world's television cameras that Israeli Apartheid is unacceptable in Ireland. Remember that Israeli soldiers recently murdered three Palestinian teenage boys who were playing football in Gaza. Remember that the Palestinian football team is forced by the illegal Israeli occupation to practise under the most adverse conditions, with individual players often prevented from showing up. Remember that the Arab members of the Israeli team are elite members of a community of second- or third-class citizens within the Israeli state, and are regularly subjected to racist abuse by Israeli football fans. The meeting will take place at 11.30am on Saturday 30th April in the Teachers' Club, Parnell Square, Dublin. All are welcome!
The IPSC will be marching along with Belfast Trades
Council in the May Day March on Sat 30th April
Assemble at the Art College at 12 pm.
There will be speeches and stalls.
The rally departs at 12.30pm and arrives at St.George's Market at 1pm. Family Festival in St George's from 1-5pm with the usual stalls, food, drink etc. The IPSC will have a stall at St Georges Market, 1.00pm - 5.00pm Volunteers needed to carry banner in March and to organise the stall. Please let me know which you will be able to help with.
May Day Demonstration - Solidarity with Migrant Workers
This year’s Dublin May Day trade union demonstration will take place on Saturday April 30th meeting at 2.30 at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square. The demo will march to Liberty Hall and is on the theme of solidarity with migrant workers. The march has been called by the Dublin Council of Trade