Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Right to Strike

January 31, 2018

The Communist Party of Australia condemns the pro-NSW government decision of the Fair Work Commission in overturning the rail strike planned for January 29 being led by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).

Rail workers jobs have been shed and rail services cut, placing enormous pressure on the rail system and workers. NSW trains only function on the basis of workers working overtime at a time when job creation is a major issue.
The CPA supports the demands of rail workers and rejects the FWC or any other party having the right to curtail the democratic wishes of the RTBU’s membership in the only possible way that these workers can improve their lives, wages and conditions at work.
This is yet another example of the broken nature of laws for workers in Australia. The FWC, playing its role as an arm of the state, has acted for the bosses and Liberal government in stopping the strike.
The CPA fights to see that workers’ rights are restored in this country through a huge rewrite of industrial laws to give workers the unfettered right to strike and to collectively bargain across industries. The entire Fair Work Act is unfair and must be abolished and replaced with new laws that can actually assist workers against the huge power of their greedy corporate masters.
To achieve these changes a huge struggle will have to ensue and the CPA is committed to working alongside all forces dedicated to genuinely improving the lives of workers in Australia.
Solidarity with the RTBU.
Solidarity with rail workers.
The right to strike for all!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

NGO Action News

This week's NGO Action News has just been published. The newsletter summarizes activities undertaken or planned by civil society organisations across the globe as well as UN action on the question of Palestine over the week. Please feel free to inform us about your activities and publications by emailing us at palestinianrights@un.org and to forward this newsletter to your supporters. We welcome your organization's contributions, questions or comments. 
Best wishes,

Division for Palestinian Rights,Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Like us on Facebook: @UN.palestinianrights

Follow us on Twitter: @UNISPAL

UNISPAL website: unispal.un.org

·         From 30 June to 8 July, the YMCA in East Jerusalem is inviting young people from all over the world to participate in a “Journey for Justice” in Palestine.

·         The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), of which the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is a member, has released a report on “Gaining Ground: A Framework for Developing Strategies and Tactics in response to Governmental Attacks on NGOs”.

Middle East
·         On 25 January, Al Haq published its comments on the Draft Amendment to the Palestinian Cybercrimes Decree Law, in a bid to ensure consistency between domestic and international law. 

·         On 19 January, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights called for a more strategic approach to address the current funding crisis facing UNRWA. On
10 January, 
Al Mezan had expressed deep concern about the humanitarian implications of reducing funding for UNRWA.

·         MITVIM-The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies has released a paper with guiding principles for a new Israeli foreign policy paradigm.

·         In a meeting with Director of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)addressed the latest developments in Palestine following the US decision to reduce funding to UNRWA and its serious social, economic and political impact. The Swiss agency expressed its concern and commitment along with European partners to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza and empower civil society.

·         Churches for Middle East Peace is calling for action to ask the US Congress to protect aid delivered by UNRWA to Palestine refugees.

·         On 30 January, the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University in New York will host author and scholar Norman Finkelstein for a talk on his new book “Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom”.

·         On 23 January, Al Shabaka – The Palestinian Policy Network published contributions by different experts related to the theme “Focus On: When Does It Become Apartheid?”

Latin America
·         Under the umbrella of the Confederación Palestina de América Latina y el Caribe (COPLAC), representatives of Palestinian diaspora communities in Brasil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Venezuela travelled to Amman to discuss with the PLO and civil society organizations the role of diaspora in efforts to achieve Palestinian self-determination. Among others, agreements were made to strengthen exchange programmes targeting youth.

·         On 6 February, the Palestinian Return Center (PRC) in London is inviting to a meeting on Palestine and Ireland, hosted by MP Mickey Brady. 

·         On 30 January, the Institut de Recherche et d’Études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient (iReMMO) is hosting in Paris a discussion with Pascal Boniface, director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), and journalist Dominique Vidal on criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.

United Nations
·         On 5 February, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will hold its first meeting of the year at UN Headquarters in New York.

·         On 25 January, the UN Security Council held its quarterly open debate on the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question. The briefing delivered by Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is available online.

·         On 23 January, Israel’s human rights record was assessed in Geneva under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council. Reports submitted by Israel, independent experts and human rights NGOs in this context are available on theOHCHR website.

·         The Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), in partnership with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and other NGOs, contributed to Israel’s Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council with a joint submission, focusing on the specific impact of the occupation on Palestinian women. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) focused in its submission on the right to health and promoting the rights of Palestinians with disabilities.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

NGO Action News

This week's NGO Action News has just been published. The newsletter summarizes activities undertaken or planned by civil society organisations across the globe as well as UN action on the question of Palestine over the week. Please feel free to inform us about your activities and publications by emailing us at palestinianrights@un.org and to forward this newsletter to your supporters. We welcome your organization's contributions, questions or comments.

Division for Palestinian Rights
Department of Political Affairs
United Nations

Like us on Facebook: @UN.palestinianrights
Follow us on Twitter: @UNISPAL
UNISPAL website: unispal.un.org

·       In response to an Israeli court ruling, providing that 16-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi remain in custody until the end of her trial, Amnesty International called for her immediate release while B’Tselem provided context and analysis. Addameer pointed out that the case of Ahed Tamimi was not an isolated incident. Rather, the number of Palestinian minors detained by the Israeli authorities had doubled during the last three years.

Middle East
·         In its brief “Grapewashing the Occupation: The Case of the Chinese Hubey Pengdun Group”, published on 16 January, Al-Haq analysed the role of wineries in settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. In this context, the organization called on governments and companies to respect in relevant dealings principles of international law, including those reflected in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

·         On 16 January, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized in Gaza a workshop on “Mechanisms to Protect Civilians and their Property in Land and Sea Border Areas” with the participation of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and its Head of Fishermen Committees.

·         On 15 January, Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement issued a new fact sheet, providing an overview of Israeli measures imposed in 2017 further limiting movement of people to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing.

·         On 8 January, a high-level Geneva Initiative delegation of Israeli Knesset Members and former security officials met in Ramallah with senior PA officials and civils society representatives to discuss recent political developments.

·         In his article “The One-State Reality of Constant Exception”, published in the December issue of the Conectas International Journal of Human Rights, Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, expressed concern about the shrinking space for Israeli civil society.

·         From 19 to 27 February, the Museum of the Palestinian People is organizing at the Manhattan College in New York the travelling exhibitionBethlehem Beyond the Wall.  Spanning a time frame from 1880 to the present, the exhibition draws, among others, on photographs of Bethlehem taken by the American Colony Company between 1880 and 1945.

·         Under the theme “Jerusalem Lives”, the title of the inaugural exhibition at the new Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University is hosting on 26 February a conversation about the role of the museum in the Palestinian community. The panellists invited are Reem Fadda, the curator of “Jerusalem Lives”, artist Emily Jacir and Beshara Doumani, Professor of Modern Middle East History at Brown University.

·         From 2 to 14 January, the Tree of Life Educational Fund organized an interfaith journey to Palestine and Israel under the theme “The Right of Return: 70 Years of Refugees in Palestine, Israel, and Beyond”.

·         Just World Educational, in cooperation with Al Quds University Community Action Center and Visualizing Palestine, started on 11 January a blog on Jerusalem.
·         On 21 December, the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) released the policy paper “Occupation and Sovereignty: Renewing EU Policy in Israel-Palestine”, authored by ECFR policy fellow Hugh Lovatt.

United Nations 
·         On 22 January, actalliance, in partnership with other civil society organizations and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, is organizing at UNHQ in New York the Fourth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs, focusing on “Perspectives on Migration: Displacement and Marginalization, Inclusion and Justice”.

·         Following the US decision to withhold funding for the agency, UNRWA Commissioner Pierre Krähenbühl issued a statement on 17 January. Among others, he called on UN Member States to take a stand and join UNRWA in saying to Palestine Refugees that their rights and future matter.

·         OCHA noted that the reduction of funding to UNRWA was particularly worrying against the backdrop of an overall decline in humanitarian funding in the OPT in recent years. In order to ensure that the essential needs of the most vulnerable were met, OCHA stressed the need for decisions regarding humanitarian funding to be guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

·         To make up for the funding shortfall, UNRWA has also launched the global fundraising campaign “Palestine Refugees: Crisis Appeal”. Further details are available at https://www.unrwa.org/donate.

Book Review: Big Business and Hitler by Jacques Pauwels

Reviewed by Roger Keeran

January 16, 2018

Big Business and Hitler by Jacques R. Pauwels. Toronto: James Lorimer Company Publishers, 2017. 304 Pp. $27.95.
 In 1938, Georgi Dimitroff, the Bulgarian Communist leader, gave the classic Marxist-Leninist definition of fascism: “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” He added, “Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organization of the terrorist vengeance against the working class….” In Big Business and Hitler, Jacques Pauwels does more than validate Dimitroff’s proposition. He provides a jaw-dropping account of the collaboration between big capital and Hitler, a collaboration that involved American capital as well as German, a collaboration that extended beyond Germany to other European countries, and a collaboration that occurred not just before World War II but also during and after World War II.    If you thought you knew something about capitalism and Hitler, Pauwels’s book, will likely show that you did not know half the story.
Pauwels, a Canadian with a PhD in history from York University, has written two previous books—The Great Class War 1914-1918 and The Myth of the Good War-- that challenge some accepted understandings of World War I and World War II.   In this work, Pauwels also challenges some myths. He argues that the largest industrial and finance capitalists in Germany and in the United States played the major role in supporting, financing, and supplying Hitler’s government from the beginning until the end. They did so because Nazi policies increased their profits and attacked their enemies, namely the Communist Party, the trade unions, and the Soviet Union. The first half of the book deals with German big business and Hitler, and the second half with American big business and Nazi Germany. Fluent in English, French and German, Pauwels bases his argument on leading scholarship in these languages as well as sources in Italian, Dutch and Spanish.   Concise and readable, the book masterfully synthesizes existing research.
The capitalists supported Hitler because his policies steadily increased their profits. The destruction of the left and the trade unions made possible the increased exploitation of workers. Wages fell and hours of work lengthened. For example, real wages in German-occupied France dropped 50 percent between 1940 and 1944. In Germany, by the end of 1942 workers at Opel and Singer labored over sixty hours per week. Moreover, German industry benefitted from the confiscation of Jewish property and the plundering of the banks and resources of occupied lands. This wealth went directly into the hands of German capitalists to pay for war production. German industry also benefited directly by the use of the slave labor.   At least 12 million workers--imported from occupied countries, prisoners of war, and prisoners of the concentration camps--worked for German industry for little or no pay. I.G. Farben, for example, built a giant factory in Auschwitz where inmates worked until death producing synthetic rubber. One-fifth of them died every month. Meanwhile, I. G. Farben’s profits rose every year, from 47 million Reichsmarks in 1933 to 300 million in 1943.
The most eye-opening aspect of Pauwel’s account is his description of what transpired during and after World War II. Many American firms—General Motors, Ford, Du Pont, IBM, Singer, ITT, Kodak, RCA, Standard Oil, Dow, Coca Cola—and banks—Guaranty Trust, Chase Manhattan, J.P. Morgan—had subsidiaries or close business relations with German companies and the government before the war. After Pearl Harbor and even after the declaration of war on Germany, these companies and relationships continued to benefit German fascism. The German government did not seize American subsidiaries, and the idea that American capitalists lost control of their Germany enterprises was largely a myth promoted by the capitalists themselves. For the most part American subsidiaries continued to operate and make profits during the war, where they supplied the German army with fuel, equipment and supplies to prosecute the war and even technology to run the concentration camps. Though German managers ostensibly ran these subsidiaries, and the American companies in Germany continued to supply the German war machine, American owners often kept in contact with German managers through clandestine channels in neutral countries.   Outside Germany, Standard Oil used clandestine channels to deliver fuel and other supplies to Germany. During the war, American subsidiaries suffered little damage. For example, the Ford Works outside of Cologne were spared the allied bombing that flattened the rest of the city. At the end of the war, the occupation authority returned the subsidiaries often with profits and enhanced facilities to the American management.
After the war, American capitalists benefitted from the extraordinary influence they exercised in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. American companies enjoyed reparations for what little damage they suffered. American capitalists forced the Truman administration to scotch the so-called Morgenthau Plan that called for the dismantlement of German industry. They also stopped West German reparations to the Soviet Union and secured favorable treatment for German industrialists who had faithfully served the Third Reich. In what could serve as a fitting coda for the book, Pauwels quotes the French poet Paul Valéry: “War [is] an event in which people who do not know each other massacre each other for the profits of people who know each other very well but not do not massacre each other.”
At the end, Pauwels points out how both popular and scholarly accounts of German fascism have obscured or rewritten the role of big business and the elites. In a bit of historical mythmaking, The Sound of Music portrayed aristocrats opposing fascism while the commoners supported it. Schindler’s List portrayed a German industrialist defying authorities to save Jewish lives, when the common reality was quite the reverse. Similarly, Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners diverted attention from the culpability of German capitalists by blaming fascism on the supposed inherent anti-Semitism of the German people.   In their histories of Ford and General Motors, the historians   Simon Reich and Henry Ashby Turner completely whitewashed the collaboration of both firms with Nazi Germany.
Jacques Pauwels’s book makes a timeless contribution to understanding capitalism and fascism.   It is also a timely contribution.   During the Dreyfus Affair, Emile Zola said that in morally bankrupt times, one has to accustom oneself to swallowing a live toad each day in order to develop a true indifference to the horror around. Today, though most Americans refuse to become indifferent to the horrors emanating daily from Washington, the corporate and financial elite are more than willing to swallow toads. To understand their willingness, one has to look no further than a rising stock market and rising profits. Trump may not be a fascist, but the venality and cynicism inherent in capitalism make the American elite as complicit with Trump’s present and future outrages as their counterparts were with Hitler’s.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Multiform militant activity of the trade-unions against the anti-people's policy

In the evening of January 9, massive and combative demonstrations were organized in Athens, Thessaloníki and other big cities of Greece, following the resolutions of many sectoral Federations, Labor Centers and trade-unions against the new anti-people bill that the SYRIZA-ANEL government is about to present in the Parliament.
This bill foresees a series of measures that the government has agreed with the EU and the IMF in the context of the 3rd evaluation of its policies.
So, with this new packet of measures, the government, among other things, intends to deliver a blow to the workers’ right to declare strike. According to the new bill, in order for a grass-root trade-union to declare a strike, 50% of the enrolled members should agree with it. Furthermore, it is a measure that the government intends to approve under the pretext of “democracy”, when at the same time in the workplaces the terrorism of the bosses rules supreme, the danger of layoffs for participating in a demonstration is imminent, especially in conditions where unemployment looms reaching particularly high rates.
Moreover, this bill will extend the property auctions against those that have debts to the State (e.g. to the revenue service, to the social security funds) and will further cut the remaining social benefits.
The demonstration of the trade-unions in Athens began with a rally in Omonia Square and ended with a meeting of a representation of the demonstrators with the leadership of the Ministry of Labor. When the march reached the Ministry, the representatives of the workers demanded the doors of the Ministry to open so that they could meet with the political leadership of the Ministry. Since their demands were left unanswered, they opened the doors themselves. Shouting slogans such as “The law is the just cause of the worker and not the profits of the capitalist” and “worker without you no cog can turn, you can do without the bosses, they “renamed” the Ministry of Labor to something more appropriate of its day’s work: “Ministry of IMF-EU-Bosses”.
In continuation a representation of the trade-unions went to the office of the minister Efi Ahtsioglou, where she was accompanied by the vice-minister Theano Fotiou. The representatives of the workers stressed that it is a shame to abolish the right of strike, a right for which generations of workers have shed their blood. They denounced that the new bill put forward from the government is exactly the same with a relevant law of the previous New Democracy (ND) government and reminded them that 35 unionists of PAME will be tried on the 18th of February for a similar demonstration where they took part against the ND law of 2013.
The minister chose to respond to the demand of the representatives of the workers to retract the part of the bill relevant with the strike with a dry “no” and to leave the office without giving any clear answers to the issues raised by the representatives of the workers.
The demonstrators remained for a long time under the ministry, shouting slogans, while they painted a big slogan in the entrance of the ministry that reads “Hands off the right of strike”. At the same time their loudspeakers where calling the people to participate in the strike on January 12 and in the rallies of the same day, while the workers were hanging an enormous banner in the ministry’s front reading “Government-big capital-EU listen well: Hands off the right of strike. It’s a worker’s right”

The rally at Omonia square
The march began earlier from Omonia square shouting the slogan “You will not abolish the right of strike, no matter what law you approve”
Giannis Tasioulas, president of the Federation of Construction Workers took the floor in the rally. As he stressed, the bill contradicts the government’s narrative. “The government must snap out of the fairytales about democracy” he noted, making reference to the government’s propaganda to justify the changes in the way of trade-union decision making for strikes. Their essential objective, he stressed, is for the police to penetrate in the trade-unions, to exercise a more asphyxiating control to the trade-union activity, to put bigger obstacles in taking decisions about strikes and combative demands.
The banner raised in the back of the stage read: “We advance to the counteroffensive. Hands-off the right of strike. Sign National General Collective Work Contract. 751 euro minimum wage. Sectoral Contracts with raises. Prohibit the auctions”.
The main slogan in the banners of the Federations and the Trade-Unions reads “Hands-off the right of strike”, and from the loudspeakers the workers are making a call of mass participation in the strike of January 12, decided by sectoral federations and labor centers. The majority in the trade-union confederations (GSEE-ADEDY) refused the proposal of the class oriented forces to call for a general national strike. Their decision was condemned by the class trade-unions that rally around the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) that has made a wide call to trade-unions and sectoral Federations to participate in the 24-hour strike on Friday January 12 and to the rest of the militant initiatives organized in the next days.