International News

Merapi disaster: when the government fails, the people must act

The Alliance of People’s Struggle (ARM), a coalition of women’s, students, labour and peasant organisations, based in Yogyakarta, is appealing for emergency aid to help people affected by the Mount Merapi volcano, which is having its most violent eruptions in more than a century. The eruption on the morning of November 5 killed 58 people, injured dozens more and completely incinerated the village of Argomulya.

Indonesian president's six years of failure

Thousands of mainly student protesters took to the streets in cities across Indonesia - including Jakarta, Palu, Makassar, Medan, Ternate, Samarinda, Bandung, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Madura - on October 20 to protest the first year of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s second term as president.

While the protests encompassed a diverse array of issues, including women’s rights, workers’ rights and human rights, all the protests agreed on the utter failure of the government of Yudhoyono (known as SBY) to improve the lives of the vast majority of Indonesians or to dismantle the main institutions of Indonesian politics: the networks of cronyism and corruption that built up during the 30-year Suharto dictatorship and the militarism that dominates Indonesian politics and society.

Indonesian workers struggle for basic rights

A labour dispute is unfolding in this Central Java city that highlights many of the intransigent problems Indonesian workers face under the neoliberal government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). What should have been an easily resolved minor labour dispute has developed into an ongoing campaign that has involved public meetings, blockades, occupations and street demonstrations and has resulted in the formation of a new union and city-wide labour solidarity network.

Sarkozy stares down French pension bill strike wave

On November 10, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed into law his conservative government’s pension reform plan, under which the minimum age of retirement will be increased from 60 to 62 years, but those retired workers who wish to claim full pension benefits will be forced to wait until they reach the age of 67 instead of the present age of 65. The pension changes will be phased in from July next year and become fully enacted by 2018.

The party game is over. Stand and fight

The lesson of the French anti-government protests is that “normal” politics exists only to promote corporate interests. Britain must prepare for a rebirth of the only thing that works — direct action.

Behind the layoffs in Cuba

Cuba’s trade union confederation announced in September that half a million state-employed workers are to be laid off by May 1. Over the next five years, Cuba’s socialist government plans to shift a further half million workers from the state-owned economy to the self-employed, small business and cooperative sectors. In October, new regulations that loosen restrictions on self-employment and small businesses and a new tax regime for the private sector came into effect. Cuban President Raul Castro has made it clear that these reforms are not aimed at the restoration of capitalism, but at making Cuba’s post-capitalist, centrally planned economy more productive. To achieve this, Cuba’s Communist Party (PCC) leadership insist that a rationalisation of the state-sector workforce to reduce bloated payrolls is unavoidable.

Philippine Airlines dispute tests government's labour policy

In an unprecedented display of unity, 16 of the main trade union organisations in the Philippines met on November 8 to oppose the impending lay-off of almost 3000 workers by Philippine Airlines (PAL), the nation’s main airline. The groups issued a statement in solidarity with workers from the PAL Employees’ Association (PALEA) and called for the government of President Benigno Aquino to reverse its October decision to support the mass lay-offs.

Action needed on Agent Orange

Agent Orange is the code name of the dioxin-laced chemical used by the United States to defoliate huge areas of Vietnam and destroy food crops during its devastating war against the people of Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1971, the US military machine sprayed 80 million litres of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. A quarter of the rural areas of South Vietnam were hit.

A massive violation of the rights of an entire people

[This is the text of a speech given by Reinaldo Garcia Perera, consul-general to Australia for the Republic of Cuba, to a meeting in Sydney on October 10 protesting against the US blockade of Cuba.]

Burmese military regime organises fraudulent election

The Burmese military regime, officially called the State Peace and Development Council, organised a general election on November 7 – the first in two decades. The SPDC’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) claimed a landslide victory, declaring that it had won 86% of seats in the lower house of parliament and 88% in the upper house.  Despite insiders saying that only about 10% of the eligible voters turned up at the polling booths, the pro-SPDC announced a turnout of over 70%.