Colombia: Social movement organizing against neoliberal policies

Voices in Movement


Orginally published by Noticias de Abajo on May 4, 2021, translated by Shantal Montserrat Lopez Victoria.

In Colombia, Indigenous Minga along with unions, students, peasants and environmental organizations, are calling for a historic strike against the National Development Plan of the ultra-right-wing president Ivan Duque, which proposes a rollback of social rights.

Since April 28th, several cities and states in Colombia have been flooded by tens of thousands of protesters who are demanding the reversal of measures that go against the welfare of Colombian society. Among these measures are economic programs that propose the privatization of health and education, a lack of peace agreements as well as rollbacks for labor rights.

Thousands of protesters were met with repression and brutality by State forces and as a result there are cases involving people losing eyesight, physical and sexual violence, and protestors being killed. According to the Temblores Human Rights platform, figures are as follows: 13 murders inflicted by police, 68 physical attacks, 655 arbitrary detentions, 4 cases of sexual violence, not including unregistered events by human rights organizations who have also been stripped of their rights and harassed while documentation cases.

In an attempt to stop the marches and “contain these terrorists”, as Senator Alvaro Uribe refers to the demonstrators, the government began to deploy military troops and tanks in cities such as Cali and Bogota, contrary to the local governments’ decision to not use force. This confirms the fascist and dictatorial nature of the government which the corporate media does not accept.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – MAY 01: Protesters are seen during the national strike against the tax reform as they gather on the International Workers’ Day on May 01, 2021, Bogota, Colombia, 2021. Unions joined to call a national strike and demonstrations in major cities, urging participants to follow COVID-19 protocols as the heavy protest continues in the biggest cities of the country in Cali, Medellin, and Bogota. (Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Despite the militarization of the country, protesters continue fighting to make the government of Ivan Duque respond to the serious human rights violations. Thus, the Indigenous Minga, transportation and freight companies and other organizations are calling to maintain the national strike until we see measures that will benefit society.

Protesters achieved their main objective of withdrawing the tax reform, but the harsh economic crisis that the country is going through due to poor government management and the rejection of social welfare policies has made it imperative to change the course of Ivan Duque’s economic project in his National Development Plan. This initiative that has hit the most impoverished social sectors the hardest while favoring private entities close to the government.

If the people are demonstrating it is because “The government is more dangerous than the virus” yet the government continues with fascist proposals that are plundering the earth. The aristocratic government is trying to dispose of environmentalists, workers and students in a national project but no economic policy can be built on the suffering of the people.

The fall of the ultra-right government is imminent. Now, the only remaining question is if it will be through resignation or elections?

Blacklisted worker barred from SpyCops Inquiry

Union News

Dave Smith, the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, has been barred from appearing at the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

Smith was scheduled to make the opening statement on behalf of the Blacklist Support Group at 4.15pm today, but late last night was told not to attend, following a legal challenge regarding issues raised in his the opening statement.

A meeting before the chair, Sir John Mitting, has been arranged for Monday morning.

union-news.co.uk understands Dave Smith was planning to accuse undercover police officers of inciting arson and colluding with multinational construction firms to blacklist union members. He co-authored a book, Blacklisted, that detailed his experiences of being unlawfully denied work because of his trade union activity.

Blacklisted worker Dan Gillman has written about his hopes for the Mitting Inquiry here and Donna McClean has written about her experience about being tricked into a relationship with a spycop here.

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Formby Hall sacks worker for raising concerns over health and safety

Liverpool Solidarity Federation 

Two weeks ago we were contacted by a former employee of Formby Hall Golf Resort and Spa, a hotel and leisure complex located in North Sefton, Merseyside. The worker had been summarily dismissed after nine months’ service. The business did not give them any grounds for dismissal nor subject them to any disciplinary process.

The former employee was dismissed after raising questions about a post-lockdown health and safety document which was found to contain outright falsehoods.

We have supported the worker in seeking compensation for wrongful dismissal. The business is aware of these demands and has formally acknowledged them. As the business has had ample time to rectify this grievance, we have today decided to make it, and our involvement, public.

Liverpool Solfed understands that sacking on flimsy pretexts, disregard for health and safety, loose adherence to employment laws, and contempt for workers’ basic rights are endemic in the UK’s service industry. We predict that these conditions will worsen post lockdown. We move forward with the understanding that they are not to be tolerated.

Liverpool Solfed will support workers even in unorganised workplaces and will support any workers who wish to organise. Fight back against low pay, dangerous work, and workplace abuse!

Corona comment number five, from the South of England: Snake oil and tinfoil, by Mal Content.

Clockwise from left: Buttar supports Trump, Buttar supports the military, Icke talks crap about BLM, Kate Shemirani on ‘sons of liberty’, Sherri Tenpenny and Alex Jones, Senator Jensen on ‘Go Right’ a ‘gays for trump’ channel.

The corona virus has thrown the ruling class into disarray. Their sales pitch, that their institutional and economic hegemony is capable of managing the infrastructure to the benefit of all, fell at the first hurdle, as the economy was effectively pitted against itself.

Meanwhile yet another fault line has opened in the anarchist movement, and what for the sake of argument we can call the libertarian left (social democrats and Bolsheviks need not apply). Part of it has embraced Benthamism, sacrificing individual judgement to someone else’s (invariably the ruling class’) statistical aggregate of the greater good. Some find finger-pointing and curtain-twitching a worthwhile use of their time. In promoting his Panopticon prison design, Bentham commented: “As the watchmen cannot be seen, they need not be on duty at all times, effectively leaving the watching to the watched.” In fact that principle has informed all more-or-less totalitarian states ever since. As a utilitarian, materialist, libertarian socialist I reject Bentham’s definition of utility and there are many well-known thought experiments that reduce it to the absurd.

At the other end of the scale ‘professional contrarians’ come across like petulant teenagers answering back to their dads. People who’ve spent years masked up for nefarious purposes will demonstrate without them now they are officially sanctioned – of all the things they could protest about! How hard we tried to get the ‘peaceful protesters’ to hide their faces as cover for the ones prepared to kick off. We dreamed of a world where face coverings were worn as a matter of course and we could blend into the mass.

I’ve already given my opinion that masks are a placebo. Can you smell smoke through your mask, even outside from six feet away? Ever smoked a chillum through a rag? The largest smoke particles are like boulders compared with corona viruses, the smallest are comparable and both are within the colloidal range, in other words they are capable of being indefinitely suspended in air by Brownian motion. So do it or don’t do it as you please, and if a fellow worker hands me a book and asks me to write down a name and address it’s no hardship. It won’t be mine of course and I suspect they know that. I don’t ever recall debating with a copper my right to use marijuana, I’d just say I didn’t have any and hoped I’d hidden it well enough.

We’ve had a lot of fun ridiculing the floundering politicians’ arbitrary “guidance” and the middle-class dupes who rationalise it. We caution against taking anything on trust in an untrustworthy world, but some anti-authoritarians have chosen to rub shoulders with even less trustworthy and more authoritarian tendencies. We have taken issue with our long-standing comrades at The Acorn/Winter Oak over their promotion of a rally by stand up x, a motley collection of flat-earthers who postulate as always a liberal elite – led by George Soros no doubt, denying them their right to live in the fourteenth century. On the net you’re only ever three clicks from David Icke, except the stand up x facebook page, then it’s one click, and they’ve booked him for the 29th August. It’s all there, guy Fawkes masks, butchers’ aprons, fox news, NWO, secret paedophile rings. The anti-malaria drug being pushed by Bolsonaro is manufactured by the Brazilian military for obvious reasons, it wouldn’t surprise me if Derek Guff had his finger in that particular pie also.

What is their protest intended to achieve; business as usual or just business? Protest always smacks of supplication and this was never more likely to fall on deaf ears, if you want to “stand up to the system” withdraw your labour, occupy the means of production or expropriate property.

On the platform:

  • Dolores Cahill, Irish freedom party – big on law and order, except hate crime which is just free speech.
  • Dr Zac Cox, a ‘homeopathic dentist’.
  • Dr Adil, who claims SARS CoV2 isn’t a virus at all.
  • Dr Eric Nepute, purveyor of vitamin products who does think it’s a virus, and has been warned off by the Federal Trade Commission for selling quack cures for it, uses words like “bazillion” on his website – clever bloke.
  • Dr Scott Jensen, Republican senator for Minnesota, who features on breitbart and ‘Go Right’, a Bush Fellow and god-botherer.
  • Dr Mikael Norway – sorry, no idea who they are.
  • Dr Sherry Tenpenny, another quack, author of ‘Saying no to Vaccines.’
  • Kate Shemirani, who sells mistletoe injections for cancer and expensive “beauty products”, appears on the ‘sons of liberty’: “Re-shaping America by redirecting future generations to our Judeo Christian heritage through education and media.”
  • Dr Andrew Kaufmann, whose website has a massive disclaimer that it doesn’t offer any medical advice, though he will give you a consultation for a fee.
  • Dr Kevin Corbett, an artist with a PhD in social sciences.
  • Rashid Buttar, a struck-off doctor, conspiracy theorist, anti-vaccine proponent, and youtuber. He has twice been reprimanded by the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners for unprofessional conduct and cited by the FDA for illegal marketing of unapproved and adulterated drugs. He variously claims 5g and chemtrails cause Covid, or that it is a biological weapon of the Chinese state.
  • Piers Corbyn, climate change denier and general-purpose nutcase.

You wouldn’t want to be seen with these wankers, unless you’re stood on the Minnesota senator’s neck.

The anarchist response to pandemic is the same as to any other situation. Do as much research as you feel necessary, apply your judgement and experience, consult whoever you trust then make up your mind and do as you see fit. Whether to visit your grandmother on her deathbed is a personal decision to be taken on its merits. You may find yourself balancing actual harm with hypothetical harm and wish to weight those two factors differently. I won’t be lectured on “protecting the NHS” by those who have spent forty years trying to abolish it, or the ones who sat back on their arses while we were picketing things and getting arrested. Petitions don’t count.

The NHS for all its benefits is a capitalist employer and an arm of the corporate state. The people who run it do so not for the benefit of its workers or patients but for their investors and for “UK-PLC” which requires that at least some of us are fit to augment their capital. Science is not to be used as propaganda; it is simply an enquiry into the nature of things informed by empiricism and logic. Faulty logic and badly designed experiments will give you duff gen. Disagreement is to be welcomed and should help us see the wood for the trees, there are no sides to this, if you like to stand in lines shouting at each other, crack on, it does nothing for me.

Morality must be balanced with utility, like strategy and tactics neither is any use on its own. We can all do that without getting into bed with the lunatic fringe of the American religious right. Any movement devoid of class analysis is worthless to us. We recall the awful mess Occupy got into with ‘freemen on the land’ and all that bollocks about the Magna Carta. There are people out there who believe fluoridation makes you gay, vaccination is a conspiracy to stupefy us, and 5g is about mind control. They would sell you bogus medicines for cancer or tell you to pray it away. Unlike the kind of street fascist who really does benefit from a Totector in the face, our best weapon against these cranks is ridicule, but we’ll make an exception for Senator Jensen.

Workers are every day having to decide between unsafe environments and starvation or homelessness. These are not decisions toff politicians ever have to make, nor will they help you do so. The latest tory decree on “shielding” has just given the bosses an excuse to shed workers with chronic health conditions that were protected characteristics under EA10. I’m reminded of the story of the potato farmer who lived by Chernobyl. When the evacuees started to return they found the old man had never left. The potatoes that came up the first year after the fire looked a bit odd, he admitted, but you could eat them. A man had come from the government, “don’t you know those potatoes can kill you?” “Not as fast as no potatoes!” was the response.

Why are we still having these silly arguments? Partly because we are not deeply enough rooted in the class, we are peripheral to it. Before the politicians even took an interest in corona the anarchist movement stopped what it was doing to organise community support and mutual aid, but it lacked the clout to shut down the economy; that requires mass direct action. We have become reactive, so many of our Class are hostages to the market that we have shifted our focus from dismantling the hateful death machine to mitigating its effects on the most vulnerable. A look at our history will reveal that it is often the most vulnerable who stop the wheels. To put it crudely, if you’ve got a rock and one good arm you can throw it, better do that than lament the shortage of rocks. Don’t allow your perceived privileges to immobilise you!

If you can’t think for yourself who’s going to do it for you? Not the bungling fraudsters in Westminster, who obtained their jobs under false pretences. Not their politically-appointed experts, who like David Knutt will get fired for publishing science that contradicts their policy. Not internet con-artists who make a living flogging crap. Not flag-waving, god-bothering numbskulls. Not tinfoil-hatted keyboard worriers. The Working Class must decide what is good for it and that requires us to collectivise each issue, the bigger it is, the more collective our response must be.

We’re just going to have to sort this one out ourselves.

Workplace Notes

Anarchist Communist Group

Posties Wildcat in Bridgwater

One hundred postal workers at Bridgwater Delivery Office walked out on unofficial strike on Thursday June 4th.

It was sparked by the return of a manager regarded as particularly aggressive. His behaviour has involved use of disciplinary action, harassment of militants and removal of bikes used by postal workers. He had already been removed twice from the Bridgwater Delivery Office because of previous disputes.

Workers then voted to stay out on strike on Friday after the manager continued with his aggressive behaviour.

Despite the ousting of Royal Mail boss, Rico Back, (see our previous article, Bye Bye Rico) and his replacement by Keith Williams, managers are still

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The Case for Building New Unions

Ideas and Action

By Tom Wetzel

The British writer R. H. Tawney once described capitalist management of the workplace as “autocracy checked by insurgency.” And, indeed, a kind of insurgency takes place when workers band together to form unions. Worker unions are a key working class organization because of the potential power workers gain from collective resistance but also because of the potential role of unions in social transformation. However, unionism in the private sector in the USA has been on a long decline — from roughly one third of workers in the early 1950s to only 6.2 percent today. To build unionism into a larger, more effective and worker controlled movement, I think we need to build new unions, independent of the bureaucratized AFL-CIO-type unions.

Two Episodes of New Unionism

History is instructive here. Unionism in USA has not grown in a gradual way but in cycles that are tied to working class insurgency. The two greatest periods of union growth came in large strike waves — in the World War 1 era and again in the early 1930s. From 1909 to 1921 union membership doubled through a vast insurgency that saw thousands of strikes every year. Nearly a million workers organized themselves into industrial unions outside the AFL. The hardest edge of the new unionism was the Industrial Workers of the World. But the IWW was just the tip of the iceberg.

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The ACG’s Rebel Education Worker issue 1 is out!

ACG

As UCU takes part in 14 days of strike action, stepping up from eight days towards the end of 2019, ACG members of UCU have published the first issue of their bulletin, to be distributed on a picket line near you!

It’s A5 double sided, so just download a copy from this page, print however many you want back to back, then chop it into two flyers.

To contact ACG Rebel Education Worker, email education@anarchistcommunism.org

DOWNLOAD Rebel Education Worker 1

Upcoming solidarity events with Russian antifascist prisoners and Kevan Thakrar

Cautiously pessimistic

Two important anti-repression events coming up in London in the near future:

On Thursday 27 February, there’s a solidarity demo with the Russian anarchist and antifascist prisoners at 6:30pm outside the Russian Embassy, 6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, W8 4QP. This event is part of the international week of action called by Crimethinc and the Rupression network.

On March 9th, Kevan Thakrar’s birthday, the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee have organised a protest at the Royal College of Psychiatrists to demand that they stop providing humanitarian cover to a system that’s held Kevan in solitary for ten years. In their words:

“Demonstrate to mark Kevan Thakrar’s 10th year in Close Supervision Centres within the British prison system. Close Supervisions Centres (CSCs) are the most extreme form of imprisonment in the UK, modelled on the ‘supermax’ prisons in the United States. People held in CSCs are often kept apart from others, allowed out of their cells for only a short time each day and denied basic human contact.

Kevan is regularly held in his cell for 23 hours per day and is prevented from speaking with other prisoners. Numerous studies and papers have pointed out the severe damage solitary confinement can cause for those placed in it. As a 2006 paper in Washington University Journal of Law & Policy put it, it has ‘long been known that severe restriction of environmental and social stimulation has a profoundly deleterious effect on mental functioning’. To quote from a paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, ‘psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture’.

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India: Biggest general strike in human history

Barrikade Info.

January 8, 2020 will go down in the history books as the world’s largest 24-hour general strike to date. In India, more than 250 million workers went on strike during the general strike or “Bharat Bandh”, which was joined by ten major unions as well as a number of independent associations. Associations organising bank employees, farmers and teachers, but also the student movement played a leading role. The electricity supply was also affected, with up to 1.5 million people going on strike in the power stations. The same applies to local and long-distance public transport. Across the country there were also rail blockades.

The strike had the biggest impact in the politically leftist state of Kerala, where the “communist” party CPI traditionally receives the most votes. Here, but also in many other places in India, traffic and public life were virtually at a standstill.

The strike was directed against the policy of the ruling Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP), which not only tries to split the population along ethnic and religious lines with classic nationalist policies, but also to severely restrict workers’ rights, to massively promote precarious employment and privatisation of public institutions (such as rail transport) and to provide tax breaks to large corporations.

Core demands of the unions were the creation of new jobs for the unemployed (currently 8% unemployment in India, that is 73 million people), basic workers’ rights for all workers, the increase of wages and the minimum wage, as well as a five-day week. They also called for the withdrawal of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes naturalisation easier for Hindu immigrants (or Jains, Sikhs) but excludes Muslims, Tamils or Tibetans. The law had already triggered massive protests across India in 2019. In addition, their demands were also directed against the biometric registration and counting of the entire Indian population, which also has special racist regulations, which are explicitly directed against Muslim citizens, for example.

More about the protests against the CAA for example here: www.anarkismo.net/article/31703

On the one hand, the right-wing BJP government tried in vain to enforce sanctions against strikers – for example, in the state of Tamil Nadu there were mass arrests of strikers; in Delhi, BJP youth organisations attacked striking students. On the other hand, the BJP publicly played down the importance of the protests.

In vain – the organized Indian workers yesterday demonstrated their enormous strength and raised the bar for the rest of the world. However, it remains to be seen whether they can sustain a prolonged confrontation with the government at this level of strength. From an anti-authoritarian point of view, the question also arises whether the strikers will allow themselves to be hitched to the cart of the parliamentary opposition parties, which ultimately only want to use the dynamics created by the mass struggles to come to power themselves – or whether the workers will succeed in taking their cause into their own hands…

The Indian anarchosydicalist organisation “Muktivadi Ekta Morcha” (Libertarian Solidarity Front) from Bhopal is rather skeptical in this respect. In a short statement it writes: “general strikes like these are for the most part electoral political facades at cost of genuine workers grievances. Most, if not all unions affiliated with “left” parties treat their workers as infants in these demonstrations controlling them more severely than they are in their workplace. There are some independent unions that are less authoritarian but hardly any genuinely democratic workers organization. We are working to change that.” – It is of course difficult for us to judge from a distance to what extent this assessment is correct, but we generally find it important to point out contradictions and limitations of social movements with the aim of overcoming them. In any case, we wish the Indian comrades a lot of success in their cause!

Either way, the success of the mobilization alone is a symbol that the organized, oppressed and wage-dependent class has the potential to unhinge the world!

RED AND BLACK TELLY: NEW YEARS MESSAGE.

And from us a very happy and successful New Year to insurrectionists, insurgents, malcontents and troublemakers around the globe!