Palestine: Demonstrators oppose Iraq war

Thousands of Jews and Arabs from all over Israel participated in the demonstration organized March 29 by the Communist Party and Young Communist League of Israel, together with the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash). Rallying under the slogans, “No to the Imperialist War on Oil” and “Bush, Blair & Sharon are the major terrorists,” demonstrators condemned the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories as well as the U.S. and British policy toward Iraq.

Russia: Communists lead in public support

A poll of public support for political parties conducted last month by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion showed that backing for the Communist Party has reached a record 31 percent, topping the governing Unified Russia party’s 21 percent. Commentators, including the daily newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, are pointing out that the gap may be difficult to close before next December’s elections to the national legislature, the Duma.

On March 31, Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, said he favors an international boycott of U.S. products, to protest the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Zyuganov said that some 3 million Russians in 4,000 communities throughout the country participated in anti-war protests in late March. In the city of Perm alone, 10 public anti-war demonstrations have been held since the beginning of this year.

Nigeria: Public workers win 12.5 percent pay hike

A strike of public sector workers was narrowly averted in the early morning hours of April 8, when the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the government reached agreement on a 12.5 percent pay increase. Their joint press stated that “Both sides agreed the proposed strike should be called off.”

The NLC, the country’s umbrella labor federation, had called the strike after an agreed pay increase for civil servants in January was not included in the 2003 budget – passed by parliament but not yet signed into law by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The government had earlier threatened to use its armed forces to remove picket lines if the strike went forward. A strike could have further shut down the country’s oil industry, where production is already slowed because of protests by impoverished local residents of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Residents are demanding a share of jobs, as well as oil company support for human services.

Greece: More anti-war actions planned

Greek organizations including the “Action-Thessaloniki 2003” campaign, the Committee for International Peace and Detente, and several mass organizations, have called for mass demonstrations in Athens April 16. On that day, the official ceremonies for enlargement of the European Union will take place, with the presence of EU leaders who supported or tolerated the imperialist war on Iraq. Plans include a youth and students’ demonstration in the morning and a big popular demonstration in the early evening – both at Constitution Square.

The government, annoyed by the popular unrest and the anti war actions, says it will restrict the right to demonstrate, creating a “red zone” where access will not be allowed. But several organizations of the popular movement are calling for protests against the government’s authoritarian stance, and are declaring that the people’s right to demonstrate is not negotiable.

South Korea: Union leader released from jail

After 20 months in prison, Dan Byung-Ho, President of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, has been released. In a statement of support, Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said, “We welcome this release and intend to pursue our international solidarity campaign in support of the continuing struggle by the Korean trade union movement to protect workers’ rights, which are too often flouted in that country.”

After assuming responsibility for the KCTU’s coordination of a general strike, Dan Byung-Ho was sentenced to two years imprisonment for “obstructing business,” a charge the Korean government often uses against striking workers. A large trade union delegation attended the trial to show their solidarity.

At last month’s meeting of the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva, the ICFTU again denounced serious trade union rights violations in South Korea, reminding the committee that dozens of trade unionists – including, at the time, Dan Byung-Ho – were still in jail.