Ukraine: workers organise at the grass roots

September 28, 2015

PAVEL LISYANSKY, founder of the Eastern Human Rights Group and lawyer for workers in eastern Ukraine, gives his view in this guest post of efforts to strengthen the labour movement at a time of military conflict and attacks on workers’ rights.

In 2015 breaches of Ukrainians’ social, economic and labour rights are becoming sharper and sharper. Politicians from oligarchic clans have started shouting about a social and economic revolution. And really, we have had two political revolutions – the “Orange revolution” [of 2004] and the “revolution of dignity” [of 2014] – but there has been no social and economic revolution.

In Ukraine there is a huge potential for protest, due to the widespread breaches of labour rights. There is a great need for new trade union and working-class organisations. Since Soviet times the trade union movement

Svetlodarsk meeting

Workers’ meeting at Svetlodarsk hospital

has not modernised itself. Trade unions have remained as they were: “distributors of holiday vouchers” and “lobbyists for the employers” in workplace collectives. [Translator’s note. During the Soviet period, up to 1991, workplace trade union organisations functioned as a branch of management, ensuring collaboration with labour discipline. Workers appreciated them only for distributing vouchers for holiday trips and canteen meals, and other minor benefits.]

So far, the grass-roots trade union organisations are not numerous, and can not offer the sort of resistance to the oligarchs that is needed.

And there is an attack on workers’ rights along all fronts: the adoption of a Read the rest of this entry »

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Wear the white poppy with pride

September 21, 2015

The UK’s right wing press poured scorn on Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader, after he failed to sing God Save The Queen at a commemoration of
white_poppythe Battle of Britain (1940) on 15 September. But some people liked him for it.

“My mum has become a total Jeremy Corbyn fan after he didn’t sing the national anthem”, said a young colleague I have been working with. “It sounds like your mum has good instincts”, I replied. “I have never sung that song in my life.”

Labour parliamentarians queued up to criticise Corbyn in newspaper interviews. “You have to show respect”, Sadiq Khan MP said, implying – quite falsely – that Corbyn did not. (Corbyn, who presumably didn’t sing Read the rest of this entry »


We’ll turn Shahrokh Zamani’s death into a banner of workers’ solidarity and unity

September 20, 2015

This statement was put out by workers’ organisations in Iran after the suspicious death on 12 September of Shahrokh Zamani, a trade union activist who was in the fifth year of a prison sentence. Iranian friends are asking that it be circulated as widely as possible.

Shahrokh Zamani, a brave and tireless fighter for the Iranian workers movement, has died in Gohar Dasht prison. The news was received by all

Shahrokh Zamani

Shahrokh Zamani. Photo from Iranwire.

with total disbelief and utter shock. In our view, whatever reasons the authorities may give, the responsibility for his death lies completely with those who have imposed conditions of slavery on the workers of Iran and have taken away their rights to organise and struggle for a better life, and with those who Read the rest of this entry »


Jeremy Corbyn strikes a blow at Blair-ism. And now what?

September 13, 2015

I hardly ever watch the TV news, but I did last night. The faces of defeated Labour right wingers, listening to the announcement that Jeremy Corbyn is the new party leader, were a sight to see. Seven of them quit the Shadow

Jeremy Corbyn posing for a photo with Alexis Tsipras of Syriza. It was an old campaign leaflet, but not more recent ones

Jeremy Corbyn posing for a photo with Alexis Tsipras of Syriza. This photo was used on an old campaign leaflet, but not more recent ones

Cabinet straight away. Ha ha ha. Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett and other pro-austerity monsters who served in Tony Blair’s governments growled at interviewers.

(Note to non-UK readers. Corbyn, 66, who won the leadership election with 59.5% of the votes, has been a Labour MP since 1983, opponent of the right wing on key political issues (austerity, NATO membership, nuclear weapons, etc) and chairman of the Stop the War coalition.)

As the Weather came on after the news, I fantasised about Blair, who with George Bush sanctioned the murderous assault on Iraq in 2003, being put Read the rest of this entry »