Round-up of recent global struggles by Daphne Lawless, Fightback (Auckland).
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), formerly a part of Yugoslavia, has seen massive anti-government workers’ protests. A protest by unemployed workers in the town of Tuzla against privatisation of local factories ended up with the town’s government building on fire and police using water cannon against protestors in Sarajevo, B&H’s capital. Workers in Tuzla also demanded defence of their pensions, and arrests of those who have corruptly benefited from privatisation.
Since the end of the Yugoslavian wars in 1995, B&H has been split into a Serb state and a Croat/Muslim state who share the national government between them. Their constant squabbling causes permanent government deadlock, leaving real power in the hands of the United Nations High Representative, who acts as a tool of NATO, the European Union and the IMF.
The uprising in Tuzla raised slogans not only against privatisation, but against “nationalism” – which, in B&H, means the two ethnic states stirring up hatred against each other while neglecting the real problems of working people. One miner in Tuzla told the crowd: “The only identity we have is as miners”. “We are hungry in three languages” explained a banner on a demonstration in the town of Zenica.
Workers’ protests have often been the beginning of regime change in this region – for example, the 2000 uprising against the Serbian nationalist warmonger Slobodan Milosevic was sparked by a coal miners’ uprising.
Meanwhile, anti-government protests in Ukraine have turned deadly. More than 60 deaths are after police stormed a protest camp in the capital, Kiev.
Ukraine’s politics have been divided for years between pro-Russian and pro-European factions. The latest protests broke out after President Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly cancelled a deal with the EU to make one with Russia instead.
Many of the protesters are legitimately opposed to their government’s embrace of the autocratic Putin regime. But others are linked with the neo-fascist Svoboda party, who attack Russian-speakers and anarchists. And working people in Greece or Spain would be quick to tell Ukrainian protesters that the EU is no defender of human rights or democracy.
Venezuela has also seen violent protests, this time by the right-wing opposition against the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro. Two deaths were reported after a commemorative demonstration turned into attacks on government buildings, police cars and pro-government TV stations.
The opposition blames Maduro and his United Socialist Party (PSUV), founded by the late president Hugo Chavéz, for rising crime and high inflation. The government, in turn, blames price rises on businesses deliberately hoarding food to sabotage the economy and increase opposition support.
It’s thought that the violent protests may indicate a split in the opposition, between moderate forces who wish to fight the PSUV within the current constitution, and a far-right or even fascist tendency who want to provoke a coup. PSUV leaders have called on workers and students not to fall for right-wing provocations.
France sent troops into its former colony, the Central African Republic (CAR) in January to reinforce its government. The CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, even though it sits on large reserves of diamonds, oil and uranium. It has been ruled by a series of military dictators since 1966, all of which have been supported by France.
French troops were already involved in the neighbouring country of Mali, fighting an Islamic separatist movement in the north of that country. In the background of all of this is China’s increasing economic influence over former Western allies in Africa.
The CAR had no problem with ethnic or religious conflict in the past. But 2003 coup leader François Bozizé led persecutions of the Muslim minority. After he was overthrown by the mainly Muslim Seleka movement last year, Christian militias have led a murderous revenge campaign, which the new leadership seems powerless to stop.
It’s not surprising that French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on February 15 that the French intervention in the CAR will last “longer than expected”. But France’s interests aren’t the people of the CAR – it’s their own commercial exploitation, and keeping China out of the picture, that they worry about. French military occupation will only make things worse.
Tensions are clearly growing between the USA and Israel, with US Secretary of State John Kerry attempting to negotiate an end to continued Israeli settlement in Occupied Palestine. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has flatly rejected US proposals for even the most minor concessions. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon described Kerry’s peace plan as “not worth the paper it was written on”.
The USA and Israel have been the closest of allies over the last 40 years, with US aid to Israel projected to reach more than $US3 billion dollars in the coming year. This is mostly military aid, which frees the Israeli government to spend large amounts on its core supporters.
Netanyahu and his allies are determined to destroy the growing power of Iran, if necessary by direct military action. But the mess left by the 2003 invasion of Iraq has led to an Iran-friendly government in that country, which US forces must prop up to prevent a new outbreak of war. Netanyahu slammed the recent US-brokered deal for Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons capability as “an historic mistake.”
The growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement shows that people worldwide understand the Israeli state’s real agenda – becoming a regional superpower on the backs of oppression of the Palestinians. Any interruption of support for this from the US can only be a good thing for the people of the Middle East.