Saturday 26 January 2008

George Habash 1929-2008

Fairuz sings "we will return to Jerusalem"

George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), died on Saturday in Amman.

Born in Cairo in 1929, Habash stepped down as head of the left-wing PFLP in July 2000 after having led the faction which is a key component of the Palestine Liberation Organisation for more than 30 years.

No doubt there will many obituaries that accuse Habash of being a "terrorist". He was nothing of the sort.

Many of the left have differences with the strategy and tactics adopted by the Front, however it remained the best of the Palestinian organisations fighting imperialism during the 1970s. The PFLP played a heroic role during the uprising against the Hashemite rule in Jordan in 1969.

The Front was a key part the Lebanese revolt of 1975-76, when its fighters fought bravely alongside the Communist Party and other resistance organisations to push back the murderous Phalangist militias.

It seems fitting that Habash lived to see the siege of Gaza crumble through the actions of the mass of people—something that was at the heart of his politics.

Sursock pays tribute to Habash and send his deepest sympathies to the comrades of the PFLP.

Taste of freedom

Friday 25 January 2008

Thursday 24 January 2008

Lebanon strike update II

Sursock spoke to left wing activist Bassem Chit after he finished his tour of the capital distributing leaflets. He said, "Beirut is as quiet as Saturday afternoon. All the small shops closed, but the international chains like Starbucks remained open."

"Taxi drivers wanted to block the roads, but were warned off by their union and the army. No demonstrations in Beirut but the strike had bite.

"Attempts to portray this strike as a 'Shia uprising' have been disproved by the widescale support shown in Christian areas and some Sunni areas. This is a worker's revolt and their anger is boiling over."

"The strike was called by the transport workers after massive pressure from below. The local union branches have been pushing the national leadership to call the day of action. That pressure remains."

"It became clear that the pro-government unions (who parade around in suits and ties) were desperate to scupper the strike. In the end it was the army pressure on the militant unions (whose leaders are dressed like workers) that reigned in the demonstrations and gatherings. But there were still groups of workers out in the capital.

"In the Bekaa and the south there were many local protests. But no mass demonstrations."

"These days are ours"

Gaza jailbreak

Lebanon strike update

I have just received these updates:

The Ras al-Nabba' and Sin el-Fil areas are half out. Ashrafieh remains solid. The southern suburbs, including Dahieh, are totally shutdown. The Sunni areas of west Beirut are one third out.

It can be confirmed that the unions have cancelled all gatherings and demonstrations, however there are protests in the Bekaa Valley, including Baalbek and the mainly Christian city of Zahle.

Unconfirmed is a report of two protesters being gunned down in Baalbek.

Reports are coming in of demonstrations and road blockades across the agricultural heartlands.

The North
There was a peaceful demonstration in the northern city of Tripoli. This is significant as those who oppose the government have been living in terror since the army overran the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared. A demonstration under such conditions means that an opposition is finally beginning to find its voice there.

Egypt update

Good news... veteran leftists Shahinda Meqled, Adel el-Mashad and Abdel Ghaffar Shokr have been released following their arrest outside the Journalists Syndicate in the Egyptian capital.

The picture is of the protest yeasterday. For more images go to 3arabawi.

Lebanon—Popular power III

The strike is in protest at "starvation and humiliation".

Taxi drivers argue with a colleague to join the strike.

Workers set fire to tires during an attempt to block main roads.

The unions have cancelled demonstrations. There are reports that thugs belonging to the ruling M14 alliance are roaming the streets in an attempt to intimidate the strikers.

Latest information indicate that the Christian areas of Ashrafieh and Ras al-Naab'a, in east Beirut, have heeded the strike call, while around one third of the areas under the control of the US-backed Future Current are out.

The AP reports:
Workers complied with the strike differently from area to area, according to their political affiliation and whether they support Saniora's government or the Hezbollah-led opposition. Some unions have also broken away from the labor union federation and opted not to join the strike.

In areas where support for Hezbollah is strong, in south Beirut, southern Lebanon and the northeastern parts of the inland Bekaa Valley, union activists closed roads and some tried to set tires ablaze before security forces moved in and stopped them.

But in coastal cities like Sidon and Tripoli, with strong pro-government backing, life seemed normal. In Tripoli in the north, dozens of protesters gathered at the central Tal Square, only to disperse peacefully half an hour later. Traffic on highway entrances to Beirut also flowed normally.

In the northeastern Bekaa village of Nabi Othman, a 9-year-old boy was slightly wounded by a bullet in the shoulder when a security agent heading to work opened fire in the air as he tried to clear a closed road to pass through, security officials said speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

*This information is awaiting confirmation

Strike demands

General Confederation of Workers of Lebanon, Ghassan Ghosn, said the strike was aimed at forcing the government to raise the minimum wage and address inflation.

The union is calling for the minimum monthly wage to be tripled from 300,000 Lebanese pounds (200 dollars, 134 euros) to 900,000 pounds.

Consumer prices rose 3.7 percent in the 10 months to October, led by an eight percent hike in food prices, according to the private Institute of Research and Consulting.

Today life belongs to us!

The Leftist Assembly For Change has issued a statement on today's strike:

"Yes to the strike! No to poverty and starvation!"

"Today shows that the division in Lebanon is not between the opposition and the government, but between rich and the poor, between the exploiters and exploited, between the bourgeoisie and workers who live at the expense of the rich, who suffer from exhaustion, poverty, unemployment and homelessness.

"There are those who live in palaces and luxury hotels and houses, and there are those who live in crowded rooms and run down apartments and on the streets. Today, this equation is clear, and today life belongs to us.

"Yes to the strike, yes to the movement and demonstrations against those who disregard of our rights and our lives.

"Today, change as much as possible for ourselves!"

Army to "break strike"

According to the AP news agency the Lebanese army and police have sent troops into to the streets of Beirut in an attempt to crush today's nationwide strike.

Meanwhile unions under the control of M14 parties are organising a scabbing opperation. They claim it is an "opposition plot" ro bring down the government! (No doubt the hunger and poverty are also an opposition plot).

The AP reports:

The military said the security forces were under orders to prevent any road closures or rioting. More troops were deployed and patrols sent to prevent trouble.

The strike was called by agricultural and transport unions to protest over the rising cost of living and insisted it would be peaceful.

The striking public transport and agricultural unions said the work stoppage had no affiliation with the political opposition, but pro-government groups dismissed the strike call as another attempt by the opposition to bring down the government.

Traffic on motorway entrances to the city remained normal as labour unions were divided like much of the country amid the deep political crisis between the government and the opposition. Some unions opted not to join the strike after the government met some of their demands a day earlier.

The government said schools would remain open and pro-government unions called on members to ignore the strike. But many families kept their children at home after some schools told parents there would be no bus service.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Egypt arrests

Over 460* Egyptian activists have been arrested today (Wednesday 23 January 2008), during their attempts to convene a peaceful demonstration in front of the Arab League in downtown Cairo. 

The demonstration called for by the Socialist Alliance—a coalition of Leftist organisations and individuals—and joined by Muslim Brotherhood members, was to protest the latest atrocities against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. 

Starting Tuesday evening, Islamist activists were rounded up from their homes and workplaces in different governorates across Egypt, in an effort by the government to abort the demonstration. 

Among those seized are Dr Magdi Abdo from Cairo—who is under treatment from a recent stroke and his whereabouts are not  known yet— Ali Abdel Fattah from Alexandria who is a leading member of the International Campaign Against Zionist and American Occupation.
The arrests and violence reached its climax Wednesday morning when, according to eyewitnesses, subway stations were closed-down and security forces summoned people randomly around the neighbourhood. 

Using tear-gas and mass arrests the state security still did not manage to stop the demonstration scheduled for Wednesday morning. Over 300 hundred activists were arrested on sight, including veteran left-wing activists, Shahenda Maqlad, Adel el-Mashad, Abdel-Ghaffar Shurk and Salah Adly.
There is still a heavy security presence and arrests.  

The exact number is expected to be known tonight or tomorrow morning once the detainees are turned to the General Prosecutor’s office, and more statements are collected from demonstrators. While some of those arrested are in a security camp in Darasah, Cairo, the whereabouts of some are still unknown.
Statement from the Centre of Socialist Studies

*Some sources say that over 2,000 were seized. I will attempt to get a difinitive figure as soon as I can.

Popular power II

This image which appeared in newspapers published on 15 January shows a women in Beirut chanting against the Siniora government. According to the M14 cabal who rule Lebanon she is part of a "Syrian-Iranian axis to undermine the country" rather than a working class woman furious at the decline in living standards and rampant inflation.

Print workers to join strike

The Executive Council of the Federation of Trade Unions and users of paper-based industries in Lebanon will call its members out on 24 January.

The union said in a statement it is joining the strike, "because of the approach adopted by the dominant power, which has led to the impoverishment of the majority of Lebanese, high public debt, rising prices and a constant interruption of electricity supplies."

The head of the market traders association, Hussein Tawfiq, says his members will heed the strike call. Tawfiq slammed, "the policy of arbitrariness and injustice of the government" in the treatment of traders and transport workers.

Truck strike II

Tymat (Leftist Assembly For Change) report that the truck drivers' strike in the Abda-Akkar region, on the border with Syria, has entered its second day. They are blocking the highway in "protest against the imbalance in competition that are clearly illegal, contrary to all laws."

Popular power I

Riot cops attack a mass demonstration by Palestinians trying to cross from the Gaza strip into Egypt. Later that day the Palestinians destroyed the border fence allowing tens of thousands of desperate people to buy food and get medical care.

Power cut protests

There were more angry protests against electricity shortages in Beirut on Monday.

AP news agency reports:

About 50 demonstrators set several tires on fire blocking a tunnel in Salim Salam street that links central Beirut with the airport as well as several other neighborhoods.

An army force arrived shortly afterward and dispersed the demonstrators peacefully and opened the road. No casualties were reported, and scores of soldiers, some carrying clubs, were seen in the area after the incident.

Later in the night, similar incidents occurred in the nearby areas of Dinnawi and Hay al-Lija. Earlier in the day, a road was blocked briefly in Beirut's southern suburb of Ouzai.

A senior army officer said later that troops would carry out patrols in different parts of Beirut and warned that "the army will not allow any attack on public property or blocking roads."

Similar protests, mainly by supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition, have taken place in several areas of Beirut in the past few weeks.

Power cutoffs in recent months were extended for the first time to the capital, where more than 1 million Lebanese live.

Monday 21 January 2008

All out on 24 January!

Truck drivers have staged an indefinate strike along the international road in the Akkar Abda, northern Lebanon. The drivers are unhappy about regulations over the weight of their loads at the Syrian and Jordanian borders. They claim that they are not treated as well as foreign drivers and want the government to push for "reciprocity".

The strike comes as trade unions have called a day of action over rising prices on Thursday 24 January.

The strike has been called by the confederation of road transport and agricultural unions. The unions are demanding the government "open a dialogue to address the difficult living situation."

• The Federation of Trade Unions and employees in the Bekaa have backed the strike call

•The nurses and midwives union will take part in a one-hour stopage at 10am on Thursday morning. They are demanding an end to "humiliation and starvation. "

• The president of the doctors assocition, Dr. Ghassan Jaafar, declared that all physicians will join the strike in defence of "a living wage, freedom and agaisnt the unjust policy of the ruling authority."

• The National Federation of Trade Unions and Workers in Lebanon has backed calls for the strike.

• The national meeting of the agricultural bodies in Akkar held a press conference in support of the strike. Mayor Tlberh Abdul Hamid Saqr, head of the tobacco farmers in the north, appealed to transport workers, green grocers, supermarkets, cooperatives to join the strike in solidarity. Farmers should not harvest their their crops on 23 Jaunary, he said. He also called on the owners of companies and agricultural fertilizers and medicines to close in solidarity.

"I hope workers from the port of Tripoli will not load or unload grains, meat, milk and powdered milk and others," he added.

• The union construction workers and timber sectors are coming out.

• Maritime Transport Union announced its support for the strike