The International Writers Magazine: Comment

James Skinner

n the 1st of May, 1886 a group of trade union activists in the city of Chicago in the United States called for a one day strike demanding shorter working hours. The campaign continued over the next few days, plagued by riots that ended in tragedy in an open market place in Des Plaines Ave. During a protest meeting called to denounce certain events that had taken place at one of the factories a bomb was hurled at the police causing the instantaneous death of one officer and that of seven others a few days later.

The aftermath was even more gruesome. Julius Grinnel, a vindictive State Attorney ordered a fierce roundup of possible suspects that concluded in the arrest, conviction and ordered execution of seven ‘supposed’ culprits accused of ‘inflammatory speeches and publications’ that had incited the mob to rioting. Although four of the men died, three were hung and one committed suicide, seven years later, on June 26, 1893, Governor John Altgeld pardoned the remaining three prisoners. None of the arrested was ever proven to have thrown the bomb in the first place. However, these martyrs did not die in vain. They aroused the sympathy of workers the world over. There isn’t a left wing party, trade union or blue collar worker in the world today that does not celebrate the 1st of May as the International Labour Day. Ironically, it was never adopted in the United States.

Things haven’t changed much. 120 years later, on this same day in May, millions of supposed ‘oppressed’ workers across the globe take to the streets together with their union bosses and left-wing political leaders to demand better wages, less working hours, more social ‘freebees’ and a myriad of other unidentifiable benefits in order to improve their quality of life. In Paris, the chanting was aimed at the recent success of student and other strike action that revoked the French government’s aim of introducing a law that tried to curb unemployment. In Berlin, the main concern was aimed at chancellor Merkel’s attempts to reduce social and other benefits eating into the German economy. In Manila they even went as far as asking for the resignation of the Philippine president. Back here in Spain there wasn’t much to bitch about because the Socialist government has more or less given away the ‘family silver’. Recent legislation has included among other goodies, equal women’s rights, immigrant workers consolidation and a plethora of social benefits aimed at keeping the populous happy. But like all human beings, be they workers, trade unionists or politicians, everyone wants more and more.

Many other interesting events have taken place apart from the ‘Workers Unite’ celebrations throughout the world. There were more killings in Iraq, another earthquake occurred near Tonga in the Far East, Israel’s new government has managed to consolidate a workable coalition with Ehud Olmert as president and Charles Clark, the British Interior Minister is accused of laxity in punishing thousands of delinquent immigrants by setting them free without further trace. Yet the news that really takes top of the honours list on the 1st of May is the massive strike that occurred in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants taking to the streets to demand justice and equal rights against their precarious conditions. Marches took place in cities as far apart as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Large consumer goods corporations likeTyson Foods and Gallo Wines had to close their doors as most of the workers were low cost immigrants who virtually have said, ‘enough is enough’. All this palaver has come about because this collective of over 12 millions human workers are demanding that their situation is legalised once and for all. Some have been working under cover for over 5 years.
But this is not the only set back for George Bush’s administration.

Our friend Evo Morales, the newly elected President of Bolivia has decided to join the growing anti-American pact known as ‘the Bolivar Alternative for the Americas’ promoted by Cuba and Venezuela to upset and boycott the original Latin American Free Trade Association, championed by the USA that is the economic corner stone for the whole area. Bang goes George Bush’s hopes of influencing friends and people right on his own door step. This new compromise, know as ‘ALBA’ intends to stop the US’s so called imperialist threat in both political and economic cooperation down South. How do these three neo-liberals if quasi-communist countries intend to finance the deal? Pretty simple. Venezuela has oil, Cuba has ‘know how’ and poor Bolivia, well, they have Soya beans and an illiterate population. The three countries have decided to pool together and scratch each other’s backs. But wait! Something has been left out. Bolivia also has oil and gas reserves. Trouble is that they are in the hands of foreign investors such as Petrobras from Brazil and Repsol-YPF, a joint venture between Spain and Argentina. ‘No problem’, says Evo to Fidel and Hugo. ‘I’ll nationalise!’ Bingo. Another 1st of May celebration. The Bolivian government sends in the troops to protect all the oil installations, nearly jails the Board of Directors (Spain and Argentine executives) and sends another May celebration blast across the world.

The results of all this? To start with, Peru’s President, Alejandro Toledo calls back his ambassador to Venezuela because Hugo Chavez has started to meddle in Peru’s internal politics. Lula, the Brazilian president is having a nervous fit. 14% of Bolivia’s oil production is in Petrobras’ hands and that means millions of dollars! Spain’s Prime Minister, Rodriguez Zapatero, having cooed and wooed all three extreme left wing presidents in the past is having to bite his tongue and goes back to the drawing board. His Spanish oil executives are not happy!

And what about George Bush and the Republicans.
Well to start with, and apart from the anti-American rhetoric, for once the US cannot be blamed for this entire shenanigan started by Evo Morales and his two cronies. Gulf Oil pulled out of Bolivia years ago. Hugo Chavez has been insulting America for some time now. And Fidel Castro? Well, he’s been around for decades and Washington has almost accepted that one day he’ll fall by his own weight. The real danger is in the future.

I’ve recently finished a novel on Latin America (‘The GOA file’) that delves into the historical era between 1945 and 1982. Dictatorships, military take-overs, democracies coming and going, you name it, it all took place in most countries from the Rio Grande down to Patagonia. What did emerge in my in depth research was that during the 1970’s and 80’s the US administration were poking their fingers in every Latin American pie, and both the CIA and Pentagon were hell bent in curbing the surge of Communism. Marxist oriented terrorist organisations were rampant throughout the region.
My question today is quite simple. Will history repeat itself?’

© James Skinner. May 4th , 2006.

The Goa File by James Skinner

Evo Morales - Bolivia Presidente
James Skinner

King Chavez
James Skinner on Venezuelan politics

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