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Public sector workers strike

Civil-service workers in Johannesburg, South Africa, took their fight against privatization to the streets on Nov. 15. Thousands of city workers walked off the job for a two-day strike against the iGoli 2002, a government plan to restructure municipal services by privatization and cutbacks.

Bus service in Johannesburg, the country's capital, was at a virtual standstill. Trash stayed on the streets as sanitation workers stayed off the job. Electrical workers also stayed home.

Some 2,000 workers--members of the South African Municipal Workers Union and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union--rallied downtown. Congress of South African Trade Unions General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi promised that municipal workers would make Johannesburg "ungovernable" if the government proceeded with iGoli 2002.

The government in Johannesburg tried to win a legal injunction to prevent the strike, but failed. But courts did prevent SAMWU members from striking in Cape Town.

Unions have threatened to continue strikes to fight iGoli 2002. A weeklong strike is planned, and could take hold as soon as Nov. 21.

Bolshevik Revolution commemorated

People across the former Soviet Union marked the Nov. 7 anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution with marches and rallies. The Russian Revolution, led by V.I. Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, was the first time that workers successfully took and held state power and was the beginning of a historical process to build a society without the capitalist class of bosses and bankers.

The biggest commemoration rallies took place in the Russian cities of Leningrad and Tyumen, where all left parties marched together. In Moscow there were two demonstrations--one led by the moderate Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and a more militant one that included the Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP).

A vital question for the communist movement in Russia has been what attitude to take toward the Russian state, which has been in the hands of capitalist-oriented forces since 1991. This was reflected in the two demonstrations in Moscow.

According to a report by RKRP supporter Viktor Bourenkov sent to Workers World, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov "called for reestablishing the superpower and building a strong state instead of overthrowing it, failing to distinguish between Soviet proletarian patriotism and Russian national patriotism."

The key demand of the parallel demonstration, Bourenkov reported, was that "the existing government should be put on trial."

"At the rallies organized by the RKRP, the workers were once again reminded of the necessity to politicize their struggle and of the impossibility to achieve their ends by voting in elections, whose results are pre-determined by the wealth of contestants,"he wrote. "For all true communists, the key objective of the workers' holiday remains the struggle, for there can be no peace or reconciliation between the poor and the rich."

Communist rallies have been banned from Moscow's Red Square since 1991. Members of the Communist Youth Vanguard, the youth organization of the Workers Russia movement, broke through police barricades and into Red Square.

General strike set vs. austerity

Argentina's main unions have set Nov. 24 as the date for a massive general strike to paralyze the country. The unions are protesting President Fernando de la Rua's pro-International Monetary Fund economic policies, presented in an austerity plan signed on Nov. 16.

They are also protesting police repression against demonstrators. One demonstrating worker was killed in the northern province of Salta the week that the austerity plan was signed.

The Argentine Workers Federation (CTA), one faction of the larger but more moderate General Workers Federation (CGT), and the Combative Class War Movement originally called for a 36-hour strike to protest the killing. That strike is slated for noon on Nov. 23.

But on Nov. 16, with the austerity package approved, the "official" CGT threw its weight behind the protest movement. Its members will join the strike for 24 hours beginning Nov. 24. "Next Friday we will bring the country to a standstill," CGT leader Rodolfo Daer told Reuters on Nov. 16.

IMF officials have been in constant contact with the de la Rua government. The banking group announced that it would expand the credit line to Argentina beyond the current $7 billion in order to carry out the austerity program.

Argentina has $20 billion in foreign debt that comes due in 2001, and there is growing concern on the part of U.S. banks that the Argentine government will come up short. The Nov. 11 Washington Post reported that "a senior IMF official last night acknowledged that the fund had decided to signal its willingness to participate in the financing out of fear that the Argentine crisis would spread to the rest of South America, which is only beginning to recover from a two-year recession."

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