Communist parties weigh in on women’s rights, referendums and self-determination

BY:Emile Schepers| October 6, 2017
Communist parties weigh in on women’s rights, referendums and self-determination


Portugal:  Left coalition demand worker protections, especially for women

The CDU (Democratic Unity Coalition) composed of the Portuguese Communist and Green Parties and another smaller movement, is asking voters to give them enough support so that they can tackle much need issues of workers’ rights in their country.

In a statement prepared in relation to the October 1 municipal elections and addressed to voters in the town and province of Braga in the North of the country, the CDU pointed to the harm that  the current trend toward “precarious” employment is doing to workers in general and to women workers in particular.  (“Precariousness” refers to part time or temporary work without job guarantees or labor rights).

According to the statement “labor precariousness is a major torment in our times.  To increase profits, businesses resort to the most varied and creative means to keep the workers without rights, employed in permanent positions but without effective [social] ties”.

“This situation means, for thousands of people, instability, uncertainty, the inability to make decisions about their own lives, because they never know what might happen tomorrow”.

The CDU statement points out how especially bad the “precariousness”  situation is for young couples and especially for women workers, affecting their plans for their families and their ability to help their children with school or tend them when they’re sick, since they end up with a double burden of job and family.  Yet women in Portugal are paid far less than men; a third of women who have full time jobs only make the minimum wage.  Women workers suffer discrimination and are denied maternity / paternity leave.  They have to deal with overcrowded schools and family bonuses which don’t come through.  And because they make less at work they end up with lower pensions when they stop working.

The CDU asks for workers’ votes on the basis of its good record in municipal office wherever it has been elected, and promises to fight for changes as both the national level that will limit the ability of employers to abuse part time and contingent work schemes, while defending the  Furthermore, the CDU electoral program calls for one labor inspector for every 10,000 workers, as required by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization.

Ecuador:  Communists  express conditional support for referendum

The Communist Party of Ecuador says it is willing to support a proposed referendum. In an editorial in the party newspaper “El Pueblo”, Secretary General Winston Alarcon Elizalde, referred to a proposal for such a vote which is being advanced by several groups and also Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno.  Alarcon points out that Ecuador’s constitution clearly points out that the president has the power to call such a referendum.

However, Alarcon adds:  “It’s a tremendous responsibility which the current president has not to listen to the siren song of the right and the national oligarchy which want to carry out a consultation…which will directly hit the institutions and organs that exist in the Constitution of the Republic, which will demobilize or eliminate especially those which support citizen participation” and electoral democracy.”

Alarcon warned especially against any move to eliminate the National Council of Citizen Participation and the “Communications Law”.

Alarcon ends by saying “if we are going to have a People’s Consultation, we agree, but with the goal of advancing toward a National Constituent Assembly” in which workers, small farmers, indigenous people, soldiers, artisans, artists and intellectuals can participate so as to free Ecuador’s people from oppression, poverty and hopelessness.

South Africa:  Massive anti-corruption strike

On Wednesday September 17, thousands of workers in thirteen South African cities carried out a one day strike in protest against governmental corruption, state capture and policies that hurt the working class.  The strike was called by the country’s largest labor federation, COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and was strongly supported by the SACP.

SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande reminded strikers that the SACP will be contesting elections separately from the African National Congress  (African National Congress) in 2019, and asked for COSATU members’ support. However, neither the SACP nor COSATU wish to break up the tripartite alliance of ANC, COSATU and SACP, but rather hope to transform it and get rid of corrupting tendencies. Speaking to strikers, Nzimande warned them to be very careful to prevent the political elites from laying hands on their hard-earned pension funds.


Iraq: Communists speak out on Kurdish referendum

On September 20, the Politburo of the Iraqi Communist Party issued a statement on the issue of the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Communist Party statement points out that the efforts to defeat the reactionary terrorist forces of Daesh (ISIS) and to undo the damage done by that insurgency, including the need to return displaced people to their homes should be the priority now.  The Party supports the widespread demands in Iraq for basic economic and political reforms needed to resolve the country’s problems.  The Communist Party specifically points out the need to abandon the “sectarian” framework of Iraqi politics that was inherited from the U.S. occupation (i.e. the doling out of government functions to different religious and ethnic factions, which has been a source of much dissatisfaction).

The Communist Party feels that all sides in the Kurdistan dispute have fallen short in taking the needed constructive steps to solve the conflict between the region and the central government.  The Communist Party recognizes the “right of self-determination, for all peoples, small and large”. But in the specific Iraqi context, the party has supported a federalist expression of this right. The potential of a federal system has not yet been realized.  In the Communist Party’s opinion , the present referendum is inopportune because the conditions are not correct for it, nor have the possible consequences been analyzed.  The Communist Party deplores the possibility that the referendum will end up inflaming hostilities between Arabs and Kurds, thus creating an opportunity for outside powers to meddle.   The party urges a maximum effort to resolve the disputes between the Baghdad government and the Kurdistan Region, and deplores any attempt to resort to arms in this dispute.

(Note:  The referendum took place on September 25 as scheduled, with an overwhelming vote in favor of independence from Iraq)





    Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.


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