International Roundup: Poland, El Salvador, Zimbabwe, Iran

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Down with the privileges of the bureaucracy! Down with Stakhanovism! Down with the Soviet aristocracy and its ranks and orders! Greater equality of wages for all forms of labor! The struggle for the freedom of the trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press, will unfold in the struggle for the regeneration and development of Soviet democracy. — Leon Trotsky, 1938 (Transitional Program)

Adopted by the fledgling Fourth International 40 years ago, these Trotskyist demands could have been emblazoned over the Lenin Shipyards gates in Gdansk, Poland when a strike of shipyard workers erupted on August 14 over the summary firing of a woman labor leader. The stunning strike quickly blossomed into a nationwide workers challenge to the bureaucracy’s stranglehold.

It was clear to the whole world that the socialist workers of Poland were defending their economy by demanding democratic reforms. Socialism must mean workers’ power, not bureaucratic oppression.

The general strike was triggered when shipyard management fired Anna Walentinowicz, a crane operator and leader in the 1970 and 1976 upsurges. Widely respected as a powerful advocate for labor, she was dismissed in retaliation for her activism.

Following the example of the American sit-down strikers of the 1930s, Polish shipyard workers took over their workplace and turned it into an organizing center for a strike movement that quickly raced across Poland, fueled by massive indignation over high meat prices, government censorship, repression of political dissidents, bureaucratic privilege, and low wages.

While the government accused strike leaders of “anarchism” and “antisocialism,” the strikers proudly sang the “International,” the anthem of world revolution.

The Catholic Church’s corrupt hierarchy was quickly enlisted to counsel “peace, calm, reason, prudence, and responsibility” — and a back-to-work policy. Thinly-veiled threats of Soviet intervention issued from Edward Gierek, chairman of the ruling Polish United Workers Party (PUWP), but the Kremlin didn’t dare to intervene and risk worker wrath on a world scale.

The strikers held firm to a list of 21 demands, including the right to establish free unions and to strike, abolition of censorship and ruling caste privilege, release of all political prisoners, public access to economic information, and automatic cost-of-living wage increases.

Worker delegates from all over the country poured into the Lenin Shipyards with financial donations and declarations of solidarity. Sympathy strikes swept the country. Labor organizations around the world sent support and money.

Insisting on the fullest expression of democracy, strikers broadcast negotiations throughout the shipyards and to the press.

Faced with political disaster, the government negotiators held out only two weeks before conceding the major demand for independent unions and the right to strike. Worker negotiators agreed to recognize the PUWP as the leading party, and promised not to act as a political party.

The workers immediately set up offices for the new trade unions and were flooded with applications for membership. Meanwhile, local strikes continue as workers try to consolidate the Gdansk agreements.

Gierek’s removal as party chief (ostensibly for medical reasons) was almost a minor news event amidst the historic proletarian victory.

The anti-bureaucracy worker’s movement across Eastern Europe is stronger than ever before. The future is grim for Stalinism, but dazzlingly bright for the heroic masses in the workers states. The time is ripe for them to consolidate their gains and expand their offensive against the antisocialist policies and practices of the parasitic officialdom whose power has been gravely weakened. The workers of the world owe a resounding vote of gratitude to the Polish proletariat.

El Salvador

Five thousand EL Salvadorans have been slaughtered by the army, police, and rightwing death squads since the military/Christian Democratic junta seized power last October. But a unified revolutionary force now resists the junta.

The U.S.-supported junta is a grisly one, murdering opponents and using the “land reform” program (developed by U.S. consultant Roy L. Prosterman) as a cover for military control of the countryside. Troops have smashed the independent press, occupied the universities, and ravaged the land in pursuit of guerrillas.

General strikes in June and August halted the economy and provided a proving ground for revolutionary organization. Reprisals against striking electrical workers spurred a retaliatory 24-hour blackout when 1500 electrical workers seized five power plants.

Resistance leadership comes from a coalition of labor, small business, and radicals — the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR). The FDR is organizing people’s militias and radicalizing the countryside. It does not call for immediate insurrection.

The FDR includes several major leftwing military forces, which are coordinated by the Unified Revolutionary Directorate (DRU). All are in need of arms. Within DRU a debate rages over strategy, and the responsible view prevails that the call for all-out war is politically premature. In September, the ultraleft National Resistance (NR) split from DRU after arguing to no avail that DRU lead army dissidents bent on quick overthrow of the junta.

One wing of DRU, the reformist Communist Party, previously cooperated with the junta.

Another sector of DRU, the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP), originally promoted armed struggle and led a rebellion in October. ERP expected a quick military victory, as did its offshoot, the Forces of National Liberation (FARN). Now both groups seek to expand their mass base, as does the Popular Liberation Forces (FPL), which split from the Stalinists ten years ago. FPL is a Marxist party close to the workers, slum dwellers, and peasants; its second-in-command is a woman, as are 40% of its cadres.

Another component of DRU is the Socialist Workers Party (P ST), Trotskyists who are fighting for a unified socialist Central America.

Millions of U.S. dollars supply the junta; U.S. warships stand off the coast. And U.S.-supported troops from Honduras and Guatemala threaten intervention.

In August, the FDR went international to enlist arms for the civil war and expose U.S. meddling. Emissaries gained support from the Socialist International in Norway.

Rivers of blood have been shed because the leaders trusted “reform” promises. Now nothing short of total divestiture of imperialist interests, and their own socialist state, will suffice. U.S. dirty hands off El Salvador!


Woefully underpaid Black workers bombarded new Prime Minister Robert Mugabe with a wave of strikes last May. Despite Mugabe’s appeal for time, shoemakers, industrial and textile workers, and miners walked out and won a minimum wage law effective in July.

Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in April and the people expect radical changes, even though Mugabe, leader of the ZANU guerrillas, made heavy concessions to the whites, agreeing to maintain capitalism and retain a white army commander.

The army, police force, civil service and economic moguls are predominantly white.

Colonial racism has left Zimbabwe a festering sore. The ratio of doctors is one per 1000 whites, but only one for every 13,000 Blacks. Half the Black children die by age 5. The countryside was devastated by war and systematic crop destruction by the British.

Mugabe has launched a recovery program, provided a workers rights charter, and begun universal schooling and health care. The rich now pay taxes. The unpaid mortgages of whites, formerly subsidized by the government, are being foreclosed and land collectivization is proceeding even without the needed expropriations.

A landlocked country, Zimbabwe’s trade routes are controlled by South Africa. But in July, Mugabe expelled South African diplomats caught recruiting former Rhodesian soldiers. When South Africa threatened reprisals, Mugabe, who was visiting the U.S., appealed for massive U.S. aid.

Zimbabwe’s hard won independence cannot be preserved with imperialist loans. No neo-colonial solution will work; socialism is the real future for Zimbabwe.


Twenty months after the overthrow of the Shah, the deepening radicalization of the masses continues to challenge the efforts of the bourgeoisie to stabilize the economy and their own political power. This political contradiction is the basis of the actual dual power governing Iran.

As peasants continue to seize large areas of farmland, and factory shoras (committees) become more authoritative, the government tries to push back the revolution through military attacks on the autonomy-seeking Kurds and sustained repression of radicals. May Day demonstrations were attacked viciously by the Islamic fundamentalists who control the new parliament.

Parliament is concentrating on responding to severe military attacks from Iraq, whose government fears the spread of the Iranian revolution, and where pro-Shah Iranians are now based. The soiled hands of the U.S. are clearly in evidence in this war. Iraq is filled with U.S. operatives and Carter is refusing to sell Iran spare parts for its U.S.-made weapons.

Also on the parliamentary agenda is the fate of the U.S. hostages. In preparation for international tribunals, Pres. Carter has assembled 60,000 pages of secret documentation, detailing U.S. involvement in Iran back to 1941. But the White House refuses to meet Iran’s major demands: an apology for Yankee crimes against Iran, release of frozen Iranian assets and the return of money stolen by the Shah.

The two major issues of the hostages and Iraq are pressuring parliament toward the left. If parliament, instead, turns against the self-organization of the Iranian masses, they will erupt again. The fate of the revolution has yet to be decided.

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