News of the world
THOUSANDS OF workers blocked the heart of the key Chinese city of Shanghai for two days last week. Workers from Shanghai's Zhengtai rubber factory blocked streets on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week in protest at plans to sack older workers. They were also furious over the embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of pounds by company officials.
Police intervened and eventually forced the workers back inside the factory. Workers' protests are growing elsewhere in China. On Thursday and Friday over 2,000 coal miners blocked roads and clashed with police in the northern Chinese city of Datong, also protesting against redundancies.
When one miner was beaten by police and arrested, thousands of miners surrounded the local police station and won his release. On Monday of this week almost 7,000 taxi drivers' struck in the north western city of Lanzhou, blocking roads in the city centre and surrounding local government offices. The protest was over new government fees on taxi drivers. The Reuters news agency reports that the taxi drivers' strike caused panic among local government officials in Lanzhou because "city leaders feared laid-off workers could join the protests".
Job cuts are spreading, driven by China's drive to open its economy further to the world market and preparations to join the World Trade Organisation later this year. Some 6.5 million workers a month are likely to face redundancies and layoffs, according to official estimates. In January the Chinese government set up special new armed anti-riot police squads in every major town. The official Xinhua news agency admitted the move reflected "increasing concerns about social stability [and] street protests by laid-off workers."
GREEN PARTY activists, anti-capitalist campaigners and socialists lobbied the conference of the Green Party in Germany last weekend. They were demonstrating against the behaviour of Green Party leaders in parliament.
The Greens are part of the ruling coalition in Germany, a junior partner to the equivalent of the Labour Party in Britain. Leading Greens are key figures in the German cabinet-Joschka Fischer is foreign secretary and Jurgen Trittin is environment minister. Trittin recently attacked calls for demonstrations against the transport of nuclear waste through Germany.
In response 117 representatives of Green Party branches signed an open letter calling for protests. And last weekend's lobby on the same issue split the conference. Some 60 percent of the conference voted to allow the protesters in, just short of the two thirds majority needed to achieve it.
Boost for French left
THE FIRST round of local elections across France took place last Sunday, and in many areas candidates standing on a clear left wing platform achieved excellent results. The final results will not be clear until after a second round of voting on Sunday.
But it looked likely that the right would lose control of the town hall in Paris for the first time in decades. Candidates standing to the left of the ruling coalitions won significant numbers of votes in many areas.
In Toulouse, one of the country's most important cities, the combined score of candidates to the left of the governing parties was over 16 percent. In the northern city of Lille candidates standing as clear socialists won almost 9 percent of votes.
In Rouen, Lyon, Tours and other important cities far left candidates won over 5 percent. The Nazis, now split into two rival groups, won worrying numbers of votes in some areas. But their national average-3 percent-was well down.