International Notes: December 10, 2016

International Notes: December 10, 2016

Italy:  Referendum to change constitution defeated

Communists in Italy are expressing satisfaction at the defeat on Sunday of a referendum which would have made major changes in the country’s post World War II Constitution.  The changes, promoted by centrist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of the Democratic Party, would have weakened the Senate and put considerably more centralized power in the hands of the Prime Minister’s office.

Both the Communist Refoundation Party and the newly reconstituted  Communist  Party of Italy had seen this as a power grab which would have weakened the ability of the Italian working class to oppose neo-liberal policies of the government.  When the measure was defeated by a vote of  59 to 41 percent,    Renzi announced his resignation.


Argentina:  Communist Party Congress calls for renewed struggle

The Communist Party of Argentina held its 26th Party Congress in on November 26-27. It elected Patricio Echegaray as its president and Victor Kot as its general secretary, as well as other leaders.

In a speech to the Congress, Echegaray called for a reassessment of the situation in Argentina that led to the victory of the right wing in the last national elections and similar reverses in other countries of the region.  Echegaray noted that the progressive “pink tide” governments, including that of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina, which the Communist Party had supported, “did not consolidate an alternative to neoliberalism”.   He said that during recent years, when the Communist Party had pushed the government for structural changes, it was not because of a “sort of leftist impatience”, but because it had become  clear that the lack of depth to the changes under the progressive government had become a trap which facilitated the return of the right to power.

The only way forward, said Echegaray, is to push for more thoroughgoing structural changes that will meet the needs of the working class.

Australia: Government has double standard on freedom of expression

The Communist Party of Australia has denounced the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of the right-wing Liberal Party for its attitude toward refugees and migrants, wh.   At issue is Article 18-C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, which the Communist Party suspects the Turnbull government wants to “emasculate”, thereby permitting bigoted statements, while at the same time suppressing the freedom of speech of critics of government policy.   For example, the government has now forbidden asylum seekers held on the islands of Manus and Nauru from using cell phones.  This policy was denounced by Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Trings, who points out that many asylum seekers rely on mobile phones to connect with family, legal representatives and others.

Now some people who work in these detention centers have also been threatened with prosecution if they speak about conditions in them.

Also, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the Australian government has given itself the power to prosecute journalists and others  who report on any activity the government classifies as a “special intelligence operation”.  The Communist Party notes the hypocrisy of easing up on anti-bigotry laws while restricting the freedom of speech of asylum speakers, journalists and others.

France:  Defend the post office

The French Communist Party warns against plans afoot that would threaten the nation’s postal service with drastic cuts and privatization of services.  According to a party statement, the government has been preparing an agreement among itself, the Post Office and the Association of Mayors for the year 2017.  This plan would include closing of post offices, reduction of hours of service, laying off of postal workers and transfer of functions of the post office to private business.

Calling these planned moves a “serious attack against service to the public’, the party called on its members to sign a petition and to turn out for a demonstration in support of postal service on December 8.



    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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