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Around the world, voters turn left

By Tim Wheeler, People's Weekly World, 10 October 1998

Working people around the world are rising up and turning right-wing regimes out of office, sometimes at the ballot box and sometimes with angry mass street demonstrations. This shift to the left is fueled by the collapse of capitalism in Asia and Russia, an economic typhoon that has already engulfed Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. Often, the voters are forced to choose candidates who lack a clear program to meet the crisis. But the people are determined to defeat the main danger, the fascist like parties and candidates of the extreme right who seek to throw the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of the working people.

Perhaps the most dramatic shift is in Russia where Communists organized a nationwide day of protests Oct. 7 demanding the ouster of President Boris Yeltsin and the payment of billions of rubles in back wages and pensions. Millions walked off their jobs in strikes or marched under red flags, holding portraits of V.I. Lenin through city streets. An estimated 400,000 marched to a rally in Moscow's Red Square. Trade union leader Mikhail Shmakov told the crowd, We will not allow Yeltsin to destroy us. We want a president who solves the concrete problems of the country and doesn't make empty promises.

Growing stronger is the demand for a return to socialism which for 70 years provided full employment, low cost housing and universal education and health care for Soviet citizens. German voters ousted Chancellor Kohl Sept. 27 ending 16 years of his pro-corporate rule. The main issue was Germany's double digit unemployment. Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder is expected to form a coalition government with the Greens but the Party of Democratic Socialism, the former east German Communists, will have a 35-member caucus in the new Bundestag - the first time a left-socialist party has been in the government since 1953. The neo-fascists suffered a stunning defeat not winning a single seat in the Bundestag. Germany joins France where socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was elected last year and now heads a center-left coalition government that includes Communists. In England Tony Blair of New Labor ended 18 years of Thatcherite Tory control. He could not have been elected without the help of the British labor movement, which is now exerting strong pressure on him. In Brazil's Oct. 4 elections, right-wing President Fernando Henrique Cardoso secured a razor-thin 51.2 percent of the vote, a margin so narrow that at this writing he had not claimed victory over Workers Party candidate Inacio Lula da Silva who won 34 percent of the vote in South America's largest country now in the midst of a raging economic crisis. Last June, voters in the Philippines elected Joseph Estrada, a ballot-box revolt of the poor against the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Not all of the leftward trend is seen at the ballot box. In Indonesia, for example, President Suharto was swept from power by a mass popular revolt in the streets.

President Hababie who had served as Suharto's vice president has promised new elec- tions soon. There are counter currents. Afghanistan's Taliban, an ally of the CIA and Chevron, is spreading its vile doctrine of male supremacy and the enslavement of women. Everywhere, reaction rests on racism, sectarianism, feudal despotism. Usually, they have open or hidden links to U.S. imperialism and the transnational banks and corporations. In India, the ultra right Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rules, promoting its sectarian hatred of India's 300 million Muslims. But on Sept. 15, 45,000 Indians turned out for a demonstration organized by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in New Delhi, the first all-India protest rally in several years. The protesters demanded that the government step down and make way for a government of democratic national unity.