Tag Archives: poverty

Dear Mandela, or, The Politic of Human Dignity

www.dearmandela.com

When their shantytowns are threatened with mass eviction, three ‘young lions’ of South Africa’s new generation rise from the shacks and take their government to the highest court in the land, putting the promises of democracy to the test.

UPCOMING SCREENINGS

23 November 2012 – Wuppertal, GERMANY
19:00 – Autonomes Zentrum,
Markomannenstr. 3, 42105 Wuppertal
*Q&A with Abahlali members
TJ Ngongoma & Mzwakhe Mdlalose

26 November 2012 – Gothenburg, GERMANY
15:00. University of Gothenburg, School of Global Studies (organized by the Gothenburg Centre of Globalization and Development)
*Q&A with Abahlali members
TJ Ngongoma & Mzwakhe Mdlalose

26 November 2012 – Gothenburg, GERMANY
18:30. Hammarkullen Folkets Hus, Gothenburg
(organized by the Centre for Urban Studies at University of Gothenburg and Folkets Hus)
*Q&A with Abahlali members
TJ Ngongoma & Mzwakhe Mdlalose

27 November 2012 – Gothenburg, GERMANY
18:00 at Vårvindens Youth Centre in Biskopsgården, Daggdroppegatan 3, Gothenburg
*Q&A with Abahlali members
TJ Ngongoma & Mzwakhe Mdlalose

5 December, 2012 – New Jersey, USA
12:00pm – 3:00pm. Rutgers University
*Q&A with filmmaker Dara Kell & Omotayo Jolaosho
http://ruevents.rutgers.edu/events/displayEvent.html?eventId=74042

TAKE ACTION

5 things you can do right now:

1. SIGN AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S PETITION TO STOP FORCED EVICTIONS IN AFRICA: http://www.amnesty.org/en/end-forced-evictions

2. HOST A SCREENING OF DEAR MANDELA
To request a community screening kit, please contact us at sleepinggiantfilms@gmail.com.

3. LEARN MORE ABOUT ABAHLALI BASEMJONDOLO
Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Shack Dwellers Movement of South Africa, has a fantastic website with a rich library of articles and readings. Please visit them at http://abahlali.org/

4. DOCUMENT EVICTIONS
Our partner WITNESS empowers people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change. They have created guides for video advocacy—learn more and get involved with their work here: http://www.witness.org/training

5. BUILD THE MOVEMENT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Dear Mandela is about a social movement in South Africa, but there are similar movements all around the world. Here are just a few of the organizations in our network that you can get involved with or support:

IN THE UNITED STATES:

THE CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. http://ccrjustice.org/

POVERTY INITIATIVE at Union Theological Seminary:
The Poverty Initiative’s mission is to raise up generations of religious and community leaders committed to building a movement to end poverty, led by the poor. http://www.povertyinitiative.org/

PICTURE THE HOMELESS is an organization founded on the principle that in order to end homelessness, people who are homeless must become an organized, effective voice for systemic change. We have a track record of developing leadership among homeless people to impact policies and systems that affect their lives and our efforts have created space for homeless people, and their agenda, within the broader social justice movement. http://picturethehomeless.org/

The Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) exists to build the media and communications infrastructure for a movement to end poverty, led by poor and working people, united across color lines. http://mediamobilizing.org/

NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS INITIATIVE:
In partnership with communities, NESRI works to build a broad movement for economic & social rights, including health, housing, education and work with dignity. Based on the principle that fundamental human needs create human rights obligations on the part of government and the private sector, NESRI advocates for public policies that guarantee the universal and equitable fulfillment of these rights in the United States. http://nesri.org/

IN SOUTH AFRICA:

SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (SERI) is a non-profit organization providing professional, dedicated and expert socio-economic rights assistance to individuals, communities and social movements in South Africa. SERI conducts research, engages with government, advocates for policy and legal reform, facilitates civil society coordination and mobilization, and litigates in the public interest. http://seri-sa.org/index.php

IN THE UNITED KINGDOM:

WAR ON WANT is a brilliant voice for ending forced evictions and fighting poverty. They work in partnership with grassroots organizations around the world, and have for years supported Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa. To get involved, visit http://www.waronwant.org/

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:
Amnesty International has a campaign dedicated to ending forced evictions in Africa. Learn more at: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=11180#map

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The Politic of Human Dignity
Presented by Lindela Figlan at the Anarchist Bookfair, London, 24 October 2012

The meaning of dignity is often misunderstood. Many people only think of dignity in relation to the economic status of those who are better off. This is understood to mean that a person with no money is taken as a person whose life and voice does not count and is therefore a person with no dignity. It is also understood that a person with money does count and is therefore a person with dignity. But no amount of money can buy dignity.

Money can buy many things. With money you can live in a house that will not be demolished without warning, that does not leak in the rain, that has water, toilets and electricity. With money you can even give your children their own rooms. With money you can buy your children education and know that if they fall sick or meet with an accident they well be well looked after.

But money does not buy dignity because to be a person with dignity you must recognise the dignity of others. No person is a complete person on their own, that is without others. In isiZulu we say “umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu”. This means that a person is a person because of other people. Rich people are always demanding that other people show respect to them just because they are rich. They are always forcing us to show respect to them. The politicians are the same. But there is no dignity in forcing other people to show respect to you. There is dignity in respecting the humanity of others and in being respected back.

As poor people we do not live in dignified conditions. In fact when it rains we live like pigs in the mud. Our shacks are always burning. We do not have toilets. We are disrespected by politicians and, when we have work, we are disrespected at work. Security guards and domestic workers are often treated as if we are not fully human. Sometimes we are also disrespected by NGOs, academics and other people that think that they have a right to lead the struggles of the poor and who get very angry when we explain that for us solidarity must be based on talking to us and not for us and thinking and deciding with us and not for us.

But poor as we are we achieve our own dignity. Some people achieve dignity in their churches. Some achieve dignity through culture, in something like a choir. And we achieve dignity in the togetherness of our struggle. Our struggle is a space of dignity. Here we can express our suffering, we can think together and we can support each other. Our struggle is also a tool to fight for a world in which our dignity, and the dignity of all people, is recognised. Our struggle gives us dignity now and it also aims to create a work in which land, wealth and political power are shared amongst the people.

S’bu Zikode first called this a living communism, a communism that is fully in the hands of the people. Therefore our struggle is based on the idea that defending our dignity now is the best way to create a world that respects everyone’s dignity in the future.

Our struggle is a living politic. It is a politic that everyone can understand and which is owned and shaped by the people. It is rooted in our lives as we live them everyday. We do not see politics as something that should be left to political experts or dominated by political experts.

Before Abahlali baseMjondolo was formed the shack dwellers in South Africa were considered by government and some other people in our society, people in NGOs, universities and the media, to be the undeserving poor. This claim came as the result of the perception that the poor are lazy, uneducated and people who do not think and therefore do not count the same as other human beings.

The general public, civil society and the media could not defend the poor against this indignity. The media had little or nothing to report on anything that surrounds shack dwellers, be it good or bad, that considered us as human beings or citizens. We were mostly seen as a threat to society – as a problem to be controlled. When shacks were on fire radios and televisions would not air or broadcast this. On the other side the state would refuse any provision of basic services to the shack settlements or to engage us as citizens. We were always considered as people who cannot think for ourselves. Someone from somewhere else would always be hired and paid to think for us, to represent us and to take decisions on our behalf. This was the state mentality towards the poor. It was also the mentality of most NGOs and of most of civil society. It has also been the mentality of what we have called the regressive left – that part of the left that thinks that its job is to think for the poor rather than with the poor and that tries by all means, including calling us criminals and supporting state propaganda and repression, to ruin what it cannot rule.

The rights that we have on paper were always refused in reality. This included our rights as citizens, our rights to the cities and our rights to respect and dignity. Whenever we asked for our rights to be respected, for our humanity to be recognised, we were presented as troublemakers, as people that were being used by others, or as criminals. Our request to participate in the discussions about our own lives was taken as a threat. It is important that everyone understands that in this regard civil society and the left was often no different to the state.

Abahlali has been organising and mobilising to build the power of the poor from below. We do not organise people. We organise ourselves. When people want to join our movement we explain that they must organise ourselves and that we will struggle with them and not for them. We ask them to think about this seriously, to discuss it with their neighbours and, if they accept that we will only struggle with them and not for them, then we welcome them into the movement. It can take a long time to join our movement. You must understand it well and you must be serious.

We do not support any political parties or vote in elections. Politicians are always using the people’s suffering and struggles as ladders to build their own power. We have therefore decided that we will not keep on giving our power away. We build our own power in our communities and encourage people to also build their own power where they work, study and pray. Where possible we govern our own communities ourselves.

Our struggle started when we rejected the authority of the ward councillors and decided to represent ourselves. Today a new struggle is starting as workers on the mines reject the authority of the trade unions and represent themselves. We are hoping that the struggles in the shacks and on the mines and in other work places can come together. But struggle is very dangerous. As the poor, in the shacks and working in the mines, we are not allowed to think and act for ourselves. It is seen as criminal, even as treason.

We have learnt that this order is one that cannot respect our humanity. In fact this order is based on our exploitation and exclusion. This order is designed to oppress us. Therefore we have understood that, as Mnikelo Ndabankulu first said, it is good to be out of order. We are not loyal to this order. We are loyal to our human dignity and to the human dignity of others and when that requires us to be out of order we are prepared to be out of order.

We have dedicated a lot of our energy in building a University of Abahlali where we can discuss and learn together. Here we educate ourselves to refuse to be co-opted into a system that promotes the indignity of others. We educate ourselves to refuse to be shaken by the politic of fear created by the political parties and the police. In 2009 our movement was attacked in Kennedy Road and in Pemary Ridge. Many of us lost everything and had to flee. Some of us had to go underground. This attack was aimed at destroying our movement. A senior politician by the name of Willes Mchunu said that a decision had been taken to ‘disband’ our movement. However we are still here. We continue to exist and to struggle in the province where warlordism and assassination is the order of the day. We continue to try to make sure that the poor remain permanently organised and strong. This has helped us to build a strong voice for the movement. As a result of the power that we have built from the ground up we have been able to speak for ourselves in many spaces that were previously barred to us. For us it is important that, just as we occupy land in the cities, we must also occupy our own space in all discussions. This is the only way that we can take our struggle out of the shacks and into spaces from which the poor have been excluded. Of course this requires us to break the protocols that maintain power in certain circles by depriving others an equal chance to participate in these circles.

Today, as a result of our struggle and the struggles of other poor people, we see a slow shift away from seeing shack settlements as something to be bulldozed without any sense that there are human lives in these places. There is now recognition that there are human lives in the shacks. We have stopped evictions in many settlements. In some settlements we have won agreements to upgrade these settlements with proper services and houses instead of forcibly removing people to the human dumping grounds called transit camps. Basic services such as water and sanitation, refuse collection, road access, electricity etc which were being denied to us are now being rolled out. In Durban the eThekwini Municipality long had a policy that forbids electrification of any shack settlement in the city. The result of this is constant fires. Today this killer electricity policy is under review and a pilot project to roll electricity in some four settlements has begun. To survive day by day these services are needed and they are important steps on the road to winning material conditions that accord with human dignity. To talk about an equal and a just society without land, houses and services for all is bizarre. This progress has come through the years of struggle and the power of the organized poor. Of course we still have a very long road to go. And with state repression getting worse all the time that road is a dangerous one.

As repression gets worse solidarity becomes more and more important. We see the role of NGOs and progressive forces being to support and strengthen the work of what we call our amabhuto and the NGOs call social movements – to work with our movements in a way that respects our autonomy. We urge the NGOs to be responsive and to learn from those who are struggling about the best way to support them without assuming that we need to be given political direction or creating the dependency syndrome. In order to do so you will have to familiarise with the practices of the movements. War on Want and the Church Land Programme are some of the very few organisations that have demonstrated this culture over years. They have had to revisit their strategic planning and to remove the red tape that prevented them from being able to offer effective support when comrades are in jail and in need of lawyers, bail money or facing death threats and in need of safe homes. They have not wasted our time with donor requirements and protocols that sometimes undermine and compromise our struggles. They have never tried to impose their own agendas on our struggles. They have understood that the struggle for human dignity is often criminalised. They have understood that they oppressed have every right to lead their own struggles.

We know that here in Britain the working class and the poor are being made to pay the price for the greed of the rich. We know that you are under attack from a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. We know that you are resisting. We are in solidarity with you and with your struggles. If there are ways that we can support you please let us know. You are all welcome to visit us in South Africa. There are some ways in which are struggles are very different. But we face a common enemy in the form of the system that is known as capitalism.

http://www.abahlali.org

Sekwanele!
No House! No Land! No Vote!
Everyone Counts

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More than a decade after apartheid ended millions of South Africans still live in basic home-made shacks. We hear from the inhabitants as they eloquently argue their case for real citizenship rights. 

The shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, began in 2005. Their slogan is ‘Talk to us, not about us.’ ‘It’s not that people like to live in shacks. No one will ever want to live in these conditions but they need to be close to their work’ explains S’bu Zikode, Abahlali’s elected leader. However, the group has not been welcomed by the ANC. They’ve been met with aggression rather than with negotiations. Police shot Mariet Kikine with six rubber bullets at a peaceful demonstration. ‘I’m not stopping to fight the government for my rights. Now they’ve made me brave.’ In the build-up to the 2010 soccer World Cup, Durban shack dwellers fear they will be bulldozed out of the city, or arrested. ‘This new legislation makes it a crime to build shacks or resist demolition and eviction.’ But the shack dwellers are determined not to give up.

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Editor’s Note. Thanks to the Reclaiming Spaces mailing list and Mute Magazine for the heads-up, links to the videos, and the text of Mr. Figlan’s speech.

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Filed under activism, film and video, interviews, urban movements (right to the city)

Ilya Matveev, “The ‘Welfare’ State Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

Originally published in Russian at: http://russ.ru/Mirovaya-povestka/Social-nee-nekuda

The “Welfare” State Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Ilya Matveev

The 1993 Constitution boldly declares the Russian Federation a welfare state. [1] This definition is not found in every modern constitution. You will not find it in the basic laws of Poland (1997), Finland (1999) or Switzerland (1999). Among the developed countries, it seems, only Germany, France and Spain have the constitutional status of welfare states. [2]

In Russia, however, this proud moniker has always played a special role, and during the Putin period it has been even more significant. For the past decade, official propaganda has been built around “social commitments,” which the government, allegedly, fulfills and exceeds. (Moreover, it is assumed that social progress should compensate for the lack of civil rights, about which pesky humans rights activists at home and observers abroad constantly remind the regime.)

Powerful organizations and tens of thousands of “welfare” specialists stand watch over the Russian welfare state. If you counted the numbers of people on staff at the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), its member unions and think thanks, the Russian Trilateral Commission, and other institutions and organizations engaged in the business of “social dialogue” and “decent living standards,” you would end up with several tens of thousands of people. It is possible that Russia has only one competitor in the world in terms of its elaborate “welfare” bureaucracy—China.

The system of trade unions we inherited from the Soviet Union is still remarkably integrated into all levels of government. Thus, for example, there are eight trade union representatives in the current State Duma, and MP Andrei Isayev, who sits on the executive council of the ruling United Russia party, serves as a deputy chairman of the FNPR on a voluntary basis.

The “welfare” bureaucracy is provided a permanent stage on which it habitually does battle with notional “internal enemies”—the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Institute of Contemporary Development (a Medvedev-affiliated think thank) and its Strategy 2020 plan, other neoliberal think tanks, and employer lobbying organizations. In this noisy fight (which never, however, exceeds certain bounds), the “welfare” bloc often wins, because Putin frequently comes down on its side. The relations among the FNPR (the main mobilizing force in Putin’s Popular Front), the welfare wing of United Russia, and Putin resemble a veritable “symphony of powers.” It would seem that the welfare state in Russia has a bright future ahead of it.

What is really going on?

It is clear that reality on the ground has little to do with existing laws and even less to do with the solemn declarations of the authorities and the union bosses. And yet in this text I would like to focus on the legislative provisions that make up the legal architecture of our welfare state, as guaranteed by the Constitution and Putin’s programmatic articles.

The Minimum Wage

In Russia, there is no minimum wage as such. The statutory minimum wage—whose acronym in Russian is “MROT” (minimal’nyi razmer oplaty truda)—is currently 4,600 rubles a month [approx. 114 euros], which is 67% of the legal monthly subsistence minimum, now set at 6,800 rubles [approx. 169 euros].

A situation where the state-guaranteed minimum wage is below the subsistence minimum is an economic absurdity. The government declares, in effect, that this wage must not be less than a certain amount, but even by its own calculations no one can live on this amount of money. Then what, exactly, does this amount represent? Where does it comes from and what do we need it for?

Certain issues, of course, are raised by the amount of the subsistence minimum (which in any case is higher than that of the MROT). It is calculated based on the value of the “consumer goods basket,” whose particular charms (one overgarment should last a person eight years, fifty rubles a month on entertainment, etc.) are well known.

As a result of some complex shuffling, the cost of the consumer goods basket will be increased by 4.2% in 2013 to a whopping 6,016 rubles a month [approx. 150 euros]. It is clear that this figure, the subsistence minimum and the MROT have no basis in reality and cannot serve either as regulatory instruments or indices of poverty.

And yet a minimum wage is guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 7), just like the status of the “welfare” state itself. In fact, this clause of our Constitution is implemented to the same extent as the entire 1936 “Stalin” Constitution.

By comparison, in France, our partner in the “welfare” states group, the minimum wage is about 1,400 euros per month (9.2 euros per hour for a thirty-five-hour work week). In the United States, a country where entire institutions are busy trying to prove that the minimum wage is economically and socially counterproductive, there is nevertheless a minimum wage, which is set at 7.25 USD per hour (or about $1,300 a month) at the federal level. Individual states have the right to set their own minimum wage, but it cannot be lower than the federal minimum.

Interestingly, the Health and Social Development Ministry estimates the cost of raising the MROT to the level of the subsistence minimum at 55 billion rubles [approx. 1.368 billion euros], while the Ministry of Finance says this would cost 60 billion rubles [approx. 1.492 billion euros]. Nearly 300 billion rubles [approx. 7.46 billion euros] were spent on the notorious APEC summit in Vladivostok, but spending six times less than that amount to increase the MROT does not figure in the government’s plans. In 2013, the MROT will be set at 5,200 rubles [approx. 129 euros]—that is, it will still be lower than the subsistence minimum. And, as the Finance Ministry proudly notes, this figure will be achieved without additional budget expenditures.

By pursuing this policy, the authorities not only demonstrate that a situation where the minimum wage is below the threshold for physical survival is, in their opinion, all right. They also stubbornly refuse to implement their own laws, namely, the Labor Code, which contains a clause stating that the MROT may not be lower than the subsistence minimum.

It is also significant that the debate about the minimum wage in Russia is focused on the level of absolute poverty and physical survival (although the MROT, despite Isayev’s endless chatter, has not reached even this level over the past ten years), whereas in Europe the focus is on achieving a “living wage,” not a “subsistence wage.” A living wage is meant to provide a relatively decent standard of living, not merely ward off death by starvation. However, when it comes to the APEC Summit and the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian “welfare” state has no intention of protecting its working citizens even from death by starvation. [3]

Strikes

In Russia, strikes are banned for all intents and purposes. Despite a partial change in the law in 2011, the rules on strikes and labor disputes virtually eliminate the possibility of legal protests by workers.

For some categories of workers—railroad workers and air traffic controllers—strikes are prohibited directly. For all other categories of workers, the ban is not direct, but no less effective for all that.

Protest strikes against government economic and social policy, solidarity strikes, and strikes to demand union recognition are illegal in Russia. Despite the fact that they are all mentioned in the seminal 87th Convention of the International Labour Organization, “Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise,” which was ratified by Russia, it is prohibited to carry out such strikes in Russia. The government has ignored related ILO recommendations.

Russian workers can strike only as part of a collective bargaining dispute (this is even enshrined in Article 37 of the Constitution). However, the procedure for collective bargaining disputes is so complicated that the courts can always find and do find collective bargaining units guilty of various violations. Employees must notify the employer of their intention to strike five to seven days in advance (until 2011, this period was ten days). During this time, the employer has the right to appeal to the courts, which can rule the announced strike—that is, a strike that has not yet begun—illegal.

The impact of these extremely repressive rules is as follows. In 2008, according to official data from Rosstat, there were four strikes in Russia; in 2009, one; in 2010, none; and in 2011, two. Independent analysts, such as those at the Center for Social and Labor Rights, register hundreds of labor disputes annually, some of which involve work stoppages, but the vast majority of these occur within the legal gray zone. Under current law, it is almost impossible to carry out a full-fledged strike, and the collective bargaining procedure is so complex that, according to the Center, “nine out of ten [labor] protests take place in ways not stipulated by labor laws, while only one in ten adopt legal forms.” [4]

Conclusion

A state-guaranteed minimum wage and the freedom to engage in labor disputes, including strikes, are the foundations of the welfare state. In Russia, these social rights are not implemented in practice, nor are they even fully guaranteed by law. Since Putin has come to power, the FNPR and the government’s “welfare” bloc have neither increased the MROT to the minimum subsistence level nor simplified the procedure for collective bargaining disputes and strikes, which was made extremely complicated, in fact, by the new Labor Code adopted in 2001. Workers in Russia are deprived both of a minimum guaranteed income and effective means for raising wages to acceptable levels. This makes our country more of an anti-welfare state than a welfare state.

In fact, none of the things enumerated in Article 7 of the Russian Federation Constitution—“labor and the health of the people”; “guaranteed minimum wages and salaries”; “state support […] to the family, maternity, paternity and childhood, to disabled persons and the elderly”; a “system of social services, […] state pensions, allowances and other social security guarantees”—are fully provided, even by the letter of the law, despite the massive bureaucracy employed only in solving these problems.

That is why the slogan “For the welfare state!” chanted at rallies held by a broad coalition of Russian leftist groups, independent trade unions, social movements, educators and students on October 7, the World Day for Decent Work (typically, the FNPR limited its marking of the occasion to conferences and round tables), was an offensive rather than defensive tactic. By and large, there has never been a welfare state in Russia, and this is our difference from Europe. The twentieth-century Russian state was socialist, and over the past twenty years it has been a post-socialist state, not a welfare state. Building a genuine welfare state is our primary task, and it can only be achieved by a broad and sustained mobilization of workers organized into trade unions and social movements.

Ilya Matveev is a postgraduate student in political theory at Moscow State University and an activist with the Russian Socialist Movement.

Notes

1. The exact term in Russian is a “social” (sotsial’noe) state: “The Russian Federation is a social State whose policy is aimed at creating conditions for a worthy life and a free development of man.”

2. V.E. Chirkin, “Konstitutsiia i sotsial’noe gosudarstvo,” Konstitutsionnyi vestnik, 1 (19) (2008).

3. According to official statistics, around 13% of the Russian population—approximately 18 million people—live below the poverty line. But this calculation is based, yet again, on the official subsistence minimum, unlike in the EU countries, where the poverty line is defined as 60% of median disposal household income. In Russia, the average monthly salary is 27,000 rubles [approx. 670 euros]. 60% of that figure is around 16,000 rubles: around forty to fifty percent of the Russian people have a monthly income of less than this amount. Thus, if the poverty line in Russia were calculated according to EU standards, half its population would be deemed impoverished. In addition, according to the FNPR’s statistics, around one to two million Russians have an over-the-table wage that is less than the MROT, that is, less than 4,600 rubles a month. And this despite the fact that, by law, employers are supposed to be fined by the authorities for paying their employees less than the minimum wage.

4. For more details, see Elena Gerasimova, “Zakonodatel’stvo Rossii o kollektivnykh trudovykh sporakh i zabastovkakh: problemy i napravleniia sovershenstvovaniia,” Trudovoe pravo v Rossii i za rubezhom, 1 (2012). According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, there were 262 labor disputes in 2011 in Russia; 91 of them involved work stoppages—that is, they were essentially strikes. These statistics were compiled from reports in the mass media, but since many such conflicts are not reported by the press, their actual numbers are probably much higher.

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“An Extraordinary Achievement”

www.aljazeera.com

Barack Obama has welcomed home some of the last US troops from Iraq in a ceremony to mark the coming end of his country’s military campaign after nearly nine years of war.

The US president paid tribute to soldiers gathered at the Fort Bragg military station in North Carolina on Wednesday, saying he was proud to welcome them home after what he called an “extraordinary achievement”.

Juan Cole does the numbers:

Population of Iraq: 30 million.

Number of Iraqis killed in attacks in November 2011: 187

Average monthly civilian deaths in Afghanistan War, first half of 2011: 243

Percentage of Iraqis who lived in slum conditions in 2000: 17

Percentage of Iraqis who live in slum conditions in 2011: 50

Number of the 30 million Iraqis living below the poverty line: 7 million.

Number of Iraqis who died of violence 2003-2011: 150,000 to 400,000.

Orphans in Iraq: 4.5 million.

Orphans living in the streets: 600,000.

Number of women, mainly widows, who are primary breadwinners in family: 2 million.

Iraqi refugees displaced by the American war to Syria: 1 million

Internally displaced [pdf] persons in Iraq: 1.3 million

Proportion of displaced persons who have returned home since 2008: 1/8

Rank of Iraq on Corruption Index among 182 countries: 175

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