Asia-Pacific conference draws globalisation's dissidents

March 27, 2002


SYDNEY — A week out from the start of the Second Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference, the phones were running hot in the Sydney office used by the young voluntary conference organising team headed by Iggy Kim. There were last-minute revisions of agenda, more offers of workshops and papers, unexpected international participants and media enquiries.

"This conference has really taken off", said Kim. "We have over 50 international guests and hundreds of local activists travelling to Sydney for the conference."

The first Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference held in Sydney in 1998 drew 750 participants but this year the organisers expect a significantly bigger turnout.

"People are attracted to a conference like this because they know there will be an exciting discussion and collaboration between some of the most dynamic progressive movements and parties in the region", says John Percy, national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Party, which initiated and organised the first conference.

The second conference has attracted an impressive line-up of capitalist globalisation's dissidents from the region.

There is Dita Sari from the rapidly growing independent trade union movement in Indonesia. She is also a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party which spearheads the dramatic revival of the Indonesian left. In June the PRD hosted an Asia-Pacific Solidarity Conference in Jakarta which was forced to disband when attacked by police and right-wing thugs.

Coming from Aceh, where a popular secessionist movement is being repressed by the Indonesian armed forces, will be Kautsar, chairperson of the Acehnese People's Democratic Resistance Front.

Both Sari and Kautsar have been political detainees of the Indonesian state, the former under the Suharto regime and the latter during the Wahid presidency. Sari had dared to organise a union and Kautsar got into trouble for organising a large demonstration against Exxon, which operates gas and oil refineries in Aceh.

The West Papuan national liberation movement will be represented by Dr John Ondawame and Sem Karoba, leaders of the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Frank Pascual, of the Philippines-based Resource Centre for People's Development, has been an international campaigner for the abolition of Third World debt. He will be joined from the Philippines by Sonny Melencio, chairperson of the Socialist Party of Labour; Victor Briz, president of the large BMP (Solidarity of Filipino Workers) union federation; and activists from Mindanao, a new target of US military intervention.

Pascual is one of the regional anti-globalisation activists who will be raising the formation of a Asia-Pacific Social Forum as a sequel to the 50,000-strong Second World Social Forum recently held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Brazil's Movement of Landless Peasants (MST), reputedly the largest social movement in Latin America are sending two delegates, Roberto Baggio and Amelia Franz, to the conference. Radical Argentinian journalist Luis Bilbao is also attending.

South Asian participants include Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of the gutsy Labour Party Pakistan, and Dipankar Bhattacharya, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

The CPIML's origins lie in the famous "Naxalite" guerrilla struggle in the 1970s. The party gave up guerrilla struggle for open mass work in the 1980s. Today it is a powerful force in the trade union, student and other social movements. It is also represented in some state and federal parliaments.

A delegation from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), India's biggest union confederation will also attend the conference.

Tahmeena Faryal, from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), will be forced to address the conference wearing a veil over her face because of death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, including those recently placed into power in Afghanistan by the US and its allies.

Participants from South Korea's militant labour movement include Lee Jong-hoi, chairperson of Power of the Working Class, and Won Young-su from the Korean Institute for Labour Studies and Policy.

Other countries from the Asia-Pacific that will be represented include East Timor, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

The broad representation of the region's progressive movements has attracted participants from other corners of the world.

From South Africa, will come Dale McKinley, an activist who was expelled from the South African Communist Party for his criticisms of the SACP's accommodation to neo-liberalism, and Nina Benjamin from Khanya College, a labour activist education centre.

European participants include Pierre Rousset, representing the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (EUL/NGL — a broad left alliance in the European Parliament); Eva Bjorklund, from the Left Party of Sweden; Jean-Pierre Page, a militant in the national leadership of the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the French Communist Party; and Alex Callinicos, a leader of the British Socialist Workers Party.

From the USA, the belly of the imperialist beast, will come Caroline Lund (Solidarity USA), Ahmed Shawki and Paul D'Amato (International Socialist Organization) and Michael Albert (the editor of excellent internet Zmag).

Albert, who describes himself as a socialist and an anarchist is widely respected for his constructive interventions into the international debates about tactics, strategy and vision for the new anti-globalisation movement.

Albert's participation underlines another attractive aspect of this conference. It encompasses a broad discussion between different political currents in a re-invigorated international left.

From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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