Green Left launched amid anti-war campaign

The first issue of Green Left Weekly carried news about the large rallies against the Gulf War.

As Green Left Weekly approaches its 1000th issue, more than 20 years after it first hit the streets, we will be looking back at some of the campaigns it has covered and its role as an alternative source of news.


It’s February 1991. Bob Hawke is Prime Minister (though not for much longer).

Average weekly earnings are just under $600, about half the average in 2013, but petrol is 70c a litre and a middy (285mL) of beer is $1.50. Interest rates are about 14.5%.

The last great Australian drought of the 20th century is about to start. By 1995 it will be the worst drought in Queensland’s history, with more than 40% of the eastern states drought declared and parts of the upper Darling River system collapsed.

The first mobile phone network is about to be set up and the world wide web comes alive – but who will ever use either of those?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released its First Assessment Report. With input from hundreds of climate specialists from all over the world, it concludes that:

“We are certain of the following ... emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. We calculate with confidence that ... CO2 has been responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect; long-lived gases would require immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% to stabilise their concentrations at today's levels.”

Lithuania votes for independence in spite of the presence of Soviet tanks in Vilnius. This will in effect end the Cold War and precipitate the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its march towards capitalism.

In Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia move to declare independence amid the first skirmishes of the Balkan War, while in South Africa the first negotiations between a multiracial ANC delegation and the de Klerk government aimed at dismantling apartheid are held.

In the Middle East, Operation Desert Storm, US code for its first Iraq war, continues unabated. Australia has willingly joined a coalition of 34 nations, led by the US and chiefly financed by Saudi Arabia, to punish Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait.

And on February 18, a new independent newspaper is born. It is named Green Left Weekly to leave no doubt about its intention to provide a weekly dose of news and comment slanted towards environmental issues with a left-wing bent.

Backed by the Democratic Socialist Party, which had previously published Direct Action, GLW was different because it was produced by a broad range of activists in progressive causes around Australia.

As the paper’s first editorial makes clear:

“This is a paper by and for the green and progressive movement. We would like it to reflect the movement in action and in discussion. We want to reflect the controversies and the concerns as well as the achievements and celebrations.”

Initially financed by an early form of crowdfunding — supporters were urged to buy a $50 share, which entitled them to vote at meetings setting the paper's editorial policy and electing its board of management — the paper soon found its readership.

The first issue carried news about the large rallies against the Gulf War and the front cover had the slogan “Stop the war, act now!” Because the war (and subsequently the big anti-war movement) broke out before GLW could be launched, the editors rushed out a four-page broadsheet that was sold at the multiple rallies involving tens of thousands of people around the country.

Other articles in issue #1 included a feature on native forest logging, the near-breakdown of Australia’s social welfare system and an interview by our Moscow correspondent with a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It also had correspondents reporting from Mexico, Athens, Budapest, Berlin and Prague.

Since the first issue, the aim of GLW has been to give readers a forum for discussion and a source of information about grassroots campaigns, environmental issues, revolutions, local and international struggles, wins and losses. This tradition continues today.

Come and help GLW celebrate this 1000-issue milestone and help support the paper to survive for many years to come.

[Events will be held in several cities in March. Click here for details of the event in Sydney.]

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