This week marks 25 years since Green Left Weekly was launched.
When it was first published on February 18, 1991, Bob Hawke was prime minister, the worst drought in Australia's recorded history was beginning and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had just released its First Assessment Report, which concluded that “immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% [were needed] to stabilise their concentrations at today's levels”.
The war in the Balkans was just beginning but the first US–Iraq War would draw to a close within a few days. Australia still welcomed refugees but the then-Labor government was already preparing to introduce mandatory detention for anyone arriving without a valid visa.
GLW was conceived, as the name suggests, as a paper that would provide a weekly dose of local and international news and comment, slanted towards environmental issues and with a left-wing bent. We aimed at reaching a broader audience than existing socialist papers that strictly “toed the party line”.
From the start, GLW published a wide range of opinions by activists involved in progressive causes around Australia. As well as providing space for debate, we also encouraged activism by advertising rallies, protests and forums on a range of issues and reports on them afterwards.
As the paper's first editorial made 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.”
GLW's aim is not to preach to the converted. By expressing socialist ideas in an accessible way, we try to reach out to people who do not consider themselves left-wing, to convince them that meaningful change will only come when a majority of the people in society engage in trying to bring that change about.
For GLW to survive as a strong, independent media outlet we need organisational support. The Socialist Alliance provides some of that. Members of the Socialist Alliance play a crucial role in writing, producing and fundraising for GLW. Every week, Socialist Alliance members distribute it at political rallies and forums, local markets and shopping centres, workplaces and university campuses.
However, active involvement in producing and distributing the paper goes beyond the Socialist Alliance membership and, crucially, the range of viewpoints expressed in the paper are broader than those of the Socialist Alliance.
The mainstream media have always restricted what is presented as news. In Australia today the mainstream media is highly monopolised and the spectrum of political opinions reflected is extremely narrow.
For 25 years GLW has been a beacon for people interested in real news. We report the resistance to government and corporate attacks and try to build links between people involved in environmental, feminist, LGBTI, anti-war, refugee rights, Aboriginal rights, anti-racist, trade union and many other campaigns.
GLW has been one of the few media outlets to oppose governments — Labor and Coalition — that have introduced anti-union legislation; privatised profit-making public corporations; introduced a regressive GST, which they are now seeking to increase; slashed university funding, forcing more and more students out of education; attacked land rights legislation, abolished the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), and are now trying to close remote communities; used every mechanism available to prevent refugees from gaining the right to asylum in Australia, causing great suffering as they locked up thousands in off-shore detention centres; prevented thousands of needy people from accessing welfare; and forced many thousands more to work for below subsistence wages on "Work for the Dole" schemes.
Our international coverage is truly global: unlike the mainstream media that treats the Third World — 80% of the world's population — as peripheral. We challenge the myths that justify war and unapologetically stand in solidarity with those resisting imperialism.
We are not afraid to challenge mainstream orthodoxy. For example, our solidarity with Palestine has resulted in GLW being condemned by conservative politicians in state and federal parliaments.
Reading a copy of GLW reveals just how much resistance there is to government and corporate attacks and encourages people to fight back. Since our first issue, GLW has cheered the wins, mourned the losses and encouraged ongoing campaigns, all while providing the best source of information about environmental issues, revolutions, local and international struggles and grassroots campaigns.
It is a tradition we intend to continue for another 25 years.