The release of David Hicks after conviction on a pretty minor charge, and the spectacular collapse of the case against Dr Haneef both suggested that the "anti-terror" laws might not be used so enthusiastically by the government in future. Why, perhaps we might even go back to using the myriad of existing ordinary laws to convict anyone who commits a violent crime!
However there are a disturbing number of serious cases under the new anti-terror laws still being pursued by the police and the government. Perhaps the most disturbing case of all is the trial of the Barwon 13, currently being held in Melbourne. This case highlights a number of worrying aspects to the anti-terror laws, in particular, the perniciously vague and general nature of some of the new charges.
When the men were originally arrested, politicians and police chiefs declared that a "major" terrorist plot had been thwarted. The Barwon 13, however, have not been charged with actually planning, committing or preparing for any specific terrorist act.
Instead, they stand accused of financing and belonging to, an unspecified, unnamed and unlisted terrorist organisation — a charge only made possible after the anti-terror laws were hurriedly amended to allow prosecution for non-specific "support" for terrorism.
For this they have already been in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison, routinely shackled and mistreated, for the past two years. Whether or not the trial determines that the men are "guilty", one thing is already clear — it's possible now to be jailed and pre-emptively punished merely for discussing your views, extremist or otherwise.
Melbourne group Civil Rights Defence held a small picket outside the first day of the trial and plan to call further actions. Anyone concerned about these issues should come along to a CRD meeting, on Tuesday nights at the New International Bookshop at Trades Hall. For more information, phone CRD on 0407 856 628.
Jill Sparrow, Melbourne [Abridged]
I thought Stu Harrison's review of Naomi Kline's new book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism (GLW #728), was great, but I think it was far too brief for such a major work and I disagree with him when he wrote, "A must for all economics students and those that are yet to grasp the devastating nature of capitalism."
Kline's Shock Doctrine illustrates to me what Karl Marx said — that the highest form of economics is politics. Kline has written an enormous political work that is a must for any socialist, unionist, environmentalist, human rights activist, solidarity activist, and anyone who gives a thought about any concept of justice and humanity's survival on this planet.
It is in the league of other major political works such as John Pilger's New Rulers of The World and A Secret Country, Noam Chomsky's Necessary Illusions and Hegemony or Survival: America's quest for global dominance and Tariq Ali's Clash of Fundamentalisms, Bush in Babylon and Pirates of the Caribbean — Axis of Hope.
Kline spent three years researching and writing this book and has 400 footnotes to back up everything she writes, exposing the ruthless and inhumane nature of Milton Friedman's Chicago school of economic policies that is the ruthless capitalist mantra of privatise, deregulate, cut government services and destroy unions.
I would also encourage people to go on the Facebook group, Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein — ready to discuss it, where I've posted Harrison's review and Kline's Shock Doctrine website <doctrine>. I look forward to seeing the film Shock Doctrine, by Alfonso Cuaron and Naomi Klein, directed by Jonas Cuaron.
The critics of the current leadership of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, such as Mary Merkenich ("Victorian teachers attend biggest ever stop-work rally", GLW #740), have to face the fact that teachers themselves keep on endorsing poor deals with the government.
As the Hampton Park Secondary College timetabler until the end of 2004, I organised that school with a maximum regular teaching load of 16 hours 48 minutes a week, a fortnightly extra and home group of nine minutes a day, and the capacity for decent time allowances (deductions from teaching loads for leadership responsibilities). These were the best conditions in the state — better even than those that applied under the 1980s agreements. They were the ideal towards which other teachers should have worked.
Instead, Victorian teachers foolishly endorsed the 2004 enterprise bargaining agreement by a three-to-one majority, as a direct result of which the teachers at Hampton Park, who intelligently voted against the proposed EBA, were forced to accept higher teaching loads, longer periods, inadequate time allowances and the abolition of their management advisory committee.
In fact, the log of claims has given up completely on seeking a minimum time allowance pool.
The Brumby government expects teachers to cave in as they did in 2001 and 2004. If teachers really want the pay and conditions that a much poorer state could easily afford more than a quarter of a century ago, they will have to stop blaming the union leaders and start walking out of their schools en masse. This doesn't mean the supposed record of 10,000 at the recent strike meeting, but the 16,000 at the strike meeting under the Kirner government in 1990.
As a feminist, it was great to see "Why be a feminist activist today?" (GLW #740). However, it seemed to try to push the issue of women's oppression into class oppression. It's not only capitalists who benefit from sexism. Men as a class also benefit from sexism in the same way that First World working people as a class benefit from Third World exploitation. The reduction of women's oppression to a subset of class oppression absolves men of responsibility for looking at how they benefit from sexism and how certain behaviour perpetuates it.
My second issue was that there was no mention of the pornography industry. This blatantly sexist multi-billion dollar industry has become so mainstream that it's not uncommon for high-school kids to host "pimps & hoes" parties. Unfortunately the only Resistance text dealing specifically with this issue is Pornography: Silence or Choice (how's that for a false dichotomy!) which misrepresents many anti-pornography arguments to frankly comical extremes that are embarrassingly obvious to anyone who has actually read a significant amount of the feminists it maligns, namely Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon. When one quote contains no less than four ellipses, you can tell something fishy is going on.
While the advent of the internet has made much of the old censorship debate obsolete, a new wave of radical feminist work has been published by authors such as Gail Dines and Robert Jensen. It would be fantastic and crucial to the development of effective feminist activism to see Resistance make another attempt at addressing this issue a more honest way. Despite my gripes, Zivcic and Pike wrote an excellent article.
US President George Bush calls for democracy and change in Cuba which has managed to match the US on literacy and life expectancy while achieving a lower infant mortality rate. True, Cuban society is repressive of freedoms we take for granted, but the data suggest that changes are desperately needed in the US with 10 times the per capita GDP of Cuba and no economic embargoes to contend with. When is Bush going to call Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to account for their lack of democracy and — come to think of it — Bush's own 2000 election win was definitely an affront to democracy.
Byron Bay, NSW