Lisa Macdonald

More than 100 people filled Leichhardt’s Palace Cinema on November 24 for the Sydney premiere screening of Growing Change: A Journey Inside Venezuela’s Food Revolution. The documentary, made by filmmaker and solidarity activist Simon Cunich, examines the global food crisis that leaves hundreds of millions of people in hunger and is rapidly depleting the soil fertility on which long-term food security depends.
It can sometimes feel like we’re losing a race against time to avoid environmental catastrophe and social collapse. Climate change is already extinguishing species, destroying essential food production and forcing thousands of people to flee their island homes. People are directly affected by more wars than ever before in history. While the underlying causes of the recent global financial crisis remain, governments are imposing vicious austerity policies on the majority of people in the Global North and South to pay for the capitalists’ greed.
Six activists arrested in Harare, along with 39 others, were finally granted bail on March 16 after a month in jail. The activists were arrested for attending a video screening of footage from the people’s uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. However, the six need to raise US$12,000 to pay their bail — far more than they can afford. An appeal is being launched internationally to raise the funds needed to pay the activists’ bail (see below for details). The bail conditions require the six to surrender passports and travelling documents. They must report three times a week to the police.
On March 8, women’s rights campaigners around the world will celebrate the 100th International Women’s Day (IWD). There could be no more fitting testament to the meaning of IWD than the words of one of the thousands of Egyptian women who joined the democracy protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo last month. The people’s struggle to be rid of dictator Hosni Mubarak, she said, is also a struggle for women’s rights: "[Before] we had nothing, now I guess we will take everything." IWD was born in a time of great social turbulence and huge struggles by ordinary people for a better life.
Friends of Cuba in Australia are invited to take part in the sixth International Brigade of Volunteer Work and Solidarity with Cuba, which will run from April 25 to May 7, 2011. The tour, which is organised by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s defeat of the US invasion at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) in the Matanzas province.
In 2005, the people of Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, elected the poor nation’s first Indigenous president: Evo Morales from the Movement for Socialism (MAS). Since then, the people’s struggles to end multinational corporations’ plunder of Bolivia’s natural resources, and for forms of development and democracy that meet the needs of the majority, have captured the attention of oppressed people around the world.
“Nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale” said a November 3-5 meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) nations of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The meeting rejected the privatisation of nature, in which “nature is seen as ‘capital’ for producing tradable environmental goods and services … and assigned a price so that they can be commercialised with the purpose of obtaining profits”.
One of the most vital features of the Bolivarian revolution underway in Venezuela is the development by workers and their organisations of different forms of workers’ control in their workplaces and communities. The increasing participation and control by workers is taking place at the same time as hundreds of companies have been nationalised.
The contrast is striking. As Australia’s state and federal governments continue their bloody-minded corporatisation and privatisation of our few remaining public assets, the revolutionary government of Venezuela is bringing important industries and sectors into public ownership and control.
Over October 16-17, 120 people participated in lively and informative discussions at the Latin America Solidarity Conference. “Challenging corporate globalisation: people’s power is changing the world” was organised by the Latin America Social Forum. LASF brings together the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN — Australia), Guatemala Human Rights Committee, Ibiray-Fondo Raul Sendic (Uruguay), Honduras’ National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and Socialist Alliance.
With the symptoms of social and environmental crisis all around us — runaway climate change, Third World poverty, seemingly endless wars — it is sometimes easy to feel discouraged about our ability to change “the way things are”. We can forget that millions of ordinary people have many times over said “enough is enough” and come together to take action to change history.
Humanity is in a race against time to avoid the environmental and social catastrophe caused by climate change. At times, it seems we are losing the race. When we look at the sabotage of international summits by the rich countries, or the false solutions peddled by governments and corporate polluters, the challenge we face can seem overwhelming. But globally, there is a rising people’s movement demanding real action on climate. This movement gives reason for hope and inspiration.
On June 30, 31 mainly young activists set off from around NSW in an old converted school bus, for the “Indigenous Solidarity Rides” heading to an Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs over July 6-11. At the same time, 25 activists from Brisbane headed to the convergence, also in a bus, as part of the “Justice Ride”.
Venezuelan trade unionist and community educator Alexis Adarfio Marin visited Australia last month, informing many audiences of the radical changes being carried out by Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution. Adarfio was a guest of the Search Foundation, which hosted a range of international guest speakers at its Australian Left Renewal Conference in Sydney over May 29-30.
On April 13, people around the world celebrated the eighth anniversary of the Venezuelans’ defeat of a coup against President Hugo Chavez. The US-backed coup, on April 11, 2002, lasted only 48 hours, overturned by a massive mobilisation on the streets of supporters of the radical changes being led by Chavez.
Ferne Edwards, a PhD student at the Australian National University who researches sustainable food movements, cities and climate change, was so inspired by the social changes in Venezuela when she visited there as part of a food sovereignty tour in 2009 that she decided to organise an opportunity for other Australians to visit and see it for themselves.

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