The evacuation of a besieged settlement of 1300 displaced people by the UN-sanctioned French and African Union peacekeeping forces on April 27 marked the disappearance of the Muslim community of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Until last year, 100,000 of Bangui’s 734,000 inhabitants were Muslim. Deutsche Welle said that day that after the convoy left with the displaced people, crowds chanted “Liberation!” and “We have cleaned Central African Republic of the Muslims!” They looted the deportees’ homes and trashed one of the city's few remaining mosques.
Tensions between the Colombian government and agrarian workers are reaching an all-time high. Strikes that began on April 28 have helped bring the country to a stand-still and sparked student protests violently that were suppressed by police. The farmers launched strikes in the face of the government’s failure to follow through on promises made after similar strikes last August. The strikers are seeking measures to alleviate rural poverty, among other deep-rooted problems they face.
In the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, more people died than over several days of fighting in the Donbass in Ukraine's east. In Kramatorsk in the eastern Donetsk Oblast province on the same day, however, government forces also excelled themselves, killing 10 unarmed local residents who had tried to block the path of armoured vehicles.
A familiar sea of red shirts, large banners and a revolutionary sing-along soundtrack: at first glance this year’s march for the International Workers Day on May 1 was business-as-usual in the Andean city of Merida. The celebratory atmosphere was due in part to the announcement by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on April 30 of a 30% rise in the national minimum wage.
The Chicago Socialist Campaign, a collaborative effort by activists and socialists from many movements and organisations in the city, has announced the candidacy of one of Chicago’s most well-known and respected community activists for city council. Jorge Mujica, an award-winning journalist and long-standing labour and immigrant rights activist, will challenge one of Chicago’s most politically connected and unaccountable aldermen for a city council seat.
Ecuador's Amazonian indigenous community of Sarayaku is in a state of rebellion against the central government after refusing entry to a police contingent arriving by helicopter on the morning of May 6. The helicopter landed, but was barely able to stay five minutes after being threatened by 300 people carrying machetes, muskets and a net to throw over the helicopter. “This is extremely serious, an attack on the rule of law in this country,” President Rafael Correa said. “Tomorrow, any other community could claim the right to harbour fugitives.”
Thailand's unelected, anti-democratic and illegitimate Constitutional Court has staged a coup d'etat, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a mere technicality in a May 7 ruling. It claims the elected prime minister did not have the right to replace a government official.
Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962, An Oral History By Zhou Xun Yale University Press, 2013 336 pp, $35.00 In his excellent history book Timelines, John Rees has a graph, which in one image sums up the people’s history contained in Zhou Xun’s Forgotten Voices. The line showing improvements in life expectancy in China suddenly shows a total reversal, a deep plunge into an abyss and then a quick return to the original curve. This abyss was Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.
A Spy in the Archives By Sheila Fitzpatrick Melbourne University Press, 2013 346 pages, $32.99 (pb) When Sydney University Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick was doing some crafty archival sleuthing as a British PhD student in the late 1960s in Moscow, it was not unexpected that any state guardians might suspect a female spy at work. Fitzpatrick could see some justification. “Any suspicious archives director who thought I was trying to find out the secrets of Narkompros was dead right”, she notes in Spy in the Archives.
United States: Occupy activist assaulted by police found guilty of assault An Occupy Wall Street activist has been found guilty of second-degree assault and could face seven years in prison for elbowing a police officer, Democracy Now! said on May 6.
Kavita Krishnan is a central leader of the Communist Party of India―Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) and editor of its magazine Liberation. A former leader of the All India Students Association (AISA), Krishnan is joint secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), which is active among women workers and agricultural labourers, and has led struggles for the dignity and rights of Dalit (lower caste) women, and against state repression.
For years now, off and on ― as huge the financial crisis and spiking unemployment have given way to healthy corporate profits and a "recovery" characterised by a surge in low-wage job creation ― the word has gone around that people are rediscovering Karl Marx's Capital. Whether many have the stamina to finish its opening chapter, on the commodity form, may be doubted. (Over the years, I have been in at least three informal study groups that broke up before getting through the analysis of money in chapter three.)
A report released last month by Oxfam revealed that Australia's big four banks have invested in land grabs that have dispossessed local land owners across the world. The report, Banking on Shaky Ground, explains that large-scale land acquisitions have risen due to the rise in global food prices since 2008. Companies are eager to acquire more land to grow food in order to benefit from rising prices on the global food markets.
Community anger at a proposal to cut the minimum wage from $16 to $12 an hour has fuelled large Labour Day turnouts across Queensland on May 4 and 5. About 30,000 marchers from dozens of unions packed Brisbane streets, joining thousands of others in activities in Queensland cities and towns. Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said this week’s federal Commission of Audit recommendation to cut the minimum wage by 25% was a disgraceful attack on working people.
This was a speech given to a Refugee Action Coalition forum in Sydney on May 5. *** I am in Year 11 at a school in Sydney’s inner-west, and like many other high school students, I care about refugee and queer rights, as well as for the rights of women, the rights of Aboriginal Australians and the environment. I am also an activist for all of these things. From what I've seen, many students support refugee rights and I've found few people my age who oppose them. But I've got into many stupid arguments about refugees with older people.
About 10,000 workers walked off building sites in Brisbane on May 5 and rallied outside Parliament House. They were protesting against the Campbell Newman government’s changes to industrial legislation affecting workplace health and safety. They also called for the return of the Labour day public holiday to May. The Monday after May 1 had previously been a public holiday celebrating workers' rights, but one of Newman’s first acts after being elected was to move the holiday to October.