About 30 international guests and 120 shop stewards from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met over August 7 to 10 in Johannesburg to discuss building a new, left alternative to the ruling African National Congress (ANC). This challenge to the ANC by the country’s largest trade union, with more than 440,000 members, has caused shockwaves throughout the country. An August 6 Times Live article said the process was “likely to lead to the birth of a workers' party that will eventually challenge [the ANC] for power”.
El Salvador approves progressive tax reforms El Salvador’s National Legislative Assembly passed a package of tax reforms on July 31, CISPES.org said on August 13. The laws aim to shifting the fiscal burden from the nation’s poor majority to the wealthy elite and ease the country’s dependence on international loans to finance important social investment. The bill was approved despite a fierce campaign against it in the nation’s conservative media.
As a Palestinian political activist living in present-day Israel, Tareq Yassin, 23, has grown accustomed to racist intimidation and threats of violence. Yassin, secretary of the left-wing Hadash political party’s student wing at the University of Haifa, has been repeatedly targeted for his activism. Yet last month was the first time he was subjected to vigilante violence by right-wing Israelis.
Since Ecuador's president Lucio Gutierrez was ousted from power in 2005, relations between Ecuador and the United States have deteriorated with the Andean nation’s increasing rejection of US hegemony. The government of Rafael Correa, first elected president in 2006, has embraced regional integration, moving closer to its neighbours ― in particular Venezuela and Bolivia ― and further away from the US. Economically, the Correa administration has pursued policies that break with the neoliberal doctrines Washington had imposed on Latin America.
Venezuela's communication minister Delcy Rodriguez has condemned “racial discrimination” in the United States. Responding to the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, Rodriguez said the incident was symptomatic of a broader problem. She said: “In the United States more than one third of the African American population has experienced some form of discrimination. The death of Michael Brown was not an isolated incident.”
Across Venezuela, commune activists are creating regional Presidential Councils of Communal Governance in order to play an greater role in the management of local and regional affairs in conjunction with national authorities. Communes in Venezuela are made up of representatives of groups of smaller communal councils. These councils are direct participatory organisations that help manage community affairs. Communes cover a larger territorial area than communal councils and can receive public funds for larger scale projects and responsibilities.
The morning after Lailat al-Qadr, the death toll in Gaza was approaching its first 1000. Al-Qadr ― the night before the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan ― is believed to be the night when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. I spent this special night with friends in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah after taking part in the “48K March” for Gaza. The march began in Ramallah and went to Qalandiya checkpoint.
In the past few weeks, several large protest movements have rocked the Untied States political establishment and the elites it represents. These social explosions seem limited and separate, but they symbolise the growing contradictions of US society and the possibilities of mass struggles in the near future.
Flashboys By Michael Lewis W. W. Norton, 2014 288 pp, $39.99 Michael Lewis's Flashboys has had a dramatic welcome in the United States. It swept to the top of the best seller list and was only knocked from its perch by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. It is revealing of the contemporary US mindset that Flashboys, which turns the machinations of Wall Street into a classic US-style morality play, should alternate with Piketty’s history of capitalist inequality. In reality, Lewis has not produced new information.
"At the end of my tour of Australia, I would like to give thanks to all the unionists and supporters of Cuba who have assisted in telling the story of the unjustly jailed Cuban Five," Aili Labanino-Cardoso, daughter of Ramon Labanino, one of five Cubans imprisoned in the US on conspiracy charges since 1998, told a forum in Sydney on August 16. The forum, attended by about 80 people, concluded a tour of the country, organised by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, supported by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society.
What does it say about Australian politics when a mining billionaire who rides around in a Rolls Royce becomes the people’s champion in parliament? The Palmer United Party (PUP), formed and largely funded by Clive Palmer, continues to disrupt the two-party game played by most politicians and their media supporters. To them, the PUP is “maverick”, a label that fits after Palmer’s outburst this week about “communist” China trying to “take over” Australia.
Stop CSG Sydney has launched a campaign to extinguish the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licence (PEL 463) covering most of metropolitan Sydney, home to about 4 million people. The group formed in 2011 when residents discovered that Arrow Energy was about to drill at a waste site in the inner-west suburb of St Peters. After more than two years of community campaigning, including mass petitions, marches and film screenings, the CSG company now known as Dart Energy claimed that it had never intended to drill at St Peters.
The National Union of Students (NUS) organised a national day of action on August 20 against the federal government's changes to tertiary education. Students were protesting against the proposals in the federal budget that would lift the cap on fees, increase interest on HECS loans, and make changes to Newstart and Youth Alowance. Up to 700 people joined the protest in Sydney. Students marched from the University of Technology, Sydney to Town Hall. Students stopped the march on George St and burned a cardboard effigy of Pyne.
For the fifth time since their election in September last year, thousands of Australians will take to the streets in protest against Tony Abbott Coalition's government. These mobilisations have been critical to keep the pressure on the Labor Party, Greens and independents to stand firm in opposing the government's budget, which will bring austerity, cuts and privatisation. As a result of this opposition, Treasurer “Smokin' Joe” Hockey's budget has stalled.
Protesters took to the streets of Melbourne on August 16 to condemn human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia and to call for the release of Shia cleric Ayatollah Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death by crucifixion and beheading for calling for religious freedom in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is both an absolute monarchy and a theocracy. The regime promotes a Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam, notorious for narrowly defining Islam and intolerance toward other beliefs.
Save Medicare Sydney, a campaign group committed to defending universal public health care, is calling on the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Palmer United Party to reject any compromise over the federal government's proposed $7 GP co-payment. The AMA released an alternative plan on August 21. It proposed a $6.15 co-payment, excluding concession card holders and children.


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