The conventional wisdom is that the world has largely survived the great financial crisis. Journalists and economists talk about recovery, while politicians claim to have averted catastrophe. However, the bailouts of banks and financial stimulus packages that governments used to “solve” the crisis merely turned banks’ debt into public debt. The problem has simply been shifted to the public sphere and potential catastrophe merely delayed.
Germany’s ruling centre-right coalition suffered a double defeat on May 9, when it lost its ruling majority in an important state election in North-Rhine Westphalia. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) scored its lowest ever vote in the state, dropping 14 points to only 34.6%, on a par with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which slipped to 34.5%. Support for the arch-neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) — the CDU’s coalition partner on a state and federal level — stagnated at 6.8%. The Greens emerged as the big winners, doubling its vote to 12.1%.
Bangkok is bathed in blood, yet again. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit's soldiers have shot dead at least 50 people do far. Hundreds are injured. The regime says there are 500 “terrorists" in the protest site. Earlier they said that they would use snipers to shoot “terrorists”. The only terrorists are in the Government, the army and the Palace.
Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s third budget, delivered on May 11, continued the neoliberal austerity agenda of the previous Howard government. Delivered in the shadow of the Henry tax review, released by the government on May 2, Labor’s budget continues to grind away at social and environmental spending in the name of fiscal conservatism.
The following statement was released on May 15 by the Socialist Party of Malaysia. Click here to read a statement issued by a number of Asian left groups on in solidarity with the Thai democracy movement. * * * The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) condemns Ahbisit's government and the military of Thailand for the latest round of violent assault on pro-democracy Red-Shirt protesters in Bangkok.
Members of the Iranian community and their supporters protested outside the NSW state parliament on May 13 after the executions of five union activists in Evin prison in Tehran on May 9. Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar and Farhad Vakili were hanged after being convicted of Moharebeh — “waging war on God”. Four of the activists were members of Kurdish opposition groups.
Since October, dozens of social leaders have been shot and eight killed in the struggle between Spanish-based oil and gas multinational Union Fenosa and communities in the west of the country. On October 24, Victor Galvez was shot 32 times as he left his office, where he was meeting with neighbours whose electricity supply had been cut off by one of Union Fenosa’s subsidiaries. Opposition to Union Fenosa began with the privatisation of electricity supply in 1999, with the multinational as the main beneficiary.
In further moves to strengthen the state’s role in the economy, Venezuelan President Chavez announced on May 11 the creation of a publicly owned import-export company as part of a broader plan to combat “the hegemony of the bourgeoisie”, speculation and inflation. Despite price controls and a fixed exchange rate, inflation reached 25.1% in 2009 — the highest in Latin America. Central bank figures reported inflation climbed 5.2% in April (double that of March), bringing accumulated inflation for 2010 up to 11.3%.
An ex-oil worker has told the May 12 Huffington Post that oil giant BP often faked reliability tests for equipment meant to stop spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, which began on April 20. Mike Mason, an oil worker in Alaska for 18 years, said he personally witnessed more than 100 occasions when BP employees manipulated tests on safety valves designed to cut off oil flow in case of emergencies. He said the tests would determine whether the valves could withstand certain amounts of pressure for five minutes at a time.
Photographer David Hoffman had his London home visited by British police on the day of the May 6 general elections. They forcibly removed a poster from his window featuring a photo of Conservative Party leader (and now prime minister) David Cameron and the word “wanker”, the British Guardian said on May 11. Hoffman said police threatened him with arrest and handcuffed him during the visit, claiming the poster was “offensive campaign material”. Hoffman said police “went completely over the top”, the Guardian reported.