A crude and jingoistic appeal to Australian patriotism is the last refuge of the pro-war scoundrels as we approach the Australian parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. Australia sent troops to Afghanistan in October 2001, but it has taken nine years for parliament to discuss this act of war. Is this how Australia’s celebrated democracy works? Australian troops were sent to wage wars on an impoverished, already war-devastated and traumatised country without even a discussion in parliament, let alone a vote.
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile's gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits.
Workers and students mobilised in their millions on October 12 in the fourth and largest mobilisation in the last month against laws that will reduce the pension entitlements of French workers. The protests and strikes come the French Senate has begun passing aspects of the pension bill that will see an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 years of age and increase the qualifying period that workers must work to receive a full pension.
The political situation in France is dominated by the mobilization against the proposed reform of the pension system. This reform is at the heart of Sarkozy’s austerity policy. Although it is presented as an obvious demographic necessity, it is meeting increasing opposition in public opinion.
Despite pre-election poll predictions, the centre-left Workers Party (PT) presidential candidate failed to win outright in the first round of Brazil’s October 3 presidential elections. PT candidate Dilma Rousseff, who won 46.7% of the vote, is seeking to succeed President Ignacio “Lula” da Silva. Lula was the first PT president and was elected in 2002. He still enjoys a record-high 80% popularity rating. Dilma, a former guerrilla and Lula’s cabinet chief, will face off on October 31 against right-wing Brazilian Social Democratic Party candidate, Jose Serra who scored 33%.
On the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, 200 people rallied in Sydney to demand that the Gillard Labor government pull the troops out. Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glenndening slammed the government over its hypocritical and cruel stand on Afghan refugees; Sylvia Hale from the Greens talked up the coming parliamentary debate; and Fire Brigades Employee Union secretary Jim Casey and Graeme Dunstan from Stand Fast spoke of the need to engage military families in the anti-war movement.
Alina Canaviri Sullcani is a Bolivian indigenous peasant now visiting Australia. Canaviri is active in Santa Cruz as a leader of the National Federation of Indigenous Peasant Women of Bolivia “Bartolina Sisa” and the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party led by President Evo Morales. Canaviri spoke at the Latin America solidarity conference in Melbourne over October 8-9 and will be a featured guest at the solidarity conference held in Sydney over October 16 and 17 (visit www.latinamericasolidarity.org for details).
Sombat Boonngamanong, a cultural activist and NGO organiser, was not a central leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (popularly known as the Red Shirts) when their mass protest camp at the Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok was bloodily dispersed by the Thai military on May 19. Thousands were injured and 91 killed in the crackdown. Hundreds remain political prisoners. But Sombat has since emerged as a popular figure in the dramatic Red Shirts' resurgence over the last month.
Report: unions key to wellbeing A new report has found that trade unions improve the general well-being for union and non-union citizens in several industrialised countries, an October 7 InTheseTimes.com article said. The findings, which appear in the September issue of Social Indicators Research, “highlight a link between union density and life satisfaction based on data from fourteen developed nations”, the article said.
One hundred people rallied in Sydney on October 9 in solidarity with a young Cairns couple charged with abortion-related offences under Queensland’s 1899 criminal code. The court case begins on October 12, and the couple will be supported by a vigil outside. The rally was organised by the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) as part of a national day of action coordinated by ProChoice Action Collective Qld: WAAC NSW: and Radical Women Vic. It called for the repeal of all abortion laws from the criminal code and for free, safe and accessible abortion.