More than 1000 members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) met with President Hugo Chavez on January 19 and decided on five key strategic lines for the next two years. The discussion included recognition of important weaknesses in the party. Chavez, who is also president of the governing PSUV, presented the document, Strategic Lines of Political Action of the PSUV for 2011-2012, to the “National Assembly of Socialists” in Vargas state. About 1440 party leaders were present.
The Sydney Stop the War Coalition welcomes and supports the protests for democracy and freedom in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere across the Middle East. We stand in solidarity with the Egyptian masses that are struggling for their basic rights against a dictatorship that has been supported for decades by the West. We support the people's right to assemble and their freedom of speech without the threat of repression.
The Sydney Peace Foundation awarded its “gold medal for peace with justice” to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange on February 2 in recognition of his “exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights”. This award is different from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize. The foundation has awarded the gold medal on only three previous occasions: the Dalai Lama in 1998; Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.
Seventy-three people who took part in a non-violent direct action protest during December’s Climate Camp appeared in Muswellbrook local court on January 31 to answer to charges under the Rail Safety Offences Act. Hundreds of climate protesters gathered at Climate Camp for five days of talks, debates and discussions on the best ways for the community to stop the proposed expansion of Bayswater coal-fired power station. The station is already one of Australia’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Venezuela’s petroleum corporation in the US, Citgo, announced on January 27 the start of its sixth year providing subsidised heating oil to low-income people in the US. An estimated 132,000 households across the US will benefit from the program this year, amounting to US$60 million of savings. The program is carried out with US non-profit group Citizens Energy Corporation. Joseph P. Kennedy II said: “Every year, we hear from families who struggle each and every day to put food on the table and heat their homes.
The federal senate has agreed to an inquiry into the practice of forcible adoption in Australia between the 1940s and ’80s, supporting a motion by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert on November 15. “Today’s vote starts to recognise the suffering that so many people have endured as a result of forced adoption policies,” Siewert said. “There is no doubt that many women were treated very badly as a result of these policies. Young and vulnerable mothers were pressured into adoptions, and often had to surrender their newborn children without being allowed to see them.
As momentous events in Egypt demonstrate, much of the world is calling to account an “old order”. These are exciting times for the possibilities of real change in the way our societies are run. One of the catalysts of the “people power” we see on our TV screens is the extraordinary disclosure of secret information that tells us how wars begin and governments manipulate and deceive in our name. In the tradition of courageous investigative journalism, WikiLeaks has blown the whistles that alert us to these injustices and lies, serving a basic democratic need.
Members of environmental group Katoomba Climate Action Now (CAN) gathered on December 21 outside their local branch of the ANZ Bank to demonstrate, leaflet and chat with customers, staff and passers-by about coal. Recent research by Greenpeace has shown the bank is one of the most substantial and consistent investors in coalmining and coal-fired power stations in Australia. Environmental scientists regard coal as the dirtiest of power generation fuels because of its prolific carbon waste output.
As category five tropical cyclone Yasi approached the north Queensland coast on February 3, a political cyclone was already sweeping Egypt. For days, Australian TV news was dominated by these two stories. Incredibly, in Egypt the main government TV station news failed to report the fact that millions of Egyptians had taken to the streets in a huge February 1 protest against the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship. Hiding the truth is what you’d expect from an iron-fisted dictatorship that has long sub-contracted its services to the CIA to torture victims of the “war on terror”.
Ongoing democracy protests in Tunisia, which continued beyond the January 14 overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to demand a government free from the former ruling party, were hit by a wave of vicious repression in late January. The protesters from the “caravan of liberation”, which had camped for five days outside Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s offices in Tunis, were driven off the streets on January 29.
Heavy-handed policing in Sydney over the past few months may indicate a heightened, anti-protester attitude of NSW police. States and territories across Australia have either a “permit” or “notice” procedure for holding protests. NSW law has the “notice” procedure, which is very favourable for those organising protests. The completion of a simple form, given to the police with seven days’ notice, protects activists from arrest for offences like obstructing traffic. This favourable legal situation no doubt frustrates police, who are using more aggressive means to curb protests.
Seven climate activists who temporarily shut down coal loaders at Newcastle harbour in a September protest will wait another month to find out if they owe Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) $525,000 in “compensation”. The activists appeared in Newcastle Local Court for two days of hearings on January 31 and February 3. They were convicted of “remaining on enclosed lands”. Each was fined $300, plus $79 in court costs.