If the last federal election promised the beginnings of a break from the two-parties-for-capitalism electoral system that has plagued Australian politics for the past century, the March 29, 2011 NSW election seems to be a lurch in the other direction. The Liberal-National Coalition won dominance of the Legislative Assembly and (with small right-wing parties) control of the Legislative Council because a large number of working class voters punished the Labor party with a -13.5% swing.
Union supporters have taken their message of worker solidarity and resistance from Wisconsin, all the way to the White House. Socialistworker.org said more than 1000 trade union activists and students gathered in Washington D.C. on March 23. The protests targeted a Republican Party fundraising event organised by several of Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers. The fundraiser was held at the offices of major lobbying firm BGR Group. Mississippi’s Republican governor Haley Barbour founded BGR Group, whose clients include energy, pharmaceutical and defence companies.
The Socialist Alliance condemned the recent decision by federal environment minister Tony Burke to give final approval to Gunns' Tamar Valley pulp mill, located near Launceston, in a March 24 statement. Socialist Alliance spokesperson Susan Austin said: “We could never support the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley , due to the corrupt nature with which it was approved. “In addition, we oppose it because of its likely toxic effects on the environment and the community.”
Israeli settlers observed their own “Day of Rage” on March 17, launching reprisal attacks on Palestinians for the recent murder of a settler family in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. It was also in response to Israeli authorities’ demolition of a settlement structure. Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank have long carried out the much-publicised “price tag” policy of intimidation and violence against Palestinians and their property every time Israeli officials have demolished a settler outpost.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) survived a narrow vote in elections for the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. The right-wing CDU lost 3% of the vote from the previous elections, dropping to 32.6% support. The two other big parties in the state, the far left Die Linke and the centrist Social Democrats (SPD), remained steady on 23.8% and 21.5% respectively. Merkel’s allies at a federal level — the pro-free market Free Democrats — failed to cross the 5% threshold needed to win a seat, as did the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD).
It can sometimes feel like we’re losing a race against time to avoid environmental catastrophe and social collapse. Climate change is already extinguishing species, destroying essential food production and forcing thousands of people to flee their island homes. People are directly affected by more wars than ever before in history. While the underlying causes of the recent global financial crisis remain, governments are imposing vicious austerity policies on the majority of people in the Global North and South to pay for the capitalists’ greed.
Israeli warplanes launched four simultaneous attacks in the Gaza Strip on March 24, Xinhuanet.com said the next day. Since the flare-up of violence that began on March 19, Israel has killed 10 Palestinians, six of them civilians, in different airstrikes and shootings, the article said. “The targets included an abandoned building which used to be the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority’s intelligence department, a nearby sports hall and a neighboring training camp for the military wing of Islamic Hamas movement in northwest Gaza City," it said.
Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s last elected president, has finally returned home. He was kidnapped from Haiti in a US-backed coup in 2004 and exiled in South Africa until his March 18 return. Aristide returned to a country still devastated by last year’s earthquake. The US and its allies broke their promises to provide badly needed aid. Two months earlier, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the notorious former dictator overthrown in a mass rebellion in 1986, also returned to Haiti.
The science that informs us about climate change is becoming more and more alarming. The National Snow and Ice Date Center said on March 23: “On March 7, 2011, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). “The maximum extent was 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), and equal (within 0.1%) to 2006 for the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record.”
Twenty people gathered on March 21 in Mitchell Park to commemorate the victims of the March 11 tsunami in Japan. The gathering made paper cranes and heard from Sachi Hirayama from Darwin Youth for the Japanese Disaster who promoted charity events for the cause. Cat Beaton read a statement from Environment Centre Northern Territory saying that people’s thoughts were with those who lost loved ones as a result of the natural disaster but also with the workers struggling to rebuild after the devastation.