In July last year, millions of Red Shirts — a mass movement of the poor — turned out to vote for the Pheu Thai party (PT), headed by Yingluck Shinawatra. The party won a landslide majority despite attempts by the military, media and elites to block the party's victory. The election result was a slap in the face for the military and the “party of the military” (the misnamed Democrat Party — DP).
Almost a year after the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) landslide victory we have a date ― Autumn 2014 ― for the most important referendum in Scottish history. Scotland will vote on whether it stays in a union [the “United Kingdom”] dominated by the right wing ― a state that invaded Iraq, imposed nuclear weapons on the Clyde and destroyed Scotland’s industrial base ― or become an independent nation. As such, it would have the power to fundamentally change Scotland for the better and reflect the left of centre political terrain instead of being dominated by the Tory home counties.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez condemned the United States’ decision to expel the Venezuelan consul general in Miami as “arbitrary and unjustified” on January 9. Chavez derided the move as “another demonstration of the arrogance of ridiculous imperialism”. Venezuelan diplomat Livia Acosta Noguera had reportedly been working in the US since March when she was ordered to leave on January 8 amid claims that she had discussed the possibility of orchestrating cyber attacks against the US government whilst serving as vice-secretary at the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico.
It took about 20 minutes after the last official US combat troops crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait for the Potemkin village of “Iraqi stability and democracy”, carefully built by the occupation, to fall apart. The regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought a terrorism indictment against the vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, who promptly headed north to autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, where the central government’s hand doesn’t reach. Purges of university professors and arrests of political figures not favoured by the Maliki regime have begun.
The global political crisis ― a natural outcome of the continuing economic crisis ― finally made it to Russia last month before getting derailed by the country's traditional hibernation in early January. Nothing much happens in Russia between December 31 and January 13 ― and particularly not a revolution. While the organisers of the protest demonstrations headed for swanky resorts in Mexico and other sunny spots, their grassroot supporters were stuck in cold, dreary Russia. They retired to their cramped apartments to drink vodka and discuss the country's uncertain fate.
The global economic meltdown is yet to hit Australia hard, but 2011 was still a busy year of struggle in this relatively sheltered, wealthy country. The year began with an Australian citizen on the global centre stage. WikiLeaks cables embarrassed governments worldwide, revealing war crimes and treachery, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested without charge. He was detained for all of last year. His supporters fear he will be extradited to the US, where conservatives have openly called for his assassination.
ANZ Bank, one of Australia’s biggest banks, plans to axe up to 1000 jobs over six months “to protect profit margins from rising costs” and the euro debt crisis, The Australian said on January 13. The Sydney Morning Herald said the Finance Sector Union (FSU) expects up to 700 jobs to be cut in coming weeks. Following job losses in October last year, one ANZ executive told the SMH: “This will be bigger than the job cuts that followed the GFC.
Refugee rights activists representing groups and individuals from Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains met on December 3 to plan campaign activities for this year. It was the first national gathering of refugee rights campaigners since federal Labor's 2007 election, and fittingly occurred on the same weekend as the ALP's national conference. Labor further entrenched its anti-refugee policies, in particular offshore processing.
Veteran queer rights activist Steve Warren gave the speech below at the “1Love: equality, marriage, freedom” conference in Sydney on December 4. * * * I am speaking from the perspective of the 1970’s, which influenced our views. 78ers fought for equality for all in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex (GLBTQI) community, and we supported our Indigenous, multicultural, disabled and heterosexual friends who stood beside us in our struggles in unity as one voice for equality. Equality was foremost in our minds.
If you are an activist peacefully campaigning for a clean energy future, the federal Labor government believes you are a legitimate target for secret surveillance. Fairfax News’ Phillip Dorling reported on January 7 that resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson had asked for federal police help to spy on anti-coal campaigners. Even worse, documents released to Fairfax after a Freedom of Information request showed Ferguson acted after urging from coal industry lobbyists.
Landowners in the Kerry Valley, near Beaudesert in south-east Queensland, have launched a peaceful blockade against Arrow Energy’s attempt to begin exploratory drilling for coal seam gas (CSG) in the Scenic Rim region. The protest was organised by the community group Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic. The blockade follows the success of similar blockades against CSG drilling that took place in the Liverpool Plains and Gloucester last year.
Aboriginal man Terrance Briscoe, 28, died in Alice Springs police custody on January 5. But despite allegations from his family of police brutality, an independent investigation has been ruled out by the Northern Territory’s chief minister Paul Henderson. Aboriginal rights campaigners in Alice Springs said Briscoe was found unconscious in his cell about 2am. He had been “taken in 'protection custody' earlier that night after drinking with friends”.