Fifty-seven Spanish cities and towns came to a stop on February 19. Up to 2 million people marched in protest against the new labour “reform” of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) government. The marches brought together veterans of the struggle for union and worker rights under the Franco dictatorship, activists from the 1970s “transition to democracy” and today’s indignados. “Old” slogans (“If you don’t fight, you lose”) mixed with new (“They piss on us and say it’s raining”).
If the uprisings of last year have proved anything, it is that progressive change is not out of reach, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the face of overwhelming odds, the Arab Spring has brought changes in the region that were unthinkable 18 months ago. However, it is still common for people advocating radical change to be sneered at, regarded as naive fools or dangerous loonies. But when you take an honest look at the state of the world today, it is those who think things should not change are the ones that start to look foolish or crazy.
Will the Spanish economy benefit from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy government’s anti-worker labour market reform? How tens of millions of people answer that question — and act on their answer — will determine the course of Spanish politics this year and beyond. The law was announced on February 10 and already in force as a royal decree before adoption by parliament. See also Spain's 'Work Choices Super' at a glance Spain: Millions march against labour law
Powerful US free-market think tank The Heartland Institute is reeling after leaked internal documents were posted on the Desmogblog website on February 14 showing the powerful corporate interests behind its well-known campaign against climate science. Desmogblog said the leaked documents “expose the heart of the climate denial machine”, which “relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from US businesses”.
Governments and commentators keen on promoting a war against Iran should be stridently opposed, not so much because of the threat to world peace, but because their reasons display a shocking lack of imagination. The most common one is that Iran has "Weapons of Mass Destruction". How pathetic to pick the same excuse twice in a row. They should make it more interesting, by revealing evidence that Ahmadinejad has built a Terminator, or plans to fill the Strait of Hormuz with a giant Alka-Seltzer so the Persian Gulf fizzes over Kuwait.
In the kabuki theatre of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free. It is theatre after all; the pirouettes matter, not actions taken at remove in distance and culture from their consequences. It is a secure arrangement guarded by cast and critics alike. The farewell speech of one of the most artful, Tony Blair, had "a sense of moral conviction running through it", effused the television presenter Jon Snow, as if Blair's appeal to kabuki devotees was mystical. That he was a war criminal was irrelevant.
Despite heavy police intimidation and media racism, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy at Matagarup, otherwise known as Heirisson Island in Perth, is still standing strong. The Tent Embassy was founded by local Aboriginal people to voice dissent against a proposed deal with the state government that would include giving up native title rights. The embassy is also about asserting Aboriginal sovereignty. Embassy participant Iva Hayward-Jackson told Green Left Weekly the embassy is about asserting Nyoongar sovereignty and protecting sacredness of Aboriginal culture.
Ten thousand people mobilised in Dresden on February 18 to stop an annual march of European neo-Nazis. A broad coalition of political parties, church groups, trade unions and other anti-fascist groups formed a united front campaign to stop the planned neo-Nazi march through peaceful, mass blockades. Six days earlier, a group of more than 1000 neo-Nazis gathered in Dresden for a march supposedly to commemorate the innocent deaths caused by the 1945 bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces.
Public housing in Victoria (and elsewhere around Australia) is in a state of crisis. For at least the last two decades, successive state governments have failed to meet the challenge of providing public housing to all who need it. Instead, they have relied on the free market to provide “affordable housing” as a means of avoiding their responsibilities. The result has been a disaster, with nearly 40,000 people on waiting lists.
Last year, students of Political Economy at the University of Sydney stood up to threats to merge their department into either a politics or straight economics department. They protested because they believed in the value of learning alternative economics, refused to accept cuts in staff or subjects and believed students have the right to have a say in the institution at which they choose to study.
Immigration minister Chris Bowen has decided to close the Pontville refugee detention centre in Tasmania by March 1. The move is in keeping with the government’s original plan to operate the centre for only six months. Last month, about 150 asylum seekers held in Pontville started a hunger strike to demand they be released into the community. At least three were hospitalised. On February 16, Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins released a statement calling on Tasmanian’s to rally on February 25 to keep the detention centre open.
How will Spain’s new labour "reform" — announced on February 10 by employment and social security minister Fátima Báñez and already in force as a royal decree before adoption by parliament—affect Spain’s workers and unemployed? First, imagine the essence of 30 years of Australian anti-worker and anti-union law — from Hawke’s Accord through Keating’s enterprise bargaining and Howard’s Workplace Relations Act to Work Choices and the Fair Work Act — but all rolled into one bill.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said marriage equality was "inevitable" when she met with three same-sex couples on February 21 during a dinner organised by GetUp! The admission came despite her own opposition to equal marriage.
In the early hours of February 17, about 1000 police and National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers conducted a violent raid of Khartoum University’s student dormitories, arresting more than 300 students. Most were released later that day. Two students are missing, suspected kidnapped by the NISS. Some of the arrested students told a Sudan Human Rights Monitor press conference that police had used racist verbal abuse against students and many were beaten.
After Victorian nurses walked off the job from six Victorian hospitals, Ted Baillieu's state government was still refusing to undertake effective negotiations with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF). The dispute has dragged on for eight months and has been in its current conciliation process under Fair Work Australia (FWA) for 105 days. On February 24, the FWA ordered the ANF to stop all industrial action as sought by the government. But the ANF has said it will go ahead with its actions as decided on by members at a mass meeting on February 25.
“The confrontation here isn’t between Chavez and this little man, it’s the bourgeoisie against the people, the empire against the country”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on February 16. Chavez was referring to his newly-nominated presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski. He was pointing to the class battle that lies behind the looming presidential elections scheduled for October 7.