Issue 1094

News

Socialist Alliance WA launched its election campaign launch on May 7 at a well-attended function at the Navy Club in Fremantle.
Thousands of people took part in the Newcastle #BreakFree2016 protest that stopped coal exports in Newcastle for the day. Photos:
The 12 asylum seekers who fled Sri Lanka and reached the Cocos Islands on May 2 were all arrested on arrival at Colombo airport after being deported by Australian authorities on May 5. The group, which is believed to include children and an infant as young as one, were handed over to Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department. The immigration department refused to answer questions about the boat's arrival or the fate of its passengers, saying "we do not comment on operational matters".
Pro Choice QLD released this statement on May 5. * * * Pro Choice QLD is today launching the“It's not 1899/Abortion should not be a crime” campaign against laws from 1899 criminalising abortion in this state.
A Sydney construction company Romanous Contractors was fined $425,000 in the second largest work health and safety fine in NSW history following the death of a bricklayer on a Hurstville construction site in 2014. Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said: “Romanous were aware of the risk and how to address it after being directed on numerous occasions by SafeWork NSW inspectors to securely cover unguarded penetrations at the site.
The Victorian budget, presented by Treasurer Tim Pallas on April 27, is in surplus, due largely to a big increase in stamp duty revenue, to a record $6 billion a year. This revenue is a result of Melbourne's real estate boom. House prices have been rising rapidly. But the number of homeless people has also been rising rapidly. There has been a marked increase in the number of homeless people begging on the streets.
The ACT Labor government has boosted its commitment to renewable energy still further, announcing Canberra will be fully powered by renewables by 2020. The switch to renewable energy began with the decision in 2013 to fund three solar farms. Since then, it has held two wind auctions and signed 20-year contracts with four companies to buy energy for a guaranteed payment from wind farms in South Australia, Victoria and NSW. Environment Minister Simon Corbell said Canberra was leading the nation on renewables, and reaping the benefits.
"The plan for James Packer's Crown Casino at Barangaroo to take over even more public space shows that Packer and his fellow billionaires control the NSW Coalition government and are taking over all our precious state-owned land and assets at a rate of knots," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the upcoming federal election, said on May 4.
The Victorian law making it illegal for protesters to harass people within 150-metres of abortion providers, which were due to start in July, came into effect on May 2. Health Minister Jill Hennessy said: "For too long, women accessing abortion services have been unfairly abused and intimidated, and it's time it stopped. That's why we've fast-tracked the introduction of safe access zones so we can give women the protection they deserve, sooner."
A vigil was held in Sydney on May 4 in solidarity with Hodan Yasin, a 19-year-old Somali asylum seeker. She is in a critical condition after setting herself on fire in Australia's notorious offshore refugee detention centre on the Pacific island state of Nauru. Just a few days before people had assembled in the same spot in Sydney Town Hall square for a vigil for Omid, a young Iranian asylum seeker who died after also setting himself on fire in Nauru.
The Wilderness Society has denounced the NSW government's draft nature laws as a farce that will allow koalas' homes to be bulldozed while adding to our greenhouse gas emissions. NSW Premier Mike Baird promised that any law changes would enhance “the state's biodiversity for the benefit of current and future generations” but the draft conservation laws are full of exemptions that will allow huge tracts of habitat to be cleared, including habitat for endangered species such as the koala.
Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial, which recently succeeded in a takeover bid for Broadspectrum, formerly known as Transfield, the company that runs the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres, has implied that it will not seek a further contract to run the centres. In a statement Ferrovial noted that providing services at regional processing centres was not a "core part of the acquisition rationale and valuation and it is not a strategic activity in Ferrovial's portfolio. Ferrovial's view is that this will not form part of its services offering in the future."
About 100 protesters, adorned in yellow and black berets, skirts, scarves, blouses, dresses and umbrellas gathered outside the Santos HQ near Circular Quay on May 4 to tell Santos to frack off from the Pilliga, near Narrabri. With them, sitting in a nearby tree, was a huge koala — symbolising one the endangered species whose habitat is being destroyed. Protests were also held in Brisbane, Newcastle and at the company’s headquarters in Adelaide where the new CEO was fronting his first AGM. Santos has lost more than $1 billion on its coal seam gas (CSG) project at Narrabri.
The Jackson family and Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) Sydney held a gathering on the first anniversary of the passing of Ray Jackson to Remember Ray FKJ (For Koori Justice). Friends, comrades and supporters came together on April 23 at The Settlement, Darlington, to share a barbecue, music and Jackson's activist legacy in the fight for sovereignty, treaty and social justice. He would have loved the name of the band that played: Dispossessed.
The Climate Council released this statement on May 2. * * * Climate records have tumbled during autumn with records shattered all over Australia. New records for the highest average monthly maximum temperature were set in April in Brisbane, Darwin and Hobart. Almost all of Australia's capital cities recorded at least 20 days with above-average maximum temperatures. The warm temperatures follow a record-breaking March in which Australia's average temperature was the warmest on record at 1.70°C above average.
The continued forced removal of children from their families is one of the biggest crises facing Aboriginal communities today. More children are being removed now than at any time in Australia's history, with almost 16,000 Aboriginal children in “out of home care” on any given night. This was the subject of a public forum organised by Grandmothers against Removals (GMAR) Sydney on April 30. GMAR is a national network that was formed by families who have been directly affected by forced removal.
Trade unionists and activists from the Save Medicare Campaign held a snap lunchtime rally in Sydney on May 5, which featured a "Race To Save Medicare". Three patients were in the race while a dark-suited Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tried to disrupt the race and steal their Medicare cards. They highlighted the charges patients will be hit with for various medical tests from July this year under a Coalition government.
May Day is a historically significant day for our class: without unions we would not have any rights on the job. These are under attack today and on May Day we were there to defend our penalty rates, our unions' right to organise against Turnbull's new construction police (ABCC), against racism and for peace, justice and for an ecologically sustainable future.
As a First Nations activist I’ll be joining the harbour blockade on May 8. Newcastle’s beautiful harbour is a fitting place to take a stand against coal exports and environmental destruction. People hunger for a different world based on cooperation and treating the land with respect, values at the heart of all First Nations cultures. The violation of these values is illustrated by the failure of Hunter-based coal companies to sign land use agreements with the traditional owners. As a First Nations activist I'll be joining the harbour blockade on May 8.
The Bob Brown Foundation launched a new website, SaveBrunyIsland.org, on May 3 with a peaceful demonstration outside Hobart’s Parliament House. Conservationists held placards of the swift parrot, with an image drawn by cartoonist First Dog on the Moon. The new campaign is designed to mobilise members of the community to urge the Prime Minister and Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman, to protect all swift parrot habitat in secure reserves. The campaign will also target customers of logging company Ta Ann, asking them to reject timber logged in swift parrot habitat.
Senator Glenn Lazarus’s 117-page interim Senate report on unconventional gas mining in Australia was released on May 4. It makes a case for much tighter federal control of the industry and the public resources it has access to, but does not recommend its closure. If anything the report underscores the need for a royal commission into the toxic industry that relies on commercial in confidence provisions to get away with poisoning people and the environment.
According to a new report Australia will have to increase the pace of large-scale renewable energy development sevenfold to reach its Renewable Energy Target (RET) this year.
The 2016-2017 budget aims to get the federal Coalition over the line on July 2, the expected double disillusion election date. Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget speech was a far cry from the last two “gloom and doom” budgets from Joe Hockey. But it contained significant cuts to essential services, health and education. Climate change didn't rate a mention. But the government confirmed its previously announced cut to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which funds clean energy innovation.
A second refugee has self-immolated in the detention centre on Nauru, just days after 23-year-old Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali died in similar circumstances. Hodan, a 19-year-old Somali woman, has been taken to Brisbane by air ambulance, but she suffered burns to more than 70% of her body and her condition remains critical. Witnesses told Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) that all her clothes had been burned off. Another said she had suffered burns to her upper body and face at least as bad as Omid.

Analysis

It is amazing the conversations one overhears sometimes. I was attending a vigil for Omid Masoumali, the young asylum seeker who died a few days after he set himself on fire in Australia's notorious refugee detention camp in Nauru. The atmosphere at the vigil was sad and tense. Among those at vigil were two young women quietly holding flickering candles. Another woman holding a Teachers for Refugees banner asked the young women: “What school are you from?” “I am not at school,” replied one of the young women.
Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have delivered a budget for the billionaires. They claim that opposition to their tax cuts for the rich is “class warfare”. But the truth is that they are the ones waging naked war against the ordinary people of Australia. People earning less than $80,000 — the large majority — get absolutely nothing from this budget. The top 10% of taxpayers get three quarters of the benefits while the top 1% get almost half (47%) of the tax cuts.
Oppressed people around the world have long used self-immolation to protest grossly unjust regimes. Thich Quang Duc protested the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government in June 1963 by burning himself to death at a busy Saigon intersection. The Arab Spring famously began when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in December 2010 in response to repeated harassment and humiliation by local officials.
Volunteer conservationists forced a last minute stay of execution for a section of forest near Toolangi that they had shown was home to the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum, which VicForests contractors were due to clearfell within days. Despite finding evidence of the possum in mid-April, posted as a video on facebook, “citizen scientists” monitoring logging operations were alarmed on May 4 to find the Imperium logging coupe where the possum was found was due to commence logging any day.
Retirement was only a few years away when Genevieve became so disillusioned and angry with her current circumstances that she joined a union; a most unexpected union. The Australian Unemployed Workers' Union (AUWU) is one of a growing few in the Western world, with a membership base of 3500. As a laid-off public servant, Genevieve joined the thousands that chronicle our neoliberal times. Not since the 1930s have so many Australians been out of work. About 2 million people fall into the job status of unemployed, underemployed or precarious.
Treasurer Scott Morrison presented his budget for 2016-17 on May 3. What does it mean for young people today? Does it address higher education and growing youth unemployment? No. From April 1 next year, jobseekers under 25 who are receiving welfare payments such as Newstart and have been looking for a job for at least six months, will be able to participate in intensive pre-employment skills training within five months of registering with the Centrelink program “jobactive”.
Melbourne's Age newspaper has run a series of articles highlighting what it calls middle class “white flight” from inner north state schools closest to the Housing Commission towers, leading to unofficial segregation along race and class lines. Experts say this phenomenon is mirrored around the country in areas where public housing meets affluent areas, such as the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton and inner-Sydney suburbs of Redfern and Glebe, as the gentrification of public schools with booming enrolments impacts on poorer students' access to a good education.
A conspicuous absence from the weekend No Coal protests in Newcastle will be Greens MP John Kaye. He would have certainly been there but for his sudden death on May 2 aged 60 of bone cancer. His death has robbed us all of an incomparable champion of the environment and the public interest. John was widely known as the author of a plan to convert NSW to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and as the staunchest parliamentary champion of public education in the country.
Treasurer Scott Morrison presented his proposed budget for 2016-2017 on May 3, but what does the budget mean for young people today? How does it address higher education and growing youth unemployment? From April 1 next year, job seekers under 25 who are receiving welfare payments such as Newstart and have been looking for a job for at least six months, will be able to participate in intensive pre-employment skills training within five months of registering with jobactive.

World

Italy's militant trade union centre, the General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), drew tens of thousands onto the streets of Rome on May 7 to denounce the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the EU and the US. Demonstrators gathered in San Giovanni Square held up anti-TTIP banners reading: “American chicken stuffed with hormones on our tables? Stop TTIP.” Other posters proclaimed: “People before profits” and “Free circulation? For people not capital,” while chanting slogans denouncing the treaty.
Bernie Sanders addresses a huge crowd in Sacramento, California. Photo via US Uncut. More than 15,000 supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gathered in Sacramento’s Bonney Field stadium in California as part of an event organized by the senator’s campaign ahead of the major primary in the state next month.
In the wake of Obama's historic visit, the Cuban Communist Party held its 7th Congress on April 16-19 in the Havana Convention Centre. Beneath a backdrop featuring a huge likeness of Fidel Castro, PCC secretary Raul Castro delivered the main report on behalf of the Central Committee. Fidel being Fidel, many Cubans would have been reassured by his surprise appearance at the closing session on the eve of his 90th birthday. Traditionally, PCC congresses are the culmination of a months-long process of consultation with the Party's activist base and the wider Cuban society.
Fort McMurray, the city that serves as the hub of one of the world’s largest climate-wrecking projects, Canada’s Alberta tar sands, is burning to the ground due to wildfires sparked by unseasonably dry and hot weather. The wildfires began at the end of April in forests west of the city. It worsened when strong winds carried the fires into the city, creating quasi-apocalyptic conditions. The city centre is burning, including the city hospital. Flights in and out of the airport were cancelled as of May 4.
John Bellamy Foster is the editor of US-based Marxist journal Monthly Review. His most recent book, written with Paul Burkett, is Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique (Brill, 2016). The French magazine La Revue du Projet asked him to reply to three questions on ecology and Marxism. A translated version below is reprinted, slightly abridged, from Climate & Capitalism.
This picture looks like any ordinary scenery from the Kobanê countryside. The idyllic villages and golden wheat fields with the sleepy little houses tucked away across the distance. But, it is more than that. This is Ain Issa, an area of Tell Abyad and the frontline between the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and Daesh (Islamic State).
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn publicly criticised human rights abuses in Indonesian-occupied West Papua and backed Papuan demands for self-determination, in a May 3 meeting at Britain’s House of Commons. The meeting was a “historic step on the road to freedom for West Papua”, International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) said. At the meeting, a new declaration was signed calling for an internationally supervised vote on the independence of West Papua.
With an organisation as important as the Labour Party accused of something as serious as antisemitism, it’s a relief that everyone has managed to stay calm and measured, and not exaggerate things in any way.
Since a “cessation in hostilities” in Syria's multi-sided civil war was declared on February 27, about 6000 people have been killed in the conflict. This “cessation in hostilities” was brokered by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), made up of the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League and the governments of Britain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States. The ISSG is co-chaired by the US and Russia.
Fighters in the Rojava-based Women's Protection Units (YPJ) militia. Since a “cessation in hostilities” in Syria's multi-sided civil war was declared on February 27, about 6000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Protest against TTIP. Hanover, Germany, April 23. Could things get any worse for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the United States and the European Union? On May 2, a hugely damaging leak of TTIP texts confirmed exactly what everyone had feared about the deal — with all its hugely pro-corporate provisions on display for everyone to see.
Supporters of British Labour Party's socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn. Despite his insurgent campaign scoring a string of impressive against-all-expectations wins, Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination was declared all but dead-and-buried after Hillary Clinton won a clear victory in a controversial New York primary marred by irregularities on April 19.
A National Day of Action to Defend Democracy was held on March 31, to oppose the coup plot against Dilma and mark the anniversary of the 1964 military coup. Right-wing forces in Brazil are seeking to impeach Workers' Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff in what has been widely condemned as an “institutional coup”.
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party defied expectations and Labour's Sadiq Khan has ended Conservative Party rule in London in May 5 local elections across Britain. In what some labeled the most racist British election campaign in years, Khan won the London mayoralty to become the city's first Muslim mayor. The victory capped off a series of results where Labour's socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn, under fire from the mediaand right-wing of his own party, defied expectations that his party would suffer serious losses due to his left-wing views.
Proving that US voters are still energenised to go to the polls to voice their support for "political revolution", self-described socialist Senator Bernie Sanders won the Democrats Indiana primary on May 3 -- besting rival Hillary Clinton and notching a much-needed victory as the corporate media and political class continues to discount his chances and downplay the accomplishments of the campaign. "The political revolution wins in Indiana!" the Sanders campaign tweeted just after 9pm eastern.

Culture

Leon Trotsky By Paul Le Blanc Reaktion Books, 2015 224 pp, $39.99 Trotsky & the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy By Thomas M. Twiss Brill, 2014 502 pp., $205.00 Leon Trotsky was one of the central leaders of the Russian Revolution. As the organiser and Commissar of the Red Army that saved the Soviet power and as the leading light of the struggle against Stalinism, he is surely one of the great heroic — and tragic — figures of the 20th century.
A guitarist manipulates tension. She picks up six strings stretched to almost their breaking points and proceeds to squeeze them, snap them and caress them to produce as many sounds and emotions as her skill and soul can conjure.